With the growing obsession of Instagram, Snapchat and other photo-centric social media platforms, have you noticed how many restaurants insist on making sure their dishes are ‘Insta-worthy’, often giving this priority over the actual taste of the dish? Thankfully, there are those who tick both boxes and are able to present beautifully photogenic dishes that taste amazing too. I had seen a number of photos of Dragon Noodles Academy popping up and I assumed this place would be pretty gimmicky and just worth it for the Instagram shots, but turns out the food is actually pretty decent.
Dragon Noodles Academy, or DNA for short, is tucked away on Pottinger Street. From the outside you wouldn’t realise how big this place is, but it just keeps going and going for 5,200 square feet! A hand-carved golden dragon guards the entrance and the interior is inspired by kung fu academies, old-school Chinese diners and traditional Chinese medicine shops. One wall is decorated with 12 giant papier-mâché lion heads, whilst a long open kitchen showcases chefs pulling and tossing handmade noodles.
The menu lists a vast array of traditional Chinese dishes presented in a contemporary and creative way. If you’ve been to Yum Cha, which is owned by the same group as DNA, you’ll be familiar with their fun and quirky dim sum; DNA’s extensive menu includes all your dim sum favourites, plus so much more, with obviously a large emphasis on noodles.
I’m a sucker for a deal, so the buy two get one free offer on starters was an obvious choice. I’m always a fan of the Shanghainese-style shredded chicken sesame noodles, and DNA’s were spot on.
We had no idea what they were when we ordered them, and not much of an idea when they arrived, but we all enjoyed the sous-vide spicy chix rolls. With Sichuan peppercorns and roasted peanuts, these little rolls of juicy and tender chicken had that satisfying numbing spice and tasted delicious too.
Whilst Mexicans do their corn on the cob with lots of cheese and chilli (see Mamasita’s Cantina or El Loco Gringo), the Asians do theirs with coconut. DNA’s version could have been really tasty, if only it were served hot and perhaps with more coconut flakes. As it was, it was a little bland.
If I had to have a favourite dim sum dish, it would probably be char siu bao. DNA rightfully does not tamper with this classic dish, other than topping it with a Chinese date. The bun was perfectly fluffy and the barbecued pork within it satisfyingly sweet and delicious.
The steamed crab and shrimp dumplings are a modern take on the classic har gao, but rather scarily pink in colour. The shrimp was cooked to bouncy perfection, whilst the crab added an intensity to the flavour that made it truly shine.
I enjoyed the giant grouper fillet ginger rice, which had a lovely, delicate flavour and was a decent sized portion. Without the fish, however, the rice was a little bland, so I feel it could have had more ginger running through it, or some kind of sauce.
We debated whether or not to order the crispy lobster puffs, since they cost $69 a piece, with a minimum requirement of two pieces per order. Did we really need to spend $138 for two little puffs? It turns out the answer was yes, most definitely, and I would order them again! The delicate pastry was placed between an empty lobster head and tail to make it look like the body of the crustacean (and, of course, to make it look pretty for Instagram!) and the flaky pastry gave way to insanely delicious chunks of buttery lobster. This was the dish I feared would be most gimmicky, and yet it turned out to be the best one!
The restaurant also offers some interesting teas, of which we tried the lychee “hong pao” tea, which was the perfect complement to wash down our feast. Our bill for three people came to $210 each, which actually wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised by Dragon Noodles Academy and how it has mastered the art of creating drool-worthy food that tastes almost as good as it looks!
Dragon Noodles Academy
Shop No. G04, G/4 Man Yee Arcade
Man Yee Building
68 Des Voeux Road Central
(Entrance on Pottinger Street)
Tel: +852 2561 6688