Situated along the leafy parade outside the BBC building in Media City, this new Chinese restaurant looked quiet and unassuming. Yet for a venue this size it was also fairly atmospheric, with a moody black and red palette, light fittings worthy of a New York bar (containing exposed, neon bulbs) and an inventive ceiling fixture, akin to a relief map of a mountain range created from bamboo steamers.
This minuscule place seemed to punch above its (expected) weight in the style stakes, and in truth it looked more like an Asian-inspired neighbourhood bar than a quick lunch pit-stop for Media City workers. It all made sense when the waitress explained: the former was more or less what they’d had in mind, until being unable to obtain a license due to the location.
The menu covered a range of Chinese takeaway-style staples with no outlandish dishes. The chicken and shrimp shu mai dumplings were better examples of the chicken version than I’ve tasted elsewhere, although my friend made a passing comment about sausage meat, and she had a point. The deep-fried five-spice chicken wings had no spice flavour to speak of at all and although the chicken was well-cooked, the flesh tasted slightly greasy and processed.
A whole page of the menu was dedicated to explaining how proud Mah Jong was of its crispy duck, so it seemed churlish not to try it. It was a generous portion, and the meat veered nicely between the tenderness of the flesh and the super-crispy skin. Refreshingly, there was also a generous helping of pancakes, spring onion and cucumber, although the hoi sin was thin and there was a measly amount. The downside was an annoyance only by Western standards: the duck meat was still littered with shards of bone, making it difficult to eat in a pancake.
Not appreciating how early the restaurant closed (9pm), we missed the boat to order any more savoury dishes. It’s strange that a venue that had high hopes of being a bar-restaurant closes so early. Nevertheless, the waitress kindly persuaded the kitchen to make us dessert. The deep-fried sesame balls featured three different textures, from the crunchy outer layer to the chewy glutinous rice and the smooth, sweet red-bean-paste centre. The toffee pineapple fritters played a similar game of texture but to greater extremes, with a rock-hard, candy-like exterior and melting pineapple inside, both cooled and contrasted with ice cream on the side.
The desserts may not be to everyone’s taste, but they were the most successful dishes of the evening, and left me wondering what might have been with those mains.
The bill (for one) 1x Large water Dhs10 1x Tea Dhs25 1x Shu mai dumplings Dhs26 1x Chicken wings Dhs23 1x Crispy duck Dhs75 1x Sesame ball Dhs20 1x Toffee pineapple Dhs20 Total (excluding service) Dhs168