The creative name of this restaurant, English and Chinese alike, really drew my attention as I passed by this place almost daily. In Chinese, the name consists of one character: 聚, which means “gathering”. I wondered if “Dinesty” was simply a typo that they went along with, or a clever name that required thought and effort. I had a family dinner here two years ago, and I remembered the food was above average for Shanghai cuisine in the area.
My visit today was a similar conclusion to my previous one, and by the looks of it nothing has changed much about this restaurant. The service was satisfactory though, especially since neither mom and I spoke much Mandarin. Let’s be thankful the menu items were numbered so all that was needed was a finger to point. The restaurant had a clean appearance and offered plentiful seating to accommodate large gatherings. My favourite part about Dinesty would probably be their large kitchen, with many chefs hustling about to prepare various dishes. Large windows gave us the opportunity to watch their every action. This transparency of the kitchen told me that the owners set high standards for their cooks. (Their ceilings were made of mirrors too, that’s how “transparent” they like to be!)
Since my dad was missing from the scene tonight, there was a limit on how much to order since he usually eats the most. Instead of ordering large typical dishes of soup and noodles, mom and I decided to order more small appetizers so we could finish everything. In the end, our estimations were not too far off because we ended up only having to pack one dish to go. We ordered three appetizers, and two of them arrived almost immediately. Having a large kitchen is beneficial in that sense then, because they can serve waves of customers throughout the evening without losing them due to long waiting times. The two that arrived almost instantaneously were Preserved Pork ‘Zhen Jiang’ Style ($6.50) and Boneless Cold Wine Chicken ($7.50). Both my mom and I agreed that the Preserved Pork was the least favourite of the evening, for the SPAM luncheon meat-like appearance and texture. There was no surprise that that was the dish we left until the end and subsequently, packed to go. Wine chicken, on the other hand, is almost always a must-order whenever I have Shanghai food. 2 aspects mesmerized me the most about the chicken:
1. Boneless! What a delight, especially for someone who until this day, sucks at picking bones out of fish and meat.
2. Circular-shaped.. What!? I never thought that was possible. The fact that the chicken skin was intact and wrapping around the chicken still was even more amazing. I was in awe.
The third appetizer was also of meat, which was chosen by my mom. She remembered this Chicken Wrapped Salted Egg Yolk ($6.50) from the dinner we had two years ago because the dish left such a great impression on her. The two of us devoured this in no time because both of us absolutely love salted egg yolks. For the price, I felt this was much more worth the price than the Preserved Pork. Once again, this chicken was boneless and circular-shaped, so I could no longer resist and had to ask how they managed to pull this off. The waitress seemed a little confused when I questioned her, but she replied that the chefs possibly may have achieved this by laying the chicken flat, rolling the meat up with salted egg yolks in between using aluminum foil and then slicing them to serve. The appetizer has definitely become one of my favourites here.
As with wine chicken, another must-order at Shanghai restaurants is Xiao Long Bao (abbreviated XLB, as I have been seeing on other food blogs recently). I’ll just add here that in Cantonese, we call them “Siu Long Bao”. We were served 8 of these Steamed Shrimp, Scallop and Pork Dumpings ($7.50) in a traditional bamboo steamer basket. Going for the bite-size impression, I felt these were too small for my personal liking, and inadequate in releasing flavours of shrimp, scallop, and pork. The taste of the pork was also overly strong, which in turn overshadowed the scallop and shrimp. Something I did enjoy about the XLB were the delicately thin skins; delicately thin, yet strong enough to contain the soup within.
The other entrée we ordered was Stir Fried Basa Fillet with Wine Sauce ($11.95). I swear the two of us aren’t alcoholics! This delicacy consisted of fish served in a wine broth, adorned with cloud ear fungus, grated ginger, and my favourite bamboo shoots. The broth got a little overwhelming at the end, but if you only have a little bit and don’t finish the whole thing, it should be savouring.
Dessert tonight was something rather extraordinary for me: Glutinous Rice in Red Dates with Sugar Sauce ($8.50). The Chinese name for this sweet was 心太軟, which I found odd because that had traditionally been used to describe chocolate lava cakes. After some explanation, my mom told me that this was the Chinese-style of 心太軟. My mom found this dish to be too sweet for her, but I thought the amount of syrup was just right for the red dates. I expected some sort of filling in the glutinous rice (as in Tang Yuen, or Tong Tyun in Cantonese) but there was none – no disappointments however.
The bill totalled around $51 for the 2 of us – definitely a pricier choice than normal, meaning we will visit only occasionally. Anyway, more delicious food adventures to be coming this week because Reading Week has finally begin! Hooooooooray!