13 September 2013

Taste of China, Oslo – Restaurant Review

One of the things I miss most about living in London is the sheer variety of global cuisine on offer. Whether it's a bowl of steaming hot phở, a garlicky hummus Beiruti with freshly baked flat bread, or some fiercely spiced jerk chicken. In London, it seems, you can have it all, and usually at a price that won't break the bank.

But perhaps the thing I miss most is my tradition of Sunday dim sum; it's what Sundays were made for in my opinion. Wake up late (we're talking pre kids here), grab my favourite section of The Sunday Times, head over to Royal China on Baker Street and settle in with some green tea while contemplating the array of steamed delights on offer.

On moving to Oslo I'd sort of resigned myself to this treat becoming a distant memory, and short of the odd trip abroad I'd have to go cold turkey with my dim sum addiction. Until that is I heard of a place in the centre of Oslo serving, so everyone said, decent dim sum. Although it had been on my radar for a while I'd studiously avoided going to Taste of China for fear of disappointment. In a city where many Asian restaurants seem to follow the 'jack-of-all-trades' formula, with menus offering sushi alongside Thai green curry and Kung Pao chicken, I'll be honest, I didn't have very high hopes for Taste of China.
So when the dim sum craving got too much, I bit the bullet and decided to try for myself. And do you know what? Although far from perfect, it was really rather good. And (joy of joys) they happen to be in a very exclusive club indeed – an Oslo restaurant that opens on Sundays!

The restaurant itself is located in the centre of Oslo, sandwiched between two restaurants serving the ubiquitous pizzas and kebabs. The dining room is up a flight of stairs on the first floor and it's a fairly shabby affair consisting mainly of the colour maroon. But I wasn't here to witness the skills of the restaurant's interior decorator, I was here for the food.
In true yum cha style we're handed a little piece of paper for us to jot down our order from a comprehensive menu of dim sum dishes. I'm no expert on dim sum, but it seemed all my favourites were there. We ordered a pot of green tea and waited for the food to arrive.


Pan fried turnip cakes were thick gelatinous squares of shredded daikon with little pieces of dried shrimp added, and although they were perhaps a little on the greasy side, they tasted great.

Next up was one my favourite dim sum dishes: prawn cheung fun. The slippery rice noodle rolls had good flavour but were a little on the thick side (they should be translucent) and were quite stodgy as a result. The stingy filling of three small prawns per roll didn't help matters either.

 

This was followed by another favourite, char siu bao. These Cantonese steamed buns were simply fantastic. Light and fluffy and packed with big pieces of juicy sweet barbeque pork, they disappeared very quickly indeed.


Steamed pork dumplings were also good, and I liked the freshness that the ginger slivers and spring onions added.


With much anticipation I dived into the basket of xiao long bao, perhaps my all-time favourite dim sum dish. Sadly though, these didn't have that wonderful soupy filling that is whole point of this Shanghai speciality. Instead, the filling contained a dense ball of ground pork and good pinch of disappointment to boot. That aside, they tasted great and were impressively constructed.


Pork siu mai was, sadly, not very good at all. Filled with dense and gristly ground pork, they remained barely touched at the end of the meal.


Infinitely better were the gorgeous prawn and crab siu mai. Packed with a generous portion of sweet, juicy prawn and crab meat they were one of the highlights of the meal.

The whole meal came to NKr. 515 (€65.50), which is very good value for Oslo. Service throughout was friendly and efficient and there's a great atmosphere inside – from hungover couples nursing themselves with steamed buns, to large families enjoying a meal together.

The cooking at Taste of China can be a little heavy handed and it could do with a bit more finesse, but I liked it. I really did. Yes there were some misses, but I think they were outnumbered by the hits. This is probably the sort of place where getting to know their menu and what dishes they do best will pay off handsomely. And that's a project I'm certainly looking forward to working on.
 
Food:          6 / 10
Service:      8 / 10
Ambiance:  7 / 10

Taste of China
Torggata 18
0181 Oslo, Norway
Tel: +47 22 11 18 88