So much is going on in the Imperial Building recently, the latest addition being Mandarin Dumpling & Bar. Being avid dumpling lovers, we were very excited to finally try out the new eatery. The entry is very obscure as it is a basement spot (just look out for the MOA signpost), but before you go hunting around for it, here’s what we think. First impressions upon stepping into the restaurant were great. Decor was chic and even though the place was essentially a dark cellar it was lively and had excellent atmosphere. It did make you expect great things. We were served candied walnuts immediately, these are fried with the wok and very tasty. We then picked the following and waited for quite some time.
- Dumplings (Pan-fry and Steam) – the only ‘wow’ factor here was the impressive colour scheme going on with the dumpling skins. We thought with only four different flavours to choose from they were incredibly lacking for a restaurant that had ‘Dumpling’ in their name. Taste-wise the skins were too thick and shiny for us. In comparison, the dumplings at Barilla (read here) were the perfect thickness and at an immense price slash – of course location, interior design, and ambience will justify your larger bill…
Pork & shiitake mushroom dumplings (pan-fry and steam $6 for 4pcs) – best of the four. Beef, onion & beetroot dumplings (pan-fry and steam $6 for 4pcs) Prawn, crab & squid ink dumplings (pan-fry and steam $8 for 4pcs) Egg, vermicelli, cabbage & spinach dumplings (pan-fry and steam $6 for 4pcs)
- Shredded chicken breast ($16) – the chicken was succulent, tasty and very strongly flavoured.
- Taiwanese pork sausage with kombu & white sesame ($12) – nothing special here, I believe both components can be purchased from an Asian supermarket. We actually have some kombu in the fridge right now, tastes exactly the same.
- Fried home-made tofu ($18) – the tofu would be the star of our meal. It was smooth and is impressively made on-site.
In all honesty, I wouldn’t give in to the hype. Sure the place is beautiful and unique but I don’t believe it is enough to justify the overpriced and underwhelming food. When people are willing to eat at a restaurant with brusque staff, splashed with bright orange and green paint, and one that’s ventured into the depths of a D-grade hygiene, you know that the food is good and no amount of designer decor can rival it. Dominion Road isn’t too far, there’s even free parking.
Mandarin Dumpling & Bar.
5 Fort Lane, Auckland Central.