Chinese Pop Delicacies

Mandopop – a new Chinese restaurant at Oriental Residence on Wittayu Road

If you are, like me, likely to spend most of your time tracking over the Internet what is new to eat, you might have already known that dim sum is now having a happy return onto people’s dining table around the world. Take, for example, the food scene of New York where the tidbits are taken to a new fancy height with chefs there challenging the traditional forms of parceling and steaming to fashioning the food into many fun-looking shapes and forms such as Pacman and arrays of cute animals.

Dragon Royale to start the meal with

In Thailand, while not having been up on par with those fancy places in the other side of the world, we surely are moving forward with much more artistic forms of once ordinary cuisines. Take, for example, Mandopop – an in-house Chinese restaurant at the Oriental Residence – a brand new hotel-cum-serviced-apartment just next to the US Embassy on Witthayu road where patrons there enjoy an edgy feel of Chinese cuisine with beautiful modern presentations of traditional Chinese food plus a full bar to enhance their meal.

Scallop Ha Gao

Named after the short form of ‘Mandarin popular music,’ Mandopop exudes a cool and funky character with its airy blue, black and gold interior plus a spiral staircase and massive light fixture. This is a place where you want to come when you feel good and in a need to indulge in fancy food and place. And especially if you are likely to dine alone or with just a few companies and like a Chinese food served in a set to enjoy different assorted tasty variations in one meal. Mandopop is manned by Chef Adrian Chua who, originally hailing from Singapore, brings his extensive cooking experiences in China, Singapore and India into creating this Chinese pop meal.

Pan-seared foie gras with crispy duck skin

We were there for both set meals and some items from their a la carte menu. We chose Set B (Bt1,050 ++) and Set C (Bt1,550++) – both consist of 1. a dim sum platter (of four pieces of dim sum including variations of prawn dumpling, siew mai, radish cake, scallop dumpling, glutinous rice in lotus leave, rice skin roll with prawn (but the day we were there it was replaced by crispy fried woo kok instead); 2. a soup (for Set B it was a creamy and refreshing winter vegetable with seafood soup and for Set C a very western-style foie gras puree with scallop wonton); 3. a main course of another three bigger bites such as pan-fried garoupa, braised mixed mushroom with broccoli, chicken fried rice in egg crepe, steamed cod with preserved vegetable, stir-fried vegetable with chef’s specialty spicy sauce and my favorite of scallop noodle in superior stock.

Appetizers from Set C – lamb with enoki mushroom, roasted duck and pan-fried cod with ginger-scallion sauce

The difference between Set B and Set C is that the latter has another additional plate of appetizers which include yummy pan-seared lamb slices wrapped with enoki mushroom, roasted duck and pan-fried cod with the house’s special ginger and scallion creamy sauce. And the desserts of the sets are the creamy avocado ice cream or the chilled lemongrass gelo with fruit (which I love). One thing that differentiates dim sum of Mandopop and other places is that the chef prepares the skin of many dim sum from vegetable, resulting in the attractive green and pink wrappings of dumplings that are usually white.

Dim Sum Platter from Set C – scallop dumpling, glutinous rice with chicken in lotus leave and radish cake

We also ordered their signature dish of pan-seared foie gras with crispy duck skin (Bt450) that will please anyone loving the creamy and crispy texture of the two favorite combinations. The paper thin duck skin carries no fat; it is airy light and crisp and goes perfectly with the creamy bite of the foie gras plus the accompanying sprout and sweet cubes of mango and sauce. The plate is big enough for three people to share a few bites and feel just satisfied.

Soups from Set B (below) – winter vegetable soup with seafood and Set C (above) – Foie gras puree with scallop wonton

Chef Chua, a former model, says that he got a kitchen calling when he was studying in school and taking a part-time job helping out in a restaurant back home. After several kitchens, he realized he love cooking more than anything else and then the part-time slots took a turn into a serious career. He says he learned from several top chefs and formed in himself a personal cooking style that matches the traditional values with modern edgy feel. At Mandopop, with its modern look, food presentations and a full and technologically-advanced bar, Chef Chua still prepares everything old-style. He makes excellent ginger and scallion sauce (the one you normally find when eating Singaporean chicken rice) into creamy emulsion that goes fantastically with most Chinese bites. He also everyday makes fresh tofu from scratch. The humble tofu is just my favorite and Chef Chua’s silky pieces that are just pan-fried and served with pickled vegetables are my top-rated dish. You can order this dish from the a la carte at Bt200. The tofu is also featured in other menu such as steamed tofu with prawn paste and black bean sauce (Bt250) and steamed tofu with scallop (Bt300).

Chilled lemongrass gelo with fruits

To be a good chef also means to be creative in the dishes otherwise considered so very ordinary. Chef Chua says he has several master chefs that he still consults with every day because there are always new things to learn even from the most basic ingredients. Take, for example, his chilled lemon grass gelo served with fresh fruit in a mini-fish bowl completed with dry ice which, apart from the fact that it will excite you at the end of the meal, reflects the chef’s ability to make simple ingredients (in this case the ubiquitous lemongrass) into fancy dish that impresses his clients (in this case, me:). Because that just proves my point that good food does not need to be all about expensive and rare ingredients.

Enjoy eating!

Mandopop – At Oriental Residence on Witthayu Road (near the US Embassy) –  has 55 seats and 4 private dining rooms. It is open only for dinner from 17.00-24.00. T: 02-252-8001-5.

More pictures of Mandopop food that we ate are also available here.

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