Friday Dim Sum at Shang Palace: Brilliant!

This is a review of the Yum Cha – or dim sum – Friday brunch at Shang Palace, at the Shangrila Hotel on Shk Zayed Road. The dim sum brunch is really very good.

The Shangrila Hotel is a famous five star Asian chain of hotels and most of their properties have a signature chinese restaurant, and the Shang Palace is Dubai’s signature chinese restaurant. We have had absolutely great dinners there before, but this was our first attempt at the dim sum brunch, and we were not disappointed. We had made reservations earlier, as the place does get full easily, and although we did see a couple of walk in customers finding tables, it is best to book ahead.

You order off a special dim sum menu (with photo references of each dish shown) and mark your order on a check list. Your first order does take a little while – probably because the food comes out all together. And when it does, you are treated to a variety of tastes, textures and flavors. You could order from a choice of soups, steamed dumplings, wok fried dumplings, deep fried dumplings, stir fried vegetables, noodles rice etc, and of course, dessert. And, you can keep ordering until you are full. It is, after all, one of the best all-you-can-eat dim sum lunch deals in town. And you pay a very reasonable AED115 per person, taxes included. That was just amazing.

The selections we ordered were all low on salt, which we liked, and you can always dip into the chili oil and hot sauces if you need to add some zing. The soups were very light and just right for starters. Dim sum is after all breakfast for the chinese, although now it has become a trendy all day item. But at Shang Palace, they did keep the lightness in mind, because each dim sum was done really well – a balance of inventive contents wrapped in just the right outsides which were really light. All of the individual dim sums come in the classic basket in portions of three dumplings. The others are typical small portions, like the absolutely delicious baby bok choi stir fried. Or the somewhat bland stir fried mixed vegetables (the weakest in the entire menu, we found).

The obligatory siu mai wasn’t the best in the world but some of the dishes were absolutely the best we have had anywhere in the world. We had just come back from a holiday in Hong Kong, so, of course, we were comparing, and I must admit that even though the two cuisines are different (Shang Palace is mostly mandarin – mainland China or Shanghai style), while Hong Kong food is Cantonese), we thought Shang Palace, at least for us, was a yard better. I cannot remember individual names or descriptions, but every single steamed dim sum was top class.

Try the ones built around mushrooms, they were stunning. The beef balls are again a dim sum staple anywhere, but here they were soft and had delicious flavor with the meat just melting in your mouth rather than being chewy. Siu mai was OK.  The deep fried shrimp won ton was deliciously light as well. Sea food  options were great without being over-the-top on seafood. The chef had been inventive in mixing the ingredients. Most of the dim sum were chicken, lamb, beef or sea food based, although they did have a couple of veggie dim sums. But this lunch is not for vegetarians. The desserts were nothing over the top, but the strawberry or banana pancakes do deserve a mention, and you order from a separate dessert station around the corner. We also saw people crowding around a special cooking station with Peking Duck and other noodle options being made fresh by the attending chef, but we were so busy and satisfied with our baskets of dim sum delight, we forgot to try that out.

The service was always with a smile, and actually very, very friendly. There was never a “I am not looking after your table” attitude and every single person was willing to help. In fact, service was absolutely outstanding.  I always try and comment on the price of a bottle of water at a restaurant, and at Shang Palace paying AED22.50 for a small bottle of (Naive) water was the only negative thing I can say in this review.