Monday, 3 January 2011

Restaurant Review: Dragon Castle

There's a regeneration scheme, there's great transport links, there's a new big tall building with expensive flats in it (that I was told have sold pretty poorly, but who knows) but what is there to do.  Bad house music I suppose, but apart from that Elephant and Castle doesn't have an enormous amount going on.  But what it does have is a fantastic Cantonese restaurant in the shape of Dragon Castle.  Though they seem to use a bit much MSG for my liking - although it is delicious, I still feel like it's cheating and it can obscure more subtle flavours - the cooking here is good, the service friendly and the interior is very reminiscent of similar types of restaurants in Southern China.  

Since it was the last day of the year me and eating buddy Tom took the unusual step of over-ordering (shock and gasps all round).  We stuck to the Cantonese dishes, something recommended by every review that I saw, and it worked out well.  We started with pork hock with sliced jellyfish.  Sweetened slices of pressed ham hock came with a decent amount of tasty fat and chewy skin round the outside.  Alongside this were sesame oil dressed slices of jellyfish.  These have a lovely texture, which is difficult to describe - imagine cartilage, but far softer - I know that sounds sort of horrid, but really its not.  Jellyfish doesn't have much flavour of their own but a sprinkling of MSG gets around that, which is a shame because the sesame and chilli was working really well.  This dish represents the Chinese love of foods for their mouthfeel.  This often represent, 'squidgy, chewy, or jelly-like' textures which might initially jar with a Western palate, but are really satisfying when you get used to them.

A plate of two different types of parcels, one seafood and one milk skin was the least successful dish.  Not bad at all, but probably too much fried food for two people to share.  The milk skin - very similar to a sweetened silken tofu - especially was very nice the first time, but was very rich and a few bights was easily enough.  Much more successful was the our clay pot dish of pork trotter in black pepper sauce.  This arrived whole and was pulled apart (it really didn't take much effort) at the table by our waiter.  Deliciously soft, just enough fat and skin that had cooked down to a melting texture.  I thought it was under-seasoned and I'd have preferred the sauce to be more intense and maybe have a bit of sweetness in it to compliment the meat, but it was nonetheless a lesson in how meat should be slow-cooked.

Next was a bowl of rice topped with really excellent small chopped spare rib with a mild sweetness.  They're a bit of work as you have to chew round them to get all the goodness out, but its totally worth it. The other component of the dish was chicken feet, not for everyone, but I love their meaty gelatinous taste and feel.  Very nice.  Lastly we had a shark fin dumpling in seafood broth.  Not the greatest dumpling ever, but a nice clean end to the meal and the vinegar on the side gave some acidity, which was something there was not a great deal of in the rest of the meal.  Mercifully the waiter didn't bring the double portion of egg fried rice we'd ordered (I think purposefully... maybe he'd seen the creosote man sketch in Monty Python's meaning of life and was worried about the clean up job).

This isn't my favourite Chinese restaurant in London, and the meal wasn't perfect, but it was still very good and I would recommend it.  

Price: £43 for two with two beers

The damage!

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