Saturday, 15 February 2014

Jia (家)South Kensington

Because we are, to the man, a bunch of cheap-ass students, our group outing to catch the Lego Movie was all the way at the Cineworld on Fulham Road because the tickets there were cheaper than anywhere else on a Saturday afternoon. Post-movie (Which we thought was completely awesome, because we like meta and have a ton of Batman in-jokes courtesy of the aptly initialled DC), the decision was made to have a late dim sum lunch at Jia (), located in nearby South Kensington. 


It took a while before they were able to ready what looked to be the biggest table in the restaurant for our group of ten because of the lunch crowd. Due to the lack of space inside the restaurant we had to do our hovering just outside the door, but since it was sunny out we didn't mind the wait.


Ordering dim sum for groups like ours is a chaotic event, fraught with the dangers of under-ordering. When you also have to take into account the fact that some people hate coriander for instance, or that some people really desperately want a char siew sou (Flaky baked pastry stuffed with honey barbecued pork) while others prefer the bao version (Where the pork is stuffed into a steamed bun instead), it's a recipe for disaster when the wait staff start glaring down impatiently and causing panic. Which was why we really appreciated it when one of the waitresses took one look at us and handed over a pen and an order chit, telling us to take our time jotting down our own order. This way, we could systematically go through each page of the menu and debate our orders without holding anyone up. 


We're self-aware enough to know (after all this time) that we're a bunch of greedy eaters, so as the first dish of braised yee mein with shimeiji mushrooms arrived, we began to worry on reflex that we hadn't ordered quite enough, despite jotting down the numbers of over half the items on the menu. 


The second dish to arrive was the spicy aubergine and egg tofu on a hot plate, which was just magnificent. I ended up drizzling the hot sauce over my noodles, which was a truly winning combination. 


Dim sum lunches tend to be a monthly post-church tradition for a lot of us who were at the table, eaten at Golden Dragon in Chinatown (Where they always look very put out to see us, I can't imagine why) and always an amusingly cut-throat affair if you sit at the right (Or wrong, depending on how you look at it) table. There was one lunch where all the big eaters were sat together, and a small chopstick fight broke out over the last prawn dumpling when three people leaned in to grab it at the same time. Fun times. 


This lunch was far more civilized (Possibly because there was so much food that there was nothing to fight over), with a bunch of fancier dim sum, including this dainty scallop and prawn dumpling in a green spinach pastry, garnished with flying fish roe. (Although I must say that the deep fried beancurd skin roll at Golden Dragon is a little better. It's one of my favourite dishes, I have very decided feelings about it) 


The molten egg yolk custard bun was not as liquid and molten as half the table preferred, but I quite like this consistency because there are fewer chances of the filling bursting out and scalding me, which has very unfortunately happened before. Still, it's best eaten quickly while it's hot, and the bun is soft and fluffy. 


Do likewise for the steamed honey pork bun - this one had nice big chunks of meat in it, a far cry from school canteen iterations from my childhood, which always only seemed to contain a thin and runny sauce.


A cry of "Augh, no! Chives!" greeted the arrival of the steamed rice flour roll with scallops, which meant more for those of us who didn't mind the stuff. 


Someone snorted out a laugh and went "That looks like lembas bread!" when the lotus leaf-wrapped rice dumplings were served. Much like elven waybread, it turned out to be surprisingly filling.


After the first round of dishes were cleared, someone at the table wondered aloud once again if we'd ordered enough food, which was when the next round was brought out. Ignoring round three, which came by a little later, you can see what we had to contend with in round two:


The nice thing about my friends, is that they've all been trained to give me three seconds grace to get a picture in before skewering anything. Sometimes, they're even nice enough to ensure I get a better shot, by rearranging the food for me, as YJ did. 


The prawn ravioli with XO sauce we though was a little odd, but the deep fried dough fritters wrapped in rice flour rolls were lovely. For all that we ate, we were quite taken aback by how reasonable the lunch had been at £16 a head. Service had been pleasant all afternoon as well, with the waiters very conscientiously clearing our empty plates and topping up our glasses of water. A thoroughly enjoyable lunch, made better by hilarious company.  

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