I’m taking you around the world this week — and we haven’t even left Dubai! Furthermore, I believe Royal China is my first Chinese cuisine entry to the blog (and I’m so excited it is).
Located in DIFC (the Pavilion Area, not the Gate Village), the interior of the restaurant is decorated in bold reds, blacks and with large windows, offers a view of people walking by the busy financial district. With overlarge ceiling heights, it’s not a dining room you will feel cramped in anytime soon. Should you require the space, there is a large private dining area immediately behind the reception stand. Additionally, when the weather is nice, there is an outdoor terrace and a self-proclaimed ‘secret garden.’
Shown to our table, after being seated and proactively offered water, the menu(s) were distributed. Now, the menus, while yielding amazing food, were a bit…awkward. We were presented with a total of four menus (x 3 people, so really, there was a lot of ‘stuff’ at our table). One for drinks, one for dim sum, one which was ‘seasonal’ and then a standard ala carte menu. I’m not entirely sure what having such a collection accomplishes (we ended up ordering off of all three, but it was slightly difficult to keep track of). And honestly, this is the biggest suggestion I have for the restaurant (because the food was truly fantastic).
For starters, there were traditional options (buns and spring rolls), but my absolute favorite of the appetizers was the out of this world Pan-Fried gyoza. Both larger and more full of meat than any I’d had previously (TWSS), these gyoza were perfectly crispy and savory. With a bit of hoisin sauce, it was a dish I would happily order again (and again…and again). As fantastic as the gyoza was, there was big miss for me with the Fried Minced Chicken Balls Cheung Fun — as the picture my shows (the third photo), they were completely lacking nearly any form, and the chicken didn’t do anything to offset the gummy texture.
Next up was the Peking Duck (served with pancake, spring onion, and cucumber). As the legend goes, this preparation was intended only for royalty (oh la la). While the prepared duck was presented in one piece, we took the suggestion that it be sliced for the table. There was also an offer of preparing the pancakes on our behalf, but we declined. Honestly, this selection is a can’t miss off the menu. The whole experience of Peking Duck was truly special and, if only ordering a few things off the menu, I highly recommend it. I believe a half portion would allow enough for a party of four.
As we were well into the first hour of the meal, we moved to other suggested dishes. The highlight of this batch (for me) was the Malted caramel chicken. It might not look like the most appetizing, but honestly, the tender not too sweet chicken was an absolute delight. As this marks the third dish I wouldn’t hesitate to order again, I guess my biggest recommendation for your visit to Royal China is to be sure to arrive with your appetite. One of the signature dishes from the menu was the Crispy shredded beef served in bird’s nest. While the presentation was creative, unfortunately, I did not get much of a beef taste in the crispy bits. While others at the table enjoyed the dish, I would give it a pass on my next visit. Also worth noting (on our overly laden table) was the crispy chili prawn (with garlic). Can you go wrong with these ingredients? Not really.
To finish the meal, although I was nearly bursting, we decided to try the Pan fried red bean pastry — which, while not being much to look at, was a truly spectacular. Unlike more Western approaches to dessert (chocolate!!!), these slightly fried, just sweet enough little crepes (for lack of a better description) really hit the spot. The portion size was just enough for two people, and, as you might notice a trend here, I would be happy to order this dish again.
And finally (!) there was a delicately presented tea ceremony ‘to aid digestion’ at the very end of our lunch. While there is great service in the city, I would be pressed to find another place that ends the meal with such a nice flourish. And with three very social media active persons at the table, we all sat in complete silence and enjoyed the show.
And where is a meal without drinks? Although I usually save my non-Friday drinking to the evening, well, it would be rude not to try something off the cocktail menu, right? As I do not have much of a taste for sake (honestly, I’ll just insult someone by pretending to know what I’m talking about), I ended up trying the Royal China Martini (tart and tangy, with a dragon fruit garnish), while my friend had the Red Dragon (pictured below).
With the exception of a slip up in regards to an allergy at the table, the service was outstanding. We were in no way rushed, and ended up having a quite enjoyable three-hour (!) lunch. Furthermore, as much of the menu that we sampled, there was still heaps we didn’t get a chance to try! Overall, I sincerely enjoyed my meal here and should you find yourself at DIFC for lunch or dinner, I would strongly encourage you to try Royal China.