My new favorite dim sum...
The problem with having Alabang Town Center as my second home is that having frequented the place as much as I have over the decades, guarantees a lack of new dining possibilities. That's why when they recently opened new wings such as The Garden inside the mall and The Street at the outskirts, I was ecstatic at having so many uncharted places -at least on my blog- of degustation. Our next stop was Shi Lin.
The place was clean and the lighting was warm. Tables with an overlay of wood design and red chairs and booth seats were spaced appropriately giving ample space for waiters to mill around the restaurant. The walls exhibit patterns of wood projecting a modern vibe to this Taiwanese interior. Overhead, there were some wooden slats and beige-colored squarish lanterns lined up in a row. In the middle hang a series of drop light chandeliers to complete the ceiling's decor. Feeling famished, my eyes began to trek the menu.
I've mentioned this before -- I don't get why drinking soda after eating century eggs leaves such an execrable taste in the mouth. Must be due to the conglutination of the compounds of both components. But rather than stay away from this pseudo-hundred year egg, I steer clear of soft drinks instead. This particular Century Egg with Bonito Flakes (P95) is sliced into six, fanning out from the middle and topped by slices of scallions. I like the silky feel of the brown sauce poured circularly upon all the pieces providing that sweet undertone to the egg's creamy dark yolk and gelatinous whites (or blacks ;p).
Ordering the Noodles with Sesame and Peanut Sauce (P138) proved to be imprudent. I should have known by the sound of it that no sapid savory taste could come out of something that remotely resembled peanut butter on noodles. It was sticky and quite choky, I could only attempt to get a few spoonfuls into my mouth before finally pushing the dish back and looking for something else to digest. It clearly needed a strong contrasting flavor to cut through the nutty pastiness of the dish. In retrospect, I believe I would have far better enjoyed its spicy counterpart, which I plan on devouring on my next visit.
Another regrettable dish was the Drunken Chicken (P255) which, more than anything else, has more to do with my neurons being unable to process how a protein etched in my cognitive perception as something supposedly hot, is being registered by my gustatory organs as something quite the opposite. Slices of cold chicken lay fanned out like a deck of cards forming a semi-circle. I couldn't quite remember the taste of the soup stock it sits upon, nothing really repugnant I reckon, but all flavor analysis were paralyzed at the first touch of that cool poultry meat.
Short-grained rice of pale yellow hues lay in a jumbled heap with sporadic pieces of pork, tiny ribbons of omelette and the occasional strands of spring onion. It's simply so satisfying to munch on this flavorful Fried Rice with Shredded Pork and Egg (P98).
CRRRUUNCH!! Loud crackling noises escape the lips as my molars chomp and grind on the Crispy Salt and Pepper Squid (P289). The breading is seasoned well, though again, nothing that would compel me to order it once more on my subsequent gastronomic sojourn.
Take the previously mentioned scrumptious pale yellow rice, add some nicely fried chops cut into strips and sprinkled with a dash of pepper, and you've got one toothsome savory dish in this Fried Rice with Pork Chop and Egg (P195). The tender pork encrusted with crispness exudes with such umami flavor that is appetizing enough to warrant deadly stares upon signs of stealing hands.
I enjoyed the Vegetable and Pork Dumpling (P158) albeit there was nothing really exceptional about it. The veggie flavor was more pronounced than the meat, as I feel tiny green fibers threatening to wedge in between my teeth. We could see the cooks behind the glass walls laboriously preparing each piece, stuffing mashed greens into doughy wrappers and lining them up in rows for steaming.
It was my first time to eat Xiao Long Bao (P138 6 pcs; P230 10 pcs) -- shocking, I know. Until recently, dim sum remained for me as either those assorted dry meat wrapped in dumpling wrapper or those exposed ones with sauce (like chicken feet or spareribs with tausi), just not one with soup inside. I scan the instructions printed on a laminated piece of paper and decided against it. Instead, I gingerly pick up a piece in between my chopsticks and nestle it carefully on my Chinese spoon half-filled with soy sauce plus a single sliver of ginger. After dousing it for a few seconds, I then pick it up and slowly bring the whole piece into my eagerly anticipating mouth, internally praying that the dainty wrapper is durable enough to see its short journey to the end. My teeth gently come together and the instant they meet, a gush of somewhat saline broth deliciously awash my palate. The ensconced ground pork stuffing finally escapes into an exquisite terpsichore with the soup, evoking a taste so highly gratifying, I pat myself on the back for opting for the 10 piece order instead of the 6.
The Shi Lin Cheese Cake (P105) reminded me of the Japanese cheesecake in BreadTalk. A light and airy sponge with a mantle of oval-shaped brown veneer, it was like an imaginary kiss that tickled the lips at the first forkful. Wash it down refreshingly with the Passionberry Iced Tea (P60) that's suitably sweet and revivifying.
A few hits and a few misses, but still, this restaurant merits more visits, if only for several pieces of those lovely Xiao Long Bao.
Spot: G/F The Garden (New Wing) Alabang Town Center, Muntinlupa City