Last week in the midst of national fascination with Slovenia, a friend and I decided to head to Wembley to avoid the football and try out the newly opened Pacific Plaza Asian Centre there. We were sure irony would make lunch all the more delicious…
Pacific Plaza is the replacement for the now defunct Oriental City in Colindale. I never made it that far north, so I can’t really compare, but I do know that Oriental City inspired great love and loyalty in people. Time will tell if Pacific Plaza can do the same. right now, it is a little bit unsure of itself and the supermarket hasn’t opened for business yet. It probably needs a little bit more time to bed in.
After a fairly short five minute walk from Wembley Park tube station, we headed straight upstairs to the food court in search of soul soothing dumplings. There are around 7 or 8 stands to choose from, offering Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Chinese cuisine. I’d like to tell you that we tried a little something from everywhere and can offer a reasoned review of global cuisines. But neither of us felt like anything spicy and headed straight for China House to sample their dim sum and roasted meats.
Ravenous from our long Tube journey, we decide on five dim sum dishes to sate our appetites. First and foremost we went for the taro dumplings, always a good test of a dim sum place’s standards. This was also our reasoning behind choosing some char siu buns. Hunger also prompted us toward the fried cuttlefish cake, chive dumplings and turnip cakes. We also couldn’t resist the 3 roast meats of duck, pork and char siu pork. Along with a couple of cans of Diet Coke, this feast came to a very reasonable £21.
Service was efficient, but polite and friendly and the waitress was happy to bring our dishes over as they appeared. We took our pick of the big open canteen style tables and were very happy to see it fill up quickly. We started with the taro dumpling and while it was a nice texture with good flavour, it wasn’t very warm. These should be deliciously hot and crispy to be enjoyed their best. The slight disappointment of this was allayed by the arrival of the roasted meats.
A generous portion of crispy skinned pork, sticky char siu and a healthy big duck leg and thigh arrived aboard a plate of nicely cooked rice and some succulent greens. I don’t really care if you aren’t meant to eat the garnish, I can’t say no to anything in the pak choi/bok choi family with a bit of roast meat! The crispy pork was tasty and a good finish. The char siu was delicious, but both were just a touch too salty for me. The duck however was the star of the show and I definitely could have eaten more.
The dim sum choices were all good sized portions too. I loved the fried cuttlefish cake. It was slightly sweet, had a hint of that rubberiness that Asian fishcakes and fishballs tend to have (that I love) and was very light and tasty. The turnip cake was deliciously soft and squishy and shot through with teeny tiny chunks of pork for extra flavour and texture. Extra pork of course makes everything better in life and I thoroughly enjoyed these.
The char siu buns were well filled with sticky pork, but were a little heavy for my liking but I think that’s my personal preference rather than their cooking. But I definitely found the chive dumplings a little lacking in flavour with not enough hint of onion from the chives for me. But despite these small flaws, we made excellent work of our dishes and only a scattering of rice was left. These definitely weren’t the best dim sum I’ve ever eaten, but considering the price and the cheery atmosphere of Pacific Plaza I was more than happy with the whole outing and would happily return in the future for some more turnip cakes and to check out the other booths.
Not all the planned stalls and shops have opened yet, but this is made up for by the wonderful Tetote Japanese bakery on the ground floor. Everything is baked freshly each day and once it’s gone, it’s gone. We missed the last custard bun by moments and were tempted by a rhubarb galette instead before choosing a curry bun and a raisin and walnut roll instead as a gift for someone who couldn’t make it to join us. They raved about their light textures and impeccable freshness. If the day hadn’t been so warm, I’d have gone for the galette and a coffee to check it out for myself. But I will be back for more of their wares, remembering that they are shut on Tuesdays and therefore have a limited bread selection on Wednesdays.
If you live close by (or even luckier work nearby) you could do a lot worse than a cheap and cheerful lunch at Pacific Plaza. And if you can call in for fresh azuki bean pastries from Tetote on a regular basis, then I’m so envious it hurts! Once the large looking supermarket opens, I’ll be happily making the journey again from Brixton for an afternoon out of dumplings and browsing. I just hope Pacific Plaza doesn’t go the same way as poor old Oriental City as it has real promise!