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Food Tour Party: Xuxu (Britomart, Auckland)

currently: drinking milo on a cold day.
If you overlook the plants and palms on the corner of Galway and Commerce Street, you may be able to spot the birdcaged red neon sign for Xuxu, Britomart's modern dumpling bar. Located opposite sister restaurant Cafe Hanoi, Xuxu's specialty is dumplings which are a fusion of Asian tastes and western ingredients.

I'm not lying when I say I'm a true dumpling fanatic. I've spent years eating good traditional dumplings at various yum char restaurants over the world (well Auckland and Malaysia). No other dumpling tastes as good as a well-made har gao (prawn dumpling) or siu mai (traditional pork dumpling). And I've learnt the homemade art of dumplings from my mum's most delicious homemade potsticker dumplings. My dumpling standards are high, so this specialty dumpling bar had a lot to prove.

Xuxu isn't a big venue, and neither is their menu selection with only 7 different types of dumplings to choose from. Two are vegetarian options, one of those gluten free. The rest are a mix of traditional dumplings and some other Xuxu specialties. My two vegetarian friends had easy picks - the only two vegetarian dumplings available. I was suggested to pick the pork & shrimp with ginger and coriander, and the spiced lamb & fennel as my two. And though we were all at a bar, the $18 cocktail price tag was a bit much for us that night.

We sit around waiting in our table against the wall, trying to stay warm as we wait for dinner. It's a nicely decorated place with a lot of Eastern influences while keeping with the upmarket Britomart aesthetic. I've noticed that Western restaurants (at least the fancy ones) always accommodate for people so there's always space around everyone, but they never accommodate for the amount of food you want to order. Whereas many of the Chinese restaurants I go to - there's plenty of table space for food, never enough for people. Why is that?

The dumplings are delivered, and our tiny little table becomes stacked with six dumpling baskets. I think I would have preferred to be able to spread all the dumpling baskets out so I could pick and choose, but with so little space, I make do with eating through one dumpling flavour before moving to the other.

I start with the lamb and fennel - these six small but nicely packaged dumplings steaming as they're served to us. As I bite into it, I feel the dumpling skins were a bit thick for my liking, and not sealed as securely as they should have been. Every time I would go to grab one dumpling with my chopsticks, the skin would often open up and the filling, while not too heavy, would fall out. And while they did taste alright, it didn't exactly leave me hungry for more, just hungry. Normally I don't go for soya sauce and vinegar with my food, these dumplings needed that bit more kick. The pork and shrimp was a slight improvement, and the flavours were better (or just not as dry).

I saved my stomach and avoided buying any other savory dumplings for what I hoped to be the highlight of my night - the dessert dumpling. Tonight's choice was the banoffee dumpling, steamed with banana & salted caramel. Never have I ever had a dessert dumpling, let alone a banoffee one. So I was most curious to see how exactly these banoffee dumplings would be presented.

My friend and I split a basket between us just because we were curious but unsure how they'd turn out. We honestly did not know what to expect - but they arrived at our table looking like a small simple basket of dumplings, steamed and drizzled with sauce. But when you bite into it, the sweetness of the banana and caramel together tasted delicious. You'd try to pace yourself but this dumpling, which was basically one slice of banana in salted caramel, was so easy to just pop in your mouth that I could easily eat 20 of without any hesitation. So we got another basket. And had it not been for the price tag, I would have got another.

All things considered, Xuxu would be a nice gathering spot to be at if you're not into coffees at cafes but prefer dumplings and cocktails. The atmosphere is nice, the staff are pretty good (we had some weird bark floating in our water and they didn't have to be told to change out the glasses and carafe when we pointed it out), and it's a relatively nice quiet place in the busy centre of Britomart. While it isn't that cheap and I wouldn't rank their savoury dumplings the best in the city, it's definitely a novelty place to go for the dessert dumplings. I've yet to hear of any other dumpling place that serves dessert dumplings, but yes this should be a thing. Dessert dumplings everywhere.

Food Tour Party review:
Money friendliness - at most $8 per basket of 6. You'll need to have a few baskets to fill up.
Purchase fun - not many options but there are dessert dumplings.
Deliciousness factor - Again, dessert dumplings.

[disclaimer: this review was written up before Xuxu changed their menu. The dumplings that were reviewed are no longer on the menu.]

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