Sherman's Food Adventures: Jingle Bao

Jingle Bao

I guess it is fitting with Christmas less than a month away, we have a new dumpling spot opening up on Denman called Jingle Bao (get it, Jingle Bells...).  Situated in the old location of Ritual, Jingle Bao is the first spot in Vancouver to offer the IG-worthy rainbow Xiao Long Bao featuring different flavours including the traditional pork soup dumpling.  They will be also offering the massive XLBs that need a straw to eat them in the future, but for now, they only have the regular size during their soft opening.  I gathered up the fam to go check it out.

Okay, I'm not going to talk about the other food that came first because this place is all about the Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings).  We got 2 steamers of the original at $5.95 for 5 dumplings.  These were made-to-order so it took a bit of a delay to get them.  But it was worth it as the dumpling skin was fairly thin and had a nice elasticity.  Inside, the meat filling was loose and moist while the soup content was generous.  It was mild-tasting with natural pork sweetness.  The Rainbow Xiao Long Bao featured one each of the original, spinach, mushroom, spicy and shrimp.  Texturally, there wasn't much difference and in terms of flavour, I found them very much vanity over function.  That didn't mean they weren't any good, but the flavours were quite muted except for the spicy.  These were very reasonably-priced at $6.95 per steamer.

In addition to these Shanghainese dumplings, they also featured Cantonese ones in the form of Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) and Siu Mai (Pork Dumplings).  Surprisingly, the ha gau were pretty legit.  Large in size and sporting a thin elastic and translucent dumpling skin, these were steamed just right.   Inside, the whole shrimp filling was moist and buttery while giving way to a sweet snap.  I swear these were just as good as some Dim Sum spots in town.  The same could not be said about the siu mai though.  Visually, they looked alright with its usual shape and topped with tobiko.  However, they were composed of pork only without any shrimp and shiitake (at least I didn't get any in my dumpling).  Hence, the whole thing was one-note and bordering on bland.  Really needed hot sauce with this one.  In terms of texture, it was also too firm where it needed the other ingredients and maybe a bit more fat.

On the other hand, the Crystal Shrimp Dumplings were pretty good even though they were meant to be more IGable than the standard ha gau.  What I mean by this is that they were solid despite sporting a pinkish hue and edible flowers.  That same couldn't be said about similar dumplings at Ampersand.  However, just like Ampersand, these contained frozen veggies mixed in with the ha gau filling.  I wasn't particularly fond of that part, but the shrimp portion was just as good as the ha gau.  Drizzled with a spicy mayo, the Crispy Snowflake Pork Dumplings were also quite good.  Loved how the pan-fry on the bottom of the dumpling was aggressive enough to create a crunchy crust where it was bordering on burnt, but just stopped short.  The dumpling skin was medium-thin and had a good chew to it.  Inside, the pork filling was tender, juicy and mild-tasting.  Finally, the spicy mayo really brought impact to the dish.

Sadly, the Beef Noodle Soup was one of the weaker items we tried.  Although it was crammed into a small bowl, there was actually plenty of al dente noodles hidden underneath the melt-in-our-mouths slices of beef shank.  However, the soup itself was too light in terms of appearance and taste.  I could get a sense of meatiness as well as some spice and star anise, yet it pretty bland at the same time.  Furthermore, the Shanghai bak choy was overcooked to a mush.  To get some greens into the meal, we ordered 2 plates of the Chilled Garlic Green Beans.  At first, I wasn't too thrilled with it being cold, but in the end, it kept the crunch and vibrancy of the green beans intact.  There was some enoki strewn throughout and we did get the garlic.  I wished they has more aggressively salted the dish though.

Onto some fried things, we had both the Crispy Fish Fillets and the Salt & Pepper Chicken.  I found the fish to be tender and flaky while the panko coating was lightly crispy.  There was enough seasoning that the side of mayo wasn't really necessary.  One problem with the dish was the amount of residual grease.  Either the oil wasn't hot enough or they did not drain the oil from the fish properly before plating.  Same problem existed with the chicken as well where each nugget was glistening.  Despite that, the dark meat as juicy and well-seasoned.  Plenty of five spice as well as the advertised salt and white pepper.  If we take into account that this is only their soft opening, it is forgivable that there will be some hits and misses.  Also with that being said, their XLB game is already in high-gear and in reality, the most important item on the menu.  Those are definitely worth trying and I'm curious about the gigantic ones available upon their grand opening.

The Good:
- XLBs are made-to-order and legit
- Reaonable-pricing
- Those rainbow XLBs

The Bad:
- Flavours can be more impactful (especially in the rainbow XLBs)
- Fried items too greasy
- Beef Noodle needs work

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