Sherman's Food Adventures: Little Bird Dim Sum + Craft Beer

Little Bird Dim Sum + Craft Beer

Inaccessible Dim Sum - where most typical diners cannot afford to visit often.  It all started with Mott 32 where we found high-end Dim Sum complete with non-traditional Michelin-Star quality service and accompanying dining space.  Then we found places like Ampersand and Blossom where fusion Dim Sum was served in modern digs without the old surly wait staff that could care less if you existed.  Well now we have something that meshes new and old together without bastardizing traditional Dim Sum nor asking for your first-born to dine there.  The name is Little Bird and this is within the same family that runs the iconic Flamingo House restaurant.  So at the very least, we know that the eats will be legit.  We essentially find traditional Dim Sum served in a non-traditional setting.

The main draw for me was that I could eat this for dinner, so I rounded up the fam and made the drive out to Kits.  We decided to try an array of dishes including the usual Ha Gau and Siu Mai.  Now you will noticed that they served the dumplings in threes rather than fours mostly to keep the costs down as the location isn't cheap and neither is the modern.  Moreover, the wait staff are young, courteous and efficient - that means they cost more too. In terms of execution, the shrimp dumpings were indeed good featuring a semi-thick wrapper that had some elasticity.  Inside, the whole shrimp and shrimp paste filling was moist, airy and of course bouncy.  It was mildly flavoured with the unmistakeable hint of sesame oil.  As for the pork & shrimp dumplings, they were on the firmer side consisting of the classic combination of processed pork, chunks of pork, shrimp and shiitake mushroom.  So all of the usual flavours were there, yet at the same time, the dumpling was not salty.

Interestingly, most Dim Sum spots do not offer Shrimp Toast anymore, but they had it here at Little Bird!  There was no doubt we had to order this.  I'm happy to report that it was no mistake as each piece featured crunchy toast bottoms that were only somewhat soaked with oil (hard to not be when you throw bread into a deep-fryer) which makes it so tasty!  On top, the shrimp mousse was perfectly moist and springy with the natural sweetness coming through.  If you haven't tried this before, I recommend this as a must order.  Staying on with the deep fried, we had the Deep Fried Wontons that were stuffed with a filling that was like the ha gau.  As such, it was just as bouncy and miost.  Once again, the seasoning was mild where the natural flavours came through.  As evidenced in the picture, the outside was crispy and completely browned affording a noticeable nuttiness.

On the flip side, their Spring Rolls were of the traditional variety consisting of pork, wood ear mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp and bamboo shoots.  It is true that I'm much more used to the all-shrimp variety that is more common on menus these days.  However, this version was really good and brought back memories of my childhood (wait, I used to go to Flamingo House as a kid...  makes sense...).  Firmly crunchy on the outside and served steaming hot, these were on point with a varied textured filling.  One of the more surprising dishes offered on the menu would have been the Deep Fried Chicken Knuckles.  I surely didn't mind as each piece was large and meaty with the unmistakable crunch from the cartilage.  Try it, don't be scared!  The only thing I would've liked to see was a bit more spice and saltiness, but then again, we could get hot sauce on the side.

One of the largest items on the menu was the Sticky Rice served as one portion wrapped in lotus leaves.  Very traditional as we normally find 3 mini versions at most places now.  There are advantages with the larger version as it usually stays more moist and in this case, can be stuffed with 2 drummettes and a large piece of cured sausage (insert joke here...).  Indeed the sticky rice was moist and still appealingly chewy with plenty of ground pork and shiitake.  One of the more relatively expensive items on the menu was the BBQ Pork Bun for $3.00 each.  Granted these buns were actually rather large (also insert joke here) as it took up most of the steamer all by itself.  In terms of execution, the bun was good where it was fluffy and light while retaining some resistance.  The lean BBQ pork filling was on the sweeter side yet not overly so.

Another table favourite had to be the Scallop Taro Puff.  Normally, these are served in a football-like shape, but this one had an open top covered by a scallop.  The scallop itself was delicate and buttery while caramelized on the outside.  Light and crispy, the exterior was not overly greasy (as some versions tend to be).  Just underneath, the medium-thick layer of mashed taro was airy and smooth.  Inside, the ground pork and shiitake was fairly light and mildly-seasoned.  Although the Pork Spareribs were full-flavoured from the plethora of minced garlic, the dish itself was a bit sloppy.  There was far too much moisture and grease which made things goopy.  With that being said, the rib portions were tender while still retaining a bite.  Furthermore, the dish wasn't oversalted which meant that the garlic and natural flavours of the pork come through.

Onto 2 pan-fried items, we had the Pot Stickers as well as the Shanghai Pork Bun.  We enjoyed the semi-thin dumpling wrapper of the pot stickers as they were easy to eat as well as having a mouth-pleasing elasticity.  Inside, the pork filling was tender and moist.  It wasn't very dense either and had just enough cabbage.  Once again, the seasoning was on the milder side and we were beginning to suspect that this was intentional considering that many of the clientele would be sensitive if there was too much sodium or MSG in the food.  As for the Shanghai Pork Bun, it was an actual bun like the BBQ Pork Bun where it was fluffy and light.  That made it a lot less cumbersome to eat like many other versions of this dish.  On the other hand, it also was more wet as it absorbed the moisture from the moist filling as well as the oil in the pan.

We settled on 2 items for dessert beginning with the Egg Tarts.  These were pretty textbook featuring a buttery and flaky puff pastry shell.  The browning on it was a bit uneven, but the ultimate edibility and texture was not compromised.  We found the silky egg custard centre to be aromatic and purposefully sweet.  My son wanted the Steamed Sponge Cake and it arrived in 3 separate portions rather than the tall single version.  This was also good where the cake was airy and light while having a sweet aroma.  The cake itself was just sweet enough, but there was a side of condensed milk for those with a sweeter tooth.   So as you can see, we tried a good chunk of the menu and most items were good.  For all of the places that are offering overpriced fusion Dim Sum, it is nice to see a place reasonably-priced (with all things taken into account) authentic Dim Sum in a non-traditional space (and area for all that matters).

The Good:
- Authentic Dim Sum
- Attentive service
- Reasonable-pricing with all things considered

The Bad:
- Most items could've used more seasoning, but it might have been intentional
- Not a big restaurant, keep your party small
- Might offend some traditionalists, but that is not the target demographic

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