Dragon Noodles Academy have done what Central has been crying out for, namely launch a spot serving good, consistent and fairly-priced pan-Chinese cuisine in surroundings that you’re happy to kick back in, rather than have to leave due to fear of going deaf or blinded by unforgiving lights.
They occupy a sizable space off Queen’s Road Central that was formerly home to Toys R Us and have transformed it into an Instagram-friendly spot complete with lots of groovy Dragon motifs.
When the plates start hitting the table, which they do in quick succession, it becomes clear that the kitchen is on its game. First out is chicken marinated in ginger sauce, cooked sous-vide for three hours. ($59) It shows that plating is important as flavour, which is full-on in the best possible way.
A pretty and deftly-executed take on lobster, deconstructed and resonstructed, in the form of a lobster pastry filled with lobster meat, chestnut and coriander ($69). That clever looks come from painting it with carrot juice. But of course.
Lobster appears again in an ochre bowl of noodles ($149) which show that DNA can live up to their name, the broth looking and tasting not unlike a crab bisque with wispy curls of red and green onion. The clever part is that chef makes fresh Lanzhou noodles from scratch while punters watch, before serving them in a master broth which bubbles away for 5 hours, a mix of three fish, a classic mirepoix base and some brandy. And no, of course that’s not my photo.
The real show-stealer is the roast Peking duck ($499 with 12 pancakes). DNA (it’s a lot shorter than their full name) smoke theirs daily over applewood chips and serve it tableside. It’s an exemplary version with the perfect ratio of crisp skin, tender meat and fattier meat with skin.
It’s great and gamey by itself even before the green, white, orange and purple batons of cucumber, Chinese leeks, melon and cabbage are added. Then it’s the vaguely psychedelic swirl of Peking Duck sauce with sesame paste, optional dusting of raw cane sugar or minced garlic to round off the one DIY assembly job you know and love. Also, the meat keeps coming, unlike some places where you pay for a duck and receive what feels like a sparrow on the Atkins diet.
The best bit is that whatever is left can then be incorporated as a second course from eight menu options, with the clear winner having it minced and wok-fried with diced vegetables ($99) before wrapping in lettuce cups – and even more hoi sin sauce.