There are lots and lots of Chinese… but almost no really good ones. We’re talking restaurants, and we’re talking in Barcelona. In fact, if the reader wants to know where the wealthy Chinese tourists go when they want food in a place that really knows their cuisine, it is Shanghai by Josep Maria Kao, the culinary and biological father of the restaurant we are describing today, Kao Dim Sum.
The concept was imported from the major European capitals by the daughter of Shanghai’s owner, Meylan Kao. After all, it’s much easier to find interesting Chinese food, truly gourmet food, in Europe. Dim Sum, the restaurant’s “surname”, means tiny bite in Chinese… and in Spain, a tiny bite is called a tapa, which is nonetheless simply a way of playing with amounts so you can serve the best quality at a decent price. And that is Kao Dim Sum: great quality playfully dealt out in small portions.
To make their tapas, the Chinese use stuffed dough balls (known abroad as dumplings). This is worth notice, since China is huge, as you know, and so is the number of doughs, cooking methods and stuffings in its cuisine. So all of this, with a touch of local product that gives it a special personality and a more familiar taste, is what Kao Dim Sum offers.
The venue has simple, pleasant, modern décor… a far cry from the commercial Chinese restaurants we all have in mind (fortunately!). It has a small bar where it’s a delight to eat, and tables without tablecloths, just a few of them because only a little over 40 diners fit here. It’s well-lit and located in Barcelona’s uptown. You can go to Kao Dim Sum with friends or have a romantic evening there with your partner; you can go casual or dressed to kill (those who can). Anything goes; it’s a comfortable place in this sense.
We sample 11 dishes, including desserts. We’ll try to briefly explain what each dish is, although your best bet is to go there and sample them, to investigate with your own palate. After all, the first dish, “Millennial egg”, is extraordinarily difficult to explain with precision: apparently it is cooked underground for hours only using the sun’s energy and later cooled at night. It has a strange almost fishy flavour, but its textures are incredible. This dish was banned here for many years but is now legal, a curious little fact which is sure to intrigue your palate.
The next dishes are “Vietnamese nem”, a more sophisticated version of the spring roll, and "Wanton", "Jiao Zi", "Crystal Dumpling" and "Sui Mai", names covering a compendium of dough balls made of different grains, in different shapes, and stuffed in different ways, which we are served with pig trotters, prawns and even beef with truffle. Each comes with the perfect sauce and is painstakingly displayed in the appealing little baskets that came with the entire dinner, along with a stronger and denser soy sauce than what is served in Japanese restaurants.
They offer a curious combination with “Chinese aubergine”, “Beans from Kenya” and “Cantonese rice”, dishes which come in separate little bowls but which they recommend you mix over rice. Exquisite!
Beans from Kenya
Buckle your seatbelt for the heavy-hitting dish of the evening: “Grilled duck sandwich”. It contains fried duck on bread like a regular grilled cheese sandwich, along with spring onion and hoisin sauce which is made with garlic, vinegar and fermented soy sauce. If you go to Kao Dim Sum, we beg you to order this dish.
Grilled duck sandwich
Desserts are not the forte of Chinese cuisine. At Kao Dim Sum, they offer a well-crafted “Fried banana with Belgian chocolate” and a simple “Vanilla ice cream with caramelised nuts”.
Fried banana with Belgian chocolate
China is large, and so is the adaptation of its cuisine undertaken by the third generation in the Kao “gastronomic dynasty”, world-class gastronomic emperors. 祝好胃口。/zhù hǎo wèi kǒu /.
Per person: 4 dumplings +2 appetiser to share +1 glass of wine
Where is Kao Dim Sum?
Address: Carrer del Bisbe Sivilla, 48, 08022 Barcelona
Telephone: 934 17 30 64
Timetable: Monday to Saturday 1:30-3:30 and 8:30-11:30. Sunday, 1:30-3:30.