I have only dined twice at the Crystal Mall food court, and both experiences were completely underwhelming. The food was so bad that I almost completely blocked out my memories of the two meals in my mind. I blocked out the name of the stalls I visited as well as the names of the dishes I ordered. All I can remember was that the food was cold and that the flavours were unidentifiably suspect. I gave up on the food court after my second visit. I have never had food from the food court since then and I planned never to return unless a new stall opened up to great reviews.
But I had a change of heart yesterday. I decided to give the food court a few more chances. I reasoned that I shouldn’t be such a cynic and dismiss the entire food court just because I happened to receive bad food from two of its stalls. After all, there are more than a few reviews in the blogsphere by highly-regarded critics/bloggers singing the praises of the food offered by some of the stalls.
I started with Xu’s Wonton House – which seemed to be one of the better-reviewed stalls in the food court. I ordered two dishes: the XLB and the wontons in red oil (spicy chili oil).
The wontons in red oil tasted like wontons in red, lite soy sauce. The spice level of the sauce was very low, and so was the saltiness. Even though I knew that the sauce was in no way watered down, I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow some of the water that was used to boil the wontons made their way into the chili soy sauce and diluted it. The pork-based fillings of the wontons also tasted like they were flavour-deprived. While biting into the wontons, I was hoping that I would encounter scallion, napa, lard, or anything, ANYTHING that had a distinct and recognizable flavour; I never did. The best part of the wontons were their skins. They adhered nicely to the filling and stayed intact even when bumbled and mishandled by my clumsy lefty chopstick prods.
The XLBs were HUGE. They were, without a doubt, the largest individual soup dumplings that I remember having locally or anywhere else. I’ve never had any trouble stuffing any XLB in my mouth, but there was no way that this soup bun would fit. The XLB was so big that it actually took me three bites to finish each bun. There was also a lot of soup in each of the XLB. I was never able to suck all of the juices out of one bun without an excess amount dripping down onto my plate. The soup didn’t taste particularly unctuous or porky, it just tasted watery and bland. This blandness continued with the pork filling. Like the wonton filling, the XLB filling lacked flavours to the extreme. It also lacked any enjoyable textures. The filling was way too mushy from being inundated with too much soup. Unlike the skin of the wonton, the skin of the XLB was not its salvation. It was too tough and dry at the creases and it breached too easily at the sides. I was never able to not poke a hole in any of the five soup buns that I attempted to pick up with my chopsticks.
Xu’s Wonton House served me disappointing XLBs and wontons. This would normally be a deal breaker and discourage me from ever trying their food again, but I actually already have plans to revisit Xu’s because I want to try out their Chinese breakfast items (sticky rice balls, beef rolls, and egg pancakes). I’ll just be steering clear of their selection of dough-wrapped-minced-pork items.