Sunday, October 2, 2016

98 Aroma in Chinatown

Sorry for being MIA for the last little while. I was in Tokyo for two weeks and then needed a week after coming home to recover from jet lag and to get back into the groove of things. Anyway, I've returned and I hope you guys missed me! :) I will be sharing some of my Japan travels on the blog soon too, but before that, I want to write about my experience at 98 Aroma (Instagram: @98aroma, Facebook: 98 Aroma), a Northern Chinese restaurant I visited for dinner a couple days before my Japan trip.

The first thing I noticed about the restaurant was its interior. Traditional decor executed with a modern touch, 98 Aroma differentiates themselves instantly from all the other Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. Without even having to taste the food, you know they are striving for something different. In photos, the blue mood lighting may seem a bit much but in real life they work well. It's too bad the exterior of 98 Aroma doesn't match its upscale interior - it needs a lot more work, in my opinion (sorry I forgot to take photos of the outside).

I really like the look of these booths.

98 Aroma brings forth refined Northern Chinese food. Its menu consists of some popular Northern Chinese dim sum, such as scallion pancakes, dumplings, and pan fried steamed buns, as well as many traditional dishes that most of us may not be familiar with or have heard of before.

I normally don't care for salads but 98 Aroma's signature salad served with carrots, lettuce, cabbage and topped with fried shredded taro was a winner. Mix all the components together with their sweet vinaigrette and you'll find yourself loving every bite. Or, at least, I did.

This dish was boring and it needed more salt. I asked for hot sauce to liven it up. Save room for better things on the menu. 

When the server brought this to the table I was in awe. I don't remember the last time I've been served food in such a colossal looking bowl-plate vessel. I was instantly drawn to it. However, after a few bites I realized that there were a lot of bones in it. Also, the dish was really spicy. You know that chili pepper oil type of spice? Yeah, that. The heat gets to you fast. I appreciate the idea of using noodles here to soak up the sauce but with the bones and the dish being so spicy overall, I was just not feeling it. It was disappointing since it looked so impressive! To be honest, I also didn't like that they used Tilapia.

This was, hands down, my favourite dish of the evening. Unlike the Cantonese style sweet and sour sauce, which can sometimes be overly gooey and sweet, this Northern Chinese version is a lot lighter with an excellent balance of sweet and sour. Acting more like a glaze that coats the pork instead of a sauce that drenches it, the end result of the sliced pork is exceptionally crispy and light. I could eat this dish all night.

Tasty potstickers with pork and chive filling. Yum. Pan fried to golden brown, the bottom edges of these dumplings were nice and crispy. Much like the other dishes, it's obvious that 98 Aroma pays attention to presentation - just look at how these dumplings were lined up!

Fluffy and juicy pork buns. No complaints here, but let me warn you, these buns were HOT so take your first bite with caution. But otherwise, superb.

Even though I knew the rice was going to add to my fullness (and I was very full by then) I had no choice but to eat it, and eventually finish it. Contrary to what you may think, this dessert wasn't that sweet and I loved that. If anything, I wish it was a tad sweeter!

98 Aroma may not serve the cheapest Chinese food in Chinatown but they certainly deliver a sophisticated and elegant approach to Northern Chinese that I have not yet seen or experienced in the city. There were obviously some hits and misses from my dinner but I would not hesitate to go back and try the rest of their menu.

*This meal was complimentary. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*

98 Aroma Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato