Every new restaurant in Dubai seems to claim a high degree of authenticity, but the new Chinese fine dining outlet, Long Teng, in Business Bay, is as authentic as The Great Wall.
Any foodie worth their soy knows a lot of the Chinese food from your average takeaway is inauthentic. Delicious, maybe, but inauthentic.
But head to Long Teng any day of the week and you will be confronted by the soft shushing of Chinese speech, alongside the oohs, aahs and even more authentic slurps. The staff, food and the décor are mostly Chinese, and all wonderful. There’s a wow factor here that’s mostly missing from Dubai’s Chinese dining scene.
You will often find the husband and wife owners, Hongquiang Zhang and Lucy Xu, overseeing proceedings.
Stalwarts of Dubai’s ever-growing Chinese community, Zhang is well known among the diaspora, having been here for 20 years. Decades ago he was a street vendor in China. Today, he is behind an empire that includes five restaurants and several shops at Dragon Mart.
The influential couple wanted to bring a dining experience they felt was missing in the city – featuring all their favourite family dishes. Not only are the dishes delicious, but they are prepared by an army of no less than 30 chefs – most of whom are Chinese – in a restaurant spanning five floors of U-Bora tower in Business Bay. The three floors that serve food each have their own kitchen.
The family’s stamp on the venue extends to the décor, too, which certainly catches the eye. It’s a heady blend of traditional and modern, both well-lit and spacious, cosy and private, depending on the customer’s needs. There’s a deep attention to detail here, which, as we sit down at a large, luxurious table, we hope extends to the food.
We weren’t disappointed. As is traditional, we sit down for lunch and are brought course after course after course. This is opulent food in an opulent setting. A vast terrace overlooks the waters of Business Bay, but I’m more interested in the dim-sum style turnip dish fashioned into tiny swans. There’s something a little unnerving about serving a chicken dish in a crispy coating shaped like a chick; but everything is beautifully presented, perfectly cooked and deeply satisfying.
Adding further to the authenticity, I interview Lucy Xu between mouthfuls via a translator.
She tells us that the most important thing is the freshness of ingredients and flavours. Ingredients are sourced from all over the world. During our banquet lunch, we saw mushrooms from China, lobster from Australia, local vegetables and other exotic ingredients that read like a rider for a UN meeting.
Specialising in seafood, when you step out of the lift you are confronted with live fish tanks; including giant crabs from Alaska, those Aussie lobsters and other fish from Norway.
So far, the owners are delighted with customer feedback and are seeing their seafood, dim sum and soups fly off the pass.
Lucy admits to being a little concerned that Dubai might not be ready for truly authentic Chinese food – yes, they might have chicken feet on the menu somewhere – but the proof is in the taste, and the 300-seater restaurant is doing brisk business.
She won’t be drawn on what her favourite dish is, reminding me that the menu comprises nothing but family favourites. And what favourites!
The extensive menu revolves around ‘yum cha’, small servings of different food, traditionally served while sipping Chinese tea. There’s a large choice of a la carte dishes to satisfy most people.
A whole page of dim sum is exciting, with chicken, prawn and vegetable in a variety of coatings, from the plain to the exotic. Osmanthus and coconut jelly cake, anyone? You could spend two hours eating nothing but dim sum – savoury and sweet – and not have moved from page one of the menu.
Starters include spicy beef or chicken, sardines, tofu and an array of vegetables.
Purists might argue that salmon sashimi isn’t authentic, but hey, this is a joint that specialises in seafood, so we think this is fine.
Fairly small portions are satisfying but leave you craving more – but you won’t leave hungry.
Soup is a vital part of any Chinese meal, and all the classics are here. Chicken and sweetcorn, mixed mushroom, steamed chicken ball, minced beef and tofu…we opt for the hot and sour, and it was perfect.
The live seafood is perhaps the menu’s peak, with a choice of lobster, crab, hammour or shrimp cooked in about 20 different ways. You come to Long Teng every day for a month and eat a different seafood dish. Again, we’re not sure about the authenticity of lobster with cheese and butter, but it is a classic way of eating this gnarly creature, so who are we to argue?
While you can opt to take your seafood your way, there’s another page of seafood dishes, including sea snails, cod, squid, and a seafood and vegetable pancake which we assume is something akin to the Japanese okonomiyaki. The pièce de résistance of our meal came in the shape of sautéed lobster served next to the shell, adding a touch of alien-like crustacean drama to the pure white linen tablecloth.
For the carnists, there’s veal, beef, chicken, lamb and mutton, served with traditional sauces such as spicy bean or Sichuan style.
But the dish that caught our eye was beef fillet served with dragon fruit, one worth trying on our next visit. While we didn’t see the dish, this simple recipe calls for it to be served in the dragon fruit skin. We would hope for that presentation here.
We’re also excited to see how the restaurant serves its Kung Pao chicken, and Cantonese style roasted duck. Again, serving fried chicken wings seems like a little slip on the ‘authent-ometer’, but the crowd ain’t booing.
Side dishes include asparagus, potato, mushrooms, tofu and sautéed yam, as well as broccoli, choy sum and okra. Served with as much care and attention as the larger dishes, they would stand up well as vegetarian main courses.
A full page of rice and noodle dishes deserves more inspection, it’s almost a menu page here added as an afterthought – as it is in true Chinese meals – served at the end to “fill up” gourmands like me.
Still, we’d come back to try the rice cake with pickled vegetables, while the vermicelli with chicken, ham, eggs and mushroom sounds like a decent breakfast after a heavy night.
Drinks-wise, there’s a slightly disappointing array of just six teas. The restaurant is in the process of becoming licensed, and the enterprising couple is already working on another branch on the Palm Jumeirah, which will apparently be licensed.
Long Teng is sophisticated dining. There’s a confidence in the flavours and the plating that comes through. Many dishes are served with simplicity and elegance, like a cheongsam silk dress.
For an upmarket, fine dining experience this ticks a lot of boxes, and if you are looking for authentic Chinese food and hospitality, you could do far worse than Long Teng.
Visit https://www.longtengseafood.com/ for more
Call 04 2481993