…I love the wagyu beef tacos and it loves me.
Really, though. I’m an absolute tea addict. And yes, I’m one of those people who will go to fancy tea places and spend all of my money on tea and tea paraphernalia (there are a lot!). But nothing quite beats the experience of a tea service, and unless your cupboards are filled with warmers and teapots of every kind, this is an experience that’s best left to the experts.
At Pu’er, they serve you premium teas with a full explanation of how best to enjoy them. We tried a Premium Jasmine and Osmanthus Phoenix tea. Each one comes in each own tea set. It was explained to us that a 1-2 minute steeping time is optimum, and with these teas, the third or fourth steep is the best. I loved the detail and care that went into the tea service – not once was I left wondering what to do when I reached the bottom of my cup.
The Osmanthus Phoenix presented a surprise to me – I’m not usually a fan of Osmanthus teas in general, but this finished on the palate with such tropical fruity notes that it brightened up my day like a bouquet of flowers brightens up a room. Very nice.
And if tea is not quite your thing, they also do killer cocktails.
The Coconut Dream was an absolute standout for me. Young coconut juice is mixed with Absolut’s Wild Tea Vodka and dried apple pieces, creating a cocktail so beautiful I couldn’t even taste the acrid burn of alcohol on the palate after. And that’s pretty impressive considering that I don’t drink for that very reason.
And now that I’m appropriately boozed up, on to the food! We begin with a selection of small bites: The Shanghai, $7, and Mushroom Pot Stickers, $7.
The Mushroom Pot Stickers were filled with a fragrant, savoury filling, and I absolutely loved how the chewy mochi-like exterior gave way to the piping hot insides. The Shanghai was not as fragile or soupy quite as I was expecting, but it’s got fantastic flavour in each bite.
And then came the first touchdown: the Wagyu Tacos came out on a pretty dish looking like gua baos, but really, I stopped caring what they looked like the moment I realised how delicious these things were. The beef was rich and unbelievably tender, and the salty glaze just the right foil for the sweet, fluffy buns. This is the bit that made me regret that there were four of us, because I really could’ve gone for more than one.
The Hong Kong Mini Burgers were no slouch either. Sweet milk buns are decadently deep fried to create that golden exterior, giving way to a savoury hoisin sauce and panko crusted pork, the macdaddy of breading. It was all crunch and lusciousness, and it made me feel all tingly inside. It’s something that you can’t really create in a larger form: the ratios were so delicately balanced, and it’s hard to get the same kind of juiciness if you were to go for a substantially larger piece of pork. No, this was quite amazing the way it is, and every bite was thoroughly delicious.
For the mains, we were recommended – and rightly so – the Stir Fried Green Beans and the Three Cup Drunken Duck. The green beans were crisp and al dente, and covered in a chilli spiced pork mince “sauce” (topping?) that left us fighting for the last spoonful on the plate. The duck was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and fell apart on the bone the moment our forks pierced the flesh. The savoury umami notes from the mushrooms made the sauce rich, and made for a very satisfying mouthful when mixed in with rice. The only critique? NEEDS MORE SAUCE.
And of course, the sweet stuff. Pu’er is all about their teas, and it shows with the impressively dished Tea Smoked Watermelon with Kafir Panna Cotta. The cubes of watermelon sat under a cloche, surrounded by swirling smoke, while the panna cotta jiggled seductively on the side. Smooth and creamy mixed in with crisp and juicy mixed in with sweet and smoky…All watermelon should be smoked from now on.
The Coconut and Lime Sorbet with Black Glutinous Rice struck a chord with me, with its Southeast Asian influence. It reminded me strongly of pulut hitam – a warm dessert made with salted black glutinous rice and served with thick coconut cream. This version has been augmented with a coconut and lime sorbet, which created bright citrus notes that cut through the comfortingly stodgy texture of the black glutinous rice.
The food was consistently exquisite throughout the lunch, but what impressed me the most, was that the owner, Siev, is actually at the helm, cooking in his own restaurant. Born to Cambodian parents, Siev sees his mother as his inspiration, and what started out as a dream for a teahouse has become a full fledged restaurant with thoroughly deliberate food that is matched only by its detailed and knowledgeable service. And despite the comprehensive background of information that influences his food, Siev is no snob either. When asked about what he chooses to eat, he admits – with some embarrassment – that there have been harrowed moments that consuming fast food has had to be an option, but it only makes me respect him more as a person. The pressures that he faces running a restaurant and keeping a business afloat in these tough times are very real and very human, and I think that he is executing his vision deliciously.
It kinda makes me ashamed that I had not ventured down to this side of Danks St sooner. From their tiny teacups to their beautifully blue and white porcelain-topped tables, Pu’er is a gem of an experience just waiting to be discovered.
Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Pu’er.