Le Shrimp Ramen and Paradise Dynasty, two heavy hitters in Singapore that have many outlets all over Asia, have made their U.S. debut at South Coast Plaza in Orange County, California. The two restaurant concepts are the first to debut in Collage, a new dining food hall inside the mall that will feature multiple new Asian themed food tenants.
CEO Eldwin Chua, who co-owns both concepts with his younger brother, Edlan, had been trying to break into the United States for years. Despite the Chuas’ experience abroad, malls in the U.S. did not want to lease to a potential tenant without a track record in the States. South Coast Plaza already had a Din Tai Fung, so it wasn't until Chinese-American developer Morgan Zhang leased a space inside Bloomingdales to create an elevated Asian themed food hall that the Chua brothers found the opportunity to bring two of their concepts to Southern California through a sublease.
Le Shrimp Ramen is located downstairs of the new Collage food court and is a culinary mash up of Japanese and Chinese cuisines. Although the restaurant features two specialty broths—shrimp and tonkotsu (i.e. pork bone)—the namesake shrimp broth is the signature dish for a reason. The specialty dish, the Le Signature Trio Shrimp Ramen, is served with fresh prawns, house-made prawn dumplings, and handmade ebiko (shrimp roe) prawn paste balls. According to Eldwin Chua, the shop is the first ramen shop in the U.S. to feature a shrimp-based broth.
The signature shrimp broth takes a lot of preparation and expertise to get right. The broth is made with fresh prawns that are baked at an exact temperature of 356 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. Once the prawns are cooked, they are hand-ground and simmered with premium dried scallop for eight-plus hours. Then they add a blend of clove, star anise, cinnamon, and white peppercorn to the broth.
“The foundation of the ramen at Le Shrimp Ramen is the broth. Our chefs bake the prawns, grind them down and cook it with premium Cantonese dried scallop and many other spices, in order to achieve its beautiful orangey hue,” says Eldwin Chua.
Each bowl is made-to-order in an open kitchen where guests can see all the prepping and cooking done in front of their eyes. A chef heats scallion oil in a wok with cabbage, brings the shrimp broth to a boil, adds in the noodles, and then tops it off with house-made prawn and pork wontons and ebiko meatballs. The result is an umami-laden broth that has a hint of sweetness with a hint of spice.
Chua credits wok hei as the reason why the broth at Le Shrimp is so unique. Wok hei, which literally translates to “wok breath,” is the Cantonese term for the aroma and flavors that arises when the oils and foods become caramelized from getting stir-fried in a wok.
Guests can choose from three different noodle varieties: thick vermicelli, Chinese ramen (la mian, aka Chinese hand-pulled noodles), or rice noodles. Le Shrimp Ramen also has other appetizers that pair well with the noodles.
The other new dining addition to South Coast Plaza is Paradise Dynasty, a Singaporean chain that now has 48 locations spanning nine different countries. Just like its sister restaurant Le Shrimp Ramen, Paradise Dynasty makes the cooking process a focal point of the dining experience.
Paradise Dynasty’s signature dish is their rainbow colored xiaolongbao, aka soup dumplings. Each dumpling is meticulously and freshly handmade by dumpling masters and pleated with 18 folds. The rainbow tasting features eight colorful soup dumplings with flavors like foie gras and black truffle, cheese, crab roe, garlic, luffa gourd, Szechuan, and original with Kurobuta pork or chicken, which are dyed with all-natural dyes such as carrots, squid ink, and spinach juice. Each order comes with directions to eat the dumplings clockwise so that each flavor does not overwhelm the palette. Diners should begin with the milder original pork dumpling and end the tasting with the spicy Szechuan red dumpling.
Diners should think of the multi-colored dish as a way to discover their favorite dumpling. Once diners discover what color and flavor soup dumpling is their favorite, then they can order additional baskets of soup dumplings solely in that flavor.
Since its grand opening, Paradise Dynasty has been the talk of the town. The restaurant has been commanding up to two-hour-long lines each day that wrap around the plaza.
Edwin Chua referred to Paradise Dynasty’s menu as a taste of Singaporean Chinese food. Paradise Dynasty features foods from a variety of Chinese regions all over China, like Guangdong, Anhui, Fujian, Jiangsu, Hunan, Shandong, and Zhejiang.
When many well-known overseas chains open their first U.S. outpost, there’s usually alterations made to the original menu to conform to the local tastes. Paradise Dynasty was very adamant in keeping everything authentic and true to form. Everything is made in-house, down to the peppercorn oil used for Sichuan dishes.
Beyond the xiaolongbao, Paradise Dynasty has a number of other tasty dishes. Their la mian has a beautiful milky pork broth with shredded pork and pickled mustard green. Other popular dishes include the prawn and Kurobuta pork dumplings in chili vinaigrette, pan-fried pork buns, pan-fried pumpkin pastry, and the daikon radish pastry dimsum.
One of the most surprising—and most popular—dishes on the menu is the Chinese delicacy, scrambled egg whites with fish and dried scallop. This traditional dish is intended to replicate the taste and texture of crab without using actual crab. The dish is hard to find in the U.S. due to the mastery needed to achieve the crab texture without using actual crab, and is currently one of the most popular items at Paradise Dynasty.
Le Shrimp Ramen and Paradise Dynasty are located at 3333 Bristol St, Suite A, Costa Mesa, CA, 92626
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