Half restaurant and half karaoke bar, Dasha is an experience, if you let it be.
Down stairs, under red lights, Michelin-starred Executive Chef Akira Back crafts a revolutionary menu that marries modern Chinese cuisine with classic American influences. Slinking up a staircase to the upper level is another world where stylish rooms create a space for friends to belt out a tune and dine on food that you won’t find at any other karaoke bar.
With it being just Chris and I, we opted for a lowkey dinner sans karaoke. However, I will say that planning a future girl’s night with karaoke and eating Chinese did cross my mind.
We didn’t get off to a great start though; service was definitely lacking. There seemed to be a few large parties upstairs in the karaoke rooms along with a twenty-person party down in the main restaurant.
Walking in without a reso, we were told we could only be seated for a minimum of two hours as they were quite booked for the night. We accepted and were led to a section beside the door, in front of the high-traffic staircase leading upstairs. Completely empty, we had no dining neighbours for the entire two hours we were there. Umm, excuse me but where were all the reserved parties?!
Though we were forced to dine on a restrictive time frame, that didn’t mean that we tended to quickly either. It took our server fifteen minutes before introducing himself to us, disappearing for another ten to retrieve two glasses of water from the bar just two feet from us, and then another half hour for our order to be taken. Poor planning or maybe just inexperience, it didn’t look great.
Despite all this unimpressive confusion, we were still hopeful that the food would restore our faith in the restaurant. A second server coming to take our order, we rambled off the following dishes:
The General’s Spring Rolls
Vegetables, five spice tofu and Shanghai chili oil
The spring rolls had a crispy exterior enveloping around a still-piping-hot centre. They were tasty when dipped into the chili oil, but otherwise sort of bland. I’m not sure where those 5 spices were hiding!
Steamed Har Gow
Prawns, bamboo shoots and sweet topan sauce
The savoury shrimp filling inside of the soft, steamed pillows of dough were a great option to keep warm during the chilly night. The topan dipping sauce reminded me of a tangy, sweet chili sauce, adding extra savouriness to the har gow.
Hot & Sour Soup Shanghai
Chili oil, tofu and bamboo shoots
Like a classic hot and sour soup, the jellied texture did not disappoint. Acidic and spicy, bold and fragrant, this red soup created a flavour explosion. Tofu, bamboo, ginger, nori (seaweed), chili… each ingredient brought a unique texture as well as taste to the dish.
Kung Pao Chicken
Chicken, mushrooms and spicy Kung Pao sauce
Aromatic scallion and ginger perfumed the chicken, while chili peppers added a fiery kick. The sautéed mushrooms contrasted against the crunch of roasted peanuts, adding texture. Coated in a thick sauce, the sugary acidity of the sauce was balanced. Everything seemed to create an equilibrium of flavour. My one qualm, however, is that unless you order a rice dish to soak up the sauce, your protein just sort of drowns.
Six Veggie Medley
Wok fried vegetables
A mix of red and green peppers, bamboo shoots, tofu, asparagus and mushrooms, this medley of veg still had a bit of bite. Tossed lightly in a mild, gingery sauce, it didn’t offset the different textures and flavours of greens.
I'd like to note that although the menu is family style, that doesn’t mean large and hearty portions. Yes, there are dishes that are suitable for sharing, but don’t expect those homey, over-indulgent potions that typically resonate with you when you hear the words “family style”. No, these dishes are meant to be tasted rather than shared due to their meager size. This, however, is wonderful if you want to try lots, as you won’t gorge yourself from ordering different dishes.
The kitchen also prepares dishes in a made-to-order style, so expect that things may come out all at once from nibbles to mains in little to no time in between. As soon as our har gow came, it was a mad rush to finish our soup and spring rolls before our tiny round marble table was cluttered with entrée dishes.
As I mentioned before, you’re going to want to make sure that you order a side of rice or noodles as there aren’t any starchy accompaniments served with entrées to soak up the abundant sauces.
Though the food was tasty, it wasn’t anything that really made my taste buds sing. Maybe that's because we needed to order a supreme special like Akira Back’s Traditional Peking Duck served with thinly served pancakes & freshly sliced cucumbers. But with prices from a full duck for $99 and a half duck for $50, and no one to eat all that duck, we had to take a pass.
Overall, I think to get the full essence of Dasha, you have to go for karaoke and probably order one of the supreme dishes. For standard Chinese food like Chris and I ordered, I didn’t find it particularly worth it as it was fairly basic, portions weren’t huge and the prices were elevated when compared to your neighbourhood Chinese restaurant. Again, given that Dasha is an upscale dining experience, all of these elements must be evaluated in a different light, but I stand by my notion that my Dasha experience probably would have been more impressive with the addition of karaoke. Maybe a girl’s night will be in the works after all!
Dined at Dasha? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!