Can you believe it, Moon Festival is just around the corner! For all that aren’t familiar, Moon Festival is a celebration that takes place every year in September, when the full moon is at its brightest and roundest. It’s a time for family to come together and spend time to give thanks. I’ve celebrated this event since I was a little girl, I remember my parents used to buy all kinds of mooncakes for everyone in the family, and was obsessed with the streets festivals coming to life in Cabramatta.
I haven’t been to a festival in a very long time, so I was really excited when World Square invited me and my cousin Michelle to come along to their progressive Moon Festival dinner, which is part of their Moon Festival celebrations starting from September 20th. Other than a vast array of food options available throughout, they will also be offering bespoke food and pop ups, competitions, decorations as well as performances and entertainment for everyone to enjoy! For the progressive dinner, we were taken to 5 dining spots around World Square, starting off with drinks and entrees, then moving forward to mains and even dessert to finish off.
Cocktails at Laughing Buddha
The first stop of our dinner was to have welcome drinks at Laughing Buddha bar. The name fits seemingly, as there is a Buddha statue located just right after the entrance (remember to rub Buddha’s belly for good luck!). The bar is cozy with dim ambient lighting, making it the ultimate cool spot for friends to grab a drink or two. There are also red lanterns everywhere around the bar, which I personally thought was cool as it stood out from all the brown furnishing. I arrived about 10 mins late (what’s new), so I didn’t have time to look through their whole menu, but what I did notice was a great selection of cocktails to choose from! Michelle and I were both feeling for a sweet drink, so we decided to go with a classic mojito.
What I love about the Laughing Buddha is that the big bar windows are always open, facing the city. Not only do you get a nice breeze coming through, but you can also watch the city people go about their business. I was fortunate enough to make it just in time for sunset and watch the sky turn dark as we started to head for the next event.
Entrees at Duck In Duck Out
I don’t normally head to the city that often, so Duck In Duck Out was a new experience for me as I have never been, or even heard of the place! I learnt quickly that the restaurant is owned by celebrity chef’s Manu Feildel and Phil Davenport. The restaurant immediately caught my eye with it’s neon signage and bright coloured decor. What’s even better, is that the restaurant name is a pun, because EVERYTHING on their menu is duck! And I’m talking from it’s burgers, to noodles, to even duck fat chips, there’s not one thing you can find at Duck In Duck Out that is completely free of duck. Not that I’m complaining though because I’m all for trying new things!
We got to meet the chef who introduced us to an array of dishes that he and his team prepared. He first gave us what looked like chicken wings, but were actually crispy tempura duck drumettes. We were then treated to confit duck bao’s which I rate 100/10 for softness and flavour. My most favourite dish though would have to be the thick rice noodles with duck broth, served with, of course, more duck on top! The soup tasted amazing and really reminded me of a Vietnamese noodle dish I used to have all the time as a kid called Mi Vit Tiem. Also, my mum used to tell me that noodle soups always warms your body on a cold day, and luckily for us, we were enjoying Duck In Duck Out’s noodles on a very windy day.
Dumplings at Din Tai Fung
Next, we were taken upstairs to visit Din Tai Fung, a global chain of Shanghainese cuisine known best for its steamed Xiao Long Bao dumplings! I was really excited to eat at Din Tai Fung as it is a family favourite. A number of talented chefs hand make the dumplings to order, and then cook them in traditional bamboo steamers so the dumplings maintain their flavour. What’s cool is that you can also see this in action as the cooking station is right next to the entrance and is completely mirrored. Observing how the dumplings are made and steamed makes you appreciate the hard work that goes into what i like to call, ‘the art of the dumpling’.
Din Tai Fung celebrates the best of Shanghainese and Chinese food. Dining at Din Tai Fung means you have a variety of menu items to choose from, and you’ll never get bored. We were able to try some classic specialty dishes as well as ones that were unique to their own menu. Drunken chicken is one of my most favourite dishes in the world and only DTF can do it so well. The flavour of wine is very subtle and is a great palette cleanser after eating heavier dishes such as stir fried beef and soup. I also find myself coming back for more of their Zha Jiang noodles which consists of noodles with a thick soybean paste, topped with veggies and pork mince. The paste is fermented so it has a naturally salty flavour, but the addition of mince and other toppings is a perfect combination to share with friends. Last but not least, how can I forget the dumplings! I had tried Xiao Long Bao’s before, but this was my first time trying truffled Xiao Long Bao at Ding Tai Fung. The truffle adds a very unique taste when wrapped inside, but definitely does not overpower the original flavour of the dumplings. Instead, the ingredients balance each other very well.
A highlight of Din Tai Fung is that dishes are made small, to be shared amongst your table. In Chinese culture, families usually gather around lots of smaller side dishes to eat, as it brings everyone together (hint hint, sort of like Moon Festival!).
Dinner at Quan Jude
Now it was time for dinner at Quan Jude, a famous Chinese Restaurant in Beijing that has been in operation for 154 years. Quan Jude is known best for it’s Peking Duck pancakes and have opened it’s doors at World Square for only 4 months. Once you walk in, you are greeted with friendly faces who will quickly come and serve you the best there is to fine Chinese dining. We were given a menu that told us what we will be having at this progressive dinner, and my mouth was watering just reading about the salted abalone and the duck skin with sugar (I know, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).
If you’re dining at Quan Jude, be prepared for nightly performances that originated from the first Beijing restaurant. We were so lucky to see both of them during our dinner, a tea pouring performance as well as a Bian Lian performance (Chinese traditional dramatic art). I had seen lots of these performances before on Chinese television shows, but never up close! The skill of the performer made everyone get up on their feet and clap. Be sure to order the Peking Duck pancakes too, because the chef will personally come to your table and show you how to cut the duck into thin slices that are perfect to roll up in a pancake. Of course, there are still many things on the menu to feast at if Peking Duck isn’t your cup of tea. I would recommend trying the hot and sour shredded potato as it’s a unique dish to Quan Jude. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, go for the king mushroom filled with salted duck egg yolk. It’s definitely an acquired taste as not many people are used to salty duck egg, but I loved it so much I went back for seconds and even thirds.
Dessert at Burger Project
Our World Square progressive dinner ended with dessert at Burger Project. At this point, we were all quite full but still had enough room in our stomach’s for some good old soft serve ice cream. This was a time where we all kicked back on the couches, played some table football, and chatted about the dinner and what we were up to next. It’s times like these that reminded me what Moon Festival is all about – family, friends, gathering, thanksgiving, and of course, lots of laughter!
Prior to leaving, we were all gifted a box of mooncakes to take home. After all these years of my parents buying me mooncakes, it’s now my turn to gift some to them. Even if you’re a seasoned pro or if you’ve never celebrated Moon Festival before, make sure to visit World Square from September 20th to experience all the exciting activations and foodie dishes like I did! You will not only have a tonne of fun, but also get to learn more about the rich heritage of one of my favourite Chinese celebrations.
P.S: Visit World Square this week and you can join renowned artist Louise Zhang for traditional lantern workshops! WHEN: 20th – 22nd September, in the Square from 12pm-2pm.
Happy festivities everyone ♡♡