Tianlun was a very pleasant surprise. Having sampled hairy crab at the supposed best place in the region/country to have hairy crab, Ling Long Ge, and gone through many a xiao long bao at numerous locations including arguably the most well known XLB eatery of all, Nanxiang Steamed Bun, who would have thought the best examples we encountered on this trip of both these well-loved dishes would be at Tianlun. Despite Tianlun's not inconsiderable reputation, I certainly didn't, not when put up against a couple of Shanghainese institutions, and especially not after our disastrous dinner at the supposed best restaurant in Hangzhou, Lou Wai Lou, the night before.
We visited at lunchtime, in the middle of a busy day of sightseeing, and thus tried to keep the ordering relatively light, starting with a refreshing, if rather Western preparation, of Signature Crab Salad. The Western theme continued with the vegetable dish, Sauted green pea, but once again the taste could not be faulted.
Soy-preserved radish, presented as vegetarian "ham" was nice and crunchy, and a welcome change; this dish having not been sampled previously on the trip. Bean curd with crab meal was lovely, and gave a taster of what was to come with the hairy crab - silky smooth tofu and lush crab meat in a tasty, eggy sauce. Braised squid with soy sauce was the right level of chewy, while Seven colors saute bacon was exquisite, with a hint of sweetness and just the right amount of fattyness.
Finally, onto the two highlights. The Xiao Long Bao had a thin wrapper, easily the thinnest of all the versions we tried, and boasted an excellent pork and crab meat filling, and a flavourful soup. It surpassed Nanxiang Steamed Bun, with ease.
The Steamed Hairy Crab, meanwhile, delivered where Ling Long Ge failed. The crabs were more substantial in size, the flesh beautifully sweet, the roe abundant and deliciously eggy. Now this was proper, top quality, hairy crab!
In a nutshell...
On a trip where we ate at Ling Long Ge and Nanxiang Steamed Bun, Tian Lun's proved to be the best hairy crab and xiao long bao sampled. Add to that a very classy decor, and service that, in stark to the deplorable Lou Wai Lou the night before, actually tried to please, and we have a definite winner.
124 Shuguang Road, Xihu District, Hangzhou, 310000, China
Average Price: RMB300