If you love Dim Sum – Chinese dumplings, for the uninitiated – there aren’t many places in Malta to get your fix. There is a tiny new place in Valletta called Sesame, but it’s more of an on-the-go place rather than somewhere you can sit down and savour the experience. There are also countless Chinese restaurants that offer mixed Dim Sum as starter platters but never with enough variety.
Thankfully, Malta’s busiest restaurateur Hugo Chetcuti has identified the gap in the market and quickly rebranded his wine bar Bacco into Bacco Sticks and Sum, serving up dumplings and skewers at the centre of his Paceville empire.
His restaurant is on St. Rita’s Steps (the steps of Paceville, as they are more commonly known), right opposite Native Bar. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s definitely not the most authentic Dim Sum place in the world. However, it is authentically Hugo’s: high stools, a fully-stocked cocktail bar, deep house playing in the background and an army of attractive foreign waiters providing efficient and friendly service… you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re eating at Hugo’s Lounge just 20 metres up the road.
It’s the menu that reminds you this place specialises in Dim Sum. With more than 20 varieties of steamed, grilled and deep-fried dumplings, there’s loads to choose from. You get four dumplings in every bamboo steamer and you can’t mix and match, so it’s best to go as a group to sample as many different dumplings as possible.
Since this was individual research (we have a very tough job), I only got to try the grilled chicken dumplings, the steamed Cantonese duck dumplings, the Chinese pork skewers and the chicken and wanton soup… only.
They were all pretty good, except the steamed duck dumplings were a bit too sticky for my liking. Also, if you order edamame as a side dish, I’d ask for the salt on the side because they really were way too salty to enjoy.
The whole meal, including a large bottle of sparkling water and a pot of green tea cost €32.90, but I could have probably shared my meal with another person and left just as satisfied. I only ordered more for variety (is what I tell myself at least). Either way, it works out to about €1.50 per dumpling, so keep that in mind when budgeting your price-to-fullness golden ratio.
Besides the Dim Sum and skewers, Bacco also serves soup, rice and noodle dishes as well as some bigger meals like Cantonese roasted duck and roasted pork belly. There’s also a dish featuring steamed buns filled with BBQ chicken. I didn’t order it because they were described as “steamed burger” which threw me a little. Let us know if you’ve tried them.
Overall, the food was decent, the staff friendly and the atmosphere pretty nice for a get together with friends. It does serve as a reminder of two other things though: firstly, how much Hugo Chetcuti has taken over and hegemonized the food scene in Paceville and secondly, how much Malta is still craving for authentic Asian cuisine.