Anyone that follows my food trail would know by now that the love affair I have with dumplings runs pretty deep. It’s funny that it has taken me this long to blog about yum cha, something that’s all about the dumplings and something I actually haven’t done for several years. All I can do is hang my head in shame.
When I found out about this new Chinese restaurant taking the place of former China Grand Restaurant upstairs in Market City, I called and asked whether they did yum cha. Silly question, really. The last time I had it was in this very location and I remember arriving at peak time and queuing up with a number, impatiently waiting for a table.
To be on the safe side I called the day before and booked a table, something we learned on arrival wasn’t all that essential. The restaurant sprawls for miles with seemingly endless tables dressed in white cloth topped with bowls, chopsticks and an order card. The blood red carpet has repetative adornments of the restaurants logo and the trolley dollies rattle along in shrouds of steam wearing similar shades of red. Our 10am arrival seemed like good timing as there were only a handful of other tables already slurping and smacking their lips on what looked like pretty good yum cha.
Tea for two is ordered ($5) and before we take a sip the first dolly is upon our table offering her goodies within stacks of bamboo steamers. With a cheeky tone she offers the fung jao (braised chicken feet 6.2), probably expecting this gwailo to screw up his nose and nervously say no. When I said yes she seemed a little surprised. Chicken feet may not be something I normally start off with for breakfast but sucking on the tenderly braised digits flavoured with black bean and garlic was pretty damn tasty.
The sin chet kuen (pork in soy bean skin 6.2) is quite tasty as well with a variety of mushrooms like shiitake and enoki mixed through the rich ground pork meat.
The translucent skins of the vegetable dumplings (6.2) give preview to the innards and once you bite into them you’re met with a variety of textures and flavours from the crunchy water chestnut to the soft black fungus, spring onion and flecks of carrot.
The perfect spheres of the similarly translucent spinach + prawn dumplings (6.2) are packed with shreds of spinach and bits of water chestnut. It’s virtually like a dense salad in a pocket of rice skin. Another tasty little number. The pork & prawn (6.2) dumplings end up being my least favourite as the skin is quite thick, glutinous and sticky.
I really enjoyed the prawn & mango roll (7.8) where the soft and lightly crumbed pastry surrenders to a molten, lip-searing centre of prawn pieces and silky chunks of sweet and slightly sour mango flesh. One of the dollies suggests we try the house specialty of scallop siu mai (7.8) – a dumpling heavy in finely chopped prawn topped with scallop and fish roe. With such simple ingredients it comes across rich in prawn flavour and I relish every mouthful.
I can only assume that when word spreads about this new yum cha eatery a booking really will be needed and when the dollies with their trollies retreat for the day, the regular crossover menu of traditional and contemporary Chinese will appeal to many.