Thursday, 22 September 2011

Yauatcha - Fine Dim Sums

Originally Alan Yau’s brainchild, Yauatcha follows his money-printing formula; dim sums are around the £6 mark and the décor is slick with glowing blue tropical fish tanks and lacquered walls. Though my first visit a few years back was pleasant, I am not a regular because of the prices. They match some of the top-class 3-Michelin star joints in Hong Kong, which throw in lobster and caviar and what-nots in their extravagant dim sums.

For this visit I was attracted by the Taste of Yauatcha menu; £28.88 for 2 with 8 types of dim sum and choice of tea, offered only in the late weekday afternoons. The dim sums came in pairs as opposed to the usual 3 or 4, but include some of the finer items on the menu.

Har gau prawn dumpling
This was textbook har gau, like the ones found in better restaurants in Hong Kong. Well-greased, springy shell enveloping bouncy, sweet and extremely juicy prawns, perfectly seasoned and sized, just enough moisture to control its stickiness. This could be the best har gau I have eaten in this city.

Scallop Shui Mai
I rarely order shui mai, and I grew up with the more peasant-friendly pork version. The gleaming scallop was just cooked for that silken texture, but slight tasteless; I personally prefer a bit of mince pork with the prawn for more flavours. But this is still brilliant shui mai with well seasoned prawns.

Crystal Dumpling Wrap
There was something missing in this one; while the ripen pumpkin dice contrasted with the crunchy sweetcorn to bring some interesting textures, it was a bit dull; it probably needed more chicken cubes to neutralise the sweetness, or perhaps more juice?

Baked Venison Puff (Left)
My prime choice would be roast pork puff but this was equally good. The flaky pastry was bursting with piping hot mild black pepper sauce and shreds of meat, lightly glazed on the surface. I had a similar version at Royal China last year, Yauatcha does it much better.

Chicken and Prawn Taro Croquette (Back)
The best thing about this afternoon set is that it includes pretty much all the regular items I’d usually order. Taro croquette is one of my favourites, and the filling here is spot-on with a thick layer of moist taro mash and plenty of sauce and meat for a fondant effect. What could be better is the shell; it could be more fragile and brittle so it’d dissolve as it crumbled.

Sweet potato Mushroom Mei Si Roll (Right)
Love the idea, hate the execution. The sweet potato was more like a raw carrot; bird nest was too thick and the inner layer was dense; not enough sauce to counterbalance the spiky coat, mushroom was unnoticed and not enough flavour. I’d half the coat and replace with sweet potato mash instead of a stick.

Prawn and Beancurd Cheung Fun
Best cheung fun I have had in London. Instead of the traditional deep fried dough, the beancurd sheet remains crispy for much longer and it has capacity to stuff prawns and juice meats in the middle. This was absolutely delightful.

Spicy pork Szechuan wonton
I didn’t like this because it had vinegar. Most restaurants serve them submerged in chilli oil with vinegar on the side, but here everything was mixed together and the heat was much diluted. That aside, the dumpling fat/lean proportion was just right with lots of meat juice. Mister liked it.

There are glitches that don’t seem to justify its fine-dining reputation and Michelin recognition, especially the disposable wooden chopsticks. Somehow wooden chopsticks are okay in sushi bars, but I tend to associate them with takeaways as opposed to upmarket cuisine. Oh and waiting staff baring their wobbly midriff is a no-no.

On the other hand, quality of food was excellent, perhaps even in the upper quartile by Hong Kong standard and no doubt superior to Royal China. I am tempted to come back for the a la carte dim sum menu, but I cant say I will become a regular patron; double prices but the food arent quite doubly good.

15-17 Broadwick Street
London
W1F 0DL
Tel: 0207 494 8888

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