China City Yum Cha Review

Yum Cha for me has become more about socialising and catching up with friends for Sunday brunch, than about the food. Over the last few years I’ve tried a heap of different Yum Cha places and have come to accept that the food will be disappointing and to focus on the people instead. Though, in the back of my mind I’ve been clinging to the hope that one day something will change. One day the food will actually be as good as its popularity would suggest. One day I will get to stop pretending and smiling graciously when someone asks if I’m enjoying my dim sim. One day I will find some Yum Cha that is worthy of a recommendation. Well…
Restaurant Interior

That day came last Sunday at China City on Queen St mall.

I’d never eaten at this China City before and I had definitely pre-judged it as being no different to the ‘rest’. The fact that we ended up there unintentionally is the only reason I can now sing its praises, as I doubt I would have taken the initiative to sample the menu as it certainly looks no different to the mediocre masses in Chinatown mall with which I have become all too familiar.

China City is tucked in the entrance to the Chifley at Lennons hotel at the top of Queen St mall. There was a short wait to be seated, perhaps three or four minutes, which at the time I used to mentally prepare myself to smile and ‘enjoy’ the dodgy food I was expecting to receive. This preparation was stepped up another notch when we were lead to the mezzanine level of the restaurant, a small balcony area over looking the main floor, accessible only by stairs. An essential part of the Yum Cha experience is the trolley service, and it was clear that dishes were being ferried upstairs by hand, which seemed like a way to guarantee cold food. My pessimism had reached maximum.
dim sim
We started with prawn rice noodle, which is a white rice noodle sheet folded around some prawns and drenched in sauce. It’s wet, floppy, slippery and a challenge for chopstick users. It’s also normally lukewarm at best, but this tasted pretty good. Pretty good?! Pretty good was not what I was expecting and it took me several bites to actually realise that this was the right temperature, had flavour and was putting a smile on my face.

After checking the room for Rhona Mitra, Lamborghinis and anything else that may have indicated I was dreaming I tried a pork and prawn dim sim which was THE MOST AMAZING THING I HAVE EVER EATEN AT YUM CHA. I could taste the mushroom and it was good. I could taste the prawn and IT was good. Instead of being a chewy ball of pork mush wrapped in thick soggy yellow dough (which is a fair description of every dim sim I’ve previously been served), this just melted in my mouth and left me scraping every last skerrick out of my bowl and then promptly ordering more.
Pork Bun
What the hell has every other Yum Cha restaurant been doing and how have they managed to convince us that Yum Cha has to be crap? I can’t believe there’s been somewhere in Brisbane the whole time that serves great Yum Cha and in the centre of the city no less.

From dim sims we moved on to cha shu bow, aka BBQ pork steamed bums, which are delicious white fluffy steamed buns stuff with chunks of pork in a BBQ sauce; a Yum Cha must. We also had steamed pork and water chestnut translucent dumplings, which were again fantastic and disappeared almost instantly. They had a glutinous texture while remaining quite light, and also had an interesting ‘nutty’ flavour.

We finished with a plate of deep fried calamari which was a little chewy and not as good as the other dishes. To be fair to the calamari, had it been served in any other restaurant I would have said it was very good, but after the previous five outstanding dishes this by comparison was just OK.
If you’re feeling adventurous or want to show off, you can order the chickens feet or stewed tripe, both of which were doing the rounds. There’s probably close to 30 different dishes you can order with an extensive ‘dessert’ section that we didn’t touch. In all we spent a whopping $33 for six plates which left the three of us feeling very satisfied.



Service throughout was efficient and helpful, but Yum Cha takes some practice, as there is rarely a menu and knowing what is available if you don’t see it on a nearby trolley requires experience. The only thing we couldn’t get was mango pancakes but the staff were happy to suggest alternatives.

China City is decked out in exactly the same style as every other Chinese restaurant, with lots of lanterns, wall hangings, traditional furniture pieces and red highlights. There’s the token fish tank in the corner, well-stocked with lobster and other assorted swimmers. Everything is clean and neat with no surprises.

So there you have it. The BEST Yum Cha I’ve ever had, and it was right under my nose the whole time. I’ll be definitely going back.



China City Seafood Restaurant

76 Queen St(The Chifley At Lennons)
Brisbane’s CBD

07 3211 1999

Visited: Sunday 31 May 2009

China City Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

24 Responses

  1. Carmie says:

    The service was very slow and the staff very uncooperative when I wanted to order a-la-carte. The boss/manager was also rude and took a long time to process my payment. I will NEVER go back even if you paid me to do so.

  2. ally says:

    Sorry you had a bad experience, Carmie! That sucks – Nick loved his visit there, hopefully others will too. And maybe one day I’ll actually get around to HAVING Yum Cha for the first time (I suck).

  3. Kim says:

    I’ll be interested to try this place today. I’d given up on Yum Cha in Brisbane, I have to say (and that’s before I’ve even tried most places!). Apparently the “best” Yum Cha to be had (in Brisbane) is at King of Kings in the Valley, but I was far from impressed.

  4. ally says:

    Let us know how it goes, Kim! Sounds like a fab way to spend a lazy Sunday.

  5. paul sherwin says:

    The Staff where fantastic, and the food was great.
    I will be coming back.

  6. Raymond says:

    Some older staff were very rude. I also heard from someone who worked there before, their kitchen is terrible. Since than, I would never go there again. I would have another choose like the one in Aspley or Moorooka rather than China City.

  7. Vanessa says:

    food great but service is terrible. especially with the older staff. they are not welcoming and rude. if based on food wise only then its a must try for yum cha but if your looking for service then dont expect too much.

  8. Markus says:

    My wife and I recently moved to Brisbane from Sydney and have been searching for a decent Yum Cha venue here. We tried China City last weekend and were impressed – the food was much better than a couple of places we tried in the valley; the setting was clean and nice and the food came out pretty quickly and was hot and tasty.

    • KK says:

      The food is good but the service is very BAD. My colleagues and I still go there because there is no good yum cha in Queen St Mall and we love yum cha. We just ignore the service and make jokes out of it.

  9. DeanShaz says:

    Don’t know what the negativity is about. We’ve eaten there many times and had great food. Service is different from the cart type yum cha, but that’s part of what we like – it seems much fresher and hotter (maybe it’s a mirage). No problems ordering separate dishes and some of the items are too die for. Try the duck-egg something steamed rolls – freaky awesome.

  10. Meg says:

    Nice yum cha but WORST SERVICE EVER. Should have got the hint when they called to ask us to change our booking (twice), we were seated, ignored for 15mins, then reminded about 30 times “the kitchen closes at 3pm!” (well serve us some dumplings and we’ll be out of your hair!), took an hour to get a bottle of water on the table, was snapped at to “be quiet and wait!” when we suggested picking a whole lot of orders at once from the menu so we could finish sooner for them…absolute nightmare staff. Wouldn’t go back if you paid me (which is a shame because the food was reasonable). We actually had a laugh at how BAD this experience was for the rest of the night- the soup nazi has a chinese cousin living in Brisbane.

  11. Mary says:

    This is a place my husband and I have visited on a monthly basis since moving to Brisbane, but it is doubtful we will ever return. The food here was great and most of the staff are wonderful, however beware of the older lady who seats you! Due to a serious medical condition, I’m unable to walk up stairs, so when the lady at the restaurant tried to seat us upstairs, my husband explained to her I was unable to walk up the stairs due to a medical condition and that we were happy to wait for a downstairs table.

    About 5 minutes later she was in my face yelling at me there were tables upstairs to be seated in. I told her again I was too unwell to walk up the stairs (my medication makes it impossible to walk up stairs without passing out). Three young lads got so offended by her actions they cut their meal short to get up to give us their table, telling us how rude what they saw was. (though because it was not a two seat table we did not get the table) We won’t go back to this restaurant due after having everyone in the restaurant attention drawn to the fact I am ill.

    It’s hard enough getting out when you are ill, but when you have people staring at you because it’s brought to their attention and you are already self conscious about your hair loss from the medical treatment, it’s beyond humiliating.

  12. The Newt's says:

    We tried this restaurant because of the reviews that stated that this was the best Yum Cha that have had. I am sorry however this restaurant would have to be the worst Yum Cha we have tasted. And, we also agree that the old duck was very rude. Will never return.

  13. Raymond says:

    The food was not fresh. The manager was very rude, I will never go there again.

  14. Betty says:

    Food is great. Most of the staff are wonderful, but that old lady is really rude, always yelling at those young waitresses.

  15. Bill Tarrant says:

    Very poor Yum Cha.
    Some of the dumplings had good wrappings and tasty filling, but they were so large a small family could dine on one of them. Yum Cha is supposed to be elegant morsels to take with tea, not supersized glutton-burgers.
    Some fried calamari came cold, soggy and oily, with no flavour to speak of. Some sate chicken (well we tried it because they offered it) came in huge chunks (again) with a sauce that tasted of nothing nice.
    We got one pot of tea and no refills.
    If you want decent Yum Cha, cross the road to Beijing House.

  16. Mother of Twins says:

    The old Chinese manager/owner was the rudest woman I have ever had the displeasure to deal with. She wanted us to leave our pram outside. I refused as I was worried it would be stolen and she made us dismantle it and kept yelling at us to not put it under the table but put it over to the side of the restaurant. I felt distinctly unwelcome as a mother of two babies with a pram. Perhaps she should put up a sign `Mother with babies in prams not welcome’. She was so rude and should be banned from being in the service industry. I will never go back and would advise anyone with young babies especially in prams to give this restaurant a wide berth!

  17. Mother of Twins says:

    The lady owner/manager was extremely rude to us and made me feel like a second-class citizen due to the fact that we wanted to bring our pram inside and not leave it outside where it could be stolen. She harped at us constantly to dismantle the pram and put it over to the side of the restaurant when it could have easily fitted under the table. I want other mothers to know that you are not going to be welcomed by this lady if you want to bring your babies in prams into the restaurant. The yum cha was average.

    • SK says:

      We had the same experience today. Agree with you 100%. It’s just average. No so amazing that you want to spend your money there and reward their rudeness.

  18. SK says:

    Just like “Mother of Twins” wrote, we were refused entry with a pram today for lunch. That’s ok. We went there before baby was born, and it’s not so amazing that it’s worth arguing about. They’ve lost customers.

    Are they allowed to refuse entry? What about my friend in a wheelchair? Can she go there? There was no “you might have to wait for space in a corner” or “come back after the lunch time rush”. Just refusal to let us in with the pram.

  19. Kathy says:

    Will be trying Yum Char again today as my last experience was very average. Food was ok, one dish was cold, we were questioned about it when asked if we could have a warm serve, service was slow, older staff very rude.

  20. Jenna says:

    Terrible, terrible food. Nothing was fresh, the skins of the dumplings were disgustingly thick and the manager has the manners of an ogre. Never going back and embarrassed i brought friends there.

  21. Jo says:

    We eat here regularly and always enjoy the experience. A busy, vibrant restaurant with good food and good service.

  22. Marlene says:

    The most rudiest restaurant manager I have ever come accross. Not only to the customers but to his staff. The restaurant is nothing like the photos on the web, when we walked in it felt cold and very unpleasant. The manager was disgusting and glared at us the whole time we spent there. Most of the food was cold and had no appeal at all. It was the last time we will ever go there maybe both managers should have lessons in people skills as he should not be frontline or at the reception desk. My family came up from NSW and I am so embarrassed we chose to have Yum Cha yesterday.

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