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…
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.
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.
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)
07 3211 1999
Visited: Sunday 31 May 2009