Saturday, 25 August 2012

PPP: Yum Cha Cuisine

Woah! Two PPP in one pay week? Cashed up aren't we! This weekend I was prompted to go to yum cha for lots of reasons, most of them being my foodie/dog park friend LGS discretely telling me,

"I've never been to yum cha."
"Well let's go then. Are you free next week?"
"Yes! I was hoping you'd say that. You're my foodie friend."

She wasn't even coy about it, she just had to mention it and I was keen. I just jump at any chance to go out and eat anyway. So after some mumblings I decided to invite some people from work too. Yum cha is better with people, its always cheap anyway and PPP is all about the spirit of generosity and being flush with cash like we're secretly rich. I wrote it up on the message board and asked a whole bunch of people. Drum roll please . . .

Six people turned up! WOAH THERE, DON'T GET A FAT HEAD NOW. Turn out was NZ-A and her family, LGS, L., and myself, so seven in total. So really, four people turned up cause if you get your family or partner to go, that doesn't count.

Anyway, the big deal I had this time was I hate yum cha. I hate it. Its the whole good food vs good service thing. I hate yum cha cause no speaks English, no one pays any attention to you when you're trying to order something, you have to pay for every small thing like tea, sauces, containers, your order always gets misplaced, you can't get drinks, its noisy, the food is average to good and the service staff are rude. The real kicker is that you aren't even full after, you can walk it off in an hour and then get a real lunch elsewhere.

Many yum cha enthusiasts would reply that we would go to yum cha for the food and not for the service. You go to a hospital not to eat delicious food but to get healthy is a similar thing. Why can't the two principles be mutually exclusive? Can't I get good food AND good service? Fair enough, if its one and not the other, but I'd rather good food and terrible service any day of the week. Yum cha for me is bad food, bad service and leaving irritated.

That being said, I go with my friends cause they enjoy it and I'm a bossy cow who likes to tell people what to do. Years of yum cha with my family and friends mean that I've been to most of the major big name yum cha places in Brisbane, Landmark, Big Gun, King of Kings, Kingsfood, Haoke and countless others I probably can't even remember. I can honestly think of a negative experience for each and every one of those, so I was sort of stuck for a new place to go to as per food blogging rules.

I was thinking Landmark was the stock standard. It was central in Sunnybank, its well known, its Asian impressive, the food is good by non-Asian standards. I hate Landmark so much though, re read my complaints from earlier and multiply it by ten. Then I heard that Westfield Carindale had opened up a Yum Cha place so off to that we went. I did hear from H., and Z., at work that it was nice, but a bit pricey and geared towards white people.

Empty as hell
LGS and I arrived there at 10am, opening time exactly. We had booked a table and were awaiting other people. We spent some time talking. Here are some snaps I took whilst we were waiting for NZ-A and L., to arrive.

They had to hastily vacuum the floor, what on earth is that white stuff anyway?

What is that paper?
LGS and I had been waiting for about an hour and a half and things were just starting to gear up in the restaurant. We were offered some soy beans and snapped them up. They were icy cold but we inhaled them like no ones business. They were nicely salted, but lacked that soy sauce hit that edamame have.

We noticed other people far far away from us in the restaurant. We were situated near the back and we joked around that all we need was a bathroom behind us to be fully ostracised from the majority of dinners. By 11am, they had just started seriously rolling around the trolleys. I started ordering with two har gao, two siu mai and a plate of BBQ pork buns. As well as a round of soy sauce and chilli sauce.

The BBQ pork buns were solid. They were full of that dark sweet char siu meat and it was nicely salty, they were a touch sweet for my liking, but I never like the combination of sweet and meat in any case. LGS told me that the first and last time she had ever had a BBQ pork bun was when she was drunk and had one from 7-11 in some foreign country that she doesn't remember. She said this was much better.

BBQ Pork Buns

The siu mai, or prawn and beef mince dumplings as they were called here were great as well. They were a good solid height, filled right to the top with filling, held their own shape, had a good mix between the veggies and meat and were perfectly seasoned. They didn't have the little fish roe that the picture did though!

Siu mai
You can always tell the quality of a good yum cha place by its stock standard dishes; the har gao and siu mai as well as its desserts. The har gao here were fantastic, full of whole and minced prawns, with a delicately thin skin and gorgeously pleated folds on its surface. The look on LGS's face when she ate them was priceless, I think her words were, "woah these are seriously prawny!"

Har gao

By the time, LGS and I had smashed through the first two layers of dumplings and a bun each, NZ-A and her family had arrived. After getting their drinks, they ate the rest of our dumplings and the ordering began in earnest.

We got two rounds of salt and pepper king prawns. Oh man, these were fantastic. They came six to a plate and they were so delicious, hot and moreish. They had a beautifully seasoned salt and pepper nuggety coating that clung to every inch of that crunchy shell, I even found myself nibbling the tail for more of it! The prawns were beautifully cooked, and properly deveined as they should be! They were juicy, bouncy and large, not quite king prawn size but not bad either! Probably one of the unexpected hits of the day.

Salt and Pepper King Prawns!
Special fried rice. That plate is actually missing about half of the rice on it, NZ-A's hubby got through the plate first as he served the kids and his wife. You can imagine how much there was to begin with! Seven people shared the entire plate and managed to get a bowl each. Its a really good fried rice! Its not stingy, there's huge chunks of ham, little bursty prawns, little slivers of char siu, bits of egg and shallots! The rice was nicely separated, it wasn't overly oily and remained light and fluffy.

Fried Rice and steamed BBQ pork buns
We ate this with a serving of pork ribs in black bean sauce. I didn't take a picture cause they looked terrible, grey, oily and unappetising but boy was I wrong! They were lip smackingly good, they had the deep, soaked in saltiness that long braising imparts even though the colour was terrible, the meat was meltingly tender and I found myself trying to scoop the sauce left behind to garnish my rice. There were a lot of gristly bits in there, but that is how I like my pork ribs. I can't imagine how much better this would be if they had used a real cut of meat that wasn't 70% cartilage.

L., had arrived by now and she wasted no time in ordering a homemade lemon tea. She later whispered to me that it had no sugar in it at all, but that was how she liked it hahaha.

Iced lemon tea!
Deep fried bean curd and prawns! For some reason I ordered this thinking it was steamed rice noodle rolls with prawns. Man I wanted some of those bad boys, with their slippery, gooey, unctuous layers and slightly sweet soy sauce. Screw the prawns, I could eat plates of that rice noodle~ Instead I got deep fried bean curd skins and prawns. They were okay, we scored some free vinegar as a result. There's three to a serve, NZ-A's son got to them first is all.

Deep fried bean curd and prawns!
Two rounds of pan fried prawn dumplings. Geez they look good with their burnt butts, and they tasted good too! I love the contrast of smoky, chewy charring and the still soft dumpling skins, the filling was perfect! Nicely salty and very meaty. Harajuku Gyoza, eat your heart out.

Two rounds of Shanghai soup dumplings! L., and I were very excited to see this on the menu. They attraction of Shanghai soup dumplings is that they are thin, thin dumpling skins filled with soup and a ball of tasty pork mince. The reward/risk is somehow lifting one of these things off the steamer sheet without popping it and losing all the precious soup. You have to do this while its still hot! Otherwise waiting for it to cool is just a waste! I did the best I think, LGS did the worst and left half her dumpling behind, the other ones were just eaten. LGS remarked that she didn't particularly like them cause of their strong coriander taste. Also she got a bit of reflux from them later.
Shanghai soup dumplings!
Fried white bait! Oh man, I am such a sucker for white bait. Delicious assorted baby fish who will never turn into real fish cause they're in my belly! By the time we got these, they were a bit cool, so the fried coating was a bit softer than usual. I didn't mind though, they had the same salty golden coating as the salt and pepper king prawns. Unlike the usual practice, these white bait were so delicately fried, they were still moist in the centres. I inhaled the plate, practically solo. God, I would go back here again just for the white bait.

Fried whitebait
A round of roast duck. It was terrible. Skin was crispy but. Under seasoned, the meat didn't taste like anything, just very lean not very fatty, no other flavour and look at this bit! Look at all the feathers still left on! Gross!

Roasted duck!

Super gross!
For dessert, we got two of the custard tarts, some baked custard buns and coconut jelly. Oh and some sesame and red bean balls! The custard tarts were tiny, L., and I were very displeased, the casing was wafer thin and flaked apart when I picked it up. The custard was super eggy and very plain, not sweet at all.

From the very top! Coconut jelly, custard tarts, custard steamed buns
The baked custard buns were fantastic though, the top was covered in caramelised, chewy sugar top and the inside had a much better custard! Much sweeter and with a much better consistency, more like the custard you get in apple tea cakes.

Sesame and red bean balls.
The sesame and red bean balls were tasty, they apparently only appear on the weekends. They were golden brown, crispy, chewy and the red beans were a smooth, sweet paste. Red bean makes everything fantastic.

The service was fantastic for yum cha. There was actually a waitress for our quarter of the room whose sole job was to do whatever we wanted, clear plates, get extra chairs, get sauces, order food. It was magical. Service actually picked up once the busy rush started, wait more dishes started to come out and we got offered lots of stuff by the waiters and waitresses rushing around. I'd definitely come here again, but I'd time it for closer to noon perhaps.

Much better :)

Yum Cha Cuisine (Carindale) on Urbanspoon

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