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Jan 20, 2012 10:08 AM

London - Yauatcha (Update)

I remembered being wowed over by Yauatcha when it first back in the early 2000s - it was hip & trendy, a departure from old dim sum places like Harbour City, etc., down at Gerrard Street, Chinatown. Dim sum at both Yauatcha, and "big" sister restaurant, Hakkasan were as good as those one gets in Hong Kong.

Was back there again today after a hiatus of 6-7 years for:
- Venison puffs: very good quality "cha-siu sou", delicate when served hot - as Yauatcha correctly did. The caramelly venison oozed out deliciously from the flaky buttery pastry;
- Blue swimmer crab & pork shiu mai: generous lump crabmeat atop meaty steamed dumplings. The minced pork was chewier than I'd have liked, less fatty than the versions we'd get in HK or Singapore;
- King crab & pork Shanghai siew long bao. Yauatcha has got the taste right, but the three dumplings were uneven in size, all looked pretty deflated instead of plump & juicy, and the skin was way too thick.

I liked the hot chilli dipping sauces which Yauatcha served alongside their dim sum - more Singapore/Malaysian style than Hong Kong. Beautiful dessert selection there - Western-style cakes, chocs & mousses - sets Yauatcha apart from other dim sum houses.

One complaint - the seats there were way too low!!

15-17 Broadwick St, London W1F 0DL, GB

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  1. I see they serve stuff there in threes. :-)

    4 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      Don't most places (apart from har gau)?

      1. re: huiray

        You beat Charles Yu to that comment, huiray. Anyway, thanks to Charles - that was what appeared in my mind when I saw Yauatcha's dim sum servings :-D

      2. What were the prices like? When I wen t a few years ago, I though the food was quite nice, but severely overpriced. Do they still have tea service where they provide a pot of water, with a covered bowl/gai4 wan3 for one to brew tea at the table?

        13 Replies
        1. re: limster

          Not cheap - 3 types of dim sum + a pot of tea = GBP45. We'd get 10 types of dim sum for the same amount in a top Singapore or HK yum cha spot!

          I got my pot of tea ready-brewed and didn't see any tables where the customers get to brew their own tea. Do we need to ask for this arrangement? Things may have changed since Alan Yau sold out his share of the restaurant (together with Hakkasan) for £30.5 million in 2008 to a Abu Dhabi-based property firm.

          BTW, Alan Yau also sold off Busaba Eathai, this time to a UK private equity firm for £21.5 million in Jan 2010. He's made quite a bundle this time (probably learnt from his bad mistake back in 1997, when he was squeezed out of his own creation, Wagamama, by investors).

          Alan Yau's now back in his native Hong Kong, and opened Betty's Kitchen in IFC Mall, with a Basque chef and offering salads & sandwiches. A departure from his neo-Asian restaurants in London - it was a consciouas decision by Alan Yau to offer non-Asian food in HK as his restaurants in London (Hakkasan, Yauatcha) had always been criticized as having unauthentic food by Hongkongers.

          1. re: klyeoh

            It been a while but I think the brew your own option was listed in the tea menu, but could be wrong.

            1. re: limster

              Very likely. You must make a visit to Yauatcha again soon - their venison puffs (叉燒酥) was better than those in many other places I'd tried in London, and definitely better than any yum cha spots I tried in the San Francisco Bay Area or New York Chinatown!

              1. re: klyeoh

                Sounds good!
                Hmm, I can't say I am consciously aware of *venison* being used in cha siu so (叉燒酥) in NYC/SF [or even Chicago] yum cha places (rather than pork) but I shall look specifically next time. Is this a Yauatcha/Alan Yau specialty? (黑椒鹿肉酥)

                1. re: huiray

                  huiray - oops, forgot to explain that I was comparing the venison puff to the cha-siu pork versions in other places. Actually, the way the meat's been caramelised, one's hard put to differentiate between pork, venison or any other type of meat used! In KL's Han Room, they offered a roast goose version, but it was drier than Yauatcha's. So far, only Yauatcha offers the venison version that I know of.
                  BTW, 恭禧發財 and Happy Chowhounding in the Year of the Dragon, huiray!

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Aha, thanks.

                    恭禧發財 to you too, klyeoh!

                    ...and to other CHers who observe CNY.

                2. re: klyeoh

                  I've had the venison puffs at Hakkasan a while ago and did recall that it was excellent. The other thing that I previously enjoyed at Yauatcha was the prawn and lychee in shredded filo. Am glad to read that they'e been at least more generous with their crab filling etc... -- I still remember a crab dumpling with mostly pea greens and a tiny pinch of crabmeat the size of a chickpea and paid a royal £8 for a basket of 3.

                  Next time we'll have to do a Min Jiang update. The xlb there were previously superb, comparable to anything else I've had, including one made by the ex-head chef of Lu4 Bo1 Lang2 in Shanghai when he was at Lily's House in Lafayette CA. But the last time I had them, nearly a year ago, they were still very good, but perhaps a touch less delicate. What I missed was their outstanding shanghai styled shao1 mai4/shumai (filled wtih savoury glutinous rice) that were also no longer on the menu. Perhaps their Shanghainese specialist had left (tried the one in Goodwood Park Hotel in Singapore as well, and these weren't available either).

                  Obviously apples and oranges, but Royal China Club has a lamb shen1 jian1 bao1 that I think is every bit as delicious as the venison puffs, and I especially liked the micro-shiso that enhanced the lamb filling quite dramatically.

                  1. re: limster

                    Next time we'll have to do a XLB or dim sum crawl, covering at least 3 good, different restauranrts in order to compare. Hakkasan & Yauatcha were both very enjoyable - good, authentic HK-style dim sum these days, very pleasant atmosphere.

                    Will be interesting to try Min Jiang next time. I think I'd rather enjoy London/UK standard of service than Lu Bo Lang in Shanghai - I was there a few years ago, and didn't quite like the food nor lackadaisical Chinese-style service there (think Wong Kei, London). There was a large portrait of the Clintons beaming as they dined at Lu Bo Lang - but I'm pretty sure they'd receive better treatment than us "plebeians" :-D

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      The food at Lily's House was superb, the only instance of xun1 yu2/smoked fish that I've ever enjoyed. Perhaps LBL went downhill after this guy moved to the US. :)

                      1. re: limster

                        Not likely for Lu Bo Lang to be afftected by the chef's move - it's a local Govt-owned restaurant, so it has a line of chefs who're trained at the officially-sanctioned culinary school. But the food at Lu Bo Lang came across as rather heavy & oily - which suits local Shanghainese/Mainland Chinese tastes, but not for us foreigners. I think the chef who moved to the US may have adjusted his cooking style to suit American palates - lighter cooking style, with less oil/fat, etc.

                        BTW, xiao long bao dumplings in London's Chinatown restaurants seemed closer to the type pf cooking you'd get in Taiwan, e.g. Leong's Legend, Dumplings Legend, etc. I presume the restaurant owners in Chinatown are mainly Taiwanese and Hongkongers, although most of the service staff and kitchen crew are Mainland Chinese.

                        1. re: klyeoh

                          Woops - the downhill comment was not meant seriously, more of a little joke, hence the smiley.

                          What impressed us at Lily's House wasn't so much the heaviness or lightness of the cooking, but the refinement of technique and textural control.

                          Theoretically, XLB shouldn't vary in a systematic way between Taiwan and Mainland China, AFAIK it's essentially the same dish. But there would be variation from restaurant to restaurant (e.g. Ding Tai Fung's version seems to have slightly stiffer skins). The chef from Leong's Legend (at least when it started) claimed a stint at DTF; don't know if he's moved from place to place -- IIRC the various Legends restaurants in Chinatown are owned by the same group. As for XLB variants, there are some that seem NYC-specific, that tend to be larger, but not sure of the origins.

                          1. re: limster

                            Some restaurant placemarks:

                            Leong's Legend
                            4 Macclesfield St, London W1D, GB

                            Dumplings' Legend
                            27 Gerrard St, London W1D, GB

                            Min Jiang
                            2-24 Kensington High St, London W8 4PT, GB

                            8 Hanway Pl, London W1T 1HD, GB

                    2. re: limster

                      Credit goes to Hakkasan's Malaysia-born/formerly Singapore-based Head Chef, Tong Chee Hwee, for coming up with the venison puffs, and the high-quality dim sum items. A bit on Chef Tong's background (as per Debrettt's):

                      1982-84 Trainee at Happy Valley Restaurant Singapore
                      1985-87 No. 3 Fryer chef at Happy Valley Restaurant, Malaysia
                      1988-89 No. 3 Fryer chef at Wah Lok Restaurant, Carlton Hotel Singapore
                      1989-95 No. 2 Fryer chef at Li Bai Restaurant, Sheraton Towers Singapore
                      1995-96 No. 1 Fryer chef at Wan Hao Restaurant, Marriott Hotel Singapore
                      1996-2001 Senior Fryer chef at the Summer Pavilion Restaurant, Ritz Carlton Singapore
                      2001 - present Head chef Hakkasan London (1 Michelin Star 2003-, Oriental Restaurant of the Year 2003 Carlton Restaurant Awards)

                      Chef Tong's favorite restaurant on his day-off? Ba Shan in Soho :-)

            2. Yauatcha has always been a great venue for tasty, well constructed & quality food. I think it is in the top league for dim sum. Sister restaurant Hakasan (original location and Bruton St) also serve great food consistently well.