It’s the year of the pig so what better way to celebrate than with a big meal? Nick is invited to try out Yauatcha’s Chinese New Year Menu
I’ve always liked Yauatcha, the more affordable and accessible side of the Hakkasan empire. Styled as a modern’Dim Sum teahouse offering contemporary Cantonese dim sum’, it doesn’t have the bling of its siblings – you can pop in casually all day long for food and tea without feeling you need to wear your Jimmy Choos.
We went in at 6pm on a Thursday and it was surprisingly busy even at that time, the doorway crammed with people trying to get in out of the snowy wind.
I like upstairs best, where you can eye up the lovely cakes on display, but we were sent downstairs as it was so busyIt’s a bit canteeny downstairs, perhaps because the main kitchen is there on semi-display and there’s a lot of steam due to the dim sum.
The atmosphere feels a bit damp and humid.The waitstaff are dressed rather like chefs, so when ours came to the table I thought I’d been singled out for special attention.
But the staff are all charming and friendly, although at least three of them in succession felt they had to ask me if we had any dietary restrictions. I suppose they can’t be too careful these days, but even so.
The beauty of a set menu of course is that you don’t have to spend ages poring over the myriad choices, which in a dim sum place can be very confusing. So, after a quick glance to confirm there was nothing there we wouldn’t want to eat, we sat back to let the pig roam free.
All around is art by design team, Isabel and Helen Studio, inspired by the zodiac animal and it’s all very nice. But then I don’t know much about art, in fact I don’t even know what I like.
First out the blocks is a Venison puff, gently sweet with tender meat, it’s best enjoyed without employing any of the sauces on the table.
As usual with dim sum, I don’t know whether to eat it all in one voraciously huge bite or take it slowly in nibbles. I go for nibbles and so enjoy it longer. I particularly like the sesame seeds scattered over the top and the soft kiss of the pastry.
The three dim sums that follow are classics, colourful and well-made. Spicy scallop dumpling, wild mushroom dumpling and prawn and chicken shui mai. The scallop is plump and the wrapping translucent, so this one I try as a full bite and immediately regret it because it is rather hot inside.
Still, after doing some heavy mouth breathing, I get to actually chew it properly. Nice hints of chive and soy come through with plenty of plump scallop.
The prawn and chicken shumai is very good. Shumai describes the style of dumpling, which here is open-topped. I dip and dab this in one of the chili sauces between bites, but only a bit as they are both rather fiery.
The last dim sum here, the fluorescent green wild mushroom dumpling, is a bit bland, and also a bit cold. I hadn’t been hanging around eating the first two, so it must have been lukewarm at the start, not my favourite, anyway.
Ah but the crispy monkfish cheek, with enoki mushroom and salsify, dim sums are special. The oystery taste of salsify perfect with the fish and the slippery slither of the enoki a contrast to the crispy batter around it all. These we dunk in the sweet dipping sauce for extra excitement.
Do you like tofu? It’s not easy to like, despite all its health benefits. It needs work to make it taste of anything, in fact usually needs frying. Here homemade prawn tofu with seaweed and water chestnut was actually rather interesting, a well-textured tofu set off by the sweet, smooth, water chestnut. I felt almost virtuous eating it.
With mains came more meat, Peking Style Pulled Pork was not actually shredded, which I think is one of the definitions of pulled pork? However, this is’Peking style’ not Louisiana style, so who knows?
It came as slices along with Golden Mantou.These steamed buns are very heavy and dense. I liked the flavour, but they were a challenge to chew and needed a good gulp of water to unstick them from the roof of my mouth between bites.
The pork is tender and has a good perimeter of fat, and once wrapped in the lettuce leaves responds well to the sweet dipping sauce.
Finally, there’s steamed freshwater prawn with chilli. The steaming allows the delicate prawns to be almost sashimi in texture and lets the pure prawn flavour come forward. It’s extremely fine, prickled by the restrained use of chili.
We mix this with forkfuls of gummy, in a good way, sticky rice with Chinese sausage and a bowl of Szechuan three style mushroom.
The Szechuan is just how I like it, powerful enough to sufficiently numb my mouth for root canal surgery, while the different mushrooms are inoffensive yet’shroomy and bosky and with varying textures to play with.
We end with Mandarin matcha choux, sesame, mandarin compote and orange Chantilly. All very pretty and not too sweet, I don’t like overly sweet things much but this managed to be just right for me.