Dim sums and tea might seem a strange plinth to build a formidable reputation on, but that’s exactly what Yauatcha has gone and done. Of course, reputations have been built on much less (such as the great conquerors Tendulkar and Napoleon’s diminutive stature), but with a name that resonates richly from Soho in London all the way to Sobo in, well, Mumbai, Yauatcha needs no introduction. Their refined take on Cantonese bridges old-world and new-age with ease, and so when I got the chance to sample their Golden Week menu courtesy Mr. Medium and Rare, Assad Dadan, I wasn’t going to look this gift horse in the mouth. Yauatcha, not Assad.
Yauatcha has a bit of the savvy, sexy, sultry lady of the night to her in the way she lays out her wares from the get go and tries to lure you in. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel or dangling candy in front of a fat kid (like this one), but you would do well to only savour a passing sight of the macaroons and desserts on show at the entrance, instead making a mental note of what is to come later. For me, that could be the raspberry delice or the coffee macarons.
Eschew temptation better than Eve did, and you will ascend the stairway to heaven, in this case one that takes you up a flight of stairs into a paradise of a different kind. If personified, Yauatcha would be painfully self-aware of how de riguer it is with its dimly neon glow and dark facades that are perfectly offset by the glass partitioning to one side that contributes to the restaurant’s airy vibe even by evening.
To dine at Yauatcha is to be part of a mobile human art installation. For one reason or another, the place has a vibrancy to it, no doubt brought on by the thrum of diners constantly coming and going through an imaginary revolving door, most of whom were dressed to the nines. Clearly, Yauatcha is a resounding hit with the swish set for reasons unknown to me. Maybe they’re here to dine on dimsums. Maybe they’re here to chug on (the doubtlessly intoxicating) cocktails. Maybe they’re just here to be seen under starry skies by those more starry-eyed. Regardless, I was here to bulldoze my way through a set menu like the proverbial bull in the Cantonese dimsum house, and so I got to the task at hand in earnest.
I’m not one for tipple, but the Golden Orchard was the first time in ages that I regretted not being one to enjoy the forbidden fruit. Packing a triple whammy by way of some Tequila, Cointreau and Rum, some lime juice and Agave sweetener took the edge off it and ensured it packed an iron fist within a velvet glove. A few of these would leave me ditzy and worry-free, and it is perhaps reason enough for me to recommend it.
The chefs at Yauatcha are the high priests of Dimsum wizardry, and no visit to their temple would be complete without a sampling of some of their dumplings. Thus it transpired that we tried the Prawn and Chive Dumplings, which clearly reflected the artistry and silken touch that goes into making each of these babies. Each one of them looked stunning, made with the sure touch of a master craftsman near the peak of his powers.
Each of the sui mai were tightly packed, but pleasantly so and not like a Dadar local. Flavoursome and light, each of these came wrapped in a wispy, translucent jade-green cloud that gave way to fresh and delectable promise of protein within. Like a mini-skirt, what these diapahanous dimsum skins hide is what is of the essence, and I felt a little like Oliver Twist asking for more of these bite sized bundles of joy at the end of it all.
The Crispy Spicy Tofu came and went in a haze, with everyone digging into it with gay abandon. There is something about savoring fried savories that brings out the best and the worst in people, and while these perfectly shaped balls would have been just as enjoyable sans the batter, it was still relished by one and all at the table. I would personally have skipped it had it caught my eye on the menu, because crispy fried Tofu doesn’t really make my eyes roll back into my head with ecstasy while hearing it whisper “take me now”.
The theme of golden edibles continued with a Golden Fried Snapper and a Golden Fried Mock Duck winging their respective ways to our table. Deep fried to a crisp, some would say even a nicety, it was remarkable to my mind that the Mock Duck appealed more to my palate than the Snapper. Somewhere in an alternate dimension, 10 year old me is screaming and yelling like a banshee, calling present day me an uneducated heathen that wouldn’t know a good dish if it was thrown in my face. Whatever, you little brat. My opinion still stands, so stop throwing your imaginary toys out of that imaginary pram.
A special mention goes out to the incredible jasmine rice sauce that this came with. Even a blind man would be able to see its brilliance, because blind men can also discern taste. Duh. Soy, sesame and honey frolic together in an epic ménage à trois that honestly elevates what would have been a dry mouthful that wouldn’t go down all too easily. It’s not often that I’ll have snapper plated in front of me only to have my nose turned up at it for something else, but that’s exactly what happened here. That sauce deserves to have its own show on Broadway with a standing ovation because it’s an absolute superstar.
Just as it promised, the Emperor’s Chilli Sauce based mains packed some serious firepower through a slightly chunky sauce that set off some fireworks. Like a fiercely independent woman, it didn’t need no ma(i)n to support it and did just fine by itself. I enjoyed the variants of mushroom (because I’m a fungi) and so picked out the shimeji and cloud ear fungus along with clumps of chicken. As it was with the mock duck and snapper, the veggies won the day again.
I tried pairing some with the black olive fried rice, but let’s just say the emperor and olive don’t make for great bedfellows. I even overheard one tell the other that, and I quote, “we are never, ever, ever getting back together.”
Neither dish wowed me by itself, nor did they work together. It was a strange limbo that they occupied, and I still can’t wrap my head around the intended idea of having that admittedly slightly moist rice by itself. It’s like Himesh trying to be the star act in his own films, it was just never ever going to work for me. Or most people really.
Particularly heartbreaking was the lotus stem root we got, which was sliced too thick for me to fully enjoy. Rather than the light crackle of a thinner sliver, I got the resounding crunch of a thicker piece that I could swear resonated within my cranium. It sounded like something out of this potato chip ads were the sound of the crunch sends shockwaves through an entire neighbourhood and levels it completely. At least that’s what it sounded like to me.
The mains in Spain might be mainly in the plain, but the mains dished out by Yauatcha are anything but. Peppered with, well, pepper and with red chillies thrown in for good measure along with peppercorn just in case this was too mild, the Mahlak Udon Noodles was fiery to say the least. Surprisingly, it was pleasantly so though, like the warmth of a muscle relaxing balm that makes your senses tingle without singeing it. The almost velveteen ribbons of udon noodles only served to demonstrate the expertise of the kitchen, and with some prawns thrown in I’d have gobbled this one up all by myself. Because I don’t want anyone else to have something this spicy and burn their palate. Of course.
The golden chocolate was our designated sweet send-off, and it consisted of honeycomb ice cream served alongside fingers of Golden Dark Chocolate. The chocolate fingers posed a peculiar conundrum as they refused to break under duress. I imagine the Mossad would find it hard to make that baby crack under interrogation. I pulled out my trusty monkey wrench, which I carry along for times like this, and cracked that baby with little to no effort.
I swear to god that chocolate finger was a much more solid version of Kit Kat, as disingenuous as that makes me sound, and a few bites of it is all it took for me to dive into the ice cream, which offered me a little bit of cold comfort, so to speak. I dream of delice, though.
Yauatcha then married style with substance effortlessly, and I’d most definitely return for some dimsum, tea and desserts on a lazy, meandering day, because no thing worth doing well is worth rushing. And if that puts me into a food coma, so be it. At least I’ll end up waking up in what might well be my new happy place.