best dim sum I've ever had: Yauatcha, London
My list of favourite foods may be long, varied and changes swiftly day to day but as they say, true love is hard to ignore. If there's one type of food I unequivocally never say no to, it's dim sum. Very specifically, I have a huge weakness for Cantonese siew mais. These horrifically high calorie pork and shrimp dumplings have got me hooked for life. It's no surprise that no matter where in the world I go, if there's siew mais or siomays, as they call it in Indonesia, I simply have to try it. I may or may not keep in my head a mental checklist in descending order of all the most delicious siew mais I've had in the world.
Yes, I've had dim sum in Hong Kong, and it's unparalleled. Currently, Tim Ho Wan is still go-to place for the best dim sum and of course, for its siew mais. This restaurant chain started expanding worldwide in 2013 and is the cheapest one Michelin star restaurant in the world. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, Tim Ho Wan serves very traditional dim sum fare such as shrimp dumplings, rice with pork spare ribs, chee chong fun (vermicelli rice rolls) and their much lauded baked BBQ pork buns. It could be considered fast food; the menu is concise and the food is swift. While I love Tim Ho Wan for the every day, Yauatcha is a different space altogether.
When we were in London having drinks at the Duck and Rice in Soho, a friend recommended us to the restaurant next door, Yauatcha. I had to try this decadent looking dim sum teahouse at least once. The interior is fabulously posh with modern, minimal elements of its Cantonese roots. I loved this place so much that we ended up eating here twice; once downstairs and once in the back bar area. Downstairs, under a dark starlight canopied ceiling with a long fish tank on the side, is my favourite area. The man behind Yauatcha, Alan Yau, is also the mastermind behind the wagamama juggernaut.
I think the moment I realised Yauatcha would be the best dim sum I'll ever have is when I tried their pickles - clean, crisp, sweet and a little tangy. In the days that followed I'd remember the first bite of this pickle more clearly than the whole of our dining experience, muffled by memories of conversations, laughter, cocktails and rounds of food. As with all dim sum restaurants, two types of chilli sauces are served. Sweet chilli sauce and the essential, more captivating chiu chow chilli oil, made with heaps of garlic, soy, dried chilli, and spicy oil.
Yauatcha also has the distinction of having one Michelin star in its name. Cost-wise, it's definitely pricier than most even without doing the exchange rate from pounds to SGD or USD, but it's worth the quality, ambience and service. I had cocktails instead of desserts, and there was nothing at Yauatcha I found lacking.
Must eat dim sum favourites
I'm not a fan of vermicelli rice rolls as much as Shawn, but we could both agree that by far this was the best cheung fun we'd ever tasted. Talk about layers of deliciousness unleashed in your mouth the minute you bite into this roll: salty soy drenched warm soft roll tenderly holding in a hot crunchy deep fried beancurd encasing a juicy, sweet prawn. MMM. Literally wording this exactly from my memory of how I remember the flavours and textures rolling off my tongue.
A few of my typical favourites alongside siew mais are har gow, shrimp dumplings wrapped in a silky translucent skin. I often give this up in favour of more siew mais, but they're a great test of freshness and quality in a restaurant. Here it was nothing short of amazingly delicious. I also had shrimp in spicy sauce which seems to have been replaced from the menu since I visited. A version of this elsewhere in the world is dumplings in spicy black vinegar, which I much prefer as this felt flat in comparison.
Our second visit was more for cocktails so we loaded up with heartier dishes, trying the squid and noodles which were both outstanding. The portions were pretty large so you get a very filling meal, but that also meant that Shawn and I weren't able to try more dishes. The menu is filled with more exotic items that we would have gone for if we could swing a third visit, but that's for next time. Their cocktails are very tantalising concoctions, which we had as appetisers and desserts instead throughout the evening.
Every dish was about double the price back home, and we spent about £60 (USD75) each meal. By London standards it came to be more mid-range than fine dining and for a place like this I don't think I could ever say no to spending an hour here exploring their menu.
15-17 Broadwick St, Soho, London W1F 0DL, UK
Noon - 10.45pm daily
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