Yum Cha adventures: Sydney Chinatown
What better place to start than Marigold. Reputedly the oldest yum cha establishment in Sydney, the restaurant describes what it means: 'A long held Cantonese tradition is to yum cha (sip tea in Cantonese) accompanied by dim sum in the morning. Yum chan has become so popular that it is now extended to lunch.
Dim sum (to touch your heart) is a wide assortment of savoury and sweet dishes in bite size servings. Your heart will burst at the sight of the huge variety of dim sum that Marigold offers from the traditional trolleys.'
Mention the name Marigold, and reactions are divided: Chinese aficionados tun up their noses, but walk into either of the two vast levels that host this restaurant, and you'll find it packed with Chinese families.
Sure the delicate varieties found in the best dim sum spots in Hong Kong are a far cry, and one would be best served at Mr. Wongs for something closer to that truth. But we're talking Chinatown Sydney here.
Marigold is upholding Covid safety rules in a strict and reassuring manner, and tables are well distanced.
The delicate morsels of dim sum were of the highest standard, fresh, steaming hot and tender. My benchmarks for dim dum standards: the taro dumplings which have a netting of lace-like pastry around them and filled with a sweetish pork and prawn mince, and the simple, steamed veggie dumplings.
Both passed the test with flying colours: the tapioca patties were smooth and flavourful after the first bite through that lovely whisper thin lacey, crunchy coating, revealing a filling that was porky and sweet to perfection.
The veggie dumplings were warm and translucent, the bright greens showing through the thin pastry skins with pretty scalloped edges.Munching on them brought all the right sensations: melt in the mouth outer casing into the greens which were just perfectly simple, fresh and moist. Tick, Tick, Tick.
Next up was The Eight in the Market City building on Hay Street. Here, the trolleys whizzed up and down between the tables causing minor traffic jams which all the tables seemed to benefit from as there was a cart
near a seated table at all times it seemed.
The wu gok (pork filled taro dumplings)were good, not great; the casing seemed somehow a little chewy on the ends.
A generous plate of har gow dumplings was filled with thick chunks of prawn and tasted delicious. We also ordered a plate of steamed pork ribs that was tender and well marinated.
Lorrie and I enjoyed the char siu bao- fluffy and light on the outside and the inside sweet and salty with bbq pork.
While lots of trolleys buzzed about us, I failed to see any carrying the traditional favourites like lohr bak go (turnip cake squares) and har cheung (shrimp noodle rolls). My ultimate favourite, nor mai gai (lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice with pork and chestnut filling) was also absent.
Some fried sesame balls that arrived at the table didn't have the red bean filling, but a yellow bean paste which was sadly rather dry and crumbly. It is unheard of that I'd leave a sesame ball unfinished, but here I did.
Jasmine tea came quickly and was efficiently refreshed each time we tipped the lid when our supply ran low.
In all, a decent lunch, although I wouldn't give it the same marks for Covid safety as Marigold.
Our last stop was Zilver, across George Street in a dull and dark building along Hay Street. Perhaps we should have taken the sad location as a premonition, but the yum cha we had here was, unfortunately almost entirely forgettable.
Apart from all the usual favourites being glaringly absent, what was on offer all seemed to fall quite flat.
We ordered a plate of ngau cheung or beef noodle rolls and if we hadn't reminded her, the trolley lady would have forgotten the all important sauce dousing before laying it on our table. It turns out that the dousing didn't help to hide a rubbery texture to the noodle rolls.
Another trolley came past and when we asked what the items were, the lady grinned sheepishly saying: 'I don't know'. THAT was certainly a new one on me!
The one saving grace of our stop here was the pepper beef ribs which were doused generously in pepper and a savoury sauce.
The char siu bao was sickly sweet, helped only with generous toppings of hot chilli sauce. Not a xiao long bao in sight, nor any siu mai, or the basic fried rice.
I thought the added insult to our visit was the steaming baskets- at Zilver, not the rustic bamboo variety we all love, but ugly plastic rimmed ones
Lorrie, ever the brave, ordered egg tarts to go for Slim. I did not like his chances....
683 George Street
Ph: 02 92813388
9-13 Hay Street
Ph: 02 92829988
191 Hay Street
Ph: 02 92112232