Rebecca Fry gets in a happy mess at this newish dim sum joint
Give the current circumstances, it’s no surprise that the opening of Yum Cha managed to slip under my radar. When the signage of Meat Factory on Lark Lane mysteriously disappeared earlier in the year, I kept my eyes peeled for any sign of what was to come, not realising that this new restaurant had begun trading back in late July.
Light little doughnut buns are bursting with thick custard and will leave you with no choice but to get stuck in
Yum Cha is part of the new generation of Chinese restaurants that takes the traditional and drags it right into the city suburbs of 2020 - think Maggie Fu or Chamber 36. Banquets for the family are nudged out by creative cocktails and Spotify playlists. These are restaurants born to please a city of salt and pepper enthusiasts: always ready for the next big plate, we want our food quick, cheap and packed with flavour. This kind of dining suits us well. Things arrive fast. It’s completely fuss free. Get in, get fed and stagger home for a lie down.
Don’t get me wrong - this isn’t just a takeaway by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a gorgeous looking restaurant and with a menu this intriguing you’d be in no hurry to leave. A clever contrast of hanging Chinese lanterns and roaring pink neon means that despite the exposed brick and Covid-friendly ventilation there’s still a warmth to the space. It’ll give you all the late-night-in-the-city vibes they show in films - a world away from Lark Lane’s more bohemian roots.
Starters arrive thick and fast. The hoisinapp roll (£4.50) is essentially a duck spring roll but it’s a good one at that. There’s the crispy Zaa Jau Jyu (£5.50) which is slightly less exciting that it initially sounds- fried squid with a punchy chilli mayo and the teriyaki strip steak (£6) which is good, if a little overdone. It’s the salt and pepper tofu (£5.50) that we’re crossing chopsticks over at the end, curiously hash-brown shaped and impossibly flavourful for something that usually wouldn’t get a second glance.
It’s the next part of the meal where Yum Cha really start to show what they can do. Fluffy steamed buns filled with sweet char sui pork (£4.50) are the ultimate comfort. Har Gau (£4.50), listed as the ‘most famous Cantonese dumpling’ offer a more delicate flavour, encasing chopped prawn and bamboo shoots in a thin gelatinous shell. But it’s an order of xiao long bao (4.50) that excites me most. The famous ‘Shanghai soup-dumplings’ release a waterfall of chicken broth onto the table and all over you and your unfortunate guests when their insides are revealed. Free entertainment with every, delicious bite.
I’m sure the idea of small plates is as divisive as ever but you needn’t worry- they do big plates too. We share a fiery Kung Pao chicken with fried rice (£9.50) - shredded chicken glazed in a sweet and spicy sauce, the older, more sophisticated brother of crispy chilli beef and definitely our new go-to choice.
Whilst sweet filled steamed buns are an option for dessert it’s the deep fried ones that call my name. Fried Nao Wong is the best £3.50 you’ll spend this month- the light little doughnut buns are bursting with thick custard and will leave you with no choice but to get stuck in, dipping, licking and mopping up puddles of sauce…just make sure you’ve sanitised your hands first, please.
Unlike its Smithdown competitors, Yum Cha doesn’t quite have queues around the block just yet but in the grand scheme of things this place is only a baby. They’ve got the venue, the service and the menu nailed so it’s only a matter of time before it really takes off. In their own words (and now mine) they really are all that…and dim sum.
Yum Cha, 99 Lark Lane, Liverpool, L17 8UP
All scored reviews are impartial and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Tofu 8 spring roll 8 squid 7 teriyaki steak 7 char sui bao 9, prawn dumplings 7, xiao long bao 9,. Kung pao chicken 9, custard buns 10
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