yum cha

Most Sundays we’ll find ourselves having a spot of dim sum at our local Royal China in Bayswater. Last weekend we decided to venture further afield, and hit up Yum Cha on Chalk Farm Road in Camden, conveniently situated near the Blumenthal-esque liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour I had been itching to try. The sight of tourists lounging outside the restaurant with their frothy pints nearly made me reconsider, but we really fancied dim sum, so entered and were relieved to discover a few tables of Chinese patrons inside (a universal indicator of authenticity).

It was blisteringly hot out, so we ordered a couple of cold dishes, the first being the Szechuan Spicy Duck Tongue. B found the sauce, which had more salt than chilli heat, one dimensional and the tongues themselves were still springy and not quite tender. In my opinion they were a far cry from the ones we so enjoy at Royal China.

The prawn cheung fun was a better effort – the prawns were fresh and sweet, and we particularly liked the soy which was subtle and not overly sweet. The rice noodles however were a little mushy, and on the thick side.

A trio of bouncy squid cakes were well-seasoned with pleasing chunks of water chestnuts embedded within. Unfortunately they were a tad greasy, and the smidgen of dipping sauce provided lacked punch.

I had no complaints at all with the Grilled Chinese Chive Dumplings. The pastry was paper thin, the prawn and chive filling delicious, and the dumpling bottoms were pan fried to crispy perfection. And there were even four not three, so B and I didn’t have to fight over the last one!

The turnip cakes had an equally lovely golden crusty outer layer, but the lack of shredded turnip in the mixture really let it down. Still, they were pretty tasty.

The second cold dish we chose was the Five Spice Beef Tongue and Shoulder. I was curious to try the tongue, and was disappointed to find it missing from the dish. That aside, the beef slices although dry, were full of flavour and the fiery chilli oil drizzled over lent a nice kick.

Although Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce is one of my favourite dim sum dishes, it is often badly executed, with bland or excessively fatty spare ribs a regular complaint (we never order it at Royal China for that exact reason). We took a gamble with Yum Cha’s version, and it paid off – tasty, tender pork ribs with just enough fat and none of those tiny shards of bone you get from poor cleaver work when chopping up the ribs.

The arrival of the Crystal Scallop and Prawn Dumplings was confusing as I didn’t recall ordering them, but it turned out I had mistakenly ticked them instead of the Har Gao on the paper menu. They were fine but nothing to shout about, and the crystal skins weren’t quite fine enough.

The biggest surprise of the meal was just how good their Xiao Long Bao was. The pork filling and soup were both exceptionally tasty and the delicate skins were almost translucent yet managed to keep the precious broth from escaping until it reached my mouth. One of the best examples of xiao long bao I’ve tasted in London, on par with those at Min Jiang – I could just pop them all day!

I’m not sure if Yum Cha on the whole was good enough for us to make another trip down given the proximity of Royal China, but if you are in the area it would make a more than decent option for dim sum.

Yum Cha
28 Chalk Farm Road
London NW1 8AG

t. 020 7482 2228

Yum Cha on Urbanspoon

~ by gourmettraveller on July 13, 2010.

10 Responses to “yum cha”

  1. Lovely thorough review! I find Yum Cha so hit and miss. The Xiao Long Bao are usually good but I have had poor ones before too. I’ve found it best to stick to teh dim sum menu. For Camden, it’s not a bad option but it’s not the best dim sum in London by a long shot, is it?

  2. I have been twice and found the quality very inconsistent… the xiao long bao didn’t do much for me, and the cheung fun I found very thick and too stingy on the filling. Some nice dishes, some so so and a few disappointing.
    I had hoped for more as I live up in N London so it’s quite convenient for me, but didn’t impress.

    Can you believe, I hven’t been to Royal China (unless it’s hte place we went to about 25 years ago, when I was a kid, with a Chinese friend, with trolleys etc).

    • Having only been once I can’t comment on the consistency, but even when we went the quality varied from dish to dish.

      You should give Royal China another go, although the branches differ greatly (lucky for us the Bayswater one is the best), and I’ve sadly found the standard a bit inconsistent lately as well. I think it depends on which dim sum master is working that day which is frustrating.

  3. This is really handy because I’ve been thinking about going here as it’s close to where I work and would be good for dim-sum fixes! Great post and nice pics :)

  4. I have really enjoyed a number of meals here. But I do agree with Niamh that it isn’t the best in London by far. As Camden goes though…(not convinced of this as a defence but having lived there you have to take what you can get!!) – R

  5. Dim sum has got to be my favorite food, hands down. Love those turnip cakes! Never had squid cakes but they actually look yummy. I actually like greasy food, what can it say…?

  6. I keep hearing good and then bad things about Yum Cha – frustrating as Camden is a schelp for me. I think I might stick to my locals; Dragon Castle in Elephant & Castle or Peninsula in North Greenwich.

    • yeah I wouldn’t bother, it’s not spectacular by any means. For me dim sum not only has to be good, it needs to be close by as I often crave it hungover on a Sunday and can’t be bothered with travelling too far!

  7. i LOVE duck tongue!!!! :D

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