For our two year anniversary Macsen and I went to Yauatcha. It is the new dim sum and tea house in Soho by Alan Yau, the creator of Hakkasan (ranked the 14th best restaurant in the world) and Wagamama. I've come across several reviews, most complimenting the food, but criticizing the service. It is, by most accounts, the best place to go for dim sum in London since the head chef at Hakkasan moved to Yauatcha and created an inspired new menu.
I always noticed the restaurant in passing since it opened earlier this year. The bright blue bars of light set off by branches of pink cherry blossoms was striking and inviting. I was excited to finally see the interior, although they seemed to have removed the cherry blossoms from upstairs now. At street level we entered the restaurant in the brightly lit, almost clinical, tearoom section. From the reviews I almost expected a cold and haughty reception, but the woman smiled warmly and lead us downstairs into the subterranean restaurant section. The only light sources were a scattering of white LED lights on the ceilings nearly forming constellations, the blue glow from the many coral-filled fishtanks and, strangely, electric candles nestled into cross-shaped nooks in the brick walls. I agree with one reviewer that the electric candles were "slightly early Madonna video."
While the tearoom was mostly empty, the restaurant was virtually packed which is rare for 7pm on a Wednesday. I could understand why reservations can be difficult to obtain. We were led to a small table near the bar and our French waiter took our order. All of the staff seemed to be either French or Chinese. I tried one of the tea cocktails; the Lalu which had vodka, tea, lemongrass, and limes. We ordered our dim sum and everything arrived very fast. One criticism we heard was that there is a 90 minute time limit. It wasn't a problem for us, but I imagine if we were with a large group of people it could be very annoying since everyone knows it takes at least that long for a group to just order drinks.
baked venison puffs, scallop shumai, shiitake and duck rolls
char sui cheung fun. looks disgusting, tastes delicious.
For our first round of dim sum we had the baked venison puffs, shiitake and duck rolls, scallop shumai, box dumplings, and char sui cheung fun. My favorite were the shiitake and duck rolls which were coated in aspic to retain moisture and melted in my mouth -- simple, beautiful flavours that complimented each other exceptionally well. I also loved the scallop shumai with a layer of prawn and topped with orange fish roe, and the sweet, buttery rich venison puffs. Char sui cheung fun is a rice-flour pasta filled with spiced, sweetened pork and while it was immensely difficult to eat it was worth the effort. Least memorable were the box dumplings, which were filled with chicken and mushroom; they were dry and virtually tasteless.
We were satiated and could have stopped there, but we decided we wanted to try more, so we ordered the king crab claws with green mooli and prawn and date dumplings. The king crab claws were good and cooked perfectly, but there was nothing uniquely special about them. The green mooli (according to Macsen's co-worker, ChenXi, green mooli is a relative of the turnip) didn't seem to add any flavour. The prawn and date dumplings looked like sea urchins with twisted, fried tentacles. Inside the prickly center the prawns had been stuffed with sweet dates and they were delicious.
Macsen looking somewhat satanic, he even has an evil grin on his face.
Reminds me of the "evil genius" photo of him in Vancouver, is the camera trying to tell me something?
We decided to forgo the dessert menu and instead headed upstairs to the tearoom to try some French fusion pastries and tea since the idea of French pastries with South-East Asian ingredients intrigued us. The teahouse felt more comfortable than I expected, despite its bright spaciousness. The wall behind us was made of light blue glass and behind it we could see vague, ghostly shapes of the patisserie chefs hard at work. The booths were creamy leather embroidered with pink cherry blossoms. The wall to my left was covered in rows of tea canisters, the opposite wall facing the street was a long glass counter full of patisserie arranged like lab specimens, and the remaining wall was one giant fishtank and the tea counter where the tea mistress measures out precise spoonfuls of a wide variety of leaves (some costing as much as £40 a pot). The teahouse staff had unusual costumes; the women wore floaty long white dresses with a belt that hung well past their ass, I wondered if that ever got irritating for them.
I ordered the shanghai lily, which was a fondant coated cream cake with lychee, wild rose, and gewürztraminer wine. By far one of the best desserts I've experienced, every flavour was strong and stood out on their own, but none overpowered the other; the balance was perfection. My tea was the osmanthus oolong which was floral with what seemed to be a hint of lychee. I was really digging on the tea and rapidly downed my entire pot. Macsen had the jade ganache, which had absinthe, anise, coffee, and chocolate and the old puer tuo cha which was an earthy, fermented tea.
jade ganache, shanghai lily
old puer tuo cha and osmanthus oolong teas
shapes like ghosts
lads like french fusion pastries, too.
In total the meal cost us much less than we expected, a whopping £72 for one of the best meals we've had in London. The king crab claws and cocktails were a large portion of that bill, so we could conceivably stop in for lunch sometimes without worrying about dropping a lot of dosh. We will certainly return again, I am already craving more shiitake and duck rolls.
The walk back to the tube station...
OK, but that's not a sushi restaurant, it's dim sum, which is fairly reasonable in California. ~100 would be an expensive dim sum meal for two, even with dessert. Of course, this sounds like a step above the typical fare!
I'm trying to remember which building that is. You don't mean the Ingeni Ford design building that the restaurant is in? I've probably been to distracted by the blue Yauatcha lights to notice any of the surroundings. :)
Thanks for the extra "around town" photos. :0) I had only 3 days in London, and was rushed the entire time I was there. Still bothers me, and can't wait to go back some day to take my time and collect photos of things I find on the streets & tube.
I'm sorry the cherry blossoms were not there this time -- because I'm sure you would have taken photos! Cherry & peach blossoms... yum.
I hope you can come back to explore further someday, there's so much more to see and experience here. :)
I'm not sure why the cherry blossoms were gone, but then I think I only saw in the in the front window once so maybe it was a special occasion/seasonal or something.
Hi and happy very belated birthday. A friend of mine linked you in his journal, and I took his recommendation and checked out your lj. I'm adding you because I find your journal fascinating and inspiring. :-) How do you find time to cook so much wonderful food and take so many wonderful pictures?! Are you and your husband chefs?