The grapevine continued to pump out news and opinions - long queues, good buns, not so good everything else, worth the hype, not worth they hype, just like Hong Kong, totally different to Hong Kong...What else to do but to dine and form my own opinion and join one of the many schools of thought? But I put it off due to the queues..and the mixed reviews dampened my ardour. Life's a bit like that...if everyone says it's amazing, the desire to be part of that intensifies.
Walked past one weekday lunchtime and noticed the queue at 12:10pm was virtually non existent. Unfortunately had other plans so skipped but returned the next day at a similar time and there was a queue but not too bad so we joined the end and I asked the server how long it would be. She was surprisingly friendly - places like this don't seem to make that quality a priority but she said 5 - 10 minutes. In reality it was more like 2 minutes and pretty soon we were shown to a small table.
It's very HK cafe in style - lots of turning of tables, in and out, feed me quick type rather than long and leisurely lunch. That's ok though as we were on a 1 hour lunch break. There's a buzzer to request service and a tick sheet to place an order. The menu was smaller than I expected but I guess I don't mind that as it's more a place to dine in small numbers so don't need lots of variety as long as what limited offerings there are, are executed well.
- Baked Bun with BBQ Pork
- Fried Turnip Cake (unpictured)
- Vermicelli Roll with Sesame Sauce
- Pork Dumpling with Shrimp (unpictured)
- Spring Roll with Egg White (unpictured)
- Rice with Chicken, Sausage and Mushroom
The baked BBQ pork buns are definitely tasty. Light and fluffy with a sweet crust and a chunky pork filling I like these more than the fluffy white ones which I find synthetic and the filling in those is all too often sweet, meaty mush.
I found the turnip cake a but too "cakey". Flavour was decent but texture a touch too gluey for me.
Vermicelli roll was presented so prettily with the stripes of contrasting sauce that looked like crispy bacon! And the texture was silky smooth so definitely very enjoyable.
We enjoyed the rice - generous chunks of chicken, ginger flavours. It needed a bit more sauce to penetrate to the bottom layers of rice. The chicken itself was very tender to the extent it kind of disintegrated in the mouth. This makes me wonder though if it's been over treated with bicarb of soda or some other chemical meat tenderiser...
Spring roll was crispy and golden and we enjoyed the lightness of it. Usually vegetarian spring rolls are filled with carrot (which I don't like) but this was different and very palatable.
I've never been to the HK outlet so can't compare. However I went to Tim Ho Wan thinking it wouldn't be as good as the original. I find that this happens with brands like Tim Ho Wan, Din Tai Fung etc. The original is always better even if the chefs are trained the same way, recipes are unchanged. I put it down to the water and air in each country!
Overall the food is decent. There are some really yummy items - vermicelli roll and pork buns and the other stuff is slightly better than the yum cha offerings. That's my opinion and I've struggled to find truly satisfying yum cha in Melbourne.
Yes, it's not a "yum cha" experience with trolleys and large round tables for families. It's not really set up for that. We paid about $50 in total for our food and I don't think that was unreasonable. It's affordable, it's quick, it's pretty yummy and it's an alternative to Taiwanese style Din Tai Fung. I'm not busting a gut to go again urgently but certainly wouldn't have a problem with a repeat visit.