One of my favourite childhood memories are the many yum chas I grew up eating with my family. My parents met and I was born in Hong Kong, and were pretty big into finding authentic and good quality yum cha in Sydney, similar to the kind they were used to in HK. Sometimes we would end up eating out at yum cha as frequently as once a week!
Now that I’m a big ole grown-up now, we do it far less often (especially with my mum now vegan) and my dad who now has a two year old, we find it tough to get the time to go out and indulge in a big plate of freshly steamed dumplings.
However, it was my dad’s birthday the other day and with my grandmother having the day off work, we headed into the city to relive some of my childhood memories for the first time in years with a Groupon my dad had purchased for the Fat Buddha (a yum cha banquet for 2 people, cost was $39). It basically was a pre-set menu for two (and I ordered a few vegetarian items off the banquet menu for myself).
I’d never heard of the Fat Buddha before but upon checking out their website, I was pleased to notice they were very centrally located to Town Hall station (as it was on the second level of the Queen Victoria Building). You can’t get much more central to Town Hall Station and it’s particularly useful for me as its just one train ride with no transfers from my work place with no searching for expensive and elusive parking, hurray!
It was fairly easy to locate in the QVB which was another plus.
Interior was quite pretty. I really liked the lighting and inner layout of the restaurant.
Pork spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce.
These were the first dish we were served, but they unfortunately arrived at the table cold.
These were served hot (step up from the previous dish), but they didn’t have much flavour and weren’t anything particularly special.
Salt and Pepper Calamari.
I didn’t eat these but apparently they were not very nice – overcooked and chewy/rubbery.
Char siu bao barbecue pork buns.
Siu mai dumplings.
Steamed vegetable dumplings.
These were served nice and piping hot although I think they may have been a tad over steamed – the wrappers were extremely sticky and fell apart quite easily buy aside from that the filling was quite tasty.
Xiao long bao. (an unusual choice for yum cha? I must admit I’ve never seen these on yum cha trolleys before, they seem more like a dinner appetiser – but I could be wrong about this!) I didn’t try these ones out but everyone else at the table seemed quite happy with them.
Steamed gai lum.
Another big favourite of mine – I always order a big plate of gai lum at yum cha! These were freshly steamed and cooked well. It was a fairly massive serving too which is another plus.
Mango pancakes stuffed with cream and mango for dessert.
Plastic spoon for dipping sauces ???
The verdict? It seems that the Fat Buddha is a bit of a hit and miss. Some of their dishes really weren’t too bad but the cold spring rolls and chewy calamari were a bit off-putting. With so many fantastic yum cha places just around the corner in China Town, competition is pretty stiff in the city! The service also was not super impressive. It was often difficult to get the attention of waiters to get things like soy sauce/chilli sauce and Chinese tea (can’t have yum cha without the tea!).
A shame, since I assume that whenever companies/restaurants enlist the services of online coupons such as Groupon, it’s because their business could do with a bit of a boost and it’s an attempt to get rid of any bad ratings they may have — but often they don’t seem to follow through! The location is definitely their top drawcard but I think there are a few things they could do to improve their restaurant experience. Next time I’ll be getting my yum cha fix in China Town, or at Green Gourmet in Newtown! (mmm vegan yum cha!)