After doing some Christmas shopping around Castle Towers, my husband and I were hungry… hungry for yum cha! Problem was, there weren’t many yum cha places nearby that we knew of and we felt like trying a new place. Google revealed Jin Yan (a nearby Chinese restaurant) had good ratings — so off we drove. We realised upon closer inspection that Jin Yan was actually the resident Chinese restaurant for Castle Hill RSL, which meant at least one of us had to sign up as a member of the club in order to visit the restaurant (because we live within 5km of it). Oh well, at least it was only $22 and we’re members for a year now. If you’re not in the 5km radius of the RSL, no worries — you can sign in as a guest for free! The club membership gives you a 5% discount on your bill at Jin Yan, which is a small perk.
Since my husband and I don’t eat shrimp or pork, yum cha has been a bit of a difficult affair. There’s usually only a small number of good things on the menu for us, more so if it’s one of those Westernised yum chas. Jin Yan fortunately seems to do a good job at combining authentic yum cha dishes with ‘Western’ ones to cater for the high numbers of both Anglo- and Chinese-Australians there.
On our first visit, I didn’t bother waiting long to see what came out — I was HUNGRY! I saw honey chicken (which typically isn’t a normal yum cha dish) but heck, I grabbed it right off the bat. It definitely helped hit those hunger pangs. It was fresh and hot, with that sticky honey sauce that’s hard to say ‘no’ to!
Next up were sesame noodles, which is a good option for visiting vegetarians.
Next up were these fried snake beans (which, upon closer inspection, we realised contained pork mince). I had tasted some of the beans though and found them to be good – blistered and sweet, just the way I like them.
These vegetarian ‘spring rolls’ (I say ‘spring rolls’ because these are wrapped in a sort of thin layer of tofu and fried – so they’re similar to spring rolls, but slightly different) are a huge favourite of mine at yum cha and I can never resist ordering them if I spot them on a trolley. These ones did not disappoint, with a wonderfully crisp outer layer that retains that fresh tofu flavour with a rich vegetable and mushroom filling that I just can’t get enough of. If you haven’t tried these before, I highly recommend you give them a go!
These vegetarian spring rolls were very similar to the above dish, except are wrapped in thin pastry and fried. Similar filling and just as enjoyable as above (although I must say I do prefer the tofu-wrapped ones).
Believe it or not, this was actually my first taste of mango pancakes. As a yum cha-loving child, my dessert of choice was always the custard tarts or the much-favoured coconut jelly. Unsurprisingly, I loved my first taste of this dessert. The thin pancakes had a lovely tender bite to them and the whipped cream perfectly matched the sweet, soft and juicy mango centre. Its a good thing these only come in plates of two, because I imagine I wouldn’t have much trouble devouring a whole plate of these!
On our second visit to Jin Yan, I tried to hit up some more authentic yum cha dishes. Here above we ordered vegetarian dumplings, steamed beef coriander balls and the ever-popular gai lum (Chinese broccoli). The vegetarian dumplings were served super hot with the soft dumpling casing enclosing a tasty vegetarian mushroom filling, similar to the kind in the spring rolls.
I just love those beef rice noodles with the addictive soy sauce and a hint of sesame. The texture of the filling is also wonderful, with a slight crunch from what I think must be bamboo shoots. The beef balls have a similar texture with a strong hit of coriander and soy – I could eat bowls and bowls of these and imagine they would make an epic lunch with some rice. Steamed Chinese broccoli is hard to go wrong with and Jin Yan do a good job with this dish too.
We were so full but couldn’t resist these beautifully golden tarts – an ever favourite of mine at yum cha. They did not disappoint and were served piping hot, with gorgeous flaky warm pastry with a soft, rich custard filling. Very high quality custard tarts.
- Great variety of yum cha dishes with plenty of “Australianised” options for people who aren’t comfortable with traditional style yum cha dishes or those who do not eat seafood and/or pork.
- All dishes served piping hot, fresh and good service to match.
- The staff were constantly making sure we had enough hot water for our tea and the trolley waitresses were constantly bringing out fresh dishes from the kitchen. I have heard a few negative reports on the service on UrbanSpoon, but on the two visits that I’ve had there, I’ve never experienced any problems with this.
- There is also plenty of parking for members and guests (we’ve gone on quite busy days and still found a park very easily) which definitely makes access pleasant.
- A little pricier than other yum cha joints in Sydney, but I think the quality of the dishes justifies the price so I wouldn’t consider it ‘overpriced’.
- Apparently you are unable to book a table after 12pm, but this shouldn’t be too much of a problem if it’s not too busy.
- Another thing I’ll mention is that you have to become or be signed-in with a member of Castle Hill RSL ($22 for a year) if you live within a 5km radius, otherwise you can just sign in as a temporary member.
- The first visit for two was about $65 (we ordered honey chicken, sesame noodles, fried snake beans, vegetarian spring rolls pastry AND tofu and mango pancakes for dessert).
- Second visit was about $50-55 (we ordered vegetarian dumplings, steamed beef balls, beef rice noodles with soy, Chinese broccoli and custard tarts).
Please note that these prices included a 5% discount off the bill from our membership.
I really enjoyed my visits to Jin Yan (錦宴). It’s probably the closest yum cha joint to me, so I’ll probably be heading there whenever I feel a dumpling craving coming on (this happens pretty regularly!)