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.
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!)
I’ve been meaning to visit Green Gourmet for their yum cha for some time now. I’m a huge fan of their restaurant and have visited many times for dinner as it’s the perfect place to go with vegan or vegetarian friends, but if I’m to be completely honest with you, their food is so good that I often go by myself or con my meat-eating friends into going and 9/10 times, they are never disappointed — you will not miss the meat at all!
Green Gourmet serve Chinese cuisine — completely vegan and all their food is cooked without garlic or onion (I’m not sure of the exact reasons behind this — I believe it has something to do with Buddhist cuisine for health reasons?). I’m constantly surprised at how delicious their food is without garlic and onion (two of my fave cooking ingredients!!)
Well enough of my banging on and let’s get to the important part — the food!
Vegan rice paper roll – Vietnamese rice paper, seaweed tofu, lettuce, pickled carrot and turnip and crumbed soy protein.
I loved the freshness of the crunchy veggies and the vermicelli noodles with the sweet sauce. I need to learn to make these at home!
Savoury potato dumplings, crumbed and deep fried
These reminded me of those KFC deep fried potato ‘mashies’ I used to be obsessed about until they stopped making them (probably a good thing lol) but slightly softer.
Mushrooms wrapped in nori with fake fish meat and deep fried
Just wow. The mushrooms were soo juicy and delicious and who knew they tasted so good with nori? Oh the fact that they were deep fried probably helped too, heh.
I kept sneaking bites of these amazingly flavoursome mushies in a savoury sauce.
Savoury potato and vegetable dumplings, deep fried
Fake prawn gow gees
One of my old faves — these did not disappoint! I couldn’t get over how much they tasted like real prawn gow gees.
Snow pea and mushroom dumplings
Vegetarian spring rolls wrapped in thin tofu wraps
Another old fave of mine, I used to order these at yum cha regularly. I really enjoyed the contrast between the thinly sliced tender veggies and the chewy thin tofu wraps. Soooo good.
Fake char siu pork
This was a popular dish and did not take long for us to finish! Love that moreish char siu sauce, and this had a very similar texture to meat.
Steamed gai lan
Who could say no to this one? I’ve been known to polish off whole plates of this myself before. I think I saw JJ’s eyes light up when she saw this one hehe.
One of my absolute faves – cheong fun – crispy fried rice noodles topped with a peanutty hoisin sauce, crushed peanuts, chilli and coriander — such an amazing blend of flavours. Another one I would love to learn how to make at home!
Sweet sesame red bean paste balls.
Green Gourmet also serve a tempting array of decadent sweets — just look at this list! And all of them completely vegan — good news for vegans with a sweet tooth!
A bunch of delicious vegan treats for sale as well!
I really loved the yum cha at Green Gourmet and would highly recommend it to anyone who is vegan, vegetarian, or does not eat pork/shrimp but still loves yum cha! Meat eaters definitely give this a try for something different — I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Despite my love of meat, I would happily eat here any time of the day — maybe even twice in a day! 😉
My fave dishes from this outing were definitely the fried cheong fun rice noodles with hoisin sauce and coriander, the vegetarian spring rolls (with the thin tofu) and… all of the steamed dumplings. Oh and the shiitake mushrooms. And char siu ‘pork’… Need I go on? If it didn’t get any better, their yum cha presents fabulous value. The five of us ordered so many dishes and yet it came to a tiny $14 each. Unbelievable value!
If not for their yum cha menu, their dinner menu is also jam-packed full of traditional Chinese dishes with a vegan spin. They also serve a dinner buffet that I’m totally crazy about. You enter, grab an empty plate, load it sky high with all their buffet choices and pay by weight. Then stuff your face. Repeat plate piling until full. (P.S. If going for the buffet, DEFINITELY try the honey ‘chicken’. Its my fave by far! I could eat a plate of that stuff!)
One last bonus of Green Gourmet is that it’s next door to Vegan’s Choice Grocery (post to come!) — an amazing shop packed full of goodies a vegan dreams about, as well as all kinds of cakes, slices, the BEST brownies I’ve ever eaten (GF, DF AND egg free to boot!) as well as a tasty selection of homemade tofu ice-creams. Honestly, I challenge you to go in there and NOT spend a packet of money. It’s too hard, I tell you!
Hope you’re all enjoying the cooler weather. I don’t know about you guys but I’m seriously over this ‘heat-wave’ bizzo. At least we all have the long weekend to look forward too, woohoo!
Happy Monday! Only five days until the weekend 😀