"It's hard to fault Yauatcha...we will be back."Review Rating: Reviewed by James Whiting
A wet and windy Sunday evening was brightened up by a trip to the subterranean Michelin-starred dim sum establishment Yauatcha. Even though by no means full there was still a buzz about the place. The menu was quite large and seemed quite daunting to begin with, however the waitress was on hand to provide advice when asked for. Service has been a perpetual complaint where Yauatcha is concerned, however this certainly was not the case on this evening. Possibly due to the combination of a quieter Sunday and our table being booked for the last sitting, there were no pressures on the front of house to turn tables. On the other hand, perhaps the restaurant have listened to feedback and improved.
After a good studying of the menu a plan of attack was formed. Six dim sum dishes, a vegetable side and a quarter of crispy aromatic duck between three was just about right. That left space for a pudding for the greediest on the table and a lychee martini each for those not intent on stuffing their faces.
The dishes arrived a little ad hoc as is the norm, yet the procession of food seemed expertly timed, with never too much nor too little on the table at any one time. First up Szechuan Wonton, that resembled a chinese tortellini of sorts. Stuffed with melt in the mouth pork, it had just the right amount of spice, giving it that much needed kick. Then came along three perfect bright orange oval dumplings stuffed with diced prawn and courgette. These were so light and flavourful that menu description of zucchini was forgiven. Cuttlefish cakes were intriguing, sandwiched between two slices of lotus root. Here was the first potential error of the evening, as on their own they were a touch dry. However, the little bowl of sweet chilli dip that accompanied them solved this instantly. Another interesting dish was the Cheung Fun Char Siu, again stuffed with tender succulent pork. These rice noodle rolls had soy sauce drizzled across them at the table before being sliced into more manageable pieces, particularly for the non-pro chopstick user. The rolls were light and not at all sticky, and the depth of flavour that came from the pork was outstanding. To round off the dim sum were two classics that are a must if you ever take a seat at one of Yauatcha's tables: roasted duck pumpkin puff and venison puffs. Similar descriptions yet very different, and each exquisite in their own way. The duck balls looked like miniature pumpkins with a tiny sprig of micro herb poking out of the top of each. The crisp shell provided great texture, and was followed by the warm soft pumpkin and duck, an excellent combination. The venison was encased in a flaky pastry and glazed. The pastry was slightly sweet which lifted the rich venison filling to another level all-together.
As the dim sum demolition was coming to an end the vegetable side dish arrived. A mix of aubergine, okra and French beans, all perfectly cooked, and coated in a highly addictive sauce, laced with chillies. This was a great sharing dish and allowed chopsticks to dive in from all angles.
The last course was the crispy aromatic duck. It might be argued that it could be difficult to improve upon such a favourite. Those suggesting that couldn't be more wrong. The calibre of cooking improved the takeout staple no end. The pancakes had been individually cooked, the hoisin sauce was thick and full of flavour. The duck itself was perhaps a few seconds over, but the aromatic skin made that fact pale into insignificance. Closer to crackling than crispy, the flavour and texture were in a class of their own. All in all a great choice and way to end the meal.
Dessert had to be tried, and a mandarin tart seemed an ideal palette cleanser. The pastry was not the most delicate but the flavours were clean and the presentation intricate.
All things considered it was hard to fault Yauatcha. The meal was full of exciting flavours and the precision of the cooking was worthy of its Michelin Star. Furthermore, it was also tremendous value for money at £99 split between three, particularly considering the quantity and quality of the food. The atmosphere was relaxing and menu certainly large enough to warrant multiple trips, we will be back...
James Whiting reviewed Yauatcha Soho on Tue 20 Mar 2012