Yauatcha shows that dim sum does not have to be daggy. There is not a single dragon painting or lazy susan in sight at the terminally hip Soho restaurant. You descend the stairs to the basement dining room and enter a slick subterranean foodie playground where a huge fish tank lines one wall and the ceiling twinkles with tiny star like lights. Yauatcha is an ex Alan Yau operation after all and so the design and feel of the place is just right. There is even a touch of Wagamama in the low slung seating which is so close that it is almost communal.
I went to Yauatcha with MTV boyfriend, Alice and Liv last week for the first day of the London Restaurant Festival. The festival continues this week and features set price menus from a range of London restaurants. Yauatcha offers a £25 menu which is actually only available at lunchtime of salt and pepper squid, a dim sum platter, crispy duck rolls, gai lan, Singapore noodles and spare ribs in black bean sauce. However, at the early time that I made the booking Yauatcha took the London Restaurant Festival booking for dinner. When the restaurant called to confirm the booking with me the day before they tried to cancel on the festival menu, however eventually they agreed to honour the original booking.
First off the rank are curls of salt and pepper squid which are perfectly crispy with a slight nutty taste. Next, wooden steamer baskets filled with refined dim sum delights. Chinese chive dumplings feature wrappers that are a gorgeous jade green colour and subtly flavoured. The highlight are the scallop shu mai which are picture perfect bundles of juicy scallop, topped with pearls of roe.
After the fabulous dim sum, the crispy duck rolls are a bit of a let down as the shredded duck inside the fat pasty cylinders is dry. We prefer to focus on the dark and just cooked gai lan or chinese broccoli in ginger sauce. Singapore noodles are a nice accompaniment but not a revelation in themselves. The noodles are fried and nestled amongst them are tiny morsels of seafood.
More satisfying are the spare ribs in black bean sauce which have been cooked to the point of caramalisation so that the ribs are sticky and the meat tender. We have reached the end of the menu, however we are still not full and so we order some more of the scallop shu mai and the pork belly. I am not sure whether this is an indictment on the amount of food on the Restaurant Festival menu or just the problem of four large appetites.
Service is not what you expect from a Michelin star restaurant. We only see the sommelier once we have ordered our wine and we have to repeatedly ask for water top ups and more of the dipping sauces which accompany some of the dishes. However, despite the slap dash service the price is still high. As a result of the extra dishes we order and our two bottles of wine our bill ends up being around £50 per head despite the special offer.
The posh dim sum on offer at Yauatcha is excellent but none of the rest of the dishes really blew me away. I did enjoy the atmosphere of the stylish dining space, however I think a better way to sample Yauatcha for a reasonable price would be to order just a few of the dim sum.
Details: 15 Broadwick street, Soho W1F ODL (Ph 0207 494 8888) Tube: Oxford Circus
For Chinese with a difference, try nearby Bar Shu. If you are in the area and just want a fabulous cup of tea and brownie, try Yumchaa.