Yauatcha – Soho

Reviewed on February 8th, 2012 by Dina

For Chinese New Year this year, we were lucky to have our family member from overseas in town for it! To make it an extra special celebration, we went to Alan Yau’s Michelin-starred Yauatcha restaurant in Soho. This finally fulfilled yet another one of my dreams and that was to go and dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant!

Yauatcha has a blue theme with a wonderful fish tank along one wall of the restaurant. Just inside the entrance is the counter fridge displaying the many eye catching desserts. The soft lighting sets the mood of the restaurant.  There is some cushioned seating and also some round white tables and dark leather chairs.

Two floors make up the dining area with the lower level having a livelier vibe. There are little alcoves decorated with tea lights and a panelled low level beige and dark wood ceiling.

The waitress was really friendly and so welcoming. She made our time at Yauatcha feel very personal and special. We were instantly put at ease and made to feel comfortable. All throughout the meal, she made sure that everything was okay. The menu was explained thoroughly and we learnt a lot about the many different teas that Yauatcha serves, from the normal black teas right through to the blue teas!

About the teas, the big dark tea caddies lined the shelves along the back wall of the restaurant. The tea was served by the pot.

Instead of the tea this time though, I was taken by the Hakkasan Virgin cocktail. This is a speciality of Hakkasan restaurants, which Yauatcha is a part of. This sweet cocktail was truly amazing! It was a combination of lychee, passion fruit and coconut. If you like Pina Colada, then the Hakkasan Virgin cocktail could be your new favourite drink! It has the right amount of coconut so that it is not a heavy drink.

Yauatcha does food of a high quality and all of the dishes were presented beautifully. The portion sizes were big, which took us by surprise, as we were expecting them to be quite small. After we had finished our starters, we were given clean fresh plates for us to have our main meal. All through the meal, the staff cleared up the crumbs from the table and made sure that our table remained clean and clutter free.

So, now onto the food. We had a pretty fantastic selection of starters and mains and made sure that we had some room left for the desserts.

Two lotus leaf parcels were filled with sticky rice, tasty chicken and dried shrimp. The prawn toast were three round balls packed full of juicy prawn and coated with sesame seeds.

The char sui cheung fun had a delicious barbecued pork filling. The outer white coating was not too thin or too sticky. The chilli squid was coated with oatmeal and curry leaf. This sounded like an odd combination, especially with the crumbly oatmeal, but the flavours definitely worked. The squid was really soft and moist.

As for the meat dishes, none of them disappointed. The classic crispy aromatic duck was a plate of tender shredded duck. The meat was not at all fatty and it had a great crispy skin. Small thin warm pancakes, together with cucumber matchsticks, strips of spring onion and finally the plum sauce were perfect for the duck wraps.

Another great meat choice was the sweet and sour Berkshire pork. These ribs were coated in a sweetish sauce and again the meat was cooked so well, that it just fell off the bone.

That all made up our first round of food! An interesting main dish was the Mongolian style venison. This was in a butter and black pepper sauce. This was the first time that I had ever had venison. I was expecting it to be a really heavy dense chewy meat, but this definitely wasn’t the case. The chunks of venison were melt in the mouth and it was beautifully cooked. It reminded me a bit of lamb.

The venison dish also had big slices of peppers and onions. There was a vegetable in this dish that we really could not tell what it was. It was slightly spongy like aubergine but also was a bit like courgette. As we couldn’t identify it, we asked our waitress what it was. She solved our mystery by telling us that it was the trumpet mushroom and also gave us some information on it!

The traditional style fried sea bass were two fillets of fish. These were with an osmanthus sauce. The fish had a light delicate flavour.

Our vegetable dish of spicy aubergine, sato bean, okra and french bean was wonderful. The skinless aubergine chunks still had some firmness to them. The vegetables were not at all over cooked.

Lastly, we had a stir fried udon noodle dish. The noodles were coated in a black pepper sauce and had strips of vegetables running through it.

We were surprised that we didn’t need any rice to go with our main meal! This was a good choice as it meant that we truly got to appreciate all the flavours and textures of the cuisine.

The desserts all looked so tempting and we were spoilt for choice. Luckily, there were a few of us dining, so we got to have a selection and sample the different delights.

As it was another special occasion, a slightly late birthday celebration, one of the desserts was presented differently for the birthday girl! The rose flower shaped raspberry delice was presented on a slate, with a scoop of ice cream, fresh raspberries and wafer thin chocolate. The raspberry delice had a soft chocolate centre, raspberry sauce, biscuit and had a red powder like coating.

Three big sesame seed balls were served warm. They had a crispy outer and the inner had an oozing black sesame seed centre. It was actually quite a nice dessert!

A dark plate contained the colourful macaroons. The selection that we had were cherry, coconut and strawberry. They had the crunchy outer and a chewy softer inside, just like they should be!

Saving the best till last, was my favourite of coconut charlotte! This was a combination of white chocolate, coconut, mint and basil. There was a thin layer of mango puree running through this dessert.

Yauatcha definitely gets my vote! It is an amazing place and the food was absolutely wonderful! Dining at Yauatcha, we got to sample new tastes and items. All of which impressed me thoroughly!

Yauatcha, 15-17 Broadwick Street, Soho, London, W1F 0DL

Rating: ★★★★★

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New World – Chinatown

Reviewed on April 14th, 2011 by Dina

Originally, Soho was our place of choice for a Sunday lunch and meet up. But the eatery that we had in mind happened to be closed on Sundays.

Not to worry though as we were in a central location with many more places in Soho open. Also Chinatown and Covent Garden were close by too!

Chinatown was where we decided to go for some lunchtime dim sum! The entrance of New World was busy but once we entered, we were given a ticket by the staff and were told that there was a 5-10 minute wait for a table. After only a few minutes, our ticket number was called out and we were directed to enter the restaurant dining area!

There seemed to be a flurry of activity going on! Diners were being seated, lots of staff with trolleys stacked with dim sum baskets going up and down the restaurant and also staff attending to the tables generally!

Once we were seated and given some tea, food was presented really quickly. Lots of choices although the vegetarian options were not as much but still enough.

Each trolley that stopped by our table had lots of tempting dishes! The selection that I went for was some steamed vegetable dumplings, bean curd rolls and rice pasta rolls. All of the dishes had a lovely flavour and were tasty.

The rice pasta rolls were filled with steamed vegetables and was a big portion. The steamed vegetable dumplings were perfectly sized parcels of vegetables. The fried bean rolls were very thin and crispy.

When we first asked for the bean curd rolls, the waitress went from our table to another area just to the side. We weren’t sure what she was doing but when she returned, it all made sense! The waitress had stepped away from the main area to chop the bean curd roll into bite size pieces. She had taken her trolley to the side to prevent any “traffic congestion” with the other dim sum trolleys!

A selection of dipping sauces were given with our dim sum meal. The only thing was that when the staff were putting our dim sum baskets and plates on our table, they weren’t really taking that much care on where they were being placed. On several occasions, they managed to tip the little sauce dishes all over the table.

After our main dim sum meal, it was time for a sweet treat! My friend recommended that I should try the mango pudding. Once the dessert trolley came over, we were happy that they had the mango pudding and also some condensed milk to accompany it!

The mango pudding did not disappoint my sweet tooth! It was like a mango blamanche and had the right sweetness. The taste of the mango was good!

New World is a great place for dim sum! The staff were friendly and the food is fast. It’s good that you can see all the dishes before you choose to have them. New World also have a normal menu with lots of items including meats, fish, noodles and rice!

New World, 1 Gerrard Place, Chinatown, London, W1D 5PA

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Ping Pong – South Bank

Reviewed on February 11th, 2011 by Dina

Just before the Christmas holidays, we were lucky enough to be taken out for dinner by our friends from Digital Tribe. It was a fantastic evening at Ping Pong filled with amazing food, good company and a great atmosphere!

Ping Pong is a funky dim sum restaurant and feels quite unique. It’s atmosphere is helped by the DJ style music playing in the background.

Our evening started off with some cocktails! There was a huge range of drinks including cocktails, wine, juices and teas. The flowering teas are very pretty to the eye and also taste good to the palate!

The pineapple, coconut and lime non-alcoholic cocktail is a favourite of mine! It’s served in a tall glass and is a really moreish drink! I could easily have had a couple of these throughout the meal but it is a filling drink!

We couldn’t decide on which dim sum dishes to have as there was so much choice. So to make things that little bit easier, a couple of us (not including myself!) took the executive decision to order the Extravaganza and the Vegetarian Extravaganza Set Menus.

To start the Extravaganza, the nibbles were spicy nuts and seaweed crackers. They were nice to have as an accompaniment to the meal. For the rest of the main meal, I only had items from the Vegetarian menu.

The dim sum included a selection of steamed, fried and baked items. The baked hoi sin vegetable puffs were really nice with the sweet taste of the glazed honey coming through. The baskets of steamed vegetable dumplings were made up of crunchy golden dumplings, spinach and mushroom dumplings and spicy hot dumplings. All were great and it was difficult to have a favourite. But if I did have to choose one, then it would have to be the spinach and mushroom dumplings.

Two different types of spring rolls came as part of our meal. One was filled with vegetable and tofu and the other had mixed vegetables. Both were equally nice and crispy.

There were two dishes that were quite different and that I wasn’t expecting! The vegetables and beans in a black bean sauce was the dish of the coconut rice clay pot! I really enjoyed this combination of vegetables and beans together with the rice. The five spice Chinese mushrooms and black fungus were presented in a steam basket! The mushrooms were really juicy.

To go with our huge Extravaganza, we had lots of different dipping sauces! These included five spice chestnut, spicy mango, sweet and sour, and hoi sin.

If that wasn’t enough food, we still had the dessert part of the Set menu to come! The mango pudding with mango puree had the right sweetness and texture too.

For chocolate fans, there was the chilli and chocolate mousse. This rich mousse had a real kick to it and the chilli was just that little bit too strong for me. Another chocolate based dessert was the fluffy white bun. This had a filling of Valrhona chocolate and came with coconut puree. The bun was really soft with the melted chocolate inside. It was a lot lighter than the mousse!

The pudding that looked the most intriguing was the black and white rice with mango puree. The rice was split into two layers with the puree on the side. I was surprised that I actually liked the taste of the rice as a dessert item!

Ping Pong gave us very fast and efficient service. The dishes were brought out all throughout the meal. The staff were friendly and very attentive. It was nice that they pointed out which dishes were pure vegetarian including the desserts.

Ping Pong has a great variety of food and drink! There are lots of different dishes and flavours and it has something to suit everyone’s tastebuds! They always seem to be updating their menu with new items. One thing to note is that Ping Pong only take reservations for groups of eight or more!

Ping Pong, Festival Terrace, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX

Rating: ★★★★★

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