East-side brunch series: Yumcha for brunch? David’s. Wealth Garden.
Part 2 of east-side brunch series…
When one suggests brunch, it is not unusual to conjure images of scrambled eggs, fritters, bacon and all those awesome things mostly European inspired. How many people think of yum cha as being a brunch option first up? I do it on a frequent basis, but when I was compiling the East-side brunch series, I failed to include yum cha on the list initially. Disgraceful. Yum cha was never supposed to be eaten late in the afternoon. But these days yum cha can be breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. So why not have some dim sums and sip some tea for your next lazy weekend morning?
Our two yum cha candidates today are David’s and Wealth Garden. Though both provide yum cha, they are very different contenders, with a different geographical slant in its cuisine, and different marketed diners. Enjoy.
It always seems doubly hard to write about places you have been countless times, or when you have grown up with the restaurant in your childhood memories. It hasn’t always been Wealth Garden (in fact it has not been so for all that long), with predecessors as New Panda, Purple Sandsand possibly a couple more different reinventions. Each one had brought something a little different to the table, but has largely put forward quality old fashioned Cantonese yum cha. Although certainly not neglected with several rejuvenations throughout the years, the décor remains reminiscent. This is offset by the bustling trolleys and hoards of native Cantonese speakers to bring life to the space, which for the Asian ear is a comforting racket.
I won’t go into too much about each dumpling and morsel, but to say that they come straight out of the kitchen steaming hot, seasoning is balanced, quality is reasonably good, and variety good (only less compared to that of Taipan). The dumplings such as har gao, siu mai are unlikely contenders for the most delicate steamed dumplings around, but they are juicy and flavoursome. The tripe, chicken feet, pork ribs and other old fashioned things are quite respectable also.
And no yum cha is complete without several courses of sweets. Egg tarts always a must – crumbly pastry, gooey and deliciously eggy custard. Tofu fa (soybean custard) falls a little short of some other places, lacking depth in its syrup, but I would still have a bowl. One can never have too much tofu. I’ve heard the pineapple buns are worth trying, but I am yet to sample.
Rating: Yummy. Classic yum cha variety in an old fashioned suburban setting, free of fuss and decibel restrictions. Just simple, yum cha items like the old days, which remains a popular choice for largely Cantonese-speaking customers looking for a good feed at reasonable prices – a good sign you are in the right place.
[Wealth Garden, 丰泽园海鲜烧腊酒家]
Where: 866 Doncaster Road, Doncaster East
Contact: 03 9840 7611
On the other spectrum of yum cha choices, Davids is upmarket, trendy, and much dearer.
Having seen David’s in its former character when I last dined here with friends – with its darker and moodier oriental feel – I like many others was awestruck by the complete cosmetic facelift. Everything was stripped back to reveal the original walls, ceilings and windows, leaving a clean, well-lit and white washed space with some quirky finishes. I was invited on this occasion to witness the new menu makeover, which embraces a firmer Shanghainese feel.
A small selection of the usual steamed and deep fried dumplings are still available – shu mai, seafood dumplings, san choi bao and so on – and are of reasonable quality. The more memorable and distinguishing bite sized items include: the spicy street duck wings with cinnamon & soy, which is all skin and fiery intensity; the selection of Bao’s (open steamed buns) with moreish fillings like crispy pork belly, spicy lamb, shredded peking duck; or items like Grandma’s 8 and spiced oolong tea quail eggs are resonant of homely dishes from a shanghai household. (P.S. not sure if the Bao’s are still on the menu, but worth asking)
Share plates are not usual for yum cha, and betray its lighter more bite sized intentions, becoming a meal in their own right. I must admit though the sweet chunky eggplant with sliced chilli & spring onion with sweet black vinegar, and country comfort sticky pork belly with chat potatoes are rustic yet indulgent and very satisfying – “country comfort” indeed.
Several of the contemporary takes on Chinese desserts from the previous menu can still be seen, such as the sesame balls drizzled with chocolate; white chocolate dumplings with peanut & coconut praline & ice cream. The golden, crumbly almond pudding remains one of my favourites.
Like its higher-end yum cha competitors, Davids offers a range of quality Chinese tea to sip whilst you dine (with a decent price tag of course).
Side track: I was extremely dismayed that they had used boiling water for my dragon-well green tea. For low-quality teas temperature is probably irrelevant, but with teas you pay good money for one should know better that different teas require different steeping temperatures – green tea being 80 degrees centigrade. Anything higher and it would cook the tea leaves, leaving a vegetal, grassy taste and increase the astringency on the palate. Rest assured I have made my tea-Nazi-opinions clear known to management, so hopefully next time you and I will get it at the right centigrade.
Rating: Yummy+1. Known for its contemporary spins on traditional yum cha, and now bringing further mid-northern tones, Davids provides a breath of fresh air in its menu contrary to the prevalent Cantonese renditions. The drawcards here are in fact not the usual southern style dumplings, but the uniquely Shanghai items and modernised desserts. Quality ingredients, beautiful ambience and expensive location, does bring with it a much higher price tag – one that I would be willing to pay just every so often!
Where: 4 Cecil Pl, Prahran
Contact: 03 9529 5199
[I dined courtesy of Davids and Harvey Publicity]
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