Dining at the Taiwanese-based chain restaurant Din Tai Fung in Kuala Lumpur (now also located in Sydney) was a watershed experience for us, so much so that we’ve now visited Din Tai Fung in a number of world cities! The creation of the dumplings exemplifies art as entertainment in the glass-surrounded kitchen, with chefs all in white, including hats, masks and aprons, making dumplings with the same scientific precision as chefs in every other Din Tai Fung restaurant in the world. It is claimed that no matter where in the world you are, every meal is the same – the same weight, the same flavour, and even cooked at the same temperature and humidity. Each pork xiao long bao is made to within .2 grams of another, the minced pork and silky hot soup folded in precisely twelve folds within the delicate, melt in your mouth dough. Fresh ginger shards and light soy sauce are provided as dipping sauce.
How can you explain the sensation of biting into one of those tiny dumplings, the delicate broth exploding in your mouth upon impact. You just have to try it to understand. It’s addictive! For us, the taste well and truly lived up to its reputation. Din Tai Fung dumplings provide the benchmark of excellence in dim sum, the pinnacle against which we judge every other yum cha experience.
Dim sum is an important part of Cantonese cuisine. Literally translated as ‘close to the heart’, the name encompasses the hors d’oeuvres traditionally enjoyed in tea houses, washed down with copious amounts of tea. So much so, that ‘yumcha’ (drink tea) is now understood as meaning going to a restaurant to have dim sum. (Yan-Kit So, 1992)
A typical Cantonese yum cha restaurant would be several storeys high, with service provided by young girls pushing stainless steel trolleys filled with bamboo baskets piled high, or small dishes of food lined up next to each other. They would make their way around the tables displaying their wares, and diners would choose which dishes they wished to consume next.
So, does any yum cha experience in Queensland, or more specifically on the Gold Coast, measure up to the silky, delicate folds of Din Tai Fung dumplings?
No, but many provide consistently good dim sum and offer a range of yum cha experiences from which to choose. Most are located within established Chinese restaurants which also offer an extensive menu of à la carte dishes at both lunch and dinner. Some offer a traditional yum cha experience, while others have modernised and adapted this to suit their clientele. Here are some of our favourites:
Dim Sum Delights, Robina – Modern yum cha experience with food brought on trays to the table. Shaded verandahs in this modern Queenslander overlook the suburban street. Consistent quality of dim sum and pleasant service.
Dragon Cove Chinese Cuisine, Sanctuary Cove – Dine overlooking luxury yachts. Specials include Xiao Long Bao and Dragon Cove Sui Mai. Good quality but high-priced due to the rent in this resort-like suburb, but it’s one of our favourites!
Easy House Vegetarian Restaurant, Mermaid Waters – Hong Kong style vegetarian dim sum of excellent quality, made daily. Part of a suburban shopping centre, this tiny shop fronts out to a car park. Cordial service. You may need to ask for the dim sum menu.
Jasmine Room, Southport, the sister restaurant to Dragon Cove, overlooks the sparkling Broadwater. Jasmine Room serves good Xiao Long Bao and even pigeon, a rarity on the coast.
Ming Palace, Broadbeach – Semi-traditional bustling yum cha in the heart of Broadbeach overlooking the mall. Good dim sum. Late night yum cha is also available.
Sky Broadbeach brings us Australian Chinese favourites, specialty regional dishes, as well as the daily yum cha experience. We order from the cart, but there’s a menu to choose from, as well as à la carte.
Top One, Southport – Large restaurant located off one end of Australia Fair Shopping Centre with view over the Broadwater. Busy semi-traditional yum cha experience with consistently good dim sum. Popular with tour groups.
Yum Cha Cuisine, Broadbeach, is a modern-looking restaurant on the Hooker Boulevard side of Pacific Fair. Serving good Shanghai pork dumplings, seafood and beef, our meals from this restaurant have been reliably good quality.
Yum Cha Robina – Good yum cha in a nice open air space overlooking the lake. Semi-traditional and very popular. Located under Robina Town Centre Shopping Centre at the cinema end.
With specialty restaurants, such as Harajuku Gyoza (Brisbane), all the rage in capital cities, it’s probably only a matter of time until we have an excellent dumpling restaurant in a Chinatown of our own in Southport. Let’s hope so!
(Post updated 2017.)