The Battle of Yum Cha, part 2 Grand Century
- Photo by Fritz Kuchuck
Only two yum cha reviews in, and already this battle seems futile. There are just too many unknowns and variables to quantify a median let alone pick a winner.
At last Sunday’s yum cha, Pippi of Kilbirnie was quick to identify one. ‘You never know what you’re eating.’ The fact that she’s nine years old detracts little from the validity of her point. It looks like a dumpling, but what exactly is it filled with and what is it called?
Then there’s the matter of the optimum dim sum. Who makes the best, and who are you to say? Let’s not ask the Hong Kong street-hawker patronised by another of last Sunday’s judges. While the display model dumpling looked positively authentic, the specimen produced from the nether regions of the cart proved disgusting, inedible, a ghastly globule of foreign composition.
This would never happen in Wellington. With the benefit of your comments (thank you), I’m getting the impression that the best yum cha is in fact found at the Grand Harbour in Auckland, and the offerings in Wellington are all pretty good albeit much of a muchness.
Our nine-year-old panellist couldn’t comment on this, because she’s only ever yum-cha’d at the Grand Century – although, this makes her an expert in consistency. ‘They’re bigger than usual,’ she declared while mangling a barbecue pork bun into her gob. It did look big, but with a high proportion of filling to fluff it beat the Regal’s hands down. ‘Perfect’, said her mother, although she was hung over which is yet another variable in the equation. What the hey, let’s call the bun a 4.75.
Moving right along, our panel of nine diners more or less agreed that the Grand Century does mighty fine dim sum. The steamed dumplings had lots of filling: ‘Less padding, all business,’ (4/5). We liked the fact that the chive dumplings were chivey, the pork ones porky, and the crispy squid squiddy in the best possible way. The latter was considerately drizzled with a tangy sweet & sour sauce, not drowning in blah orange goo.
There were also a couple of dishes we didn’t see at the Regal – the stuffed eggplant for one – and I was positively ecstatic that the turnip cake and bean curd were no-shows. The all-important custard buns had the fancy accoutrement of a crispy-custard icing (3.5). The only disappointment was the Peking duck, which came cold and totally lacklustre (2/5)
As popular as ever, the gargantuan Grand Century was heaving, with a queue out the door and a 10-minute wait despite booking. Unless you count mayhem, it’s an ambience-free zone (2/5), and we were glad to be seated upstairs away from the mêlée. The service was standard (3), and despite being far away from the action, our score for ‘volume-and-speed of delivery’ was an acceptable 3.75.
Judges’ summary: ‘Top scoff, but the manic atmosphere may interfere with digestion.’ $20 each for a full stuffing. Total score: 3.5/5.
Next up: more dim sums and dodgy statistics: ’part 3 – The Majestic’