It was raining, and I was late. Public transport improves no one’s mood at the best of times, and this was no exception. It was stiflingly humid, and even the vibrancy of a neighbourhood like Newtown couldn’t fight off the absolutely depressing and un-sexy shade of grey that had descended upon Sydney.
Located on King Street with a bright neon sign is Luyu and Yum Yum: the effort of tea master Luyu to pair his tea with food, and the result is a classy east-meets-west restaurant, with a heavy emphasis on dumplings.
I had a job to do (hard life) and as the entrees started rolling out I felt like I was getting a good Asian feed, without the stereotypical Asian service. The Manga Hedgehogs were so gosh darned cute that I almost couldn’t bear to eat them. Almost.
Encased in sweet fluffy dough was a rich mushroom filling that transported me back to Hong Kong in the 90s. Everything melded together whilst keeping its own flavour identity, and I felt like I was watching an award-winning acapella performance.
The Caviar Dumpling was also a winner, and not just because I’m a slave to anything caviar. A solid mouthful of prawn dumpling was just lightly annointed with salty caviar, giving me texture and flavour all at once.
Want something fun? Then eat the 7-flavour tofu with the chilli oil. By itself, the cubes of tofu weren’t particularly exciting, but the chilli oil transformed it into BBQ duck. Seriously. If you’re vegan and always wondered why we love BBQ duck so much, this is your chance to find out. There’s some sort of magic voodoo going on here, and all I need to know is that it just works, like Apple products did in the 00’s.
Speaking of which, the Duck pancakes bring me right back to old Chinese restaurants of the 90s with my family, with generous lashings of sauce to accompany the chunks of duck meat. Nothing new, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Fantastically executed, and kept me eating till the last bite, even if I personally prefer the sweeter plum sauce to the more commonly used hoisin.
The east-meets-west fusion, of course, doesn’t always produce stunners. Even the most beautiful people in the world have average babies sometimes. Don’t let Angelina and Brad fool you. The Truffle Dumpling Skewers was one example, which confused the excitement right out of me. Let me try to explain it with this Venn diagram.
It’s really like if you added truffle on a Siu Mai. Prawn dumplings? We know that’s delicious. Truffle prawns? Yes please! Truffled dumplings? Din Tai Fung will show you the way. But Truffled Prawn Dumplings? Eh, not so much. Maybe my palate isn’t pushing the boundaries of dining, but I wasn’t a fan of the combination even though I enjoyed the individual components. And the sweet Jasmine honey sauce didn’t help either. It was cute that it tasted strongly like soda – and I’m all for repurposing flavours in unexpected ways – but it just didn’t go.
If in doubt, just follow the Fonz.
And the mains didn’t exactly come out swinging in the same way entrees did.
The Chilli Chicken and Beetroot echoed Kung Pao Chicken, an old school popular Chinese restaurant favourite that involves cashews, dried chillies, and a dark soy sauce that’s so sticky it really should be called a glaze. In this case, fresh serrano chillies replace the dried, and candied walnuts replace the cashews. The glaze wasn’t quite as saucy or dark, and the fresh pieces of beetroot added a fresh crunch. The candied walnuts were the best bit of the dish, with a glassy sugar coating that shattered with every bite. I really wished that there was more of the glaze/sauce – how would you mix it into your rice otherwise? – and while I was initially ambivalent about the beetroot, it really grew on me as I kept picking at it. The part that got me confused was the sprinkle of dried basil over the top. It jarred me out of the Asian illusion of the dish, and felt like that awkward kid at the party who tries to insert themselves into the group and then doesnt know what they want to say. Not a bad dish, but after the dumplings, it had big
shoes plates to fill.
The Eggplant was another dish that grew on me, but not to desired rash status. Battered eggplant fritters are served in a pyramid of sorts, and drizzled with a caramel sauce. I really
mourn that the eggplant wasn’t more obvious – you could’ve replaced it with zucchini and I’m not sure many would notice – but it was pretty enjoyable in a fritter sorta way. Crunchy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside coating, and sauce. Good, but not ‘amazing’, as the waiter recommended it to us.
If the dumplings were the pinnacle of what Luyu and Yum Yum had to offer, then I’m really sorry to say that Osmanthus Oasis, for me, was base camp at the foot of the mountain.
My personal doubts about the flavour aside, the Osamanthus Oasis was just plain hard to eat. Served on a long, thin plate, the jelly kept slipping and sliding off and was fairly difficult to pick up. What made matters worse was the chocolate syrup, that added a faint chemical taste to the dessert. Why they would add something like that to what could’ve been an otherwise an interesting dessert, I will never understand. Especially not when the waiter strongly seconded our decision to order it.
I think Luyu and Yum Yum is perfect for a group outing: the serving sizes of dumplings allow you to sample and try a little bit of everything without getting too full, and it’s a nice change to the ubiquitous tapas houses in Sydney. If I could do it all over again, and I wouldn’t mind going back with more friends, I’d just stick to the dumpling and entree menu. It’s got more than enough variety to keep anyone’s attention, and most of it is really well executed.
Just don’t order the dessert. Trust me.