About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Hand Made Dumpling With Agenda, Hold The Objectivity
Like a jumping yum cha joint, Nina Rousseau's arrival at the Epicure department has been big, bold and brassy with a two page cover story on the state of Melbourne's yum cha restaurants.

Her mission, to rate these restaurants on a variety of factors including food, atmosphere, noise factor and the use of trolleys. So how has the gregarious Matt Preston replacement fared?

To use racing parlance, started well but faded towards the finish, may need to run without blinkers.

As Rousseau herself said,

'One thing is certain, yum cha is a controversial business and disciples are evangelical about "the best".'

Fair enough too.

But perhaps revealing of where she is coming from, goes on to say,

'As a city we have embraced this Cantonese custom, loved it, grown bored with it, and hankered after its evolution. There's a demand for a more glamorous - and much quieter - yum cha experience.'

Having been in the line for entry to both Shark Fin Inn and Shark Fin House, it's easy to see where the demand really is. But to treat Shark Fin Inn in the way Rousseau did is outrageous.

Using a star system of her own devising, out of a possible five stars for food, Shark Fin Inn was given one solitary star. To put this into perspective, it is the equivalent of her colleague, restaurant reviewer Larissa Dubecki, giving a restaurant a score of 4/20 for food, of which Epicure says, '1-9: unacceptable.'

In all my years of reading, I've never seen such a score. It ought to be an embarrassment to Rousseau.

Okay, to reveal my yum cha allegiances, there are two restaurants we attend on a regular basis, Shark Fin House & Oriental Tea House (city & Sth Yarra) which was awarded four food stars. There is no doubt that the dumplings are of a better quality at Oriental Tea House, but four times better?

Reading between the lines, Rousseau only really rates those restaurants where she knows the dumplings to be handmade, if this is the case, why didn't she come out and name those restaurants she felt transgressed her golden star system? Wouldn't the public like to know such a thing?

In any case, what the hell is wrong with a restaurant buying in something ready made, so long as the quality is there. If Vue De Monde's Shannon Bennett gets in black pudding for some of his dishes, is he marked down for not making it himself? Is a dumpling made by a specialist supplier necessarily inferior to those made by restaurant cooks? Are they somehow less hand made?

Remember, we're talking yum cha here, it's not the cutting edge of fine dining and it was never meant to be, it's about sharing food in an extremely social setting that involves new born and families' elder statesmen and women. It's life in all its messy permutations with a cup of tea.

Perhaps some people don't quite get it.
  posted at 9:22 pm

At 8:01 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget good tea to go with Yum Cha since cha = tea.
I recommend Pu'erh, as it is believed to help with digestion and is said to cut grease, which is good if you are having one too many fried items. :)
- P

At 1:07 pm, Blogger Thermomixer said...

Guess the other thing Neil is that they really only road-tested 3 dishes to make their combined judgment - and they are 3 dishes that I wouldn't rush to buy - I prefer the chicken feet, eggplant, all the interesting seafood, tripe, ... so as she said

"But perhaps there is no "best yum cha"? Perhaps this Holy Grail does not exist? After all, the type of restaurant you choose is usually dependent on the group you're dining with — the age of the diners, the number of people, and how many food snobs are in the party." - especially if you have such limited taste tests.

Like judging all the restaurants in town based on their soup du jour, steak and chips and chocolate mousse.

At 1:10 pm, Anonymous Jetsetting Joyce (MEL: HOT OR NOT) said...

I was quite surprised at the Shark Fin House rating as well, as I'm Cantonese and I don't have yum cha anywhere else because it's so good (admittedly, I don't go far from the inner city as I don't have a car).

Jetsetting Joyce

At 7:47 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi honey, you're my fave yum cha partner in crime!

Hi thermo, I agree with both you and Nina, that there is no best. it's all in the moment.

However, It's not acceptable to crucify not just one but three restaurant's food with such miserable scores with not a word of explanation. Funny, isn't it, food journos complain about blogger ethics then serve up this crap.

Hi joyce, I concur with you, and have no idea why they got bagged. It was just so out of touch with everything I've both seen and experienced.


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