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Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Yauatcha City's 2018 Chinese New Year Menu Reviewed - The Year of the Dog

Name: Yauatcha City

Where: 1 Broadgate Circus, London EC2M 2QS, http://www.yauatcha.com/city/

Cost: The special CNY menu is served a la carte, and includes special dim sum at £8-9, mains priced at £17-30, and desserts at £2-9. 

About: Michelin-starred Yauatcha is one of my favourite Chinese restaurants in town, with the first branch in Soho, and this glamorous spot in the City opened in 2015. Building on the Chinese dim sum teahouse concept, Yauatcha City has two bars, two outside terraces and a large main dining area, and on the weekday evening we were there was as usual packed with an after-work crowd.

The Chinese kitchen is led by Chef Tong Chee Hwee, and offers authentic Cantonese dishes with a modern influence, while the drinks menu has a staggering 38 types of tea plus cocktails inspired by Chinese ingredients and a large wine and Champagne list. The restaurant also has an Executive Pastry Chef (Graham Hornigold), who is responsible for the sumptuous array of macarons, petits gateaux and chocolates you will pass at the entrance to the dining room. 

I am a regular visitor to Yauatcha City, and was keen to try their Year of the Dog CNY menu, available only until 4 March 2018. 

What We Ate: The CNY menu is à la carte, with a choice of two dim sum, five main courses, one special CNY dessert or macarons.  They all looked incredibly tempted, so we opted to try the whole menu. 

The Chilean seabass rolls (£9) came with wood ear fungus and Chinese green vegetable, all wrapped up in rice pastry and delicately tied with a single Chinese chive. The combination of ingredients was well judged, and the fish was rich and creamy.

The serving of three salted egg yolk custard sesame balls (£8) was graceful, on a fine disc of raw carrot over a jade serving bowl in the shape of a lotus leaf. It was as much a feast for the palate as for the eyes, and the molten salted custard was transcendent.

From the CNY main course menu, first came the Golden fortune prawn in lime sauce (£17). Five huge, fresh and surprisingly tender prawns were served with salted egg yolk, crispy fried lotus root and a topping of tobiko eggs. I really enjoyed this, although the prawns were a tad sweet for my palate.

The steamed scallops (£30) were big, juicy, unctuous and richly flavoured, served in black bean sauce with glass noodles. They worked out at £5 a piece, which I thought was a touch on the high side. 

The braised pork shank with lotus seed, water chestnut, star anise and shiitake mushroom (£23) came in a clay pot, served with goji berries, water chestnuts and a sauce rich in star anise and five spice. The transformation of this humble cut of pork into a rich and unctuous delicacy reminded me of Pierre Koffman's fabled pigs trotter and morels.

Stir-fried duck breast with hazelnut in mala sauce (£21) came with shimeji mushrooms, sugar snaps, red peppers. The duck was again surprisingly soft, indeed almost spongy in texture. The mala sauce, a mouth-numbing spicy condiment made from Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cardamom, salt and sugar mixed with vegetable and sesame oil was a heady blend, and tasted like it had a generous slug of belachan. I thoroughly enjoyed it with the duck.

The seafood braised rice in lotus leaf (£22) had a generous serving of fresh prawns and a lovely “wok breath”, but was for me the weakest link in an otherwise solid CNY menu.

From the regular menu, we ordered a dish of spicy aubergine with sato bean, okra and French beans with peanut (£13). This is one of my favourite dishes at Yauatcha, and I order it every time I return. In my experience, it never disappoints. 

Returning to the CNY menu for dessert, the special Haoyun lantern (£9) combined soy caramel mousse with mandarin confit, topped with gold leaf, served over a sesame sable base. Served with sesame brittle and a mandarin sorbet, this was a complex and thought-provoking dessert, beautifully presented.

The selection of macarons including kumquat cashew and raspberry Szechuan pepper, priced at £2 each, were as soft and delicious as I could wish for.  

What We Drank: We started with cocktails, priced at £12.50.  The Hakka combines Belvedere vodka with Akashi-tai sake, lychee, lime, coconut and passion fruit, and was headily aromatic, strong and delicious.  The Kumquatcha had Germana cachaca, Campari, mandarin, lime and Prosecco, and I really enjoyed the astringency and complex fruit flavours of this long, refreshing drink.

With our main courses, we shared a bottle of Hatzidakis PDO, from the volcanic soil of Santorini 2016 (£44). The winery was founded in 1997 by pioneering Greek vintner Haridimos Hatzidakis, who sadly died in 2017 at the age of only 50. The first maker in Santorini to use indigenous yeasts, he also promoted indigenous grape varieties like Assyrtiko, Aidani and Mavrotragano.  This wine was made from 100% Assyrtiko, and was a wonderfully crisp yet powerful, with peach and apricot flavours and flinty minerality, making it a fitting swansong for poor Mr Hatzidakis.  

Likes: For me, the outstanding dishes were the Chilean seabass rolls, the wonderful braised pork shank and the “Haoyun lantern” dessert. The cocktails and wine list include some of the most interesting drinks to be found anywhere in town, and there is an outstanding selection of top quality teas. 

Dislikes: None

Verdict: For high quality Cantonese cooking, beautifully presented in a glamorous setting, there are few places to rival Yauatcha City. Their CNY menu is always worth looking out for, and the 2018 Year of the Dog menu is available only until 4 March 2018 so there is no time to waste!

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