My first evening back in London after a long four month absence was to be spent at Yauatcha. I had been there once last year, but did not find it as good as Hakkasan for example. However, as it was a Friday night, a good number of other places were absolutely packed, so we decided to give it another shot.
At 20.45h the place was full, but the incredibly beautiful receptionists (they surely have a much more impressive title, but I did not ask) were as smiling and helpful as they are over in Hakkasan. Service throughout the night was impressively good for such a busy place, they even knew what the dishes were made of and how they were cooked. This is similar to Hakkasan then (there were to be a few more similarities to appear throughout the meal).
We ordered pretty much everything on the menu that sounded somewhat interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I do not know much about Chinese cooking, so all I can comment on is the way it tasted, and if it did appeal to me, as a mere ignorant Westerner. We had a variety of different dim sums and started of with some steamed parcels filled with pork and prawns. These are identical to those served in Hakkasan, and were good. No ingredient was over- or under-cooked and it was well seasoned. Good.
Another trio arrived, filled with mushrooms, if my memory serves me correctly. Same remark as for the first one, good.
The next one was a step up. The rice flour based, rather fluffy coating encased a braised duck ragout, which was made with Hoisin sauce and had great punch. This really was a tasty little thing, and I found the texture to be very interesting and pleasant. Very good. (again something you also have on Hakkasan’s menu)
Next up was a pretty poor steamed lotus wrap. This was a little taste-less and dull. Apart from that it was slightly crunchy, and acceptable. Mediocre.
The next set was very good again, oozing with a steaming, tasty mix, made out of chicken, but I do not remember the details. Good,
Another highlight was about to come. The venison puff is a house signature dish, and understandably so. The first time I had it, I hated it: Fatty pastry, venison that was dry (inside puff pastry, which is so buttery that even a piece of cardboard should be moist after being cooked in it) and devoid of taste. This time on the contrary, it was great. The pastry was not too greasy, felt light, and was crunchy. The filling had great flavour and was most successful. Very good.
Moving to deep-fried goodies. Chicken and beans filled these little gems. Crunchy outsides and tasty, hot filling are always a winner, and in this case it was a fine match. Good. (also on Hakkasan’s menu)
The crispy duck roll was very good. A mix of shredded duck and cucumber is served with Hoisin sauce and is most tasty. This was, again perfectly fine in terms of execution and quality. Good. (also on Hakkasan’s menu)
The following shrimp creation was less great. The coating was crispy, but the filling lacked any identifiable taste and punch. Mediocre.
But, there were a few winners to come: The first was the pumpkin and duck fritter. This is really great stuff, as the crispy coating encases a pumpkin puree and some scrumptious braised duck meat. A match made in heaven, and absolutely great. Excellent. (also on Hakkasan’s menu)
To finish off the savoury part of the meal, we had the classic Shanghai dumplings, which were fine, but didn’t really match the previous dish in terms of flavour or textural interest. Good. (also on Hakkasan’s menu).
The desserts here are usually very good for Chinese restaurants. The pastry chef (who is French) worked with Pierre Herme and combines French technique with Asian flavours. He likes to use sesame, litchi, Yuzu, and a whole range of other products common in Asia, or least not often used in French pastry.
The first dessert was a chocolate tart with a cocoa sorbet and a poached slice of abricot. This was very well made and easily deserves that 1*, if not a little more. It was by no means worse than desserts in French restaurants of that standard, as it was not too sweet, very-well executed and based on very fine chocolate. Very good.
The last dessert was very good too. A combination of chocolate, caramel and salted peanuts, this was a fine little thing. It was certainly worth the very reasonable price of £4.5. Excellent.
All in all, this was a meal that easily justified the 1*. Flavours were in most cases spot on, products good, technique constant and service very good. Prices are surprisingly low (one can eat for around £25, excluding drinks). However, the problem is the frighteningly expensive wine list. That list is more expensive than, say The Greenhouse or Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester or even The Square, which all are amongst the city’s elite in terms of wine and food. However, a meal here is entertaining, good fun and not bad at all, which is probably all the restaurant wants to strive for.