In Cantonese, Yum Cha means to drink tea and goes hand in hand with Dim Sum which literally means to touch your heart and is traditionally small plates of snacks.
In Sydney (and else where for that matter) yum cha houses have a reputation of being a little rushed and the trolley ladies grumpy and abrupt (stereotypically) and I find that the trolley ladies at Sky Phoenix a little more so than most places. I always feel extra rushed when dining here. It's a huge noisy dining room filled with office workers and the trolley ladies rushing around trying to feed the masses. It has a 'get in, eat and get out' feel to it. I also find it is more 'westernised' meaning the dim sum is mild and recognisable to a western palate, also meaning you won't be finding any chicken feet, beef tendons (my favourite) or innards stew on the trolley here (although they do have tripe!).
What you do find though are perfectly plump dumplings full of prawns or pork and scented with garlic and chives, plates of roast pork, noodles, prawns and crabs, plates of greens in soy sauce and divine mango pancakes for dessert.
There are three yum cha dishes that are usually my 'go to' dish and I always judge a restaurant on the quality of these three dishes. I usually try to have at least one of these dishes when I have Yum Cha. They are Har Gao (prawn dumping), Sui Mai (Pork dumpling wrapped in wheat wrapper) and Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce.
Dining alone at yum cha is limiting because there is only so much you can sample before being full (or you take a big doggy bag home). I started with a bamboo steamer of fat dumplings filled with prawn, garlic and spinach. They are juicy and full of garlicky flavour and I love the glutinous, chewy wrappers of the dumplings that seem stick to everything including the chopsticks and the baking paper circle in the bottom of the steamer making for a very challenging plate to mouth experience!
Prawn, garlic and spinach dumpling
I should learn my lesson though, when you see the trolley lady with the pancakes get them THEN AND THERE, do not wati until you finish ...I waited and waited forever for the trolley lady to come by again. At any other tea house I ALWAYS have to finish off with a Daan Tart but at Sky Phoenix it has to be a mango pancake!
Lucious deep yellow pancakes wrapped around cold whipped cream and mango pieces. Super cold and super tasty and refreshing..the perfect way to end any dim sum meal, well unless it was another yum cha house and a Daan tart!
For a solo lunch it's pricey dim sum (especially the two pancakes) so obviously better to come in a group for a more varied experience, but it's the little occasional pleasures that keep a foodie going for a Friday afternoon in the office!