Docklands Gold Leaf yumcha

Location: Level 1 Star Circus Harbour Town, Docklands, 3008
Cost: $129 for 3 people, ordering a la carte from yumcha trolleys. That, my friends, was a lot steeper than I thought it’d be.
Cost rating: 2/5, expensive side of yumcha, but the best yumcha in the city.
Taste rating: 9.5/10
Overall rating: 9/10, minus one point from the lack of transparent pricing.

I do not know how much each item was, but the items can be divided into categories, getting more expensive in ascending order: small, medium, large, deluxe and special order. When you order a dish, your waiter will cross off the corresponding ‘size’ of the dish. At the end of yumcha, the dishes will be tallied up and then you part with your money.

Internal decor:

Long paper lanterns/ A river of glowing lights/ Guiding you to food

Gold Leaf is one of the best yumchas in the city area. As you can see in the picture, it’s packed. You should make a booking if you don’t want to be waiting for an hour. (We made a booking.)

Offering to you/ Oh god of prosperity/ Fine drop of water

I’m not sure which god this is, but he brings economic success. He also likes to drink. A lot. So at his alter, there should always be a cup of alcohol as an offering. (Nowadays the cups with water, to imitate rice wine.)

An important part of yumcha are the fishtanks. It’s like having dinner at the aquarium, except you can eat the things in the fishtanks.

King of his castle/ Resting upon other crabs/ Easy to fish out

Yumcha is literally ‘drink tea’ in cantonese chinese dialect. You can think of it like english high tea. You have tea, and you have food. While the tea is an essential part of the yumcha experience, the focus is on the food. Yumcha dishes are small dishes of neatly portioned morsels. The idea is to eat many different delicious things, drink delicious tea, have good company to eat and drink with, then company to squabble with for the bill. If you’ve never seen this strange and wonderful bill-competition thing occur before, watch out for a large table. It’s most likely to happen on large tables, with people from different families. One fond memory of bill-squabbling I have includes being bribed by my great-aunt to pass the bill to her so she could ‘look at it’. I got a free lunch and a preserved plum candy out of that.

Have some tea. Then read on for a la carte yumcha dishes.

A cup of hot tea/ Breathe in the fragrant vapour/ Unwind, and quench thirst

Soy sauce and chili/ Adjust your food to your tastes/ Get ready to eat.

Everybody has their own yumcha dish which they’ll consider the classics, and cannot leave without eating that dish. It’s a strange feeling: to feel unsatisfied yet satiated with food. For me, the classics include ‘fun cheung’ and ‘har gow’. For my usual lunching buddy, it is ‘dim sum’ and ‘char siu bao’. For our newcomer lunching buddy, it was fried taro puffs, chicken pie ‘gai pai’ and egg tarts. So, of course, we had all of those.

CHICKEN PIE/ GAI PAI
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Shiny chicken pie/ Much more like a chicken tart/ Plus a sweet crumble

If you like chicken pie, you should order this. The chicken pie is a ubiquitous yumcha item. The chicken pie at Gold Leaf comprises of two types of pastry: Flaky and Crumbly. The flaky pastry forms the crunchy bottom to hold the chicken mix, and the crumbly pastry forms the lid over the chicken mix and lends itself well for that cracked pattern seen in the above picture.
It’s short, crumbly, flaky and melt-in-your-mouth without being gluggy. The chicken mix is pasty. I’ve never met a chinese chicken pie with large bits of chicken in it. There are only small bits and a chicken-flavoured roux filling the pie. The whole experience of the chicken pie is smooth, rich and melt-in-your-mouth. Personally, I prefer to have larger bits of chicken in a pie as a textural component.
The pastries and buns at Gold Leaf (GL) are excellent. We suspect the GL chain in Melbourne has taken the pastry chefs from the yumcha that was previously at Hyatt Hotel. Usually yumcha is more renounced for their steamed goods, not their pastries, but it is the reverse at GL. Not because the steamed goods are bad, but because the pastries are excellent. I am impressed.

CHAR SIU PUFF
Score: ?/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Gigantuous task/ One, two, three, argh, too many/ Counting the layers

I didn’t get to eat this. I was too full from other things to eat this. But I would order it again because the pastries were fantastic, and it looks like something that lives up to those standards. Just look at the layers, amazing.

EGGPLANT PRAWN
Score: 8-9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Vegetable custard/ Why so delicious, eggplant?/ Silky smooth plus crunch

Pieces of eggplant slathered with finely minced prawn, fried, then steamed with a sweet garlicky sauce. The eggplant is silky, and its pulpy flesh gives way to become tender and crisp in the frying stage, then soaks up moisture and cooks in the broth of prawns and itself in the steaming process. The prawn mince is crunchy and its texture contrasts with the silky smooth eggplant. I docked two points for not frying the eggplant and prawn long enough to break down the fibres of the eggplant completely (until the eggplant resembles a custard), and for the eggplants being very slightly bitter. I am sure the latter point is just bad luck. Some people may feel that a short frying time is better. The trade off for the custard-like texture is the amount of oil that the eggplant absorbs. Eggplants absorb a lot of oil, it soaks it up like a sponge. (The oiliness can be helped by sufficient drainage of oil prior to steaming.) In the end, it’s up to taste.

BBQ PORK BUN/ CHAR SIU BAO
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Incoming trolley/ See trolley avoid traffic/ How do they do it?

Mega fluffy bun/ Well-risen, and pristine white/ A savoury cloud

Better than a cloud/ No clouds have char siu contents/ But rain is not bad

Char siu buns are tricky. There are a lot of components to it: char siu marinade flavour, barbequing the marinade pork strips, making the primary dough, cutting the primary dough with sugar, pleating the buns and steaming. There’s a lot of space to let your skill show.

The pork pieces are large, char siu sauce is balanced in terms of sweetness and mouth puckering-ness (from the plum sauce), bun itself is soft and fluffy. Also, it doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth. (I know I pay too much attention to these things. They might not even be important.)

EGG TARTS
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

You are my sunshine/ Not a Golden Circle ad/ A plug for egg tarts

Egg tarts are important. Very important.
The pastry needs to be flaky and crunchy, and the egg filling needs to be smooth, custardy and have a sweet glaze on top so the egg mix doesn’t need to be too sweet. The egg tarts at GL are just that.

ICECREAM MOCHI
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Edible snowball/ Crunchy, chewy and creamy/ They all start with 'C'.

Picture of inside/ Better take one for the team/ Time to eat mochi

Icecream is one of my favourite foods. I like mochi (a glutinous rice dumpling) too. See my posts on daifuku (stuffed mochi) and yukimi-daifuku (brand name of an icecream-stuffed mochi) for more information on mochi.
Red pill for  Red Bean Paste daifuku.
Blue pill for Yukimi Daifuku.
The mochi layer at GL is too thick and chewy, without the meltaway sensation. Mochi does become harder and have more structural rigidity when it cold, but in the case of yukimi daifuku, the mochi layer was much thinner to compensate for this. The mochi layer is also unstretchy, which gives it a chewy texture. There could have been more icecream in the mochi, but I can that would be difficult technique-wise. Usually this dessert would be filled with red bean, mung bean paste, lotus seed paste or a mix of crushed peanuts/coconut/sesame/sugar, and the mochi would be thick enough to compensate for the sweetness and texture of the filling. I do like to see restaurants keeping up with food trends, such as icecream mochi, which is why we ordered it in the first place. But GL still have a ways to go with their icecream mochi.

RICEPAPER PRAWN
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Like a summer roll/ Plus two of my fav'rite things/ Frying and mayo

I enjoyed this dimsum the most. It has minced prawn with lengths of carrots and spring onion, wrapped in ricepaper and seaweed, lightly battered then fried. The result is a delicious prawn-based dimsum, with several kinds of ‘crunchy’ textures in one. There is also sweet mayonnaise to go with it. I recommend this!

TARO PUFFS
Score: ?/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A golden collar/ Maybe even a gold crown?/ Eat some taro puffs

Taro puffs are pretty awesome. Look at the pastry surrounding it, so lacy and delicate. I’d order it again because so far, GL was an impressive pastry track record. Some days I lament the lack of stomach space to fit all these delicious things in it.

TOFU SEAFOOD PARCEL
Score: 8/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Pescatarian/ Food of the land, food of sea/ Flashback to Totto

A parcel with a block of silken tofu with a fried exterior, with prawn mince, a whole prawn, wrapped in seaweed to keep it together, then topped off with fish roe. It’s a treat for those who like seafood. I don’t think the seaweed is necessary, but it does add some more visual appeal. Bu taste-wise, the seaweed becomes soggy and watery, detracting from the seafood.

(Totto reference: ‘Totto-chan’ is a book about a girl who goes to a school for different children. The principle starts a lunchtime rule of having “food from the land, and food from the sea” as part of a compete diet. It allowed parents feel like they were making a ‘good enough’ lunchbox for their kids, even if they couldn’t spend a lot of money on them. For example, a lunchbox of rice, an omelette and seaweed flakes sprinkled on the rice was a complete meal. )

DIMSUM
Score: ?/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Prep work is the key/ Better make your own pork mince/ Go get two sharp knives

Apparently it is very good, so I should order it again.

PRAWN DUMPLINGS/HAR GAO
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Translucent rice skin/ Watch the critics judge this one/ Yumcha gold standard

Never met a prawn dumpling I didn’t like. Crunchy prawn mince with bamboo shoots mixed throughout for more crunch, encased in a stretchy melt-in-your-mouth glutinous rice flour skin. Yumcha classic.

PORK CRACKLING AND JELLYFISH
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

A plate of textures/ Did you know that's jellyfish?/ Don't let that stop you.

Pork crackling and marinated preserved jellyfish is a traditional banquet appetiser. The pork skin is crispy without having bits that are chewy, and the flesh is sweet and tender. Not too salty either, but I don’t mind that. Especially when the pork has a glazed roasted underbelly. No qualms with the pork.
Preserved jellyfish is not a food that many people come across. I suspect many people don’t know what the noodle-like foodstuff around the pork is, and I relish every opportunity for people to eat jellyfish, then bring to their attention that they’ve eaten jellyfish. I get mixed reactions.
Jellyfish doesn’t have a taste of its own, it’s slightly alkaline, but not enough to bother people. It’s eaten for the texture. It’s cold, and crunchy, like thick-cut vermicelli only crunchier. I prefer jellyfish to be seasoned a little more than they do at GL, but it’s still tasty.

TRIPE
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Gateway to offal/ Like most cheap cuts, good in stews/ Inoffensive taste

Tripe is another one of those foods people seem to have divided opinions on. I like tripe when it’s cooked properly so that it’s tender and flavoursome. I don’t have any problems with eating tripe, but I do know some people refuse to eat offal. I think they’re missing out.
Tripe at GL is soft, tender and flavoursome. It’s not quite soft enough to bite through the tougher portions, but this isn’t a problem until you find a really large piece. The tougher bits of the tripe need to be cut into smaller portions, and that is my only qualm with GL tripe.

PRAWN RICE NOODLE/FUN CHEUNG
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Hark, prawn noodle tube/ Or a rice-y rollover/ Or a steamed pastry?

These rice noodles are actually one huge sheet of glutinous rice flour batter, steamed then rolled around prawns. So in my mind, it isn’t a noodle, but what else can I call it? There’s something odd about the term ‘prawn noodle tube’. If you ever get the chance to see them beng made, it’s quite a task. It’s very easy to tear the sheet of noodle, and difficult to roll up noodles when it’s steaming hot.

The noodle sheet is thin, silky smooth and neatly rolled. The prawns are large, not those little prawns that you find in a lot of fried rice takeaways. (Even though I do like those little shrimp too.)

BEEF RICE NOODLE/FUN CHEUNG
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? No.

Bad analogies/ Only serve to confuse you/Just call it 'fun cheung'

The only difference with the beef fun cheung and prawn fun cheung is the filling. Beef fun cheung has a soft beef mince mix with cornflour and spring onions in it. I prefer the beef mix to have less cornflour and flour binder and have some semblance of texture in my noodle tube, but GL seems to enjoy having a smooth consistancy in all its food.

That’s all for today’s yumcha haul. I recommend the ricepaper prawn and egg tarts. The ricepaper prawn rolls are a new addition to the traditional yumcha fare, and the egg tarts cover you for the baked goods.

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