Yum-cha ( 饮茶 ) is a Cantonese word, literally means "drinking tea". Cantonese mainly come from the Southern part of China which includes Hong Kong and Guangzhou (Canton). Here in Australia when someone mentions yum-cha, it is in reference to mainly breakfast but it may include lunch sometimes. Another term often used is dim-sum ( 点心/點心 ) which means delicacy in direct translation.
In Hong Kong and China, yum cha starts really early, even before 7:00am. Unfortunately here in Brisbane & Southside, the earliest I can find starts at 10:00am.
The reason why I like yum cha is because of its freshness and health. Most dishes are steamed with an exception of the Australianised deep fried dishes. A few must-haves for me are har-kow (虾饺prawn dumpling), siu-mai (烧麦 pork dumpling), chicken feet, pork ribs, ho-fun ( 肠粉 ) and many people also like the BBQ pork buns ( 叉烧包 ).
We visited several yum cha places here in Brisbane and its Southside and below is the summary:
Fortitude Valley– China House 12 Duncan St & 173 Wickham St, Fortitude Valley QLD)
I have always like its simple layout: no glamorous crystal chandelier but only big round tables and chairs that sit ten. That sort of tells you that the main focus is food (only). According to their website, they have been around for over twenty years. The first time I was there was probably five or six years ago, and it is still looking strong when we go back the other day.
It is quite a big place maybe because it is located on the second level. The set-up is not too cramped like some restaurants in Sydney. The last time we were there they were actually a couple of tour groups arriving.
What I like about this place is it has a trolley that goes around all the time and the food is fresh. You just pick a bamboo basket or plate that looks appealing to you. I don't like dining in the Valley because generally I think they only target the tourist market. So whenever I find the need to dine there (involuntarily) I would go to China House. But I must say my last trip was not as pleasant because I find the food a little too salty to my liking.
Garden City – Addiction Café Unit F, Town Square (next to cinemas) Cnr Kessels & Logan Road, Upper Mt Gravatt, QLD 4122)
This is quite opposite to China House: it has modern look, and has no trolley. You need to order your selection and they bring it to you. And for that reason, the selection is rather limited. I have only been there twice. The first time was a couple of years ago and I thought a couple of the dishes did not seem too fresh. The second visit recently was more acceptable.
Underwood – Big Gun Restaurant
Shop 7/2922 Logan Rd, Underwood)
This is a new found treasure: I believe they were only opened in 2010. It has typical Chinese restaurant layout with round tables that sit ten. A huge selection of food that comes through its trolleys. It is not quite spacious and they cramp the tables too close together. I have friends who come with kids and they don't look comfortable. We had also been there for dinner but cannot quite remember what we had.
Sunnybank Plaza - Landmark Restaurant
(Sunnybank Plaza Shopping Centre, Mains Road, Sunnybank QLD 4109)
This is possibly the most famous yum cha restaurant in Southside. Established many years ago, the place is huge. They have trolleys that go around ,and also do many other Chinese dishes. The food is always good: fresh and tasty. However some friends find the service to be a little under-desirable.
They have an affiliated restaurant across the street at Sunny Park called Parkland. It is smaller and not as grand but parking is better.
This is a new restaurant just opened around March 2012. Being in a new precinct to a shopping centre, the décor is modern but the downside is it can get busy. In fact, they have limit to their seating time at rush hours. Although they do have trolleys that go around, the numbers are limited, and often they offer a single dish to the customers which can be quite distracting. The food is fresh and tasty, albeit the price on the high side.
Thank-you for your useful advice. The yum cha experience can be very bad if you go to the wrong restaurant. We found Landmark Restaurant food to be fresh and they had a good variety but, as Aussies, getting a table and service at Sunday lunchtime is not as good when we don't have Chinese people with us.