Its amazing how your weekend can be dictated by your dining experiences. You shuffle dinner plans, catch up over breakfast or as often is the case for us - lunch after a big night out to cure some serious hunger pains! What better way to sort this out than with a big Yum Cha lunch at The Eight Chinese Restaurant in Haymarket. By the time Demos and I stumble around and adjust our eyes to the light of day, it was 1:30 pm on a Saturday and being a self proclaimed yum cha veteran - I knew it would be peak hour madness.
After shoulder charging through the crowd to get a precious ticket, we use our smarts and avoid the heaving crowd and wait it out at the adjacent Chatime cafe kiosk. Hydration when its needed the most! I think with any weekend Yum Cha visit - you have to know what you are in for. Let's be honest here - and I'm not speaking just for my immediate friendship group..but Yum Cha is THE BEST HANGOVER FOOD and we were at The Eight for this very reason.
That being said there are aspects of Yum Cha that do not appeal to that particular state of being. The crowds and the never-ending wait can definitely tip anyone over the edge, add to that the Yum Cha boss lady on a power trip with her portable microphone machine.. its survival of the fittest. If that doesn't break you then i'm sure the fluorescent lights will.
But enough about that, once seated - if its food you want, then its food you are going to get! With Yum Cha, I always feel like its luck of the draw. You either get a good table where all the trolley ladies seem to pass, or a pretty average spot in the corner where you get all the boring dishes leftover. This instance, we were seated with a prime positioned table and as long as the wait was - the food came hella quick. See that tidy table pictured above? Its about to get messy!
I practically tackle every lady with bamboo steamers in their trolleys to get to my favorites - Steamed Pork Siu Mai and Steamed Prawn Gow Gee. I was quite impressed by the generous size of these dumplings and both were very very tasty. We were off to a good start with these two dishes.
Before even denting our dumplings, another lady with a tray of Peking Duck Pancakes passes by and I immediately grab her attention. I know from experience that you have to fight for these and that you have to be quick! Again, impressed by the generous chunk of duck in the pancakes - not just a sliver of meat here! The skin is still oh so crispy and both the duck meat and the pancake wrapper are still very warm. The plump meat with the sweet hoisin sauce made me want to hunt that tray down again!
And this is where the fried food comes into play. I know my Yum Cha lunch is never complete without salt and pepper squid. Unfortunately, these were not as warm as the other dishes but still very tasty. Its not spicy at all with a hint of garlic to add to the flavour. I hardly drink softdrinks, or any carbonated drink with no alcohol content (wierd much?) so I only order Coca-Cola at Yum Cha because its a necessity with all that salty food! I was suprised that jugs of softdrink were not offered which is usually the case at other places.
Another fried favourite is the Sesame Prawn Spring Roll, im not a big fan of spring rolls at restaurants as I've never had one that did not taste like it came from a cardboard box. This is a tastier alternative for me, and I have a slight addiction to that sweet and sour sauce that they give out - it goes so well with fried anything!
We eye each trolley that passes us by, offering chicken feet, spare ribs, steamed veggies and other standard Yum Cha fare. The restaurant is so busy and dishes are being grabbed from all directions. The Eight takes up a huge space at the Top Floor of the Market City Complex, formerly occupied for over a decade by Kam Fook restaurant.
The thing with a 2 person Yum Cha session is that you don't get to try as many dishes for fear of exploding. Big group lunches always win in any Yum Cha situation. The Eight is owned by Henry Tsang who also owns Zilver in Haymarket, another popular Yum Cha restaurant (which I haven't been to!).
Food wise, Demos had his heart set on a Glutinous Pork Dumpling just to compare it to those we've had in Hong Kong, but this was a not so great idea.. some things should not be compared and out of all the dishes we tried this was my least favourite. I found it to be on the very oily side and light on the fillings.
So many choices..So little stomach space! We were searching for our favourite dessert but unfortunately the mango pancakes eluded us.
Remember our pristine table? This is what we were faced with in the end.. HANGOVER CURED! And the bill? It worked out to be $25 per person for everything, average CBD Yum Cha prices.Was The Eight worth the wait? On a hungry saturday afternoon.. any Yum Cha is. Im a very patient person and the turnover at this place is quite efficient and quick. They do serve Yum Cha favourites and offer a great variety. For me, it's another CBD Yum Cha offering to visit over my local Rhodes Phoenix restaurant.
Although I don't necessarily have a sweet tooth, taste buds take a battering from all the flavour and Demos and I agree that we need a sweet treat.
From one wait to another, I told you I was patient. We get into the long queue behind one small booth outside Emperor's Garden Cake and Bakery in Chinatown. Our prize? Little warm golden balls of pastry filled with sweet custard - Emperor's Puff!
$1 for 4? What a sweet deal indeed! The line here today moved at a mid-afternoon snails pace, with people ordering container full's. Even during my uni days, there would always be a long wait here - unless you get lucky of course! Getting to the counter with no line is something to celebrate!
I think its the only way some people spot this unassuming little booth! We only wanted a few of these puffs but of course, you are always stuck behind the person who decides they want to feed a whole army and orders five dozen.
By the end of it, the waistbands are a bit tighter but both Demos and I are much happier. Not a bad way to spend a weekend afternoon!
The Eight Modern Chinese Restaurant
Emperor's Garden Cake & Bakery