Is it just me, or is yum cha the most intimidating form of dining? For a polite diner, it often feels like asking the person on the trolley to repeat themselves is a faux pas. But a few more moments of consideration, or too much reflection, and you might think they don’t actually want you to know. In year’s gone by I have opted, given my ability to eat anything, to just try anything and everything. Lately I am improving in both execution and timing.
I love pork buns. I do not care how novice it might be to continue to love pork buns. Maybe the equivalent of continuing to enjoy fairy bread in your thirties. Through this love I have learned one very important thing. Places doing yum cha keep the pork buns and present them when you can’t possibly eat anything more. When the only reason you are doing this to yourself is because of pure love. Well, I am on to this and I never get “full” until I have tried my pork bun. Note there is always room for dessert.
Tao Tao House looks like your classic suburban Chinese restaurant. It is quaint with an inviting themed entrance, clean and organised (important for pushing trolleys through), and very comfortable. Diners are not pushed together like passengers on a plane, and we in fact have two on a table for four! We are hit up to try the prawn dumplings immediately having had our first sip of tea and it is on!
As I have eluded I am not the authority on yum cha (or dim sum as I grew up with in Perth). I feel out of my comfort zone from the time I enter to the time I leave and my common trait of not wanting to say no has got me into trouble on more than one outing. There is something different about Tao Tao House though. The staff are very friendly – not in an off-putting or disarming way – but in a way where you don’t feel terrible saying “no”.
On the journey to the pork bun, rejecting trolley after trolley becomes more and more second nature. On our way we try the prawn dumplings and prawn toast. The dumplings are steamed and keep their form in a glutinous wrapper perfectly. The prawn filling is nice, but the chilli sauce adds the impact they need. The prawn toast are excellent. Crunchy toast, fresh juicy prawn, and toasted sesame seeds is a good way to start the day.
Between rejections we eat the duck pancakes which are the richest dish we try. There is a good amount of duck amongst mushrooms, contained in a wrapping of soft duck skin. Next comes the chicken siu mai which has a delicious chicken mixture tightly wrapped in a harder textured style dumpling. After getting our hopes up with chicken buns finally out come the char siu bao or steamed pork buns! They are light and fluffy with a rich pork filling that is satisfying for two reasons. The first is to my taste buds and the second to my stomach which for once isn’t already completely full.
To end we try the mango pudding. This is one of the more savoury puddings I’ve tried at yum cha with a focus on the mango, rather than the sugar. I can’t be sure whether it is fresh mango but it is still delicious and the syrup does give a little more of a sugar hit without being over the top. We are almost ready to ask for the bill but there is only so far I can go with rejection and turning down the custard tarts, while it had been spoken about, was just not possible. They were one of the highlights of our meal and judging by the other tables, one of the highlights of most!
Yum cha is always going to feel a bit different to me. Trying new foods and flavours is exciting, but normally you have some sort of guide or description on a menu, rather than someone who has to repeat themselves hundreds of times around a room full of tables with varying degrees of understanding. Either way, the quality of yum cha at Tao Tao House is high, and the staff are polite and reasonably helpful. Our tip was 100% for the waitperson who took it upon themselves to grab the pork buns before they went around on the trolley and deliver them immediately. Thank you very much!