Being extremely fortunate to work in an office full of foodies, I’m never at a loss when finding a lunch partner to accompany me…or three lunch partners, even! The boys from the office and I had been planning a visit to Sky Phoenix at Westfield Pitt Street Mall for over a week with great anticipation and decided to go early at 12 noon to avoid the 1pm lunch rush.
Sky Phoenix has a tradition with my family. While we usually just have yum cha closer to home on special occasions or when cravings hit (Sunday brunch lazy yum cha with the papers is an experience in itself), once a year my family goes to Sky Phoenix on the first day of the Boxing Day sales. The day starts with a wake up call at 5am…preparing shoulder bags to leave our hands free, and dressing in layers with singlets and bike shorts underneath so you can easily whip off your outer clothes in the middle of the department store and try on clothes without having to wait at the monstrous line for the change rooms. We split up and arrange to meet at 10 or 11am depending on the success of our hunt..and then we go to Sky Phoenix to share our spoils and unwind over our morning adrenalin rush, before we head home at noon just as the tidal wave of people start to move in on Pitt Street.
But this time, it was just a simple lunch with work friends. I was the only Asian who spoke passable Mandarin, so of course I got to sit at the side where I could chat up all of the trolley ladies and check out their wares. Unfortunately though, when I had my back turned one lady descended on our table and seeing a table with three hungry boys, proceeded to sell them crispy noodles and sticky ribs…
While they were tasty and flavoursome, it’s not what yum cha’s about – you know the real test of a yum cha establishment is their steamed goods. I told off the boys before I hailed down my favourite, the steamed prawns wrapped in rice noodles (or pronounced xia ren zhung fen in Mandarin):
But in case those aren’t enough for you, the steamed prawn dim sums (har gow) are always the popular choice that everyone can identify:
Followed by a Sio Mai, which are tasty steamed pork and prawn dim sums. I first fell in love with yum cha when I tasted these:
I also got some vegetable dim sums to ensure that we were having a balanced meal, of course! We had the prawn and chive dim sums (jio chai Jao) which were deliciously garlicky – luckily we weren’t on a date! Definitely needed some breathmints after these but they were worth it.
If you’re not so keen on the kick of garlic, the spinach and prawn dim sum (buo chai jao) are a milder, quite soft and tender dim sum that will make pescetarians very happy.
The fillings of the dim sums were all faultless and with good quality ingredients, and the dim sum sizing was generous per portion. The skins were a little over-cooked in some cases and so burst open too easily when picked up with chopsticks, but you can never tell whether it’s someone’s clumsy chopstick skills or the fragile nature of the pastry.
And just because I was with boys, I had to make sure they were full to the brim and so ordered something more carby, the BBQ pork buns which were just slightly sweet and quite satisfying, full of tender shredded pork and a good tang of sauce.
To finish off on a sweet note, I ordered the mango pancakes because one of the boys had never had them before. I had had them once previously at another yum cha and was disappointed to taste tinned mango and whipped cream which tasted like it had come from a can, but I decided to test these ones out.
I was sure glad I had. The pancakes were silky and soft, simply bursting with freshly whipped, light-as-air cream and succulent slices of sweet, gorgeous mango. All of us at the table were in bliss.
Overall, with a pot of chrysanthemum tea our bill came to $25 a person and we were all incredibly satisfied with our meal. A definite go-to for yum cha in the middle of the Sydney CBD for good and fast service, without the fuss of going all the way down to Chinatown.
77 Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9223 8822