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First Look: Yauatcha Waikīkī

Dim sum goes uptown tasty at the International Market Place.


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Dim Sum

Photo: Courtesy of Yauatcha Waikīkī

 

Yauatcha Waikīkī, an upscale Chinese teahouse specializing in dim sum, is the newest addition to the eateries in the International Market Place in Waikīkī. This contemporary take on Hong Kong street food elevates the simple dumpling to the next level with fine ingredients and a subtle balance of textures and flavors. Chef Ho Chee Boon marries Cantonese cuisine with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

 

Yauatcha scallop shumai
Scallop Shu mai.
Photo: Michele Aucello

You will find old favorites that include shu mai and char siu bao, but imagine them amplified in taste, presentation and, yes, price. But deservedly so. The venison puff, with its delicate, buttery crust, is perfection in pastry form. The flaky puff filled with sweet, tender, minced venison melts in your mouth. The roasted duck pumpkin puff has a chewier, almost mochilike texture, with savory bits of duck inside. The crispy seafood puff resembles a hasselback potato and left us wondering how in the world it was made from pastry dough. All three puffs were distinctly different in taste, texture and visual appeal. Another treat for the eyes is the steamed prawn and chive dumpling, as the wonton wrapper is a vibrant green thanks to the chive juice. And bright orange roe tops the scallop shu mai.

 

The crispy aromatic duck, served with Hawaiian spring onions, pickled cucumbers and hoisin sauce is shredded tableside. The thin pancakes are a nice change of pace from the typical plump dumplings. All sauces, even the soy, are house-made.

 

Ginger smash

Ginger Smash.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF YAUATCHA WAIKĪKĪ

 

Yauatcha offers more than 30 kinds of tea. The gorgeous pink jade oolong tea is unique to the Waikīkī location and made with locally sourced hibiscus flowers. There’s also a full bar and more than a dozen specialty cocktails, with both local and Chinese flavors. The Ginger Smash is a whiskey-based ginger-beer cocktail with cardamom, vanilla, lemongrass and lemon. The Scandinavian Scarlet combines aquavit with Thai basil, ginger, beet juice, white balsamic vinegar, lemon and egg white. The Nashi Momo contains Belvedere vodka, peach liquor, Nashi pear, lemon, coconut and guava. The cocktail list has a dozen or so equally innovative cocktails as well as nonalcoholic Tea Coolers with flavors that include kiwi, liliko‘i and cucumber.

 

Take-out desserts

PHOTO: MICHELE AUCELLO

 

The original Yauatcha by the Hakkasan Group, in Soho, London, received its Michelin star within a year of opening. The Waikīkī location is the first in the U.S. Yauatcha is known for decadent patisseries that include colorful macarons in popcorn, lavender honey, matcha and hazelnut praline. These and other delectables can be purchased and boxed to take home. The glistening Tropical Dome of liliko‘i, coconut and pineapple is another treat found only in Waikīkī. The Chocolate Pebble, or “dark chocolate four ways,” is light mousse, little cubes of brownie, liquid chocolate sauce and crunchy cocoa nib nougat. Some desserts can be ordered year-round while others rotate throughout the year.

 

Indoor seating

Photo: Michele Aucello

 

The interior is a mix of exposed brick and contemporary lines with the Yauatcha restaurants’ signature blue glass found throughout. The space is designed with feng shui in mind and is similar to other Yauatcha restaurants worldwide, but with a nod to local flavor. The restaurant seats more than 250 people, with a mix of indoor and quasi-outdoor tables, sheltered from the elements by a series of glass panels with wide gaps between, allowing the breezes through.

 

Many of the dim sum items cost between $5 and $10 for three pieces, with congees, soups and sides about the same. Many main dishes are in the $20–$50 range with truffle dishes priced higher. For a special occasion, you can order the Peking Duck with Tsar Nicoulai “Reserve” caviar for $238. But, generally, the prices seem in line with comparable restaurants in the area. There’s also a tasting menu for $58 per person.

 

Pumpkin puffs

Pumpkin puffs.
PHOTO: MICHELE AUCELLO

 

As one might expect, the food and drinks are pricey compared to traditional dim sum spots. Head to Yauatcha to meet up with good friends for a nice evening out in a new spot.

 

Yauatcha, on the Grand Lānai level (third floor) of the International Market Place, 2330 Kalākaua Avenue, open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 739-9318.

 

The International Market Place which offers both valet and self-parking from an entrance on Kūhiō Avenue. The first hour is free with validation, the second and third hours are $2 an hour and more later.

 

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