First Look: Yum Cha Hawai‘i
Enjoy authentic dim sum outside Chinatown at Yum Cha on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.
The juicy pork dumplings from yum cha, which opened in the former l’uraku restaurant on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.
Photos: James Charisma
In the former L’Uraku restaurant on the ground floor of Uraku Tower on Kapi‘olani Boulevard, a new Chinese fine dining restaurant has recently opened. Offering a wide variety of dim sum, soups, rice and noodle dishes, Yum Cha (a Cantonese term referring to drinking tea and enjoying dim sum) is a fancy spot to enjoy tasty Chinese fare outside of Chinatown.
There are two menus. One has full entrées, hot pot courses (from $13 to $20), sizzling platters (around $18), six-course dinner combinations (beginning at $38 per person, minimum two), whole lobster ($15 each), Dungeness crab ($26 per pound) and tons of other dishes. The other has 60-plus items that dim sum regulars will recognize—har gow, pork siu mai, half moon, black bean spare ribs, fried sesame balls and egg custard—as well as other surprises that sound intriguing, such as five spicy beef brisket, baked durian filled tarts and baked pineapple cream buns. (A big hit, especially on social media, are the piggy custard custard buns, shown below.)
SEE ALSO: How to Eat Xiao Long Bao and Other Tips for Enjoying Soup Dumplings in Honolulu
The menu also boasts variations on favorite dishes; there’s both turnip and taro cake (which is normal) but also two kinds of chicken feet—cold and garlic—as well as multiple kinds of char siu bao including honey baked, pan fried, taro filled and steamed salted egg. The prices are tiered in five ranges, with the cheapest options at $3.99 for most items, going up to $11.99 for larger dishes, such as full plates of char siu, roast duck, wonton soup and cold jellyfish.
From left: Shrimp dumplings, dumplings chiu chow style and barbecue pork buns; and won ton soup.
Pan-fried turnip cake.
Yum Cha is spacious and modern, with high ceilings, big windows and—taking a cue from the past, when the location was home to elegant restaurants—up-tempo lounge jazz and bossa nova coming from the speakers. No dim sum carts here though—the tables are too tightly arranged. Everything comes out to order (there’s nothing just sitting around on a warming cart), which means the turnip cake arrives nice and crispy but dumpling skin wrappers are a little gooey. Not a bad thing, just an observation in case you have a preference.
Otherwise, the flavor is good. The chiu chow fun guo has pork, cilantro, savory mushrooms and crunchy peanuts and the skin isn’t too thick. The steamed beef meatballs, which can sometimes have a lumpy texture, have an even fishball-type consistency and tastes of cilantro and garlic. The beef look funn uses thin noodles and the sauce isn’t overly salty or sweet. The soup-filled xiaolongbao are sufficiently juicy (some places, they’re as dry as potstickers) and served with red wine vinegar and shoots of ginger. The wonton soup comes with 12 dumplings in a big bowl with plenty of choy sum.
Black bean and garlic spareribs.
Beef look roll.
Everything tastes…clean. Which is not to say that Chinese food or dim sum is traditionally unclean or greasy, but at a bustling dim sum spot, things are sometimes left sitting out on stoves or heating pans too long or soaking in broth. The shrimp in the har gow isn’t mushy and the veggies in the dumplings aren’t soggy.
But at $4 each for most items, it is about a buck pricier per order than average. And although the dim sum here is served all day while the restaurant is open (seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday), baked and fried goodies, such as fried seaweed rolls, crispy shrimp dumplings and deep fried taro puffs are only available until they sell out.
Yum Cha is a great place to impress your out-of-town friends who want Chinese food. Or when you don’t want to suffer through having to hunt for parking in Chinatown (Yum Cha offers free parking in Uraku Tower’s underground lot, which is a huge plus). It’s a place to get good dumplings if you don’t mind paying a little more and wearing something slightly classy. And outside of Yauatcha at the International Market Place in Waikīkī, where else are you going to find good dim sum at 9 on a Friday night?
1341 Kapi‘olani Blvd., (808) 465-2200, facebook.com/HawaiiYumCha
Brunch like you mean it at HONOLULU Magazine’s BrunchFest presented by American Savings Bank on Sunday, March 25 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Salt at Our Kaka‘ako. Embrace the relaxed Sunday Funday vibe with seven local chefs, live entertainment, lawn games and a photo booth during this unique dining experience. Tickets on sale now. Click here.
READ MORE STORIES BY JAMES CHARISMA