If you feel like spicing up your usual brunch order, yum cha is the perfect way to do so. For those who aren’t familiar with Chinese cuisine, you may be thinking “yum what?” Don’t worry – we'll walk you through all there is to know, including the best places to go.
To anyone new to the yum cha scene, let’s start with the basics.
Yum cha is the Cantonese take on brunch. Rather than your standard pancakes or eggs, this eating experience is made up of dim sum and Chinese tea. Dim sum is a style of Chinese cuisine served on small plates or in small baskets. The dishes include a variety of fried and steamed foods such as dumplings and pork buns, and usually sit between the price range of $4 - $10 per dish. The purpose of drinking traditional Chinese tea in between is to help your stomach digest the meal and cleanse your palate – most spots are quick to refill your tea when it gets low.
Instead of ordering an entire meal for yourself, yum cha dishes are designed to be shared. Fear not, this doesn’t mean you’ll be leaving with an empty belly. In fact, the more people you’re sharing with, the more dishes you’re likely to try.
Although yum cha may be unfamiliar to some, it’s certainly not new to Auckland. This city has many spots that serve incredible dim sum. To help you decide where to go, we’ve scouted out the best yum cha restaurants in Auckland.
Empress Garden Restaurant
First up, we have the Empress Garden Restaurant in Herne Bay. As you enter, you’ll be welcomed with friendly smiles, hanging red lanterns, and the smell of delicious dim sum. Their Peking duck is known for being the best in the city, so make sure to give it a try. With more than 200 menu items, you'll easily find new dishes you love – even if it takes a few visits.
Grand Park Restaurant
If you want to head straight to the top dog in Auckland, Grand Park Restaurant is the one. The yum cha is served trolley-style complete, of course, with Chinese tea to aid in digestion and add to the authentic experience. The dishes start at $4.80 and include plates such as honey chicken wings, prawn toast, steamed buns, and beef rice rolls. It’s also only one of the few places in Auckland to offer yam dessert wraps. Always packed to the rafters, Grand Park Restaurant really does live up to the hype.
Grand Harbour Restaurant
Downtown's Grand Harbour is infamously known amongst the yum cha community. Their spacious restaurant, convenient location, and exciting menu creates the perfect recipe for a great yum cha session. Grand Harbour uses a trolley service, with the menu including dishes such as baked coconut buns, baked pineapple custard buns, chicken feet, fried taro, deep fried tofu, sweet & sour pork, and a number of steamed buns and dumplings.
Imperial Palace is a top pick for yum cha in East Auckland. Once you beat the parking, you've accomplished the hardest task – trust us, it's all worth it in the end. Imperial Place doubles as an events centre, meaning it's spacious and great for a extended-family get together over yum cha. Their most popular dishes include shrimp dumplings and steamed vermicelli rolls, as well as a whole BBQ section with ribs and wings and a very large dessert variety.
For something a bit fancier, Huami offers a high end yum cha experience. If you have the budget for it, the Sky City restaurant is absolutely worth a visit. With seating options ranging from large tables and private dining rooms to intimate seats for two, you can comfortably enjoy their incredible dishes. Weekends are especially for yum cha at Huami, with their unique take on dumplings and wood-fired peking duck, all the stops are brought out to create one of the finest yum cha's you'll find in Auckland.
Lucky Fortune Restaurant
Located in Mount Albert, Lucky Fortune offers a casual dining environment, perfect for a pre-shopping trip or post-gym brunch. The grand banquet lazy Susan tables, clothed in the lucky colour red, set the tone for the authenticity you're about to taste. Their staff are eager to help, so don’t feel bad if you have plenty of questions. Once again, their menu is packed with endless options, such as amazing crispy rice rolls and delicious steamed BBQ buns. Keep the tea flowing and enjoy!