Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yum yum yum yum Cha- Landmark Restaurant Sunnybank

Yum Cha has a special place in my heart. My godmother is Chinese and I was introduced to Asian cuisine at a very young age. One of my youngest food memories is the flavour explosion I had the first time I went to Yum Cha at East Ocean Restaurant in Dixon Street in Sydney. As we grew up in the country, city trips were not as frequent as I'd have liked- but Yum Cha was always on the menu. I would fill myself with so much food I would almost burst.

My chopstick skills are pretty handy given the need to fight for the last morsels of food. I was so obsessed that when I was in Sydney for a three week period doing work experience when i was 15, I would take myself the 1.5 km walk EVERY lunchtime to the nearest Yum Cha (which happened to be Sky Phoenix in Pitt Street) and eat myself silly. The staff ended up knowing me by name by the end of my time and thought it was very funny that a little guilo girl would come by herself every day and eat SO MUCH FOOD. I had saved heaps of money to go to Sydney and I have to admit that most of it was spent on food. I was sad when I returned home to find all my friends had spent their cash on new clothes while I had focused on growing out of my old ones. I still have the memories and I'm pretty sure they don't still have the clothes. My how times haven't changed.

So it was natural that when I first moved to Brisbane, I sourced out a Yum Cha restaurant in the Valley. Being naive, I thought that Brisbane Chinatown would be like Sydney Chinatown and was most disappointed to find one chinatown mall and significantly less choice for quality Asian restaurants. It wasn't until only a couple of years ago that I ventured out to Sunnybank, and whilst the atmosphere is not the same, the food is almost as good.

For those of you unacquainted with Yum Cha is a Cantonese tradition of taking tea. I think the tea originally helped to digest the food that was eaten and tea is the focus. In Yum Cha restaurants it is customary for the staff to push around trolley's with goods either in steamer baskets or on plates and you can select what you like. They place it on the table and stamp your table card. Many trolleys will pass you by in the course of a yum-cha sitting and you can pick and choose what you like.

Landmark is one of Brisbane's most popular yum-cha restaurants. Oddly, it is inside Sunnybank plaza but once you step inside- the plaza is forgotten and the atmosphere envelopes you- You could be in any Yum Cha restaurant in Hong Kong.

The layout is pretty standard- but the line up is out of control. The first time I went, I didn't book ahead and we waited close to two hours for a table on a Sunday. Let this be a lesson- GET THERE EARLY to avoid this disaster. I'm talking 10:00 a.m. early.

The service is pretty standard for yum-cha, quite abrupt and there are always translation difficulties but this generally comes with the territory. The chandeliers hang high whilst the ladies with their trolley's go around offering everything from dumplings to tripe. If you are impatient, one option that Landmark does offer you is to take your card to a counter and collect some of the dishes from there. Even though this is not as great as the trolley system, it is a practical option if you are running short of time.

Landmark has a good selection of food. They offer plenty of dumplings and most are very good. My favourite on offer is most definitely the garlic chive and prawn dumpling. The dumpling case was soft and perfect, hiding a beautiful king prawn packed with loads of garlic chives that make the tastebuds on my tongue leap for joy. The pairing is so simple, yet so perfect. We also tried the King prawn dumpling which was good, but just a little bland although the quality of the prawn was better than you would usually find in dim sum. Scallop dumpling was good but the prawn the coriander was better. It packed a punch and my PIE and I were fighting over the last one (obviously bad manners on his behalf- shouldn't it be at the lady's disposal first? I think he has spent too much time with me in Yum Cha and now knows it is- fight to survive- style dining.) My PIE always gets the seafood dumpling which I find a bit of a waste because I'm not exactly sure what flavours are going to come through. If something is left behind- it is always a seafood dumpling.

One of my regular pie's has recently left on an overseas trek and I am really missing her, especially when is comes to Yum Cha. We both LOVE pork that is done really well and so I could always get away with ordering both pork ribs in blackbean and pork ribs in plum. I'm kind of glad she was not with us this time though because the pork ribs were not fab. They were ok- but the flavour had not penetrated through and the blackbeans were a little light on. The flavour should carry the pork ribs through and in this case they tended to be more just very fatty bits of pork that were a bit bland. I'll have to try the plum sauce next time- but I just couldn't justify getting two when the other main pork rib lover was not there with me.

Landmark does some fabulous greens- but be warned the greens are actually a great deal more expensive than the dumplings. The bokchoy was very fresh and the oyster sauce mixed was just right. Obviously a standard combo in Chinese restaurants but some places do it better than others and Landmark is one of those places. If you are in the mood for some more greens try the beans with mince on top- they are delish but are only served after 12 on weekends.

Duck, soy chicken and bbq pork are all offered on trays, and we had a helping of the duck. The duck did not blow my mind but it was tasty. The skin was crispy and the fat was rendered down well but flavour was lacking. Lucky the plum sauce was a lifeline and pulled the dish through.

My main PIE and his accompanying brother LOVE the squid. It is very simple but somehow just right. There are never bursts of flavour but the batter is cruncy and the squid is cooked perfectly below- tender. I think the plate looks quite impressive but other friends think the tentacles are a bit frightening- stop whinging, grow a sense of adventure and eat up I say! I think I am pretty much a nightmare host for newbies to Yum Cha because I will always offer them tripe and chicken feet! I don't even particularly like chicken feet or tripe but it is fun to get a reaction.

By the time this is over, the three of us are BURSTING at the seams and even pass up a mango pancake. I love a good mango pancake but unfortunately Landmark's are not fantastic. If I am feeling too lazy to go to sunnybank I have sometimes been known to frequent ChinaHouse Seafood in the Valley and they have the BEST mango pancakes I have ever eaten. They are not particularly authentic but are puffed with fantastic icing sugar sweetened cream. Yum Yum.
Back to Landmark...

Landmark does offer a good yum-cha experience. The place is packed to the brims and all the yum cha staples are there. Through my experience, they are probably the best yum cha restaurant in Brisbane- they offer more authentic versions and the food is consistently good.

Don't forget the tea- the tea is the most important and really does ( In my head anyway) aid digestion and it is a crucial part of the ceremony. Bo Lei is a personal favourite but Jasmine is well liked. Bo Lei is the same as Pu-erh tea and it is the best!! A little tip for first time yummers- you can just balance the lid on the top of the handle and the pot and the staff will refill your tea.
Don't forget to get there early or call in advance. Even calling in advance does not guarantee you a seat at your booking time but it should be within 1/2 an hour. I have no idea of the cost of anything at Landmark- they have the usual system of standard dumpling $, better dumpling $$, deluxe dumpling $$$, Big dish $$$$- you get the picture- not very helpful I know. I think our overall bill was maybe about $70. Next time I will take more notice- there is so much going on at Landmark- I bet you will forget you are in Suburban Brisbane too.

Landmark Restaurant - In Sunnybank Plaza
Mains Rd
Sunnybank QLD 4109
(07) 3344 3288

Landmark on Urbanspoon

1 fabulous comments:

restaurantgroupie said...

Ooh yeah Landmark is awesome! If you're in the city, there's one at the Lennon's Hotel called China Sea and is (to me) better than Landmark. The bbq pork pastries (the name escapes me atm) are my favourite in brisbane!

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