YAUATCHA, THE MONTH-OLD DIM SUM AND TEA ROOM NESTLED INTO THE JEWEL BOX RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THE WEBSTER AND INCONGRUOUSLY ACROSS FROM THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY – IT’S A BIG DEAL. A GLOBALLY RECOGNIZED DEAL.
A STUNNINGLY, BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED AND COMFORTINGLY DELICIOUS DEAL. A BRING-IN-THE-BIG-GUNS (AKA CORPORATE CHEFS) DEAL.
Yauatcha Houston is the first mainland venture of the famed Hakkasan Group, a worldwide hospitality company with the golden touch, dedicated to luxury. In this case, luxe Cantonese food. (They opened in Waikiki in February.)
The London Yauatcha has a Michelin star. The parent company has a corporate chef, Ho Chee Boon, who has diligently trained the Houston team to reproduce the award-winning menu for the Galleria location – plus, as is the Hakkasan custom, added a few localized menu items.
All is mellow, posh, smooth, cool and simply, perfectly, beautifully elegant.
Each dim sum a jewel – meticulously formed thin doughs pleated and
tucked, enveloping wondrous bites. Like the trio of soup dumplings – pop one of these steamed beauts into your mouth and let the soothing filling of broth slip down your throat.
Yauatcha is a dim sum house but no carts whiz by
– strictly table service.
And then there is the Prawn and Crispy Bean Curd Cheung Fun (shrimp-filled soft rice noodle wrap) – textural contrasts, comforting flavors. Cantonese food at its finest.
The aggressively citrusy spicy-wild caught Shrimp Salad with its pyramids of bamboo shoots topped with a crown of micro-greens, shiso and pea tendrils will quickly become the beat-the-summer-heat dish of Houston.
The puff pastry of the Venison Puff – deliriously buttery and flaky, a dark brown glossy, crunchy crust brushed with the thinnest possible sugar glaze and a sprinkling of sesame seed encases tiny cubes of venison in a soothing black pepper and car sui sauce. Thanks to the sugar wash, the first flavor is ever so slightly and surprisingly sweet, the venison filling a savory surprise.
And the crunchy Roasted Duck Pumpkins – deep-fried with a fresh micro-sprout as a stem – precious.
Yauatcha is a dim sum house but no carts whiz by – strictly table service. You can order all at once or plate by plate. Everything and everyone seems very cool. Even in the steamed dumpling kitchen, where a sit-down bar invites observation. Big woks, boiling water, steam, steam, steam galore. Tiny dumplings loaded into small bamboo steamers. Action. Buzz. Prized seats are these.
If you seek a more substantial meal than the little plates of dim sum, Yauatcha accommodates. The Kung Pao Chicken packs a punch that just might satisfy a heat-seeking Texan, with its mound of red chiles. Ditto the aggressively seasoned wild-caught Gulf Shrimp with sweet chili sauce. More mild, yet flavorful, the XO lobster, moist, tender with a soothing, classic seafood-based XO sauce.
And then, (insert drum roll) dessert. Desserts so gorgeous they are displayed in a glass case near the entrance as if they were priceless jewels. And gems they are – “thoughtfully created thru collaboration with all the pastry chefs,” says corporate pastry chef Graham Hornigold, also flown in from London to help with the opening.
“The little cakes are intended to remove all the taste of Asian food, to refresh and cleanse the palate and complete the meal, leaving the diner refreshed after eating.” He explains that each petite gateau must be the right balance of fat, texture and sweetness, diffusing flavors by repeating them through different applications. His goal: “to keep the palate guessing and create a celebration.” The results: desserts that look crazy rich but are exquisite, light and refreshing. And almost too beautiful to consume. Like the gold-tinged Chocolate Pebble made from Peruvian chocolate, favored for its acidity, containing seven textural sensations with seven different melting temperatures that roll thru your mouth in waves.
Or the glistening, sunny yellow Tropical Dome: a passion fruit mousse with a pineapple and yuzu center, encased in a dazzling mango glaze, all resting on a coconut dacquoise. Simply stunning – visually and tastefully stunning.
And then, there is the rose. The Raspberry Delice, of which Chef Hornigold reports, “It was one of the first cakes that we made. The deceptively light single plantation Madirofolo chocolate (a Madagascar chocolate beloved for its fruity, citrus, slightly sour notes) enhances the natural sourness of the raspberry puree instead of overpowering the delicate berry flavor.”
The attention to details is mind-bending. The thoughtful worldwide search for ingredients. The earnest attempt to please regional palates. The intentional and professional melding of flavors, the contrast of textures, the deliberate playfulness of food, from the soup dumpling to the Tropical Dome. The sheer beauty of it all.
Yauatcha Houston, thank you