The newest dumpling place on the King Street block, Luyu and Yum Yum serves a range of expertly made unique dumplings so tasty that you don't need to add any sort of sauce or chilli to them. The "herb dumplings" and the "flying seafood dumplings" are best sellers but the vegetarian or funghi dumpling is also a favourite with our table.
"So I had a ceramic elephant in the passenger seat. His tusk had fallen off and I was taking him in to be repaired," said Queen Viv walking in half an hour late for our booking at Luyu Yum Yums.
"Is that why you were late?" I asked, because there's always a colourful theme to her life.
"Oh no, I was late because I was feeding the cat," she said. I told her that I would have preferred the elephant story!
It is a Friday night and I am with my favourite dumpling enthusiasts. Newtown's King Street is busy, very busy indeed. And despite the fact that Luyu and Yum Yum is all the way up a flight of stairs and has only been open for a few weeks, this new dumpling joint already has a keen customer base. I had heard great things about their dumplings so I took Mr NQN, Queen Viv and Miss America along. They are dumpling bandits who can swallow countless dumplings and gain great pleasure from it.
Our waitress has just come and let us know that on weeknights, they have a one and a half hour seating for customers. With Queen Viv's late arrival this is even more pertinent but there was no mention of this when I booked that afternoon.
Queen Viv peers at the wine list and stumbles upon a bottle of French bubbles for $38. Declaring it a great find she, Miss America and Mr NQN go for this while I head towards the cocktails. For me, the weekend starts when I have a cocktail in my hand on a Friday night and my choice is a Luyu's Passion, a very sweet tasting mix with vanilla vodka, passionfruit syrup, agave, lychee liqueur and Cointreau.
On the table is a display of tea cups and a teapot although these appear to be decorative. There are also food menus folded up with an insert detailing an instagram competition for best photo. All we're really interested in is the dumplings that spread across two pages while there is an extra page with other sorts of main dishes like fried rice, steamed fish, lamb cutlets, pepper beef and salt and pepper squid. Luyu is the Chinese writer and poet from the Southern Song Dynasty emblazoned in yellow neon that decorates the walls and the menus and yum yum is well, self explanatory ;).
Fortuitously most of the dumplings come in serves of four. I must admit I didn't expect that much from these herb, prawn and chive dumplings but the seasoning and flavours are perfect. In fact they don't need any of the three sauces that they give us (vinegar, soy and chilli oil).
The flying seafood dumpling is filled with freshly steamed fish ball, prawn, asparagus with a scallop and flying fish roe on top in a thin rice flour skin. These are perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned too. These and the herb dumplings above are the most popular items on the menu.
The kiss me dumpling is really more a fancy name for a Xiao Long Bao and they are more expensive than you'll find them in other areas. And compared to yum cha the prices are roughly double that of yum cha. But these too are excellent with a chicken filling (instead of pork) with a hit of ginger and shallot and Luyu's home made soup. You pick up the dumpling with your chopsticks, pop it on the spoon and "kiss" or really bite a bit from the pastry at the top and sip the soup from the dumpling.
These are much the same as the ones above but with a colourful fruit infused flour dough. It's certainly pretty and perhaps it tastes slightly sweeter (although that could just be my mind playing tricks on me because of the visuals) but there is no discernible fruit flavour.
We are all big fans of the caviar dumplings in a little moneybag shape filled with prawn, carrot, coriander and celery. In fact I think Miss America wanted another round of everything.
The duck pancakes are saucy and generously filled with Peking duck meat and skin and some shallots.
We ordered this more out of curiosity than anything else. The mantou buns are topped with garlic, cheese and butter. They're not bad but they're on the side of too bready.
I'm not sure what happened as we asked for four pieces and we received five but Miss America happily gobbled down the extra one. It's a battered deep fried king prawn served curled up on a bed on Mr Luyu home made caviar and a garlicky sweet and sour sauce. Despite the odd way it sounds it's very tasty albeit strong in garlic.
"Who wants more?" I ask and Queen Viv is about to put up the white flag while Miss America and Mr NQN look horrified. They want more. We decide to get one of the main dishes and three other types of dumplings.
Usually vegetarian dumplings are okay but they don't quite reach the flavour heights of the other ones but these mushroom dumplings with several types of Asian mushrooms, carrot, coriander and celery are so flavoursome I want to order more. I can see the appeal of the idea of catering to vegetarians in an area such as Newtown that has a strong vegetarian clientele.
I felt the need for vegetables so we ordered an eggplant dish, also because I wanted to convince eggplant hating Miss America that it can be delicious. It comes out as a neat serve of battered eggplant batons. The batter is crisp on the outside and the inside is soft and melting. It comes with a chrysanthemum honey soy sauce, sesame seeds and deep fried shallots.
On our last dumpling, we finally hit one that isn't quite as stellar as the other ones. The crispy edged pot stickers are filled with chicken, ginger, shallot and Chinese cabbage in a seaweed flour dough While they're fine they're not quite as finessed as the other ones and need a bit of flavour from the vinegar and chilli oil to pep them up.
Things start to get confusing as they start bringing us dishes that we've already received as well as my cocktail all over again and in the repeat parade of dishes we forgot we had ordered and paid for the pork buns but hadn't received them.
We ask about dessert. There are two items. Unfortunately the mango crepe has sold out and the only remaining dessert is a fruit salad that quite frankly doesn't excite anyone but Mr NQN who has fresh figs at home so we opt to get the bill.
So tell me Dear Reader, would you want to know about a time restriction when you book? And does that make you avoid a place or are you fine with them? And do you usually turn up on early, on time or late? And how do you eat your xiao long baos?
This meal was independently paid for.
Luyu & Yum Yum
196 King Street, Newtown NSW 2042
Tel: +61 (02) 95199888
Lunch Tuesday - Sunday 12pm - 3pm
Dinner Tuesday - Sunday 5:30pm till late