Sunday morning. The effects of last night’s overindulgence hang over me like a thick fog of unpleasantness (perhaps that’s why they call it a hangover?). I need something to cure my ills, but what? My poor scattered mind comes up with nothing as I shelter from the world beneath my duvet. All of a sudden my message tone breaks the sickly silence. It’s Eva, and she wants to know if I would like to join her and some friends for Dim Sum (or Yum Cha, whatever you want to call it) at Northbridge Chinese Restaurant. It seems that I can’t have incurred too much bad karma while out misbehaving last night because, as it so happens, Saturday brunch at the aforementioned establishment is one of my all-time favourite weekend activities, and just what I needed to get me up, moving and feeling halfway human again.
For the uninitiated of you out there, let me take a minute to explain exactly what dim sum is. Basically, it’s a delicious and unique form of Chinese cuisine that wonderfully flies in the face of western eating habits. You don’t select your own meal from a menu, oh no! Instead, trolleys of mouth-watering oriental delicacies, primarily many wondrous forms of dumpling, are wheeled past you continuously and you choose what you want on the spot. There is no patient, attentive service and relaxed ambiance. Instead it’s all hustle and bustle and atmosphere. You will constantly have things offered to you, dumplings shoved in your face and all manner of strange and wondrous fare whizzed before and around you. It’s fantastic! Be warned though, your chopstick skills will be put to the test, as transferring slippery dumplings from the steamer baskets to your mouth can be quite a challenge at times.
Northbridge Chinese Restaurant (NCR) would have to be one of, if not the best place for Yum Cha in the city, as is evidence by its popularity. If you arrive any time after 11am on a weekend there is literally a queue for tables out the door, so expect to get a ticket and wait for at least 20-30 minutes to be seated. I also like to think you can judge a place by its clientele. I don’t want to get into a racial profiling scandal here, but my general rule is that the less white people in the place and the more of whatever the ethnicity of the cuisine, the better. This is certainly the case at NCR in general, and specifically at our table, with me and my friend Tor being the only whities on our table of nine (though Tor is perhaps the whitest man alive, so I’m not sure if he counts for two, but anyway, I digress).
As for the food, all I can say is that it lived up to its usual extremely high standard. Also, as a general rule, the more people you go with the better, as you can eat more food and thus get to try more different dishes. Now while there are far too many for me to recount here, I can let you in on my personal favourites, which are as follows: the fried squid legs (delicious and crunchy), prawn and scallop dumplings (orgasmically good), shanghai dumplings, roast duck and soft-shell crab to name just a few, but believe me I could go on! Overall, my advice is to basically just try as
many different things as possible. If it looks good then go for it. There are a few things that you have to specifically request too, one of which is the steamed custard buns for dessert, so make sure to ask for some when you’re ready for a sticky treat after your meal.
Now to address the issue of the chicken feet, as it inevitably comes up sooner or later when discussing dim sum. Personally, I’ve not been game enough to try them, but felt I got away with it as none of the Asian friends I was there with liked them either. However, if you’re a fan or are brave enough to have a go then please let me know what it’s all about and I’ll consider taking the plunge on my next visit. Beyond that, the only thing to say is that the service isn’t great judging by normal standards, as in you’ll generally wait a long time for thing such as chilli oil or more tea and probably have to ask more than one person, but it’s all part of the hectic fun of the place, so don’t dwell on it too much, and as soon as your first dumpling explodes in your mouth like an oriental flavour bomb you’ll forget all about it anyway.