Luyu & Yumyum
Address: Level 1, 196 King St Newtown, NSW 2042
Parking: Outdoor parking
Mon - Thurs: 12:00–15:00 / 17:30–22:15
Fri - Sat: 12:00–15:00 / 17:30–23:00
Sun: 12:00–16:15 / 17:30–22:15
Phone: (02) 9519 9888
Reservation: Walk-in and reservations
Payment method: EFTPOS ONLY
Disclaimer: TGWATW were invited by Luyu & Yumyum to sample the menu but all comments and opinions are strictly our own.
In a nutshell… we like Luyu for a relaxed feed but only wish there were a touch more substance than style, preferring the tried-and-true yumcha restaurants to get our dumpling fix.
Value: Dumplings come in 4 or 6, ranging from $10.80-$18.80 which I found over-priced as they were relatively small unlike yumcha-style dumplings which are generally larger. Mains range from $12.80-$25.80, the meat-based dishes being markedly more expensive. If you arrive hungry, we recommend filling up on the non-dumpling dishes to save money.
Service: Generally attentive, always courteous
Positives: It is eclectic and the environment is upscale yet relaxed. Get your deep-fried hit with the moreish vegetarian entrees. We recommend the 7 flavoured tofu, eggplant dish, manga ‘hedgehog’ dumpling, osmanthus osmosis
Negatives: There’s an undeniable artistry that goes into the process of dumpling making and we’re not quite convinced that Luyu has it down pat. The dough-to-filling ratio can really compromise one’s enjoyment of a dumpling as well as the flavouring and texture of the filling. Skip the truffle dumpling skewers
Newtown is a suburb where it would be daring not to be different, where the beaten path is the road less travelled. Bringing the time-old tradition of Chinese tea and cuisine into the modern age, Luyu and Yumyum is a tea and dumpling house that fits the mould well. It is here that the patron Saint of Tea and founder-father of tea art, Lu Yu is celebrated, enshrined in a geometric blaze of yellow neon. It has me wondering if the traditionalist Luyu would be turning in his grave at this technicolour apparition.
Once you get through the narrow front entrance ceremoniously adorned with bamboo steamers (a good indicator that dumplings and intrigue lie ahead...), one navigates up a steep flight of stairs to be greeted and seated by a hostess 'yumcha-style'. In this grungy, darkly-lit room, we are led to our seats and given menus to order food. It is Sydney’s first cashless restaurant and accepts only EFTPOS, a confusing notion in a world where Chinese eateries are commonly ‘cash-only’ (I mean, just take our money dammit!).
The menu boasts an assortment of dumplings, entrees, mains and desserts, perfect for group sharing. They also serve 18 different selections of tea as well as asian-oriented cocktails (Kiss of the Dragon, anyone??), alcohol that strays to the cheaper side and coffee if you are so inclined. I don’t know about you but my Chinese parents would disown me if I ever ordered coffee at a tea+dumpling house.
7 Flavoured Tofu *V* $12.80 - tofu, jasmine flower, red pepper, seaweed, black sesame, white sesame, sesame seed and poppy seed
We begin with entrees, opting for the 7 flavoured tofu and eggplant dish. The 7 flavoured tofu is an instant hit. ‘Crack-addictive’ and oh-so-flavoursome, it is the lovechild of popcorn chicken and salt and pepper tofu with its salty and lightly battered exterior revealing innards of white tofu that are silken and smooth. Deep-fried batons of gooey glory, the eggplant dish is also a winner. Vinegar-y, crackly tooth-sticking batter encases some seriously slimy innards (I mean this in the best possible way) but I wanted more shallots for freshness.
Eggplant $12.80 - Chrysanthemum honey soy, eggplant, sesame and dried onion fried
Caviar dumpling (4pc) $14.80 - prawn, carrot, coriander and celery in rice dough steamed
One of our favourite dumplings, it was wholesome, light and clean tasting. I liked the chewy ‘mochi’-ness of the dough but also found the wrapper too thick.
Truffle dumpling skewer (4pc) $18.80 - chicken, prawn, ginger, shallot and truffle in flour dough pan seared
Honestly, I was disappointed with this dumpling as I had heard big things and truffle anything always sets my expectations sky-high. It was heavy and salty with a texture that was not springy enough. A small dot of truffle was not enough to flavour the entire hefty dumpling, resulting in an overly subdued truffle flavour and I detected a strong olive-y aftertaste that left me more curious than satisfied.
Kiss Me dumpling (4pc) $10.80 - chicken, ginger, shallot and Luyu homemade soup in flour dough steamed
The Kiss Me Dumpling was quite salty and gingery, nestled on a carrot base. I found it quite average to be honest.
Mr Luyu ‘starburst’ dumpling (4pc) $11.80 - chicken and Mr Luyu homemade soup in fruit infused flour dough steamed
Made with fruit-infused flour dough, there was an uplifting non-specific fruit aroma that perfumed this carrot-bottomed dumpling. The dumpling within was a bit salty and oily but the fruit was able to cut through the grease.
Manga Dumpling *Hedgehog* (3pc) (Vegetarian) $12.80 - king oyster mushroom, chinese mushroom, fungi, carrot, coriander in flour dough baked
Another table favourite, the hedgehog was almost too freaking adorable to eat, a golden-brown woodland creature baked to perfection. The dough was sweet and crispy, encasing a huddle of finely-diced vegetables that were flavoursome and balanced well with the sweetness of the dough. Note: no hedgehogs were harmed in the making of this dish.
Snow White Dumpling *Rabbit* (3pc) (Gluten-free) - prawn, asparagus, bamboo shoot and luyu home-made creamy soup in chrysanthemum infused potato starch dough
A plump little creature that resembled the humble ‘ hargow' (steamed prawn dumpling), this dish was a bit of a letdown as it did not leave a strong impression. Again, the wrapper was too thick and it was hard to detect the chrysanthemum infusion or particularly creamy element. However, the asparagus flavour rang through quite strongly, a win for those who love the cruciferous veg.
The osmanthus osmosis $13.80 - coconut pudding with osmanthus tea jello on a watermelon base
This dessert has been discussed in the blogosphere with some apparent controversy so I thought it imperative that I try for myself. Also, who can resist the quirky, gastronomically geeky calling of a dessert called Osmanthus Osmosis. Arriving as a sizeable, tri-coloured slab (approx. 7cmx12cm) of osmanthus jelly, coconut jelly and a base of watermelon, I felt instantly refreshed upon looking at it. The top layer was translucent and sweetly herbal with flowers inside that released a lovely perfume once lightly chewed. The coconut pudding was light, evaporating on the tongue to leave a lingering milkiness on the palate, scrubbed clean with cooling watermelon. I could see myself polishing off an entire dessert with ease.
There were some negatives however - a decorative swipe of chocolate adorned the plate but contributed no overall flavour to the dish except to be confusing when our forks accidentally scrape the chocolate. It didn’t work well with the dish and for something that serves as a garnish, it wasn’t the prettiest sight. Another quibble is that the platter used was far too narrow to be practical and we would have much preferred a wider plate. Dessert went flying everywhere as the four of us hunched over the tiny plate, stabbing at it with forks too small to scoop up the dessert. Impracticalities abound but hey, these were all things that could be easily modified.
Affogelico (2 share) $12.80 - Illy’s espresso, vanilla ice cream, oreos, biscuit roll and Frangelico
Sweet, boozy and ultimately very filling, this dessert was exactly as I imagined it after having read the menu description. Coming with one shot of Frangelico and two shots of espresso, it resulted in a very rich and creamy dessert when mixed together. Disappointingly, the biscuit roll was just a striped chocolate wafer. It’s a decent dessert if you just want something sweet and fatty.
Ultimately Luyu & Yumyum is an interesting and novel eatery that isn’t too pricey, delivering well-crafted asian food with a Westernised twist. Vision and creativity are at times lost in translation and it isn’t so authentic that it transports you back to the Tang Dynasty of Luyu’s time but hell, that’s okay too. In ramshackle-chic Newtown, it stands as a symbiosis of East meets west, yī bēi chá (one cup of tea) stirred with milk.