I'm not saying the ever-changing is a bad thing but when things change as much as the restaurant at the top of Market City though, it's can be a bit challenging to keep up. The restaurant seems to have changed hands and names so often that I never know the name of it anymore; it's just "the yum cha at Market City".
The China Grand Restaurant is at least the third iteration of "the yum cha at Market City" that I know. On a Saturday morning, it's surprisingly not packed to the gills, making for a oddly pleasant wait-less entry and even shorter wait for food. Ah, the immediacy of yum cha.
Pai gwut - steamed pork spare ribs from China Grand Restaurant,
Market City Shopping Centre, Haymarket
Market City Shopping Centre, Haymarket
The pork ribs always seem to be someone's favourite. The tender, fatty bits of bone have to be one of the tastiest cuts - low on yield but still rewarding to just chew and suck on the flavours. I also adore the salty black beans the ribs are steamed with, but they're best served with steamed rice.
Non prawn lovers are probably advised to steer away from many of the dumpling offerings, with a majority of them stuffed with crustacean in some form. Even the vego-sounding spinach dumplings has plump prawns within the mix of spinach leaves and other vegetable goodness, wrapped into a perfect sphere inside glossy, opaque sticky rice skins.
Surprises are few and far between at yum cha; my sneaking suspicion is that they all source their dumplings from the same manufacturer and simply steam in-house. Conspiracy theories aside, I was genuinely surprised at some of the carted offerings at China Grand - the siu mai for starters - or at least that's what the waitress called it.
Immediately I notice it's not similar to any other siu mai I've ever had: the pastry wrapper was white rather than the egg wonton wrapper; it's top was closed rather than open. I was seriously excited to get into the dumpling, first biting through the silky and smooth wrapper - a few notches superior to the yellow wonton wrapper, I thought.
Beyond the pork and prawn was another surprise - which possibly could have been given away by the round pointed shape of the top of the dumpling. A whole quail egg propped above the rest of the filling and clothed by the wrapper until bitten into. The egg white seemed unusually layered - though my quail egg experience is quite limited - but the yolk was a mushy gel-like consistency that was neither unpleasant nor enjoyable on my palate. A surprise dumpling package indeed.
And the unexpected items kept coming - this steamed scallop dumpling wrapped in seaweed was another first for me. A petite scallop sat jauntily on top of the kelp-wrapped pork and prawn dumpling; the wrapper imparting a flavour of the sea that created a real surf-and-turf feel.
Eschewing my usual har cheung choice for BBQ pork was simply a detour from prawns. The filling doesn't feel as as fresh as the prawn version though, but I suppose the dried shrimp and my slight aversion to them didn't help.
I'm full at this point - remembering to always leave room for dessert at yum cha - but I find it difficult to resist the braised eggplant/tofu prawn mince dish. With eggplant currently vying for my favourite-vegetable-affections, I don't mind at all the oily disposition of the dish (all the better to reflect with...!). I prefer the firm and sweet mince to fish cake, and the softened eggplant is my pick over the fried tofu square.
I quite enjoy all the desserts at yum cha (maybe except the black sesame rolls - they just look wrong), likely because they're not as rich and sweet as western desserts can be. My must-have is the coconut jelly; probably just gelatine, sugar and coconut cream or milk, but the three-dimensional diamond just makes me happy, oh-so happy that I don't mind that I'm absolutely stuffed.
I never plan to stuff myself at yum cha - it just always happens. Something about all the food travelling about you, all available right there and then. In a way, yum cha is the ultimate unplanned in dining, along with sushi trains. It's about living in the moment - and I have no problems with that.