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Yum Cha New Style at Claremont Tonic


Davis Yu is taking Melbourne by storm when it comes to imaginative dining and a sense of fun. You don't get same old, same old. You get reinvention and a modern twist.

Claremont Tonic in South Yarra is launching a new Yum Cha menu to be featured every weekend on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 3pm. This is Yum Cha new style. You won't get stern looking waiters peddling trolleys with traditional offerings of pork dumplings and chicken's feet. No. Chef Dylan Roberts and the Claremont Tonic team turns Yum Cha on its head.

We were privileged to be at a media lunch to preview the new style Yum Cha (note the disclosure). No hype, it was simply brilliant. While some Yum Cha is eaten in a bite or two, these offerings are more substantive than most Yum Cha I know.

The menu brims with imagination such as the Thai Spiced Pulled Duck taco with lychee and peanuts. This seems to merge two types of cuisine. But what we get is an explosion of Thai flavours. The richness of the duck balanced with the fruit and freshness of the lychee, then the crunch of nuts. Visually appealing and culinary bliss.

Dare I drum up the adjectives when describing this Yum Cha menu. But it's warranted. I eat at lots of places and to me its great when restaurants push the envelope and bring something different that works.

The Prawn, Almond and Corn Toast may sound innocent enough but it was an absolute triumph. Again, it was substantive for Yum Cha. Delicate in its balance of flavours with big prawn hit, beautifully balanced with the creamy corn puree and crunch of almonds. It all held together well and much thought has been put into textures and appearance.

I'm thinking this Yum Cha assortment is fun and it shows some technique and class. In my opinion it would appeal both to traditional Yum Cha lovers as well as those who aren't particularly into Yum Cha. The Claremont Tonic team has a crossover thing happening here.

Another sublime Yum Cha offering is the Pork Belly and Scallop Shui Mai (Cantonese for dumpling), with pumpkin and spiced seeds. This takes humble open face dumplings to another level. Taking something of tradition but a twist and reinvention. Iv'e seen pork and shrimp but not pork belly and scallop. Hong Kong style dim sum with the inventiveness of pork belly and scallop together. Visually stunning. This is a delicate dumpling with bold tastes and again, substantive.

Something I didn't expect but loved was the Red Braised Crispy Lamb Belly with salsa verde, and smoked yogurt. This was said to hail from Flinders Island. High quality lamb beautifully cooked with perfect crispiness. 

Meanwhile we were given Orange wine to taste - something new for me - enjoyable and intense.

Also enjoyed the intense flavours of the Steamed Ox Cheek with sweet onion cheung fun, shitake crisps and xo.  The cheung fun silky and slippery.

So far everything had been terrific. Then came these delightful exotic Quinoa Fried Chicken Lollipops with Hon Dashi salt and yuzu kosho cream. Some similarity to Asian pan fried chicken. Made from chicken wings with meat arranged at one end of the bone. Hon Dashi is not something you taste everyday outside Asia with stock from kelp and tuna flakes, bringing a smoky undertone.

Check out also some funky cocktails served in creative ways , like this Pan-da(n) stick. Claremont Tonic are known for their extensive creative cocktails, as well as their wine list.

Chef Dylan Roberts has excelled with the new Yum Cha selection. I'd envisage dining with friends on a weekend to experience some interesting and well thought out food that brings a sense of fun.

Highly recommended.