I have a confession to make. I am 27 years old and only had my first dim sum experience in May of this year. I blame this gaping hole in my culinary appreciation entirely on the fact that I grew up in the country, where this cuisine was found only in the hearts and minds of those who had experienced such delights in the big smoke.
I have to admit the whole dim sum thing intimidated me a little. All those dishes I was unfamiliar with, no menu to tell me anything, not knowing what to do or how to act, and the knowledge that chicken feet were somehow involved.
My sister was in the same boat, really keen to try dim sum but not quite sure how to go about it. We were both therefore very excited (and relieved) when an opportunity came up when she would be in town on a Sunday, and two friends of mine who were seasoned dim sum aficionados were available to join us for a feast and show us the ropes. We were given our instructions on where to meet, and could hardly wait until the big day arrived!
As I’ve mentioned before, asking people where to go in Perth for dim sum results in no-two-alike answers. Adding to the confusion is the fact that noone really seems to know the name of the places they go to, only vaguely where they are related (generally in relation to well known places in Northbridge).
So on this fateful Sunday, off my sister and I went to ‘Jade something’ on Francis St opposite the tax office. Turns out it was called Jade Chinese Seafood Restaurant, which made sense when we were greeted with tanks of crabs and fish as we entered. We ended up having an amazing feast, and were incredibly grateful to my friends for completely taking charge of the food selection and leaving us free to gobble and gorge until we felt ready to explode.
Since that day which changed our lives forever, my sister and I have been back to Jade Somethingorother four times, as we liked it there so much and are not quite yet confident enough to try our hand at any other locations. We’ve been refining our dish selections with each visit, always trying new things but there are also a few dishes which have made it onto our permanent rotation. These are dubbed “every time dishes” and cause our eyes to glaze over whenever they are spoken of.
Feeling like we are now getting the hang of this whole thing, we felt confident in successfully introducing dim sum to my brother-in-law who was also lucky enough to be in Perth this past Sunday. It took a bit of work teaching him that the whole thing was more of a marathon than a race, particularly when you are trying not to get impatient waiting for that particular dish to go past on a trolley, but I think he now realises why my sister and I have declared that every time she is in Perth on a Sunday, she and I will be gorging on dim sum.
Our first dish last Sunday, and one of our “every time dishes” was prawn rice flour rolls. We love these slippery little suckers, and are getting more adept at eating them with every visit. The sauce that accompanies them (some sort of soy mixture?) pairs perfectly. Simple yet delicious.
Another “every time dish” is fried squid tentacles. They are generally a little tough, and can sometimes require the use of molars to bite through, but they more than make up for this with flavour. They’re really well seasoned, and are always hot and crispy. I like to dip them in the chilli oil for a bit of extra bite. Tip: there are always at least a few that are attached to another one, so you get two tasty morsels without looking greedy ;)
The next dish we tried was a new one for us, and I’m really glad we were tempted by the steaming hot crispiness of them! The crispy prawn wontons were packed with delicious, well-cooked prawn meat and the plain mayonnaise served with them added a nice coolness to the hot crunchy wonton.
Next up was another “every time dish”, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf. It’s like Pass the Parcel unwrapping the leaf to reveal the sticky rice present, and then finding the tasty pork meat, and also sometimes sausage, hiding within the rice. Well, it’s like Pass the Parcel without the passing bit. And it’s not really a parcel.
Another first time dish was next, in the form of scallop dumplings. These were great, being packed with very tasty scallop meat. A potential try again dish for sure.
Next up is the “every time dish” of choy sum in oyster sauce. It’s really nice to have some fresh greens to somewhat counteract the fried and doughy dishes, and it is always cooked such that there is still a bit of bite to the stalks.
The healthy greens were followed by the not so healthy dish of soft shelled crab, which we had not tried before. It was quite nice, particularly with the really flavoursome addition of fried shallots and chillis, but overall was very oily and we probably wouldn’t order it again. It also cost $14 which is quite expensive compared to the standard dishes.
Up next was my sister’s favourite dish – steamed bbq pork buns. These are so soft and light and fluffy and delicious! I also have a new found appreciation for them after seeing how they are made on MasterChef, although seeing just how much sugar is in the buns was quite alarming.
Last time we were at Jade we spied the fried whitebait after we were too full to have any, and I was determined to try them at our next visit. So try them we did, and somewhat enjoyed them, but like the soft shelled crab we found them quite oily (especially after having already eaten the crab) and it is unlikely we’ll be shelling out the $14 for them again. It was a little strange eating them, as the batter almost entirely overrode the taste of the fish, and it was only a little fishy aftertaste that actually let you know you’d just eaten any fish at all.
My next dish is to be found on the “wibbly wobbly trolley”, as we’ve christened it, and made it onto my “every time dish” list after our last visit. Sago pudding with a little tinned fruit. I’m such a sucker for anything coconutty, and I love sago pearls, so this suits me perfectly. No grass jelly with mine though, thank you!
My sister also decided to try the mango pudding off the wibbly wobbly trolley this time, and it was also very nice! Chunks of mango ran through the sweet pudding, and I was most upset when I went back for a second spoonful and accidentally flicked it onto the table (which by this stage was showing very clear signs of a feast having taken place). I wasn’t quite game enough to apply the 5 second rule, and left the morsel languishing in the grease and crumbs.
Keeping with our transition to dessert, we moved onto custard buns, well and truly an “every time dish”. Oh yes, these are tasty. When we first tried them we were a little hesitant, as they’re not exactly the most attractive of things and look quite doughy and heavy. The trolley girl who offered them said they were a speciality of the restaurant, so we took a punt and tried them. They have remained a solid “every time dish” since that visit. We were surprised upon our first bite, as they are much lighter and softer than they look. Lovely sweet custard baked on top and hiding in the middle, we have to stop ourselves from moving onto dessert too early just to get stuck into these.
Our last dish is a sometimes dish of mine, but my sister doesn’t share my appreciation. I therefore got to eat one and a half of the three we got on this visit, although we almost didn’t get any. After spending some time gazing expectantly around at all the trolleys, I eventually asked one of the girls to get me some, only to be told that they had run out. While discussing my sorrow at this turn of events with my sister and brother-in-law, my sister and I both spied another girl coming out of the kitchen holding a plate of them! While exclaims of “hey! There are some!” were still coming from our mouths she high-tailed it to our table and presented me with their hot sesameness, apologising for the confusion. There’s something I really love about the combination of the crispy sesame outer shell with the glutinous inner core.
The service at Jade is good, although I’m obviously not able to compare it to other dim sum restaurants around town. Food is offered politely, and explanations given if asked for. They are also quite efficient in bringing specially ordered dishes out to you if you can’t see what you’d like on any of the trolleys.
We have tended to get there reasonably early on our visits, as my sister tends to be driving back to Geraldton that day and keen to get on the road sooner rather than later. If you arrive earlier than 11am you should not have any problems in getting a table. From around 11:30 onwards it gets quite busy, and when we’ve left around 12 on some visits there have been hordes of people waiting for tables. Some days have been noticeably busier than others, and there is the trade-off of getting there early to easily secure a table and having to wait for certain dishes to come out, so I guess I’ll go no further than to recommend you arrive whenever you feel like it.
On our four visits to dim sum, we’ve averaged the cost at around $20 per person. Due to the couple of $14 dishes with this particular visit it ended up being substantially more expensive, but at least it was a good learning experience! Our next visit will involve at least one $14 dish, but we are torn about whether we will try the roast pork or the duck. And perhaps we’ll try those chicken feet next time too.
Oh and if you do go there, check out the calculator they use to add up your total bill at the end of your meal. Not pocket size, that’s for sure.
Jade Chinese Seafood Restaurant
40 Francis Street, Northbridge
Phone: 08 9228 9619
Hours: Mon – Fri 10:30am – 3pm; Sat – Sun 10am-3pm; Daily 5:30pm-10pm