The Galleria’s newest restaurant, Chinese dim sum teahouse Yauatcha, has been open for merely four days, but it is safe to say it’s already the most coveted reservation in town. In fact, the Hakkasan Group-owned restaurant garnered more than 2,000 reservations before it even opened, which comes as no surprise considering the debut marks the acclaimed dim sum hotspot’s first mainland U.S location, following the recently unveiled Yauatcha Waikiki in Hawaii .
As Houstonians await their turn for a first look and first taste of the posh Michelin-starred eatery, the same question continues to emerge: “What should I order?”
Fresh from my own first Yauatcha encounter, I’ve rounded up 10 menu standouts. (Yes, my meal was a smorgasbord; no, this list does not include everything I tasted.) The highlights of a first taste:
1) Buddha’s Palm Cocktail
Yauatcha’s cocktail menu is divided into a series of sections including “Old Friends,” a group of signature and classic cocktails; “New Friends,” fresh innovative drink options; and “Lucky Friends,” which showcases a more upscale and indulgent experience. The Buddha’s Palm falls into the latter category.
Similar to the bulk of Yauatcha’s cocktail menu, the drink utilizes a number of Asian ingredients, made with Maker’s 46 bourbon, Velvet Falernum, yuzu juice, yuzu marmalade, black grapes, white balsamic vinegar, and mint. The yuzu and white balsamic add a refreshing punch to the wonderfully balanced introductory libation.
If you’re not a fan of dark spirits, opt for the Gin & Tonic 2.0, a riff on the classic G&T. Ginger liqueur, cucumber, yuzu, green apple, and a elongated cucumber collins ice cube up the cocktail ante.
2) Venison Puffs
Flaky on the outside, meaty on the inside, the venison puffs are a true crowd pleaser. Savory venison is encased in a ball of airy puff pastry, then topped with sesame seeds to create a flavor-packed starter sure to satisfy even the pickiest eater. No gamy undertones here.
3) Crispy Duck Roll
Three words: JUST ORDER IT!
This suggestion easily goes without saying, but given Yauatcha’s massive dumpling offerings, I couldn’t (or should I say, I refuse to) choose just one to highlight, especially after merely one visit. I opted for the tasting menu, which afforded me the opportunity to sample a diverse lot. (The tasting menu features a combination of dim sum, entrees, and desserts.)
Standouts included the shrimp and Chinese chive dumpling, the pork and prawn shumai, the water prawn and zucchini dumpling, the Chinese chive flower dumpling, and the morel crystal dumpling. While the tasting menu includes only three to four dumpling options, it pays to order a few extras on the side if you’re feeling especially hungry. (and by extras, I mean the char shui cheung fun.)
5) Spicy Wild Caught Gulf Shrimp Salad
It’s safe to say that anything tossed in a dressing of fresh fish sauce gets a thumbs up from me. Fresh shrimp is tossed with mint leaves, greens, and macadamia nuts to create an invigorating flavor profile that is enhanced by the fish sauce dressing. Pro tip: The waiter pours the dressing tableside, so make sure to have your Snapchat camera ready. Take a glimpse here.
6) Jasmine Tea Smoked Pork Ribs
I’m not sure which aspect of the ribs was my favorite. Maybe it was the faint taste of Jasmine tea; the tangy sweet glaze; or the tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. Either way, the dish clocked in as one of my favorites of the night. I’m grateful that I was too full to finish the order, because they were even more satisfying the following day. (Yes, leftovers from Yauatcha are the bomb.)
7) Shantou Style Chilean Sea Bass Clay Pot
Our waiter said it best when he uttered “I feel that anything served in a clay pot is worth tasting.” Yauatcha’s Chilean sea bass proved him right. Sea bass is one of those fish that is incredibly hard to ruin, yet, you’d be surprised by how many restaurants routinely butcher its delicate essence by masking its flavor or downright overcooking it (This still confuses me … HOW CAN YOU OVERCOOK SEA BASS?).
Filled with a subtle sauce and culinary accoutrements, the clay pot ensured the the fish was perfectly cooked at Yauatcha— delicate and moist, yet not quite falling apart.
8) Egg and Scallion Fried Rice
I’m currently in the process of trying to dismantle this recipe for home consumption.
9) Tropical Dome
Executive pastry chef Graham Hornigold formulates each dessert so that it neutralizes the previously ingested savory flavors upon first bite, and the tropical dome produced love at first taste. The fruity, yellow-tinged dessert delivered bright, bold flavors in a petite package.
10) Anxi Tie Kuan Yin Roasted Oolong Tea
Hi my name is Jailyn, and I’m addicted to tea. Tea is one of my current obsessions, and I couldn’t let my meal end (no matter how full I was) without downing a pot of tea. My waiter suggested the roasted oolong, which he explained was one of the most popular varieties in China.
The leaves delivered strong aromatics as well as round and assertive taste. On my next visit, I’ll tackle the Organic Blue Mountain black tea with red grapefruit rinds, which is exclusive to the Yauatcha Houston location.