Yum Yum Cha is a small made-to-order dim sum restaurant in Rice Village. It does not serve the best dim sum in Houston -- probably not even close. But some dishes are very good. More importantly, Yum Yum Cha makes dim sum convenient.
The inconvenience of dim sum in Houston
Dim sum is a style of Chinese cuisine involving small plates served with Chinese tea. For some reason, dim sum in Houston is almost always served on weekends in giant restaurants. Servers whisk around carts with a variety of dishes for diners to choose on sight. The wait for a table can be long.
Until a few years ago, if you were craving dim sum on a Wednesday, you were out of luck. (Now one or two weekday dim sum restaurants have opened up in Chinatown.) And no restaurants serve Dim Sum at any time inside Loop 610 -- except Yum Yum Cha Cafe in Rice Village. It is open all week (except Monday after 5 and Tuesday all day) for lunch, dinner, or an afternoon snack and tea.
What is good, what is not
The quintessential dim sum dish is dumplings. Yum Yum Cha's dumplings are disappointing. The shiu mai standing dumplings are poorly constructed and did not have much flavor. Pan-fried potstickers are dry and rubbery.
But I have liked everything else.
Let's start with the strange stuff. Yum Yum Cha serves some outstanding chicken feet, cooked in a viscous, slightly sweet sauce. Despite the wierdness of the fatty feet with tiny bones, my daughter loved the dish. Beef stomach with black bean sauce is much more stomach than sauce. It has an odd texture, much like another dish on the menu called "tripe", but a better flavor. [Edit: as a commenter noted, tripe is beef stomach. I can't explain the distinction on Yum Yum Cha's menu.] The sauce adds a peppery spiciness. It is worth trying once, just to say you did. But the flavor may be odd to most Western tastes.
Gai lan is a bright green, steamed chinese vegetable that resembles broccoli stalks with spinach leaves. It is one of my favorite greens of any cuisine. Yum Yum Cha serves it with a tasty oyster sauce. Even my 10-year-old daughter, who is not big on vegetables, loves this dish.
Yum Yum Cha serves a number of dishes called "rice roll." They involve large slippery rice noodles, shaped like lasagna pasta. These are served with barbecue pork or shrimp. They are hard to pick up with chopsticks, but it is a neat sensation to feel these silk-like noodles slide through your mouth. Another savory rice noodle dish is pan fried with green onions and topped with a sauce that tastes like hoisin. It may be my favorite dish.
Other standouts are rice balls with shrimp and a custard tart dessert that will have you craving tea.
It is hard to spend more than $10 per person at Yum Yum Cha. Its customers look like they come from Rice and the Medical Center rather than nearby West U, which makes sense given the adventurous food and good prices.
Update: Where did the comments section go?
Blogger has a bug that causes the comments link to disappear when I use a third-party program, such as the slide show. I really like my slide show, but I also really like your comments. To comment, click on the link to the Yum Yum Cha post in the Archives on the upper right side. The page will reappear with the comment link.
I do this site for free, so I take whatever Blogger can give me for free.