419 High St, 1st Floor Shop 7, Preston
Phone: 9470 2882
Recently, my friends Mr J and Miss C left our little metropolis for the big city lights of London. Over the past few years, we’d learned that while he would often be a no-show for drinks and weekend parties, Mr J was always present for yum cha. So it was apt that our send-off for him and Miss C was just such a dumpling extravaganza.
We headed to the suburban wilds of Preston, where covertly above an unglamourous little shopping arcade, lay one of the Northern suburbs’ hidden gems – Gold Leaf Preston.
The interior was distinctively more ‘glamourous’, with its recessed ceilings and mechanical rotating faux crystal chandeliers.
But let’s get to the food! Despite being relatively new, Gold Leaf Preston is one of those oldskool yum cha joints, with an army of waiters – the footsoldiers who refill your teapots, and handle special orders – and a strong artillery of cart ladies, who bombard each table with dumplings, buns, congee and offal. And then dessert. It’s a battle you just won’t win, but it’s a sweet, sweet surrender.
We were waiting for a few people who were running late that morning, but we started off with a cold dish of jellyfish and marinated baby octopus. It sounds a little confronting for brunch, I guess, but I love the texture of jellyfish!
Once the majority of our yum cha contingent had arrived, we tucked into the hot stuff.
My childhood favourite, haam sui gok, also known as ‘football dumplings’. Pork and mushroom inside a deep fried chewy, slightly sweet dough wrapping. These were a little on the lukewarm side of warm, and a little disappointing.
Steamed rice noodle with prawn. A yum cha standard, these were pretty good – not too pasty, and super slippery between your chopsticks.
Steamed dumplings with prawn and snow pea shoot. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I love snow pea shoots, in any form.
Seafood parcels, and prawn and chive dumplings. The dumplings at Gold Leaf were consistently good, though I was a little put off by how many variations they had on offer before being presented with the classic har gao and siu mai.
Fried taro dumplings. These took over as my favourite after the haam sui gok got the boot. Filled with pretty much the same filling (pork and mushroom), the ‘wrapping’ is essentially mashed taro, which flares up into these crispy, feathery puffs when deep fried. These ones were pretty good, though I think the taro might have been cut with some potato, as it was a little too smooth on the inside.
Here comes the offal. Tripe on the left, and pork spare ribs on the right. The ribs at Gold Leaf are distinctive, as they don’t use the traditional black bean in the braising sauce, but rather another type of soya bean paste. Still very good, and a little more homestyle – my dad braises pork and pickled radish in this bean paste quite often.
Steamed shiitake and enoki mushrooms with tofu. This dish was a little bland – I ordered it because we had a vegaquarian on the table, but in the end she didn’t have any of it. I don’t really blame her – it wasn’t very good.
Whole prawns wrapped in beancurd skin and deep fried. I was starting to hit the wall by this stage, so I didn’t try any of these, but usually prawn + deep fry = WIN.
Ubiquitous chicken’s feet. Again, in a break from tradition, these chicken’s feet are prepared with soy and black bean, as opposed to the more commonly found bright red variety. They were quite good, though the skin wasn’t as loose or melty as I’ve had at other restaurants.
Prawn and ginger dumplings. I love these dumplings, even though the wrappers aren’t as delicate as the pearlescent har gao wrappers. It’s always a struggle to resist slurping up the juices in that little dish after the dumplings are gone.
Scallop dumplings. I usually like these, but Gold Leaf’s rendition had scallops which had obviously been treated with bi-carb to soften them, and had lost the meaty texture of a good scallop, as well as some of the scallop’s natural sweetness. A shame.
The classic siu mai. A pretty good dumpling, but not a standout, here.
The classic har gao. The skins were a bit too thick for my liking, but the filling was a good texture, and overwhelmingly prawny. That’s a good thing, in case you’re wondering.
Pan-fried dumplings. The skins on these were too thick, I felt.
Steamed roast pork buns. The buns were fluffy and sweet, and reasonably light, though the filling was a little on the bland side, for roast pork. Not bad, but I’ve definitely had better.
For dessert, there were the obligatory egg tarts, but for once I opted out. They looked pretty good, though, hey?
Gold Leaf is a pretty sure bet for competent and consistent yum cha. It’s not stellar, but if you get that craving every couple of months like I do, it will definitely satisfy. It’s probably mid-range in terms of price; about $20-25 per head to stuff yourself silly.