By Hollie Harris
Yum cha, which translates as ‘drinking tea’, becomes a whole meal when combined with dim sum (small plates). Many years of Brisbane Yum Cha hustle and bustle in my early twenties, I felt it was time to re-visit an old friend – Noosa style. My group (20-or-so years older) were off to Yum Cha at Embassy XO.
Embassy XO Restaurant Sunshine Beach is a modern Asian restaurant and wine bar in Sunshine Beach Village. Executive Head Chef James Wu offers an impressive menu of modern Asian dishes, which he refreshes each season. The cuisine weaves its way through the provinces of China and South East Asia, and is expertly balanced in flavours, textures and exciting spices. Embassy XO is known as a ‘must do’ destination restaurant and I wanted to find out why.
The quiet and intimate layout of the space, which has tables neatly spread out to embrace the beauty of the art piece; a full glass wall of swaying trees, distant ocean glimpses and loads of natural light. You won’t get any staff rolling stacks of dim sum to your table here; rather it’s all about comfortable decadence, with a carefully curated la carte menu, stunning wine list, plus a special tea menu.
We were greeted by Sally Groult’s enthusiastic and extensive knowledge about the restaurants vision, thoughtful menus and world-class wines. With so many eye-popping menu options, we trusted the experts and went for the $38 Yum Cha Banquet.
Sally’s passion and knowledge for wine matching is contagious and I couldn’t help but get swept up in talk of primary fruits, full bodied, acidity, balance and boldness.
Embassy XO is also home to their independently owned bottle shops filled with fine wines and boutique beers and the team have thoughtfully curated a wine suggestions list to best bring out the flavours of the food as you progress along the banquet menu. A very smart idea – we were grateful to have all the decisions made for us!
The three wines have been selected to with a purpose in mind. Starting off with a sparkling to cleanse the palette, next, a Gewurztraminer bold enough to hold its own against spicy and sweet flavours throughout the first half of your banquet and then a lighter selection to compliment earthy and delicate flavours of the final few dishes. An introduction to wine matching was a lovely bonus to the experience, so we chose all three suggestions to add on to our Banquet.
We began with Embassy XO’s famous pork sandwiches; a powerful punch of melt-in -your-mouth delight of crispy, salty, pork belly encased in fluffy clouds of delicate. They are a accompanied by the buttery, nutty flavours of endamame drenched in decadently toasted Miso butter.
We slowly worked our way through five-spiced pork spring rolls, pan fry duck dumplings, zucchini and corn cakes and extra special fried rice. Each dish coming straight off Chef Jame’s pan and onto our table like little handmade gifts. Our Milton Gewurztraminer was the perfect sip to match these bold combinations of bold and sweet flavours.
Nearby diners were sipping on Chef Jame’s favourite tea, Ti Kuan Yin, from beautiful Chinese tea pots and staring out to Sea. Tea is a special piece of the Yum Cha experience. My group would savour those later – after the wine suggestions had been explored a little more.
Our gracious hostess Sally was back to whisk our minds away to wine country. She pours us a glass of silky Pinot Noir – the Nanny Goat. It’s light and dreamy, perfectly chosen to accompany delicate flavours of the last part of our meal. Steamed dumplings and gentle flavours are enhanced, not overwhelmed by this drop. The little bamboo baskets I know so well from my Yum Cha days in the Valley began piling up on our table.
Soft and tender beef dumplings and steamed duck buns- both extraordinary while they last, filled with soft, tender and steaming meat, Kung Po chicken ribs – perfectly spiced and lightly fried, incredibly moreish. I don’t know if it was the twinkling waves in the distance, but steamed ocean dumplings tasted like the sea wrapped up in a thin, silky skin. In the most beautiful way, a mouthful of ocean and my favourite part of the menu. What a way to finish the meal.
The warmth of a crackling fireplace beckons us to the bar as we snuggle into velvet chairs, overlooking the sea. It was time to enjoy the final touch – a pot of Ti Kuan Yin tea and a chat to Chef James Wu.
It’s not often I meet a chef with a gentle and calming energy who has a great passion for Teas. Chef James poured us his favourite tea with all the care and gracious energy of pouring tea for family.
“Ti Kuan Yin tea is very special. These leaves are hand picked off the fern and rolled by hand,” Chef James explains as he pours a cup for us to try.
“Our Chinese Red tea conjures up memories of my house in the morning as a child,” he shared.
“The Noosa palette is so different from anywhere else. We know they want to taste local flavours and have a unique dining experience that they can’t find anywhere else,” he said.
Very distant memories of early Yum Cha days in the Valley are happily forgotten – this is the real deal. Far removed from the ‘fast’ pace of typical Yum Cha, this is most certainly slow dining from the heart.
Yum Cha is available at Embassy XO every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with bookings from 12noon until 2pm (you can as long as you like after 2pm) I cannot recommend highly enough the beautiful selection of dishes on the $38 banquet.