Chinese food done right. By Chris Mueller. Photos by Jonny Edbrooke.
I always feel a bit out of place in the InterContinental hotel. Between the sweaty guests getting off tour buses and the businessmen in pinstriped suits wandering the lobby, the hotel looks like it could be anywhere in the world. But all that changes on this hot afternoon as I enter Yu Chu, the hotel’s Chinese restaurant.
The dark hallways open up into a brightly lit dining area, and, unlike many Chinese restaurants the world over, there are no campy Asian designs here. Instead, French art deco provides a modern and sophisticated alternative, while the bay windows overlooking Hai Ba Trung Street keep everything sunny and warm.
Despite the restaurant’s chic look, the head chef tells me he strives for ancient, time-tested recipes from Hong Kong, Beijing and southern China. Yu Chu is already popular with the lunchtime crowd for its all-you-can-eat dim sum buffet (VND 418,000 or VND 598,000 with free-flow Tiger draught for dinner, VND 398.000 or VND 418.000 with soft drinks for lunch), but there is also a large, regular menu that many overlook in favour of the dumplings (which are very good). Prices range from below VND 100,000 for appetisers to VND 1,350,000 for braised shark fin.
Sticking to our morals while trying not to break the bank, we forgo the shark fin for some simpler options. Overall we try about five dishes, but one of two that stands out is the clay pot of braised tofu (bean curd on the menu) with assorted seafood and mushrooms (VND 100,000). I’ve never been a fan of tofu because of its consistency, so the mixed seafood is a welcome distraction. The second memorable dish is the sweet and sour pork (VND 170,000). It sounds common enough, but the lightly fried and crunchy outside, soft and juicy inside, and super-sweet sauce combine for an odd but addictive product. We end the meal with a cool glass of mango soup with sago and pomelo (VND 79,000). Bright orange and similar to yogurt, this was a light ending to a filling lunch.
Yu Chu prides itself on being as authentic as possible, with its Cantonese chefs trained by experts from Hong Kong and throughout China. While I’m no authority on authentic Chinese food — this is actually only the second time I have tried it — everything at Yu Chu is so well thought out, from the layout of the restaurant to the side sauces and presentation, that I know I’m getting the real deal.