If you’re passing through King Street in Newtown, it’s hard to miss the neon yellow sign bearing Luyu & YumYum’s name, outside an inconspicuous door which opens to a narrow staircase leading upstairs to a dumpling den that is much larger and sleeker than you’d ever imagine from the street.
They’ve nailed the fitout at Luyu & YumYum, with the dark wooden decor blended with playful pops of neon yellow signs throughout the space and a bustling kitchen with clear glass, so that you can see the chefs hard at work handcrafting all those dainty little dumplings for their hungry patrons.
Standard Chinese dumplings have been given a facelift at Luyu & YumYum, with fun names and occasionally, adorable transformations into “animals” – think very photogenic “Hedgehogs” and “Snow White Rabbits”. The cute Hedgehog exterior is crispy and encases a tasty blend of king oyster mushroom, Chinese mushrooms, fungi, carrot and coriander, whereas the Snow White Rabbit Dumplings hold a creamy mix of prawn, asparagus and bamboo shoots within the chrysanthemum infused dumpling skins.
Manga Dumpling Hedgehogs, $12.80 (for 3 pieces)
Snow White Rabbit Dumplings, $12.80 (for 3 pieces)
What’s most impressive about their dumplings is that although they have played around with the presentation of the dumplings to create a somewhat Chinese fusion looking menu, their fillings are still bursting with authentic Chinese ingredients like juicy mushrooms, bamboo shoots and black wood ear fungi, which you don’t necessarily see at other dumpling houses around town. Their dumpling skins are also not as thin as some of Luyu’s competitors, but they have a pleasant chewiness to them and it’s refreshing to have skins that are strong enough that they don’t fall apart at the slightest touch.
We also enjoyed their non-animal dumpling offerings, including their luxe Caviar Dumplings which features prawns with coriander and celery, and also their Crispy Chicken Buns, which look more like traditional xiaolongbao rather than pan-seared morsels full of chicken, ginger, shallot and cabbage. Their Flying Seafood Dumplings were also a hit, with a plump scallop garnished with flying fish roe, sitting on top of a fishball, prawn and asparagus dumpling.
Caviar Dumpling, $13.80 (for 4 pieces)
Crispy Chicken Buns, $10.80 (for 4 pieces)
Flying Seafood Dumpling, $13.80 (for 4 pieces)
The more unconventional looking xiaolongbao at Luyu are called “Starburst” dumplings, featuring an intriguing multicoloured fruit infused dough which encases a chicken filling with homemade soup inside each dumpling.
Mr Luyu “Starburst” Dumpling, $11.80 (for 4 pieces)
One of their newer dishes is the indulgent Truffle Dumpling Skewer, showcasing a dollop of the intensely flavoured fungi on top of a pan-seared dumpling which resembles a siu mai dumpling that blends chicken, prawn, ginger and shallot. The strong, distinctive aroma from the truffle is tempered by the sweet notes of the sauce which it is paired with.
Truffle Dumpling Skewer, $19.80 (for 4 pieces)
But it’s not all about the dumplings here – we also tried their take on Peking Duck Pancakes (these got the tick of approval) and also their surprisingly addictive 7 Flavoured Tofu, which are bite sized nubbins of tofu coated with a light skin seasoned with a tasty mix of jasmine flower, red pepper, seaweed, black sesame, white sesame and poppy seed. Tastes almost like a veggie version of popcorn chicken!
Duck Pancake, $16.80
7 Flavoured Tofu, $12.80
Another surprise hit was the Eggplant, which reminded me of Chinese Noodle House’s famous braised eggplant dish in Chinatown – but more upmarket, with a glistening coating of chrysanthemum honey soy, sesame and dried fried onion on each sliver of chewy eggplant. This is a must order – even if you’re not usually drawn to eggplant dishes, you won’t want to miss out on this goodness.
Our other main was Mama’s Chilli Chicken which certainly lived up to its name with a fiery sauce of serano chilli paired with chicken strips, beetroot and tasty sweet hits in the form of honey coated walnuts. Intriguingly, the blend of the ingredients ended up reminding me of the distinctive taste of pizza – each bite of the chicken strips was like a condensed version of a bite of pizza without all the doughy parts.
Mama’s Chilli Chicken, $21.80
No visit to a Chinese restaurant is complete without sampling their signature fried rice, and Mr Luyu’s Fried Rice lives up to the standard with plenty of variety tossed in there with the rice that you can barely taste or see that many grains of rice. Instead each mouthful is full of stir fried duck, egg, diced asparagus, shallot, coriander, baby corn and mustard seeds.
Mr Luyu Fried Rice, $17.80
Although we were pretty full after all the dumpling goodness, we made room for their Tea Lovers dessert, which is designed to share. The strongly flavoured green tea gelato in the Tea Lovers is paired with some mango sago and shaved intense strawberry chocolate, to create a simple sweet ending to our contemporary Chinese meal.
Tea Lovers, $12.80
The other dessert we tried was the Osmanthus Osmosis, which continues the Newtown tradition of layering watermelon with other assorted sweets – the base layer here is a thick wedge of fresh watermelon, the next is a creamy coconut pudding which yumcha fans will recognise on first taste and the top is a mesmerising layer of osmanthus tea jellY which wobbles uncontrollably at the slightest touch.
Osmanthus Osmosis, $13.80
Luyu & YumYum also have an impressive selection of tea-infused cocktails behind their sleek bar – we tried their Yumyum Jasmine Tea which features Luyu’s home infused Jasmine Tea vodka with an exotic blend of lychee and elderflower liqueur. The boy also enjoyed the Welcome to the Jungle cocktail which is a perfect summer drink thanks to the watermelon with mint, paired with Luyu’s house infused strawberry vodka and melon liqueur.
Yumyum Jasmine Tea, $16.80 and Welcome to the Jungle, $16.80
Even among the many dumpling restaurants in Sydney these days, Luyu & YumYum stands out for their unique take on contemporary Chinese cuisine – seamlessly blending traditional ingredients with modern twists, with great service, trendy decor and a fantastic playlist of R&B jams playing in the background to set the tone.
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of Luyu & YumYum