Here’s the thing about Chinese fastfood and takeaway in this part of the world: unless you live and/or work in Greenhills, San Juan or Manila’s Chinatown district in Binondo, you’re going to be suffering through what pretty much passes for oriental takeaway: puny dumplings, rice that has seen better days, too many gimmicks, and a sodding lot of ridiculous advertisements featuring a celebrity whose claims to fame are a presidential bloodline and enough scandals to make the late residents of Sodom and Gomorrah stand up and take notice. You have nice places such as Hap Chang and Classic Savory, of course, but these are more for nice, long, leisurely meals; not really the sort of meals that have the charm of being both quick and satisfying. So you can just imagine how happy people were when Yumchee Fastfood + Takeout opened up in our neighbourhood.
Yumchee is this nice, airy space which certainly doesn’t look like any typical Chinese restaurant: the interiors feature clean lines, a maroon and white colour scheme, and modern furniture. Also, you don’t have the disturbing aroma typical of old-school eateries lingering in the air. The food is, nevertheless, a throwback to the properly cooked meals hashed out by classic Binondo holes-in-the-wall: freshly-cooked, properly seasoned, and the portions certainly ample.
As it takes ten minutes for the average order to make its way to one’s table, one would do well to order off the dimsum menu (P 85.00 for all variants) for an appetiser. The har gau (hakaw; steamed prawn dumplings in a translucent wrapper made with glutinous rice) features a filling of whole baby prawns with a touch of pork fat; small and savoury, the wrappers are nice and chewy and have absorbed some of the flavour of the filling while the prawns are al dente: crisp to the bite, sweet on the palate. If you’re more into deep-fried titbits, you’d do well to order the beancurd shrimp rolls shown above. A seafood version of ngohiong (a pork forcemeat flavoured with star anise and wrapped in bean curd skins [yuba in Japanese] before being deep-fried), these feature the same little prawns as the har gau. The wrapper wasn’t as crispy as I expected; indeed, it was a trifle too greasy, truth be told. But it did not skimp on flavour.
While Yumchee has bowls of congee and soup noodles available, the set meals (P 199.00; add P 50.00 for a signature drink) offer plenty of bang for the buck with ample helpings that will leave you satisfied in terms of both taste and quantity. Each set meal comes with soup and one’s choice of plain or fried rice, fried noodles, or steamed vegetables. Throw in an additional P 50.00 and you can choose from any of the house drinks from iced white coffee to classic lemon iced tea.
The first time I went to Yumchee, I had the chicken chop: a battered and deep-fried chicken thigh filet that was nicely seasoned with a crust that crackled audibly with every bite. The next visit featured salt and pepper spareribs that were good and meaty; tender to the bite and well seasoned. I could have stood a little more chilli in the spice rub, but these were good enough as is. Plus, these weren’t too greasy or fatty as s0me renditions of the dish tend to be.
The iced milk tea is a trifle sweeter than the kind I’m used to; indeed, you won’t be asked how sweet you want your tea to be. But, unlike most fastfood milk teas where the taste of the tea is overpowered by sweetness, you could actually taste the tea here. It was certainly creamy and oddly refreshing.
Yumchee’s currently in its soft-opening phase so there are items that are not yet available from its menu. Still, it shows great promise and I look forward to when the takeaway counter opens in a couple weeks.
Yumchee Fastfood and Takeout: Ground Floor – Bonifacio Stopover, 31st St. cor. Rizal Drive, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig