It’s tiny, it’s a little confined, it’s impersonal, you either use the bathroom before sitting down or hold on till you’re done with the meal, but nevertheless I love it. Over the years I’ve grown fond of tiny places even if sometimes it means being a little uncomfortable. There’s a lot of warmth in these places, maybe it’s my love of all things European – show off, I know – but it’s a throwback at the whole community eating scene, and while sitting on long benches would be a bit extreme – for me, although I do make an exception when it comes to Wagamama or Oktoberfest – this is as good as it gets without actually rubbing shoulders with strangers while eating.
Yum Yum Cha is squeezed between a much larger Johnny Rockets – makes Yum Yum Cha look even tinier – and a stacked home improvement store at Select CityWalk mall in South Delhi, and still manages to give a very Asian vibe to the entire set up. There are the customary origami wall displays and pop art including a huge funky light fixture, but the colors are subtle enough not to hurt the eyes and keep the conversation focused on the food. I recommend sitting right inside where all the kitchen sounds provide a gentle background music that every food lover will appreciate. And with a menu that is as vibrant as it is varied, primarily Japanese, Yum Yum Cha had been on my radar for quite a while now.
Reading the menu, salivating over everything that I could have eaten a month back – when I was still a non-vegetarian – what stood out was Mushrooms. You read that right; between everything they had on offer, and between some ingredients that I was happy to see – unfortunately all seafood – mushrooms seemed to be everywhere. They were there in the Ramen Soup, in the Sticky Rice, and in the Sizzling Noodles. I expected they would turn up in the dessert as well, but thank you chef, they didn’t. I shouldn’t complain too much about it because I did order the food after all, but as I bit into one button mushroom after another, I wished I could dart back to Spectra at The Leela – where I had eaten a few weeks back – and pick some different kinds of mushrooms they had on display, because that would have elevated these dishes, taking them from the ordinary to the “I can’t wait to come back here and eat this again”.
I’m jumping ahead, let’s start from the beginning; the “new” Ikebana sushi was true to its name – ikebana meaning flower arrangement – and came stacked up (see picture). Sushi for me is exquisite, it’s arty – can be farty if the ingredients don’t suit you – it’s got to have finesse, be delicate, and piling them up just doesn’t do it. Each and every piece of sushi should be separately placed and look exactly the same – think countless Stormtroopers standing in line, waiting for instructions from Darth Vader who is eager to find the odd one out and use his force on him. By combining the lot together, it just becomes messy and even though it tasted good, especially because of the spiciness brought about by the red pepper, the essence of sushi is lost even before the first bite.
My little research into Yum Yum Cha before I decided to eat there recommended that I should try the Ramen Soup with Noodles. So I did, and sadly that was a mistake – never trusting that reviewer again in my life. Perfect for the slightly cooler winter afternoons of Delhi, and oh-so-Japanese, the Ramen soup – more mushrooms than tofu – turned out to be too greasy and more like the Hot and Sour soup found at the local “Chinese” restaurants. In the end, that was the one item left on the table with a unanimous consensus that it should be avoided in the future at all costs, although at Rs. 485 plus taxes, it was already quite expensive – but the quantity was good.
The Sizzling Noodles didn’t sizzle for long and went dud by the time they were placed on the table, and not counting the mushrooms, they had a nice colourful combination of ingredients – corn, tofu, peppers, chives – and even though they did taste like the “chow mein” I’ve grown up eating, they served the purpose of being the main dish. However, the Spicy Basil and Chilli Sticky Rice did help out the noodles as part of the main with even more flavorsome ingredients (excluding the mushrooms again) – peanut, corn, tofu, and chestnut. The quantities were great, enough to feed four adults, and as it come out to be roughly Rs. 900,- per person including taxes, I can’t help feel that it is on the higher side.
I did save the best for the last and this is where I talk about the wonderful “Fun Bottles” that Yum Yum Cha has. Mocktails if you want to call them, the Thai Orange and Kafir Lime was everything the name suggests – colouful, bright, refreshing, cool, natural – and a must have. The Black Magic was also good, but if you want to have another, then go for the Green Apple – which I tried previously at the Asian Hawkers Market – or Watermelon and Mint options.
When you’ve got a wife with a sweet tooth and an 8-year-old daughter who sat through the entire meal cribbing about the food, it’s almost impossible to leave the table without dessert and thus we tried the Espresso Crème Brûlée and Vanilla Mochi ice-cream. The crème Brûlée had a lovely crackle on top – slightly burnt – but gave the kick that an espresso should and is perfect for those that want a sweet alternative to having coffee. The ice-cream though brought a lot of smiles on the table – especially for the kids – with fresh tasting vanilla ice-cream in chewy and gummy rice jelly – which looked like a reddish boiled egg cut in four – that had a fish like texture to it. This definitely was the dish of the day.
I’m in two minds about Yum Yum Cha – as I often am about most places I eat at. I loved how quick the service was – it reminded me of eating at Sagar Ratna in Defense Colony where all the chutneys and even Sambar would arrive on the table much before the order was placed, and one was in and out of the restaurant within 30 minutes flat on a good day. The food options are plenty at Yum Yum Cha with a focus on the one cuisine, not trying to please everyone and anyone. The place is comfortable in an unconventional way. Nevertheless, the food did leave a void. It is light, like it should be, it’s got the right ingredients, minus the mushrooms or rather they ought to experiment with different types of mushrooms, and everything that we ate was fresh, colourful, but I just wish that this sense of un-satisfaction that descended in the end could be replaced because I really, really want to visit again and give Yum Yum Cha another go.