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Yauatcha exterior, 15 Broadwick Street

Our friend Tom Perrotta has been staying with us for the past week. Tom is a journalist who covers tennis for the New York Sun, and he’s here to write witty and smart articles about Wimbledon for said newspaper.

Because Tom’s working day and night, it’s rare that Jon and I can take Tom out for fun and games in London, but yesterday, we were able to round up a group of what can only be called Tom’s peeps (his brother-in-law, Eric, and his friends from NY, Dave and Sharon) for dinner at Yauatcha followed by drinks at a great late-night pub, the Angelic.

Yauatcha is what you’d get if Hakkasan served only dim sum, which isn’t surprising given that both restaurants are owned by Alan Yau. Both have high-style, underground interiors designed by Christian Liagre, and both serve very fresh food made from quality ingredients. I love hole-in-the-wall dim sum, but it’s nice to know that the pork in the shu mai is really pork, instead of a mysterious composite meat. The restaurant is packed and the food is still good, despite its having been open for three years now.

Yauatcha feels a little factory-like with its strict cancellation fee calculated at £20 per person and an enforced 90-minute limit on how long you have your table. But given the quality of the dim sum and the sexiness of the decor and crowd, it’s hard to resist eating there more than once. We waited outside for a while for our table despite having made a reservation, but standing next to Kiefer Sutherland and his friends made the wait outside kind of a plus. (For me to spot a celebrity, he/she would have to introduce himself and show me ID, so good thing Tom and his friends were more alert than I am).

Once inside, the noise level was high, but not deafening, and the food ranged from good (e.g., chive dumplings) to creative and fantastic (scallop shu mai). The seafood-based and tofu-based dishes were my favorites. Scallops and prawns were always sweet and firm, and even the shanghai soup dumplings had a hint of crab to them, the way I used to order them at Joe’s Shanghai in NY.

Almond prawn deserves special mention because I loved how it was fried in a ribbon-like shell of what must have been a flat pasta, so that was a super-attractive and delicious dish

Service was friendly enough, though the servers looked so harried that we almost felt bad about trying to get someone’s attention to, say, order more wine. It’s amazing the restaurant can actually get people in and out in 90 minutes given the appearance of frenzied chaos in the dining room. Generally, restaurants in London staff very leanly when compared to restaurants back in the US, and while I understand that restaurants would like to keep costs low, I think having a better ratio of staff to customers would improve everyone’s lives.

In any event, our party of six ordered 13 dim sum plates and two main course plates. Even including three bottles of a light, floral gewurztraminer, our tab totaled £38 a person. It’s expensive for dim sum, but good value for the food and decor.

Because last night was the end of an era, after dinner, our friends joined many other pub patrons in a last smoke before midnight. Then, at 11:30 pm, when most pubs close, we left the madness of SoHo for the late-night comforts of the Angelic, back in our own neighborhood. It’s really too bad that even with a late-night license, pubs close at 1:30, but we continued the party back at our place, so it was a good time anyway.

Yauatcha, 15-17 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DL; 0207 494 8888; closest tube station: Piccadilly Circus

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