Taste of the Orient Yum Cha House, 223 Barker Street, Castlemaine. Phone: 5470 5465
Bennie and I are up Kyneton way to spend some time on Helen’s ranch – but first we’re checking out the Castlemaine market.
I’m impressed with the depth and breadth of the fresh produce and the likes of preserves on hand but it’s mostly lunch we’re after.
The best we see is an inside crew from one of the local Chinese joints doing what looks like some pretty good yum cha.
But there’s a queue and, silly me, we haven’t got enough hard cash on us to do the job.
So it’s in to Castlemaine proper we go.
We amble around the town’s CBD but find it hard to get a good reading on what’s on offer.
After years of trawling through the west, it seems we have some sort of in-built wisdom that means we can assess an eatery very quickly – good, bad, yes, no, worth a shot?
Not infallibly, mind you, but reliably so.
In Castlemaine, it feels as if every place we pass will sell us a crappy BLT and take about an hour to serve it.
So we hit an ATM and prepare to head back to the market.
Just as we are departing I see it – the very same Chinese restaurant that is doing yum cha at the market.
It’s open and, yes please, that’ll do fine!
Vegetarian dims sims (top photo, $7.50) taste OK but seem to have the consistency of sludge and thus lack the sort of textural contrasts I am expecting.
Organic pork and carrot dim sims ($7.50) are juicy with porkiness and very good.
Deep-fried organic tofu ($6) suffers by comparison with more highly seasoned versions we get in Malaysian establishments but is still good.
Crystal vegetarian dumplings ($7.50) have all the crunch and texture I expected from our other veggie selection and are excellent.
Steamed buns are mostly Bennie’s preserve, but even I completely love the …
… free-range pork $4) and …
… free-range chicken and ginger ($4) items we have here!
The latter is juicy, meaty and fragrant with ginger.
Both buns are light and undoughy.
We’ve had what I consider to be a top-rate and very affordable yum cha feed.
Bennie is somewhat less impressed – is he becoming a cranky, hard-to-please teen?
And it’s true my judgment could be subjectively coloured by the lack of anything else in Castlemaine that called strongly to us and the sheer delight of finding a classy yum cha emporium right here.
Still, with just a few minor quibbles, I consider that what we eat is mostly as good as anything we’d get in Melbourne places – and a whole lot better than we’d get in many.