When a mate suggested yum cha and beers at Golden Times, it seemed like a good way to catch up with a friend and capitalise on the whole weekend vibe. Located inside Wests Ashfield Leagues Club, this large Chinese restaurant opens at 10.30am on weekends. We rock up without a reservation at 11am and watch the space rapidly fill up around us as we wait for our guest.
The burgundy and gold-toned restaurant has district views on two sides, and a big wall of fish tanks for their live seafood.
Draped in white tablecloths, the round tables are set quite close together, with an obvious rectangular circuit created for the yum cha carts.
Formally dressed floor staff in traditional black and whites, are quick to get us settled with Tsingtao Beers ($8.50/each) and glasses (I hate drinking beer from a bottle).
We kick off with golden football-shaped dumplings – Ham Sui Gok ($7.80/4) – where a semi-sweet glutinous rice crust encases savoury minced pork. They're crisp and chewy in equal proportion, and a good way to prepare your palate for the feast that is to follow.
Steamed Pork Ribs ($7.80) with taro root are Chinese (Hakka) comfort food, and while gently flavoured, this dish is easy to enjoy.
From the steamer cart we pick up tasty pork and prawn Siu Mai ($8.30/4) topped with eye-catching orange roe, and a couple of dumplings containing greens.
The Spinach Dumplings ($8.30/4) have a big intensity of flavour from the garlic chives, but claggy skins.
The Gai Lan and Prawn Dumplings ($8.30/4) have good savoury flavour but again, claggy skins that tear easily and don’t eat as ephemerally as they should.
Even the Prawn Har Gow ($8.30/4) are still not quite as translucent as I like them – they look best when you can really see the prawn tucked inside - but the chewy skins are definitely better eating than our earlier dim sum.
Hong Kong-style Char Siu Cheong Fun ($8.30) are delicious. The red-edged, slightly sweet, char siu roast pork is wrapped inside steamed white noodle tubes with seasoned soy poured over them at the table. Get your friendly server to cut them in half for ease of eating.
Baked Char Siu Bao ($6.30/3) are another use for the left-over char siu roast pork, this time teaming it with a pillowy soft golden bun that’s glistening with honey. With a wonderful blend of sweet and savoury, they’re probably my favourite dim sum at Golden Times.
With the trolleys having to make a much longer journey around the length of the packed dining room, we eat some deep-fried items more or less because we were still hungry, and they’re what came around first. Chicken Spring Rolls ($7.80/3) have a tasty chicken mince and mushroom filling against the usual, luminous red sweet and sour sauce.
We’re more impressed by a quartet of Deep Fried Prawn Dumplings ($9.50/4) that each contain a garlicky king prawn with excellent bite against a golden blistered wonton skin.
Hoping for some barbequed duck, we enquire, only to be put off by a twenty-minute wait time, so we settle on Fried Radish Cake ($9.50/3) that comes out pretty quickly. While these pan-fried pats are not the tastiest version of this dish I’ve eaten, they’re still great slathered with chilli sauce.
Scooped from the large pot that sits on top of the dessert trolley, our Tofu Pudding ($4.50) is generously proportioned, soothing and only semi-sweet with just a small spoonful of fragrant sugar syrup.
Our whole meal for three people came in at just over $160 with a ten percent discount for being a member, which everyone can achieve because at least one of your party has to pay the three buck yearly membership fee to sign you in to access Golden Times. It felt slightly expensive to me, but it’s been a while since I’ve eaten yum cha, and my conception of value may be slightly off the pace.
Golden Times Chinese Restaurant
Wests Ashfield, 115 Liverpool Road, Ashfield
Ph: (02) 8752 2111