Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Haoke - Sunnybank Hills

Yum Cha has been established in Brisbane for as long as I can remember. Yum Cha (飲茶 - literally drinking tea) is a traditional Cantonese Cuisine. The origins can be traced to little tearooms in China, where people would relax after a hard day's work to catch up with friends and appreciate fine tea (akin to a modern day cafe). Initially, it was considered inappropriate to mix tea drinking with food, as it would reduce the drinker's appreciation of tea, later though, imperial physicians discovered that drinking tea whilst eating would aid in digestion as well as reduce wait gain. With this development, the little tearooms started to serve small snacks on the side. As time passed, this grew into the modern day Yum Cha that we all know and love. [1]

Being a HongKonger, I really do appreciate going to Yum Cha for a weekend lunch with family. Compared to Sydney and Melbourne, I would consider the Yum Cha scene in Brisbane to be rather lacking, but within the limited options available, I would consider Haoke at Sunnybank Hills to be the best option.

The thing about a good Yum Cha place is that its always packed on a weekend lunchtime. I'd be very skeptical about the quality of the food if I didn't need to wait at least 10 minutes to get a table. Of course, I'd also be annoyed if I had to wait an excessively long time to get a table too. Luckily, the usual wait time for a table at Haoke is around 15 minutes, long enough to anticipate the food, but not so long as to annoy me.

The setting is pretty standard for Yum Cha, with the white plate, bowl and tea cup.

The dim sim card is placed on your table to record how many dishes you ate.

Patrons get a choice from the usual options in tea, TieGuanYin, PuErh, Jasmine, Chrysanthemum etc. Being a big fan of tea, I really appreciate a good pot of tea. In my opinion this is what sets Haoke apart from other Yum Cha places in Brisbane. Whilst their tea is definitely not gourmet, its clearly a cut above the rest, with a light colour but a distinctly stronger taste. 

What I also like about Haoke is the provision of a hot water thermos at every table, which would mean less time waiting around for a waiter to refill our teapot when it runs out.

Complimentary soy sauce and chili sauce is provided, but we rarely use it.

The food offered at Yum Cha is usually served in a small portion for sharing, akin to Tapas, as opposed to other cuisines where each person orders a meal and eats the portion themselves. The first thing we ordered was the chicken feet. Whilst not a mainstream dish, my parents do really enjoy it. They said that it was cooked rather tender and the sauce was tasty.

Personally, I am a big fan of Congee (rice porridge). I particularly like the Congee at Haoke because its served in a comparatively large bowl which means everyone can get a decent sized share, but it is only a medium dish. Other places usually class congee as large or extra large, but give a much smaller portion. The taste is pretty good, but I would have liked a bit more century egg and meat throughout the congee.

The next to arrive was the Stewed Hong Kong Style Beef Entrails (牛雜). Whilst it sounds unappetising, it has recently become one of my favourite dishes. It contains an assortment of beef entrails such as tripe, lungs, pancreas and radish cooked until tender in a really tasty stock. I really recommend this dish. Its usually accompanied by chili oil, which I also really enjoy.

Stuffed eggplant is another family favourite, with fried eggplant stuffed with fish paste finished off with a thick sauce. 

When it comes to iconic Yum Cha dishes, one cannot go past Har Gow (蝦餃) and Siu Mai (燒賣). In considering what makes a good Har Gow, it is usually judged on how thin and translucent the skin is, and how generous the portion of prawns are. In this regard, Haoke makes a pretty decent effort. The skin could be more thin, but I have not been able to find a better one in Brisbane, the portion of prawn is also quite decent.

The second iconic dish, Siu Mai is an open pork and prawn dumpling with a bit of shitakke mushroom mixed through and garnished with a spot of orange crab roe. To be honest, the serving offered at Haoke wasn't particularly outstanding, but it was a solid effort. The best Siu Mai can only truly be found in Hong Kong. 

My personal favourite when it comes to steamed dishes is the Bean Curd Rolls (鮮竹卷). It consists of minced pork and bamboo shoot wrapped in bean curd and steamed with a thick sauce added just before serving. It is both homey and the ultimate comfort food.

When it comes to yum cha, steamed dishes are served from a specialised steamer cart, whilst fried dishes can be served from just a regular cart. From the fried dish cart, we got the deep fried calamari, which was didnt have the overly thick batter that some other places have. The serving was quite decent sized too.

When it comes to my favourite fried dish, its definitely the taro dumplings, which contain a selection of minced pork and veges, wrapped in mashed taro and deep fried. 

In terms of deserts we ordered the chinese donuts, which interestingly originated from Japan and are also known as Sata Andagi. Its a fried doughy kind of bun sprinkled with sugar on the outside.

To finish off, we also ordered the Cantonese adaption of Portugese Tart, which in the context of Yum Cha, is essentially a caramelised custard tart. Nevertheless, I appreciate the added texture of the caramelised top.

From reading other reviews of Haoke, I understand that some guests have had issues with the service, and I agree that the service at a busy Chinese restaurant tends to be abrupt and uncourteous, but as regulars, many of the staff have become quite friendly to us. Occasionally we also have issues with the plates and bowls not being very clean, but having eaten in Hong Kong before, we are familiar with the concept of having to wash your own crockery before the meal. I believe this is a rather alien concept locally, but I find it acceptable.

Price Range: $15 - $25 per person (during lunch)

Taste: 7.5/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 6.5/10
Environment: 7/10 (could be cleaner, but air con is sufficient in the hot summer and I like the floor to ceiling windows. It adds a lot of ambiance when its raining outside.)

Haoke Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. Never! New Shanghai is where its at!

    1. Haha, I should probably clarify, for Cantonese style Yum Cha, my fav is Haoke. For Shanghai style ones, it would probably be a toss up between New Shanghai or Taste Gallery ;)

  2. Try The Manor @ Eight Mile Plains for yum cha. Very good! A hidden gem

    1. I'll definitely have to try it out sometime :D