Yes, I may be on my school summer holidays, but I’d like to think I’m not one to take things easy, I always like to fill my days doing fun things. One not so fun that I’m doing at the moment is training for my first marathon, the Yorkshire Marathon in October. I’ve been running for a couple of years now and have some half marathons and 10K’s under my belt. Yesterday my target was to run 17 miles for the first time, it was a hard slog and by the end of it I was absolutely knackered, my right ankle ached and I was starving. When I’m lacking energy I always tend to want food that I’m comfortable with, home comforts really. It was nearly lunch time so I thought to myself that lunch should be tasty and filling. I wanted Chinese as that’s what I think of as comfort food for me.
Instead of going to my usual restaurant Maxi’s off Kirkstall Road, I decided to go to Oriental City off Cross Stamford Street. The Oriental City Restaurant is part of the Sing-Ying Group which imports anything and everything oriental throughout the North of England. They say their chefs from Hong Kong have over 40 years of experience in the kitchens producing their Cantonese and Sichuan dishes.
The restaurant opened in 2007 but I’d never heard of the place until I’d read something a month ago, I used my sat-nav to find my way there as I probably would’ve have got lost in Sheepscar otherwise. From the road you would never really guess it’s there as the building it’s in doubles as a Chinese supermarket, arguably the largest in Leeds.
The car park is very small and I was very lucky that I managed to squeeze my tiny car in a small space. The restaurant is found on the first floor and on entering it I saw a large dimly-lit room, with it’s black tiled ceiling and lots of the customary large round tables with the rotating tops for big groups. Staff were friendly and efficient, as always seems to be the case in Chinese restaurants. I’d asked for the dim sum menu and I was quickly shown a table and given a pen and dim sum tick-sheet, like the ones you would get in Hong-Kong so I could choose exactly what I wanted.
The good/bad thing about these tick-sheets is you can really go over board on your order. A large table in front of me (6 adults and 4 children) had ordered vast amounts from the lunch menu and stacks of steamed dim sum as well, far too much food. I can’t really say much because as usual my eyes were much bigger than my belly and I chose 4 items off the menu myself!! I knew I’d have no chance of eating it all, but I’m not afraid to take some goodies in a doggy-bag back home.
Being A’level results day there were quite a few large parties (all Chinese) also dining, so there was a busy atmosphere in the restaurant. With all of my dishes being steamed they normally take at least 10 minutes before they are ready, so I settled down to drinking some Chinese tea.
The first dishes to arrive where the ha gau, sui mai and lo mai gai, brought into the traditional bamboo steamers that they would have been cooked in. All piping hot and looked great. I went for the ha gau and sui first as they tend to cool down the quickest. The ha gau are made with rice flour and filled with a mixture of prawns and bamboo shoots. When perfectly cooked the rice flour casing should be translucent and thin enough so the delicate pink of the prawn shows through. These were lovely, the wrappers were really thin and the prawn was sweet. The sui mai are made with a casing very similar to wonton wrappers, they may even be wonton wrappers filled with a pork and prawn mix, Chinese mushrooms topped with a small piece of carrot. These were lovely and meaty, the chinese mushrooms giving a really tasty woody flavour to them. Usually there’s a seasoning of rice wine/soy sauce mix which give the filling a mild salty flavour. The rice wine tempering the saltiness of the soy. The lo mai gai were really yummy, lotus leaves filled with sticky, glutinous rice, chicken, pork, chinese mushroom and shrimps. It’s strange how tastes change as you get older as these weren’t really favourite of mine as a child, I remember my father used to love ordering these on Sundays. But now I really like them. The meat is lovely and tender, full of flavour from the mushrooms and shrimps. A great combination. Last but by no means least were the beef cheung fun, these are streamed rice noodle rolls which can be plain or filled with a variety of ingredients (shrimp, king prawn, beef, char sui), I’d gone for the beef variety. When they arrived I noticed the rice noodle wasn’t as thin as I would normally like it, so when cooked you can see the filling inside. The flavour of this dish comes from the filling and the sweet soy sauce which is poured over the top. The filling was tasty but I would say that I’ve had better cheung fun elsewhere. Nevertheless I’d had a tasty lunch, I could only manage to eat two thirds and could not fit another thing in my belly. Realising I was defeated I asked for some takeaway boxes to pack away the rest of my meal which I couldn’t finish.
Service was attentive enough, even though it was fairly busy with the larger tables requiring attention, mainly because of the number of dishes that were being ordered.
The total cost of my lunch was £14.40 (without service charge), considering I had enough to take away with me shows thats its really good value for money. I’d recommend the place and next time would like to try it out on a busy Saturday night and go for dishes from the full menu.
Food: Tasty and filling, mostly very good, cheung fun could be better.
Value for money: Good, lots of food for not much money! They offer a great deal for business lunch (3 courses for £5.80)
Atmosphere: Good, fairly busy with lots of chat from large groups of families.
Service: Efficient when needed.