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Monday, February 27, 2006

Zilver Seafood Restaurant, Haymarket

Zilver yum cha trolley decisions

The beauty of yum cha is its reliable welcome of harried chaos. The room will be a-clatter with chopsticks and conversation, the waitstaff will be rushed off their feet re-filling teapots and dispensing chilli sauce, and the trolley ladies will harangue you incessantly with the last of the cabbage-filled spring rolls.

Zilver is nothing like that.

Zilver exterior

Zilver used to be Silver, as in Silver Spring, but now the S has become a Z and the interiors have gone from nice to "noice". The approach from the downstairs escalators (which had to be relocated to accommodate the $3m refurbishment) is bereft of any tacky red and gold ornaments, instead the logo, signage and decor are now all modern, sleek and sophisticated. It feels so clean and crisp and understated, it feels so terribly... North Shore.

Zilver poster

There's a bit of industry buzz about the new-look Zilver though. Henry Tang and wife Chillie have finally inherited the reins from Henry's father, and helping them realise their vision of "a new vision in Chinese cuisine" is executive chef Jack Ng, a Hong Kong-born chef with over thirty years experience.

Zilver service

The theme of sophistication continues within: a sleek and modern black granite bar flanks one side of the restaurant, opening out to sturdy bronze mosaic pillars, ornate fish tanks and a reassuringly familiar red feature wall with red lanterns hanging overhead. It feels like a Chinese restaurant, and yet it's not. It's akin to stepping into a real life lay see lucky red envelope. It's Chinese all right, but just not as we know it!

Tables are topped with cloths of slate gray, and the upholstered silk seating is soft and *gasp* actually comfortable. The table feels unnaturally high though, and I'm sure it's due to the chairs being a wee bit lower than usual.

A yum cha trolley soon comes our way. The offerings are familiar and generally well-executed. The har gow prawn dumplings are plump and shiny, the gow choi gow garlic chive dumpling are pleasant. Har cheung fun prawn long noodles come with vein still attached (much to the consternation of my dining companion) and the fatty bone-chewing satisfaction of pai gwut pork ribs are tasty but could perhaps do with a little more black bean and a heavier scattering of chilli.

Nothing makes me really sit up and gasp with delight, although the appearance of orange fish roe on the siu mai makes me realise that yes, the usual grated carrot atop the yellow-robed pork dumplings are just a cheap imitation of its original concept.

Har gow prawn dumplings
Har gow (prawn dumplings)
Large dim sum dish - $4.80

Gow choi gow garlic chive dumplings
Gow choi gow (garlic chive and scallop dumplings)
Medium dim sum dish - $4.20

Siu mai pork dumplings
Siu mai (steamed pork dumplings)
Medium dim sum dish - $4.20

The siu mai are spicier than usual encounters, with more than a sprinkling of pepper and perhaps a touch of five spice. For those not content with trolley offerings, a perspex menu holder on each table advertises alternative fare available a la carte, upmarket Chinese offerings like steamed sea cucumber dumpling and fish maw in hot pot, moving to the positively exotic: prawn balls filled with cheese, for instance, and stir fried beef stick with peach.

As we peruse the menu, we soon encounter Zilver Service (like Silver Service, with a Zee) as a helpful hostess silently and suddenly materialises by our table with a smile.

"Do you need any help with the menu?" she asks politely in non-accented perfect English.

We graciously defer, and with a humble nod and short bow she departs with a pleasant request to "please let her know if we require any assistance."

You could say that I'm slightly shocked by this display of customer service, politeness and pro-active hospitality. In a Chinese restaurant? At yum cha? No!

Ten minutes and two bamboo steamers later, another impeccably attired female staff member appears by our side.

"How has your meal been today?" she enquires with concern. "Have you enjoyed it?"

I almost choke on my dumpling as Rebecca nods agreeably.

"I'm an Adviser," the woman explains. "I'm here to help with the menu and your selection of dishes. Please, if there's anything on the menu you need help with, or if you require any advice in any way, then please, do let me know," she says, smiling sweetly.

This feels so surreal. Am I really in Chinatown, or have I stepped into the Singapore Raffles Hotel?

Where is the surliness? The grimacing? The I've-got-better-people-to-tend-to-than-you attitude?

I can only sigh. What has my beloved yum cha become?

Pai kwut steamed pork ribs
Pai kwut (steamed pork ribs with black bean and chilli)
Medium dim sum dish - $4.20

Har cheung fun steamed prawn noodles
Har cheung fun (prawn long noodle)
Extra large dim sum dish - $5.80

Dumplings in bamboo steamers

Zilver yum cha trolley

Zilver Seafood Restaurant
Level 1, 477 Pitt Street, Haymarket, Sydney, Australia
(Sydney Central building, corner Hay Street)
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 2232

Lunch Mon - Fri 10am - 3pm, Sat - Sun 9am - 3pm
Dinner 7 days 5.30pm - 11pm

This post has been submitted as part of the online foodblogger event, Dine & Dish #6: Amazing Graze. Check out the wrap-up of "small dish dining" around the world, presented by our reservations host Sarah, of The Delicious Life.

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Zilver, January 2007
19 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (AugustusGloop) on 2/27/2006 11:53:00 pm


  • At 2/28/2006 1:29 am, Blogger Robyn said…

    Ahhhh this place sounds good...and with such nice service? And interior decoration? And...I never knew siu mai was supposed to have fish roe. >__<

    I don't know if there are restaurants like that in NYC. Doh!

  • At 2/28/2006 7:30 am, Blogger Kelly said…

    Sounds like a great place, but I agree that the chaos of a "normal" yum cha restaurant has its own appeal too.

    PS> I wish my name was "Chillie"! Especially if I was going to marry someone with the last name "Tang"! ;P

  • At 2/28/2006 8:12 am, Blogger Reb said…

    Nice one AG! - and I'm glad this has gone into Amazing Graze! Wasn't it a bummer neither of us could scramble with a camera to capture that unreal fruit sculpture that sailed past? That would have made a choice pic for the blog!

  • At 2/28/2006 9:00 am, Blogger tytty said…

    I've been to Zilver a few times and I agree that it's less chaotic, the ladies generally are more pleasant unlike those with sulky pouts and the chairs are too low although comfy. With Zilver, you gotta explore, sometimes you make amazing discoveries, sometimes you don't think it's any extra special.

    I can't help but think that the waitresses might have thought you guys were food critics with the consistent picture taking and perusal & discussion of the menu? :-D

  • At 2/28/2006 9:01 am, Blogger tytty said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 2/28/2006 9:31 am, Blogger cin said…

    oh no! what's happening to the true yum cha experience? that's almost like going to a place where they don't try to remove your plate BEFORE you've finished!

  • At 2/28/2006 1:33 pm, Blogger Julia said…

    I posted about my first time at Zilver, then I took a friend on Valentine's Day as their website says they have cocktails and bar food - sounded perfect, but they had no idea what I was talking about, and told me at the door "you can give you a glass of red or white wine". It was one of my most surreal dining experiences. They left the dim sum menu on our table, and since it didn't say anything about it only being for yum cha, we thought we could order some - when we tried, the waiter laughed his head off at us! And on it went.

    Do you have a favourite yum cha place Helen? Mine has always been East Ocean, but I look forward to trying Zilver a few more times.

  • At 2/28/2006 1:54 pm, Blogger Joycelyn said…

    hi helen, zilver sounds like a great place! and despite the absence of (gasp!) surliness, all the small plates do look delicious

  • At 2/28/2006 3:40 pm, Blogger Ed said…

    I think I'd miss the surliness, tht's part of the charm of sunday yum cha.

  • At 2/28/2006 4:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    LOL! isn't it funny? when it's brusque and short and condescending, all we want to do it talk about how horrible it was.

    when it's missing, we want to talk about how we miss it.


    thank you helen (i just now realized that you have "come out of AG's closet" ;) ), as always, for participating!

  • At 2/28/2006 7:49 pm, Blogger FooDcrazEE said…

    nice service for a yum cha place but as u said, it takes the fun out aint it

  • At 2/28/2006 7:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sounds great,did you try anything sweet such as the mango crepes and coconut jelly?
    My favourites at yum cha.

  • At 3/01/2006 12:05 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Robyn - I'm sure there are restaurants like this in NYC! And no, I didn't realise that siu mai had fish roe either. I've been having the McDonalds version of a siu mai all this time and I never knew!!

    Hi Kelly - I agree--on both points!

    Hi Reb - I forgot about the fruit sculpture... that's prob because I didn't have a photo! =)

    Hi Tian - I don't think we were targeted as critics. It struck me as particularly unusual that the second women called herself an "Adviser". Neither appeared in a flap at trying to suss us out.

    Hi Cin - lol. One of my pet hates!

    Hi Julia - That sounds like a horrible experience on V Day night. Methinks they need to fully brief their floorstaff on advertised promotions!

    I tend to frequent Dragon Star at the top of the Market City - I love the noise of the giant dining room, they seem to be the cheapest in Chinatown, and yet their har gow boast the biggest whole prawns I've ever encountered.

    I'll head to East Ocean if I'm with family or interstate friends. It does have a calmer atmosphere and the queues aren't nearly as long as Dragon Star.

    Hi J - The food was tasty, it was just the presence of service that was eerily disconcerting! =)

    Hi Ed - God we all sound mad, don't we? I suppose it would be like going to Macca's and getting a starched white linen serviette.

    Hi Sarah - Thanks for setting the theme. Can't wait to see the other entries. I have a hankering for some sangria!

    Hi foodcrazee - I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who revels in bad service occasionally!

    Hi MissK - Usually I always manage to squeeze in something sweet, but alas not on this occasion. There's always next time, right?

  • At 3/01/2006 9:40 am, Blogger deborah said…

    Aaah bittersweet. I think I'm with you... i prefer the nochalant trolley ladies with their star socks and shoes laces. Perhaps it is just me who prefers old school. Still those dumplings look fresh and delicious! Great write up Helen!

  • At 3/01/2006 9:05 pm, Blogger Chick Pea said…

    I've been running around trying to find a decent looking venue (and decent food!!) for our reception, and several people have suggested Zilver. Must check it out after seeing your pics!!

    Did you get a new camera? Those photos look fab!!!

  • At 3/01/2006 11:54 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Saffron - The trolley ladies here were all impeccably attired. Not a black sneaker and white sock combo in sight!

    Hi Chickpea - Ooh reception "trial dinners" are always fabulous.

    Nope these were on the ol' trusty Sony P-10. A little help from Photoshop though =)

  • At 7/27/2006 7:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i went there n this lady kept on asking if we want to order anything specific, i was surprised too by the service! but this was in the morning when it just opened, so maybe they had nothing to do..?

  • At 7/28/2006 10:54 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi celaby6691 - Early morning yum cha is always good. Good service, even better!

  • At 5/03/2007 9:57 am, Blogger kipling said…


    Zilver Seafood is just right, and the celebration enhanced by the fine food and ambiance - have a toast to those far far away... Enjoy!!


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