The history of Chinese teahouses can be traced back to the Tang (618–907 AD) and Song (960–1279) dynasties. Stemming from the need for roadside sanctuaries for rest, teahouses have since transitioned to becoming a lively cultural atmosphere for storytelling, conversation, opera, and of course, for the yum-cha dining experience as we know it today.
While the tea appreciation aspect has fallen second to dim sum and food in general, Siev Gour, a self-confessed tea connoisseur, has been on a tea journey for several years, travelling across China and Hong Kong extensively to taste and learn as much about tea as he can. He shares his finds with the world at his Waterloo eatery, Pu’er.
Unlike yumcha, we’re here at night. And unlike yumcha, there’s a relaxing tranquil aura at Pu’er.
The tea menu alone spreads across several pages and is categorised into traditional hand selected pure teas and new age drinks (wines, beers and spirits).
Our 1995 loose leaf premium Yunnan Pu’er ($9) is described as a thick, dark, rich infusion with an earthy, sweet honey finish. With a pot of hot water sitting over a candle, we’re advised to only refill the teapot minutes before we’d like to drink it, otherwise steeping the tea for too long will produce unpleasant bitter notes.
Tea isn’t just a beverage here, it is also used to tea-steam the dumplings. The prawn and snow pea ($8) are a sumptuous combination of prawn, snow pea and crisp fresh water chestnut and the dumpling skin is perfection – not too flimsy nor too chewy, just barely translucent.
The scallop dumplings ($9) are a Hong Kong style of prawn, scallop and baby bamboo dumpling in a yellow egg pastry which has a texture akin to har gow dumpling skin.
While I’m happy to have decent dumplings this time of night, where things get fun is the street food and share plate menu.
Wagyu tacos ($16) feature 9+ Oakley Ranch wagyu beef with housemade chilli paste with four leaf greens sandwiched in a soft and fluffy Taiwanese gua bao bun casing. Some might argue that there’s nothing taco-like about these but don’t let that stop you from devouring them. There’s a satisfying umami in the chilli paste with notes of fermented soybean paste, and the wagyu is a juicy tender medium.
I probably could have smashed all four of these wagyu tacos myself!
Crispy egg noodles with soft shell crab ($21) are a highlight here as well. Serving the noodles inverted (every other time I’ve ordered crispy egg noodles at other Chinese restaurants, the stir fry has always been served on top, making it a race to eat all the crunchy noodles before it gets soggy) is ingenious and the accompanying stir fry of scallops, snow peas and fresh shiitake mushrooms complements the soft shell crab well. And by well, I mean it masks the fact that we’re eating deep-fried with deep-fried.
I ordered the Buddha’s palm eggplant ($16) thinking it was a Buddha’s hand citron fruit but the dish is sumptuous nonetheless. The sauce is reminiscent of Shandong Chicken, a balance of sweet, salty and sour, with mushroom and black vinegar soy, house-pickled garlic and fresh coriander.
With persimmon in season at the time of our visit, Siev whips out an off-the-menu crumble which I have been craving for ever since.
Pu’er’s refined teahouse experience is a local gem and a welcoming option for when substandard Chinese takeaway just won’t do. Waterloo/Zetland just keeps getting better!
20a Danks Street, Waterloo, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 8399 1331
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Pu’er