Best Chinese Restaurants for *Yum Cha* Brunch in Dubai

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Where to go for the best dim sum and Yum Cha brunch in Dubai? From traditional to trendy, Dubai has options for each end of the spectrum.

Best Chinese Restaurants for Dim Sum and Yum Cha Brunch in Dubai (with all you can eat Dim Sum)Eating dim sum was a weekend ritual for me growing up in New York. Whenever I’m back in New York, the first order of business is almost always to go for Yum Cha (the second order of business is Vietnamese food).

“Yum Cha” is the Chinese tradition of brunching by eating dim sum and drinking tea.

Looking back over the last two decades of Yum Cha brunches in New York’s Chinatowns, not much has changed. The best restaurants still have hour-long waits on the weekends; you may have to share a table if your party isn’t big enough to commandeer an entire table of 10; as you sit down you are given a small sheet of paper to record the number of dishes you will order from the pushcarts.

If you are lucky to know one of the managers on duty, you can make small talk with him/her and save yourself a few bucks on the tea costs.

And there is always gossip about which restaurant has the best dim sum in town.

When the dim sum craving hits me in Dubai, there are a few tried and true Chinese restaurants worth going to for their Yum Cha brunches because of the authenticity of the food. The brunch prices are also good value for money versus ordering à la carte. But don't expect pushcarts (other than the Radisson Blu Deira) as these restaurants do the order-at-the-table thing.

Below are some of my favorite Chinese restaurants for Yum Cha brunches in Dubai (listed alphabetically).

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Hakkasan (Emirates Towers)

As we walked from the brightly lit Emirates Towers lobby into the dark recesses of Hakkasan I wasn't sure if I was there for Yum Cha brunch or a swanky date night. We passed tables with small children (and crying infants) and also tables with overly dressed up brunchers, so take your pick I guess.

Hakkasan Yum Cha Brunch - Dubai
Hakkasan Yum Cha Brunch - Peking Duck Station

All the dishes from the menu were ordered at the table and there were also two live stations (Peking duck pancakes and lamb dumplings) and the dessert buffet. We all loved the Peking duck (the pancakes were perfectly light and did not interfere with the duck). I was hesitant about the lamb dumplings because we don't eat a lot of lamb in Chinese cuisine but he meat was subtle, not gamey and the dumplings were very juicy inside. And very spicy.

Hakkasan was the only Yum Cha brunch where the food was not unlimited (other than the live stations and desserts). The shrimp chips were also unlimited - I'm not sure if that was a good or bad thing based on how much of those chips my kids ate.

From each section of the dim sum menu (steamed and fried/baked) you could only choose 4 out of 8 options and then you only get 1 piece per person. And from the main course, each diner could choose 1 option.

So let's say you order siu mai and you are a party of 2, then only 2 pieces of siu mai come out of the kitchen. It doesn't sound like a great deal of food nor value for money compared to the other restaurants that do unlimited ordering but I can't say that we left hungry. In fact, by the time the mains arrived, I was too stuffed to eat any of it. I think I may have over done it with the duck pancakes. Pace yourself people!

Some of our favorites: the wagyu beef puffs (although a bit salty), venison taro puffs (so crispy!), siu mai (kicked up a notch with XO sauce on top), truffle fried bean curd (because bean curd is so bland and boring that some think it needs a little truffle oil in order for people to consider eating it. Me? I like it on its own. But I liked it with the truffle oil too).

Desserts weren't very Chinese at all (chocolate tuffles, mousses, cakes, assorted macaroons...) but there was one option served in spoons that reminded me of those transparent jellied fruit balls served in bubble tea.

Overall, I liked the non-traditional {swanky} atmosphere (with live DJ) and that there were traditional dim sum alongside inventive dishes.

Hakkasan @ Emirates Towers: Hakka Brunch, Fridays from 12pm to 4pm. Halal (no pork). Prices: 199 dhs per person (minimum of two people) inclusive of unlimited select teas; 420 dhs per person (minimum of two people) for alcohol package; 588 dhs per person for the premium alcohol package. Free underground parking on weekends. Telephone: +971 4 384 8484.

Royal China (DIFC)

Trendy club music, minimalist decor of dark wood on white, ultra large red lanterns as ceiling centerpieces, fresh flowers, and tons of natural lighting at lunch make for a very vibrant yet relaxed Yum Cha brunch.

Royal China Dubai - Stuffed Bean Curd
Stuffed Bean Curd

Royal China is one of the few Chinese restaurants that offer cheong fun (shrimp, beef, and fresh scallop options) and bean curd roll (the trick is in the delicate outer wrapper) and do a good job of it. We ordered both dishes twice. I do miss the pork versions of both. And they also have chicken feet (in a black bean, soy and chili sauce) if you so desire.

I was disappointed that the taro puffs weren't up to standard as those are one of my favorite dim sum item (the balance of ridiculously crunchy outside and moist inside was not achieved at all) and some dumpling skins were too thick and chewy instead of light and delicate. Most items were served in 4s (some in 3s).

There were the usual suspects (siu mai, prawn dumplings, chicken buns, spring rolls, glutinous rice..) but no mains, noodles, rice nor vegetables dishes were offered as part of the brunch package.

Only one dessert (steamed buns) was included which none of us were interested in. So we ordered the egg tarts à la carte (2 tarts for 35 dhs even though the photo misleadingly shows at least 3 tarts) because we just had to see if it was any good. And they were. Crispy flaky pastry layer on the outside and custardy creamy on the inside. But it would have been better served slightly hotter than lukewarm considering it was supposed to take 20 minutes to make from scratch.

One last thing I can't help but comment on is the mediocre professional photos of the menu which seemed more fitting for a less-expensive restaurant than the kind Royal China positions itself as.

Go for the relaxing ambiance and the many traditional dims sum offerings.

Royal China @ DIFC:  Fridays and Saturdays from 12pm to 3:30pm. 188 dhs inclusive of Chinese tea, 388 dhs for house beverages, 488 dhs for the bubbly package. DIFC Building 4 on the balcony. Paid underground parking. Telephone: +971 4 354 5543.

Shang Palace, Shangri La Hotel (Sheikh Zayed Road)

As one of the oldest places in Dubai to go to for good dim sum, Shang Palace is looking tired. But if you can ignore the seriously stained carpets that desperately needs to be changed and focus on the food, you're golden.

For the first time, I was seated in the upper dining area where the lazy Susan tables are (but bad natural lighting for photos), which provided endless amusement for my 7-year old who couldn't stop spinning the food around. Fun?! Not.

Shang Palace Yum Cha Brunch
Shang Palace Yum Cha Brunch

Dumplings were served in 3s, not 4s (the number 4 in Chinese sounds like the word for "death" so superstitious restaurants do not serve dumplings in fours although growing up, I have never seen a restaurant serve in 3s...until I arrived in Dubai). The pacing at this restaurant was a little slower than the others, as was the service, though friendly.

The dim sum selection included a selection of steamed and fried dishes as well as noodles, rice and vegetable dishes. There were also a couple live stations including Cantonese roast duck with hoisin sauce (no pancake), yau tiao (fried dough sticks) for the congee (plain or seafood), and shrimp wontons with soup (no noodles). I cannot comment on the noodle and rice dishes as we didn't order any except a purposely bland one for the kids.

I'm glad dessert offering have been expanded as the last few times only fruit platter and one flavor of ice cream was offered. This last time we went there were four options and of course we had to go for the egg tarts. However, the tarts came topped with a blueberry compote which was not mentioned on the menu. The compote was delicious (kids loved it) but not what I wanted with the tart. I asked for another order of egg tarts without the blueberry and although as good as Royal China's, I don't recall it being as good as Yuans at the Atlantis.

The ambiance would have improved with music - perhaps maybe someone forgot to turn the music on or it was banned that day. Shang Palace for Yum Cha brunch is and has always been the best value for money as everything was unlimited and you can receive a 25% Golden Circle discount (previously Essence).

Shang Palace @ the Shangri La Hotel, SZR:  99 dhs per person for dim sum only (no Golden Circle discount); 168 dhs per person inclusive of soft drinks, local still water, and jasmine tea; 288 dhs for house beverages; 50% off for children under age 3. You can also get a 25% discount off your bill if you are a Golden Circle member (if not a member, you can apply at the time of dining and avail the discount immediately). Telephone: +971 4 405 2703.

Yuan, The Atlantis (Palm Jumeirah)

Yuan has a modern and posh feel about it. We've been here for date night, and sat down at the armchairs next to the gorgeous bar, as well as with the children who are better suited upstairs at a booth.

While Yuan did not have some of my favorite dishes (like cheong fun) the restaurant makes some amazing dumplings with skin so light and delicate that they almost always rip when trying to pick them up with chopsticks. Lift them up extra slowly and gently and use a spoon to assist.

Dumplings were served in 3s and the siu mai dumplings weren't as good as Hakkasan's but overall the dumpling selection was much better. Scotch and the kids loved the char siu bao (in the white buns) which rarely interests me as I find the dough too heavy. The chicken BBQ puffs were more up my alley with it's slightly lighter and sweeter dough but were not a hit with the kids.

Authentic noodle dishes were not Yuan's strong point. If you like over-sauced, over-salted takeout noodles (many people do and there's nothing wrong with that!) then these are for you.

There were two pork dishes (yes! I sad pork!) on the menu and we ordered both of them: the pork spare ribs and the char siu noodle soup (the only soup offered). Sadly, they weren't the pork stars we'd hope they'd be. The spare ribs were tough and chewy and did not slide off the bone easily.

Yuan @ Atlantis Dubai - Pork Spare Ribs
Pork Spare Ribs

Service was very friendly and the food came out quickly after ordering. We did not order any meat main courses nor rice dishes. We focused on the dim sum and stuffed ourselves silly on that. Funny enough, when you think you can't possibly eat another bite...

My Mom and Li'L Ginger
My Mom and Li'L Ginger

My mom ordered the mango-pomelo sago and after one taste we promptly ordered 2 more and could have had even more as the kids and I couldn't get enough.

Mom also ordered the egg tarts and same story. We all had one bite and it was like falling in food love. Yuan's egg tarts were so deliciously satisfying: piping hot with a perfectly flaky puff pastry crust and a silky soft eggy center. I wish I knew how to continue waxing poetical about them.

Why no photos? When we went to Yuan while my mom was in town, I did not expect to be writing a blog post about Yum Cha in Dubai. So there are hardly any photos of the food except for that one pork dish. Shocking. I know. There are, however, a million and one photos of us posing as tourists outside the restaurant (like the one on the right).

Yuan at the Atlantis, The Palm: Friday, 12pm - 3:30pm, 188 dhs per person including selected non-alcoholic beverages; 388 dhs per person including selected signature cocktails and house wine; 94 dhs for children 4 - 11 years old. Tea and water was charged separately even with the alcohol package. Telephone: +971 4 426 1166.

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Two other options for Yum Cha brunch are China Club at the Radisson Blu, Deira which does serve dim sum out of pushcarts and Peakcock at the Sheraton, Dubai Marina (Friday and Saturdays; 125 dhs per person; serves pork dishes). I haven't been to either in years so can't accurately comment on their current offerings.

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Tip: If you are not a big alcohol drinker, then choose the food package and then order a beer or cocktail à la carte. It comes out cheaper than going with the alcohol package.

Please let me know if there are any other Yum Cha restaurants worth trying by dropping me a message or commenting below. Perhaps your experiences differed from mine so definitely share your views as I would love to hear from you.

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  1. Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for your post on Yum Cha! My family loves going to yum cha brunch and the one we consistently go to is the one is Radisson Deira. Been going there for the last 10 years! 🙂 Although they don’t serve pork, their chicken sieumai is great! Lots of dimsum to choose from the trolley cart!

  2. Hi!
    Thanks for the overview – it was just what I was after. So are we all agreed then – that there is only one restaurant in Dubai doing yum cha with the carts? – And it’s China Club at Radisson Blue?
    We have been to Yuan and Royal China yum cha and loved the food. I agree that the chicken BBQ puffs at Yuan were great (and they are a personal favourite).
    We lived in Sydney for many years and the yum cha experience sounds much like yours in New York! 🙂

  3. Hi Ginger!
    There is a new restaurant in Business Bay called Long Teng Seafood Restaurant, they do a dim sum brunch on the weekends. The menu is limited, but the quality of the food is generally good. Worth a try!

  4. Thanks for sharing this – have been looking for a great Yum Cha after a hectic, scarring experience a few years back in Dubai almost put us off it for life….

    It’s lovely how you weave some interesting history and cultural notes into the food review, a nice spin 🙂

    Keep up the great work!

  5. Great list! I have only tried two – Yuan and Shang Palace.

    We had a horrible service experience at Shang Palace – had to wait for more than an hour before our dim sums arrived, food was yummy though.

    I wonder if Taipei Dao (formerly Sino Chai) offers Yum Cha? I had weekly craving of dim sum offerings from Sino Chai when I was pregnant with LittleMiss.

  6. I feel the one at The China club in Radisson Blu is pretty good. I will be heading back there in the coming week. I have tried a few others, namely Ping Pong, The Royal Buddha and Little Bangkok. I have had dimsums at a lot of other restaurants too but nothing has been able to beat China Club. Need to head back to Shangrila though. Loved the food at Shang Palace.

    1. Hi Gagan! Thank you for your comment 🙂

      I might have to give the Radisson Blu a try again – it’s just that it is such a far drive for us. Ping Pong is good but I think they prepare their dumplings ahead of time and then reheat them when ordered so the texture can be a bit off. I have not been to Royal Buddha nor Little Bangkok but we often buy Little Bangkok’s frozen dumplings and baos at Waitrose for lazy day cooking.

      Have you been to the Chinese restaurant in Movenpick Ibn Battuta?

      1. Hi Sandy. Apologies for such a late response. No, I have not been to the Chinese restaurant in Movenpick Ibn Battuta. By the way Radisson Blu was amazing and the freshly brewed Peach ice tea made it even better.