"Since opening in 1977, the Yang Sing has earned a reputation as being the best Chinese restaurant in Europe however, in more recent years, many reviewers on Restaurants Of Manchester and elsewhere have reported how it seems to be living on past glories. As a big fan of the plush Princess Street establishment, albeit one who hasn't been back for 2 years or so, I ignored the low scoring on our own website and took two Swiss friends, both whom had previously lived in Hong Kong. With hindsight, I wish I had paid attention to the warnings.
On entering the huge restaurant, we headed downstairs to the tastefully decorated basement, which was refurbished in 2006 to recreate a 1930's Shanghai style. The place was buzzing with families enjoying Sunday lunch and my guests were initially impressed. I felt a warm conviction that my recommendation was a good one. We opted for the Yang Sing Taster Menu which we had seen advertised outside. Described as '4 x Delicious Dim Sums plus a bowl of homemade Soup and a choice of Middle Course Dish all for £9.95 per head', this seemed to be incredible value.
The friendly waitress seemed to question the fact the offer was still valid when we asked, despite the advert saying it was available between noon and 5pm on Sundays (it was around 2pm). She returned some time later to confirm that the chef was happy to serve it for us - so we got down to selecting our dim sums from the shortlist of twelve (the a la carte menu offers over sixty varieties). Fortunately, none of us are fussy eaters so it was easy to compromise when given the otherwise political task of the rule in the small print that stated 'all members of the party must choose the same 4 dim sums'. After much discussion, we ordered the Deep Fried Lemon Marinated Chicken & Sweet Corn Samosa, the Chopped Prawn, Meat, Water Chestnuts, Mushroom & Chinese Chive Dumpling, the Beef Dumpling with Ginger & Spring Onion and the Vegetable Spring Roll. Each of these are normally priced as £3.20 so already we were starting to think that we had made a saving of £2.45 even without the soup and middle courses. Unfortunately, this is where we were wrong.
Each dim sum dish arrived with just three servings (one for each of us) although I was able to eat more than my four portions as my two Swiss friends were far from impressed with the incredibly greasy deep-fried options and the overly dry steamed choices. They were not great, it has to be said, and I was quite embarrassed in front of my well-travelled guests.
Fortunately, the servings of soup were more generous - it was almost never ending (normally priced at £4.60). The a la carte menu boasted 20 soups including Shark's Fin Soup (£11.50). The Chicken & Sweet Corn Soup couldn't be faulted although all three of us found the Hot & Sour Soup overly spicy which wasn't helped by the unattentive waitresses, as we in much need of a drinks top up.
The final course, a menu of eleven 'Middle Courses', was little more than a starter and, after ordering, we learned that they were all out of Salt & Pepper Soft Shell Crab. Again, my Swiss friends didn't finish eating the Salt & Pepper Spare Ribs as they were too stodgy and salty, although I was more than happy to finish them off. Whilst they weren't as bad as my friends had made out, they were certainly not of the quality you would expect from a restaurant with such a reputation - especially as they were normally priced at £10.90. The Chicken & Diced Vegetables & Nuts Lettuce Wrap was better but still only slightly more than a mouthful, whilst the King Prawn with Salted Shrimps, Curry Leaf & Lemon Grass in a Curry Sauce was again nothing to write home about without being totally offensive.
Despite the fact the serving sizes were not as expected on the Taster Menu and, had we known, we would have been better choosing from the massive a la carte menu, the price was quite reasonable when compared to normal prices. Normally, noodles and rice dishes are priced at £8, beef, chicken, pork, seafood dishes and casseroles are around £11, duck dishes £11.50 and prawn dishes around £14.30. Even Prawn Crackers were priced at £3 a serving. It's not a cheap restaurant and we couldn't help but feel, on this visit at least, that the prices are set for the standard of food the Yang Sing once became famous for serving when Harry Yeung donned his whites rather than his business suit. That said, pots of tea were free of charge and the wine list is amongst the best in Manchester with the house Macon Villages Les Burdines 2002 and Rioja Tinto Sierra Cantabria 2002 proving reasonable value at £18.90 a bottle.
After this embarrassing let down, I'm hoping my Swiss friends will give me the benefit of the doubt and let me make a recommendation on where to eat in Manchester next time they visit. I'm not sure if I should give the Yang Sing the same concession as, like the rating on Restaurants Of Manchester did warn me, it's possibly a restaurant living on past glories." - restaurants of manchester (16/10/09 visited on a sunday afternoon)