HOT: The Toff in Town, Curtin House, 2/252 Swanston St, Melbourne

I’ve written about The Toff in Town before but since that post the restaurant’s menu has completely changed focus, so I thought it was worthwhile to do another post on our recent experience at The Toff In Town, this time with pictures.

What’s remained the same is the glamorous colonial-era faux train carriage booths, complete with red leather upholstery, bamboo screen doors for privacy and a call button for service. Speaking of service, it’s still super-friendly, a far cry from the couldn’t-care-less attitude from the waitstaff from its compatriot at Curtin House, Cookie.

What has changed is that now The Toff In Town offers small, Asian-inspired eats. I never realised that the same kitchen had always serviced Cookie and The Toff In Town, and the owners decided that it made more sense to utilise the best skills of the Thai chefs for both venues. The table decor has changed a little too, as the kitsch red checked tableclothes, paper doilies and cutlery-in-a-plastic-basket pastiche of Cookie has been transplanted into Victorian-era train carriages.

I went to The Toff In Town with K and V, two vegetarians, so it was a meat-free meal except for the solo betel leaf that I ordered. The menu of appetisers, salads, skewers, grill and mains is about 80% meat and fish, so there’s just enough choice for about 3 vegetarian diners to sample a good variety of dishes – as everything on the menu is meant to be shared.

To start, sweet potato and cashew dumplings with chilli soy ($12.50). This was similar in texture to a yum cha favourite ham sui gok, meaning a wafer-thin crisp fried shell encasing a soft interior interspersed with crunchy nuts. A definite winner.

In contrast, the green papaya, green beans and tomato salad (sans dried shrimp for us) ($10.50) was a bit blah for my taste. To me it was a bog-standard coleslaw attempting to don an Asian disguise. I much preferred the smoked eggplant, tomato and banana chilli salad with mint and dried shallots ($11.50) with its Greek-Thai play of textures and flavours.

For our mains we shared the yellow curry with tofu and mushroom dumplings ($11.50) and a baked radish cake with mushrooms, bean shoots, chilli and mint ($10.50). As you can tell by the price, the curry is actually quite a small serving and is probably more suited as a dish for one, as the three of us ended up with about a tablespoon of rice each. The curry sauce was full of flavour without the dooming heaviness of excessive coconut cream and the dumplings were meaty mashed balls, their relatively bland texture a fitting counterpoint for the sauce.

The other main was my favourite dish – cubes of pan-fried radish cake heaped with a jumble of shiitake mushrooms and bean shoots with a subtle kick of chilli to transform it from Chinese to Thai flavours.

For dessert K and V had the chocolate mousse with brandy snaps ($10.50) whereas I doubled back to the appetisers for a single betel leaf topped with salmon, crab and pomelo salad ($5.50). I think both of these dishes were the least successful of the night.

I found the mousse to be grainy, as if either they’d used cocoa powder to make it (ugh) or hadn’t sufficiently whisked in the sugar. As for my appetiser, I’ve never seen ‘betel leaf’ transformed into ‘iceberg lettuce’. The ill-formed sheet of lettuce was completely the wrong presentation, texture and taste for dish, as the leaf’s waterlogged crunch overwhelmed the delicate balance in the filling.

While I’m quite nostalgic for The Toff In Town‘s previous Mediterranean food, the new menu is worth exploring. I’ve always been a fan of Cookie‘s kitchen, and now I can eat its food in the fabulously decadent surroundings of The Toff In Town.

  • The Toff In Town, Curtin House, The Toff In Town, 2/252 Swanston St, Melbourne +61 3 9639 8770

The Toff in Town on Urbanspoon

HOT: Taste of Melbourne 2010, Royal Exhibition Building, 9 Nicholson St, Carlton

It seemed that every foodie brought their taste-testing appetites to the Royal Exhibition Buildings this weekend for the four days of Taste of Melbourne (26-29 August).

The Taste festivals in Melbourne and Sydney are a chance for diners to create their own tasting menu from the selection of dishes offered by some of the city’s well-known restaurants. This year the Melbourne restaurants included oldies like The European and Stokehouse alongside newbies like Le Traiteur and maze. The idea is that you pay for entry ($27.50) and then you have to pay extra for ‘crowns’, the currency of the festival, which you then swap for dishes of your choice. About 30 crowns per head ($30) is needed for three small courses, so I was a bit dubious about the value-for-money proposition. As RM said ‘I don’t understand, couldn’t you just pay money to go and eat at these restaurants?’.

Anyway, we had managed to receive free entry tickets through a competition draw, so we just had to shell out $30 each for our crowns. Then, the decision as to what try from the 36 dishes on offer….

Carlton restaurant Embrasse had a pop-up stall just for the Sunday, so I decided to try Mr Donati’s crispy pork belly, peas and wild sorrel coulis, purple potato, fromage frais and garden herbs (10 crowns). The pork belly was a melting cube of meat and juicy fat and I particularly liked the starchiness, not to mention the vibrant colour, of the mashed purple potatoes. And bravo for maintaining Embrasse‘s signature delicacy of presentation on a plastic plate!

RM decided on the wild rabbit sausage roll with tomato kassundi (10 crowns) from The European. Flaky and meaty, it was a satisfying dish and wasn’t dry despite appearances.

Next up, The Palace‘s Wagyu burger (10 crowns).  The burger patty was well-cooked and well-seasoned, and most importantly, the half-portion belied how filling it was. The queue for this dish denoted it as a definite crowd pleaser.

RM had The Palace‘s eye fillet with potato mash and sauce Bordelaise (12 crowns). He said it tasted ok but was sadly cold. Cold steak gets zero points in my book.

Tweeps had also recommended Stokehouse‘s wagyu beef cigars with artichoke tapenade and horseradish, Longrain‘s yellow curry of wagyu beef with cucumber relish and Charcoal Lane‘s wallaby tataki with ginger, soy and horseradish.

At this point we decided to take break and to wander around the many producer stalls. Actually, this was how we ended up filling up most of our stomach, as we nosed our way to taste chocolate, relishes, dips and cheese. For drinkers this would have been a great opportunity to sip and swirl a lot of wine, beer and spirits.

The lineup of cookies and cakes from Sweet by Nature

Who can resist a chocolate fountain of Green & Black’s Organic chocolate? Not me.

For dessert I had planned to try the Stokehouse‘s Bombe of strawberry sorbet, white chocolate parfait and toasted meringue, but RM had ordered two flavours of Ben & Jerry‘s ice-cream and for four crowns he ended up with two generous cups of ice-cream. So my dessert was a huge portion of Phish Food, the best value deal in all the festival.

Looking to get rid of our remaining crowns, we bought a tin of Persian feta from Yarra Valley Dairy (which I’d discovered when staying at the Lost and Found Hotel) and a jar of blue mallee honey from Beechworth Honey.

In a haze from my inevitable sugar coma,  I stumbled home for an afternoon nap…to wake up to a lovely surprise. I’d won a gourmet hamper from Maria Island Walks and Red Feather Inn in Tasmania! I lived for some years in Launceston as a kid and I have many fond memories of Sunday lunches by the fireplace of Red Feather Inn. So I’m particularly delighted with this prize as I’ll be able to revisit an old haunt, which has been revamped in a French Provencal style, to try out one of their cooking classes. Thank you Maria Island Walks and Red Feather Inn!

HOT Chat: Markus Bohm of The Langham

Markus chatting with Penny (Addictive & Consuming) and Sarah (Sarah Cooks)

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I was invited to The Langham to enjoy their chocolate indulgence high tea. Today’s your opportunity to find out more about the man behind the magic, Head Pastry Chef at The Langham, Markus Bohm. Thanks Markus!

Markus, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to be the Head Pastry Chef at The Langham?

I was trained in Germany and worked as an apprentice in a pastry shop. From there, I went into hotels, leaving when I was 20 for Bermuda where I took up my first pastry chef position at the Castle Harbour Hotel (today this is the Marriott). I then spent ten years working as the Pastry Chef at the Plaza Hotel in New York, before moving to the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles – the best hotel in the world at that time.

I came to Australia eighteen years ago to open what was then the Sheraton Towers (now The Langham, Melbourne). I worked as a pastry chef there for three years, before leaving to open up the Le Cordon Bleu school in Melbourne.

Then, seven years ago, the Head Chef at The Langham called me and asked me to return to the hotel. I’ve been working here as the Head Pastry Chef ever since.

What do you consider to be your food philosophy?

My food philosophy would be using the freshest and best ingredients I can find. The ingredients in my desserts have to be good, and I particularly like dark, bittersweet chocolate.

What qualities do you believe a pastry chef has that are different to a regular chef?

I think that as a pastry chef, you have to be more creative and exact (for example at weighing out the ingredients) then a regular chef. You also have to be artistic and have an eye for beauty, and be able to draw. There is much more preparation involved when you are a pastry chef, and you need a lot of patience and even an understanding of chemistry.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your years as a chef? What advice would you give to someone who wants a career in the kitchen?

Aspiring pastry chefs would know that there are long hours involved and that they need to be committed. The starting pay isn’t very high either. But if they work hard and are committed, they can move forward in the kitchen and earn a higher pay. It is quite similar to ballet. The principal dancers get paid a lot while the rest of the corp don’t earn as much.

How would you describe the approach you’ve taken with the pastries and desserts at The Langham? What can customers expect to taste and see there?

The main approach for me is consistency. I’ve kept the popular favourites that guests are familiar with such as a crème brulee and crème caramel. But I’ve also introduced some unusual combinations such as chilli and chocolate and salt and chocolate, and I like to use avocado and goats cheese in my pastries and desserts. I think it is great for people who are adventurous with what they eat. They will be happy with the taste sensations!

Finally, you’re from Germany but now live in Melbourne. What HOT places and things do you love about your adopted home town?

One of my favourite places to visit in my downtime is Maris (15 Glenferrie Rd, Malvern +61 3 9500 0665). I love going there for lunch. They do funky light food with Mediterranean, Morrocan and other influences, and they have a small wine list but it’s packed with excellent wines. They also make their bread fresh, and everything is prepared on site.

Another favourite of mine is David’s (4 Cecil St, Prahran). I love their Shanghai style dim sum, and they have an excellent tea menu there.

For more chats with interesting Melburnians, click here.

Ask the Doctor: Small dishes for big eating

Movida Aqui 500 Bourke St Melbourne

Help me Doctor!: We are in Melbourne for a long weekend next week and want to fit as many great eateries in as possible. Can you suggest ones that serve smaller dishes so we can visit more than one a night/day/meal? Thanks – Louise

Your prescription: Hi Louise, great to hear that you’re planning your Melbourne eating in advance :–)

My suggestions for eateries that serve small dishes (all of which I’ve reviewed except the last one):

Hope that helps! – Jetsetting Joyce

HOT: Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East

Thanks to great reviews and of course the Masterchef effect, George Calombaris’ casual Greek eatery Hellenic Republic has been humming steadily ever since it opened in 2008 – and I’ve only now managed to get there.

A warning: if you want to eat Sunday lunch at Hellenic Republic, give yourself a good 2 months to ensure that you can get a booking.  Also note that on Sundays (and possibly other days of the week as well) there is a 2 hour turnaround time for tables. Table-turning is a practice that I dislike immensely, especially as I would like to be able to enjoy a leisurely Sunday lunch, but if stuffing myself steadily for 2 hours straight is the only way I get to eat at  Hellenic Republic, then I guess so be it.

Our group of 12 gathered to sample the $55 Trapezi meze sharing menu (which is required for groups of 10 or more). To confirm the booking I was asked to complete a comprehensive list of the guests’ dietary requirements – when they say they cater for all dietary requirements, they really mean it! Gluten and dairy free alternatives were prepared especially for certain guests, and nowhere else have I seen ‘pescatarian’ acknowledged as a dietary requirement.

The Trapezi is a multi-course tour through most of Hellenic Republic‘s menu. I’ve been told it is excellent value for the amount of food you’re served relative to a la carte. It certainly left me full enough that I didn’t need dinner that night.

MEZE — CHEFS SELECTION OF SMALL TASTES
Local and Hellenic olives
Kefalograviera saganaki – a real winner of pan fried salty saganaki balanced with sweet dollops of peppered figs.

Two housemade dips – a rich and smokey eggplant dip and taramasalata without the fake pink food colouring
Seriously moreish warn pita bread
Seasonal salad of cucumber and olives
Rosettes of cured Hellenic meats (oh and the wine is served in shiny red carafes)

Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East

Htapodi – octopus doughnuts!
PSARI — GRILLED FISH
Char grilled fish of the day (ours was swordfish) with latholemono, or a dressing of oil, garlic and lemon
Thalassino youvetsi – braised seafood in a tomato-based sauce with tiny rice-like kritharaki pasta and feta
A super-fresh Cypriot grain salad of freekeh, coriander, almonds, raisins and yoghurt
PSISTARIA — MEAT FROM THE SPIT
As you can see, here the amount of food starts getting a little out of control. Wish I hadn’t had so much pita bread at the beginning….
Succulent marinated lamb and roasted chicken. We couldn’t finish a lot of it so it ended up as home care packages. My takeaway container lasted me for the next three days and was delicious sandwiched in pita bread with the cabbage salad.
Hand cut potatoes cooked in olive oil and oregano, presented in a bowl lined with Greek newspaper, a nice touch.
Tzatziki (cucumber, dill, garlic and yoghurt)
A refreshing Lahanosalata, crunchy shaved cabbage salad with an olive oil and lemon dressing.
Unfortunately at this stage we had to be turfed from our table – but the staff were very understanding and packed up a lot of the leftover meats and salad along with our dessert, a colourful selection of fresh fruit including watermelon and strawberries.

Despite the unceremonious end to our meal, I really loved the convivial atmosphere and massive amounts of food served for lunch at Hellenic Republic. Writing this post has made me hungry all over again, and I can’t wait to return.

Hellenic Republic on Urbanspoon

HOT: Mezzo Bar & Grill, 35 Lt Bourke St, Melbourne

I’ve blogged about Mezzo Bar & Grill previously when I tried their Monday night Pasta Al Giro menu but this was the first time I’d tried their standard menu.

RM and I decided to go for a pre-theatre dinner on a Saturday night using the voucher that I’d won from the Menu for Hope raffle. We didn’t realise it until we were given the menu but Mezzo have a very good value pre-theatre deal, 2 courses for $35 and 3 courses for $45. Not just two or three dishes to choose from either, but a broad selection from the general menu excluding some of the more expensive dishes.

I decided to go for the pre-theatre option and RM went a la carte. Cavatelli di messina with meatballs, broccoli, potato, herb and pecorino sauce ($32) was one of my favourite dishes at Pasta Al Giro and unusually for me, I decided to repeat the experience. The pasta dish is definitely well worth multiple visits – springy coils of cavatelli, marinated meatballs and cheesy goodness without being overwhelming.

RM selected his old standby favourite, pumpkin and ricotta tortellini, yellow tomato salsa, wild artichokes and chilli oil ($31). The dish presented fat, generous parcels of sweet pumpkin wrapped in silky pasta, with the smoothness offset by just a hint of chilli heat.

For dessert, I chose the gelati (banana and hazelnut that day), again remembering how good it was at Pasta Al Giro. It didn’t disappoint, but once again the slightly soggy accompanying crostini did. RM reluctantly shared some of his excellent Sicilian doughnuts dusted with sugar and accompanied by a creamy, fruity cassata ($14).

The restaurant was busy but not headache-inducing hectic, and the service was brisk and friendly. It has a casual yet slightly dressy vibe which means that friends, couples and families with young kids all felt at home there on a Saturday night. A lovely place serving lovely food, especially pasta – well worth a visit.

For other excellent pasta in the CBD, try Grossi Florentino Cellar Bar, Italy 1 or Journal Canteen (Rosa’s Kitchen).

Mezzo Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

NOT: Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Sumner Theatre, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank

Way back in January this year I ordered my usual 3-play mini subscription for the Melbourne Theatre Company. As July rolled around, I realised that I had tickets to see Dead Man’s Cell Phone….and I had no idea why. The blurb for the play stated:

“A surrealist fantasy. Dancing out of the light-footed imagination of Sarah Ruhl, Dead Man’s Cell Phone traces one woman’s accidental quest to make a few people feel just a little bit better about themselves.”

Surrealist. Fantasy. Two genres of theatre of which I’m not particularly fond. And ‘making people feel a little bit better about themselves’ sounded twee and contrived.

Anyway, tickets had been bought, the date had been fixed, so RM and I trooped along with relatively low expectations.

The story begins with Jean (Lisa McCune), a lonely woman sitting in a cafe who becomes embroiled in the life of a dead man whose mobile phone she answers. She seeks out his mistress, his wife, his mother and brother and tries to bring them all comfort and final words while untangling the lies of his life.

Was the play supposed to be a meditation on life, death, family and the way we’ve lost the ability to connect to other people on a human level due to technology? Hard to say as I found the text generally lacked focus. I also didn’t like the slow pace, the loose prose and mostly the switching from magic realism to film noir to slapstick. I did like the laundromat set design and the cast’s general performance.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone was neither funny nor dramatic nor exciting nor excruciating. If you already have tickets for it, then go ahead and see it and you may have a pleasant, though relatively forgettable, theatre experience. If you don’t have tickets, then I’d say don’t bother spending $65 and 2 hours on this play.

To read other reviews, check out Sometimes Melbourne and Theatre Notes.

NOT: Terrace Bar & Bistro, Art Series The Cullen, 161 Commercial Road, Prahran

The Cullen is a glamorous boutique hotel in Prahran which has been inspired by artist Adam Cullen, and it’s one of the series of Art Hotel popping up in Melbourne.

While a hotel is not an obvious location for dining out, a high-end boutique hotel does have a certain reputation for quality to uphold, and that extends to its food options. On one side of The Cullen is the heaving branch of CBD’s Hutong Dumpling, while the other side is flanked by the much quieter Terrace Bar & Bistro.

The Terrace Bar & Bistro offers middle-of-the-road Mod Oz/Mediterranean fare at mid-range prices. The extensive menu spans antipasti, pasta/risottos, pizza and mains and there’s nothing particularly unexpected or unusual about it.

The décor is also uncontroversial, featuring polished floors, screen printed lamp shades and an open kitchen. The vibe is informal, the service friendly, there’s nothing really to complain about.

So why the NOT? Well, because I thought it was all a bit yawn-worthy.

I had the antipasto plate ($18) with items selected by the chef. Normally it comes with cured meats or fish but feeling virtuous I asked for vegetarian items. Very pretty to look at, but no real taste sensations (and maybe that’s my own fault for discarding the meat and fish). Nice toasted ciabatta with drizzled with olive oil.

The mushroom risotto was liberally dotted with mushrooms and looked very hearty. D described it as ‘good’. I have no idea what was dotted on top but given how creamy it looked already I’m not sure whether another dollop of dairy was necessary to add richness.

L had a rib eye with red wine gravy ($35) but had to order sides separately, so she went for the huge mound of buttery mashed potato. Main course meats or fish that come with nothing are a personal pet peeve of mine, but I know it is very common practice.

The baby roast chicken looked the most appetising of the bunch but the meat was a little bit too dry and the plate was drenched with too much oil for J.

We shared an impressively large bowl of fries ($8) with tomato sauce and aioli which unfortunately consisted of mostly soggy chips. I hate soggy chips.

The Terrace Bar & Bistro was pleasant enough but left no real impression on me such that I would be hungering to return, telling you all about my amazing time there. I’m sure many others will disagree with me and tell me how great their pizzas are or their chocolate pudding or whatever, but it just drives a path that’s too safe for my personal preference. It’s arguable that my impression was coloured by the kind of dishes we ordered, but honestly our choices were very typical of the kind of food on offer generally. Just call me a food snob for that night! Meh.

Terrace Bar & Bistro on Urbanspoon

HOT: Shanghai Cultural Session, David’s Restaurant, 4 Cecil Place, Prahran

What’s the best antidote for coldest day in Melbourne in 10 years? Why, bunkering down for dinner at David’s Restaurant in Prahran.

Thanks to David’s, RM and I, along with some other journos and the lucky winners of a Herald Sun competition, were invited to chat and dine with David Zhou, owner of David’s Restaurant and the Oriental Tea House, to celebrate the restaurant’s Winter Menu. Over several hours, we were treated to five delicious courses of traditional Shanghaiese dishes, a particular thrill since RM and I had only recently returned from eating very well in Shanghai and China generally.

First up, Double Boiled Chicken Soup. While my murky photo doesn’t do the soup justice, it was a very nourishing concoction of the kind my mum or grandmother would make, consisting of shredded chicken combined with wolfberries and bamboo shoots. Apparently it helps strengthen the immune system, an important side benefit for the onset of winter.

Second course was individual steamers of pork siu mai. I’m normally not a huge fan of siu mai as it can often come out as one solid meatball, but these were very nice morsels of juicy pork encased in a thin silken pastry.

Third course was a stir fry of shredded Peking duck meat with bean sprouts, shredded carrot and capsicum in sweet plum paste. This was the kind of tasty and hearty dish which was perfect with steamed rice. Though if I’d known what was coming up next I would’ve reduced my intake of rice.

The piece de resistance, Beggar’s Chicken. This dish is very hard to find in Chinese restaurants in Australia, as it’s time consuming and tricky to execute. The legend goes that a beggar stole a chicken. Chased by officials and with had no stove to cook it on, he wrapped it in leaves and mud and lit a slow underground fire. The fire caused the mud to form a tight clay crust and when the crust was cracked open, a tender aromatic bird was revealed. The beggar began to sell the dish to villagers and a Qing dynasty Emperor was so impressed with the dish that he ordered that Beggar’s Chicken be added to the list of dishes served at the Imperial Court.

These days, it’s a marinated chicken stuffed with a fragrant glutinous rice concoction of shrimp, pork shiitake mushrooms, ham, spring onion and carrot, all soaked in the juices from the chicken. The chicken is then wrapped in lotus leaves, bound and encased in a clay crust. This whole chicken (yes,  each person received a whole chicken!) was served with beautifully colourful stir-fried bok choy, broccoli, plump shiitake mushrooms and carrot, which unfortunately had to play second fiddle to that impressive bird. The dish was truly groan-worthy, both in taste and size.

Thanks to several pots of David’s specialty tea, we squeezed in the dessert, three fried wontons filled with banana and a smear of red bean paste, dusted with crushed black sesame sugar.

As expected from a one-hat restaurant, the meal was truly delicious. What made the night particularly memorable for me thought was the very interesting conversations with David Zhou. I found that he has a lovely restaurateur’s demeanour – he’s friendly and personable, quick to joke, remembers customers (one of our number had held his birthday party at David’s 10 years ago and David still remembered him!), is attentive to detail and infectiously enthusiastic about Chinese food and culture. In particular, he is extremely knowledgeable about Chinese tea. I was intrigued to hear him speak about the aromas and flavours of tea and the varieties of tea leaves in the same way most people are used to hearing sommeliers speak about the qualities of wine and grapes. If you’re after high quality tea, often with medicinal properties, then after that dinner I am convinced that Oriental Tea House is the place to source it.

The Jetsetting Parents are arriving for another eating fiesta in a few weeks, and I’ve already raved to them about this menu. It’ll be interesting to see whether they’re as impressed with the Beggar’s Chicken as RM and I were.

Thank you to David’s Restaurant for inviting me to the event.

David's on Urbanspoon

NOT: Bokchoy Tang, Level 2, The Crossbar Building Federation Square, Cnr Flinders & Swanston Sts, Melbourne

Bokchoy Tang is a contemporary high-end Chinese restaurant which holds a prime position facing Federation Square and ACMI. The long narrow restaurant is impressively decked out in expensive-looking cabinets and feature tables, and a window table is a pleasant place to bask in the afternoon sun.

I haven’t been to Bokchoy Tang in years and was keen to try their weekend yum cha menu. You can choose between a la carte dim sum and other dishes, or go for a yum cha banquet. Their menu states that they use only free range eggs and poultry, some ingredients are organic and no MSG is used.

Between three people we shared the following items:

Steamed hand-made shao mai of pork, prawn & black fungi ($5.50 for 3). A bit solid and bland for my liking and to be very picky, the dumplings were not exact replicas but were slightly haphazard shapes.

Northern Chinese spring rolls filled with Beijing duck & garlic chives ($8.50 for 4). This was billed as a Bokchoy Tang speciality and it was disappointing. I liked the idea of crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, but the filling was again bland and the outside had a thick taro-like texture which I personally don’t enjoy.

Prawn balls with glutinous rice ($8.50  for 3). A not entirely successful dish consisting of mashed prawn and soft rice. Bland and the overall mushy texture was not very pleasant.

A tasty pork and prawn fried rice ($12) and great value for $12, although curiously to be plated onto flat ramekins which made it very difficult to eat. It got a bit oily towards the end too but I think that’s just a function of restaurant fried rice, which will inevitably contain more oil than the home-made version.

San choi bau – wok-fried chicken with finely chopped Chinese vegetables combined with Bokchoy Tang soy sauce & served in a crisp lettuce cup ($8). Nothing particularly remarkable though pretty to look at.

Poached jiao zi of pork mince, prawn and garlic chives ($12). This lumpish mass was actually the most successful dish for me, as the pastry skin was thick (as per Northern style) without being gluey and the filling was flavoursome. I think a single plate of these with some Jasmine tea would make a good filling lunch.

To end, egg tarts ($8 for 4). A beautifully flaky pastry holding a soupcon of sweet egg custard. But again, a little too much of an oil slick aftertaste.

All in all, our experience at Bokchoy Tang wasn’t so terrible that I’d never go back again, but based on our meal I certainly wouldn’t be rushing to recommend it. The setting is very pleasant but every dish, with the exception of the jiao zi and the fried rice, just didn’t quite hit the mark, and the prices are a little higher than usual. If I am to have yum cha in the future I’ll stick to my staple Shark Fin House or for high-end dim sum I’d rather go to David’s.

Bokchoy Tang on Urbanspoon