NOT: Rice Queen, Level 2, 231 Smith St, Fitzroy

Rice Queen Smith Street Fitzroy

As an ‘oriental’, I was intrigued by the concept of an ‘oriental diner’? I mean, what’s ‘oriental’ food exactly?

The menu at Rice Queen appears to cover the gamut of a whole eating continent, from Japanese to Chinese, Sri Lankan to Thai. What this means is that there’s a patchiness in the quality of the food, and you can’t expect the dishes to be very authentic.


Rice Queen Smith Street Fitzroy

The tangy and refreshing green mango salad with crispy fish and cashews ($15) was the most successful dish of the evening. The char kway tweo was passable, with the sloppy noodles doused in dark soy (very unphotogenic) and needing a good kick of seasoning. The least successful dish was the day’s special, a Sri Lankan seafood curry.  It was a beautiful looking hot-pot but tasted very bland, with the broth diluted by too many watery tomatoes.

On the plus side, the tropical, almost Hawaiian-tiki vibe to the spacious upper floor restaurant makes it a good location for a gathering with friends.  Groups are well served if the diners have different tastes and can’t decide on a cuisine. At a maximum $15 a main, it’s very reasonably priced.

However, in my view if you’re going to eat ‘oriental’ food, you’re better off heading to a number of other places on Smith Street – like Mamanee Thai, Wabi Sabi Salon, Peko Peko or Goshen.

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8 thoughts on “NOT: Rice Queen, Level 2, 231 Smith St, Fitzroy

  1. Yeah, I really wanted to like Rice Queen — being local, a fan of Panama, and a big fan of Asian food — but had a similar experience. We went after it hadn’t been open long, and I’d hoped they’d get better, but it doesn’t sound like they have.

    Most of our dishes were really lacking in flavour, and their attempt to be so pan-Asian meant none of the dishes married each other very well.

    Service was also excruciatingly slow and none of the dishes arrived at the same time.

    I also actually thought it was a bit over priced, too. $15 mains is OK (though the servings were fairly modest, but then I’m a big eater), but the entrees weren’t much cheaper and were quite small, and drinks were pretty pricey.

    I think the idea is solid — pub style service, Asian tapas — but they need more flavoursome food with a more defined taste, much faster service, and either bigger servings or, preferably, far more of the $6ish starters.

    Or even just one of those things; if it was SUPER tasty, SUPER speedy, or SUPER cheap, I’d probably overlook the other falling points. But as it is, they’re just mediocre on all fronts, which doesn’t cut it up against so much good, cheap Asian fare on Smith St.
    .-= Ruth´s last blog ..Lunch at Charcoal Lane in Fitzroy: pumpkin gnocchi, yam… =-.

    • Well put Ruth!

      I’ve had people say that I’ve been too harsh with some of my reviews before, but I think like you I am willing to overlook certain failings if it is really delicious food or really cheap. While the servings of our $15 mains were quite generous, none of the dishes were well-cooked enough to justify me going back, or recommending it to others. I’m guessing that the funky decor and ambience means that many people are willing to overlook these issues, as the place was pumping when we were dining.

      Jetsetting Joyce

  2. I think you are doing this place a diservice – last 3 times I have been in period Jan – April 2010 the service has been great and the good delicious and well priced… and a fun atmosphere too. JO

    • Hi Jo

      Welcome to the blog and thanks for your comment. Maybe things have improved since my visit – well priced and fun I agree but on my visit the service and the flavours were a bit lacking. With so many dining options in the near vicinity, Rice Queen just doesn’t come to mind again for a revisit. I’m glad that you had a good time there!

      Jetsetting Joyce

  3. This place failed badly for us. Decor was trendy but staff were pushy in trying to sell us drinks or move us on, and the table was too small for the number of people reserved. Diversity of the menu should have been a plus but no-one had any ‘wow’ moments. Save your dosh.

  4. hey joyce, im a rice queen regular and personally love the food, i think as a responsible blogger you might wanna go back and try it again or delete the blog, seeing as yours is a reveiw people see first… and it is two years old now

  5. Like most things – it’s all about context.

    So here we have a great looking venue with high ceilings, spaced out tables, lounges and performance stage. I took friends from Sydney here the other night to try the Laksa special. They didn’t order the Laksa but were enamoured with the decor and atmosphere and talked about how it could be a great wedding reception venue (note: it wasn’t busy).

    1. Service was prompt but like I say, it wasn’t busy.
    2. Laksa: it was as expected good tasting but of an average size portion with barely any chicken. A few shavings here and there. I ordered a bowl of rice to go with the Laksa to fill the gaps.

    I won’t say I was disappointed because this is exactly what I had expected. If I was looking for what I call an authentic full combination Laksa filled to the brim with chicken, pork, seafood, combination noodle, etc… I would have gone to a place that is typically more cramped, with more Asian soup offerings and waited by Asian staff.

    Overall, a great venue to have a relaxed meal with friends over drinks.

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