Oriental Tea House + Hu Tong = Delicious Chinese in Prahran

There are two fantastic chinese restaurants I’ve tried in the past two weeks. The first was during Chinese New Year and an oasis in flash flooding: Oriental Tea House in Prahran. The restaurant is set in a tea and homewares shop and the dishes are few but precise and a little more expensive because of its boutique positioning.

We shared dumplings, fish, buns and dessert while being treated to traditional dragon dancing. It is wonderfully colourful and very loud with the drums and yes, I am still scared of the dragon and the bald man mask who are integral stars of the show. I think it stems back to my cousins chasing me around our Chinese grandfather’s house wearing the dragon costume many years ago.

The other place is, I suggest, the best yum cha in Melbourne I’ve tried so far: Hu Tong on Commercial Road also in Prahran. It’s one of the fancier (read: quieter, less crowded) yum cha places but still competitively priced. And the quality of the food ranks this yum cha experience above others. It’s fresh and the servings decently sized. We shared 5 dishes, had tea and a glass of wine and split the bill at around $30 per person. And we almost rolled out.

I would recommend both places, probably Hu Tong first but Oriental Tea House is well positioned on Chapel Street and closer to the action.


[Note: pictures to come… I’m having trouble uploading to the computer!]



Duck Duck Goose – 31-37 Artemis Lane, QV, Melbourne

On Monday I had lunch at Duck Duck Goose Yum Cha and was back for dinner last night at their fine dining ‘Black Restaurant’. This is a fairly new venue in the QV building in Melbourne city that I watched being built and was intrigued by the fancy interior which you could just begin to see during construction. I was not disappointed.

The Yum Cha Silver side is very reasonably priced and the light spacious interior is welcoming but quite sparse … this is quite the yum cha antithesis of crowded, noisy, bustling venues. Granted it was fairly quiet at around 40% capacity but the tables were well spread out across the raised level overlooking the sushi bar style open-bar/food prep area at the entrance.

We shared Jasmine Dragon Pearl, one of the many teas on the extensive menu to compliment the following dishes: peking duck pancakes, handmade Shao Long Bao dumplings, spring rolls for starters. Then I had the Korean Bibimbap and my friend had the lightly battered salmon on rice. Everything was delicious and the mains were a good, filling size.

On the fine dining side the experience was equally enjoyed and offered a glamorous but not garish setting complete with water feature and stunning wine cellar on one wall. The entrance is a tunnel into a large open foyer where we were greeted by friendly staff who seated us by the water feature. It’s a square shallow pool that offers an air of serenity and I’m sure it channels zen qualities but it also kind of made me want to go to the toilet; although this is not a big deal and it brings more positives to the interior than negatives.

For drinks I had my favourite Ciroc vodka and my dining partner had a Cosmo and Sauvignon Blanc. To eat, we shared a selection of six dishes which was perhaps one too many but all enjoyed. We started with entrees: Ocean Trout Confit and duck broth with truffle and ravioli , then Saffron Pasta with oriental bisque and cuttlefish, Rangers Valley Wagyu Tartare with jerusalem artichoke and quail egg.

For main we shared the catch of the day – whiting with prawn, wrapped in cabbage with mushrooms – accompanied by crisp truffled potato and seasonal vegetables. We didn’t order dessert but were presented with a plate of petit fours with our coffees.

The staff were charming and helpful (and they had a personality!) but they were not overbearing or over-attentive. It was not terribly busy on the Melbourne Cup night but the vibe was still there.

I would recommend visiting both sides of the venue – the Yum Cha for a more casual meal and the Restaurant for something more luxurious.

Yum Cha Cafe (193-195 Exhibition St, Melbourne) … and why I suck at food blogging

The name ‘Yum Cha Cafe‘ made me suspicious about the authenticity of the yum cha being served at ‘Yum Cha Cafe’ – it sounds kind of ‘Westernised’. I’ve been past it many times and while the interior looks inviting I just wasn’t sure what I would be getting. But, I ventured in with my cousin last Sunday and was very pleasantly surprised – what a find!

The interior is stunning with a bar,  paintings, tea in jars, decorative bird cages and lanterns adorning the red and black fit-out. We were seated (with no booking – although I did call to check and they assured me it would be fine) with no fuss and relished the un-stressful, relatively quiet and serene atmosphere. Yes I know it is the antitheses of yum cha but for a special occasion (it was her birthday), this is the ideal yum cha place for small groups wanting to be ‘trolley fed’ in luxury.

There was a great selection of food and the quality was impressive. We shared prawn dumplings, scallops wrapped in wontons, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, prawn rice noodle, and mixed dumplings (prawn, beef, duck – YUM!). We finished off with mini darn tarts (egg custard tarts) that were not as good as the bigger ones that usually come served warm. And so we also tried the custard buns for a more satisfactory ending! They were yummy with a coconut flavour as well.

I would recommend Yum Cha Cafe for a relaxed lunch where you can sit back, not feel rushed and enjoy the food and good service.

YUM CHA CAFE: 193-195 Exhibition Street, Melbourne (cnr Exhibition Street & Little Bourke Street). Tel: 9662 9668

… And Why I Suck at Food Blogging

I really wanted to show you each dish because they were worth photographing but every time a new dish came out I was overcome with excitement and before I could get the camera out we’d eaten it all. And this is why I suck at food blogging – it happens every time!

So you’ll have to excuse these two lame looking pics I did manage to get of the scallop wontons and gai lan!

Costco, Trippy Tacos, Pajama Men, Red Door Antiques, ANZAC biscuits

Last weekend I was blessed with my sister’s company. Alex came to see shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and, of course, to see me (reads: use my apartment for free accommodation).

On Saturday morning we kicked off with a trip to Costco and it delighted just as much as I expected it would. Luckily for me, it lived up to the hype I have created about how good it is. Alex indulged in American brand bulk sports socks (which took her over the hand-luggage limit!), velvet non-slip coat-hangers and a huge packet of connector pen textas which we bought for our artfully skilled younger cousin.

That afternoon we headed to Trippy Taco on Smith Street, Collingwood. We shared the Original Trippy Taco and Bean Nachos. Both delicious and we loved the onion table identifier instead of table numbers so the staff could deliver our food. It was also just a short walk from my place, a welcome rest after the big Costco shop.

That night we joined some of my sister’s friends also from Sydney and went to see the Pajama Men – Shenoah Allen and Mark who brought to spectrum of different characters to life in their sketch comedy piece that was high energy, sophisticated, hilarious, intense and just downright clever. It’s a must see if you get the chance (I think they are in Sydney at the Opera House next). We met the boys outside the Melbourne Town Hall – my sister and her friends from past MICFs where they have performed as The Delusionists. They were delightful, down to earth, appreciative of the audience and perhaps trying to pick up my sister….

On Sunday we went to Red Door Antiques for Yum Cha with some of my lovely Melbourne friends. The shop is decked out with antique furniture and stunning handcrafted pieces. We shared a mix of dumplings, pork and chicken buns, spare ribs, green tea ice cream and custard buns, washed down with Jasmine tea. The food is beautiful and the quality reflects the pricey pieces. Each dish is slow to emerge from the kitchen as we (I) was losing my patience, especially when only a third of our order had come out and they asked if we were going to order anything else…

It is not your typical yum cha where the food is fast and plentiful so I don’t recommend this place if you are ravenous and want the onslaught of food. But I would recommend this place for somewhere quirky, quiet, quaint, amusing and high-end; a long lunch of yum cha dishes.

Last night Alex saw a few more shows and hit a few more bars while I played housewife cooking a minestrone and baking ANZAC biscuits which I packed for her 6:50am flight and brought to the parkyoung/The Ledbetter Agency office today. All enjoyed. All gone!

Brunswick Music Festival

I had every intention of blogging last night but I was so exhausted I fell asleep on the couch at 8.30 pm. But I have a very good excuse – earlier that day I went to my first yum cha in Melbourne and then went to explore the Brunswick Music Festival.

I loooove yum cha and used to go regularly in Sydney with friends, family and sometimes I’d take my Grandfather (‘Goong Goong’ in Chinese). Having not yet found somewhere or someone to go with here in Melbourne I jumped at the chance to head to the Shark Fin Inn with the handsome couple Marcus and Steve. We had an absolute ball!

Highly recommend the venue at the Spring St end of Little Bourke Street. The service was amazing for yum cha – the trolley ladies were smiley and came around frequently. We chowed down on prawn dumplings, pork buns, gai lan, chicken puffs, egg rolls and more.

Rolling out of there we headed to Sydney Road for the Brunswick Music Festival to meet my friend Khara. A very eclectic mix of acts and crowd but with a buzzing vibe and more delicious looking (no, we didn’t eat again!) food stalls. Not sure I would go again but a fun vibe, just a little overwhelmingly busy with so many different tunes playing, aromas wafting and people scuttling along for my tastes.

Headed home and well and truly crashed and burned.