What and where?
Crown Complex, Southbank, Melbourne
Owned by Neil Perry, two stars in the Good Food Guide and a yum cha menu on the weekend – do I need another reason? Well, there was also the fact that I had eaten at the Sydney version twice and always enjoyed myself.
How was the food?
Overall, the yum cha menu provided a good meal even if it was not the same standard as the dinner menu.
The dim sum menu was technically quite good – the wrapper had the right texture, the meat was plentiful and some of the flavours in the accompanying sauces were delicious (and quite spicy, as one should expect from a restaurant called Spice Temple). However, at the time I remember being slightly disappointed because I was expecting something more from a two-hat restaurant – something closer to the marvellous dim sum at Man Wah in Hong Kong. But looking back at the prices, which were quite reasonable for high-quality dim sum, I think I was being too harsh. I think people will like what Spice Temple is doing here at lunch provided one is looking for classic dim sum flavours done well rather than for something exceptional.
However, I was quite disappointed with the two buns offered at lunch. Both were clearly homages to the Momofuku pork bun, and in this regard the meat components of both buns were quite successful. But I am not sure why Neil Perry felt the need to differentiate his pork belly bun by using a slider – it didn't add anything, and in fact I felt like it took away from the umami of the pork belly itself. In saying that, the bun that was used for the char siu wasn't that flash – it was not light and airy enough for my taste. In fact, after finishing both buns my wife exclaimed to me that we could make better buns (and we have!). I would not order either of these again.
On the other hand, the main menu items – the tofu and noodle dishes – were excellent. I would definitely eat these dishes again and I suspect that they provide a better indication of the quality of the main menu than what is offered only at lunch.
Jade scallop and crab dumplings
Boiled pork dumplings with Sichuan sauce
King prawn wontons with aged black vinegar dressing
Crispy Guangxi pork slider (left) and Gua bao with char siu pork and hoisin
Fried salt-and-pepper silken tofu with spicy coriander salad
Handmade wheat noodles with chilli paste and capsicum
How were the drinks?
We ordered a Pig cocktail, which featured a carafe filled with Zubrowka vodka, sake, nashi pear juice and green tea. It was very, very good.
How was the service?
It was professional yet personable enough when the staff were at our table. But the time it took to order our drinks, then our food and then collect the bill seemed like an eternity. While delays can happen when a restaurant is busy, Spice Temple seemed to be only half-full; in any event, it should never happen at a restaurant of this standard (and charging these prices).
Would you go again?
I will certainly be back more than once for the main menu at dinner. But I may not return for the yum cha menu until I have sampled what else Melbourne has to offer.