Level 2 Crossbar Building, Federation Square, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Scoring 70% likes on Urbanspoon, and 4.7 on Eatability (only a few reviews), this place used to be my go-to place for Chinese fine cuisine, but sadly, I think it has seen better days. The food and attitude have both changed over time and not necessarily in the right direction. There are still a few gems to be found here though... but it's not a cheap experiment to indulge in.
I do like this place and its location. It's easy to find and I like the ambience (though it might be a bit dark for some). It is well set out with different configurations for different types of groups.
Other things to do close by: Fed Square is in the middle of lots of things to do and only a short walk from Southbank and Collins Street - there's plenty to do around here.
|Crispy Barramundi with Honey Lemon Sauce|
|Greasy Wok-fried Beef Fillet with Dried Chillies|
|Spicy Chicken (Watch the dried Chillies)|
If the food is still acceptable for the kind of place purports to be, the service however, is not up to par. In the mid-2000s, this place had impeccable service credentials. The attentiveness and knowledge of the food was difficult to fault and it truly was something to be proud of. Even at their busiest, they never came across as harried. That has all changed and this place is no better (but not worse) than your average Chinese restaurant in terms of its service. This is not a bad thing IF you are an average Chinese restaurant.
I would still go to Bok Choy Tang for 'semi-important' occasions because of the veneer of luxury and the food is usually still good - but compared to what it once was? I think I still go in the hope of being surprised that the 'good ol' days' are back. If it is - one of these days - I will update this entry and I look forward to that day.
A Cultural Moment
Chinese Cuisine is varied and in this entry, I am just going to touch briefly on the diversity without going into any details. In Australia - people are most likely familiar with cuisine from the southeastern regions - Cantonese (Guangzhou), Hokkien (Fujian), and Shanghainese, and from the Szechuan (Sichuan) province. Much of the Chinese cuisine from Southeast Asia (SEA countries of Malaysia and Singapore) comes from the Cantonese and Hokkien variety because they were the dominant groups that migrated to SEA were from that region. So - what's what?
Cantonese style cuisine is famous for the dominant yumcha varieties in Australia, Chinese brocolli with oyster sauce, sweet and sour pork, wonton soups, roast crispy skin pork, bbq charsiu pork - you know - the restaurants with the ducks (not of the Peking variety) and chickens and roast porks hanging up the front, or the ones with fish tanks with stressed out fishies.
Hokkien style cuisine includes many types of soups, including Bak Kut Teh (meat bone tea), Popiah, Ngohiang (which some places call Autumn Rolls in Aus), and most famously - Buddha Jumps over the Wall which contains up to 30 different really expensive ingredients - the soup with the mostest (but includes shark fin :( ). Also, noodles of the Hokkien variety... haha!
Shanghainese cuisine is a mix pot of middle and inner and northern Chinese cuisine. This is understandable as it's a cosmopolitan city. However, there are a few key things people would be familiar with just as the Shanghainese Juicy Dumplings (xiaolongbao / shao long bao), and HongshaoRou (which is red braised pork) sometimes called Chairman Mao's Pork (because he used to love varieties of this). Also - my favourite Chinese dessert is part of Shanghainese cuisine - Red Bean Pancakes - I have loved this since I was allowed to eat it as a tender age of 5. The less well known Shanghainese delicacy known as Fermented Beancurd is not for the faint hearted.
Szechuan cuisine is probably my favourite because it is an adventure in spice, hot chillies and sour vinegar. Ok, so I am not a fan of burning my tongue and lips with crazy amounts of chillies that epitomises the food of this region. However, it is always so tempting and the restaurants in Melbourne (and Australia) have watered down some of their dishes (a little bit) for us wuzzies. They are famous for Kung Po Chicken (no! It's not Cantonese), Dan Dan Noodles, Spicy Hot Pots, Ma Po Beancurd.
Ok - that's a start... I haven't explored other cuisines from Longjiang (northeastern), Beijing, Hakka, Xinjiang and Yunan. There are new Yunan restaurants in Melbourne which I will review in the future.
Lastly - I am of Shanghainese lineage (from my Dad's side) and Hokkien (from my Mum's side). One of my Grandma is also Hakka - food is a big part of my life - can't you tell?