MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Posts Tagged ‘Chinese

Beggar’s Chicken at David’s

with 4 comments

To celebrate the beginning of winter,  Melbourne Food and Wine invited restaurants throughout Melbourne and Victoria to participate by throwing a roast dinner for the month of June.

What a brilliant idea.

I eagerly pored over the 20 page list of events. The one that really stood out to me, was the Clay Roasted Chicken Feast at David’s Prahran to be held on June 24.

‘Roasts’ are traditionally a western dish, I loved David’s Chinese spin on this ‘Roast Collection.’

Beggar’s Chicken is one of the greatest culinary traditions of China, originating from a romantic legend from the Qing dynasty in the Hangzhou region.

Legend has it that a starving beggar stole a chicken, wrapped it in leaves and mud. He was pursued by the officials, so he threw it into a hole. He had no utensils to cook the chicken with, and also could not risk being caught, so he built a fire in this hole and created an underground oven. Whilst cooking the chicken on the fire, the mud formed a tight clay crust around the chicken. The chicken’s clay crust was cracked open, revealing a tender aromatic bird. He realised he was onto something, so he began to sell this to villagers. Impressed by the flavours, the Emperor added Beggar’s Chicken to the list of dishes served at the Imperial court and it has been a traditional Chinese dish ever since.

I had had this dish once prior, and I have never seen this dish on a menu in Melbourne (though admittedly I haven’t looked). I jumped at the chance to have this, and quickly gathered together some of my good friends for the dish. The event was a one-night only event, and required pre-payment.

For $55, we had three courses, two glasses of wine and tea.

Entree: Mustard Cress Salad with finely chopped special Chinese vegetable & dry bean curd and Baby Bamboo in a sweet soy sauce
Glass of Sauvignon Blanc

Main Course: Beggars Chicken stuffed and marinated with shrimps, pork, shitake mushrooms, ham, spring onion and carrots, wrapped in lotus leaves and clay.
Glass of Pinot Noir

Dessert: Sweet “Ye Ba” with creamy custard encased in sticky rice and steamed in a banana leaf
Signature tea

We arrived at David’s, located in Cecil Place, just off Chapel street.

Once our party had arrived, we were promptly brought our entree

The mustard cress salad with dry bean curd was light and refreshing. The baby bamboos were delicious! Lightly pickled, sweet with a wonderfully crunchy texture. I couldn’t get enough of these. We had these with a tasty glass of Sauvignon Blanc – I didn’t catch what it was..

Then onto the main event; The chicken was brought to the table, and then we realised it was a chicken each. We hadn’t expected this, traditionally, we get one large bird to split between a few. Now I understood why full pre-payment was required.

The waiters brought each chicken in its clay encasing to our table, and offered to have us bash the chicken to break the clay casing. The clay broke into pieces, revealing our chickens, wrapped in lotus leaves.

The chicken was perfectly roasted, and was stuffed with sticky rice, shrimps, pork, lotus, shitake mushrooms, ham, spring onion and carrots.

The chicken was delicious, the skin tender and juicy and falling off the bones. The stuffing was a highlight – wonderfully flavoured sticky rice, which had collected the juices from the chicken.

The chicken came with a glass of Shiraz – unlike the Pinot it was supposed to come with. This was the only disappointment of the whole night – the Shiraz was slightly too heavy for the delicate chicken.

As if a chicken each wasn’t enough, we were also given a nice stirfry of vegies – including bok choy, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms and carrot.

To finish, we had a sweet ‘Ye Ba’  – whatever that means. Within the banana leaf, was glutinous rice mixed with a creamy custard. I didn’t love this dish but my dining partners loved it. It was accompanied with a sliver of coconut ice-cream. This was served with Chinese tea.

All in all, a delightful night. Wonderful food with great company in a beautiful restaurant. David’s has been award one Chef’s hat by The Age Good Food Guide for the past eight years, and has also been included in the list of the Top 50 Best Chinese Restaurants outside of China. The night overall was excellent value, with fantastic produce cooked perfectly. Can’t wait to return to try more of the menu.



4 Cecil Place, Prahran

Tel: 03 9529 5199

Hours: Lunch: Mon-Fri noon-3pm; Sat-Sun 11.30am-3pm

Dinner: Sun-Thu 6-10.30pm; Fri 5-11.30pm; Sat 6-11.30pm;


Written by glutamatejess

June 28, 2010 at 12:38 am

Plume Highpoint

with 6 comments


Shop 6003, Highpoint Shopping Centre
200 Rosamond Rd, Maribyrnong
(03) 9318 6833‎


Yum Cha; Mon-Fri 12 noon – 3pm, Sat-Sun 11am-3pm

Located within the busy Knifepoint Highpoint Shopping Complex, Plume has been serving yum cha for many years, and appears to be doing fairly steady trade (though nowhere near as busy as they used to be when we first started going). The family go on a regular basis, but mostly due to its proximity to our grandpa rather than because of the quality or value (which are lacking, or certainly have diminished over the years).

Here are some of the dishes we had;

In order; sticky rice, sesame fried prawns, fried white bait, fried squid tentacles, shark fin dumplings, prawn stuffed tofu, sui mai (pork and prawn dumplings), har gow (prawn dumplings), tripe, har cheung (rice paper roll stuffed with prawns), jar leung (rice paper roll stuffed with fried chinese dough stick, also with vegetables), and gai lan.

The sticky rice was pretty good, as were the fried sesame prawns. The whitebait was ok, but cold by the time we got them, the squid was ok but a little rubbery and oily. The pastry on the shark fin dumplings were too thick and dried, the fillings were so-so. I really enjoyed the silken tofu stuffed with prawn meat, the only downfall to this dish is it says that despite us Chinese people having successfully used chopsticks for eons, maybe it’s time to let go.  The silky soft tofu is very difficult to pick up, and a spoon would have been lovely at the time.

The sui mai and har gow, which are two of my favourite yum cha dishes were disappointing. I judge a yum cha restaurant on their ability to produce these two stalwart (and essential) dishes. The sui mai flavour was not quite there, whereas the har gow pastry was too thick and the flavouring on the prawn only just average. So, big fail in my books.

The tripe was pretty tasty, however was chewy from overcooking, the har cheung was tasty covered in the sweet soy sauce that I love, though took far too long to come. The dough stick wrapped in rice paper is another one of my favourite yum cha dishes and was again a disappointment. This dish is cooked to order (i.e. not available on the carts which roll past), yet it somehow managed to be luke-warm at best by the time it came to our table. This dish is usually served with a peanut sauce and a sticky hoisin sauce, however just came with soy. Though, this dish is not one that is offered at most yum cha’s so I guess points to Plume for having it on their menu despite not doing it well.

I’m not sure how much each costs as when dining with the family it’s always a massive battle to pick up the bill. So much so, we have (and still have) a family feud over who was to pick up a bill (I shit you not!). I do know that Plume’s yum cha is priced on the higher side of normal despite their food being on the lesser side of average.

So it’s no surprise that the following of Plume seems to be dwindling. Years ago, we used to have to fight for a table only to be turned away. Now, and we dined on Chinese New Year, we waltz straight in and there are empty tables. It appears that most in the west are shifting to the much better Gold Leaf in Sunshine.

One gripe I have about yum cha in Australia is the carts. Whilst I love being able to see my food before I eat it, I much prefer the yum cha in Hong Kong; where dishes are made to order. You get a sheet of paper, and tick the dishes you want, which are steamed or fried fresh to order. I hate the fried yum cha food here in Australia, as it is often cold by the time it arrives to your table.

I dream of the days of yum cha a la carte in Melbourne. What ever happened to Duck Duck Goose, which was rumoured to be serving yum cha a la carte? Still waiting

Jess’ Ratings:

Taste: 5/10. It’s ok. It’s doable. Just not great.

Authenticity: 5/10. Well, all the correct dishes were served. Just not served great. What’s authentic? Authentic for Melbourne yum cha? or for Yum cha in Asia? Because correct me if I’m wrong, there isn’t anyone that does yum cha a la carte in Melbourne. So, if little Cantonese women bashing their carts into your chairs yelling out the dishes they have on offer in said cart whilst trying to offload dishes onto your table, and young waiters ignoring you whilst you desperately try to get their attention for more tea is your idea of yum cha in Melbourne, then Plume is authentic as can be.

Value: 4/10. Expensive for average yum cha.

Ambiance: 5/10. Busy.

Service: 4/10. Chinese people are not about the service.

Overall: 5/10. Average. Only if you’re in the area and can’t get into anywhere else.

Written by glutamatejess

March 25, 2010 at 1:50 am

Minh Xuong

with 10 comments

Minh Xuong

209-211 Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
(03) 9663 2895
Mon-Sun 11:00am-2:30am


Minh Xuong on Urbanspoon

(Alex: This may or may not be related to the Minh Xuong on Victoria Street in Richmond, not confirmed.)

The latest addition to the cheap Asian restaurant/cafes in Chinatown is Minh Xuong, occupying the space vacated by King of Kings (Alex – oh King of Kings, I will miss you… somehow).  Located on Russell Street, between Little Bourke and Lonsdale, Minh Xuong opened around Chinese New Year this year, and has been doing fairly steady trade since.

We visited the place late on Chinese New Year’s day after my insistence that I had to eat Chinese food on Chinese New Year or I wasn’t a good little Chinese girl, especially after being rejected by the North East China Family the night before (Alex – to be fair, we did interrupt their reunion dinner). We were drawn to Minh Xuong, tempted by the glistening skins of the roast meats which were hanging in the windows.

On the menu are a variety noodle and rice dishes, stir fries, congees, claypots, Chinese ‘snacks’, soups, and of course, the Roast Meats.

We are pointed towards the Roast meats by the friendly Chinese waitress; MS went for the roast duck

roast duck

Roast duck

which was pretty decent considering we were dining at midnight on a Sunday night. The skin was nicely crisp, the meat pretty tender, with a thin, but not excessive layer of fat separating the two. The sauce was decent, not the best in Melbourne, but certainly very tasty.

MS wouldn’t let me order the char kuay teow because apparently only Malaysians are allowed to make this dish (Alex – I’m just sayin, I don’t trust HK/Canto places with CKT!) , so I went for the mapo tofu (stir fried tofu with preserved vegetables in a chili bean sauce with pork mince)

mapo tofu

As you can see from the above picture; deliiiicious!! I looooooove mapo tofu and have been surprised how difficult it is to find a decent mapo in the Melbourne CBD. Delicious, silky and relatively large pillows of tofu were cooked with pork in a tasty spicy sauce. I was impressed that slices of pork were used, rather than just cheap mince. It had a nice fiery kick to it. I love my spicy food and did not even have to add any chili to it as it had the perfect heat. I finished this dish despite the size, yet I could have gone more because it was so tasty!

Jess’ Ratings:

Taste: 8/10. The duck was ok, but I loooved the mapo tofu. I do love that dish, so I may seem biased, but this is definately one of the better mapo’s I have.

Authenticity: 8.5/10. I’m Chinese and I think this is pretty Chinese.

Value: 8/10. I can’t remember how much each dish was, but the overall bill came to less than $20. Great value. dishes well sized and well priced. Quality, reasonably fresh ingredients.

Service: 8/10. Our waitress wasn’t overly knowledgable in the menu (or the English language) but she was super friendly. Service with a smile in Asian restaurants is rare, so the smile earns Minh Xuong bonus points :).

Ambience: 7/10. It is what it is. A cheap Asian cafe/restaurant, but is still clean and comfortable.

Overall: 8/10. This may seem high for the sort of place this is, but remember, this place can serve me a decent feed til 2:30am at this price. Service is much better than most Asian joints we go to (at least friendlier) and it’s clean!

The best news is that this place is open 7 days, and does late night trade nightly until 2:30am. I’ll never go hungry again.

Alex’s Ratings:

Taste: 7/10. I’ve been dishing out a lot of 7s lately.

Authenticity: 9/10. Couldn’t fault what we ate in terms of authenticity to the HK/Canto roast meats tradition and Mapo Tofu.

Value: 8/10.

Service: 8/10. I agree with Jess, the waitress put in the effort and was very pleasant, not something one is used to in Chinese restaurants.

Ambience: 8/10. I judge it on being clean (at time of writing) and not too noisy.

Overall: 7/10. As I say, a lot of 7s.