Chinese Tasty BBQ Restaurant

Licensed/BYO $-$$
236 Sandy Bay Rd, Sandy Bay
03) 6223 3298
Open: Thursday to Tuesday 11am to 3pm and 5pm to 10.30pm; Wednesday 5pm to 10.30pm. Takeaways.

For decades, Melbourne’s Flower Drum was widely recognized as one of the best Cantonese/Chinese restaurants in Australia. Four months ago, Master Chef, Domini Tang, and BBQ chef, Calvin Liu, moved to Hobart and bought Rebecca Cong’s popular Written on Tea in Sandy Bay, Tang after four months at the Flower Drum, Liu after having worked there for five years.

As sad as it was to see Written on Tea change hands, the new owners’/chefs’ connection with the Flower Drum, and Tang’s Executive Chef experience at two of Shanghai’s leading hotels, held the promise of great things. And great things, according to some friends, were exactly what came when Tang was cooking but not such great things when he wasn’t.

So we made a booking for a night that we were assured Tang would be at the stoves.

And…

Well, let’s start with the menu. It’s enormous and then some. There are around 110 dishes, not including desserts and daily specials, running from appetizers and entrees through roasts, soup, seafood, beef, mutton/lamb, pork, clay pot, vegetables, noodles, rice, combo to, finally, congee. And the size of the menu raised a couple of questions. How does the kitchen keep so many ingredients and sauces fresh? And, for me, how does a food reviewer do fair justice to any restaurant with such an over-the-top sized menu?

Doing our best, we started with an appetizer of salt-baked chicken feet which needed much longer baking to be anywhere near tender while braised duck tongues to follow were little more than a culinary curiosity.

Steamed juicy pork buns (char siu bao) were excellent as were the crisp prawn spring rolls but since, unusually, no soy sauce was on the table, we had to ask the waitress for some and for vinegar.

Half a salt-baked chicken, a signature dish of the Hakka peoples’ cuisine, was nicely glazed and tender and, foregoing the “cowboy steak sizzling’ we ordered what turned out to be the highlight of the meal, a generously full clay pot of minced pork and eggplant with a mild Szechuan sauce.

Our meal certainly didn’t add up to our friends’ “great things” hype and I was disappointed that we didn’t see much evidence of Tang’s 30 years’ experience or of what he brought from his time as executive chef in hotels in Shanghai or of what the restaurant’s web page refers to as his position as “Honorary Chairman of Imperial Chefs Association”.

But we only sampled six of the 110 dishes on offer which leaves plenty of the menu in which his talents might be better expressed.

The restaurant has had some interesting minor re-jigging and décor changes since its days as ‘Written on Tea’ and, despite their difficulty with English, the service was fine and smiley.

Appetizers $5 – $12, Entrees $8.80 – $22, Soups $6, Mains around $23- $34, Noodles $16, Combos $13.80

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