Tea House on Burke

September 14, 2011

911 Burke Road, Camberwell
Some weeks ago my family went out for dinner with some family friends, Y, M, O and N. The restaurant of choice was Tea House on Burke, and I was eager to try the Cantonese fare on offer, given that I’d heard good things about it in the past. Inside, the restaurant has the typical polished style that many high end Chinese restaurants in Melbourne sport: starched white table cloths, exceedingly attentive staff, small serving tables where they prepare the food, dark painted walls, minimal decoration. Formal but clean. To make ordering easy, we went with the smaller of the two banquets on offer.
First up was chicken san choi bao, a classic chinese dish. I thought the filling was nice, very smooth and silky texture-wise, but I though perhaps some variation in colour of the individual ingredients would have been welcome, rather than the uniform brown colour we were served. A tasty starter, nonetheless.

 

Next up were three scallops in a ginger sauce, nestled in their shell. I enjoy scallops when they’re well cooked, and I’m pleased to report that these were cooked perfectly; juicy and sweet.

N, O and A were all looking at their servings of scallops and complaining that I got the most attractive serve because I had my camera on the table. “Look, look, look at how pink the colour on her shell is!” “Exactly, plus that pea is nicely balanced – mine’s sunken into the murky depths of the sauce”. Ridiculous.

Next up were two dumplings. On the left is the chicken dumpling, and on the right the Shanghai fried pork dumpling. Though the Shanghai dumpling had a casing that was a tad too thick for my liking, I thought it superior in flavour.

I would like to comment, however, on the presentation throughout our meal. I would have much preferred it, and I think the courses (or some of them at least) would have been more appetising, had they been served on large plates in the centre of the table where we could help ourselves.

Instead, the large plate was shown briefly to the table, and then taken to a small side table in the corner where the waiters would serve up our portions onto individual plates. Honestly, it makes for rather plain presentation on the plate, and this is one of the things I disliked about eating here. Perhaps it’s the Greek in me coming through, but I’d much prefer to have a wholesome, plentiful platter in the centre, in lieu of rather sad looking individual serves.

One of my favourites from the night (and also N’s) was the Peking Duck. I LOVE Peking duck, especially the combination of the crunchy fresh cucumber with the tangy hoisin sauce and rich duck meat. Tea House does a particularly excellent version, the best I’ve had in a while. Credit, I believe, goes to the excellent duck meat, and to the pancake, which was the perfect thickness and slightly floury.

Blurry picture, I know, but it does show the excellent quality of duck meat: nicely cooked with a thin sheet of fat.

Next up was a strange tasting dish, prawns in Singapore chilli sauce on a crispy piece of pastry. Prawns and chilli, fairly standard, but both N an I detected a distinctly cloudy, almost muddy taste beyond the sharp chilli of the sauce. I would have preferred a cleaner, sharper sauce.

We ended on a positive note with my other favourite dish of the night, the eye fillet in XO sauce. The beef was excellent, perfectly cooked and blissfully tender, and the XO sauce had a good whack of chilli. The accompanying fried rice was a great rendition of the staple, with proper prawns and without the oily taste that’s so typical in other places. My only quip is that the greens were slightly stringy and not very sweet as they should have been.

Dessert was deep-fried banana with ice-cream. I did take a photo, but it turned out unsurprisingly phallic, so I decided to leave it off the blog. Suffice to say I felt dessert rather unnecessary, I’ve yet to see the promise in Asian desserts in general, but the sweet sauce it was served with was nice at least.

All in all, a very pleasant and chatty evening was had by all. Not sure if, to be honest, I’d return to Tea House with any speed, because I think you can get negligibly worse Chinese for a much lower price elsewhere (for awesome peking duck look no further than Station Street in Boxhill). Everything was excellently executed, and the service was very attentive (if a tad forced), but there was nothing terribly exciting about our meal. Plus the unattractive serves kind of bugged me, but I suppose if you don’t mind that sort of snobby thing, then you’d enjoy your meal here immensely.

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Filed under: Camberwell, Chinese

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