Don’t come here on a date. We were here to have a light Chinese dinner before heading out into town and there was a couple sitting next to us looking more uncomfortable with the place than with each other, which is saying something. Bokchoy Tang is never busy, which is confusing, because it has alright food and is located right inside the tourist drawcard that is Federation Square.
I’m not saying Bokchoy Tang is bad. In fact, it’s one of the easiest places to get good quality Chinese food any night of the week when you’re on your way to something in Fed Square or at the Arts Centre. In fact, it’s my go-to spot before the ballet. But being easy doesn’t necessarily equate to value for money or the best Chinese dining in town. I often come away feeling a little underwhelmed and a bit too much lighter in the pockets.
I’ve been here many times, Northern Chinese is a cuisine which is both familiar and a little surprising sometimes, and because the menu is like a phone book, you’re pretty much guaranteed to please everybody. That is, if you’re not sharing, which is always encouraged.
I’ll say a couple of things about the menu. The entrees are all amazing (of those I’ve had), the Mains can be hit or miss, depending on what you order, but the desserts are abysmal. Don’t bother. The wine menu is adequate and there is beer, including Chinese beer. Points for that.
So this time around, for entrees we ordered San Choi Bau (which never came, more on that shortly), Jiao Zi & salad (pork and prawn dumplings – pictured below), Prawn with Garlic Chives Pancake, and Beijing (Peking) Duck Pancakes.
Of course, they’re all amazing. The San Choi Bau is usually incredible and crisp (just the right amount of chestnuts crunching!), the Jiao Zi dumplings are, despite my aversion to prawn, the right combination of flavour and texture and the Pancakes are majority jiu cai (that’s Chinese garlic-chives, my Russian Grandmother loves to use it in her dumplings) and only a small part prawn. But the Peking Duck Pancakes are a winner. The duck was deliciously tender and juicy, the pre-wrapped pancakes came with additional sauce and cucumber (which I devoured, naturally)
Then for mains, Buddha Vegetables and Szechwan Style Wok-Fried Pork. Two mains and there were three of us, but I honestly think that’s a perfect amount, given that you want to concentrate on the entrees, rather than the mains (they’re better!)
I usually love Buddha Vegetables, and yes, I admit the tofu was not only edible, but actually nice (you’ll recall I only cook vegetarian at home, but I have an intense aversion to tofu – it’s a processed and awfully unnatural ‘food’), but the downfall was the amount of sauce. I felt half of the sauce would’ve been overkill, even.
Worst of all was our choice of the Szechwan Pork. There’s no getting around it: it was bacon. With some onion and chilli. In hindsight, we should’ve simply ignored it and ordered another dish, such was the amount of grease that was flowing from the plate. But that’s hindsight for you!
It might also be worth mentioning at this point that if you’re going to order wine at a Chinese Restaurant, you’ll do best to pair your meals with a nice Reisling or a Semillon, like we did. The sweeter white wines pair nicely with the rich sauces and flavours you’ll find in the main dishes.
I don’t know whether you can tell by my writing style today, but I’m not writing happily. In fact, I’ve been putting off talking about the service until now. Firstly, there’s the sycophantic waiters that are all too eager to get you seated, but then neglect to take a drinks order (we waited 20 minutes and ended up ordering with our food), they forget an ordered dish (San Choi Bau) and the girl even laughed at me when I inquired whether they had brown or wild rice as a side. “No, no, we only have Jasmine Rice!” she says, proudly. I cringed just a little. For a place that appears to have many very well groomed waiters, none are attentive, dilligent or proficient. It’s a shame that it brings a good dining experience down.
Also, I can’t decide whether I like the fact that the waitress suggested we order fewer dishes. She said that for 3 people, 3 mains would be too much. As it happened, I would agree with her, but surely it’s a bit rude to suggest we shouldn’t order so much, or that we don’t know what we’re doing? Thoughts? Comments?
I asked for the mango pudding for dessert. The waitress said she thought they might not have any (there are about 4 other occupied tables in the restaurant on a Friday night, why would they have run out?) and instead, brought me a poached pear. With some vanilla ice-cream. For the $14 I paid for it, it wasn’t worth the effort of ordering.
So, I know I’ve had a good go at Bokchoy Tang, but it seems to always leave a sour taste in my mouth for one reason or another.
Value for money: 3/10