Federation Square, Melbourne
Dinner for thirteen is a challenge, so the group takes turns every six weeks choosing a restaurant. Orlando - unsurprisingly - chose a posh Chinese. We had been to Bok Choy Tang before, late last summer on a stormy night. Our memories of the food and the service were good.
I was last to arrive to a rowdy table. The waiter was busy trying to take our order, so I had about two minutes to choose. We had all decided to order individually so the waiter advised that all of our food would not come out together. Why not? If this was any other type of restaurant we would all be served more or less at the same time.
I chose the pork dumplings, given that this is a Northern Chinese restaurant, and Orlando chose the duck pancakes. The pancakes were strange: they came to the table in a woven basket, already made up and then deep fried. A bit pub-food-looking. They had a crisp coating reminiscent of those "southern-fried" oven chips you can buy. They tasted fine but you could not really taste the duck, or any of the complex flavours you expect from duck pancakes. My dumplings were perfectly cooked and of a decent size, although there were only three of them. No dipping sauce however - I had to steal some of Orlando's sweet chilli sauce which is not what you want for your dumplings.
I went with something nice and reliable for main course. I have great memories of delicious Szechuan chicken from our journey through China, and this was the taste I was looking for: perfectly fried chunks of chicken with plenty of dried chillies and onion. It came out exactly as I wanted, and a generous portion too.
About half of us got served at the same time, whilst the rest waited. Orlando, Nat and Craig had to chase their food a couple of times, and the waiter looked pretty perplexed. I reckon there had been a mix-up because they had ordered dishes that others had already been served. Finally Nat and Craig got their food but Orlando was still waiting. Most people had finished eating when his steamed chilli barramundi came out.
After all that waiting, his dish was a disappointment. There was no chilli at all on the fish, just a generous coating of diced red capsicum. Although steamed to perfection and filleted by the waiter at the table, it had little flavour.
The other small gripe was that the rice was served in very small individual bowls, so if you wanted more you had to order it again. Given the time it took to get served, this was not really an attractive proposition. I could have done with more myself.
Strangely, we were not given bowls to eat from, but small flat dishes with a vertical side much like a small flan dish. No good at all for eating with chopticks. I ended up eating from my tiny rice bowl which was difficult given the size.
Most people were happy with their orders, and the bill at $56 per head was excellent value given the amount of alcohol consumed. However I would not recommend Bok Choy Tang for a large table of diners again. Best to go in a smaller group so that you can be sure of better service.