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Reviews(s) Gastro Marathon


PCL
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This has been sitting on my desktop for a while, almost completely forgotten, so here goes:

The weekend ended with dinner, again with the whole family at the Tea House on Bourke, Camberwell. Run by Flower Drum alumnus Laurence (I am so ashamed I don't know his last name off-hand), the Tea House started life in Little Hong Kong, aka Carrington St, Box Hill, and has since moved to its current premises on Bourke Road, opposite the Camberwell train station.

Given the excesses of the previous two evenings, it was time for a home style meal, catering for the hoard, I mean, tribe. Now, we seem to be creatures of habit when dining en masse, especially at a family favourite like Tea House.

The menu:

- “Pat-Po” Duck… braised stuffed duck with a ‘hundred treasures’

- Twice cooked (I suspect!) pork belly/spare ribs with apple!! Not quite fusion, but not not fusion either.

- Salt & Chilli Whiting

- Roast Squabs

- Vegies in stock

- Fried rice with salt fish and chicken

- Steamed oysters with XO and vermicelli

Nothing too fancy, with the correct combination of meat/seafood/game/veg and fun. The “pat-po” duck is not for everyone, given it’s traditional context. The treasures involved include gingko nuts, chestnuts and presumably 98 other things I can’t name but have never bothered to ask because it simply isn’t something I eat all the time, but mum loves it, so there you go. I do like the sauce though, ducky and juicy and tasty.

They have a way with pork belly at the old Tea House. It was soft, pliant, with just a little chew left in the rendered fat, and paired with a soy based reduction and slivers (julienne almost) of fresh crisp apple… bloody fantastic. I took home the leftovers intending it for Monday lunch, but there was none left when I got up. My sticky lips told the tale.

And the squabs… wow. Crisp skin, gleaming almost, flesh cooked through, but NEVER dry. Dip first in some lemon juice, then gently into the spiced salt. Eat, suck on bones, lick fingers. Ethereal. If you can handle it, ask for the heads and necks. If you can’t, try it anyway, you owe it to yourself. Billions of people cannot possibly be wrong.

The familiarity of something like crisp fried whiting in the ubiquitous “salt + chili” format may not excite some people, but for me, Tea House is a place for comfort food, and reassuringly, this dish could be elevated to signature status. It’s simply the best around.

It is probably precisely this comforting familiarity that explains the appeal of the Tea House, along with an excellent kitchen and staff of course! The diners are usually in groups, and family groups seem to dominate. The fitout does not impose and offers improved acoustics over what one had to contend with when they first opened in Camberwell. But of course, it’s what’s on the plate that matters, and we’re talking refinement and clarity of flavour, matched with impeccable technique and homage to tradition.

The wine list is decent enough and reasonably priced for Camberwell, but to be honest, I don’t know it that well. If we’re drinking, I bring my own, and if it’s only myself drinking, I ask for something by the glass. I should also note that I”ve never set eyes on the contents of the menu, preferring instead to consult with Laurence.

Edited by PCL (log)

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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Anytime dude, anytime... email myself or Dan, more than happy to go on a tour, any excuse, any excuse...

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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Given the excesses of the previous two evenings, it was time for a home style meal, catering for the hoard, I mean, tribe. Now, we seem to be creatures of habit when dining en masse, especially at a family favourite like Tea House.

Tea House does the comfort food very well. Their Ma Po Doufu is sublime.

- Twice cooked (I suspect!) pork belly/

I thought it was a rule amongst us Chinese that pork belly had to be cooked at least twice. :laugh:

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Apologies for deviating from the post but can one of you fine people tell me what are the 2 methods of cooking used in twice cooked pork belly.

If I cook it at home I first marinate the pork belly in a mixture of spices and sauces overnight. I then put it into a Chinese clay pot a slow cook it for several hours and then take it out of the pot to rest before placing it under the grill to produce a delicious crackling. Does this differ from the method used at the Tea House.

You can count me in for a trip to Melbourne in the new year. Just can't wait to try out some of the great restaurants you have down there. If your ever in Sydney feel free to contact me. I am of to Becasse tonight in Clarence street so I will post my review soon.

Edited by Taubear (log)

Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose. - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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Apologies for deviating from the post but can one of you fine people tell me what are the 2 methods of cooking used in twice cooked pork belly.

The pork belly is often blanched first, rested overnight, and then roasted - hence twice cooked. I think the blanching has a dual effect. It washes out the impurities and scum, and it helps to soften the meat.

It happens a lot in Chinese cookery. There are poultry dishes where the bird gets blanched, rested, and then deep fried.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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The squabs are definitely either steamed or poached prior to the ROASTING....

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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The squabs are definitely either steamed or poached prior to the ROASTING....

I'm just speculating, but this has just given me another possible reason for the double cooking of meat. I don't know whether it's only true of the Chinese I know, but it seems to me that generally, Chinese like their meat to be well cooked. Not rare, not medium, but cooked right through.

Take something like duck for instance. In European cooking, it is served pink. But for the life of me, I can't ever recall duck being served pink in a Chinese restaurant. The same goes for squab and any other meat you can think of.

If you go back to the squab, if it's steamed then roasted, it will be cooked right through. But if you just roast it, then it should be pink in the middle.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Not to be a party pooper but what about Hainan Gai Fan/Hainan Chicken Rice?

Deliciously just under done in the best locations!

or the white cut chicken.

I'd argue that the white cut chicken is cooked right through.

Sure, there is the red colour in the bones from the blood, but the meat itself is cooked right through.

I'm not sure about the Hainan chicken rice. When I've had it, it's been similar to the white cut chicken - but I've never prepared the dish myself.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Drunken squab and sometimes chicken, are both a little pink. The alcohol involved must help in some ways to 'cure' the meat. Each time I've had these dishes at Tea House, they were superb.

TCO, I am in wholehearted agreement about hainan chicken rice.

And re: white cut chicken, it should not be cooked right through. A hint of pink must remain especially in the dark meat. Good chickens are a must. Not many places in Australia would dare do it properly out of insecurity I'd say.

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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Drunken squab and sometimes chicken

Gosh, it has been a few years since I have one of those, if I remember it correctly it was in a place in Waratah Lane ( I think) called Tai Shanghai restaurant, where Nam Loong No. 2 is now, The prop. used to kick a fuss about parking right outside the front door, must be the 'fon shui' thing, it was a really really good little restaurant, good ma po tafu and red bean pancake and the drunken squab, yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

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where Nam Loong No. 2 is now,

I remember Nam Loong on Russel Street. After Sunday morning Cantonese classes, we'd all go down there for the char siu bao, before spending the afternoon playing Galaga in the video game parlours.

Earlier this year, they had a few problems with the food authorities due to hygine problems.

Edited by Shinboners (log)
Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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where Nam Loong No. 2 is now,

I remember Nam Loong on Russel Street. After Sunday morning Mandarin classes, we'd all go down there for the char siu bao, before spending the afternoon playing Galaga in the video game parlours.

Now that would be what I'd consider an awesome day out!

Edited by The Chefs Office (log)

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good ma po tafu and red bean pancake and the drunken squab, yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Like Shin said earlier, Tea House does comfort food really well. To be honest, their drunken squab is one of the best I've had outside of the Far East.

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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good ma po tafu and red bean pancake and the drunken squab, yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Like Shin said earlier, Tea House does comfort food really well. To be honest, their drunken squab is one of the best I've had outside of the Far East.

Been meaning to go there , after hearing nice reports here and from some friends, just don't get to that side of Melbourne much for dinner :sad: , is there a 'much have' dish, (and don't say Shark fin soup or sea cucumber :shock: ) and pricewise ? what about the one in Cohen PL, in the CBD, is the food the same ? and the menu ?

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Dim,

In terms of signature dishes, I highly recommend the pei-pa duck, roast squab, whiting as mentioned earlier, and the pork. If you ask nicely and have some time, they can do you a red cooked pork belly, but best to order that in advance.

The beef fillet rivals Flower Drum in my opinion, but the staff themselves would deny it out of respect and deference. Ask for the sauce to be served on the side and ladle it on to taste.

As for the CBD branch in Cohen Pl, I happened to pop in there for lunch today on a whim with a colleague. $40 per head, 'Executive Lunch' comprised the following:

- sang choi pao

- salt and chili whiting

- king prawns (in a sweet/sour sauce, light, not cloying)

- beef fillet with pepper sauce

- fried rice with prawns

- coffee/tea which we skipped due to time constraints

Verdict: good value for a hearty lunch. Can't answer questions about the menu, as although I've had dinner there once or twice, we've never ordered from the card.

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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. $40 per head, 'Executive Lunch' comprised the following:

- sang choi pao

- salt and chili whiting

- king prawns (in a sweet/sour sauce, light, not cloying)

- beef fillet with pepper sauce

- fried rice with prawns

- coffee/tea which we skipped due to time constraints

Verdict: good value for a hearty lunch.

Did I hear someone say "Melbourne eGullet lunch in January?" :hmmm:

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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