I’ve always associated tea master David Zhou’s Oriental Teahouse with just teas – after all, I love popping by the outlets when I’m in Melbourne, tasting their hot and cold brews. But somehow, it totally escaped me that they even had a restaurant there!
My lunch began with a tall glass of Raspberry and Lime Iced Tea. This fruity concoction wasn’t too sweet, and was refreshing enough to have me pretend that the heat lamps above me was actually the warmth of the summer sun.
As with most of my lunches, I began by asking the waiter what I should order. He surprised me by suggesting dishes across the menu that presented a great variety, and balance to my meal. You’d think that an intimate knowledge of a menu is a must for any waiter, but trust me, it’s not something that every restaurant can boast about.
When asked about one dish that people should try, he immediately recommended these cheese and bacon spring rolls. Looking perfectly ordinary on the outside, these spring rolls carry a hint of molten, melting cheese within, while still retaining the traditional Asian flavours you would expect from a spring roll. Weird? Yes. But still tasty, and worth a try.
I’ve never been a girl for beef in dumplings – I don’t think I’ve had a beef dumpling ’til I came to Australia – but these, I have to admit, were actually pretty cool. Wagyu beef is marinated in kaffir lime, and served with a chilli sauce that’s got hints of Thai flavours. The first bite takes a while to get used to, but they become strangely addictive after the second.
Tofu with sauce on rice? This is one of those dishes that bring me comfort, being reminiscent of my childhood family dinners! I was warned that this dish would be quite spicy, and immediately presented with water, just in case. Personally, I didn’t think it was very spicy at all, but I am Singaporean, and have been known to eat chopped up birds’ eye chillies on rice with a bit of soy sauce, so…
Don’t judge me. You know you wanna try it now.
There’s something about tentacles that I just can’t get past, and this octopus rendition of Salt and Pepper Calamari is an interesting take on the dish. The octopus wasn’t quite as tender as I would’ve liked – although I’m sure there are people who appreciate the chewy texture – but points for trying.
I was recommended the calamari off the specials menu because everyone orders the Peking Duck. And I’m actually glad that I ordered this. Yes, it’s not the flashiest dish, but the combination of the tender calamari and the thick sauce made for a comforting meal over rice, much like the tofu and chicken dish mentioned above.
If you are the type to rebel against being told what to do, then maybe you shouldn’t look at the name of this dish. Or do. Either way, I really like this dish as the vegetable component of the meal. Sure, I prefer some of the other dishes as a standalone, but this plate of stir fried veggies – the edamame is a great touch – did heaps to assuage guilt about eating bowls of rice and deep fried stuff presented in the form of my mothers’ voice in my head.
I’m a sucker for anything with rice flour – who can resist that pull of sticky goodness? These Chinese Wonka (yes, like Willy) were exactly what the doctor ordered, filled with gooey melted chocolate, covered with sesame seeds, and deep fried ’til you get that soft-on-the-inside-crispy-on-the-outside texture that makes it just so decadent. It’s served with your choice of ice cream on the side – I had it with rock salt and caramel – which pushes me just over the top.
And of course, you can’t come to Oriental Teahouse without trying the tea. This cup of Relaxing uses liquorice, peppermint and goji berries to create an invigorating brew.
Or if you’re not a peppermint person – I’m not such a huge fan myself – try Calm and Concentration instead. With Chrysanthemum, dried longans and dates, this slightly sweet, calming brew is perfect to while away the afternoon with.
With the combination of service and atmosphere, the Oriental Teahouse is a great place to meet for a casual lunch, or some afternoon entertainment – some of the menu names are quirky and self-deprecating, and their pop culture references show that they’re not taking themselves too seriously.
378 Little Collins St Melbourne, VIC
Phone: 03 9600 4230
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of The Oriental Teahouse and Harvey Publicity and Events.