Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tang's Family Restaurant, Box Hill South by Big Fil

Tang’s Family Restaurant was one of Ms MMMs suggestions, a non-descript looking sort of Singaporean style restaurant set in a Box Hill South shopping centre. Why sort of Singaporean in style? Well in addition to some of the usual suspects it also includes a couple of Thai , Japanese and western influenced dishes on the menu.

Apparently Tang’s has been shut for a period of time and has only just re-opened. Having seen it full on previous occasions Ms MMM made sure we had an early booking only to find we were the only diners for lunch that day. While this meant we were able to engage in an ongoing discussion with the friendly front of house Uncle it’s a bit of a shame because the food is good and reasonably priced.

Actually the food is considerably better than you’d expect from the surroundings. It looks like your typical suburban Malaysian restaurant. A little brighter and cleaner looking than usual, and with a small incongruous chandelier hanging from the ceiling, but nothing out of the ordinary. The first clue though is the service. It’s not your usual ‘You want chicken rice or not’ style of service but much more western in style, similar to what you’d expect to receive in mid-range restaurant.

Given there were six of us on the day we were able to give the menu a fair workout – three entrees, four mains and two of the desserts. I was a bit split on the dishes – all three entrees and two of the mains were ‘wahoo’, but two of the mains and the desserts were a little ‘meh’. I think I was in the minority though as just about everything had others commenting favourably around the table.

Pick of the entrees was the excellent pandan chicken pieces. I was a bit concerned when someone else chose these, as my general experience here is of overly seasoned greasy chicken. These however were spot on. The seasoning was perfect to bring out the flavour of the moist chicken and while still a touch greasy nothing compared to how they're usually served. I would have liked it a bit more fragrant from the pandan leaves but that's getting really picky.

The dumplings were also very good, much better than many specialist dumpling houses. Good and generous with the filling, tasting of much better than normal ingredients with well flavoured and cooked dumpling skins.

My least favourite of the entrees was the tofu. Not because it was bad, far from it, but more because the others were so good. With soft silky tofu heaped with pork floss, the best part of it was the dark, sweet slightly spicy sauce.

For the mains, the most impressive was undoubtedly the smoked pork belly. The most fusion in style of the dishes as well, I think we were all taken aback when the plate, covered with a clear lid holding back the swirls of smoke, arrived at the table. Unfortunately Snooze was slow with the camera to get a photo as the lid was being removed but we were soon all tucking into delicious, crispy skin pork. Ms MMM commented favourably on the lack of the saltiness of the skin – I think this may be an indication of having eaten a lot of siu yuk, where I understand the skin is salted so it becomes properly crispy.

The other main I really liked was the duck fried rice. Soft grains of rice, moist slivers of shredded duck, served with plenty of wok hei.

The other two mains I wasn’t as fond of. Char Kway Teoh is one of Ruby Grapefruit’s favourite dishes, a test of the quality of any Malaysian restaurant. It comes in at least two different styles and my favourite is undoubtedly the Penang style. This was more similar to what I’ve had in Kuala Lumpur, with a much heavier hand with the sauce. On the positive side though it did seem to have used pork fat in the cooking, boosting the flavours.

The Beef Rendang I didn’t particularly like and wouldn’t order again. Served in a pool of sauce, much more tender than it initially looked and topped with a few pieces of desiccated coconut, unfortunately it’s not what I think of or want when I order a rendang. I want a dish where the meat has been slowly cooking for hours, until the sauce and darker coloured meat has merged into a melt in the mouth experience. What we received felt more like a beef curry. It may be as Ms MMM said, it’s not quite the same unless the baba has cooked it.

The range of desserts is limited, but includes a cold silky milk pudding and pulut hitam, a black sticky rice soup with a dollop of coconut cream poured on top. The milk pudding was drizzled with Gula Melaka (palm sugar) and served with candied pistachio nuts to give it a bit of texture but I found the flavours uninteresting. And while a bit of a personal choice, I prefer my pulut itam with a bit more coconut milk and a little thicker.

For a suburban restaurant a very pleasant surprise. Tang's Family Restaurant is very much a family affair: the daughter is a western trained chef and mixes some of that training together with the dishes and flavours from home, the mother also cooks and has apparently visited Singapore to bone up on the way things are done, and the son and father work front of house. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Here it definitely succeeds. Thank you Ms MMM.

Food – 8
Service – 7.5
Ambience – 7
Price – 7.5

179 Middleborough Road
Box Hill South VIC 3128
Tel: (03) 9890 9221

Tang's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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