Friday, May 7, 2010

The Bund Restaurant, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

The Bund is a comparatively new restaurant in Chinatown, upstairs in the same arcade as The Dragon Boat. When we went to visit at 12.30 on a Wednesday it was completely empty of customers - not a good sign. Even by the time we left only 2 or 3 other tables were occupied. It's kind of hard to put on finger on why this restaurant doesn't feel right. The closest we could get was that, for lunch anyway, it seems to be stuck between fine dining and cheap eats and doesn't quite work as either.

The first dish we ordered were the Shanghai Xiao Long Bao. These are a good test of a Shanghai style restaurant and the ones at The Bund are good ... almost as good as those at Hutong. The skins were thin and the soup delicious, my only complaint is that they could have been slightly larger.

The Pan Fried Dumplings were also nice. In fact I thought these were probably better than the same dish at Hutong; maybe the best I have had in the CBD. I would have preferred the bottom a little bit crispier for the textural contrast with the top of the dumpling, but that is probably a personal preference as much as anything.

I also liked the Stir Fried Shredded Eel with Noodles. We ordered these because one of us who had lived for a while in China seemed to remember that Shanghai was known for its eel. Eel can have quite a strong flavour but in this dish it wasn't overpowering, and it was good to try something I hadn't had before. And while fried noodles are always a little greasy, these weren't too bad.

Not as good, but still interesting, was the Shanghai Soya Duck. The dish was prepared differently to most duck dishes. It was almost like it had been overcooked to the point of being a little dry, with little moisture left in the meat. This gives the meat a texture starting to resemble that of a very soft jerky. To me the main advantage is that the duck doesn't have that fatty or greasy texture you often get and which puts a lot of people off it.

Finally, and a class below the other dishes, was the Double Cooked Pork on Rice. The pork was very fatty and the flavours uninteresting. I hadn't had double cooked pork before and wasn't sure if this is what the dish is meant to be like. It's not something I will be ordering again. It also inspired a conversation about the use of onion in authentic Shanghai cooking (which we are still uncertain about).

Most of the dishes were acceptable or better, and the fit out of the restaurant was good with its replication of the Shanghai skyline. Prices were fine and service was adequate. But I have enjoyed myself much more at restaurants where the food wasn't as good. For lunch anyway, the restaurant sits a bit above the prices I'd expect in a cheap eats place, and some of the dishes aren't what I'd expect in an upmarket restaurant. The Dinner menu looked slightly more upmarket, so I'd consider a return to try it out, but would not return for lunch until it worked out what sort of restaurant it wanted to be.

Ambience - 7
Service - 6.5
Food - 7
Price - 6.5

Level 1, 206 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 0005

The Bund Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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