Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mahjong, St Kilda by Big Fil

Restrained and refined. That would describe the d├ęcor at Mahjong, with its red and grey furnishings and natural lighting flooding through the floor to ceiling windows. Lacking both the cheap tacky decoration of a suburban yum cha barn or the over the top bling of an upmarket Chinese restaurant, you know from when you step in that it's going to be a safe and comfortable dining experience.

Sunday lunch is trolley service yum cha, with delicate and petite dumplings served by polite staff. The dumplings are good, thin skinned and generously filled with quality ingredients. Unlike many Melbourne yum cha experiences where it's obvious the dim sum have been prepared with cheaper fillings and then frozen, the sui mai were juicy and meaty, the prawn dumplings obviously made with fresh prawns.

While other common yum cha offerings were sampled including ginger prawns and fried prawn rolls, there was a variation on a common dish that I don't remember seeing before - scallop toast. Prawn toast is very common and not one of my favourites, with the toast often soaking up inordinate amounts of oil. However, the scallops were large and sweet, the bread slightly oily but not as much as I had expected. I usually prefer the steamed dim sum but would happily have this again.

The two dishes which did let us down somewhat were the calamari and the pork ribs. As with the other dishes all perfectly cooked but for some reason significantly oversalted. I have no idea why this was the case, with considerable care obviously been taken with the other offerings, but something had gone wrong in the preparation of these somewhere.

One thing which did stand out about Mahjong though was that it seemed to be geared both in presentation and taste to western palates. Both of my dining companions - the only two Asians in the restaurant that weren't referring to everyone as Sir or Madam - commented on this. Flavours were softer than normal and many of the more 'exotic' dishes didn't seem to be available, or at least weren't brought around during the time we were there. So no tripe, no tendon, no chickens feet, not even steamed rice noodles. Also, the session was yum cha only so we weren't able to try any of the dishes off the main menu.

Oh, and while the tea came in a very cute pot at $3 per person it was pricier than we expected.

Nice but a little pricy, with demure but not fawning service and well prepared food. However I'm not sure I'd return in a hurry because it didn't offer the variety I prefer and the higher than normal costs. It's not outrageously expensive though and it would make a good, non-challenging introduction to yum cha for someone not up for diving into the deep-end of the large, raucous, suburban Chinese restaurant.

Food - 7.5
Service - 8
Ambience - 7.5
Price - 6

165 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda Vic 3182
Tel: (03) 9534 8833

Mahjong on Urbanspoon

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