After 32 years in and around the Melbourne hospitality scene dining at Flower Drum was long overdue. If you haven't been and want a hint of what to expect then my best suggestion is check out their website. No more required than clicking Flower Drum here and the link will take you on a short journey into the elegant and refined world created by Gilbert Lau in 1975 and now continued by Chef Anthony Lui and a small army of professionals.
But better still make a booking to experience part of Melbourne's rich culinary diversity. Balance some of the spectacular cheap and grungy haunts with an evening of style, classical Cantonese fare and of course a bill to match. We did not indulge in the entrée serve of Shark fin soup at $160 per person, the sweet birds nest soup at $135.00 or order the whole suckling pig 2 days in advance at $500.00 nor did we choose the degustation option. Instead we ordered dishes to share although its silver service all the way here so every morsel is precisely portioned.
Quail Sang Choi Bao
Duck wontons in broth
Calamari with spicy salt
Stuffed Eggplant (devoured before pic taken)
Coral trout in seasoned soy
Crispy skin chicken
Stir fried wild Barramundi noodles
Hong Kong style beef hor fun (not pictured)
We each had our favourites but the crispy skin chicken was a absolute winner, the skin as promised crispy, but the moistness of the flesh stunning and the extra salty tang mmmmmm. Not every dish was a knock out but all were professionally executed, melt in the mouth calamari, full bodied broth, delicate pastry and lettuce cups all the same size. I wonder how many icebergs are on their Fruit & Veg order each week? There didn't seem to be a table without the delicate little San Choi Bao.
A few before me have chosen to make comparisons with cheaper versions of these dishes but I don't believe there is much to gain from this exercise. I'm happy to reminisce separately about the street food of China (and my other travels in Asian) and the enjoyable evening of elegance we had at Flower Drum.
I was looking forward to a trip down memory lane with the Peking Toffee Apples for dessert but the birthday girl had other ideas and was planning to restaurant hop for a bit of gelati to finish the meal. It's probably my own doing in exposing her from an early age to a diversity of wonderful food. A trip to the rural 'Chinese' [restaurant] of my youth was special fried rice, combination omelette, sweet and sour pork or chicken, Cantonese beef and fried banana fritters - and just quietly still is for the locals still there, lucky I escaped to 'the big smoke'.