Flower Drum

17 Market Ln
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9662 3655
Tonight I took Adam to Flower Drum as his birthday was coming up in a few days. He’d been wanting to try the place for a long time so in January, I made the booking and they were nice enough to ring me back a few days ago to confirm and everything. Yeah, we had to book in January because we all know how crazy Melbourne’s restaurant scene is and with a place like Flower Drum, there is no way one could rock up at 7pm on a Saturday night without a booking made at least three months in advance.
Many of you would know that Flower Drum has been one of Melbourne’s top restaurants for a number of years, and possibly the best Cantonese restaurant in Australia. Aussies love it. As for Asians, well… their opinions are pretty much divided. You get those who love love love it and then you get those who sneer at the mention of the restaurant before saying how there are better (and CHEAPER) Chinese restaurants and that people who go to Flower Drum are total fools, before turning their noses up. Of course, these people have not been to Flower Drum themselves so who are they to say stuff like that. But seriously though, you might whinge about how overly-priced the food is and how you can get just as good Chinese food in Chinatown (where?) but if someone offered to pay for your meal, seriously, you would NOT refuse. Who the heck would?! Anyway.If you’re planning to go to Flower Drum soon, let me warn you about a couple of things. Firstly, it’s Cantonese food. Meaning: It’s not innovative. There are no Teage Ezard or Robin Wickens in the Australian-Cantonese restaurant scene so don’t go there expecting innovative and wtf-ish-but-awesome dishes. Basically, you will find typical dishes such as Sweet and Sour Pork or Seafood Noodles which just so happen to be much tastier than your average Chinese restaurant in Chinatown as they use the freshest and best ingredients. For example, their pineapples don’t come from a Golden Circle tin from Safeway, they come fresh from Queensland. Secondly, Flower Drum has changed hands since my last visit there (about a few years ago). Back then, it was Gilbert Lau (the master) who controlled the joint and made everything magic. But now he decided that he had enough and sold the business to one of the chefs there, Anthony Lui. Not that Mr Anthony sucks or anything – the food is still good but it does not have the same magic to it that Mr Lau brought to all the dishes back then.

There’s Adam. You can’t really see it in the photo but the decor has not changed since it opened in the 80s. Like I said, Flower Drum don’t do innovation and modern cool. They’re are all about high-quality and reliability.

All the tables were filled for the night, half Asians and half white folk. Half were your every day commoners (ie us) while the other half were the rich, A-list type folk in pretty dresses that I would KILL for (and given that I’m not really into fashion, that says something about how HOT those dresses were. Phwoar). I could’ve sworn I saw some underworld figures sitting on the tables behind the wooden screen towards the back of the room but I wasn’t so sure…

Onwards to the food. Although the specials sounded enticing (I always wanted to try pearl meat!), we decided to go for the 6 course banquet ($150 per head).

Stuffed Crab Shell. This is similar to those baked oysters that you’d see at yum cha restaurants, only nicer. Given that it was cheesy, I was worried that I’d be full after this one course (my mum certainly was when we were here last!) but the waiters were very good with their timing and allowed us to sit and relax for a bit before bringing out the next courses.

Quail San Choy Bao. I’m not really a big fan of san choy bao. This one was alright but nothing special. Moving along…Fried Salt + Pepper King George Whiting with lemon sauce and 5-spice salt (on top in separate container). Haha, way better than bloody Rex Hunt’s Fish and Chip joint! This was one of the changes they made to the banquet (last time they had steamed trout, which was fantastic) and although I was like when I saw it being presented to me, I was actually surprised at how good it tasted. Crispy batter, plump pieces of fresh fish. Dip it in lemon sauce and a very very tiny amount of 5-spice salt and …. ooooh yum!Peking Duck. One of Flower Drum‘s most popular dishes. The waiters actually bring out trolleys with gas burners and steamers on them and prepare the little morsels for you. It’s definitely the best peking duck I’ve had in Melbourne. Old Kingdom on Smith St serve great Peking duck too (probably second to Flower Drum) and while OK is great value, their Peking ducks ain’t as moist, not-fatty and delicious as the ones I’ve had at FD…

Noodles with crayfish in ginger and shallot sauce. This is a lot like the mud crab and egg noodle dish that many families like to order at Chinese places, the only difference being the crustacean used. I liked that the chefs cleared out most of the shells which made it easier for us to eat the crayfish using chopsticks. After all, I didn’t want to eat this with my hands at Flower Drum!

Grain-fed eye fillet steak with lotus fried rice (Sichuan style). You can barely see the bowl of rice which is just slightly to the left of the photo. Last time, they had Cantonese-style steak which, I thought, tasted better than the steak we had tonight but then again, it could be my Cantonese-pwns-over-all-the-other-Chinese-cuisines bias talking. I’m not a big fan of Sichuan food so I struggled with this steak (aarrghhh the spice! *sips tea frantically*). Next time I think I’ll ask them if I could have the Cantonese peppered steak instead of this one.

Dessert! We got a really nice looking fruit platter. None of this plates-of-oranges or red-bean-soup business! And they even gave us mangoes, rambutans, starfruits amongst all sorts of other goodies.Almond cookies. Damn, these are so addictive. I wasn’t sure if they actually made them in the kitchen or if they bought them elsewhere but I certainly haven’t had almond cookies as nice as these. They gave us a plate of 6 cookies to share but when they gave us the bill, they gave us another plate of 6 which I wasn’t sure we were supposed to have. Either they really did not know that we already had our cookies or they were graced by our awesome presence so they decided to reward us with extra cookies. Ain’t complaining though.

All in all, a great meal but like I said, Flower Drum isn’t as good as it used to be. Still great but stops short of being super-dooper fantastic. Nevertheless, that did not stop the masses of people who came here for the night and given by how they’re still booked for three months on weekends, you can be sure that this place still remains a Melbourne institute despite all the funky modern eateries popping up every bloody five seconds. I guess the one thing that hasn’t changed (apart from the decor) is the service. You would NOT find better service elsewhere. Seriously. And definitely NOT at another Chinese restaurant. The waiter we had actually spoke ENGLISH and was smiling the entire time, plus he cracked a few jokes here and there. They were very attentive without being annoying and obtrusive; they constantly came to pour your tea/water and re-arrange your cutlery and would wait away from your table while you were talking so as to not interupt your conversation before they came in with your food. And yes, we were quite full by the end of the meal. In fact, I struggled to finish my steak! So yes, well worth your money… hell,ย  my stomach still aches at present!

I eat too much.

12 Comments

  1. icesabre
    April 19, 2008

    Like I said, I went to Seamstress with Joy and it IS funky!!! A bit tad expensive and a more mature crowd but it’s pretty nice!

    Aaaargh, I would’ve loved to have gone to Flower Drum when it was run by Master Lau but I was just a poor damn Uni student on Sennaling dole payments hahaha. It’s still good you reckon? I seriously have to try it in the near future!!!!!!

    Haha, Cho Gao – yep they are expensive too – don’t get me started on their Hoegaarden beer hahaha, but it’s nice because you normally end up bumping into familiar faces there! And it looks like you both had a lovely night!

    =D

    Reply
  2. KeLlY_Siew
    April 19, 2008

    wow that’s a lot of food for two person!! You must have been SO full after the meal! I’ve been meaning to go to FD but have to wait until we can go with someone else…. so we can try more dishes.

    cho gao is CRAZY on a Friday night, I’d decide to never go there again when it’s busy. Maybe it’s just that I’m anti-social nowadays.

    Reply
  3. peach_water
    April 19, 2008

    looking at the food is making me drool. HAha. I really like the presentation of the fruit platter. it’s so pretty ๐Ÿ™‚

    Re: your comment on my post: dont worry, filling out tax returns are so much easier than learning all these CGT events and learning about all these specific rules for the acquisition of assets before such and such dates. It really makes my head spin! but I’m sure you’ll be fine with your bfs tax return!

    Oh, the bag i bought..they actually have two sizes, a large one which is like $70, but didnt look that cute and is kinda plain. My one was $50 which is the smallest. They dont have the small one on display. The sales girl had to look for it out in the back store! it was the very first one ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  4. firstluv
    April 19, 2008

    The best peking duck in Melb? Now this I gotta try! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Can u believe I’ve never been to FD before? I definitely need to go one of these days.

    Oh, and you’re too harsh on yourself. U look cute in that dress. Where’d you get it? I’m naturally pale as heck, but I top up with fake tan when I wanna look healthy. The best one I’ve come across is a gradual tanner from L’oreal called Nutrisummer. They have one for face, and one for body. Both are really cheap, and you can get them from Priceline or Myer.

    BTW, you make a good food critic. Whereas me, I just post pics. I can’t be bothered explaining about what I’ve eaten or where I’ve gone ;P

    Reply
  5. firstluv
    April 19, 2008

    P.S. I’ve never had almond cookies before ๐Ÿ™  But now that you’ve mentioned it on your blog, I’m gonna start my own search party for some! I love almond jelly and anything almond ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  6. s_l_v
    April 20, 2008

    Dude yuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmm *drool* What really made me salivate all over my keyboard was the crayfish noodles and the fruit platter. When I’m out at a Chinese restaurant I seriously get more excited over the fruit/dessert than the main meal cos it’s always that that surprises me. I guess I’m just so used to Chinese food that nothing really stands out anymore and I’m more curious as to what the dessert will be. Of course, more often than not it’s warm orange slices and red bean soup but I still end up having my own portion as well as my mum’s. Anyway, Flower Drum seems like such a fancy place, and I honestly gotta say, just by looking at the food I wouldn’t have thought it’d cost as much as $150 per head cos it’s nothing I haven’t seen before, although the fruit platter is pretty damn impressive. Nevertheless, the single fact that you mentioned the spectacular service automatically justifies the price, so yep, I am sooo putting that on my To Eat list. And book 3 months in advance, check.

    Oh and I wrote down all the ramen places you told me, I’m going to go with my workmate probably in the next week or so and check them out. I’ll get back to you on that

    Reply
  7. icesabre
    April 20, 2008

    Thanks a lot, I keep coming back to this post and feel so damn hungry!

    Reply
  8. Melbournechick
    April 20, 2008

    Boy, my brother is lucky to be your boyfriend. That was really sweet – you and the almond cookies

    Reply
  9. lilpikachu
    April 21, 2008

    Okay, that’s it! Me and Kevin have to go to Flower Drum for my birthday! ๐Ÿ˜›

    Thanks for the review and pictures – the food looks wonderful!

    You look so cute in your dress – don’t worry, I’m pale all year round.  It’s probably because I avoid the sun intentionally – I don’t want more freckles!!

    Given we need to book three months in advance, I think we may have to go to Flower Drum for our next major anniversary which is in October – it’ll be our five years then.  So I’ve got plenty of time.  Thanks for the headsup though.

    That steak looks hardcore – and I hate that red-bean crap they give as dessert normally! You always get it at weddings! Gah!

    Reply
  10. Silvia
    December 12, 2010

    Flower drum and crystal jade are my two fave Chinese restaurants in Melb. Probably try something not on the menu next time when you visit Flower Drum again. The food on the menu appears to be too westernized for me.
    Pearl meat is my all time fave. Try their lamb pocket too. I also give a thumb up to their winter melon soup but it’s seasonal and require a day booking in advance.

    Reply
    1. libishski
      December 12, 2010

      Hi Silvia, I actually returned to Flower Drum two months ago and tried their pearl meat which was divine. Ditto their duck wontons. I didn’t get to try their lamb pocket, but next time. Thanks for your recs!

      Reply
  11. […] diners. And on the day of our Spring dinner, thoughts went through my head. Will it be better than my last dinner at Flower Drum 2.5 years ago? (my writing certainly is *cough*) Will they still play Richard Clayderman on the restaurant’s […]

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