Silks

Level 1, Crown Towers
8 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC 3006
+61 3 9292 6868

Another sort-of-but-not-really important anniversary? Another dinner date at yet another toffy Melbourne restaurant. Yeah, no worries mate! To celebrate our one-and-a-half-year anniversary, Adam took me to Silks last night, a respectable Cantonese fine dining establishment at Crown Towers. Having been there once before with his family, he decided that he liked it enough to take me there last night. We spent much of the afternoon taking advantage of the family and friends sale at MYER where Adam bought me two cookbooks (the latest Tobie Puttock one and “Faking It”, a cookbook written for cooking novices such as myself which was published by the ABC) as well as a summery mist grey cotton frock from Decjuba. It had been pissing down rain all day so we were not keen on walking all the way to Crown but luckily, there was a rainless patch in the late afternoon so we braved the winds and made it to Crown just before it started again.

To kill time before dinner, we watched the cricket at this bar which I can’t remember the name of but it used to be the former Sports Bar. It’s definitely not a place that I’d voluntarily go again for drinks (the only reason why we were there was because The Pub At Crown was not showing the cricket) as it was full of yobbos who were in their Sunday best attires of baggy Levi’s and light blue t-shirts from Tarocash as well as those bogan Kath and Kim type women who had just been to Sexpo across the road. Shudders.

Anyway, I wasted two paragraphs already and we haven’t even gotten to Silks yet, so shall we?

The first thing I said when I walked in was simply “WOW.” A luxurious restaurant which resembled a Chinese mansion, every corner was beautifully decorated. Flower Drum might have boasted some serious bling but while its décor screams borderline tacky (they’ve had the same décor since the 80s), Silks was refreshingly modern. From the pretty lanterns lining the walkway into the door to the traditional Chinese tapestries that draped the walls, it was obvious that a lot of money was invested in the restaurant.

The main attraction, however, was the huge Mongolian tent (below) in the middle of the restaurant that seats 10-20 people for pre or post dinner drinks (or simply if you just want to get away from your annoying relatives).

The secluded booth that we were guided to did not disappoint either. A generously sized table. Cushy chairs. A position where we could see but not be seen. Decent view of the Yarra. Privacy. Cute crockery. Coated peanuts. A teapot with its own little tea warmer/heater. I was excited.

Prior to arriving here, Adam and I were certain that we were going to go for one of the banquet options but that didn’t stop us from skimming the menu just to see what the a la carte prices were like. Most of the mains were in the $30-40 mark, pretty expensive for Cantonese cuisine, while high end stuff such as abalone set one back $150ish. There are three different banquet menus to choose from, the cheapest one being $85. While all three banquets had roughly the same number of courses, we decided to go for the dearest option at $125 p/head, only because there were more seafood dishes on that particular menu. And we all know how much I love my seafood.


The first item took quite a well to arrive. The five or so tables next to us (an engagement party for a toffy Honkie family) had about 5 or so waiters swarming around them which made me feel a bit neglected. Yeah, I know that they’re paying 10 billion times more than I am but I want service dammit! Finally, the waiter came and presented to us each a plate with three huge pieces of scallops. I was a bit surprised that they didn’t make an effort with the presentation but reminded myself that this was, after all, a Chinese restaurant. Heh. The flavour of the scallops, sweet and succulent, was balanced nicely with the salty sauce and a slight whiff of ginger. Although the dish was nice enough, I felt that it would’ve been better with some coriander (I later found out, on the Silks website, that this dish was advertised as “scallops with fine ginger and coriander sauce.” Methinks the chef forgot to put coriander.)

The next dish was one that features in the Flower Drum banquet menu, the baked crab shell. Again, I found this to be decent. Fresh sweet crab meat with chopped onions nestled in a creamy cheese sauce laden with saffron and a tinge of curry. It doesn’t sound like a very Chinese-y dish but then again, there are a lot of cooking ingredients and techniques that the Chinese have borrowed from other cultures. Portuguese egg tarts anyone? I found the baked crab shell to be lighter than the one we had at Flower Drum (which is a good thing!) but I found that Flower Drum’s version tasted that much better.


Ah, the obligatory dish in every high-end Chinese restaurant banquet menu. Two pieces of Peking duck each, prepared in front of the table while you watch. Adam’s first piece was gone in literally two bites while I slowly savoured mine. It was good, yes, but out of this world? No. Silks did everything right with their Peking Duck. Good moist chunk of duck shelled by a crispy skin, spring onion, cucumber, plum sauce, all wrapped in a pancake that was neither too dry nor soggy – all textbook stuff. The problem, however, was that I couldn’t stop comparing it to Flower Drum’s juicier and bigger duck pieces, their slightly longer cucumbers and spring onions, their “more perfect” pancakes and their tangier plum sauce. Having said that though, I’d say that Silks’ Perking Duck ALMOST gives Old Kingdom’s a run for its money. ALMOST.

The menu described this dish as “Lobster with supreme stock and seasonal vegetables”, the vegetables being one measly piece of sliced carrot and two baby bok choys and the “supreme stock” being the ubiquitous ginger and spring onion sauce. While the lobster meat was oh-so-sweet, plump and juicy, I found this dish to be quite bland and uninspiring overall. It was definitely nothing that I can’t get at Tai Pan or another suburban restaurant at a much cheaper price.


Next please! Simply called “Pan-fried salmon with peas”, this was another dish that didn’t really seem Chinese-y to me. The whole pan-fried-in-batter thing just screamed out Aussie fish and chips shop and the choice of fish was certainly unconventional (battered salmon?!?!). Strange as it may sound, I thought it was yummy though the fact that the fish had been sitting in the sauce for quite some time prior to serving it to us (presumably, the chef had to wait for the veggies to finish cooking – confirm what veggies!!) meant that the nice texture created by the crispy batter on the top of the fish was almost ruined by the soggy mess on the bottom where the soy and mirin sauce soaked through.

This was the “main” dish, the final savoury item on tonight’s menu: “Eye fillet of beef with Cantonese sauce and seasonal vegetable” accompanied by a small bowl of special fried rice. As we were munching and getting very very full, Adam remarked on how similar this banquet was to Flower Drum’s. Looking back at the last time I went there, I had to agree. Half the dishes were exactly the same or similar, which prompted me to wonder whether Silks had copied Flower Drum’s banquet menu (which, more or less, remain unchanged for years) or was it just a mere coincidence? Hmmm. Either way, this was good as it gave me an easier task of comparing the two objectively. I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed this dish, to be honest. The serving size was minuscule compared to the generous serving granted to us by Flower Drum. The fried rice was just like any others you would expect to find at a shopping centre food court. And as for seasonal veggies? All we got was a lump of cooked spinach. Not that I know much about which veggies are in season or not, but are spinaches actually in season? Or does Silks simply describe each vegetable as “seasonal”?!?!


We got coconut pudding, which is exactly like the almond jellies you get at yum cha but with a hint of coconut flavouring. It was light and refreshing, exactly the thing you need after a big meal. Oh, and I love that the menu says that it comes “served with seasonal fruit.” Haha, yeah… one little orange slice, one kiwi fruit slice and a mango slice. Yeah okay, they are in season at the moment – I’ll give Silks that – but surely, an award-winning chef from Hong Kong can produce much more stunning desserts than THIS?! I guess this, once again, proves my theory that Asians are just no good at desserts…

So what did you think of the restaurant? I want the interior designer to decorate my house. What about the food? It was alright, but just that. Was it worth $125? No.

As I’ve gathered from experience, I found that Melbourne’s Cantonese restaurants lack creative direction and churn the same old favourites day in, day out. While those who do well with extremely talented chefs and high quality ingredients are rewarded with Saturday night waiting lists of up to six months (Gilbert Lau and Flower Drum), there are those who try so hard but have not quite got there. And Silks is one of them. Obviously, they’re marketing themselves as an alternative to Flower Drum but sadly, they still have a long way to go. While I was happy paying $145 for Flower Drum’s banquet, the $125 per head price tag at Silks could have been better spent elsewhere as most of the food was only slightly better than you would get elsewhere in Chinatown. The service, although a little slow to begin with, wasn’t too bad but what really ruined the night for me was the rowdy engagement party full of loaded-yet-badly-dressed Honkies sitting next to us. The first time Adam was here, he said that it was so quiet and posh that he dared not make a sound. Having the boisterous Honkies drunkingly sik sik sei sei-ing next to us made the atmosphere feel more like a suburban yum cha restaurant and subsequently ruined it for us. Silks is not a place that I would visit on my own accord any time soon but if there are some serious changes to the menu, then perhaps I will reconsider.

We so silly!

Chilling out inside the Mongolian tent after dinner. The interiors were so cool;  cooler than many of the bars out there in Melbourne!

I eat too much.

14 Comments

  1. GODandShopping
    November 23, 2008

    haha at least you had fun mucking around with the camera…

    You think that was bad? you should try Silk Road… that place is TACKY…

    It’s like the Asian trash of silk road had their loot – (which they stole from travelling merchants from all over the world) rearranged by back yard blitz to give you a Bali inspired garden. LOL well you get the point.

    And what were tacky hongkie new money people wearing?

    Reply
  2. NeverBeBeat
    November 23, 2008

    how much did everything cost for one person?

    Reply
  3. SNSAZN
    November 23, 2008

    @GODandShopping – 

    Silk Road?! Everyone who has been there says how classy and sophisticated it is! I’ve never been myself though…

    Most of the girls either had the ubiquitous LV monogrammed bag or a Gucci tote. The younger girls walked in with baby pink Juicy Couture tops (ugh, not a fan!) and denim miniskirts, black knee-highs and leopard print heels. The older ones were a little more refined but still ugh-y: white linen suits but a trashy-looking cami instead and little heels with all sorts of laces, buttons, sequins on them! I dunno if it’s just me or whether that sort of look is actually cool but perhaps I’m just too conservative for my own good!

    @ImSoAzNwAsHeD – 

    The meal was $125 per person, and because we are uncool and therefore, don’t drink we didn’t have to any pay more. It wasn’t worth it though, probably only worth $30! Grrrrr.

    Reply
  4. NeverBeBeat
    November 23, 2008

    damn. you guys are ballers. i’m upset about my 28$ restaurant bill for Buffalo Wild Wings.

    Reply
  5. GODandShopping
    November 23, 2008

    Nah you’re not too conservative – you’ve got a Ferragamo right? That makes you normal. haha (actually is that an Indo thing? I’ve seen a few of them pop in and out when I walk past)

    Oh there is NOTHING classy about Silk Road – put it this way – they have these ultra massive chandeliers (actually it might just be one) anyway they switched them off and decorated them with coloured christmas lights. Drinks are okay as far as I’m aware. But then again I’m a non drinker. Oh – and the last time I was there after Fashion week,  we saw fake fur.

    And there’s this stupid non-denim/sneakers dress code that they have meaning they’ll let anyone in wearing a suit from Politix – they refused entry to my friend and we were like “umm his belt cost more than your weeks wages you tacky muzza security guard”… lol

    Reply
  6. tickledpinks_pulitzer
    November 23, 2008

    hahaha i’ll pass this onto my partner so he can take note… he will be happy that FD came out the fairer of the 2… he gets upset when SILKS shamelessly ‘plagiarizes’ their food but hey.. what can u do right? LAst night he just told me that one of his regulars had an awful time as SILKS – he’d specifically asked that a dish come with no chilli as his children didnt eat any… the dish came out with chilli and when he tried to get it changed, the waiter told him that wasn’t chilli?!?!!?!??! this is despite the fact that it was CLEARLY chilli… and I MISSED THE MYER SALE!!! ARRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    Reply
  7. Melbournechick
    November 23, 2008

    Happy 1.5 year anniversary! Love the silly pics. Look forward to seeing more yummy dishes with those cookbooks.

    Reply
  8. icesabre
    November 24, 2008

    MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

    Great drinks, OK to crappy food.

    Pffft.

    Damn you Lib, why the bloody f*** do you get to eat out all the time and I don’t. Oh that’s right, I know too many cheapskate pikers who choose to hang in the ‘burbs with their Maccas and Gloria Jeans.

    Aaaaaaaaargh.

    Baked crab shell. Hrmm, now that’s what I find weird, we Cantoneezers don’t eat cheese traditionally, yet we serve frigging oyster topped with a shit load of cheese and Mozzarella and Baked Crab Shell at the Yum Cha places like Gold Leaf, Shark Fin Inn and Imperial Kingdom and Westlake and places like that. I don’t consider that Yum Cha or Chinese at all, perhaps more for a Grossi Fiorentino or La Porchetta or some shit like that hahahaha.

    Reply
  9. gracii_d
    November 24, 2008

    That place is so nice inside! All I saw from your food posts was Almond Jelly…ahahaha I love that stuff. Seriously, I could eat a big bowl of it with some fruit salad..mmmm!! Nah, Im actually a weird asian that HATES seafood, except for beer battered fish fillets * hangs head in shame*, but the peking duck pancake looks delish! What did you think of Old Kingdom when you went? I thought it was ok and that they really needed to brush up on their customer service skills!

    Thanks for the tip on libraries! I thought I was the only person out there who loves libraries, but its good to know I have now found someone who shares my secret love! Yay! hahaha. Where is camberwell lib? Is it near the junction?? I’ll def. go and check out hawthorn lib. if ur telling their cookbook collection is good..i LOVE cookbooks. LOL!

    Kudos to remembering that I’m doing a HR degree..u must have a really good memory!! Yes, Im due to finish this Fri ( last exam ever!!yay!) and I found a job as a Recruitment Consultant with a company that specialises in Pharmacy Recruitment! ( So many asians!! LOL!) Its on Riversdale Rd, hence all my questions regarding that area! LOL! Where are you working now? Are you working with the Civic Compliance Unit? I got a nasty speeding fine from them the other day..grrr! hahaha 😛

    Reply
  10. jtngu8
    November 24, 2008

    Correct me if I’m wrong but did you guys a total of THREE-HUNDRED-AND-FIFTY DOLLARS for that meal alone??? Gosh, I’m hurting after spending $40 on a sucky meal.

    Yeah, that dessert there looks really pov. They could have at least picked more interesting ‘seasonal’ fruit, for one thing. A you a fan of durian by the way (just out of curiosity)? I hate the stuff.

    You and Adam = ADORABLE 😀

    Reply
  11. szrina
    November 24, 2008

    Happy one and a half year annivarsary! The photos of you and Adam are so cute. Lovely post, the place looks so wonderful. Shame about the food though.

    Reply
  12. SNSAZN
    November 25, 2008

    @ImSoAzNwAsHeD – 

    Don’t tell me you had all that to yourself… ick!

    @icesabre – 

    Haha, I hear ya. Most of my friends aren’t into trying new things so it’s always friggin’ pub food and restaurant chains. You need to spend more time with me and/or Kelly…

    @gracii_d – 

    I thought Old Kingdom was quite nice, not THE best duck but definitely good value for money (I think, from memory, it’s $50 per head which can easily feed two people). I also find that their food is inconsistent, I’ve been there more than a few times and there are times when it’s been quite good and other times where I haven’t been too happy with my meal. The service could use some help (and they shouldn’t charge $2.50 for an extra plate of cucumbers!), but I sorta gave up expecting top notch service at Asian restaurants… haha.

    Unfortunately, Camberwell library is a bit of a hike from the train station and it’s not easy to get to by tram too. You get off at Camberwell junction and you need to hike up Riversdale Road a fair bit and turn a few streets (it’s on Inglesby Road)

    Nice work on the position! Haha yes, I’m still at that dreaded place – well it’s actually not bad but I’m starting to get a bit sick of it (the 6 month itch…) and looking for greener waters. Oh yes, don’t you just HATE getting mail from good old Snr Sgt Ritchie… heh.

    @jtngu8 – 

    Oh dear God no! It was $250 (plus tips, which I went a bit stingy on) and trust me, I would’ve been happier after spending $40 in Chinatown!

    I HATE durian too. The most horrible thing in the world. The person who cultivated it needs to burn in hell. Ugh. My parents love it though and so does Adam’s parents. In fact, whenever my dad brings some durian home, he has to eat it outside by himself or the entire house will stink and piss us kids off. Heh.

    Reply
  13. jtngu8
    November 25, 2008

    @SNSAZN – 

    Lol. My dad thinks he’s a genius at hand-picking the perfect durian. And yet every one of them smells.

    Reply
  14. s_l_v
    November 27, 2008

    Awww congrats on the anniversary darling 🙂

    Reply

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