Cnr Main and Market Streets
Box Hill VIC 3128
+61 3 9899 3133
Once upon a time, I was a Box Hill hanger. Every day after school, I’d be at Box Hill waiting for my connecting bus home. I’d be made to go there after Chinese school on Saturday mornings and forced to sulk while mum took her dear time filling her shopping trolley with a week’s worth of groceries before heading home. And even in recent times, I used to go there for old time’s sake with Adam or Aaron, whether it’d be a casual Sunday afternoon lunch at one of the dime-a-dozen Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants on Carrington Road or a late-night feed at a Station Street Hong Kong cafe. These days, my visits to Box Hill are as rare as a proper day off for me; they don’t come very often but when they do, I treasure them. No, really. When I heard that my parents wanted to go to newly opened Ramen King in Box Hill for our post-church lunch, I almost wet my pants. OMG Box Hill! OMG new restaurant! OMG ramen! Excitement! I will tell you now, however, that that excitement was short-lived. In fact, it dissipated as soon as we walked into the not-overly-busy restaurant (which used to be I-forgot-what) and had to wait 5 minutes for someone to finally acknowledge our presence. Despite the fact that there were PLENTY of four-seaters in the restaurant, the waitress decided to, for some reason, plonk us at a table that was situated directly under the air con. Given that it was absolutely freezing outside, I wondered why they even had the air con running at full blast in the first place. Ignoring mum’s pleas to get one of us to ask a waiter to turn the air con off, we simply moved to a table by the window where the sun was shining through.
For a place that calls itself the ‘Ramen King,’ you’d think that ramen would be its speciality. Looking around the restaurant, however, I saw that there were hardly any steaming bowls of ramen. Instead, people seemed to be ordering wanton noodle soups, rice dishes and dumplings. I can’t say that I blame them though. There may have been 10 ramen options in the menu, but they made up 8% of the dishes – the rest were Chinese and pseudo-Chinese food. What was also amusing was that if you were to order ramen, you had the choice of ordering a clear, beef or chicken broth. Like hello, no miso, shoyu and tonkatsu? What the feck? The toppings were just as bizarre. There was beef ramen and chicken ramen which sound like ‘safe’ options but are, in actual fact, not authentic flavours. Then you had bizarre flavours such as ‘takoyaki ramen’ which just sounded wrong. The only vaguely normal flavours on the menu were the seafood and gyoza ramens but by the time I had read through the ramen list, I decided that I wasn’t going to give any of this sht a go. Instead, we went all Chinese.
We started off with a plate of Shanghai fried rice cake ($9.50). At $9.50, it’s a little dearer than most but if it was better than, or even on-par with, most then I wouldn’t have minded. The portion size was fair, though the level of oiliness wasn’t. They were also tight with the pork, but way too generous with the vegies. On the other hand, the rest of my family loved it and said that it was the best dish out of the four we ordered today. Hmm.
The Shanghai fried noodles ($9.80) fared slightly better. They were oily, but less so. And they tasted better too. Again, it was we had to play a bit of hide and seek with the pork and the sauce perhaps erred on the sweet side. Not the best Shanghai noodles I’ve had but nowhere near the worst. I’d go to David and Camy’s for their Shanghai noodles before coming back here though.
I would have loved a plate of pan-fried pork dumplings (12 for $8.80) but my family aren’t into pork (we’d probably make good Muslims or Jews – only kidding) so I had to sulk over a plate of pan-fried prawn and chicken dumplings instead (10 for $9.50). I had no problems with the plump filling which consisted of an even distribution of chicken and prawn (compared to a lot of places that put a negligible amount of prawn in). I did, however, have issues with the fact that they were soggy and not even the slightest bit crispy, the amount of oil that was still left on the dumpling skins. Ever heard of DRAINING, guys?
Finally, a single serving of spring onion pancake ($4), rounded things off (though it should have been the first thing to arrive, not the last. But whatever). I was flabbergasted to see the pancake deep-fried, rather than pan-fried but I must admit that it tasted pretty good. Its exterior was blissfully crunchy all over while the inner layers remained soft and chewy. It was a generous size, too. No complaints.
A decent $4 spring onion pancake, however, was not enough to make me come back again. The rest of the food wasn’t fantastic and the service was appalling. If the long waiting times (to be seated and to be served) didn’t do it for us, then the fact that our waitress asked, no, DEMANDED, that we pay for our food before receiving it (yep, that’s right, she slapped the bill down on the table and told us to pay up) certainly did. I mean, I can understand that they’re worried about walk-outs but doesn’t everyone? Yet, you don’t see any other restaurant doing the same to us. And oh, I did see a fellow patron order a beef ramen. It looked like a bowl of soup that didn’t know whether it wanted to be a bun bo hue or a pho. No kidding.