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You can read the full review at http://www.melbourneplaces.com/melbourne/the-oriental-tea-house-on-chapel-street-south-yarra-good-eating/
The Oriental Tea House is something different.
Yum Cha on Sunday is something I enjoy – watching the trolleys come past, studying the food and deciding 'yes' or 'no'. The frustrating part is that when I have eaten enough I see something new appear from the kitchen, glide past me and I am temped all over again.
At the Oriental Tea House there is none of this. You order your Yum Cha from the menu. It is rather like a 'Chinese Tapas'.
You can pop in at any time during the day order a tea and a Yum Cha snack.
I ate at the Oriental Tea House on Chapel Street for the first time before we attended a gold class session of 'Sex and the City 2' at the Jam Factory.
We went early to give us time to talk, relax and to get into the mood for the glamour and style we were to see on the screen. It was a good choice.
The good thing about the Oriental Tea House is that it severs the same food all the time so we could create our own stylish early dinner.
The name 'The Oriental Tea House' appeals to me. Just the sound is relaxing. The clean white open space when you enter, with the store of interesting teas and other merchandise including Chinese herbs in the front and then the restaurant at the rear, is welcoming and soothing.
I like the emphasis on tea but as we were preparing to watch over-the-top glamour on the screen we decided bubbles were appropriate.
This is what we ordered:
The dishes appeared haphazardly with the squid coming a distant last. It occurs to me now that each dish may travel from the kitchen as soon as it is cooked – something to think about when you order. If you order soup it is nice to both get your soup at the same time.
The dumplings are delicious. The best I have had recently. As I write this I am still thinking about them and plan to pop in for one of their teas and a 'variety basket' of dumplings. At $6.90 it is excellent value
We didn't try the Tea-Tails – cocktails made with tea blends. The idea of a tea based cocktail served in a teapot is a whimsy that brings a smile to the face – it has to be worth a try.
Here is an example of some that are available:-
Campari Treasure 8.5
Bitter sweet with a hint of orange Campari.
+ Calm & Concentration TEA served on ice
Russian Spy in Shanghai 8.5
This one really packs a punch with Vodka
+ Gun Powder TEA served with fresh lime
Baileys Kiss 8.5
Spicy with a tasty kick of Baileys & milk
+ Chai TEA served over ice
Luck of the Irish 8.5
One to really help you unwind with a warm blend of Irish Whisky
+ Relaxing TEA
Stylish Surrounds and Yum Cha usually make strange bedfellows. So imagine a place for Yum Cha that is light and airy, has polished floorboards, designer light fittings, retail therapy... and great Yum Cha. The place is the Oriental Tea House - another of restaurateur and tea master David Zhou's empire of shops and eateries. The difference here is that Yum Cha is served day and night - as opposed to being confined to the traditional midmorning/lunchtime slot... The Yum Cha comes directly from the kitchen in baskets borne by black clad, tray-bearing staff and is steaming hot, a good sign of how fresh the food is. And it is delicious - morsels of steamed snow pea dumplings, silken tofu with XO sauce and salt and pepper calamari are all excellent.
Shop for beautifully packaged teas or have a tea consultation while waiting for the full feeling to subside before having more Yum Cha.
The Yum Cha offered here is of uniformly good quality, and while there are no surprises, there are some beautiful looking and lively tasting little morsels. Baby pea leaf dumplings are pretty to look at, with the green shoots showing through the translucent casing. They are similarly refined to eat, with their mix of delicate prawn mince. A dish of pork ribs with black beans was particularly good, the meat was tender and juicy, the sauce restrained and clear.
Sitting back with a brandy balloon filled with iced chrysanthemum tea, snacking on delicate dumplings and watching people drift around the colourful space seems like it might become one of those must-do Chapel Street experiences.
David Zhou has hit on something unique again.
An array of dips, from a simple soy and conventional red chilli to a pale house-made XO, appeared with the first of our dumplings - a basket of three-cornered baby peas leaf parcels packed with delicate pork mixture. These were superior to most Melbourne Yum Cha offerings - freshly made, creatively flavoured and composed, and impeccably steamed.
This was also true of subsequent dishes.
The interior is a whimsical design by Wayne Finschi that at once expresses informality, but also suggests some of the Victorian era grandeur of Old Shanghai. There are massive Chinese red pillars and apothecary-style tea storage drawers alongside red plastic tubing suggestive of fat glossy noodles... Some of it is very traditional: dumplings of all sorts, chicken feet, steamed barbecue pork buns, most of the favourites. Then there are dishes that are beyond expectations: 'soyed duck' for example. Slices of excellent duck breast, skin on, which have been steeped in a glorious soy and star anise master stock. They're draped over slices of pan-fried bean curd in a moat of the wondrous dark, sweet liquid with a contrasting garnish of fresh coriander.
Under 'cold dishes' you'll find the chicken salad at $6.50. This bald listing hardly does justice to this sublime combination of breast meat, various funguses and seaweeds, sesame and different julienned vegetables, all washed in a dressing of dark Chinese vinegar laced with fresh chilli.
It's an absolute gem.