Every time I’ve been to Flower Drum, they’ve been the epitome of fine Cantonese style dining. The food is good, but what really tops it off for me, is the service.
Usually, someone greets you at the door and checks your reservation. Then you go upstairs to the restaurant, where your information has been fed to the host via radio, and they begin a seamless experience of what I like to call the ‘magic waiter’ – they magically appear when you need them, but are never hovering.
Well this time they’re packed to the brim for Banquet of the North – a special menu that they’ve created for The Age’s Good Food Month – so is the service going to suffer?
Before we answer that: let’s talk food.
We started off with a variety of pickles to whet our appetite. The Woodear Mushrooms with Rice Vinegar and Red Peppers were an absolute hit at our table, with the soft crunch of the black fungus absolutely addictive with the savoury tang of the vinegar.
Then, it was time for a series of small bites to start the meal.
The pork ribs were coated with a sweet glaze, much like char siu, and the spring onion pastry was super flaky, and filled with what tasted like the scalded ginger and shallots sauce that you’d get with your soy sauce chicken. I really liked how firm-but-tender the ribs were, and even though I’m not usually a pork rib person, it really was quite delicious. I’m not sure what the Osmanthus seeds brought to the party, but what the hey.
The Peking Duck Rolls are one of their famous dishes, and while again, tasty, it was slightly too salty, and lacking crispy skin. Sadly, it’s succumbed to the peking duck quandary – if the skin is crispy, the meat is overcooked, and if the meat is perfectly cooked (as it was at this banquet) the skin isn’t crispy. Eh, still good though.
I also thought the Sautéed Bass Groper Rolls were pretty cool. Fillets of groper were rolled around julienned Chinese ham and scallions, before being battered and deep fried. Served with a pineapple and capsicum sauce (read: sweet and sour), it really felt like the kind of dish that needed to be eaten with rice.
And what luck! The Kung Pao Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek that came next was served with rice. Except that the rice was a little dry, which was made worse because the saltiness of the Kung Pao Beef actually needed the rice to temper out the salt. The beef cheeks were tender, but still held together delicately in cubes, and created a luxurious bite.
Shame about the rice though. I think it was just a case of succumbing to banquet practice – the rice is usually cooked in large batches in advance, and while it’s being kept warm, the rice slowly loses all its moisture and gets rather, uh, toothsome.
And by the time we hit the noodles it was kinda downhill. Mostly cause we were full, I think, but also because it’s been hitting hard in the flavour department so far, and the Dan Dan Noodles were just a bit on the bland side. Now I’m no expert on Dan Dan Noodles, but if you’re looking at the banquet as a whole, I think that it might need to match up to the other dishes, just a bit.
Of the dessert platter, the Macademia Dolce Ice Cream Mochi Pudding was a clear hit. A thin layer of chewy rice flour skin surrounds a scoop of nutty ice cream, providing a creamy fusion bite. I quite liked the idea of the Egg Custard and Banana Spring Roll, except that the custard made the spring roll lean toward the soggy side, where you could see what they were trying to do with it, but it wasn’t quite there.
The food aside, the service was still impeccable. We didn’t even really have to pour our own tea – there was mostly someone on hand to fill our cups – and what really impressed me was that they noticed that my aunt was left-handed, and quietly moved the cutlery accordingly. Even I didn’t realise that the cutlery should be on the other side of her.
Only thing that jarred my seemingly seamless experience (hehe)? Has anyone ever noticed that the waiters are all men?
Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Flower Drum and The Age’s Good Food Month.