It was Tim's birthday last week. As he likes spicy and Asian food, I thought where better to take him for his birthday dinner than Spice Temple Melbourne. This restaurant is the Melbourne offshoot of Neil Perry's Sydney establishment of the same name, and focuses on Cantonese food. I have a copy of Neil Perry's beautiful book on Asian cooking, Balance and Harmony, so I was keenly anticipating our meal at Spice Temple.
We started off with a glass each of the Andre Dolorme sparkling ($10):
This is a crisp sparkling and was a good way to start our dining experience.
We decided to order the $95 banquet, because it gave us a chance to try a little of lots of things and was good value when you looked at the main menu price to buy the dishes individually, and it sounded more appealing than the $75 banquet menu.
Our banquet commenced with a crispy pork belly slider:
The flavours were so refreshing - the chilli (which is in basically everything at Spice Temple), coriander and lime particularly stood out. The pork belly was soft and melt in your mouth.
Next came King Prawn Wontons with aged black vinegar dressing:
I had some trepidation about trying these, as the menu denotes them in red - meaning they are hot! However, I found that provided I didn't eat too many of the visible chillies that this was an easy dish to eat and not too hot at all. But just in case, we were served with cucumbers with garlic and ginger:
and cabbage and radish pickle:
Our next dish was the lamb and cumin pancake:
It was accompanied by a chilli paste, and the pancake actually needed a smear of the chilli paste to lift the flavours and make it special.
According to the menu, this dish was supposed to be fried and steamed snapper with chilli and Sichuan pepper:
However, I can guarantee you that it was in fact fried squid with whole five spice and dark chilli paste from the $75 menu. Not that I minded - I think I actually liked this better (I adore calamari), and it was one of my favourite dishes.
For a total contrast, our next dish was stir fried spanner crab with garlic, chilli and coriander:
This dish was quite a contrast to the other dishes in that it had minimal chilli, and tasted quite cool and refreshing.
Time for another drink, and being intrigued by the house-made sodas, I chose a spicy ginger beer on the waitress's recommendation ($7):
Tim had a bottle of Lord Nelson brew (made by a Sydney hotel where we have stayed) instead.
Coming to the business end of the menu, we were served stir fried Wagyu brisket with eggplant and chilli:
The brisket melted in the mouth; however, this was quite a rich dish, not a quality that you ordinarily associate with stir fry.
Next came my favourite main dish - stir fried corn with smoked pork and chives:
This dish was just so good, with the pork being a subtle second player to the star, the corn.
Our final dish was three shot chicken with beer, chilli and soy:
I found this to be identifiably hot, but Tim didn't find it to be so. It is in red on the menu, so my feeling was right. This dish was OK, but not as good as some of the other dishes.
There was a bowl of steamed rice served with the mains.
Our banquet also included dessert - hooray! This dessert was mango pudding with condensed milk chantilly, complete with a sesame snap:
I am a dessert lover, and this pudding was sublime. Despite the mango and condensed milk, it was not overly sweet, and it was as smooth as silk and melted on the tongue. Heavenly!
The banquet was just the right amount of food - I was not rolling in the aisle, nor was I left hungry.
The staff at Spice Temple were friendly and attentive, and did a great job of rotating around a number of very busy tables. Our water glasses were frequently refilled - which is very important at a restaurant where nearly every dish contains chilli! We even did a spot of "celebrity" spotting, with Martin King from A Current Affair being on one of the corner tables.
On our way back to the train, we passed this lovely mural of Audrey Hepburn at Southbank:
I highly recommend Spice Temple for diverse, beautifully tasting food with a spicy accent.
Shop 7, Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Ph: 03 8679 1888