Saturday, 12 November 2016

Golden Lane - Sunnybank

Those of my readers who has read my blog on Mint Buffet would have realised that if it did not make significant improvements in its quality and value,  it would soon run into trouble. Which is why I wasn't too surprised that it closed down. What did surprise me though, was the fact that someone decided to open a new Yumcha and Seafood restaurant in Brisbane (due to the fact we haven't had a new one in so many years). Being quite a regular at Sunnybank Plaza, I saw the restaurant go up and waited with anticipation as it opened. Which is why we tried it out on the first weekend after opening.

We arrived at 12.30 and got a ticket. There was (as expected) quite a significant crowd already waiting outside. So we found a seat in the waiting area, and thus my watch began.

During the wait, we got to take a look in the kitchen, which was open to display with its large glass windows. I was much reassured to see that it was quite clean, and not overly chaotic. The chefs were busy at work and the food looked very appetising. 

On the topic of food, we got our first glimpses of it set up on the display cabinets. There were an assortment of pre cooked food of the fried variety, including chicken wings, shallot pastry, fried rice dumplings and Portuguese tarts.

We also took a look at their very extravagant dinner menu during our long wait. I noticed a strong emphasis on seafood, including delicacies like abalone, crab, lobster, and even shark fin.

After a 45 minute wait, we were shown in. I was quite bedazzled with its flashy gold fit-outs and new furnishings, but was also slightly annoyed to see that the restaurant was (at best) 2/3 full, leaving a significant portion empty (which meant we probably didn't need to wait that long outside).

What really disappointed me also was the lack of a clean tablecloth provided to us. As you can see in the photo, the tablecloth was already stained by whoever had previously used the table. During the course of the meal, I could see waiters clearing tables by taking away the used dishes, brushing the crumbs and foodscraps off the table onto the floor, and then spraying the already tainted tablecloth with some sort of cleaner and then letting it dry, the results of which were clearly evident on our tables.

We ordered our tea, a warm nourishing TieGuanYin, after our long wait, and were then presented with the lunch menus. 

Unlike the more traditional Cantonese Style Yum Cha, there were no carts around with food, but rather we were presented with the selection on a tick sheet, made our order and sat back to wait. Whilst it meant we had to wait for our food, it also allowed us to browse the full lunch menu and make our choice, without being limited to what was on the cart.

After waiting for 45 minutes for a table, our food took another 30 minutes to come after ordering. By that time we were absolutely famished.

First off the bat we had a dish of prawn dumplings. Whilst I liked the novelty of the dish containing three different types of prawn dumplings, I didnt think this idea suited the concept of yumcha very much, because yumcha has dishes to be shared rather than to be eaten alone, it meant we could all only try one different dumpling or we would have to order repeats of the same dish. For the dumpling I had (top middle) the skin was somewhat thick and overcooked so the skin fell off the dumpling the moment I tried to lift it off the paper. Having said that, I did appreciate the large prawn inside of it.

Next we had the stir fried rice cakes. Unfortunately due to some oversight it was served to us cold. I don't mean lukewarm after being left out for a while, I mean cold as if it had come from a fridge. Bringing this to the attention of our friendly waiter, he had it reheated for us (unfortunately microwaved not stir fried). Having tried the stir fried rice cakes at New Shanghai and Taste Gallery, I found this to be considerably more saucy but still managed to be bland, despite the obvious prawns and garlic in the dish. 

The highlight of the meal for me, was the pan fried spicy turnip cake. It was in fact regular turnip cake, served with some dried chili and onions on top. Whilst some may consider it to have been quite ordinary (hot and crispy on the outside with a fluffy turnip centre), its quality was above the other dishes we had that day, and also I really liked the chili onion sprinkles.

Some of my readers will know that I am a massive Xiao Long Bao fan, and having heard that Golden Lane dishes up a selection of both northern and southern Chinese dishes, I thought it a safe bet to try out their interpretation of XLB. I was immediately proven wrong. From the moment it was set down, I could see that they had reheated the frozen variety. With its faux creased top which was mostly likely machine made, its thick thick skin, lack of soup and lack of meatiness in its filling, it was pretty irredeemable. It was also not served with any ginger or vinegar, which really showed a lack of attention to detail in serving up this dish.

The final dumplings we had for lunch were the Siumai, which thankfully looked a lot more like the ones we were used to. The skin of the dumpling was a little flour-y and doughy so maybe it wasn't as cooked as it could have been, but at least the meat was fresh and the roe on top was tasty.

With a bit of illness coming through the family due to the unbelievably quick change in weather, we opted for three bowls of congee for our sick companion, having heard from some family friends that the congee at Golden Lane was quite good.

We had my favourite, the century egg and salty pork congee, 

Fish, Jellyfish, peanuts and bbq pork congee, 

along with the minced beef, raw egg congee.

Having tried all three, I can say that the portion size was generous when compared to other yum cha places, and the texture, whilst still not comparable with my favourite at Coffee Square, was pretty good. My issue with it though, was the exceptional saltiness of the base, which overwhelmed any opportunity to appreciate the flavours of other toppings. My companions were also not too happy with the yellow tinge in the congee, preferring theirs to be white.

We also shared a dish of mushrooms and chicken on steamed rice, which is normally served in a metal canister, but in this instance was served in a terracotta bowl. The beauty of this dish is the meat juices which seep down into the rice as it is being steamed, resulting in a nourishing hearty dish where the meat and rice complement each other. Unfortunately the Golden Lane interpretation didn't seem to have this aspect to it at all. The chicken was no doubt steamed, but the rice was sadly just plain and didn't have any chicken or mushroom flavours in it at all. The soy sauce served on the side was also extremely sweet and not very salty at all.

We rounded off our meal with a serve of Portuguese Tarts. I was amazed at how they managed to have the pastry undercooked and doughy, whilst the custard on the tart was caramelised. Surely they would have been able to cook the pastry a little longer, but alas it was not. 

As a conclusion, I'd have to say that it was quite saddening for me to see how much effort had been put into the presentation and renovation of what ought to have been a very high quality restaurant to have the food disappoint patrons like that. Hopefully these were only mistakes made in the first week of trading, and with sufficient feedback, they can turn this around in the near future.

Price Range: $15 - $20pp

Taste: 4.5/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Environment: 8/10 (would have been 9 except for the tablecloth issue)

Golden Lane Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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