I always like walking through the Queensbridge entrance of Crown Casino. It is like living vicariously through the latest advertisement for the place there as the doorman tips his hat after you walk past a virtual showroom of motorcars after seeing Eddie McGuire (or any of the current popular AFL footy players) being whisked away in the lastest model Holden. If you aren't distracted by these themes, you will walk past Neil Perry's latest addition to the Rockpool Empire, Rosetta, and once you exchange pleasantries with the doorman for the Crown, you will be beckoned toward the entrance of Spice Temple.
After visiting the Sydney Spice Temple multiple times and it being a personal favourite, it wasn't until recently I got into Spice Temple Melbourne for lunch. The yum cha special remains a differentiating factor between the Melbourne and Sydney menus (the full menu is available for both lunch and dinner in Sydney whereas a special menu is available in Melbourne for lunch) and not only is it much heralded in the usual press, I really wanted to know whether it was better than the offerings that you would find at the Shark Fin Inn on Little Bourke Street. To make it simple, it was.
Unlike other yum cha offerings where you flag down a roving cart that is hell-bent on slamming into some unsuspecting patron's knee, you order directly off of a comprehensive yum cha menu from the attentive server. Whilst being refreshed by the Lord Nelson Three Sheets ($10) by the bottle, you have the opportunity to mull over the twenty items on the yum cha menu but that is just 25% of what is available. You do have limited access to the full menu, which I was very pleased to discover.
From the Har Gow steamed prawn dumplings ($11) to the boiled chicken and pork dumpings to the ominously red coloured king prawn wontons with aged black vinegar dressing ($11) on the menu denoting it is especially hot, everything was great. The staple BBQ pork buns ($12) didn't taste very common and in fact had the unique Perry flair whereas the chichen and crab xiao long bao ($12) had good complementary flavours.
One of the yum cha menu items has sichuan pepper - the crispy prawn wontons with hot and numbing sauce ($11) made my tongue go numb so I could slur as the result of the food instead of the alcoholic beverage for a welcome change.
Spice fried chicken wings with heaven facing chillies ($15) and tingling prawns ($24) rounded out the numbing experience. Although you needed to work for your food with respect to the chicken wings, it certainly beat the chicken feet that you will find at various locations in Chinatown.
Water views and a contemporary fit-out with sometimes quasi-traditional music and at other times more lively but strangely selected hip-hop provided the background score. After dining in the bowels of the Sydney location and becoming used to the darkness where the light guides you to the surface, it is really the polar opposite at the Melbourne location where you get to see the usual travellers of Southbank Promenade provide some tertiary amusement whilst you consume reasonably priced food full of flavour. Although I will still end up at Shark Fin Inn on occasion merely for the authenticity and sheer and utter commotion of the place, I reckon that Spice Temple yum cha provides a suitable alternative for lunch and of course with their full menu on reserve during the evening, it is indeed one of the jewels in the Crown.
2 Acland Street, St Kilda VIC 3182(03) 8679 1888
My Rating: 14.75/20
Value For Money: 4.25/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
At the time of this post, 70% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Spice Temple Melbourne.