Early last year, Robert Wong (our favourite Maitre d’ ever!) told us that he and Alex Tseng were selling their share of Bamboo House, the wonderful Northern Chinese restaurant in Little Bourke Street.
As sad as it made us to hear that news, we were hopeful that our favourite Chinese restaurant (yes, Flower Drum is fantastic, but it’s a special occasion place!) wouldn’t lose the two things that make it so great – the service and the food.
Robert sets an exceptionally hard act to follow – after about a year of eating there once every couple of months, he started to recognize my voice over the phone when I called up to make a booking – and then say my last name as he was writing down our booking (at our “usual” table) without me even having to mention it.
At the restaurant, it was much the same. He knew not to bother bringing us a menu, as we were there for either the Tea Smoked or Peking Duck, some “Scallops on the Shell with Chilli and Blackbean sauce”, and a “Selection of Steamed Dumplings – Pork, Beef, and Vegetarian”. From there we would sometimes order something else based off his recommendation – perhaps some Steamed Rockling, or San Choi Bao. After the meal, he would open the door for us, have a little chat, and then head back inside to tend to his other customers. Service does not get much better than that.
The good news is, Robert was also a good teacher. After not having been since mid last year, we entered the restaurant one night last week to be greeted by one of the long serving waiters. He instantly recognized us, and seemed sad to tell us that our “usual” table was in use, even though we hadn’t made a booking. The legacy lives on!
Seated in our spot-when-our-usual-spot-isn’t-available, we ordered our food for the night – not our typical food order (sans Duck and Scallops). We still couldn’t resist ordering the dumplings!
The dumplings aren’t actually on the menu, so you have to ask the waiter for one each of the steamed beef, pork, and vegetarian ones. They come with some fantastic Chilli Sauce (it’s more of an oil than a sauce) and a small bowl of black vinegar, and – thanks to their chef Simon Chan keeping his share of the business – they are still the best dumplings in Melbourne.
We also ordered the “Szechuan Sizzling Beef”, Fried Rice, and some Stir Fried Vegetables for good measure. The beef was really tender and tasty, although it wasn’t all that spicy (nothing really is since our trip to Dainty Sichuan though!). The Fried Rice and Stir Fried Vegetables were also pretty good.
We’re very happy to report that Bamboo House is still a great Chinese restaurant. We’ll be back for the Tea Smoked Duck (served in steamed buns with hoi sin sauce and spring onion) and the Scallops soon! We wish Robert (and Alex) all the best for whatever the future brings – they have certainly earned some time off after 22 years in the business.