Birthdays aren't usually a big thing for me or my family. My birthdays have generally been pretty low key and some years I don't think I even celebrated with friends. Although I'll never turn down an excuse to have cake!
However, despite our lack of enthusiasm around birthdays, we do have one little tradition for my grandma's birthday. Every year, without fail, we've had a family dinner on her birthday at Red Emperor in Southbank.
It's quite nice actually, the restaurant has kept well over the years, I don't feel the food or service has diminished at all and it's definitely a nice family treat. We are so regular every year, the Captain, Raymond, always recognises us and gives warm greetings when we all troop in through the door, ready to be fed deliciously.
The restaurant is definitely Chinese. But not tacky or overtly so, which I can certainly appreciate. The decor is elegant, but unpretentious.
I frankly, don't really like fresh walnuts that much, but caramelised the way the Chinese do them? Could probably eat them by the bucketload. Omnomnom!
I think it was still Chinese New Year season when we had this....but regardless, a Yee Sang salad (which I elaborated on previously here) is a delicious way to start a Chinese meal, as it is indeed, so light and refreshing. To quickly recap, the Yee Sang salad is a very Malaysian-Chinese Chinese New Year tradition, and can be (it varies from person to person, place to place) composed of stringy radish, carrots, cucumbers, apples, wonton skin, peanuts and usually some salmon. The dish is then stirred up by everyone with chopsticks before eating, and the higher in the air you raise the salad, the more prosperity you'll have for the year (or so I hope!).
I thought Red Emperor's version was pretty as a picture, it was almost a shame to mix it all up! There was a little less of the filler stuff, but I think it worked here, it was balanced and not too heavy before the rest of the meal. There were some wonton skins tossed into this one which gave a lovely variation in the texture. Crunchy, mmm!
Dad brought out a bottle of Henschke's Hill of Grace (forgot which year) from his cellar for us to indulge in. Was a real treat.
My brother always gets hot and sour soup whenever we go to a Chinese restaurant. He tends to enjoy odd sour or even bitter flavours (which the soup isn't!). Isn't the bowl pretty though?
A trip to Red Emperor always means either a crab or lobster dish. On this occasion, it was crab.
Ooh. Er. However, the first time my dad requested the crab with sotong/hokkien hoon (mung bean) noodles, which looked a little bit pathetic, short and sad when stirred up. Another little Chinese tradition, at birthdays you tend to order at least one noodle dish, which you stir through and lift up for longevity. However, with these noodles, there sure was no longevity in them!
But Red Emperor being as good as they are, took the crab and the noodles back and replaced them with rice vermicelli noodles at my dad's second request, which fortunately, had a lot more life in them! The noodles soaked up the sauce and were a delicious accompaniment.The crab we got wasn't overly fleshy, but what flesh there was, was exceptionally sweet and delicious. Finger lickin' good I say!
Quail always seems to get me a bit stuck on the photography side of things...it doesn't really ever look that pretty. But it's always delicious, I have yet to come across a quail I don't like. This dish is one of mum's favourites at Red Emperor and we always have it when we come here for dinner. It's their signature twice cooked spicy quail. It may look like it's had too much spray tan and then been dunked and glazed over in a vat of honey, but it's so succulent and sweet. And spicy. Another one of those finger lickin' good dishes, kind of funny for a fine dining Chinese restaurant we do a lot of eating with our fingers...
From the 'Dundee Selection' (I laughed), we got the crocodile filet with the XO chilli sauce (I think), mainly because Brad hadn't had crocodile before and we thought it'd be fun to mix in something a bit different. For those who haven't had it? It's seriously just like chicken, I suppose it's sort of weird to think that crocodile meat is white and surprisingly tender.
Another one of our favourites, beef with black pepper, ginger and sliced garlic. I warned Brad that once it hit the table, he should make sure he gets some of this, as it seriously disappears in about 10 minutes. I don't know exactly what Red Emperor does with this, but it's just amazingly tender (although with just that slight bit of chewiness to it) and is so peppery that you may cough on occasion (that's supposed to be a good thing. In my books anyway). The beef is just oozing with flavour and juicyness. Highly recommended!
This on the other hand, is not so recommended. Essentially just tofu and veggies and char siew, it was really quite bland, even with the char siew! Polite, but unexciting.
We really had no idea this dish was going to be so big when it came out last. Stewed pork trotters. This is also a bit of Chinese New Year speciality with dried oysters (which are good omen tokens), this mossy type stuff (for prosperity) and some cabbage. I don't think I tried any of this as I was much too full. Actually, everyone was, so we ended up doggy bagging it away!
As it was my grandma's birthday, we were treated to these...Chinese Birthday Buns. Easiest way to explain it! They are made of flour and are usually filled with either a red bean filling or a lotus filling. Their shape is also supposed to resemble a peach, which is another sign of longevity in China, hence they are served during birthdays!
The birthday buns came out to us warm and were delightfully light and fluffy, with a gorgeous thick paste inside. I love the contrast of the textures and that these aren't overly sugary!
Red Emperor do some of the most impressive fruit platters ever. No joke.
We must have been coming to Red Emperor for at least 10 years now, sometimes more than once a year, but we are definitely here every year for my Grandma's birthday at least and we are always treated like kings (or queens). I have always enjoyed the food, the incredible view (at night in particular, Flinders Street station lights up a treat) and the spectacular service.
They also do a pretty good yum cha here which I haven't had for a while....may have to check out if they've retained quality there...!