Looking for a place to eat can be a chore at times especially here in Melbourne. One of the benefits of living in such a multicultural, cosmopolitan city is the vast array of choices that are presented to us whenever we are looking for some place to eat. The downside is the same feeling we get browsing a video store or a library – what to watch and what to read. Once we’ve made that decision, we then look for a name that grabs our attention. This time, we did none of that. We wanted to eat Chinese, we wanted to go somewhere local and we didn’t want to spend too much time looking. We settled on an aptly named eatery by the simple name, Ringwood Chinese Restaurant.
Located in the heart of Ringwood tucked away behind a car park, Ringwood Chinese Restaurant may have been hard to find during the day. Once dark however, the neon sign at the front came to life cleverly using the maximum space allowed in the limited shop frontage. Immediately after walking past the front doors, we were greeted by the sight of two very large fish tanks on the left and what appeared to be a bar directly ahead. The restaurant floor space looked quite large given the small shop frontage and the very high ceilings added to the venue’s roominess. The tables were spaced comfortably unlike other popular Chinese restaurants that tend to cram as many customers into what available space they have. The decor tries to be upmarket with marble centered mahogany tables and similar chairs however over-enthusiastic lighting and television sets on walls failed to give that impression.
As with any other mid class Chinese restaurant, Ringwood Chinese Restaurant has quite an extensive menu ranging from entrees to mains to set banquets. Prices for mains varied from $15 to $27; rice per person at $2 and complimentary Chinese tea. We also got a nice plate of prawn crackers whilst we browsed their menu. The dishes we ordered were what we thought to be a good range to have with white rice – traditionally the way Chinese patrons order their food in a Chinese restaurant; mains from the menu to be served with rice.
First cab off the ranks we will look at is string beans with minced pork. The main ingredients in this dish was fresh and the sweet taste of pork mince complimented the string beans well. It was a good start and definitely no complaints here. Next, an old school Aussie favourite; sweet and sour pork. I have heard of people who rate a Chinese restaurant by how well they cook this dish. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a good sweet and sour pork however, even if it’s origins are Chinese, sweet and sour pork sits just above westernised Chinese eats like lemon chicken and chicken and sweet corn soup. In this case, it wasn’t too bad. The pork was not over battered, the pineapple, onion and capsicum made its obligatory appearance and the sweet and sour sauce I thought was missing that signature acidity that made you salivate as soon as the smell reached your nostrils. It wasn’t bad however it wasn’t the best either.
Sizzling Cantonese beef with leek. If you have ever been in a Chinese restaurant when someone ordered a dish on a hot plate, you will have noticed the sizzling sound and steam (and smell) that follows the waiter as it comes out of the kitchen. Ours disappointingly came with a hot plate that frankly was not hot enough to fry an egg. Looking past that, the beef was very tender though a little undercooked; dripping semi-raw beef on white rice is not a pretty sight. The taste was nothing special; perhaps it was lacking that sizzle on a hot plate.
Deep fried flounder came next. It had the usual salt and pepper seasoning with a spread of chopped chilly. No complaints with this dish apart from perhaps the lack of bite that comes with hot chillies. The difference was subtle but discernible. At this point I began to form an opinion that perhaps the restaurant’s main patrons were more western than hard-core Asian. Looking around during the night, my opinion was well justified. Getting back to the dish at hand, I thought it was well cooked however once more, it was ordinary.
Seafood and bean curd served in a hot clay pot. The waiter delivered this dish to our table, lifted the lid on the claypot and steam poured out of it. Immediately this dish had much promise and immediately we were let down. This dish traditionally has a thick consistency to the liquid that caresses the seafood items and bean curd and combines nicely with rice for a taste that is difficult to describe. The one served on our table had the consistency of running water. As a result, the items within the claypot once lifted could not hold on to the liquid that was supposed to be a thick viscous mix of seafood broth and oil. Our ruined favourite was very one dimensional.
The final dish was steamed tofu with soy sauce and shallots. I was disappointed with this dish. Steamed tofu is bland and boring to a lot of people however it has much potential. A skilled chef uses tofu’s unique texture and taste to good effect. Our tofu dish took about as much effort as putting supermarket tofu cut on a plate, pouring soy sauce on top and sprinkling a few chopped shallots on top. You may cry foul and yell, “that’s what bean curd is!”. My response to you then is when you taste this particular dish, there should be a distinct difference between the temperature of the tofu and the soy sauce hot oil mix. Additionally, the oil should have a subtle fresh taste of shallots and garlic. This coupled with soy sauce and the cool texture of the bean curd becomes an awesome delight in your mouth. People at work often tell me they find tofu plain and tasteless. I am inclined to agree with them after a mouthful of this dish however experience tells me otherwise.
We were unsatisfied after the meal, hence decided to try their banana fritters. This I must say, they did very well. The batter mix was a good one – light and crunchy. I also felt the accompanied ice cream was also a notch above normal. We were given complimentary fruits on a plate which was a nice finish to the meal.
It’s hard to say if I’ll give this restaurant another go with a selection of other dishes. With this kind of scenario, it is unfortunate that given the number of choices, it can be a bit hit and miss. Perhaps that’s the way to describe this restaurant; a bit hit and miss. The menu has plenty of safety netting for western tastes like chicken and sweet corn soup, honey chicken, fried wonton in sweet and sour sauce and so on. You’ll love it if that’s your fare however I prefer a little more authenticity when I go out to eat at a Chinese restaurant given my heritage.
Not recommended.Restaurant Details
Ringwood Chinese Restaurant
68 Maroondah Hwy
Ringwood VIC 3134
03 9879 2277