Secret Kitchen

Secret Kitchen has been doing well in the Melbourne market, having opened several restaurants, ranging from those that offer a quick bite, to others that serve up a wide array of Chinese dishes in a modern and sleek setting.

Today, I will be recounting my visit to the latter of the two varieties, where I had yum cha on a weekend, something that I definitely don’t do enough. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, yum cha is popular in the Guangzhou province and Hong Kong in particular, the idea is that waiters and waitresses will be pushing carts filled with plates of goodies around the restaurant, and when they reach you, you make pick at your heart’s desire. It can be quite overwhelming at times, given the large variety of dishes, but it is something worth trying.

Braised Chicken Feet

Braised chicken feet is a must-order for me at yum cha. The chicken feet were deep fried then braised in a sweet soy garlic marinade, and are quite morish to nibble at.

Siu Mai

Another classic, the skin of the siu mai was a little too soft, but that was made up with the plump prawn and pork filling.

Har Gow

How can you have siu mai without har gow? These translucent goodies always have me mesmerized. The filling is a lot less finely chopped in comparison to that of the siu mai, which meant you could really taste the plumpness of the prawns.

Wasabi Prawns

Onto something more innovative, the prawns in this case were wrapped in a thin, airy and crispy pastry. The wasabi mayo drizzled on top had a good wasabi kick to it, something that a lot of restaurants are lacking.

Steamed Beef Tripes

Back to the more traditional side of things, the tripes had a quite light and delicate flavour.

Sticky Rice with Chicken

One of my friend has never tried sticky rice with chicken, so we decided to order it for her sake.

Sticky Rice with Chicken

Inside the glutinous rice, there was a filling of chicken and mushrooms that had been braised in soy beforehand. If you were looking for something more carb heavy, this would be a good pick.

Vermicelli Rolls with Prawns

The vermicelli rolls were silky smooth, and contrasted well with the freshness of the prawns.

Red Bean Cake

We originally wanted to order some egg tarts for dessert, however they had already sold out unfortunately, which meant we settled for the red bean cake. Nonetheless, these were quite light in texture and not overly sweet.

Salted Egg Yolk Lava Buns

These buns were quite hard to hunt down, only because the friend that wanted to order them thought they were custard buns rather than salted egg yolk ones, but we did manage to get our hands on them, thankfully.

Salted Egg Yolk Lava Buns

The crispy top were reminiscent of both the roast pork buns at Tim Ho Wan, and pineapple buns sold in Chinese bakeries. The bun itself was quite sweet, and the salted egg yolk centre was rich and creamy.

Secret Kitchen offers a somewhat less traditional but more enjoyable experience than most yum cha restaurants, and that comes from the atmosphere and service mostly. The food may not be particularly authentic, but they were all enjoyable, and it would be a good place to take those who have never had yum cha before. Remember to make a booking though, especially on the weekend, as the restaurant has become quite popular.

How to get here:
Secret Kitchen is located on level 3 of Doncaster Westfield Shoppingtown, which is accessible via many buses.

Secret Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tim Ho Wan

1

Tim Ho Wan, the Michelin-starred yum cha restaurant finally opened its doors to the public after various delays, and to say that Melbourne was excited is an understatement. The line that snaked outside restaurant meant that a wait is always expected, although it actually moves rather quickly.2

I’ve visited several times now, and can confirm that the quality is very consistent, and on par with its restaurant across the ocean. The concept at Tim Ho Wan is similar to Hong Kong Dim Sum, where you’re given a sheet of paper to mark what you wish to order, plates of food will magically start appearing in front of you after you hand the paper to one of the waiters.

3
Braised Chicken Feet with Abalone Sauce – $6.80

The chicken feet is a milder rendition of the classic dish. Instead of being fried and then steamed, the chicken feet were simply braised in abalone sauce, resulting in, well, a milder flavour profile.

4
Spring Roll with Egg White – $6.00

5

Usually I would never order spring rolls, since it is such a pedestrian dish, but because we had a pescatarian amongst us, we had to take advantage of all the vegetarian and seafood options. It was a pleasant surprise though, the filling of egg white was very fluffy, and the spring roll was crunchy, but not overly oily as they tend to be.

6
Baked Bun with BBQ Pork – $7.80

The signature dish of Tim Ho Wan, literally every table had a plate (or two) of the buns, and I can definitely see why. The crunchy shell paired with the sweet BBQ pork filling, give me three of these and lunch is sorted.

7
Beancurd Skin Roll with Shrimp – $6.80

I passed on these since they had carrots inside, but according to those who tried it, although pleasant, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

8
Prawn Dumplings – $8.30

The prawn dumplings were perfect, the skin were translucent but not gluggy, and the filling had a nice ratio of prawn to bamboo shoots.

9
Spinach Dumplings with Shrimp – $7.80

The bright green colour of the spinach dumplings made them so pleasing to look at, and they tasted just as delicious. Another surprise favourite.

10
Steamed Egg Cake – $5.80

I loved the fluffiness and delicate nature of this cake, however, one of my friend did find it too eggy.

11
Vermicelli Roll with Shrimp – $7.80

The vermicelli roll, although not ground breaking, was executed well, the roll itself had integrity, and the filling, well, there was a lot of prawns.

12
Wasabi Salad Prawn Dumplings – $7.80

Still confused about where exactly the salad is in this dish, but the crunchiness of the dumplings were delightful. I wish the wasabi mayo had more of a kick though.

13
Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver – $7.50

Another member of the four heavenly kings, the filling of pig’s liver, although unusual, was actually a bit dry.

14
Tonic Medlar & Osmanthus Cake – $5.80

Besides looking extremely pretty, these slightly acidic cakes, with the floral aroma from the osmanthus, were a light but sweet end to the meal.

15
Mango Sago Pomelo – $6.00

My pick for dessert though would be the mango sago pomelo, there was nothing to fault with this classic combination of flavours, and the thickness of it all made me think that they actually used a lot of real mangoes!

1617Overall, there’s not much to fault with Tim Ho Wan in terms of the quality of the food, however, its menu is quite limited compared to other yum cha places, and the price is definitely higher. With that in mind, I’d still return, even if it were just for the baked BBQ pork buns alone, yup, they’re that good.

How to get there:

Tim Ho Wan is located in Village Centre Arcade in Chinatown, a short 10 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Tim Ho Wan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato