Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Under the Bent Rim - Gold Leaf Docklands

Peanut and pork steamed dumplings, braised chicken's feet, and wu gok (pork filled fried taro dumplings)

Recently sampled the dim sum at the relatively new Gold Leaf Chinese restaurant in Waterfront City at Harbour Town Docklands. The venue is located within Melbourne's newest complex for factory outlet shopping, so new in fact that many of the frontages remain vacant or were not quite yet at full operation. This gave the precinct a sparse and somewhat desolate atmosphere, which means it fits in perfectly with the rest of Docklands. The restaurant is on a first floor wing, pretty much directly under the shadow of the city's latest and biggest but embarassingly dysfunctional tourist attraction, the Southern Star Observation Wheel. The structure inspired by the London Eye has since been called many other names, The Melbourne Eye(Sore), a white elephant, a laughing stock but I'll be kind and just call it unlucky. After much delays during its initial construction, it had opened for operation for a mere two months before an infamous heatwave from the summer just passed proved too much and cracked some of its spoked girders. It's now back to the drawing board with repairs reported to take up to 12 months, perhaps in time for a reopening next summer? Here's hoping that those responsible have taken into account that the seasons, unlike the wheel, will be coming around full circle and yes, Melbourne summers can get hot!

The Docklands restaurant is the most recent addition to the
Gold Leaf group of chinese seafood and yum cha restaurants, which have more branches opening around town than your average bank. If they introduced facilities for paying utility bills and cashing deposits, I'm sure it'll be a greatly appreciated social service to the senior population, especially in addition to offering Sunday brunch. Being new the restaurant is bright, helped by floor-to-ceiling glass frontage, generous lighting and an illuminated panel depicting an oriental river scene along the back wall. Service too was bright despite the frenetic pace usually set at yum cha. I nearly choked on my dumpling when we received an "Enjoy your meal" from the trolley servicer after she deposited our steamer of choice on the table, and damn well did choke when the same happened again later from a different girl. A remarkable deviation from the usual surly though admittedly harrassed staff at yum cha service. Foodwise, I'd expect that the dim sum at any of the Gold Leaf restaurants would be pretty dependable though this outlet offered less than expected variety on a visit. Waiting periods between carts were somewhat inconsistent, though portion sizes were noticeably generous. Traditionalists may grumble that they touch more than the heart (ie. lack finesse). We have previously had yum cha at the Gold Leaf Restaurant Sunshine and been more impressed with the quality (especially their roasted suckling pig), though much less so with the crowds and difficulty in finding a park! However no such issues at Docklands with multi-story parking aplenty.

A wooden vat of dau fu fa, silken soy curds served in gingery syrup

Perhaps there had been little reason to venture into Harbour Town with its star attraction currently out of commission and the fashion outlets still finding their feet, thanks to the same issue. However the presence of Golf Leaf is now one reason to stay on that tram from the CBD for a little further, or otherwise venture in to try a clean new yum cha venue. Do so before the queues get longer, the carpets get faded, the tiles get slippery and the service gets jaded. The crowds are already gathering. We had to wait around 30 minutes with no booking on a Sunday lunchtime, so it'll pay to book prior to a visit or as Edmund Blackadder might say as you wait beside the live seafood tanks, "You'll be spending more time staring at fish staring back at you, than Fishy the Fish Starer cares to spend time staring at fish!"

Food: 14/20 - Run of the mill dim sum.
Service: 14/20 - Not bad for yum cha.
Value: 15/20 - Nothing out of the ordinary.
R-Factor: 14/20 - It's now the yum cha place closest to us.
Spot Score: 14/20 - Offers another mid-range choice for Cantonese cuisine.

Gold Leaf Chinese Restaurant
Level 1, 10-11 Star Circus, Waterfront City, Harbour Town, Docklands VIC.


Maria@TheGourmetChallenge said...

I walked passed this place back in the good old days when the wheel actually turned. hehehe. I'm surprised the service is actually friendly, the two I've been sunshine and burwood have be terrible...good yum cha though.

I love your write up, made me laugh!

Agnes said...

What were the prices like? Do you pay for the Docklands ambiance? :)

Towser said...

Maria - Yeah the service on the day took us by surprise too, it wasn't anything extraordinary, merely the fact that there was some semblance of hospitality at yum cha! Hopefully it's not just the one day, and hopefully it continues for a little while at least.
Hey Agnes! Hmm the Docklands ambiance. You mean the mournful whistle of wind and souless concrete? Thankfully there was not much noticeable extra charged for that, just the regular three tiered choice of dim sum pricing.

stickyfingers said...

Thanks for this review - I've been meaning to try it and had been to the original in Springvale over the years. They must be cursing about the ferris wheel with the worst views of Melbourne.

Unfortunately my Chinese family are now boycotting the Gold Leaf chain as the rumour is it's a money laundering operation ;) Perhaps they took a leaf out of Rocky's book at La Porchetta?

Towser said...

Thanks Sticky, and do give this branch a try, not bad.
Hmmm perhaps hidden behind that big oriental screen, there's a smoky gambling den where dodgy characters are rolling dice and tumbling mahjong tiles for wads of the prelaundered stuff :)