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Friday, October 17, 2008
Sho Noodle Bar @ Crown - Bloggers Dinner
Tonight, us Melbourne food bloggers once again came together for a special dinner. The venue for this occasion: the newly opened Sho Noodle Bar at Crown. Located nearby the Atrium entry on the main gaming floor within the forbidden temple itself, Sho is the latest addition to the Crown restaurant portfolio, promising authentic Asian cuisine and fabulous hand made noodles by Master Chef Pin Tan. It is a more casual dining experience, which takes place in a beautiful setting, designed by leading interior design firm Bates Smart, the same people responsible for the Rockpool fit out. A whopping $6 million has been invested in the restaurant and there is attention to detail throughout the establishment from the dark wood finishes and custom-made furniture right through to the tea-sets and menus; hand carved from bamboo. Featuring a dedicated tea station, as well as table seating and a large u-shaped bar overlooking the completely open kitchen, there is an honesty about everything at Sho, which can be enjoyed in many different ways. A great evening was enjoyed by all with good food, wine and a unique offering of Chinese teas; all courtesy of the Crown media department. Yes, this was a "freebie".

Upon arrival I am warmly welcomed and before I know it a Chinese tea ceremony is underway. Pictured below is this hand carved tea-serving station. There is a whole process which is carefully explained to us by restaurant manager Annie. The small pouring teapot is heated inside and out with hot water. The tea is then prepared and the first brewed pot is poured out, with the following pot being served to all in the gorgeous dual-layered glasses with any residual tea being tipped out on the board, over the frog statue for good luck. The more tea you poor over the frog the better luck you have we are told. Such an exciting and elaborate presentation, and certainly a unique way of beginning the evening.

Just moments later we get to see the Chinese kung Fu tea master in action; He doesn't speak a word of English but it doesn't matter because he certainly knows what to do with tea undertaking years of training in his native China: firstly preparing tea for us in the original ceremony and consequently dancing around with this long spouted tea pot, perfectly pouring tea from all sorts of directions. Not something you see everyday.

After this we get to see another special demonstration. This time it is Master Chef Pin Tan hand spinning noodles (made simply from wheat flour and water) - quite an amazing site to watch as he turns a pile of dough into perfect fine strands of noodles in just a matter of minutes - all by hand: the only way to do it really. These demonstrations take place twice nightly Tuesday to Saturday and are a great oppotunity to see what the chef does best.

After all this fun we are escorted over to the bar for our meal. A fabulous place to be sitting as it overlooks the kitchen and enables a front-hand view of all of the action. Gone are the days of restaurant kitchens being closed behind doors: it is now all about transparency and allowing diners to see how their food is being made. I'm a big fan, especially when its a kitchen as special as this.

The meal:

We begin things with a beautiful Dim Sum selection: Siu Mai Pork, Prawn Har Gow and Vegetarian dumplings: very clean flavours and better than any Yum cha I've eaten in quite some time.

Next up is a selection of Chinese roasts: Duck, Char Siu Pork and Soya Chicken with plum and hoi sin sauces. Each of them cooked well and enjoyed.

To follow we are presented with one of the chefs specialties - Wok-fried crayfish with honey chilli and spring onion: Unfortunately the lobster meat is somewhat over done losing its sweet and subtle flavour and texture. The sauce also doesn't do a lot for me: marred by excessive artifical sweetness.

We then have a beautiful Deep-fried baby barramundi with chilli oyster sauce, coriander: nicely executed and a pleasure to eat. The fish has been portioned, then cooked and re-assembled for presentation. It is always a joy to eat fish in this way, getting to taste the flesh, skin, head and wings. It would be such a shame not to have these. The beauty of Asian cuisine: nothing is wasted.

Next is a Malaysian style beef rendang with jasmine rice: no better or worse than what you would find at most other Asian restaurants. The meat could probably have been braised slightly longer for a more tender texture. A very typical rendang with a nice balance of heat and aromatics; star anise and chilli being the dominant flavours.

Wok-fried chicken with dried chilli: Featuring diced chicken and imported Chinese chillies the dish is once again quite decent, but like some of the others slightly marred by excessive sweetness.

Wok-fried kailan with garlic: This popular Asian green is simply given the wok treatment, retaing a nice crunch.

The last dsh is Sho's Char kway teow with prawns and Chinese sausage: A good version of this classic dish, using clean fresh ingredients. At the end of the day though its not something that you couldn't find elsewhere. It would have been nice to finish with a hot noodle soup and really enjoy the noodles that chef Pin Tan is famous for. After all this is a noodle bar: the one thing almost emmited from our meal.

We conclude with a dessert trio: Creamy mango ice-cream with fresh lychee, mango jelly pudding and fresh cubed mango. A nice refreshing way to end the meal, with mangos being so very good at the moment.

Sho offers a small wine list, and a unique tea selection of 24 of the worlds best teas from China and Taiwan. I get to sample a number of offerings, finishing with a very special tea: Pu'Er "35 Years Standing". This tea, aged for 35 years, has a unique silky texture and a very smooth finish. Like wine, fine teas are said to become smoother and more balanced with age. The Pu'Er proves this true with a completely different finish to anything I have experienced before. I like it a lot.

Overall Sho offers a good dining experience that I really enjoyed. The food was all of a good, reliable standard with little to complain about, served in an exciting venue made all the more interesting with the tea and noodle demonstrations. Sho is a welcome addition to the Crown complex, and a cut above the other gaming floor dining options - something however which will likely appeal to casino players, but probably won't draw a large audience from outside this area.

A unique experience, with good value meals (most under $20) and an impressive hand-seleced tea selection, designed to compliment the food and enhance the whole experience. Certainly a venue worth watching.

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  posted at 12:47 AM  

At October 18, 2008 at 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johm fantastic to see you back..more?

At October 19, 2008 at 12:54 PM, Blogger Jon! said...

Just the beginning anon. Wait til I come back from Sydney after next week - there is so much ahead for Melbourne Foodie readers. xoxo

At October 26, 2008 at 5:17 PM, Blogger Nate @ House of Annie said...

Amazing dinner. I've never seen a tea pouring demonstration like that before.

At February 7, 2009 at 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so in love with Sho! I can't get enough of the soya chicken and the prawn har gao is amazing.
I always get seated at the bar so I don't miss out on the action of the kitchen.

At April 4, 2009 at 4:49 PM, Anonymous Deepak Bista, Adelaide said...

Hey guys,
Have you been to adelaide and tried adelaidean restaurants? You should come here and review some restaurants.
this is nice site and I will keep visiting. Happy blogging!!


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