Review: Lucky Chan, Southbank

I’m proud of the fact that I was a nerd in school. I worked hard, sucked up to all my teachers and got good grades. I liked the sense of accomplishment I felt every time I got an assignment back and saw an A+ scrawled in the top right hand corner.

Like many nerds though, my social skills lacked finesse. I had a tendency to mispronounce and stumble over my words every time I got nervous, and public speaking was certainly not my forte. I dreaded every time we had to do a presentation in front of the whole class, and would often volunteer to go first so that I wouldn’t have to follow presentations from any of the more confident and popular kids in class who enjoyed public speaking.

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I’m much better now at public speaking. Perseverance and practice has allowed me to carefully modulate my words while I speak, and control my hands to stop them from shaking. I still hate speaking after someone who’s a more natural public speaker though!

Which makes me wonder – have the restaurants in the Crown Casino complex in Melbourne suffered from bad reviews as a result of the Fat Duck opening up? It must be hard to be judged against pure dining perfection, because you’re bound to be found lacking in some way. That was certainly the case when K and I, and our two friends dined at Lucky Chan for a lazy yum cha brunch the morning after our experience at the Fat Duck.

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Given that it was a Thursday morning, it was very quiet in the restaurant, with only 20% of the tables being filled. This was unfortunately reflected in the variety of dim sum offered, with what seemed like the same three dim sum trolleys being pushed around again and again. Towards the end of our meal, you could definitely tell when the food had been sitting in the trolley for too long, as dumpling skins began to harden and pastry began to soften.

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It’s not that the food was bad by any means – far from it! Most of what we ordered was quite delicious, well-seasoned but not too oily the way many dim sum dishes tend to be. Even the prawn-stuffed deep-fried eggplant wasn’t too oily, and the beef balls were nice and tender.

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There were certainly some standout dishes though. The char siu sou, or BBQ pork pastries, were deliciously crisp and flaky with a rich sweet BBQ pork filling. I could have easily ordered two more serves of this dish to enjoy.

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The lor bak gou, or turnip cake, was also excellent. While it didn’t have as many ingredients as I would have liked (yum cha restaurants never do – only homemade lor bak gou has enough shrimp and lup cheong!), it had been fried really well, with a caramelised crispy skin.

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The century egg and pork jook, was a nice and simple dish – a nice change from the rich and flavourful meals that we had been having in Melbourne. It’s only lightly seasoned and flavoured, so it’s actually the perfect dish to have when you want to settle your stomach and have something a little plainer.

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I would normally order the har cheong – steamed rice noodles with prawns. However, our friend Neil has recently developed a shellfish allergy so to accommodate his new and aggravating dietary restrictions, I ordered a char siu cheong instead. The BBQ pork in this rice noodle was just as nice as the it was in the pastry, and the sweet cooked soy sauce that the noodle was served on was the perfect accompaniment to the richness of the BBQ pork.

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For dessert, our friend Michael ordered the mango pudding. It was a favourite yum cha dish of mine when I was a child, with the sweetness of the mango pudding and evaporated milk proving a real treat for a child who didn’t get much in the way of sweets. Unfortunately this mango pudding wasn’t quite up to scratch – there was no real mango flavour in the pudding, and it tasted very artificial.

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The egg tarts were a much better choice for the dessert, with flaky pastry and sweet smooth egg custard centres. They were even still warm from the oven! These are very small egg tarts though, so I sneakily ate three of them claiming that really, I only ate two because they were so small!

To be fair, the reason we found Lucky Chan to be ‘lacking’ is because we were still basking in the rosy afterglow of having dined at the Fat Duck. On any other day, we would have enjoyed our meal albeit complaining about how it’s overpriced. Location plays a large part in the cost of course, but it was easily 30% more expensive than your average neighborhood yum cha restaurant. I probably won’t be back any time soon!

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