Throughout my childhood years, my family had a ritual of eating dinner particularly early. Most days after I finished school and got home by 4pm, there would be just enough time for me to unpack my school bag, take an early shower and then sit down to a family dinner at 4.30pm. That was my parents’ way of ensuring that we all managed to spend half an hour together as a family before they opened up the takeaway shop at 5pm.
Over the years since my parents closed the shop, we’ve slowly begun to move to a later mealtime…though not always with success as my father will often have a hearty ‘pre-dinner’ meal around 4pm to get him through to a 7pm dinner. This habit of early eating does make things difficult sometimes, particularly when you show up to a restaurant at 5pm when the staff are still eating their own dinner! That was the case when we went to Fancy Oriental in Box Hill for a rather early dinner.
Luckily, the staff were nice enough to let us in and sit down to read the menu while they finished their own meals. It did mean that we were the first to order, and the first to get our food with the first dish landing on our table at just a quarter past five! Talk about an early dinner…
Dad ordered the Fried Glutinous Rice as a nice change from our usual steamed jasmine rice or Yangzhou fried rice. Absolutely delicious in its own right, and a dish I would order again. However, not a great dish to have with some of the other dishes we ordered as it was already so full of flavour that you really couldn’t use it as a base to soak up some of the other sauces.
I was a little horrified that Dad ordered the Sweet and Sour Pork. Along with dishes like lemon chicken and beef in black bean sauce, sweet and sour pork is the type of dish that K and I will often make fun of as the ‘typical’ Chinese Australian takeaway dish. This version however is an improvement on what you would normally find in a takeaway, with more of an emphasis on sour rather than sweet which means that every time you bite into a chunk of pineapple or capsicum, the sweetness really breaks through and highlights the dish.
I’m not sure what you would call this dish…perhaps Chinese Broccoli with Roasted Garlic and Goji Berries? The garlic is roasted first then cooked in the broth with the goji berries, with the tender young broccoli being added at the last minute. The result is a particularly rich roasted vegetarian dish that goes beyond the usual steamed or stir-fried greens.
I also don’t quite know how to translate the name of this dish – maybe something like Seafood Medley? Dad was the only person who really enjoyed this dish because of the heavy use of sea cucumber. Perfect for those who like it and the texture, but not so good for those who don’t. I did enjoy picking out the plump prawns, tender calamari, and juicy mushrooms though.
One of my highlights was the Salt and Pepper Tofu, a personal favourite that I do like to order when I’m out as it’s very difficult to recreate at home. The trick is to have a piping hot deep-fryer to get the perfect crispy shell on the tofu and unfortunately I can’t get my stove hot enough at home so my home-made versions normally go soggy! This however, was deliciously crisp with a soft tofu centre that melts in your mouth. With fresh herbs and crispy shallots on top, it’s a real winner.
Our last dish was a Beef Brisket Curry – a very different dish and not one you would normally find in a Chinese restaurant. The curry was very fragrant though and the brisket particularly succulent and tender. This is the type of dish where having plain steamed jasmine rice would have come in handy, to soak up all that delicious curry sauce.
Fancy Oriental is pretty good as far as Chinese restaurants go in Box Hill. Staff are friendly and accommodating (particularly given the early hour at which we dined!) and the food and service was prompt. The food is done well, and in some cases (the curry and the broccoli in particular), it’s done with a twist, a slice of innovation that distinguishes it from its neighbours.
Fancy Oriental is located at 606 Station St, Box Hill.