There’s certainly no shortage of Chinese restaurants in Brisbane; from the modern (Donna Chang, Little Valley, Happy Boy) to the traditional (King of Kings and Landmark) and everything in between (Sichuan Bang Bang, Bamboo Basket). So when Sydney restaurant chain Pheonix opened an outpost in the new Brisbane Quarter, I wondered where it would fit into the mix.
On looks alone, the restaurant slots into the high-end traditional Chinese category. There’s lots of black and red, some lush private dining rooms and a gold back-lit bar. For lunch, the setting doesn’t quite suit. It’s missing the water-front views that other restaurants in the quarter have. Instead, your looking at the middle of the precinct. It’s a ghost town.
We are given one menu to share between the two of us. We order some yum cha and a few dishes from the a la carte menu, and tell the waiter to bring them out whenever they are ready. They almost all arrive at the same time.
Xiao long bao is an amazing little dumpling, made by filling it with meat and jellied soup. While it steams, the jelly melts and forms a soup inside. The version here ($16) is packed with lots of crab, but no soup. Not the worst thing in the world as long as the crab is bang on. It’s not. At the opposite end of the spectrum, scallop and caviar shumai ($12) is fantastic.
From the cheung fan (steamed rice noodle roll) menu, the king prawn and goji berry roll ($13) sounds intriguing. When it arrives, I’m disappointed to see only a few goji berries on top as garnish. I wonder why the cheung fan isn’t filled with them. The dish dearly misses the pops of sweetness.
A roasted duck dish called Fragrant Pipa Duck ($32) is the dish of the day. The duck is roasted in-house until the skin is glass-like crisp, and the meat is tender and juicy. Another dish of eggplant with minced pork in spicy sauce ($26) is pleasant, but lacks the spice that is promised.
The wine-list plays it safe; ditto the beer. There’s Tsingtao (of course) as well as a bunch of other mass-produced imported and Australian stuff.
Pheonix is good, but it’s just that. Can you find better Chinese food elsewhere? Absolutely, Brisbane has a plethora of it.