Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Spice Temple Review @ Crown Casino, Melbourne

The entrance to Spice Temple is right next to Rockpool Bar & Grill 
"SPICE TEMPLE IS OPENING!!" The Boy excitedly kept me up to date with the going-ons with the set-up of the restaurant. He'd check the Rockpool blog nearly daily to tell me how close they were to the opening day.

The stairs leading to the bar and restaurant (they have seats both upstairs and downstairs)
So it was an obvious step for me to make a reservation for the first Friday night after Spice Temple's opening. It was to be a Hot date with the Boy and I was hoping that it was going to be a great night!

Extremely dark, these globes lit the tables at the bar area
We arrived on time, just in time in fact, to see Neil Perry himself walk past us and into the restaurant.. I nearly went up to him to ask for a picture or a chat... but he looked too much like Steven Seagal (images of fighting in the kitchen with a wok and a pot flashed across my eyes)... and I was shy :)

We were led downstairs and seated at the bar. It was a bit confusing as we weren't given a choice to go to our table directly and as we'd never been there before, I thought for a moment that the dark area where we were led to was where our dinner was going to be!

Drinks Menu
We were provided with the cocktail menu and left to ponder. No instructions and no other conversations, apart from, "Please take a seat." The full cocktail menu can be viewed here (it's a bit dark in the picture).

Dog and Green Tea Jasmine
The cocktail menu was a highlight for me, as it draws inspiration from the Chinese Horoscope with each cocktail representing one of the 12 animals. As I am born in the year of the Dog, I was partial to trying it out. Delicious!

The Boy ordered a Jasmine and Apple tea (which was pretty close to a Bubbly Cup version of Green Apple Green Tea).

It was not until I hailed a waiter to ask, are we allowed to order our dinner, did he do a double take and say, "Oh, you want to be seated? Of course!"

Apparently, the waitress who had escorted us down the steps had failed to impart some information. We were then led to another part of the establishment (where quite a few people were already seated, whom I did not see lounging in the bar looking throughly confused).

Monkey and House Made Spicy Ginger Beer
We ordered more drinks at our dining table (as I wanted to try more Cocktails!). This time, I ordered the Monkey and the Boy ordered a House Made Spicy Ginger Beer. Maybe because I'm partial to sweet drinks, the Monkey was quite hard to .... errr.... drink.

From their menu (slightly different from the Sydney menu), we ordered an entree, two mains, rice and several desserts. Anything that had a red coloured font in the menu was extra spicy. There were two choices of Banquets (set dinner courses) priced at $69 and $95 respectively. The Boy was keen to go with those, but as a few dishes in the two Banquets had beef in them, I declined.

I also noted, from the menu, that some dishes had to be pre-ordered when making a reservation as they take 24 hours to cook them. Damn! Wish I had known.

Fried Squid with whole five spice and dark chilli paste $26
Instead we went with the Fried Squid with whole five spice served with a dark chilli paste, which tasted incredibly like a hot sambal paste (Malaysian chilli paste). The squid was cooked beautifully and the batter was light and tasty. The lime wedged that was served with this dish cut through the spiciness of the chilli paste really well. A truly delicious dish that left us wanting more.

Stir Fried prawns with salted duck egg and four chillies (Brined, dried, fermented and pickled) $39
For the mains, we had a stir fried prawn dish which seemed to have a slight Thai inspiration to it. Served with onions, chillies and finely sliced coriander, the creamy coconut gravy was a delightful dish that went really well with steamed rice!

So far, the first two dishes were excellent and I was expecting the third dish to arrive and leave my palate with a huge and resounding bang!

Guangxi style roast pork belly (with coriander, peanuts, red onion and sesame seeds) $30
The Guangxi Roast Pork Belly, sounded so good on paper. However, I felt that there was a tad too much coriander on this dish. Don't get me wrong, I love coriander and will gladly eat it on it's own. But somehow, with this dish, it seemed a trifle out of place.

The pork belly meat wasn't as tender as I'd expected... it was a bit tough. The crackling however was a WINNER!... But the crackling wasn't good enough to save this dish from a disappointing end of our savory dishes.

Trio of desserts
As I'm always greedy with desserts, I ordered 3 of them!! One for me, one for the Boy and one for us!... Okay, I was just being greedy!!

Orange jelly cake with orange blossom fairy floss $6
The reason why I ordered the Orange jelly cake was because it was the dessert offered for both the Banquet options. Perfectly logical reasoning. 

The orange blossom fairy floss was really fun to eat and had a nice non-overpowering scent to it. The Orange Jelly Cake was just a regular cupcake with a jelly middle. Nothing much to shout about.

Almond jelly with rose granita and dehydrated candied lychee $14
The Boy had a Almond Jelly with Lychee granita...served with dehydrated lychee skins, was a delightfully light dessert. He finished the whole thing and only offered me half a teaspoon! He said that it was delicious...

Chocolate and Salted Peanut Caramel Parfait $18
I on the other hand, opted for a non-Asian sounding dessert... I had to... it was chocolate... with salted caramel.. and peanuts!

I had spend the whole day thinking about Phillipa Sibley's Snickers and how much I wanted to eat it again. This dessert provided me that opportunity.

In terms of looks, it looks quite like an ice-cream sandwich. But the taste! The taste was sooooo alike the Snickers from il Fornaio that if I had my eyes shut, I'd swear I was eating the same dessert!

Okay, I might have exaggerated there. What this dessert had going for it was a really nice crunchy base (which Phillipa's did not). The texture and creaminess of the parfait wasn't as good as Phillipa's but the crunchy salted peanut caramel was just as good.

This dessert and this dessert alone, saved the night from the lackluster pork belly dish.

The meal was expensive. But we were expecting that. I draw similarities from this and Nobu (kind of hard not to, since they are both Asian inspired restaurants, located side-by-side in Crown Casino). The similarities are in its concept and lay-out. They both offer good food and almost perfect desserts.

Spice Temple has quite a while to go, to work out the kinks, but it has definitely made a worthy foray into the Chinese cuisine.

Would we return? Yes. But it'll have to be a while. It put quite a dent to my wallet.

*Disclaimer: All food ratings are purely based on my own experiences and how I feel about the service, food and quality

Food/ Cuisine: Chinese
Dining Style: Restaurant & Bar
Overall Food Rating (Based on the Dining style): 7.75/10 (I'd give the desserts a 8.5/10)
Restaurant ambiance: 7/10 (the Boy gives it an 8/10 because he say's it's funky. I think its much too dark. He said it reminded him of a Chinese junk ship, in a cool way.)
Service/ Attitude: 7/10
Value for money: 6.5/10

Ground Floor
Crown Casino
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006

Tel:(03)8679 1888


Email: info@spicetemplemelbourne.com

Spice Temple is open from
Sunday to Friday for lunch and
7 days for dinner

How to get there:

View Larger Map

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon


  1. That dessert sounds lovely (the salted chocolate salted caramel peanut parfait). I'm terribly impressed that you ordered three desserts - you're an inspiration!

  2. Lovely-looking food, but seems that the front-of-house need to shape up! You shouldn't have been seated at the bar if your table was ready, and you were nice not to tell them off!

  3. Great review! And hehe Neil Perry does look rather Steven Seagal :P I wish restaurants that had dishes that you had to order 24 hour prior would tell us at the time of the booking. I dislike arriving at a place and finding out that I should have ordered something!

  4. Expensive indeed, but the food looked yummy!! Awesome review babe, well done :)

  5. I'm going there two days later. Wish me luck. :)

  6. Injera: I was really looking forward to the desserts as the best Cherry trifle I've ever had was from Rockpool...

    Rachel: I was expecting a bumpy service as it was their first Friday night.. I like making excuses for them.. lols...

    Lorraine: Yeah, I was a tad annoyed with the 24 hour dishes.. *sigh*

    Kim: it was... I spent above $200 on Chinese FOOD! My mother would kill me!

    Michele: Ooh.. enjoy!!

  7. I'm very keen on visiting Spice Temple although it does look extremely dark and the food expensive. Were you even able to see your food? :p

  8. Libby: I was actually. Each table had a downlight ... but it's terrible for picture taking!

  9. yeh, i wonder if waiting out the initial ironing out of kinks at new restaurants would be the way to go, though requires a lot of "discipline" and patience to do so. hehe.
    i better go look at the menu for these "24 hr" dishes... mmm.
    Although labelled as somewhat a chinese restaurant i see the deviation from tradition is quite large, though fitting for our ever changing modern cuisine.

  10. Horrible service and very rude and hostile waiters. Not a place to enjoy food was waiting to get out asap.

  11. Mmm... how yum was the peanut parfait!! We had a great night there, can't wait to go again.

    Hehe when we went they were very clear about taking us to the bar and then to our table - in fact I think 2 separate waiters told us we could go to our table at any time! Maybe they read your review and asked the waiters to be more clear ;)

    xox Sarah

  12. despite it being a very pleasant experience, and mistakes going our way, it could've easily ended up really disastrous. They gave us the wrong dish for instance (which is a big booboo), which fortunately ended up being a superb one (didn't even realise until i got home, LOL).

  13. You should have taken the photo with Neil, just so you can tell people you've met Steven Segal haha.

    It's weird that you have to pre-order dishes. Usually that's only for slow cooked items. Which one needed to be pre-ordered?

    There's no excuse for bad pork belly, especially coming from someone as professional as Neil Perry. Could be opening teething problems still as it's all very new and things are still being ironed out.

    I wonder if Neil copied his dessert off Philippa's, seeing as hers has been around much longer.

  14. I had a most excellent night here, not only was the food to die for but the service was astounding! The waiters really seemed to have a passion for what they were doing as they explained each dish to us right down to the very ingredients and and how everything was cooked. But the food! Can't wait to come back and try more.

  15. Almost always ravenous: yeah I know what you mean.. but I was pretty conscious of them ironing out their kinks.. it was the first Friday night after all.

    Sarah: That's good! We were just so confused with no direction!

    Anonymous 1: Sorry you had a bad night :( Maybe it was just that one time?

    Thanh: I wish he were Steven Seagal :P

    Anonymous 2: Happy that you had a great night! I would go back just for desserts!!


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