Awarded One Hat from the Good Food Guide 2019. We dared to try Spice Temple for both of us who can’t take any spice. It was one of the last few restaurants at Crown Casino that we were yet to visit. And guess what… we survived!
When we walked in, it was pitched black, but the counter was all you could see in front of you. To the right there’s private dining and behind the counter was the dining area on ground floor. The staff led us downstairs to a long dining area with 3 rows of tables of 2 and 4’s (it was still dark). Low ceilings at lower ground with no other views except who you are dining with. Thankfully, those bowl shaped lights with coils hanging upside down just above us was there to create the candlelight dinner shining right at the centre of the table. YAY enough lighting for me to take good photos! 🙂
We were advised by the waitress that the numbing sauce is their most spicy sauce. It was so good to be told of is tip, for us non-spicy eaters – we steered clear from numbing sauce.
I ordered the Temple of Mary, $12 and Apricot Sour Apple, $12. J got the better pick this time, it was refreshing and light with a bit of sourness to it. Great to accompany strong flavours of main dishes that we were about to try! The Temple of Mary was too much for me… I can drink carrot juice. But tomato juice with Worcestershire sauce was too strong for me. It really left a peppery taste at my throat. I probably needed more lemon in that drink. The dash of Shiraz was definitely tasted. Everything was strong for me and I sure took my time to finish it :).
We ordered the Crispy eggplant with fish fragrant dressing, the waitress was very attentive as they saw the amount of food we ordered, she suggested to half the size of the eggplant. Standard size: $26, Entree size: $12. The batter around the eggplant was very crispy. It was a thin batter lightly fried that allowed us to taste more of the soft eggplant within. The sauce coated around the chips was amazing, it was almost like a sweet chilli sauce – I didn’t know it was fish fragrant dressing as I couldn’t taste any fishiness! Don’t let the name scare you away. There was only a kick of spiciness in this dish – tolerable. It was a beautiful treat.
Peking Duck pancakes came in a bamboo steam – cute. We ordered the half duck for $60. Duck was roasted in the traditional style with cucumber, shallots and hoisin sauce – all traditional ingredients for a good peking duck!
I know we’re at a fine dining restaurant but I have to mention the amount of meat was no where near what you’d get at a casual chinese restaurant of peking duck. Casual Chinese restaurants give you a lot more. We each had 4 pieces, but I gave my last piece to J, just because I wanted to save room for two more dishes coming :). As I picked up the finely sliced duck with my chopsticks, I could tell immediately the skin was very crispy. There was absolutely no additional fat from the duck. Dollop some hoisin sauce and shallots and a stick of cucumber on the pancake and start folding them. It was very satisfying.
Tip: Don’t wait. You really have to eat it fast. Once the pancake goes cold it becomes powdery and more filling as you bite into it.
Next came Pippies– Coffin Bay SA 250gm $24 and fried egg noodles, $4, This was my favourite dish of the night. Pippies were so fresh – no sand nor fishy taste. The best was the Ginger and Shallot sauce – clear yet thick enough to scoop it out from the plate and not let it dribble. Of course, I avoided coriander and couldn’t taste it in my pippies. Although there wasn’t a lot of fried egg noodles, it was just enough to taste half crispy and half soggy noodles dipped with the ginger and shallot sauce. I couldn’t stop thinking whether the pippies or the sauce was the star of the dish.
Our last dish was Slow braised beef short rib, Ma-po style $52, by the time this dish arrived J was very full. This dish took a while to get to our table, unfortunately we had a lull… that made us dine the full 2 hours of our booking. The silken tofu was a nice compliment with the slow braised beef and sauce. I didn’t find this dish spicy despite the “ma-po” style. The original ma-po is spicy. Black bean flavour was mild. We were pretty happy with chilli being inexistent. This was J’s favourite dish of the night. But sadly he wished we didn’t order the eggplant as he would have saved his stomach to enjoy this dish more.
You might have guessed for two people with the above dishes, we would not have had the appetite for dessert. The savoury dishes have already topped up our whole experience.
It’s proven to us that even if it says “Spice” Temple we were still able to opt in on less spicy dishes and survived! Being chinese ourselves we are sceptical in trying chinese fine dining + fusion as we wouldn’t like to risk it in paying a lot more for an average attempted Chinese / Canton dish. However, through this experience it has certainly changed our minds! Flavours were all there with a twist from the traditional sauces yet maintaining it’s Chinese origin.
I would request to be seated on ground level next time I revisit, as I don’t get to see any view being on lower ground. I feel that fine dining is also about the view and atmosphere.
Location: Crown Melbourne, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne
Entree: 5/5 – Crispy Eggplant
Mains: 5/5 – All other mains