I don’t think Flower Drum needs too much of an introduction.
This fine dining Cantonese restaurant on Market lane has been wowing diners for well over 30 years.
It has taken us a while, but J and I finally got to Flower Drum to see what all the hype was about. Though there have been rumours in recent years that the quality has gone downhill, we were happy to judge that for ourselves.
We were greeted in the doorway and ushered into an elevator.
What we had never realised is that the restaurant is actually upstairs.
Exiting the elevator we were greeted by two hostesses, one confirmed our reservation in her book, and the other guided us to our table, about three quarters of the way down the long room.
The room is divided into sections by wooden slats, and there are two further rooms down the back, on the way to the bathrooms.
The decor is traditional.
We started with a glass of Pol Roger.
Chilli sauce and fresh chillies were placed on the table for us to add to dishes as we wished.
As in most Chinese restaurants, there is the option of partaking in a banquet, or ordering a la carte. Flower Drum offers two styles of banquet, the Chef’s 6 Course Signature Banquet, or the four course seasonal tasting dinner.
We opted to do the four course summer tasting dinner.
The first course was a white fish (groper I think) in a ginger and light soy sauce.
It was a lovely piece of fish, and the sauce was quite light and did not overpower the fish.
By this stage, the glasses of champagne were long gone, and we ordered a bottle of 2008 Leeuwin Art Series chardonnay.
One thing I have to tell you about is something I have only seen in movies, and only those set in America. The couple at the table next to us had ordered crab, presumably a whole one. While it was being prepared at the side table, a bib was tied around the neck of both of them. I think the bibs were paper and they were quite large. Sensible idea, but as I said, something I have only seen on TV and in the movie when someone is eating lobster. The couple looked a bit bemused by it all, and also seemed to be struggling with how to eat their crab, hopefully they enjoyed it! I stopped paying attention when our next course arrived.
The second course was quail sang choi bao (minced quail meat cooked together with Chinese sausage, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and spring onion, served in a lettuce leaf).
Now, I love quail and I love sang choi bao, so this was always going to be a winner. J loved the lettuce cup, saying how perfect it was for its purpose, and the filling, while not being super generous, was just the right size, no need to eat some with chopsticks before wrapping the whole thing up and picking it up with your hands.
The flavour was good, but I think the version that Tea House does has more flavour.
Our next course was Peking duck (tender pieces of roast duck wrapped in a pancake accompanied by spring onion, cucumber and a touch of plum sauce).
All our dishes were plated and served to us from a trolley table-side and the gentleman making the duck wraps was very skilful in putting it altogether using a spoon and fork.
I didn’t notice it until I was downloading the photos but the extra sauce on the side (always welcome) seems to be in the shape of an apple…
We had two pieces each, with everything being kept warm on the trolley.
Two pieces of duck is never enough, so as the second piece was served, we asked if we could order another piece each. Not a problem at all.
It was very good duck. The pancakes were thin, but not the thinnest I have seen. J had too much sauce on one of his pieces, but overall we were both very happy.
Our last savoury course was a braised beef brisket with a dipping sauce. This was served with special fried rice and greens.
It was amazing. Soft beef with a nice crust and the sauce was incredible. Loved this dish.
I am pretty sure it said on the menu that we could pick our own dessert, but we didn’t get the chance. Our waiter told us all about the mango dessert and said he was going to order it for us, we didn’t have a choice. He practically sprinted into the kitchen to order it as it is quite popular and is limited in quantities each night.
So, for dessert, we both had the mango crepe (fresh Kensington Pride mangoes and mango pudding wrapped in a crèpe. Served with slices of fresh mangoes, mango sorbet and a mango passionfruit sauce).
Admittedly, it was not what I would have ordered, but it was fresh and tasty. J said it was probably a good thing we had our dessert chosen for us, as he probably would have gone for something deep fried, which neither of us needed!
Almond cookies were served with a coffee for J and a pot of jasmine tea for me.
The service throughout the evening was excellent. I have read reports of over attentive waiters, those that stand behind you and top your water or wine glass up after every sip. I did see a lot of waiters standing around earlier on in the evening, but as the restaurant filled up, they all become busy.
We didn’t get anyone standing behind us, or not that I noticed. The service was great but not as over the top as some had reported. And to be honest, after what we had experienced in Hong Kong, it would not have worried us.
I think the last two savoury courses (duck and beef) were the standouts for me. Is the food at Flower Drum any better than other fine dining Chinese restaurants we have been too? I am not sure. It was very good, but is it that much better to justify the price? Probably not.
Though in saying that, I would still go back, as I loved the food, but maybe someone else can pay the bill next time.