Choi’s – Hawthorn

Chinese food for me is all about about predictable and reliable dishes that bring people together. Before going, you know what you love, you know what you want to order, and the menu becomes an obsolete guide that is rarely used. Once the family has sat around the Lazy Susan, each will nominate their beloved dish to add to the order so everyone feels like they have contributed. When I am bestowed with the responsibility of ordering, I’ll filter the crap suggestions, naturally.

Choi’s, in Riversdale Road, Hawthorn has always been a pillar in my Chinese restaurant repertoire. Besides the renovations, a few more awards added to their wall and the occasional price increase, Choi’s has remained a quality eating house for over 20 years. According to the staff, Choi’s holds roughly 6000 climate controlled bottles of wine on hand at any given time. Although if you don’t want to pay double or triple the cost price, they allow BYO for a relatively minor fee. Interesting use of the spaceship-like glass/metal sliding door entrance; admire the fluoro lit name running vertically down.

It is a more elegant and sophisticated dining room than what you may expect in your average Chinese. David Yap (owner and head chef) has completed several refurbishments over the years to transform the dining space to what it has become. Personally, I think it makes for a pleasant eating space, the patterned light shades are very cool.

Chicken San choi bao ($10.00 for 2 pieces). Make sure you request a serving of plum sauce, and be sure to generously coat the insides of the lettuce leaf with the plum goodness. San choi bao’s are very good here, it is possible they are slightly smaller than usual but are a delicious entree.

Mixed steamed dim sim basket ($9.00). I could eat dim sim’s all day and night! Two of these moist parcels of goodness per person is just not enough – the Chommer needs more. These are an excellent appetizer and for any dumpling fan are a must order. I like to dip in soya sauce before the consumption process begins. You may eat they way you like.

Could Peking duck possibly be the best dish in the world? To answer my own question, I’m not really sure. To say that it is safely within my top ten favourite courses, would be a more correct statement. Choi’s do a great Peking duck ($30.00 for 6 pieces), always have, hopefully always will. The ultra soft thin pancakes gently hug the juicy fat piece of duck inside. The duck’s skin is slightly crunchy, combined with a plum sauce coating and the hint of vegetable with the spring onion, cucumber and other pickled vegetables, makes for an extremely delicious entree. Till not long ago you would have only seen one piece of this delicacy on the plate above. I wised up as of late – two is always better than one.

The must order main course is the Cantonese beef ($28.00). Large, tender pieces of beef completed by the amazingly rich, thick Cantonese sauce resting peacefully on a bed of fresh broccoli. You can tell I love this dish. It is executed as good as anywhere here. Note: When all the solids have been consumed tip that sauce onto a bowl of rice. Then breathe in deep and chom.

The chilli chicken with cashews ($23.00) was a generous serving. A stock standard classic Chinese dish that rarely faults and Choi’s present it beautifully. To be pedantic, I couldn’t taste a strong chilli flavour which I was hoping for. Although, this is good thing for the mild spice orientated out there.

Tom yam prawns ($30.00). You barely get any prawns in a serve, be it the Chadstone food court, a fancy shmancy Chinese or anywhere that a dish involves prawns. I really should expect it by now, that is the way it goes in Melbourne. It still frustrates me though. Another one, or prawns per person, shouldn’t break the bank, should it? Back on track! This was an enjoyable dish in which they use very fresh prawns and a light sauce that all will be delighted with (especially those in favour of chilli).

The softest buttery, almond cookies arrive at your table after the meal concludes. Not only are these complimentary (very rare these days), but they are mighty delicious. Just a warning, they are stupidly addictive, once you start, you will find it a challenge to stop. On several occasions I have asked for seconds, the staff always oblige. Yum.

Choi’s is open for dinners seven nights a week from 5pm, and lunches Monday to Friday form 12pm-3pm. I haven’t lunched here yet, although I am under the impression they don’t have yum-cha (damn!) and the dinner menu is utilised. Choi’s is a step up from the mid range Chinese options about town. Here they offer superb service, premium Chinese fare in a more elegant atmosphere. You can expect to pay slightly more for these aspects, but to celebrate a birthday or just to have an enjoyable night out it is easy to justify the coin.

Share your thoughts if you have had an equally enjoyable experience at Choi’s.

The Important Details…

Cuisine: Chinese

Noise: Friendly chit chat

Bookings: Yes, via phone

Suitable for: All people

Dress: Smart casual

Price: $40-$50 per head (with BYO)

My View: Excellent and very consistent

Address: 186 Riversdale Road, Hawthorn

Phone: (03) 9818 2299


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