Monday, September 26, 2011

Spice Temple

Location: Crown Complex, Southbank, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 8679 1888
Cuisine: Asian, Sichuan

It's become a bit of a rule that each time I make it back to Melbourne for a weekend, I have to go out to some 'fancy' restaurant. Possibly because of the lack thereof in Canberra.

I have a harddrive full of photos, but with dinner time fast approaching and craving some good old Sichuan food, I thought I might start with Neil Perry's Spice Temple at Crown, from my August trip.

Located in the Crown Complex, Spice Temple is the newest addition to Neil Perry's growing collection of restaurants. The restaurant was dimly lit and spacious, with dark polished wooden furniture and hints of oriental design.

First up, a nice refreshing mocktail.

Green Apple & Jasmine House Made Soda
This was no apple juice, the freshness and sweetness of the apple was balanced with clean flavours from the jasmine tea, and topped off with some crunchy slivers of pickled cucumber.

Just as well we had the drinks, because shortly after, things started spicing up. We selected two dishes from the small plates and one from the large, along with some rice.

Fried squid with whole five spice and dark chilli paste
The first of our small dishes, the fried squid was crispy and packed full of five-spice goodness. And if that wasn't enough, the chilli paste on the side added an even hotter, but slightly acidic kick. A brilliant dish.

Fried salt and pepper silken tofu with spicy coriander salad
This was the highlight of the meal for me. The golden fried silken tofu was crispy and well seasoned on the outside, soft and smooth on the inside. They managed to keep their shape throughout the cooking process, and was served on a bed of coriander salad, which was doused in a numbing chilli sauce. A big plate of this and a large bowl of rice, and I'd be a very happy person.

Cabbage and radish pickles
As a palate cleanser, we opted for some cabbage and radish pickles, which provided a nice break from the fiery heat of the other dishes. The pickles themselves were slightly spicy too, but not quite the numbing sensation that were the other dishes.

Hot, sweet, sour and numbing pork chilli, sugar, black vinegar and Sichuan peppercorn
Our 'large dish' selection turned out not to be as large relative to the small dishes that arrived earlier. But the flavours were just as big. The pork itself was crunchy (think KFC popcorn chicken when done properly) and the chilli, sugar, vinegar and peppercorn created an explosion of spicy, sweet and sour flavours that numbed the mouth. Heaven on a plate.

Caramel chocolate and peanut parfait
And who could pass up dessert to cool the palate and finish on a sweet note? Not us. Despite looking somewhat boring, the caramel chocolate and peanut parfait was sweet, sticky, goody and crunchy on the outside. A perfect end to a perfect meal.

Service was pleasant, food arrived in a fairly timely manner, and the menu is just bursting with flavours. If you enjoy spicy food, give this place a shot. You won't regret it.

Overall Impression: 9.5/10
Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

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