Once upon a time birthdays used to be epic in our house. Teach and I would try our hardest to outdo each other for every birthday and Christmas and any other event that could be used to purchase gifts. Christmas is a perfect example: every year the competition was threefold: 1. who spent the most, 2. whose presents were largest in quantity, and 3. whose pile was the highest if you stacked them on top of each other. (Whoever wasn’t working on Christmas Eve usually won the last two.) We loved going nuts on gifts and smooches and dinner at places fancy or crap, whatever the birthday person wanted. Then we had a baby, and all these bills and so on and no sleep, and so birthdays have been more low-key, but also great because now there is a second person to give you a toothy birthday smile in the morning. Anyway, to eventually get to a point, Teach’s birthday was yesterday, and I got him a guitar pedal and a book (not very original of me) and some supercool EC comic cushions, and then we went out to dinner with his dad’s side of the family to Oriental Tea House in Chadstone.
Teach and I used to go here a fair bit; we’ve also been to the Little Collins, Prahran and Melbourne Central versions, but Chadstone is the closest. And I hadn’t really noticed this before, but it’s actually super kid-friendly – there are a bunch of high chairs, and the atmosphere is much more loud and vibrant than I’d recalled it being when Teach and I were alone together, staring into each others’ eyes. (This is lies. We have always been abrupt diners–in, order, finish, out, no dawdling.) I had been worried about taking the Rocket since she’s discovered the ability to throw things on the floor and make dinosaur sounds while waiting impatiently for food, but I think the location was a success, actually.
As for the eats, well, there are no pictures, but as I doubt anyone comes here for my outstanding culinary photography, it’s probably no problem. We usually order the same things: two spring onion pancakes, buckwheat chili dumplings, vegetarian dumplings, and salt and spicy soy bean tofu. This time we also ordered two serves of the vegetarian san choy bao, because I thought the Rocket would like to try some. (She did not.) It was flat out, due, I guess, to the fact that there was some VIP night on inside the neighbouring behemoth of a shopping centre (this restaurant is on one of those arms that sticks out towards a car park, so, part of the centre but not inside) and it meant both the service and the food, while perfectly adequate, were hit and miss. I’ve often found the food to be great one day and average the next, but on the upside, it’s never been terrible. Teach didn’t eat his san choy bao but hoovered down everything else. I ate so fast I wasn’t sure if I was hungry or full at the other end. The dumplings come in little bowls of three, so you can order a fourth to even up the numbers or just let the birthday guy eat two instead. (I am Very Kind.)
The tofu was excellent as always, six little deep-fried cubes accompanied by spring onion and chili. I used to go to bat for these every time we were figuring out where to go for dinner. I think the tastiness of them blinded me to other things, like the fact that the skin on the buckwheat dumplings is usually too goopy, and none of the dumplings ever come close to most other places (like my current superfavourite China Red.) One other specialty of this place is the tea – every single one I’ve tasted has been beautiful, and they sell them instore, along with quite lovely tea sets. I’m trying to cut down on sugary drinks at the moment as I can’t fit into any of my pants, but I recommended the raspberry & lime iced tea to my stepsister-in-law and stared at her drink in jealousy when she ordered it, and did it again when she ordered a second.
So, in conclusion (these are turning into essays a bit, aren’t they? I am excited and wordy today) Oriental Tea House remains a decent place for a meal, friendly to those with kids, fairly well-priced (though sparing on the dumpling quantity), and a good atmosphere, probably because the decor is quite fun.
Oriental Tea House
Chadstone Shopping Centre