Flashy new eatery more food court than trendsetter
IT WAS billed as Treasury Brisbane's hot new underground Chinese restaurant.
An intimate 116-seater, designed to cater to the scores of Asian tourists that frequent the casino, providing them with familiar dishes from home such as char siu pork, roast duck and noodles.
But less than two weeks after opening its doors, Mei Wei Dumplings - a sister venue to the The Star Gold Coast operation of the same name - was forced to shut under coronavirus lockdowns, and the very market it was built to serve vanished.
After three months of drawn shutters, the woks finally began firing again at the beginning of this month, launching a significantly reduced menu - tight by typical Chinese restaurant standards - with favourites like roast duck and crispy pork gone, restricted to more simple fare such as dumplings, hot and sour soup, lo mein, congee and fried rice.
The lack of offerings and lack of overseas tourists don't seem to be impacting the restaurant on our visit though, with diners queued out the door for a table.
Upon entering there's an almost fast-paced food court vibe to the place, as waiters rush out of the brightly lit, open kitchen carrying dishes on plastic trays normally only seen at the likes of McDonald's and Hungry Jacks. The feeling continues into the main dining room where beige painted brick walls and concrete floors and ceilings deliver shopping centre-like acoustics, making it hard for my dining party to hear each other.
It's a vast improvement on the sterile Bite eatery that previously filled the space, but just a little more warmth - perhaps with textural decorative items or plants that would also absorb some noise - would be a welcome addition.
As for the food, it's in keeping with its surrounds - simple, predictable and sure not to upset the masses.
The kitchen team can clearly cook, with all proteins done to perfection, particularly the squid, prawns and scallops in a wok-tossed seafood dish with garlic sauce ($20). But the overall flavour profiles are just a little muted. Even the Kung pao chicken ($17) that normally promises middle-of-the-ocean depth and a heat to leave your top lip quivering is about as incendiary as a wet match. It's certainly not bad, but could just be so much more.
A highlight is the lup cheong fried rice ($15) exploding with chunks of the delicious Chinese sausage and bountiful with fried egg and spring onion. The xiao long bao dumplings ($9) also deliver a good squirt of soup in your mouth, but the pork buns arrive with paper fused to the bottom which is almost impossible to remove.
Alcohol was never designed to be a big part of the offering, with the Chinese target they chased usually choosing non-alcoholic options. However, disappointingly, there are only three wines on the list: a sparkling, chardonnay and shiraz; alongside a handful of local and Asian beers, and a trio of basic spirits with cola.
Bubble tea was intended to be the star beverage, but we're told it is unavailable on our visit, which leaves a collection of soft drinks and iced teas.
Service is friendly but the waitstaff feel rushed and there's a lack of attention to detail, like the table next to us being delivered a basket of dumplings with no cutlery to eat them. After a false start of sorts, it's still early days for the restaurant, and hopefully with time they will find finesse in their service and bravery to be a little bolder with the food.
MEI WEI DUMPLINGS
Address Treasury Casino Building (Ground Floor George Street Corner), Brisbane
Open Sun-Thur 12pm-8pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-10pm
OVERALL SCORE 3/5
Originally published as Flashy new eatery more food court than trendsetter