Jim Wong Restaurant


Jim Wong Restaurant

His eatery, Jim Wong Restaurant, is a Footscray institution -- the Flower Drum without the frills or fancy menu and at a fraction of the price.

"Flower Drum gets the racehorse owners. We get the jockeys," says the owner Mr Wong,.

Eat in or Take Away

There is no M.S.G in our cuisine.

Footscray cheap eat declares dim sim war

NEW York's leading food critic has declared Melbourne's Flower Drum is possibly the best Chinese restaurant in the world.

Its "gossamer Shanghai dumplings", "electrifying Sichuan pepper sauce" and "magnificently lacquered peking duck" had the New York Times' reviewer salivating.

But Jim Wong reckons the famed reviewer, R.W. Apple Jr, should have headed over the West Gate bridge to get a real taste sensation.

His eatery, Jim Wong Restaurant, is a Footscray institution -- the Flower Drum without the frills or fancy menu and at a fraction of the price. "Flower Drum gets the racehorse owners. We get the jockeys," owner Mr Wong, 62, said.

And while club presidents and AFL heavyweights may chose the Flower Drum, footballers feed at Wong's. Similarly, you won't find international actors at Mr Wong's restaurant. But you will spot soapie stars and comedians.

It's also where Melbourne Lord Mayor John So got his start as a waiter before opening his own restaurants. So while renowned critic R.W. Apple Jr praised the Flower Drum as a Chinese jewel that may well be the best Chinese restaurant anywhere, Mr Wong disagrees.

"The Flower Drum is the best for service and atmosphere and treating the customer like a king, that's true," said Mr Wong, a good friend of the Flower Drum's founder, Gilbert Lau.

"We can't compete with that. Gilbert is the master, the perfect host. He remembers everyone's name. I'm terrible at that.

"But cooking-wise, maybe not. Cooking-wise, I think we're just as good. Not so fancy, but just as good."

Regular diners at the Footscray eatery -- a fixture in dowdy Barkly St for 43 years -- would agree. Posh ingredients such as baby abalone, Murray cod, salted egg and King Island crab might not be on the menu at Wong's.

Diners can expect more familiar Chinese fare, such as beef and black bean, sweet and sour pork and chicken satays. Peking duck, the dish that has Flower Drum fans drooling, is not served.

But devotees will drive 40 minutes or more for one of Mr Wong's famous dim sims. He sells 1500 a week. The style of cooking at both restaurants is the same -- Cantonese.

This is hardly surprising, since both men grew up in the same village in Canton, China. The main difference is that, unlike the expensive Flower Drum, two people can eat at Wong's for less than $20.

The most expensive item on the menu, at $16, is pepper beef. "You might get a cup of tea at the Flower Drum for that," Mr Wong joked.

While Mr Wong -- or Jimmy to his younger patrons -- is proud to say his prices have not changed since before the GST, cheap does not mean nasty.

"We make everything ourselves in the kitchen," he said.

"The quality has to be good. You can't go to the market and just buy any old thing to put on the plates. It has to be good. That's the magic."

But for all that, Mr Wong does not cook for the family when it is a special occasions. "We go to the Flower Drum," he admitted, laughing.

Flower Drum
17 Market Lane City Melbourne 3000 Australia
Tel: 9662 3655

Still true are Mietta's comments from last year. "A magnificent production that has now to be saved for a special treat.

It's so hard to get a seat at Flower Drum. So plan ahead to enjoy impeccable service, food and Cantonese style.

Owner Gilbert Lau and his long serving team have had many years of practise together. From the moment you walk in downstairs to be greeted as you step out of the lift upstairs to the timing of your order, it all works seamlessly.

But it's not just out front, Anthony Lui Poi heads a well disciplined kitchen team able to cope with a very demanding audience. Some things just keep getting better."

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259- 261 Barkly Street  Footscray Victoria 3011 | View Map New Window
New Window Telephone: 9687 5971 or 9687 53


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