It's mainly wall to wall Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Malaysian restaurants along Little Bourke Street in Chinatown. What sometimes gets missed are the many restaurants hidden away in the little side alleyways towards Lonsdale Street. While these restaurants may be less well known and quieter than some of their more prominently placed Chinatown contemporaries, the food can be as good or better. The reason is they're forced to rely more on repeat and less on passing traffic to bring the customers in. One of these hidden away places and somewhere I'd been curious to try for a while is Blue Sky Chinese Restaurant, a fairly obscure restaurant in Waratah Place.
Not much to look at from the outside, the inside is spacious, well lit and clean, three things not always associated with cheaper Chinese restaurants. Customers were a mix of Chinese and Westerners and with the restaurant only around one quarter full it was easy to hold a conversation and to get staff attention when we were ready to order. Put this together with a fairly extensive and varied menu and lunch was off to a promising start.
The number of types of dumplings available is small but listed on a paper sheet stuck to the wall was an unusual fish and chives dumpling we were curious to try. They looked a little grey when they hit the table, were a bit soggy and could have used a little less chives and more fish. While they got the thumbs up from me and Snooze, looking back this was probably as much for the novelty value as anything else.
Better were the stir fried prawns and snow peas. Not perfect but a reasonable number of well cooked prawns complemented by crunchy snow peas. The only issue to me was that I thought it was a bit oily, but Snooze also thought the sauce had been overly thickened.
Snooze's favourite was the braised beef and radish hot pot. This is normally a real favourite dish of mine and this version was liked by everyone. Comment was made that it was easier on the use of star anise and other spices than is usually the case, resulting in a lighter and more 'beefy' flavoured dish. I also thought the beef was nicely tender, although I would have liked the addition of a little tendon.
We weren't quite sure how, but one of the dishes which we ordered came with a complementary soup and drink. While the soup was a bit ordinary the iced milk tea, something which I'd not normally order with lunch, was pleasant enough.
Nothing spectacular but a good place for a quick lunchtime meal, our food was above average, service was more attentive than many other similar restaurants and the prices reasonable. Not fine dining but the sort of place that's great for a quick lunch on a work day. It also has a variety of lunches available on rice which, judging by the other dishes, would make good student meals.
Food - 7
Ambience - 6.5
Service - 6.5
Price - 7
7-9 Waratah Place
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 9888