foo gwai – applecross
“Wow there are still chinese restaurants in Perth that look like this!?”
A plastered ceiling of fierce red and gold dragons lit with antique lanterns and a moon gate for an ostentatious entrance, Foo Gwai looks like it it arrived in Applecross from a bygone dynasty. More thematic than the usual chinese restaurant next door, I’ve heard about Foo Gwai from murmurs and rumours in hushed conversations. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the old school interior though a little shabby, packs a technicolour punch. It really harks back to Australia’s less cosmopolitan years, when chinese food was rare, exotic and exciting.
On weekends, good dim sum restaurants are bursting at the seams, with the best of them sporting an eager queue streaming out the door. It’s Saturday morning and Foo Gwai was half full and hardly bustling. We know a couple of people who love Foo Gwai but saying it’s a popular stop on any chinese family’s dim sum cicuit would be a huge overstatement. We are seated quickly at a big table with a well worn lazy susan. Waiters circle the tables, serving portions of dim sum on trays and one steaming trolley making the rounds.
We order the usual – siu mai (pork and prawn dumpling aka the dim sim, but much more sophisticated), har kow (prawn dumpling in a rice flour skin), bean curd rolls and spare ribs. The siu mai catches our eye immediately. Besides being filled with chunks of prawn and pork, the petite dumplings are topped off with something very unusual - red dates, or jujubes goji berries, otherwise known as wolfberries. I guess the red fruit must be a lucky omen as the dumplings are delicious and rival the best in Perth.
The har kow was average and lacked the crisp freshness of prawns. However, the spare ribs were outstanding! Delicious and meaty, chunky belly pork pieces made more appearances than its rib namesake. Appreciation of the silky salty taste of the black bean sauce was accentuated by the velvety pieces of yam lingering the in oily sauce.
For every good thing, I suppose there is an opposing negative (yin and yang?). The beancurd rolls I would not order again, they were tastless – so bland I could not identify what was in the filling. The chicken bun would not be a reason for returning, there was too much dough for the uninspiring filling. ‘Pao’ or buns in dim sum should be bursting with flavour, so much so that the fluffy bread is required to provide cushioning for the palate.
From bottom right: chicken feet, sticky rice (in lotus leaves), beancurd rolls, siu mai and har kow (prawn dumplings).
Some specialty dishes came round and we had to have the soft shell crabs. Battered in a tempura crust and heaving with salt and pepper, the crabs were crispy and delicate. It was a tad too salty for me but the bf definitely enjoyed them. To quench the salt fuelled thirst I ordered a drink from one of the friendly waiters – which unfortunately never surfaced.
The service here is very friendly, I found they readily spoke english instead of starting off in mandatory cantonese (a dangerous area for native looking non speakers like me). Different dim sum dishes made the rounds regularly so there’s no chance of going hungry, but we found Foo Gwai did not have a large range of dishes. The quality was hit and miss and we probably didn’t know what to order and what to steer clear of.
Also, the restaurant has a slightly depressing atmosphere to it – it would right at home in a run down Chinatown. I’m not sure if we would return to Foo Gwai, personally I prefer Emma’s in Victoria Park (or even better, drive to Northbridge for Dragon Palace). I guess Foo Gwai warrants a visit if you can’t be bothered to fight the throngs in Northbridge, or are looking to add to the dim sum repertoire. Everybody swears by different dim sum restaurants so who knows, Foo Gwai might be the one for you.
Up’s: Friendly service. Apart from forgetting my drink, the staff here are friendly and refreshingly genuine.
Down’s: A few of the dishes were tasteless. Slightly depressing atmosphere.
Foo Gwai Chinese Restaurant, 755 Canning Highway, Applecross WA 6153
T: (08) 9364 5440
Lunch (Dim Sum) and Dinner Tuesday – Sunday
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