“Through adversity is true character revealed.”
Nothing could be closer to the truth when it came to our dining experience at Me Wah Cantonese restaurant in Sandy Bay!
What better way to celebrate Valentines day than with a quality dinner from Hobart’s most renowned Chinese restaurant, specialising in Cantonese cuisine?
We had eaten at Me Wah a few times over the previous eight years; once very shortly after moving to Hobart, a second time a few years ago at the Launceston restaurant, and only a matter of weeks ago when ordering a quick take-away dinner. While none of these experiences stick in my mind as being particularly bad, neither did I remember them as being particularly ‘shout it from the rooftops’ good either!!
In hindsight it was probably our fault for choosing some fairly middle of the road dishes (sweet and sour pork anyone?) that didn’t really give the chef an opportunity to showcase their talent, and the quality of the ingredients. So this time we wanted to give Me Wah every opportunity to show us what they were truly capable of, ordering an entrée, soup, main and dessert for each of us. We also had a chat with the resident sommelier (very knowledgeable!), requesting that he recommend matched glasses of wines for our entrée and main courses. A culinary ‘journey’, so to speak!
For myself the evening began with two Moreton Bay bug tails, pan fried in a salty, spicy crust. To be honest it wasn’t what I was expecting. I had visions of two perfectly cooked pink bug tails dusted liberally with the spice mix and caramelised in the pan. Surprisingly, what I was presented with were two battered and fried pieces of…’something’…dusted with spices. While it may not have looked as spectacular as possible, the flavours more than made up for this slight lack in presentation! The sweet, delicate flavours of the bug tails were well balanced by the salty batter and finely chopped herbs and spices. I would love to say ‘perfectly balanced’, but I can’t. I love salty dishes, but this was salty to the extreme! A little more restraint and it would have been sensational. Regardless, it was a fantastic marriage of classic flavours that had me looking forward to the rest of the evening’s dishes!
While I went down the seafood route, Karen was keen to try the Wagyu beef cheeks. Now before I describe the meal itself, I have to have my own little ‘beef’…
<rant> In my opinion, if it was grown in Australia then you can’t call it Wagyu beef! The very meaning of ‘Wagyu’ is ‘Japanese Cattle’ and on the menu we are informed that the beef is sourced from David Blackmore’s farm in Alexandria, Victoria or from Rangers Valley in Queensland. While the efforts of David Blackmore over the last 30 years in bringing 100% Japanese ‘Wagyu’ cattle to Australia for breeding purposes are admirable, and the quality of the meat is unparalleled, for me if the cattle weren’t raised on Japanese soil then they shouldn’t be allowed to keep the ‘Wagyu’ label. Just like the wine industry relinquished the terms ‘Champagne’ and ‘Burgandy’ in the early 90s, so should the beef industry introduce their own nomenclature. While initially reluctant, over time the Australian wine industry has grown its own identity and reputation, completely distinct and without the unnecessary baggage that comes with its European heritage. So too should the Australian beef producers take the opportunity to make their own mark on the global stage, standing tall and throwing away their ‘Wagyu’ crutch. </rant>
That being said, the Wagyu beef cheeks were divine! Even in our travels through Japan I didn’t come across anything as delicious as this. Slow cooked, soft, literally falling apart at the touch of your fork, this dish was incredible. Simply perfect.
Our next two dishes consisted of a wonton soup for myself, and a blue eye trevalla soup for Karen.
Again, both dishes were full of flavour and couldn’t be faulted. The stock base used in each was light, wonderfully seasoned and complemented the meats very well. As you can see in the photos below, the presentation was also spectacular.
How happy was I to have ordered the Wagyu beef cheeks as a main meal?!!
While Karen looked longingly at my pot full of Wagyu beef, she was presented with a plate piled high with scallops that had been lightly sautéed in a slightly spicy, and absolutely delicious, X.O chilli sauce. The tables had turned because after tasting one of the scallops it was now my turn to look on in envy! Incredibly light in flavour, the X.O sauce matched the slightly salty, fishy flavours of the scallops (cooked with roe on) really well. Where else would you get served this many scallops as well?!!
And here is where our perfect evening took the road less travelled…
After purveying the dessert menu we placed our orders for a green tea and pistachio ice cream for myself, and lotus pancakes with vanilla ice cream for Karen.
10 minutes later we were still happily chatting away, enjoying the evening and looking forward to our Chinese desserts.
20 minutes later we had finished our wines and had moved onto the water jug.
30 minutes later we were onto our second jug of water and the topic of conversation had shifted to how long these desserts were taking. Perhaps they were off harvesting lotus flowers?
40 minutes later I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to ask the question of one of the waiters that passed our table. After checking amongst themselves it became apparent that our order had slipped through the cracks. After experiencing such fantastic food and attentive service all night, this was very unexpected and had the potential to tarnish what had, up until now, been the perfect dining experience.
Anywhere else you would, no doubt, get an apology, but in very few restaurants would you receive the response that Me Wah offered to us. Not only did we get profuse apology after apology (they really were extremely embarrassed!), but we were offered our desserts at no charge. Then, as a further gesture we were provided with two glasses of dessert wine, again at no charge! Such genuine remorse is rare, and if anything, despite the mix-up, left us with an even better impression of our dining experience.
So after all that, how were the desserts?
I’m starting to run out of superlatives…!! Chinese desserts have normally left me feeling a little short-changed, but in this case both dishes were great. The green tea ice cream was delicious and creamy, with chunks of pistachio to give some welcome crunch and additional flavour to the dish, while the lotus paste pancakes were light and fluffy and were paired perfectly (there’s that word again!) with the vanilla ice cream.
As I’m sure you can gather, the meal was an absolute triumph! Consistently amazing flavours, quality ingredients and all served with utmost attention to detail. We’ll definitely be dining again at Me Wah!
Taste – 5/5
Coffee – NA
Menu – 5/5
Atmosphere – 3/5
Service – 5/5
Value – 5/5
Overall – 5/5