The first time I went to Low Key Chow House I really enjoyed the experience. Jeremy and I chowed through great dishes like the whole fish, bao and sticky wings. But then the next couple of times I went back it just wasn’t the same, and left me with a bad taste in my mouth about the restaurant. I hate when things can change so much in such a short amount of time, especially when I was hearing from close friends (with similar tastes) that they loved it there.
But while I hadn’t made my way back to give Low Key another go, when their sister restaurant Dainty Dowager opened up in Mount Lawley my girlfriends Linda, Vee and I decided to try it one Friday night.
We arrived around 7pm without a booking and the place was packed – but we managed to grab a table within 15 minutes. What was disappointing was that when we asked our waitress to put our name down and call our mobile when the table was available she told us that wasn’t possible… but that there was nowhere for us to wait inside. So out onto the street we went with a careful eye on the clock. Not a major issue but it would have been much easier for us to go to a bar next door and be called when our table was free, not having to hover around awkwardly.
Once we were seated we were given menus and some complimentary fried lotus root chips to snack on. I love how these are becoming more commonplace – they’re a vegetable I saw quite often in my household growing up… though my mum never deep-fried them which is much more delicious!
I would have liked a few more of these considering there were three of us on the table – kind of one of those situations where you’re grateful for the free snack, but I would have loved more… even if I had to pay for it.
As the first dishes touched down on our table, so did the cocktails we’d ordered. Set in price around the $18-20 mark I have to say we were expecting great things from these since they looked so tasty! Frothy and flavoured with different Asian inspired ingredients, I wanted so badly for these to hit the spot.
Sadly the cocktails were the low point of the evening, with the alcohol overpowering and no balance in the accompanying flavours. I know when it comes to drinks it’s quite a personal preference, and I’m not a person who loves the taste of alcohol so when I pay the higher markup for a cocktail, I want that baby to be sweet, sour and satisfying!
Putting our drinks aside, we were quick to dive into the drunken crispy school prawns with salty sour nahm jim ($14.00). I just love school prawns – the way the crisp and juicy bites explode in your mouth so satisfyingly.
These were a highlight for the evening at Dainty Dowager and were completely addictive. I could easily see myself polishing these off on a hot summer’s day with a cold drink in hand.
The thit nuong pork belly lettuce cups with fresh herbs and nuoc cham ($15.00) sounded straight up our alley, and I was hoping the flavour would send me straight back to my holiday in Vietnam a few years ago.
It didn’t quite hit the highs I was hoping for with the pork flavour mild. On it’s own it was quite nice, but once you put it inside the lettuce with the herbs, it felt a bit lost. Sometimes I really feel like my holidaying in Asia has ruined local cuisine!
If there’s one thing my friends and I have an irrational love for, it’s fried chicken. So seeing the karaage chicken with sweet sambal ($12.00) on the menu was an easy choice to make!
While it was so tempting to look at, and the meat was tender, there was a lack of deep flavour or even seasoning. It definitely needed a liberal dosing of salt and pepper to lift each bite. I would have also preferred some kind of creamy mayo to the provided sauce – it would have been a bit more complimentary and inviting.
Our final dish from the smaller dishes section of the menu was the trio of roast duck bao with spring onion, fresh herbs and hoisin ($16.50). BAM! Now this was exactly what I was waiting for! Those fluffy steamed mantou buns were the perfect vessel for the tender, flavoursome duck and the fresh accompaniments.
I could have polished off the whole plate to myself – and not regretted a thing! These are definitely the star of Dainty Dowager’s menu.
From the larger section of the menu came the soft shell crab with green papaya, tomato and chilli bok sauce ($26.00). Another fantastic dish that really impressed us, with the crisp outside on the crab and the juicy meat inside. The seasoning was spot on with this, and resulted in every bite one that had us nodding and smiling in enjoyment.
While taste-wise this was on the money, the serving ratio of crab to greens was a little unbalanced – there was only three small pieces of crab on the plate. Not quite enough to match that price tag in our opinion! But that does seem to be the norm with soft shell crab these days at more places than just this one so could be reflective of the cost of produce?
The brisket beef with baby eggplant, green bean and yellow curry ($28.00) was gorgeous and vibrant, perfect to spoon over the fluffy steamed rice we ordered on the side. There’s something about curries with fresh herbs on top that really tick all the boxes in my book!
I loved the tender, fall apart meat and the sauce that had such balance and depth of flavour. This was another dish we happily scraped clean.
Our final dish for the night was the crispy homemade silken tofu with shitake, enoki and oyster sauce ($19.00). I was really looking forward to trying this, and was pleased to note that it met all my expectations. The tofu was soft, soaking up the gravy-like sauce underneath. The mushrooms were toothsome to the bite, and again just begging to be eaten with some rice. This was a great dish to finish up on, especially for me since I’m such a tofu and mushroom addict!
All in all, Dainty Dowager was a lovely night out with my girlfriends. I think that there were some truly delicious items on their menu and yes there were a couple of teething problems but given it’s so new, I’m sure it’s nothing that they won’t iron out as they continue trading. And I’m hoping next time I go back it’s even better. Trust me, I’ll be ordering those bao again!