223 Callum Rd, Sunnybank Hills
My grandfolks are heading to the States for a 3 month whirlwind trip. We had a little family dinner at Haoke to see them off. Mum and dad had originally booked Fortune well but they found a banquet deal at Haoke, a restaurant that none of us had tried before.
Because it was dinner with a couple of 'mature-aged' folk, our booking was at 6pm, when the sun was practically still up. I'm not an early-dinner snob. On a normal work day, I actually eat as soon as I get home, which tends to be before 5pm (and then wonder why I'm starving by 10pm). However, I think 6pm for having dinner out is almost comical.
Marc and I were a bit late in getting there due to roadworks (and also me not having the mind to check the time) and even so, the restaurant was empty. At first we thought this was a bad omen. Both mum and I had read less than promising reviews for Haoke online. As the night went on though, the restaurant did fill up. It never got packed but there was a substantial number of diners.
One of the greatest things about eating at a Chinese restaurant with my family is that I don't have to think about what to order. Dad had it all under control. Haoke is called a 'Chinese' restaurant but in actual fact there's no such thing as 'Chinese food' since Chinese cuisine is so varied. The dishes at Haoke can more accurately be described as Cantonese in origin and that ties in with the fact that they offer yum cha during the day. From what I understand, dad ordered a set menu banquet, plus some extra dishes.
As is usual with Cantonese restaurants, we started with the complimentary broth. This was a very simple broth with some herbs.
Red-braised pork belly
Our first main dish was the red braised pork belly (hong shao rou), a classic favorite. My mum and dad make this at home and we've eaten it at countless restaurants, both here and in China. The judgement criteria is based on how tender the meat is, how melty the skin (and fat) is, how accurate the braising liquid is to our palate and finally, how well the flavor had been absorbed by the meat. This version was very tender and the skin was good too. The flavor was... nice but different to what we're familiar with (it had a fermented bean curd liquid taste... anyone who isn't Chinese would have no idea what I'm talking about) and the meat was a bit bland. Not bad though.
Wok-fried ginger and shallot mudcrab
Next up was the hero of the banquet - mudcrab wok-fried with ginger and shallot. This is served on a bed of egg noodles, which I think are called yee mee noodles but I'm only going by what I hear them referred as (my Chinese language sucks). My favorite part is always the noodles because they absorb all the sauce and flavor and just taste awesome. I can't comment on the crab because I'm a brace-face and anything that involves too much teeth work will get skipped over. Because that's insufficient for a blog review, I asked my mum to comment and she said, quote "the crab was fat (full of meat)". She added that with these seafood dishes, it's all about the quality of the produce so in that case, the crab was A grade.
Three cup chicken
Three cup chicken is traditionally a Taiwanese dish, which goes to show that Chinese restaurants in Australia like to mix up their menu to try and appeal to as many people as possible. I've eaten three cup chicken many times (the most notable was at Neil Perry's Spice Temple) and find it to be a simple and homely but very tasty dish. This version was alright but I can say without hesitation that my mum cooks better chicken at home.
Seafood scrambled eggs
I found the next dish a bit strange. It was meant to feature seafood but I think of it more as scrambled eggs with some seafood bits and pieces. I didn't understand the point of this. It seems like something I would whip up at home if I found eggs in the fridge and marinara mix that really needed to be used up.
Our obligatory veggie dish was braised lettuce leaves and... some other stuff that I've forgotten (in the photo they look like whole cloves of garlic but it might be something else). The reason I've forgotten isn't so much that I'm a bad food blogger (maybe that too) but because I saw the braised lettuce and steered away. I hate cooked lettuce. It shouldn't be allowed.
The next dish was much more appealing to me. It comprised of slices of beef, stir-fried with cashews. The beef pieces were extremely tender and I liked the sauce too. I wouldn't say it was much different from what you can get at a Chinese takeaway store but I liked it anyway.
Steamed silver perch
The steamed silver perch came next. My parents kept reiterating that it was a live fish to Marc. It's generally accepted within Asian culture that only live fish can be steamed (I don't mean, steamed while it's still flipping, I just mean that it was still alive earlier that day, as opposed to a frozen fillet) because anything less than fresh and the meat will be tough. I used to hate steamed fish but my taste has changed and I like it now. It helps to think of it as a healthy part of the meal too.
Stir-fried duck tongue with green chili
Finally, our last dish was the duck tongues stir-fried with hang zhou chili (a variety of chili that isn't spicy). My family had their week's worth of entertainment watching Marc a) trying to figure out which bits of the tongue was edible and b) trying to guess what it was he was eating in the first place. I skipped this dish (again, because of braces, not because I find it gross) but dad said it was pretty good.
When I asked mum to comment on the crab, she also gave me her overall impression of the restaurant. We both had low expectations so she thought it exceeded her expectations. None of the dishes were outstanding but they weren't utterly disappointing either. Overall, Haoke is basically on par with the other Chinese restaurants in Brisbane, not that the standards are very high.