Fans of the legendary Mr So, ex shining light of T-Chow, will be pleased to know he is still in the game.
Not as a Chef, his eyes are not quite up to fine knife work. However, Mr So can, and does, check dishes as they leave the kitchen at Park Lok, a new, immediately successful restaurant at the Morphett Street end of Grote Street.
Mr So’s partner, the lightning bolt Eddie, runs the floor with style and high energy. When I was formally re-introduced to Mr So and showed due deference (I certainly hope I did), I was rewarded with a bottle of 2002 Rosemont Shiraz that Eddie said he had taken from Mr So’s collection.
When I asked Eddie if he knew much about wine, he said he liked wine, drank wine and was learning. I also asked if he would like to steal the fabled Wine Table from T-Chow. He said no; the owner was a friend.
Grace, ethics and modesty are not staples of restaurant reviews. Now, back in my keyboard cocoon, I sifted through the super-skilled Chefs I know and respect. Not an arsehole among them.
Under withering questioning, Eddie told me there were always specials on the menu that cow-eyes may not be told about. Eddie didn’t say cow-eyes, I did.
Eddie showed me an off-menu treasure: Drunken chicken. Yawn. Bugger. I thought. A promising looking drunken chicken appeared, cooked lightly and soaking in rice wine that didn’t give my tongue a nip. A dipping bowl of vinegar laced with a little chilli and coriander means you could balance the drunken chicken to your taste. This is one of the great dishes of Shanghai. Be careful trawling the net for a recipe, most are rubbish. The ethereal version at Park Lok gives you an idea of the disciplined preparation skills needed for the real thing.
A stir-fry of vegetables was made extraordinary by bacon made at home by a man described as: “Mrs Chow’s husband.” Mrs Chow’s husband’s bacon would tempt a Rabbi.
A yet un-named mud crab kitchen experiment was put in front of me at my third visit. Fifty dollars to feed two. The crab was plump with flesh. We were in our customary bridal table by the front door when a random woman (with a partner in tow) passed by after a meal. The woman looked so wistfully at ‘the crab with no name’ that I gave her a claw in defiance of Ms Duck-Breath’s fiercest looks. A lesser man would have crumpled. It isn’t so expensive, $25 each, especially for a creature that was bored to death in a tank minutes before. The garlic-led aroma was worth $10 by itself.
Ms Duck-Breath wanted me to note the good behaviour and the lack of helicopter parenting in Chinese families. A boy, who politely introduced himself as Jeremy, aged four, looked at us for a while and returned to his far more interesting family table.
Have your cabbage rolls steamed not fried. Try crisp sweet pickled cabbage with sesame seeds.
Do go to Park Lok. Ask for any special off-menu dishes. Please don’t be an oick and send them back. You will spoil it for the rest of us.
PARK LOK 130 Grote Street 8212 8316
Hours Lunch and Dinner 7 days. Catering for up to 200 people.