I went to see Wil Anderson’s stand-up show at the Canberra Theatre one weeknight, and headed to Mr Wei’s for a pre-show dinner with some friends. As mentioned in a previous post, Mr Wei’s is headed by chef David Wei, formerly of Wild Duck in Kingston. As it is in such close proximity to the theatre, literally just around the corner towards the front of the theatre, this place was pretty packed before the show and I was glad I made a booking.
The setting inside is modern and sleek, with beautiful Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling (not the cheap nasty paper ones).
We sat in front of a felt zebra print back drop which I couldn’t stop touching. Not sure how that works with the rest of the decor, but it was different.
All the wait staff were polite and prompt. Going through their menu, Mr Wei’s is advertising itself as serving authentic Beijing roast duck (aka Peking duck). This is 2-courses served with your regular pancake with hoisin sauce, shallots and cucumber, and then your choice of what to do with the rest of the duck meat in the form of duck soup/fried rice/noodles. A whole duck will set you back $89.90, and a half duck will be $48.90. The waitress informed us that it would only take 20mins to prepare, but seeing as we were limited for time, we gave this a miss.
They have pre-theatre bar snacks which are basically entrees of 3-4 pieces of dimsims, pork buns, spring rolls, hargow (prawn dumplings) etc. The most expensive item is the butterfly king prawn toast at $11.50 for 2 pieces.
We ordered three pre-theatre snacks to start with. The rock salt chilli squid came out ($10.50 for 4 pieces). These were small, just one mouthful each, and looked and tasted like they came out of a box in the frozen section. It didn’t taste bad, but I could easily go to Coles/Woolies for the same quality.
The har gow was very expensive at $9.50 for 4 small pieces. When it came out, the skin of the dumpling (rice flour part) was cracked/split.
This was obviously not fresh as part of the skin was completely hard and couldn’t be chewed. It seems like it was microwaved, not steamed as it should be. I had to leave most of the skin on the plate. The prawn mince was small and average. I’d rather the 40-pack of frozen hargow I can get from Costco for less than $14 (these are actually really good – tasty and fat).
Next came the siu mai, or pork dumplings ($7.50 for 3pieces) but we asked for 4 pieces as there were 4 of us. When these first came out, they had forgotten about us asking for 4 pieces as only 3 were on the plate. The waiter apologised and went back into the kitchen. The dish came out a few minutes later and weren’t as warm as I’d like them to be (probably because they had to go back and wait for a fourth siu mai to be cooked). I’ve had better at yumcha. Unimpressed with all the bar snacks and in my opinion they are over-priced.
The mains, however are a different story. The lemongrass chicken ($22.50) came out first and I was salivating as it smelled DELICIOUS with wonderfully strong flavours and spices. It was coated and marinated in a rosemary, celery and garlic paste with other spices and then char-gilled. The chicken was moist and tender, with a massive hit of flavour. But then I saw some parts were slightly too pink for my liking and these bits were left on the plate. One friend also had this problem and left parts of it on her plate. The other two had perfectly cooked chicken so perhaps it was just a certain end of the chicken that wasn’t cooked properly. An excellent dish if only it was cooked a minute or two longer.
The Honey Black Pepper and Mustard Mint Fillet Steak ($26.50) had been cooked with seeded mustard all the way through, giving the steak the full flavours of mustard and a hit of spice. The chunks of beef eye fillet were soft and easy to gobble down. This was the strongest dish in terms of flavour, but not too overpowering. I’m not the biggest fan of mustard but it was surprisingly pleasant. This was served with some onion, capsicum and snap peas. I would’ve liked a bit more veg but it was still a great dish.
We asked for the Yu Xiang Pork ($22.50) to be mild and it came out in small long slivers of pork backstrap stir fried with sliced carrots, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and bit of chilli. This was another very tasty dish filled with flavour and yummy spicy Yu Xiang sauce. I loved eating this and letting the sauce absorb into my steamed rice. I would order this dish again.
The pork came with an unexpected side dish of what looked like fried sweet potato. It was actually small pieces of fried brioche. These looked a bit dry when biting into it, but tasted nice providing a mix of sweet and savoury.
After trying the pre-theatre bar snacks, I thought the food was not going to get any better. I was proven wrong, and really enjoyed all 3 mains (though the chicken needed to be cooked a smidge longer). All mains were full of flavour and the meat was tender and soft. Portion size is slightly small for the price you are paying but that’s what you get for modern Asian food. I’m eager to go back and try their Beijing/Peking duck, perhaps for lunch. Outside the restaurant, there is a large neon sign advertising ‘Dumpling’. Given the quality of the bar snack dumplings, I’m not sure how good their normal dumpling menu will be, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
I like how they have vegetarian, vegetarian alternatives, gluten free, and gluten free alternatives available on the menu. Mr Wei’s have lunch and dinner menus, some with only a minimum of 2 people, starting from $22.50 per person up to $55 per person. They also do takeaway with steamed rice included in all dishes for around the $12.50 mark.