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The Demise of an Culinary Institution – A restaurant review

By imarty - 18 January 2010 43

Having heard all about this establishment, I gave my wife Chairman and Yip as one of three restaurants I’d like to go to for my birthday and for her to surprise me.

Well surprised we were.

Menus pasted in dog eared art magazines, wine list in a year eight style bound, damaged folder, in landscape,? with no beer listing, with NA written in biro against non avilable wines?

Didn’t augur well for what was supposed to be one of Canberra’s premier restaurants.

Well the confit pork belly was luke warm deep fried pieces of belly with a salad of shredded iceberg lettuce, cucumber,carrot & red cabbage. It was sent back. My wife’s fishcakes were slightly better but still accompanied with the same foodcourt style salad.

The Shantung style Lamb main was deepfried (again!) lamb flap, possibly the cheapest cut of lamb possible. Tasty yes but after about 3 pieces way too much in terms of deep fried meat (after the pork).

My wife’s salmon with carrot & tomato puree was well executed but nothing special or exciting.

Service was polite but it was obvious there is no experience nor knowledge there. When questioned on some menu items, the wait staff description did not elaborate more than one ingredient beyond the menu description and when pressed we were met with a polite blank stare!

In hindsight we thought that maybe our menu choices were not necessarily appropriate nor matched but should not that also be the role of a good waiter when making a menu selection, especially when they are engaged in discussing the menu and the customer is choosing dishes to share?

Overall an extremely disappointing meal.

[ED – Without being able to speak to the rest of the meal Shantung lamb is supposed to be as you described.]

What’s Your opinion?


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43 Responses to
The Demise of an Culinary Institution – A restaurant review
Beau Locks 8:40 pm 18 Jan 10

Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but I must admit I was surprised by imarty’s comments. I admit I haven’t eaten at C+Y for six months or so, but every time I have the service has been consistently solid: unobtrusive and yet attentive. The food is fantastic, too. The only gripe I have is that the menu doesn’t change. Given it’s so good, tho, I don’t really care. Canberra’s certainly not blessed with too many really flash eateries, but for my money C+Y is definitely up there.

imarty 8:06 pm 18 Jan 10

Hands up, didn’t kow Shantung lamb was breast/flap but did know it was deep fried. Whilst lamb flap is an inherently fatty cut, it can be trimmed to significantly reduce the fat content. This wasn’t. Apart from that delicious.
My point was that I didn’t know the confit pork belly was going to be deep fried. I’ve tried confit pork belly all over the country at many hatted restaurants including Quay where Peter Gilmore was one of, if not the first to put this style of pork belly on a menu. This was not confit, this was deep fried belly, evident by over cooking resulting in very dry and chewy edges. A restaurant of this supposed calibre would have gently guided me away from two deep fried dishes, esepcially when I was tossing up over the Chairman’s Lamb Curry and the Shantung which is when I asked the wait staff some questions t assist me with my decision.

Yep, also had iceberg lettuce at a fine dining establishments but this was the same “accompaniment” for both entrees.

With regards to the luke warm entree, my first thought was this isn’t right, too ccol to be warm and you don’t serve cool deep fried anything! Anyway, I asked the waiter (the most senior one who’s attention I got first) and he assured me that most certainly it was not supposed to be warm. He whisked it away and another at a much warmer temperature was returned. Pity he didn’t take our order.

To put some perspective on this review, I’ve worked in the food industry for 27 years with experience dining in a large percentage of Australia’s hatted restaurants both for business and pleasure. My wife has similar experience.

The other two restaurants were Watermark and On Red. We did Ginger Room last year and Axis several times, I wanted somewhere not yet tried.

Loosebrown, please point out where I was spiteful???

sexynotsmart 7:18 pm 18 Jan 10

I’ve been to C&Y over 2 dozen times over the last decade. Every time there’s a conference or whole-of-government meeting some free-thinking individual feels obliged to book a dinner there.

IMHO your experience was NOT extra-ordinary. The food is routinely humdrum (but only occassionally bad), the prices stupendous, the service haphazard…

Which begs the question of why does it consistently rank in ‘Best Restaurant’ lists?

My guess is that people are lazy and vote out of habit. They may not have been to the place since the word ‘GST’ was added to the menus. C&Y may have been something very special when it first opened, but not now.

Woody Mann-Caruso 7:11 pm 18 Jan 10

It’s the most overrated restaurant I’ve ever been to (OK, make that equal with Firestone). Half as good as The China Tea House in Erindale and twice as expensive. Seems to be popular with the crowd who think Zefferelli’s is haute cuisine.

AussieGal83 5:18 pm 18 Jan 10

I completely agree Imarty. I think Chairman and Yip is so overrated. I cringe when my friends want to go there. I’ve been there on several occasions and I’ve hated the experience. Definetly overpriced for what it is.

astrojax 4:50 pm 18 Jan 10

as for the relationship between c&y and lanterne rooms at campbell, i believe the chefs at the latter were able to use the c&y kitchens to work on their menu prior to their opening. not sure what previous relationship existed, but i don’t believe there was any strong link, like as a previous chef or partner, etc…

agree that lanterne rooms is a great place, but my expereinces of c&y differ significantly from the OP – agree with grundy; let the restaurant know and maybe they will have a response that draws you back for a second dib – this time try the duck pancakes!

youami 4:00 pm 18 Jan 10

st said :

I think people should be allowed to express their views about and experiences at restaurants. I personally also didn’t find C&Y that special.

I agree. Whilst I think this review may be somewhat superficial I do believe RA is the perfect place to put up comments and experiences, especially when not everyone can use BuuK becuase not everyone has submitted to the iPhone lol. In fact, I belong to a gathering of people who dine regularly and then privately rate and review our experiences. I am also a member of an organisation that dines on a monthly basis and we publicly rate the food at the table after each course. All good fun but also brings word-of-mouth to a new level.

Grail 2:20 pm 18 Jan 10

The two reviews of Chairman and Yip restaurant in “buUuk“* both come to the same conclusion as imarty, namely that it’s overpriced for what it is.

I’d suggest that the “dog eared” menus etc. are supposed to be props supporting the style that the restaurant was originally set up for.

sloppery 2:16 pm 18 Jan 10

Central Cafe – unbeatable.

youami 1:15 pm 18 Jan 10

Sounds to me like you didn’t know what Shantung Lamb was and that you and your wife have a presumption that premier restaurants don’t serve deep-fried dishes nor serve common foodstuffs like iceberg lettuce? Well, of course I didn’t dine with you that night but it sounds to me that you had different expectations to what was delivered but your expectations were a bit ignorant of Canberra dining. But of course as ‘grundy’ suggests, if you felt the experience was as bad as you make out then complain. A restaurant such as C&Y values feedback. As for menus themselves, I think it adds character but meh. As for the entree it sounds to me that it was supposed to be warm because it was on a bed of salad?!

Try Sydney dining and see how much you get for your money!

Out of curiosity what were the other 2 restaurants you had on your list? My picks, if I had to choose three, would be Axis, Ginger Room, and Senso aka ex-Flavours (although this restaurant is not public). IMHO, give C&Y another go for a second-opinion. Canberra market is surprisingly in low supply for quality waitstaff and somelliers so on some days you just get a poor lot, luck of the draw.

Clown Killer 12:16 pm 18 Jan 10

This matches my experience of Chairman & Yip over three or four visits in the last 10 years.

The reality is that it’s little more than a fairly mediocre Asian restaurant with pretentions of something special.

These guys must have a supply of tattered menus because they’ve been like that as long as I can remember – sure, it’s only a menu but you’ve got to wonder about the state of the kitchen if they can’t even keep a menu clean. Don’t look too closely at the upholstery on the seats either.

If you were after top-shelf Asian inspired food you’d be better off heading to the Lantern Room in Campbell. I’m lead to believe that there’s some connection between the two … which if true, just begs the question – how could the Lantern Room get it so right when the Chairman and Yip gets it so (very, very) wrong?

st 11:48 am 18 Jan 10

I think people should be allowed to express their views about and experiences at restaurants. I personally also didn’t find C&Y that special.

M0les 10:01 am 18 Jan 10

Wow, that’s really disappointing! I’ve never eaten there, but have always meant to.

Got to agree with Ed. in that the Shantung lamb sounds spot-on. Should be brisket slow-cooked to tenderise, then deep-fried crisp, served on shredded lettuce/cucumber and finally doused in vinegary Shantung sauce. It’s a rich, fatty and very “Lamby” dish.

I’d suggest another Canberra Chinese institution (14 years): Portia’s Place to see if it’s The Chairman’s preparation or the dish itself you don’t like. Their service I’d describe as “casual silver-service” as many dishes like duck pancakes are finished at the table and served to your plate.

(I have no interest or association with either restaurant)

grundy 9:54 am 18 Jan 10

You must have gone on a bad night.

Every visit to C&Y lately has been amazing.
Good service, amazing food and I walk out satisfied and completely full.

Friends and family have always had the same experience as I have and a workmate just went last week and was also blown away with the great food and decent service.

Maybe you should provide feedback to the restaurant so they can see who was working when you were there and see if there is anything they can do to improve it.

RE: the menus,
They are getting on a bit, but who cares! 😛

loosebrown 9:45 am 18 Jan 10

An amazingly superficial and spiteful review.

I have eaten at C&Y many times – it is a superb restaurant. It’s place at the top of the restaurant ladder in Canberra is well earned. The food is wonderful and the service is comprehensive yet unobtrusive.

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