Friday, January 13, 2012

Dragon Express

We went on lots of long, meandering road trips as kids.  We ate lots of bowls of chips with vinegar and lots of toasted cheese sandwiches, the cheese becoming progressively more plastic the closer you got to central Australia.  Occasionally we'd eat at the local Chinese, always with a "mysterious Oriental" name like Crystal Pagoda or Emperor's Garden.  I remember these restaurants having lots of wood panelling or dark bricks as well as apricot napkins folded into peacock shapes, and the food always being great - lots of cornflour, sure, but fresh veggies and lots of them.  The closer you got to the interior, the more likely the table was set with knife and fork, and once when we ordered tea it came in a teacup with saucer.


Dragon Express has opened to brighten up a fairly shabby Sunshine sidestreet and upon entering, it's a bit like going back in time.  Alongside wood-panelled walls, tables are set with placemats with wispy imperial motifs.  Forks and spoons are carefully set and in the middle of each table are salt and pepper shakers alongside the soy sauce.


The pride in this new business is evident, from the pressed uniforms, lucky red napkins folded with military precision, the very personable service and the fact that everything is spotless.

Home made chicken dim sims, $2.50

Homemade chicken dim sims were quite good with a fresh, peppery filling, reminiscent of South Melbourne Market's epic dimmies.

Sesame prawns, $3

Sesame prawn toast, minced prawns smushed onto white bread that's drenched in sesame seeds and deep fried.  If it couldn't already get so (deliciously) retro, check out the carved carrot!  Love it.

Malaysian sotong, $14

Dragon Express has a mega menu of your choice of meat, vegies and sauce but I am always drawn to the chef's specials, many of which here have a Malaysian flavour.  "Malaysian sotong" was fantastic - big juicy pieces of pineapple-cut squid, deep fried in light batter, augmented by crispy snow peas.  The sauce was light in flavour yet pleasantly thickened in texture with creamy egg and chilli zing.  I have no idea if it was authentic, but it sure was tasty.

Singapore prawn, $14

Singapore prawns were also the business - quality fresh prawns in lots of lovely eggy sweet tomato gravy.

Stir fried green vegetables, $9

It's not so hard to eat your greens when they are tasty like this.  Plenty of crunch and loads of garlic which surprisingly wasn't all that pungent.

DE Special Hokkien Noodles (chicken), $9

They need to dial up the dragon's breath on the Dragon Express Special Noodles - they lacked wok hei, the authentic "charred" texture and flavour good wok-cooked noodles should have, tasting almost simmered in the thick sweet soy sauce.

Some may sneer at all these retro touches - the carved carrot, the pointy napkins, the salt and pepper - but they remind me of my childhood, and they are all done with care and a sense of pride.  The food is super fresh, tasty and the service is very personal.  You can stop by for lunch where half a main (beef, chicken or pork) and rice costs a staggering $6.50.

May the coming year of the Dragon bring many happy returns to Dragon Express.

Thank you very much to Kenny of Consider the Sauce for the great tip!

COMMENT UPDATE - Blogger have rather fortuitously just yesterday instituted a reply system, so I can now reply directly to your comments.  Yay!

Dragon Express on Urbanspoon

Dragon Express (Facebook)
28 City Place, Sunshine
Phone:  9312 6968
Hours:  Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, 4:30pm-10pm, Sat and Sun 4.30pm-10pm

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  1. Yes, I feel happy there's a place like this with old-style trimmings, great service, cheap prices. And going by your noodle experience, it may be that the mainstream Chinese fare is their strength.

    Did the Chinese places you recall from childhood have a Western menu of steak and chips, too?

    1. Yes! Although that was the only Western thing on the menu, sticking out like a sore thumb. Funnily enough, I went to a Hong Kong-style place in the city yesterday where they had steak, chips and veg (corn cob, beans and carrots) served on a sizzling plate.

  2. Love, LOVE Dragon Express! We frequently order from their takeaway menu - it got dropped in our letterbox a few months ago, with their business card stapled to the front bearing a sincere-looking photo of a chap called 'Lim' who must either be the chef or the owner.
    That's a pretty ballsy move - you'd only do that if you were proud of the food you make, so we decided to give them a try. No regrets! The food is always great quality, the classics done with love and care. It's easy to make an apathetic-yet-passable crabmeat and corn soup, but theirs is full of delicious crabmeat and with a really hearty texture.
    It's great to see via your blog post what the inside of the restaurant looks like. You gotta love a place which does a proper carved carrot! Respect.

  3. YES! I LOVE the carved carrot - who does that anymore? - and carved carrot plus curly parsley has got to be some sort of cross-cultural retro match made in heaven. If only we could get a lemon twist going on, it would be a retro timewarp trifecta. But seriously, I really liked their food, slightly suburban as it is. It's fresh and honest, and they have a lot of pride in their business.


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