I visited the Imperial Kingdom at Glen Waverly, not once but twice, within an auspicious weekend, once for yum cha one day and then for a wedding dinner another evening. I can remember how the restaurant was beautifully transformed for Maggie and Eu-Gene Yeap's dinner reception at this venue. The dishes were carefully chosen for good omen and brought out the best in what the Imperial could offer. Lobster, prawns, crispy chicken, delicious noodles and extensively decorated banquet tables (each with the piece de resistance being the variety of floral bouquets) remain delightfully in my heart and mind's eye.
You walk up a staircase under a cover and reach the foyer of the restaurant. The dining area sits on this upper level, so I could easily see the goings on around the nearby junction, highway and neighbouring activities. Having this so-called bird's eye view delightfully reassures one of securely seated in a strategic lookout, especially during the change of colours from twilight to night. Then vaguely familiar individuals and more reassuringly known friends from the Melbourne area turn up, all dressed up happily and smartly for the occasion. The tables are placed close to each other but then everyone expects that in a Cantonese themed restaurant.
Maggie and Eu-Gene had a lunch reception earlier that special day with a modern Australian feel, complete with the bridal dance, walking under a canopy and letting off some party shoot off cannons. Tonight it was more Canton, although many dressed in Western styles. In contrast, the atmosphere at yum cha time, back at the Imperial, reflected more of the everyday bustle of such meals across the Chinatowns and suburbs of the world. The service, as required and expected, is fast and the tasty servings make me wonder why at times do we need to go downtown for such fare (again). There is ample ground level open air parking for the restaurant, though I am not sure if there is a lift up to the first floor. The yum cha tables had more variety to fit various numbers of people, unlike the ten per table practice for wedding dinners.
Is yum cha better in Melbourne than in Sydney, or Hong Kong and Vancouver? I reckon it depends on what you order from the moving passer-by trolleys - I would identify with fresh ingredients, skill in texture and cooking and how they are kept ready for serving. The skins must not be starchy, the vegetables must be appetising, the deep-frieds not soggy. The choice of teas must be liberal. The decor is not critical, but the taste in your mouth and on your palate as you place that delicate creation for your experience. The variety of sauces available and the quality of cutlery, chopsticks and China often vary between an elegant place and an ordinary one.
At the Imperial Kingdom, I had occasion to try the mango pudding, char siew pau (steamed pork buns), rice noodle rolls (with prawns in soy sauce)- and loved them all. My impressions of the Imperial Kingdom in Glen Waverly, greater Melbourne, are:
Atmosphere: Noisy and crowded.
Taste: No need to go down to Little Bourke Street in Melbourne CBD.
People Engagement: As in any medium to large sized Chinese restaurant.
Best Time to Visit: Dinnertime.
Fav Dish Experienced: Char siew so (baked pork filling pastry)and claypot vermecilli with lobster. Would I Return?: Yes.