Tradition is often as important as finding the next big thing. There is a lot more to Billy Lee’s than merely tradition, but it is the kind of restaurant that you cannot help get caught up in the past when you sit down and start flicking through the menu.
I know why I love Billy Lee’s. It is because I have been with large groups, small groups, with family, with friends, and every time it has been in equal parts about catching up to enjoy each other’s company, and the sizzling beef. Yes, the sizzling beef.
There is nothing cliqued about a boiling hot plate topped with onions, and then throwing three quarter cooked thin slices of beef and sauce over the plate. It is probably frowned upon but I like to push the beef to the edges of the hot plate to get even sizzling. The taste is good but this is the highlight!
The incredibly long menu can be difficult. I often look at it and wonder how I ever worked out how to order a dish or two when choosing from literally a couple hundred. It is like an Italian pasta place that has ten types of pasta and ten types of sauce – that is one hundred dishes just there! Though if you don’t know what you are doing, it can be very difficult.
Mum said she felt like prawns so I rattled off the options (just on the specials there were nine prawn dishes!) We settled on prawns with vegetable. At first I thought it was a typo, but it was actually correct as it was just prawns with chopped Chinese leaf (I think it was choi sum). The prawns themselves are excellent quality. Large, cooked properly, deveined and fresh. The sauce has heavy hits of ginger and is quite glutinous. It is an excellent dish and I personally cannot fault it.
The sizzling beef is, as always, superb. The beef is always tender with minimal (or no) chewy bits and the onion needs no further cooking having been subjected to the outrageously hot plate. The sauce is indulgent and rich. We also have the special fried rice which is filled with prawns (not quite as amazing as the actual prawn dish), chicken and squid. The rice is the hero here, though the addition of some vegetables would ease some of the guilt about such a large amount of food.
While the Chinese tea is great, Mum and I were dying for a wine so we left promptly without enjoying the watermelon (or other seasonal fruit) that traditionally comes out once you have sat with your leftovers for 30-45 minutes. Sure, the service norms can be interesting at Chinese restaurants, but that seems to be the culture. In the USA you often get the bill before you ask, and perhaps in China you get to reflect on the food you can’t fit in while it sits in front of you.
With that we were gone. Around the corner, Pleased To Meet You, a new Northbridge restaurant that is well and truly on the trend of Southern American cuisine, rum and share food. The “Head Nouveau” TMG wine is great and not taking advantage of Billy Lee’s BYO policy makes sense now.
Back to Billy Lee’s. I can only say start the tradition as soon as possible because it is a fantastic place to share food with family and friends. No fuss whatsoever.