Old Kingdom

197 Smith St Fitzroy
Phone: 9417 2438

It had been too long since I had last Peking Duck. Old Kingdom is a Melbourne institution, where Peking Duck virgins should go for the at-table theatre as much as for the duck itself. After the first time, though, the brash spiel of the servers becomes a little tiring, so we were thankful when the waiter just carved the duck and left us to our own devices.

The roast duck ($55) includes three courses – the crispy skin (and a bit of duck flesh) which you dab with hoi sin sauce, and wrap in the delicate crepes; a stir-fry with shredded duck meat spring onions and bean shoots; and a clear duck and vegetable soup, with silken tofu. I got a bit excited (and distracted with the red wine we were imbibing along with the duck) and forgot to take pictures of the last two courses, but it’s all about the first course, anyway. The crispy duck skin, crunching and releasing the duck fat, which melds with the hoi sin sauce and soaks into the crepes as you bite. Heaven.

A good rule of thumb is one duck between 2-3 people (depending on how much of a duck fan you are!) and it’s optional to have other things off the menu, but as I said to my friends upon arrival, “I don’t know why anyone would bother ordering anything else off the menu.” The Peking Duck is clearly the star attraction. It’s also best to book and order your ducks in advance, as it’s usually full. There are sittings at 6pm and 8pm on weekends.

Old Kingdom on Urbanspoon

Garamerica

230 Dorcas St
South Melbourne
Phone: 9696 2192

I went to Garamerica for lunch with my friend D in South Melbourne, who claimed this Indonesian restaurant was ‘elusive’. This was mostly due to the lack of prominent signage on the street, and its tucked away location off the main Clarendon St drag.


I started with the Martabak Telor (fried crepe with diced onion and minced beef). It was very different from the murtabaks I have tried before at Rich Maha and Bismi’s Gold and Fork, and more like a spring roll/parcel then a derivation of a pancake. I’m not sure I liked it that much. The onion was quite coarsely diced, and there wasn’t much beef. Still, not bad as a little appetiser.


I also had the Gado Gado – a mountain of crisp vegies and tofu smothered in peanut sauce. An interesting twist to this Gado Gado was the inclusion of some chunks of a steamed rice cake, which at first I thought were huge pieces of potato. It made the rice I had ordered alongside the Gado Gado rather unnecessary. The colourful prawn crackers were cute (and always appreciated by this son of suburban Chinese restauranteurs).

D had the Ayam Bakar (grilled chicken) which looked succulently juicy – of course, D ordered extra chilli – and the accompanying soup was surprisingly interesting. I noted hints of tomato, but it’s just always a pleasant surprise to get a real soup instead of a stock powder broth as an accompaniment in this sort of restaurant.

Service was quick and cheery, and the restaurant is very reasonably priced (we spent $27 between us). Please note they accept cash only – there are ATMs nearby on Clarendon St.

Garamerica on Urbanspoon

Tan Truc Giang

36A Leeds St Footscray VIC 3011 – (03) 9689 9509
Open Mon-Sat 9am-8pm

NB – update 30 Dec 2013: Truc Giang is now under new management. I haven’t been back yet.


I stopped in here for a quick lunch with my parents in between weekend errands. The food on display certainly was enticing:


I’d like to think it was just because we chose poorly, because what we were presented with was a little lackluster. I had the broken rice with a fermented prawn version of the steamed egg pate (mam trung) and braised tofu with pork and prawns on the side. The tofu, pork and prawn dish was flavoured well, but altogether too tough.


Dad had some tomato-stewed prawns, and braised basa cutlet, with rice. Again, the prawns were too tough. I think the (quite open) use of microwaves might be to blame here. But at $10 per serve, that’s a little poor, if you ask me.


Mum ordered the ‘house specialty’, Bun Mam (rice vermicelli with fermented fish stock) which didn’t arrive until about 15 minutes after our rice dishes, and even then that was only after prompting. Also, it didn’t resemble any Bun Mam we’d ever seen – there was a distinct lack of fermented fish flavour. It looked more like Hu Tieu Nam Vang to me.

As I said, though, I like to think we perhaps chose poorly on this occasion, as all of the grilled meats and the spring rolls looked very delectable behind the glass. I’ll be back, but I’ll try something else next time. The banh mi station looks like a good option.

Truc Giang on Urbanspoon

Momotaro Rahmen

392 Bridge Rd Richmond VIC 3121 – (03) 9421 1661
Open Tue-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-9:30pm

Still searching for good ramen in Melbourne. The ramen at Momotaro wasn’t bad; the noodles were pleasantly springy, and the chashu was well-flavoured, if lacking a little on the fat, but the tonkotsu soup was rather a let down. When compared to that of Ichiban Boshi (in Sydney), Momotaro’s tonkostu seemed thin, lacking the gelatinous goodness of pork bones having been boiled for hours until the cartilage had melted into the stiock, and seemed instead to have been merely a pork stock lightly thickened and coloured by adding milk. My lactose intolerance response doesn’t back me up in this theory, but nonetheless that’s what it tasted like.

The hunt continues… next up, Ramen ya.

Momotaro Rahmen on Urbanspoon

Pho Tam

1/7-9 Leeds St
Footscray
Phone: (03) 9687 2680

This is a pretty typical Vietnamese restaurant in Footscray. And I know it’s bad practice to post a negative review based on one visit, but it was pretty average. The food was OK – I had the com tam dac biet (broken rice special – with grilled pork chop, shredded pork skin, fried egg and steamed egg pate). The rice was quite obvously reheated, the pork chop was a little tough, and the pate didn’t have enough pepper in it for my liking.

The lady running front of house – I think she was the owner – seemed more intent on chatting on the phone than remembering to bring me my lemon soda. It finally arrived after I asked again for it, and as I was finishing my meal.

Like I said, it’s probably not all that fair – they might have been short-staffed or having an off day – but this place was pretty average. And in an area with such a high density of good Vietnamese restaurants, being average is pretty poor, really.

Pho Tam on Urbanspoon

Krabi Thai


259 Keilor Road, Essendon North
Phone: (03) 9374 4488
Closed Mondays
http://www.krabithai.com.au/


A cute little suburban Thai restaurant with bright blue walls, Thai ornamentalia everywhere, colourful placemats and cheery, prompt service. You know it’s authentic because they have the requisite pictures of the King on the wall (my personal fave, Rama V, in this case).

We ordered the Gaeng Ped Yang (red duck curry) and the Pad Prik Gai (chicken stir-fried with ginger), along with some coconut rice. The curry was delicious – sweet, coconutty and spicy, with just thr right amount of chilli kick to keep you coming back for more. I’m always a fan of fruit in curries, so the lychees and pineapple were a winner. The chicken stir-fry wasn’t light on the ginger, and the vegetables were still on the crunchy side of cooked. Which are both awesome things. It was a touch oily, however. The coconut rice was also an epic WIN, sweet enough to eat on its own, and with shredded kaffir lime leaves throughout.

It’s no Longgrain, but thankfully so. Charming without being pretentious, like a real Thai restaurant should be.

Krabi Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon