Toki Japanese Restaurant

88 Grattan St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 9748

So this place has the dubious distinction of being the first restaurant I have double-reviewed. The first time I went there, I had the ramen, which was something of a disappointment. So this time around, when I went on a date with Mr J, I was decidedly not going to go down the noodle route. Besides, eating noodles on dates is for whores. You know what I mean.

We started off with some gyoza. Now I realise it’s a style thing, and that gyoza are not jiaozi, but it always bothers me that gyoza filling is kinda loose – it makes me thing that they’re under-cooked. These gyoza were no different. Not to say they were bad – indeed the flavour of the filling was quite good – but I’m starting to think this Japanese staple isn’t really one of my favourites.

Mr J was feeling indecisive, so he ordered the bento, which had a little bit of everything. It looked like a lot of fun, though I’m not sure how anyone could eat that much food. Wait, anyone except me. Luckily I didn’t order it, because I’m sure I would have hoovered it all up. And hoovering on dates is for whores. You know what I mean. FYI Mr J did not hoover. He’s not a whore.
I ordered the buta something or other. It was like a pork sukyaki, in a cast iron bowl with, swimming in porky broth.
It was really good, though the vegetables were a tad over-cooked, and a bit of a floppy mess. Still, the flavour was simple, but somehow not bland. I quite enjoyed it, though I didn’t finish it. Partly because the serving was very generous, and partly because I didn’t want to look like a whore.

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1 + 1 Dumpling and Noodle

84 Hopkins Street, Footscray
Phone: 9687 8988

There are some Chinese restaurants which have dishes which are named rather poetically, like ‘Ants climbing a tree’, or ‘Duck with eight treasures’. Then there are places which write their menus much more pragmatically. 1 + 1 Dumpling and Noodle is one of the latter.

In fact, there is very little about the place which extends beyond the efficient and purposeful. The decor, as Mr S who accompanied me on the day put it, is like ‘a factory cafeteria’. With chairs and tables that look like they were bought from a shopping centre when the shopping centre decided to refurbish its food court, and rather unappealing pastel green walls, you’d be forgiven for being apprehensive upon walking through the front door. But, as with many Chinese restaurants, the decor doesn’t necessarily dictate the quality of the food.

But back to the menu. Browsing through, Mr S and I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the ‘Big Dish Chicken’ (available with either half a chicken or a whole) which we presumed came on a big dish. So we ordered that, with a serve of the thick hand-pulled noodles.

As you can see, we were right. The meal came out on what was more of a platter than a plate. And this was only the half-chicken! When I first tasted it, I thought it was a little bland. Not a lot of seasoning, and generally uninteresting. There was a lot of potato, for some reason, too. But maybe that’s a Northern Chinese thing. Anyway, the interesting thing about this dish is the sly use of Szechuan peppers. You don’t really see them, as they’ve been mostly ground up, but you get a hint of the tangy, eucalypt-y flavour. As you continue to eat, you get the characteristically tingly and almost-numb sensation that Szechuan pepper creates on your tongue. So a dish that seems at first bland, actually gets better and more interesting as you eat it. What a novel concept!

As you can see, the two of us failed to finish the Big Dish Chicken between us.

We also had a side of the spicy cucumber salad. This was a little too salty, and not spicy enough, for my liking.
All in all, I quite liked 1 + 1 – it’s unpretentious, and the food is interesting. The hand-pulled noodles were (as hand-pulled noodles usually are) a highlight, as you pretty much can’t get that texture from machine-made noodles. I’m yet to try the dumplings, but my hopes are high, as it would be great to be able to get a Shanghai-style dumpling fix without having to leave my ‘hood for the bright lights of the big city.
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