Kedai Satay

186 King St, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9640 0371

Disclosure: I ate as the guest of Kedai Satay on my first visit. But not on my second visit! I paid for that one.

Edit: I recently went back to Kedai Satay to make a booking with a ‘zoupon’, which they refused to honour, claiming they were ‘fully booked’ for the night in question. As the promotion was ending soon, I was unable to redeem my voucher, which I’d paid $20 for. Poor form, guys. You may make good food, but that’s a pretty inconsiderate way to treat your customers.

I was lucky enough to be invited along to a food blogger get-together at Kedai Satay by @euniceseow, who serendipitously became friends with the owner of Kedai on a skiing trip, if memory serves me correctly. Look at me, digressing already. Anyway, that night we sampled our way through the menu.

This all happened about three months ago, so forgive me if the details are a bit hazy. We started off with some fried wontons (I don’t think they’re actually called that on the menu, but come on, look at them and tell me they’re not fried wontons!). In any case, they were quite good, sitting in a little pool of dark, sweet, sticky soy (kecap manis?).

Next up were some crab and squid fingers. Like fish fingers, but lighter, more springy, and very more-ish.

Then came the meats. Kedai specialises in Indonesian satay and grilled meats. And they certainly do it well.

We were presented with a mountain of chicken and lamb satay, as well as two heaving plates of beef and lamb ribs. The satay had a great smoky flavour, and the sauce was a nice match – on the sweeter end of the satay scale, but it worked with the well-charred flavour of the meat. The ribs were basted in a sweet and sticky marinade, and the meat was tender and falling off the bone, for the most part. I think the lamb ribs were slightly better than the beef, but I’m always that way inclined. Beef is a bit of a nothing meat, in my book.

We also tried some sort of chicken dish, I think it was the tropical chicken? Anyway, it was pretty good, if a little sweet. Are we sensing a trend here? Regardless, check out that egg!

I had a wonderful evening that night – the staff were attentive and friendly, and everything was just great.

 

Which is why I was a little shocked at my second visit. In hindsight, I guess it was a little naive of me to expect the same experience, as just looking at the prices on the menu (which are pretty insanely cheap) I should have known that it’s not really so much of a fine dining experience; it’s probably closer to a pub bistro or pho joint style eatery. The food comes out quickly, you order at the counter, and there’s a self-serve water and cutlery philosophy. Which is all fine and good, it just wasn’t what I was expecting, after being looked after so well the previous visit.

Another irksome detail was the fact that we had gone to the bother of calling ahead and booking a table for five, and then no table was clearly set aside for us. It was fine, as they weren’t super busy, so we were seated without a problem, but still, if you’re going to take bookings, you should be reserving a table for the booking. And it should be a decent table, instead of directing me to the empty and unlit upstairs section. Just saying.

Those hiccoughs aside, the food was once again enjoyable, and the bustling atmosphere – I insisted that we be seated downstairs – was a fun, convivial place to catch up with friends. So much so that I forgot to take photos! This time, we also tried the gado gado – pretty good, but lacking tempeh – and the soto betawi (a beef soup), which was nicely flavoured, but a bit difficult to share, as it’s a spoon and fork plate type of place, not a bowl and chopsticks type of place.

So yeah, it’s a great, casual place, serving up some good grilled meats and other Indonesian fare, and I’d definitely go back, now that my expectations have been readjusted. I guess this is one of those instances where being a food blogger can actually distort your view of things without you noticing!

 

Here’s what a couple of other foodbloggers  around town thought of Kedai:
Off the spork
Jeroxie

Hui Lau Shan

Various locations around Hong Kong
Website (Chinese)

There was one place my friends introduced me to last time I was in Hong Kong. I knew it as ‘the mango on mango on mango place’. We went to the Mong Kok outlet before karaoke, and I thought it was a one off. Little did I know that is was one branch of a pervasive ‘Healthy Dessert’ chain which can be found, often unexpectedly as you’re walking around, in most of the busy shopping districts of Hong Kong. Welcome to the land of Hui Lau Shan.

Now I’m fairly sure Hui Lau Shan is some reference to a place (shan meaning mountain, you barbarians) where they conjure up all sorts of magical healthy desserts. Desserts involving – you guessed it – mango.

In the week that team #fatty was traipsing around Hong Kong in search of wondrous eats, Hui Lau Shan was hands down the most frequently visited place. Most places only warranted one visit. Sam Tor Noodles (coincidentally as the name suggests – it means ‘three more’, you barbarians) demanded three visits. But I went to Hui Lau Shan no less than five times in seven days. And that was barely enough. What’s so good about this place? Mango. Oh, and sugar.

The first time I went, it was just a takeaway mango puree/slushie with tapioca. Gotta keep up the blood sugar levels when you’re shopping, see?

Later that evening, I introduced @eatnik to the joy of Hui Lau Shan. @alexlobov had been before, being a Hong Kong resident, and for some inexplicable reason, wasn’t that impressed. I say inexplicable, because the man has consistently good taste. Apparently not so much in the realm of ‘healthy’ desserts. Anyway, on this visit, I had the sago in mango puree, with mango pieces, pomelo and coconut milk.

An awesome balance of fresh, slightly tart mango and pomelo, with a rich sweetness from the coconut milk (and also no doubt a hefty slug of sugar syrup).

@eatnik had the black rice pudding with mango and coconut milk. This dish is a total winner, as the black rice isn’t too sweet, and gives the dessert the accent of young rice flavours, while the – as we have established – winning combination of mango and coconut does its magic.

@alexlobov had the taro flavoured Hokkaido milk pudding, after being told some other pudding he wanted, involving an oozing peach centre, was unavailable.
The pudding was studded with red beans, and was probably a bit too solid. They skimp neither on the sugar, nor the gelatin, it seems.

I went back three more times, introducing the @eatdrinkstagger kids to the wonders of the mystical dessert mountain, and sampling my way through more of the menu, though I neglected to take more photos. I can highly recommend the coconut noodles with mango and fruit salad, however.

In my uni days, I was for a short time obsessed with a movie called The Holy Mountain. It was a crazy psychedelic movie about transcendence and hallucinations. It involved plaster crucifixes and women holding chimpanzees, if that gives you any indication. Anyway, I think I found my Holy Mountain. Its name is Hui Lau Shan.

Tim Ho Wan

Shop 8, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon.
Phone: +852 2332 2896

This was probably the most hyped and most greatly anticipated destination on the Hong Kong #fatty map. The world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. There are apparently two outlets of Tim Ho Wan now – a second one opened up in Sham Shui Po – but we went to the original in Mong Kok.

We’d heard about the wait for a table, so we arrived early. Tim ho Wan (the Mong Kok one, anyway) opens at 10am. We arrived at around 9:30, to find there was already a queue! When they started letting people in, it was clear that we weren’t all going to fit in the tiny restaurant, but thankfully we got ticket number 5, so it wasn’t going to be too long a wait.

We wandered around the block, and stopped in at a herbal tea shop for something to cool our qi, after witnessing a rather heated altercation between two locals over some parking. They needed something to cool their qi too. Why the hell would people bother having a car in Hong Kong? Public transport is excellent, and cabs are dirt cheap.

We arrived back at Tim Ho Wan, and they were up to ticket number three. Another five minutes later, and we were seated. All up, about a 25 minute wait. Not too bad! Oh, in case you’re wondering, if we had’ve missed our number being called, we would’ve just been given the next available table. A pretty great system, no?

Thankfully, the place mats at Tim Ho Wan have lots of pictures of their specialties. We ticked off the items we wanted to try, after being chastised for not doing so while we were waiting outside – you can get an order form from a little box by the door – and the brusque but not unfriendly lady went off with our form. I must say, I do love a trolley service yum cha experience, but the ordering system does tend to be more efficient.

We were seated up the back near the kitchen, which was at once painful – to see all of that food in such close proximity but not on our table – and cool – too see all that food in such close proximity. But that all didn’t matter so much once the food started arriving.

First up was one of Tim Ho Wan’s signature dishes. Char siu bao (roast pork buns) with a difference. These are baked, with a crumbly cookie topping, like a smaller, filled baw law bao (pineapple buns) or Japanese melonpan.

These were AWESOME! Crunchy and crisp on the outside, and choc-ful of sugar, with a wonderfully sweet-and-salty char siu filling. @eatnik and I split the third one, because neither of us was graceful – or stupid – enough to concede it to the other.
Next up, the cheong fun with pork liver. @eatnik was a little apprehensive about this one, as she’s not the hugest fan of liver, but seeing as it was the only cheong fun on the menu, we pretty much had to order it.
It was pretty good, though I must say the cheong fun we had in Macau was slightly more delicate, and therefore better. Still, check out how translucent these puppies were. Either that’s some expert noodle making, or someone’s cheating and adding tapioca starch to their rice flour mixture!

Next up came the dumplings. First, a Qiuzhou (aka Teochew) style dumpling, with dried shrimp, peanuts and water chestnuts. I love these texturally, but I always find myself needing to dip them in soy, which I think is unnecessary when you have a good dumpling going on.

The next one was the spinach dumpling. Now I was expecting a predominantly prawn-filled dumpling, with some diced spinach. This was the other way around: mostly spinach, with bits of something (was it garlic, lardons, or prawn? I don’t remember!) to add some extra flavour. Unexpected, but kind of genius. These dumplings are full of #WIN.
Then the classic har gow, the standard b which all yum cha joints should be judged. Ant Tim Ho Wan’s were pretty bang on the money. Slightly smaller than the other dumplings, so you get four, these were delicate and yet full of flavour. I applaud the inclusion of bamboo shoot, which provides a nice textural addition to the already firm and toothsome prawn meat. I’m not sure these are the best I’ve ever eaten, but they’re pretty darned good!
Then there was the loh baak gao. I know how to make this, and therefore am unusually critical of every one I come across. Not to say that I won’t scoff them all down without prejudice.
Tim Ho Wan’s version had a nice crispy sear on it, but was a tad on the crumbly side. Which is in some ways a negative, but it’s also a positive, because the crumbling texture was due to the abundance of parsnip in the mix. Hence the flavour was overwhelmingly present, which is a nice change from most loh baak gao, where you can’t taste the parsnip because it’s barely there amongst the glutinous rice flour cement. I could have done with a little more Chinese sausage in this, but overall, it was pretty good.

Then, the chicken’s feet. A yum cha staple, which challenges novices, and some people never get the hang/point of, chicken’s feet – or more properly foong jao (phoenix’s talons) – are another means by which I like to judge a yum cha experience. The skin – it’s all about the skin, people – should be soft and slightly saggy, and have soaked up all of the flavour in which the chicken’s feet have been braised.

Tim Ho Wan’s were a little on the solid side, the collagen not having broken down enough, and the skin still sticking to the bones too much. The flavour of the braising liquid was great, but it could have done with some more time cooking. Perhaps coming for breakfast wasn’t such a great idea, as no doubt the batch of chicken’s feet would improve throughout the day.

Stuffed eggplant came out next (yong ke qie). Not to be too harsh, but I wish we’d ordered something else. There wasn’t enough oil in this dish to make the eggplant soften, and while it wasn’t bitter, the eggplant had a rather off-putting taste. The filling wasn’t much to write about either, so I won’t.

When the Haam sui gok (literally salty water dumplings, but better known as football dumplings here in Australia) arrived, I was excited, even though I was already starting to feel full. These were for a long time my favourite item at yum cha, because of the crispy shell, the yielding, gooey, sweet dough casing, and the classic salty minced pork and mushroom filling.
I was a little let down by Tim Ho Wan’s haam sui gok. The dough wasn’t that chewy, and there wasn’t much filling inside. Still, by that stage, it didn’t really matter, and neither did the pork and peanut congee we also ordered, which needed salt and wasn’t very amazing.

So yeah, overall, it’s well worth visiting, and at around $140HKD ($20AUD at the prevailing exchange rate) for two to stuff yourself stupid, you’d have to be another kind of stupid to pass it up.

City Wine Shop

159 Spring Street, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9654 6657

In case you haven’t noticed, I tend to eat mostly Asian food, whether it be Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese or Japanese. I think it has something to do with the sorts of flavours that I crave, and let’s be honest, the price is something of a factor, as well. It still confuses me sometimes how a Chinese restaurant can serve up a whole roast duck for less than you would pay for a single duck breast in a French restaurant. Still, it’s probably something to do with sourcing quality produce and paying staff higher wages, and so on. Let’s not get into the politics of it all just now.

The other thing I like about most Asian restaurants, is there’s a casual feel, and I feel comfortable eating in my jeans and t-shirt; let’s face it, I rarely wear anything more formal. For this reason, there’s a lot of restaurants in Melbourne which I haven’t visited. In a sense, I’m a little intimidated, but also a little put off, by their formality. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised by City Wine Shop. Here’s a place that does casual dining right, in my opinion. Even places like Cumulus Inc., Andrew McConnell’s erstwhile ‘casual dining proposition’, felt like it had too much of an attitude for my liking. Not so, the City Wine Shop.

It helps that it actually is a wine shop. A wall of wines – which you can also enjoy when dining in, for a $15 surcharge – with a pretty formidable selection. Maybe the prices on the wall remind me of those specials, printed on fluorescent A4 sheets of paper, in Chinese characters that look like Times New Roman, blu-tacked to the walls of so many Chinese restaurants. Similarly, the lack of a formal printed menu (beyond the drinks list and bar snacks) sets me at ease, with the menu board on the wall, like a pub, or indeed a pho joint. The decor is at once classic, and relaxed. Lots of dark wood panelling, but also cartons of mineral water stacked along the wall in plain sight. And the service was friendly, knowledgeable and attentive, both times I’ve been.

Anyway, let’s talk about the food. My first visit there was after seeing Black Swan – which, by the way, you should totally go and see if you haven’t seen it already – so it was something of a late dinner. That being said, we were all starving. Except @ribenaberry, who had snagged some sushi before the movie.

I ordered the seared tuna Nicoise. I was expecting something of a salad, which in a sense is what I got, only deconstructed.

This was probably the best piece of cooked tuna I have eaten in a long, long time. Sashimi is a whole other ball game, but I think the fact that the tuna had been so lightly seared was a big factor in my love for it.
Everything else on this plate was close to perfection, too. The soft-boiled egg, topped with two white anchovies, perfectly cooked beans, and the potatoes – THE POTATOES! So crisp and salty on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. If you can’t tell, I love this dish. Get thee to the City Wine Shop and try it, before it’s off the menu, as the menu changes from time to time.

@eatnik couldn’t go past the black pudding salad on the menu, and rightly so.

I had a little sample of the black pudding, and it was moist and rich, not too salty, yet quite intense in flavour. It was well balanced with a whole host of other salad ingredients, which @eatnik diligently identified and noted for future reference. I’m hoping I get an invite when she gets around to recreating this salad. Sadly, this salad is no longer on the menu.

Despite not being that hungry, @ribenaberry ordered the gnocchi, which had been pan-fried with some sort of wild mushrooms, I believe. I had a bite; the gnocchi was pillowy and soft, and the mushrooms were quite strong with umami. The lettuce on top was a good idea to lighten what would otherwise have been quite a rich dish, I think.

My return visit happened a couple of weeks later, when I met up with Mr J for an early dinner. Though the way things worked out, a few glasses of wine later, and it wasn’t so early. We started off with some pork crackling to munch on.
Super crunchy, though also very salty, this was a great way to stimulate our appetites. The slaw which came with it was a pleasant relief from the salt.

Mr J, on my recommendation, had the tuna Nicoise, and seeing as the black pudding salad was no longer on the menu, I ordered the braised lamb shoulder with quinoa salad. There was a pork belly dish on the menu, but given I’d just scoffed down so much crackling, I thought that might be overkill.

The lamb was well cooked and tender, though a touch on the dry side. Thankfully, there’s plenty of sauce, and the quinoa was also generously dressed. Again, pretty straight-forward food, which just works.

We did consider dessert for a second, but decided to opt for some dessert wines instead. Ask for the extended port and tokay list, because therein you will find PX by the glass.

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