604 Station St, Box Hill
Phone: 9890 8788
It’s not often that my family goes out to eat together. More often than not, we’ll eat at my parents’ place because it’s easier, and because having been restauranteurs for over two decades, they’re understandably a bit picky about food. It’s something I’ve picked up from them, I think; my tendency to critique a meal as I’m eating it is almost a reflex action.
A while back, we went to First Taste in Box Hill. I was curious, as I’ve walked past the Footscray branch a few times, and been intrigued by the huge laminated photos and the quirky bamboo fence treatment in the front window. The Box Hill branch seems a little more of an upmarket affair, with the decor of a well-established 80s Chinese restaurant: octagonal windows, laminated newspaper write-ups, and a television mounted on the wall. Though actually, they also had pretty cool black and white photos of China on the wall.
There was much consternation as Mum and Dad perused the menu, and they were a little thrown when the waitress only spoke Mandarin. They like to ask about things on the menu, and when we go to a Chinese restaurant – which is most of the time – they expect to be able to do so in Cantonese.
Since First Taste is all about herbal soups and claypot dishes, that’s exactly what we ordered. We each got a different herbal soup, after Mum and my sister had a conversation assessing the suitability of each herbal soup for my father and I. Mum and Dad both Dad had a pretty classic chicken and ginseng soup.
My sister had a watercress and chicken number.
And I got this murky one.
But, as with all Chinese soups, it’s not about looks. This was pork and some sort of medicinal root, I forget which, but my sister said it would be good as a chi tonic. And I don’t argue with her on that sort of thing, because she’s a qualified Chinese doctor. It also had some dried longans in it, so it was a nice salty-sweet flavour combination, not uncommon in Chinese soups. Red dates and dried longans are often used to balance the salted pork that forms the basis of many soups.
Then we moved onto the claypot rice. We shared three between us, as none of us were particularly hungry. I’d had a late lunch that day, and Dad’s taken to snacking on sandwiches around 3pm in his retirement. I look forward to retirement.
The claypots came out with little heavy iron lids on top, which were ceremonially removed by the staff to reveal the steaming hot contents. This one was a braised beef brisket with daikon. The sauce was hearty and rich, perfectly made for spooning over your steamed rice.
We also got a seafood combination claypot. And I don’t care if those ‘crab calls’ were full of seafood extender, they were still delicious and had a great springy texture.
There was some other vegetable and tofu claypot, but I was too busy eating to take a photo by the time it arrived.
All in all, I really quite liked First Taste. It’s unassuming traditional Cantonese family fare. Bryan has told me that the Footscray branch isn’t much chop, but with my mother chastising me for not making soup for myself often enough, this is probably an easy, nourishing cheat’s option!