Oriental Charcoal BBQ

110 Hopkins St, Footscray
Phone: 9687 0421

There’s few greater things in this world than food on sticks. A thing that @carryon_JW and I agree on. So after an exciting but long day out for his birthday, we stopped in at OCB for some chuar (lamb skewers, Western Chinese style).

@carryon_JW spent four years living in Beijing, so to him, chuar has a special place in his heart. OK, that’s an overstatement; in his belly. It’s funny, though. Even though I’m the one with the Chinese heritage, he claims the authoritative right to declare how authentic a Chinese dish is; given that his Mandarin puts mine to shame – so he often does the ordering – perhaps this isn’t so funny after all. Therefore I was a little nervous to suggest we try this place on his birthday. But it’s local, and it’s not Vietnamese, Ethiopian, or Cantonese, and I’d been keen to try it for a while, so it kind of happened by default.

Something else that happens by default just about whenever I got to a Chinese – Chinese as in Northern/Shanghai/Sichuan, as opposed to Cantonese – restaurant, is ordering this cucumber dish. It’s essentially cucumber with salt, oil and a metric butt-load of garlic. OCB throws some coriander, sugar and MSG in for good measure, in case your taste buds weren’t paying attention.
image
Ordering a cold dish or two is always a good move at a Northern Chinese restaurant, because it gives you something to snack on while you’re waiting for the other dishes to be cooked.

The next few things to arrive were the various things on sticks. The classic chuar were pretty great. Not as meaty as the Uighur-style ones I’ve had at Tarim in Malvern, but expertly spiced and juicy all the same. JW enjoyed his birthday chuar, as you can see. He also enjoyed the satellite TV broadcast of this crazy Chinese dating show, which sees male contestants choose from a pool of 24 women (some inexplicably dressed up in traditional minority garb), who in turn can elect to accept or reject his interest based on highly stylised video clips in which his friends and family give testimonials about various aspects of his personality (and earning potential). The funniest segment was where the male contestant was clearly tongzhi, even if it wasn’t explicitly acknowledged.

image

It’s not a birthday without a birthday food coma, so we also ordered some more substantial dishes. There was a ‘fish-flavoured’ eggplant claypot on the left – probably the most delicious version of this dish I’ve ever eaten – and a beef brisket and tomato claypot on the right (that was just a bit meh).

image

It was OK lah.

image

This, however, was DIRICIOUS!

image

It’s not a birthday without a birthday food coma, so we also ordered some dumplings. These were pretty great, though I’m ashamed to say we couldn’t finish them all. The skins were nice and thick, in that doughy Northern style, and the filling was well seasoned, with a decent amount of vegetable and herb matter. I’m often disappointed by how just plain meaty some dumplings are. I mean come on, where’s the skill in just using minced meat?

image

The chilli oil at OCB – which I’m fairly sure is home-made – is nice and smoky, and the sesame seeds give the flavour a nice roundness, so it’s not as sharply hot as some chilli oils can often be.

image

So if you’re looking for a (cheap!) happy place in which to induce a most satisfactory birthday food coma, definitely give OCB a try.

image

I should note that last time I went back, the staff were a little run off their feet, because they sadly participated in one of those EVIL group shopping deals. Hopefully this doesn’t ruin them, like it has other small businesses. I know I’ll be back, though!

Oriental Charcoal BBQ on Urbanspoon

Poonami

275 Barkly Street, Footscray
Phone: 9687 4094

I’ve lived in Footscray for just over two years now. Just about every day, I walk past Poon’s on my way home. On most nights it’s busy; on weekends it’s usually packed. Yet if you take a closer look through the venetian blinds, you’ll notice that there’s rarely – if ever – any Asian customers. A quick read of the menu posted in the window pretty much explains the reasoning behind the lack of Asian patronage. You see, Poon’s isn’t so much a Chinese restaurant as it is an Australian Chinese restaurant.

Before you chide me for making the distinction, or conversely  stop reading because of your disdain for the ‘inauthentic’, let me explain. Historically, traditional Chinese fare didn’t do so well commercially in Australia, at least not until the last decade or two. My family owned a(n Australian) Chinese restaurant in Swan Hill for over a decade, so I saw first-hand the types of ‘Chinese’ food that Australians responded well to back then. Restauranteurs, needing to make a living, naturally pandered to these tastes, and a particular genre of Chinese restaurant emerged over time – what I like to refer to (lovingly) as bastardised Chinese food. For a while, they dominated the Chinese eatery landscape, but the shifting tastes of our cosmopolitan society have, for the most part, moved on. Many of us now recognise the difference between Shanghainese, Cantonese and Sichuan flavours (arguably the three most prevalent styles of Chinese food in Australia).

When my previous housemate moved in with me, he was pretty fresh off the plane from Italy – a country not known for its Chinese food – and so he was continually intrigued by Poon’s. It was always busy, so it must be good, right? He was a little confused at first when I explained that there was an element of secret shame when it comes to the enjoyment of this style of Chinese food. For the better part of a year, he would suggest from time to time that we go to Poon’s, and I would suggest we go elsewhere. However, sometimes this was in the company of others, most notably @eatnik, and the seed was planted to organise an excursion to Poon’s one day (you know, just not today).

Fast forward a year, and I had a new housemate, and @eatnik had moved interstate. She was back in town for a weekend, so we had to do something special for the occasion. I suggested Poon’s on twitter, and there was quickly a flood of interest – a Poonami, if you will. In the end, there were fifteen of us, which I thought might have been a little challenging for Poon’s, but they were more than ready for us. Though I should note that ‘ready’ didn’t include laundering the tablecloths. They’ve since gotten rid of tablecloths altogether, moving to the more utilitarian dark wooden tables, so I guess that’s not an issue anymore.

image

One thing that I found sorely missing from the Poon’s menu was a mixed entree. Typically it’s all deep fried, involving a spring roll, dim sim, and sesame prawn toast. So we improvised, and just ordered enough of each of these (we substituted mini-dim sims as I’m prone to over-ordering) for each person to have some of each. The sesame prawn toast was decent, the mini-dim sims were a bit forgettable, but the spring rolls – which some members of the group didn’t like – transported me back to my childhood spent in the kitchen of our family Chinese restaurant in Swan Hill, when I would get super-excited as a child when the kitchen hand made a mistake and their were extra spring rolls fried. Filled with cabbage, minced pork and shredded carrot, these golden tubes of shameful joy were executed exquisitely. And no, I still will never order them at yum cha. That’s just wrong.

Next thing that I ordered was the seafood combination, not so much for the seafood, but because it came in a ‘bird’s nest’ – an artful deep fried noodle bowl. I found this version interesting because there was a combination of deep-fried (sensing a theme here yet?) seafood with the more traditional stir-fried seafood and vegies, glazed in glistening cornfloured ‘clear’ sauce.

image

Of course, you can’s have a Chinese Australian meal without special fried rice. Poon’s was decent, but clearly designed as a foil to their dishes, and not that ‘special’ in my book. We used to have two fried rice dishes on the menu – a regular one, which was much like Poon’s’ minus the prawns, and the Special Fried Rice, which had big pieces of chicken and slices of roast pork, and was pretty much a meal on its own. Still, I was happy to see that Poon’s doesn’t add soy sauce to their fried rice. Very few things in this world offend me more.

image

I was a little disappointed with the sweet and sour pork at Poon’s. The pork itself hadn’t been marinated much, and as often happens in Chinese Australian restaurants, some of the pieces were more batter than meat. The sauce itself was on the bland side, and the vegetables were over-cooked. It reminded me a little of bain-marie food. As much as I love sweet and sour pork, I’d definitely avoid this one.

image

The honey king prawns, on the other hand, were deftly done. Battered and fried till crispy and golden, then lacquered in honey. Delicious. The garnishes were a little odd – lettuce and fried strips of wonton skins – but presentation isn’t really what a place like this is all about.

image

Again, the lemon chicken – another stalwart of the Chinese Australian menu – appeared pretty lacklustre, and to be honest, tasted that way too. The lemon sauce lacked acidity, and also, lacked sauce. The chicken itself was moist and tender enough, but it also was pretty bland. Is this what bland people eat? Perhaps…

image

One of the highlights of any Chinese Australian restaurant’s menu is anything that has “(sizzling)” next to the item. This was the Mongolian beef – which was tasty enough, but lacked any real spiciness which I usually associate with the dish in my mind. The beef had the noticeable texture of meat that had been tenderised with bicarb, but then that’s not unusual, and cost-cutting measures like that are almost to be expected when you consider the prices that Poon’s charges – it’s pretty damn cheap.

image

Of course, we couldn’t have a Poonami without dessert, right? Banana fritters and fried ice creams were the standard order around the table, and let’s just affirm once more, if I haven’t been clear so far – the chef/s at Poon’s know their way around a deep fryer.

image

I opted for the pineapple fritter and ice cream – I find banana fritters are too sweet when covered in golden syrup and paired with vanilla ice cream.

image

Poon’s stands as something of a last outpost for those who hold fast to this uniquely indigenous form of Chinese cuisine. And even if it’s not to everyone’s taste, they do what they do pretty well, as evidenced by their continual success.

Poon's on Urbanspoon

First taste

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.
image
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.
image
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.
image

My sister had a watercress and chicken number.

image

And I got this murky one.

image

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.

image

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.
image
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.
image
There was some other vegetable and tofu claypot, but I was too busy eating to take a photo by the time it arrived.
image
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!
First Taste on Urbanspoon

Footscray’s best buns

One of the great things about writing a foodblog is it can justify some pretty insane eating activities, like doing a ramen crawl around the city, or blind testing mince pies and banh mi.

Recently, I decided it might be time to embark on another (slightly ridiculous) experiment: it was time to find the best BBQ pork buns in Footscray. Now I should just clarify here that when I talk about BBQ pork buns, I’m talking about the Chinese char siu bao – you know, the fluffy white buns filled with sweet and salty red pork filling that you get at yum cha – and not the Vietnamese style grilled pork banh mi rolls.

This came about when I was looking over the search terms for the blog. Someone had searched for “Footscray pork buns”, which in hindsight was probably referring to banh mi, but it got me thinking that with the number of local yum cha and bakery joints in Footscray where you can get a quick char siu bao fix, it was about time I found out which one was the best.

It would be a pretty tricky thing to try to ascertain on your own, but with a bunch of eager bun-eating friends, it’s not so arduous (yeah OK, arduous is a bit of a stretch). So six of us gathered at Lauren‘s place, and between us we amassed between us an array of pork buns from eight different sources.

imageFor those of you playing at home, yes, there were a few frozen and refrigerated buns from local Asian grocers, as well as a pack of buns from Costco! Docklands is right next to Footscray, so I figured it would be OK to include them…

imageThe clearly-not-char-siu-bao yellow buns in the mix are some lau sa bao (flowing sand buns) from Yummie Yum Cha, which I brought along because the others hadn’t tried them before. They’re filled with an egg custard which is made using the yolk of salted eggs. If you haven’t tried them before, do yourself a favour next time you’re at yum cha. Not all places have them, but Gold Leaf and Shark Fin outlets usually do.

imageAfter some convoluted randomising and cross-marking of the buns, the first batch of buns went into the steamer.

imageTen minutes later, the gorging taste-testng began. On average, we had half a bun of each variant tested, though there were a few buns which were bigger than others, so some cleaver action was necessary. We decided on three criteria against which we would judge each bun.

First, the dough, or bun, itself. It should be light and fluffy,a little sweet, and my personal preference is to be able to peel the thin skin away from the outside of the bun. It’s a childhood habit playing with my food that I never gave up.

Next, the filling. The flavour of the pork should be present, along with a balanced sweet and savoury sauce.

Finally, we judged the overall balance between the two elements. A bun that’s all bread and no pork is no fun; but similarly a bun with too much filling will feel a little too sickly rich and heavy.

imageOne of the better buns: check out the fluffy white bun, and the solid chunks of pork filling.

imageAnd one of the day’s less impressive specimens: a heavy, doughy bun, and overly sweet filling. The atomic red hue of the filling was a little alarming, too!

imageSo without further ado, here are my final results. I should note that we weren’t all unanimous in our scores, but 5 out of 6 agreed that the buns from Master Restaurant were our favourites, and the foul, offensive vegetarian ‘BBQ pork’ buns from the Vincent vegetarian Asian grocer were voted unanimously the worst buns of the day.

Cost per bun Bun (dough) Filling Ratio Total
Yummie Yum Cha $1.20 7 5 7 19
Seng Hork (from Asian grocer) $0.93 6 7 7 20
Victoria Bakehouse $1.60 6 5 4 15
To’s Bakery $3.00 4 3 5 12
Master Restaurant $2.00 8 7 7 22
Sun Wong Kee in Little Saigon $1.80 7 6 7 20
Yum Cha at Home (from Costco) $0.95 5 6 6 17
Vegetarian BBQ Pork Buns from Vincent Vegetarian Grocer $0.94 5 1 6 12

image

Sung’s Kitchen

118 Franklin St, West Melbourne
Phone: 9329 2636

When four of my bestest buddies moved interstate last year, I was a little worried that I would be lonely. Who was going to come with me to restaurants and trust me to order twice as much food for the table as was necessary? Was I going to be able to find others who would join me in unflinchingly eating ‘challenging’ offal dishes every time they appeared on a menu? I felt a little abandoned.

But this is the way life works; people come into your life, and people go. And while I still miss my friends in far off places, my separation anxiety didn’t last that long. Because I live in Melbourne, and in Melbourne you don’t have to look to hard to find kindred souls if your passion is adventuring through food. And let’s be honest: there’s not really any better way to make new friends than to share food.

New friends bring new experiences, and I was excited when one of them suggested that we go to Sung’s Kitchen. I hadn’t heard of the place before, though a little research revealed that it’s been around for a while.

As Ms E and Ms I have been there before, they took care of the ordering while the other Ms E and I gossiped about our love lives. It got so Sex and the City so quickly…

First up was this cold chicken and glass noodle salad. Interesting texturally, with the strips of celery and cucumber, I found it a touch on the bland side. But then again I’m not a huge fan of Taiwanese Dan Dan noodles, which have a similar peanut/sesame dressing.image

The dumplings which arrived at the table next didn’t really do it for me either. The skins were somewhere in that no-man’s land between delicate and light, and substantial and chewy. The filling was also a little forgettable.image

Art this point, I was starting to wonder if I should have asserted myself a little more during the ordering process, rather than ranting about how there are no good single men in this city. For those of you playing at home, I’m Miranda. Minus the need to wear a suit at work. My faith in I&E was redeemed when the next dish came to the table. Fried: tick. Sauced: tick tick. Visible chillies: tick tick tick. The ‘Ministry Chicken Ribs’ were incredibly moreish, and I think everyone was just being polite when we were down to the last one; we all wanted that last rib.image

I was recovering from a cold at the time, so I requested that I&E order a soupy dish. This pork, seafood and tofu number really hit the spot. Well seasoned, so it crossed the bland/clean flavours line – which is one way to judge if a chef really knows what they’re doing when it comes to Southern Chinese (read Cantonese) food – the pork was reasonably tender, and the wo ngaa baak (that’s what we call wombok in Canto) still had a hint of crispness about it.image

The last dish was also a winner, though it sounds strange and unappetising on the menu. “Shanghai scrambled egg white”; what, am I having breakfast at a cafe next to a gym? But no, it was actually great. The egg white was chiffon-y and delicate, and it was riddled with little slivers of crab meat. I’d definitely order this again.image

So anyway, as you can see, even though my old partners in crime have moved away, things will always remain half- mostly eaten.image

Sung's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Flavour town

Level 1, 202 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9663 1268

A few months ago, @eatnik’s pal @submelb gave us the scoop on a new hotpot joint. He was rather excited by it – to be fair, he’s a pretty excitable fellow, so that’s not necessarily saying much – and even though we’d all just eaten, implored that we all go and check it out. We wandered in, had a bit of a peer around, and resisted @submelb’s insistence that we had to check out the toilets, as they were ‘the best!’.

imageTo be honest, Flavour Town is a pretty impressive affair, as far as hotpot joints go. Decked out with comfortable booth seating, or round tables for larger groups, partially screened by beaded curtains, of the luxe rather than the tacky kind; think of opium dens, but shiny. The other neat-o thing at Flavour Town is – if you get in early, or you book – there is the option for individual soup pots. This takes away some of the communal eating experience I think, but it’s handy if someone’s got a cold, or if you’re a bit short-limbed and have trouble reaching the communal pot in the middle. Both times I went, alas, all the individual soup pot tables were full.

You can mix and match your soup bases – there’s chicken, pork bone and spicy. We went for the latter two, both times. For those of you who haven’t been to hotpot before, you order a whole lot of raw ingredients, and then proceed to cook them yourself at the table by dunking them in the boiling soup. It’s a lot of fun, but if you’ve got kids, you may need to exercise some supervision.

imageThe first time I went was with @thatjessho. We ordered a whole bunch of stuff – far too much for the two of us – so I’m only going to go through the highlights, ie. the things I would recommend. Above, the chrysanthemum leaves (tong o) which are, in my opinion, the best vegetable for hot pot. They have a very distinctive chlorophyll-y flavour, and work well in any soup. Next to that was the pig’s blood jelly. This stuff is already cooked, to some extent, but it actually gets better the longer you leave it in. As do the potato slices (below, left). The potato soaks up all of the flavours which the other ingredients have imparted into the soup, so drop the potato in early, and let it sit there until much later. You’ll be glad you did.

You’ll also be glad you ordered the ‘egg fish balls’, which are fish balls filled with a salty yellow fish roe. The texture and the vaguely salty-sweet flavour of the roe were an interesting surprise.

image

See?

image

Oh look, chicken hearts. YES! The dried bean curd skin on the right? Meh, it’s something of a filler for me. Jess was into it though.

image

 

Being offal-coveting Asians, we of course ordered both kinds of tripe. Bryan would call them the reticulum (top) and the omasum (bottom), but I like to call them the Honeycomb and the Carwash. image

image

Here’s some time lapse action of how our soup pot progressed throughout the meal.

image

image

image

 

It got a little manky towards the end, and that’s even without us ordering any thin-sliced fatty beef or lamb!

The next time I returned was pretty much the same affair, only with less offal and more flesh. So I didn’t bother to take photos.

Oh, and last time I was there, Flavour Town was – lamentably – without a liquor licence.

Flavour Town Hot Pot 滋味堂 on Urbanspoon

Dumpling Den

88 Grattan St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 7702

I believe that food comprises a large part of my memory. I remember my father introducing me to sardines in tomato sauce on toast for breakfast, and crunching on Sunnyboys at the local swimming pool in the height of summer. Indeed, I write this blog on memory alone; I don’t take notes while eating, because that would get in the way of my eating.

But there are times when I don’t remember. Most often, it’s because I’ve been drinking too much, but sometimes I’m just otherwise distracted. The latter was the case when I visited Dumpling Den. It was a first date, you see.

I’d been meaning to try out Dumpling Den for a while, and dumplings didn’t appear on this list of things not to eat on a date, so I figured it was a good idea. I don’t agree with a lot of things on that list, by the way. I agree that things that get stuck in your teeth or that will inevitably end up all over your shirt should be avoided, but I don’t think you need to avoid eating something on a date just because it’s kind of phallic or has sloppily suggestive juices which you’ll need to wipe from your mouth. Where’s the fun in that?

So we ordered two types of dumplings – fried pork, and steamed chicken and prawn – and I promptly forgot to note anything about the food as we talked about bands, family, the nature of friendships, and Benjamin Law.
imageI remember less about the pork dumplings – not much aside from the fact they were a little tricky to separate as they’d become something of a homogeneous mass in the process of pan-frying them together – than I do about the exact hue of his eyes. I don’t really remember much about the other dumplings either, but I remember us bumping knees under the table. I don’t remember if the chilli oil was worth writing about, but I remember he ordered an orange juice. OK, I confess I don’t even remember that; I just saw it in the picture below.
imageWhat I do remember is feeling a little nauseous, but I don’t think that was the dumplings, I think it was just butterflies in my stomach; I was a little nervous.
imageIt’s not often that my memory fails me, when it comes to food. In fact, I’d say it’s something of an extraordinary circumstance. But then, he’s a pretty extraordinary guy.

So this review’s a little pointless, hey? Well, no, because I know he’ll read it. 😉

Ma's dumpling den on Urbanspoon

Fake meat

I read (most of) Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals while I was on holiday in Malaysia, while eating my way to using a new notch on my belt. It made me think more closely about what I choose to eat, but ultimately, it hasn’t really made me change the way I eat. I’m an unapologetic omnivore.

White Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant
185 Victoria St, West Melbourne
Phone: 9326 6040

So when Bryan and Lauren recently (re)visited White Lotus and raved about the faux meat dishes, I knew this was something I also wanted to re-investigate. These ‘fake meats’ have been made for centuries by Buddhists, who are strict vegetarians. They’re made of different manipulations of beans and grains, like tofu, tempeh and glutens, and you know what? They do lack that satisfaction that comes with smashing a rare eye fillet steak or a bucket of fried chicken, but at times, they’re a pretty close facsimile.

I met up with two members of the Delta Force Five for dinner at White Lotus, and let’s say I was a little trepidatious. The place is only open three night a week, and looks like it may have opened in the eighties, and not have been renovated since. The lighting is a little dim, making the overall effect dingy, but the service is friendly, and as you’ll see, the food is interesting. Apologies for the god awful photos, but as I said, the place was dingy.

We started by sharing some mixed entrees. Spring rolls and wontons – the vegetarian versions of which are nothing new – and fried taro cutlets. These were awesome. Seriously, taro is probably one of the most under-rated vegeatbles around. Potatoes got nothing on the density of that starch.
image At Ms K’s request, we got the Sweet and Sour ‘Pork’, an Aussie Chinese classic, and one that is dear to my own heart. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so great. Funnily, what let it down wasn’t so much the fake pork. While that wasn’t amazing, it wasn’t offensive, either. What let the dish down was the batter, which was already a bit soggy by the time it arrived at the table. I would have thought such masters with glutens and flours would be able to mix together a great batter which stays crunchy!
image Ms N insisted we order the ma po tofu, which was really quite good. The replacement for the pork mince was something like TVP, but this didn’t really detract much from the dish, which is all about the tofu and the spicy sauce anyway. This is definitely not the best ma po tofu I’ve had in Melbourne, but it’s passable.
image Finally, I ordered the roast ‘duck’, because I’d heard of the amazing textures in this dish. Three different treatments of non-meat had been combined to create the meat, crispy skin, and even subcutaneous fat layer of the roast ‘duck’. The flavour wasn’t quite there, but texturally, this was amazing. A couple at another table came in, and just ordered two serves of the roast ‘duck’ and rice, and I can see why. I wouldn’t share this if I didn’t have to.
image 

White Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Yong Green Food
421 Brunswick, Fitzroy
Phone: 9417 3338

A few nights later, I caught up with my old housemate Le Singe. I’d heard a lot about Yong Green Food, especially the ‘rawsagne’, but in the end it was too cold and gloomy a night for raw food that hadn’t been heated above 40 degrees. So we started by sharing the mung bean pancake, which was really quite enjoyable. It wasn’t as thin as a crepe, but not really pancake thickness either; maybe as thick as a pancake made using plain flour. You could taste the mung beans, which reminded me a little of banh xeo, and the flavour gave me the overall impression of being healthy, though not in a bad way, like spirulina. The dipping sauce was a bit meh.
image Yong Green Food is primarily vegetarian, with a heavy Asian slant to the menu, but given the name and the cute little waitresses who all had similar bob haircuts, I’d say there’s a pretty strong Korean bias happening there. So I thought I’d try the Korean BBQ dish, which was sliced soy ‘beef’ with vegetables and rice.
image While there was nothing offensive about this dish – it was perfectly edible – it was pretty disappointing. The ‘beef’ didn’t have even the slightest hint of being grilled, so the term ‘BBQ’ was a pretty outlandish claim. There was also a lack of spice, which again was a bit baffling.

Le Singe had the teriyaki chicken, which she quite enjoyed.
image
We had arrived quite early, because I had a soccer game late in the evening, and gobbled up our food by about 7:30. We were promptly given the bill, which we settled, and then we continued to chat away. A few minutes later, one of the waitresses came over and asked us to leave, because they had people waiting for a table. Now I understand the need to turn tables over, and not keep people waiting, but unless you’re clearly advertising specific seating times, I think asking customers to leave once they’re finished is pretty bad form. It was a disappointing end to a somewhat disappointing meal, really. I probably won’t be back anytime soon.
image

Yong Green Food on Urbanspoon