Peko Peko

190 Wells St, South Melbourne
Phone: 9686 1109

Complete disclosure: I dined as the guest of Peko Peko.

Being a former Collingwood resident, and staunch Butter Side Up Northsider for life, when someone mentions Peko Peko, I think of the modern Japanese place on Smith St. And when I first heard of Peko Peko in South Melbourne, I assumed that is was just another outlet of the Smith St restaurant. So when people started talking about a ‘Japanese inspired’ Taiwanese restaurant earlier this year, I was curious. But it was Southside, so I wasn’t that interested.

That’s probably why it took me so long to get down there. But when the folks at nuffnang organised a get-together there, it seemed like the right time had arrived. What I thought was going to be a fun, social lunch with some other local foodbloggers turned out to be something of a lunch feast, as we were presented with one dish after another. By the end of the lunch, we’d sampled, from most reports, most of the highlights of the Peko Peko menu! So here’s a quick(ish) run-down of what we tried that day:

Pepper squid balls and wasabi mayo prawns:

The squid balls were OK – you could really taste the squid – but I wouldn’t order them again. The wasabi mayo prawns, on the other hand, I could eat all day. Though I’d add more wasabi to the mix, but I love wasabi.

We also had some of Peko’s Sausages and a twist on an agedashi tofu.


The sausage was good, but it was memorable more for the novelty factor of eating each slice with a slice of raw garlic, as suggested by Vanessa, who used to work at Peko Peko. The tofu was lovely – silken tofu, which was a bit tricky to pick up – and the dressing was closer to a soy than a dashi.

Then the mains came out – first up, Pork Chop Addiction.

Deep-fried pork chop pieces, in a sweet, tangy and mildly spicy sauce. This reminded me of my dad’s ‘Beijing’ sauce, which was a tricked up sweet and sour, with the addition of hoi sin sauce, chilli, pepper and a few other ingredients. I quite enjoyed this dish, but the star of this lunch was clearly the Pop Chicken.
Inevitably drawing comparisons to the KFC Popcorn Chicken, which are a little unwarranted, but invited by the name of the dish, Pop Chicken is excellently seasoned, super crunchy and yet tender and moist pieces of chicken. They’re more two-bite than bite sized, and there’s a spicy-sweet dipping sauce, which I tended to ignore in favour of some kewpie-style mayo. Nutritionally, this dish is a FAIL, but who cares – you know what you’re getting yourself into when you order fried chicken, right? Right.

We also tried the Mince Mince, which I didn’t really like that much. It was a troublesome dish to share; though the minced brisket had a lot of flavour – a bit too much salt in my opinion – I think it might be a better dish as part of one of Peko Peko’s bento boxes. The tea eggs were OK, but didn’t really have a lot of the tea flavour in them.

We also had some side dishes; perfectly cooked broccoli and cauliflower, and dry-fried green beans. I can’t overstate how much better beans are when there’s frying involved. The texture of the skin improves ten-fold, and they still retain the sweetness which makes the fresh version a joy.
Then we all decided we had to sample the desserts, because they’re very much the stuff of twitter gushing. From left to right: Cheesecake duo (Oreo and baked Japanese chiffon); Green tea ice cream and black sticky rice; Earl grey pannacotta and black sesame ice cream.
I didn’t try the cheesecake, but I can assure you that the other two desserts are worth skipping your lunch or dinner for.

I don’t know how soon I’ll be going back to Peko Peko, but it’s not because of the food, it’s just because it’s not really conveniently located for anyone unless you live in Central Equity land (the South Melbourne apartment ghetto near Channel 7 studios) or you work somewhere nearby on St Kilda Rd or Queens Rd.

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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.

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