Red Spice Road 03

Name: Red Spice Road
Location: 27 McKillop St, Melbourne CBD.
Price: $4.50-19 appetisers, $25-35 meal, $14 dessert
Cost/Pennypinching: 3/5
Taste: 10/10
Overall rating: 9/10
Would I come here again? Yes, for special occasions.

Just a few items this time! We ordered a la carte.

Pork Belly with Chill, Apple Slaw & Black Vinegar ($34.00)
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Have we had enough of the pork belly? This has appeared in Red Spice Road (01), and made an encore in Red Spice road 02. Go look at the previous posts for more pictures.

Duck Stir-Fried with Rice Noodles, Kalian, Herbs & Soy ($32.00)
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Order meals to share/ Could I finish this solo?/ Given some time, yes

Rather, it’s rice noodles, kailan (chinese broccoli), herbs and soy stir-fried with duck.I wish there was more in the bowl, especially when a serve of this dish needs to be considerably larger than say, a curry or pork belly. I can’t remember much about this dish, but the picture looks good. Tasty rice noodles and duck.

Jungle Curry of Minced Rabbit, Roasted Carrots, Betel Leaf & Cauliflower ($32.00)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes

"Be wery wery/ quiet, I'm hunting wabbits."/ For jungle curry?

I enjoyed this a lot. Jungle curry is a Thai curry which doesn’t have coconut milk in it (no coconuts in the jungle), a blessing for those who are watching their saturated fat intake or those who find regular Thai/Malaysian curries too rich from the coconut milk.Continuing on the theme of decreased saturated fat intake, rabbit is also a very lean meat.
Jungle curry shares a fair number of ingredients to green curry (another favourite), namely kaffir lime, lemongrass, galangal and garlic. Without the green ingredients (thai basil, green chillies, kaffir lime and leaves etc), it’s not green but bright red. Red chillies might have something to do with that. So do the roasted carrots. It doesn’t win any points for spectacular presentation, but it’s so good with rice. It’s slightly spicy from the chillies, sweet from the vegetables, and sharp from galangal and betel leaves. It’s easy on the stomach and palate without being boring.
Salt & Pepper Fried Tofu with Broccolini, Oyster Mushrooms & Spicy Peanut Sauce ($28.00)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Umami mushrooms/ Tofu needs umami hit/ Always pair with shrooms

What you see is what you get. It’s simple, but still a winner. It’s vegan to boot. But would I pay $28 for this dish, probably not.

Red Spice Road on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

Red Spice Road 02

Name: Red Spice Road
Location: 27 McKillop St, Melbourne CBD.
Price: The dinner banquet #2 is $65 per person.
Cost: 3/5 (it is a lot of money)
Taste: 10/10
Overall rating: 9/10
Would I come here again? Yes, for special occasions.

I’m back at Red Spice Road, thanks to the lovely SdV. My qualm with RSR is the lighting. (But most people wouldn’t mind the lighting.) It’s dim at night, and lit by red lampshades, which is quite savvy with its audience — younger adults. It’s terrible lighting for food photography. Without flash it’s way too dark to takes pictures without a tripod, and the problem with flash is the nasty glare. One way to bypass the glare problem is to use a diffuser (or a piece of white card to bounce the light onto your food so the glare doesn’t happen. Or to use your handy dandy torch/phone as an alternate light source.

Banquet #2 consists of 3 appetisers, 4 mains (served with long grain white rice) and 1 dessert.
BETEL LEAF TOPPED WITH SMOKED CHICKEN, LEMONGRASS, CORIANDER & KAFFIR LIME ($5.50 each)
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Delicious betel/ Wait, what? The chicken was smoked?/I had no idea

(Betel leaf appetiser picture courtesy to MT.)

This time the betel leaves were more mature, so they weren’t as tender as the ones in Red Spice Road (RSR) 01. I wouldn’t have thought the chicken was smoked until I went back to RSR website and checked their menu. (The names are long, and sometimes there are surprising ingredients that I had missed.) But to make up for the lack of smokiness, there is clearly kaffir lime leaf in the chicken.

GRILLED SCALLOP WITH STICKY DUCK RELISH & CUCUMBER (not on a la carte menu)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes, if it was on a la carte

Toot, under the sea/ That's where I'd like to be, toot/ Collect all scallops

I liked this a lot, as the 10/10 score might have indicated. Usually I dislike fresh scallops (I do like dried scallop, also known as conpoy.) because they’re always a tad overcooked when I order them. Seeing as this is a cheap-eats blog (most of the time), this is hardly surprising. I’ll still eat them if they aren’t chewy.
But chewiness and doneness of scallops is not an issue at RSR. The scallops are juuust done, complete with browning on the toop and bottom for that toasty sweetness to complement the natural sweetness of fresh seafood. Scallop, duck and cucumber is an unusual combination, but it works. The duck wasn’t overwhelmingly duck, there was minimal game flavour and little fat or the darker duck meat so that may have toned down the duck flavour. Cucumber has commonly been used to ‘sweeten’ meats in asian cooking, and has the additional benefit of being a ‘cooling’ food (according to eastern hot-cold food-medicine philosophy) to balance out the ‘heatiness’ of duck.
The little bit of rice underneath of scalllop helps keep the scallop upright, but I wouldn’t have minded if the rice was not there.

TWICE COOKED LAMB RIBS WITH CHILLI JAM ($16)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Neatly trimmed lamb rib/ The ultimate finger food/ Don't forget the jam

Lamb ribs, or ribs of any animal, are delicious. The lamb rib seemed to have been braised with aromatic spices (star anise and some other things), then breaded and deep-fried. I would have been happy even with the frying. Frying seems to be one of three themes at RSR, the other two being curry and herby salad. The chilli jam is chilli paste without seeds. The ‘jam’ is on the bottom of the bowl, so people (myself included) might not notice the chilli under the dim lighting and go without chilli jam.
Even without the jam, twice cooked lamb rib is fantastic.

CHICKEN, ASIAN CELERY, GREEN TOMATO, CORIANDER, GREEN CHILLI & LIME SALAD (not on a la carte)
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? Only comes with banquets.

Refreshing green dish?/ Only compared to curries/ Nooo, disappointment. =(

The colours look good (lots of different green things), but the taste is rather insipid. It didn’t have to be, because all of the ingredients have a distinctive taste. Asian celery is different from the usual fleshy celery, as it isn’t fleshy at all. It has a thin stalk perhaps half a centimeter in diameter, and tastes like a stronger version of the yellow inner stalks of celery but more pungent. I haven’t met a green tomato I did like, they’ve all been watery-tasting. But an upside to this is that it’s flavour neutral among dishes that have a strong flavour, it serves as a palate freshener. But it’d be more refreshing as a vegetarian dish.
But if I was ordering a la carte, I wouldn’t order this because there are plenty of other dishes that are better. Luckily it’s not on the a la carte menu.

PORK BELLY WITH APPLE SLAW, CHILLI CARAMEL & BLACK VINEGAR ($34)
Taste: 9.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Sticky pork belly/ Sigh, so juicy and tender/ Occasional treat

I’d order it again because pork belly is done so well here, and it is a tasty treat every now and then. The pork belly is very sweet, but it does have apple slaw and vinegar to counteract the sugar. It is still too sweet for my liking, but this is RSR’s signature dish for a good reason — it’s delicious. The pork belly is braised til it’s tender and the fat is gelatin-like, then deep fried for extra crunch. It’s not greasy in the way underfried things are, and fried pork belly arrives on your table still crunchy.
BARRAMUNDI GREEN CURRY WITH EGGPLANT & SNAKE BEANS (not on a la carte)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes, if it was on the menu. It’s a great stand-alone, so I don’t know it’s not on the main menu.

For warm humid days/ Barramundi green curry/ Summer ain't so bad

Hello green curry and barramundi fish. Two of my favourite foods in one dish.
Barramundi is also known as Asian seabass, and less commonly known as giant perch, giant seaperch, Australian seabass. (courtesy of wikipedia) It has white, soft, flaky flesh with a considerable amount of fat. Not fat in the way salmon is fatty, the barramundi fish’s fat is more evenly distributed and so the flesh is softer. It also seems to have less connective tissue than salmon. Overall, it’s a great eating fish. It can sometimes be muddy tasting, but that’s an issue with its farming.

Green curry mostly has green chillies, corriander, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and other herbaceous-yet-warmly spicy flavours. Despite what connotations the colour green might carry for you, green curry isn’t less spicy than red curry. But it is sweeter and has more kick at the back of the throat. It goes well with fish, but vegetarian green curry is also a satisfying meal in itself. (You have to have eggplant!) Snake beans are okay too, they’re firmer and have more crunch than string beans but don’t evoke the same sense of Spring as string beans do.

There’s plenty of flavour in this curry. Some restaurant use herbs frugally or rely on premade pastes, which is fine as long as the end product is tasty. But sometimes I want the real deal, and here it is.
SLOW COOKED BEEF CHEEKS WITH MUSHROOMS & HOT ‘N SOUR SALAD (not on a la carte)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes, if it was on main menu. But there is another beef cheek main, as a massaman curry.

Doesn't look like much/ But it holds up to 'spoon test'*/* I made that up now

Crush stuff with your spoon/ See photo for description/ Light pressure only

My, oh my. Slow cooked beef cheeks. Everybody loves slow cooked food. Beef cheeks are something different. The cheek is an underused piece of meat, slightly chewy, lots of flavour and has collagen laced throughout, making it the more delicate version of stewing beef. The beef is so tender you can mash it with the back of a spoon, see second beef cheek picture for a demonstration.
I couldn’t tell you anything about the hot ‘n sour salad that the picture above couldn’t tell you. All of my attention was at barramundi green curry and beef cheeks. If I had to pick only two mains, I’d choose the green curry and beef cheek. If I could only choose one, I may possibly spontaneously combust.

Lastly, dessert.

PASSIONFRUIT CREAM WITH PEANUT PRALINE, PUFFED WILD RICE & COCONUT ICE CREAM ($14)
Taste:10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Miniature dessert/ This is all you really need/ Only a taster

At this point of dinner, everybody was bursting-at-the-seams full. But I have another space allocated for dessert. Don’t ask me where it comes from.
The passionfruit and peanut praline (sprinkled on top on the passionfruit cream) becomes a crunchy, tangy cream (yellow), the puffed wild rice is sprinkled on top, and the coconut ice cream (white) crenelle sits on top.The passionfruit cream is a cross between fruit gel and cream, as the cream does not dilute the passionfruit. It’s zingy and full of passionfruit flavour. To balance the tartness of passionfruit is the texture of cream, and the coconut ice cream. The consistency of puffed rice makes things crunchy. To me, puffed rice doesn’t quite give enough crunch by itself but there’s still the peanut praline. I’m amused by the novel puffed wild rice. I wonder how they do that.
The serving size may seem small, but by the end of the meal, you wouldn’t want to anything larger than that.

In addition to that:
PEACH ON THE BEACH (42 Below vodka and peach liquer layered with poached peaches, pineapple and cranberry juice) ($30)
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? No.

Peach on the Beach jug/ Fruity girly cocktail/ Best consumed with friends

Wait, what? They were poached peaches? I thought they were from a can. But I like canned peaches, so I can forgive them.
Peach on the Beach doesn’t taste particularly alcoholic or mind-blowingly delicious, and I suspect there isn’t much alcohol in it. (I also have two subjects with decreased alcohol dehydrogenase function who can attest to this by their lack of ruddiness — simply put, my lovely girlfriends were not red in the face as they would have been with any other glass of alcoholic beverage.) It tastes of peachy fruit punch, while delicious, not particularly exciting or refreshing. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty (in pink) fruity girly drink.

That concludes my review of dinner banquet #2 at Red Spice Road.
Red Spice Road on Urbanspoon

China Red

Name: China Red
Location: Shop 6, 206 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Prices: Meals $15-25, Drinks $3-5 (more for wine)
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 8.5/10
Overall rating: 8.5/10

China Red specialises in dumplings, but Chinese side dishes are also available. There is a kitchen at the back, and you can watch the chefs prepare dumplings in the window. Also, how many restaurants do you know of where you can make orders via a touchscreen computer? Yes, you can do that at China Red. It is lots of fun, but it becomes easy to order more things than you can eat because it is so much fun. (Who doesn’t like touchscreens? Beep boop, hey presto, food.)

Who scrolls over these pictures?

Not a TV screen/ Sit down, and watch food programme/ Press button, receive food

Ginger: also called/ Zingibar offinale/ Good for many things

Impressive ginger julienning. While this isn’t difficult to prepare, so many dumplings places neglect to place out finely sliced ginger. Instead, the ginger comes pre-steeped in vinegar. Or forgo ginger altogether.

SHANGHAI DUMPLINGS ($11.80/ 8pc)
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Like dumplings in soup/ But the other way around/ Shanghai shao long bao

Unfold wheat wrapping/ Somewhat like a boxed present/ Find pork broth inside

Shanghai dumplings (also known as ‘shao long bao’) are a steamed dumpling, but unlike most other dumplings it is more ‘bun-shaped’ (bun-shaped things are ‘bao’.). The bao should be able to hold its hot meaty juices when you pick it up with chopsticks, but the skin should not be so thick that it is chewy. I daresay that balance has been reached at China Red. Inside the bao is pork mince with a rich pork broth formed during the steaming process. The idea is to bite off the top of the bao so that the soup inside remains inside the bao, but now you have a little opening to drink the soup from. Or if you prefer, to let the soup trickle out onto your spoon so it cools down more quickly, drink the soup, and slowly nibble around the bao taking care not to burn your mouth. Addition of julienned ginger makes it even tastier.

PANFRIED PORK DUMPLINGS ($10.80/ 8 pc)
Score: 8/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Dumplings or meat buns?/ Maybe both at the same time?/ No need to pick one

Inside a pork bun/ or a dumpling, as it were?/ Har gao cameo

These dumplings are a mixture between being a dumpling, and being a bun. The outer layer is more bread than the thin unleavened dumpling skin. I find this lends itself better for panfrying because it is more textural than the thin dumpling skin. It is crunchy on the bottom, but fluffy and has more chew from leavening.

SZECHUAN STYLE SPICY CHICKEN ($11.80)
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Brace yourself oh tongue/ Against the capsaicin tides*/ *I am no poet

It was not as spicy as I thought it would be, and I’m not a seasoned in the ways of chilli and szechuan cuisine. It strikes me as odd that eating something so spicy that it bludgeons your tastebuds and other sensory nerve endings into temporary(?) non-functionality would be enjoyable. While it’s not bad, it’s not particularly interesting or impressive either.The chicken is steamed separately from the sauce, then the sauce and garnishes are added at the last minute. The peanuts add texture, and spring onions add more visual appeal. If szechuan style spicy chicken is a dish you’ve a hankering for, then by all means order this dish. But there are better szechuan style spicy chicken dishes, one of them being from the szechuan restaurant around the corner.

DEEP-FRIED SQUID IN SALT & PEPPER ($18.80)
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Salt and pepper squid/ One of the seafood classics/ but why so much salt?

Rice not pictured, but imagine a big bowl of rice that would serve 2-4 people. Batter isn’t as thick as it looks in the picture, but there is a massive air bubble separating the batter from the squid. I am not sure what that would mean, but both batter and squid are crunchy. There are also slices of red chilli and some fried shallots. So far so good until you realise how salty it is. So, so salty.

PRAWN & CHIVE DUMPLING ($6.50 / 4 pc)
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Delicious har gao/ Addition of chinese chives/ Even more delicious

Prawn and chinese chive dumplings are one of my favourites. I can’t find anything to fault.

VEGETARIAN DUMPLING ($12.50/ 12 pc)
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Spinach-green dumplings/ Is it Pantone patented?/ I don't see why not

Go on, take a bite/ See for yourself, what's inside?/ I... am not quite sure

Usually I find vegetarian dumplings to be dull and tasteless after eating dumplings with pork or prawn inside, but China Red’s vegetarian dumpling was surprisingly tasty. I think the difficulty with vegetarian dumplings is finding things with an umami taste and making sure the overall taste and texture of the dumpling is balanced. The major components of this dumpling is shiitake mushroom and finely diced chinese cabbage (moisture squeezed out to ensure that the filling doesn’t get too soggy). There seems to be wood-ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae) in there too.

SPRING ONION PANCAKE ($6.50)
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes

Spring onion pancake/ Misnomer! Not a pancake/ Eh, but close enough

It was piping hot when it arrived onto our table, the outside was an even golden colour and crunchy in a way that can’t be achieved by shallow frying. The inside was soft, the layers were very thin and elastic. The spring onion was finely sliced and added a delicious sweetness to the layered pancake.
To say it’s a pancake is a bit misleading. It is a sheet of very thin dough, much like phyllo pastry, with salt and finely sliced spring onions sprinkled across it, then tightly rolled up like a swiss roll. Then the long roll is rolled around itself to make a snail-shape. Then fried (or panfried). Then consumed.

ICED MILK TEA ($4.50)
Score: ?
Would I order this? No.

Drink and ice in bowl/ Ice won't fit into vessel/ A psuedo chem flask

I could pop outside to he bubbletea place and order a milk tea for the same price, and larger volume. But the presentation is interesting.

ICED RED BEAN IN SYRUP ($4)
Score: ?

Whole sweetened red beans/ Similar to ais kacang/ But no green cendol

Sweetened red beans, ice and condensed milk (?). This’ll fill you up. It’s not a particularly refreshing drink, but it seems tasty as a dessert.

China Red on Urbanspoon

Rice Paper

Name: Rice Paper
Location: 245 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Prices: Meals $10-15, Drinks $3-5
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 7/10
Overall rating: 7/10

Rice Paper is a Vietnamese hawker-style restaurant, who do a bit of everything. There’s a section on the menu for starters, rice dishes, noodles, and for vermicelli noodles. Much like the other restaurants along Swanston St, Rice Paper is considered a cheap eats place. Many things are under $10, and most are under $15, there are plenty of tables and the staff seem happy to move tables around to cater for large groups.
I went there after the lunch rush, so things were a quieter lull. I don’t have any problems with when the food was brought out, it wasn’t straight away nor was it too slow. The staff spoke to us on equal terms, seeing as we all seem to be students who want to kick back and relax for the rest of the afternoon. To me, Ricepaper has a laid back feel, and that’s not a bad thing at all during the lull times.

The walls are covered with framed pictures of Vietnam (one of my favourites is the picture of the bicycle), and the ceiling is decked out in colourful paper lanterns. The lighting is a bit dim, so it might make you sleepy.

Browse a gallery/ Rows of pictures of Vietnam/ Then order some food

CRAB AND TOFU NOODLE SOUP ($8.90)
Score: 6.5/10
Would I order it again? No.

Hey there scuttling crab/ You are looking mighty fine/ As food in my bowl

The soup is sweet and clear, no problems there. My major criticism is the crab balls. Usually crab balls are those orange coloured balls of flour, fish paste, flavouring and some cubes of carrot-looking things. Those are good in noodle soups, and are used in much the same way as other surimi products. The crab balls here seem to be handmade, which is a great thing, but the consistency is too soft and paste-like. It is a soft paste barely held together as a ball. I would like some bits in it, whether those bits are imitation crab or bits of real crab, or some kind of vegetable, or bits of fish, just something to give it texture.
(As a side point, I also dislike the dried tofu puffs. But you like those, and don’t mind a smooth eggy crab ball, then this isn’t bad at all.)

Hey there crunchy sprouts/ Bring your shredded cabbage friends/ Party in soup bowl

There’s also a separate plate of beanshoots and sliced cabbage to be added into the noodles. The hot broth should cook them slightly, but they’ll still be crunchy.

COMBINATION VERMICELLI ($10.90)
Score: 8/10
Would I order this again? Yes

Crispy crunchy things/ Grilled, fried and uncooked things too/ Texture champloo

Vermicelli is a thin opaque rice noodle. This has barbecued pork meatball, chopped up spring rolls, sugar cane prawn, shredded pork, cucumber, carrot and crushed peanuts. it is served with a bowlful of sweet vinegar (with some other things, but I’m not familiar with this dish). The idea is to add as much dressing vinegar as you need (I just dump in all of it), and mix it all together. The end result is a crunchy noodle dish with lots of tasty things embedded in the noodles.

 
Rice Paper Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Instameal: Ottogi Snack Ramen

Name: Ottogi snack ramen
Cost: $0.80
Contents: Wad of noodles, 1 soup base sachet.
Spiciness: 0/10
Taste: Noodles 5/10, Broth: 4/10
Would I buy it again? No.

Little snack ramen/ Not as good as Indo-mie/ The true snack noodle

All-in-one flavours/ After multiple sachets/ One seems too little

Compare snack noodles/ Maggi noodles versus this/ Hm, it's a tough call

 

I don’t understand why it is a snack ramen. It only marginally smaller than the regular noodles. It was rather tasteless too. There wasn’t a vegetable sachet, which disappoints me.
I’d skip this one, and buy something else.

(After contemplating the merits and shortfalls of Ottogi snack noodle and Maggi Chicken noodle, I would choose Maggi Chicken noodle. It’s still bright yellow with vaguely parsley smell, but I remember it tasting better when I was in primary school. )

 

Instameal: Mupama

Name: Nongshim Mupama noodle soup
Cost: $1.20
Contents: Wad of noodles, 3 sachets: 2 soup bases, 1 dried vegetables.
Spiciness: 5/10
Taste: Noodles 8/10, Broth: 8/10
Would I buy it again? Yes.

What is Mupama?/ Best dried veggies in a pack/ unofficial prize

Shiny green sachet/ Full of dried vegetables/ More goodies to come

Add dried vege early/ Allows more time to plump up/ Cooking level up

 

Lazy person's meal/ Reconstituted veggies/ No need to add own

First of all, I am impressed with its vegetable sachet. It contains chili as well as some kind of asian green. See end product. You’ll need to add the vegetable sachet in at the same time as the noodle to get them plumped up again.
It is a spicy noodle, but it’s not an overly harsh spiciness. You can add more water or less of the yellow sachet if you prefer less spicy noodles. I like how thoughtful they were to cater to people who prefer mildly spicy noodles.
That is enough gushing from me. You should try Mupama.

Instameal: Samyang Japanese Seafood Udon

Name: Samyang Japanese Seafood flavour udon
Cost: $1.20
Contents: Wad of udon noodles, 2 sachets: 1 soup base, 1 dried vegetables.
Spiciness: 0/10
Taste: Noodles 5/10, Broth: 4/10
Would I buy it again? No.

It looks promising/ Simple, no gimmicks packet/ Clearly labelled too

Samyang red and green/ I like their colour coding/ Sucks if colour blind

Not much to say here/ Drying decreases moisture/ Inhibits decay

You can't see salts yet/ Maybe if you leave it out/ Salt crystals will form

This udon is thinner and less oily than the previous ‘udon’ type instant noodles, more like a cross between ramen, thick pastry rice noodle and pasta.
My qualm with this instant noodle is how salty it is. Ack! Mouthful of salt. Then a nasty metallic salty tang with seafood-esque flavours. There are better seafood flavours than this, as well as better udon.
This is my least favourite seafood udon.