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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
PASSIONFRUIT CREAM WITH PEANUT PRALINE, PUFFED WILD RICE & COCONUT ICE CREAM ($14)
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)
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.