Meiji

Name: Meiji Japanese cafe
Location: 105 Little Bourke St CBD
Cost: $10-15 for pot rice, dinner menu can extend up to $20
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Would I come back? Yes.

paper screen

A wall partition/divide space and filter light/Tranquil ambiance

goldfish

Peace in a glass bowl/Are things going ‘swimmingly’?/They are for these fish.

Meiji is a small Japanese place with cosy décor. There are paper screens, beer flags and even a fishbowl. Meiji does something I haen’t seen at other casual Japanese places– pot rice. It’s a rustic rice dish with toppings, a little bit like a ‘donburi’ but the rice is more flavoured with the ingredients . Think of it as a cross between fried rice and donburi, with everything steamed together in a claypot. (Not that it is served in a claypot at Meiji, but the way they serve it is also charming.)

Everything else (bento and ramen) aren’t done as well as the pot rices, and frankly, there are better places for bento and ramen nearby. Go to Meiji for their pot-rices.

 
GOMOKU GOHAN (5 ingredient rice medley) ($10)
Score: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

gomoku gohan

Chicken, egg and prawn?/Three protein sources in one/ Oh wait, make that four.

bowlful

Bowlful with all things/Still another two bowls left/ But… so delicious

Meiji does the pot of rice flavoured with many ingredients as it is cooking. Sometimes I read up on gomoku gohan in Japanese cuisine books, and it looks like the perfect winter/autumn food. The rice servings in these pot-rices are fairly large, there 2 bowlfuls in there. For gomoku goban, there is chicken, prawn, quail egg, soft omelette slices, ginko nuts, something like beans crossed with water spinach (fern bracken?) and shiitake mushrooms.
Out of all the pot-rices, gomoku goban would have to be the best value-for-money meal. Big serve, plenty of toppings, super tasty and visually appealing.

SUTAMINA GOHAN ($14)
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes

stamina gohan

Sweet oily eel flesh/Unagi makes things better/Unless allergic

bowl stamina rice

Kimchi seeped white rice/ if you know not of this joy/ kimchi fried rice, go!

Sutamina is Japanese for ‘stamina’. Stamina rice has things traditionally thought to give you energy and counters lethargy. The rice has kimchi sauce through it, and there’s also some kimchi on top. Presumably to give you a kick in the mouth? There is also some grilled eel, which is said to counter lethargy on humid hot days. Beef, because as we all know eating big animals with red meat makes you grow up big and strong. There’s also a vegetable which I think is fern bracken, and shiitake mushroom as well.
Really tasty, but not an additional $4 worth of tasty. (If there is such as thing.)

ASARITAKENORI GOHAN
Score: 8.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

clam clam

Little clams in rice/Little bursts of umami/An elegant dish

Clams, mushroom and vegetable.

 

BUTAKAKUNI GOHAN

Score: ?

Would I order this? Yes.

Meiji butakakuni gohan

Chunks of pork belly/ Jelly-like fat, tender meat/Best of all, the sauce

Pork belly with sweet soy-based sauce.
TORIAGE TAMAGO GOHAN
Score: 7.5/10
Would I order it again? No.

Meiji chickenegg gohan

Fried chicken with sauce/ with strips of egg underneath/Chicken or the egg?

Fried chicken with soft sliced omelette. The fried chicken batter has a slight flour taste but tasty enough.

MISO SOUP
Score: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes

miso soup and pickles

miso and pickles/This should be compulsory/with every rice dish

Miso soup actually comes with the pot-rice, so I didn’t have to order it separately. It has wakame seaweed, spring onion and tofu in it. It isn’t too salty, and I enjoy having a small bowl of soup to go with my rice. My friend’s soup got cold after he finished his meal and the lady offered to reheat it for him. How nice is that!

PICKLES
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? – (comes with pot-rice)

I thought the little dish of assorted pickles was a nice touch. The yellow and pink ones taste the same and are pickled daikon radish, the green ones are dill pickles.

KAKI (OYSTER) FRY
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Meiji kaki fry

Battered, fried oysters/would be great in a po’boy/ not bad on its own

Small oysters, crumbed and fried. They are drained well so the lettuce isn’t soaking in oil. It’s a simple entrée, but the mayonnaise and fried seafood combination works for me. I wouldn’t order it by myself (because I don’t like oysters very much), but if someone was willing to share, then I would order this again.

AGEDASHI TOFU
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Meiji agedashi tofu

Crispy fried tofu/ Every haiku starts like this/Tofu deja vu

It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. From memory, both Ajisen and Yamato around the corner or down the street does a better agedashi tofu. Or it did several years ago. It could do with more umami from bonito or mushrooms. As it is it is quite plain.

HOTATE BATAYAKI
Score: 8/10
Would I order it? Yes.

butter garlic scallops

Butter and garlic/teriyaki sauce scallops/A hot tasty meal

Scallops sauteed in butter and garlic. Good combination. The scallops are soft and barely done in the middle, just as they should be. They taste fresh too. A bit on the salty side for me.

SASHIMI BENTO
Score: ?
Would i order it? Probably not.

sashimi bento is more like sushi bento

Sashimi bento/Not much fish, despite the name/Snacky food bento?

For a sashimi bento there isn’t much raw fish. The takoyaki (the three balls with sauce on them) are delicious, though if memory serves me right, there wasn’t much octopus. It was very soft and delicious, and had a good sauce. The scalloped round biscuit object in the bottom left-hand corner is a glutinous rice cake with sweet and savoury coating. My friend didn’t like it much, but I thought it was tasty. Maybe misplaced in a rice box. It would make a good snack or post-meal nibble.

CHASHU RAMEN
Score: ?
Would I order it? No.

anaemic ramen

Chashu, or ‘char siu’/is a delicious grilled meat/ Back onto ramen…

The ramen at Meiji looks anaemic compared to those at Ajisen or any other place that does ramen. Judging from the picture, I wouldn’t order the ramen at Meiji. I know the pot-rice is great at Meiji so there is very little that’ll steer me away from those.

MELON CALPIS
SOY MILK

drinks in cups

See drinks in glass cups/ Behold, the feats of canning/ How convenient

In conclusion, order a pot rice.
Meiji Japanese Cafe on Urbanspoon

Minang Nasi Padang

Name: Minang Nasi Padang
Location: Pelham St/Swanstom St Carlton VIC 3053
Cost: $6.50 lunch/dinner
Cost rating: 5/5
Taste rating: 7/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Would I go again? Yes.

There’s another Minang further down Swanston St in the city block district. Minang Nasi Padang is closer to a university, making it a hot spot for students who live nearby. It’s particularly attractive as it is cheap, offers Indonesian/Malay homecooked-style food, has a balanced selection of meat and vegetables as well as plenty of vegetarian options. It’s a small shop, and feels like a school cafeteria. $6.50 will get you a plate of rice with 3 side dishes, lunch or dinner.

Six-fifty square meal/ Keep it real, nothing fancy/ Feels like school mess hall

It seems fairly authentic Indonesian food, or at least it is different from western-asian food. It’s not a fancy eatery, but it is fairly clean, cheap and tasty so I come back every now and then for a nutritious feed. (Better than cup noodles, or a fried chicken burger, or my workplace cafeteria.)

Don't know what it is?/ Just ask the nice young lady./ Sauce on everything.

The counter is simply bain maries filled with food, with cutlery and a cashier on the side.  There’s usually rice (a choice of plain or fried rice), some fried foods (fried battered fish, and a thick potato cake), vegetables (pumpkin curry, spicy eggplant, beanshoots), vegetarian protein options (chilli egg, stirfried fried tofu with a sauce) and meat options (fried chicken, soy chicken wings, beef rendang, chicken livers). You can also ask the lady to put sauce from either the soy chicken or chilli egg on your rice. They’ll understand your penchant for sauce.

Bah, meat and three vege?/ Two meats and vegie medley./ Take that! A square meal.

Beef Rendang: As far I am aware, beef rendang seems to be done in one of two ways. The wet coconut-heavy way, and the dry toasted coconut and salt way. Laksa Bar does it the wet way, with a thick coconut-rich stew around the chunks of beef. Minang does it the dry saltier way. It tastes pretty good, but you’ll need to eat it with rice. It’s very salty. But it isn’t tough at all, the meat is tender and comes apart with a gentle tug of your fork.

Soy chicken wings: Fried chicken wings, then braised in sweet Indonesian soy sauce. I like this a lot. So much I came back again within the week to have it again for lunch. Chicken wings should be eaten with your hands, there’s no ‘neat’ way of eating them.

Pumpkin, cabbage, eggplant: Just that, pumpkin, cabbage and eggplant. In a tasty stew of sorts. I’m glad they have a delicious vegetable option, because all too often student cafeterias place too much emphasis on meat-options.

Not lacking protein/ Eco-sustainable meal/ Huzzah! Good for you!

Sambal egg: Or chilli egg. It’s not very spicy, sort of sweet with a mild kick. Eggs are an excellent protein source. Ovo-vegetarian too!

Melty-soft eggplant/ Why are you so delicious?/ I like small diners.

Fried fish: A little bit of fried fish. Some days you feel like fried food. The batter is quite thick, but it’s well-drained. The fish inside is delicate, sweet and flakes easily. It won’t win any prizes for the Best Battered Fish, but it’s fresh fish in a small diner. I think that deserves a prize of its own.

Today there's fried rice/ A tomato-based fried rice/ Plus three sides of choice.

Tofu with green capsicum: I liked this. It wasn’t bland at all. There’s also another variation of tofu, in the picture with eggplant, which is sambal tofu (with carrots and beans). That is delicious too.
Minang Nasi Padang on Urbanspoon

Dumplings Plus

Name: Dumplings Plus
Location: 269 Swanston St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Cost: $15-25 per meal, but dumplings and small eats are under $10
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 8.5/10
Overall rating: 8.5/10

Another rainy night and late dinner with some friends from my local strategy board games club  (A strategic board game called Go/Weiqi/Baduk, it’s  played on a grid with black and white stones.) We wanted a quick hot meal, and walked into Dumplings Plus hoping they would have a table for 5.

They did.

JASMINE TEA
Taste: 5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Stories have a start/ And so do meals. Have some tea./ And then will we start.

We all know what tea looks like. But I like this photo so I thought to share it with you. Hot jasmine tea is just one of those things I have to order at chinese restaurants.

HARGAO (PRAWN DUMPLINGS)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

My fav'rite dumpling/ Do you dip them in soy sauce?/ Or eat them as is?

Let me think of something to say. Nope, nothing. They’re really good.
SPRING ONION PANCAKE
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

No snail shapes here/ 'round and round it unravels/ Alas, not tonight

I liked these spring onion pancakes better than the ones at China Red. The main difference is the texture of the dough. China Red’s spring onion pancake was deep fried snail-shape with a less chewy dough. Dumpling Plus is thin and flat like a biscuit, pan fried and has more chew. As more fun it is to unravel the snail at China Red, I like the crispy crunchiness from panfrying.
SILKEN TOFU AND CENTURY EGG
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Lovely in Summer/ Cool respite from muggy days/ Or from spicy food

Simplicity is underestimated. This is just cold silken tofu cut thinly, and a chopped century egg with some seasoned broth for flavour. It’s a cold dish, but the flavours were clean and it was refreshing after all those hot dumplings and wontons in chilli sauce.
Century egg is a pickled egg. Unlike those terrible vinegar-pickled eggs, century eggs don’t have a strong taste. It doesn’t even taste of egg anymore. It’s just a cola-coloured egg with forest green oozy goo where the yolk was. The colour puts people off, but it is very mild and the texture is delightful. It’s like aspic with just-congealed yolk inside.

PICKLED JELLYFISH IN CHILLI SAUCE
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

'They are cold noodles'/ Leaps into the taste abyss/ '...made of jellyfish'

Yes, jellyfish can be pickled and eaten. They don’t really have a taste of their own, so it is eaten mostly for its texture and ability to soak up the flavour of the dressing. It’s crunchy like any other pickled vegetable. (But jellyfish aren’t vegetables.) Sometimes you’ll see pickled jellyfish on the side with roast suckling pig. But not with chilli sauce. The sauce is a spicy and sweet, but in no way crippling spicy. (It rates about a 5/10 on my scale.)

Sometimes I like to say they’re like noodles, just to get people to try it. Then tell them they’re made of jellyfish. I am a terrible person.

PORK AND PRAWN DUMPLINGS IN CHILLI BROTH
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

They are so tasty/ Why are dumplings so tasty?/ Another bowl, please.

Instead of a chilli broth, it is boiled dumplings with a thick chilli sauce on the bottom. These were so good we had to order several bowls, and one more for the person who didn’t like spicy food but still kept coming back for more.
PORK POTSTICKERS
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Potstickers are great/ Piping hot: don't burn your mouth/ Crunchy crispy base

Eh, they’re okay. I’d order them again because they’re potstickers, and everybody loves potstickers. It gives variety from wontons and dumplings in soup, and dumplings in chilli paste! They’re average for potstickers. The filling is pork mince, ginger, garlic and spring onions, which rarely goes wrong. The panfrying could have been better (some are barely golden, others are dark brown) but when there are a lot of dumplings to be panfried at a cheapish-eats restaurant, I can forgive them for the neglect of small details.
PORK AND PRAWN WONTONS IN SOUP
Taste: 7.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

As light as a cloud/ If only clouds were tasty/ Hm, hailing wontons?

Wontons in chilli paste with soup. The wonton skins are soft and the wontons are juicy. It is much the same as the dumplings with chilli broth but with wontons and more broth.
RED BEAN PANCAKES
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again?

Crispy and chewy/ It's odd, but enjoyable/ For your sweet tooth friend

Yes.I hadn’t seen anything like this before, so the novelty was great. It is red bean paste (seems to be from a can) inside a glutinous rice pancake, then panfried. The end result is a crispy but meltingly chewy pancake with sweet bean paste inside. They’re moreish.

I’d come back and order everything listed above. Yes, it’s noisy and not the cleanest restaurant I’ve been to, but the food is cheap and tasty, comes out fairly quickly, and hosts a fantastic har gao and silken tofu/century egg dish.
_Dumplings Plus on Urbanspoon

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

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

Yamato 2

Name: Yamato
Location: 223 Exhibition St, tucked into the laneway near corner Lonsdale/Exhibition Sts
Price: Mains $10-20, Dessert $4-7
Price score: 4/5
Overall score: 8.5/10
I really enjoyed Yamato’s ambiance the first time, so I came back a second time with more people. I also wanted to show you better pictures of Yamato’s interior, and here they are.

Noren cloth curtains/ A wall scroll with 'Yamato'/ We're in the right place

Does this room seat four?/ No, it actually seats six./Suspicion confirmed.

TOFU STEAK
Cost: $14?
Taste: 9.5/10
Would I order this? Yes.

Witches of Macbeth/ Double toil and trouble/ Hot tofu bubbles

It’s a vegetarian dish comprising of deep fried tofu, mushrooms and a deeply flavoured sauce. It’s a great umami hit. The tofu is sizzling in the sauce when it is plated for you. You allow it to cool just enough so you don’t burn your mouth, and the tofu absorbs the sauce to become sponges for delicious sauce. I heart sauce. One of the things that disappoint me whenever I order deep-fried tofu is how dry it can be. It really needs to be reconsituted in advance, and then drenched in sauce. But I wasn’t disappointed here, because there is sauce. The serving is quite sizeable too.

KATSUDON
Cost: $11
Taste: 9/10
Would I order this? Yes, I would order it again, but only if I had to. Not because it’s bad, but because I need to exhaust the entire menu before going back to it. There are other foods to be explored here.

Generous topping size/ But rice serving is quite small/ Up to perspective

The portions for their dons (rice with toppings) are fairly small, so beware. I wouldn’t say I have a large appetite, but this serving size leaves me -just- satisfied. But I could go a sushi roll afterwards, maybe two. But occassionally, one should only eat til satisfied. Think of it as the samurai experience.
Apart from my problem with serving sizes, their katsudon is good! The chicken is crispy, and there is egg to bind the chicken together. It’s a lot of chicken for the amount of rice given to you. But you don’t hear me complaining about that.

TENDOJI DON
Cost: $13?
Taste: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Hello portmanteau/ One of my favourite word kinds/ Many words in one

Tendoji don is a portmanteau of tenpura, tonjiru and donburi. Tempura are deep-fried small pieces of vegetables or seafood in a light batter. Tonjiru, also known as butajiru, a pork-based soup. It’s thicker than miso soup, and commonly has deep-fried tofu, tubers or a seaweed in it to make it an even heartier soup. Donburi is a rice bowl with toppings. Combine all three words together, and you get ‘tendo-ji-don’.
The fried seafood and vegetables are crisp, but I think the batter was a bit heavy-handed. To me, tenpura should only have a very thin, very crisp layer of batter. But in the Melbourne scene, tenpura seems to always be heavy-handed. This would be in the medium-thickness category of things. The thickest tenpura I have been and eaten was a tempura prawn. It had a diameter of a 20c coin, and the prawn in the middle wasn’t even 5c-coin-sized in diameter. Refer to the picture and judge for yourselves for batter thickness. It includes tempura prawn, white fish, sweet potato and green capsicum.
In the other vessel, there is a very salty pork soup with egg stirred through it. It’s so-so. The saltiness blankets over any other flavours, which is disappointing. I like eggs, but I would also like something else in the pork broth, such as sweet potato, or seaweed, or even just chopped spring onions.

DAIFUKU
Cost: $3.80
Taste: 10/10
Would I get it again? Yes.

Cut into three bits/ I can cut eleven bits/ By force of habit

I’ve already reviewed this, but here’s a better picture.

Yamato Japanese on Urbanspoon

Happy Kappa

Name: Happy Kappa
Location: 85 Swan St, Richmond
Price range: Mains $10-15
Overall rating: 8.5/10

There is a picture menu! The menu is limited, but it has enough range for the hungry travelling band.

Love picture menus/ If in doubt, point to picture/ It has served me well

The deco is neat too. The walls are lined with Japanese cultural artifacts, and the place feels cosy without being too shabby.

Islands of tables/ Walls covered in bric-a-brac/ Communal feeling

*TORIAGE UDON

Huzzah! Fried chicken/ Delicious in all its forms/ A bowl of udon

*TORIAGE DON

Fried chicken again/ Also good on hot white rice/ Or even brown rice

*TORIAGE RAMEN

Yet more fried chicken/ Maybe chicken noodle soup/ Fried chicken in soup?

*TOFU CURRY

Some tofu this time/ A Japanese curry rice/ Strange, but still tasty

*KATSU CURRY

Fried chicken cutlet/ In Japanese curry roux/ Noticing a theme?

*: These were ordered by other people who kindly let me hover about and take photos of their food. According to photos and response of the crowd, I’d say they were a success.  A word of advice, toriage is fried chicken pieces and is less lean than the chicken used in chicken katsu. Of course, with the addition of a bit of fat and dark meat, toriage is more flavoursome than chicken katsu. Katsu will be crispier though, through the crumbing process.

KATSU BENTO BOX
Price: 4/5
Taste: 9/10
Would I get it again? Yes

Fried chicken cutlet/ Rice, pickles, slaw and shumai/ Everything I want

On the right, white rice with red pickles, with some black sesame too. On the left, in the small compartment, soy sauce (which I didn’t feel the need to use) and 2 homemade dimsum. The dimsum have pork, onion and cabbage inside. (There was also a vegetable croquette in the small compartment, but that was eaten before I took the picture. It was crispy on the outside, and so soft on the inside. Delicious fluffy potato-ey goodness.) In the larger compartment, there is a cutlet of fried chicken with demi glace sauce, on a bed of shredded cucumber/lettuce/cabbage/carrot and a slice of tomato.

Normally, I avoid coleslaw because it’s usually been sitting around in a dressing for a while, and I am objected to salads sitting in dressing. But this bed of shredded vegetables doesn’t have any dressing, and it’s still fresh-looking despite being very finely sliced. It is a welcome addition to the meal. The katsu (cutlet of fried chicken) is crunchy and hot. A win in my books.

If you ever walk down Swan St to the football, give Happy Kappa a go.

Happy Kappa on Urbanspoon