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.
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Dragon Boat lunch buffet (Lonsdale St.)

Location: 149 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: $16.80 lunch buffet
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 6/10
Overall rating: 6/10

I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Dragon Boat lunch buffet, ranging from terrible food to terrible service (the usual complaints). Some people have reviewed that the yumcha dishes are cold and stale, some say there weren’t enough trolleys going around, others say that they’ve been handed the wrong bill at buffet time. But other people would say it was great fun and the food was worth the $16.80 they had paid. So here’s my review on the Lonsdale St Dragon boat lunch buffet.

I had lunch there with some Chinese relatives, at 11am. Why does this matter? Believe it or not, it does matter who you go with. The waitstaff are more conversant with your Chinese-speaking relatives and friends, so you can ask when particular items will be coming past. If you’re nice, they might even bring it straight to you from another cart. The earlier you go, the fresher the staff and food will be. Fresher staff mean they’ll be more attentive, bring food out faster and generally be more amicable. After a few hours on the floor pushing carts and bickering with the inevitable fussy ‘aunties’ (‘Give me a stack from the bottom, it’s fresher that way.’ While that is true, it is stacked that way for a reason: to make sure your dimsum is waiting for the least possible amount of time on the trolley.), it gets tiring.

Dragon boat lunch buffet ($16.80, a price hike from $16.50) is much more fun with more people. It’s not the best yumcha I’ve been to, and it’s reflected in the price. But there’s a good range of dumplings and dishes to sample provided you go at the right time. There are no ‘deluxe’ plate items during the lunch buffet, but if you intend to eat as many dumplings as you can, then that won’t be an issue. Also, this lunch buffet is filled with prawns. Almost everything has prawn, or prawn mince, or prawn paste in it.

Pork dumpling (yellow dumpling skin)
Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Frilly, but no-frills/ Pork dumpling is mostly pork/ 2-bite meat morsel

Lots of pork mince and a couple of other things in tiny amounts (shiitake mushroom?) to make a meaty bite. (Or two.)

Spring rolls, with sweet chilli sauce
Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

Children's favourite/ Always a hit at parties/ Adult's fav'rite too

The outer layers are crisp, but it needs another minute in the fryer for that golden yellow colour. The filling is a pasty mix-up of bamboo shoots, pork, and possibly some other things but you wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s mostly starchy paste flavoured with the pork.

Vegetarian dumpling (translucent rice flour skin)
Score: 4/10
Would I order it again? No.

Vegetarian/Yumcha mostly not vego/B-plus for effort

The skin is too thick for my liking, so it becomes too chewy and sodden. The filling is a mix of bamboo shoots, carrots, wood-ear fungus, mushroom and potato starch. They’re standard things to put into vegetarian dumplings, but the preparation feels heavy-handed and generally lazy. The ingredients weren’t cut evenly, and there was a lot of potato starch binder.

Prawn and chinese chive dumpling 1 (translucent skin)
Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

There were three pieces/Ate one before taking pic/then there were two, awh

These ones have the same skin as the vegetarian dumpling. The filling is the same as below.

Prawn and chinese chive dumpling 2 (Har gao skin)
Score: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Prawn and chive dumpling/ Often stuck to the paper/ Don't eat the paper

This has a slightly different skin from the above. This one is also known as ‘har gao’, your true prawn dumpling. These ones are better because the skin is a different texture, and thinner than the above. It’s not chewy, and melts in your mouth.

Fried calamari
Score: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Fried calamari/ Combined with chips and seagulls/ Why at a yumcha?

Salt and chilli calamari. It arrived on your table fresh, so the batter was still hot and crispy. As you can see in the picture, it’s not an even coating of batter, nor is it the lightest batter. It’s still tasty, and the chili gives it an extra kick. The downside is that it is very salty, and the squid is a tad overcooked. (Not so much it is chewy)

Oysters with cheese
Score: 2/10
Would I order it again? No.

Cheese-seafood debate/ This is a point for against/ No cheese on oysters

Ack, oysters with cheese. The cheese has a film of bright orange oil, and beneath that is a paste of some sort of starchy substance with ham cubes. The oysters themselves have seen better days, and are laughably small in their huge shells. There’s more paste than oyster, and the paste tastes like the oyster. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but not when your oysters aren’t fresh.

Chicken pie
Score: ?

More a tart than pie/ Mostly buttery pastry/ Chicken paste centre

Beef curry puff (left)
Score: ?

Two things in one shot/ Lessens haiku load by one/ Bakery items

Sausage bun (right)
Score: 3/10
Would I order it again? No.
I don’t even know what was wrong with the sausage bun. The sausage was tasteless, without its usual saltiness. The bun wasn’t the usual bread/cake-like consistency. It has the physical semblance of a sausage bun, but not the taste. Odd.

Haam sui gok/ Saltwater pastry (I’m sure it has a more descriptive name.)
Score: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Fried sweet mochi thing/ My favourite chemistry/ Maillard reaction

These are football shaped (AFL football, not soccer.) pastry made from glutinous rice flour. The chewy, sticky rice layer is sweet. It’s fried on the outside (the sugar helps give the pastry its golden yellow color.), and has minced pork, shiitake mushroom, diced pickled radish, chinese sausage (among other savoury things) inside. In a way, it’s similar to fried mochi.

Prawn fun chueng
Score: 5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A rice noodle tube/ Doesn't taste as good unwrapped/ But it is still fun

I’d order it again because I always order fun chueng. There seems to be two prawns in each noodle tube, so cutting the tube in half ensures you get a prawn inside. The rice noodle tube itself doesn’t quite have that silky barely-cooked through texture. It was plastic-y. That’s never happened to me before, but it did this time.

Beef fun chueng
Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Prawn, prawn, prawn, prawn, beef!/ Alternative duck, duck, goose/ Why 'duck' anyway?

This fun cheung has beef mince inside, beef mince with spring onions. After eating dumplings with prawn, and tofu with prawn, eggplant with prawn, everything with prawn, beef is a welcome change.
BBQ pork bun
Score: 6.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Cakey white sweet bun/ Savoury barbecue pork/ Sweet-salty pattern

Ever since Gold Leaf’s BBQ pork buns, these BBQ pork buns just aren’t as good. The bun can be cakey, and stick to the roof of your mouth. Less meat and more sauce than GL, but it is your quintessential BBQ pork bun.

Egg tart
Score: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Crisp and flaky tart/ Custard is my favourite/ Polish six tarts off

Flaky pastry, not the biscuit pastry. Egg tarts should always have flaky pastry. The custard filling is on the sweeter side, with a sticky sweet glaze on top. The custard seems to be a shallower layer at dragon boat, but it is a sufficient amount of custard.

Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Gelatin powder/ revolutionary stuff/ All the things aspic

How can jelly go wrong? As you can see, it is a triangle of layered jelly.

Coconut sago
Score: 2/10
Would I order it again? No.

A definite miss/ Better as mango sago/ Learn to cook sago

I’m not even sure if the liquid is coconut milk. It might have condensed milk and water in it too. At the bottom there are sago pearls. The worst thing about this is that the sago wasn’t cooked through. Each pearl was raw on the inside.

Not every dimsum is made equal. I recommend going to yumcha with an experienced yumcha person just so you can flag down trolleys you want, and going at an earlier time than 3pm. I also recommend the egg tarts, and haam sui gok when they’re fresh.

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Cafe Greco South Yarra

Name: Cafe Greco South Yarra
Location: 560 Chapel St. South Yarra, VIC 3141
Prices: Mains $15-25, $9 desserts, $10 lunch special
Cost rating: 2/5 for non-lunch special, 4/5 for lunch special
Taste rating: 6.5/10
Overall rating: 6.5/10

We ordered two of the lunch specials and a dessert to share. Fairly average fare for mains, but for $10 it isn’t bad compared to other prices in the area. The dessert was delicious though! There have been some bad reviews for their desserts, but I liked the galaktoburiko.

Vegetarian pizza ($10)
Would I order it again? No.

Vegetarian/ Disappointing when it's bland/ Awesome when it's not

In hindsight, ordering a vegetarian pizza in a greek eatery was a silly idea. There is tomato, eggplant, zucchini, mushroom, basil and cheese. The topping is fine, but nothing special. The base is a let-down. Instead of being crispy, light, with the right amount of chewiness, the thin crust pizza was slightly soggy, dense and stale-tasting.

Meatball napoli pasta — entree size ($10)
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Storybook pasta/ Giant meatballs and red sauce/ Shaved parmesan

Pasta sauce is thick and tomato-y without being watery or too acidic. Generous portion of meatballs, predominantly flavoured with garlic and cummin. If this is entree size, I imagine the ‘mains’ size to be roughly the size of a wash basin. Afterall, this is a greek place, so a wash basin may not be an exaggeration.

Galaktoburiko ($9)
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Galaktoburiko is a Greek dessert, usually served warm (and preferably with icecream). It is a custardy pastry with puff pastry at the bottom and top, and doused liberally with honeyed syrup. I like it a lot. It reminds me of baklava, which is a dessert without custardy centre but a mix of pastry and nuts soaked in honey. I can never get through a portion of baklava because it is so rich. Make no mistake, galaktoburiko is also rich but there’s respite in the creamy custardy centre. Yummy.


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