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.

Jelly
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.

 
Dragon Boat Palace on Urbanspoon

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Seoul House

Name: Seoul House
Location: 234 Russell St, near the corner of Russell/Lonsdale
Price: Mains $15-25, though bibimbap is $6.80 ($8.80 for bibimbap in stone pot)
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating overall: 8/10
The setting is more upscaled than I expected. I come in expecting to get a $6.80 bibimbap in a bowl as a lunch special, and sit in a fairly mediocre sort of place, then eat a hopefully good bibimbap with a spicy sauce. But it surprisingly nice inside.

A bustling city/ A chance for zen reflection/ What shall be for lunch?

However, instead of bibimbap, we ordered Korean BBQ instead. Here are 2 visits to Seoul House condensed into one post. The overarching theme is BBQ. All of these are $15.50, but there are some more pricey ones. They come with assorted kimchis.
We ordered:

  • Beef ribs
  • Pork belly
  • Beef scotch fillet
  • spicy chicken
  • oyster mushrooms

Here comes the contentious point. The staff at Seoul House cook for you. Some people like this aspect, some people don’t. I appreciate the sentiment, and I’m happy to let them cook for me, then let them cut the larger portions into bite-sized pieces. But I also enjoy the novelty of cooking my own meal. Give me a pair of tongs and I’ll flip that piece of meat excessively. (On the other hand, it might actually be a good thing that somebody came along and cooked for us.)

 

BEEF RIBS
Score: 10/10, can’t think of anything I didn’t like, or anything else I wanted.
Contains: Beef ribs, the meaty portions unravelled out from the bone, a button mushroom and a bit of brown onion. The beef is already marinated, so its super tasty.

Ribs neatly butchered/ All flesh unraveled away/ Ease of consumption

Then the waiter comes up and starts the cooking process.

Beef ribs and mushroom/ Just sit and wait for your meal/ Watch the grill like hawk

After the meaty bits are done (the bone can still do with more time), your waiter will cut it up into smaller bite-sized pieces for you.

Barbecue sear marks/ Smoky, meaty, delicious/ Eat before burnt black

Out of the five reviewed items in this post, the beef rib is my favourite. It’s already marinated, so it’s very flavoursome. Plus it has the BBQ-ey taste from being cooked on a hotplate. While I have not met a beef rib that has chewy meat, ribs can definately be very oily and greasy if they’re not done right. But the beef ribs here aren’t greasy at all because the oil trickles down the hotplate dome.

 

PORK BELLY
Score: 8/10, but this score can be higher for those who like pork belly.
Contains: Thin slices of pork belly
I have a working theory that Melbourne is going through a Pork Belly revival scene. Fifteen years ago or so, fatty meats were seen as a decadent but tasty option when eating meat. It was fatty, but the fat makes sure the meat is tender and juicy. It was an honest time for food. Then along the way, lean meats made their way in. In a way, it was good for the waistline, but it irked me to see people with irrational fears of fat. Then we entered the recent years, where suddenly there was pork belly everything in the food scene. Pork belly at Red Spice Road, pork belly on television shows as the velvety new chic, pork belly sandwiches at Earl’s Canteen, then more pork belly sandwich variations at fancier sandwich and baguette places, and more pork belly praise on social networking comments by the year. I’d say pork belly has made its comeback.

Regardless of Melbourne trends in food, slices of pork belly is a extremely popular in Korean cuisine. The pork isn’t marinated, so there’s a sesame oil based dipping sauce to go with it. It has salt at the bottom, so don’t scoop out too much of the cloudy blob at the bottom, because you will only recieve a mouthful of salt.

Pork layered with fat/ The most tender part of pig/ Porcine luxury

 

BEEF SCOTCH FILLET
Taste: 8/10
Contents: Thin slices of beef, still thawing
I found this to be sliced a bit too thin to handle the hot grill. Or if you do want every bit of fat to sizzle away, leaving only lean meat to be consumed, then this is the dish for you. As for me, I’m sticking with the juicy beef ribs.

Sliced marbled fillet/ Curled into a meaty tube/ Reminds me of tuiles

Very thinly sliced/ Almost cooked through by contact/ How to get it rare?

 

SPICY CHICKEN
Taste: 7.5/10
Contents: Marinated chicken, skin on. However, unexpectedly lean. Also, some onion.

A large portion size/ That is a portion for one/ Don't forget kimchis

Place chicken on first/ Fear not mushrooms won't burn quick/ Wilt before burning

The chicken is marinated in a red sauce, which has copious amounts of garlic and ginger. It is very lean, despite having the skin on. The skin itself is very thin, and seems to have had the fatty layer beneath it sucked out. I like chicken skin, but this chicken skin doesn’t have the usual mouthfeel. Great for those who are watching their cholesterol intake.

Close-up of chicken/ Still reddish after cooking/ I reckon its done

Taste-wise, it isn’t overtly spicy. Initially, it’s not spicy, then after a while the heat kicks in. It has a mild slow-burn as you eat it. But having said that it is not very spicy at all. Sweet chili sauce would be spicier.

 

OYSTER MUSHROOM
Taste: 7/10
Contents: Just a plate of oyster mushrooms.

What can I say? (five)/ Just some bloody shrooms (seven)/ 'Cept without blood (five)

A plate of oyster mushrooms, plain and simple.

Wilt, soft mushroom, wilt/ See the oyster mushroom wilt/ Wilt is a strange word

When you cook the mushrooms on the grill, they will wilt. Since these are unseasoned, you will get a little dish of the sesame oil-based sauce with salt on the bottom. But since there were other things on the grill, I didn’t feel the need to use the sesame oil. There are also kimchis to go with your meal. In addition to that, oyster mushrooms are fine on their own without seasoning.

 

KIMCHIS
With BBQ, you’ll get several dishes of kimchi. Kimchi is an all-empassing term for pickles. Most people associate kimchi with red spicy napa cabbage pickled in chilis and vinegar. For most part (in Melbourne at least), that is what you’ll recieve when you order kimchi. But there are plenty of other kimchis, not all of them spicy.

Spicy and sour/ Or perhaps mildly sweet?/ Or simply tasty

In an anti-clockwise direction starting from the far left, spicy napa cabbage kimchi, fast-pickle beanshoots, fast-pickle cabbage slaw, marinated fish pancake, sugar broil potato.

Spicy napa cabbage kimchi: The standard fare. It’s a lingering heat sort of spicy. It’s also sour from the vinegar. It’s considerably spicier than the Spicy chicken. Give it a go. It won’t be spicy in the way that it’ll numb your tastebuds for the rest of your meal.

Fast-pickle beanshoots: I use the term fast-pickle to refer to a very short pickling process. It simply involves immersing vegetables in a solution of diluted vinegar and sugar for an hour or so, depending on the vegetable. The result is a pickle-like taste but without the sogginess from over-steeping. The vegetables will be crunchy. Beanshoots aren’t the hardiest of vegetables, so they’ll only take an hour. For thicker julienned carrots, it might take 6 hours. Beanshoot pickle is crunchy and sour to freshen up the palate after oily beef ribs and meatiness.

Fast-pickle cabbage slaw: It is very much like coleslaw, but without the mayonnaise. It’s very crunchy.

Marinated fish pancake: It seems to be marinated with a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce and maybe garlic. I didn’t pay much attention to what was in it, because it was only lightly marinated. One day I’ll be able to rattle off ingredients from tasting. I describe fish pancakes in my post about fish pancake hotpot. Come get your fish pancakes.

Essentially, fish pancake is made from fish paste mixed in a pancake-like batter. My lunching companion didn’t like them very much, prefering the less floury fishcake more common in south-east asian (SEA) dishes. I like the SEA fishcake, but I also like fish pancake.

Sugar broil potatoes: I know this sounds like a weird dish. Sugar? In potato? Yes. It’s simmered in a sweet broth until it absorbs the flavour of the broth. It tastes like sweet potato, but with a salty soy sauce background. This is my favourite, so please try it if you get the chance.

More kimchi pictures/ Everybody likes pictures/Visual gluttony

Only one new contender here, boiled broccoli. But you get a closer view of the fast-pickle beanshoots (and carrots). I wish they had given us the fish pancake and sugar potato too.

Although I had initially set out to eat bibimbap here, I just ate copious amounts of BBQ. No regrets. I would definitely recommend their beef rib, and that you cross your fingers for the sugar broil potato side dish.

Seoul House Korean Restaurant 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

Kenzan

Name: Kenzan
Location: 350 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD, GPO eating strip
Price range: Mains $10-15
Price score: 4/5
Taste: 9/10
Would I go there again? Yes.

If you’re into california rolls in Melbourne, then you’ve most likely heard about Kenzan. If not, go to Kenzan and order a sushi roll. The rice and seaweed are separated with a thin sheet of plastic, and when you pull the tabs, by some form of engineering ingenuity, the seaweed wraps around the rice and you are left with a sushi roll with crisp seaweed. Magic.

But we’re not here today for their sushi rolls or rice balls, we’re here for a more substantial hot meal.

*TERIYAKI CHICKEN WITH VEGETABLES (with rice)
The icecream scoop of mashed potato is a nice touch. Very cute. The vegetables are blanched. The teriyaki chicken portion is generous, and has a tasty sweet teriyaki sauce. You can’t go wrong. (Unless you were severely allergic to sesame seeds. That would be terrible.)

Teriyaki sauce/ Wherein does the appeal lie?/ It is delicious

*TENZOBA

Tenzoba is soba (buckwheat noodles) with tenpura. The broth is clear, but can be overly salty. The soba has been thoroughly washed beforehand so it isn’t starchy. It is so good. The tenpura was crispy, up until they placed it into your bowl of noodles.

I was so impressed by their soba, that I had food envy. Despite being a fan of udon.

Hot buckwheat noodles/ Simplicity aesthetic/ Just eat it with tea

VEGETABLE FRITTER UDON
Cost: $10
Taste: 7/10
Word of advice, eat your fritters as soon as you can. They will soak up broth and become soggy and fall apart. Udon is great. Broth can be very salty. Seaweed is a welcome addition.

Udon noodle soup/ What can make it heartier?/ Vegetables fritters

Gotta come back and have their soba, and their sushi and riceballs.  Might as well try everything else too.

Kenzan @ GPO on Urbanspoon

Ikea Foodcourt

Name: Ikea food court, the food court of Ikea
Location: 630 Victoria St, Richmond 3121, Inside IKEA
Price: Mains $4-13, drinks $2.25-3.5, desserts $3

SOFT SERVE
Cost: 5/5 (50 cents!)
Taste: For a 50c soft serve cone, 8/10. I had expected it to be very similar to MacDonald’s cones. But I am pleasantly surprised. It has a vanilla-like flavour to it, rather than just sugar.
Much better than the softserve at McDonalds’. You trade in 50 cents for a metal button, which can be slotted into the soft serve machine, and a wafer cone. Place the cone in the place alloted for the cone….

Place cone in machine/ It says 'Press once' so press once/ Swivelling soft-serve

Voila! Creamy vanilla-flavoured soft serve in a cone-shaped wafer cone.

Soft serve like a cloud/ Analogy to nowhere/ Just accept it's good

CHICKEN AND PASTA
Cost: $7
Taste: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.
I don’t understand the facination with the Ikea food court. It’s not cheap for the type of food you’re receiving, nor is it tasty in comparison to other food courts. It baffles me.
The pasta is overdone, and on the soft side. The vegetables are swimming in pasta starch. It’s your standard school cafeteria lunch fare, if you went to a boarding school or had school lunches in your programme. (Coincidentally, I didn’t, but this is what I imagine it’d be like.) The chicken isn’t dry, but it isn’t juicy either. It’s not bland, or tasting of anything in particular. It’s all average.

TV dinner-esque/ Instant food has its own charm/ See instant noodles

ORANGE SODA

Carbonated drink/ What flavour are you, I ask/ It must be orange

COFFEE
Cost: $2.25, for a cup, and as much refills as you want.
Taste: 4/10
Would I order it again? No.
$2.25 to use a mug. That’s smart. But the drinks are so awful. Maybe it’s just part of the plan.

Ikea coffee/ I'd take Nescafe Instant/ but they taste the same

FERMENTED APPLE DRINK
Cost: $3
Taste: 5/10
Would I buy it again? No.
Fermented apple drink would sounds like very sweet cider, but it isn’t. It’s more like watered down carbonated apple juice.

Tasty apple drink?/ It tastes like disappointment/ And sugar syrup

MEATBALLS AND CHIPS/MASH
Cost: $8?
Taste: 5/10
Would I order it? No.

Apparently the star of the Ikea foodcourt are the meatballs. I see the appeal, but it doesn’t live up to expectations. The meatballs are very heavily breadcrumbed and don’t have the texture of meat. More like a meaty paste with some grisly textural bits. The mayonnaise and lingonberry jam complete the experience, but neither of these sauces have any zing to them. I could have enjoyed these as a child, when I used to enjoy Chicken MacNuggets. Unfortunately, the appeal is lost on me now.
Mash: instant-mash.
Chips: Average chips, but I like chips. Needs a second fry.

Little Sweden flag/ On a Swedish meatball mound/ Kids' meal nostalgia

Chips make things better/ Meatballs are no exception/ Fry those potatoes

APPLE TART

Apparently it’s dry and overly sweet. (I like my apple tarts with more apple than pastry, especially the dry biscuity kind.)

Apple tart or cake?/ Either way, needs more apple/ Too full to sample

IKEA Restaurant & Cafe 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

Edoya

Name: Edoya
Location: Russell st/Bourke St (138 Russell St
Melbourne, 3000)
Price range: Entrees $6.50-12.80, Mains $14-55, Desserts $6-8

Edoya is a small Japanese restaurant, with plastic figurines of its food showcased in its front window. I love those plastic models of food. Inside is decorated with light wood panelling, paper screen-like fixtures on the window, paper lanturns and small ukiyo-e pictures on the wall. There is also a little sushi counter at the front, complete with wooden finish and a display case for the fish used in sushi and sashimi.

Irrashaimase/ Wooden counter and green tea/ Order some sushi

Takoyaki
Takoyaki is a popular snack food in Japan, associated with street foodstands and festivals. They are spherical pancakes with octopus and grated vegetables inside. The exterior is slightly crispy, and the interior is soft and fluffy with barely cooked-through batter. It is often served with demiglace sauce, sweet Japanese mayonnaise, bonito flakes (extremely thinly shaved fish flakes) and aonori (a seaweed condiment).
Edoya’s takoyaki is crispy, it’s sizzling hot when it comes out, it’s soft and yielding when you bite into it, it has discernable chunks of octopus, it has a mix of vegetables that accentuate sweetness, it has delicious bonito flakes, the demiglace isn’t gluggy, there is a bed of salad leaves  and altogether it looks fantastic with its colour and texture balance.  What else can I ask for? 10/10

Chop up octopus/ Make takoyaki for all/ Don't forget sauces

For photography/ See a feat of self-control/ Shoot before eating

Beef sukiyaki
Sukiyaki is a meat dish served in a shallow iron pan with a broth made from the medley of vegetables, mushrooms, jelly noodles. The beef is sliced thinly and requires little cooking time. It is seared quickly to seal, and the vegetables, mushrooms and jelly noodles are then added to produce a wholesome umami-rich broth. There is also some tofu to soak up those delicious flavours. Oh, and a raw egg added before serving.

A giant hot pan/ Bubbling umami food stuffs/ It cannot go wrong

Edoya’s sukiyaki is what I imagine sukiyaki to be, minus spring onions. There is aonori instead of spring onions. I would prefer the beef to be in large thin sheets rather than small pieces, but it does make it easier to scoop up with the ladle. I would also like more mushrooms, there was shiitake but no enoki, and I do think with the addition of enoki mushrooms the texture and unami flavour would add another dimension to the dish. (Grilled beef-wrapped enoki bundles are a must-have whenever they are available, the flavour and texture are an extremely good match.)Apart from that qualm, I haven’t anything else to criticise.
Overall, sukiyaki is an ideal Winter dish that is always a good choice to fall back on when nothing else catches your eye. 9/10

Teriyaki Sakana with green salad
Let’s work backwards with this one. A side of greens is always a welcome addition with meat. Sakana is fish. (The fish used was a mild white fish with delicate flesh.) Teriyaki is a cooking method, and also a type of sauce used in this cooking method. Teriyaki sauce is essentially a sweet soy sauce marinade. Many variations and ratios exist for teriyaki sauce, but the three main ingredients would be soy sauce, mirin (a rice wine/sake) and sugar. To make teriyaki-anything (you name it, teriyaki fish, teriyaki chicken, teriyaki pinepaple, teriyaki eggplant, the list goes on), you grill or broil your food, and brush teriyaki sauce onto it as it is grilling. The soy sauce gives you the characteristic orange-brown colour, the mirin aids removal of any unwanted fishy odours, and the sugar gives you the shininess.

Swim little fishy/ Into sizzling hot oil/ Then teriyaki

Teriyaki Sakana at Edoya is a joy and a half. The fish is fresh, there is no fishy odour that puts me off ordering fish when I eat out. The batter is light and crispy. The teriyaki sauce isn’t too sweet, and doesn’t overpower the fish. I did not try any of the mayonnaise dressing on the salad, so I don’t know how that was. But the fish was so delicious. Fish scores 10/10.

Edoya Special Dessert
This comprises of honeydew melon, a green tea mochi, two kinds of jelly with sweetened red bean and murcott mandarin (or a ‘tangor’ if you will).

Fruit, jelly, mochi/ and sweetened red bean on top/ Jelly is charming

The mochi is dense and chewy, and is slightly salted which is pleasant. The green tea gel inside is okay. Not fantastic, not disgusting, but it is pleasant enough. The white jelly tastes faintly sweet, and not much else. The toothpaste-green jelly tastes like coconut. The best part of the dessert would have to be the red beans.
Nothing is particularly outstanding, but nothing was offensive either. Overall, 6/10

 

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