“fill the world with pamphlets and books that are foolish, ignorant, malignant, libelous, mad, impious and subversive; and such is the flood that even things that might have done some good lose all their goodness"I read those words and immediately thought of those who prattle and rant about food as though it was a religious experience while blogging about the most trivial of matters and expect a readership to be impressed by their delicate sensibilities and refined tastes.
Not that I'm talking about anyone I know. *blushes*.
Anyway, the last month has seen some mixed dining experiences, from the sublime to the, well, not sublime, and rather than spend 500 words per piece filling the world with words that were foolish, ignorant, malignant etc, I thought I'd cram a few into a single mix tape that you can play in the car or give to someone special as a taster of what "Eat our Way" is all about. Think of this as a touring melange of tastes and ideas.
The night I went to Gills Diner I had my professional hat on, and was having dinner with a man considered to be a world authority on car parking. No, he doesn't park cars; he's studied the impact of car parking on cities - the financial, environmental and opportunity costs of car parking in our cities. Disclaimer - I was a guest of the extravagantly named 'Institute of Sensible Transport".
Anyway, sensibility aside, Gills Diner is tucked away in one of Melbourne's hipster alleys and is appropriately hard to find. It's got a cool, ex-industrial feel and warm staff and the food is good bistro nosh. On a rainy Melbourne night I had pork belly with pan-fried apples on a bed of humorous little lentils and a couple of 3 Ravens. The food was simple but perfect for the evening, while the conversation was focussed on the complexity of car parking and urban form. Note to self: two professors per meal is probably my limit.
obvious, I'm a bit of a fan of the old pho and other noodle soups. So in the ever continuing quest for the perfect pho, I dropped in to Thanh Thanh on Victoria Street in Richmond. I'd love to say they were great, but they weren't.
The magic of pho is in the stock and the stock here wasn't up to much. It lacked depth, spice and most of all, magic. In summary, "meh".
Gingerboy, like Gills Diner, is Cool, and although the alley it's tucked away in is larger and easier to find than that of Gills Diner, that just means Gingerboy focusses on being just a gem rather than a hidden gem.
Gingerboy does wonderful, up-market versions of SE Asian street food without the humidity and with a greater range of cocktails. Dishes come in a potentially confusing (but well explained) mix of small and medium dishes, all of which had a complexity and a depth that comes with a blend of high-note herbs and the basso profondo of belachlan.
We started with Chinese cabbage and chicken dumplings, which had a beautiful, essential filling, although the wrappers were a little chewy. Small, salt and pepper spiced chicken ribs in a crisp, light batter were served with a blistering and wonderful sauce - the Kentucky chicken of the gods. The last of the small dishes was soft-shelled crab with a green papaya salad - wonderful, with a papery shell and a tart salad.
Two large dishes finished the meal - a wonderful and rich salad of wagyu beef and soba noodles and some gentle kim chi (at least by kim chi standards!) and some beautiful silken tofu with mushrooms and XO sauce. This was the surprising and wonderful dish in its balance and complexity; almost the dish that could convert me to vegetarianism (except for the shrimp paste in the sauce).
Gingerboy is the standout of this bunch - a small but perfectly formed restaurant with attentive staff and a intimate (yet busy) room and truly wonderful food. A keeper.