Friday, February 5, 2010


Westgarth used to be called Northcote South, which you'd think would just be reduced to "Cote". But it's not, so applying the logic of the existing name, I live in Northcote North; Clifton Hill is, in fact, South Northcote South; and my former little house in Collingwood is in East South Northcote West. If Westgarth insists on being called Westgarth, where the hell is Garth?

Nice sign
Taxiboat, ideally, should be visited in a taxi, which would be a Taxiboat Taxi. In the perfect world you would get the taxi from the Princess Pier, having got off a boat, which would be a Taxiboat Taxi Boat. Anyway, I could be recursive (recursive all day) all day, so I'll stop.

Taxiboat, as you may have guessed already, is in Westgarth, directly opposite the cinema in a groovy room with polished concrete and an enormous bar. As iSaluti does for its pizza oven, Taxiboat does for its bar, making it a major feature of a small room and giving it a remarkable amount of floor space. It's also a fairly loud space, even when seasonally adjusted for my hearing, and despite that there were only two tables and a scant dozen people.

We were joined by the Catman Malcolm, as well as Suzanne and John, having only recently discovered that not only did we work for the same organisation and share a love of BitTorrent for English panel shows, we also posted words about food. As Steven Wright says, it's a small world but I wouldn't want to paint it.

I'm not sure how Taxiboat describes itself, but I'd describe it as a mix of Chinese and south east Asian dishes, brought out to share (as God intended, or would have if he'd bothered to show up for work).

Suzanne, John and Malcolm

We were attended to quickly and the service was enthusiastic and good natured. We spent a bit of time futzing over the menu (which was always going to happen), ordered, and the food arrived fairly promptly.

Spring rolls, as has been noted, are an easy choice and pretty much set the tone for the night. They were crisp, light and... well... didn't have a lot of flavour. Compared to the spring rolls from Thy Thy 1, these were more cigars than cigarettes and weren't dense with filling in the same way the Victoria Street ones were.

OK, but suffered by comparison to these from two days earlier

San Choi Bow is not something I've ever been a big fan of, and by reports there was no reason to make an exception for this. F described it as unremarkable. And that was all she could muster up.

Making rice paper rolls is like using a parachute. It's a little bit tricky, and unless you get it *just* right, people will be left somewhat disappointed. By all accounts these were adequate. Do you see a theme emerging here?

The one thing I had heard about Taxiboat was that their dumplings were good, and they certainly have pride of place right up at the pointy end of the menu. Once again, however, the demon Bland visited the table, spread his cable-knit cardigan wings and exuded an uninspiring beige mist. I expected the ginger and seafood dumplings to have at least two flavours (don't make me explain which ones...) but we ended up with seafood and... And???....

Sigh. I thought about performing the Rite of AshkEnte to banish the demon Bland but couldn't remember which version it was that didn't cause instant death. That turned out to be my loss.

Bland turned up again for the main courses. A dish of Singapore Noodles looked lovely, but both of the prawns in the dish were sitting on top and although the noodles were cooked beautifully and their texture was perfect, they lacked any sort of real flavour.

A dish described as Chicken Teriyaki was softly sweet and apparently braised. The wagyu beef in sesame was similarly uninspiring. It was cut into small cubes, and although there was nothing wrong with the texture, there was no suggestion of browning or of the wonderful caramels of quickly cooked meat. Malcolm described it as wooden, but I think he was referring to flavour rather than texture. The dread demon Bland had done his job and had done it well.

The salt and pepper squid was certainly salty and surprisingly soft and had been cooked beautifully, but lack pepperiness. A plate of stir-fried pak choy and (I think) bok choy was recommended to us, and it was pretty good too.

The conversation was more interesting than the food

The highlight of the night was the Thai Red Duck Curry. Now, I have to say I've made this myself a few times and I'm not bad at it. A chopped up Chinese roast duck and lychees goes into a Thai red curry with the usual herbal extravaganza, giving a dish that's sweet, rich and complicated with the flavour of the roast duck and balanced with herbs. And this was good - it was sweet and rich and the flavour was lovely with an emphasis on the aniseed of Thai basil (although F felt that it lacked the requisite unctuousness). But the duck was thin slices of duck breast cut off the bone.

I often do the mental trade-off about the value of keeping the bone in when I cook a lot of things. Bone so often means moist and more flavour, but sometimes I want to be lazy when I'm eating rather than cooking. I've had beautiful pan-fried duck breasts (and if you want duck rare, it's the only way I trust myself to cook it that way), but my favourite duck dishes have all been on the bone (like this one).

Taxiboat was a bit disappointing, to be honest. The food certainly wasn't bad, but despite this writing, it wasn't (*irony spoiler*) worth writing home about. I'm trying to avoid damning with faint praise but that's about all I can do. The restaurant itself has a smart modern look yet is low on the wank factor, yet the clatter was a bit much and there wasn't much elbow room. The waiting staff were good-natured, but sometimes needed a reminder or correction (which is better in my book than the other way around); and all the food had lovely textures but tasted, well, bland. And in spite of the wonderful quirkiness of having a bath and shower in the lavatory, any bonus points were immediately lost by having nothing with which to dry your hands.

W was so disappointed he tried to hide

We didn't stay for dessert, instead walking up the hill to Coco Loco, which we will post about at some other time.

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