A few years ago we saw Lano and Woodley on their farewell tour, which was funny, poignant and touching, but I hadn't realised what made them such a great act. Both of their characters are wonderfully naive and childish, but while Frank is innocent and wide-eyed, Colin was the nasty and vindictive child... I'm resisting the temptation to make an easy comparison to John Lennon and Paul McCarthy, except that I just have, so I won't develop it any further.
So this Friday night, Good Friday, we saw Frank Woodley at his show (Bewilderbeest) at the Forum in this year's Comedy Festival.
By himself, Frank was very funny but perhaps a little narrow. He told a wonderful story about using a rare opportunity to tell a joke about an ocelot; a joke that which I remember from the joke page on one of the few Playboy magazines* (no, really) I've seen. The joke goes:
Q: How do you titillate an ocelot?
A: You oscillate its tit a lot
I won't spoil the story, but it does involve his increasingly frustrating attempts to tell this joke to a zookeeper.
Before the show, though, we had dinner at Bamboo House in Little Bourke Street.
Bamboo House does a mix of Northern and Szechuan dishes (up front, at the proud part of the menu) and Cantonese dishes (at the back of the bus). Here I must confess that one of the reasons to go to Bamboo House was that my favoutite Szechuan restaurant in Little Bourke Street, Post Deng, hadn't answered their phone in the afternoon, and I assumed they were closed, what with it being Good Friday. Bamboo House, on the other hand, had a telephone that worked.
Pork Hock, Drunken Chicken - cold, but perfect for winter
We ordered some cold Szechuan entrees - sliced pork hock and Drunken Chicken. Both were sliced beautifully - the pork thin and softly spiced, while the chicken was firm and moist with red tinges at the bone but lush with fat. Fat was important to both without being the dominant flavour.
I'm removing a chicken bone, not my teeth
As it was Good Friday, Felicity eschewed meat and had Ginger Scallops as an entree. These looked beautiful and were described as fresh and fabulous.
Being respectful of Felicity's attitude towards food on Good Friday (and a day without meat never hurt anyone, or so it is alleged), we ordered a seafood bird's nest and a whole steamed barramundi. The bird's nest was excellent - the seafood was generous and cooked perfectly, but the barramundi was the hero of the hour. It was amazingly moist and still firm, and the soy and ginger sauce was strong enough to add something to the fish without threatening it. Some stir fried gai lan to go with it and it was fantastic.
Barramundi is good. That's all I have to say
The only restaurants I was taken to as a teenager (at least, that I can remember) were Cantonese. The Panda in Hawthorn and the Fairy Stork in Acland Street in St Kilda were the ultimate destinations (the latter having the benefit of glorious cake shops as neighbours) in the early 1980's. Indeed, while I was at university in the late '80's, I worked as a cocktail barman and the two best tips I got were (a) from Andre the Giant (another story altogether); and (b) from some blokes I'd recommended the Panda to.
Cantonese food is not particularly fashionable at present, which means the stalwarts like Bamboo House have to work a bit harder to keep up with the pack, and they do. The service is great and the food is wonderful. The room... well, it's not particularly fashionable and it's a bit bright, but it wasn't too noisy for a Friday.
Southern Chinese food is not on my shortlist of favourites, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it and have a place for it. Great Cantonese food always looks beautiful and the contrast of textures is something I have grown to love. Familiarity will never breed contempt, but perhaps it has created a smidgen of indifference. It's something I'd hate to see relegated to just a memory.
*I must me one of the few men of my age who remembers the jokes in Playboy, because the only other thing from the Playboys I saw as a lad and remember was a limerick:
"Whilst Titian was mixing Rose MadderHis model was perched on a ladderHer position to TitianSuggested fruitionSo he went up the ladder and 'ad 'er."