C-Culture (I cringe as I type that name) is large by High Street standards and was boisterous with families, couples and groups of all shapes and sizes, like a low-rent Benetton commercial peopled with people instead of models. Although not pretty to look at, the decor is not offensive and the noise levels are rambunctious rather than painful. Best of all, hanging in the window are a picture-show of red-ruby ducks, golden chickens and bits of pig so beautiful I almost cried.
Having seen such beauty it was impossible to resist the lure of the hangings, and so we ate very, very high on the food chain.
We started with prawn spring rolls and a quarter of a soy-sauce chicken from the window. The spring rolls were little more than simple, roughly chopped prawns in a cigar wrapper with almost nothing but the flavour of the prawns, while the chicken was moist and beautiful.
We ordered six main courses (for seven, including children), which was probably one too many. Being enamored with the window-hangings, we tried the crispy-skin roast pork belly which was absolutely fucking perfect, although as regular readers will know (sorry about the swearing Mum!) my views on pork are generous and can't be trusted, especially if you happen to be Muslim or Jewish.
The prawn omelet was pretty good and the mixed vegetables with Chinese mushrooms and tofu was, well, as you'd expect it. I'm usually a fan of Ye Olde Tofu And Veg, but we had so much animal protein that tofu seemed a bit, well, "disappointing", he said, in a faintly patronising way. The duck was not from the window, but was cooked much the same as our local take-away "Duck and Chinese mushrooms", which is to say it was nice, but I'm prepared to let the word "nice" just hang there...
barramundi with ginger and green onions and pippies in XO and chili sauce. The barramundi was steamed perfectly although with the slightly odd, soapy flavour that barra sometimes has. The pippies were, on the whole, wonderful, a few were still sandy (which is always a bit of a shock) and the sauce was a bit too thick, but not so bad that I didn't eat almost all of them myself.
Despite sounding like a nasty pathology procedure, C-Culture is a better-than-average Melbourne suburban Chinese restaurant. It does its own roast pork and chickens, which in my mind automatically elevates them, and is a perfect place for a casual family dinner.
This is how I like to spend a Friday night - with extended family, in a relaxed yet bustling room that offers food that everyone loves and makes all feel welcome. C-Culture is not a place to dress up for (although the local B-Boys had clearly made an effort), and it's not a place to invite your gastrosexual friends, but is a place to relax and wonder about the many and glorious ways of the pig.
I've previously reminisced about our family tradition of following great Chinese food with European cakes, and tonight, having parked the car outside a Greek bakery, we walked in those sweetened footsteps.
There is a fine line between insufficient syrup and too much, and Greek pastry chefs must walk this path, wide as a hair's breadth, every working day. Like the famed fugu chefs of Japan, they are well-trained because they, too, skirt the shores of death. Too little syrup and the diner will fail to encounter the famed glucose hallucinations; the "sugar-fairy" visions and the sucrose equivalent of the other side. Too much syrup, of course, and the diner instantly slips into a diabetic coma and death quickly follows.