As I searched Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs for somewhere nice to dine, I trawled my way on Urbanspoon through take-away places and places with apparently good food, but no service to be heard of.
And then I came across Fond of Fusion, a new Taiwanese place in Malvern. As a new place, I thought I’d take the chance and try it out although I was a bit worried that the “Fusion” title indicated it may be run by non-Taiwanese people. It certainly knows how to make an impression, on a main street with various dine-ins and take-aways, with an open entrance showcasing tall pink candles, comfy armchairs and relaxing tunes to passersby.
Even before perusing their menu specialising in tapas dishes and larger, main dishes, I enjoyed the decor of antiques and signs around the restaurant, including candles, plants and quotes of all different kinds.
As we finally got around to ordering, we started off with some tapas dishes. The owners did seem to be Taiwanese, as I heard one of our hosts explaining the origins of a dish to a lady next to us and then she proceeded to speak Taiwanese/Chinese (I’m not too sure since I’m not Chinese!) to her.
Thus, I thought I would try their bubble tea and see what a supposedly traditional version is supposed to taste like (below, $5-6 I think) and it came out in an impressive tall glass. It tasted similar to normal tea and not as sweet as your bubble tea chains. I liked this, as it felt more natural and not saturated with sugar. It was large and difficult to finish, with little time to chew all our pearls when we had all this delicious food coming out.
Our first tapas dish, I was eager to try the Kumara (Sweet Potato) Chips ($9, top left). They were so addictive, a bit salty if you eat a lot as with any chips. I kept going back to them all night and despite the dash of saltiness, I believe I would be able to eat these all day. They were crispy but had a decent amount of soft sweet potato inside.
As they had recently opened, the owner was also providing diners with a complimentary serving of the Special Beef Salad from the tapas menu ($9, top right), which was a very light dish with a summery presentation of greens and a flower. I also recall it being a little spicy, if you happen to eat the chilli section of the sauce.
Next up was the Gourmet Sausage with Roti ($9, above), which was served like a wood-oven pizza. I loved the presentation and like a pizza, the roti was cut into triangular pieces and crispy. There’s a light, brown sauce on the sausage, which my friend wasn’t a big fan of, but it tasted similar to various Asian sauces and was fine for me. I liked the crunchiness and the way it was almost like a disassembled wrap – with greens, meat and sauce to eat along with it.
To the mains, which were a tad pricey, our first was a favourite of the night. The Snowflake Prawns (above, $28) included three XXL Australia tiger prawns, lightly fried then wok-tossed with fermented rice and special sweet and sour sauce. It then comes served with noodles and greens.
The sauce was very nice and flavoursome, not thick and oily like Asian take-away restaurants. There’s limited noodles underneath but they go very well with the prawns, the only downside is there’s only three – although I do understand that prawns are quite expensive!
And our final dish was perhaps the opposite of the prawns, too much for us! The Crispy Pork Knuckles ($25, above) involved country style meaty pork knuckles, slow braised in a special recipe gravy, deep fried until crispy before serving. It was served with sticky rice and garlic soy sauce.
I usually don’t like fat, but because it was so crispy (this seems to be a theme on this post) on the outside, it made the fat a bit more bearable and edible. But I still couldn’t eat too much of it – the actual bits of meat were tender on the inside and eaten with sticky rice it was very filling. For my friend and I, this dish is a bit too overwhelming with the giant pieces of pork and glutinous rice, which is filling in itself. Thus, together we couldn’t finish it but if it was shared by a larger group say of four or five, I think it would be fine.
To add to the overall experience, I enjoyed the openness of the entrance and the rustic yet comfy feel of the decor. The owner seemed very generous and caring and the staff checked on us regularly. Even the music seemed to complement the restaurant’s feel, no tacky Asian pop but acoustic songs and soothing blasts from the past. I was so lost in the atmosphere and music at times that I could have been put to sleep, in a nice and relaxing way.
When paying, they also had a large bowl of Favourites’ chocolate for us to choose from. Everything from this trip stood out – the service, the ambience, the food and the decor. The only thing to do now is to wait and see as they get busier and more known, if all this will be maintained. Fingers crossed they do not lose everything that currently makes them seem so attractive and special!
Fond of Fusion is open Monday for dinner, closed on Tuesdays, open for dinner all other nights and also lunch on the weekends. They are located at 233 Glenferrie Road, Malvern – call 03 9942 1384 for more information.