Tag Archives: Asian food

Gingerboy

With Melbourne’s crazy and unpredictable weather, I still haven’t managed to start Mission #2. Although what have I been eyeing? Well the Hideaway pop up at QV for one – it’s curated by Melbourne Spring Fashion Week and includes some special events and workshops, whilst acting as a cafe (Milky Joe) during the day. That was my go-to coffee back in my interning days! Continue reading

Burma Lane

I’m still surprised, that Red Spice Road‘s sister restaurant is not well known. But “not well known” still seems hard to define – most of the people around me had not heard of it, but the place was booked out the night we went.

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As with Red Spice Road, the service is always friendly and accommodating. I altered the number of guests a few times and they were neither annoyed nor snobbish. We also came quite late but my friends already present did not mention being rushed or questioned.

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It’s a nice place to enjoy a cocktail or some mocktails with your food and I always enjoy a good drink with experimental and Asian-inspired mixes.

RSR impressed me with a mocktail once, so I eagerly tried and enjoyed a THAI DAI ($9, right) which had lychee juice, pomegranate, kaffir lime. It even had a pomegranate in it, which was impressive. The lychee gave it a good degree of sweetness and the minty taste was not overpowering as it is in some drinks, allowing the pomegranate to shine.

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The food is a Western take of Burmese food with South-East Asian and Indian influences. We pretty much ordered all the meat since it was a large group, the top photo being the Lamb slow cooked in Yoghurt w/ Green Pea and Tomato Biryani ($27) and Rich Beef, Sweet Potato & Pickled Lime Curry ($28).

They were both so-so dishes, not amazing us, but exhibiting some different tastes. My friends were not fans of the beef. With its big tender chunks, it still seemed a tad dry and uninteresting. Unfortunately, a lot of expectations come with dining here and this take on Burmese cuisine does not seem to have the boldest flavours.

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We were excited to try their Roasted Pork Belly w/ Spiced Caramel Sauce & Herbal Salad ($29), after all, the most popular dish at RSR is their caramelised pork belly with apple slaw.

There was nothing wrong with the dish, but it had the same issue with comparison – the caramelised taste felt subtler than RSR, whilst the salad was nothing special. Even as a stand alone dish, I would find the pork belly acceptable but not a standout.

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I did enjoy the Prawn Dry Red Curry w/ Fried Cauliflower & Coriander ($29), as the sauce was nice and it had a tiny hint of spice. I think I was too busy enjoying the night to even notice the fried cauliflower!

We did notice that a lot of the dishes looked hot with the scattered chillies but none of them seemed to really be spicy except the chicken noodle dish below ($24). This was a little bland once again, besides the mint leaves and chilli tang.

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Despite similar prices to Red Spice Road, the food didn’t feel as satisfying. It’s possibly due to the weaker flavours and also servings are a bit smaller, as the restaurant is located on the Paris end of town.

We ordered a second round of food for the table so ended up with pretty much the remaining meat dishes and…

The Mushrooms stir-fried w/ Shan Tofu, Greens, Yellow Noodles & Coriander ($25, below.) This did not feel like the mushrooms were the main attraction of the dish but rather the tofu. Shan tofu is a Burmese tofu, and the inside texture and taste were almost like potato.

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We also had the interesting sounding Chicken Aloo-Rolled Chicken w/ Potatoes, Tomato, Spices, Lemongrass & Coriander ($28). The flavour was slightly different, the sauce seemed to demonstrate more vegetable flavours with a hint of Asian herbs. I enjoyed the chicken but felt like there was very little of it.

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Finally, we also had some classic calamari but it seemed quite plain compared to the fancy description of Calamari w/ Apple, Sweet Pork, Tomato & Herb Salad ($28). To me, it just felt like calamari, tomato and a few leaves…

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Unfortunately, this place did not live up to the hype. That is the unfortunate thing about having such a popular restaurant chain already, but may also explain why some people still haven’t heard of Burma Lane. The service and people are always top notch at both RSR and Burma Lane, but unfortunately this “contemporary” take on Burmese food has not won me over.

Burma Lane is located 118 Little Collins St and is open 12-3pm for lunch and 6pm-late for dinner. Check out their menu here.

Burma Lane on Urbanspoon

Madame K’s Vegetarian

Sometimes spontaneity provides you with more memorable experiences, especially when out to dine. After an unfulfilling meal at Henry and the Fox (a post on this will be coming in the future), we ventured to Brunswick St for a second round.

Our initial plan was to drop by the popular vegan and organic restaurant Yong Green Food, but this plan was thwarted after their voicemail said they were closed for a break.

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Next idea was Vegie Bar, but this place is crazy-busy on weekends. But Melbourne is full of eateries and we were bound to find something else on Brunswick St – and my friend then spotted Madame K’s Vegetarian.

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It was smaller than Vegie Bar but still full of diners, and we were lucky to get a table for three.

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It was a bit cramped and the staff kept squeezing between me and another table, but I was just glad we managed to score a table on a Friday night.

We started off with some chive dumplings ($6.90, below – sorry for blurry photo). They were panfried and surprisingly full of flavour – I honestly didn’t realise these crispy vegetarian dumplings could be so tasty! I think the dipping sauce also had an attractive, strong flavour – similar to soy but a lot more compelling.

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I wasn’t entirely hungry after Henry and the Fox (how rare), thus I went for an entree of lamb sliders. I assume it was “mushroom made lamb”, as described in all their other lamb dishes on the menu. They won my curiosity as the description did not mention the common brioche buns but instead, naan bread. They were quite different but I don’t think it worked as a wrap for me.
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The doughy and thick nature of the bread means I would much prefer dipping it in some nice curry. The other ingredients reminded me of the minty flavours you would get in a Vietnamese dish. Unfortunately, I probably would have preferred these ingredients in a normal bun, as the bread is a tad chewy to bite off whilst trying to enjoy a wrap.

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My friends on the other hand, were still ready and gearing for another full dinner. They both ordered rice dishes, which were quite similar in taste.

One was a mushroom dish (above, $16.90), with various mushrooms, eggplant and Thai basil served with Jasmine rice. You have the option to choose Jasmine or brown rice. The dark sauce resembles oyster sauce, but I felt like the flavour was more interesting and intense than your average oyster sauce.

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This sauce was similar to what was used with the tofu and cashew dish (above, $16.90). And this was a good thing because we all enjoyed this flavour a lot. I think perhaps the sauce’s aroma and flavour was enhanced by the Thai influences, rather than your typical Westernised Chinese takeaway.

Whilst we enjoyed our meals, I noticed a constant stream of takeaway customers coming in and out of the restaurant. Service was quite quick – the only issue was they didn’t realise my entree was actually my meal, so they were waiting for me to finish before serving my friends’ mains. This was quickly sorted though.

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Finally, we couldn’t say no to dessert as we were enjoying a good chat and thought the banana roti ($10.90) sounded too good to pass on. I was still dreaming of Chin Chin’s amazing banana roti, but this was different and delicious in its own way. It was a bit like a crepe but with a thicker base of roti, with not only banana, but also strawberries, soy ice-cream, their homemade sauce and a bonus kiwi fruit.

Thus, I’m not ashamed to say – we ordered another one of these! I’d happily go back but I’m aiming to try Yong Green Food first. If you decide to go here, I’d suggest booking or going on a slightly quieter night during the middle of the week to get a better table.

Madame K’s Vegetarian is open for lunch Sat-Sun from 12-3.30pm and dinner every night from 5-10pm. Check out their menu here.

Madame K's Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

Asian Cheap Eats

Let’s admit it, there will always be a time when you crave cheap Asian food. I recently got to meet Kenny from the popular Western suburbs’ blog, Consider the Sauce, and we discussed how many people review the same popular places in the CBD etc, whilst he tends to go for the ‘ghetto’ places.

He makes a good point, and I enjoy weaving in and out of both worlds, or simply anywhere. My love of roadtrips leads me all over Melbourne and I love being able to have readers say, “That’s just near me, I’ll drop by and give it a try” whether it’s in the western or south-eastern suburbs (neither of which are my areas)!

So, here’s a few cheap Asian finds that I’ve stopped by in the various suburbs of Melbourne in the past few weeks. Enjoy!

Basil House: 461 High St, Preston
A mix of Vietnamese and Thai food, Basil House likes to provide a bit of variety. Due to the offering of both cuisines though, I feel like they lose a bit of authenticity in both areas.20140610_191050

But it satisfies the tummy and the craving, so most of the time it will do. The table settings are like any other Asian restaurant with cutlery and condiments on the table ready to go.

Decor is nothing special but at least this place isn’t cramped like some fast restaurants. It’s a little less hectic and more relaxed, but your food still comes out quickly.

20140610_191959High St is the busy, fast-ethnic-food-place-to-be in Preston. With a few other Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants on the little strip, you might pass by Basil House due to its split between two cuisines, which usually indicates it is catering too much to Western crowds by serving Asian dishes in general.
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We ordered some Vietnamese entrees including nem nuong (grilled pork, top picture) and bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaf, above) to start. The serves are suitable for sharing but I found the meat in both dishes a little dry.

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I think when you go to a cheap Asian restaurant, it’s all about ordering that one, complete, cheap meal and leaving satisfied. Com tam or broken rice (above) is a popular Vietnamese meal with grilled pork, shredded pork skin, egg and a sort of meatloaf with egg. It’s not pretty, but it is a staple meal at Vietnamese restaurants.

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We also ordered a large tom yum soup, although a little oily, it was surprisingly not bad. It was pretty warming and spicy for a winter night’s meal.

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My friend ordered one of the stir-fried chicken dishes, but I’m not sure which one. The chicken had a nice, light sauce whilst the vegies were cut in large chunks like most Asian restaurants.

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I chose the pad thai, which was better than my expectations and quite filling. I think they went a little overboard with the peanuts and towards the end, the flavour does feel a bit repetitive and bland, but I still managed to down it all.

Basil House is open everyday 10.30am-10.30pm. You can find an old version of their menu here as their website seems to be expired.

Basil House on Urbanspoon

Tra Vinh: 70 Nicholson St, Footscray
There are plenty of places to eat in the west, so a lot of people tend to overlook Tra Vinh. This visit actually made us realise that they don’t even have pho on the menu.

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But that’s not what this place is good for! To start off we ordered some classic Vietnamese drinks, a Vietnamese iced coffee and an avocado smoothie ($3 each). My iced coffee was a little small, but considering how strong Vietnamese coffees are, it was probably for the better at night time!

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What my friend loves this place for is their hu tieu mi kho dac biet, special dry Vietnamese pork noodles (apologies for blurry photo above). The noodles and various fillings are hiding underneath those beanshoots, which you can mix altogether with the sweet chilli sauce throughout to help flavour the dry noodles. It was so addictive, my friend ordered another bowl – and why not when it’s only $9.50.

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Hu tieu can also come in a soup base, so I went with the same dish but in a soup version. It has both clear noodles and egg noodles. The broth was welcoming, tasting like a great homemade soup. They have plenty of other dishes too, but they seem to mostly be known for their hu tieu dishes.

Tra Vinh is open daily 9am-8pm. Check out their menu on Urbanspoon.

Tra Vinh on Urbanspoon

Hoa Tran: 246A Springvale Rd, Springvale
This place is always busy and boasts a large menu. Another bustling Vietnamese suburban area, Springvale is home to many restaurants and shops to embrace your inner Asian. It has everything from bubble tea to pho, so whilst you’re there, don’t forget to check out Hoa Tran. Click the picture below for full article.

Hoa Tran is open daily from 9am-9pm. Check out their menu here.

Hoa Tran on Urbanspoon

Joomak

Joomak is a nifty, little Korean place located in a spot that you probably walk past everyday. In fact, it’s located immediately across the university I attended for three years, and I still never noticed!

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Of course, there’s a reason for that. It’s located downstairs, with the only signage evident after you poke your head into a random doorway and spot the pictured Joomak signs.

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Once you walk down the random stairway, not sure what to expect, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when some warm blue lights and private booths greet you. There are smaller tables out in the open, but we made a reservation, so we were led to a spacious booth.

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For a place I hear of so often, the menu seemed quite succinct (click image for larger picture). We were actually hoping for Korean BBQ but didn’t realise that they don’t offer it.

On the brightside, this made it easier to choose as we were especially hungry.

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I can never pass on most Korean pancakes. I usually order the seafood but as one friend wasn’t a fan of seafood, we thought we’d try the kimchi and pork.

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This was not bad, a little thin, but it was good to have a bit of meat in there. Of course it tasted better with a bit of dipping sauce (bottom dish), which seemed to be some mix of soy and sesame? Not an expert on the sauces that come with Korean food, but I know that I like them! You also get a bundle of kimchi (above the sauce) and interestingly a side dish akin to a pasta salad.20140523_182608 We ordered a few more dishes, and as often with Korean food it’s all about their marinated meat. Pictured above is the mild pan-fried pork ($15). It looks a bit small compared to other restaurants and for the price, and it also didn’t look as red as other places, which usually comes from some classic, spicy Korean sauce.

However, we did ask for mild and despite the appearance, I could taste a similar flavour to that red Korean sauce. It wasn’t really spicy at all, but that familiar Korean pork flavour demonstrates that it’s hard to go wrong with this dish.

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I preferred the pork to our beef bulgogi ($33, above), which has less of a flavour but kept me coming back because it has some Korean noodles underneath. This helped to satisfy one of my friends and I, as we were disappointed we couldn’t find japchae, sweet potato noodles, on the menu.

We also ordered the deep fried chicken drummettes ($15 for 7 pieces). This came with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. Like The BakeanistaI found this similar to a Chinese fried chicken, the skin not as crunchy and crumbed as most contenders in this new KFC/Korean Fried Chicken craze.

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But, what really got us was the drinks. Unsurprisingly, Joomak is also a popular bar, thus the small tables are available to those just after a few drinks, or there are some stools along the side. Above, you will see a strawberry soju cocktail that one friend ordered, with a little shot-like glass hiding behind it.

Another friend ordered the pineapple, and they both taste quite fruity with the alcohol not obvious. My friend and I received a lychee version for two, and for some reason it tasted a lot a stronger (but still good). I think they were about $17, so they really add up in your bill!

This place was not a standout to me, surprisingly after so many raving reviews. But, I’ve decided that after I saw this Instagram post from Food For My Belly that I’ll definitely need to return for the rice cakes with cheese and seafood. Looks devilishly good!

Joomak is located at 407/409 Swanston St, Melbourne CBD and is open Mon-Tue 5pm-1am, Wed–Thurs 5pm-3am and Fri-Sun 5pm-5am according to their Facebook.

Joomak on Urbanspoon

Modern Asian Restaurants: Fumanchu

Fumanchu has come up in my food searches before, but I’ve always been weary due to reviews about service and the fact that it’s related to Miss Chu, which I’m not a big fan of. But, as I felt like trying a breakfast with a twist, I thought the risk might pay off. Not to mention the place is conveniently located in the northern suburbs.

20140316_124235There is no sign at the front to indicate that you’ve reached the right place and when we walked in, we thought we had walked into a bar in the middle of the day. The place emanated a pub atmosphere with its pink neon lights and walls lined with alcohol. However, the waitress assured us we had reached Fumanchu, so we decided to sit alongside the window bench, which displayed more of typical cafe decor than the front counter.

20140316_114612 copyMeanwhile, the artwork of the seats along the bench displayed some sort of mid-20th century Asian film poster images. This made more sense after a quick Google search, discovering Fu Manchu as the name of a fictional character with an iconic moustache.20140316_115731 To start with, I ordered a mango juice whilst my friend ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee. My mango juice appeared to be freshly made as it didn’t feel full of extra sugar usually in bottled juice. The coffee surprisingly came out in a traditional fashion, with the Vietnamese coffee filtered and dripping into the condensed milk. After this, you pour it into your glass of ice. It was impressively presented but time consuming when you desperately want to drink your coffee! It was also quite strong for my liking.20140316_120931

As a fan of this Japanese food, I couldn’t go past the Japanese Okonomiyaki Pancakes ($17, above) from the ‘Something Different’ menu. It comes with shredded cabbage and peas inside the pancakes and is served with house cured salmon and wasabi mayo.

The pancakes tasted different to the ones you would get in a foodcourt, which seem to have more of a filling. However, this felt freshly made and a bit healthier with an abundance of peas. They were adequately sized to go with the salmon. The salmon provided a complimenting texture and flavour to the pancakes, which could have been a little plain on its own.

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My friend was tossing up between the Asiaotic Saute Mushrooms and the Asian Omelette ($15, above) and ended up choosing the latter with extra mushrooms. The omelette consisted of wok-tossed free-range eggs, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), Asian herbs and roti bread topped with fried shallots.

I didn’t realise the omelette would be served wrapped in roti bread, which was interesting. I also enjoyed that the side of mushrooms was a mix of different mushrooms including enoki, providing a proper Asian air to the dish. With egg and Chinese sausage, the dish incorporated many ingredients already familar to me so it filled me up well, but it wasn’t outstanding.

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I was glad I gave Fumanchu a chance as it ended up providing quite decent food. The service was okay but not horrible, it can just be a bit difficult catching someone’s attention because the place is quite spacious. The tables around me were packed when I arrived around 11.30am but empty by the time I left (pictured above).


Image courtesy of their Facebook – some lovely artwork I noticed on a wall before I left.

They also serve dinner with more recognisable Vietnamese meals such as pho (rice noodle soup) and bun (vermicelli noodles) but I’m still dubious about the authenticity, especially when they also serve non-Vietnamese dishes such as mee goreng. I’m happy to try Asian inspired dishes but when it comes to traditional food you’d have better for cheaper in Footscray or Springvale. That being said, I haven’t actually tried it so if any one has tried their dinner food please tell me about it in the comments!

Fumanchu has changed its name to Chumanchu but it doesn’t feel too official with their name still the same on Facebook. The restaurant is open Tue-Sun 8am-10pm and is located at 2 Gilbert Road, Preston. Check out some old versions of their breakfast menu here and takeaway dinner menu here.

Fu Manchu on Urbanspoon

Caroline Thai Restaurant

A day in the western suburbs, resulted in us looking for a quick but quality place to eat before we had to catch a movie. My friend suggested Caroline Thai Restaurant, a moderately priced restaurant with delicious food and cutlery with elephants shaped on the ends.

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As it was a day featuring the last tastes of summer weather, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to order a classic Thai iced milk tea ($3.90, above.) It tasted sweet and authentic but not overly sweetened like some places. With four of us we all chose a dish each.

Under the Thai grilled section I chose the Moo Yang BBQ, which was grilled marinated pork with Thai herbs ($16.90, above). It tasted lightly barbecued but the sauce added the burst of flavour needed, and the flower added a nice touch to the presentation.

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We debated over whether to get a large or small serving of tom yum soup. The waiter was quite helpful, so in the end we chose to have two small serves of the soup. I think we got the vegetable tom yum so it was $6.90 for each, but when they came out we were quite happy with the decision because it seemed like just enough. This was probably my favourite dish of the night, as it wasn’t too spicy and seemed to have a depth to its flavour that made you keep coming back for more.

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In contrast, my friend insisted that the curry wasn’t that spicy last time so we asked for a bit of extra spice for our red curry with chicken ($16.90, above). However, when it came out he said it was a lot spicier this time – but for my weaker friends and I it wasn’t unbearable. It was definitely a bit on the strong side but if you had a lot of it, all it took was a sip of water.

What I like about the menu, is that for the appropriate dishes, it provides you with the different options of meat and fillings. For example, you can have red curry with beef, chicken, vegetables, prawns or seafood. It’s very straightforward and means they are quite flexible.

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Last of all was the seafood pad thai ($16.90, above). The noodles seemed quite thin, but this seems consistent with what people agree should be used in pad thai. It was good and what was to be expected, nothing too special.

With four meals all up, and not a lot of time, we didn’t manage to finish it all but I felt like we had a good selection. If we had more time, I would have probably demolished the tom yum soup! The place seemed to be starting to get busy early in the evening, and the food seemed fairly authentic. The waiters and waitresses also seemed attentive and helpful, able to help with any advice.

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Caroline Thai Restaurant is located at Shop 9/218-222 Caroline Springs Blvd, Caroline Springs. You can view the dine-in menu here. You will also find their drinks and take-away menu.

Caroline Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Modern Asian Restaurants: Rice Paper Scissors

I walked past this place on my visit to Longrain, a new and upcoming place it was immediately put on my list of places to go. It was always going to be a risk though, with a modern take on various Asian and a lot of Vietnamese dishes, it would definitely challenge my notion of traditional Vietnamese food.

However, I’m very open to modern Asian restaurants as long as they provide dishes that taste good! It looked busy inside when we arrived around 6.30pm on a weeknight, so we chose to sit outside in true Asian hawker style with a wooden crate table. Service started off well and we chose to have the tempting offer of five dishes from the menu for $45 all up. 20140226_185001 The first dish that came out included two mini versions of banh xeoa take on the traditional Vietnamese pancake ($9, above). The English name said coconut crispy wafers filled with pork, prawn, bean shoots and fresh herbs, thus it was definitely crispier than the usual folded, large pancake.

The waiter recommended we eat it wrapped in the lettuce, which is a hard feat when the wafer is hard, but I managed by folding it up similar to a taco. This results in a messy, saucy meal but the crunch of lettuce and wafer, and the filling, provided a tasty mix of familiar Asian flavours yet something new. My friend wasn’t entirely happy when she decided not to use the lettuce and the waiter told her she should eat it with it, as it would be hard to eat otherwise. A recommendation is welcome, but being told you are eating the food wrong feels slightly rude. 20140226_185449 We didn’t take it too personally and moved on to our galloping horses, a Thai dish called ma hor, involving caramelised pork, prawn and peanut on sour pineapple ($9, above). From reviews, it seems like this is a favourite of many. I don’t usually like pineapple, but the taste of sour pineapple was easy to eat. The mix of filling on top sounds good on paper, but didn’t quite do it for us. The mix tasted a bit weird and salty and you don’t quite recognise what you are eating, but I guess it works for a lot of other people.

We also ordered a non-alcoholic drink, a crush of cranberry, lime and coriander ($6.50, above). Refreshing as it was, it had a bit of an odd aftertaste but it was not too bad and helped to cool down if you had too much chilli. I hear their cocktails are pretty good though so you can check out their drinks menu here. 20140226_194359 From this point, the small restaurant became full and I heard visitors being told it would be a 45 minute wait. Impressive for a new place, but at the same time our meal encountered an extremely long break.

After some prompts and apologies, our next dish of prawn crackers, using the Indonesian style and name, krupuk udang ($8, above) arrived. It came with king prawn, spicy sausage, soy caviar and sriracha mayo atop the large crackers. I discovered how tasty Indonesian prawn crackers are last year, as they’re larger, crunchier and more flavoursome but the presentation of scattered ingredients felt a bit random. It did taste quite good with the hints of chilli mayo, but it’s nothing amazing, especially after you’ve been waiting so long for it.

20140226_195445 Finally we had the mini Vietnamese baguettes, or banh mi ($9, above). It comes with free range bbq pork, pickled vegetables, herbs and homemade pate. I was dubious as they merely looked like mini hamburgers, but this was forgotten after I took a bite – the soft bread and pate burst with unique, inviting flavours.

For our fifth meal, they mistakenly brought out the coconut wafers again and not our betel leaves with duck. The wait was so long after that, we decided to leave and pay for four dishes. The waiter slightly apologised and rounded off our bill, however thought it was partially our fault for not correcting him when he had tried to check what we were waiting on. He had spoken quickly and we nodded because we assumed he was just asking if we were still waiting for dishes – and I’m not sure it’s our fault that they did not tick off the correct dishes.

Some of the food was impressive but weighed up against the long wait and service, I won’t be in a rush to come back. I didn’t leave full and don’t think I would have been, even after a fifth dish. But feel free to give it a try for some small bites and drinks, the food impresses many and you might experience better service than me!

Rice Paper Scissors is open Mon-Fri 12-3pm for lunch and 6pm-late for dinner. They are open 5pm-late on Saturdays and closed on Sundays. View their menu here.

Rice Paper Scissors on Urbanspoon