Father’s Day. Not a good day for an unplanned meal out.
(“We don’t celebrate Hallmark holidays,” says my son, ironically channelling his mother, as they remember they’ve forgotten … but they’re not in primary school any more, so there’s no Father’s Day junk stalls to remind them.)
Chinese barbecue on a Sunday night. Not a good choice for an unplanned night out in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
The roast duck glistens lushly in the window of the first place we try. The tables are full, and the crowd at the door is already restless; they aren’t waiting for takeaway.
The crowd at the door of the second place we try triples when we arrive on the heels of another family who also want a table for four – with no booking.
The crowd at the door of the third place we try is a Chinese family who want a table for 10 … with no booking.
This is the part of the evening where you give up, go home and order pizza. Except we don’t.
We stumble into (REDACTED BY LAWYER) at (ADDRESS WITHHELD). At least they have a table.
The decor is shiny and cheap, the voices of the other Father’s Day revellers magnified into a shrill din by beer, white wine and hard surfaces.
The menu, crammed with ranks of poorly-exposed low-res thumbnails, is an object lesson in failed information design, like a series of early-1990s website gallery pages printed out and laminated.
The food looks tasty on the page if you squint, but the evening is already turning into a disappointment, and the cooks in the kitchen at (NAME SUPPRESSED) see no reason to stop its downward trajectory.
A Victoria Street staple – egg noodle soup with barbecued pork – is represented here by egg noodle soup with pork mince and prawns. Hold the prawns … hold the mince. Actually, hold the whole thing.
Crispy-skin chicken with tomato rice is oily and pale on the outside, just a little bit too pink near the bone and tastes more of stale deep-fryer than chicken or crispy skin. The tomato rice is tomato-coloured but not tomato-flavoured.
Chicken satay with rice is a puddle of something in some kind of gravy beside a mound of steamed rice. It looks like the dinner I’d serve the cat if I had to buy a tin at a convenience store very late at night.
Grilled pork on rice – also a Victoria Street staple – is another mound of rice and four plasticky plaques of bright pink grilled something (so that’s prok!) that is pushed around on the plate with reluctant chopsticks (I don’t blame her in the least).
Even the lemon soda drinks – glasses full of shaved ice with a teaspoon each of sugar, soda water and lemon essence – don’t fail to disappoint.
[KILLER FINISH TO COME].