Friday, 31 August 2012

Review - Thai Viet Bibigo

Thu, 16th August 2012
and other visits in August, September   

Thai Viet Bibigo
Shop 4, Capitol Arcade
Swanston st

Cuisine: Korean, Japanese

 Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 8/10

Thai Viet Bibigo on Urbanspoon

I was walking pass the Alannah Hill store at Capitol Arcade when I saw these people eating out of huge steel bowls, sitting at little tables in the arcade. Intrigued, I stopped to see where they had ordered their food from. It was a little hole in the wall shop, doing great business with the lunch time crowd. Inaccurately named Thai Viet Bibigo, this place serves mainly Korean and Japanese food.

I couldn't resist ordering something too. The menu is really simple - a menu high on the back wall and a little specials menu above the cash register. There are quite a number of  staff members for this tiny but very busy place. They efficiently served at the counter or cooked in the small crowded kitchen. The service is really fast - orders are taken quickly and the food comes out of the kitchen pretty quickly as well. 

I ordered the Crispy Chicken on rice, from the specials menu above the cash register. A large kara-age style chicken on rice appeared in a huge steel bowl shortly after. Amazing! I liked the crumbed chicken which is not the most healthy meal, but tasty. I'm not a big fan of mayonaise so would ask for 'no mayo' next time - this was drizzled in a zig zag pattern over the chicken. To make you feel more healthy, this dish came with a serve of leafy salad. And a bowl of warm miso is included - this is a nicer miso soup than some places I have tried. All these for the small price of $6.50! Bibigo is truly one of Melbourne's lunch time gems. Maybe I should keep this place secret!

 Menu high on the back wall

 Menu high on the back wall

Specials Menu
Crispy Chicken on rice,
with leafy greens and Miso soup

Crispy Chicken on rice, with leafy greens

 Nice food in the bain marie 
Salmon Kochi (Skewers), Agedashi Tofu
and Pork Mandu (Korean Dumplings).

Sushi Rolls

Sitting is limited. I could see only 4 tables for Bibigo in the arcade, plus a counter against the inside wall. You sit on these retro looking three legged stools. Many people bought takeaways and seemed to be regulars.

Retro looking 3 legged stools

I have been back to Bibigo twice since. The second time, we ordered Beef Bibimbap and Salmon Bibimbap. These are basically the same dish except that one comes with beef, the other with raw salmon. Each large steel bowl was vibrant in colour with an arrangement of yellow omelette strips, shredded carrots, cucumber slices, cooked green leafy vegetables and fresh leafy salad. The finely sliced beef was lean, tender and tasty. This dish was drizzled with a red sauce called Gochujang, which is made of spicy red peppers, but the Gochujang here is not terribly spicy so if you are not into spicy food, you might still be OK with it. The salmon was cut into large chunks and tasted fresh.  It came with a bowl of what tasted liked soya sauce. Miso soup is included with all the main meals. These generous meals cost us $8.50 for the Beef Bibimbap and $9.50 for the Salmon Bibimbap.

You can have an interesting walk to Bibigo by going through the heritage Royal Arcade, down Howey Lane with its constrast of laneway and designer shops, and then into the 1920s era Capitol Arcade. On the reverse journey, walk down the graffiti-covered Union Lane which has become a  CBD tourist attraction.

On the way to Bibigo. Short cut through Royal Arcade

... walk through Howey Place ...

... turn into Capitol Arcade,
one of Melbourne's oldest arcades from the 1920s

Beef Bibimbap with Gochujang
(red sauce made from spicy red peppers) 

Beef Bibimbap

Raw Salmon Bibimbap, with Miso Soup and Sauce

Raw Salmon Bibimbap

Shortcut through Union Lane.
Council designated graffiti lane
which has become a tourist attraction.

Union Lane

I went back to Bibigo again when I was in a hurry to grab a late lunch. Good opportunity to try the Japanese Curry Chicken on rice for $6.00. The large steel bowl appeared with tender chicken, chunky carrot pieces and rice. Even though I prefer the stronger Asian curries, I am quite happy with this savoury curry gravy, which is not as bland as other Japanese curries I have tried elsewhere. It can give the Wagamama curry a run for its money.


Tables at Bibigo, Capitol Arcade,
Near Alannah Hill designer shop.

Japanese Curry Chicken

Overall, I am glad I stumbled into this forgotten part of Melbourne. Good food, huge quantity, amazing prices and fast, friendly service. A 'no fuss' place for a great lunch.

Updated 7th Sep 2012
Went with a couple of friends for a quick meal. I had eaten a huge banquet lunch the day before at Red Spice Road. So I wanted to be good today and have a smaller meal.  Good opportunity to try two entree-sized bain-marie items which I had been eyeing previously. One was the Salmon Kochi. This shewer had generous chunky pieces of salmon, in a sweet teriyaki sauce. Nice. Would have prefered this warmer though. 

The second item was the Agedashi Tofu. The tofu was nicely fried, not too oily. A light sweet sauce is drizzled over the tofu when you order it. Not bad. Again, this would have tasted so much better if it was warmer. I normally take several photos of each dish JIC the photos don't turn out well. But I was so busy chatting that I seem to have only one slightly blurry photo of the tofu! 

One friend ordered the Spicy Pork Bibimbap. I tried a piece of this spicy pork. It was nice but surprisingly very chilli hot, even with my mid-level tolernance for spicy Asian dishes! I would have struggled to eat a huge bowl of this due to the spiciness. The person who ordered this was very happy with the taste and generous size of this dish, and amazingly, was able to finish most of this large serve, despite being from a non-spicy food culture. Go figure!

Salmon Kochi

Salmon Kochi, Agadeshi Tofu

Spicy Pork Bibimbap

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Review - Shanghai Master Dumpling

Tue, 14th August 2012    
Previous visits in July 2012, June 2012    

Shanghai Master Dumpling
173 King Street 

Cuisine: Shanghai, other Chinese

 Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10

Shanghai Master Dumpling on Urbanspoon

This restaurant was a lucky discovery. Rushing one lunchtime to grab a quick bite, I spotted this place from across the street. We decided to cross the street and go in. And we were very glad we did.

During the first visit which was in June 2012, I tried the Pan fried Pork Dumplings and Shanghai Fried Noodles. This is becoming a standard order on my first visit to any Shanghai cuisine restaurant. If they can do good dumplings and Shanghai noodles, it is likely I will make a return visit. And I have been to this restaurant three times in the last three months!

Verdict on the Shanghai Fried noodles - tasty with lean pork and nice crunchy green vegetables. I wished there were more green vegetables. The mushroom pieces were too large and chewy - these would be nicer if cut smaller. However, the noodles are nice enough that I would order this again. And the dumplings? A very generous plate of 15 dumplings for $8.50. The minced pork filling was nice. The dumpling skin was too thick but otherwise we were pleased with this dish.

The waitress turned around when I exclaimed "Why is the table so small?" Our table was so tiny it was crowded with merely 2 plates! This restaurant is packed at lunch time so it is not surprising they are maximising the space.

Front of the Restaurant

Cover of the Menu

Menu - Homemade Shanghai Fried Mini Buns

Menu - Shanghai Fried Noodles

Shanghai Fried Noodles

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

Small Table - 2 dishes overlap!.

The next visit was in July 2012. We ordered Ma Po Tofu on steamed rice and Homemade Shanghai Fried Mini Buns. The Ma Po Tofu was not very chilli hot, and this made it more of an ordinary mince dish rather than a spicy Szechuan dish. The mini buns were juicy on the inside - watch out when biting in! The filling was nice. I like the dough which was slightly crusty on the outside. These buns are quite a large size (compared to dumplings). Wonder why food is called 'homemade' when it is made in a restaurant!

Again, we didn't make a booking. I'm not sure if they even take bookings. We got a table immediately but later there was a short queue, and people waited for quite a while for a table.
Front of the Restaurant

Lunch time crowd. 

Ma Po Tofu

Homemade Shanghai Fried Mini Buns

The latest visit was on 14th August 2012. We ordered three dishes: Shanghai Duck in Sweet Soya Sauce,  Steamed Chicken with Ginger, and Dumplings in Hot and Sour Soup.

The Shanghai Duck in Sweet Soya Sauce came with green Vegetables (Siew Pak Choy, also called Bok Choy). The duck had a great caramel soya sauce taste. But there were splinters of bone with each mouthful of duck! This is likely due to the way the duck bone is chopped.

The Steamed Chicken with Ginger came with a bowl of  Spring Onion/Sweet Soya Sauce and also Siew Pak Choy/Bok Choy vegetables. The taste of the chicken was average. There was the same challenge with splinters of chicken bones.

The Dumplings in Hot and Sour Soup were very good! Ten juicy dumplings in a very nice hot and sour soup with mushroom and tofu. It was a medium size bowl but the dumplings were very filling! I would order this dish myself next time, especially if it was a cold day.

Shanghai Master Dumpling

Menu - Shanghai Duck in Sweet Soya Sauce,
Steamed Chicken with Ginger

Menu - Dumplings in Host and Sour Soup

Shanghai Duck in Sweet Soya Sauce

Steamed Chicken with Ginger
Dumplings in Hot and Sour Soup 

Overall, Shanghai Master Dumpling is one of those good places to have in your list of lunch places. As well as several favourites, there are other dishes on the menu that I would like to try.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Review - Ho Chak Malaysian Seafood Restaurant

*** Ho Chak restaurant has closed with a sign 'Closed for Renovation'. ***
*** Hakka Tea House has reopened in the same shopping strip ***

Thu, 2nd August 2012    

Ho Chak Malaysian Seafood Restaurant
27 Railway Parade North
Glen Waverley

Cuisine: Malaysian, Asian

Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10

Ho Chak Malaysian Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

'Ho Chak' means 'Taste Good' in Hokkien, a Chinese dialect. This new Malaysian seafood restaurant opened about a month ago in Glen Waverley, opposite the train station. It occupies one half of the former Hakka Tea House site.

Parking is available in front of the shopping strip, or a bit further away in the many car parks in the Glen Waverly restaurant/cinema/train precint. The place was quiet when we arrived just before 6pm without a booking, but filled up steadily. It was quite busy by the time we left about an hour and a half later.

Raymond, the manager provided friendly and attentive service while we were dining there. Originally from Hong Kong, he is one of the partners of this business. Kenny, the other business partner is the chef and hails from Malaysia.

We originally wanted a quick dinner. We looked around Glen Waverley for a restaurant and came upon Ho Chak. Our quick dinner turned out to be a long drawn out affair as we were tempted into having a mud crab meal. This is a fiddly business which involves removing the shell pieces to get to the crab meat. Raymond explained that Ho Chak serves Darwin mud crabs rather than Queensland mud crabs, as the Darwin crabs have a softer shell, as well as nice eating crab meat. 

We ordered one mud crab and chose the Kam Heong style of cooking as this is their signature dish for mud crabs. Traditionally, Asian restaurants weigh crabs and lobsters by the imperial system (pounds), not the metric system (kilograms). The crab that was selected for us was three pounds in weight. At $28.80 per pound, this adds up to a pretty significant dish, in more ways than one! We also ordered a vegetable dish of Dau Miu (snow pea shoots) to balance out the crab dish.

To start off, there was complimentary 'house' soup. This is made by boiling whatever stock ingredients are available that day to extract the goodness. The soup was nice and homely with a variety of bones and vegetables thrown in the mix.

Then came the star of the meal - the mud crab in Kam Heong sauce. Was it worth the expense and the painstaking removal of shell bits? Well, the mud crab was delicious! The crab flesh was fresh (is this a tongue twister?).  The Kam Heong sauce was finger-licking good. Its ingredients included dried shrimps and a home made chilli sauce, with curry leaves providing extra flavour.  The chilli gave it a kick that was just nice. Given that tolerance to chilli is an individual thing, I can provide only a  rough estimate and say the level of spiciness is about medium.

Dau Miu is one of my favourite dishes. The snow pea shoots were cooked in a garlic sauce. The Dau Miu stems were mainly young and crunchy, although there were several in the mix which were slightly stringy. The garlic sauce provided a nice flavour.

Interestingly, the decor of the restaurant feels more Hong Kong than Malaysian! Malaysian dishes on the menu include Asam Fish Head, sambal belachan dishes and marmite sauce dishes. There are also dishes which are Hong Kong style. One Malaysian dish which does not appear on the menu but can be ordered is Char Koay Teow. We ordered that for takeaway, as well as Seafood Fried Rice. Both were about average but came with a decent amount of prawns. The CKT had clams as well.

To finish the meal, orange quarters were served.

Overall, a good meal of juicy, fresh mud crab, in a delicious sauce that you want to scoop up from the plate with rice so you don't waste it! We would go back again as there are other dishes we are interested in trying. Ho Chak is a good addition to the busy Glen Waverley dining scene.

Front of Ho Chak Malaysian Seafood Restaurant

House Soup

Mud Crab in Kam Heong sauce

Signature Crab Dish -
Mud Crab in Kam Heong sauce

Mud Crab in Kam Heong sauce

Crab Claw

 Dau Miu (Snow Pea Shoots) in garlic sauce.

Inside the Restaurant

Oranges to finish the meal

Takeaway Seafood Fried Rice

Takeaway Char Koay Teow