Tag Archives: Asian

Amok

119 Chapel St, Windsor

Cambodian

http://www.amokrestaurant.com.au/

I stumbled upon this new restaurant last night so immediately gave it a try.  I was particularly interested as I’d been to Cambodia earlier in the year and not only tried amok, I’d learned to make it in a cooking school.  Amok is one of the most traditional dishes of Cambodia and is a curried fish dish steamed in a banana leaf.

The styling of the restaurant would have to be described as varied at best.  There are many traditional Asian pieces around the room including paintings and stone busts.  These are interspersed with pieces that might normally be found in a restaurant with industrial styling including a large sign spelling AMOK behind the bar, made of what appears to be steel guttering and a large lighting fixture which is basically a roll of wire fencing with an LED strip through it.

The waitress who greeted us was very friendly and helpful.  Obviously the liquor licence hasn’t come through yet as currently the restaurant is BYO only so I was directed to the bottle store a few doors down to pick up some wine or beer.

The menu is full of mouth-watering flavours of Cambodia but many had a more modern Western twist as well.  Divided in ‘small’, ‘to share’ and ‘big’, we chose cured salmon with pomegranate and a young coconut dressing in a betel leaf, and naked prawn with chocolate bacon, smoked paprika, mayo and gherkin in a slider bun from the ‘small’ section for starters.

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For mains we chose char grilled quail with puff rice, pickled papaya, longan fruit and tamarind dressing from the ‘to share’ menu and the fish amok with Tasmanian salmon from the ‘big’ section.  Oddly the char grilled quail was marked as a vegetarian option as was another dish with octopus so there maybe a cultural translation issue there.

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The prawn slider and salmon in betel leaf were presented very nicely and the salmon dish in particular was delicious.  I got the prawn slider as the chocolate bacon intrigued me.  The chocolate flavour wasn’t prominent but it still tasted fantastic.

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The quail was cooked nicely however the puffed rice in the salad did give me the impression of somebody pouring Rice Bubbles over my meal.  That said, it was still very good.  I thought the Tassie salmon was an odd choice for the amok since I believe it’s normally done with a white fish however I love salmon so who am I to complain and there are many many variations on how to cook an amok.  The result was excellent with a lovely curry flavour but if you’re looking for any heat in your curry though this is not what you’re after.  Cambodian food in general is much less spicy than some of its other South East Asian neighbours.

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I think Amok has a lot going for it. I certainly want to go back and try other items on the menu.  There are a lot of Asian restaurants in the area but no other Cambodian ones that I know of.  This may be a boon for people who like Asian food at the milder end of the spice scale.  The modern take on traditional food seems to be well done.  The chef came out to chat to some of the diners about their experiences so they’re obviously not afraid of feedback.

I think the main issue the restaurant is facing is the decor.  It doesn’t have a modern Asian feel like other local restaurants such as Saigon Sally, Tokyo Tina and Mr Miyagi.  It’s sort of a half way house between modern and traditional and as such it lacks consistency and vibe.  They may not have the decor budget of these other restaurants however a simple consistent style could work wonders for the place.  The fact is, the only reason I was in Amok in the first place was that Tokyo Tina and Mr Miyagi had waits well in excess of an hour to get a table so it seems to be interior design is money well spent.

I imagine getting a liquor licence will be a priority for the owners as that’s generally where the best profits are.  I also think the menu needs a bit of a tidy up.  Beyond describing non-vegetarian meals as vegetarian, the descriptions of the meals could use work.

It would be a shame if these issues held the restaurant back from being a success as it certainly wouldn’t be the food at fault.  Let’s hope they know how to run Amok.

Click to add a blog post for Amok Restaurant on Zomato

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Laksa Bar

247 Chapel St, Prahran Asian Street Food Laksa bar is the sister of the Lt Lonsdale restaurant in the CBD.  I was pleased to see it had taken over the old Straits of Malacca restaurant.  I hadn’t tried it yet but, not to wish ill of the owners, I was waiting for it to fail – it just looked very unappealing and they’d made no effort with decor.  It was really pretty fugly.  With so many good Asian restaurants in the area there was no reason to go there.  Unfortunately Laksa Bar hasn’t really improved the situation.  In fact, you can still see portions of the Straights of Malacca signage on the wall as,  as far as I can tell, all they’ve done is pasted a few brewery sponsored posters on the wall, replaced the counter, and changed a few of the lights.  It’s a large restaurant so they really should have made more of an effort.  Hopefully the food is good enough to allow us to ignore the slapdash decorating. posters  It started out… well pretty average to be honest.  We ordered some soft shell crab and some of “Miss Ling’s” chicken and prawn dumplings.  The crab was okay in that it was crab shaped I guess, but the overriding taste was the oil in the batter.  I was sort of hoping crab and spices would be in the top two flavours and the chilli mayo that came with it seemed like it was store bought.  The pan-fried dumplings were actually pretty good, as was the house special black bean sauce.  Maybe it’s house special because it’s the only one actually made in house. dumplings crab We also ordered some of the ‘signature’ crispy chicken with hot and spicy sauce.  The menu asks for 20 minutes to prep time as it’s “slightly trickier to prepare”.  I’m not sure what’s tricky about deep frying chicken but we ordered at the same time as our entrees and it came out just before our mains.  The chicken was the highlight of the night.  The hot and spicy sauce wasn’t really either particularly, but it was tasty… and sticky.  Maybe that’s what attracted all the little fruit flies. chicken For mains I ordered the house laksa with fish while my friend ordered the nasi lemak with beef rendang.  My overriding impression of the laksa was yellow.  Everything was yellow.   From the sauce to the deep fried emping chips on top, it was very yellow.  The laksa contained both thick and thin noodles and the fish component was deep fried… making it quite yellow.  It was disappointing that the fish was battered and deep fried, it would have been a better dish with fish pieces cooked in the laksa.   The tofu was also fried and spongy.  The over all taste was okay but nothing special. yellowness The beef rendang… well lets not sugar coat it, it tasted pretty awful.  I really like a beef rendang done well but we barely touched this.  It was grim.  The dish was saved a little by having the nasi lemak to eat instead but really that should be a side. rendang So, pretty awful decor and some pretty average to awful food.  How long with this one last? Laksa Bar Prahran on Urbanspoon

New Wind

120 Chapel St, Windsor

Vietnamese/Thai

http://www.newwind.com.au/

New Wind has been around since 2001 and I’ve eaten here a couple of times before.  I visited it again on New Years Eve with a group of friends, looking to line our stomachs before the subsequent festivities.   Inside is decorated with original paintings by the owner and a piano in the corner, sometimes played by the owner as well.  On this night we sat outside at the wooden tables which look like they were made by your dad who failed shop class and they could certainly have benefited from some sandpaper.

We ordered roast quail, pendan chicken and the charcoal grilled octopus for entrées.  The pendan chicken consisted of marinated chicken pieces wrapped in a pendan leaf and then grilled and served with a plum sauce.  It was quite tasty although the four pieces of fish were quite inconsistently sized which is a bit annoying when sharing.   The char-grilled baby octopus was marinated in a spicy Thai sauce served with a sweet chilli sauce and was also a tasty if slightly unattractive dish.  The roast quail sprinkled with spices was delicious.

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For mains we ordered the coconut prawn clay pot and a pork stir fry with a plum sauce.  When they arrived the waiter struggled to find space on the table for them due to the number of glasses and bottles that had accumulated however he didn’t seem particularly interested in removing any.  Once every dish, plate, bottle and glass was jockeyed slightly to accommodate the mains they turned out to be pretty good.  Nothing exceptional but they hit the spot, were a decent portion size, and were reasonably priced.

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If you’re looking for well priced reasonable Vietnamese/Thai food then you could do worse than choosing New Wind, but it’s certainly not the best on Chapel St, and I’d probably avoid trying to use the bathrooms there as well.

Footnote:  I have since returned here reasonably late on a Saturday night with three friends.  We ordered the prawn dumplings, fried wontons and steamed chicken dim sims.  All were terrible.  The wontons were flat and lacked filling, the chicken dim sim wrappings looked like sheep scrotum and were falling apart.  The prawn dumplings were stodgy and all the ones I had an inedible hard glutenous bit in them.  I certainly do not recommend these entrées.  Additionally there is a smell of gas outside the restaurant which could well worry any Jewish clientelle more than the pork stir-fry.  Apparently the council have been around to check it a few times but found nothing.  Still, it can make sitting outside quite unpleasant.

New Wind on Urbanspoon

Saigon Rose

206 Chapel St, Prahran

Vietnamese

http://saigonroseprahran.com.au/

Saigon Rose is a long-standing member of the Chapel St Asian restaurant fraternity and seems to stay reasonably busy.  A couple of friends and I managed to get a table on Monday night once the reserved sign was whisked away.  The restaurant is sparsely decorated with only the beer selection adorning the walls and a single large black and white photo depicting scenes from Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City as it is now).  It seems it’s not the sort of restaurant you come for the ambiance.

We started with some drinks, and a friend and I decided to try the Vietnamese beer Huda.  Apparently it wasn’t the first time the waitress had heard the “Two large Hudas” joke before.  Either way, we moved onto Asahi after that as Huda wasn’t really a winner.  For entrée we ordered pork and prawn rice paper rolls, banana chicken, and salmon and asparagus spring rolls.  The surprise winner was the banana chicken.  Pockets of chicken breast stuffed with banana, deep-fried, and served with a plum sauce.  The salmon and asparagus spring rolls with a fish sauce were a close and delicious second.  The rice paper rolls were fairly bland and seemed to be missing the prawn but were almost saved by a nice hoisin sauce.

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For mains we ordered roast duck with plum sauce, king prawns wrapped in scallops, and from the specials board, a pumpkin pot of king prawns in a mild yellow curry sauce.  The duck arrived first.  I’m not sure it was the first time the waitress had seen somebody dive under the table when it was presented and she said “Duck”.  It looked beautifully crispy and smelled great although other than the sauce there were no other accompaniments.  Next to arrive was the pumpkin pot.  It was presented in a hollowed out 1/2 pumpkin and was overflowing with prawn curry and vegetables.  The prawns and scallops were last to arrive.  I had wondered how they were going to wrap a scallop around a prawn.  As it turns out they didn’t, the prawn was wrapped around the scallop.  They were served on a bed of steamed broccoli and lettuce and doused in an oyster sauce.

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All of the mains were delicious.  The prawn curry had just a nice amount of kick to it and it was a substantial meal that left me feeling very full at the end of it.  I couldn’t fault the duck, and if I did it’d just be like water off a ducks back anyway.  The prawn and scallops were plump and juicy and full of flavour.  While the restaurant may not have a lot of atmosphere, the staff were very professional, and the food is what keeps people coming back.

Saigon Rose on Urbanspoon