Having seen that there was a discount for Red Spice Road
in the Entertainment Book
, my friend DL decided that we should have lunch here as a birthday surprise for JD. There are 2 locations, but we ended up at the QV one because of the convenience.
I already knew I was going to like this place as soon as we walked in. The simplistic modern interior was welcoming, although I’m not sure how I feel about the artwork of naked women. The layout of the mezzanine was spacious and well lit. Eating with natural light streaming through those huge windows was a delightful contrast to the gloomy Melbourne weather.
Granted there was not a lot of people on a Wednesday lunch so the ambiance was very chill. Even though this was a last minute change of venue for us, we were seated promptly. I would imagine dinner would be a lot more hectic.
The menu was surprisingly simple but we were indecisive so we ended up with the Express Banquet. This is a menu that changes every few weeks and revolves around the idea of sharing food. So for $30 a head we got 5 dishes to share (plus jasmine rice). Some of these dishes are regulars on the menu, as indicated by the individual price. But most of them are special for the Express Banquet it seems.
Betel leaf with sticky pork relish ($6.50)
This was a huge surprise, as I thought that I wouldn’t like it. But it had a lot of flavour and the slight crunch and fragrance from the betel leaf was a wonderful addition.
Pork belly with chilly caramel, hot mint salad and black vinegar ($35)
My absolute favourite dish of the lunch. The supple meat was cooked brilliantly and that caramelised skin was amazing. My friend highly recommended the vinegar but I could barely taste it even when I drenched the whole piece of meat in it. That caramel sauce can also be quite overwhelming, it was too sweet (well duh it is a caramel) so you only need a little bit. Highly recommend this dish.
Thick rice noodles stir-fried with greens, tofu, herbs, chilli and been shoots
My least favourite dish of the bunch. The ratio of noodle to tofu/vegies was very awkward, with only a few random strands of thick rice chunks scattered throughout the dish. The bland firm tofu did not help with this imbalance. The overall flavour felt like cheap Chinese food not done well.
Green curry of beef and pumpkin
A mediocre dish. The beef was soft and the pumpkin firm but there was little depth in the actual curry.
Shredded chicken and prawn Vietnamese slaw ($30)
This was a very typical Vietnamese flavoured salad; sweet, sour, salty, spicy and smothered in fish sauce. Yum. But for $30 I can imagine many other places that make this better for at least half the price.
Fried barramundi, watermelon, cucumber, chilli and mint salad
This was such an interesting dish. The fish batter became soggy quite quickly because of the watermelon so you need to have this quickly. My brain was a little confused because I was so used to watermelon being a dessert that having so much in a savoury dish did not quite mesh that well. Imagine sweet watermelon drenched in fish sauce. This was something to try but I wouldn’t order it again.
I loved the ideas of these shared dishes, it was a great feeling scooping the food and chatting as a whole table. Also a great opportunity for curious tastebuds like ours. Dessert was optional for an extra $5 per person but we had our own cake to celebrate with, so we did not get to try any of their sweet delicacies.
The staff were extremely friendly about serving the cake (it did cost an extra $5) and it came out exactly as we had wanted. They were attentive but not over bearing throughout the meal, exactly as I like it.
I would highly recommend this restaurant. We’re going to try the other location next time. Supposedly the atmosphere is a lot different.