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Once upon a gym night, when faced with the option of either rushing off for a class that we would have been late for anyway or going out to eat, thehouseofem and I made a very, very wise decision by choosing the latter. Japanese food came to mind almost immediately given its ‘lightness’ (to somewhat compensate for the missed class) and because we were craving it. Win win! A quick search on Japanese restaurants in the area landed us at Chiba in Moonee Ponds.
Its interior was decked out in many elements of black and red.
Upon closer inspection, thehouseofem noticed that one wall was comprised entirely of tessellating chopstick holders.
Complimentary bean shoot salad.
We heard the sound of Japanese being spoken from one staff member to another and thehouseofem took this as a very promising sign.
Agedashi tofu - fried bean curd, served in light soya and ginger sauce, topped with bonito flakes.
It was served freshly cooked and piping hot. The outside coating possessed a texture and taste that was quite similar to tempura batter. The thickness of the exterior was perfectly proportional to the silky tofu interior; it soaked up the right amount of sauce, distributing the gingery soy flavour evenly throughout the tofu, without losing too much of its crispness.
Homemade Japanese croquettes - tasty fish and potato croquettes, served with salad and barbecue sauce.
Delightfully crisp. The pickled carrots provided a nice sour contrast to the well-mashed potato.
Katsu don - crumbed pork cutlet and onion, cooked with egg on rice.
A severe hankering for katsu don was cured from the very first bite to the last. The crumbed layer on the pork was crunchy and served in a generous sea of egg.
Nabeyaki udon - hot thick udon noodles soup served with tempura prawn, chicken, vegetables and raw egg.
The flavours and the warmth provided by the udon made it one very fulfilling, enjoyable and stomach-warming dish. Perfect for winter. The ramen-like soup base wasn’t too overpowering, with frequent bouts of enoki mushroom flavour detectable. Ingredients like shiitake and chinese cabbage added what I thought was a subtle Chinese twist to a Japanese dish.
In the battle between the noodle dish and the rice vying for the title of better-tasting dish, it was too close to call and neither one came out as a clear victor.
Banana tempura - deep fried banana in light batter, served with syrup and vanilla or green tea ice cream. (We forked out for an extra scoop of ice cream so that we could get both flavour options)
The banana tempura was exactly that: banana covered in a lighter-than-usual tempura batter. The cooked banana was soft and mooshy, tasting quite sweet especially in contrast to the slightly savoury batter.
Chiba is one out of only a handful of restaurants that demonstrate good Japanese food is within reach (or a suburb or two away) for west-siders after all. Great dining atmosphere and excellent-tasting food at affordable prices. What are you waiting for?
41 Hall St,
Moonee Ponds, Victoria, 3039.
(03) 9326 0248