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In close proximity to the area and feeling peckish after our steamed egg custard buns and pandan chiffon cake baking efforts, we decided to head to Springvale for their annual Lunar New Year celebrations. Thoughts of nem nuong instantly came to mind and had me salivating.
However after spending a good 10 minutes looking for a parking spot and another 15 weaving through and being pushed by what felt like the entire Asian population of Melbourne, we decided to throw in the towel and dine at a nearby restaurant instead. Choosing to do so before others had caught on, we managed to secure a table for four at Pho Hoang. We had arrived at a good time because the restaurant was completely full within 20 minutes.
The interior looked very similar to other Vietnamese restaurants I have previously visited and had I not known where we were, I could’ve sworn up and down that we were in Footscray or Richmond…
Aside from the occasional picture depicting some sort of landscape or scenery, the interior was quite basic. Minus the frills, we had high hopes for the food.
It’s safe to assume that when the word ‘pho’ features in the name of the restaurant, the Vietnamese rice noodle dish is a must-order. And that we did, with the other three ladies ordering variations of the pho dish. Going by the nonexistent complaints and the satisfaction of pho cravings, they were happy with their dishes.
Egg noodles with wontons.
And me? I’m not the biggest pho fan to begin with, so I decided to go in a different direction (but not really) and order the wonton noodles. The MSG-laden soup was quite sweet and salty, and while the familiar taste was pleasant at first, it soon became too much for my taste buds.
Like the serving portions at this restaurant, the wontons themselves were also quite generously-sized. The silky and soft wonton skins were a plus but the mince and mushroom filling tasted too ‘sweet’ for my liking. Together with the soup, the dish was one big MSG overdose. After flicking off much of the soup, the egg noodles, lettuce and bean shoots were fortunately alright to eat.
While this encounter has not deterred me from ordering wonton noodles again if I were to revisit this restaurant in future, I may just opt for the pho option to be safe.
36 Buckingham Ave,
Springvale, Victoria, 3171.
(03) 9558 4064
The next instalment of the Dr. V, K and M (myself) eating adventures took place at Matteo’s Restaurant. Lunch here was Dr.V’s choosing and K + myself were in for a treat. Note. This lunch took place almost almost two months ago and the current menu has changed. (I am a ‘little’ behind on my posts it seems…)
The interior. The modern decor provided a classy and fine dining feel but the atmosphere felt much more relaxed/less pretentious with the splashes of majestic colours and lively chatter. The large amounts of natural lighting also helped to make the venue feel more warm and open.
Sourdough bread with butter, Japanese seasoning (seaweed, sesame seeds & bonito flakes) and salt.
The sourdough bread was freshly baked and no doubt would have tasted superb if warm (that’s my bad, I was almost an hour late for our reservation). The bread’s crust was very crispy and the surface was coated with a powdery layer of flour, allowing the consumer to experience an additional texture aside from crispy crust and doughy bread. The sourdough taste on its own was pleasantly subtle and enhanced by the contrast of the umami flavours from the Japanese seasoning.
Deep fried baby squid, filled with red rice & shrimp, heirloom carrot salad, with sea urchin butter sauce.
Although I would personally never order anything with squid or octopus in it, I tried a little bit of Dr. V’s baby squid entree and was in for a pleasant surprise. The batter was very crispy but at the same time, light/fluffy and seemed to gradually melt away. The squid tasted fresh but remained very chewy (this is why I’m not the biggest fan of cephalopods). The butter sauce was not too heavy and possessed a distinctive savoury flavour that served to compliment the slight saltiness of the squid batter.
Duck & mushroom wonton soup.
First of all, this dish was beautifully presented. It doesn’t hurt that the bowl was very pretty. And while we’re on the topic of appearance, it was clear from the moment I laid eyes on the dish that the flavours in the soup were going to be very rich. These thoughts were confirmed when I took my first sip. My lips were left with a very sticky and slightly oily coating from the almost-gelatinous texture of soup. The enoki mushroom flavour was very potent and reminded me of herbal soups. The wonton skin was very silky and delicate. The meat inside was very tender and didn’t possess a strong and unpleasant duck aftertaste/smell.
Today’s fish - Pan-fried snapper with rice paper roll.
I tried a small bite of the rice paper roll and it was… interesting. Different to the usual rice paper rolls. The rice paper was quite moist/soggy and possessed a very rubbery texture. The inside was filled with fresh veggies. Perhaps more enjoyable if eaten together with the fish…
Karaage Japanese fried lemon chicken, with warm been shoot, peanut & Vietnamese mint salad, steamed coconut rice and annatto oil dressing.
Yet another dish that was a winner in both the presentation and taste category. There were a lot of different elements in this dish: Thai coconut rice, Vietnamese mint salad and somewhat-Japanese chicken. With so many and very contrasting elements, there was much room for error and mishaps. However none eventuated because the dish was perfectly balanced and well-executed. Ordinarily, I would have found the extent of coconutiness in the rice to be overly-strong but combined with the more-sweet-than- savoury sauce and in contrast to the lemony batter, it seemed to work. As for the star of the show? This was not your typical over-oily battered lemon chicken that comes in Chinese takeaway containers. The lemon flavour was confined to the softened batter (texture similar to shallow-fried egg) and provided a nice zest to the faint teriyaki flavour of the grilled chicken.
Fried desiree potatoes with lemon thyme, garlic and rosemary salt.
We struggled to get through the potatoes as the size of our entrees and mains took its toll on our stomachs.
Post meal drinks: mocha, latte and T2 green tea.
The cup wasn’t only pleasing in appearance but also cleverly designed to reduce the amount of heat transmitted to the hands.
Dr. V has impeccable taste when it comes to food and so when she picked Matteo’s Restaurant for our lunch date, there were no questions asked and given my frantic schedule, there was no research done prior to stepping foot into the restaurant. Even if I had done the research, there would have been a good chance that the positive testimonials would have paled in comparison to the real deal. The staff were very friendly (no dirty looks received when I arrived super late) and the service, fast paced and efficient. Their menu offers a different (and TASTY!) twist on Japanese cuisine and exemplifies Asian fusion. I’ve only had a handful of exceptional dining experiences and Matteo’s Restaurant is counted amongst this list.
Ps. While I have tried my best to capture my dining experience with words, my review is also not likely to do the Matteo dining experience justice. I highly recommend going and trying it for yourself :)
533 Brunswick St,
Fitzroy North, Victoria, 3068.
(03) 9481 1177