435, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Scoring 91% likes on Urbanspoon, and 8.4 on Eatability, this place is as good as it gets when it comes to low cost Southeast Asian (SEAsian) fare that never fails to satisfy in terms of taste, portion size, and consistency.
Really small space with strangers sharing very small tables. If you are there between 12 and 2pm, or between 6pm and 7pm, good luck getting a seat. However, if you are in a queue, you won't have to wait long. The turnaround is quite phenomenal and a takeaway is a really short wait too.
Other things to do close by: Queen Vic Market is 2 minutes walk away, and Melbourne Central is 5 minutes in the other direction.
This place serves the usual south Chinese, southeast Asian fare. It's what would be termed in the region as hawker food. This means that most of the dishes come with rice or noodles and is a complete meal on its own. I have been there many many times and the usual favourites include:
Salt and Pepper Chicken Ribs which is probably the most popular dish at this joint. If you are eating in during a relatively busy time, I am willing to bet you will see at least 4 - 5 of these being served up. Crunchy slightly spiced chicken rib on rice, with broccoli on the side (almost a garnish).
Salted Fish Fried Noodles, which is basically the dish that got me into trouble with my Mum. I brought my parents to this place a couple of days before they were leaving Melbourne the last time (they had been here for nearly 3 months). Once they had the salted fish fried noodles, Mum said "You waited till now to bring us here? What's wrong with you? We have been here 3 months!" 'nuff said.
Shredded Pork and Mushroom with Fried Noodles (Sum See Min), another favourite of mine with slightly crispy noodles dowsed in the soy-based sauce of pork, shredded preserved shitake mushroom, beenshoots and carrots. Really good!
With more than 120 choices, I haven't tried all of them but if the crowd is any indication - it's all mostly good.
Cheap and Cheerful. No fuss, no demands. Get on with it, have your free potent Jasmine tea and just be patient. The food comes within 5 minutes. The ladies who run the place know what they are doing and what you ordered almost unfailingly when you go up to pay.
I would recommend this place to even punters from Southeast Asia because I have that much faith in it. My Mum's seal of approval just confirms it. A great place for a quick meal under $10.00
A Cultural Moment
Hawker Food is traditionally sold by hawkers on the streetsides of Southeast Asia. Hawkers traditionally sell one speciality, so, you might get the Fried Noodle Hawker who sells a couple of styles of fried noodles, or the BBQ Pork hawker who sells just that.
In the last 30 years, countries like Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have constructed Hawker Centres, bringing together many different stalls selling their specialties in the one space. This was done not only for convenience, but also for hygiene and the changing landscape of SEAsian streets. More recently, in Australia (the last 20 years), the Food Courts of the mega shopping malls are the closest thing to Hawker Centres of SEAsia. The main difference is that they sell vastly different foods.
Rose Garden is one of those places that sells so many different dishes which would normally be the domain of singular stalls in Asia. There are many of those in Australia, but most of them don't do it well, Rose Garden is the exception - they know their SEAsian food.