Thursday, 15 August 2013

No.1 Delicious

83 Franklin St, Melbourne, VIC 3000

 No.1 Delicious on Urbanspoon
This is a place recommended by my Chinese friends from Northeast China. So, when Catherine suggested we go there for lunch, I was in. Then, I went again the following week just to try out a different dish. First thing to note was - don't bring a vegetarian. There's not a lot of options for them here. In addition, and rather strangely, they don't have a lot of options for Chinese Tea other than basic Jasmine Tea.

The Place
This is quite a nice set up and even though it is located near student central that is RMIT University, it still has a clean contemporary rather nice feel to it. This is not to say that students can't eat at nice places, just that this place has set it up nicely, instead of going for the cheap basic cafeteria feel. They recently renovated the place to make it somewhat more upmarket, creating a more relax atmosphere, where it used to be more frantic (at least from the outside looking in).

Things to do Nearby: This is about a block away from Queen Vic Market, Melbourne Central, and the State Library. It's very close to the Baths and RMIT University, as well as Vertical Indoor Rock Climbing.

The Food
Braised Pork - no green because I asked for it without capsicum
The food is authentic northern Chinese offerings, if a bit less spicy and chilli ridden than most places. Almost every dish I have tried here has had a hint of Szechuan peppercorn, without it overriding the flavours in its usual tongue numbing quality. This is a good thing for those of us who like a bit of spice without it killing our tastebuds.

The other really good thing about the food here is that, it presents authentic northern Chinese flavours but without the too common accompanying grease, and layer of chilli oil.

The highlights for me here include their Braised Pork (Hong Shao Rou) on Rice. It's really yummy, without being overly salty, or laden with MSG. It might look rather plain, but their generosity with the shitake mushroom made me very happy.
I also ordered something here that most of my friends would not touch with a barge pole - all the more for me - which is Stir Fried Pork Liver (pictured below). This dish was a delightful balance of salt, vinegar, and spice, and without being too sweet. It's not for everyone and it's not common in Melbourne, but this is a great find for me.

Catherine had the Seafood Fried Noodles which really didn't interest me - but I took a photo. It looked a bit like basic stir fried noodles with some seafood thrown in. Catherine didn't look that impressed either.

The Service
The service here is what I would call unobtrusive and polite. They are good at greeting diners and showing them to their tables but then leave you alone most of the time. If you want something, you actually have to call out for it. It's not that bad but don't expect attentive, chatty service and you'll be fine. The dishes were not served at the same time - so, start eating before it gets cold.

Cultural Moment
Offals - it's not just an Asian thing - there are plenty of European cultures that eat offals too. I know I have written about this topic before when I was focused on Cantonese cuisine (City BBQ). However, in this piece, I am going to share a bit about my childhood.

My childhood memories are filled with the wonderful tastes and smells of home cooked stir fried pork liver with ginger, spring onion and oyster sauce, or Chinese sausage with pork liver, or even just BBQ roasted Pork Liver (from Kuching, Sarawak). It was always a highlight of special meals for me. Come to think of it, it is features unusually frequently for me. When I left Malaysia, to go to Singapore, I started learning Mandarin, and I remember, one of the first phrases I learned in Mandarin in the text book was "Wo xi huan chi chao zhu gan" - "I like to eat fried pork liver!" I kid you not - it was in the text and I remember thinking - "Wow - this text book knows me!" It was also one of the first dishes I learned to cook as a pre-teenager. So, me and pork liver - we go way back. It makes me happy and thanks to No. 1 Delicious, I have rediscovered it in Melbourne.

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