Monday 20 May 2013

City BBQ (Hong Kong Restaurant)

178-190 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC

City BBQ on Urbanspoon
In Sydney, Hong Kong Restaurants like this would be a dime a dozen. Unusually, in Melbourne, there are only 4 such places in the Chinatown Block, most of them relatively small. This is one of them and not necessarily the best one nor the worst. They offer Siu Laap cuisine, with a range Cantonese dishes from the kitchen.

The Place

Back to back chairs

This is a small space with a lot of tables and chairs cramped together. If it is full, it is likely that your chair will be pushed up against someone elses - not necessarily a pleasant condition. It's not the cleanest restaurant, having been around a long time and the ventilation is not great either. This is really a place for a quick meal, not to lurk around and have a chat. It is also unsuitable for little children because of the very limited space. Parking is really on Russell Street, Lonsdale Street, or undercover parking around the area.

Thing to do Nearby: In the heart of Chinatown, and a short walk to QV, there're plenty of shops to explore.

The Food
The usual Cantonese fare is on offer. However, having served generations of Melbournian - the food here has become somewhat watered down over the years. The roast meats are passable though a bit dry ocassionally. Mostly the best of the BBQ meats is the Soy Sauce Chicken. The Crispy Roast Pork (pictured to the right) is not always crispy and usually quite fatty. 

The dishes from the kitchen are not bad but don't usually pack a punch. For example, the Salted Fish and BBQ Pork Fried Rice (pictured below) was no different to any Special Fried Rice offered elsewhere - there really wasn't much salted fish (more of a hint really) and the bits of salted fish I managed to find were not very authentic or 'pungent'.

The one highlight here for me is the Lo Mei Tong Min which is really the Stewed Pork Intestines and Stomach Noodle Soup. Yes - I went there and I love it. Not many places serve this in town - this is one of those places and only early during the day (before they run out).

The Service
The service is variable here depending who's serving. Sometimes, you might get chatty wait staff and other days, it's not very friendly. In other words, it's variable service here at best.

This is average fare that I would go to only once in a while because there are a lot of other options. This doesn't make it a bad restaurant, just an average one in the light of better competition close by. They need to somehow differentiate themself better in the future.

Cultural Moment
Ok - this entry is not for everyone - but if you are really curious about the food culture around the insides of animals - keep reading. There is a Chinese saying "Anything to walks, crawls, swims or flies with its back to Heaven can be eaten" - and not just the meat but also the offals (the insides) - some places call them chitterlings.

Firstly, I am not a proponent of eating everything that moves - far from it. However, I do believe that anything on the inside of a few select creatures (chicken, beef, pork, seafood, goat) can be eaten. For the Chinese - pork, beef and chicken are key to the art of eating offals.

Beef - key components that are popular here include the instestines, tripe, tendon, lung, pizzle, all usually in stews.
Pork - is used the most in the art of eating offals - including ears, tongue, kidneys, liver, stomach, intestines, tripe, lung, blood, and even fallopian tubes! These can be prepared in stews, soups, stir fries or deep-fried in a whole range of sauces.
Chicken - liver, gizzard, heart are often used in stirfries.

There you have it, the art of eating offals - don't be squemish - I have just given it a name. The reality is, if any of you have eaten a sausage, a meat pie, or pâté, you are likely to have had the above in some combination or other.

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