Friday, June 17, 2011

RESTAURANTS: Cafe Excello / HuTong / Crazy Wings [Melbourne]

I was looking forward to breakfast today because we were hoping to go to Cumulus Inc, where I'd had a brilliant breakfast the last time I was in town (oh, 65/65 egg how I adore). Unfortunately, we got there and it was packed. So we went to the European. Unfortunately, that too was packed so we went to the first cafe we saw: Cafe Excello.

It's nothing special and it doesn't try to be (at least, I hope). Decent breakfast, decent coffee. Okay.

Lunch was going to be great. A return to HuTong, where last time I popped in for some quick dumplings.

I took charge of the ordering and went hard on the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and other dumpling related things, with some mapo tofu thrown in to fill us up. The mapo tofu order also partly motivated to exercise the demons from the subpar version at Wonton House the night before.

HuTong didn't disappoint, bringing out some excellent dumplings and a very solid mapo tofu (although the rice was delivered something like 15 mins after said mapo tofu, which was stupid). Wontons in spicy sauce were a nice surprise. Instead of your favourite fried dumpling place, the flavours here are clear, sharp and perfectly-balance.

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

We'd originally hoped to check out Izakaya Den for dinner, but arrived to find it shut. Oh. So across the road and into Crazy Wings where we'd missed out the other night. I couldn't wait to compare it to the Sydney version.

A bit of a different setup. We write down our order on a printout of a menu and they go off to cook it. It's quickly obvious that the service blows. The plates and cups we're given for our water are wet. The water is tepid. We aren't given any napkins or chopsticks until we ask. The wait for our food is extremely long. The bathrooms are the most evil places I have seen on this earth. Other people are getting food but we're not. I know they ordered before us, but surely you can bring us a few skewers during the time you bring them around 8 lots?

I have a very high tolerance for slow and poor service, but this was very nearly my breaking point. So I imagine some people will find it unacceptable.

But when the food finally arrives it's great. Exceptional. The xin jiang spices are back on all of the skewers and it's brilliant. But there are some surprises in store. Chicken skin skewers? OH MY GOD. I would happily eat these until I died. Happily.

The cooking is a little better here than in Sydney. Whenever fat is present it melts in the mouth, and the spices penetrate deeper than in Sydney.

We learn from our mistakes in Sydney and get some carbs in the form of the fried rice, which is surprisingly nice.

The pork skin skewer arrives and it isn't the pork crackling I'd hoped it would be, but can't win em all. Note to self/Crazy Wings: pork crackling skewers.

If you can get over the bad service and dirty restaurant then sink a couple of Tsingtaos and enjoy some good skewer action. The lamb and the chicken skin are essential.

Crazy Wings on Urbanspoon

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