It’s been just over a month since I returned from Melbourne after visiting TK and I must capture the memory of three memorable meals in restaurants before it fades along with the food long since digested.
Actually, there were four memorable meals – the fourth was home-cooked by a psychiatrist who is also a young mum of three under-fives and TK’s niece.
Two of four meals I truly enjoyed during my trip were eaten while kay-pohing at this psychiatrist’s home in Kew off Toorak Road. TK had gone there for her weekly baby sitting stint. LW and I followed at around noon since we didn’t have TK’s stamina to get up and go at 7am.
LW n I had intended to only say hello and moosie off but Dr Psychiatrist would have none of it, suggesting that we go eat with her aunt at the Italian restaurant where “ladies who lunch” meet. She not only made the reservation but also offered to drive us there, for which LW and I were quick to accept.
Centonove (pronounced Centonovey) was far superior to Da Noi, in my opinion. The entrance was a little unprepossessing, looking like an English pub with a few dining tables, all taken. But we had booked upstairs and was shown to the last table, the rest of the small upstairs dining area having been taken over by a group of women, not so much ladies who lunch but professionals having a serious get-together, judging by the intermittent speeches and applause.
We had a delightful set which was a steal at AUD30 net for two courses, plus coffee/tea and a glass of wine.
I went for the lightly poached asparagus, arugula salad and shaved Parmesan while TK went for some crab patties. LW decided to skip starter and opted for the dessert apres the mains.
TK and LW had the same mains which was essentially a beef sald while yours truly settled for some white fish, Barumundi I think.
Below was what was left of LW’s dessert, which the three of us shared, despite our initial reluctance to deprive her of it, since she’s the acknowledged dessert queen. But being always generous, she insisted, so TK and I dug in along with her. It was sooooo good and I remembered to snap a pix only after almost every spoonful of goodness was gone!
Dinner that night was provided by Dr Psychiatrist who turned out a simple yet full of goodness and tasty meal, that I’ve tried to replicate since I got back to Singapore. But having no oven, it was something of a hit and miss.
Dr P simply oven-grilled masses of well marinaded (she had prepared the meat overnight) chix mid-wings and drumlets together with pumpkin, zuchinni, cauliflower, carrots and capsicum. Her veggie preparations were done while chatting to us and keeping an eye on three hyperactive and curious kids, tho one was no more than a baby but allowed to interrupt with her chuckles and other calls for attention.
Their mum’s the sort of multi-tasking professional women mums I remember from my young days when I was working in the UK: tackling family, housework and career all without the support of extended family and with minimal domestic help. Guess such women are a dead breed in Singapore except for the occasionals gems like Blur Ting!
Anyway, everyone tucked in, including the five and three-year-olds, gregarious and curious and foodie to their finger tips despite being so young.
Again forgot to take a pix of the food as our mouths, hands and minds (answering the zillionth “why”? from the two kids) worked over-time. But there’s one that LW took of me earlier on when we were romping around in the gi-normous play den on the upper level of the sprawling house, where there’s an electric-powered slide that emitted lights and carnival music.
Baby HoneyB and I (below) made for a sharp contrast, like an old coconut (lau yah) and a young coconut in a quiet corner where TK sleeps when she does baby sitting.
The next meal of note in a positive sense was lunch taken at Sicilian Orange, opposite the Prahran Public Library. It was recommended by a fey Italian-Romanian waiter at the Globe (another place along Chapel where we had eaten) who claimed it served the best and most genuine Italian food in Melbourne.
To call it a restaurant was a bit of a misnomer. It was styled more like a transport cafe out of an American movie, where people (there was just one diner) sat on high stools and dined off a high shelf set against the glass window.
Inside were a few small tables in an uncomfortably tiny space. (Writing about this, I googled the place and found to my surprise, glowing reviews which praised it for friendly service and homely food).
The service wasn’t exactly friendly, at least not the singlet clad bald uncle whose muscular bare arms intimidated more than charmed.
We quickly settled on our order as he behaved impatient and almost snarled when i asked for some vinegar to go with my fresh anchovy spaghetti. We did get our vinegar but it was delivered less than graciously.
What made up for this was that the food was uncompromisingly delicious. The linguini for TK was just right and the seafood that went with it was fresh and succulent. My spaghetti was cooked just right too, and the fresh anchovy was something to behold, somewhat like a very skinny eel, but the flesh was firm and dry, yet tender, with none of the sliminess I associate with eels.
I had a wine and even a dessert while TK stuck to just the mains but the bill still came to AUD55 for the two of us – not exactly cafe prices!
There were two more unforgettable takeways from Sicilian Orange other than the unfriendly waiter.
As I was leaving I noticed something that almost freaked me out.
A brick was holding open the door, and atop the brick were three oranges. They reminded me of the offerings one sees everywhere in Bali, outside shops, restuarants and even on the pavements. But in a new country like Australia?
TK, being an agnostic, dismissed any spiritual connotations, adding that the oranges were probably decoration or to emphasise the restaurant’s name.
The other freak-out came a few moments after I left the cafe: the unhelpful waiter ran after me to hand me my credit card, saying that I had forgotten to take it – something I have never ever done!
Should I return to Melbourne, I’m not sure I would pay Sicilian Orange another visit unless there are compelling reasons!
Finally, the fourth meal which I hold dear as a holiday memory was eaten on the afternoon be4 I flew back to Singapore.
At first TK was just going to rustle up some lunch for me, something I preferred since it would give me more time to laze around and pack and repack to fit all my shopping into one suit-case.
But no, on the morning itself, TK was reading the Prahran local and declared there’s been a good review at a new food place just across the road. Mt Erica Bistro. It’s not exactly new but has been revamped. She muttered about mutual friends she had taken there years ago etc…
OK, perhaps TK wasn’t in the mood to cook or wasn’t in the mood to watch me fiddle with the packing. Or perhaps she really thought I needed a memorable meal to distract me be4 going to the airport, since I was going there by myself, with LW meeting me there from Nagambie!
As it turned out, the risotto I had at the bistro was out of this world; its light golden color was quite different from the greyish mess that often passes for rissoto in Singapore. Embedded in the rice was thinly sliced aromatic and tasty sausage. Everything was sinfully rich but so tasty in the mouth, even as the eyes drank in the feast.
I literally licked the platter clean, as did TK her usual fish in batter, which appears to be one of her favourite foods during my trip, quite unlike what I remember of her taste buds. But I guess we all change with time!