Weekend Kitchen Chat

Welcome to another weekend Kitchen Chat.

It is Friday night. What are you doing? A big plan ahead for the weekend? Normally if we were in Sydney, we will be out and about in King Street, Newtown with friends to a pub for PDD (Pre Dinner Drink), then dinner at a Thai restaurant, and after that, if we are still up to it, to The Imperial Hotel. The night goes on. It doesn’t sleep. Those were the days. Like my friend, Steven Cumper, said to us every time we booked a table at his restaurant, Red Velvet Lounge. He would say, “Guys, you are becoming a local”. We will go and eat at 6:30pm and leave before 8pm to go home. It is an early night, on a Friday or Saturday night. Guess age is catching up.

I am listening to a Leonard Cohen’s CD, Ten New Songs, that my partner recently bought. Well, Leonard Cohen is his latest favourite. Almost every night I have to listen to his music. No choice. The house is too small. I cannot retreat to a quiet corner. But I really don’t mind. I quite enjoy the songs. His music is calm and relax. If I close my eyes with a glass of wine with the lights dimmed, I will be transported to a music lounge somewhere in Canada.

Earlier this morning on our way to work, my partner asked me to buy some takeaway from our favourite Indian restaurant, The Taj Palace. I called from my office. Ordered a Garlic Nann bread, Himalayan Chicken and Punjabi Dhal. All for $17 only. I got there an hour early so I can have lunch somewhere. I thought I will try The Vegetarian Hut, next door to Taj Palace. It is a Thai vegetarian place, opened a few months ago. I have walked passed many times at lunch time, and it is usually very quiet with one or two customer. But, I decided to try it this time, while waiting for my dinner takewaway.

I ordered a Spicy Noodle. The interior is nice, with a small water fountain trickling away with soft Thai music in the background. The furniture is dark with timber flooring. It is a nice, cosy environment. There are 2 women working. They both serve and cook. Thai people are really charming and sweet, with great smile. Their English has a nice melody of Thai accent. I love Thai food and Thai people, the culture and frequently visit the country.

After my meal at The Vegetarian Hut for $12 – flat white noodle (Hor Fun) with bok choy, a bit of fried diced tofu, and mock meat, I went to see Harry to pick my dinner takeaway.

I told Harry I just came from my lunch next door, pointing towards the other place from his takeaway window. He and his wife looked at me. Then asked, “How was it?”. I paused and not sure how to answer his question. Before I could answer him, he asked “Will you go back again?”.

I replied, “No”.

“Why?”

“The tofu and mock meat were not fresh. They were too dry. Probably fried a few times. Hard and flavourless, ” I said.

The owner/cook actually asked me what I thought about her food. I told her that it was okay. She laughed and was not happy, and said to me, “Just Okay?”

Unfortunately, I had to say, “Yes..” and continue to say “..you asked”.

Now before I continue on. Will you actually tell the truth to the chef or owner if you were asked what you thought about the food you just ate??? I think most customers will be diplomatic and politely answer, “Yes”. However, I have been there as a chef, and I would personally prefer to know the truth so I can improve. But, unfortunately and sad to say, the woman did not take my response too well. I think she expected to hear that I really enjoy the food. There is nothing wrong with her cooking. Oh, she did say that she cooked the Spicy Noodle. And, I told her that I know. The taste was good and spicy as it should be. But, unfortunately the fried tofu and mock meat were too dry, chewy and tough. I don’t believe they are fresh and would have been fried a few times.

Her response, unfortunately, I thought was a bit defensive. So, I thought to myself she should not have asked in the first place. i would have kept quiet. But, she said the tofu was dried because of the supplier. Lately, they have not been delivering fresh tofu. I reassured her that her cooking was fine, and the noodle was perfectly cooked.

The $12 noodle for vegetarian with flat white noodle, bok choy and a bit of overly dried tofu and mock meat was expensive compare to Harry’s takeaway, freshly cooked for my dinner at $17.

I hope The Vegetarian Hut will survive in the busy North Hobart eating street with so many eating choices. A vegetarian dish is not that difficult to cook. The focus is on the freshness of the vegetables and mock meats.

10 responses to “Weekend Kitchen Chat

  1. Interesting and thought-provoking post Victor. If I have been asked by a restaurant owner, or waitperson, directly what I thought of their food, I have always had a tussle (internally) as to how to answer. Honesty always vies with politeness for me. But since I have had my blog, fairness always wins out, because I figure that if they ask me, and I say it’s OK when I really feel it was crap, then go home and write on the internet that it was crap, then I have been dishonest (both with them and myself).

    Often I pray that no one will ask me so I can write whatever I write online. And that seems to be the norm – no one actually does seem to care if their food is liked or disliked by the custmer – as long as you paid up on your way out then all is well with the world – it would appear to me! That wouldn’t make me as a restaurant owner happy, but for most it seems that’s the way things go these days. Naturally that is a gross generalisation, and we both know some hugely notable exceptions, but I’m speaking generally here.

    Other than that – nothing happening this weekend in the Rita-camp, for once! I am relishing the prospect of having absolutely nothing to do this weekend. I need time and space for quietness, and chilling-out. I feel bad that I have not added a post this week to my blog, but not sufficiently bad as to organise a meal out to write about!

    I will do some cooking therapy at home this weekend, and had also actually contemplated calling you to ask about a recipe which I want to cook with my students next Friday, involving vegetables, chicken and soup.

    • Rita – It’s a tough one, isn’t it? To say exactly what you thought about the food.
      We don’t have plan for this weekend either. Happy just relax at home and do some reading. I am expecting Reb to make a roast chicken tonight with broccoli puree. No problem for you to call me to bounce off some idea for your next Friday cooking. Are you doing an Asian theme for them? 🙂

  2. Hi Victor, you are definitely a local now that you eat ‘tea’ at 6pm & trundle off before eight!
    I like that you were honest with the cafe owner with your opinions of the food. I get quite nervous when I am aksed directly by someone after I’ve eaten their food primarily because I dont want to hurt their feelings.
    I’m such a softie!

    • LOL Steve. You are a real softie! Sure, I believe you! Hee hee.
      Well, hard not signing off as a local out here. Especially after a nice dinner at RVL. No other night scene – gelato shop, lounge, bar, music…

  3. I will never go there….I don’t see any point in mock meat! I am also suspicious of tofu….tasteless nothingness. I usually eat anything but draw the line at that.
    Interesting that you like Taj Palace…will check it out on your recommendation as haven’t been there and not aware of many who have. We love Indian but not much to choose from in Hobart….so could be the find of the year!
    We have had a fab food day: Steve has bought a thermomix!!!!
    Made quince paste today in ‘TM’.
    Also we have adopted 2 gorgeous UTAS students from Shanghai through community friendship network and guess what he(‘Joshua’) loves cooking.
    First visit they did pork spring rolls in our kitchen. Today lamb and veg soup. Weijai(‘Janet’) is like me and loves eating. A perfect match!!
    Cheers Victor & Reb

  4. Wow – SO pleased to hear that you and Steve have got a TM, Mary! I took 2 more friends along to another Fee demo last Mon night, convinced they would see the virtues of the TM, and sure enough, they bought one! The more, the merrier I reckon.
    Also totally agree with you re the mock meat thing. What is that about? If you don’t eat meat, why want to eat stuff that is deliberately made to resemble it? Be a ‘man’ about it and just eat vegies and salad and fruit, for god’s sake!
    My brother from Canberra went to eat at Taj last time he was down in Hobart, and said he’d never had a worse Indian meal anywhere. As he is a very fair (ie judgementally) guy, I figured if he was making such a definite statement, it may well have legs. But if Victor likes it, may have to rethink.

  5. I guess I’m one of those that would politely reply that I like it, or just smile. I think for them to come out and ask, they must have tried their best. As you can see, I’m not much of a food critic. 🙂

    • Nye – I think most people would be the same. I am not sure why I told her the truth, or at least that was how I felt. I guess maybe hoping that she will take it constructively. The place is really quiet for lunch compare to other eating places along the street. There has to a reason why her place was not busy.

      I am not an expert on food critic. Usually when I said something about the food, it is ‘in my opinion’, which may not be in other’s opinion. It is like sharing with friends and family around the table. Our taste and sensation tell us what we think. 🙂

  6. Mary – get you! Your own authentic Chinese cook in the kitchen! Do I see a future joint venture with your adopted students opening a Chinese cafe in Hobart? I can see you FOH, Joshua in the kichen, Janet waiting, and Stephen counting the money!

    You are right – not many choices in Hobart for good Indian food. Indian food has a wide variety depending on which part of India – just like in China. For example, northern indian food is less spicier and use cow’s milk rather than coconut milk in their cooking; whereas, in southern India, the food is spicier, rich and use of coconut and coconut leaves are more common. At Taj, they have a variety of choices in the menu – a mix of of southern and northern Indian dishes. I personally like my Indian food spicier and fiery with complex flavour. Not subtle and sweet, like Butter Chicken, which is a common dish in most Indian restaurant in Australia (ie like Mongolian Lamb in most Chinese restaurant in Australia).

    I am not surprise that some people don’t like Taj, and most likely would prefer Annapurna. I think those two restaurants which are just directly across from each other, is an individual preference. If you like Taj, you will go back to Taj. Likewise, if you like Annapurna, you will go back there.

    In Malaysia, if you like Indian food – you will find some of the best in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. They are true to the ethnicity of the Indian origin. A must for anyone that visits Malaysia.

    Rita – I don’t doubt your brother’s assessment of Taj. I am sure he is right, if he doesn’t like Taj, because Indian food is so diverse, which makes it hard to provide an objective view. Unless, the person is a real expert on every region of Indian cuisines. Since each region cooks very differently. Just like Beef Rendang, there are so many variations, and it comes down to individual taste. So, ie when I said that Taj is my favourite in town, it is because that is how I like my Indian food. 🙂

    I had to have a look at the website of Thermomix. It looks so futuristic – something like a cross between a high tech weighing scale and food processor. Mary – I remember Stephen talking about this incredible kitchen tool at Easter lunch. Finally, he gets to drive it! One more tool to his collection.

    Victor

  7. Oh, I forgot to mention. The Thermomix is Australian made. Here is the website. http://www.thermomix.com.au/

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