36 Hours

In 36 hours over the last weekend, my food trail has taken me  to 67 Village Street in Docklands on Friday night to 155 Burwood Highway in Burwood East on Saturday afternoon to 20 Convention Centre Place in South Wharf on Sunday afternoon.

That was how far I have got writing the first paragraph on a Sunday night…., and it took me until today before I got around to continue writing and finish this post.

As I left my office last Friday night, it was a balmy sunny and hot Spring day at a soaring temperature of 29 degree celsius. I decided to walk back – a distance of 5 Km. The temperature dropped dramatically as I reached the last 500 metres from my apartment in South Wharf, Docklands. I checked the weather app on my iPhone. It read 15 degree! I thought that was quite remarkable with the sudden shift in temperature. I reached my apartment on the 25th Floor, with a sweeping view of the Port Philips Bay. In the horizon where the ocean seems to drop, the sky was changing. It was completely covered with a thick fog floating towards the city. It was like the movie, “The Fog”. It felt eerily cold. That was when I said to my partner that I like to go out to eat. I didn’t want to stay home like we always do on a Friday night watching the TV.

I suggested we go to the Thai place that was recommended by Ing from the Red Petite cafe. Ing told me that this place has a signature dish called “Yum Avocado” that is worth trying.

It was a short 5 minutes walk from our place. I suspect not many people know about this place. It is located in a side street, which is not a main thoroughfare road. And, being in Docklands, it is a quite place even though it is considered as an extension of the Melbourne CBD. The place I was talking about is “Nine Elephants”. Their website is under construction, but they have a Facebook Page here. The restaurant has been opened for 2 years. I would not have known of this place if not for Ing’s recommendation. So I guess most of their patrons are either word of mouth or people who work and / or live in the area.

Our first impression as we reached the restaurant was a nice surprise. The restaurant looks good from outside. The lighting was soft and subdued with the hanging round basket lampshades with backlit panels of featured wall papers on soft coloured tone walls.

We were greeted by “Fon”. She was welcoming, warm and friendly. We didn’t have a booking. She offered us a table at a far corner towards the back, which was nice and private, away from the bigger tables.

The restaurant was well staffed. Service was top notched with great hospitality, even from the owner – a charming young Thai man, “Nat”. We got to know more of his restaurant in one night we were there. The menu was neither small nor big. It was just right with a good selection of the most well known Thai dishes. But, I came for one thing that I must try, the Yum Avocado Goong (“Goong” is prawn in Thai language). I later learnt from Nat that this was their restaurant signature dish. It i not customary for Thai dishes to serve with avocado. But, at Nine Elephants they have definitely nailed it. It was a delightful dish.

This was one of the best prawn salad dish I have ever had at a Thai restaurant. It has a nice balanced of flavours – sweet, salty and a bit spicy, which matched well with the soft and refreshing avocado base. The prawn was huge, firm, crunchy and sweet with a nice tint of spicy taste. The deep fried shredded sweet potato garnishes added a nice crunchiness to the overall texture of this dish. A perfect 10 out of 10 for this dish. $20.

The other 3 dishes we had was a coconut rice to go with Gang Dang Ped Yang (a roasted duck red curry) and Deep Fried Rockling in Tamarind Sauce.

Nine Elephants’ red duck curry was another delightful dish. Most Thai restaurant has this curry dish on their menu. Some of them can be overly sweet and creamy, and some duck meats are chewy and fatty with some bones than fleshy meat. But, at Nine Elephants, we were not disappointed. The duck meat was nice and tender. The curry was mildly sweet with lychees and pineapples. beans and cherry tomatoes. It was spicy to our liking, but not “Thai spicy”. The dish cost $22.50.

The deep fried rockling fillet fish with tamarind sauce – $25. Generous size portion. It was the least of our favourite, after the big flavours of both the avocado salad prawn and duck curry dishes. The batter should be light and thin which was not, which made the fillet more chewy than crunchy with tender flesh inside. There was not much flavour and texture to this dish. The tamarind sauce dressing was mild, which could have been a bit more sour, salty and sweet. But, the dish was nice and clean and not greasy which usually was the case at other Thai restaurants for a deep fried fish.

My partner and I left Nine Elephants feeling very satisfied with our dinner and glad to know there is a good Thai restaurant within walking distance from our place. Nat told us that they are introducing a new menu to celebrate their second year anniversary later this month. We will definitely go back to try their new menu, and hopefully they will keep their signature Yum Avocado Goong as our favourite dish of the night.

The next morning, 12 hours later from my memorable Thai dinner experience at Nine Elephants, my nephew rang me. I have previously arranged to meet him on Sunday night for dinner, possibly at Mamak Melbourne. But, after we discussed on the phone, we decided to catch up for a late lunch 5 hours later with his sister (my niece) who is attending her foundation school at Burwood East. It was a long drive to get there – almost 25 Km from Melbourne CBD. Long for my partner and I as we live in the city now and prefer to hang out only in the city. We have done our times in the past many years living in the suburbs and in the countryside that commuting was a norm for us then, but now we are just the opposite and loving every moment of our city lifestyle. We picked up my niece from her university, and went to the Gold Leaf Chinese restaurant at Burwood East for a late Yum-Cha. We arrived about 2:30 PM. We were told by the manager that they closed at 3 PM. I assumed he meant the kitchen is closed at 3 PM, not the restaurant. However, I was wrong. We had, four of us, 30 minutes to order what we wanted and to finish eating by 3 PM. It was the fastest, marathon Yum-Cha I ever had!

Gold Leaf is one of my favourite Yum-Cha place in Melbourne, but my partner and I usually go to the one in Docklands at Harbour Town. This was the first time we have tried the Burwood branch. My nephew told me that this is the first and original restaurant. It has a different ambiance to the one in Docklands – more “Chinese” look. The food tastes better with a larger serve. The service is typical of the rude Cantonese speaking staff who made little effort to accommodate those who speak English. This, unlike the Docklands branch which is more friendly towards the non native Chinese speaking crowd, with a more relax and friendly ambiance of a more westernised Chinese restaurant but maintaining the authentic Chinese yum-cha selections.

After the yum-cha, my partner and I felt we have over eaten in the past 18 hours. We can hardly moved. We stayed home. Watched the TV and skipped Saturday night dinner. Then went to bed, like two lazy couch potatoes.

36 hours later on Sunday, we had a slow and lazy morning, like any normal people. It was a daylight saving. Clock moving forward by 1 hour, which meant I had just lost one hour of my sleep! I saw the time ticked by quickly and soon it was lunch time. I suggested to my partner that we go to one of our most frequented Vietnamese cafe next door.

Signature Pho Viet was opened only a few months in April this year. Ever since it was opened, we have been there a few times, and see the place grows from strength to strength. It is located at South Wharf DFO (Direct Factory Outlet), which makes it an ideal stop for a snack before and after shopping at the DFO. The price is reasonable and cheap and the place is bright, neat and clean. It is a self service, over the counter pay as you order. I love this place. No fuss, good food and good price.

This time I ordered beef with lemongrass and chilies served in a bowl of rice vermicelli and shredded lettuces. Cost $10. The side dressing of sweet and salty chili sauce poured over this bowl of noodle and beef made this a wonderful lunch snack. The beef was very tender and juicy.

My partner went for the combination pho, small size for $8.50. It was once again, a beautiful pho. The best and closest to us. What more can we ask?

We decided we will share another dish, which cannot go wrong and we have ordered this each time we come here. The fried pork spring rolls for $8. They were non greasy and skin was crisp and crunchy. Great wrapped with a lettuce leaf and 2-3 mint leaves dipping into the sweet chili sauce. Refreshing.

This little pho cafe takes pride in what they do and it really shows in the quality of their food and freshness of the ingredients. I am so glad we have this choice next to us.

Once again, we felt that we ate too much and had to go for a walk. So, inside the DFO for some window shopping.

In my dream, I wish the shops here open until 10 am every night.

2 responses to “36 Hours

  1. All looks great. The fish with the Tamatind sauce looks interesting.

  2. The Pho looks phenomenal. Nothing beats a good noodle soup on a cold day.: )

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