Red Spice Road
Let me have you know, securing a booking at a restaurant of quality just days before Valentine’s Day is no easy feat. Whilst scouring the depths of Urbanspoon, I happened to stumble across Red Spice Road – a unique South East Asian-style dining experience in the heart of Melbourne. And whilst boundless amounts of food and find dining seem to appear on opposite sides of the spectrum; it was refreshing to observe true value for money in a fine establishment.
Upon arriving 15 minutes late due to Melbourne CBD’s alarming Valentine’s Day traffic, we were promptly greeted to our seat. Eager to begin our dining experience we opted for the Valentine’s day banquet, a true taste of what Red Spice Road has to offer in a lovely assortment of decorated dishes.
Unfortunately in our eyes, this entree missed the mark. A certain degree of ‘fishiness’ reigned supreme and made for a rather unpleasant initial taste of what this restaurant had to offer. Whilst it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t something I’d recommend nor try again.
If you were able to place two dishes on opposite sides of the spectrum, both this and the above dish would feature. I’m not afraid to recognise quality, nor am I unwilling to be straight-forward if a dish isn’t to my liking. This, however, was a masterpiece. The scallop was thick and meaty, the accompanying corn and smoked pork offered a subtle crunch, whilst the cucumber and green chilli delivered a delectable fresh essence to the dish. Just one highlight of the night.
If I could classify this dish using one word, ‘interesting’ would come to mind. For the most part, it tasted like a modernized chicken curry. The flavours were there, perhaps that final punchy kick was required. The crispy rice cakes weren’t to my specific taste, however, they did what they were intended to do in adding a little crunch to the dish.
I’ve been presented with few dishes that I have gasped. Speechless in essence. This was one of those dishes. There is simply no faulting it, providing the perfect balance of crunch, texture and flavour.
Placed in front of us were two slow cooked, then fried lamb ribs. Upon beginning Tickle My Tastebuds, whilst agreeing upon a number of things, one issue was non-debatable. We weren’t going to glorify dishes which simply weren’t up to par. Unfortunately, this dish was one of those. Upon biting into this rather fat ridden piece of lamb you’re greeted by a lackluster, chilled accompanying eggplant relish. This dish really could have been so much more, but rather left an unpleasant taste in our mouths.
An excellent quality that higher-priced restaurants possess is in their ability to transform a night. Whilst the food up until this point was fabulous for the most part, two dishes had been a tremendous let down. Taking my first fork-full of this dish, I proudly exclaimed, “I want to walk into the back of that kitchen, kiss the chef on cheek and walk out as he stares unknowing of what just occurred”. Wow. What more can be said of this dish. Each delectable bite of mushroom a pleasure. The freshness piecing through in all elements of the dish, cashews, lotus root and spinach – it all combined ever-so-well.
What began as a dish that we were eager to dive into, resulted in simply more ‘quality’ from Red Spice Road. It wasn’t a standout, more-so it was on par with what we had grown to expect over the course of the night; simply more perfection. Gorgeous apple slaw salad, accompanied by a rich chili caramel and black vinegar made for supreme sides to this dish. The pork belly is a sight in itself, three generous servings, a soft, succulent meaty center, alongside elegantly cooked cripsy crackling.
Upon being seated, you’ll discover one rather gaping issue. The lack of an essential piece of cutlery – a knife. Unknowing of the journey you about to embark on, you look on puzzled eager to begin your night out. That is until you arrive at this dish. For those wondering, no you aren’t finally presented with a knife. Moreover, you simply tear away pieces of beef cheek ever so delicately with nothing more than a fork, it really is that tender. Recognition of the soy and rice vinegar shouldn’t be neglected either, whilst simple to prepare it accompanied this and the other mains perfectly.
We aren’t the greatest advocators of fish. It’s a ‘hit or miss’ dish in our minds, and we don’t place particular emphasis on a dish if we don’t like it simply due to our disliking of fish. And so, when this dish was presented in front of us, we were intrigued, as to whether it could persuade our tastebuds. And persuade it did. A well executed yellow curry, with subtle hinting of spice throughout. Enough to know it was there, whilst ensuring there wasn’t too much so as to over-power the other flavours. The only shortfall of this dish were the potatoes(?) bland, and boasting poor texture.
An instance in which RSR misses the mark is in their presentation. This facet isn’t exactly reflective of their higher price dining, however, it isn’t so poor as to drone to heavily on it. Generally the taste and flavours embedded within the dish are enough to dissuade any null thoughts towards the presentation. This dish held true to that notion. Crisp sesame seed biscuit, beautifully flavored pudding and ice-cream, accompanied by a sweet touch of pineapple granita. An absolutely perfect palette cleanser to a formidable onslaught of quality dishes.
Red Spice Road continues to beat strong in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Charm and character of the establishment’s ambiance captures your attention, whilst fine detail and pure dining brilliance wins your heart.
Value for money: 8/10
Pros: An elegant touch of modern day Thai/Vietnamese cooking. For the most part, brilliant execution, friendly service and excellent ambiance.
Cons: Presentation could do with an improvement, service was a little slow (excusable due to the nature of the day and the forgiving waitress), a few poor dishes.
Would we return? There are just so many restaurants to try of this magnitude in Melbourne, but I have a sneaky suspicion TMT will be visiting in the near future.
Red Spice Road Info
Phone: 9603 1601
Mon – Fri: 12 – 3pm | 5pm – late
Sat: 12 – 3pm | 6pm – late
Address: 27 McKillop St, Melbourne CBD