Gingerboy @ 27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne
28 January 2011
The casual sibling of the fine dining institution Ezard, Gingerboy was established by proprietor Teage Ezard to deliver high quality South East Asian hawker style food to the Melbourne public. In its relatively short existence, Gingerboy has enjoyed considerable success, sustaining a one hat status in the Good Food Guide and earning rapturous acclaim from both professional critics and the wider dining public.
Consistent with Gingerboy's casual theme, its dining room, with its speckled ceiling, transparent perspex chairs and thatched walls, engenders an “outdoor” feel with modern flair. The informal nature is further reinforced by the ample bar space upstairs – which is very convenient for those diners not sufficiently prudent to have secured an early reservation – and the structure of the menu – the dishes offered by Gingerboy are designed to be shared by the table. On this occasion, we ordered an array of three entrees and two main courses.
Our entrees commenced with the Gingerboy classic of “son-in-law” eggs with chilli jam and Asian herbs. Presented as fried whole chicken eggs with sweet and mildly spicy chilli jam and fresh coriander, this contemporary take on the South East Asian hawker dish offers a myriad of bold, but complementary, flavours. The sweet and complex chilli jam and the aromatic coriander are first exhibited before retreating to allow the subtle fried egg white to be enjoyed after which the richness of the fluid egg yolk takes over. It was an excellent starter which typified the multi-faceted Ezard style of cooking.
Next to arrive was a cold smoked ocean trout tartare with green chilli mayonnaise. Served on a crispy fried wanton pastry, the ocean trout tartare was mildly disappointing; it had few unique qualities to distinguish it from any other smoked fish and retained little of the ocean trout’s inherent flavour. It was a dish where the intended star, the ocean trout, was outshone by the pleasantly crispy pastry and the punchy green chilli mayonnaise.
Our third entrée was Gingerboy’s bar staple of salt and pepper chicken spare ribs with green chilli soy. The meaty chicken ribs, more substantial and less finicky than chicken wing pieces, were crusted with a flavoursome spice mix and then perfectly fried to achieve a moreishly crunchy exterior. The accompanying green chilli soy dipping sauce was packed with umami and had, for my taste, a perfect amount of chilli heat. Gingerboy’s chicken ribs are highly addictive and a must-order when visiting Gingerboy.
Gingerboy’s menu invariably includes a dish of fried baby snapper; on this occasion the snapper was served with a roast chilli lime dressing and mango and lychee salad. This particular variant was less enjoyable than the sweeter and more aromatic version we first sampled many visits ago. This time, the dressing was only notable for the lime’s citrus acidity and the subtle hint of chilli. Nevertheless, together with the salad, the snapper was, despite not achieving the standards set by its predecessor, still a thoroughly enjoyable main course.
The second main course of lemongrass and galangal char-grilled chicken with peanut tamarind caramel was an excellent dish. Tender and superbly cooked chicken pieces were coated in an addictively sweet sauce which was nicely offset with a hint of sourness from the tamarind. A very fresh and fragrant green papaya salad provided a refreshing element to counterbalance the relatively rich chicken.
Consistent with our dining habit at Teage Ezard’s restaurants, we finished our meal with a dessert platter – in this case, one that included an assortment of Asian inspired desserts. There was a steamed lemongrass pudding with mixed berries and kaffir lime syrup, a white chocolate tofu cheesecake with passionfruit jelly and vanilla fairy floss, a spiced mango crumble with chilli and toasted coconut sorbet, a raspberry and lime splice with tropical fruit salad and a couple of cinnamon sugared banana fritters with baileys ice cream. Each of the desserts was a welcome departure from the mundane items usually found at high end establishments and offered its own unique characteristics – from the enjoyable lemongrass fragrance of the pudding to the smooth, rich consistency of the somewhat unusual tofu cheesecake, to the vibrant flavours of fresh fruit in the sorbet and the splice to the classic flavour combination of banana, cinnamon and syrup delivered by the delicious fritters. An exemplary display of Teage Ezard’s versatility, Gingerboy’s dessert platter is highly recommended.
The cost of our meal was approximately $155 – certainly an expensive outing but perhaps no more so than one at any other restaurant of similar status. What Gingerboy offers for that price is cuisine that is terrifically executed and wonderfully balanced with bold, attention-grabbing flavours – cuisine that clearly justifies the corresponding price tags.
Gingerboy is a longstanding Melbourne favourite and continues to deliver high quality Asian hawker inspired cuisine. In a market where casual dining is in vogue, Gingerboy assimilates perfectly. Fortunately, unlike some other restaurants which implement a casual approach to the detriment of the food that they produce, Gingerboy adheres to a very high standard – it is a standard that ensures my repeated custom.