Red Spice Road @ 27 McKillop Street, Melbourne
19 August 2011
19 August 2011
A less accomplished establishment compared to heavyweights Longrain and Gingerboy, Red Spice Road is yet another Melbourne restaurant that offers heavily Asian, and generally Thai, accented cuisine. The South East Asian feel is enhanced by the dining room, which is dominated by red hues and, at one end, three ceiling to floor David Bromley paintings, and includes a large communal table - something for which Longrain is well known. Red Spice Road has also developed somewhat of a cult following for its dish of caramelised pork belly and for its $25 lunch special - perhaps in equal measure. That lunch special is also available for dinner between 5:00pm and 6:30pm. It was for that early bird dinner that we recently visited Red Spice Road.
Our banquet began with a bite-sized appetiser of betel leaf with barramundi, chilli, kaffir lime and lemongrass. The medley of aromatic and acidic ingredients was an enjoyable prelude to the substantive dishes to come.
The first dish of caramelised pork belly, is the primary, if not the only, reason for our numerous return visits to Red Spice Road. Red Spice Road’s iteration of this South-East Asian dish is sublime. The large nuggets of moist pork belly, which contain the perfect amount of unctuous fat, are encased in a crisp outer crust imbibed with sweet chilli caramel sauce. Each bite truly gratifies the palate in both texture and taste. Red Spice Road’s chilli caramel sauce may lack the complexity of Ezard’s or Longrain’s equivalent, but the dish as a whole is unfaultable. Consistently well executed, this dish is a must try for the non-health conscious.
Our second dish was Larb Ped, otherwise known as minced duck salad. The major flaw of this dish was the meat itself, which was entirely devoid of gamey duck flavour and severely underseasoned. Luckily, the sauce of chilli, lime juice and fish sauce was appealingly punchy, and managed to partially compensate for the dullness of the minced meat. In all, it was a passable dish.
The steady downhill performance continued and concluded with our final dish of Vietnamese curry, which was, to put lightly, criminally handicapped in taste. The embarrassingly underseasoned curry contained dry beef cubes and overcooked snake beans, which together with the potatoes, were completely deprived of flavour. Our futile attempt to rescue the dish with generous amounts of salt only reinforced the inadequacy of the dish. Tragically anaemic, this is a dish that should never leave the kitchen of any respectable chef.
Red Spice Road’s prices are its saving grace - after all the lunch special is priced at only $25 and, following the application of the Entertainment Card discount, a mere $19 per person. However, in considering Red Spice Road for its food only, I unfortunately cannot unequivocally endorse it on account of its inconsistent standards. The astronomical heights reached by the famed pork belly were counterbalanced entirely by the insipid drivel that was the curry. Perhaps it would be sensible to just order three serves of the pork belly next time...