So here’s the funny, and somewhat sad thing – when I was recently in Melbourne, I had to beg and cajole my dad to join me for dinner on the last night I was there. It wasn’t until I threw in the sweetener of “Oh, K will be there too, he’s flying in tomorrow” that he changed his mind.
Part of it is the Asian parent style of never showing too much affection, and part of it is the fact that my dad is really lazy and he didn’t want to go out of his way to meet me for dinner. He only changed his mind when he heard that his future son-in-law was going to be there as well, as K doesn’t go down to Melbourne to visit as often as I do. For some reason my dad really likes spending time with K despite the fact that there’s a massive language barrier.
I guess I should just be glad that my dad so vehemently approves of K right?
We ended up going to Pacific Seafood and BBQ House on Victoria Street in Richmond, a well known institution with regular lines out the door for takeaway containers of their delicious BBQ meats. There’s a second branch in South Yarra which enjoys equal popularity. We show up before the evening crowd and manage to get a table quickly, but the restaurant is full a half hour later despite the fact that it’s a week night. Be prepared to wait a while for a table if you show up at peak time!
As with any meal at a good Chinese restaurant, dinner has not started until you’ve been served with the complimentary soup of the day to whet your appetite. The soup is pork, lotus root and carrot on the day that we’re there, and we drink it quickly and eagerly.
I’m feeling a mixture of apprehension and excitement – my dad is a chronic over-orderer (especially when K is in town, as he wants K to try a bit of everything!), and we have six dishes coming for our group of four people. I’m not sure that I’m ready for this much eating!
The first dish out comes straight from the butcher out the front of the shop – a half serve of a roast duck. We look at it and question whether it’s actually a full half serve (we feel like it’s missing a few pieces!), but take it as it is. I can see why the roast meats are so popular with all the locals dropping in for takeaway though – the skin is deliciously crispy and the meat tender and juicy. Dipped in the accompanying sauce, it’s a real delight.
I love salt fish and chicken fried rice, especially if it’s done well. In my opinion, the key is to have the right ratio of salt fish to rice – my preference is at least two or three pieces of salt fish in every mouthful. Unfortunately, this dish fell way short of my expectations – while there was some salt fish, it wasn’t as much as I generally prefer. Disappointing!
My disappointment was more than alleviated with the next dish though – fillet steak in black pepper sauce. My meat lover younger brother fell upon this dish with delight, but I preferred the broccoli as it had soaked up the delicious sauce but still retained a satisfying fresh crunch. They’re certainly not stingy with their portions though, and there were some very substantial pieces of fillet steak in this dish.
My dad’s a big Singapore Noodles fan and orders it whenever he sees it on the menu. This version had a lot more curry flavour than I’m accustomed to in Singapore Noodles, but it actually worked really well. It also had the wonderful wok flavours and aromas that characterise a good fried noodle dish.
The Sichuan prawns were gloriously spicy and hot, and left us gulping down cups and cups of tea in an effort to quench the burning in our mouths. It was a delicious kind of spice though, the kind that leaves a lingering memory of painful enjoyment.
Our last dish of the night was ordered on my special request – salt and pepper eggplant. I loved the dish – it’s very different from the way that many other Chinese restaurants would cut the eggplant into thinner strips before battering. These larger slices of eggplant made for a much nicer and more substantial meal, well spiced with a great combination of chilli and salt. With only a minimal amount of batter, you could almost fool yourself into believing that this was a healthy vegetable dish!
Overall, I really like Pacific Seafood BBQ House and I can see why it’s such a firm favourite for so many people. It’s the type of restaurant that satisfies both my traditionalist father who only like Chinese food, and me and my penchant for that slight unique twist. It’s excellent value, and we’ll definitely be back as a family.