Raffle’s Place…to the rescue.

16 Apr

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  On this Friday evening, Melbourne CBD was Hell and I was the woman scorned!  You see it all started with the most pleasant of cocktails at Maha in the lower end of town.  I had a mean

Pomegranate sour (front) Kekka Club (back)

craving for dirty dumplings, so given the cheap and cheerful meal ahead of us, I figured we should treat ourselves to a proper drink.  Maha has long been one of my favourite establishments.  Set in a basement on Bond St, this middle Eastern Utopia (part of the Columbaris group) offers share plates with flavours to write home about and delicious cocktails to make it a beverage destination in its own right.

We arrived at a relatively peaceful Maha and were quickly seated at the bar.  The service, as you’d expect, is that perfect mix of friendly and knowledgeable. I decided to go with a pomegranate   Sour (anything with pomegranate has me at Hello!) whilst N went for the Kekka Club (she’s taken to drinking Gin based concoctions… I don’t get why?).  It was the perfect surrounds, with a low level hum of noise & chatter that did not leave me feeling like I should have brought my microphone and hearing aid.

So far so good.  The night is off to an above average start!! We decide to get the bill and make our way to fulfilling my dumpling craving.  Time check,  7:30pm!  I’d wanted to take N to China Red, for a while now.  Yes.  It’s ‘that place’ with the computer screens for waiters.  And yes,  it’s a bit of a gimmick.  But after going there a few times, I’d really enjoyed the food (the dumplings are made fresh and all the dishes offered taste as they should) and the service – or lack thereof – the cutting out the human makes for zero human errors in order taking/language barriers…kind of a God send!

We leave Maha and make it to China Red in good time.  But what’s this I see…?  Before my dumpling crazed filled eyes is a 10 meter line of hopefuls waiting for a table.  DAMMIT! I HATE LINES! So apparently I missed the “everyone wants dumplings tonight” memo, as we walked around for another 45 minutes going from dumpling place to dumpling place… each one offering me nothing but a line of people and a 35 minute wait!

Needless to say, the high of the Cocktail had well and truly worn off and all I can think about is eating dumplings.  We finally decided to leave the city and hope for the best!  Then, as we drive out of the Dumpling Crazed City, N has a brain fart!

Old Raffles Place

RAFFLES!  This Singaporean eatery has been satisfying DDO’s belly since  way back when.  Whether you catch Mr Han on bad day or a worse day, there’s something instantly elating about being seated in his pink walled eatery.

Now, coming here strays from my previous craving.  But honestly, I’m just happy to be able to walk into a restaurant, be seated immediately and not have to fear culinary suicide (…there was a point where we got SO desperate in the city we considered Mai Tai – enough said!)

Every time I come here I have to have the stir fried Turnip cake.  Although as an appetizer it is pretty filling, with it’s large cubed turnip cake pieces stir fried in ABC soy with a silky scrambling of egg and topped with fresh spring onions.   Not many places manage to do this without turning the turnip cake into a plated pile of moosh.  I did however find it a little on the sweet side on this occasion, to which Mr Han informed me that next time I should ask for it with fried shallots instead… Thanks Mr Han… advice with what could subjectively be described as a rare smile…(?)

Chai Tow Kwai (stir fried turnip cake with egg)

I decided to order the Hainanese Chicken Rice Set which is consistently perfect every time I have it here.  (A lot of other places leave me gasping for water shortly after eating it due to all the MSG).  Chicken really isn’t usually my thing – I find it uninspiring and dry- unless I’m at an asian restaurant.  As the chicken is cooked whole, with the skin, in chicken and pork stock, the flavour remains and the meat is succulent and tender.

Hainanese Chicken Rice Set

The rice here is fragrant and the perfect dampness (not overcooked, and definitely not dry), so when you get your mouthful of rice and chicken with a spoon of that hot ginger sauce, it’s like a harmonious flavour symphony!  I can’t fault this dish!

N decided to go for another Singaporean classic, Char Kway Teow.  I requested, as we’re gonna do sharesies, to opt for the Racecourse version which as well as yellow Hokkien noodles AND flat rice noodles, also contained prawns, fish cakes, pak choy, tons of bean shoots and Chinese sausage.  Coz ain’t no point in a WHOLE plate of carbs with no supplements…

Racecourse Char Kwai Teow

Again, a little on the sweet side and a little too saucy.  A perfect Kwai Teow should have no juice sitting in the dish, with each piece of noodle being lightly grease coated to prevent sticking, but without being soggy.  Yep.  mission VERY DIFFICULT!  But props to Han for delivering a well made Char Kwai Teow – it is quite the accomplishment to master cooking this dish without it being too oily or too dry as the flat rice noodles have a tendency to stick together.  Given our trying culinary night out, all that was left of this dish was the pool of sauce.

I’d say the only fault of Raffle’s Place was the sweetness of some dishes.  But in saying that, perhaps it was Mr Han’s way of sweetening my scorn towards my initially unsuccessful Friday Night Food Adventure.  Raffle’s Place, our saving Grace in turning Hell to Heaven.

The Old Raffles Place

70 Johnston Street



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