My favourite restaurant in Melbourne (and possibly anywhere in the world) is probably still Longrain. It is a little expensive to go often and with a budget in mind, it was a good idea to find something serving similar. I haven't been to the queue frenzy known as Chin Chin and I think it's unlikely I'll make it in the near future. In any case, I seem to be quite consistently informed the hype/queue/hipness doesn't translate into unique or incomparable food (albeit far from bad as such).
Rice Paper Scissors seems like a new kid on the block around the way from Longrain and Gingerboy but with a much more friendly price tag. The concept of Asian tapas lends itself to trying lots of dishes which is great. And the 5 for $55 is a steal with an added green papaya salad
- Steamed Pork Buns (with pork belly, cucumber, shallots, hoisin sauce) - slightly different interpretation with a burger-style bun that could've used more fluffiness, but otherwise the proper combination of flavours a la David Chang and Yum Bun, and a surpassing piece of roast pork crackling and all;
- BBQ Lamb Ribs (with Mekong whiskey marinade, sticky sauce) - ribs, ribs, ribs, always my favourite and this is no exception;
- Mini Vietnamese Baguette banh mi (with crispy soft shell crab, pickled vegetables, herbs, homemade pate) - soft shell crab sandwich. Simple and tasty;
- BBQ Pork Neck (marinated in black pepper, garlic, coriander root) - tender slices of pork (perhaps could have been a touch rarer) in a sweet salty sauce;
- Crispy Coconut Wafer banh xeo (with pork, prawn, bean shoot, fresh herbs) - not what I was expecting from banh xeo. The flavour of the filling was nice but the banh xeo itself was thick like a rice cake instead of wispy thin and malleable;
- Green Papaya Salad (with peanuts, long beans, chillies) - an excellent rendition with delicious balanced nuoc mam and a moderate kick of chilli. You can pay extra for prawns or meat but it isn't necessary.
Next time I would order as many dishes as possible. All range from good to great, and that's before I've even tried some other options like Thai Fried Chicken or Smoked Scallop Betel Leaf. Will definitely be back.
95% Urbanspoon and (the waitress this evening informed me) also Tripadvisor #1. Obviously these guys continue to do something really well. It was a choice between here and Longrain for the annual family Christmas dinner and this was the cheaper (and shorter queuing) option. Dishes not previously tried:
- Thai Fried Chicken (marinated in galangal, chilli & coriander root) - crispy, soft and served with a chilli (Sriracha?) mayonnaise;
- Thai Ceviche (lime cured kingfish salad with mint, chilli and shallots) - elegantly tangy eaten with prawn crackers;
- Duck Salad (minced duck, roasted rice, herbs & a fiery dressing served with lettuce cups) - an upmarket version of larb, mild duck flavour, intense dressing;
- Waterfall Beef Salad (with toasted ground rice, shallot, chilli, herbs & a spicy dressing) - really powerfully flavoured meat neutralised by an intensely strong dressing.
Even saved some stuffing space for dessert. To be fair I was probably much too full to enjoy these as much as they should be. And I'm not usually a dessert person:
- Ice Cream Sanga (sweet toasted buns filled with coconut sticky rice, homemade mango sorbet, crushed nuts) - don't quite remember it. Will need to try it again.
- Poached Nashi Pears (in sang som & cassia bark, with peanut crumble & pandan sorbet) - sorbet is really good and 'pandanous'. Gave me a craving for it which I found again at Il Dolce Freddo a few nights later.
As compared to the first meal here, the BBQ Lamb Ribs were once again delicious and pulled easily from the bone but with enough texture not to collapse on picking them up. The BBQ Pork Neck was much rarer (ie. better cooked) and tender - more impressive. Ordered the Green Papaya Salad both with and without prawns. Additional prawns were nice but as I thought earlier, not necessary.
The meal was once again delicious. I do wonder if a lot of the nuoc mam-style sauces are very similar (or identical) between some dishes (eg. ceviche, larb, beef salad, green papaya salad) with slight variation in the amount of chilli, lime or fish sauce. Nonetheless they are all good. I would like to see rice as an option too, just to help mop up and in some cases temper the flavours.
Next time I would order Steamed Pork Buns, BBQ Lamb Ribs, Thai Fried Chicken, Green Papaya Salad and/or Waterfall Beef Salad from what I've tried. Considering all these are meat-based, the balance would come from (untried) Betel Leaf, Tempura Prawn or a seafood special (eg. calamari).