Firebird, Melbourne 01-2022

For the first modern Asian dining experience since returning to Melbourne, and also for the new year of 2022, a special occasion of a friend visiting from London and for a 40th birthday, meant I got to tick off one of my new list to try. Other than Firebird, there's also Anchovy and a few Indian/Sri Lankan ones on my list.

It was a quiet drive (considering peak hour although maybe everyone is away) down Church and Chapel Street. The area was quite dead (again maybe because of similar reasons) or that the cases around town are rising. Nonetheless it was exciting to walk in to the industrial fit out with it's thick concrete walls, and once unmasked at the table smell the smokiness in the air, and see a large wood (pizza) oven and a grill where all the magic happens.

Cockailts had a bit of Asian flair to them and for $20 each were ok. I expected some would have smoked ingredients in them, but our waitress said unfortunately none did.

- Grilled squid (with green papaya, hot mint, peanut) $25 - thick tender pieces of squid cut into 1cm slivers, charred to golden (maybe from a fish sauce marinade?) with a much milder flavour than I expected. Served with a green papaya salad and well balanced fish sauce glaze. Probably wasn't as much hot mint as I would like, but nice overall;
- Hot & sour broken rice claypot (mushroom, asparagus, eggplant) $26 - a nice dish with very strongly flavoured (aka salty) dark sauce, grilled vegetables and the broken rich had excellent crunchy base. The flavour got a bit too strong with the soaked liquid end parts and nicer once diluted with some normal rice;
- Extra rich grilled lamb rib curry (pickled baby cucumber) $30 - they say curry but it was really more like an excellent satay, with super soft lamb pulling from a bone and with a bit of pickle, chilli and coconut to add some different flavour/texture. Lovely;
- Fire tossed pipis "canh chua" reduction (charred tomato, pork oil, herbs & grilled chinese donuts) $34 - not quite the strong sour tamarind broth of a canh chua (although it is in "" and is a reduction) with more savoury fish sauce with a lighter citrus tang, that I was sipping spoonfuls of. The pipi meat was a little small for my liking and the Chinese donut didn't have that deepfried flavour of the normal ones;
- Duck l'orange (very slow roasted duck, grilled citrus, Firebird excellent sauce, pickled ginger) $41 for half duck - a beautifully presented dish served with what I think they described as a thick oyster sauce. The duck was good although the flesh didn't have the delicate juiciness that is important in duck. The layer of fat under the skin of the breast also hadn't been fully rendered and so it wasn't that crisp. But the skin on the leg and wing was dessicated and crisp although it meant the meat underneath was drier too. The citrus squeeze didn't seem to add much flavour but it diluted the heavy oyster sauce nicely;
- Wood roasted duck fat & potato gratin, caramelised nuoc mam $15 - a layered potato cube with crispy firm shell with a strong sweet fish sauce to soak in. Very good.

Overall a delicious meal and too much food for 3 of us. The desserts didn't sound too interesting or Asian and we passed on them. It was a meal for a special occasion and I'd go back again to have the lamb rib curry and gratin, could be persuaded for the duck, and also the other missed items of charred cabbage, charcoal chicken, or pork neck with kumquat relish.

Firebird Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato