With a whole spare day in glorious Melbourne to do absolutely whatever he wants, Mr Shawn heads for the boondocks of Box Hill.
A quick squiz at the census data shows Box Hill has the highest concentration of Chinese folks in Melbourne, which means there will be Chinese restaurants catering to Chinese people, which is why a visit to Box Hill was at the top of Mr Shawn's agenda on a quick visit to Melbourne.
Box Hill is a very Asian suburb but doesn't have that buzzy market vibe you get in Sydney's Cabramatta or Hurstville, not on a Thursday afternoon anyway. Still, there's dozens of great looking little restaurants here, lots of Chinese as well as some Malaysian, Hong Kong, Korean and Taiwanese. If we lived in Melbourne we'd be out here every weekend. Here's a few random restaurant pics to give you the idea, if you're interested that is.
Dumpling Bun Bar just off Box Hill Mall.
Petaling Street, seems to be everywhere, we've only got one in Sydney. We also developed hankering for Noodle Kingdom which we tried in Melbourne's Chinatown.
There's a couple of Hong Kong joints on the non-mall side of the shopping centre, at least one did the wacky Hong Kong coffee shop food we love so much. There was an awesome, awesome, awesome looking Shanghai takeaway along here too.
Little Lamb hotpot, not sure if this is part of the chain from China. We got one in Sydney.
Vegos are welcome in Box Hill.
This joint had lots of tops of aunties and uncles lunching.
Where do all the Dumpling Kings find their Dumpling Queens? Oxford Street?
There weren't many Asian grocers around the streets, the action was in the Centro shopping centre. Oh why didn't I try a Japanese eel rice burger in the food court?
Picking a lunch spot with so many amazing options was not easy... The Booth Taiwanese Noodle, Rice and Dumpling won out.
Mr Shawn felt like he should find something amazing for a good food photo, but he really felt like Taiwanese beef noodle soup - $8.50. A generous serve with quite a few big hunks of beef, perfect on a Melbourne winter day.
Had to order these intriguing bastard - a pork belly burger - $6. The menu describes it as "Soy marinated pork belly, pickled bok choy, peanut powder and coriander in a steamed bun." Does that roll off the toungue like "two all beef patties special sauce cheese lettuce pickles onions in a sesame seed bun?" Or is it just our imagination?
Burger upskirt. The slab of soy marinated pork belly is super yum, when is pork belly anything less? The peanut powder stuff looks like pork floss and is sugary sweet, giving it that Asian bakery sweet'n'savoury clash that sits funny on western tastebuds. The bun is warm, moist and soft like the dough from a steamed bbq pork bun. Nice and fun.
Goodbye Box Hill, we'll be back!
Mr Shawn is a madly obsessed urban walker and hiked 20kms or so around Melbourne's inner suburbs. With it's flat geography and everything being so close together, Melbourne is one of the world's great walking cities. Mr Shawn was slack-jawed the whole day from the stunning old buildings, seriously, it's incredible.
And inner Melbourne is just so dang groovy. Melbourne has a sense of design and style that Sydney will never emulate, no matter how much it tries with it's themed small bars, pop-up PR events and Dan Hong gen-y ironic eateries (we're cynical old farts aren't we?). But Sydney has geography, vitamin D and most importantly, a far greater supply of Asian hole-in-the-wall restaurants. It all evens out in the end.
Shawn had to visit St Kilda to see if you really could get a cream cheese bagel in the Jewish area of Carlisle Street, as John Safran is always jabbering about to Father Bob on Sunday Night Safran.
There's bagels galore, freaking delicious too. We find a string of kosher cafes, bakeries and delis along Carlisle Street that have some amazing looking food, we're busting to come back for some chicken soup, kosher sushi, kosher Hungarian and a Cherry Ripe at the Carlisle Street 7 Eleven.
Our Melbourne friends suggested we also try Elsternwick (?) for kosher food, and Footscray for Vietnamese. And we wonder if Dandenong is worth a look for Indian food too... And dang we wish we tried those amazing souvlakis cooking over hot coals at Lambs in Carlton. Next time. Any other tips?
Next stop, Chinatown.