Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tea and Rice, Ormond by Big Fil

In some ways the menu at Tea and Rice felt like a 'Back to the Future' moment, except that rather than travelling from 1985 to 1955 we were travelling from 2010 to 1980. Many of the old suburban Chinese takeaway favourites were there - sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken, fried ice cream - along with more 'exotic' dishes such as sambal prawns, roti, and banana with sticky rice.

This left me a bit nervous. Crappy Aussie-Cantonese food is one of the many things from the 1980s that deserves to be buried along with leg warmers, enormous shoulder pads and Pseudo Echo. But while Tea and Rice falls into some of the traps from trying to cater to a supposed western taste it is somewhat redeemed by the care put into the food and the excellent service.

The first dish tried was the Pandan Chicken. While nicely presented and the chicken moist, it was unfortunately a bit greasy and lacking much flavour from the pandanus leafs.

The roti with satay sauce was better, with good nicely flaky roti. The satay sauce was a little sweet for me, but this is often the case including with satays I've tried in Malaysia.

Given that it was 1980 I decided to order the sweet and sour pork, something I hadn't had from a suburban restaurant this millennium. The batter on the pork wasn't too thick and the pork was cooked properly, with nicely crispy vegetables. However, the Aussie-Chinese version of sweet and sour pork is just a bad overly sweet dish regardless of the care put into the cooking. It was probably my fault as I didn't expect to like this, caving in to a moment of nostalgia.

Better were the sambal prawns. While the sauce was again a bit too sweet and completely lacking in heat, the vegetables were cooked nicely, the prawns soft, plump and generous in number. If the sweetness of the sauce was toned down and the heat turned up this could have been a very good dish.

The spicy salt boneless pork ribs was the only dish that I didn't find a bit sweet, but it was also lacking in the spice department. On the plus side it was again very nicely cooked and presented, just a bit lacking in flavour.

For dessert we tried the banana with sticky rice (plus ice cream and dried blue berries). All I can say is yum, from someone who isn't a big fan of banana.

Because of the care put into the food and the excellent service I now have a big soft spot for the staff at Tea and Rice. In fact, while service on a packed Saturday night got a little chaotic, when only half full during the week I felt the service here was amongst the best I've had anywhere. It's one of the very few places I've been to where the service was efficient and the staff seemed to enjoy serving the customers and care whether they enjoyed their meal. Unfortunately while there's still obviously an audience for this style of food (as evidenced by the many obviously loyal regulars) most of the dishes we tried were not quite for me. So I'm very much in two minds about Tea and Rice. I guess that even if I can't find something on the menu more to my liking at the very least it would be a good place to take my mother.

Ambience - 6
Food - 6.5
Service - 8
Price - 6.5

555A North Road
Ormond VIC 3204
Tel: (03) 9578 2718

Tea & Rice on Urbanspoon

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