Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oriental Spoon, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

Oriental Spoon is part of the trifecta of places where colleagues from work usually want to hold lunches, the other two being Red Spice Road and the Duke of Kent. Consequently I'd eaten here many times despite not being a real fan. It's a bit of a barn to eat in even if they have done a comparatively good job with it, and the service was always a bit slapdash. The major problem though was the number of times the food was pretty average. We'd normally head for the bibimbab as the acknowledged best lunchtime option but even this was often on the 'meh' side. But when we headed for the other items on the menu they always seemed to involve mediocre ingredients hiding beneath strong tasting sauces.

However, while I am not sure whether there have been changes in the kitchen the last few times the food has definitely changed. We still normally go for the lunchtime specials but the quality seems to have gotten much better. The undoubted favourite of most is the bibimbap, served in a hot stone bowl so that the residual heat of the bowl finishes cooking your food for you. The most basic version comes with tofu but for a dollar or two more you can also have the chicken, pork or eel. Its tastes fresh and healthy, but the thing I like most is the crispiness added to the rice sitting against the bowl, providing contrasting textures within the dish.

On our latest visit Bureaucrat went for my favourite option, the eel bibimbap. While eel has a distinctive flavour that isn't to everyone's taste I love the version served in Japanese cafes on rice (Unagi Don) that this dish resembles. The flavour is quite strong for a fish and the flesh a little flaky but I think it's delicious. It also avoids my number one dislike of eating eel, being deboned you don't have to worry about the very sharp bones that they have.

On this visit I decided to be different to everyone else and choose one of the bentos. In contrast to most bentos which look a bit like upmarket TV diners in a nice touch Oriental Spoon's are served in a small wooden bucket. My fish katsu bento combined crumbed moist fish that had been perfectly fried, a deep fried chicken wing, an octopus ball and assorted pickled vegetables on rice. It's comparable in size to those bentos available in many restaurants around town but much tastier than most cheap end versions.

Even the service seems to have improved, with dishes arriving freshly prepared within minutes of being ordered.

Once a place I wouldn't have recommended, now a good place for a tasty weekday lunch for around $10 or so. I have heard compliments on its authenticity (not having been to Korea that's something I can't comment on) and it's somewhere I really want to try for dinner, to sample more of their a la carte menu.

Food - 8
Service - 7
Ambience - 7
Price - 7.5

254 LaTrobe Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9654 9930

Oriental Spoon on Urbanspoon


katy_em said...

i also wrote a review about this too

Anonymous said...

I saw. We are miles behind on writing up different places.


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