Friday, September 4, 2015

Nabe One, Melbourne CBD by Benny

A 1pm appointment of uncertain duration demands an early lunch, and since it is already noon, the many options at Emporium beckon – we need quick, but we don’t want to compromise on quality. Despite this being a Sunday in the middle of the city, queues are already forming at some of the better known eateries, especially in the foodie enclave on the 3rd floor. So we wander in to Nabe One on level 2 – away from the hustle and bustle, but the food being served to the few diners already eating looks promising.

The menu reveals a fairly good, although largely standard selection of rice, udon and ramen dishes, a couple of bento options and some interesting sounding entrees. As speed is of the essence, we opt to share a serve of Gyoza to be followed by Tempura Udon (two tempura prawns and some tempura vegetables) and Kani Ramen (soft shell crab & marinated egg).

The food arrives in about 10 minutes, steaming hot, smelling and looking delicious – the Gyoza at the same time as the noodle dishes. The standout is easily the Kani Ramen: the soft shell crab is exactly as it should be – crispy tempura-like batter, brittle shell around soft flavourful flesh; the broth is peppery hot and full of complex meaty flavours, strong on the umami, which has delicately infused some sliced bamboo shoot; the egg is cooked just right – the yolk firm and moist, with the marinade complementing the flavour of the broth.

The broth for the Tempura Udon is also good, although not at all spicy in order to highlight the Tempura prawns and vegetables (pumpkin and sweet potato) The tempura batter on the vegetables was excellent, but unfortunately on the prawns it did not achieve the same high standards – a bit too thick, and a bit oily, suggesting they were cooked in oil that had not reached the ideal temperature. The tempura dipping sauce also lacked the expected intensity of flavour.

The Gyoza are quite good – meaty morsels wrapped in thin pastry, steamed then quickly shallow fried so that one side is browned and crispy. However, to score a perfect 10 the filling would have had to have a more intense meaty flavour and the pastry just a tad more delicate.

It is not much past 12:30 when we leave, with ample time to make our 1pm appointment, and Nabe One has filled up. No queue yet, but it might not be too much longer.

Verdict: we liked it a lot

Good food, fast and inexpensive. We would go back, especially for the soft shell crab

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