With the fantastic hospitality we received in Melbourne, I really felt I needed to buy my hosts a dinner. Unfortunately, Joyce was not with us. Alan stayed back in Melbourne after work (he lives in Geelong), and we all went for a Vietnamese meal in St. Albans.
St Albans is a Melbourne suburb very near to Eddy's place. It has a large Vietnamese population and I particularly like their pho bo (beef noodles) there. The restaurant that Eddy and Alan chose was the Quang Vinh - a Vietnam and Chinese place. The place is apparently very popular with the locals in St Albans and the neighboring suburbs. It occupies 2 shop lots and was almost full house when we arrived.
The menu in this restaurant was wide-ranging. It had the Vietnamese pho bo which I observed a lot of people eating and Chinese dishes. Service was brisk, efficient and business-like. No friendly personal touches. Like all Vietnamese eating places in the vicinity, tea was complimentary and served in small thermo flasks.
Eddy, being the "resident" diner, did the ordering. He hesitated on the first dish - the Vietnamese salad - which he deemed too expensive at 30 Aussies. I plodded him to go ahead to order. And was I glad I did. For it turned up to be fantastic. This so-called salad had lots of boiled pork, prawns, jelly fish, some onions, basil leaves and carrots, topped with some crunchy peanuts. The whole thing was mixed in a spicy sweet and sourish clear sauce. It was delicious. The pieces of pork was wonderful in taste and texture. The jelly fish was crunchy to the bite. The prawns were very fresh. Good to the last morsel.
This clay pot tofu was cooked with salted fish, and some minced pork and mushroom. It was another delightful dish. The aroma of the salt fish was tantalizing. It went very well with the rice. The tofu was soft and smooth. It was simple yet so very delicious.
The next dish was perhaps a typical mat-salleh selection. It was pork ribs in a sweet and sour tomato sauce. It was as stereo-type as it could get. Yet it was delicious. The pork was tender and deep fried to a nice crisp before being stirred in the tomato-based sauce.
I think we asked for choy sum but the vege dish turned up to be kangkong. But heck, no complaint. The kangkong was great. It was fried in a spicy sauce, but it wasn't sambal belacan. All the same, it looked and tasted like the kangkong we have at home.
The squid was deep fried in a salted egg yolk batter. Salted egg yolk batter is rather new and is now very popular in Malaysia. I was surprised to find it down under as well. The aroma of the salted egg yolk was rich and enticing. The squid was very fresh. It was a superb combination. A great sinful dish.
The last dish was the Mongolian beef. It was sizzling beef on a hot plate cooked, I believe, with oyster and soy sauces. It basically was the same hot plate beef that are so common in Malaysia. I don't know why they call it Mongolian beef. I seriously doubt the Mongolians cook their beef this way. Anyway, it wasn't bad at all. The beef was tender - typically Aussie quality. The taste was good.
I have to mention the custard apple juice that Crystal ordered. I have tasted some fabulous Australian custard apples - in Malaysia, not in Australia. They are darn expensive - up to RM45 for a fruit. These Aussie custard apples are super sweet (unlike the sour Malaysian variety) and smooth. The juice that Crystal had was a concentrated glass of this delightful fruit. It was sweet and absolutely marvelous.
The dinner at St Albans was most enjoyable. The food was great. We talked about our lives, my hosts' Aussie experiences and reminisced on our Malaysian pasts. Could the evening be better than this?