Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Seafood Lane at Red Spice Road for Melbourne Food & Wine Festival

Greeted with a stunning, blue-skied autumn's day, it was with a spring in our step that we bounded down Mackillop Lane – a Melbourne CBD laneway filled with long tables for the fifth annual Seafood Lane event at Red Spice Road for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival last month.

Table settings for Seafood Lane as part of Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, 9 March 2014, Red Spice Road, Mackillop Lane, Melbourne
Long white-clothed tables were positioned down the middle of the closed-off laneway, beneath shelters for both sun and rain, though we were lucky to have the former in buckets.

Orderly seating arrangements and drinks on arrival made for a convivial atmosphere of food lovers, tourists and food tourists – all happy to chat about the festival, the warm day and the impending south-east Asian seafood feast by Red Spice Road.

Drinks served at the long tables
There was Tiger beer, Monteith's cider or even Jax Coco Coconut Water for the non-drinkers, but for me, long lunches start and go on with bubbles, like the Crittenden Estate Geppetto NV Brut.

We could see food arriving up the top of the long tables, with smells and appreciative noises quickly filtering down via an army of plate-clad waiters.

Banh mi with soft shell crab, cucumber, herbs and spicy turmeric mayo
The appetisers started off with a bang – perhaps even the biggest bang of the seafood-focused meal (though I'm sure excitement and initial hunger had something to do with that).

I'm not sure why I've never had a soft shell crab banh mi before because it's an excellent idea – a small, round burger bun holding a crisply deep fried soft shell crab, with spindly legs sticking out among cucumber and fresh green herbs like coriander and mint.

Banh mi with soft shell crab
The whole Vietnamese-styled slider was brought together by a creamy turmeric mayonnaise that paired with the crab perfectly. A crowd favourite, there were serious and justified concerns that the rest of the meal may not rise to the heights of the soft shell crab banh mi.

Scallop with poached chicken, jellyfish, shiso and green chili
It's hard to go wrong when you have beautiful produce like scallops, beautifully grilled and sat on a somewhat superfluous round of poached chicken breast. The shiso and green chilli dressing gave the plump mollusc a great lift, while I don’t recall the jellyfish at all.

Calamari stuffed with Issan pork sausage
The whole stuffed calamari was a modern presentation with north-east Thai Issan pork sausage; the sausage sweet and garlicky within the thin sheets of slightly chewy squid, doused with a sweet red sauce.

Spicy salmon, green onion and sesame tartare on crispy sticky rice
Another modern, fusion appetiser was the creamy tartare of salmon and green onion, flavoured with sesame and chilli and sat atop a brick of deep fried sticky rice.

The concept was fun and the diced and dressed raw salmon very moreish, but the overall texture of the crisp sticky rice meant it was of a tooth-sticking nature.

Wines were topped up and plates were cleared with efficiency and smiles; a pretty impressive logistical outcome given the length of the table and the waiters' walk back to the laneway restaurant in the hot sun.

Octopus, tomato, coriander and shallot salad
It was a little alarming that the after the plentiful appetisers, there was still the three mains to go, along with steamed jasmine rice.

We started with an eye-opening salad of tender octopus tentacles and tomato – a combination that I wouldn't have expected. Pimped up with loads of fresh coriander and sliced shallots, it was a surprisingly fresh salad where the seafood shone in a well-balanced pairing.

Laotian prawn green curry with potato and dill
My favourite dish after the banh mi would have been the Laotian prawn green curry – large whole prawns creamy with coconut and a mild manageable spice, and bulked up with potato chunks.

Most interestingly, beneath the generous coriander garnish, the dill addition to the curry sauce was outstanding – whether the match with potatoes or it being one of my favourite herbs, it really made the green curry unique and memorable.

Barramundi with snake bean sambal and crispy anchovies
We received the golden-hued barramundi last, and it probably suffered a little from our satiety.

The golden surface of the fish fillets hid a overcooked interior and even with the sambal sauce, it was a slightly dry experience. However, the sambal beans were a delight along with whole crispy anchovies entering Malaysian cuisine territory.

Long tables for Seafood Lane
As stuffed as we were, the gorgeously elaborate individual dessert pulled us back in, aided by a stroll and a glass of 2013 Pinocchio Moscato.

Pineapple panna cotta with coconut jelly, gula melaka caramelised pineapple, cashew praline and Sang Som ice cream
Creativity reigned in the Thai-inspired dessert of pineapple flavoured panna cotta – an excellent, appropriately wobbly rendition, served with chewy cubes of coconut jelly, fresh pineapple pieces in gula melaka palm sugar syrup, crushed cashew praline and ice cream of Thai Sang Som rum.

Pineapple panna cotta with Sang Som ice cream
All the components had their place in the dessert bowl – particularly the ice cream as the day warmed up – an achievement given the number of ingredients that all worked together exceptionally well to close the meal.

Red Spice Road restaurant interior
More wine came by, more neighbourly chatter ensued and the afternoon was whiled away in the collective south-east Asian seafood feast of a food coma that was Seafood Lane this year by Red Spice Road.

Food, booze and shoes attended Seafood Lane at Red Spice Road as a guest.

Red Spice Road on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Everything looks really good here! And I would have tried to find room for that dessert. I love Thai desserts!


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