Quan 88

88 Victoria St

Richmond, VIC 3121

Quan 88

Remember how I said I like the social aspect of eating together? I’ll make this entry about that, because I am still sick and shouldn’t comment about food that I can’t taste accurately.

I’ve only shortlisted 3 performances for this year’s Melbourne Festival. I should’ve gone for more but there’s always next year. Tonight’s was a dance performance from Japan, with Swells and Marc as my companions. We’d agreed to have dinner prior. Vietnamese in Victoria St.

Quan 88
Quan 88, Interior.

The weather had turned grim this week. Both my companions have had a tough week at work, with a sleep debt to show for it. And I’ve been sick all week. Traffic was horrid, so by the time I found a park, tempers were rising. So there we were, a motley crew of 3 grumpy boys, plodding along Victoria St in cold grey drizzle, trying to find a place that would deliver us from all of this.

Marc had a recommendation from memory, Quan 88… “Good food”. I consulted google maps, located it, and we headed towards the elusive joint. When we entered, I smiled. The waiters were cute, ha ha. I immediately quizzed Marc whether he remembered the “good food” or the “attractive serving staff”. He gave me a sheepish smile. Hahaha!

I told my chums that they have to taste and rate the food this time because I couldn’t taste things properly. 

Quan 88
Quan 88’s rice paper roll with prawn.

There wasn’t much comment when the rice paper rolls with prawn arrived, but we polished that off very promptly. Despite my dulled taste buds, I could detect the refreshing smack of mint in the rolls and the ingredients felt fresh.

Because time was short and we were indecisive, Marc took charge of the order. We had beef in red wine sauce, stir-fried spinach in garlic, squid with lemongrass chilli sauce. As we tucked in, I was surprised that my comrades actually did help comment on the food for me. They thought the beef was a 6/10, the flavours were okay but the meat could’ve been more “melt-in-your-mouth”. The spinach was just what it was, spinach! And Swells thought something intangible was missing in the squid sauce. 

Quan 88
Clockwise: Spinach, Beef, Squid.

Personally, I thought the beef was delicious, red wine mixed with asian sauces worked for me. The soy/fish sauce with cubes of wine-marinated fried beef squeezed past my clogged sinuses and woke me. The spinach tasted like steamed foliage from a riverbank and I munched on soil a couple of times. Bad washing, for shame! I prefer my squid to be firmer, crunchier. With my blocked nose, all I could taste in the squid sauce was chilli and too much salt.

Halfway through our meal, I had to admit that the older looking waiter was indeed quite spunky. I suppose having decent scenery does help in keeping your appetites upbeat. Marc, Swells and I are normally good, comfortable friends. But today we seemed to rub on each other’s nerves a bit. It is probably lack of sleep and the need to hurry for our Melbourne Festival Show. I absorb tension easily, so during a period when I sensed they were bickering a little, I quietly wielded my chopsticks and deftly ate all the beef. 

Quan 88
Rainbow over Richmond

We left a sizeable tip because it was “good food”, lol. We entered back into the wet. Our mood lightened considerably when we noticed a faded rainbow arc over the rooftops of Richmond. I have a feeling Marc will bring us back here again. Next time, I will order the dish that to me, benchmarks Vietnamese eateries: Bun Thit Nuong (Dry Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork).

Postscript: 

The dance performance by Hiroaki Umeda was singular, violent, minimalist and abstract. I found it difficult to appreciate. My companions loved it though. I appreciate the precision, intelligence, speed and skill in it, but didn’t enjoy it. 

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Quan 88