Chinese Spicy And Barbie Kitchen

Moonee Valley 311 Racecourse Road Kensington, VIC 3031 03 9372 5218

You don’t hear the word “offal” very much at all outside of Asia, let alone find places serving it. So I started to feel a quiver in the belly when I saw the hash tag #offalfest on twitter. Looks like there’s a recent foodie find, and it involves someplace in Kensington that almost specialises in offal. It fascinated and made me feel squeamish at the same time. Billy (@cloudcontrol), Penny (@jeroxie), Anna (@eatnik) and partner were all ready to embark on this gut-toughening quest and I got a last minute invite. Li @chillipadi1 came along for the adventure as well!
And just so that you know I have not made a typo, here’s the restaurant’s signboard. It’s just so adorable, shortening BBQ into “Barbie” in writing. :D
So it appears edamame isn’t just served in Japanese restaurants
The restaurant had just opened very recently and it serves up Sichuan style cuisine with an extensive grilled dish and offal line up. It was a warmish Saturday afternoon when we met up for lunch here and the place was pretty empty. The menu was pictorially lavish, and I really loved the loose English translation of all the dishes. Many of them got quite lost in translation. At some point, ordering nearly became an exercise of pointing and hoping it’s what you thought it said or looked on the menu.
Billy handled the tough decision of ordering the dishes. I normally get stressed out ordering for a group because I don’t know if my choices would be what everybody felt like. Good thing about this table was we’re pretty happy to try just about anything and even if the dish turned out bad, we would be happy to have tried it. One stumbling block we faced was, the restaurant won’t serve the grilled dishes for lunch. That omits several offal items we wanted to try! So team offal will have to come back for dinner at some stage. Hurrah to revisits!
口水鸡 Saliva Chicken $9.80 .

We particularly loved this dish’s translation, saliva chicken. 口水鸡 does translate directly to saliva chicken. But really, it means “mouth-watering chicken”. While reasonably tasty with some spicy kick, I personally didn’t like this dish that much because the chicken itself was on the dry side. I didn’t mind the fact that it was a cold dish.

红油肚丝 Shredded Tripe with Chilli Sauce $9.80
Main ingredient: belly ..

Pretty enjoyable cold dish of beef stomach. The flavours were light, spicy and piquant. And the tripe was soft yet springy. Because of my occupation, I actually know this comes from the omasum (second stomach) of the cow. Some pho places would call this ox bible. How lovely that we’ve managed to turn something that’s normally thrown away into a great dish.I always wondered why beef tripe has no strong offal smell. My only conclusion is that food higher up in the digestive tract still hasn’t digested towards becoming poo. So it’s still fresh and rosy, lol. Also cattle are herbivores, and I think plant matter isn’t as stinky as random bits of animals.

夫妻肺片 Pork Lungs in Chilli Sauce $9.80
Main ingredients: beef, ox tongue, beef heart .

It’s not exactly all lung we got in this dish. It was more various cuts of pork (or beef…??) and a few pieces of lung (or not…!!!). What’s written on the menu was confusing, the main title says pork lungs, but the main ingredients listed all beef parts. . Penny and I both enjoyed this dish very much. Great flavours and spice levels, firm textured slices of pork/beef parts and a surprise lung that tasted spongy and softer ever so often. Tasting the meat, I think it’s really beef and the dish title was a typo. .I’ve just had Hao help translate the dish. 夫妻肺片 really translates into “Husband and wife’s lungs” and there’s a story about this dish. It’s a traditional Sichuan beef dish and it does not contain any lung at all.

韭菜盒子 Leek Pancakes $9.80 for 6

These looked almost like fusion spring rolls. Crisp, hot and mildly flavoured, I thought they were a nice break from the stronger flavoured dishes. But I’m not sure if this dish was Sichuan-style cuisine.

发面包子  Fluffy Bun $9.80

. This dish was listed as 小笼包 Xiao Long Bao on the menu, but there’s a sticker over the English translation below with the Chinese words 发面包子 (which means “fluffy bun”). . None of us are sure whether this bun qualifies as a XLB or not, but we just called it XLB anyway. I’ve been told that each province and region in China has different Xiao Long Baos. So I was quite happy to see that this XLB was quite different from what we’re classically used to. It essentially was a regular bao with XLB-ish filling inside. Very good bao if I might add, fantastically fluffy skin, delicious meat filling and yes there was some soup inside! . After chatting with Hao, I now suspect the dish was once again a typo and really isn’t a variant of XLB. XLB’s should be small in size. So let’s call this ummm.. fluffy bun! (发面包子)

Some broth, inside the 发面包子
捞拌菜 Mix Fishing Dishes $12.80
Main ingredient: a variety of vegetables, konjac wire

.Another dish lost in translation. Bundles of glass noodles with strips of beancurd in a cold vinegary sauce. Interesting dish, though I couldn’t say I liked it. The beancurd strips (think they called that konjac wire) were very odd in texture, crunchy rubbery…

拌墨斗 Mixed Ink Fountain $13.80
Main ingredients: cuttlefish

.Billy liked this dish. Cuttlefish in Mandarin translates into ink fountain, lol. At first, I found the texture of the cold marinated cuttlefish to be a little scary because it was rawish, soft, and a little slimy. Even if this dish wasn’t really offal, it did challenge my mental bravado regarding food. I imagined raw slimy octopus-like things sliding down my throat. After sometime, I didn’t mind the texture of the cuttlefish. It was quite nicely marinated as well, and I soon found myself absentmindedly having more and more as the table conversation continued.

干煸四季豆 Dry Fried String Beans $14.80

.A good plate of properly cooked string beans (aka runner beans) always satisfies me. I quite liked what was served here and kept picking for more.

干锅娃娃菜 Spicy Mushroom With Pork $15.80
Main ingredients: baby food, wild pigs, red pepper

.This was called a mushroom dish on the menu, but it turned out to be a pork and wombok in spicy sauce dish that we didn’t really enjoy. Look at the menu description.. baby food.. lol!

干煸肥肠 Quick-fried Pig’s Intestines with Chilli $15.80

. It appeared quite a few on our table liked this dish. The offal was fried very well indeed, crisp and not oily. With the Sichuan type spices, it would’ve tasted awesome to me if the smell from the intestines weren’t that prominent. I don’t know why the others didn’t notice the smell. I half loved this dish because of the spices and seasoning, but the smell made my tummy turn queasy at the same time. I think we enjoyed the meal in general. The offal was interesting but the food quality was quite good. But it doesn’t end here! Billy organised for a revisit dinner a month later so that we could try the grilled items on the menu.

This time round, we were a smaller table curious diners, with Penny, Anna and Li missing in action. Being a Tuesday night after work, the restaurant was once again not busy. This time, we had a bunch of the grilled dishes for starters before going on to the mains. We had a few encore dishes from last time: the marinated tripe, fluffy buns and deep fried pork intestine.
烤鸡蛋 Baked Eggs $2.00ea

.I guess the good thing about food posts where there are many diners or repeat visits, you get to see so much more of the menu. The baked eggs were on the dry side, but the spices on top was interesting. Cumin-like and with reminders of Middle-Eastern cuisine.

烤墨斗 Grilled Fountain $5.00stick
烤鸡心 Chicken Hearts $1.50stick
烤鸡蛋 Lamb Kidneys $3stick

.Of the 3 grilled dishes, the chicken hearts tasted the best. The lamb kidneys were too hard and dry and I also couldn’t stomach the latrine-like aftertaste in kidneys. It’s cute how they’ve translated cuttlefish into ‘fountain’. Again, the seasoning spices had what we thought was cumin and fennel seeds in it.

五花肉金针蘑 Lily Mushroom Pork $3.50ea
.. I think these were enoki mushrooms wrapped in pork. They were quite good! Hao tells me the dish directly translates into “five flower meat with golden needle mushrooms”.
拌花菜 Cauliflower Mix $8.80 .
It was a spicy pickled vegetable cold dish that did not contain any cauliflowers. More cucumbers and beancurd skins. Quite yummy, actually.
三代水煮鱼 Three Generations of Boiled Fish $25.80
Main ingredient: marine fish .

Billy chose a ‘cleansing’ non-spicy soup to help offset all the other dishes. Unlike the classic fish in an oil bath of dried chillies dish that you can find in many Sichuan places, the soup was actually drinkable. But it was still a little on the oily side and the fish pieces were quite rubbery. I noticed that Sichuan fish dishes always use rubbery fleshed fish, is it Leatherjacket? I remember I wasn’t that wowed by the flavour of the soup, but accidental sipping of a Sichuan pepper or two did bring about a few numb moments while I took them out of my mouth. . So #offalfest wasn’t as scary as I thought, in fact, many of the dishes were great! I’ve also learnt that my tummy is not as gung-ho as I’d always thought it was. Some of the dishes needed a bit of mental encouraging. I must say though, I’d quite likely want to come back to have more Xiao Long Baos. They tasted memorably good. .

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