I am one, who never tires of digging for something new and exciting. I have a list of eateries that are my comforts, ones that I return to on a regular bases. I also have a list of eateries that are just fast and tastes alright; these are my go-tos during Uni, when I barely have any time in my life. I love them like old friends, but I’m also a greedy, greedy bear. I always want to discover more places to eat in Melbourne. It is almost like a hobby collection, adding more and more places into my repertoire. So that’s how I came to find Red Silks.
Red Silks is located in one of the small arcades that leads to China Town, but the escalators leading up to it are on the Bourke St end. Its small signage is hiding in the midst of all the other much bigger shop-signs. I was quite proud I spotted the sign first, since I’m normally pretty blind and clumsy.
We chose to seat inside on the nice, comfy cushioned booth, because it was quite cold that day, but Red Silks does have an extensive, undercover, outdoor seating area.
We decided to share an entree and a clay pot. In China, I’d always order a vegetable dish at a restaurant, because it just makes the whole meal more comfortable and complete for me. However, the price of all vegetable dishes were around the $16 mark, so I decided to skip and get my vegetable fix at home.
I did choose something light for the entree though, because the clay pot dish would be quite heavy. For the price, you get a very decent amount of tofu. The skin is crispy and the innards are soft, but the sauce cascading down from the tofu is not sweet and sour, it’s actually a sweet chili sauce. I didn’t really mind, but it just feels odd when your mind was expecting one thing and you get something else instead. This dish was nice, I loved the contrasts in texture, but it was a tad dry and missing something. This may be due to the fact that my paternal grandma, makes an unbeatable version of this dish. I miss her, her cooking and watching cooking shows with her.
If you’d allow me to digress, this particular dish means a lot to me and I will explain why. When I was around 6 years old, my grandma went to a restaurant for her high school reunion and had this dish for the first time. This was quite a new-school Chinese dish back then. As soon as she tasted this, she knew I would love it. I mean which child wouldn’t love the crispy outside and the soft velvety hot inside, all drenched in a sweet red sauce with a sour tang. So, when she got home she tried replicating this dish. From memory, it took her two tries to get it to the flavour she had tasted at the restaurant. Well, no surprises here, I loved it. To a 6 year old’s mind, this dish was now hers, because grandma “created” it for her and to this day I smugly feel that I have partial ownership of this dish.Now, she’s getting a bit old to cook and really, I wish nothing more than to cook for her and show her that I can cook for her now just like how she used to cook for me. For a number of family reasons, I can not visit her as often as I’d like when I’m back in China. Back to the dish at hand, it isn’t an easy dish to make, because the soft silken tofu can fall apart very easily in the wok and you won’t get the large, nice cubes. I think, part of the reason, my grandma’s version is better is due to the fact that she used an even softer tofu, so the contrast in texture was even more evident.
When I saw that the claypots were only $19 here, I was quite excited: imagining a claypot overfilled with slices of juicy pork, covered in a dark, salty sauce at $19 bargain. I guess that was too good to be true. When the claypot came to the table it was only about half full (you get what you pay for). This was a good dish to go with rice. It was salty and fishy, which is a taste I’m addicted to, but this dish was too salty. I would also prefer the pork belly to be sliced a little bit thicker, so I can feel the gelatinous texture bounce from my teeth. Overall, I didn’t like this dish much.
I fell in love with the decor at Red Silks; it was comfortable and intimate. I would just return again for the ambiance. Though, next time I think I will try the large variety of rice dishes on offer, which seemed to be better value for money.