Recently, it seems that I’ve had quite a bit of bad luck in regards to blogging. First, my cute, pink laptop broke down. Not a problem, I got myself a new one at a bargain price (but that’s another story). Then, because of my holiday placements in country Victoria, I couldn’t be home to receive my new laptop. When I finally did hold my lovely new laptop in my hands, the weather decided to be a pain. The ghastly Melbourne winds blew down the telephone line near my house, so it took a week for the telecom company to fix that, which resulted in no internet for a week. Anyway, back to what this post is about – U-Village.
I actually read about the opening of U-Village a few months back on sweetandsourfork and kept a mental note to check it out some time. So when my dad’s birthday rolled around, I decided to take him there. I was actually a little bit nervous taking dad out to dinner, because he was and still is the one that inspires and encourages me to explore the endless dimensions of the culinary world.
In front of him, I am truly an amateur. For as long as I can remember back into my childhood, my father was always a passionate foodie. He constantly samples and seeks out (sometimes, to extraordinary length) for the taste that he desires. He’s been known to drive for two hours in China, paying an accumulative freeway toll of 200rmb, all to buy a simple bowl of tripe that was 5rmb. Also, this was the same man who stubbornly refused to go into the warmth of his apartment on a negative 10 degree day in Northern China, just so he can eat breakfast from his favourite street vendor right outside his apartment. Why you ask? Well, I asked too. His answer was simply, “I just want to eat it as soon as the lady hands it to me”. We have cupboards stuffed full of recipe books at home and a fridge that can never seem to fit all the ingredients that dad wants to fit. He seem to never tire of the kitchen, spending hours on end, laboriously preparing old favourites and boldly experimenting with new inventions. After moving to Australia, metamorphosing from a home cook to working in the commercial kitchen wasn’t a task that could be completed without sacrifices. However, he never lost his love for food nor the kitchen. Some say, when your interest becomes your career, then eventually you will lose love for that interest and it would just become another job. After 15 years working in the food industry, successfully owning and operating two small eateries, the man still hasn’t that passion. Growing up with a dad that loves food this much, how could I possibly not be a food lover myself?
Fortunately, I need not have worried, because he ended up giving his thumbs up approval for U-Village. Phew! Happy birthday dad! Thank you for teaching me all you know about food. Thank you for showing me how to appreciate and value not only how food is prepared, but also the produce itself. Finally, thank you for giving me the gift of a passion that will last a lifetime.
We arrived at our booking expecting the restaurant to be full on a Saturday night, however the restaurant was completely empty save one couple. Our friendly waiter for the night, greeted us enthusiastically at the door and led us to our table. He explained to us the layout of the menu and the rough sizes of the dishes. I really appreciated his patience, because dad and I took a good half an hour being indecisive.
These little morsels from the tapas menu comes in twos, but we wanted an extra one and the waiter was happy to accommodate. You will have to forgive me, I can’t really remember how much the extra prawn cost us, but it wasn’t very much. We certainly started our meal off with a bang, each mouthful was nothing less than delightful. Dad and I were immediately impressed. The prawns themselves were bouncy and piping hot, coated in a crunchy batter, acting as a perfect vehicle for the lovely fusion between the sweet and spiciness of the sambal and the zing of the lime, I especially loved the simple, clean flavour of the perilla leaf; cleansing the mouth for more.
Now, I would have loved to have this salad with a son-in-law egg (it’s making me salivate just thinking about it), but dad likes his eggs cooked all the way through, so we had to trouble our lovely waiter once more, to ask if there was any alternatives. He was very informative and gave us the option of having it with some squid or poached chicken, explaining patiently why he thought those two would match well with the salad. In the end we ended up with poached chicken at no extra cost. Green paw paw/papaya salad is a must order for me when I see it on the menu. I simply love the fruit, green or ripe; the flavour and versatility of it fascinates me. U-Village’s version of this salad is spicy and tangy, though in my opinion not tangy enough. I find the chicken breast to be a nemesis of most restaurants, it is really hard to get right. U-village was close, but it was still too tough and stringy for my liking. Altogether, the salad was mediocre but it did serve as a great palate cleanser for our next two rich dishes.
I’ve heard wonderful things in blogosphere about their braised pork belly and indeed it was very good. Actually, it would probably have been the best if Red Spice Road haven’t permanently occupied that space in my heart. The pork was rich, gelatinous and tender, submerged in a wonderful vinegary caramel. My only tiny disappointment was that I couldn’t really taste the chilli, black pepper nor the cinnamon.
The soft shell crabs were crispy and moreish, most importantly they were properly drained. The rendang was rich, complex and spicy, just how I like it, but there simply wasn’t enough of it. As a result the dish got a little dry at the end. More sauce to go on my rice, please!
Dad and I had a lovely night at U-Village and the restaurant did fill up a little bit by the time we left. For me dining at U-Village was a very comfortable experience. The service was professional and warm, which I must say is a rarity at a lot of Asian eateries. The food on offer were a good blend of innovation and traditional. I do hope that business picks up for U-Village, because I certainly won’t hesitate to come back.