Red Spice Road
27 McKillop Street Melbourne, VIC 3000
Red Spice Road is one of Melbourne’s many offerings of South-East Asian fusion. It’s largely influenced by Thai cuisine, with predominant flavours of lime, ginger and chili, a combination that is difficult to balance, but delicious when executed well. K and I had heard good things about this restaurant and thought we’d drop by to try some of their dishes, including their famous pork belly.
Truth be told, I rarely eat Asian fusion – having grown up around traditional home-cooked Chinese food, I generally prefer the old-fashioned, non-frills, dirt-cheap and dodgy alleyway kind of Asian food. Nevertheless, I was curious and thought that the express banquet menu sounded like a good way to get a taste of the food for a reasonable price.
Without a doubt, the décor of the place was beautiful – rows of white lanterns floated above the tables, and in the middle was a magnificent red lantern centrepiece. Universal communal seating was an expected touch, but added a slight Asian street food atmosphere in an otherwise opulently decorated setting in which naked art pieces seemed to be the feature.
The entrée of minced chicken on betel leaf was a great flavour hit perfectly balanced in its sweet, sour and spice. The little leaves added a lovely crunch and just a hint of mint. A good start to the meal.
The main dishes were all served together with a generous portion of steamed jasmine rice, which was just slightly too wet for my tastes.
The fried sea bream was an instant hit – large pieces of fresh fish that had been just slightly fried to give a subtle crispiness on the outside. The addition of water chestnut, which I adore, made the dish for me, as did the generous kick of chili.
The braised goat shoulder in yellow curry was probably the weakest of the mains that we chose. Neither K nor I are big okra fans, and the occasional sliminess while eating the curry detracted from the otherwise creamy and complex flavours.
The pork belly, true to its reputation, was amazing. It was presented with the apple slaw on top of the pork belly, which was sitting in an amber chili caramel sauce. A side of black vinegar accompanied the dish, to be poured over upon serving. The combination was fantastic – intense sour and sweet cut through the crispy cubes of pork, which had been fried on all sides. The apple slaw was fresh and vibrant, the coriander and mint adding bursts of extra flavour.
The dessert finished off the meal on a sweet note. The marriage of tapioca with pandan and pineapple is a classic and the popcorn and praline added good texture.
Contrary to my expectations, it was a very enjoyable and delicious meal at Red Spice Road. The size and layout of the venue would be perfect for birthday parties and large groups and the service was very friendly. The serving sizes were spot-on for the express banquet, although I should say that the regular menu dishes are about double the size, which definitely justifies their price. There was a lot of flavour in all of the dishes, and I would definitely recommend a visit if you are looking to dip your toes into fusion food.