63-65 Nelson Street, St Kilda East
03 9029 0170
- SouthSide Sawtooth
- Blanco Long Co
- Vietnamese Boudin Noir Tiger Roll, Pickles, Herbs
- Scallop Tartare, Tamarind, Shredded Pork Skin, Black Rice Cracker
- Rice Paper Roll, Jicama, Omlette, Herbs, Vermicelli Noodles
- Quail wrapped in Shiso, Pickled Pear & Radish Salad
- Sher Wagyu Skirt, Black Garlic, Bitter Leaves
- Herb Box, Banh Hoi, Spring Onion Oil
- Eggplant, Shitake, Black Vinegar, Spring Onion, Rice Cakes
- Bonito, Charred Avocado, Pomelo & Rice Powder
- Creme Brulee with Salted Caramel, Pear soaked in Ginger
- Chocolate Ganache with Sesame Caramel
The Vietnamese Tiger Rolls were the perfect starter. The roll itself was fresh, which allowed for a spongy inner enclosed by crunchy crust. The famous Vietnamese black pudding was made flawlessly with rich flavours and was complemented well by the pickles and the herbs. Flavour balance was spot on and wasn’t overpowered by sweetness of the sauces like so many other Vietnamese bread rolls.
The cocktails were another standout. The flavours were rather unique, like the espresso martini-esque “Blanco Long Co” which was infused with cocoa, and the Southside Sawtooth which tasted like an extraordinarily fresh Vietnamese salad. What a way to get a buzz! The Sawtooth was a rather smooth drink and I could’ve just drank that all day long. Some of the tastiest cocktails I’ve had honestly.
The Herb Box, combined with the various chilli and sauces, proved to be utterly unstoppable. The rice noodles that were formed into patty were very fine and soft without being mushy. Herbs were extremely fresh and aromatic. Combined with the fish sauce, which I am convinced actually contains more than just traditional fish sauce, I just couldn’t stop myself grabbing more!
The Quail was probably the highlight of the evening for me. The protein was so succulent and tender, cooked to perfection. Juices were literally dripping out with even bite. The shiso wrapping complemented the flavour of the quail incredibly well and provided a great variety of flavours and texture.
Fish is of course penguin’s favourite dish as usual, and the Bonito didn’t disappoint. Melted in your mouth. Half cooked, the fish had great flavour aided by great seasoning. This went incredibly well with the pomelo and the rice powder. The coarse charred outer of the bonito was contrasted well by the smoothness of the avocado.
Creme Brulee had a similar texture and consistency of a cross between an asian egg tart, jelly and a tad of crème brulé. It was overall very soft and smooth. Overall the flavour profile leaned towards an egg custard with some creme brulee sweetness within. This paired nicely though with the pear soaked in ginger and was a great mixture of sweet and tangy.
While the Scallop Tartare was pleasant overall, it definitely lacked balance in flavours. Even though the variation in texture was a real winner, the saltiness of the black rice cracker overpowered all else and rendered the scallop rather tasteless. The freshness and aroma of a quality, raw scallop was lost amongst all the ingredients and the only standout flavours were of the shredded pork and the salty cracker. Such a shame because this dish would’ve been one of my favourites if the flavours were balanced correctly.
The Rice Paper Rolls were fresh and filled to the brim with ingredients. Carrots and various herbs were extremely fresh and were complemented well by the sweet peanut sauce. Presentation-wise, this was a 10/10 and closely resembled an actual carrot. What a great novelty! Unfortunately this was let down by the rice paper roll itself, which was rather chewy.
The Eggplant was way too smokey. So much so that the eggplant flavours were completely lost. Thankfully, the fresh Shitake mushrooms retained much of their original flavour. Too bad there was no sauces in the dish as this rendered the unseasoned rice cakes bland and tasteless.
The Wagyu Skirt was a big disappointment. While the protein embodied a beautiful and bold beef flavour, it was incredibly chewy (with bits literally inedible and had to be thrown out) despite being cooked to medium-rare. The only saviour of the dish was the black garlic which proved to be potently delicious and aromatic.
The Ganache Chocolate was unfortunately not to my liking. The chocolate itself was rather dark and bitter without having a good depth in flavour. The bitterness hit pretty directly but unfortunately did not combine well with the seasame caramel strips. Oddly enough, this otherwise smooth chocolate had a powdery texture which firther threw me off the dish.
Overall an interesting experience of a range of modernised Vietnamese dishes and I am thankful to be invited to try their carefully-designed menu.
Ultimately, some dishes did worked really well (I’m eyeing you, cocktails and quail!). Others lacked finesse. And I’m sad to say that some indeed fell flat on its face and were just downright odd.
Would Penguin Eat Again?
Perhaps. I think given this early stage, Mototaxi certainly has some wrinkles to iron out, namely the flavour balance. I wouldn’t be adverse to trying the fod again in a few months to see if they’ve made improvements in terms of execution.
Those cocktails though, are absolutely delicious, and I will be back for those in a jiffy!