Restaurant Reviews

Din Tai Fung

Criteria Rating Comments
Dumpling Crispiness 0/10 Man. They only serve steamed. Cannot emphasise enough how disappointing this was.
Cheapness of Beer ?/10 Forgot to check
Decor/Bathroom Cleanliness 5/10 White and wood, I think. No pictures of koi or Chinese landmarks so -5 points for that. I love tacky decorations and this place had none. Bathrooms were very clean though.
Quality of Conversation 8/10 Interesting but maybe a bit tense because I was being rude about this article which Matt liked.
Cringing Servility of Waitstaff/Probability That They Would Recognise A Regular 5/10 Not sure what I'm even looking for here - do I want them to be servile or not? Probably not. And the other bit: if I go somewhere all the time, do I want to be recognised/acknowledged as a regular? I think not but... the place I go quite often for banh mi during lunch: they recognise me and call me darling and I cherish their affection. At New Kum Den BBQ (AKA heaven on Earth) most of the staff recognise Meowgre and I and know our regular order, which I think I like. You would have to work incredibly hard to be recognised as a regular by Din Tai Fung - probably 4+ visits a day 7 days a week to really be recognised around that place. It's huge and frantic and everyone seems industrious and completely disinterested in interacting with customers in anything more than a mechanical 'I'm here to work' type way. I don't mind that vibe, but it makes it feel like the kind of place you can't linger.
Salacious Conversation Safe? 9/10 You could talk about just about anything here. The waitstaff don't hover and it's just loud enough so that the next table over can't hear your juicy gossip.
Music 3/10 Mostly couldn't hear anything over the misc. din of the restaurant except when we were leaving they played that song from Fast and Furious 7 (7 Fast, 7 Furious - WAY more furious this time like you would not believe. So furious that it actually takes away from some of the fastness because their hands are shaking so much they can't gun it the way they usually would)
Total 30/60 Final Remarks: I would go again! 50% seems low but my criteria are pretty bogus so I really wouldn't pay any attention to the scores. We had walked past this place before and I'd imagined some kind of dumpling wonderland - because I'm a fried-only kinda girl I was sort of disappointed by the dumplings. Going here at 7pm on a Saturday night meant that it was packed with a million people all trying to get laid and shove as many dumplings as possible down their throats like a pack of hungry pelicans (myself included). This is a place without much charm or personality - if you said that about a person it would be crushing, but for a food joint I guess it's just standard.

New Kum Den

Criteria Rating Comments
Dumpling Crispiness 7/10 Meowgre is an ardent supporter of NKD's fried dumplings but I gotta say, they don't do much for me. It's like they only fry one side, so there's a whole half of the dumpling which hasn't been fried and you're just left with clammy, lightly greased dumpling casing on that side. They're still good, but I wouldn't be in a hurry to eat 12 of them. I never made a criterion for this (because it doesn't apply to every Chinese restaurant I go to) but NKD does really great roast pork and duck. Meowgre never lets me order this because she thinks she doesn't like duck (impossible) but on the couple of times I've been here with Matt we've gotten a plate of the mixed meat including roast pork with crackling and oh man is it good.
Cheapness of Beer 8/10 Basically just standard prices (~$8 for a bottle). They do BYO wine here and only charge like $2 corkage per person so Meowgre and I usually just bring a bottle of wine. They never bring an ice bucket to keep our wine cool, but they take away the bottle lid assuming we'll finish the whole thing. They're not wrong but it still feels a bit presumptious. What's the protocol on carrying a half-drunk bottle of wine out of a BYO restaurant? Not a good look? Interesting that whoever worked out these words arranged it so that wine can be drunk and also get you drunk. Plus, this place is super close to Union Electric (possibly my favourite bar in Melbourne?) which is handy.
Decor/Bathroom Cleanliness 8/10 They have pictures of koi carp. They have pictures of cats sitting on sunsoaked steps (why does that seem so Asian? Cats sit on steps all over the world). They have pictures of red lanerns. They have heavy white cloth napkins. Soy sauce comes in a cute mini-teapot. The bathrooms are basically average: I don't fear for my life but don't wanna linger either.
Quality of Conversation 10/10 This is a general review based on my many visits to NKD rather than a review of a particular visit so it's a little hard to review the quality of conversation. Broadly though, I'd say the conversation is usually good. I never feel bored or awkward there - food comes fast which helps, but it's also a nice place to linger once you're done eating. Possibly interesting to note: I've never been here on a casual or bad or early date, the only people I've eaten with here are friends and family and just generally people I really like - this place is holy ground for me and I wouldn't want to bring some rando guy here and thereby taint its memory.
Cringing Servility of Waitstaff/Probability That They Would Recognise A Regular 10/10 I get treated like a princess here. There are a couple of waiters who recognise Meowgre and me and are super nice to us: we always order the same thing (I live and die for their beef and black bean with crispy noodles) but they still come over and listen attentively to our order and then knowingly smile and nod as we order the same damn thing as last time. If I ever come here with someone other than Meowgre they dial it back a bit so as not to embarrass me/reveal my status as a regular. It's the perfect arrangement.
Apparent Happiness of Sea Creatures in Tank 6/10 I swear these fish and crabs are always getting up to some crazy stuff. Every time I come in, there will be a fish jammed in the corner of tank staring stupidly at its own reflection, or all the crabs will be stacked up on top of each other, legs peddling uselessly. It's not upsetting or anything, it just makes them look stupid. One thing which is kind of weird but possibly interesting to note: when someone orders something out of the tanks, a guy will fish it out using a net, dump it in a white bucket filled with water and then, ominously, disappear out the front door of the restaurant into the alley. Where is he taking that fish? And in what state will it return? I have a dim thought that we maybe saw someone clubbing a fish to death in a particularly dark corner of the alley, but that seems so sinister (and unsanitary) I'm not sure it can be true so maybe I just dreamt it.
Music 9/10 Music here seems to vary wildly but as they've gradually done up the decor of the restaurant it does seem like they've begun to play some more traditional Chinese music (erhu heavy type songs) which really appeal to me and make me feel wistful. I think there's something about erhus which sounds a little bit reminiscent of Highland music so that may be why they effect me.
Total 58/70 I really thought the score here would be higher. I love this place and come here all the time. It might be my favourite place to eat in the city. Maybe there's some flaw in my criteria which needs to be recalibrated so as to better capture what it is I like about NKD. OR: maybe because NKD is my regular joint it's good that it doesn't have a perfect score since there are probably nice places I'll go to for special occassions which will be better than NKD and I need room in my scores to reflect that. It's still scored pretty high. If I'm being realistic, I know NKD is not the best restaurant I've ever been to but I still feel a twinge of guilt for not giving them a higher score. Anyway, I love it here. For ages, Meowgre and I would go here for dinner and it'd be deserted. 7pm on a Saturday and we'd be the only people in the restaurant. It was worrying because the food is so good and it feels like the business deserves to do well, but there was never anyone there and we weren't sure how long they'd last. I'm not sure what changed, but now when we go it is often filled with families sitting at the big round tables and putting away staggering quantities of dumplings. It's never been so busy that they've turned us away, but it's never empty anymore which is nice.

Naked for Satan

Criteria Rating Comments
Appetisingness of Appetisers 8/10 The way it works at Naked for Satan: there are lots of different appetisers/snacks in big dishes near the entrance - each appetiser has a toothpick in it. You take as many appetisers as you want/can fit on your plate and then pay $2 for each toothpick when you're done. The portions seem pretty generous: everything comes on a piece of nice bread - I had what I'm pretty sure was quiche on a piece of bread. All in all a pretty nice pairing. The ingredients, sauces, cheeses, etc. they use all seem tasty and of a good quality. Overall I'm pretty keen on this set up. Eat as much or as little as you like, etc.
Cheapness of Drinks 5/10 We actually didn't have a beer here but this is a fancy-ish place so I'd guess that pricing is average. Cocktails were $20 each which is pretty standard. I had a drink called the Corpse Bride which was tasty and came with two dark cherries as a snack.
Decor/Bathroom Cleanliness 7/10 Let me tell you, this place has some nice bathrooms: heavy doors, immaculate floors, soft lighting, spotless mirrors, fancy tiling. Super luxurious. The decor around the bar/restaurant is cool too: they've made a collage style wallpaper using pictures of 1950s pin ups. Very pleasing to the eye. They also have a glass box for the smokers to sit in, separate but equal style, which makes a nice feature as some kind of smoke machine art installation. My one criticism is that while they have some booths and couches, they're not sink-into-me-I'm-comfy type couches, more like those hard leather bench style sofas they have in the lobbies of cheap hotels (or so I imagine - I don't really go to hotels that often). The environment could be improved with cuddlier furniture.
Quality of Conversation 10/10 Sat in a dark corner and shit talked about Kendrick's two new tracks. All I ever wanted from a conversation.
Cringing Servility of Waitstaff/Probability That They Would Spot a Thief 7/10 You're basically left unsupervised in this place which I really like. The appetizers are all self-serve but unfortunately drinks are not (I feel like, were it not for those puritanical responsible service of alcohol laws, self serve bars - especially those with an all you can drink arrangement - would be a huge success). I'm sure Naked for Satan has some anti-theft stuff in place but it feels like it would be easy to dine and dash here (or hide tooth picks in your pocket and only pay for a fraction of what you ate) and that illusion really adds something to the atmosphere. (Just as a disclaimer it might be worth mentioning that I'm not a thief, I just like thinking about ways that I could get away with theft because I wanna be special and find holes in the system.)
Total 37/50 Turs out that a hybrid bar-restaurant works well (not really all that surprising). I definitely like it here - it's dimly lit, it's loud enough that you don't feel like people can overhear your conversation, but also you don't need to yell. We went on Saturday night and it was pretty busy - there was a huge queue inside of people waiting to take the lift up to the rooftop. Despite the crowds it was still pretty laid back. I imagine that going here on an off-night would be even better. What's also good about this place is that I feel like it would play well with a variety of audiences - for example, some of my fave places - like Spleen Bar are definitely not parent-friendly. I feel like I could take just about anyone here and they'd like it.