Sunday, August 15, 2010

In Betweens

Critic Issue 20 - Food Column

The reality is that fantastic food places are rare and far in between, particularly in a small(ish) city like Dunedin. We are lucky enough to have a few restaurants that serve exceptionally good, sometimes even outstanding, food but the rest mostly just fall in the “not bad”, “okay” or the “sometimes some things are good” categories. These “in betweens” are essential to our gastronomic happiness. We need to be familiar with “not bads” and “okays” of the world to preserve an un-jaded palate and to be able to identify the “fantastics” when we encounter them.

This week’s column is a tribute to the “in between”. These are the dishes that I order most frequently when I dine at these establishments and I think they’re pretty good. At Thai Over (388 George St), I always order the ‘Vietnamese Fried Fish Steak’, which is battered fish fillets with stir fried tomatoes, red onion and mushrooms in a mild garlic, chilli and black pepper sauce, served on a hot plate. It is the tasty, mildly peppery sauce that coats the fish and mushrooms that does it for me, and I wish there was more of it so I wouldn’t have to rub my fish pieces on the bottom of the plate to soak up more sauce, but it’s still good. I also like the ‘Tom Yum’ and ‘Green Curry’ at Thai Over and the excellent, efficient service provided by a petite staff member who has now memorised my approximately fortnightly ‘Vietnamese Fried Fish Steak’ order.

At Korea House (450 George St), my favourites are the ‘Bibimbap’ or ‘Kimchi Pork’. I really enjoy the spiciness and the variety of textures and flavours that you get from the nine or ten different toppings that go on the ‘Bibimbap’. The ‘Kimchi Pork’ is just stir fried pork and kimchi, which doesn’t sound very fancy but is nice and tasty (and slightly spicy), if you like kimchi. As a general rule, the barbecue meat dishes are also good choices. Most of their mains come with nice little side dishes of kimchi, mung beans and cubed potatoes (I think). Instead of the cubed potatoes, they used to include a type of seaweed, which I quite liked, but alas, not anymore.

And finally, whenever I have a hankering for ‘Kimchi Fried Rice’, I go to Tokyo House (367 George St), where the dish is not overly dry and the kimchi and beef pieces are juicy and succulent. Tokyo House also serves relatively cheap, fresh sushi and decent teriyaki and curry dishes. The biggest (no pun intended) plus point for Tokyo House is that the meal portions are quite large and the prices are reasonable, which enhances its appeal for those of us with healthy appetites and limited budgets.

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