Saturday, March 7, 2009

Wholesome and healthy Friday night

I think I may have found a solution for the affliction I call scatterbrain. You know, when you've six million things on your mind and your attention skits from one to the next in milliseconds and you feel more like a whirring machine than human. Scatterbrain. And I'm not professing to know any effective long term fix for it. Hell, it's barely a short term fix.

It's beer. Like some magical potion, the first schooner slows down the scattered mind and also reduces the level of worry concerning said six million items. It's especially effective in th early evening time of Friday nights. And despite ongoing declarations and denials of a recession, the pub seemed to be doing alright considering there wasn't a spot to sit or stand in the two-levelled establishment. When times are bad, beer is good. When times are good, beer is good. One must then wonder why everything can't be recession-proofed simply by a spray of beer.

Curiousity got the better of me this Friday night as we ventured for a light meal in Chinatown at vegetarian institution Mother Chu's Vegetarian Kitchen. Think of it as a counterbalance to the couple of pub beverages with friends, politically known as bingeing.

Mother Chu's is an interesting little place which I often see packed with diners - who would have thought there were that many herbivores or curious carnivores? There's a few tables this night and the flow is quite constant for late dinner time.

It feels like a Chinese home dining room or kitchen; something about the laminate tables, perhaps, or the mismatched room decorations. They have these funky wavy and star-like hanging lights that wouldn't look out of place at an inner city suburb cafe or restaurant. They look a little out of place here.

It's a surprisingly extensive menu for a vegetarian restaurant, ranging from little snacky morsels to soups and hot pots and a venerable range of mains. It's not all that easy to make a choice, tossing up between tempeh and tofu, vegetarian 'meats' or actual vegetables. It helps that I'm eager to eat quickly so I quickly whittle down to a page or two and then an order or two.

Deciding between spring rolls or dim sims, I let my companion decide as you can't really go wrong with these, right? Well, that's debatable.

Steamed dim sims from Mother Chu's Vegetarian Kitchen, Pitt St, Haymarket

The dim sims come in steamed or fried options and my companion has opted for the healthier of the two. Three flattish egg pastry-wrapped dumplings arrive on an oval plastic plate that is endearingly, or not so, faded of most of its prior decorative glories. There's a garnish of sliced lettuce, red cabbage and carrot coils and a plum dipping sauce. There's also fork marks in the dims sims from either removal from steaming vessel or actual dim sim ventilation - I'm not sure and it's kind of dark in there, but I'm excited to try my first vegetarian dim sim.

The steamed pastry holds the filling well, but it's the filling that has me looking quizzical. It's mostly orange with couscous-like white-ish bits. I seem to remember the menu mentioning tofu, or maybe not. The grated orange part isn't sweet enough to be pumpkin or sweet potato so we decide it has to be carrot. The overall texture of the filling is a bit grainy but soft. It's rather devoid of a definitive flavour other than vegetables and would have been nicer with soy sauce that the sticky sweet plum sauce. Unfortunately it joins the hallowed shrine of dubious dumplings.

Fuzzy close up of dim sim filling

A few giggles later and very generous offerings for each to take the third dim sim (we end up sharing it), the main arrives with a serve of rice. This main looks and smells so good that I forget to snap a pic until we've already well and truly dug in.

Taiwanese style eggplant

It's a big dish of stir fried eggplant in a rich brown sauce, scattered with loads of fresh mint. I love eggplant in this sort of style as it takes on the perhaps not so healthy oil flavour in the pan. The mint is a great contrasting fresh flavour in a well rounded, soy based sauce. Vegetarian can certainly taste very good.

Our good deed done for the evening, it's about time to head home or maybe, just maybe, for a few more drinks over conversation at the pub down the road. Well, it is Friday night afterall.

Mother Chu's Vegetarian Kitchen on Urbanspoon


Betty said...

i've been here before but it wasnt too great me thinks
but you're right there is so many things oon the menu to choose from, so i might have picked a bad item!

come out to cabra & ill take ya to my fav vegetarian restaurant :)

Tina said...

Hi Betty - I might just take you up on that invitation next time I head to Cabra :)


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