Master Shifu, GO6 47-57 Tom Roberts Parade, Point Cook. Phone: 9395 3888
When it comes to choosing eateries to frequent, everyone judges books by their covers.
Unless, of course, there are other factors influencing the decision-making process – things such as recommendations, word of mouth and reviews.
But choosing a place at which to eat on a casual basis?
There’s myriad factors that come into play as we stand outside this or that restaurant, all of them feeding into split-second and intuition-laden decisions.
Is the place clean, or are there leftovers dishes and food on a table – or more than one table?
Is there a menu in the window for perusal?
Are there staff nearby to welcome incoming customers?
Are there any customers at all?
Are the windows clean or grubby?
These and many more are part of the process.
For these sorts of reasons, and perhaps unfairly, we’ve come to think of Point Cook as rather an arid wasteland when it come to persuing our cheap eats jollies.
This is largely based on extensive window-shopping on several occasions at Point Cook Town Centre.
Nothing has ever jumped out at us, and what seem like rather hefty prices have regularly seen us looking further afield.
So I was rather entranced when I got into a foodiness conversation with one of the blokes who came to install our pay TV set-up in our new abode.
He told me he was a Point Cook resident, had a background in the hospitality business (as did his daughter) and was quite conversant with eating out across a wide swathe of the west and eating styles and genres.
When we canvassed Point Cook itself, I was in the process of rolling my eyes – as if to say, “Basket case!” – when my new friend said: “Yes, but …”
He went on to extoll the virtues of a Chinese place, a little ways removed from Point Cook Town Centre, that makes it own dumplings.
Dumplings? Point Cook!
And so it is that we’re on the prowl in Point Cook with more optimism than has previously been the case.
After parking at the compact shopping and food precinct at the corner of Boardwalk Boulevard and Tom Roberts Parade, we have a wander around and are surprised by what we find.
There’s those kinds of places you’d expect – pizza and fish-and-chip joints, bakery, charcoal chicken shop and so on.
But we also happily spy an Indian place, a nondescript noodle shop that offers a kimchi noodle dish and what just may be a grouse Malaysian-style curry, a Turkish eatery and the dumpling outfit that has been the destination of our journey.
But there’s also a Japanese emporium.
We literally toss a coin – one of the 10 cent variety, to be specific.
Heads it is, so Japanese for lunch for us today.
The dumplings will have to wait for another day.
Master Shifu is a big and roomy restaurant located in the ground floor of a rather ugly, angular modern building.
As we amble in, a few tables are being utilised and we are quickly greeted by a staff member who continues to take pretty good care of us for the duration of our visit.
Well, yes, there are sushi rolls at the counter.
And on the menu there’s tempura, bentos, teriyaki, don rice dishes and Japanese-style curry.
But there’s other items that set Master Shifu apart from and above typical expectations for such a place.
Gyu tan – ox tongue marinated in red wine and tossed in chilli in spring onion, and listed as both an entree and rice bowl offering – is not an unusual dish, but it’s not that common, either.
Unfortunately, our bid to try it one way or the other is thwarted by its temporary unavailability.
On the specials list there’s more dishes to intrigue: Gyoza ramen, ginseng ramen and cha soba – “Cool green tea soba noodle with chef’s special sauce and raw eggs”.
A shared bowl of miso soup is nicely priced at $2.50 but is rather undistinguished.
The seaweed salad ($4) is better, looking luminously green in the direct sunlight in which we are sitting. The seaweed is generously dressed and sits on a small bed of mixed greens.
From the specials list, I choose Cool Noodle (top photo) – “Seaweed, squid, Japanese pickle, boiled egg, cucumber and noodle in cold home made stock”.
We’ve never see a Japanese dish such as this!
On a bed of cold, white squiggly noodles, the other protagonists are fresh as can be – with the exception (naturally) of the pickled/preserved and chewy squid.
The seaweed appears to be a no show, but in addition to the other promised ingredients there is a single, nice crumbed prawn.
The sauce, we are told, is made with soy sauce, sesame (perhaps something akin to tahini?) and peanuts. It’s good and smooth.
I toss the lot of it over my noodle dish and eat my lunch with chopsticks – but, oddly, it seems more like a pasta dish than a noodle one.
I’d loved to be able report that my cold noodle fare rocks my world – but it does not. I enjoy it, but would not order it again.
Put this down to personal preference – certainly, I am excited by being served such an unusual dish that is so fresh and wonderfully presented in such unexpected surrounds. Such augurs well for returns visits and the chance to try some of the other less familiar offerings.
Bennie opts for the more orthodox – pork tonkatsu don ($9.80.
It’s a doozy.
The crumbed pork is plentiful and delicious.
The egg/omelette is still runny and seeps into the rice, while the lightly cooked red onions slices provide texture.
At Urbanspoon, you’ll find a number of “diner reviews” for Master Shifu.
Some are from happy customers. Some, though, are from customers far less so, particularly in reference to service.
As noted above, we have been more than happy in that regard on what appears to quite a busy Anzac Day lunch time.
At Urbanspoon, too, is this comment:
“Rude people, fake japanese food! the restaurant is operated by a bunch of chinese.”
We’ve addressed the topic of authenticity before here at Consider The Sauce, but continue to find this sort of comment puzzling, idiotic and ugly.
Such views seem out of whack of how we all live in a multicultural society.
And while I don’t have facts and figures to back me up, I’m under the strong impression that Japanese eateries come in for more of this kind of stick than, say, those of Italian or Indian persuasions.
What such view seems to suggest is that we should have some sort of ethnic apartheid in our restaurants, both in the kitchens and front of house.
Or at least in our Japanese restaurants.
Um, no thanks!
After leaving Master Shifu, we stroll a few metres across the way to check out a cavernous Asian supermarket called Asian Supermarket.
To my thoroughly untutored eye, this place houses more Asian exotica of a marinated, canned, fermented, bottled, pickled and variously prepared nature than I have ever before seen in one place.
Bennie loves it, of course, so I indulge him with an Asian soft drink.
Labelled as involving basil seeds and honey, it looks fantastical.
But it tastes better than some of the outlandish things he has developed a yen for, though it tastes to me very much of lychees!
On the way back to the car, we also check out what I’m guessing is Melbourne’s biggest IGA.
As we wander about, I say to Bennie: “Other dads take their sons to the footy or a movie – I take you to supermarkets!”
After we’ve both cracked up, I continue: “And the funny thing is … I don’t think you even mind any more!”