China Red, Shop 6, 206 Bourke St, Melbourne. Phone: 9662 3688
The price of a movie adventure at your normal suburban screening seems preposterous to me.
I know not whether it’s pure gouging, high shopping centre rents, excessive licensing fees, a combination of all these factors, or some or none of them at all, but we tend to keep our movie outings down to one or two a year.
It helps, I guess, that we have pay TV and that Bennie is rapidly evolving into the same kind of book nut his dad has always been.
But we’re always on the lookout for a bargain movie experience.
Over the years, that has seen us pay many, many visits to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image at Federation Square.
We’ve seen bunches of obscure, exotic and bizarre cartoons there. We’ve seen all sorts of full-length movies. We’ve seen free previews of films soon to be released in to commercial cinemas.
It’s worth the journey and the usual $8 parking fee. And besides, with a little dutiful sleuthing it can and does provide a broader cinematic experience than the sometimes dreary parade of cookie-cutter CGI animation outings generally available.
So … a new Studio Ghibli flick for $6 each as an Easter weekend treat?
Oh, yes please!
Where not so long ago visits to the CBD to play – and eat – were once a frequent occurrence, these days they are rare indeed .
So we make sure we leave in plenty of time to grab our tickets and head to Chinatown for a feed.
We choose China Red pretty much at random – price is a factor, but so are speed and a desire for something sexy and spicy.
Before entering, we have no idea the place has been so widely blogged, reviewed and discussed.
Mind you, a lot of those comments centre on the novelty of the restaurant’s touch-screen ordering system. And a lot of them seem to reflect our experience of an acceptable meal that is nothing to really rave about.
The “background” spiel at the eatery’s website is practically useless is describing the joint’s food. It seems to be a mixture of northern Chinese dishes.
The touch-screen menu is long and we have fun choosing our meal.
Bennie has never done this before, but of course is already an expert.
The service is Chinatown efficient but not particularly friendly.
Fried calamari dusted with cumin powder (failed to find this on the online menu but I think it was about $7) is pretty good.
The calamari is just the right kind of chewy, not too oily and the seasoning is fine.
Bennie likes it a lot, but I’m less impressed. For the two of us, the serve seems a tad overbearing – less of it and smaller pieces would suit me better.
The Shanghai shao long bao ($11.80 for eight) are superb.
Not that we have a lot of experience with these famed dumplings – we’ve not tried some of the more famous examples around town.
But these are certainly superior to the ones we used to get at a certain Russell St establishment.
The pastry is lighter, the soup inside is hot without being scalding, the delicate but meaty filling has a whiff of ginger about it and every single dumpling is an exquisite flavour grenade.
We order China Red special hand-made noodles ($12.80, top photo) on the basis that it looks like a nice dish to share.
And so it is.
There’s two medium prawns in their shells, broccoli, enoki mushrooms, slices of beef and pork (with quite a lot of gristle involved) and the slurp-worthy noodles.
The soup broth is milky, quite sweet and made – we are told – from pork and chicken among other things.
I’m stoked to see Bennie knocking back fungus for the first time ever, but we are both bemused by our soup noodle dish – the dull whole seems considerably less than the sum of the perfectly fine parts.