Crazy Wings, 177 Russell Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9663 6555
Brunetti, 214 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Phone: 9663 8085
Career has become a very relative term in our household.
Plain old work is probably a better way of putting it.
And, financial imperatives aside, lack of work presents its own joys, space and opportunities to further pursue what I now see as my “real career”, that being principally father and blogger.
Still, a work situation that has very suddenly gone to three and now four days a week is cause for relief and celebration; it’s a situation that could last for a month or maybe the rest of the year.
But it means the “real career” pursuits can continue.
It means a multi-hundreds electricity bill will not cause an anxiety meltdown.
It means the car will be serviced.
And, yes, it’s worthy of celebration.
Truth is, though, we wouldn’t be heading for this Friday night’s King Kong at the Regent had I not snagged a couple of very excellent but full-price stalls seats.
So off we go … heavy traffic negotiated with ease, $7 parking sorted, we have plenty of time to wander further into the CBD than we expected.
We pass many eating places as we amble without feeling inclined to rise to their various baits.
And then we’re in Russell Street and there it is, the famous – perhaps notorious is a better word – Crazy Wings.
It seems like a typical, busy low-price Chinatown joint except the air is headily perfumed with barbecue aromas, cumin to the fore.
We are pointed to a table and proceed to familiarise ourselves with the ordering process, which entails ticking off items on a long list resembling a yum cha sheet that is then taken for processing/cooking by the staff.
We play a straight bat to the many items of an exotic (for us) or weird nature, and studiously avoid the eponymous crazy wings.
And then the fun begins.
A double serve of the standard original taste wing ($2 per skewer) turns into a double double serve as it’s the Friday special, and we’re really happy about that.
They’re marvellous, tender and redolent with – yes – cumin.
Likewise for the lamb meat skewers ($1.50 each) … but then things start getting a little screwy.
Ox tongue ($2 each) has the sort of silky tenderness I’ve been expecting but there’s something almost, um, petrochemical about the seasoning.
As we move into our vegetable selections, including BBQ eggplant ($2.50, above), we are starting to weary some of the sameness in the seasonings.
And as with all our subsequent non-meat skewers – cucumber ($2.50), enoki mushrooms ($4.50) and even honey BBQ steamed bread $1.50) – there seems, to us, to be a disconnect between what’s threaded on the skewers and what’s been used for seasoning.
There doesn’t seem to be any cohesion and not much point. We’d prefer a salad.
The same holds true for chewy and enjoyable BBQ squid ($1.50).
Still we ARE having a ball.
We love the vibe.
We love the way the many orders are hustled by the staff from kitchen to tables not on platters but as fistfuls of smoking skewers. At the tables, they are placed on wooden trays and right on top of already discarded skewers.
As with every other table, our wooden tray starts to resemble a greasy, charred game of pickup sticks or a mini-bonfire in the making.
We’re having such a good time, we get a bit reckless and order more – including a serve of the crazy wings.
Whatever our issues or bemusement with our food up to this point, they are instantly rendered small fry, for this is where we part company with the Crazy Wings’ ethos completely and forever.
Bennie and I eat no more than the equivalent of a teaspoon each.
In more than three decades of eating spicy food, this is the hottest food I’ve ever tried – by a very, very wide margin.
And there’s no slow burn here – the heat is virtually instant, as is the unpleasant burning of lips and mouth.
Worse, the little we do eat is not just spicy but tastes plain bad – metallic, nasty, industrial.
Hard as we find it to figure, we suppose there may be people who may enjoy such ridiculously seasoned food.
But for us, there seems nothing macho or admirable about doing so.
It just seems a waste – of food, effort, money and appetite.
As well, I wonder about the health aspects of such insanity – for older and younger people in particular. Could there be allergy issues at play here as well?
Should we return to Crazy Wings, we’ll play it even straighter, stick with the plain meats and seafood, and maybe go for some of the handful of rice or noodle dishes.
So well organised are we that we have ample time for lovely, leisurely coffee, hot chocolate, pistachio biscotti and chocolate panzarotti at Brunetti’s in the city square.
The CBD branch seems to divide opinions just the way the Lygon Street HQ does, but we like it.
We feel relaxed and comfortable – and even warm on a cold night, thanks to the outdoor heaters.
And King Kong?
Well musical theatre is never going to be my fave thing, but there’s a brilliant light show, loud music, lots of dancing, generous nods to Broadway tradition … but not, to my mind, much by way of genuine emotion or soul.
Still, as Bennie’s first such experience, and as part of a swell boys’ night out in the CBD, it could hardly be bettered.