So last night we venture into town for dinner. Sheena's brother and sister Tony & Ishbel are in town from Scotland, and our friends Erica & Matt are also in town from... umm... Scotland.
A fruity cocktail at The Carlton to begin with (yes, dear readers, I know I said I'd never go there again) and then on to Chinatown for dinner. Let me be the first to admit - choosing Chinese Restaurants is not my specialty. I'm not such a big fan of Chinese cooking that I bother maintaining a list of my favourite Chinese Restaurants. Japanese? Sure - I absolutely love Japanese food. But the Chinese? Meh.
So we settle on "Famous Chinese Melbourne Restaurant" upstairs on the corner of Little Bourke and Exhibition Streets. Instant regret hits. Dirty carpet, harsh fluoro lights, bad (really bad) music, paper table cloths, doesn't look good at all. It was frequested by quite a few young Chinese student types, so I guess that's something of a good sign - but it did not fill me with great hope.
The "traditional meal" menu was left on the table and believe me it was an eye-opener. 'Pork Cheek Goo' and 'Maze of Duck Tongue', 'Spicy Jellyfish Salad', 'Shredded Tripe' and 'Beef Tendon Rare' amongst the quality offerings. The regular menu was of more standard fare, but the only thing that sttod out to me was the hot and spicy Chili and Pepper Deep Fried Crab. It was listed at 'market price', so I asked our (genuinely clueless) waitress what that was.
"$26.40 per pound."
Seeing as I don't even know what a pound is I vaguely nod and wave my hand in approval.
"Are you sure? It's VERY hot."
"Nothing I can't handle, honey."
So she brings out the crab. Alive and grey. Tied with string around its ample pincers this thing is enormous. We all either laugh or gasp in excitement/horror.
So it is brought out to the table a second time, this time brilliant and red and fried and no less huge. It is surrounded by an ocean of chili. Yes. It is very hot. Patiently I get through the most of it. Those bits I could get to were indeed awesome. Hot and tasty and fleshy and indulgent. Messy. Very messy. And with a bit of help from a couple of folks at the table I managed to eat almost all but a few legs of this monster of the deep.
So the bill comes. Everyone else has ordered pretty standard fare - Chicken and Black Bean; Pork with Mushroom, Beef with Fried Rice, Lamb with Cumin (delicious), and all around $20 each. But not my crab. Frikken thing cost a grand total of $80.40! I'm the poor student, and I'm having to whip out a lazy $100 for dinner? What an idiot.
At least for the laughs and the challenge and the notoriety I guess in a strange way it was worth it. But beware clueless Chinese waitresses with crab in hand. It'll give you quite a pinch!