27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne (map)
We were hungry, it was 9:30pm on a Friday night and with several vodka and tonics under our trenchcoat belts, CJ and I stood in the crowded city bar and acknowledged that dinner could go one of two ways. Either we traipse down to Camy Shanghai Dumpling House and fill up on cheap, cheap chili oil dumplings and more booze from Vintage Cellars (as is usually the case)... or we treat ourselves and dine somewhere just a little bit fabulous. Decisions, decisions!
We were both totally up for revisiting Gingerboy. I've been a fan of Teage Ezard's cooking ever since 2002 when, in brazen defiance of my impoverished student status, I shouted my then-boyfriend (who'd that very day handed in his PhD) and I a night at the Adelphi and the full degustation menu at ezard. So naturally I was thrilled when he (Ezard, not my ex) opened a second, less formal restaurant a few years later.
I've been to Gingerboy four or five times now and have always enjoyed it, though looking back over my comments after my first visit in November 2006 (on mellie's Gingerboy post on tummy rumbles - which was certainly pre-Melbourne Gastronome and I believe may have been the first time I (as mutemonkey) ever left a comment on a food blog - hopefully my writing is not still as long-winded and pompous as it was then!), I'd had some initial nitpicks.
But all was well on Friday night when CJ and I sauntered in at 9:45pm and nabbed the only empty table. The blaring hip hop mixed with nouveau reggae beats that so offended my delicate musical sensibilities in 2006 was now toned down and the staff were friendly and helpful. I love the constellations of pinprick lights scattered over the walls and ceiling, though the waiters must get sick of constantly knocking that fringed curtain as they serve the front tables.
I'd mumbled something about dumplings as we'd sat down, so we started with the steamed prawn and ginger dumplings with peanut chilli soy ($13 for three; at our enterprising waitress' suggestion, we'd only ordered two so as to have room to sample more small dishes). The dumplings were nice and all, but didn't really have a wow factor.
What DID have a wow factor was the crispy chilli salt cuttlefish with lemon and roasted sesame ($13). CJ had never had cuttlefish before and wasn't expecting it to be so exquisitely tender. The dusting of chilli salt together with the lemon juice was delightful. Although we were both somewhat the worse (or better) for alcohol, our appreciation of the food was by no means diminished.
I must be growing more tolerant (or pretentious) in my old age. In 2006 best-friend-K and I thought the wedge of lemon wrapped in muslin was completely wanky and pretentious, but I must admit that now I kind of love it... :)
And then it was time for my favourite dish, the son in law eggs with chilli jam and Asian herbs ($12 for three; again, we just got two). I know these particular ones aren't that pretty (and okay, they may even look a little like they have leprosy) but TRUST ME on this one. They're awesome. To eat them you simply MUST place the entire egg into your mouth and chomp down on that deep-fried goodness so that the still-runny warm yolk slides its way down your throat followed by a fabulous jumble of sweet-minty-spicy-piquant Thai flavours. The son in law eggs double as a sensational hangover cure, and a quick version of the recipe can be found at Totally Addicted to Taste.
The red duck leg curry with shallots, Thai basil and coconut cream ($33.50) was thick and rich, particularly when we matched it (perhaps foolishly) with the creamed coconut rice ($7.50). But CJ and I are both coconut maniacs, so we loved it. Much less showy than the other standouts, but still really really really good were the wok greens ($7.50), which had an intense smoky flavour and were very moreish.
Although it wasn't listed on the dessert menu, when we'd arrived I'd crossed my fingers in the hope that the Steamed Pandan Dumpling in Spiced Gula Syrup was still part of the dessert share plate. As it turned out, CJ and I couldn't possibly fit in anything else after the coconutathon so I never got to find out. But that's all the more reason to return again soon...