Spicy Fish is a popular little Chinese restaurant in the heart of Melbourne’s Chinatown, located on 209, Little Bourke Street. It specialises in Shanghainese style cuisine, with some Sichuanese spicy dishes. This restaurant has been opened for a few years and have a good following of returned customers. I have been there a couple of times in previous years. The name “spicy” is a bit misleading as not all the dishes are spicy. There is a good selection of braised dishes and dumplings.
It was late. About 8:30 pm by the time I have decided to leave my hotel in search of food. I was so exhausted after an entire day walking around, catching Tram looking for an ideal apartment to live in the next few months. It was not easy to find a good agent who is professional and helpful. My first impression, after meeting a few agents and went into a couple of real estate office was they were too busy. There are lots of people looking for apartment to rent in Melbourne. I guess daily, Melbourne must have hundreds of people moving there to live. Now, I am one of them in their statistic. Anyway, see how I feel. I may write a brief post on my experience looking for a place to rent in Melbourne. I side track a bit here.
Getting back to my search for a place to eat. In Hobart, my partner and I tend to eat early like anywhere between 6 pm and 7 pm. But, since I arrived in Melbourne, I have been eating around 8:30 pm – 9:00 pm. Guess that is life in a big city. So many people and still busy at that time. I was hoping to eat at “Colourful Yunnan” – a Yunnanese restaurant that I stumbled upon on my last visit, which I had previously written a post. It was a very cold, windy with a slight drizzles night. So a nice hot and spicy food will be good to warm me up. I took the Tram almost directly outside my hotel, The Alto Hotel. Stopped at Elizabeth Street junction. Then walked towards Little Flinder Street. Found the restaurant again. But it was shut to my dismay! There was a small post on the front door – “Closed. Re open on — September” “Closed for Family Issues” I mean if you are closed for a period of time, would you really put in the note that said, “for family issues”? That is a bit strange. Maybe they intend to write something else, but the translation from Chinese to English just doesn’t sound right. Ha ha.
I was quite desperate by that time. Very hungry, cold and wet. I decided to walk up to Chinatown. The first thing that came to my mind was “Spicy Fish”. I have always wanted to go back there and try the food again. I was not disappointed. It was busy as usual. But, I stayed away from the extremely spicy dishes. Instead, I chose a braised fresh tofu with century eggs, a salt and pepper squid, and smoked tea eels with a type of Chinese mushroom (not sure of English name). I know I have over ordered, but I am allowed to doggy bag the leftover. The bill came to slightly under $50, including a pot of Chinese tea.
First came the fresh tofu. As I expected. The tofu was soft and delicate, dressed in light soy sauce and sesame oil. It was a refreshing cold appetizer, and also healthy. The small finely diced century eggs had a jelly like texture and went well with the soft tofu and a bit of rice. If you have never tried century egg before, this dish is a good start. The egg does not have the typical strong sulphur and ammonia smell and after taste to the palate. Century egg is a Chinese delicacy and require a long process of preserving the eggs (most common used chicken and duck eggs, but quail eggs too) for several weeks and even months in a mixture of clay, ash, lime, salt and rice hulls.
Next came the salt and pepper squid. I have tasted better. But, this was still okay. It was an entree size. The crumbed was not crispy enough, and probably a bit too thick. The squid flesh was tender and fresh. I especially enjoyed munching the little fried garnishes of dried shallots, garlic, chilies and spring onions with lots of saltiness in it. Quite addictive.
The final third dish arrived a minute after the squid. I have asked all dishes to come about the same time. When this final dish arrived, I gasped and knew I won’t be able to finish it. There were not much eel meat in this dish, but a lot of Chinese mushroom (with long woody stalk and small mushroom flesh on the tip). Anyone know the name? This dish was alright for me. I guess eel does not have much flavour. The mushrooms were chewy. The dish had a strong flavour, probably from the mushrooms and smoked tea.
Spicy Fish is worth the visit if you are looking for a reasonable priced good Shanghainese food in Melbourne’s Chinatown. The service was fast and attentive.
The funny thing was that halfway through my meal, someone called out to me, “Hi Mr Khoo!” “How was your day…” “…looking for an apartment?” “Any luck?” It was Lauren from The Alto Hotel. She is so lovely and helpful during my stay at the hotel. Bumping into someone that I know is not something I expected to find in Melbourne. It is like a million in one chance. But, in Hobart, yes which I have bumped into people I know many times.