I am never a big fan of the whole ‘Asian-inspired’ or ‘pan-Asian’ type cuisine – not even when it’s drilled down to be ‘South East Asian-inspired’. Let’s face it, there is no such thing. But when the lovely fellow food bloggers Michele (of Iron Chef Shellie) and Kat (of Urban Cook’s Journal) asked whether I wanted to go along for a LOLWL (adies f eisure ho unch) session at St Ali’s (at the time) brand new noodle house in South Yarra and my mother-in-law offered to watch Mini Me for a few hours, I promptly said yes. No, I’m pretty sure I said hell yes!
In fact I might have been hummimg Free as a Bird walking down Yarra St.
We got there a bit early on a weekday and were the only people in the restaurant. Our waiter had rocked up to offer us drinks. The drink list, at the time, was limited to a very small selection of uninteresting Asian beers and a couple of wines.
The restaurant had a cool vibe with its simple decor and a very funky looking panda mascot (that I regret not having a picture of). Our waiter was friendly and service casual to reflect the style of this eatery.
(A part of the menu)
The menu at MoPho was divided into categories of soup noodles, wok noodles, salad noodles, curries and sides. Michele spoke of a sichuan pepper chicken wing dish that was featured on another blog that she had wanted to try. And who says no to chicken wings? Nobody, that’s who! We were all dead keen on the wings but unfortunately they weren’t available at lunch time.
(Glass noodle, grilled pork belly, Asian herbs, sweet fish sauce, tamarind and scud chillies – $15.50)
The three of us settled on three noodle dishes from each category of soup, wok and salad with each of us picking a dish of our choice. My choice was the salad noodle that was billed on the menu as ‘thin rice noodle, grilled pork belly, Asian herbs, sweet fish sauce, tamarind and scud chillies.’ I was slightly surprised that instead glass noodle salad had shown up. The dish reminded me strongly of the Thai glass noodle salad that I grew up but with a MoPho touch of Vietnamese influence with herbs and the Melbourne current love affair with pork belly – this was a dish that seemed most promising. Unfortunately, it was quite overdressed by fish sauce and we found the dish overpoweringly salty. Despite the fish sauce overload, I loved the combination of rich pork belly and a refreshingly light, herby glass noodle. The salad also contained scud chillies which provided a real bite for the chilli lover – just watch what you’re eating if you are not.
(Shreded chicken, spring onion, semsame seends, chilli oil, egg noodle – $15.50)
Our noodle from the ‘soup’ category was the ‘shreded chicken, spring onion, semsame seends, chilli oil, egg noodle‘ was uninteresting. It wasn’t bad. Nor was it poorly made. The soup lacked the chilli oil kick that I expected – the rest of the ingredients didn’t stand out to compensate that. It was just uninteresting. No more to be said about this dish.
(Hokkien noodle, slow roast BBQ pork, oyster mushrooms, broccoli stem, chilli and garlic – $17.00)
Michele had her heart set on the hokkien noodle stir-fry and that was our ‘wok noodle’ choice. I was never too keen on anything marked as ‘BBQ pork’ in a Chinese menu context because it usually involved horridly bastardised char siu roast pork so badly served up across many Chinese eateries here inAustralia. But this dish turned out to be our unanimous favourite. While the dish didn’t have the same interesting twist as the noodle salad, it was solid executed with well balanced flavours and texture. I loved the use of Chinese broccoli stems and oyster mushrooms to introduce different flavours & texture to the dish.
(Plate of pickles – $4.00)
At our waiter’s suggestion, we also ordered a plate of pickles, which comprised of the house pickled peach, ginger, okra and green soy beans. Kat and Michele found them to be interesting. I can’t pass judgement on this one as I really am not into pickles and normally wouldn’t go near them.
Overall though, the menu was interesting enough to keep me going back in hope that the execution of the dishes improved. Despite my early misgivings about its ‘South East Asian-inspired’ theme, I enjoyed our decent grub in a great space. Of course, the great company couldn’t be excluded either.
MoPho Noodle Bar
Address: 9 Yarra St., South Yarra VIC 3141
Phone: (03) 9827 0699
This time last year I ate at:Il Posto Nostro on Hardware Lane, CBD