Vanilla Orchid

As you have probably noticed from this blog, I gallivant all across Melbourne to sample foodie goodness but very rarely seem to discover exciting vittles around my own backyard of the outer eastern suburbs. That’s why it’s such a delight to be able to report of a good place out this way, if only because personally it’s such a relief to only have to drive five minutes for good food instead of the usual thirty.

The Blintz household all toddled off for a mid-week dinner at Vanilla Orchid, a Thai restaurant situated on Warrandyte’s main street, facing the Yarra River. It’s a spacious room decked out in a tasteful selection of the standard Thai restaurant paraphernalia, as well as having the brightest, poke-your-eye-out shade of yellow tablecloths, that made me fair swoon with delight at their kitschy-ness.

I started with the vegetarian tom yum soup. Cauliflower, carrot, tomato, tofu, green beans, snow peas all floated together in a bright red, chilli-flecked broth. The vegetables were all nice and crisp, but for a chilli weenie like myself it was very, VERY warm! I got my dad to try it (he is much hardened to chilli, he puts it on everything) in order to get the opinion of the serious chilli connoisseur; he said it was “pleasantly warm” but that it would quite clearly kick on once you’d eaten enough of it. I ate as much as I could, because it tasted amazing, but had to sadly stop in fear that I would end up needing a fire engine delivered to my face.

For my main I had the flat rice noodles in a sweet soy sauce with tofu, beansprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, egg, green beans, and carrot. Very nice but also very filling! The dishes here are definitely best shared, I really struggled trying to finish this one on my own.

The vegetarian fried rice that was ordered for the whole table to share was refreshingly delish – full of vegies and tofu, the meat eaters that comprised the rest of the table didn’t find it lacking in the slightest.

I also stole some roti bread that sibling Megan had ordered to have with her satay sticks – dear LORD, was it amazing or what! Crisp and just slightly buttery, I will make any excuse to order it on my next visit.

Meat eaters, a tip: apparently the beef puffs are to die for. Seriously, the rest of my family raved about them for days.

Best of all, it’s a place that just abounds in friendliness. The staff are all smiles and highly welcoming, and exude an air of “We want you to be here and have a good time!” And you do end up having a good time, they wouldn’t allow it otherwise! So, good food, good experience, and I can finish up a meal and then be happily cosy back at home within five minutes. Nothing could be finer.

Vanilla Orchid

5-6/188 Yarra Street

Warrandyte

Ph: 9844 5778

http://www.vanillaorchid.com.au/

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Oriental Tea House

DUMPLINGS! That is quite often the ravaging cry to be heard emanating from the lips of myself and a good chunk of people I know on a fairly regular basis. Though I must admit I’m struggling a little to find a really great dumpling place within walking distance from my workplace (really wish Hu Tong at The Cullen wasn’t just that little bit too far away for my stumpy, lazy gams).

The best option within walking distance is Oriental Tea House. And yes, I’ll say straight off the bat that this isn’t explode-your-face off AMAZING yum cha, but it’s easy and fun, the space is great to sit in and the staff are unfailingly friendly, and there are some dishes that happily rock me whenever I go.

Last time Muffin and I visited after work we sampled the vegetarian banquet. With drinks, from what I recall it cost about $40, and some of the dishes were quite good. The san choi bao and vegie roll made for good starters; I was intrigued by the fact the vegie roll was a lot less like a spring roll, and instead had a wrapper made out of thin tofu.

The serve of dumplings came out in a  steamer with just two dumplings, one regular with the thin, see-through glutinous wrapper, the other was a buckwheat-skinned dumpling. The buckwheat one seemed more mushroomy, and its skin did seem to impart a distinctly different flavour, but otherwise both were quite satisfactory, loaded up with a mix of vegies. Also included in the steamer was a vegetable bun, which had a slight paucity of filling, and is recalled as being a bit disappointing.

The main dish came out on a  large plate, containing stir-fried vegetables, a spring onion pancake, steamed rice and the DIVINE salt and chilli tofu. I am wholeheartedly addicted to salt and chilli tofu, and Oriental Tea House plate up a damn good version. The spring onion cake wasn’t any great shakes (I’m enormously fond of spring onion cakes and ones I have a low opinion of can sometimes bring my whole meal down), but the vegies were good  and the tofu, HOLY HANNAH, totally boss as always (though you do get a much smaller portion of tofu in the banquet compared to just ordering the standard dish, which aggrieved me quite a bit).

Dessert: an eggy combo of custard bun and custard tart, which were both beautifully well done. Such lovely flaky pastry on the tart, and the custard in both was strong on flavour (nice natural flavour, none of that slightly powery commercial custard taste here) and both were smooth and creamy.

Being a tea house, we really couldn’t order anything else to accompany our meal. I went with the raspberry lime ice tea, which is my favourite out of all their interestingly flavoured iced teas, it’s terribly sweet (just how I like, well, mostly everything!) and the lime gives it a refreshing kick. Muffin ordered a lemongrass and ginger tea, which when it arrived engulfed our table in such a gorgeously delicious smell it made us food-swoon quite enthusiastically.

Oriental Tea House is a good little place to grab yourself a quick, pleasant dinner. Must admit that I probably wouldn’t go the option of the banquet again, just because it seemed a little light on content considering the price and I did go away with a little bit of hunger still grousing away inside me. But there are some really great, satisfying dishes on the menu as a whole that means I’ll be back to construct my own banquet… probably entirely composed of that amazing salt and chilli tofu.

Oriental Tea House

455 Chapel Street, South Yarra

Ph: 9826 0168

www.orientalteahouse.com.au

Note: Oriental Tea House also has two other locations, one in the city at 378 Little Collins Street, and another at Chadstone Shopping Centre. I haven’t been to these other locations, but figured I’d put them up in case South Yarra is not pleasing for you geographically.