T’relek

Being known as “the foodie” in amongst all your friends and acquaintances can sometimes become a bit of a chore. Most of the time it’s great fun, I love taking people to places that I enjoy and seeing how they react to them, but often times people will be expecting you to, one, always be the person to come up with suggestions for places to eat, and two, have intimate knowledge about every single restaurant, cafe and hole-in-the-wall across the city (I have a hard enough time remembering my own birthday let alone knowledge of that scope!). So it comes as a great relief to be invited out to venues that other people have chosen, and it’s an added bonus when it’s a place I know nothing about.

T’relek came as a suggestion from Lucy, who Amelia, Nik and I were taking out for a celebratory birthday dinner. It’s one of hundreds of Vietnamese places lining Victoria Street, and appears a little more upmarket and shinier than some of the others that I’ve frequented: the surfaces are all glossy and sleek, the light fittings bright and modish, and the entire windowed front of the restaurant can open out into the street, so even in hot weather it’s comfortable.

If you’re eating Vietnamese, you simply have to start with a serving of Vietnamese-style spring rolls, it is the law. I love how thin and long Vietnamese spring rolls are, and how you eat them by balancing them on a leaf of lettuce, loading it up with beanshoots and Vietnamese mint, rolling it up and then immersing it in dipping sauce. It is one of the most happily meditative food experiences that I know of.

After a bungle by the trainee waitress, who thought that we’d wanted to order rice paper rolls, we were presented with two plates of spring rolls, one vegetarian, one prawn. They were crispy and hot, with a minimally flavoured centre, although that doesn’t really matter when we were wrapping each roll up with fresh mint, beanshoots and carrot curls and then dunking them in chilli-flecked sauce. But there were a few hiccups. We did have to ask for more lettuce (we were originally only given two leaves, which for four people… yeah, not enough), and I am pretty much 99% certain that the dipping sauce contained fish sauce, which is a big fat screaming vegie no-no. I really should have asked for clarification before ordering, but I have become spoiled because this town is generally so good with vegie dishes. And really, if you list a dish as vegetarian, the ‘vege’ extends to the condiments! As for the prawn specimens, the overall verdict appeared positive, although Amelia opined that she’d had better spring rolls on Victoria Street (Amelia appears to have eaten at pretty much every restaurant of note along Victoria Street, so I’d heed her word).

For the main, I ordered the rice noodles with vegetables. The noodles were flat rice noodles (the kind used in char kway teow), with the vegetables consisting of snowpeas, carrots, beanshoots, two varieties of mushrooms, some dense yet tasty slabs of tofu and one single lonely green bean. It was an enjoyable enough dish, albeit simple, the rice noodles retaining that fabulous smoky taste from being wok fried, and the vegies were well-cooked and tasty. The one negative was that it was quite oily, which got a little unpleasant towards the very end.

As for the carnivores, they shared three dishes between them, a chicken and vegetable dish that looked slightly curry-ish, a beef and vegetables dish, and the salt and pepper squid. Amelia raved about the squid, and Nik rated both the squid and the beef as his favourite dishes. Lucy was a fan of the chicken, so all three dishes ended up striking someone’s fancy, which is a pretty boss strike-rate.

T’relek is a friendly place that seems to be doing it’s hardest to attract a more discerning clientele. It is sparkling clean and modish, and the service is very attentive; after our waitress’s initial bungle, the head waiter kept a close eye on us, made sure that everything was okay whenever something new was brought out, and was overall jovial. At the end of our meal we were given a free plate of orange slices to finish with, which is always a gesture I can’t help but feel is charming. Yet I can’t wholeheartedly recommend T’relek for the veggie folk, as I don’t feel at all confident that they are as terribly vigilant about keeping their vegetarian options as meat-free as they could be. Perhaps if you plan on visiting, prepare to be more interrogative about what’s in dishes than I was.

T’relek

166 Victoria Street, Richmond

Ph: 9427 1777

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