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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Easy Tiger

One of my dear friends turned 30 recently, and as part of the five-day celebration, a few of us went to dinner at Easy Tiger (96 Smith Street, Collingwood). I'd been once before and loved it - we'd had excellent waitstaff, sat out in the courtyard surrounded by funky fairy lights, and the same friend - who at that point had just discovered she was fructose-intolerant - had been impressively catered for. Considering it's an Asian restaurant (apparently highly influenced by the chef's experience in Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines), and that onion (high in fructose) features regularly in Asian foods, we were delighted that our waiter went to the lengths of marking on the menu which items were, or could be made, fructose-free.

So it was with high and gleeful expectations that we arrived for a birthday feast. My housemate and I landed first and were graciously seated street-side in ridiculously comfortable chairs, a bit low for my liking, in a rather squishy arrangement, the furniture being quite wide. We had a lovely view though, of passers-by, historic buildings along Smith Street, and the cool but quirky exterior of the restaurant.

When the others arrived, we were shown to our table indoors. It was actually a table shared with one other party, which did cause a bit of confusion later on when no one knew whose rice was whose! Otherwise it was no issue - they left us to our thing and we left them to theirs. But I wasn't a fan of the indoor part of the restaurant: it was quite echo-ey, and "didn't really flow", as my mother would say, in terms of the layout. Long tables fairly close together - obviously for maximum seating capacity - meant squishing past several other seated patrons just to get to the bathroom or front door. Hmmm.

Again, our waitress seemed lovely, and she was already aware of our fructose-related requirements since my friend had advised the restaurant at the time of booking. However, this time, no items were marked out on the menu for my friend (the waitress did run through them verbally - but rather quickly), and we were disappointed to learn that due to the fructose thing, the kitchen would be unable to prepare the banquet option for us in our 'early sitting' limited timeframe. Considering we had advised about the fructose thing in advance, that this was a special dinner for a special birthday, and that they had catered without issue for the same requirement before... I was a bit unimpressed. My friends and I often opt for the banquet option, if there is one - it requires less thinking, allows more time for chit-chat, and usually you are served a selection of the restaurant's best offerings. This time, having to choose our own dishes, we asked for advice from the waitress, which she seemed a bit unwilling to give (isn't that her job?!). Nevertheless, we eventually decided, and ordered loads of bubbles to keep our decision-making thirst quenched.

Despite all the menu hoo-ha, our entree was delicious - a soft-shell crab dish:

Unfortunately, we had to wait quite a while (I'm guessing around 40 minutes) until the mains were brought out. I would like to give the benefit of the doubt (busy night, understaffed...) but, again, in view of the fact we had arrived EARLY, given notice about the fructose thing, and were then told we wouldn't have time for the banquet option, I found the wait for the mains a bit ridiculous.

On the upside, the food was still as good as I remembered. I'm pretty sure we had the beef wagyu curry, a fish curry special, and a noodle dish (names gooooorn outta my brain, scusi):

The son-in-law eggs were fantastic, and a separate fructose-free one was also provided:

But, by far, the best bit was the desserts. We shared the amazing Chocolate and Pandanus Dumplings, Melon and Salted Coconut Cream, which made the Herald Sun's recent top 25 desserts in Melbourne, and a personal favourite of mine, the Coconut Jelly with Lychee and Fresh Mango. Both were creamy, delicate, fresh and sweet... friggin' amazeballs.

Chocolate & Pandanus Dumplings (the biggest green balls)

Coconut Jelly

I got a distant shot of the back courtyard for you - not a great one - but if you do visit Easy Tiger, try and sit out there: it's more spacious and molto pleasant.

I would definitely recommend Easy Tiger for at least one visit. I was disappointed this time compared to my first visit, but overall, the food is excellent, the service good, and on Sundays apparently the banquet option is offered cheaper than usual. Go.

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