So, we should have booked. But sometimes you’re just out with friends and wanna pop in somewhere to stuff your face, have some laughs and enjoy the night. And that’s what happened when we rocked up, unannounced, to Rice Queen. Clearly packed out, the host did his best to accommodate and we were seated within minutes. Little did I know we’d be leaving almost as quickly….but onto more interesting things for the moment.
The fit-out. Vibrant colours, great light and shade, lanterns hanging here and there, big gaudy paintings (one asks themselves, Why is there a portrait of Elvis handing on the walls? And one immediately responds, Clearly the Rice Queen needs her King), a packed bar, a DJ in the corner – it’s all the right mixture for good times. And we’re not alone, the place is jam-packed.
We’re totally pleased with the setting, so want to ensure we can enjoy it for as long as possible. So we flick the menu over a few times and the table of four agree to the Feed Me option, where we just “get fed” for a set price of $39 per head. And they were happy to cater to my singular vegetarian needs among three carnivores with the banquet, which was pretty cool, to say the least! We ask our server to please bring out the food slowly, as we don’t want to have it all pile up and be gone in a flash. I’m started to regret that we asked to do that, because it seemed it came out faster than any of us have ever witnessed in a restaurant — and it was all over too soon.
But let’s talk about the food. The carnivores got the KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) to start, which they all devoured like it was going out of style. Accompanied by a tangy sauce, each reported that this was a ‘must have again’ dish, as they licked the tips of their fingers afterwards. I had an odd little mushroom-salad-thing, which was tasty but didn’t really have much in the way of Asian flavours and it looked soooooo different to the bucket of KFC my cohorts were eating! It was like I was eating at a different restaurant in my little corner of the table for this one! ha!
Our next set of entrees were the Baby Bahn Mi sandwiches. Mine had a little slab of tofu amidst the crunchy pickled salad – it was okay. Nothing amazing happening between those buns for me, but at least this dish looked the part! 😉 The meat eaters were stoked because their Bahn Mi was stuffed with pulled pork and that crunchy slaw. They happily stuffed each little morsel into their faces – and thank goodness – because before we could hardly swallow these little suckers, the next round was being pushed onto the table.
Hoorah! This time visuals and flavours matched for me all around with the Tofu Dumplings. Just a shame there were only two on my plate!! Hubby bear and our friends said the flavours of the Pork & Prawn Dumplings were very tasty – and just as they were chewing – our next course was being added to our already packed table of plates, glasses and not-yet-finished dishes.
The stand out dish for the carnivores was the Salt & Pepper Squid with glass noodles, cucumber, and lime chili. It hit all the right buttons with savory, salty, sweet, sour – that little bit of crunchy texture, but softness as well. Highly recommended! My Papaya Salad was also great on the contrasting flavours with sweet, sour, salty and spicy mixing in with the green beans, cherry tomatos, peanuts and fresh herbs. I’d have this salad again any day of the week! And yes, you guessed it, before we had even made a decent dent in these salads, our mains, rice and bread were all dropped onto the table.
I had a nice, solid Yellow Turmeric Curry with and assortment of veggies like beans and potatos. Smooth and creamy, not too spicy, it was a nice contrast compared to the Papaya Salad. The rest of the table had a
Roasted Duck Leg Malay Red Curry, with sweet and sour mixed into the deep dark sauce, a heady curry and much loved by one of the party.
Overall, this place ticks the flavour, quality, value and atmosphere boxes with ease. But the one area of (severe) criticism I can’t ignore was the pace at which our food arrived at the table — clearly waaaaay too fast. To hardly be done eating one course and have the next shoved onto your table; leaving you with no other option but to stuff your face so you get to the next while it’s still hot….is just not good form.
I know we rocked up without a reservation. I know the host didn’t get my sense of humor. I know the place was busy. But to be in and out, on a banquet dinner, in about an hour or so – was very sad indeed. In saying all that though, I’d go back again in a heartbeat. But this time, with a reservation, and the good sense to ask the server to keep the next course off the table until we’re ready for it.
Address: 389 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Tip! If you want to meet up with some friends in a pumping vibrant atmosphere on a Friday or Saturday night, make sure you book a table, and if you’re up for some civilized embarrassment, book one of their karaoke rooms!