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Monday, October 8, 2012

Dandelion

Recently for a friend's surprise birthday dinner, we ventured out to Elwood to check out Geoff Lindsay's (of Pearl) take on Vietnamese cuisine. My parents lived in Ho Chi Minh City before relocating to Melbourne so I was fortunate enough to experience a mixture of both Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines whilst growing up. Having visited Vietnam last year for a short trip, I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed myself and how amazing the food was, not to mention ridiculously cheap - 10 cent Vietnamese iced coffees or 50 cent bowls of delicious, msg-free pho anyone? I'm not the biggest believer in Asian fusion cuisine but sometimes it does work, so I came here with no expectations, secretly hoping to be surprised. Dandelion is located in the leafy Elwood suburb in a very modern looking space with hints of an Asian theme. The small sauce bottles and the kumquats were a nice touch on the tables.



Dandelion offer noodle soup dishes, a large variety of dishes to share and also a few banquet menus if you don't want to deal with the expansive menu. We decided to choose a dish or two each and all share instead of going for the banquet menu.


The spanner crab was dressed in a sauce that tasted exactly like Thai green curry with a strong chilli kick. The crispy rice papers provided a crunchy texture to the dish and it was a nice dish, although I bit into a chilli and was choking for some time.

Crispy sesame and coconut rice papers with spanner crab dressed with coconut, chilli and lime ($16)

The tiger prawns were cooked well inside however crunchy exterior of green rice was tasteless so without dipping it into the nuoc cham, it was bland and boring.

Green rice fried tiger prawns, nuoc cham ($5 each)

We followed this up with rice paper rolls which when I saw the price I almost had a heart attack. I'm so used to having these for dinner on a weekly basis that I can't justify paying $16 upwards for a single roll - no matter what type of fancy ingredients it comprises of. We weren't a big fan of the salmon rolls and the granny smith apple was a strange addition.

Torched salmon, salmon caviar, heart of palm with shredded granny smith apple and yuzu soy ($16)

The soft shell crab rice paper rolls were nice and crunchy although Mrs T's magical sauce was nothing out of the ordinary.

Soft shell crab and avocado with Mrs T’s magical sauce ($21)

The elements were fresh and the deep fried lotus root was crispy but overall, it was quite boring. Taste-wise I didn't think much of this salad and left it for the others.

Lotus root, mustard sprout and banana blossom salad, sesame and hot mint ($19)

The fish curry was average and lacked any exciting flavours or spices. A small bowl of rice, a single bread roll and a dish of cucumbers, pineapple and mint leaves were served with the curry.

Mekong fish curry with coconut, young jackfruit, sweet potato ($33)


The best dish of the night was undoubtedly the pork belly claypot. It was tender and flaked apart with ease with a delicious layer of fat while the flavours were a combination of caramelised sugar and fish sauce. If you know what Thit Kho is, then this is basically a fancier version.

Claypot with pork belly cooked in young coconut juice, soft cooked duck egg, streamed green papaya ($34)

Considering that my friend had chosen this restaurant specifically for the BBQ pork spare ribs which had been nominated by The Age Good Food Guide 2012 as the dish of the year, we ordered two serves. We had blindly trusted that dish of the year would live up to its name. The ribs were tender and fell off the bone but where was the flavour? No hint of charred goodness, no sticky barbecue flavours - the dish underwhelmed us as did the salad of lychee and mint which seemed out of place. In the end, a plate of ribs were left over which we forced onto the guys to finish.

BBQ Pork spare ribs with a refreshing lychee and mint salad ($38)

The ribs were served with a small bowl of vermicelli noodles and a mix of salad leaves which I left as it was too much of a hassle to eat that way.


To end the night, we had a strawberry and berry tart from one of my favourite cake shops, Le Petit Gateau, which I had picked up earlier. Unfortunately, the biggest surprise of the night was finding out that there was a cakage charge of $5 per person. I understand that some restaurants feel they miss out on the patron's sampling their dessert menu if they bring a cake but paying $35 for the cake itself then paying another $35 for cakage made it cost $70 all up for a small cake - $10 per person for a slice of cake. I suppose I should have called and checked beforehand but next time we'll just be having cake at home, we just wanted to give the birthday girl some sparkles yo.

See how happy my friend is! ($35 cakage charge)

When we paid for the bill, a tray of ginger lollies were brought out. I grabbed one for funsies but never ate it. It's probably bopping around in my bag still.


Overall, the food was okay however with the price that we paid, we certainly didn't feel as if it was worth it. The modern take on the dishes were visually appealing but in taste, it wasn't memorable. However service was good as our waitress was helpful with suggestions or any questions we had. I'm sure there are a lot of people who have an appreciation for Asian fusion food and might like this place - but for me, my mother's cooking rocks and you just can't compare to home cooked food. I can admit that I am slightly judgemental/biased as I have been brought up on fabulous authentic Vietnamese food, but even if I didn't have my mother to rely on for good Vietnamese food, I would rather head to Springvale, Richmond or Footscray for cheap and cheerful meals. In the end, as long as you have the best company and lots of alcohol, mediocre food can easily be forgotten.

Food: 6.5/10
Service: 7.5/10
Value: 5/10
Will I return? No, I wasn't impressed and prices were steep.

Dandelion
133 Ormond Road
Elwood VIC 3184
(03) 9531 4900


Dandelion on Urbanspoon

21 thoughts:

  1. I know what you mean about not a firm believer of fusion food :) because i'm like that too... if i feel like Korean... I want authentic Korean food or when I want Vietnamese I want pho, banh mi and three colour drinks that's all authentic :P the real deal!

    Dishes here look great but agree that prices aren't exactly 'cheap' and wow $5 per person! Because I bake a lot of cakes for people, I always ring now, because some places will charge you and other places even say it's some stupid 'Health Safety' issue like I will poison my own guests LOL

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    1. Yes, I love authentic Asian food!! I guess I rarely bring cakes so I never think of calling ahead but will do so now. You're so talented with baking, I was actually thinking "I wish I could bake a cake like Daisy and bring it in instead but I know I'll fail" lol

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  2. Good to hear your thoughts on this one. We were staying down that way a few weeks ago and tried to get in here but couldn't get a table. Maybe that was a good thing...

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    1. I feel I am slightly biased because of my upbringing but I just think some cuisines are better left as they are. They were actually very busy that night too which I would have never suspected from the look of the area (quite desolate at the time).

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  3. lol love the look of those prawns, but yeah agree - i think the fact that they're trying to appeal to hipsters and trendy people, I much prefer unbastardised Vietnamese food from springy

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    1. It seems like we're always trying to modernise cuisines to make it more hip and trendy, even though the dirty looking, grungy restaurants always serve the best and authentic food :P

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  4. I think the people that love Dandelion are the people that have never eaten at Victoria St!

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    1. That could be the case! I find it hard to go past Victoria St and the like.. I've tried many fine dining Vietnamese restaurants in Melbourne and they've all been a disappointment to me.

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  5. I want to go to Dandelion but ahhh, Elwood is out of the way for me. I've never had fusion Vietnamese food but would love to give to give it a try - but not with my boyfriend's parents. They're true Vietnamese and are Viet food purists!

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    1. I've had fusion Vietnamese food in Hanoi and it was fabulous. Sweet corn soup with pan seared foie gras? Don't mind if I do! Of course it was 1/5 of the price here and in a grander setting too..

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    2. 1/5 of the price of this restaurant, I mean :)

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  6. We love our fusion food, but this place is most certainly one of those "award-winning" places where you wonder whether the food journalists had air in their brain or something similar when they were reviewing. There's a demand for specialist food journalists who specialise in a certain cuisine and know what they are talking about methinks.

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    1. Isn't it strange that all the food journalists seem to love this place but the general consensus (according to urbanspoon which is usually taken with a big grain of salt) is not so much in love with it? It would be good, like you say, for a specialist in that cuisine to review it, instead of people who love the bastardised versions.

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  7. Really shocked at the $35 cakage charge. Wow I dont mind people charging but $35?! Shame about those BBQ pork spare ribs looks a bit undercharred :(

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    1. Yeah I know, I understand the theory behind charging but it's just a bit much in my opinion! It's not like even the fancier restaurants charge that much for BYO wine, I don't think.. like $15 per bottle or something.

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  8. $21 for a rice paper roll?!! I wouldn't pay that much, even as a food blogger! If only we had cheap, good, delicious food like they do in asia :(

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    1. My fellow friends want them so no choice :( I'd rather make them at home, they're much tastier!! I know what you mean, I miss asia..

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  9. WOW!!!!! I've been wanting to visit Dandelion... but after reading this.. No thank you!
    So overpriced.. and what... totally agree with Ming - hell no I would not pay $21 for rice paper rolls!
    And... $35 for cakage! O_O Could totally have went and picked up that cake from Le Petite Gateau yourself! :(

    But.. the kumquat do look pretty I must say! hahaa

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    1. Tooo expensive. I wish I never wasted my money there :(

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  10. Hmm, I've been wanting to visit Dandelion for a while, mainly because one of my friends has said it is actually qutie good, despite the negative urbanspoon reviews. It seems to look like under seasoning is a bit of an issue here though...shame, the interior looks so lovely!

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    1. It really was nice inside the restaurant but I feel since I have been brought up with my mum's cooking, it just wasn't good enough. My sister visited Dandelion before me and warned me not to go, although she only had the pho there.

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Thanks for your comments!

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