MFWF Gingerboy – Take the Experience Home

Gingerboy opened to much acclaim in October 2006, the second restaurant for Teage Ezard, who wanted to offer diners a modern interpretation of hawker style street food.  It has gone from strength to strength, and is now a stalwart in the Melbourne dining scene. Incredibly popular, it is a dining destination that offers spicy, sultry food in a colourful, fun and innovative setting.

Given my penchant for getting on board anything Teage Ezard is involved in, it was a bit of a no-brainer to attend Gingerboy’s event for the 2012 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival – “Take the Experience Home”.  Who could resist?  Eight courses, cocktails and a cookbook to take home– this could be the bargain of the festival.

I have to admit that I attended a previous MFWF event at Gingerboy a couple of years ago and was quite underwhelmed – which left me a tiny bit sceptical.  I actually left that lunch event hungry, and my friends and I had to do an emergency stop in  Chinatown on the way home and do a couple of rounds of yum cha to help fill us up!!  So, it was with some curiosity that I booked the event – which cost $140 per person. At the end of the day,  I rationalised that at least I would get the cookbook (retailing at $69.95) as well as some samples from the Gingerboy menu.  As it turns out, my scepticism was completely unfounded – this event was an absolutely, staggeringly brilliant evening of food, cocktails and frivolity – and I can confirm that I think it’s been the best value MFWF event for me so far!

And now, to the dinner… fortunately, I had 3 willing participants come along and share the “experience” with me. Recruited from my fabulous throng of foodie friends – iMac, gorgeous K, and her friend, K2 (who is fast becoming an integral  member of the foodie league) contributed their vim and vigour to a great evening out.

Gin no name 

You have to love an event where, the moment you walk in and are seated, you get a beautiful cocktail.  This one we’d already had a sample of at the Sibling Rivalry dinner at Ezard the previous week – and we were very happy to become reacquainted.  Hello!

 Son in law eggs with chilli jam and asian herbs

The first dish on the seven course menu was the son-in-law eggs.  This time iMac went the whole egg all at once (as recommended by the waiter), while I elected to cut dainty morsels and eat it that way.  I have to say, I enjoyed eating it much more when cutting it up than when I had popped the whole thing in my mouth last week.  iMac agreed, now having tried it both ways.  The slow and steady approach actually enables you to appreciate the different tastes and textures more. It is a beautiful dish – the soft boiled egg is deep fried, then served on a chilli jam which you roll the egg in. It’s a really gorgeous example of street food, tricked up just enough to make it a little more elegant.

 Wagyu and bamboo dumplings with cashew soy dressing

The quality of these dumplings were first rate – the meat was lean and tender inside, and there was no unnecessary ingredients – it was pure meat with a smattering of bamboo shoots.  Absolutely gorgeous – especially when dipped into the delicately spiced cashew sauce.  Does life get any better?  Definitely an “order again” dish!

Hot and sour thai beef salad with crispy fish 

The third dish was a gorgeous fresh salad of beef and fragrant thai herbs.  Scattered with pearls of salmon roe and crispy tiny morsels of fried fish – the dish really worked altogether and burst with classic hot, sweet, sour and salty flavours in the mouth. A perfectly balanced salad blend that was fresh and light, and where the meat was juicy and tender.

 Coconut battered prawns with yellow curry sauce

The fourth dish was dish of the night for me – coconut crusted prawns with yellow curry sauce.  These were large, fresh prawns battered and fried to a crunchy, golden hue.  The sauce was creamy and spicy and had a beautiful clean, sweet tone.  One of those dishes where you sit and think… I could order another serve of those!!

Whole fried baby snapper, roasted chilli lime dressing, young coconut salad 

The fifth dish was an impressive whole baby snapper – served with chilli lime dressing and another aromatic salad.  It was carved at the table, but only to a certain point – the remainder left for us to do and then serve ourselves.  I’m not sure why they only half carve it – my only thought was that maybe they’re trying to keep it informal and interactive, and not stray too far into traditional ‘silver service’ formality. However, given it’s a bit tricky for the lay person – I’d be much happier to get them to navigate the skeleton, and pull off all the flesh for me.  Nonetheless, it was  a great piece of fish – beautifully foiled by the accompanying salad and sauce, which helped to balance it out.

Sweet and sour bangalow pork belly with cherry tomato, coriander and peanut salad

The next course was another fresh, luscious salad – this time with gorgeous pieces of double cooked pork belly.  The dressing was a light chilli caramel. We must have liked it because we were lamenting that there just wasn’t enough of it. The dish probably could have been a bit more generous in terms of serve, but that’s about the only criticism I have. Again, the salad was fresh and lively, and you just can’t go wrong with bangalow pork… luscious.

 Red duck leg curry, shallots, thai basil and coconut cream

The red duck curry is probably considered to be one of the signature dishes at Gingerboy.  Many years ago, I was lured to my first visit there by promises of how good the duck curry was.  Good friend Coquettish K had already been, and loved it so much, she was looking another reason to go visit again – it was that good.  To this day, it still is a brilliant version of red duck curry – chunky duck pieces, on the bone, so the meat retains its sweetness.  The meat could probably have been a little moister, but this may just be a consequence of doing about 150 covers across the one evening.  Notwithstanding, the dish was really beautiful – again, it’s the sauces that Teage does so well – earthy, spicy, sweet, creamy – it’s the sort of stuff that makes you want to lick the plate, it’s that good.  Of course, we were very restrained and didn’t – but that may only be because the servings were so fantastically generous, we were starting to get quite full!

Accompanying all these savoury dishes – we did splurge quite a bit on the cocktails.  Hey… when in Rome!!  We loved each and everyone – from left to right:

1.  Thai Moon – Fire and Ice in a glass!!  This one was amazing – it packed a punch of thai flavours, and then had a slow afterburn (coriander, thai basil, ginger & lemongrass, gula malaka, house made chilli vodka, vanilla and ginger ale).

2.  Lustful Revenge – Warning: Incredibly quaffable!  This is like a grown up version of the raspberry and lemonade your dad used to buy you in the pub!  Delish (black currant, black raspberries, peach, roses, citrus and coconut).

3.  Geisha’s true love – a very sophisticated and gorgeous take on the cosmo (strawberries, lychee, apple, black raspberry, vodka).  Hello!

4.  Tom Khalada – Fabulous.  Amazing – loved it, loved it, loved it!! Like a creamy pina colada – only classier! (Double rum, coconut, pineapple, tomka syrup, spice).

I want to go back right now and have another fabulous cocktail – so good!  The cocktails are about $20 each, but they’re worth it.  These are classy cocktails, with extra special quality ingredients, made by people who care about their craft, and probably had a ball coming up with these concoctions!!

And then for the grand finale, we got our second included cocktail, the Falling Lotus Flip – which was a fabulous mixture of montenegro, dom benedictine, tuaca, grapefruit juice and whole egg!  This was served to accompany our dessert….

 Gingerby dessert share plate
L-R: Tofu vanilla cheesecake with lychee jelly and black sesame biscuit base
Freeze dried fruit salad
Cinnamon ice cream and banana fritter and candied water chestnut
Choc chilli coconut spice parfait

…. the final dish of the evening – the dessert share plate.  We started with the banana fritter and cinnamon icecream (in the middle) – I don’t usually like a banana fritter, but this was lovely and light and the accompanying ice-cream really complemented it by adding a sweet spicy element. The parfait was tackled next (far right) and was lusciously cold and creamy.  We didn’t really detect a lot of chilli in the chocolate chilli section – but it was still beautiful.  The freeze dried fruit salad was amazing (2nd from left) – such a textural surprise. Each piece was a perfect representation of the fruit in terms of flavour profile – just more intense. The texture was amazing – crunchy and aerated. I’m struggling to think of a simile – it was like a cheezel in texture, but sweet, and obviously without all the powdered flavouring. It’s such a pedestrian analogy – but it’s difficult to think of something that doesn’t detract from how good it was. It was a really intriguing element on the dessert platter.

And last, but definitely not least – the best dessert on the plate – the tofu cheesecake (on far left)!  So gorgeous, it was everything you love in a cheesecake – creamy and luscious, with a sesame speckled biscuit base. I think I might have to go back just for the cheesecake… oh and maybe those prawns… and while I’m there, the duck curry would have to be a winner… oh sorry… I got distracted…

Overall, this was a fantastic night – one that made me ask myself why I’d left it so long since I’d visited Gingerboy.  It’s now on the list – and sooner rather than later.  The food is sublime, the cocktails were ridiculous, and the ambience was amazing. Service was friendly and professional, and the restaurant itself has such a great vibe and atmosphere – it’s hard not to relax and soak up the whole experience.  All this, and a great cookbook to take home with me.  I don’t know how diligent I’ll be at trying to recreate the experience at home… given the restaurant is so handy – but I’ll love looking through the recipes and reliving such a fabulous night.

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