Monday, November 14, 2011

Oriental Charcoal BBQ


A friend of mine has a trick of how to make her kids eat anything - chop it up small and stick a toothpick in it.  There's something about eating food off a tiny stick that kids just love.  It extends to adults too, I guess - satays, kebabs, devils on horseback and Dagwood Dogs!  Oriental Charcoal BBQ has just opened in Footscray, poised to capitalise on our love for meat on a stick.

bbq int

There's still some remnants of the old Vivid Star here like a forlorn star mobile hanging from the ceiling, but the space is now watched over by huge, festive red hangings featuring traditional motifs.


The range of BBQ choices is mouthwateringly vast - BBQ sausage, garfish and chicken heart.  Vegetarians can choose from lots of different vegies including two types of mushroom and mantou, Northern Chinese-style steamed bread.

Veggies combination

An interesting range of cold salad dishes are on offer.  The menu has pictures which is fantastic, as it can help you get a sense of a dish and try more interesting things.  This variation on the classic cucumber salad included cucumber, boiled peanuts and tofu skin in a sweet, chilli hot, vinegar dressing.  It was quite good but I think I prefer the classic cucumber-only dish.

Platycodon salad

We chatted to the owner about this intriguing vegetable.  He said it was a type of root and that he got "platycodon" from the Oxford dictionary.  Investigating further I believe it is also known as Chinese bellflower root or in Korean as doraji.  It was traditionally a foraged food, dug up in the fields and has a place in herbal lore as an anti-inflammatory used for coughs and colds.  It was delicious, the dressing thick, spicy and very tasty, reminiscent of Korean chilli paste.  The sesame seeds and coriander provided delicious angles for the hot flavours to bounce off.

Lamb skewer, $1.50

If you order one or two BBQ items, be aware that they come out one by one.  I couldn't help but thinking they looked like surgical specimens on their silver tray lined with plastic!  The lamb was great, juicy and smoky and the cumin flavour was actually quite mild.  A table nearby were literally ordering these by the two dozen.

Enoki mushrooms, $2

Pleasantly stringy enoki mushrooms, threaded and lightly dusted with cumin - yummy.

Squid, $2.50 and "green beans", $2

Tender and tasty squid and seasoned, crunchy snow peas were also delicious.

BBQ chicken bone, $5

The menu read, "Charcoal BBQ chicken bone is the most popular BBQ food in Northern China.  For those like traditional Chinese BBQ food and drink beers, this is absolutely a good choice".  Sounds like my kind of thing!  Unfortunately though, it's not a mistranslation - it literally is chicken bones!  I have no doubt this is traditional and well-loved but it took a lot of determination to prise off the tiny slivers of meat and suck all the sauce off.  Not one for this gweilo family (although Grandpa ate it all) but the skewer-hungry table ordered this and attacked it with gusto.  Unless you are hardcore, go for the "softbone with meat" on the same page which I think is boneless chicken.

Eggplants in Sichuan sauce, $10

I thought this might be spicy eggplant with a sticky, jammy sauce a la Dainty Sichuan but it was a more homestyle dish of silky fried eggplant and tasty slivers of pork.  It wasn't spicy at all but was soothing and comforting.  Although I think it is traditional to have this much oil, it wasn't my favourite part of the dish.

Boiling pork dumplings, $8/15 pieces

Unfortunately these were rather overcooked - the skins had lost that lovely al dente texture and had become mushy and gluggy.  Fried are the go for next time.

If you are curious about mainland Chinese food, Oriental Charcoal BBQ is a good place to start.  The skewers are yummy and a variety with some salads would make a great meal.  The menu is small and easy to navigate with a few braised dishes, noodles with helpful photos and various very traditional stir-fried dishes like beef with bitter melon or pork belly with pickled vegetables.  I would be interested to hear how you find it!

Oriental Charcoal BBQ
110 Hopkins Street, Footscray
Phone:  9687 0421

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  1. Crispy BBQ chicken bones? I am soooo there!

  2. Haven't tried this at Oriental Charcoal BBQ yet, but I suspect "softbone" is the same as what the Japanese call "nankotsu" (soft bone), namely chicken cartilage -- the T-shaped bit between the breast halves

  3. Ooh vivid star didn't last for long...! Love the literal chicken off cuts as a dish on menu. Looking at the bones, even mum and I may not want to nibble on those pieces. *gasp*

  4. Oh, bummer about the overripe dumplings. And those bones! I mean, I love meat on the bone (ie ribs) but that's a bit extreme for me I think :)

  5. I WENT HERE. it was uncooked and very poor quality.!!!! if you drive past there alot of the time its empty or there friends sitting in there makes it look busy...

    there is one on russell st in chinatown much better and you get one FREE..

    if you like eatting in a hair salon there come here.

    or go next door to sapa hills for quality.

    this is genuine do thats my 2 cents

  6. This place is GREAT! I went tonight with a friend - both of us have worked in Northern China. It's just like the food we used to eat on the border with North Korea. All absolutely delicious (although as Ms Baklover suggests the plastic wrap is kind of weird!). We had 12+ dishes and paid about $50 in total! Amazing. And it's BYO. Mo Vida, watch out for Chinese tapas!

    It was such a lovely family experience too - we were made so welcome - the grandparents, parents and 6-month-old grandchild were all there. Such a memorable night.

  7. Belated thanks James! I am not 100% familiar with this type of Chinese cuisine so great to hear that it gets the stamp of approval!

  8. I went there when the place first opened and they really did try to please, food was good and service was not bad.
    But I went there this week and everything has dropped. Food was under seasoned, service was really bad and menu was not correct. I had ordered Crispy Fried Chicken Wings, but instead I got a plate full of stir fried chicken wings. When I spoke to the manager about this, he said something in chinese to a coworker and took the plate without a word to me. He then brought back a plate of burnt (but fried) chicken spare ribs and said rudely to me "These are spareribs and they are more expensive than wings" then left before I could say anything to him. Service was non existent with the restaurant being absent of a waiter/waitress most of the time.
    Honestly, this place is not worth the try and I'm wondering how they are paying the rent!

    1. Ooh anon that doesn't augur well. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. It was really bad. My friends fried rice had frozen vegetables and what seemed to be devon. Bouncable devon...
    We complained and they were extremely rude and told him that he ordered the wrong thing.
    His was inedible and ours was very average.
    BBQ enoki mushrooms are ok though.
    I'll never go back.


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