Northcote, VIC 3070
Ph: 9482 7882
I was invited to try out Taxiboat, an Asian restaurant out in Northcote. I asked my new chef friends from Steer to come along and help me sample the food. We all had a bit of trouble finding Taxiboat, but I can now inform you that it's on High Street near the Hoddle Street end.
When I first walked into the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised. I can't say that I think much of the decor in most Chinese restaurants, usually consisting of neutral coloured walls of pink or peach, hideous wall hangings and statues, and specials plastered all over the wall. However, Taxiboat had a very nice sophisticated look, with a striking red top lit sign drawing you in. A table at the front with a large vase of flowers really worked for me. It acted as an initial focal point and actually broke up the space really well. Tables in the middle row of restaurants usually feel quite isolated, like you're on an island, but this table of flowers helped to break up the space, giving a level of privacy to all tables, especially the back middle table.
I convinced (ok I bullied) everyone into sharing dishes and letting me order. We started off with some entrees to share. I love the fact that you can get dim sums at night. It was fantastic. Why don't more restaurants do that, who says you have to eat dim sum during the day time. There was a selection of 5 dim sums to choose from. I ordered the Prawn dim sum, which were delicious. The San Choi Bao was also really good, with the tasty mince and sauce going well with the crispy lettuce. Surprisingly, the Spring Rolls were also really good, with a good mix of mushrooms, vegetables and meat.
The menu at Taxiboat is rather confusing, offering a mixture of Asian cuisines, from Thai, to Chinese, to Japanese, to Singaporean. I'm ok with this but some diners may not like this, preferring to choose from one particular cuisine. For mains, we therefore chose a mishmash of items. The Pad Thai that we tried was very good, with the noodles cooked well and not mushy, accompanied by good piquant and sweet sauce.
The Salt and Pepper Calamari was nice, although I think it needed more kick of chilli and the batter could have been lighter. A battered salt and pepper calamari is really really hard to get right, and you lose the flavour of the calamari. I tend to prefer the calamari coated in just a thin layer of flour and then tossed in the salt and pepper. The Red Curry Duck was a definitely winner. The flavours were really good, with good tasty pieces of duck and fruit. I'm unsure why I ordered the Cantonese Beef, as it's never good and I always hope that it will be. Unfortunately, I have to report that it was not good here. The sauce was far too sweet, although the meat was nice and soft. Lastly, the Rockling with Sake Sauce sounded better on paper than the final product. The sauce supposedly contained soy, mirin, sake and lemongrass, but I didn't taste any of that complexity. Instead, it was quite a sticky sweet sauce that overpowered the fish. I didn't think the bok choi added much to this dish either.
For desserts, there was only two options, Lemon Tart and Sticky Date Pudding. I didn't expect either of those items, thinking there was going to be friend banana fritters and ice cream. However, I should have known looking at the eclectic menu. Both the lemon tart and sticky date pudding were good. The tart shell looked quite thick but wasn't too bad, with the lemon filling also being a good lemon flavour. The sticky date was moist (which is the way I like it) with a good caramelised butterscotch sauce.
The ambiance in the restaurant was enjoyable. It wasn't overly noisy, but still retained a nice atmosphere. I usually hate dark restaurants, but the table that I was at (near the front window) was good. The light from the street and the cinema opposite made our table quite well lit while still surrounded by darker spaces. It was like spot lights but more diffuse. The tables are set up with decent spacing so that you can carry a conversation without eavesdropping on the next table. There is actually two spaces in the restaurant, the front area and the back room. Personally, sitting at the front space feels like you're in with the A-crowd while the back space feels like the B-crowd space, but that's my personal preference.
The service was friendly, but a little unsure. The waiters would ask us whether they should do this or that, rather than just doing it. It's not a big issue but it does tend to intrude in on the conversations, since everyone would need to stop chatting and respond to the waiter. Else the waiters covered the room well and generally did a good job in serving food and clearing up tables.
Overall, there were good elements and some that could use some refinement. I loved the entrees the most, with the option to order dim sum at night really appealing to me. There was enough good food items at reasonable prices that I would recommend going to try it out for yourself. The sophisticated space is ideal for a catchup with a small group of friends, allowing you to talk without shouting over the whole room.
Overall Rating: 14/20, A nice space with some good food, especially the choice of ordering dim sum at night.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.
My guests and I dined courtesy of Taxiboat.