We've been making a good go of the Melbourne Writers Festival, starting out with a Book Club taping over in Elsternwick. It was a lot of fun, and a great excuse to revisit Ren Dao for a late dinner. They agreed to serve us after 9pm on a weeknight without a hint of annoyance, and a few more Book Clubbers trickled in after us to make it worth their while.
We did our best to be decisive, in spite of the seventy (!) items on offer, and our food was served in good time. The Assam Pedas ($23.90) was a little sour and a little spicy, with plenty of zucchini, carrot, capsicum and celery adding variety to some slightly homogeneous mock fish strips... and a canned pineapple ring on top. While we gladly polished off the lot, it didn't have quite the panache of their Kung Po Chicken.
Roti ($4) arrived too hot to handle and thicker around the edges than we prefer, but it was great for mopping up the Assam Pedas sauce.
The night's victor was the Hainanese Roasted Chicken Rice ($12.80). Michael was utterly enamoured of the thin and crispy bean curd skin 'chicken' strips, and the back-of-the-tongue heat of the chilli sauce took us both by surprise. The rice mound had a nice whiff of galangal about it, too.
While we finished up and paid the bill, our waiter shyly recommended a few of her favourites for next time (watch out, roast duck and coconut butter chicken!). It was a nice gesture that reflects the understated, welcoming atmosphere of Ren Dao and it had us looking forward to a future visit before we'd even finished this one.
Our first visit to Ren Dao is blogged here. It turned up on Veganise This! soon after but doesn't seem to have scored any recent blog attention.
275 Glenhuntly Rd, Elsternwick
menu: one, two
Accessibility: The restaurant's entry is quite flat and wide, tables inside are moderately spaced. We received full table service. The toilets are unisex but located up a narrow, bending staircase.