"OMG do you like crab?", "OMG I haven't had it in so long!"
"We should really eat crab", "Yesssssssssss"
Who knows how many times we've had this conversation - probably just as long as we've been pining for the damn things.
From a young age, we've both learnt to appreciate this armoured crustacean. We were taught that the proper to enjoy crab was to use your hands and teeth - no crab cracking tools in our households. The joy of savagely cracking through shell with nothing but your teeth, to us, is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.
Omah's in Hawthorn promised to deliver on those fond childhood memories and we fully intended on barging in and feasting on the meaty carcasses of many a fallen crab, making one hell of a glorious mess in the process.
It didn't quite eventuate like that but, with umbrellas in hand and our crossover winter-summery outfits donned, we got ourselves onto the slick roads of Melbourne over to our destination.
No 11. Rainy Day Monochrome.
A short tram ride down Glenferrie Road, Omah's unassuming dark exterior offered a warm and comforting refuge away from the bitingly cold elements outdoors.
We were greeted by a friendly waitress, who told us we had the run of the restaurant and could sit wherever we pleased. We poured over the menu, lingering on the first two pages of crab specials thinking this would be easiest choice ever! JoJo would choose the chili crab whilst LiLi hoed into the salted egg one. As we found out however, settling on a dish would not be so simple. This became more and more apparent as we continued flicking through, realising we weren't prepared for the enormous assortment of goods that would quickly dissolve our pre-planned decisions.
The one question to rule them all - "how messy do you want to get?" was the ultimate decider against Jo's distinctively white tee. Crab was thrown out the window (not literally) and would be enjoyed at a later date.
We did easily settle on a couple of drinks, but unfortunately we did not manage to take a note of either. Do have a look at their cocktail menu as they have some interesting and affordable beverages.
The menu boasts not only of delectable looking Malaysian seafood but also Nyonya style cooking and a number of modern adaptations. These other options had us twinning with overwhelming indecisiveness.
After much deliberation, we turned down crab for the following dishes:
Mixed Entree Platter ($13.80)
A selection of Lohbak, Chicken Satay, Curry Puff, Spring Roll and Silken Tofu.
Coconut Rice ($3 per person)
Roti Bread ($3.90)
Salted Egg Prawns ($26.80)
Prawns wok fried in a creamy salted egg yolk
Nyonya Fish ($25.80)
Steam fresh fish of the day, dressed in lemongrass, tamarind sauce and garnished with coriander
The mixed entree platter was a wise choice to start with - it provided a nice introduction to some of the most popular hawker dishes. On the plate, we have: spring rolls, chicken satay, curry puffs, loh bak, silken tofu along with satay and hoisin sauces to compliment.
Loh bak is a famous hokkien dish widely sold at Hawker stalls. Various vegetables and meats are ground - usually pork, prawn or fish (or all three) - seasoned with five spice powder and then wrapped in a bean curd skin. Omah's really nailed this: the meat was succulent and flavoursome, almost like fishballs, and the deep fried bean curd skin was excellently crispy.
Jo mentioned that you can't get curry puffs wrong and luckily for her, she wasn't disappointed. Here we have a curried potato filling encased in freshly made, buttery pastry; reminiscent of LiLi's mum's home made version.
We aren't particularly taken by tofu but we still gave it a shot. What makes this a little different is the use of vinegar. Without the tangy, sweet presence of the vinegar, this might have been a little plain.
We won't go into too much detail with the chicken satay and spring rolls - they're common mainstays in most Asian restaurants. The chicken was grilled very simply. The flavour needed to come from the accompanying satay sauce which had a nice thick, chunky consistency with roasted peanuts folded through. A good balance of sweet and savoury, working well with the side of roti Jo ordered.
As soon as Li saw salted egg prawns on the menu, she knew she had to have them. What an interesting find!
Salted Egg is a delicacy found throughout Asia; it can be eaten on it's own or enjoyed on the side as a condiment. Most commonly, the eggs go through a process of curing and then packed into salted charcoal. The egg white holds the sharp, salty taste whilst the yolk is richer, possessing a fattier quality.
What's noticeable about the salted egg prawns is it's bright yellow exterior. This was satisfyingly crunchy and big on eggyness.
The prawns were perfectly cooked and juicy, add the fragrant coconut rice and you're set!
This was a delightful experience considering salted egg is normally quite pungent - this is a good way to introduce the flavour to your palette.
As Li sat idly by whilst Jo flicked through the menu, still undecided, she secretly hoped that Jo would make the right choice and order the Nyonya Fish. Luckily for her, we share the same frequency.
What is a Nyonya? Nyonya cooking is the result of Chinese migrants who set roots in Singapore, Penang, Malacca and Indonesia. This marriage of cultures influenced the dishes produced from those regions, culminating in some seriously flavoursome food.
The first thing that hits you when in the presence of this dish, is the aroma of lemongrass fragrantly floating through the air, causing some serious salivation.
Tamarind is one of Jo's all time favourite flavours because of the surprise! element it adds to savoury dishes - sweet, sour and tart.
Whats's more was that the fish in the kitchen that day was Barramundi which worked so very well. Overall, the dish is sharp on the tongue with it's zesty and tart flavour profile, pitted against the natural sweetness of the meaty barramundi which just melts away in your mouth. A hearty feed for two with a side of rice or roti - take your pick: LiLi sure did.
I talk about salted eggs all the time. Every time I mentioned it to Jo, I am always encouraging her to try it as it's one of the best memories I have as a child. It's the perfect accompaniment to any Asian dish! Well in my eyes anyway.
Before I arrived, I was sold on any sort of crab. Didn't look at the menu prior and was convinced I wouldn't change my mind. Queue the Salted Egg Prawns. I was intrigued to see if Omah's could even pull it off to be honest. I was thinking they might destroy the concept but I really appreciated the dish once it arrived. It blew my expectations and was really filling despite it's small serving. I like that it was creamy and was a gentler take on the traditional salted egg.
My favourite starter was the Lohbak. It was a crisp, fresh treat and only winner when it came to good flavour. Everything else seemed quite average to me and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
Customer service was ok. I say ok because it took ages for anyone to take our order. At the time there was only 1 waitress and although not overly busy, had enough patrons to need more than 1 waitress. She was friendly enough and I appreciated that. In the end we paid our bill to another waiter who did tell us summer was the best time to eat crab as it was cheaper. Good tip considering the amount you pay is based on the season.
Omah's is a place that I'll go back to but at the same time, I'm not rushing to get back there. Though, I might rush for crab and that's only to fulfil my own needs and dreams for it.
I had my heart set on crab, I really, really did. It just wasn't the day for my delightful little friends, unfortunately. My white shirt wearing ways made sure of that.
I was sad about the entire crabless affair until the Nyonya fish dish came out - this was a wonderfully tart and the sauce was so citrusy against the meaty barramundi that was cooked to absolute perfection.
The starter was pleasant for what it was - I particularly enjoyed the loh bak and curry puffs - the rest however I could have done without. Next time I might be inclined to try the soft shell crab or the duck sang choy bao.
The cocktails were great - my lychee prosecco beverage was amazing. The lychee soaked up that carbonation, adding an interesting dimension to the fruit when you chewed on it. Fizzy Lychees! I'd encourage you to try what they have to offer.
The interior was modern and understated - exposed grey brick walls and bird cage lights, installed leather wall seating and atmospheric under lighting.
Omah's could focus a little more on staff attentiveness - the wait staff were friendly enough when you got their attention but service was a little slow at times.
Either way, I'll be back with LiLi for Omah's Part Two: The Crabining.
Food and Drink: ★★★★☆
Customer Service: ★★★☆☆
General Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆
Value for Money: ★★★☆☆
Food and Drink: ★★★☆☆
Customer Service: ★★☆☆☆
General Atmosphere: ★★☆☆☆
Value for Money: ★★★☆☆
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