Geoff Lindsay’s latest venture, Dandelion, in Elwood, has a surprisingly low percentage of Likes on Urbanspoon. At the time of writing, only 57% of people had clicked the thumbs up button.
Let’s be honest, you need to take any review, whether good, bad, whether it is about a restaurant, hotel or the local park, with a grain of salt. People will complain about the weirdest things.
Most of the complaints seem to revolve around the price of the food (especially compared with the portion sizes) and the lack of authenticity (Dandelion is a Vietnamese restaurant).
I am not Vietnamese, nor have I been to Vietnam (hopefully one day!), so I can’t and won’t comment on the authenticity of the food, and nor do I want to. As long as it tastes good, and bears a resemblance to what I think authentic food is in the country of origin, then I am happy.
As for price, sure Dandelion is more expensive than anywhere on Victoria street, but if you can access Urbanspoon to write a negative review, surely you can access the Dandelion website and do a bit of research beforehand so you know what to expect. The prices are all listed, so if you think it sounds pricey, don’t go!
OK, rant over (for now).
Negative mobile reviews on Urbanspoon weren’t going to put J and I off visiting this restaurant, it had been on the list too long. Plus I trust the blog reviews a lot more, and they are generally much more positive (and balanced).
One of the reasons we hadn’t got to Dandelion before is it is just too hard to get to from where we are in the outer East. However, I had booked us tickets to see Bill Oddie (from The Goodies) at The Astor, and this gave us the perfect excuse to head to Dandelion afterwards.
Don’t get me started on how much I love Bill and The Goodies. The TV show was an evening ritual when I was a child and I own most of the DVDs (need to check which ones I don’t have and order them ASAP!). This was the second time I have seen him live and he is a wonderful orator. Pity The Astor was having issues with both audio and visual elements of the show, and they kicked him out so they could show their evening movie, in Brisbane he spoke for three hours!
Though, if he had been able to entertain us for three hours we would have missed our 5:45pm booking at Dandelion. I know that is Nanna dinner time, but the show was at 3pm and ran for about two hours, so an early dinner suited us (plus it got us home in time to watch the first rugby union test match!).
Dandelion is in a narrow shopfront on Ormond road. We were seated next to the glass windows, looking out onto a tiny courtyard with a hanging garden.
Naturally, at that time of evening, we were the first customers, but the space soon filled up and was lively and buzzing. The light wasn’t the best for my little point and shoot camera, so if you don’t like blurry dark food photos look away now! Note: As I have a new camera (purchased three weeks after dining at Dandelion) dark photos should be a thing of the past. I have already put it through its paces and while I still need to learn a bit more about setting the correct dodads and thingamajigs, and maybe do some post processing, the results from the weekend are soooooooooooo much better! Though, I shouldn’t bag the old camera, it has served me very well, and I have got some cracking (non-food) photos out of it.
To kick of proceedings we had a bottle of Laurent Perrier champagne.
With advice from the waitress we ordered three out of the four offerings form the something to nibble on section.
First to come out was the stir fried caramelized pork, fragrant herbs, chilli, peanuts on pineapple, cucumber and mandarin. This was soon followed by the drunken chicken ribs with ginger dipping sauce.
The pork was a lovely sticky, sweet, crunchy, spicy mouthful and I could have happily ordered another round of these. Dandelion does have minimum ordering requirements for some of its dishes, and these were a minimum of three per order. We ordered four to even things up.
Supposedly there were five pieces of drunken chicken ribs, but I am sure we got more than that. They were also delicious.
Our third nibble was the green rice fried tiger prawns, nuoc cham.
These also have a minimum of three per order. J (who wasn’t going to wait for me to take the above photo before digging in), convinced me to try one, and the combination of the lettuce leaf, dipping sauce and crunchy coating was quite good, and thankfully not prawny at all!
From the wrap and roll bar we ordered the Peking duck, spring onion and cucumber, with hoi sin.
This was my least favourite dish of the night. For some reason I thought these would be warm (my mistake) and I just didn’t like the texture of the cold ingredients. I guess I should have asked first, but I am used to anything Peking duck related being hot.
We then moved onto a larger dish, the milk and longan honey marinated Glenloth chicken grilled with lemon leaves, lemongrass, ginger and cumquat from the coconut grill. All dishes from the coconut grill are grilled with “our own herb and spice rub over coconut, some wrapped in banana leaf others with citrus leaves. All dishes served with noodles, dipping sauces and a table salad with leaves and fragrant herbs for wrapping”.
On the advice of the waiter, we also ordered a side dish of claypot of smoked eggplant, black vinegar, spring onion, chilli.
The chicken had been flattened and was super tender and had a lovely charred flavour. I love eggplant when it is done like this, all slippery and smooth. Why can’t all eggplant be served this way?
We struggled to finish the chicken and the eggplant, we were stuffed.
We enjoyed our dinner at Dandelion. Yes, it is more expensive than other Vietnamese restaurants but we knew that going in, and were prepared to pay what we did for a lovely meal.
The staff we encountered were all exceptionally friendly but also professional and knowledgeable. When mentioning something to J when I was writing this post, he said “it was one of the most genuinely friendly experiences I have had in a long time”.
Due to its location it is not somewhere we will rush back to, but I would be very happy to have this as my neighbourhood local, and I think the people of Elwood are very fortunate Geoff Lindsay decided to open Dandelion where he did.