5.342 Crocodile Meat with XO Chili Sauce

Cycle 5 – Item 342

13 (Sat) December 2014

Crocodile Meat with XO Chili Sauce


at West Lake Restaurant

-Central Business District, Melbourne, Australia-


Mission to Australia (Day 8)

In Melbourne.  Here to participate in a “Training of Trainers” workshop organized by The McCabe Centre for Law & Cancer to develop capacity-building programs for government officials towards strengthening their national legal frameworks on NCD risk factors.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s most recognizable landmark, symbolizing downtown.

The workshop ended yesterday, but I’m extending my stay through the weekend on a personal excursion.  No particular plans, just taking advantage of the opportunity to be here as long as possible, if only a day longer, departing tomorrow morning.

The extra day allowed me to experience 4 additional meals.


I despise the term “foodie.”  First, it’s unnecessary in light of existing, well-recognized, perfectly competent terms to describe the same thing, such as “gourmand,” “gastronome,” or “epicure,” all of which now apply to a broad range of foods, from haute cuisine to street snacks.  Second, the infantile diminutive not only sounds categorically silly – note that the world is not cursed with “music-ies/movie-ies/book-ies” – but the phony attempt to downplay the appreciation of good eats to something less than high brow actually backfires in its self-conscious/self-righteousness.

Even with so many food discoveries left to be made, time running out on my final day in town, I opted to sleep in.  Which should help to prove that I am not a foodie – anyone claiming this ludicrous designation would likely be found, on his final morning in Melbourne, brunching.

The plan had been to eat elsewhere, but by the time that I got my ass out of bed and made it downtown, a bit past 14:00, the places that I’d researched were closed for the midday break, so I had to settle for whatever I could find.

Sundubu Jjigae (1.0): salty, otherwise flavorless; too bad that the Melbourine magic didn’t work here.

By Korea is a Korean restaurant.  Somewhere between a snack shop and a pub.

It gave me an opportunity to add to the list of cities outside of Korea where I’ve eaten in a Korean restaurant.  Melbourne is the 25th city, and Australia is the 13th country.


For the climactic dinner in town, the venue was intended to be The Box on Collins.  Seafood.  Modern Australian.  Mid- to high-end.  With several strong reviews – which I’m now suspecting to be fake – as well as the tight reservation schedule (“So sorry, sir – oh wait, fortunately, looks like we had a last-minute cancellation for the 7:45 slot”) – which I’m now suspecting was bullshit – I was confident that the restaurant would be an excellent spot to end the trip with a big bang.

The little grey building to the left.

However, the food was crap.  I ordered a complete spread of 5 dishes from the get-go, increasingly regretting the decision with each item served.  Won’t waste time going into details, but the skill displayed in the preparation was comically inept, or perhaps tragic, considering the prices that I paid.

Deep-Fried Soft-Shell Crab (0.5): two slabs of unpalatable mush.


Awaiting the tram back to the hotel, bummed out for blowing away a potentially historic occasion, I suddenly realized that I was a couple blocks from Chinatown.

West Lake Restaurant is a Chinese restaurant.  In my research on eateries serving local fauna, West Lake Restaurant had come up for its crocodile.  I dropped in for a second dinner.

The food was good, good enough.  The crocodile meat itself was quite nice: white in appearance like chicken breast, chewy/juicy in texture like brined pork, light in flavor like white fish – shows great potential as a go-to animal (at least one restaurant that I know of in Manila serves it).  Sautéed with assorted veg in a mild XO sauce, accompanied by steamed white rice, I couldn’t complain.  Best meal that I had all day.


Every late-night snack shop that I tried in St Kilda was very good, whether kebab, fried chicken, pizza.

Melbourne ranks among the greatest food cities that I’ve experienced.  Whereas Osaka excels primarily at Japanese, and Getxco/Basque excels primarily at Spanish , and Singapore excels at adapting/enhancing various Asian cuisines, Melbourne would seem to excel at adapting/enhancing various European cuisines.  In all cases, I truly appreciate and adore the deep pride that the restaurants in these cities appear to take in their food.  I can’t wait to go back for more.


(See also DUTY TRAVEL)



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