Monday, 9 January 2012

White Tomato

160-162 Bourke Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000

I never thought I’d be happy about a cold summer, but thanks to the unseasonal 24 degree Friday we just had, I was finally able to satisfy my two-week long Korean food craving at White Tomato. Usually a slightly more upmarket venue, White Tomato also offers several lunch specials, including sizzling dishes, hot pots, and stuff on rice/noodles. It’s nice to see a sizable variety of dishes on offer; too often there’re only one or two lunch specials, leaving virtually no choice to be had. 

Skylight/Lemon Water/Interior
The first thing you notice when you walk through the big wooden doors of White Tomato is the meaty, smoky scent of Korean BBQ. Don’t wear your nice clothes here, because you’ll probably never be able to get the smell out again. That aside though, the interior is pleasantly high-ceilinged and spacious with lots of wood, and has an upstairs section reserved solely for BBQ patrons.

Beef Bulgogi ($9.5)

Chris got his beloved Beef Bulgogi ($9.5) without even really looking at the other menu items. This rendition of the classic Korean dish is less punchy than others I’ve had, but I actually found that I enjoyed the toned down flavours. The beef was thinly sliced and tender, tossed with a mix of bean sprouts and onions, and the level of sweetness is just right. My only complaint would be that the dish could have been a lot smokier, but other than that this was a pretty good plate of meat.

Soft Beancurd with Seafood Hotpot ($9.5)

I seem to be going through a spicy-seafood-something phase, and being a hardcore fan of tofu, the Soft Beancurd with Seafood Hotpot ($9.5) looked like it would hit the spot nicely. The fiery-looking bowl of soup came out still bubbling, and it was quite a while before I could drink the soup. Surprisingly, the soup actually gave my lips a bit of a tingle, and it also had a lovely seafood taste to it like it had been stewing for hours. Digging through the stone pot, I found several of my favourite ocean-things, including curls of calamari, big meaty mussels, and peeled prawns. There was also an egg poached straight into the soup, making for a lovely soft yolk, and big quivering chunks of tofu that soaked up the broth excellently. The only thing missing from this dish is a bit of sourness from some kimch- oh will you look at that! The small dish of kimchi served with the hot pot was on the dot, all crunchy and sour and spicy. I ate some of it with my rice, and tipped the rest into my hotpot.  

Adorable Paper Doilie

But what impressed me the most about White Tomato is their attention to detail. Everything from the small wet napkins we were offered, to the slice of lemon in our water, to the cute little paper doilies under our cups just made for a much more pleasant experience overall. The service is also professional and unobtrusive; at one point I dropped one of my chopsticks, and a waitress was there with a fresh pair within seconds. We were both rather impressed with White Tomato, and we left discussing the dishes we’d like to try on our next visit.

Rating: 14/20 – lunch specials

White Tomato on Urbanspoon

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