Intimidating is an understatement. Despite being in the Target Center food court, The Grand BBQ operates more like a street side hawker store, where eating isn’t just a simple meal, it’s an experience. Between receiving our numbered ticket and balancing our food precariously to the table, we had already engaged in a turf war over tables, and an epic quest to find cutlery.
The picture menu is backlit and concise, specialising in roast meats on rice or noodles....
|Yong Tofu Cabinet|
... and yong tofu, a Chinese-Malaysian noodle dish that’s fully customisable with your choice of noodle, broth, and various fish-paste based items.
The chefs work hard here, churning out mountains of noodles in a frantic production line as the stern-faced ladies at the register bark out order after order into the miniscule kitchen.
|BBQ Pork and Wonton Soup Noodle ($10.3)|
BBQ Pork and Wonton Soup Noodle ($10.3) is a favourite childhood meal of mine, albeit one that I haven’t had in a very long time. Dense fists of wonton packed with prawns and pork and umami, fresh egg noodles (FRESH egg noodles!) full of springy goodness, and a light broth that is both cleansing and nourishing. The familiar and comforting flavours are like eating a hug.
|Yong Tofu ($10.5)|
Sending a terrified Chris off to hold our fort, I constructed what’s essentially a curry laksa version of Yong Tofu ($10.5) with egg noodles and vermicelli for him. Included in the price are six pieces of deep fried, fish-pasted items from the cabinet, of which I chose: fish stuffed mushroom, fish stuffed Chinese donut, seafood eggplant, fresh fish cake, fish ball, and lightly fried seafood stuffed beancurd. The curry laksa soup is a bit disappointing – there was a good amount of spice and not too much coconut milk, but it unfortunately lacked any depth of flavour. The generously sized pieces of yong tofu fared a lot better; whilst they are quite similar in taste, the freshness and quality of the ingredients couldn’t be denied. The seafood eggplant, with a wedge of bouncy fishcake sandwiched by a piece of velvety soft eggplant that happily soaked up the soup, ain’t too shabby at all.
Grand BBQ operates at a lightning pace at lunchtimes, with clientele as varied as Melbourne can provide. The food is simple, the service is limited to the provision of a clean table and cutlery, and portions are on the smaller end for what you pay. Yet I left the restaurant strangely satisfied by the hustle, the bustle, and the fresh wholesome food. But if you want a quiet, relaxing lunch, then you’d better go somewhere else. This place is a goddamned battlefield.
Rating: 12.5/20 – lunch break wars