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Reviewed by Mantis Kane www.zantidote.com

What to expect from Elwood’s most decorated restaurant. When I say most decorated, it’s not in the sense of monstrous chandeliers and elaborate balloon artwork – rather awards, most notably the haloed hat.

Almost 6 years old and Dandelion is firmly institutionalised as the fine-dining staple of Ormond Rd. Naturally, I expected it to attract Elwood’s glitterati. A convergence of media moguls, greying executive skateboarder enthusiasts and glamour mums, high on hormones and kale smoothies. And by virtue of being open for lunch, providing a pit stop between Sex In The City meet-ups and menopausal episodes for the area’s kept ladies.

Truth is, the food was so attention-grabbing that I failed to notice anything beyond my plate – including my dinner date.

Geoff and Jane Lindsay have developed a slick sensibility for asian food, which has taken them as far as Bali with Saigon Street. Dandelion is stylishly decked out; cool but unstuffy, with tasteful eastern paraphernalia. Blink and you could be in downtown New York.

The food is traditional Vietnamese, tampered with and sexed up, without being overtly modern. Authenticity meets culinary experimentation, typified by the Caramelised Pork Hock. It’s their blue ribbon dish, proudly sitting on the menu since day-one, developing it’s very own fan club of regular users and abusers.  When it lands on the table it’s both enticing and intimidating. A massive hunk of gleaming meat. Curvaceous, glossy, handsome and slightly menacing – the food equivalent of Kim Kardashian’s arse. A dish that makes fellow diners involuntarily rubberneck, peering in glee and envy. It’s thrice braised, laced with tamarind and spices, and encased with the perfect crackling; which means it’s crunchy, without requiring the post meal dental procedure. There are some dishes that instinctively relinquish any dietary promises you’ve made to yourself – this is one of them. Just close your eyes, log out of the calorie counter app and indulge. Don’t even let the palpitations sully the moment.

The Green Rice Fried Tiger Prawns came with what seemed like a coating of green Rice Crispies. I braced myself for a culinary misdemeanour, prawns covered in cereal – has the chef been spiked with LSD?  But it worked. Exquisitely. So much so that I now coat all my home cooked food with cereal.

The Smoked Salmon Roll was a complex architecturally erected wrap of salmon, asparagus, purple cabbage and Yarra Valley Salmon Pearls. It seemed like it’d been constructed in a laboratory with precision instruments, by an angel. I felt a small sense of injustice as I clumsily demolished it. So pretty and delicate, it deserved more ceremony. Unfortunately my salivating greed overrode that.

The desserts were expectantly wicked. The Warm Chocolate Pudding with Baileys ice cream is probably not an authentic Vietnamese national dish, but I’m willing to turn a blind eye. When transgressions come packaged with chocolate soil and crumbed honey comb, leniency comes naturally.

Service is something I don’t really register unless it’s really bad or really good. In this case, it was the latter. Az, the restaurant manager, was informative yet laid back, one of those maître d’s that moonwalks rather than vampirically breathes down your neck like a gastronomic stand-over man. There’s none of that stuffy fine-dining etiquette here. It’s cruisey professionalism all the way, from kitchen, to front of house.

Hats off.

133 Ormond Rd,

Elwood VIC 3184

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