11-15 Waratah Place
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9639 6228
Writing a food blog means that one must be extremely careful when critiquing restaurants. Because cooking is such a personal thing criticism is usually taken to heart, despite all efforts to take each bit of criticism constructively. Thus, I have tried to play nice on caterpillar by not bitching about a restaurant so much but rather highlighting the positives. Of course, criticism is given when it’s due but I understand that restaurateurs and the like do come across this blog thus, I’ve thrown out lot of the ‘this muppet should have his head chopped off for putting thickened cream in my bloody pasta sauce’ language. On the other hand, punters visit food blogs all the time as an integral part of their decision-making process when choosing restaurant venues. Because of this, I think it’s fair that I act nice … but honest.
Of course things get a little more complicated when you go to a restaurant for dinner… and fail to thing of a single good thing about the place. How do you go about reviewing a restaurant that was pretty much an epic fail to end all epic fails? How can you be nice when writing about the worst dinner you’ve had to endure? I’m sorry, guys, I couldn’t. The place I’m referring to is Doko’s Home, a newish hot pot restaurant that has barely caused a ripple in Melbourne’s dining. The fact that it’s located in secluded Waratah Place and the fact that they do not have a functioning phone line may have something to do with it but personally, I reckon it’s the almost laughable food[sic] we got dished up and the non-existent service.
To be fair, Doko’s Home did something right when they advertised themselves in a Chinese glossy magazine as a restaurant that served “hot pot with a twist.” Offering some unconventional soup flavours such as ‘cheese lobster hotpot’ and ‘tomato oxtail hotpot,’ they also boasted soup pots that were small enough so that each diner can have their own soup rather than share with the rest of the table while silently seething because they were stuck with a super-hot chilli broth. Throw in a bit in the ad where it said that meals were “$25 per head,” we were keen to see whether they were the real deal.
It was a cold Saturday evening when our party showed up at Waratah Place. We were confronted by a touter who was flashing a sign telling us that Doko’s Home was behind her. She seemed surprised when we told her that we were on our way in though in hindsight, she had every right to be surprised. Walking into the former Crystal Jade site which was adjacent to Manchuria bar, which was decorated haphazardly in paper cut outs of fobby cartoon characters, we saw that the place was empty. Thus, why they chose to sit us next to the front door was beyond me but nothing that bothered me at the time. Looking at the menu, I noticed that it was NOT “$25 per head” which was how most hot pot restaurants operated but rather, each dish was given an individual price. The “$25 per head” thing was a “special deal” where you got one bowl of soup, one meat dish, one vegetarian and one “other” dish (i.e. dumplings) which actually didn’t sound like such a great deal at all. This apparent misleading advertisement did made me reel back a bit but as I studied the menu, I realised that none of the dishes typed (spelling errors and all) on the menu sounded even remotely enticing.
Not even the ‘octups.’
Okay, so their foblish and crappy spelling may not have been indicative of the quality of food but still…
At this stage I was literally ready to do a walkout, something that I’ve only ever done once in my life. I was ready to walk down to Supper Inn where a steaming bowl of chicken congee accompanied by pipis in XO sauce sounded much more appetising. However, the waitress then started coming around our table to pour us water (15 minutes after we had walked in) so I felt kind of obliged to stay. And so we did. It was the biggest mistake I’ve made since putting Kurt Tippett in my starting 22 in Supercoach.
After deciding that we would stay for a bit before fleeing to the familiar comfort of Supper Inn, we decided to order one soup pot each, plus one dish each which we would ultimately put in the middle of the table to share. Shortly after our orders our soups arrived, served in a portable Trangia-style stove which campers use when they’re outdoors. Although one of the stoves malfunctioned, a new one was quickly brought out to get all four soups cookin’ at once. A ‘nourishing’ soup for Jan and I ($4), an oxtail and tomato soup for Jo ($6) and a satay soup for Dave ($6) with Linda helping herself to whatever she felt like. Frankly speaking, all three of them were horrible. Apart from the satay soup, the soups we had were all devoid of any taste with the oxtail and tomato soup having no trace of oxtail flavour whatsoever. Oh, and if you were wondering what a ‘nourishing’ soup was, it was a piss-weak imitation of the non-spicy, clear broth that one would get at any other hot pot restaurant… except that Doko’s version was blatantly watered down and you could not taste any herbs at all. The satay soup was way too sweet for it to be called a “soup” and despite dumping half a container of chilli oil in the soup, nothing could save it from failure.
Slices of raw beef ($7.50). We started off with one plate before ordering another.
Six pieces of frozen dumplings ($4.50). The fact that they were frozen was not a problem, it was the fact that they were the blandest dumplings I’ve had in my life… and they really couldn’t get any smaller.
Enoki mushrooms, called “winter mushrooms” on the menu, ($4.50).
All up, the bill was under $50 which was expensive for the quality and quantity we received. It goes without saying that the soup is what makes a hot pot restaurant good, never mind the quality of ingredients that go in it – frozen or otherwise – but Doko’s Home failed to even provide us with halfway decent soups which did not sit right with us as they specialised in hot pots.
And if you thought the food was bad, the service was much worse. I mentioned the fact that we had to wait 15 minutes for some water (and keep in mind that there were about three staff standing around, doing nothing and the fact that there were no customers when we walked in) which I would probably have forgiven. However, I don’t think I can forgive the fact that they struggled to adequately explain to us philistines what ‘ee-fu noodles’ were (the explanation we were given was that they were “yellow” and it was only when I volunteered, “egg noodles?” did she go, “yes, that’s what I meant”) and the fact that we were all given greasy chopsticks. Yes, greasy chopsticks. As in chopsticks that weren’t properly washed with detergent, left to dry and subsequently developed a film of grease over them. Disgusting! We asked them if we could have clean chopsticks, only to be told that they did not have any other chopsticks and that these were “the new chopsticks.” Not good enough. Oh, and speaking of cutlery, we were not given the standard slotted spoons and wire ladles that one would expect to get at these restaurants. We were simply left to our own devices to retrieve our own spoons – normal table spoons – from the cupboard next to us. I guess the only good thing about the service was that they DID refill our soups when it looked like we were about to run out. However, they were refilling our pots with watered-down soup poured from a ceramic Chinese teapot thus making our soups even more diluted than they already were.
It went without saying that we still famished after all that. We did not bother ordering more things so we were happy to pay the bill before heading off to Supper Inn for some REAL food. In a way, I’m disappointed to be slacking off a restaurant that had a great concept. It was just the way in which they executed it which led to its demise and subsequently spoiled half the night for us. I must also laugh at the fact that hot pot restaurants do not actually cook your food – all they have to do is to whip up a delicious broth, provide some ingredients and you do all the cooking. It’s not hard for most, but unfortunately it is for Doko’s Home. At the end of the day, if Doko’s Home are still charging exorbitant prices for crappy food and crappy service while places such as Little Lamb are charging $20 per head and telling people to pretty much order whatever they wanted off the menu to cook in their tasty hot pot soups, then clearly there is a problem that needs to be fixed. In the mean time, I urge all of you to stay away from Doko’s Home. Unless, as Linda would say, you want to break up with someone or play a cruel joke on them.
EDIT (Saturday June 12 2010):
Adam and I just so happened to be strolling down Chinatown during lunch hour today and saw that Doko’s Home was padlocked. This was odd because I was pretty sure that they were also opened for lunch. What made us have a closer look, however, was a single sheet of A4 paper stuck on the door:
I know I’ve tried my darn hardest to be nice when writing about such a horrible eatery but my restraint ends here: HAHAHAHAHA SUCK SHT, DOKO’S HOME! This is what you get for providing crappy food in conjunction with barely-there service while breaching more than one counts of health and safety rules. I am not sorry to see that your business has flopped and am only glad that no one else in Melbourne will have the opportunity to experience a meal[sic] at this joke of a restaurant.