65 Swan Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9428 9730
To most Melburnians, the city end of Swan Street used to be a foodie wasteland of crappy pubs and sleazy drinking holes. Not anymore, folks. In recent times, we’ve seen places such as Meatball and Wine Bar pop up along with Fonda Mexican, Noir, Union Dining and Feast of Merit. And towards the end of last year, we also welcomed fiery Southeast Asian tiger, Botherambo to the now eclectic mix.
Botherambo’s close proximity to Richmond Station and Melbourne’s sporting complexes, including the MCG makes it perfect for a post-match drink or feed if you want something other than parmas or steaks. I, myself, just so happened to be at the cricket that day and what better way to celebrate a well-fought day by the Aussies than sussing out this feisty dragon with Thanh.
As we were walking into the restaurant, we were stopped by a bouncer at the door: he wanted to check my bag. After deciding that the contents of my Longchamp Pliage was not going to harm anyone, he ushered us in. Now, I can understand the need to check bags at sporting complexes, bars and karaoke venues but restaurants? Wow, okay, this was a first… and to be honest, it was a bit wanky.
‘Never mind,’ we thought as we got ourselves comfortable at the bar. Although there were plenty of table seating when we rocked up, we decided to sit high on the bar for perving purposes (well, I can’t speak for Thanh but me on the other hand… hee!). With a lovely Riesling blend from Eden Valley (loved the name too!), we got straight to work.
For those of you who are fans of Bangpop, you’ll probably feel a hint of deja vu when eating at Botherambo – after all, the chef is none other than Kam McManamey who is famous for introducing Melburnians to Bangpop’s bold and spicy Thai dishes that can make even the most seasoned spicy food eaters sweat.
To start, we split a fried egg which was still beautifully runny in the middle. Coriander, nam jim and lime gave the dish a zingy kick, while the shallots added a slight crunch.
Next came the duck leg salad which contained kohlrabi, cucumber and lychee, and was drizzled in a lime, chilli and fish sauce dressing. All well and good, but I found the dressing way too sour – even the lychees did nothing to diffuse the salad with their sweetness.
This wasn’t in the salad section but it should have been. Cold pieces of trout were hidden underneath a mass of green papaya, young coconut, kaffir lime and chilli, topped with a little bit of Yarra Valley roe. Now, Thanh and I both thought the dressing was exactly the same as the one in the crispy duck leg salad so it was almost like we were eating the same dish, but with different proteins. Disappointingly, we also could not taste the young coconut and the smokiness of the trout – so strong and overpowering was that dressing.
Next came the crispy pork belly served with sticky rice (image below), nam prik pla raa, crispy shallots and lime. Unfortunately, the pork was very dry throughout so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we would have liked. The only saving grace, really, was the fact that it didn’t have any of that same-same dressing the other two dishes had.
The beef cheek was meant to be Botherambo’s signature dish. Unfortunately, it came with a green mango salad that was, yes, drizzled with that same overpowering lime, chilli and fish sauce dressing dammit! The salted prawns would have been a nice touch if they weren’t drowned out by the ridiculous amount of fish sauce that was used (and this is from someone who LOVES fish sauce) but no, we were left disappointed despite the fact that the beef was actually cooked well.
For all the social media buzz Botherambo attracted, both Thanh and I were left disappointed. True, it could have been due to the fact that we ordered the wrong dishes but seriously, what are the odds that three of the four big dishes ordered from different sections of the menu and containing different meats would taste essentially the same?
While I can see Botherambo being successful on Swan Street (it desperately needed a ‘cool’ slightly upmarket Asian joint), I myself wouldn’t bother returning.