Sharpen your elbows folks! There`s kidney trading and competitive shoving galore going on as everyone rushes to get into the increasingly popular Dandelion. The Vietnamese inspired eatery is the work of ex-Pearl chef Geoff Lindsay, who vanished behind his apron after selling up in Richmond, and then reappeared in suburban Elwood, brandishing, to the surprise of many, phenomenal wagyu pho. If you live on the North side or are transport challenged, it`s a bit of a schlepp out to the `wood, but if you want to participate in a Vietnamese food odyssey crafted with fine dining finesse (and you do), it`s worth it.
To stage his share plate feast, Lindsay has bought into the craze for low key, dining hall style fit outs. Booth free, there is instead an assembly of closely set pale wooden tables adorned with yellow flowers and bottles of chilli sauce, seats for soloists at the long bar, and a wrap and roll station where you can watch ferociously quick kitchen hands assemble the hot ticket soft shell crab and avocado rice paper rolls ($18). Yes, that`s pretty pricey, but they do come with Mrs T`s fruit infused and slow burning magical dipping sauce, so we`ll let it slide.
Even if you think you`ve already been there, tasted that and pho stained the tee shirt, Lindsey`s modern Vietnamese may yet be something that you haven`t experienced. Excitingly incorporating things like tropical fruit and elephant ear stem, and focusing on lighter, fresher flavours, the cuisine is slightly more delicate than its brash Thai counterpart- at the party in your mouth Thai dishes yell across the crowded room; Vietnamese dishes have a lively, but polite conversation. Think salads with citrusy pomelo countering slices of BBQ pork, crisp shallots, banana blossom and palm sugar dressing, and curries with all the aromatics you expect of a dish by that name, but without weapon grade chilli heat. Try the fragrant yellowtail kingfish number- with green papaya, turmeric and dill, it`s bright, brilliant and comes with a Vietnamese baguette for sauce sopping ($33). From the coconut grill, the BBQ spare ribs are a compulsory choice. The coconut water and papaya seed soaked meat is napped in a sweet aromatic barbeque sauce, grilled to sticky surrender and presented with iceberg cups, and lychee and mint salad for messy, hands-on construction into wraps- or so we assume. A few of the dishes were not fully explained by the floor staff, who whilst being friendly enough, were a little inexperienced. Not a huge problem, but with a novel menu that carries a not insignificant price tag, we`d like to see a team who could better guide us through the maze. One ringmaster to rule them all should do it, but that leader wasn`t evident when we went.
Like many chefs or artists who have achieved recognition for their work, Lindsay is now taking advantage of his reputation to indulge a passion. He`s proved he can make a buck, and so here, you get the feeling that he now just wants to share something that makes him personally happy, and service aside, it`s making us pretty happy too.