21 January 2008

Indo Bento

CocoRice 1

Coconut Rice is an authentic traditional dishes from Indonesia. As a tropical country, Indonesia is fortunate with a variety of herbs and plantation. Coconut is found everywhere and the juice is used as an ingredient for many dishes, including rice. With additional secret herbs and spices, the society create a recipe for a fragrant and distinct flavour of rice called Coconut Rice. The society enjoy the Coconut Rice any time of day, from breakfast until dinner. And it is usually accompanied by chicken or meat, egg, and fried shallots.

Now you can taste the true Indonesia Coconut Rice at Coco Rice. We made our rice using traditional recipe which has been passed on for generations. The rice is made fresh everyday to ensue the perfect taste just for you.

Menu - Coco Rice, Melbourne.

At first glance after reading the above I thought WTF? But as I sat with my lunch in front of me at Coco Rice, I realised the joys of the Internet - and the ability it has to provide instant translations services - which I believe is how the above piece of Advertising copy had come about.

Had it been written by a Copywriter under my supervision I would probably have sent them to work in despatch and provided some part time literacy training, until such a time as they had mastered the local patois.

I had happened upon Coco Rice at lunchtime, enroute to my favourite Melbourne CBD precinct, emanating from Flinders Lane into Manchester Lane, Degraves Street and Centre Place.

In this buzzing hub, I once had an office - where Journal Canteen now is - and some very dear friends live next door in Bible House. This intersection of laneways has been cultivating some very talented individuals and their businesses over the last ten years. It is a Mecca for the non-franchised, anti-establishment kind of commercial enterprise.

In these lanes are tiny little businesses. Like a pocket full of scuffed, brightly coloured old miniature toys they sit cheek by jowl, nestled in impossible spaces. Making use of the lanes and discarded furniture for seating, the miniscule eateries hug shops full of eclectic and eccentric attire, arty acquisitions, not to mention a frumpy shop stuffed to the gills with everything you could ever need for baking.

On the walls of one lane is spectacular Stencil Art and Grafitti. In another pocket is a regularly changing exhibition of backlit works of art. This is my world. This is how I refresh my mind in town. This is where Barry Humphreys launched his retrospective exhibition with a fleet of Dame Edna look-alikes waving Gladioli.

This slice of Melbourne’s underbelly is what characterises my hometown. For me, it is what sets our city apart from other state capitals. It reflects a strong force in the community who have the wherewithal to optimistically make something from nothing, and to make it in a creative and quirky way that stimulates the passing trade. However, if there wasn’t a slice of Melbourne society with an artistic bent, who seek to rail against the beigeness of ‘keeping up with the Jones’ in the antisocial and sprawling ‘Mc Mansion’ suburbia, it would never have survived to now be enjoyed by tourists, whether foreign, domestic or local.

This is also what once drew me to Acland Street, St.Kilda as a teenager. Sadly the personality that comes with this kind of enterprise has now been driven out by cashed up franchised businesses. The spirit of that precinct has been cannibalised by the kind of shops that service the masses, businesses that have deluded themselves that the cachet of the area will rub off on them on moving in. Heaven forbid that this should ever happen to my downtown paradise.

But back on the subject of food, this area is like striking a vein of gold in an old mine. Melbourne has great fine dining, casual dining and even grazing venues, but here you will find the quick and the cheap eats in abundance. There is great coffee, pastry, snacks and breakfast to be had, and there is the quick lunch.

Coco Rice is set up for the quick meal, in a small, narrow space in Manchester Lane. It is one of the new shops in a spot alongside a space that once housed an x-rated cinema, but now sits mercurially alongside a jazz club, jewellers and merchants of street wear.

I love a single-minded idea and the concept behind this business is simple. They combine Indonesian Curry and rice with the Japanese notion of the Bento Box selection of rice and small savoury dishes, served with a miniscule finisher of something sweet, often fruit. The food here is presented in a plastic bento container that can be topped with a lid for a takeaway or tucked into a purpose made wooden tray for in-house munching.

The space is modern, clean and efficient. The galley kitchen sits on an upper level at the back. I was their first customer of the day. A diminutive Asian girl was playing solitaire on the screen where orders are taken - at their open frontage.

The tables alongside her looked like old trolleys. Their spindly legs are supported by small castors, which run along a track inset in the blonde wood flooring. Their glass tops are underlaid with copies of the menu and a light box also show cases the offerings outside.

The menu consists of eight ‘packages’ and one daily special. The first three items are simple, non spicy - chicken, beef, fish – options, accompanied by a mound of Coconut Rice piled with shredded omelette, then in other sections of the container sit a little sambal, pickle or cucumber and their ‘homemade chips’ which appear to be spicy crisps.

The remaining five items offer a range of Asian dining favourites. They do not come with omelette and crisps, but are far more interesting on the whole. You have the option to have steamed rice or coconut. There is a Sino-Indo Fusion, a Jap-Indo Fusion, a Javanese combo and an Indo beef curry.

I went with the Beef Rendang, which was a perfect dry style curry common to Malaysia and Indonesia. My nostrils flared when greeted with the scent of coconut, galangal and lemongrass. Chilli can be dialled up or down to order, and as someone who loves spice, I found the medium version quite fiery enough to have me reaching for a Kleenex to mop my runny nose.

The Coconut Rice was piled high and unlike many others offered around town was not excessively gluey, but perfectly cooked and subtly flavoured. With it came some pickles, cucumber and fruit. Priced at $9.50, the menu may have read like Asian flier, but it wasn’t as cheap as sitting on a plastic stool by a Hawker’s cart somewhere in South East Asia. It was tasty and good value for Melbourne though. As I made my way across to Flinders lane I felt light with pleasure, my lips stinging from the chilli.

Coco Rice, 10 Manchester Lane, Melbourne, Victoria.
ph. 9654 0090. Mon - Sat: 11am - 8pm


Anonymous said...

sticky fingers...

I am a new visitor to your blog and absolutely love it.

Could I ask for more info on the "frumpy shop stuffed to the gills with everything you could ever need for baking"?

i only know of 2 baking shops in the CBD and they are both on Elizabeth street....

stickyfingers said...

Thank you for your support Shre24.

With roughly 2000 products on sale, the baking shop is I think part of the Australian Cake Decorating School.

It's known as Cake Deco and is in the Port Phillip Arcade, which runs between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane between Swanston and Degraves Streets.

If you're coming from Flinders Lane, the entry to the arcade is another even smaller lane beside my favourite Florist, Moss. Go past the great little pancake shop into the arcade. (Plenty of other quirky shops in there too.)

Cake Deco has a website for your drooling pleasure too:

grocer said...


Anonymous said...

Boy with posts like that Sticky you really make me miss Melbourne!

Anonymous said...

Oooh...this one sounds right up my alley!