In a drab strip of shops ducking for cover behind the St.Kilda Road Skyscrapers, is a small jewel. It’s like diving into your ancient auntie’s jewellery box full of plastic tat and finding a proper gem. That’s PekoPeko.
It looks like nothing from the exterior – just one of a group of down at the heel, cheap eighties style single storey shops, festooned with a bright sign of a funky Asian caricature – and yet when you step in through the door it is as though you have entered the Tardis. Suddenly you are in a big modern style café with funky down lights, some banquettes and a communal table. The vibe is warm and busy. The clientele is predominantly Asian.
The fare is simple but sustaining, cheap and delicious. At lunchtime, worker bees descend from their open plan offices and dive in for a quick plate of rice, a deep bowl of noodles or some takeaway. At night the local apartment dwellers hit.
The menu has 74 items listed but ordering is straightforward. Most will choose either a Peko Box (Bento Box) $10.50, a Peko Plate (rice and topping) $8.90 – $11 or a Peko Noodle Bowl of noodle soup $9.50 and share an entrée $5.50-$8.40, between two people with all dishes arriving together. The drink list has a handful of Beers and wines, along with quirky Asian drinks like Calpis Soda and Green Tea Lattes.
The food here is a fusion of Taiwanese and Japanese. The entrees range from Wasabi Mayo Prawns and Taiwanese sausages to crispy chicken wings. Deep wide Noodle bowls have fried pork, beef, curry and dumplings amongst the offerings, and the soup and noodles have a great slurp factor. You find fried noodles and fried rice amongst the light meals $8-$9.50.
The Peko Boxes are great value. You get a good wodge of sticky short grain rice, a serve of vegetable, sometimes cabbage or snake beans or whatever’s handy, plus a deep fried wedge of tofu and whichever main you choose. Names like Pop Chicken, Pork Addiction roll off the tongue along with Ma Po Tofu and Hot Chicken Dance. We’ve sampled quite a few now and all come straight from the wok, scorching hot and bursting with delicious flavours. The meat is melt in the mouth and the fish fresh.
You can finish with coffee and hot chocolates. I can’t recall any desserts as we are usually too stuffed to put another thing in anyway. By the way, this is fast turnover dining. Don’t linger – they need to turn the tables, and by the time they don’t, the staff are busting to get home.
Get in, chow down and waddle out. You won’t regret it.
PekoPeko Modern Asian Café Restaurant
190 Wells Street, South Melbourne. Ph. 9686 1109
This review is cross-posted at Deep Dish Dreams.