Koinonia: the name conjures up images of palm trees, oases, dusky Arabian wenches and fan-waving eunuchs. (Well, for us it does anyway.)
The reality, at least from the outside, appears a little different: Koinonia looks from the street to be a lunch-bar type, set back off the street and up a couple of steps. It is housed in the uninspired cream-bricked and new-ish building that Balshaw’s Florist is also located in. We’ve always assumed that the folk at Balshaw’s designed that building, as it is about as unattractive as that ridiculous van they drive around in with the giant rose in a plastic coffin on top of it. Anyway, do not be deceived by the building: once inside, Koinonia (which incidentally means “murder-inducing elevator music” in Esperanto) is a warm, inviting place, made all the more so by the immediate attention given us by the hostess and the leather booth-like couches around which the BSBers immediately splayed themselves.
As if this was not congenial enough, the mural on the wall expounded the benefits of “fellowship”, “virtue” and “loving thy neighbour” (or something like that – the BSBers ignored these sentiments completely and engaged in their usual infantile squabbling over the menu.)
This evening, the BSBers were joined by their travelling English friend, The Pikey. Being of Cockney extraction, there is little that the Pikey could not tell you about the potato chip, chicken tikka masala or soggy Pret tuna-and-sweetcorn sambos. How would she cope though with the fusion-style array of spices from the Orient? For Koinonia (formerly “Infusion” further south on Beaufort) offers the full gamut of Asia-wide generic dishes.
Starters were plentiful, prompt and very tasty. Duck pancakes were suitably moist (take heed, Red Teapot), san choy bow of the perfect consistency, satay sticks a delight. Even better, the menu stated that each of the starters came in 4 pieces, which was of a huge concern to the Pikey as there was no way we were going to share with her, but when the kind waitress saw the pain on the Pikey’s face, she quickly reassured us that they would be happy to make them 5 pieces each. And we didn’t seem to be charged for the extra either.
Mains continued in the same vein: chicken curry tantalised the taste-buds (although BOOTO suggested the meat was a little dry), the garlic lamb was a revelation, the squid and prawns an oral celebration, all washed down with a pad thai, a crash-helmet sized tub of fried rice and 14 litres of cleanskin sparkling shiraz (the BSBers’ cheap plonk of choice).
Our hostess was particularly generous, and seemed to be always at hand and directing staff to indulge our every (culinary) whim. She even gave us champagne glasses, which is a rare treat for a BYO restaurant.
Service: Very friendly (without being intrusive), polite and ever-present. Very quick on the drinks.
Food: Very, very good pan-Asian.
Ambience: Surprisingly chic inside, with an extended balcony overlooking the Scotto.
Highlight: The expression on the Pikey’s face as her taste-buds were awakened after decades of culinary neglect.
Lowlight: The piped Muzak. (Although this may have been deliberate – very reminiscent of a Hong Kong taxi.)
Rating: 4.5 Hello Kitty’s out of 5.
Will we be back: Definitely – undoubtedly the pick of the bunch for Asian delights thus far.
Details: Koinonia is a couple of doors down from Monte Fiore. The bill came to about $50 a head for (far too many) mains, starters and corkage. Booking is advised, particularly on warm evenings.
Be aware: Koinonia is not licensed (although permits BYO beer and wine). Also, the Liquor Barons at the Beaucott corner closes at the ridiculously arbitrary time of 8:45, meaning that the Sponge had to walk 6 minutes to the Queens to collect booze. This resulted in a lot of self-indulgent whinging from the Sponge and general disharmony at the table. You have been warned.
04 November 2008
With BOOTO and Stinks on a promotional tour of Victoria (leaving the Sponge trying in vain to remember what he used to do when a bachelor), it was decided to take guests for our next blog: the Pakistani Prince and the South Sea Island Princess* gratefully accepted the Bloggers’ invitation to join them for an evening of lager and pub grub at the Flying Scotsman.
(* Note: not real royalty.)
We had no expectations as to quality of the food at the Scotto – each of the Bloggers had been there from time to time for a quiet (or loud) drink, but never to eat. All recent reviews we could find appeared to be of the whiny variety, focusing on how much character and ambience the place had lost since its upgrade and how it would never be the same. (Apparently someone had neglected to pass this on to the punters though, who were there in droves.)
A table was booked (which we found to be essential if intending to eat), and was promptly and graciously reconfigured at least 3 times by the friendly staff as they tried to find the best way to seat 5 people. The Scotto is a bit like the scruffy, charismatic cousin of the Queens and (being what we understand to be the only viable drinking alternative up this end of Beaufort) was packed, while still maintaining a friendly and informal atmosphere.
Starters (ordered from the bar) arrived promptly and were unexpectedly brilliant: a platter consisting of a generous spread of such delights as octopus, ribs, chicken wings and some of the best and most tender squid any of the Bloggers (or their royal companions) had eaten for some time. This was accompanied by a dish that made the Deliberator curl into a foetal ball: pouteen. Pouteen is simply chips, melted cheese and gravy. Once combined however, they transform into a manna-like concoction that would make a grown man (in this case, the Deliberator) weep.
Mains were again impressive: the Brains’ Fat Bastard Pizza lived up to its name, parmagiana was bloody good (and enormous), the Deliberator’s ribs (washed down with a second bowl of pouteen) did the trick and the South Sea Island Princess’ salad was tasty and lovingly crafted. Unfortunately, so too was the Pakistani Prince’s. The Bloggers are collectively still stunned and slightly hurt at the Prince’s decision to order a salad at a pub, and will no longer mention his name on this blog. He is dead to us.
Service was attentive, speedy… and knowledgeable – our waitress chimed into our heated debate to confirm that the minimum contingent for a gang-bang was indeed 5 people. Debate concluded. (Incidentally, and while we had already established that 3 people formed a threesome, we are still in the dark as to the correct term for a beast with four backs. Suggestions welcome.)
Service: Great, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the karma sutra.
Food: A couple of cuts above what we anticipated. Sorry, Scotto.
Ambience: Lively, informal and eclectic. The Brisbane it ain’t.
Highlight: The squid. And the Deliberator’s vow to plant a pouteen tree in his backyard.
Lowlight: Maybe slightly cramped and noisy for dinner. (But hell – it’s a pub.)
Rating: 3.9 pouteen trees out of 5.
Will we be back: Yes, either to eat, drink or both. (Not just for the fact that we note that the bloody upstairs balcony is finally completed!)
Details: The Flying Scotsman is just down from the Walcott/Beaufort St intersection. The bill came to about $50 a head for mains and a shared starter (and drinks. Lots of drinks.) Kitchen closes at (we think?) 9pm, although pizzas are available later than this.
Coming up: Alright Diva – your turn next so we can finally tie up everything north of Walcott.