Today we're reviewing Happy Meals. No, this is not some witty post- modern take on the Golden Arches and what does or does not constitute a chicken nugget.
Happy Meals is a cracking Chinese/Malay joint on the Vic Park suburban strip. The decor is just what you'd expect: lots of cheesy photos, plenty of laminate, a soft-drink fridge stuck in the middle of the restaurant. But beneath the chintz are some of the best Chinese/Malay dishes we've eaten in a while.
For the traditionalist, of course, there's the standard fare and even a throwback to the 70s: oil-laden prawn toast ($6.50, albeit with little hint of shellfish).
It was delicious and greasy and crunchy all at once but left you wanting to add an extra few sessions to the "I will go to the gym this year" new year's resolution.
More shellfish was evident in crab and sweet corn soup ($6). Our group was treated to hand-ladled sesame-infused creamy soup from a huge tureen.
This small lavishing was a reminder of the benefits of being a regular at a restaurant (we were dining with Happy Meals habitue Dave, who was greeted like the prodigal son).
A once-a-week man, Dave knows his way around the menu.
Chicken Ying Yong ($12) glistened with silky egg sauce and was nicely underscored by the wok-smoked flavour of the fried rice noodles (both flat and thin varieties). Sizzling Japanese tofu (yes, there's no geopolitical rift in cooking, $15), was a pile of plump scallop-esque tofu pucks, swimming in a rich, mushroom-flavoured sauce.
Even perennial favourite lemon chicken ($14) scored an upgrade. Thin strips of deep-fried chicken were coated with a violently lurid yellow sauce, more akin to a thin lemon curd. The addition of chilli- oil dipping sauce, though, added flair and was a flavour and texture hit.
But the star of the lunch was Hainanese-style chicken ($14.50). Simply poached with ginger and garlic, a deeply flavoured soy-based broth was brought to the boil with sesame oil, and the sweet/salty and smoky simmering liquid poured over the tender chicken pieces and shallots.
Asian desserts are usually more miss than hit but red bean pancake with vanilla ice cream ($6.50) is a must. Fudgy, sweet red-bean paste was sandwiched in chewy, buttery pancakes and topped with a scoop of ice cream.
In the words of that rather larger international Happy Meals TM corporation: we're lovin it!
- Happy Meals Chinese *
- Address * 2/786 Albany Hwy, East Victoria Park
- Phone * 9470 6828
- Open * Seven days. Lunch (11.30am - 2.30pm), Dinner (5pm till late)
- The buzz * Chinese/Malay restaurant with panache. Come for the warm welcome and some good-value and exciting dishes that don't often make an appearance in shopping strips.