cross-posted, originally written: 17 July 2004
Wooley St, Dickson, ACT
Thursday, 15 July, 7 pm.
The bf and I had spontaneously decided to go out for dinner that night. I had just been to the gym so my blood sugar levels were low, almost nonexistent, and a decision had to made fast. We were initially tempted by the newly-opened Ethiopian restaurant but, and I know this sounds racist, my memory associations of food and Ethiopia are not positive. Ethiopia, I associate more with a lack of food, rather than a developed cuisine. I didn’t want to eat rehydrated food concentrate with a sprig of parsely.
We finally settled on Tak Kee Roast Inn.
To call this place a ‘restaurant’ (pronounced with a nasal French accent) is a little incorrect. The more perfunctory ‘eatery’ or even ‘eating house’ is more accurate but this is not an LSD inspired maison qui mange but one of those service-less Chinese outlets awash in super-bright fluorescent lighting and white plastic melamine.
My first brush with Tak Kee was during my second month in Canberra when I was homesick and desperately in need of some homestyle food. I saw the hanging ducks in the window, shyly walked in and asked in broken Cantonese, “Do you have roast duck on rice?” The proprietress looked down her short flat mainland Chinese nose to the top of my higher bridged Hainanese nose, snootily said yes, then proceeded to make up a plate for me that consisted mostly of duck skin and bone. I didn’t complain as I was desperate for animal fat at that time. You see, I had just started obsessing about my body and nutrition whilst trying to become the Ultimate Gay Sex-object and the prior month's diet of lettuce and chicken breast had induced a primeval craving within me.
Nevertheless, Tak Kee has become a favourite haunt of ours. Tonight we sat next to a table of two middle-aged Chinese men from Malaysia who proceeded to order loudly in Mandarin with heavy Cantonese accents. They did not order from the menu, as only Whities do that in an establishment like Tak Kee because everyone knows what should be on the menu anyway. When their food arrived one man asked for some fresh cut chilli and was dumbfounded when they didn’t have any. His companion remarked, “That’s why I always carry chilli with me. I have some in the car right now. Do you want me to go get it?” That’s the mark of a true gourmand – someone that has their own private chilli supply on-hand.
The bf had roast duck and gow gee noodle soup which was in a clear MSG-laced broth with thin eggless (wonton) noodles. The gow gee were fat and juicy little parcels of mixed meat, I suspect mostly pork, with some seasoning. The roast duck was tasty and reasonably meaty. Whilst he was eating, the same loud chilli fiend at the next table complained that there was no skin on his roast pork. “What is this?! No skin? Why is there no skin on this roast pork? Roast pork must have skin and fat. This is all just white, with no skin at all,” he scolded the proprietress in Malaysian accented Cantonese. She apologised for the skin falling off and provided a replacement plate of meat.
My own dish was tasty enough, I had udon noodles with black pepper beef but I would have liked a bit more beef with my noodle. The noodles were tender and tasty but I would have preferred the use of Szechuan peppercorns instead of the more economical black peppercorns.
Tak Kee Roast Inn serves the usual range of chinese barbequed meats in the customary styles, e.g. noodles, soup, rice, etc. In addition, a wide range of ‘kitchen’ dishes are available such as combination chow mein, fried rice and braised beef brisket. Each dish can be a complete meal, e.g. roast duck on noodles, or several meat dishes can be combined to have with rice.
Price per dish: $6-12, generally increasing with the ratio of meat to carbohydrate.