A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published May 23rd 2017
Knock yourself out with this great south-east Asian food
I visited Tenpin just over a year ago when it was a new business in Port Melbourne. If you read my recent article about Tenpin's sister venue, Mr Lawrence, you would be aware that there have been changes afoot. Recently evicted from its home by developers, Mr Lawrence moved a few doors down to where Tenpin used to be, while Tenpin moved just a little further along Beach Road to its current location.
The owners of Tenpin have taken the opportunity to freshen up the menu as well as giving the venue a makeover. Those familiar with the old Tenpin will however be pleased to know it has retained the kitschy retro tenpin bowling signs and paraphernalia, as well as the fantastic spicy south-east Asian flavours.
If you visit Tenpin, I can recommend starting with a cocktail - try the Tom Yummy ($21). With vodka, lychee, coconut water, chilli, ginger, lemongrass and lime as ingredients, you are not quite sure if you are drinking a cocktail or having an entree as you savour the complex flavours. Regardless, it wakes up the palate and has it zinging, and ready to receive the spicy dishes to follow. My partner Dave declared it 'the most innovative cocktail he'd tried'.
The Tom Yummy cocktail - good enough to eat!
Tenpin offers a diverse menu, with a range of small and larger dishes, so whether you're after a quick snack or a more substantial meal, it's got you covered.
We ate our way through a selection from the menu and can happily give some recommendations.
The gado gado with cassava crackers ($13) is a great way to start the meal. The crackers are beautifully crispy and a perfect vehicle for the salad, with its topping of a delightfully nutty peanut relish.
Gado gado with cassava crackers - a great way to start
Swinging the cuisine compass in the direction of Laos, the roast duck larb, with hot chilli, mint, lime, roast rice, cucumber and lettuce ($26) is another top choice. Admittedly, I picked my way around the pieces of chilli, but I did enjoy being able to wrap the generous chunks of beautifully cooked, tender duck, with cucumber and herbs, in a lettuce cup. I do love tactile food.
Roast duck larb - generous chunks of perfectly cooked duck
The dish of the night for me was the sticky braised beef rib, with hot and sour kohlrabi salad - at $30 the most expensive dish on the menu. There was a knife on the plate lest we needed it to cut the beef, but it proved unnecessary - the beef was so perfectly cooked to the point of falling apart, that it could easily be shredded with a fork or chopsticks. As you'd expect, the meat was melt in the mouth tender. The light salad was a perfect compliment to the dish. My mouth is watering as I think about this dish now!
Sticky braised beef rib - dish of the night
Tenpin offers six desserts. We tried the banana trifle - passionfruit curd, spiced coconut sponge and peanut caramel ($13). Served in a little boat (banana boat?), it looks most appealing. Personally, I liked the tangy curd, with the peanut caramel, perhaps a little more than the sponge, which I found a little heavy, but overall it's a great dish, with interesting textures and tastes. A pleasant way to round out a meal.
Banana trifle - loved the tangy passionfruit curd
Tenpin also has a great wine list, offering wine by the glass and bottle. We tried a wine that was so good I will be trying to source it for home - the 2015 Domaine Fazi Rose (Corsica, FRA) ($13 glass, $50 bottle). The description in the menu is pretty accurate: 'pink grapefruit, watermelon, citrus rind, bone dry'. I found it worked well with the dishes we had - robust but not overpowering.
Tenpin is located at 49 Beach Street, Port Melbourne, and is open from Wednesday to Sunday; Wednesday, Thursday from 5pm til late, Friday - Sunday from 12 noon til late.
To reserve a table, call (03) 9041 3211, or book online via the website.
The images in this article were taken by the writer. They are not to be reproduced in any form without the express permission of WeekendNotes.