A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published February 3rd 2016
The New Kingpin of South-East Asian Dining
New Asian fusion food kitchen Tenpin recently opened at 67 Beach Street, Port Melbourne. Situated in an ideal location with views of the bay and Station Pier, Tenpin has strong credentials, with Nick Savage, Lyndal Barnes and Matt Thurley teaming up with Executive Chef Ashley Richey to run this venture. This quartet is well known in the area, as they are also responsible for the successful Mr Lawrence at The London, located just a few doors down the road.
When the group took over 67 Beach Street, it was a rundown, two storey space (previously R Bar). It's now been converted into a dynamic dining venue, albeit one that has retained a neo-industrial feel, with its high ceilings, exposed metal struts and fairly bare distressed walls. It gives a comfortable, welcoming feeling, also allowing lots of natural light to flood in.
Tenpin - so named because it bears the signage of the former Mentone Tenpin Bowling Club
The name 'Tenpin' may seem a little strange for a restaurant, but the story is that Lyndal Barnes stumbled across signage and some relics from the old Mentone Tenpin Bowling Club - and that provided the inspiration for naming their new venue.
The cuisine at Tenpin is described as South-East Asian fusion. Executive Chef Richey has travelled extensively in Thailand and Indonesia and attests to having a rich knowledge of the food of this region. As he puts it: "My colourful cooking career has been driven by spice. South East Asian cuisine is a great love of mine and one that I never tire of experimenting with."
Walking into Tenpin, one first notices a large high table with stools in the centre of the restaurant, which would seat perhaps 20 people. More standard height tables are situated to either side. At the back, there is a bar, and two bar staff were being kept busy making cocktails. The busy kitchen is separated from the dining area by a windowed wall.
The neo-industrial setting features a large central table
But that's not the whole story - there is another large space upstairs. It is not yet open, but will be soon. The aim is for the upper floor to be a casual space - a place to chill out with a drink while watching the ships mooring at Station Pier. I have no doubt the upstairs balcony will be highly sought after on warm evenings.
Once the upstairs is completed, the restaurant expects to have a capacity of 200 diners.
The greeting when I arrived was warm and welcoming. Water arrived on the table quickly, and we were offered a drink or cocktail from the interesting and extensive selection. I opted for the Bottanica cocktail ($21), a green-coloured drink which obtains its hue from bruised mint which is bathing in 'botanically rich gin', with freshly squeezed lime juice and elderflower liqueur. I enjoyed the light, refreshing taste of this drink, perfect for a warm evening.
The bar staff were kept busy
My dining companion, Mel, selected the Hidden Mule cocktail ($19), which comprised lemongrass infused vodka, a hint of Spanish vanilla liqueur, a splash of citrus, some fresh ginger, and an artisanal ginger beer. Not surprisingly, the ginger flavour was strongly present, balanced out by subtle notes of vanilla. A nice touch, adding to the complexity of flavours, was a straw made from lemongrass.
Our cocktails - the Hidden Mule on the left and the Bottanica
When it came to ordering food, we struggled to make a choice, as there are so many delicious sounding options on the menu, ranging across Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese cuisines. Forgoing the Thai fishcakes ($13.50) and the crispy skinned pork belly ($15), we ventured instead into the pork and kimchi dumplings with black vinegar and chilli sambal ($12) and som tum salad - green papaya, dried shrimp, tomato, snake bean, chilli, peanuts and tamarind ($16). The dumplings, while a little chewy, had a great flavour, with the sambal just enough to waken the palate, with its careful balance of the classic sweet, sour, spicy and salty elements.
The som tum was far less subtle - I found that the delicate sheen of perspiration on my face soon turned into beads of sweat on consuming a few mouthfuls of this dish! I have to confess that the chilli was a little too strong for me, but I know more robust chilli eaters will love it.
Our entrees - pork and kimchi dumplings (foreground) and som tum
We had had a recommendation for the curries at Tenpin prior to visiting, and ended up choosing the beef Rendang - with toasted coconut, wombok and carrot pickles ($26) over the other curry option - mild coconut chicken curry with kaffir lime, lemongrass, sweet potato and sugar snaps ($24).
For us, the Rendang was the dish of the night. It was fall apart, melt in the mouth, curry perfection. I would go back for this dish. It was a generous serve, and, padded out with some steamed rice ($3 per bowl) and roti bread ($4.50), provided enough food to be a main course for the two of us, which represented good value for money.
The Beef Redang - curry perfection
There is a small but interesting dessert menu, but alas, time didn't permit us to explore it on this occasion. I would probably have selected the spiced coconut cake trifle – passionfruit curd, sugar bananas and peanut caramel. All the desserts are $14, except ice cream and sorbet, which are $4 each.
By the time we left, Tenpin was jumping, with most tables occupied. A group had taken over most of the large central table, and the volume in the restaurant had increased considerably. With its wooden floor, bare walls and high ceiling, and therefore not a lot to mitigate the noise, I pondered just how loud it would be if the restaurant was full.
Overall, we enjoyed our experience at Tenpin, and look forward to exploring some of the other food and cocktail options on a return visit.
Tenpin is open 7 days: kitchen from 12 noon - 10pm every day; bar from 12 noon to 11pm Monday - Thursday, 12 noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 12 noon to 10.00pm on Sunday.
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.