604 Station Street
Box Hill, 3128 VIC
I remember coming to First Taste with my family a few years back (and by that I mean about 7), and we thought it was pretty great. But for some reason we never returned. Finally, on a night when I needed some easy and comforting blog fodder, First Taste seemed like just the thing.
Though cramped, the rustic cottage-like feel of this restaurant is definitely a step up from what you’d expect to find in the area. The staff do a mighty fine job of avoiding eye contact, but are pretty friendly once you do get a hold of them. The menu has plenty of faux-Chinese dishes, but the real drawcards (if you ask me) are the herbal soups and the clay pot rice.
There were two pages of weird and wonderful brew that all boast medicinal properties, including a $60 one called Buddha’s Favourite Soup. We went with a simpler Combination Herbs Stewed Beef Soup ($6), which was light, aromatic, and sweetened with a bushel of herbs. Though I’m not sure about this soup replenishing my chi and supplementing my blood, it was at any rate nourishing.
The Chicken and Mushroom with Rice ($9.8) came straight out of the fire, piping hot. The trio of shiitake mushroom, chicken, and Chinese sausage is all kinds of umami.
The rice was dressed simply with sticky soy and a scattering of fresh scallions. Just like the soup, it didn’t stand out, but was light and nourishing.
We realised our mistake when we found out that the Preserved Mustard Cabbage and Pork Loaf with Rice ($9.8) was flavoured with the same soy base as the chicken clay pot. Aside from the peppery pork patty studded with prawns, it was basically the same dish. Unfortunately the pickled mustard greens didn’t make it pop like I had hoped.
One good thing about the clay pots though is the crispy rice at the bottom. Having been directly baked in flames, the rice in the middle was gooshy and comforting, whilst the edges were burnished to a chewy crisp.
Later, when I was chatting to mum and dad back at home, it turns out that they too had recently visited First Taste, and came to the same conclusion as me. Although the restaurant itself hasn’t changed, our tastes have. As a result, there isn’t much to say about First Taste except that ‘it’s fine’. Which is a big shame, because I had fond memories of this place.