I was famished after the Amanda Palmer gig, and having had an ace visit the night before at Danny’s Burgers, didn’t think I could justify going there again, two nights in a row. While walking to the car, myself and Bit O’ Meat decided to hit Chinatown as dumplings seemed to be an acceptable late-night fast food. Previously disappointed by a visit to the Supper Inn, which no longer seems to be as good as it once was, we tried a place called Ling Nam. Not Ling Nan as their own business card and menu state. I wasn’t bursting-at-the-seams eager, but not much else was available approaching midnight so this modest place had to do. How bad could Chinese food be, really.
Ling Nam seems pretty small and the service is curt, but that was okay – it seems to be the modus operandi of many a Chinatown eatery to serve and turf you. That’s cool – most of us know this. We decided upon the boneless duckling with yam, and the pork belly hotpot with pickled vegetables. Bit O’ Meat was asked if he was sure he wanted to proceed with his dish as it was generally considered very oily by Westerners. He looked a bit shocked, but insisted politely that he wouldn’t like to change his order. The waiter then proceeded to rob us of our chopsticks and we had to inform him quite forcefully that we were okay with the current eating implements.
The servings were absolutely huge, and wonderfully hearty. The pork belly was so tender and the slices barely held together. I would have liked more vegetables underneath though. Admittedly, yes, the duck with yam was an acquired taste – I wasn’t so fond of the actual batter itself (I am sorry to be frank, but much later after we were well away from the dining table, I felt it reeked of a particular male emission…). I do in fact love yam.
Initially, Bit O’ Meat found a small hair in the duck and yam dish but seemed okay to keep eating. He then found a much larger hair in the pork belly, at which point I said I couldn’t continue eating the food. I have to admit, I was really unsure how to handle the situation and my dining partner seemed to have less initiative. I eventually summoned up the courage to tell a waitress what the problem was. Not once did she apologise for the situation and said that we could either get fresh dishes, or get fresh dishes to takeaway. I said to be honest, I’d just prefer to leave – and did not say this with malice. At this point, she became furious and insisted that we had to pay regardless because we’d eaten some of the food despite me pointing out that we’d eaten up to the point at which we’d found hair in the food. Not wanting to cause a further scene, we let ourselves be bullied into taking away fresh versions of our dishes.
We returned home feeling pretty downtrodden and a couple of days later, the takeaway is still sitting in my fridge. Although my recent experience with Supper Inn was rather lacklustre, I would easily recommend it over Ling Nam and it genuinely pains me to have to give such a negative review. Another food blogging colleague has enjoyed dining there so while the service is appalling and highly unprofessional, it cannot be ignored that the food is good, and it also shuts earlier in the morning than even Supper Inn (2am and 3.30am comparatively).
For future reference, if you want late-night nosh, I would instead recommend Supper Inn in Chinatown (open to 2am), Stalactites (open 24 hours) on the corners of Russell and Lonsdale Streets (don’t pretend you haven’t done the trashy nightclub drunken stagger for one of their kebabs – I won’t believe you!), or a little further north to Danny’s Burgers in North Fitzroy (open to 2am). No, it’s top-notch, but they will all do at a pinch and you’ll leave fortified.