RESTAU­RANT + WINE Not safe for work; Stick to it

Fill your boots — and bel­lies — with carb-laden treats

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Kim Knight

When I was grow­ing up pan­cakes were for Sun­day tea, not Satur­day brunch.

They were cooked one at a time. Crispy on the edges, doughy in the mid­dle. We soaked them with le­mon juice, sprin­kled on sugar and rolled them up like cigars. They took two min­utes to eat and it was ap­prox­i­mately an­other fort­night be­fore the next one was ready. Pan­cake din­ners were about wait­ing your turn; a pan-fried les­son in de­layed grat­i­fi­ca­tion I never fully mas­tered. At Belly Wor­ship, pan­cakes are the sig­na­ture dish. “Two please,” I said, re­sign­ing my­self for the long haul.

Do­min­ion Rd’s new­est restau­rant had been open just one week when we vis­ited. The meet-and-greet game was strong — charm­ingly en­thu­si­as­tic young staff, free pop­corn and minia­ture menus to take home and study at your leisure. It’s a smart move. Trust me when I say an on­line search for the “Belly Wor­ship” menu may not be safe for work.

The restau­rant is not li­censed, but for $3 you can help your­self to “un­lim­ited sides”, in­clud­ing peanuts, pop­corn, pret­zels, corn chips and all the fizzy you can stom­ach. This is cheap and cheer­ful at full vol­ume. The logo is a ro­tund, sun­glass-wear­ing war­rior. The crock­ery, which you fetch your­self, is bright or­ange plas­tic. A neon sign ex­horts you to EN­JOY YOUR­SELF.

I’d barely taken a sip of the cheap­est soft drink in town when the cheap­est pan­cakes in town ar­rived. Crisp yet pli­able — more roti than hot cake — and served with bowls of fresh slaw and fra­grant duck (me) and cumin-and-chilli spiced lamb (him).

Din­ers are of­fered dis­pos­able plas­tic gloves, but the pan­cakes’ ro­bust ex­te­ri­ors held their own ad­mirably. They come pre-smeared with an earthy “sig­na­ture” chilli sauce and, if you like your food hot, they’ll amp up the quan­tity ac­cord­ingly.

This is not fine din­ing. You could repli­cate those spicy lamb flavours, for ex­am­ple, at any de­cent ke­bab joint — but would it come with all-you-can-eat pret­zels? Belly Wor­ship is tasty and fun and those pan­cakes are just $8. They need to turn those ta­bles fast. You’re here for a good time, not a long time.

Ev­ery­thing ar­rived at light­ning speed. Un­for­tu­nately, the mayo got to the bright green pork­belly stuffed bao ($7) be­fore we did and it was too soggy to re­ally rate. Sim­i­lar dilem­mas were oc­cur­ring all around us. You have to or­der at the counter, but you should do this in in­cre­ments be­fore your ta­ble for two re­sem­bles a buf­fet for 12.

James had been ad­vised ear­lier that the $28 “stormy fish” was basa (a South­east Asian cat­fish) and very spicy. Litchi pork ($9.90) was the rec­om­mended al­ter­na­tive. Ac­cord­ing to the menu this dish has “a his­tory of 300 years in Fu­jian China”. If I’d looked at the pic­ture more closely I would have re­alised it also has a pro­vin­cial New Zealand his­tory, circa 1978. This was old-school sweet-and-sour pork with im­pec­ca­ble tech­nique.

The bat­tered belly pieces stayed crisp, even as we paused for the chicken, mush­room and corn siu mai that we re­ally should not have or­dered be­cause it was only Fri­day and we had al­ready eaten two days’ worth of food. The sauce was ex­actly the right amount of pi­quant. Is it sweet? Is it sour? Are those ly­chees? (Yes, yes and yes.) And there were pota­toes. I’d ini­tially mis­taken the crunchy gold nuggets for pineap­ple but at Belly Wor­ship, no carb is left off the menu.

To re­cap, we had now eaten pan­cakes, bao, pota­toes and won­ton wrap­pers. I un­der­stood now why the man at the till had gen­tly de­clined my ad­di­tional or­der of co­conut rice ($2). At home, study­ing the hand-out menu, I re­alised they did dessert. I wish I had asked what the “golden crisp” was. I cer­tainly wasn’t go­ing to google it.

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