Never underestimate the power of pork belly.
Red Spice Road has been voted Victoria's favourite restaurant in the inaugural The Age Good Food Guide People's Choice award.
The modern Asian restaurant's win in the reader-voted poll may be down to its signature chilli caramel-glazed pork belly, says Red Spice Road's Vanessa Green. "People just really love it. They love to talk about it and tell their friends about it."
The Age Good Food Guide introduced the People's Choice award this year, part of a national campaign inviting diners to name their favourite metro or regional restaurant, cafe, bar and cheap eat restaurant. A staggering 16,886 people jumped online to vote in Victoria alone.
Reflecting the diversity of the state's dining scene, the restaurants that topped the People's Choice poll include five Asian-style restaurants, two Italian restaurants, a contemporary steakhouse, a long-running regional fine-diner and a vegan venture.
"Everyone and their mum got behind it," says Green of their customers' support. "We're incredibly excited about winning. We were hoping we would win but we didn't really expect that we would."
The restaurant doesn't aim to offer fine dining, says Green. "We try to have an environment where the staff are friendly and everyone is welcomed and is going to have an enjoyable time with some great dishes."
The pork belly has been the star attraction since the restaurant opened in McKillop Street, Melbourne, in September 2007. When Red Spice Road executive chef John McLeay attempted to take the pork off the menu, it caused such a ruckus among regulars that it made a speedy return.
Between them, the kitchens at Red Spice Road and its sister restaurant Red Spice QV, at Swanston Street's QV centre, power through 34 tonnes of pork belly a year.
And Green says that even when she takes people to brunch at Red Spice QV, they bypass breakfast dishes such as pandan French toast and poached eggs with corn fritters and Asian greens in favour of the twice-cooked pork belly, which comes with apple slaw and black vinegar.
Top 10 Victorian restaurants, as voted by diners
- Red Spice Road, Melbourne
- Lake House, Daylesford
- David's, Prahran
- Chin Chin, Melbourne
- The Grand Hotel, Richmond
- Vivace, Brighton
- Rice Paper Scissors, Melbourne
- Rockpool Bar & Grill, Melbourne
- Smith & Daughters, Fitzroy
- Longrain, Melbourne
Congratulations to Victorian reader Courtney Adams, who took out the reader's prize for voting in the poll. Adams has won a $250 Good Food Gift Card every month for a year and two tickets to The Age Good Food Guide awards on September 21, when the remaining award-winners will be announced.
The Age Good Food Guide 2016 will be available from participating newsagents, 7-Elevens and supermarkets for $10 with The Saturday Age on Saturday, September 26, while stocks last.