Saying Yes to the Year of the Ox

'Taiwanese ecstasy rice' with crumbed pork fillet, fried egg, greens and chilli sauce.
'Taiwanese ecstasy rice' with crumbed pork fillet, fried egg, greens and chilli sauce. Photo: Jason South

THEME: LUNAR NEW YEAR

How can you say "no" to a restaurant called Yes? And indeed, why would you want to when the food is as good as it is here?

Yes canteen in Clayton.
Yes canteen in Clayton. Photo: Jason South

Yes is a tiny Taiwanese canteen serving street snacks and comfort food in a modest strip of Asian restaurants near Monash University.

In just 50 metres, there's mouth-watering diversity with Yes's neighbours serving Hong Kong-style rice dishes, northern Chinese barbecue, Japanese ramen and Xian-style noodles. There's also a 24-hour laundromat because all those noodles and dumplings can lead to spots of bother.

Taiwanese food is threaded with multiple influences including Hakka, Fujian, Japanese and American. It tends to the sweet, salty, garlicky and brash.

Pancake lined with egg and filled with Taiwanese sausage.
Pancake lined with egg and filled with Taiwanese sausage. Photo: Jason South

Popcorn chicken is hot and crisp and impossible to stop eating. Sweet potato fries are thin-cut, crunchy and similarly addictive. Fish tempura (made with fish mousse and potato flour formed into strips then fried) is appropriately chewy and salty.

Bao (fold-over steamed breads) come with juicy pork belly, fried chicken or Taiwanese sausage, which is like a sweet, garlic-infused Asian frankfurter.

Pancakes are lined with egg so they are part omelette then folded over fillings such as sausage, pork floss or teriyaki chicken.

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The "Ecstasy rice" is self-explanatory: glistening short-grain rice is topped with crumbed pork fillet, fried egg, greens and a scribble of chilli sauce. Like everything here, it's simple, straightforward and tasty, made with evident pride.

The restaurant is far from salubrious but it's congenial. There are mini-games so you can play table soccer or snooker while you wait as well as a help-yourself fridge and pallets of bubble tea and soy milk stacked about.

There's a contact collection notebook by the door (please fill it in!) and cash is the preferred payment method but you can bank transfer if you must. The owner is Eden Tu, born in Taiwan and here feeding Clayton for the past three years.

A trio of bao filled with pork belly, fried chicken and Taiwanese sausage.
A trio of bao filled with pork belly, fried chicken and Taiwanese sausage. Photo: Jason South

Year of the Ox celebrations begin on February 12. This strip won't have the dragon razzle-dazzle of Chinatown but Eden is planning special dishes to shrug-off an incredibly challenging Year of the Rat. Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Yes

Address 162 Clayton Road, Clayton, 03 9511 0737, yestaiwan.com.au

Open Thursday-Tuesday 11.30am-3pm, 4.30pm-midnight

Prices Snacks: $5.50-$9.50; Mains: $7.50-$25

Also try

Longrain

The relaunched Thai mainstay is throwing a two-night party to call in a lucky New Year. There's a Red Dragon cocktail, special dishes from chef Arte Assavakavinvong and a visit from the wonderful lion and dragon dancers. Bookings open for February 11 and 12.

44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9653 1600, longrainmelbourne.com

Simon's Peiking Duck

This will be the second year in a row that Box Hill isn't doing a mass celebration for Lunar New Year but you can still eat in the Year of the Ox with a duck banquet at this venerable restaurant. Everybody orders Peking duck with homemade pancakes but there's also a good selection of vegetarian and noodle dishes. Also in Fitzroy.

197b Middleborough Road, Box Hill South, 03 9898 5944

Man Mo @ WTC

Come for classic and contemporary Chinese food, plus a good selection of claypot and Malaysian specialties. If you visit on February 13 or 14, you can work in a visit to the Dragon Boat races at Harbour Esplanade, 15 minutes' stroll away.

Shops g13-g15, WTC Wharf Precinct, 18-38 Siddeley Street, Melbourne, 03 9077 9598, manmowtc.com.au