Dish: Gyu Tan Don (ox tongue rice)
Cost: AUD 10 or less
Let's leap halfway across the globe from Manhattan to Melbourne, a thriving city in west Australia.
Melbourne is very much like Manhattan because of its fusion of cultures, outrageous traffic, strategic grid roads and ample arrays of international cuisines.
When I was there in 2011, I was introduced to the infamous ox-tongue rice, known as the gyu tan don. It's a Japanese dish consisting of marinated ox tongue slices served over a bed of fresh white rice, garnished with sweet BBQ sauce and spring onions. (Gyu - ox, Tan - tongue, Don - rice)
Menya is supposedly the best restaurant in Melbourne for this exquisite dish.
Honestly, I had my doubts about the gyu tan don because the thought of tasting ox tongue just seemed, well, nasty. Despite my Asian background in appreciating what the public considers "weird animal parts (eg: liver, feet, etc.)" I was rather skeptical about the ox tongue.
But because my Melbourne friends made such a big deal about how delicious it was, and also because I noticed a lot of customers standing in line specifically for the gyu tan don, I decided to let my conservative guard down and give it a go.
It tasted like beef, but better.
It was juicy and marinated to perfection. The tenderness of the meat surprised me - I was expecting something a little rubbery or gross - but this was great! It was garnished with salt, pepper and special Japanese cooking sauces.
Soft, succulent and almost sweet... it was a tantalizing delight to my evening.
The best dishes are the ones that surprise you, rewarding you with a memorable taste for venturing out of your comfort zone.
Photographed and written by Carissa Gan.