Monday, August 22, 2005

Shark Finn Inn and Dutch Masters

I sometimes go out with my tita Babes (mom's sister) during the weekend. We don't do it that often but we sometimes watch a movie. Last July 30, we decided to indulge our cultural tastebuds and went to Melbourne City or CBD (Central Business District). I actually live in the greater Melbourne area but usually the central district is known as 'The City'.

My Aussie officemates suggested that we try to have lunch at one of Melbourne Chinatown's institutions - Shark Finn Inn. So my aunt and I met at Myer (mall) and then trudged up to Little Collins Street, to the Chinatown entrance (pictured) and on to Shark Finn where they start serving yam cha at 11:30 am. Yam cha here is a style of food service where little trolleys of food are brought out and you choose and point to what you want and they give it to you. The trolleys go on and on and the servings are small.

We were given a pot of tea and to start off we chose the fried baby squid calamari. It was so nice! Then we said no to all the other fried things because my officemates told me to wait for the steamed dim sims. We had to wait a bit then we chose prawn, scallop, mushroom and pork dim sims (three per serving). We also had some fish cakes and rice with mushrooms that was bundled in fragrant leaves. For dessert, I chose rainbow gelatin.

It was great eating yam cha because you feel pleasantly full afterwards and because you choose around one or two dishes per trolley, you get to thoroughly enjoy the little serves. And then you're eyeing the next trolleys with greed. When we saw the bill, it was cheap too.

Then my aunt and I rode the trams (pictured) and got off at the National Gallery of Victoria (pictured) in St. Kilda Road. We were there to see the big art exhibition of the year - Dutch Masters. The paintings on display are from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdan and hail from the golden era of Netherlands - the 17th century. During that time, the Netherlands was a world power because of their exploration and trade. The wealthy middle classes or burghers demanded paintings and beautiful objects to decorate their homes.

My aunt and I saw many beautiful portraits. Many were of the wealthy wearing the dark judge like robes of burghers. The backgrounds were also dark but in constrast, faces were well lit. There were also still-lifes with, some even showing bones to depict that time is fleeting and intricate sceneries. I learned that most of the Dutch at that time were Protestant and the more well known painters include Rembrant and Jan Steen.

What really floored me was the sheer number of people who were there. It was sometimes hard to move about because there were always people trying to get a better look at the art objects. It was amazing how packed the place was considering that there is a $20 entrance fee. I really don't see this happening soon in the Philippines. I think it is still a battle for survival for many of our countrymen so exhibitions like this are not on the priority list. But I'm glad I got the chance to see this and to know more about Dutch culture. And to see what Melbourne City has to offer to 'tourists' like me and my aunt.