Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Movenpick, QV

Finally, Movenpick has landed in Melbourne CBD (after it opened its first store in Box Hill some time last year). Its well-chosen location in QV, next to Pappa Rich is a savvy business decision.

We visited late on a Sunday after a stroll through the Carlton Gardens and a brief jaunt through the playground. After a few hours of indulging ourselves in such delightfully childish activities, it seemed only befitting that we should indulge in some ice cream and sorbet.

Despite a dizzying array of choices, we tried to be very good and stuck to a strict order of ONLY three scoops. T chose the espresso sorbet and a lemon and lime sorbet. To balance out the hues (and flavours), I chose the grapefruit and sneaked in some caramelised nuts and white chocolate shavings on top. 

The assortment of flavours complemented each other in an oddly endearing sort of way. The caramelised nuts complemented the espresso sorbet whilst the white chocolate shavings added a touch of sweetness to the grapefruit flavour. The espresso and grapefruit sorbets simulated a nouveau version of the classic Jaffle. The grapefruit and the lemon and lime made up a much more natural suite of flavours and provided a refreshing finish.

Movenpick on Urbanspoon

Bowery-to-Williamsburg, Melbourne CBD

As a self-confessed glutton, American food is satisfying in the most special way. With its standout menu of Reuben sandwiches, Southern fried chicken and peanut butter hot chocolates, Bowery to Williamsburg has become a favourite past time.

Tucked away in a cobblestoned alley on Flinders Lane, this is probably the only Melbournian aspect. There is usually a line around lunch time so be prepared to wait a little and sit on a communal table.

The place is always buzzing and the staff always seem to be run off their feet attending to the constant stream of patrons. Even so, the service is pretty quick and we’ve never had our orders missed or mistaken.

On one visit, I decided to be a little bit adventurous and ordered the pickled herring with beetroot & egg salad and cucumber bagel, with a side order of mac and cheese. This also came with some pretzels which was somewhat cute. The mac and cheese was creamy and oozy and responsibly too small!


My bagel was a rather interesting combination of flavours, which I would usually appreciate.But this particular set was a bit odd, and didn’t make my tastebuds rejoice with glee.I also had half of a Reuben which was everything that I had hoped for and more! Its sheer height made it so much more appealing and it was stuffed with an obscene amount of fillings.

Next time round, I chose the breaded eggplant with haloumi cheese, roasted peppers, and preserved lemon hummus on a pita wrap with a side of the freekeh salad with chickpeas. As a combination, they worked together really well!

Bowery to Williamsburg on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Richmond Oyster Bar, Richmond

As repayment for shouting him lobsters, E endeavoured to return the favour. But alas, it was not to be, and what had been intended as an intimate dinner for two eventually grew into a dinner party of five.

It was a Saturday night and the place was throbbing with activity. Luckily we had booked in advance, but even so, we had to wait at the bar for  our table to be cleared. Choosing from the menu was a relatively easy affair as we had heard many great things about the seafood platter and spied it on many other tables in the restaurant.

Whilst choosing was a relatively quick affair, ordering proved to be quite difficult. Our waitress, lovely as she was, failed to grasp simple concepts. We had to repeatedly explain to her that we wanted to order the seafood platter for two, to be shared between three people. Then when one of the other boys tried to adjust his fish and chips order, she almost reeled in confusion. She was trying her hardest and seemed new, so we decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway, the food soon arrived and we were momentarily awestruck as we basked in its splendid glory. Everything was so fresh and appealing and we went at it with hands and all. After the initial frenzy, we still found ourselves with almost half of the platter left to go. They had been very generous with the serving portions.

Whilst the food was phenomenal, the lacklustre service was quite disappointing. We found it immensely difficult to get service and even when we finally hailed someone down, they would forget the request or take a while to get back to us. This was all the while with us sitting right in front of the bar, so I can only imagine how the rest of the patrons fared.

The incompetent service continued into dessert time resulting in mine not arriving until after everyone had finished theirs. When I firmly asked for my dessert order to be taken off the bill, the manager came over to offer an apology and even had the decency to take another one of our dessert orders off the bill as well. Such a redeeming gesture was well received by the whole group and we left the restaurant in good spirits.

Richmond Oysters on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mi Cocina, Dallas TX

In Dallas, I got a real dose of Tex-Mex. The term had floated into my peripheral scope before, but I hadn’t fully appreciated its origins until M pointedly remarked on it.

Mi Cocina was packed when we arrived on a Thursday night and without a reservation, we were relegated to a table at the back of the restaurant near the kitchen.

Of course, we couldn’t go past the infamous frozen margaritas which are one of the reasons for their overwhelming popularity and one long gulp later, I too was a fan! They were sweet and strong and cold and perfect for combating the intense waves of pulsating heat.

Just as one might be served bread and butter at another restaurant, it seemed that chips and salsa were the norm here. We also got a serve of guacamole to accompany ours, and without any need to exaggerate, this version was probably one of the best I have had.

M was pretty quick to picked his main entrĂ©e, whilst it took a bit longer for me to commit. After further deliberations, I chose the ceviche and a soup. My soup was a surprising blend of chicken and vegies and beans and cheese and slivers of taco chips and ultimately quite delicious. On the other hand, the ceviche used prawns and whilst it retained the freshness commonly associated with such a dish, the rawness of the dish was lost and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped.

M’s plate arrived as a neat pile of cheese greasy fatty mess and we messed up the plate some more. I could taste the different ingredients in each of the rolls, but I could not distinguish nor identify the type of meat, beans, salad, cheese or sauce used – not that such details really mattered, because each mouthful was excruciatingly satisfying.

Despite our most valiant efforts, we couldn’t finish everything, and our waiter packed away a decent amount of food for us to take with us.  The level of service offered was slightly hurried, but understandable given how busy the place was. Besides, I was more than happy to be left alone with M and our food for the better part of the evening.

Mi Cocina - West Village on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Grain Store, Melbourne CBD

The Grain Store is a relatively new entrant to the Melbourne food scene and it recently shot up the ranks at Urbanspoon. I was lucky enough to receive 4 invitations to the store opening and came by on a Friday night to be wined and dined. Thus, a full disclaimer is appropriate at this point to dispel any notions of potential impropriety.

Located at the other end of the city, The Grain Store adds a streak of cheeriness to the otherwise quiet  end of Flinders Lane. We arrived after a long trek from the other end of the CBD and we were thirsty and hungry when we were greeted by a very handsome and very well dressed doorman who ticked our names off his list and ushered us in.

There were plenty of drinks to go around and the staff were diligent in topping up our glasses. We enjoyed the wine and the bubbly and amused ourselves with The Grain Store's very inspired menu. There were a number of intriguing items that I would love to come back to try and we all agreed that it would make for a fantastic lazy weekend hangout. At the same time, the space is versatile and one could definitely imagine its appeal as a chic dining option and/or an after work hotspot.

Soon enough, we saw platters of food being circulated around the room. The canape selection was both thoughtful and extensive. Unfortunately, we sat closer to the bar than to the kitchen, and we did not get the chance to sample as much food as there were going around. 

At the conclusion of the event, we were all sent away with some sweet delights, and these delicious cookies and brownies certainly gave us reasons to revisit The Grain Store. 

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cru Food and Wine Bar, Dallas TX

Cru means a vineyard or group of vineyards, especially one of recognized superior quality and thus it is no surprise that Cru is the chosen name for a series of wine bars in Texas. The space is dark and intimate and the services is comprehensive but unintrusive. In other words, it was a perfect place for a date - and this was certainly the case as all of the tables were filled with couples or prospectable couples (including ours, I suppose). 

M was still slightly distraught over a missent work email and let me have free reign over the menu. For entrees we shared a majestically rich cheese fondue, a slightly more delicate crab cake and a palate cleansing beetroot beets, kale and goats cheese salad. Our entrees were paired with a sweet 2011 Riesling from Germany that I really enjoyed. 

From there, we progressed onto mains of sea bass for M and short spare ribs for me. Which is to say that we made it really difficult for the sommelier to choose wine flights for us. He did rather well enough to please M with both his own set of three AND mine - which was good enough for me as I'm quite indifferent towards my wine, and especially reds whereas M is rather excitable on the topic. His coffee table reading consists of The Economist, TIME, The Wine Enthusiast and a copy of the Wine Guide 2013.

We finished with the molten chocolate cake which was superbly oozilicious and its sweet richness complemented the remaining glasses of reds. 

Cru a Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Gui, Dallas TX

The original intention had been stuff our faces at Gui's before going to watch the Rangers, but M's work caused havoc with his best intentions and we ended up ordering takeout for the night so that he could his slides. 

Gui was really busy when we walked in with the restaurant almost full as well as a few other patrons waiting for their takeaway takeout orders at the bar. They told us that our orders would take about 20 mins so we went for a walk around the block (en route Starbucks of course!). 

When we came back, our order still wasn't ready, but the staff did keep checking on it and were persistently apologetic about its delay. It was finally all done after about another 20 mins of waiting and they were nice enough to give us some complimentary edamame to make up for the lateness. When we unpacked the food, I was gobsmacked by how much of it there was, no wonder I received a very very affirmative nod when I asked if I had ordered enough for two people. 

My favourite would have to the be the sashimi combo which consisted of a huge amount of chunky, varietally diverse, good quality, fresh fish. Meanwhile, the spicy dragon roll was pretty intense and tantalisingly set my mouth on fire after consumption, and the popcorn lobster roll sitting in the background was also goddamn gobsmackingly good! 

Gui Korean Japanese Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon

Brunetti, Carlton

I’d always taken it as gospel that Brunetti’s was a heralded institution representing sweet delights and irresistible temptations. Until I visited their Carlton store for the first time a few months ago, I had not fully appreciated the full extent of the Brunetti enterprise. The full selection of more than hundreds of cakes, pastries, biscuits, and other sweet offerings made me realise just why Brunetti's has earned its reputation.

We arrived one night after I’d finished work early and even at 10:30, the place was buzzing with people. When I expressed my wonderment, P told me that it was usually even busier and we were lucky that we could secure a table without too much searching.  

There were endless rows and rows of delicious offerings and my mind boggled at the choices. I was so overwhelmed, that I ended up with some rather tame options. The cannoli is an old-time favorite and this one was quite good. The outside was crisp and the custard soft - although, my personal preference would have been for the custard to be slightly more creamy and less gelatinous. Given their Italian heritage, I was intrigued at the rather extensive selections of macaron flavours and chose three for assessment. To their credit, the flavours were distinguishable and they were well-made. The last item that shall have to remain nameless for now as I can't quite remember what it was called. But it was definitely my favourite and reminded me of a vanilla slice. It is essentially puff pastry enclosed around a substantive amount of custard, and glazed with sweet sweet icing - irresistible!

Brunetti on Urbanspoon

Sushi Hotaru, Melbourne CBD

This bustling sushi train joint is ubiquitously located upstairs at 200 Bourke Street. Customers take a set of non-descript elevators from next to the bubble-cup shop and arrive amongst a myriad of mostly empty shop fronts. If not for the line of people flowing out the door and around the corner, it would have taken us far longer to stumble upon the tucked away entrance.

At $3/plate for the majority of the menu, it’s easy to understand its popularity.  We were quite lucky to get seated soon after our arrival as there were only the two of us and we didn’t mind sitting at the bar. It was P’s first time at sushi train, but I was giddy with excitement and couldn’t wait to snatch plates off the train tracks. We were in prime location to do this as we were seated close to the sushi chefs and the plates had to travel past us to get to the rest of the restaurant.

In quick succession, I had procured about three plates of freshly prepared sushi for immediate consumption, and had also used the touch screen (oh YES! YES! YES!) in front of us to order more food. The quality and standard of the offerings were both outstanding given that most plates were reasonably priced at $3. Of course, there are pricier and more substantive items on the menu, and even those represent good money for value. The service is more than adequate and more than what I would expect from a place that utilised touch screens. After an hour of binge consumption, P threatened call it quits when the towering stack of plates threatened to topple over. Even my evil eyes weren’t enough to convince P otherwise.  

After terse negotiations, he reluctantly agreed to dessert as the desserts don’t come on plates that could be added to the plate stack, and therefore, ratio decidendi for ceasing consumption was not applicable to those instances

Sushi Hotaru on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Longrain, Melbourne CBD

One day, presented with the excruciating dilemma of choosing my most-want-to-go-to, top-of-my-wishlist, forever-been-wanting-to-go restaurant, I chose Longrain. It was a rainy weekday evening and we got a table easily. The cocktail list was highly inspired and we had a difficult time choosing from an extensive list of high calibre options. It was refreshing to be confronted with so many bold cocktails at a restaurant and I was already well on my way of being thoroughly impressed. 

For starters, we had oysters which were topped with a brilliantly zesty dressing. Socially appropriate decorum aside, I probably could have swallowed half a dozen in succession. On the other hand, the meatball-esque tidbits were much less memorable and I think I may have even offered mine to M after a bite.

For mains, we chose the slow cooked shank and the red duck curry. Oh my! They were wonderful dishes packed with flavour and incorporating many interesting ingredients. M had also done his best to convince me of the merits of sharing a bottle of red by this stage. 

Dessert remained a fixation of mine throughout the evening despite the copious amounts of drinks and food that I had been plied with at that stage. My infatuation with fresh figs was consummated with perfectly caramelised halves that drew out the richness of our last glass of wine.

Longrain Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Food Republik and Movenpick, Boxhill

Food Republik is a fantastic idea that is highly reminiscent of food courts in Asia, and the food options have a strong Taiwanese influence. the menu is huge and features a number of different "hawkers" who are placed around the space. Unlike in Asia where customers would approach the vendors individually, there are wait staff on hand to take orders for all the vendors and bring the food to the table. Perhaps as Food Republik gains popularity, it can revert to the more authentic ordering system. That being said, the menu does proffer an authentic spread of dishes that are comfortingly familiar and evoke many fond memories.

Food Republik on Urbanspoon

Afterwards, we stopped by Movenpick, which is also a recent addition to the strip and tasted their wares. It's so great to see them in Melbourne and who knows, if we are lucky enough, maybe Haagen Daaz will open shop here as well!

Movenpick Boxhill on Urbanspoon