Friday, February 28, 2014

Cumulus Inc, Melbourne CBD

I met QY for breakfast on a Sunday morning and arrived to discover that many others had the same idea and so there was a bit of a wait for seating. We bumped into some friends already having breakfast but were banned from joining their table, as it would be too cramped. Mind you this was a table of 3 people seated on a table designed for 4, and we were asking to sit 5 on it. This was a bit totalitarian as we felt capable of judging our own personal space requirements.

Anyway, after being left to shuffle our feet by the entrance for a solid 10-15 mins, we were finally led to two seats at the bar, which had been vacant for the last 10 minutes. I was a bit unhappy to have been kept waiting for empty seats.

By contrast to the service, the food was fantastic and I loved the Cumulus Breakfast (i.ea proprietary take on the Continental breakfast) which was an ultimate selection of different condiments, types of bread, a soft boiled egg, yoghurt and beverages.

So let’s start with the spreads. My favorite was the apricot passion fruit preserve which was packed with fruit bits and which I ate by the spoonful. The raspberry jam and the marmalade were also pretty nice. And because I love my flavours so much and oftentimes too much, I asked for some honey as well.

Next let’s talk about the beverages. The breakfast comes with OJ and tea/coffee. The OJ isn’t freshly squeezed but it is organic. Nevertheless, I went for the tomato juice, which possibly one of the best that I’ve had! It must have been spiked with Tobasco, pepper or something of that nature because it was so intense in flavor. There was a huge kick at the end of every sip which left an irrevocable impression on the palate. I also had the soy latte which was pretty smooth and strong.

As for the food, I was quite happy with my simple boiled egg and toast slices using different types of bread (not sure if they deliberately did this but I loved the variety). The toast was slightly too overdone for my liking, however the boiled egg ran perfectly and the yolk was a perfect way to further soften my toast slices post-buttering. 

To cap everything off, I had a little pot of yoghurt. Progressing through each of the components of the Cumulus Breakfast had been pretty exhausting as there had been just so much to consider, taste, experiment and devour. 

The yoghurt was the last thing that my taste buds were demanding to sample and unbeknownst to me when I did so, I was glad to have saved the best for last. The yoghurt used actual vanilla beans and was quite intense in flavor and perfectly divine as a standalone entity. Even so, with the abundance of spreads within spooning distance, I couldn’t resist adding some honey to the yoghurt, and then some of the raspberry jam as well.

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Manchester Press, Melbourne CBD

Bagels are awesome, a good bagel will be at once dense, soft, bouncy and supple. Manchester Press isn't a traditional bagelry but it is certainly quite well known for its artisan bagels which may host anything from smashed avocados, to salmon to chorizo. Even so, I was missing the taste of NYC and decided to order a fruit and raisin bagel with cream and jam. It was heavenly! The bagel was everything that I wanted and hoped it would be and the spreads complemented it fabulously well. The staff also complied with my request for honey and I was able to mix the flavours to maximise enjoyment.

Writing this post has gotten me thinking. I wonder if Melbourne has the capacity for a full blown, NYC-style, no-fuss, no-frills bagelry where people can just walk in, walk out, order over the counter and leave with a huge stuffed bagel or two. This is also a type of food that would be quite suitable to being sold out of the back of a food truck with some good coffee for commuters, pedestrians and tourists alike. I imagine that Parliament, Flagstaff and Southern Cross would all be quite ideal locations for such a setup. Mnnn food for thought...

Manchester Press on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

All the Sweet Things

Most are coffee fiends, others get by on harder beverages and a few may even turn to illicit substances every so often. But none of those things have the power to tempt  me like sugar can. Weekday mid-afternoons are definitely my weakest moments. If I've had a busy morning, I'll over-compensate for the lack of breakfast and lunch with a sugar hit. Similarly, if I sense a long evening ahead, I'll stock up on sugary goodies to prepare for the night.

La Belle Miette is my ultimate destination as I am a fervent fan of macarons and they always have a fantasy league of flavours waiting to come back with me.

Some days, when my stars are perfectly misaligned and angels and demons alike are hating on me, I will find myself in these tragic predicaments where my busy morning has been an extension of a previously long evening, or where my busy morning is about to become an even longer evening. On those occasions, I would supplement my macarons with a cheeky trip to Haigh's. This both adds to, and diversifies my options, which in theory should optimise returns. 

La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 24, 2014

Terra Rossa, Melbourne CBD

We got takeaway and they didin't really know how to pack it properly so we all ended up with some pretty messily presented meals. As for the taste, the combination of ingredients were inspiringly creative, although I found the dishes to lack in flavour.

Terra Rossa Restaurant Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 22, 2014

B'Churrasco, Melbourne CBD

Having heard wind of the launch event, we trekked to A’Beckett Street in eager anticipation of a good night. This part of the city is becoming quite the foodies’ hangout with Captain Melville and Darac nearby. We were elated to discover the huge converted space and the buzz being generated by the crowd.

I was very taken with the front counter which was made up of stacked books (of the bound variety) and an ode to its previous life as a publishing house.

The front of house was a bit absent and we had to prompt her for a welcome and prod her even further to get instructions on where we should sit, how we should order and what we they would like us to do. Even so, it was a bit of a struggle to get useful information, and we decided to work it out for ourselves.

First, we wandered over to the bar and redeemed our drink cards. There is a good selection and the drinks menu is moderately priced. The bar looks out onto a garden-style area and there were already a few groups of patrons outside. There was also some sort of corporate function going on to the right hand side of the bar so we kept on wandering around and eventually found some free seats on a communal table.

The next two hours were an agonising blend of hunger, frustration and incredulity. As we tried to obtain/order food, the staff appeared to be confused, annoyed and/or apologetic.

Memorable highlights from the night include:
- “Sorry we don’t have/can’t provide any cutlery” 
- “That table are guests of the owner, so this platter is only for them”
- “The kitchen has decided it won’t take any orders from the menu”

Due to a disappointing combination of poorly managed expectations, poor planning and sheer silliness, I thought B'Churrasco’s opening night was a bomb. This was rather unfortunate because what scarce food we did receive was actually quite good. We decided to cut our losses and left before the event was due to end.

On our way out, we observed the spectacle of two chefs, three servers and a photographer crowding around one plate (note: not platter) of food in the open plan kitchen. Meanwhile, the growling stomachs of a whole restaurant of hungry guests reached a crescendo (except THAT table of course).

B'Churrasco on Urbanspoon

Cafe Era, Melbourne Central

We came for breakfast one morning and were stoked to learn they served gluten free bread! This propelled T to decide that he would 'indulge', quote, unquote. 

Any lesser man would have perhaps succumbed to his inner glutton, but T was irritatingly disciplined and ordered poached eggs on GF bread with a hash brown and a side of tomatoes and also a fruit salad with yoghurt. This shattered my plans of piggybacking off T's indulgent breakfast.

I was a bit reluctant to get involved and only ordered a chai soy latte. In a way I was a bit happy that I didn't participate. The food wasn't that fantastic and they were stingy with portions. The side of tomato consisted of only one sole lonely single piece and the so-called yoghurt was nothing more than a smear. Also the fruit salad itself was pretty average and the oddest thing about it were the huge chunks of mango pieces which were chucked in with the inedible skin and all. C'mon people, that's just inconsiderate!

Cafe Era also has  a long way to go on the plating/presentation front as our dishes didn't have any garnish and did not appear to be arranged with any particular care or thought. 

All in all, this was a disappointing meal, which was unfortunate, as Cafe Era commands prime location and the service staff were rather pleasant. The food however was just too amateur.

Cafe Era on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ito, Melbourne CBD

I've always held mixed mixed feelings about Ito, which seems to fluctuate depending on the reason why I'm dining or ordering from there, and with whom I'm sharing the experience with. That is to say, there isn't too much about the food or the service that impresses  me. However at the same time, Ito doesn't usually disappoint either. They are fairly consistent and there are a few reliable menu items that I always know I can count on.

There is the Salmon and Avocado Salad which comes garnished with sweet potato crisps, and decent squiggles of Japanese mayonnaise. I figured that if I'm going to subject myself to a leafy option, I might as well enjoy a tasty one rather than one that is without dressing, oil, and flavour. There is a special place in my repertoire of pet peeves for salads that desperately attempt to imitate chook feed / rabbit food.

The eggplant and tofu entree is also always a safe choice as it's tasty and healthy, and still substantive enough to be filling. Recently, I've also ordered the chirashi rice a few times as I find it to be better value than the sushi and sashimi options.

Ito Japanese Noodle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Coda, Melbourne CBD

We popped by one Saturday afternoon for a quick casual lunch. We were reluctantly seated at the bar and some dude with a ‘tude threw some menus towards us. Hmnn, not the usual Coda welcome that either of us was accustomed to, but with a hangover to cure and work waiting for me back at the office, I didn’t have the capacity to care.

We were still reeling from the aftereffects of a potent bottle of red and skipped the drinks menu. For food, we ordered a number of things to share including favorites like the zucchini flower fritters with Buffalo mozzarella and the fried cauliflower with goats cheese dressing. These were so flavorful and ever so satisfying.

The lamb chop was expertly cooked, and the two kinds of lettuce cups were equally as well made. I preferred the eggplant and tofu mixture and only because the quail version was less gamey that I would have expected. The only dish we didn’t want to finish was the Hanoi roll, which is essentially a rice paper roll, battered and fried - it was a bit too oily for us.

We’d also ordered the Coda slaw which regrettably did not arrive as the kitchen forgot to make it. Otherwise, it was a good meal and we left feeling quite replenished. Service improved as the dude with the ‘tude became too busy with skulking around the bar and we were served by the other guys.

Besides, T had spotted Peter Costello on a table near the back and happily basked in the glory of such proximity for the remainder of lunch. As an aside, he started as the Chairman of The Future Fund (located not too far from Coda) recently, so I can only imagine that Peter Costello sightings will only become more frequent in the months ahead.

Coda on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Gazi, Melbourne CBD

There is an irreparable part of me that will always regret not having gone to Little Press whilst it existed, but at least its replacement, Gazi, is pretty decent. We use its takeaway menu quite often and I like the fact that it offers very healthy (be disciplined with iceberg lettuce and a freshly squeezed)and very unhealthy options (gorge on souvlaki's stuffed with greasy meats and chips).

Gazi is to Greek food what ChinChin tries to be for Asian food. It takes traditional Greek dishes and innovates them with new flavors and tastes. I’m always a fan of their various dips on offer and depending on how gluttonous I’m feeling, I will order these in conjunction with a few salad options and maybe a fresh juice, or a few souvlaki’s, yes, a few.

In this case, I ordered the grain salad, dips served with pita bread and a freshly squeezed carrot juice. As always, the taste was delicious and the ingredients were fresh.

Gazi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kenzan, Melbourne CBD

Really, this is T's restaurant. He won't say no to coming here under any circumstances, and they know him by name here. So, perhaps, I ought not be reviewing this as I've only ever been here with T and meals with T are always enjoyable affairs. 

T usually has some sort of succulent beef dish here customised to his liking - the staff know him well and are very accommodating with his requests. I had just joined T from the gym and wanted something light so got the spinach with sesame sauce on the side. The sesame sauce was a knockout! It was a deliciously thick blend of black sesame and reminiscent of the filling from sweet glutinous balls.

Kenzan provides a fine dining experience and its prices reflect this fact. Portions are quite small and the menu items are priced highly on absolute terms. I don't want to use the word expensive, as this was imply that the items are overpriced, which isn't really subjective. Instead, it's perhaps more appropriate to think of the items as higher priced. 

I don't mind this too much as it means that I'm less likely to be too much of a glutton! Due to the nature of my work hours and demands, I'm often compelled to dine out and order takeaway on weeknights. In a rather obnoxious way, fine dining provides a perfect means for portion control. 

Kenzan Japanese on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pressed Juices, Melbourne CBD

At $9.50 / bottle, this is certainly the Vue de Monde of juices. An obvious question is whether the price tag is justifiable. Let’s start with the juices.

Pressed Juices is “extracted by cold pressing is the most nutritionally complete juice available, and contains up to 5 times more vitamins, minerals and enzymes than juice made by any other method.” Further, “Because the cold-pressed method does not generate the heat that the centrifugal method does, fewer nutrients and enzymes are killed in the juicing process.”

In fact, “Pressed Juices offers 3 different cleanse programs based on level of intensity. Enjoy 8 raw, fresh beverages daily in place of meals for 3 days.”#

Even if you’re not a health fanatic, the juices are colorful and delicious and really delightful to drink! They are quite thick in texture and thus can be quite filling. My current go-to is the espresso almond mylk (yes mylk,as distinguished from dairy milk). It contains a mixture of almond mylk, espresso, almonds, filtered water, sea salt, vanilla bean and my favorite ingredient, dates!

The store is also quite lovely with its wooden furnishings which reminded me of the natural and simple look of MUJI: As a side note, I think MUJI will become a great hit here, as its philosophy of no-branding is likely to attract traction with urban hipsters, rebornhippies and the latest generation of soccer-mums alike. There is currently a store in Chadstone Shopping Center.

Anyway, back to Pressed Juices: I really liked the concept, loved the taste and am even prepared to believe in the health benefits. But even so, I personally adore pretty frivolous things like Chanel bags, VW dresses and Bally shoes too much to indulge in a bottle a day (despite these predilections, I also like MUJI).

However as Pressed Juice advocates, “we all need a little detoxification once in a while”, and to that extent, Pressed Juice is a great way to do so.

Pressed Juices on Urbanspoon

Seven Seeds, North Melbourne

I was highly impressed with Seven Seeds. The food was beautiful both in taste and presentation. Although I elected to only have cold beverages to combat the heat, the others in the group allowed me to take tantalising pictures of their orders and were all super stoked with their choices.

To add to this, the service was also attentive, thoughtful and competent. When I wanted my mocha with the ice cream on the side, they asked me whether it was because I wanted less ice cream in the mocha or whether it was because I preferred to have it separately. Again when I wanted my pear juice with ice, they asked whether I would like the ice separately or in the drink itself. 

We had an enjoyable brunch and bade farewell to C as she embarks on her African adventure next week. Perhaps upon her return, we can all come back and next time, I'll definitely be getting stuck into all the delicious menu choices, with the heavenly looking rice pudding at the top of my list.

Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Mr. Tulk, Melbourne CBD

Mr. Tulk was the boy that I really wanted to love. He was suitable in almost every single way except for the fact that I didn't love him. Mr. Tulk is closeby to my apartment, underneath the State Library with delightfully quirky decor.

We arrived for breakfast late one Saturday afternoon. The place was relatively busy and at about 70% capacity. We were promptly guided to a table that could seat 4, which I thought was not the best business practice, but definitely didn't mind as we benefited from their acumen deficiency.

Menus were swiftly placed in front of us, and I became quite excited about its extensiveness. There were breakfast options available all day and as it was past noon, the lunch menu had just been unlocked.

At this stage, still no one had brought us/asked to bring us water. But with our freshly squeezed grapefruit juices on their way, we weren't too bothered. As for food, T had gone with a GLUTEN FREE eggs on toast and I ordered soft shell crab with slaw. I also added spinach as a side.

When our food arrived, we were both a bit unimpressed at how the dishes looked. I was a bit miffed that my spinach arrived on the same plate as my soft shell crab. This is a pet peeve of mine because I always feel a bit cheated when this happens. It feels like that my main order is being made less wholesome than it otherwise would have been - smaller portions, less ingredients, decreased effort, reduced embellishments.

In this case, I was left wondering whether my dish would have been shaped differently, whether I might have received more sauce, and/or whether I was missing out some ultra-exciting garnish as a result. As can be seen from the picture, a huge gaping hole was left on the plate, once I took the spinach off. This however was the least of our perplexities.

As is also visible in the picture, T's 2x poached eggs came with only one piece of toast. Massively #WTF! To exacerbate my confusion, it also didn't come with any spreads, be it butter, margarine, nutlex, cream cheese, etc etc. Frankly, the plate appeared unfinished and thus amatuer. Even when I make T breakfast at home, I always provide him with the optionality of butter on the side (dusted with mixed herbs, chilli powder or parsley flakes on those particularly leisurely mornings). At this point, I felt like Mr. Tulk was becoming the boy that wasn't even measuring up to your best boy friend.

Anyway, we asked for another slice of bread and TWO slices of piping hot bread came out, this time, with butter on the side. And so began Mr. Tulk's tumble from my pedestal of love. They looked slightly different and prompted T to ask whether this was GF. A look of apprehension came over the waitress' face and she said that no, the bread used was not GF, as she had not taken our original order. That look of apprehension turned into alarm and she said that the slice of toast that T just consumed might have used the same bread as the supplementary order, and thus may not have been GF. We were horrified.

She scurried off to confirm her suspicions with the waiter who'd taken our orders and came back to report that he had indeed forgotten to put that variation through. Forgotten?! Imagine dating a boy and he just forgets to tell you he is HIV +ve, now wouldn't that suck?! 

She then offered to take our coffees off the bill, which was nice except for the fact that, umnn, we never ordered any coffees AND there were two unfinished juices on the table in front of her! When we asked if she could just knock T's order off the bill, she said that her manager may not be able to take food off the menu and that she had to go and check. We were aghast. 

Check?! Surely it was a no-brainer that they were compelled to take T's order off the bill as the 'goods' did not match their description (i.e. GLUTEN FREE) nor were they fit for the purpose for which they were sold (i.e. safe consumption). Consumer Law wasn't such a long time ago that we had forgotten the fundamental principles. 

Furthermore, Mr. Tulk should have been thankful that he did not receive a writ of negligence for his employee's omissions. There was clear harm in this case in the form of physical discomfort and fatigue. Imagine if T had celiac disease, or imagine for a moment, if this was a lactose-intolerance or a nut-allergy that had been, ahem, forgotten. 

To add further insult to injury, when the waiter did come back with GF bread, he slammed it down on our table without an apology and sauntered away. Later, when we enquired as to what the resolution would be, the waiter's cheeks flushed with color and became quite argumentative. After a long wait, he finally came back to begrudgingly agree to take T's order off the bill. By that stage, this resolution was already as insincere as it was too late. 

Oh Mr. Tulk, how I wanted to love you! But you only sent me roses after severe prompting and even then, you only sent me a dozen.   

Mr Tulk on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Miss Chu, Melbourne CBD

'To understand the meaning of one year, ask a patient diagnosed with terminal cancer; to understand the meaning of one month, ask a girl who has just had her heart broken; to understand the meaning of one hour, ask a banker who is waiting for Miss Chu to deliver dinner.

Yet despite being struck down by Miss Chu's incompetence almost every time, we still persist on ordering takeaway from them all the time. There are three simple reasons for this: (1) the menu options are healthy and (2) the menu options are affordable and (3) they deliver and thereby saves us precious time.

Miss Chu on Urbanspoon