Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ba'Get, Melbourne CBD

Ba'get had a fantastic initiative today offering free ba'get rolls, ie Vietnamese Bahn Mi rolls. Located on the corner of Russell x Little Collins, it would have experienced a significant amount of foot traffic. Hoping to avoid the lunchtime crowd, we headed down near 3 o'clock, by which time there were only two options left.

Lucky for me, the Classic was still available and with the other option being Fried Tofu, it was an easy choice to make. I'm pretty liberal when it comes to food, however have held very traditionalist views when it comes to the bahn mi. I don't like varying the filling as I quite enjoy the interplay between the different elements. 

In this case, I am happy to report that Ba'get's version is quite authentic and I enjoyed the familiar flavours. The baguette was very well made, and quite enjoyable where the filling ran out. This roll was indeed a bit low on its filling, although if it was only because they were giving these out for free, then that can be overlooked. However if I was paying for the roll, I would expect approximately double the filling. I would also suggest reducing the sourness of the pickled daikon as it was quite overpowering. Other than that, it was an experience that made me want to revisit

Ba'get Russell Street on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Crystal Jade, Melbourne CBD

Crystal Jade has quite the following overseas and I was very happy when it set up shop here. We came here for a banquet with a few family friends. Again lobsters were on the menu, although this time, the grown-ups were a bit adventurous and chose lobster sashimi. 

Next up was this adorable soup in melon idea which was really fun to eat/drink. The melon was firm enough to hold the broth but still soft enough to dig into with a spoon after the broth was mostly gone. 

Crystal Jade on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mamasita, Melbourne CBD

Mamasita's popularity has been enduring. Much like ChinChin's, Melbournians jumped on their bandwagon and has never looked back. Like ChinChin's, whilst the food is often good, the service is often something to be endured. One would have thought that they would have figured out how to cope with the heavy flow of customers / gotten over their superiority complexes by now. Unfortunately, the attitude and aptitude of the waitresses at Mamasita have been quite disappointing recently.

One weekday lunchtime, T and I came by because neither of us had much on at work, but were on standby for various things. We thought we would chill here until we got a call back or an email to do something. It was a lazy weekday afternoon and most of the lunch time crowd had already dispersed. There were maybe a handful tables left and we were seated on the bench near the windows. We ordered some drinks, some chips, and a few tacos to graze on and slowly picked our way through the food. T and I were deeply engrossed in conversation when suddenly I sensed an abrupt invasion of personal space. I turn to see our waitress thrust her arm between T and I and gather up one of our empty plates. Pretty keen, but alright. Not more than 10 minutes later, the same thing happened again, except this time, she took one of the nearly finished corn cobs off my plate, gathered up some half depleted salsa dishes, and took everything away. T and I paused our conversation for her sake as we felt that talking over her would be rude. I just wished that she would show us the same degree of courtesy and not have inserted herself in the middle of conversation in the first place. Soon after, we grew tired of her hovering around and abandoned the rest of our meal.

Almost a fortnight later, we returned on a weeknight for a quick bite and something to drink. We saw that the same waitress was around, but thankfully we weren't seated in her area. Instead, we had another girl who was less invasive, but who was just as keen to clear the plates. She cleared away the guacamole and the salsa (which had accompanied the chips) before the rest of the food had been finished and also proceeded to take away our Sangria jug with fruits and all. I nearly cried.

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Lucky Chan, Southbank

Lucky Chan is a reliable choice for entertaining. The thought process for choosing Lucky Chan usually goes something like this: Chinese guests >>> Casino >>> Chinese food >>> Silks or Lucky Chan.

On this particular occasion, the meal was booked for Lucky Chan because my parents had been at Silks the week before with other friends. Me, being the poor little princess that I am, had missed out on that banquet because I had been basking in the Fijian sun. 

Choosing to engage in such conduct made my mother reluctant to bring me to this meal as she was quite apprehensive of the prospect of having to introduce me and my tanned complexion to a whole round table of new acquaintances. For her sake, I donned a long sleeve blouse and tailored pants.

It was worth the effort as the meal was quite good and I enjoyed indulging in a few delicacies. We began with customary oysters which used two types of toppings. The grown-ups liked them and commented on their freshness, and I ate them out of politeness. What I usually hold out for is the lobster on noodles, and sure enough, it made its usual appearance, post-oysters. Lucky Chan's version is pretty standard although the sauce could have been slightly more flavorful - but a teaspoonful of chilli oil quickly fixed that.

Next up, we had roasted suckling pigeon, which is one of the restaurant's signature dishes. For those who've never tasted it, the texture is a curious mix between duck and quail and the flavour is quite gamey. 

Subseqeuntly, we had a number of traditional dishes using ingredients such as dried bean curd sheets, salted duck egg, century egg, black cloud ear fungus, and gingko beans. Even for a table of Chinese diners, these dishes were very traditioanl. As usually tends to be the case with these banquets, I'm quite certain that most of them probably don't even appear on the menu, but had been dictated to the manager by people on the table. With motivations ranging from health to superstition, to pure fussiness, I'm always amazed by what places like Silks or Lucky Chan can achieve with the strange mandates set out for them - and thus we will keep revisiting.

Lucky Chan on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Le Petit Gateau, Melbourne CBD

A birthday at the office is always an exciting event because we celebrate with cake.

Not just any cake, but cakes from Le Petit Gateau.

The Brownie and Passion Fruit Chocolate Gateau is always my personal favourite because I love the combination of dense brownie and airy layers of chocolate and passion fruit, enclosed within a thick coat of smooth glossy rich icing

Others in the office subscribe to the tangy crispy lemon tart and the rich hazlenut praline mud cake. But I'm lucky that most of my colleagues are very sugar-conscious and adhere to strict regimes and diets. Oh bless 'em. Lucky for them, I'm a massive (no pun intended) team player and will always be happy to do my part for the team

Le Petit Gateau on Urbanspoon

N2 Extreme Gelato,Fitzroy

There is something special about witnessing the spectacle of ice cream being made using liquid nitrogen. It's the novelty factor - which still gets me every time. Just as I will never get tired of watching a chocolate fondue fountain ooze and drip, I don't think I will ever stop experiencing the pure joy that comes with watching white smoke ooze out of the mixer and swirl around as my ice cream is being made. It's quite magical really!

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

La Chinesca, Melbourne CBD

La Chinesca is Chinese/Mexican. Huh what?! Yup you read that right, Chinese and Mexican. Actually, it's not quite Chinese and it's not quite Mexican, but it's more Chinese than Mexican. I really like La Chinesca.
Compared to both of ts predecessors, The Traders Bar and Strange Wolf, La Chinesca is a lot more sensual. It has the exotic appeal of Go-go Bar, yet retains the aloofness of Eau De Vie.

It's unconventional, it's a bit different and it's very daring. At less than a month old, it's has not been discovered by the masses, although it shows strong potential to become the next 'it-girl'. Given it's well-positioned location and 3am liquor license, I would love to see it become Melbourne's go-to tequila destination, just as Gin Palace, Whiskey&Alement and Hihou are known for their specialisation in their respective spirits.

Before then however, I'm going to enjoy its relative anonymity and lose myself via its obscure entrance, and hide amongst its dark corners.

La Chinesca on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Goz City, Melbourne CBD

Goz City invited a group of blogger for some post-work sampling and I was lucky enough to be one of those who made it on the night. The 'Goz' is a shortened version of gözleme which itraditional Turkish pastry made of hand-rolled dough, lightly brushed with butter and eggs, filled with various toppings, sealed, and cooked over a griddle. 

I had never sampled gözleme's until this year when they started to spring up at various events and festivals. Just as taco trucks swept through Melbourne like wildfire, perhaps we will soon be going ga-ga for gözleme's. It reminded me a little of crispy Chinese scallion "pancakes" (aka 蔥油餅) and a little of Indian paratha's. 

The main difference is that these are filled with stuffing. Goz City generously offered 7 flavors for us to try and I was delighted by the cheese and spinach, amazed by the Moroccan lamb and surprised by the prawn. In comparison to many other gozlemes I've sampled, these are a lot less dense and the filling to pastry ratio was just right! The pastry was also a lot thinner and as a result these gozlemes felt lighter, i.e. more like a quesadilla and less like a borek.

At $10 per serve, these are quite reasonably priced. Salads are also on the Goz City menu and I would like to see them offer some sort of 1/2 serve combo which would make for a very balanced breakfast / lunch option! 

Goz City on Urbanspoon   

K-BBQ restaurant ramblings

T and I have been obsessed with finding a reliable Korean BBQ house and we've been majorly disappointed thus far. 

1. White Tomato is close to the office and we had high hopes that it would be the one. The first time, we were there as a table of 4 and they forgot one of our guy's order. We had to remind two different waitresses before this was rectified, by which time, the rest of the table were nearly done with their meals. 

The second time, T and I went there by ourselves and was given frozen steak to cook on our BBQ. When we raised it with the staff, they had difficulty understanding the problem and even when they did understand our English, they struggled to comprehend why frozen meat on a BBQ was problematic. Eventually, they agreed to take it away to replace it only to come back with another slab of meat which was ALSO frozen. After much delay, we lost our patience and asked for bulgogi instead just so we could get out of there.

White Tomato on Urbanspoon

2. By name, Seoul House sounds pretty legitimate. It's a sizeable joint near my apartment, and I've always seen people milling about the entrance as I've walked past it. We ate here on a Friday night and found it pretty average. Having suffered for our folly, we ordered the bulgogi to avoid another Frozengate. However, the meat was really sinewy and not sliced properly. In fact, the meat looked as if someone had hacked away at it and took some effort to untangle whilst being cooked on the hotplate. However, their selection of side dishes was delightfully diverse and it was good to see that Seoul House had put thought and effort into these.

Service was also pretty average and our waiter wore a permanent scowl as he shuffled about. What I initially mistook for rudeness was actually a nervous shyness which disabled him from providing very good service. In fact, he looked like he belonged to at an internet cafe or a game store. The other staff seemed to be much more enthusiastic and we eventually chose to hail them down instead.

Although, at less than $30 for a meal for two, this is really a case of 'you get what you pay for'. I can see the appeal of Seoul House, but would prefer to visit somewhere else where I can pay a little more to get a lot more enjoyment out of my K-BBQ experience.

Seoul House Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

3. Dae Jang Geum is the name of a popular Korean TV series about an orphan girl's epic rise as an imperial chef and narrates how she uses her culinary knowledge to cure royal ailments, becoming the first ever female royal physician. My mum was obsessed with it and I can still vividly remember our household enjoying Korean-inspired dishes for a solid few months. 

Dae Jang Geum serves quality ingredients worthy of its famous namesake, however, the service here is pretty bad. We came here around 45mins before closing time and we almost had to beg to be allowed to eat here. They begrudgingly sat us down because none of them showed enough curtsey to politely decline our custom. Despite the impending close, the staff didn't come over to take our orders immediately and our BBQ wasn't set up right away despite the number of servers idling around. 

Finally we managed to get all our food! This was definitely one of the better Korean BBQ's we've had in terms of quality, freshness, taste and overall value. The only thing that disappointed was the service, but the food was good enough that I'd be willing to risk another visit, and perhaps not so close to closing time. 

Melbourne Dae Jang Geum Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Operator25, Melbourne CBD

Many kudos to J for this fantastic find. Operator25 is housed inside a heritage listed building near the Flagstaff Gardens. The interior consists of exposed bricks, simple wooden furniture with metal accents and big glass bowls of plantation. 

The ambiance is perfect for a bit of weekend relaxation. Away from the hustle and bustle of the CBD, yet still within convenient proximity to public transport (and my apartment), it’s really the perfect escape. Time seems like it could go on forever amongst the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and good food being cooked. Well that is, until that ominous button on my blackberry started to flash incessantly.

Service was exceptionally good and so was the food. I was a feeling a bit unconventional and ordered the heirloom tomatoes. It was embellished with smoked eggplant tapenade and adorned with a goats cheese wafer cigar. I really enjoyed the odd/interesting assortment of ingredients and found the dish quite captivating.

Other menu items that aroused my taste buds were the twice-cooked short ribs and the suckling pig burger. But indulging in such carnivorous choices seemed a bit déclassé, although I will no doubt be back soon enough to sample them at a more appropriate hour of the day.  

Operator25 on Urbanspoon

Krimper, Melbourne CBD

Krimper is on Guildford Lane. Where is Guildford Lane you ask, well it's tucked away somewhere between Latrobe and Little Lonsdale, and Swanston and Elizabeth. The space is a converted warehouse and it has retained much of it s industrial feel. Apparently this is the site of a former furniture business run by Mr. Krimper. 

To start with, E ordered a cup of magic (yes they know how to whip one up here) and I ordered a freshly squeezed carrot and celery juice. Both were spot on.

I was feeling adventurous as usual and chose the Ocean Eggs. This was made up of a poached egg, corn fritter and beetroot cured salmon; garnished with beetroot relish and a green salad. The corn fritter was especially well done and provided the anchor for the entire composition. 

E chose a rather manly serve of fried eggs, ham steak, and beans on sourdough toast. This seems like something that Mr. Krimper might have enjoyed before a long day of hard labor and I wonder if Mr. Krimper ever tasted food as awesome as this.

Krimper on Urbanspoon

Snag Stand, Melbourne Central

There is nothing else quite as satisfying as the sight of a saucy hotdog with too many ingredients piled on top and bursting out of a fluffy bun.

We are a nation of self-confessed sausage-lovers, yet Australians have resisted against the hotdog for far too long. Perhaps it's our obstinate patriotism which has prevented us from embracing the hotdog. My hotdog-related memories are a sad album of 7-11's, sport kiosks, canteen ladies, and limp meat.

But Snag Stand makes hotdogs cool. There is a cool menu with cool snag choices such as Chicken & Rocket, Wagyu Beef and the ultimate cool choice, Toulouse. Toulouse is the capital city of Haute-Garrone, in Southwest France, and it is known for its Saucisses de Toulouse. Speaking of 'haute', Snag Stand refers to its 'all natural, hand crafted, artisanal sausages' as haute-dogs - pretty cool name huh! The menu also features other haute-stuff such as chips made from Tasmanian russet potatoes and onion rings cooked in cholesterol free oil and seasoned with natural sea-salt flakes. Just to be really uber-cool, they also offer veggie haute-dogs and gluten free options. Be cool and check them out!

Snag Stand on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 14, 2014

Twee's Hut, Melbourne CBD

I received an invitation to sample their menu during lunch times and was given $15 to spend. Menu items range from less than $5 – a little over $10. I took S along with me to check it out.

Twee’s is near Elizabeth x Little Collins and caters to a daytime crowd. The menu is full of traditional Vietnamese favorites renamed with explosive names such as ‘grenades’ for rice paper rolls, ‘the bomb’ for vermicelli bao’s, ‘captain baguette’ for banh mi rolls, pho, salads and rice dishes. Twee’s also does desserts and drinks, including freshly squeezed juices.

I became fixated on the magnificent piece of crackled roast pork sitting behind the counter and chose a roast pork banh mi roll. My order was for takeaway and I loved the sweet personalized message that was written on the paper bag. Sometimes, it’s really the little things that matter.

As for my banh mi roll, it was a pretty solid choice. The pork tasted as magnificent as it looked and the crackling was mighty fine. My only issue was that there wasn’t enough of it – should have asked for a double serve! 

The salad ingredients were fresh but the chills’s too spicy for me and I had to open my roll to pick them out! Yes, call me a wuss. Also when it comes to sauces, I’ve always been of the ‘more is more’ school so I felt that the rolls could definitely have benefited from a generous lashing of sauce.

All in all, I was a fan of Twee’s and if I happened to be nearby, I would definitely not hesitate to visit again. The food is so hearty and Twee’s hospitality is just so heartwarming!

Twee's Hut on Urbanspoon