Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yak, Melbourne CBD

It was a cold Saturday night and L and I were so glad to get out of the miserable drizzle and be embraced by dry warmth. We hadn't made any reservations but were happy to sit at a table in the bar.

I had tragically broken a zipper that day and was feeling particularly, fragile. Thus I opted for no wine, a simple side of sauteed spinach and shared some char grilled mushrooms with L.

After placing our orders, we were given some bread which looked as if it would be simultaneously crusty and soft. I kept myself from having any but delighted in the accompanying olive oil, balsamic vinegar AND ollives! What a fantastic idea to add the olives!

As for our food, I enjoyed the char grilled mushrooms which was served with creamy ricotta, and accentuated by crunchy chunks of grilled foccacia.  My sauteed spinach was garnished with parmesan and well seasoned, although a bit too oily.

Yak Italian Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ba'get, Melbourne CBD

The latest wave of banh mi craze to hit this city struck at my door steps. Ba’get is located a step away from the office (near Pho & Co in fact) and when I found out that they were planning a day of free banh mi rolls, I deleted my calendar. There was nothing that was going to get between me and free food.

I later found out that Ba’Get hails from Sunshine and these are definitely one of the more authentic versions that I’ve sampled recently. My background is not Vietnamese, but these were most similar to the banh mi rolls of Springvale. The butter and the pate provided a solid base and I really liked the baguette rolls that they used. However the roll wasn’t amply stuffed with ingredients (especially lacking in meat) and I suspect that was merely a side effect of the crazy promotion they had going on that day.

I’d be keen to head back to properly place an order and see how they fare. They are also open for breakfast and who wouldn’t want to start off the day with a sweet sweet Vietnamese coffee.

Ba'get - Russell Street on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Brother Baba Budan, Melbourne CBD

This quirky little place does great coffee. The place was already buzzing at 9 o'clock on a Saturday morning and there was a line spilling out the door as I left with my take-away long black. 

Aside from the impressive brew, I was also impressed with their business model. There were three people working there. There was one very deft barista manning the main machine and the girl taking the orders also doubled as the milk-er/cream-er/coffee artist. There was a third person in the back corner, processing the less standard drink orders and any food orders. Everyone was really efficient and fully utilised.

Brother Baba Budan on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Prospect Hill, Camberwell

I was having a particularly punishing morning and felt the need to even things out with a good dose of caffeine. 

First up was a long black made with 'beans....blah blah....from Rwanda'. My coffee habit isn't a particularly academic one and thus I wasn't as moved by the fact. This roast left a slightly sour aftertaste and I wasn't too much of a fan.

Next up, I thought I'd try my luck with the Vietnamese iced coffee. I was curious to see such an item appear on the menu and wanted to satisfy my curiosity. Here, they made this with coffee and milk AND condensed milk, which was hidden at the bottom of the glass. This interpretation was alright, but didn't wow me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BlackBall China Town, Melbourne CBD

I am a self-confessed dessert fan and an Asian dessert fanatic. When Dessert Story opened, I lined up, when MeetFresh launched in Australia, I was ga-ga and substituted MeetFresh for dinner for two nights in a row.

Aside: If I could, I would use my dinner budget on Asian desserts every night of the week and become a star analyst. Desserts => Happiness = Creative Ideas x Smart Thoughts x Efficient Methods = Awesomeness

Anyway, thus given my predilections, I was very surprised to hear about BlackBall from someone else, and a very unlikely source at that. My friend A isn't exactly the kind of poster boy that one might expect for a place like BlackBall. Well, because he's white, i.e. a non-Asian shade of white, and certainly not black like BlackBall.

Even so, kowtows to A for sharing BlackBall with me. Its extensive menu and close proximity to the office is likely to make it an excellent source of comfort, solace and happiness. The interior is still new and shiny and the staff are friendly and easygoing. Our orders were swiftly made and concoctions tasted delightful. As a testament to the generous portion sizes, neither of us could finish what we had each ordered despite our most valiant efforts. Perhaps we will have to succumb to sharing next time.

Blackball at ChinaTown on Urbanspoon

Baker D Chirico Pop Up Store, Melbourne CBD

Situated on CrossleySt, near a number of other eclectic little boutiques, the crazy bunny wallpaper didn't even seem that strange.

I'd been reading about it all week and finally got the chance to make it there this afternoon to get my hot cross bun fix! Having T in tow was an added bonus (he'd just dropped off a little box from La Belle Miette containing what I would soon discover to be 1/2 doz. hot cross bun-esque macarons - cue shriek at my desk).

The shop was lots of fun and I enjoyed looking at the offered products ranging from muesli, fruit jelly, biscuits, candy, and even noughurt.

But the main attractions of the store are the glistening hot cross buns and the equally glossy croissants and pastries. Boy do they look glorious!

Unfortunately for T, there weren't any gluten-free options available, so he could only imagine the delightful experience of savoring two plump (hot cross) buns. Jokes aside though, I was a bit disappointed to find that the buns did not feel or taste as plump and soft as they looked. 

I suppose that I should have known, as this modern phenomena is not only limited to buns of the hot-cross variety nowadays. Anyhow, I was also a bit miffed that the buns weren't spicy enough although the fruits and raisins were plentiful! 

That being said, I regret nothing (that's what s/he said!).

Baker D. Chirico on Urbanspoon

Baker D Chirico Carlton on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cutler Co, Fitzroy

T arrived 38 minutes late. I was grumpy and we were attempting to walk off our angst in the nearby gardens when T said that he was hungry. T knew the area much more than I did, and suggested Cutler and Co. I was secretly and gleefully ecstatic. My heart sang with joy and my tastebuds leaped in anticipation. But to keep up appearances, I nonchalantly affirmed his suggestion.

We were warmly greeted by the staff who were more than happy to accommodate our desire for a quiet tipple and some nibbles. We were seated near the kitchen rather than the main dining area, which I thought was fair enough, given that it was the start of Sunday dinner service and we weren't intending to dine properly (i.e. 3-courses, degustation, or in boom boom tick style).

However the menu featured an array of irresistible options and I was almost ready to throw away my half-feigned grumpiness, call it a truce with T and satisfy my gluttony with a properly epic meal. Almost. However I couldn't pass up the dish featuring pearl meat and abalone, which, to my delight, was absolutely delectable!

The other things were T's choices, and my favorite was the Dutch carrots with almond cream, although the fried peppers and the pork crackling were also solid picks. Cutler and Co did very well to pique my interest and I look forward to the chance to dine here again soon, and experience the menu fully. 

Cutler & Co on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Smith & Daughters, Fitzroy

As far as these things go, this must be one of the most creative invites I have received. After emailing me to obtain my postal details, a joyous red and yellow package arrived a few days later. There was a bottle of sauce, a wooden board and a brief note explaining the Smith & Duaghters concept and the culinary background of its owners Shannon and Mo. I was certainly intrigued by their courageous ‘plant-based cuisine’ and wanted to see how far they could take it.

On the eve of the First Look Feast, T and I arrived slightly after 7pm and the party was already in full swing! There was an undeniable buzz and the crowd was brimming with excitement. Cocktails, wine and sangria were flowing generously and the crowd was a happy one.

With our drink orders taken care of, we were shown to our seats which were marked by personalized name cards – such planning! There were three long tables filled with family, friends and media invitees and everyone was anticipating what the food would taste like.

There were 8 courses on the menu, and like all good feasts should, this one lasted more than 5 hours. All the dishes were fascinating and intriguing and my taste buds and grey cell went into overdrive trying to process all the new flavors, ingredients, textures and cooking methods.

Smith and Daughters on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Roule Galette, Melbourne CBD

TY and I eagerly bounded in on a Saturday morning for a spot of brunch. We were clearly a lot more excited about getting up that morning than the somewhat apathetic staff who meandered about but didn’t do much. Thus we fended for ourselves and got menus, seats and water, all of our own accord.

We became too engrossed in conversation and it was a while until we could decide on what we wanted. I was feeling healthy that day and opted for a savory vegetarian option. 

Using Emmental cheese, spinach and mushroom, the Popeye Les Galette is also gluten free. At $10/pop, it was especially great value for money. The rest of the menu offers tempting options such as Theo (Caramel, chocolate, almonds) and Lucie (where vanilla ice cream melts on braised apples with crunchy almonds) at similarly affordable prices.

When you visit, please take the chance to peek into the little boutique opposite which stocks delightful designs and has the cutest wallart. 

Roule Galette on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gong De Lin, Melbourne CBD

In China, in an era before McDonalds, Starbucks and Pizza Hut, when people from other cities visited Shanghai, they would covet the chance to visit Gong De Lin (功德林), Red Mansion (房子) and the Peace Hotel (和平饭店)

Gong De Lin specializes in vegetarian/vegan food and their restaurant in Shanghai requires bookings to be made at least a few weeks in advance. It also sells its products via a significant retail distribution network spanning supermarket chains, department store food halls and other fine foods grocers. 功德林 is a household name in Shanghai and broader China, and its adherence to tradition has helped it earn iconic status. For all of those reasons, and the simple fact that it's one of Mummy's favorite eateries, I was extremely excited to see that it had opened a store in Melbourne.

Tucked away upstairs next to the Noodle Kingdom on Swanston Street, I wasn't sure what form Gong De Lin would take. So before I brought Mummy here, I had to scope it out. I dropped by one lazy Sunday afternoon, and arrived at Gong De Lin after taking the lift inside and to the left of the Noodle Kingdom entrance. The space was simply furnished with wooden tables and some booth-style seats. The seats to the right of the lifts benefited from the natural light streaming in from the windows but the  overall lighting could have been a bit warmer. I was greeted by a waitress in a velour tracksuit set (including diamontes on the back), but at least she was dressed in black. Her tracksuit wasn't authentic Juicy, but she was lovely enough. Besides, her attire fitted in with the TaiTai brigade which made up almost 50% of the customers - yes, definitely bringing Mummy here. No doubt Mummy and I will be sporting complementary-colored Juicy tracksuits and jade bangles for such an occasion. 

As for the food, I was overcome by a longing for Shanghainese tastes and went ultra-traditionalist with an order of Chicken (mock of course), Taro and Vegies in Preserved Beancurd sauce and Eight Treasure Sweet Glutinous Rice with Osmanthus Flower Syrup. The menu also contains the usual spring rolls and dumplings, claypot dishes and wok stir-fries, and various rice and noodle dishes made vegetarian/vegan-friendly.

Gong dè Lin on Urbanspoon