Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mount Macedon Hotel, Mount Macedon

A very typical country pub for the locals and the weekend visitors alike. T and I were here on a Friday night for dinner and we sat in the bistro. The menu is surprisingly unconventional and the specials board  also featured some curious options such as salmon with prawn sauce and squid ink pasta.
T ordered chicken as it was one of the gluten-free options and I ordered the prawn cannelloni because I thought was a rather strange thing, and an especially odd thing to feature on this menu.

Sometimes, being curious pays dividends and other times, it does not. In this instance, it did not. The pasta sheet had a homemade look about it which was cute, however I found it too thick and too rubbery. The filling was actually quite delicate but there were two unnecessary prawns inserted at either end of the cannelloni. There was also a bit too much sauce, which drowned out the delicate sweetness of the prawns and the capers were certainly an odd addition to the dish.
T’s chicken was slightly less strange, although the lumpy ricotta filling inside was both inelegant and unnecessary, and my dear T spent the better half of his meal scraping it off his chicken.
After mains, they forgot about us for a bit, however our table was well positioned to give us a view of the courtyard and the bar, and I relished soaking up the atmosphere of the place.
For dessert, we decided on the poached apple for T and the home made fudge for me. The fudge turned out to be quite good and I enjoyed its utter sweetness. The apple on the other hand wasn’t poached very well, tasted premature. It should have been poached in pieces or poached for longer.
Overall, we still enjoyed ourselves and the awkward food wasn’t enough of a detractor to impact the mood of the evening. However, it did remind me of an episode of that Gordon Ramsay show where he forced a restaurant to simplify its menu and then taught the kitchen how to execute every dish perfectly,  to ensure that every dish on menu will be well made every time. I feel that the same strict approach of simplicity should be enforced at the Mount Macedon Hotel. Good food can simply be good simple food.

Mount Macedon Hotel on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 25, 2014

Burwood Teppanyaki House, Burwood

I visited with my parents on a Sunday for dinner. Mummy really wanted to try this place out, but as Daddy is still apprehensive of teppanyaki, they compromised by settling on choosing from the al carte menu.

It's quite an extensive menu, ranging from different types of sushi and sashimi, entrees and mains, and even a whole section devoted to shabu shabu hotpots.

The al carte menu suited us well because we could order as much as we liked. This we hoped would go some way towards appeasing Daddy. His apprehension comes from the one and only occasion when he was subjected to a set teppanyaki menu. He left that dinner grumpy and hungry, and has held a grudge against teppanyaki for more than a decade since then. Over the years, this apprehension of not being served enough food has extended to Japanese cuisine in general and this is one of the few Japanese restaurants that we've visited as a family.

I was tasked with the ordering and I wanted to make sure that we would have enough food. Fortunately, the servings turned out to be quite generous and my order of an entree, two mains AND a shabu shabu hoptpot was just right for the three of us, or 2.5 given that I am / should really be on a dress-diet.

As for the taste, the food was mostly pretty good, with a few minor tweaks here and there that would made them even better.

The soft shell crab was very meaty and juicy and came with a good sauce. However it was slightly over done and the parents found it a bit too oily.

Both the duck breast and the lamb chops were cooked very well. The duck was succulent and there was enough skin on top to keep in all the juices, and add more flavour to the meat.

The lamb chops were quite pink which we didn't mind, but some might find this a bit undercooked so it's probably best to specify your preferences. Also, a touch more heat to the fat near the bone would have been nice to seal it off. As it was, it was the fat was too fatty to enjoy, so we just focused on the meaty part.

The shabu shabu hotpot was my favourite part of the meal and I found the broth both light and enriching. The beef was very thinly cut and cooked quickly in the boiling broth. It was fun and easy and delicious to eat.

Burwood Teppanyaki House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sweet Water Inn, Prahan

Having pork belly makes for a good day. Managing to have pork belly twice in one day makes it a great day. I had already devoured a Southern style pork belly bahn mi during my pow-wow lunch with J earlier in the day, so when I saw pork chops back on the menu again, I knew I had to act.

Southern style food twice in one day is certainly a bit brave and I should feel bad for putting my dress-diet on hold for yet another day, but sometimes the opportunity to consume more food is just too
good to pass up.

Unfortunately my pork chop was a bit of a disappointment. The meat had been cooked for too long, and rind of fat around it had not crackled properly. It had retained its fatiness but it wasn't juicy and soft. The coleslaw was also too dry for my liking although the mash was slightly better. There were also two sauces that accompanied the meal, whiskey and banana ketchup, which were interesting.

R went straight for dessert and chose the banana and pineapple fritters. These arrived to much aplomb because she / we had been waiting for them for quite a long time, despite specifying that we wanted this to arrive at the same time as our other dishes. Again, these were also lackluster. The flour coating was too thick and I could barely taste the fruit. It felt a bit like eating fried doughnuts and ice cream. 

Sweetwater Inn on Urbanspoon

ArcOne Gallery (Cumulus), Melbourne CBD

The lamb shoulder from Cumulus is an all-time favorite and it was definitely the highlight of our meal. The skin is slightly crispy, but mostly soft and fat. The meat is juicy and succulent, and can be easily torn apart to be devoured. 
The accompanying sides were well matched and my favorite was the green bean salad with an egg mayonnaise and shallots. The cracked wheat and frekkeh salad with preserved lemons and barberries was also quite memorable.

For dessert, we were served this very rich chocolate mess made using very naughty ingredients, which I couldn't stop eating. 

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

Nieuw Amsterdam, Melbourne CBD

There are two things which I love about Nieuw Amsterdam: their chunky chips and their baguette bread. I'm still a staunch believer that the true character of a restaurant is exemplified by its dedication to serving the best side dishes. Perfecting the mains is a bare minimum and I am always especially interested in the supporting acts, i.e. the bread, the salads, the chips, the sauce and even the salt and pepper.

Nieuw Amsterdam is one of the few restaurants in Melbourne that gets consistently gets everything right. So right, that when J suggested meeting here for our brunch date, the first thing that sprang to my mind was their chunky potato chips. I had such fond memories of these delightfully crunchy, yet wonderfully soft sticks of fluffiness, I couldn't wait to taste them again. I am also a fan of the bread used here as it's doughy and dense but also bouncy and chewy. The crust is also just sharp enough to add texture but not so hard as to make it hard to bite and chew through. To ensure that I would get a taste of both, I went with the Southern style bahn mi with pork belly with pate and pickled vegies. The thick cut slices (more like, chunks) of pork belly in this is fatty and slippery accompanied by ample crackling. I also liked the pate and enjoyed the creamier taste and texture - an extra smear would have been even better as there was a lot of meat and bread to balance out. For me, the pate makes or breaks a bahn mi, and I was pleased by this version.

Nieuw Amsterdam on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Yes 夜市 Taiwanese Street Food, Melbourne CBD

Conceptually this is a fantastic idea. Cheap, delicious, Taiwanese street food, open late at night. This should be a massive hit, but it needs to become a much better business. The girl taking the order can assist / command the cook a lot more, the barrier between the counter and the kitchen can be knocked down, and the kitchen can become much more compact. 

This will allow them to be much more effective and thus efficient, which is how fast food / takeaway joints need to be run. Employing more people wouldn't necessarily help their cause as they simply need to become better and faster at what they are currently doing.

Right now, it takes them too long to make orders and customers are getting frustrated. We waited almost 25 minutes for dumplings, fried chicken and scallion pancakes. During this time, we saw another customer becoming really frustrated with the delay, asking for their money back and simply walking out.

Yes Authentic Taiwanese Street Food on Urbanspoon

Yak, Melbourne CBD

Yak is a reliable place for many of our group gatherings and we were back here twice in the last two months, at the same table with our groups of 10+. The food is always good, with a reasonable selection of wine, and we always left merry.
I respect the fact the fact that the menu is always very seasonal and the fact they have daily specials. This is reflected in the freshness of the ingredients and the quality of the dishes. Amongst all the new upstarts near this end of town, Yak adheres to tradition and the dishes are interpretations of trusted favorites rather than inventive creations. 

Yak Italian Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Fukuryu Ramen, Melbourne CBD

S was the first one to discover this place well before it made its debut in the Urbanspoon Top 10 and sent foodies into a frenzy. S raved about it incessantly both for the good food and the fantastic value. It’s on Corrs Lane off Chinatown, between Russell and Exhibition, and upstairs.
The setup is very Asian and very efficient. There is a brightly lit menu board facing the entrance and orders are placed at the nearby counter. We were then given a tracking gadget which allowed staff to find us in the restaurant and bring our orders. This is even more efficient than those buzzers which vibrate to alert patrons, as staff are obviously going to be more experienced and thus quicker.

We had ordered many of the entrees to share and the others on the table also got a bowl of ramen each. The highlight for me was the pork belly and the nori tofu, both of which are less common elsewhere and especially good here. As for the ramen, I’ll have to revisit to try it, but the others tell me that the broth is thick and the noodles are bouncy (T would love it here!).

Another final awesome thing about this place is that they have a very comprehensive water station which has anything ranging from icy cold to boiling hot, and EVEN sparkling! Sparkling!!!
Fukuryu Ramen on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tonka, Melbourne CBD

Tonka delivered beyond my expectations and I can understand why people have flocked to it since its opening. The venue is beautifully decorated in neutral tones and can be the backdrop for an intimate date, or a formal business dinner.
M and I came here with S in her last week because she’s always wanted to visit. Tonka has a really interesting cocktail menu and if we didn’t have to work afterwards, I probably would have had a few of those. Instead, we adopted a more civilised approach and decided to share a bottle of wine instead. M and S took control of the wine list whilst I took care of the food ordering.
I followed our waiter’s recommendation and ordered the spanner crab salad to start with. This was quite an unusual mix of ingredients including crab meat,  puffed rice, green papaya, peanuts, coriander and green chilli. The puffed rice was the strangest part, but it did work, and kudos to Tonka, it worked quite well.

For mains, M requested the king salmon from the tandoor which was very simple but delightfully succulent. It came with a crisp and fresh salad which nicely complemented the fish but was quite generic. For our other main dish, I had been deliberating between the duck and the lamb curry, and chose the lamb curry because it was said to be a signature dish. It was very rich and very hearty and the lamb pieces were cooked until they were softly tender. Tonka is to be commended for not shying away from the richness and heaviness of traditional Indian cuisine, and the boldness of its flavours.
For our sides, I’d chosen the yellow dahl which wasn’t cooked through for long enough and thus too watery for my liking. I like my dahl to have a smoother consistency and felt that this version was more like minestrone than tomato soup, and I would have preferred for it to be somewhere in the middle. The cauliflower however was very good and my favourite dish of the night. It was lightly fried and doused with a generous serving of yoghurt dressing.

Unfortunately we were a bit full for dessert, but the banana and jiggery parfait and chocolate mousse with lime sherbet and coconut sorbet certainly caught my eye. Between that and the cocktails that I had foregone, there are certainly plenty of reasons to visit again!
Tonka on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mamak, Melbourne CBD

The prices are so cheap, the food is so delicious and it is just totally awesome LAH! There will be a queue, but I found the wait worthwhile. Once seated, the service is pretty efficient and once orders are placed, the food arrives pretty speedily. They certainly do their best to ensure a fast turnover and it's a smart business model.
We ordered way too much food was we were hungry and greedy and wanted to try absolutely everything. Some of my favourites are the satay skewers (chicken was better than beef), the roti chanai (easily pulled apart and deliciously greasy) and the ice kachang (very canon).

The standout AND must-try however was definitely the tissue roti served with ice cream which was both visually impressive and tasted incredible.

Mamak on Urbanspoon

Top Paddock, Richmond

This provided the perfect break away from work on a Sunday. I’d just been lamenting to T about how it’d be nice to have long brunches and lazy weekends like normal people and it had been exactly the opposite, our sneaky Top Paddock session still made me grateful that I managed to squeeze in a quick brunch session on a very very busy weekend.
Parking is a bit tricky around here but T found a nook on a side street that the BBC barely (in fact, did not) fit into and made an executive call to risk it. We arrived and was lucky to be seated automatically. The venue is large enough that I imagine the wait would not long anyway. I had been dreaming of dining here for so long that I recognised many of the items on the menu already.
I really wanted to order the pancakes and the porridge as they were the prettiest items on the menu, but I was (am?) on a health kick and T had just come from an indulgent Yum Cha session with his family.  So we decided to go lean and green and share the poached eggs on toast with broccolini, sugar snaps, and avocado. Again, we opted for gluten free bread for T.

The eggs were perfectly done, the vegies were crisp and fresh and the bread was thick. It was a very much a feel-good dish and I felt healthier for eating it than I would have otherwise. The only thing that was a slight turn-off for T was the pungent cheese which assaulted his delicate senses but which I didn’t mind.
We also ordered coffee and I chose a long black because I was feeling slightly drowsy from working intensely since ~9am that morning. This was a wise decision because unbeknownst to me at that stage (although highly suspected) I was in for a big night back at the office. My long black arrived with a little pot of sparkling water, which is meant to cleanse the palate so that the drinker can fully appreciate the flavours of the coffee. What a brilliantly odd idea!
I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and enjoyed pretending that I was a normal person, even if for a little while, until the blackberry started to flash ominously.

Top Paddock on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hammer & Tong, Melbourne CBD

Hammer & Tong currently holds #1 position on Urbanspoon and there is certainly much merit to this.

We had the infamous soft-shell crab burger with gluten free bread so that T could also indulge in this. T's willingness to eat soft shell crab is still a precariously new thing but I managed to persuade him to try a bite. Then he took another voluntary bite, and another. Yep, it was good alright! The soft shell crab was suitably crunchy yet sufficiently juicy as a result of the oil that it was fried in and the natural juice from the crab meat. The cabbage slaw added extra freshness and texture which was balanced by a generous lashing of creamy sauce.

We also had the lamb ribs which were full of flavor and finger lickin' good. This contrasted well with the elegant salad that accompanied it which provided a nice reprieve to the smokiness of the meat. One minor change I would suggest is to soften the meat a bit more and / or use a fattier cut.


T tells me that he can sense my mood by the words that I use and the tone that I adopt in my blogposts. I hope that it doesn't require too much deciphering on his part to sense the sheer happiness that I felt after visiting Hammer & Tong. 
Hammer & Tong on Urbanspoon