Monday, March 30, 2015

The Boatbuilders Yard, Docklands

It's located between the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, and the South Wharf DFO, in the middle of a boardwalk, on the edge of the water, backed up some grassy parkland. Google map and GPS apps can often get the wrong idea about its whereabouts and I've been almost fooled many a times. Despite what technology will tell you, it is near impossible to drive to this destination, and the nearest parking is the South Wharf DFO.

Once you arrive, there are a number of entrances into an indoors dining area, an undercover veranda and the outdoors courtyard. Unless you have very specific directions from your friends, trying to find them becomes quite akin to a game of Where's Wally?

Along the verandah and in the outdoors dining area, there is lots of sunshine and fresh air and good vibes, but no table service. Instead there's an efficient system of ordering at the bar and being given mobile electronic buzzers with table numbers on them to help waiters locate each table.

The food took a little while to arrive, but when it did, it was good. M's avocado smash was beautifully creamy, with a generous dose of feta, and an expertly poached egg. The toast slices were thick and there were two of them. I thought the portions were quite generous, given the under $20 pricing. Perhaps they have taken heed of some of the other reviews and made adjustments accordingly.

My meaty toastie featuring both pulled pork AND smoked ham was also really good and very substantial. It was filled with an abundance of cheese and excessively buttered, in the most delicious way. I liked the golden crunch on the outside and the softer oily interior. Whilst a bit of a heavy start to the day, it was exactly what I had been craving. The egg dip and the gherkin was also a nice touch, and I accessorise mine with a poached egg for some extra nutritious morning protein.

With its panoramic views, and expansive seating options, it's certainly a great location for visiting tourists and local residents alike. It is an especially good venue for families, large groups, and /or large family gatherings. Just make sure everyone receives clear instructions on how to get there and how to find each other, and everything else will be just fine.

The Boatbuilders Yard on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 27, 2015

B'Cos, Melbourne CBD

I get excited when T gets excited about food. He’s quite specific in his preferences and has taken me to some real gems including Gopal’s, Kenzan, and Coffee Extraction.  B’Cos, with its healthy and delicious Brazilian platters at sensible prices, is another one that we can add to the list. 

For ~$15, you get to choose a meat, some beans, some rice, a lot of vegies and a range of toppings and garnishes. The variety is astonishing! If you mention that you’re a first timer, they might even be nice enough to let you go half and half on the meat.  

I asked T about his favourite type of meat from B'Cos, and he answered, the pork, or the chicken, or the beef, pausing between each answer to smack his lips in appreciation. As for me, I was quite a big fan of their grilled chicken which was smoky and succulent, and amazingly tasty. 

Despite its central location, the entry is slightly obscure as entry needs to be made from Equitable Place. Also, it’s still early days which means that its existence is only known to those who know, and without T’s guidance, I wouldn’t have thought to venture down this crowded and narrow alley for a good feed. It predominately caters to the 9-5 crowd from the surrounding office buildings and commercial retail spaces, so expect to jostle a bit for seats and / or dine on the communal benches.

B’Cos reminds me very much of the famous American chain Chipotle which is also highly regarded among discerning students, office workers, tourists and foodies alike. One day, perhaps B’Cos can also branch out and expand its franchise, especially to my end of the city. In the meanwhile, I have a pretty good reason / excuse to continue visiting T.

B'Cos Brazil on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Taxi, Melbourne CBD

Situated in the best corner of Federation Square, Taxi has the advantage of a central location, sweeping views of Melbourne, from the banks of the Yarra, through the Arts Centre, towards the Casino and the Aquarium and all the way past the Rialto, back to St. Pauls . It gained infamy initially due to its iconic location and over time, with its consistently good food, and vibrant atmosphere, it has become a popular and well known institution. Melbournians and visitors from both near and far come here out of habit and curiosity. 

My history with Taxi has been lacking as I had missed out on two team dinners / lunches held there. My curiosity was reignited as one of T's bosses had mentioned that he had an interest in the venture. Thus it was only fitting that T and I came here for dinner with T's colleague J and his lovely new wife, S.

We were seated in the back corner of the restaurant which gave us a rather nice view as well some quiet privacy as the rest of the upstairs dining area began to fill as the night progressed. However, because we were slightly tucked away, we were more out of the way for the servers as the restaurant became busier. We preferred it that way as we had plenty of conversation, wine and good food to get us by. 

We shared some trusted favorites of a beetroot salad with goats’ curd, anchovy & capers and sake washed tuna with a soy bean pesto & white radish salad as entrees, recommended by J and the head waiter.

As for choosing mains, it was a very easy decision since there were four of us and the menu recommended the lamb shoulder roast for sharing between four. The lamb shoulder was very robust and came with plenty of roast vegetables to provide a more balanced dish. The meat was nicely cooked, and its sweet succulence indicated that it had retained a lot of its juice. This was in part due to the significantly fatty skin, which was just a tinge fattier than I would have preferred. 

Taxi Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Vamos, Melbourne CBD

Juan and his team kindly invited me along to Vamos, their exciting new upstairs venture, at the top end of Little Bourke St. 

The space is dark and moody and provides a simultaneously grungy yet also sexy vibe. 

There are a variety of seating options, such as our little table for two near the DJ, a row of booths for small sized groups, and longer benches for larger groups.

To start the night, ordered some chips and some tostadas, as well as cocktails. We had been at Stokehouse earlier on, and our appetite was certainly already whet.

The food arrived quickly and we both became quite enamoured with the guacamole that accompanied the chips. 

The tostadas were small in size, but filled with ingredients. I found them easy and tasty, but T was less of a fan and opted to revisit the chips. He prefers simpler combinations and I think the intense variety of unknown ingredients may have been too overwhelming. 

For mains, we shared some jerk chicken and some wagyu beef skewers. Although jerk chicken is a rather unfortunate moniker, jerk refers to the cooking technique employed to make the chicken tender and tasty. 

The wagyu beef skewers were also a treat and I liked their smoky succulence. The salsa which accompanied these provided a good balance to the really strong meaty flavours.

Afterwards, we sampled the flourless chocolate cake which was very sweetly presented amidst swirls of thick cream with a berry skewered to the top. I liked the concept a lot, although would have preferred something a bit sweeter in taste. 

Vamos on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Public Brewery, Croydon

According to D and M, who live locally, this is the only place worth going to. Whilst I can't verify whether 'only' is justified, The Public Brewery is certainly worth going to. Its transformation from what used to be an old feed and grain warehouse into a fully functional commercial micro-brewery is entrepreneurially clever.
I imagine that it's supported by both the local foot traffic as well as tourist thoroughfare given that Croydon is very much on the way to the Yarra Valley wine region and its proximity to the Cold Stream breweries.  
Hidden on a smaller road, quite a bit off the highway, the entrance to The Public Brewery is benignly obscure. All that can be seen from the street is a small room with a few cartons and bottles. It is only via another doorway to the right, that we spotted a handful of large shiny tanks and heard the buzz of a rowdy crowd. Turns out, there is a whole bar area towards the back of the venue containing small and large tables, long benches, and an outside courtyard. With its exposed beams, and corrugated iron walls, the venue looks like it could have been created by a bunch of inner city Fitzroy hipster types, or perhaps it's a sign of the gradual gentrification process that is overtaking Croydon.
T and I were starving after the post-work drive and we ordered a bunch of snacks off the menu. There are a number of familiar items such as chips, popcorn, prawn crackers, although each dish incorporates a dash or a sprinkle of impressive flavor substitution. 

The Public Brewery on Urbanspoon

Doughboy Doughnuts, Melbourne CBD

Each doughnut is a modern work of art. From the perfectly plump dough, to the hand drizzled sauce and hand sprinkled toppings, these exhibit excellent craftsmanship at every level.
Good craftsmanship  requires time, effort, and skill. All of which can be costly. Also, good craftsmanship is redundant without good ingredients, which further add to costs. Thus I don’t feel too bad about the price tags attached to these masterpieces.  

Besides, there’s something that’s quite good about making ‘bad’ food expensive. Doughnuts, no matter how amazing they are, are not something that anyone would / should / could adopt into their daily routines.

But every once in a while, these tantalisingly tasty treats just become too tempting and it was definitely so, when N brought in two dozen of these into the office one fine Friday. I found it especially hard to resist the Peanut Butter and Jelly and another which tasted like Strawberry White Chocolate. An absolutely gluttonous way to cure that Thursday night hangover or kick start Friday festivities with a glass of sparkling!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Little Creatures Brewery, Geelong

T's friends live everywhere. Just a week ago, we had driven out to Croydon and this week, we went on a road trip to Geelong. 

I remembered being delightfully astonished to hear that Little Creatures had set up a brewery in Geelong, and thus relished the chance to visit.

Set up in what used to be an old wool mill, the site still retains a very industrial feel and the red brickwork buildings have been kept in their original state, with very few visible modifications.

The section that is open to the public is only a small corner of what seems to be a very large site. As we were there on the weekend, it was unclear how much of the space was being utilised by the wholesale side of Little Creature's business. I imagine that the abundance of space here also provides it with opportunities to host market days, community events, music festivals and etc.

There is a large outdoor area with many long wooden benches tables to cater to groups of varying sizes. Some were shaded by umbrellas and others had the full benefit of the sun. There was also a mini sandpit, offering much amusement and preoccupation for the younger patrons.

It is certainly a popular destination for both locals and visitors, and there were an interesting mix of 20-30-somethings, families, and retirees, and every generation in between. 

Little Creatures Geelong Brewery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Grand Trailer Park

This is an exemplary case of a business success. From the premises of what used to be a dingy upstairs Chinese restaurant that no one bothered to venture to, Grand Trailer Park was born. It is an American style diner with an Aussie hipster's touch. 

With an easygoing menu of burgers and fries, it became a popular venue almost as soon as it opened. In  the subsequent months, it continued to build on this momentum, by consistently delivering good food, coupled with friendly and efficient service. 

It has been almost half a year now, and it continues to exhibit all the signs of further success. The atmosphere is still lively and the crowd is still arriving in droves. The self-order style of service here keeps things casual and is also highly efficient. I'm a huge fan of the sauce bottles and serving ware left on each table as I always find myself asking for more napkins or more sauces, so the setup here is simply perfect for a needy diner like me.

There are many tempting menu options, and the most irresistible is the Francis Underwood. It's a huge monstrosity too large to fit into my hands and I had to eat mine using cutlery. The golden croquette pattie was certainly a very decadent addition to an already indulgent burger featuring a buttery brioche bun, juicy beef pattie, and creamy cheese. Every mouthful was pure bliss. 

Grand Trailer Park Taverna on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 16, 2015

Miyako, Southbank

Miyako is a beautiful Japanese restaurant with wonderful riverside views tall window panes and airy high ceilings. 

As a part of Southgate's involvement in the Melbourne Food and Wine festival, I was invited to sample a tasting platter from a list of participating restaurants. 

I chose Miyako because of my curiosity which has accumulated over the years, as Miyako continues to withstand the test of time even as I have witnessed some of its peers have come and gone. 

On our visit, we were each treated to a delightful tasting platter featuring some of Miyako's finest. I enjoyed the contemporaneous application of nouveau cooking techniques to traditional ingredients.  

The crispy prawn, coated in rice vermicelli, and topped with egg mayo was my absolute favorite from the tasting platter, although the beef tataki was also quite divine. 

The service was very gracious, and we were treated to a wonderful view of Southbank as we dined. This is definitely a venue to keep in mind for the next occasion. 

Miyako Japanese Cuisine & Teppanyaki on Urbanspoon