Friday, 19 December 2014

Random Bites ... to round of a year's worth of eating!

Ok ... here's a small representation of some of the yummy delights I have had the pleasure of eating this year.

Ascot Food Store
320 Ascot Vale Road
Moonee Ponds VIC 3039

Most recently we visited Ascot Food Store, a fairly new addition to the Moonee Ponds circuit, a suburb not quite known for its culinary prowess.

The site's previous tenant was a little known milkbar specialising in Latino smallgoods with some killer empanadas helmed by Melbourne's very own Milkbar Esquivel. Remember Margarita Pracatan? Well he was the male euivalent - shimmying across the aisles and calling out Baby to all and sundry, trying to offload cartons of black beans and offering slightly suspect cellophane wrapped lollies to young and old. Oh I do miss him!

But don't miss out on a visit to his successor. The menu is interesting, the space is reasonably large and intelligently configured, and staff are friendly. Oh and the kitchen is more than competent. We had the Angus Burger with a side of Chips. Perfect!

Ascot Food Store on Urbanspoon

36 Manchester Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000

A recent catchup with an ex-colleague and friend saw us at Manchester Lane's cafe/bar with a conscience Shebeen. Be advised that unless you're part of the main lunch time crowd, this place cuts its hipster teeth so sharp that you're liable to be sliced just walking past the outdoor tables. Throw in a soupcon of the fashionista and you're likely to interpret the service here as bordering on the rude.

But persevere, its a great spot for people watching. There are cocktails to be had. And they have sliders that are the perfect size for a bit of lunchtime noshing. Just ignore the pretty young things hanging around. They're too busy talking about happenings, hemlines and homeopathy to take much notice of you anyways.

I had the Pork Belly, Jalapeno Jam, Mayo and Coriander Slider as well as the BBQ beef with kim chi, spring onion and Mayo. They're $6 each or $11 for 2. You will need two! They were delicious.

Shebeen on Urbanspoon

Tom Thoon Thai Noodle Cafe
241 Victoria Street
Abbotsford VIC 3067

This little section of Victoria Street close to the Railway bridge has always been a bit of a Thai enclave. I remember going to Ying Thai for my fried chicken fix in the early noughties, and picking up the heart stopping fried pork lard snack from the Thai provision shop 2 doors down. There are quite a few Thai additions to this little hub now and with negligible differences in quality it really comes down to which restaurant can fit you in. 

Tom Thoon Thai is known for its noodle soup combinations which I can also recommend. But its prize star in my books is the Mango and Sticky Rice pudding! Definitely worth the hassle of trying to find a parking spot! Or just catch the train - the station is just across the road. #anytimeofdaysnack!

Tom Toon Thai Noodle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Dainty Sichuan Noodle Express
Emporium Lower Level
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne 3000

Aah the Emporium Shopping Centre! What an amazing and welcome addition to the cityscape of Melbourne. Not so much for its retail outlets, but for its amazing food choices. The upstairs food court is a must visit. But there are other little food nooks and crannies dotted around the complex, most notably an Express Dainty Sichuan branch.

If you are already familiar with Dainty Sichuan's cuisine, then you know what to expect. I was immediately drawn to the minced pork and chickpea noodle, mainly because I've never really associated this particular legume with Chinese food and I like trying new combinations. This was exactly how I'd imagine it would taste. Definitely worth a repeat visit!

Dainty Sichuan Noodle Express on Urbanspoon

Charlie & Co Burger
Emporium Melbourne Food Court
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

While you're there you might as well check out Sydney chain, Charlie & Co Burger. Perhaps not so much for the Burgers per se - they are tasty enough though maybe not quite deserving of the gourmet price tag - but for those Parmesan and Truffle chips.

Slightly more than you would comfortably pay and longer than you might like to wait for a standard lunchbreak meal, reserve your visit for offpeak periods and when you have a bit of time to spare.

Charlie & Co Burgers on Urbanspoon

Mighty Boy
59-61 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065

If fusion is what you're all about, Mighty Boy will tick those boxes across all sorts of levels. No surprises re the fitout given that it is essentially a Melbourne cafe. In addition, the Gertrude Street location gives the joint its "healthy" dose of hipster gravitas. However, this cafe is popular with the hospital and nursing staff from across the road, which does help to cut through the pretension. Service can be a little hit and miss, and depending on your mood and views on cross-cultural eating, the food may be a slightly underwhelming prospect for you.

We, however enjoyed our Duck Rice Paper Roll ($6 for 2) - the duck was not unduly fatty and the skin remained crisp. The rest of the flavours were freshly balanced and the hoi sin sauce did not dominate. Good lunch time snack.

I ordered the Crispy Fried Chicken Roti Wrap ($10) served with coleslaw and kewpie mayo. Again, fresh flavours abound and the chicken was actually well seasoned! My only complaint was that the wrap is served flat, with no hope of actually "wrapping" the bread given the size of the roti and the amount of ingredients piled on top.

M went for the Pulled Lamb shoulder Roti Wrap ($10) which was succulent, sweet and not too rich, due to the mild citrusy tones from the lemongrass and the addition of cucumber and a tzatziki styled dressing.

Mighty Boy Eatery on Urbanspoon

And there you have it folks! A slightly discombobulated wrap up of this year's food "adventures". 

An Honourable Mention:

Maccaroni Trattoria Italiana
10 - 12 Manchester Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000

Just a little up or down (depending on your approach) from Shebeen is this larger than you might think restaurant - Maccaroni Trattoria Italiana. Slightly more rustic in decor than its sister branch in Clifton Hill, this is a charming little cafe that serves simple honest Italian fare popular with the business lunch time crowds. My Pappardelle Funghi e Tartufo ($22) was slippery with a bite and nicely turned over in the Mushroom sauce. And that pistachio cake ... heaven.

Maccaroni Trattoria Italiana on Urbanspoon 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Little Cafe for a Little Man - Little Man Cafe in Seddon

Ok ... so I've finally transferred most of my photos from camera to hard drive, giving myself a panic attack in the process at how far behind I am in my posts. Still lets codral on and see if we can't reach an even keel by year's end.

So you know how much I love Seddon, and if you don't, well I do ... and would move there in a heartbeat ... being "just" around the corner no longer cuts it I'm afraid.

Ordinarily when somewhere or something new opens in the hood I'm there as soon as I've heard about it! But The Little Man Cafe looked a tad on the clinical and obvious side. Bare brick walls given a coat of white paint, blonde wood tops and pastel coloured accents. Mind you they could have Beci Orpined the shit out of it, but thankfully they exercised some restraint. It felt more like a business opportunity with food as an afterthought. 

So when we eventually ate there it was more a question of geographical and horological convenience on one of those hectic Saturdays. And we were pleasantly surprised at both food and beverage being churned out of the kitchen.

First up I am in love with their water jug! And their salt and pepper shakers for that matter.

What seemed obvious and clinical from the outside was light, relaxed and comfortable on the inside. The coffee is 5 senses and done well. 

I ordered scrambled eggs on toast with bacon on the side. Beautifully fluffy texture, clean flavours, and an interesting touch with a couple of slices of radish, although I could have done without the sprouts!

M went for the Karage Chicken Sandwhich served with a creamy and dramatic layer of purple cabbage. It looked beautiful and tasted great. I can't remember if this was on the regular menu, or if it was a special. But I definitely recommend trying it out if its still available. I do like my fried chicken so I might be a little biased.

All in all, we enjoyed our brunch here and would probably have made repeat visits if not for all the other places to get to in the hood. Have we reached saturation point yet fellow westies?

The Little Man Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Nuevo Latino - A nuevo addition to Little India, Barkly Street WeFo

Ok ... Nuevo Latino, so nuevo that the creases have yet to be ironed out yet but don't let this put you off! Choose a quiet week night and prepare to be patient.

Our particular CBA Friday night started off well. It was a lovely evening so eschewing the wheels, we took a leisurely stroll to Barkly Street to check out the latino delights of this newly minted restaurant.

It being just a bee's dick shy of 6pm, we had no issues securing a table, although it started to get pretty packed soon after that.

The kitchen, which you can peek into, was already a hive of activity, but the 2 guys manning the floor seemed a little listless. 

Given the layout of the entry into the restaurant, we weren't quite sure where to stand and wait to be seated. A stand with the menu just in front of where the bottled water is kept should alleviate some of this confusion. Alternatively staff should give clear acknowledgement to people who have just arrived. So we know to wait until you have finished attending to a table. Sometimes its the little things ...

The menu here is exciting. Not quite the lengthy thesis of El Rincons past, but that is a good thing. I prefer a small but well executed menu as opposed to one that reads like United Nations dossier.

As always there is a tussle between ordering too much and not being able to sample enough. A modicum of sanity prevailed and we decided on a couple of smalls, a couple of mains and possibly a dessert.

It took us awhile to get the attention of our waiter in order to place our orders, and then he rather ineptly tried to remember them without the benefit of a notepad. It was almost Fawlty-esque the way in which our water and cutlery were delivered to the table. And our drink order seemed to have disappeared into the ether. We had to change it anyways because the bar wasn't quite set up to do more than unbottle and uncork. Although there were jugs of Sangria going round.

The first dish to arrive was a main (?!) - no biggie since we were sharing anyways. Tamales!!! Or is that Tamali? As mentioned previously, Tamales are surprisingly hard to find given the glut of tex-mex-latino joints in this town. Nuevo's version is delicious, and comes served with a spicy cabbage mix that shits all over most other tepid coleslaw offerings that are the accompaniment du jour under Melbourne's Dude Food cloud. The accompanying salsa has the beginnings of a great sauce, but could have benefited from a little bit muy picante.

Next was the Bacalau croquettes!! I have had a lot of Bacalau croquettes in my lifetime, including my own (which ahem ahem I think are still the best because I use green chillies in the mix) and I can safely say that Nuevo's are pretty darn amazing. And extremely moreish!! I could just kick back with a cold beer and a plate of these on a sunny summer evening and it would be as close to heaven as you could get. (Mental note to self - #makethishappen!).

Our next dish of Grilled Corn Kernels claimed equal placing in the deliciousness stakes. I'm not sure whether the intense smoky flavour was a case of culinary serendipity because it was right on the very edge of being burnt! Delicious. Another heavenly beer snack for that warm summer evening!

Our final main was the Carne Asada. Now this is not my usual goto dish as I find that the various components that make up this dish are simply plonked on the plate and require very little sophistication in the kitchen beyond that. And the Carne aspect is just an excuse to charge an additional $5 or so. We ordered it this time round because we were in the mood for some protein. And it turned out to be a good choice. Far from being pedestrian, Nuevo Latino's Carne Asada is good!!! The salsa, the salad and the guac all melded together in a refreshing blend of flavours that worked so well with the accompanying soft corn tortilla which was in itself lightly seasoned for a change. In fact, and this is going to sound contradictory, but the skewered meat was pretty much an afterthought, and I could have easily enjoyed the dish without it.

We're still missing Besito and that Colombian Hot Chocolate and Cheese stunner. We pondered asking whether Nuevo had something similar, but decided to check out the Churros instead. Perhaps there are regional differences when it comes to this not so humble fried dough decadence. Nuevo's Churros were slightly doughy, almost uncooked. But there was still definite crunch on the outside and the melted chocolate was of quality. I still prefer Sabroso's, so maybe check out both and see how they measure up for you. Perhaps its a question of personal taste.

Anyhoo, Nuevo Latino if you manage to maintain the quality of your food, boost your bar offerings and tweak your front of house service a smidge, then you're a welcome addition to this neighbourhood!! For punters who haven't been, give these guys a chance. The food is great so lets be a little accommodating while they find their hospitality feet.

Nuevo Latino on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Barcelona - Quiet Contemplation at the Mies Van de Rohe Pavillion - knowing it will never be this way for me!

Ok ... please indulge me a little.

I started the year with good intentions. It was one of my new year's resolutions to document the European trip we took in 2013. And I was determined to wrestle apathy to the ground and continue to be a contributing and productive member of the blogosphere. But fate had something completely different in mind.

Yes it would have been better to have started as soon as we got back, while the memories were still fresh, but shit got very real soon after that!

As a result of having nothing more pressing to do, I'm now trawling through half scribbled notes in old diaries, and barely legible jottings on discarded receipts and about a million photos on flash drives galore to try and capture the essence of what it was like stepping out into the Iberian air at the start of a well deserved break from the routine of old.

So perhaps I'll eschew the manic Gaudi grandeur, the crowded streets of Barri Gotic and the tourist traps round L'Rhamblas and start with the sleek, quiet contemplation of the Mies van de Rohe pavilion in Barcelona.

The Pavillion was built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exhibition and dismantled the following year. It was then reconstructed to exact specifications and re-opened in 1986. All steel, glass and marble, the misleading simplicity of its design and geometry is reflected in much of modern day architecture that we see today. Its almost mind boggling how very contemporary it all looks considering it was developed more than 80 years ago.

Ever the slave to fashion and trends, I was caught up in the brief fascination with designer furniture in the early noughties, but never quite had the financial nous to trully indulge such a passion. So there was a certain anthropological thrill at seeing the Barcelona chair in its original habitat.

There was a time you could walk the grounds and only had to pay an entrance fee if you wanted to enter the building. These days its 5EUR for the lot. So if you're up for some quiet contemplation in amongst the bustle of this busy city, spare a half hour or so and have a wander.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Brother Nancy - The other other side of Essex Street

Ok ... lets try and keep this one short and sharp at least! But not before waxing lyrical about the community spirit inherent in WeFo and its environs ... well thats if you have kids! Or a local business, or work in the community. More of this later on.

My first visit to Brother Nancy was brief. Quick enough to order a takeaway coffee and finish three quarters of it a table on the footpath. My initial impression was not promising. I couldn't believe I was actually drinking a Proud Mary roast! Still the main purpose that day was to go for a walk (Essex Street is delightful btw) and to instagram (please to follow me - temasek68 - do it! do it!!). So 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Second visit was for brunch with M! My first gripe was that brekkie cuts out at a certain time! Which I don't really get, considering that there is hot food options to be had for both the Morning and the Midday sections, which means that the kitchen would have had to be used regardless.

Anyhoo, moving right along, its a Melbourne cafe, so it has all the standard design touches. It has the perfect location with the bus stop being right outside. I'm sure the morning takeaway business is brisk. This side of Essex Street is decidedly residential, but seeing the renos around here, I'm sure its the right dynamic for a brunch spot! 

Going back to my take on the WeFo community spirit, the camaraderie was in full swing when we sat down, but being offsiders, service seemed to us a little perfunctory, or perhaps slightly distracted.

Still the coffee this time round was great. And our Fish and Chip burger ($14.50) was a delight. I'm a big chip sandwich fan, and this was exactly that in a brioche bun with a lovely aioli to boot.

I think along with the Sandwich at POD, this is going to be one of my goto lunch dishes when I'm craving simple and honest flavours with just a touch of gastro glam. (Gastro ... what a word!) But is it really that hard to pit olives in a salad? Or at least give your punters fair warning? We're not all spring chickens with perfect teeth round here!

We were slightly dissappointed at not being able to order from the Morning menu as the breakfast options looked really interesting on paper. But I guess there's the excuse for a repeat visit which hopefully will happen soon. So in summary, I think Brother Nancy is still finding its feet, but it certainly is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood and in an odd way it is like a little tucked away oasis in what is a surprisingly busy and hectic suburb.

Brother Nancy on Urbanspoon
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...