Mr Big Stuff – Bringing Soul to Melbourne

panda 4.5 rating

 

Menu:
Drinks Menu
Food Menu House Spirits Menu

A and I were due for our regular dinner catch up and she suggested we check out Mr Big Stuff. We tried to book a table but due to its newness & popularity there were no tables available, however they did inform us that if we came in we could sit at the bar – so this is what we did.

Mr Big Stuff is the new, funky and soul filled restaurant that’s taking Melbourne by storm. It is located in Meyers Place (it resides where Senorita used to be) – pretty much in and around the centre of the Melbourne CBD. Mr Big Stuff is relatively new having only been open a few months (opened in May 2014) with the concept being to add a bit of soul into the Melbourne food scene – and adding soul they do! From the moment you step inside you feel like you have been transported to 70s – from the pumping soul music to the orange and red warm tones and completed by the swagger of the wait staff in cute retro diner attire – think suspenders and bow ties. You can thank the 5 partners, including Michael Chen and Adam Ong from Golden Monkey bar (located in Hardware Lane) together with Head Chef is Louis Naepels (ex-Grossi Florentino) for bringing this new style of venue to Melbourne.

Mr Big Stuff is all about sharing some great tasting soul food and bopping along to some really great music. The venue has a in-house turntable that plays Thursday to Saturday (the night starts out with soul music, then progresses to R’n’B and cranks up to Hip-Hop – pure awesomeness!) and is decked out with sound-proofing material on its walls. Mr Big Stuff has been designed by Techne architects and has wooden tables along with some banquet seating in the main dining area. The other main feature is the wooden bar and the hole in the wall which allows you to peer into the kitchen. The tones of orange, red and wood really make you feel like you have stepped into the 70s and get you prepared for the food adventure that is about to begin.

What I loved when I looked up the menu online was the drinks menu and the fact that you could have each and every traditional beverage sans alcohol. This was fantastic for me as I don’t drink!

You can choose from the Cold Pressed Kool-Aid drinks – there are 4 different flavours to choose from, or the Egg Cream – a New York-style spider, which interestingly is egg free – Homemade Chocolate Sauce, Milk/Cream & Soda is the flavour available here. There is also a selection of Cold Brew Ice Teas available – of which there are 5 to choose from.

There is a magnitude of choices to select from so it took me a while to decide what I wanted – if I had it my way I would have spent the entire night there sampling every drink! I decided to go with the Kickin’ Kiwi – Cold Pressed Kiwi Juice, Fresh Lemon Juice & Soda. The Kickin Kiwi was full of flavour, refreshing and hit the spot. The tangy flavouring of the cold pressed kiwi worked well with the lemon and soda, that had this effect of creating a party with every sip. A ordered the P.Y Tea – Cold Brew Hibiscus Tea, Fresh Cold Pressed Watermelon & Fresh Lemonade. A’s drink came out served in a tall glass and came with extra sugar syrup on the side in case she wanted to make it sweeter – which she did utilise as it was a tad bit bitter at the start. I sampled her drink and it was quite tasty and refreshing as well – with the hibiscus tea flavouring much stronger than the watermelon. An all round good drink!

The menu is designed and created by Louis Naepels and is broken into four sections – Small Stuff, Mid Stuff, Big Stuff and Sweet Stuff. Naepels has done great things with menu especially coming from cooking Italian at Grossi Florentino – it is adventurous, fun and mixes brilliant flavours together. Across each of these sections there are upwards of 5 different dishes to try, except for the Sweet Stuff – there are only 2 desserts for now to try. Small Stuff includes dishes such as Pickled Okra, Grilled Corn, Pig’s Ears and their famous Corn Bread. Mid Stuff includes a selection of sliders (there are 4 different ones to choose from), and dishes such as Mac & Cheese, Kale Greens, Chicken Wings and Roasted Bone Marrow. The Big Stuff consists of Blackened Snapper & Clams, Mussels, Veal, Beef and Pork Ribs. We were told by the friendly waitress that the menu was created to be shared – ordering a little bit from each section.

We decided to share some things and order some separate dishes for the each of us as well (this tends to be what happens when A & I go out as I am a pescatarian and she can eat everything).

One of the first dishes to come out was the Jumbo Prawns – Corn Meal Dusted, Cajun Spiced, Prawn Head Mayonnaise –you get one prawn per serving. The prawn came out looking deliciously crunchy and it sure didn’t disappoint! The Cajun spice mixed with the soft texture of the well-cooked prawn was scrumptious – pair that with the “prawn head” mayonnaise and you have a somewhat fiery hit mixed together with a creamy finish. You really could eat more than a handful of these at a time.

A ordered the Sweetbread Nuggets – Lamb Sweetbreads, Honey & Thyme Glaze. Initially she was a bit apprehensive to order this dish – but speaking to our waitress she reassured her that it was a great dish, and it just tasted like lamb. These came out in a serving of five and looked exactly like how you would imagine nuggets to look like – served in a turquoise blue bowl and topped with thyme sprigs. A really enjoyed this dish and mentioned more than once how good these nuggets were – crispy coating on the outside and soft, tender lamb on the inside with a sweet aftertaste to finish on.

I also couldn’t look past ordering a slider from the menu and went with the Shrimp Slider with Spicy Mayonnaise. Once again this was another stand out dish – the shrimp had been fried to provide a crunchy texture and together with the slight sweetness of the brioche and the spice of the mayonnaise were a great combination. There are no words to describe it – you just have to try it yourself!

A ordered the Fried Chicken & Waffles – Spiced Maple Syrup – which seemed like one of the more popular dishes on the menu to order. I mean it is quintessentially soul food after all! This is quite a generous dish and comes with couple of pieces of chicken off to one sized, with perfectly placed waffles on the other, with the spiced maple syrup in a separate mini pitcher. The chicken has been marinated overnight in buttermilk and a spice blend of black pepper, cloves and cayenne pepper. The result was that the batter was flaky, crunch and fell off the chicken in a way that you would want it to. The chicken was cooked to perfection – juicy whilst being tender- and had combined hints of smokiness, spiciness and sweetness.
The rosemary and cheddar flaked waffles were out of this world – crunchy and textured on the outside whilst being soft and fluffy on the inside. The combination of the savoury waffles with the sweetness of the spiced maple was interesting and must be experienced.

We also ordered the Mac & Cheese – Three Cheeses – to share. This dish comes served hot hot hot on a warm pan and from the moment it is placed down you get the wonderful aroma of the cheese. The top layer is a combination of the three cheeses and crumbed biroche which have been toasted just right. The cheesy creamy pasta of elbows had a great peppery taste to it – combine this with the crunchy breadcrumbs and this dish is heaven. For usual Mac & Cheese lovers – you wouldn’t want to share this dish!

What is also brilliant about Mr Big Stuff is that they make their own Hot Stuff Chilli sauce which is bottled and is made from Habanero Chillies, Cayenne, Carrot, Apple Cider Vinegar and Spices. This sauce sure does pack a bit of a punch and is great for all of you who want that extra hint of chilli in your dishes .This also works well with the Shoestring fries!

Despite being full we had to check out dessert – if the food was anything to go by then the desserts would be just as amazing. I ordered the Quince & Rhubarb Cobbler. Initially I wasn’t quite sure what a cobbler was so had to ask our friendly waitress. A cobbler usually consists of a fruit or savoury filling which is then put into a baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit, or pie crust before being baked – hence creating a combination of crunch and softness. Generally speaking I’m a sucker for anything with Crème Fraiche – I think it adds a great element and depth to a dish and brings out flavours even more. The cobbler was quite a refreshing dish – with a combination of star anise and fruity flavours. The “cake” bits were moist, soft and delicious with the bread crumbs providing another texture. You definitely needed the addition of the Crème Fraiche to add some creaminess and extra wetness to the dish. Overall a very different yet tasty dessert.

A ordered the Apple Pie – Cinnamon, Spiced Rum. This wasn’t like any apple pie you would normally order – they came out as individual little pockets which reminded me of mini pastries – you get 4 per serve. The pastry on the outside was buttery, flaky and had a great flavouring to it, coated with cinnamon sugar. The inside was filled with a smooth warm apple filling that was both juicy and tasty. A said she really liked this different take on the apple pie.

The staff here are really friendly and always ensure you feel looked after without being overbearing. They are happy to offer suggestions when you are ordering food and can assist in answering questions. Another stand out of the venue is the music – we both loved the music played – it brought back memories from our high school days with stand outs like MJ, TLC just to name a few. If the music was this good when the in-house DJ wasn’t playing I can’t wait to come and check out the DJ sets on Thursday to Saturday nights.

When we call for the bill – it arrives in a wallet with Mr Big Stuff engraved on the front – which I think is quite fun and fits in really well with the 7os theme. They also have a variety of uniquely designed coasters which use known brand logos such as Pringles, MTV but change it to reference the Mr Big Stuff  name. Creative!

Mr Big Stuff is a Soul Food inspired restaurant designed around sharing great tasting food with friends along with unique Kool-aid drinks and funky tunes in a lively and warm atmosphere. If you want to be transported to the 70s and try out a place that makes you feel like you are part of the Soul Train set – this is your place!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pics above or click here for the links
Food Menu: http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/files/MRBIGSTUFF_WEB_FOOD_140523.pdf
Drinks Menu:http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/files/MRBIGSTUFF_WEB_DRINKS_140523.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Soulful, Warm and Inviting – a great place for a celebration and an all round good time! They have  in-house turntables which place on Thursday to Saturday nights.
Standout Dish: Shrimp Slider with Spicy Mayonnaise, Three Mac & Cheese
Service: Fantastic  – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/
Meyers Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 7411

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 6pm – 11.30pm

A Lunch Service is COMING SOON!

 

Ruyi – A Different Kind of Chinese

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Lunch Menu Dinner Menu

P & I decided to check out Ruyi for lunch on a Friday as I had heard a lot of good things about the place. Ruyi which translates to – “as you wish” is a spiritual object or talisman which symbolises good fortune – and is owned by Sheng Fang in collaboration with this wife Qian Qian Luo-Fang.

Ruyi serves modern Chinese cuisine but looking in from the outside, as well as once you are well inside – you wouldn’t think this is your typical Chinese restaurant. There is no sight of the typical bright red and yellow colours, coupled with strong, thick wooden furniture. Instead you are greeted with the cooling green and light wooden tones.
The fit out was carried out by Paul Hecker of Hecker Guthrie with most fittings and stylings sourced from around the world. The lights are wooden ash colored handmade lights from France, with the wooden chairs and stools imported from Milan. All the plates, bowls, water glasses and pitchers are made exclusively for Ruyi from local ceramic artist Andrei Davidoff and they are beautiful and fit right in with the Ruyi theme. The feel is warm – thanks to the olive, beige tones – modern and sophisticated – which is somewhat of a cultural shift to the norm of a Chinese restaurant.

There is a lot to read in the menu which means there is plenty of selection to choose from. The two chefs behind the wonderfully created menu have come from Michelin starred Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club – it’s no wonder the result is magnificent. The menu begins with a selection of 3 different homemade soups to choose from (Duck and Tofu, Seafood & Egg White, Hot Sour), then proceeds with Dumplings (there are 4 different types to choose from – Pork and Crab Shao Long Bao, Streamed Vegetarian, Wonton in Chilli Sauce, Pan fried Pork and Chive), followed by Chinese Tapas ( there are 12 different dishes to try and include things like Prawn Cakes, Soft Shell Crab, Peking Duck Cone, Bao Bao, Chicken Wings, Eggplant Strips) and finishes up with the Bigger Dishes (there are 7 choices including Asian Mushrooms, Kong Bao Chicken, Oyster Beef Steak, Wagyu Beef and Duck Braised in home made stock) and Dessert – there is the usual Banana Fritters and Ice cream, but something different they have is the Hazelnut Paste Roll with Ice Cream as well as Sticky Rice Pudding. There is also a selection of sides that you can choose from – think mixed veggies, light chilli green beans, fried rice.

If the menu overwhelms you – you can select a Banquet menu – either a 5 course for $45 or an 8 course for $65. The menu also points out the Recommended dishes to help you select if you are stuck. As P & I went at lunch time – they had a separate Autumn / Winter Lunch Menu where all the Chinese Tapas were priced cheaper. There was also an option of two different set menus available – One for $18 and another for $35. Refer to the pictures above in the menu section to see what each set includes.

After much contemplation of the menu we decided to share some dishes. And since I simply couldn’t look pass ordering the Flaming King Prawn – I needed to know what this dish was about, as the menu states that the King Prawn sits on the fire – how cool!

Our first dish was the Fried Tofu with Szechuan Mayo – this is 3 pieces of lightly tempura battered tofu topped with Szechuan mayo and sprinkled with spring onions. The tofu was delicious – crispy and crunchy on the outside – whilst staying smooth and creamy on the inside. The Szechuan Mayo was light, tangy and refreshing and everything coupled together made for a really great dish.

We also ordered the Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings which come out in a serving of 5 green perfectly moon shaped pieces in a bamboo steamer. Each dumpling is made to order and you can really tell – the filling was fresh, had subtle flavours yet was tasty. I also liked the fact that Ruyi has chilli paste, and not only the chilli oil that is found in most other restaurants.

The last dish to arrive was the Flaming King Prawn – and indeed the prawns were sitting on the fire. I asked our waitress what creates the flame and she said it was the bed of salt coupled with lemon. The waitress also informed us that the prawns had already been cooked – so were ready to eat once we blew out the flame. The prawns were simply scrumptious and they are some of the best king prawns I have ever tasted! The prawns had a hint of spice and were barbequed perfectly – firm in texture yet soft to eat – and were topped with spring onion and capsicum.

We didn’t have enough time to check out the dessert menu – but I will definitely be back to try out more dishes from their menu and will definitely leave some room for dessert! The Hazelnut Paste Roll sounds tantalizing!

The staff are very friendly and quite knowledgeable of the dishes on the menu. Ruyi is a great modern addition to the Chinese cuisine and provides a elegant yet warm homely feel to it. There is an extensive wine list as well serving cocktails, beer and spirits. They also have a separate happy hour section (which is Monday to Friday, 5pm – 7pm).

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://ruyi.com.au/Dining%20Menu.pdf for the Dining Menu
Happy hour menu – http://ruyi.com.au/Happy%20Hour.pdf
Lunch Menu – http://ruyi.com.au/Lunch%20Menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Sophisticated, Elegant and Welcoming
Standout Dish: The Flaming King Prawn
Service: Friendly and very helpful – always very polite and always with a smile!
Online Booking: Yes via website – www.ruyi.com.au
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.ruyi.com.au
16 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9090 7778

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Mon to Fri 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Dinner
Mon to Wed 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Thu to Fri 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Sat 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm

RuYi Modern Chinese on Urbanspoon

Saigon Sally – Out of this World Vietnamese

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Saigon Sally

E was sadly bidding Melbourne adieu and we organized a dinner at Saigon Sally. Saigon Sally is the proud bigger sister of Hanoi Hannah – both located in the Prahran area. Hannoi Hannah is more of a Vietnamese hawker style eatery – a place where you can grab a quick bite to eat, whereas Saigon Sally has a great selection of Vietnamese favourites as well as a variety of wines, cocktails, mocktails and offers a great dining experience. Another plus point is that they take bookings!

Saigon Sally is opened by Simon Blacher, Paul Nguyen, Nick Coulter and Will Newton, together with Adrian Li (ex Donovan) as Head Chef and Tom Stonnill (ex Transit Bar) as Bartender.

From the moment you step into Saigon Sally – you need a minute to take it all in – there is loads of colour and atmosphere present. There is grand bar that is central to the entire venue – wooden and back lit and finished with colourful offerings on top (be it flowers, straws, cups or their colourful menus). What grabs your eye next is the lavish mural artwork of an Asian woman smoking by Michelle Lee, with the smoke from her cigarette swirling onto the concrete ceilings. The back wall is complete with various pictures of Vietnamese ladies in an array of poses. As you walk in to the left is a real life rickshaw filled with various paraphernalia, adding to the funky vibe and feel. What has been done with the space is fantastic and you feel as if you have been transported to another part of the world where you want to spend hours in.

There are a number of seating options available – a large communal table located under the stairs, banquet seating located one at the front of the venue and the second being at the back of the venue, as well as seating around the bar and there are a few tables for 2 located along the mural wall. Tables are wooden with a dash of colour thanks to Saigon Sally’s colourful menu that sits on top. Plates and cutlery – which includes chopsticks of course – is already set out as well. There was 6 of us on this night and we were seated in the back banquet – which suited the size of our group well as we could all comfortably talk and see each other.

We started off by ordering a mix of cocktails and mocktails. I ordered a mocktail which had lychee and passionfruit flavours finished with a purple orchid – I loved the colour contrast between the yellow of the drink and the purple of the flower. Due to the drink being simply delicious I don’t have a picture of it. M ordered the Boom Boom Mojito (Flor de caña white rum chili, viet-mint, kaffir lime leaf, lemon­grass, lime ginger syrup & soda) which came served with a fan of apple pieces, a circular slice of lemon and mint leaves to the side. The other cocktail L ordered had the main ingredient of Pandan – hence its strong green colour which she seemed to enjoy as well.

The menu created by Adrian Li is all about the home-style food which is made for sharing. Each dish takes the traditional Vietnamese dish pieces it together with modern techniques to produce a memorable tasting end product, each balancing the five elements of Vietnamese cuisine – sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. The menu is split into Small, Medium, Large, Sides and Desserts. There is also a “Feed Me” option for $59 per person (minimum 2 people required) which allows you to sample the chef’s favourites. There are around 6 to 9 dishes under each category to choose from.

Even though the menu is made for sharing – we decided to get our own dishes as we were quite hungry. We did however order the Prawn Pandanus – Smoked Prawn, Kaffir Lime, Tamarind & Sesame Caramel – to share. These come out in a serving size of 4 and are wrapped in a crisp pandan leaf – which we told by the waiter that you aren’t meant to eat, but to unwrap this pandan leaf and enjoy the prawn fritter and then eat it. The prawn fritter itself was delicious – semi crunchy on the outside – light and fluffy and flavour filled on the inside with the lovely tones of kaffir lime and tamarind. The sauce that came with the dish provided a sweet element to the whole dish which exemplified the prawn flavour. A great dish.

T ordered the Vietnamese Chicken Coleslaw – Black Bean Poached Chicken, Crisp Vermicelli and Peanuts. This dish comes out with the colourful mix of the tender poached chicken, bean shoots, carrot, Asian basil, peanuts and pickles sitting atop of the crisp white vermicelli. There are a multitude of textures and flavours that intrigue your senses. The flavours of the black bean sauce together with the subtle hint of spice and sweetness from the carrots work well together.

E and I both order the Saigon Chilli Crabs – Soft Shell Crabs, Tomato, Black Bean, Lime, Chilli & Basil. I absolutely loved this dish and it has to be one of the best crab dishes I have eaten. The crab was cooked to perfection – providing a soft and delicate crunch that was filled with delightful crab on the inside. The creamy mayo sauce was another highlight – it had a mixture of saltiness, spice and freshness to it. Together with the other elements of coriander, chilli, basil and cucumber the dish worked well together, with the flavouring spot on. I would highly recommend this dish to anyone.

V ordered the Grilled Quail – Stuffed with Sticky Rice, Spring Onion, Shitake and Lup Cheung. This was a pretty looking dish with the Quail being the centre piece of the dish with Chilli, sprigs of flowers and Onions placed around it. The Qauil looked amazing in all its glazed glory – with a touch of barbequing to provide a crisp skin. The stuffing mix of rice, spring onion, mushroom and Chinese sausage worked well with the flavours of the quail.

M ordered the Grilled Ocean Trout – Tumeric, Dill, Mustard Leaf, Ginger, Jalapeno and Banh Hoi. The trout had been wrapped and cooked in a pandan leaf which enhanced the flavours of the trout. The trout itself was cooked well and remained soft and tender, topped with tumeric, cubes of ginger and jalapeno – which added extra flavour and spice. Banh Hoi which is a Vietnamese dish consisting of rice vermicelli that has been woven into intricate bundles and topped with onions was to the side of the side along with a mixed salads consisting of mustard leaves and other mixed greens.

L asked me what she should order from the menu and I picked out the Shaking Beef Rib – Pho Glazed Short Rib, Crispy Onions, Watercress and Lemon. I was interested in the name of the dish – just what did they mean by “Shaking” beef rib? Later I understood that in Vietnamese the term “luc lac” translates to the word “shaking” and it represents the tossing of the beef back and forth in the wok after it has been seared. There are various ways in which to represent the traditional Bo Luc Lac dish and Saigon Sally does a great interpretation. The beef comes out along with the huge rib bone and sits on top of the watercress, onion, cucumber and coriander salad and is topped with sesame and chilli with a wedge of lemon. The beef was tender and had punchy flavours.

Despite being quite full from each of our dishes we did opt to try out some desserts – reading the dessert list gave us enough temptation and incentive. “Happy Endings” are made at the bar and if you score a spot at the bar you can watch as pastry chef Felix Goodwin prepares desserts.

We order the Banh Bo Nut – Vietnamese Doughnut, Salted Galangal, Caramel & Toasted Coconut Sorbet. These come served a dish which is reminiscent of an off-shaped boat, with 5 doughnut balls in place served with coconut sorbet and finished with a colourful cocktail umbrella. The doughnuts themselves are melt in your mouth delicious! They are served warm, with sugar crusting on the outside providing a crisp texture which works well against the fluffy insides. The salted galangal and caramel sauce adds a sticky texture and provides some extra sweetness, with the coconut sorbet provided a cool hit with a creamy flavour. A delicious dessert!

Next up we ordered the Tira-Ma-Sally -Macaron, Vietnamese Coffee Parfait, Condensed Milk & Peanut Brittle which is the house specialty. These come out looking like your normal everyday sandwich that you would expect to see in your lunch boxes – cut into triangles – but you could not be more wrong. They are far from just normal – they are out of this world amazing! What it is – two triangles of almond Macaron “bread” that is layered with strong, vibrant coffee parfait, condensed milk and peanut brittle. I am not a huge fan of peanut butter – but there was only a slight hint of the peanut taste. The ice cream layer had hints of caramel amongst it which served as a pleasant surprise. This is a definite must try – it’s a pity they don’t give you four pieces instead of two!

From the red glow as you step inside to the colorfulness on the inside Saigon Sally is a must visit place. The food stays true to the Vietnamese basics whilst adding a modern twist which produces great tasting and looking dishes. The concepts – from the unique and interestingly named drinks menu down to the “Happy Ending” desserts is fantastic. The staff are friendly, helpful and the vibe is trendy, inviting, vibrant and fun. As you step outside, don’t forget to check out the laneway filled with colourful street art, hanging lanterns and pairs of shoes. It serves as a great backdrop for photos or just to stare at awe in.

NOTE: Saigon Sally does cater for functions – refer to their website for further information about packages.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$S
Menu – Refer to picture above or look at http://www.saigonsally.com.au/SaigonSally_Menu_001.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Funky, Fun and Welcoming. A place where you could have a lot of fun! If you are looking to host your next function there is information available on their website – http://www.saigonsally.com.au/Saigon_Sally_Function_Menu001.pdf
Standout Dish: Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Fun
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.saigonsally.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.saigonsally.com.au/
2 Duek Street ,Windsor
Tel No: 9939 5181

Opening Hours:
Mon to Thu 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Fri to Sat 6:00 pm – 1:00 am
Sun 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Saigon Sally on Urbanspoon

Magnum Pleasure Store – Make Your Very Own Magnum!!

panda 4 rating

My Magnum - Milk Chocolate Coating with Pistachios, Rose Petals, Dried Strawberries and Vanilla Crumble

My Magnum – Milk Chocolate Coating with Pistachios, Rose Petals, Dried Strawberries and Vanilla Crumble

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Menu:
The Process

Calling all Ice-Cream lovers – there is a Magnum Pleasure Store  that has opened in Melbourne – located at the newly opened Emporium right in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

Magnum Pleasure Stores have already been a massive hit in the likes of Sydney, Paris, Shanghai, Amsterdam and New York. The idea behind this store is to “Make My Magum” – where in six easy steps you can create your very own Magnum according to what your favorite flavorings are. It gives you room to create up a flavour that you might have thought would work well with the creamy and chocolaty Magnum ice creams that already exist. You select everything from the chocolate coating, to an array of toppings and even down to the final drizzle of chocolate on your Magnum. These are all constructed and made by your very own personal, pleasure maker! How awesome!

The “Make My Magnum” process firstly involves lining up to place your order – just to note there is a line no matter what time you go, ranging from 10 mins right up to 1.5 hrs!!! – It sure is mighty popular! The first step is to choose the base for your Magnum – Vanilla or Chocolate (also something to note is that they have limited stock of the Chocolate flavour). From there you can select what chocolate coating you want – you have a choice of White, Milk and Dark Chocolate.

Next step is where the fun really begins – you get a choice of 3-4 toppings from a list of 18 different toppings. These include Roasted Hazelnuts, Pistachios or Cashews, Milk Chocolate Flakes, White Verimicelli, Dark Cookie Chunks, Vanilla Crumble, Honeycomb Pieces, Diced Strawberries or Pineapple, Coconut Flakes, Mixed Chocolate Crispearls, Mocha Chips, Blackberry Chips, Gingernut Biscuit Crumble, Rose Petals or Salted Pretzels.

Once those tough decisions are out of the way – you can watch as your personal pleasure maker creates your Magnum of choice. The last two steps are to decide which drizzle of Magnum chocolate you would like – White, Milk or Dark and finally a finishing touch of a chocolate button marked with a Magnum “M” logo– again you can select from either a White Chocolate or Milk Chocolate flavouring. And voila you have your very own Magnum right in front of you to devour and cherish. All this deliciousness and uniqueness for just $8.

So get down to Emporium and enjoy this highly desirable feat of making your very own Magnum by visiting the Magnum Please Store. The store will be open to all dessert, ice cream and chocolate lovers till August 10th 2014.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to above picture
Service: Friendly
Location Details:
Emporium
1st Level
287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 8609 8221

Opening Hours:
Saturday to Wednesday: 10am – 7pm
Thursday & Friday: 10am – 9pm

San Paolo Solarino – Sicilian in the City

panda 4 rating

I stumbled across San Paolo Solarino one day whilst out shopping in the lane ways of Melbourne in my lunch break. P and I were looking for a place to have lunch with another friend and I suggested Solarino.

Solarino is a contemporary Italian restaurant / bar that is located in Howey Place – a laneway off Little Collins Street – and nestled between stores such as Oroton, FCUK and the recently opened Phillipa’s. Solarino is brought to us by chefs Grant Phelan (Il Solito Posto, Ca De Vin) and Jade Amenta. It offers authentic and stays true to the Nonna style of cooking in presenting a modern twist on your traditional Sicilian food – and is open seven days a week for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

From the moment you walk inside – Solarino has a real sophisticated and elegant feel to it coupled with a air of casualness and comes complete with wooden tables and a swanky front bar. A highlight is the white washed walls with the name Solarino written in lights. The front counter hosts a silver coffee machine which pumps out delicious tasting coffee as well as cakes and a variety of desserts.

Their breakfast menu consists of the usual suspects such as Eggs any way you like it including Benedict, Florentine, Poached, Scrambled and Omelette. There is also Toast, French toast, Muesli and Crumpets available. Their lunch menu consists of Antipasti followed by Primi, Insalata and finishes with Speciali. There are around 7 different pasta dishes to choose from under the Primi heading – including Spaghetti, Fettuccine and Linguine. Insalata dishes include Calamari fritti and a variety of salads to choose from. Specials include Soft Shell Chilli Crab Salad, Sizzling Prawns, Veal as well as a Claypot Lamb.

I ordered the Penne with Garlic, Mushroom, Chilli, Onion and Fetta. The pasta was fresh and cooked to perfection. The flavour combination of the earthy tones from the mushroom paired with the garlic, and the caramelisation of the onion was simply divine. This was one fantastic mouth watering dish!

P ordered the Gnocchi Napoli Oven Baked and Topped with Grilled Mozzarella which came served out in a mini hot plate pan. P let me try some of her gnocchi and it was literally a melt in your mouth experience – heaven! The flavour combination of the Napoli and mozzarella worked together well. If you are a fan of gnocchi you have to try this dish out!

T ordered the Rigatoni with Aurora Style Pork Bolognese and Ricotta and said that he quite enjoyed the dish and the flavours. The dish looked fresh, vibrant and delicious.

Solarino is a fantastic venue that makes you feel comfortable and welcomed. It serves traditional Italian food with a modern twist – the dishes are a tad pricier that you would normally expect – but once you experience the flavours and freshness the price is simply an afterthought.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu:
Refer to the following for Breakfast: http://www.solarino.com.au/public/menus/solarino_breakfast.pdf
Refer to the following for Lunch: http://www.solarino.com.au/public/menus/solarino_lunch-dinner.pdf
Refer to the following for the wine list: http://www.solarino.com.au/public/menus/solarino_wine.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambiance: Stylish, Elegant, Classy and Comfortable
Standout Dish: Any of the Pasta dishes!
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.solarino.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.solarino.com.au/
Howey Place
279 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 2636

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 6:30am – 10:30pm

San Paolo Solarino - Pasta and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Hooked – Delicious Tasting Healthy Seafood

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Menu at Hooked Lunch Menu at Hooked Specials Menu at Hooked

Hooked is the brainchild of Ray Good and has been around for a while now serving healthy seafood – in three different branches – Fitzroy, Windsor and its newest branch in Hawthorn. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out their latest branch.

The fit-out is exactly what you would expect to find beach-side with a modern twist – white rustic wooden panels combined with white washed exposed brick walls. There is a large communal table at the centre of the venue, surrounded by wooden tables which largely seat parties of two. To the right along the wall are sailor striped booth style seats and a lifebuoy with the inscription – Hooked – In Cod we Trust – further adding to the seaside vibe. Painted on the brick wall as you walk in is a mural of a blue grenadier, further on the wall is a painting of a diver complete with a diving suit – something for you to admire whilst you await your food. These extra touches, together with the friendly smiles of the staff behind the counter complete the warm and welcoming feel.

The menu is located on top the counter which you order from – which is reminiscent of a your local fish and chip store. There are a plethora of selections to decide from. There is a Seafood section from which you can order House Fish (either Grilled or Lightly Tempura Battered) or Calamari (Grilled or Salt & Pepper Battered) both served with either Hand Cut Chips OR Rice & Asian Greens OR Salad. There are Boxes available – Box for One (1 House Fish, 6 Calamari), Box for Two (2 House Fish, 8 Calamari, 2 King Prawns) and a Kids Box (Fish Bites or Calamari with Rice or Mini Chips and Juice Box or Water – with a side salad). The two Boxes also come with the same option of Hand Cut Chips, Rice & Asian Greens or Salad.

There are also 3 different burgers to choose from – Hooked Fish Burger, Seared Tuna Burger and a Veggie Burger. If you are feeling like something different maybe you can try out their Taco and Burrito Menu (Fish Burrito) – with two selections of tacos – Baja Fish and Grilled Prawn. If Salads is more your thing – there are three delicious sounding salads to choose from – The Hooked Salad, Superfood Salad – think quinoa, broccoli, spinach, sunflower seeds etc and an Asian Slaw.

There are also specials that you can have during Lunch hours, as well as a Fisherman’s Soup all for $10.95. You can also buy Extras if you want to add to your meal – such as Chips, Prawns, Scallops. In addition to this are their Home Made Sauces – Dill & Caper Tartare, Sambal, Salsa Verde or Sweet Chili. What’s great is that they give you a recommendation as to which sauce works well with a particular dish. For example the Sambal is delicious with grilled fish with rice or salad. There are also Gluten Free options available. Drinks include the usual soft drinks, Charlies range of fresh juices as well as Phoenix New Zealand Organic drinks.

I decided to order the Box for One – and chose Grilled Fish and Salt & Pepper Calamari, as well as Rice & Asian Greens, with Sambal sauce on the side (I went with the recommended salsa – but was keen also to try the sauce). The dish comes out served on a large white round plate, with the seafood on the one side and the rice and Asian greens on the other with the salsa and a slice of lemon in the middle of the two. The house fish they serve is blue grenadier – the fish was fresh, white, fleshy and cooked to perfection and tasted absolutely delicious – you really don’t need the addition of anything else. The fish remained succulent and juicy which was another win. The rice has a mix of sweet and savory flavours – thanks to the combination of soy, kecap manis together with a dash of sesame oil. The grains are separate – just the way I like my rice. The Asian Greens are blanched and lightly sautéed – keeping in theme of being healthy whilst being the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the dish. The Calamari was another standout – I loved the lightly battered salt and pepper tempura flavouring. There wasn’t a thick layer of batter rather a light covering, which allowed you to enjoy the freshness of the calamari and also made for a less greasy dish overall.

S ordered the Superfood Salad (Quinoa, Broccoli, Rocket, Spinach, Semi Dried Tomatoes, Peas, Mint, Toasted Pumpkin, Sunflower Seeds & Sesame Seeds finished with a drizzle of Yoghurt Lemon Dressing) with a side of House Fish together with the Salsa Verde sauce. We shared our dish with each other so I got to sample some of her Superfood salad. Once again the salad had a combination of refreshing flavours and crunchy textures which was finished off well thanks to the yoghurt lemon dressing. S liked the salad so much that since then she has tried to replicate this at home. The Salsa Verde sauced packed a punch of flavours with coriander being the main character and was quite delicious.

Hooked prides itself on producing healthy food with the key factors being highlighted – low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein and rich in Omega 3. This is thanks to the use of cholesterol free cottonseed oil in all their cooking. Their chips are freshly hand cut from Gippsland potatoes each and every day, and cooked from scratch using cottonseed oil. A fun fact to note is that Hooked will not serve any flake – after all it isn’t a fish!

Hooked has created a modern day healthier version of your local fish and chip shop – which includes an inviting ambiance and vibe that makes you feel like you have just spent a day at the beach. Together with friendly and warm service, delicious tasting food and funky décor – it should be next on your list to visit!

Note: Students can receive a 10% discount (Monday to Thursday 11:30am – 5pm)
Another thing to note is that the Fitzroy and Windsor branches are fully licensed, with the Hawthorn Alcohol License coming soon!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to above pictures or check out http://www.hooked.net.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Warm, Inviting and Beach-like
Standout Dish: House fish & Calamari, Superfood Salad
Service: Friendly and Welcoming as well as prompt – we were surprised at how quickly our food came out, despite being quite full.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/hawthorn/
669 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
Tel No: 9939 4412

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon

Other Branches
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/fitzroy/                                                               http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/windsor/
384 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy                                                                                         172 Chapel Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9417 7740                                                                                                               Tel No: 9529 1075

Opening Hours:                                                                                                              Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm                                                                      Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm                                                                       Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon                                                                                                      Hooked on Urbanspoon

 

8Bit – Burgers, Gaming & Milkshakes!

panda 4 rating

Burgers are still very much the rage in Melbourne town – in fact I think all around the world. 8Bit is the new kid in town and the brainchild of chef Shayne McCallum and Alan Sam (both of Captain Melville) and Sam’s high-school mate, Long Tran.  It is located in Droop Street in Footscray – known for its usual crowds of Vietnamese people.

With the restaurant named after the 8bit video games – the theme follows inside from the décor to the names on the menu – they are named after video game characters – and is completed by the arcade games (which you can play for free) located out the back. What I love as well is the table numbers which are constructed with video game characters – from PacMan to Donkey Kong to Super Mario.

The outside is very different to what you would normally find in that area  -a very modern, new age looking building. There are signs of what used to be with the Vietnamese lettering peeling away and new 8bit patterned black and white burger logo pasted all over the front façade. The modern bi fold doors create the entrance – and you walk in feeling like you are stepping into a  modern day cave – complete with white plaster that peels away to reveal exposed brick work – almost giving it an aged look and yet another reminder of what used to be. I love it.

There are seats available at the main front counter which allows you to look right into the kitchen – where there is a whole barrage of staff (I haven’t seen so many staffing working at the one time in a kitchen ever! You can also sit along the window where you can sit on high coloured stools. As you go further inside the venue towards the back there are a few lower wooden tables, and the back room is once again filled with high seating complete with a wooden  bench tops. The kitchen is stainless steel and has a backdrop of tiles that have a Tetris effect with colourful tiles splattered amongst the white tiles. There are filament lights to complete this modern day look.

The menu consists of Burgers, Hot Dogs, Sides, Desserts and Milkshakes. There are six different burgers to choose from — Beef, Chicken , Beef & Bacon and Portobello Mushrooms burgers. There are four hot dogs to choose from – 8bit Dog (Smoked Frank with onions and pickles), Wonder Boy (Smoked Frank with Bacon and Onions), Fatal Fury (Jalapeno and Cheddar Sausage with Chilli Beef) and 1942 (Grilled Bratwurst with Pickle and Slaw). There are six different sides to choose from – each coming in two different sizes – small and large. Sides include Beer Battered Fries, Onion Rings, Potato Gems, Cheese & Bacon Fries, Chilli Cheese Fries and Loaded ( which is a choice of Fries or Potato gems, Chilli beef, Cheese sauce, Bacon, Pickle relish, Grilled onions,, Jalapeños). Desserts include various flavours of Soft Serves. Milkshake flavours include Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Strawberry Cheese Cake Shake and Chocolate Bar Shake – with a different chocolate bar flavour each day.

The only burger that I could get was the 1 Up Mushroom Burger – Crumbed Portobello Mushroom, Cheese, Tomato, Red Onion, Green Tomato Relish, Lettuce, 8BIT Sauce. The burgers are perfectly sized – not as small as a slider but not as large as a oversized burger that you would find at the likes of Grilled. My burger is filled with the crumbed Portobello mushroom along with all the other ingredients that is put between two buttered and toasted organic Lievito brioche buns. You would expect the brioche buns to be sweet of nature, however these ones did not have much sweetness to them which I quite liked. I loved that the mushroom was crumbed – it added more flavour, texture and crunch to the whole burger. The combination of all the elements was fresh and delicious – the 8BIT Sauce was scrumptious as well, however I would have liked a bit more sauce in my burger. Overall – it is one of the best veggie burgers that I have had in Melbourne.

N ordered the After Burner – Beef, Tomato, Red Onion, Lettuce, Cheese, Chilli Sauce, Jalapenos, Chipotle Mayo. N enjoyed his burner but said that the burger could have been a tad bit spicier. The beef burger was crusty on the outside but stayed juicy on the inside – just how you would want your burger to be.

We also ordered two different sides – onion rings and fries. The onion rings I found were mostly batter and not much filling, so I didn’t enjoy them as much. The battering, crunchiness and texture was tasty.

I also ordered a chocolate bar milkshake – the chocolate bar for the day was mars bar. I loved the milkshake – it was literally like a “chocolate milkshake only crunchy”. There were bits of the chocolate bar mixed in with the milk and ice cream and it was beyond delicious. I would definitely recommend trying the milkshake – next time I want to try out the different flavours. I’m sure they are all just as delicious. There is also a range of canned beers and soft drinks such as Dr. Pepper, Mountain Goat and American craft producer Sierra Nevada.

8Bit is a great addition to the Footscray area – and sells some great tasting burgers!  The staff are friendly, helpful and look like they enjoy what they do.  We were lucky when we went and managed to beat the crowds and get a seat by the window – so one thing to be mindful of is that dependent on the time you go you might have to wait a while for your burgers. There is no better place than a place where you can play some old school video games, sip on some delicious crunchy milkshakes and smash down a tasty burger!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.eat8bit.com.au/ for the list of burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes, sides etc
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Casual and Welcoming
Service:
Friendly and Enthusiastic
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.eat8bit.com.au/
8 Droop Street, Footscray
Tel No: 9687 8838

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – 11pm

8bit. on Urbanspoon

Menulog Competition – ENTER NOW!

logo_takeaway

Thanks to the generosity of Menulog, I have two $10 voucher to giveaway to two lucky Grazing Panda readers to put towards their very own Menulog dining experience.

You can use the following link  http://www.menulog.com.au/browse/melbourne-vic to visit Melbourne restaurants to order Online.

You can refer to my blogpost with regards to Menulog here – http://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/menulog-making-ordering-simpler/

Please share the love! If you know someone who would love to win this prize, let them know about this giveaway by spreading the word using the social media buttons at the end of this post.
Entry is easy. Just follow the prompts using the Rafflecopter App below. (App may take a few seconds to load.)
Please note: There are entry requirements  which are mandatory so be sure to follow the easy steps to ensure all of your entries count.
All winning entries drawn are screened to ensure they conform to these requirements and those that do not will be disqualified.
Terms and Conditions are as follows:
-Entry is open to residents of Australia only.
-The winner will be notified via email and given 48 hours to respond.
-If no response in this time, a new winner will be drawn.
-Total prize pool is valued at 2 x $10 and is to be used with a local Menulog restaurant of the winner’s choosing (where valid) and cannot be redeemed for cash.
-The winner’s details may be forwarded to Menulog for prize distribution.
-A voucher code will be emailed to the winner as supplied by Menulog and will be valid for 2 months from the date of issue.
-The voucher code will be valid for delivery only and payments via credit card.
-The voucher is valid for one use only.
-Grazing Panda is not liable or responsible in any way or form for prizes that are subsequently not delivered by a third party or arrive damaged or late.
-Judge’s decision is final.

Good luck!

To enter Please click the link below and follow the prompts:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stagger Lee’s – Vintage Cool

panda 4 rating

stagger lee

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Menu:
Stagger Lee's Menu
Stagger Lees Drinks

It was a long awaited catch-up for the four of us – G, J, M and myself – and we decided to stick to something that was central between the four of us. This place happened to be Stagger Lee’s – located on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.  I have heard many good things about this place ever since it opened up and was keen to check it out for myself.

Stagger Lee’s is brought to you by the people of Proud Mary – it is a collaboration between Proud Mary owner Nolan Hirte, former Proud Mary general Manager Monica Chhay, Head Chef Chris Hamburger (ex The Aylesbury, St Ali North) and Mun Soon of MGS Architects and owner of Krimper Cafe (refer to http://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/krimper-cafe-hidden-warehouse-style-treasure/ for my blog review of Krimper Cafe).

Stagger Lee’s is named after a pimp / bad-ass from St Louis – he infamously shot a cell mate in the 1900s for stealing his red Stetson hat and since this time over 400 musicians have retold the story of Stagger Lee. Here at Stagger Lee – this story reinforces the fact to “stick to your guns” and to “stand up for yourself” and most importantly are being the “bad-ass” of Ftizroy when it comes to great coffee and ingenious food.

The vibe is typical of what you would expect of the Brunswick / Fitzroy area – but with a whole lot more fun and excitement. There are exposed brick walls, concrete floors and huge glass windows which let the morning sunlight stream in. It’s a bit industrial, a bit indie – but rest assured feels welcoming and warm. There are wooden slatted tables for parties of varying sizes, as well as two large communal tables at the front – paired with metal chairs. There is both inside and Outside Street seating as well – they utilise their space well in terms of catering as many seats as possible without being too squishy. There are splashes of green thanks to the weatherboard effect around the kitchen window at the back of the venue, as well as the salt and pepper grinders placed on the tables and the coffee cups by the coffee machine. There are the usual filament lights that hang for lighting that I love as well.

The coffee here is a little bit different – they do not serve blends – only single origin espresso and filter coffees are being offered – and are pumped out of the stark white Synesso machine. They also use a EK 43 grinder which means they are getting the best extractions possible for the customers – allowing them to deliver some of the best coffee in town. I ordered a latte which was full bodied, strong and nutty and was perfect to wake me up first thing in the morning. The creamy after taste thanks to the fresh milk was also great. The decision not to blend comes from the work Proud Mary has been doing with the farms in Brazil and the quality of the single origin beans that work well with the milk without needing to be blended – and from my experience with their coffees this is working fantastically.

Another difference from Proud Mary is that they have a liquor license and look to open a few nights a week down the track.  They serve up wine, local and international beers and specially made cocktails – there is even one that contains cold drip coffee! Aside from specialising in coffee – they do also have an interesting list of juices, smoothies and milkshakes – with interesting names to match. Juices include Lance Armstrong (Carrot, Beetroot, Lemon, Ginger) and The Regulate (Apples, Strawberries, Coconut Water), there is a milkshake called Gangsta Milkshake, Crooks ‘n’ Creams – which is of course based on cookies and cream.

The food menu designed by Chris Hamburger (what a cool name!) is described as simple and sexy comfort food – and it really does comply.  The menu is split into a breakfast and lunch menu – both of which are available all day and there are gltuten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. There are dishes that covers all the main protein dishes that you would want to eat including lamb, bacon, beef, quail, chorizo and ham hock. From reading the menu you might not think these dishes really cut it – but trust me they do! There are your usual suspects such as Toast, Fruit Toast, Bircher Muesli, Granola and Porridge – but what makes it unique is the offerings that come with these basics. For example the porridge is buckwheat porridge together with chia, banana and honey. The first dish that caught my eye was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – I mean they had me at Coco Pop! The four of us quickly decided to share this amongst ourselves, thereby reserving some space for a proper savoury breakfast (and trying out more of the menu – win!). There are also dishes such as Shrooms ‘n’ Truffles which comes with Truffled Polenta, Poached Egg and Pepito, a Roasted Cauliflower and Quail dish, a Roasted Lamb dish that comes with Humms, Raisins and Toast as well as a Stacked Burger that comes with croquettes and greens.

When we arrived on this Sunday morning (around 10:30am) Stagger Lee’s was packed out already and we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table for the four of us. Initially we were given an area on the communal table all in a row – which would have made it hard for us to chat. However the staff had miscounted the number of seats and promptly moved us to a table which suited us better – making it easier for us to chat. Most of us ordered coffees to start and G ordered a juice whilst we decided what we wanted to eat. G ordered the Nice Pear – Apple, Pear, Mint, Lime. Juices come served in a generous size jar, with two big fresh mint leaves for more flavour- the juice was refreshing, tangy and produced a great flavour combination. M ordered the Frank ‘n’ Beans – Saffron Baked Beans, Smoked Ham Hock, Chorizo, Soft Poached Egg, Herb and Garlic Crumb Toast. The dish comes out presented well – the saffron baked beans together with the ham hock are at the base of the dish, with the poached egg and chorizo placed on top and finished with the garlic crumb toast. The Garlic Crumb Toast smelt and looked delicious – crispy on the outside and soft and filled with flavour on the inside. M seemed to enjoy her dish and the flavours – the poached egg was cooked to perfection with golden gooey goodness.

G originally ordered The Mexican – Soft Shell Corn Tortillas, Charred Corn, Lime and Tomatillo Salsa, Avocado, Fried Eggs, Creme Fraiche, Herbs. However, she has an allergic reaction to sesame seeds and some nuts, and although I don’t think that this dish had any of that, she started to get a reaction and therefore had to order something else. The dish came plated out with two tortillas, with the fried egg placed in side and topped with the charred corn, lime and tomatillo salsa and avocado, and finished with crème fraiche. The flavours were typically Mexican and the addition of the fried egg with its gooey runny yolk gave it the breakfast element.

J ordered the Smoked Trout Salad – House Smoked Ocean Trout, Grilled Asparagus, Soft Poached Egg, Butter Poached Potatoes, Shaved Fennel, Preserved Lemon Aioli and Green Goddess – which was quite the colourful dish thanks to the salmon colour of the ocean trout, purple colour of the radicchio, green colour of the salad and the white colour of the poached egg and lemon aioli. J did enjoy this dish and rated it better than The Mexican – the smokiness of the trout, together with the grilled asparagus and brilliance of the poached egg was a winner.

I ordered the The Fitz Royale – Grilled Asparagus, Cashew Cheese, Avocado, Fresh Herbs, Pea Tendrils and Citrus with a Poached Egg. The dish comes out with the fresh herbs being the centre of attention on the plate – the other components – toast, cashew cheese, avocado, grilled asparagus hidden underneath. The poached egg and the lemon slice are placed to the side. My favourite part of this dish was the cashew cheese which was placed like a spread on the toast – it was tangy and creamy all at the same time. Together with the subtle flavours of the asparagus and the softness of the avocado the flavours worked in perfect harmony. A great dish for asparagus lovers.

The last dish that we all got to sample was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – Coco Pop Cream Pat, Vanilla Ice Cream, Honeycomb and Raspberry Crumb. I don’t think much explaining needs to be done to understand how good a dish it really was. The plating wasn’t as clean as I had expected, as the Coco Pop Cream Pat resembled a messy blob, but I guess the consistency and texture of it didn’t help. I loved the mix of textures from the softness of the toast, cream pat and ice cream mixed together with the harder and grittier textures in the form of the tangy raspberry crumb, sweetness of the honeycomb and the pop of the cocoa pops sprinkled around. Overall I thought the flavours worked well together (I would have liked more raspberry crumb) – and was a great colourful dish that was the perfect way to end our meal at Stagger Lee’s.

The staff are quite accommodating and helpful, but are hard to get a hold of due to the sheer number of people they have to cater for. However, the wait to get their attention wasn’t too long. If you get a seat near the back of the venue – you can peer into the kitchen window and watch the chefs busily keeping up with the incoming orders. Even with the volume of orders –they keep a cool, calm and collected exterior and get on with the job.

There are also sweet treats that you can purchase from the counter – lamingtons, cupcakes, tarts and friands just to name a few.

Stagger Lee’s is a great addition to the grungy Fitzroy area and brings a somewhat homely and funky venue here. The vibe is buzzing, the place is warm, the menu is simple and unique and the staff friendly and always with a smile. Get down this weekend and check it out for yourself. The next time I come back – I am definitely trying the Shrooms ‘n’ Mushrooms.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – There is an all day breakfast and lunch menu – refer above to the pictures or look at http://staggerlees.com.au/food/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Casual and Welcoming – a great place that you can spend of your day in.
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly, sometimes it can be hard to their attention.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://staggerlees.com.au/
276 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9419 5564

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 4pm

Stagger Lee's on Urbanspoon

Popol Nah – Latin American in Carlton

panda 3.5 rating

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After the footy one evening N & I needed a place for dinner and decided to venture to the Carlton area. We used to frequent this area quite a bit back in the uni days, but as of late this hasn’t been the case. Carlton (Lygon Street in particular) is best known for its abundance of Italian restaurants filled with pizzas, pastas and gelatos – and lesser known for other cuisines such as Thai, Latin American or even Modern Australian. I had come across Popol Nah a Latin American fusion restaurant located at the city end of Lygon Street and decided to try it out on this night.

Popol Nah – which can be roughly translated to “The Peoples House” occupies a medium sized space – set amongst the Italian competition of course – and has an interesting design element to it. There are wooden planks running along one wall, overlapping each other in a haphazard style that oozes creativeness along with a modern version of a moose head. On the other is a textured crinkled white wall, together with two antlers hanging. There are large sticks placed in a vase of water which is located at the bar. Quirky, fun and a tad bit strange but it works. There is a communal table at the front of the main dining area, along with wooden tables that seat from two to larger parties. There is also seating at the front on Lygon street itself, as well as small courtyard at the back. Popol Nah can seat around 80 people. The interior is created by Peter Strateas and Mario Luca Carlucci of Strateas (a Brunswick based label). Popol Nah is open 7 days a week for both brunch and dinner.

The menu is created by New York based, Honduran born Cali Rivera and constitutes of South American and Latin fusion cuisine. The dinner menu is split into three sections – Chicos (Small dishes), Intermedio (In Between dishes) and ends with Carnes (Meats). There is also a Desserts menu with a selection of 5 different dishes such as Dulce de Leche, Rice Pudding, Chocolate Cake and Poached Quince just to name a few. There is also a Brunch Menu available which is split into 7 sections – Licuados (Smoothies), Huevos (Eggs) – you can choose from Baked Eggs or Scrambled Eggs, Ensaladas (Salads) – you can choose from two different vegetarian salads such as Mixed Seasonal Fruit with Mint and Ginger or Zucchini, Kale, Cucumber and Pickled Veggies, Bocadillos (Sandwiches), Empanadas (Baked Pasties) – there is a vegetarian option – chickpea, sweet potato, silver beet with crème fresca or one with chorizo and potato with coriander mayo, Anafres (Hot Plates) – which constitute of cheese fondue and lastly Mas Comida (More Food) – which have dishes such as Lamb & Beef Meatballs, Patatas Bravas and Prawn skewers.

There is also an extensive drinks menu – from Sangrias, Cocktails to a variety of Wines – from countries like Spain, Chile, Argentina and Australia – to an interesting selection of non-alcoholic drinks. Carolyn Brown the sommelier has a great understanding and knowledge of drinks and has put together a great selection. I decided to try the Chicha Morada – a non-alcoholic drink which had Purple Corn, Pineapple, Cinnamon and Cloves. The drink was purple in colour – due to the use of purple corn of course. I have never had purple corn before – but I think that it essentially tastes the same as yellow corn but has better health benefits and a higher amount of antioxidants. The combination of pineapple, cinnamon and cloves made for an interesting taste – not too sweet with spicy hints. It was a non-alcoholic version of a sangria and I really enjoyed it.

The first dish we ordered was the Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa – Chorizo and Potato in Baked Pastry with Coriander Mayo. N really enjoyed this – the pastry was crisp, crunchy and tasty on the outside with the chorizo and potato filling on the inside flavoursome and light. The mayo was creamy and a delicious addition.

I ordered the Ceviche De Camaron – Carribean Style Ceviche – Shrimp, Red Onion, Lime, Coriander, Tomato and Chips. The combination of ingredients was refreshing – I especially liked the addition of the coriander and lime. My favourite part of this dish was the chips – they were crispy, crunchy and tasted delicious. They had just the right amount of seasoning and worked well with the ceviche. I also liked the presentation of the dish – it came out in a stone mortar and pestle and the way in which the ceviche and chips were positioned reminded me of a bouquet of flowers.

The last dish we ordered was the Cordero Ranchero – Slow Cooked Lamb Shank in Spicy Tomato, Fresh And Dried Peppers with Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad. The lamb was cooked beautifully and fell off the bone – just what you want from a dish like this. The sauce looked spicy and N said it did have a hint of spice to it. I tried the Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad – which was fresh, flavoured with a tang as well as a hint of chilli – the perfect combination. The dish was presented well again – the contrast of the blue background of the rectangular plate against the bright browny red sauce was magnificent.

The service of the staff is great – everyone that served us was really friendly and happy to offer us suggestions and ensure we had everything we needed.

The brunch menu looks really interesting and I will definitely be back to try out some of their dishes. The décor is interesting and very different to anything you would normally find on Lygon Street. Head down and check out some great tasting South American fusion food.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – For the Brunch, Dinner and Drinks menu refer to http://popolnah.com.au/?cat=2
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Interesting, Unique and Funky. Great relaxed feel.
Standout Dish: Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Warm
Online Booking: No, but Popol Nah takes bookings.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://popolnah.com.au/
171 Lygon Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9347 3293

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 11:30am – 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 11:30am – 11:00pm
Sunday: 11:30am – 10:00pm

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