Arbory Bar & Eatery – Melbourne’s Longest Outdoor Bar!

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Menu: Arbory – Melbourne’s longest outdoor bar and eatery – is conveniently located right across from where I work so is very easily accessible to me. However its location makes it easily accessible to just about anyone that catches a … Continue reading

Sogni d’Oro ‘Aperitivo Danzante’ – ACT 1 – Two Italian Boys, Brunetti & White Rabbit Entertainment

Two Italian Boys, Brunetti and White Rabbit Enterntainment were behind the brilliant idea to create a series of events with the main aim of bringing people together to experience the real Italian Dream. The nights will run as a series of Acts (3 in total) beginning with Act 1 – Sogni d’Oro ‘Aperitivo Danzante’.

Unfortunately I wasn’t in Melbourne for Act 1 – which took place on Friday October 17, 2014 and was complemented with Italian food, drinks and dancing. However, I have seen many pictures, read the official media releases and heard a lot about the night from people lucky enough to have attended so thought it would be a great idea to mention it here at Grazing Panda – after all there are another 2 more Acts for everyone to experience and enjoy!

The name Aperitivio Danzante comes from the tradition of pre-dinner drinks which are accompanied by appetizers (Aperitivio) and ‘to dance’ (Danzante) – essentially translated to mean come for the appetizers but stay for the dancing fiesta! In Italy this generally means between the hours of 7pm – 9pm, followed by dinner …. and dancing!

On the night Two Italian Boys (Michael Pillon and Nick Guglielmino) launched a 2013 vintage Prosecco DOC which was produced in Valdobbiadene,Treviso- Italy’s best Prosecco making region. This new Prosecco wonderfully complemented the array of food on offer from the new and delicious Brunetti menu designed by Michele Circhirillo and Alessandro Violi. Some of dishes included pasta, wood-fire pizza and beautifully prepared tasting plates or stuzzichini – all of which were served throughout the night, so no guest was ever hungry or looking for food.

A live demonstration of mozzarella making by Australia’s best maker of Italian cheese, the ‘Maestro of Mozzarella’, Giorgio Linguanti (That’s Amore Cheese) gathered large crowds. The chef showcased his talent, experience and artisian skills whilst making round balls of mozzarella which had a taste to match the look.

Another highlight was the introduction by Burnetti of a specially developed range of alcohol infused Apertif gelato by by Chef Gelatiere Alessio Tavella, including Aperol and Campari Spritz, Prosecco – which is a first in Australia.

Brunetti is a Melbourne institution that has been around for years – since 1985 when the original store first opened up in Faraday Street – and is well known for its Italian style coffee as well as intriguing and huge variety of cakes. Brunetti is bringing a bit of Rome to Melbourne in an authentic fashion, and events like this clearly showcase its capability to do so.

The venue was divided into three sections and was recreating the timeless style of Federico Fellini’s film ‘La Dolce Vita.’ The rear section housing the DJ (where some funky Italian tunes were played) and a small bar, the middle section consisted of the Trevi Fountain (one of my absolute favourite places to visit in Rome) which aided to recreate the famous scene in the film, as well as a large wall painting and comfy seats. For added fun guests were invited to make a wish while tossing a coin into the fountain (just as you would if you went to visit the real Trevi Fountain), with all the proceeds going to Make –A-Wish Foundation. Such a brilliant idea and for such a great cause! The front section consisted of another bar as well as the gelato display and shelves which stocked traditional Italian good to welcome the guests.

From the pictures you can tell that everyone there had an extremely fun night that represented the true Italian way of celebrating. Both food and drinks were in abundance thanks to the waiters/waitresses walking around ensuring guests were always being looked after. The mix of the crowd – both of the younger and older generations – was clearly seen with mingling happening throughout the night.

Act 1 was clearly a hit amongst everyone that attended – especially after reading some glowing reviews – I cannot wait to see what the team has in store for Acts 2 and 3. Act 2 is set to take place on December 4th at Brunetti Carlton, with Act 3 to following on January 23rd at Brunetti City Square. Stay tuned for more information!

Brunetti on Urbanspoon

Lucy Liu – Red, Asian and Delicious

panda 4 rating

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The long awaited replacement for PM24 – Lucy Liu has arrived, and arrived with a vengeance. The entrance is located down the cobble stoned Oliver Lane – just follow the red neon lights that illuminate the short corridor (or tunnel – whichever you prefer to call it) where you are greeted with a large sign where its name appears – LUCY LIU.

From the moment you step inside you feel like you have been transported to another world – it almost feel like a movie set – complete with bamboo scaffolding, blonde timber, splashes of red (to keep the theme running from the entrance) and a buzz that further adds to the exciting and lively vibe. As you enter, to the right side are some tables if you wanted to just come in for a drink and to the left are tables located for dining and trying some of their delicious food dishes.

Lucy Liu is the brainchild of Michael Lambie (The Smith, Taxi, Circa), Scott Borg and Zac Cribbes. The fit out is done by March Studio (Gazi, Baker D Chirico, Young Bloods Diner and more ) and the result is spectacular. I love the aforementioned bamboo scaffolding which reminds you of building sites in Hong Kong and China mixed together with polished concrete floors and brickwork accents throughout the venue. There is a mix of communal tables, booth seating, low tables, high tables as well as seating at the bar. Tables are either wooden or Laminex topped paired with comfortable seats, with larger tables having a Lazy Susan for ease. There is also a private dining room available for larger parties.

The menu explores Lambie’s distinct fusing of Asian and western flavours to create a spectacular. Lucy Liu isn’t all about the one Asian cuisine, but a little bit of all of them – be it Chinese, Japanese, Thai.
The menu is split into six different sections – Small Bites & Tastes, Dumplings & Buns, Plates, Larger, Sides and Sweets. There is a lot of variety and you left confused with what to choose – there is a Let Lucy Choose option – where you let Lucy pick the dishes that come to your table. There is either a 5 Plate ($55 per person) or 7 Plate ($65 per person) option to choose from.

Small Bites & Tastes include Freshly Shucked Oysters with Red Nam Jim or Ponzu Dipping Suace, Tempura Soft-Shelled Crab, Korean Fried Chicken, Thai Fish Cakes and Organic Tofu just to name a few – there are 11 dishes to select from ranging from $4 to $22.

The Dumplings & Buns section has 4 different dumplings and 4 different “buns” to choose from. Interestingly vegetarian dumplings don’t make it to the list – Crystal Skin Prawn & Bamboo, Steamed Pork & Chestnut, Peking Duck and Barramundi & Scampi are on offer. BBQ Lap Chong ‘Hot Dog’, Crispy Pork Bun and Steamed Sticky Beef Bun are on offer together with a Soft Shelled Crab ‘Jianbing’ Pancake Roll.

Plates and Larger are your more substantially sized dishes and cover a good cross section of your Seafood and Meat dishes, however not very Vegetarian options are available. The Vegetarian options are more evident in the Sides section with Stir Fried Asian Greens, Lucy Liu Spiced Green Apple Coleslaw and Green Bean & Mizuna Salad are available.

Sweets showcase six different desserts, some having the Asian flair running through them. Chocolate lovers aren’t left out either with their delectable Chocolate Dulce de Leche.

I have been to Lucy Liu a few times now (yep it really is that great!) and mostly seem to stick to the dishes that I really love but have ventured into new territory and tried out other dishes as well. The first few times we were seated amongst where most of the tables are located with a view of the kitchen / bar, and the last time I went we sat at the bar and had a great view of the chef’s preparation of the dishes.

The table setting is quite unique with holographic placemats – each showcasing a different picture such as Koalas, Trees, Ducks – that you turnover to reveal the menu. Swanky!
You can’t help but order at least a dish from each of the sections – usually starting with the Small Bites & Tastes. My absolute favourite dish from this section is the Soft Shelled Crab Jianbing Pancake Roll with Spicy Hoi Sin Sauce. The pancake on the outsides is soft, thin and perfectly cooked and contrasts well with the crunch of the soft shell crab on the inside. The spicy hoi sin sauce really brings all the components of the dish together and the result will have your tastebuds dancing and craving more. The first time we ordered this dish, we were tempted to order another serving – a must try dish!

Another dish from the first section was the Crispy Fried Quail with Shichimi Pepper and Spicy Plum Dressing. The girls did enjoy this dish – the spices on the crispy coating on the outside paired well with the sweetness of the plum sauce, with the quail cooked well.

N also ordered the Korean Fried Chicken Ribs with Kewpie Mayo – a simple dish with a kick of spice and hint of garlic. Seeing how quickly the dish was demolished – another great tasting dish.

We all ordered a serving of the Fresh Betel Leaves with Kingfish and Chilli Peanut Sambal – which isto be eaten with the Betel Leaf. The Kingfish was fresh and succulent and the pairing of the Chilli Peanut Sambal worked well together – adding some spice and crunch.

A definite hit with everyone was the Crispy Pork Bun with Spicy Kimchi and Kewpie Mayo. There were many MMMs and YUMMMs mentioned throughout the consumption of this dish. Slightly larger than bite sized – the bun is soft and cloudlike paired together with the spicy kimchi, creamy kewpie mayo, pork and finished with coriander.

One of my favourite dishes is the Barramundi and Scampi Dumplings with Chilli, Ginger and Spring Onions. This was recommended to us the first time from our friendly waiter and boy am I glad he did. The combination when I first read it on the menu sounded intriguing as it is something you don’t usually see. The dish comes out with the dumplings hidden by the chilli, ginger, spring onions and coriander – the soft casing of the dumpling gives way to the exhilarating combination of barramundi and scampi on the inside, the topping of chilli and ginger are the perfect flavouring accompaniment. The sweet and sour hit paired with the freshness of the seafood is divine! Another must try dish!
The Yellow Fin Tuna Tataki, Wasabi Ginger Dressing and Sesame Crackers is an impressive looking dish – from the vibrant pink of the Yellow Fin Tuna to the snow white sesame crackers finishing with the orange tones of the salad. The textured coating of the tuna was delicious with the tuna itself being seared to perfection. The sesame crackers were reminiscent of the prawn crackers you would usually see at a Chinese restaurant and were an interesting addition. The Wasabi Ginger dressing provided some heat and spice which worked well with the sweetness of the carrot.

From the Plates section we ordered the Green Papaya Salad with Beans, Tomato, Peanuts, Hot Chilli. This was quite a colourful and vibrant dish – with the fresh green beans and red cherry tomatoes finished with crunchy peanuts. This dish had quite a lot of spice to it which I loved! Nothing works better than the addition of spice to balance out the tanginess of the papaya.

We also ordered the Tempura Organic Tofu and Seasonal Vegetables with Tomato Chilli Dipping Sauce dish from the Plates section. This was one dish that I didn’t enjoy quite so much. The flavouring of the Tempura itself was quite bland and lacked flavour. The Tomato Chilli Dipping sauce was definitely a needed component for this dish.

The Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Green Chilli Dhal and Cucumber Relish is yet another stand out dish. The Lamb Shoulder had been impeccably cooked – soft, tender and fell off the bone. The Green Chilli Dhal was absolutely divine – milky, wholesome with the right amount of spice to it. Together as a whole paired with the cucumber and yoghurt relish it was a truly great dish. One of those dishes that remind you of a typical lamb roast your mum used to make.

The Roast Barramundi Fillet with Black Bean & Chilli Sambal & Nouc Cham Dipping Sauce is a dish that you will find under the Larger menu. The Barramundi is served atop of the Black Bean & Chilli Samabl, with the Nuoc Cham Dipping sauce served separately in a cup. I am not a huge fan of Black Beans and try to avoid them whenever I can, however this Black Bean was simply delicious. The texture and flavouring worked extremely well with the perfectly roasted Barramundi Fillet – you almost didn’t even need the addition of the Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce. If you love your fish dishes – you should definitely try this dish out.

Despite being quite full, we had to try the desserts and since there was four of us – we decided to order three different desserts and share amongst ourselves.

The Ginger Crème Brulee – Palm Sugar Caramel and Sesame Tuile. The crème brulee was creamy, smooth and silky with the perfect level of crunchiness from the top coating of sugar caramel. The ginger flavouring was slight and not overpowering which is what you want in a dish like this. The sesame tuile was interesting in flavour and I am undecided about the pairing of this with the ginger crème brulee.

The Chocolate Dulce De Leche with Blood Orange Foam – the mousse was quite rich and heavy in flavour, however was light and fluffy in texture. The addition of the foam had a sherbet style tanginess to it which made your tastebuds pop and fizz. You couldn’t eat this foam on its own and the addition of the mousse worked well together – after all chocolate and orange really do seem to mesh.

The Lucy’s Knickerbocker Glory with Lychee Sorbet and Red Fruit Compote would have to be my favourite dessert out of the lot. The knickerbocker is a cross between a sundae and a trifle all rolled into one. There are layers of sweet tart fruit, topped with whipped cream, chocolate buttons, jelly squares and chunky bits of honeycomb. This really is a fun dessert to have as there are many textures and flavours to taste and enjoy. The surprise of every mouthful being different also adds to the deliciousness.

Lucy Liu is a great addition to Melbourne’s laneways bringing a vibrant, casual and funky eating and drink bar that serves up delicious tasting Asian cuisine coupled with brilliantly made drinks. The staff are fantastic – always helpful and offer great opinions on what dishes to order and the amount required for your party size. Another major advantage is that Lucy Liu takes bookings, but also reserves a part of the restaurant for walk-ins. I would highly recommend that you check this awesome place out!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above or visit
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Chick, Unique, Vibrant and Funky. A great place for catch up drinks, celebration dinner or even date night – such a versatile venue!
Standout Dish: Barramundi and Scampi Dumplings with Chilli, Ginger and Spring Onions / Soft Shelled Crab Jianbing Pancake Roll with Spicy Hoi Sin Sauce
Service: Friendly and very helpful. If you can’t decide what to order the staff will go out of their way to let you know their favourite dishes and what dishes work well together.
Online Booking: No – only via phone
Restaurant Details and Location:
lucylius.com.au
23 Oliver Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 5777

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LucyLiuMelbourne
Twitter: @LucyLiu_Melb
Instagram: lucyliu_melbourne

LadyBoy Dining – Cheeky Fun!

panda 4 rating

 

Menu:
Menu at LadyBoy Dining

With a name like Ladyboy Dining you are sure to strike up an interest – adding some curiosity, fun, spice and playfulness to the Richmond area. Ladyboy Dining is created by co-owners Fran Leaper and chef Mitch Townrow (Longrain) who are joined together with chef Pez Bowman (Melbourne Pub Group).

As you step inside you will feel like you have been transported to Bangkok, Thailand. The colourful, cheeky fit out has been done in collaboration with Ingrain Designs. A huge colourful sign with the word SAWASDEE (a greeting to mean welcome/hello) greets you together with a large striking street art ladyboy face. Next to it is a large bright yellow sign – LADYBOY – which hangs above the bar and overlooks the entire dining room. What I love is the installation of multi coloured wastepaper baskets that have been flipped to create light shades that drape loosely from the roof across the front dining area. At the end of the bar is a slightly smaller neon blue sign – ROCK OUT WITH YOUR WOK OUT – and below that is an open kitchen where you can watch as the chefs prepare your meals.

As you walk down the small walkway from the main dining area towards the back of the venue – more seating is available with a funky abstract artwork of an elephant. This leads to the back where there is a large area for the Buddha Bar complete with colourful umbrellas on the ceiling, awesome cane furniture (round, curved seating) and fake grass outside – to keep with the Thai relaxed theme. Here there is also fancy artwork of a large Buddha head on one and neon signage with the words BUDDHA BAR on the opposite side under which the wooden bar sits. The expansive courtyard will no doubt be a hit in the summer. Here you can enjoy the hawker style bar menu which includes oysters and green nahm jim, chicken wings and a selection of banh mi – all for $8, as well as salt & pepper tofu and pork hock with rum glaze. There are cheekily named drinks on their menu for offer such as Adam’s Apple and Trans-gin-der, as well as cocktail buckets and a good selection of beers and wine to try out.

The menu starts off with Smaller Bites such as Betel Leaf, Oysters + Nahm Jim and Son In Law Eggs – progressing to Smaller dishes where you will find Ceviche, Larb, Papaya Salad, Pork Hock and Salt & Pepper Tofu. This is then followed up with your larger dishes that include a selection of Curries (Red Duck or Tofu Curry, Green Fish Curry, Angus Brisket Penang Curry), Whole Fish, Pad Thai and Grilled Salad. There are a handful of sides to choose from which include Rice, Stir Fried Green, Chilli + Prawn + Smoked Coconut Samabl and Cucumber + Krachai + Mustard Green Relish. The menu ends with a selection of Sweet LadyBoy Treats – where coconut features mainly – with desserts such as Coconut Sorbet, Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue, Sago + Palm Sugar + Coconut and White Sticky Rice + Ice Cream + Thai Fruits.

There is also an option to enjoy the LadyBoy’s Banquet ($45) which will give you the kitchen’s daily selection. This will require a minimum of 2 people, and if you have a table then the whole table must go on this banquet.

There were four of us at dinner and we ordered the Betel Leaf + Char Grilled Calamari + Green Mango + Peanut each to start. Served on a betel leaf – the dish comes out with striking colours thanks to the chilli, coriander and peanuts. You eat the entire dish as is – betel leaf and all – and as you crunch into the first bite your tastebuds will soar just like fireworks. A combination of spice, tang and the softness of the fresh grilled calamari is breathtaking. A great way to start off your food experience at LadyBoy.

From the smaller dishes we ordered Salt & Pepper Silken Tofu + Chilli Jam and Crispy Pork Hock + Rum Glaze. The Salt & Pepper Tofu was crispy and crunchy on the outside whilst being soft and billowy on the inside. The Chilli Jam that accompanied this dish was just the right consistency and had a great balance of flavours – spice and tang.
The two guys really enjoyed the Pork Hock + Rum Glaze – so much so that they wanted to order another serving of the dish. Clearly a mighty delicious tasting dish.

We also ordered the Green Papaya Salad + Snake Bean + Peanuts from the smaller dishes. Think slivers of green papaya mixed with freshly cut snake beans and tomatoes topped with peanuts and drizzled in spicy and tangy sauce. This dish is refreshing and sure does pack a punch; I also loved the mixture of textures that you get as you delve into it. The addition of coriander adds further depth and flavouring to the dish.

From the larger dishes we ordered three dishes – Green Fish Curry + Apple Eggplant + Pea Eggplant,Dry Red Duck Curry + Snake Beans + Baby Corn and Pad Thai + Salted Calamari + Peanut.
The Green Fish Curry + Apple Eggplant + Pea Eggplant. The dish comes with a generous amount of fish pieces and has just the right amount of coconut to flavour the curry. I have never eaten pea or apple eggplant before – pea eggplants is a very small eggplant and as the name suggests; resembles a pea. They were cooked whole and pop in your mouth when you bite them which release a burst of bitterness that combines nicely with the rich heat of the curry. A great dish.
The duck curry was served dry and looked delicious when it was placed on the table – the vibrant colours of the red duck against the bright yellow of the sweet corn and green from the basil and bean was breathtaking. This was another dish that the table enjoyed.
The Pad Thai was another well cooked and flavoured dish – served with a wedge of lime for extra tang if needed. The serving as with all the other dishes was quite generous.

Dessert was definitely on the cards – out of the four desserts to choose from – I decided to order the Sago + Palm Sugar + Coconut and N ordered the Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue.
The Sago comes out served in a blue and white bowl – topped with star fruit and coconut flakes. I love anything with sago so thoroughly enjoyed this dessert. The coconut flakes added a crunch together with the star fruit adding citrusy and lime flavours.
I also had a chance to try out the Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue. I am usually not a fan of lemon meringues or key lime pies, but this version was absolutely delicious and had to be my favourite dessert of the night. The coconut meringue was generously placed and flamed to perfection on top of the kaffir lime infused pie and topped with crunchy coconut flakes. The kaffir lime was the star of the dish and together with the combination of the coconut meringue was divine. A definite must try dish that I know anyone would enjoy.

The service at LadyBoy Dining is great – friendly and the staff are knowledgeable and well informed about each dish. LadyBoy is mostly for walk-ins but they do take banquet bookings in the dining area for a group of eight or more. On Sundays they serve Thai style roasts from 5pm onwards. LadyBoy Dining serves up delicious tasting Thai food with a difference – added cheek and fun! Summer days will definitely see this place packed out – especially at the Buddha Bar out the back. Get down and check out LadyBoy Dining now.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://www.ladyboydining.com.au/#!dining/galleryPage
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Lively and Memorable. Such a colouful and fun-filled place to hang out and have a great night out with friends and family
Standout Dish: Salt & Pepper Silken Tofu + Chilli Jam AND Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue
Service: Fantastic  – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No, however you can book for 8 or more people.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.ladyboydining.com.au/
394 Bridge Road, Richmond
Tel No: 9421 3206

Opening Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday & Thursday: 6:00pm to Late
Friday – Sunday: 5:00pm to Late

LadyBoy Dining + Bar on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ladyboydiningInstagram: ladyboydining
Twitter: @LadyBoyDining

Polēpolē Bar – A Taste of Africa

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Pole Pole Menu

I had heard about Polēpolē – a new East African inspired bar and kitchen – opening up in the Melbourne CBD and four of us decided to check it out on a Friday night.

Polēpolē (which translates to “go easy” or “take it easy” in Swahili) is the creation by Dean and Jeanelle Mariani (former co-owner of award-winning café The Petty Officer and Deans brother), who quit their jobs and went travelling. Polēpolē is a result of their love and admiration for the culture, food and people of East Africa and wanting to share their experiences with Melburnians.

I arrived much later than the rest of us on a Friday night and the place was buzzing – it was really loud! N had told me prior to me arriving there that the place was packed and that it would be about 20 minutes to get a table for food (Polēpolē don’t take bookings for dinner). The venue was designed by Votre Monde and has resulted in an earthy and rustic vibe to it. As you ascend the stairs from Little Collins Street you are greeted by a painting of an African woman seated in black and white, against the red of the wall background. To the right is where the kitchen is located as well as booth seating for dinner – which is paired with a wall of zebra stripes. To the right is the bar which takes most of the length of the venue has tones of burnt orange, coupled with untreated woods and funky filament lighting. Next to the bar is a wall with a single golden acacia tree painted on it with high tables and more seating available. The building has a second level, which they expect to open in the coming months.

Food at Polēpolē is based around sharing plates which are broken into three main sections – “Not Ribs”, “Ribs” and “Dessert”. The menu was designed by consulting chef Andy Mac (Axil Coffee). There are 9 dishes to select from in the “Not Ribs” section which include Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas, House cured Biltong, Lentil and cauliflower fritters with whipped Tahini and Lemon Zest. The “Ribs” section consists of 4 dishes including Braised Beef Short Rib, Sticky Chicken Ribs, Smoked Pork Ribs and Harissa Lamb Ribs. There are only 2 choices for dessert – Rum and Raisin Mousse Cake with Crème Brulee or Banana and Date Bread with Salted Caramel, Banana Crumble and Cashew Parfait.

Drinks include a showcase of brands such as Tusker (Kenya), Dashen (Ethiopia) and Windhoek (Namibia) as well as German and Dutch style lagers. It is also great to note that a proportion of all beer sales go to YGAP who support social entrepreneurs in Africa, as well as Women for Women in Africa who support Kibera (Africa’s largest slum). There are a range of cocktails which have taken inspiration from their travels as well and consist of combinations such as ginger, honey, coconut and banana.

To begin the night I ordered a mocktail – which had minty and lime flavours laced through it and was quite tasty. As the other 3 had already been there for a while before I had gotten there – there were some leftovers from the “Not Ribs” section that they had ordered – Mount Zero Olives marinated in Lemon and Chilli as well as the Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas. I loved the Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas – the flavours and the combination of textures from the soft chickpea and the crunch of the pepitas was great.

We decided to order a selection of dishes from the Not Ribs section to share; and then the other 3 ordered a dish each from the Rib section (as their mains). As the meat wasn’t Halal I couldn’t eat any of the dishes under the Rib section.

We ordered the Chickpea and Corn Cakes with Okra and Kusandi (which came in a serving of 4) – with each cake being topped with the okra and kusandi. The chickpea and corn cakes on its own didn’t have much of a flavour to them and really needed the strong and vibrant flavours of the kusandi to liven up the dish. An addition of some spices or even salt to the chickpea and corn cake would have made a difference.

Next up was the House-made Flat Bread and Three Dips – the dips were beetroot, eggplant and hummus. The serving of the house-made flat bread was very generous and I really enjoyed this dish. The bread had been cut into triangles, and had a crunch to them and had a flavouring of wholemeal without tasting overly healthy. I couldn’t pick a favourite out of all the dips – they were all just as good as each other. I loved the vibrancy of the pink that came through with the use of beetroot. The smokiness in the eggplant dip worked well with the flavouring in the bread.

We also ordered the Eggplant Chips with Yoghurt and Zataar. I am usually not a huge fan of eggplant chips but the difference with these was the crumbed coating which made all the difference. The hint of spice and herbs (zataar) worked well with the flavouring of the eggplant and the tangy yoghurt. I also liked the fact that they left the chips the same length as the eggplant itself rather than cutting up the pieces into bite size pieces. My only criticism would be the oiliness of the dish.

The last of the “Not Ribs” dishes we ordered was the Apple, Cabbage, Fennel and Mint Salad. This salad was good but not great – for me it was missing a proper dressing to coat the salad. However I think dish is a great dish to have amongst all the meatiness of the ribs – acts as a palate cleanser.

N ordered the Harissa Lamb Ribs, Red Pepper Salsa, Tahini Yoghurt and Mint – which were simply yet beautifully presented on a rectangular plate with the lamb ribs criss-crossing each other and topped with the red pepper salsa and tahini capped with a mint leaf. The lamb delicately fell off the bone and had smoky barbeque and spicy flavouring to them.

We were all quite full at this stage so decided to skip on having dessert. As it was a Friday night it was getting quite loud in there, and even though we were sitting quite close to one another we were finding ourselves having to yell to hear each other talk.

Polēpolē has a great vibe and feel to it and is clearly a popular choice to have a drink especially with its variety of drink options available. The service is brilliant – with the wait staff going above and beyond what is expected of them. The food is tasty and is set out to work well with drink options. Want to trial a Taste of Africa – then head to Polēpolē.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Rustic and Earthy. Great for a catch-up celebration.
Standout Dish: Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.polepolebar.com.au/
1 / 267 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9650 2811

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Thursday: 4:00pm–11:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 4:00pm–1:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/polepole.bar.melb
Instagram: polepole_bar
Twitter: @polepole_bar

Polēpolē Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Pastuso – Peruvian Brilliance

panda 4.5 rating
pastuso

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Menu:
El Ceviche Menu La Comida De Le Calle Menu Para Acompanar Menu Los Fuegos Del Peru Menu Paste Para Todos Menu Uni Piquieto, No Mas Menu

N and I were in the city on a Saturday night and needed a place for dinner. Looking at my list of places to eat – I found Pastuso which was a newly opened restaurant in the city and we decided to try our luck and see if we could get a table as we hadn’t booked. It was quite early (around 6:30pm) for dinner so we did manage to get a table – and were seated at the marble bench which surrounded the main kitchen.

Pastuso is Melbourne’s newest Peruvian grill, cevicheria and pisco bar that comes from the team that opened Argentinian grill – San Telmo – Dave Parker, Michael Parker, Jason and Renee Mc Connell. They are joined at Pastuso by native Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia (from Sydney’s renowned Morena) and manager Ben Wood.

Pastuso is located in the ever cool ACDC Lane and fits in perfectly to this part of town. The space is quite large (I never realised just how big the space was!) and has been fitted out by architects SMLWRLD in collaboration with its owners. The use of space is impressive – there are three bars each servicing different parts of the menu and representing three regions of Peru: the Coast, the Andes and the Amazon Jungle.

As you enter you are greeted by the main bar (Amazon Jungle) – sleek and copper topped – which serves a list of Peruvian and Chilean piscos (white-grape brandy Peruvians drink), as well a huge variety of other drinks – cocktails, spirits, beer and wine. Just behind the main bar is the marble topped ceviche bar (the Coast) – where patrons can sit around and watch as chefs marinate and prepare your ceviche right in front of you. To the right of both these bars is the main kitchen bar (the Andes) – which also has marble seating around so that you can sit and enjoy the spectacular action that is the flaming and smoking of the meat and vegetables cooking on the grills and the coal-fired slow cookers – cilindro.

Surrounding the three main bar areas are seating on low tables – a mix of marble (near the main kitchen area) and wooden tables (near the ceviche bar) that can seat two, four or more people. There is also a raised area that has huge padded booths.
Another definite highlight is the colourful wall of Peruvian chicha (street art) posters that have been shipped directly from Peru. Next to this wall is an impressive glass box which displays various cuts of meat hanging.

The menu by Saravia boasts a huge variety and takes on the more modern approach rather than traditional. The menu is in the format of a book and starts off with the Un Piquieto, No Mas menu – which means “A Bite to Eat” – and would usually be enjoyed around a table together with friends and family with a good Peruvian Pisco. Dishes include El Choro Chalaco (Mussels), Pezcaditos Y Toastadas (Char Grilled Silver Fish with Corn Bread & Lemon and Rocoto Vinaigrette).

The menu then moves onto the El Ceviche Bar menu – which consists of many varieties of fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices – there are seven different choices to choose from.

Next on the menu is the La Comida de la Calle – which represents Peruvian street food that you would expect to find on a typical street corner in Lima. Dishes here include Anticuchos (Beef Heart and Swordwish Skewers), Papitas Rellena de Carretilla (Croquettes), Yucas (Cassava Chips) and Nuestra Causa de Pollo (Peruvian Yellow Potato with Chicken, Avocado, Cherry Tomatoes and Aji Mirasol).

Para Acompanar is next on the menu list – which are the dishes to accompany your main dishes and are designed to share – in other words sides. You can select from 5 different options including Ensalada de Quinoa (Quinoa cooked in Almond Milk with Pine Mushrooms, Cauliflower, Zucchini and Dutch Carrots), Solterito (Andean Cheese, Broad Beans, Soybean, Peruvian Olives, Heirloom Tomatoes, Watercress and Oregano).

Dishes cooked in either the Peruvian Smoking Chamber, Charcoal Grill or Spit lead up the next part of the menu in a section called Los Fuegos Del Peru – meaning to cook with fire. The first two dishes are cooked in the Cilindro Perliano (Peruvian Smoking Chamber) – you have an option of Pierna de Cordero (Slow Cooked Lamb Leg) or Paletilla de Cerdo (Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder) – both served with Peruvian Rice. There are three dishes to select from that come from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill) – Pezcado Amazonico (Barramundi in Banana Leaf), Ojo de Bife (Dry Aged Pasture Fed Rib Eye) and Costillas Tiernas de Alpaca (Alpaca Short Ribs). The last dish on this menu comes from the La Braza (Spit) – Pollo a la Braza (Roasted Peruvian Chicken).

A menu isn’t complete with a dessert menu and Pastuso’s certainly doesn’t disappoint – called Postre Para Todos – it showcases traditional Peruvian Desserts such as Un Clasico de Mazamorra y Arroz Con Leche (A combination of two traditional classics – Peruvian Style Rice Pudding, Purple Corn Gel, Poached Pineapple and Apples), Picarones (Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Doughnuts). You can also order a Dessert Tasting Plate which allows you to share a selection of desserts.

As you can see there was a lot of food to choose from and when reading the description of each dish you really do want to try them all – you almost forget that you can come back another time and try the dishes that you didn’t get to the first time around.
I ordered a mocktail which looked amazingly colourful and too good to drink – chunks of fresh strawberries muddled together with mint leaves, lime and citrus to give a refreshingly delicious taste that kept you wanting more. I had to stop myself from drinking it all in the one go.

We started off with the Cancha Serrana Y Los Chifles – Traditional Peruvian Roasted Andean Corn and Plantation Chips – which was the perfect way to start our Peruvian journey. The roasted corn kernels were crunchy with a hint of spice that made your tastebuds pop. The Plantation chips were out of this world – simple, textured and crunchy – the flavour was absolutely divine! A must try snack dish – it would work well as a bar snack.

For the next round we ordered the La Papa A La Huancaina A Mi Manera – Potato Gnocchi with a Traditional Huancaina Sauce, Botija Olives and Egg White. Huancaína sauce is normally served over boiled potatoes, and then topped with hard boiled eggs and olives – here at Pastuso instead they use potato gnocchi as an alternative – brilliant! The sauce is full of flavour together with a kick of spice thanks to the use of aji Amarillo peppers. If you are lucky enough to sit around the kitchen you can watch as the chefs make this sauce from scratch. The gnocchi was melt in your mouth and coupled with the creamy and spicy at-the-same-time huancaina sauce and slight tang of the botija olives made for one heavenly dish.

From the same La Comida de la Calle Menu we also ordered the Papitas Rellena De Carretilla – Street Cart Style Potato Croquettes filled with Pulled Beef Brisket, Pecans, Botija Olives, Watercress and Pickled Onion Salsa. N enjoyed these croquettes – crunchy and golden on the outside coupled with tender beef brisket and cloud like potato filling and finished with a pickled salsa. The only complaint would be that more of the beef brisket be used.

For our main dishes I ordered the Pezcado Amazonico – Baby Cone Bay Barramundi Grilled in Banana Leaf with Fresh Herbs and Amazonico Rub from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill). The presentation of this dish is simple – yet visually stunning. The whole baby barramundi is laid across the black backdrop of the plate (fish eye, tail and all) topped with the vibrant green Amazonico rub. In a separate small bowl there are some fresh sautéed vegetables with a lemon wedge off to the side. The barramundi is cooked perfectly and results in soft white fleshy morsels. The rub is delicious and flavoursome and is very much needed, as the fish on its own is very lightly flavoured. One for the fish and seafood lovers.

N ordered the La Braza – Pollo A La Braza – Free Range Roasted Peruvian Chicken from the La Braza (Spit) for his main. Once again – very simple plating techniques was used – to showcase the hero of the dish – the Peruvican chicken. A simple green dressing was provided in a separate bowl for additional flavour. The chicken has been slow-cooked after a lengthy marination period (think cumin, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, coriander, Sichuan pepper) and is moist and flavoured with pepper, spices and a kick of heat.

We also ordered Tallos de Acelga – Grilled Silverbeet Stems, Red Vein Sorrel, Confit Brown Onion Hearts and Garlic Chips. This dish was another standout – simple yet the flavours worked amazingly well together finished with the crunchiness of the garlic. The confit brown onion not only complemented but brought the whole dish together. If you enjoy a good salad this is one to try.

As full as we were the night wouldn’t have been complete without ending on a sweet Peruvian note. We ordered the Tres Leches – Traditional Latin American Sponge Cake soaked in Three Kinds of Milk served with Roasted Pineapple Ice Cream. The cake had a distinct texture (you would expect it to have a somewhat soggy consistency after being soaked in three types of milk) with a result of being light, moist and rich yet delicate (the flavour of 3 types of milk wasn’t over powering at all!). The roasted pineapple ice cream was delicious and the fresh pieces of pineapple embedded within the ice cream were refreshing.

Pastuso has such a lively and warm atmosphere. The open plan of the kitchen and ceviche bar is such a fantastic idea in this day as people like to watch how chefs prepare and create such great tasting dishes – especially here where you can see chefs as they delve into the fire chamber and have embers flow out – it all adds to the experience of the place. The staff are very friendly, always happy and knowledgeable – they can also assist you when ordering to ensure you do not over order. Want a truly memorable Peruvian experience – get down to Pastuso now!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to above Pictures
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lively, Fun, Warm and Inviting – such a great place for a celebration or a catchup – or even date night!
Standout Dish: Too many to name!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, Happy and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://pastuso.com.au/  NOTE: They also take bookings for larger groups in their flexible private dining area
Restaurant Details and Location:

http://pastuso.com.au/
19 ACDC Lane
Tel No: 9662 4556

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Friday & Saturday: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pastusorestaurant?fref=ts
Instagram: pastusorestaurant

Pastuso on Urbanspoon

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

Little Creatures Dining Hall – Simple Food – Simply Delicious!

panda 4.5 rating

I have been to Little Creatures many a time before and have always enjoyed it – both the food and the atmosphere. It is definitely a place that you find yourself coming back to because it is just that great. There is a chilled, relaxed and welcoming vibe attached to it and the food is simple yet memorable and tasty.

Little Creatures Dining Hall is located in Brunswick on Johnston Street and is a large venue – and I don’t lie when I say large – it can seat up to 200 people! The way in which this open, expansive space has been sectioned off is quite smart. There is a somewhat cosier room located at the front which overlooks the street, another casual drinking area with tables and high bar stools and the main large dining area (located at the rear of the space) together with the open kitchen located at the back this area.
There are booth styles seats as well as wooden tables in this area – these can seat from two people right up to larger numbers depending on your party size. The look and feel is warehouse industrial chic complete with exposed brick walls and steel roof beams. There is a lengthy bar stocking Little Creatures on tap (as you would expect from the name). There are nice vintage touches on tables in the form of grouped brown bottles with a twig of flowers and finished with a candle for the light aspect of things. There are other splotches of colour laced through the venue as well which further add warmth and cosiness.
There is also a loft area which holds bikes which you can hire to ride around the area if you wish. Pretty cool I must say.

The menu is designed to go well with beers and consists of some snacks “to start” off with such as chorizo, peanuts, fries and breads with dips, followed by a “to share” section – which include dishes such as mussels, spiced lentil dip with bread, jamon and salaami board. Then there is a “side”s section, followed by a “pizza” section, a “fly solo” section (if you aren’t in the mood to share) and ends with a sweets section. There are 10 pizzas to choose from which consist of toppings such as kipfler potato, spiced meatball, salami just to name a few.

There were three of us on this night and we decided to share some snacks and order pizzas for our mains.

The first dish to arrive was the Fresh Cut Chips, Garlic Aioli. These were seriously the best chips I have EVER TASTED! They were absolutely amazing and writing about them now is making me wish I had some in front of me right now. These chips were literally potato pieces that had been cut up directly from the farm – there were bits of skin still left on which added a rustic edge to them – and lightly fried. Add the garlic aioli with a dusting of salt and you have a dish made in heaven.

We also ordered the Glazed Carrots, Silverbeet and Sesame Seeds – another dish that blew my mind. When you are reading this dish on the menu it sounds very simple but the taste is mind blowingly delicious. The dish had a sweet element to it in the form of honey in which it was laced with. This worked well with the crunch and juiciness of the carrots. Another really great dish!

The three of us ordered a pizza each for our mains. N ordered the Spiced Lamb, Sweet Potato, Tzatziki, Mozzarella, T ordered the Pumpkin, Spinach, Dukkah, Goats Cheese and I ordered the Prawn, Salsa Verde, Mozzarella. The pizzas are very generous in size and after seeing them come out – I knew I wouldn’t’ be able to finish the entire pizza (especially since I ate most of the chips *drool*). The pizza crust was thin and somewhat crispy on the outside – which is the way I like my pizza.

My pizza had a generous serving of prawns which had been flavoured well. I would have liked a bit more of the salsa verde on the pizza but overall it was a great tasting pizza – the coriander in the salsa verde worked well with the cheese and the prawn combination. I would have also liked a hint of chilli added.

The pumpkin pizza had large soft chunks of pumpkin which dominated the pizza amongst the spinach and cheese. The mix of the dukkah and the pumpkin were well suited to each other. The lamb pizza which had lamb in the form of mince was generously placed, with thin slices of sweet potato and tzatziki around the lamb. N said the lamb needed a bit more flavour – perhaps more salt – but overall it was quite tasty.

The staff is fantastic – and despite the many different areas to service and the large space they need to cover  – it isn’t a hassle to get their attention. They are friendly and helpful in anywhere possible.

Little Creatures is a great place with equally delicious food and is great for any celebration – small or big! There are other locations – Fremantle (where it all started) and Geelong (only the brewery) as well. Get down to Little Creatures and if you had to eat just one thing – get their Fresh Hand Cut Chips or the Carrot Side. You cannot go wrong!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer here for the Food Menu https://littlecreatures.com.au/system/venue/food_menu/0000/0002/Melbourne_menu.pdf
Refer here for the Drinks Menu
https://littlecreatures.com.au/system/venue/drink_menu/0000/0002/stash_list_august13.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Chilled and Funky. Great for any function or celebration, also great for drinks or food or both!
Standout Dish: Fresh Cut Chips, Garlic Aioli AND Glazed Carrots, Silverbeet and Sesame Seeds
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and always with a smile
Online Booking: No – they don’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.littlecreatures.com.au
222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9417 5500

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 10:00 am – 11:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday: 8:00 am – 12:00 am
Sunday: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm

Little Creatures Melbourne Dining Hall on Urbanspoon

Fiesta Mexican – Spicy, Lively & Fun

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Dessert Menu                       halal symbol
There is an increasing amount of halal restaurants that are opening up all around Melbourne, in fact all around the country! When we first came to Australia many years ago, halal restaurants were quite scarce – and to see them growing at an exponential rate is fantastic! And what I love is that it is not only restricted to the cuisines that you would normally associate with “halal” food such as middle eastern cuisine – but the cuisines itself have quite a variety as well – from Italian to Steakhouses!

When Bill Bilwani from Fiesta Mexican contacted me about coming to try out his restaurant and that the meat was entirely Halal I was wrapped! I am a huge fan of Mexican food and usually have to always stick to the seafood and vegetarian versions of the enchiladas, tacos etc – but with this restaurant being Halal I could experience what every other person gets to – the meat enchiladas, tacos etc! I headed down with my parents to experience this wonderful Mexican place for myself.

Fiesta Mexican has been around for just over 30 years and is located in Toorak Road in South Yarra. It is a family run business owned by Bill Bilwani with his son Shaheen helping out. The venue has had a makeover in the recent months and the result is a vibrant, colourful, mini-Mexico in Melbourne theme complete with psychedelic artwork which includes a hawk to the right when you enter as well as a woman with an eagle as her hair near the bar and counter area. There is mood lighting thanks to the Mexican Steer Bull shaped light shades – these look really cool lined up on the wall and further adding to the Mexican feel. There are wooden tables – each which have engraving on the table top – ours had a dancing Mexican lady – that can seat from 2 right up to 8 people depending on how large your group size is. We were seated at the front of the restaurant by the window – which allowed us to take in the whole length of the restaurant. There are stairs at the back which lead to a function area upstairs that can be booked out for celebrations. An interesting fact to note is that they have had celebrities like Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and even the Williams sisters come to dine here and there are some menu items named after them – the Agassi or Hewitt Burrito.

We were given our menus and I was overwhelmed by the choice and varieties before me – there were pages and pages of food to choose from and from reading the description of each I almost wanted a little taste of everything. There is an extensive range of tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas as well as a good selection of desserts. There is also a separate Gluten Free menu, and they also cater for vegetarians, coeliac guests and vegans too. The Dine in Menu is split into different sections – Apertivos, Soft Tacos , Entremese (Entrees), Ensaladas (Salads), Comidas (Main Courses) as well as Paellas. The Paellas however need to be ordered 2 days in advance and there are two different options – Chicken or Seafood. There is also a banquette menu – one for $35 and one $45 – the latter has a more seafood feel to it and includes 2 desserts, whereas the other has only one dessert and more of a beef and chicken feel to it. There is also a section that lists out the Vegetarian Main courses. Fiesta Mexican also has a takeaway menu and provides a delivery service as well – further extending out their clientele.

Whilst trying to decide what to order I ordered a drink from the list of Mocktails they had to offer – Mango Margarita. This came out in a larger than normal cocktail glass with a green stem – which contrasted really well with the yellow drink – there was salt around the rim of the glass in true margarita style. The drink was refreshingly sour and I quite enjoyed it.

We decided to order the Wingettes – fiery red hot marinaded chicken wingettes with chipotle and adobe mix, as well as the Carne Enchilada de Cheddar – Oven baked 6” corn tortilla rolled with slow cooked shredded topside beef, Monterey Jack cheese, white onion and mild smoked cayenne sauce to share. The chicken wingettes were delicious and tasted – they had a smoky, spicy yet sweet taste to them with the chicken cooked perfectly. The chipotle added a refreshing hit to those who would find the wingettes spicy.

The Carne Enchilada was soft and really easy to cut into – almost like butter. The beef inside was just as soft and tender – and flavoured deliciously. The combination of the beef, onion and smoky sauce on top was like a flavour hit in your mouth. A great way to start the meal. Each of these dishes came with a side salad consisting of salad leaves, red onions, cucumber and tomato.

For mains we ordered three dishes to share. The first dish was the Fiesta Autentica – the house specialty, a combination of beef, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, serrano chilli & fresh cilantro, delicious with flour tortillas, arroz verde & leaf salad. This was my favourite dish out of the three mains. The combination of both the beef, chicken and potatoes was fantastic and it had a great addition of spice. It actually reminded me of a dish that my mum used to make when I was younger so the memories it brought back were special too! The flour tortillas added the perfect addition to envelope this spicy tender mix and savor the flavours. Both the chicken and beef were tender and soft. If you love spicy dishes this is definitely one to try out.

The second of the mains we had was the Pollo Cajun – chicken breast coated in a blend of paprika, red pepper & garlic, served with, arroz verde & mango salsa. The coating on the chicken was delicious and really worked well with the texture of the chicken. The chicken wasn’t as tender as in the other dishes, however was still brilliant. The mango salsa was amazing as well – the spiciness mixed in with the sweetness of the mango worked well together. The rice – arroz verde -that came with these dishes were also really tasty – the rice grains were easily separated and was cooked pilaf style – my fave style of rice.

The last of the mains we ordered was the Carne En Tiras – two beef enchiladas with mild cayenne chilli sauce, served with brown rice & pico de gallo. This was similar to the entree that we had and was just as delicious – soft, spicy with a touch of smokines. The addition of the brown rice and pico de gallo was a great addition, and together with the enchiladas was tasty mouthful.

For dessert there was an interesting combination on the menu titled ‘Sensation is Mother of Invention’ – which had jalapeno, Rose Petal with Crunchy Candy Ice Cream – served with White chocolate and raisin sauce – however I wasn’t brave enough to see what that was about. We decided to order the ‘Crazy for Chocolate’ – chocolate mousse, chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate heart and vanilla ice cream with chocolate flakes. This dish was plated out differently to most other desserts I have come across. The chocolate mousse was in a square glass cup, the vanilla ice cream was in a black espresso cup topped with a strawberry, the chocolate dipped strawberries were placed around with the chocolate heart in the centre of the plate – which served as the “tray” for the dessert. I really liked the presentation and thought it was unique. The chocolate mousse was to die for – creamy, smooth and full of chocolatey goodness. The dipped strawberries had dark chocolate used and the bitterness of the chocolate worked well against the sweetness of the strawberry.

The staff are really friendly and lively which really does add to the complete the atmosphere of the place. From the moment you step in, you are greeted with a happy hello and shown to your table. They seem to really enjoy what they do. We also got to chat to Shaheen for a bit and learnt more about of his passion and drive for being in the food industry despite completing a law degree. He is very engaging and full of smiles, and goes from table to table ensuring all the guests are looked after. Great customer service! Despite being a Wednesday night – the place got really full – with the crowd ranging from couples to larger groups out for dinner.

There were other really interesting dishes around the room that other diners had ordered – such as the sizzling hot plates, and a drink that was flamed. The food was great and stayed true to the authentic Mexican flavours, the atmosphere was fun and lively and the staff friendly. There really is nothing more you can ask for when you go to dine out. The fact that the meat was all halal was a massive bonus for me. If you love Mexican food and want a huge variety to choose from, either way Fiesta Mexican is definitely a place for you!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/food_menu.php. If you want to order online you can do so on this link – http://www.menulog.com.au/order/fiesta-mexican-restaurant Refer above for the dessert menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Lively, Fun and Welcoming. You can definitely experience the Mexican vibe be it in the main dining rom or even in the function room located upstairs
Standout Dish:Fiesta Autentica – the house specialty, a combination of beef, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, serrano chilli & fresh cilantro, delicious with flour tortillas, arroz verde & leaf salad
Service: Fantastic –  Friendly and Welcoming. They also are great if you need any recommendations on what to order
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/
175 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 4593

Opening Hours:

Fiesta Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon