Honcho Noodle – Oodles of Delicious Noodles

panda-4-5-rating

Menu:
Honcho - Drinks Menu Honcho - Dinner Menu

Ever since hearing that Adam Liston was opening a new venue in the CBD – it was quickly added to my list of places to check out once it opened. I have been to Northern Light (Liston’s previous restaurant) and loved the food there so it was a no brainer to want to check out his new venue.

Honcho Noodles is Liston’s three month long pop-up; located at Hotel Windsor (where the old Wallis + Ed is located) and is somewhat an entrée to the main event – Honcho which is set to open on Punch Lane in the Melbourne CBD in September. Honcho will have a custom-built charcoal grill which will be used to grill, spit roast and smoke yakitori skewers, poultry and vegetables. In addition to this there will be a raw bar where diners can eat sashimi and other raw dishes.

Back to Honcho Noodle – the menu has been designed to share in order to experience more of what they have to offer. There are a handful of starters such as Miso Soup, Prawn Crackers, Yakitori, Dumplings and Spring Rolls to name a few. This is followed by a selection of six Noodle dishes – and by selection I mean a wide variety of different noodles such as Korean Noodles, Squid Ink Noodles, Udon and Soba Noodles. For dessert there either Mango or Black Sesame Ice Cream.

The venue is minimal with a combination of splashes of neon and manga. The vibe is chilled out and funky with a buzz to it. The night I go the drinks menu is splashed against the back wall; almost enticing you into trying it all. I love that on the table you have access to your very own condiments – Katsubishi­-Infused Soy, House-­Made Togarashi and Chinese-­style Chilli paste – mmm!
The food menu has so many flavour combinations; leaving you wanting to try it all. It’s just the two of us tonight and we have a tight timeline as we have a show to see at 7:30pm (Singin’ in the Rain – such an awesome musical – I would highly recommend seeing it if you get the chance) – so we decide to get a few dishes and share.

We start off ordering drinks – we both get the Honcho Black Tea with Cranberry – however A decides to get it “Spiked” – which means you can either add Gin, Shochu or Whiskey. They have quite a variety of drinks which include the Japanese classics like Sake, Shochu etc. There are also Japanese themed Cocktails available.

I decide I want to try the Prawn Cracker, Chopped Prawn, Bottarga, Seaweed Mayonnaise and A orders the Chicken, Shrimp & Ginger Dumplings, Chinese Black Vinegar to start. It was only after ordering the dumplings (on recommendation from our waiter) that I asked if the any of the meats were Halal. I was super excited when we were told that the chicken is in fact Halal; which meant I could try the dumplings too! Win!

I used to eat prawn crackers all the time when I was younger – but never thought about putting more prawn flavour on top of the cracker – it was simply just ho’ing them down back then. They have the Pringles effect on me – once you crack (pop) you can’t stop! Back to Liston’s version of the Prawn Cracker with more prawn on top and finished with seaweed mayonnaise – ingenious! The flavour combination did take me a second to process; but once I did I loved it – the creaminess together with the tang of the seaweed worked perfectly completed by the crunch and sweetness of the prawn cracker / prawn. Definitely still holds the Pringle effect – delish!

Next up was the dumplings – no words can express how good these were! The chicken, shrimp and ginger combination was simply divine; mixed together with the tang of the Chinese black vinegar was the perfect combination. Anyone having a dumpling craving these will definitely satisfy you and leave you wanting more.

For our noodles dishes we ordered the Spanner Crab Udon, Smoked Crab Butter, Yuzu, Kizami Nori together with the Hot Soba Noodles, Kyoto Green Onion Oil, Radish, Black Vinegar, Shitake.

You can barely see the Udon when the dish comes out as it is covered with the Kizami Nori – and you might not think much of it – but wait until you dish it up and take the first bite. It is heaven in a spoonful. The smokiness of the crab butter together with the udon is magic. A definite must try!

The Hot Soba Noodles dish looks very impressive – the Shitake gleams up at you sitting high amongst the Soba Noodles, Radish, Kyoto Green Onion with an underlay of Black Vinegar. The vinegar shines through this dish and combined with all the ingredients makes for a spectacular dish. If you aren’t fan of too much of a tart taste you might not fully enjoy it – but I would give it a try!

We ran out of time to get dessert; however going from the scrumptious dishes we had I will definitely be back. After all those Chicken Ribs sounds mighty tempting; and after raving about this place to the hubby I need to bring him here!

NOTE: Honcho Noodle will run from June until September, and open for dinner from Monday through to Saturday only.

Honcho is expected to open for lunch and dinner Monday through to Saturday; around September in 18 Punch Lane, Melbourne. If you visit the Honcho website there is a countdown letting you know how many more days are left until Honcho opens up

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vibrant, Relaxed – a great place for good conversation and a catchup with friends
Standout Dish: Chicken, Shrimp & Ginger Dumplings, Chinese Black Vinegar AND Spanner Crab Udon, Smoked Crab Butter, Yuzu, Kizami Nori together with the Hot Soba Noodles, Kyoto Green Onion Oil, Radish, Black Vinegar, Shitake
Service: Friendly and Helpful; sometimes it can be hard to find people if you have a query but generally it was good!
Online Booking: Yes via http://honchomelbourne.com/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://honchomelbourne.com/
1 Bourke St (Hotel Windsor, where Wallis + Ed are)

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 5:00pm to Late

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Honcho-Noodle-1607362102914517/

Instagram: @honchomelbourne

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EatNow – Taking Over Online Ordering

Eatnow-Logo-Stacked

Eatnow Logo - Octo
 2. EatNow Search Results
1. Once you select your suburb a list of restaurants in your area will appear for you to browse and choose from

3. EatNow Restaurant Menu
2. You then select a restaurant which shows you the Restaurant address, Customer Reviews, and any deals the restaurant offers

4. EatNow Menu of Restaurant
2a. If you select the “Skip To..” located on the top right corner – you can jump to particular sections on the Menu

5. Picking a Dish
3. When you select the dishes you wanted – a popup shows the options you can choose for the dish

6. Viewing Shopping Cart
4. Once yo have selected all your dishes – you select the Shopping Cart to view your order to proceed

7. Registering as New User
5. If you are a new customer to the App or Site – you will be asked to Register

8. Choosing the Deal
6. Once you have registered you will be taken back to the Shopping Cart page and the opportunity to select a deal (if the restaurant you select has offers available)

9. Completing the Order
7. At this stage you can still modify your order should you need to. If there are no changes – select Continue.

10. Paying for the Order
8. Next you will be prompted for a payment option – Credit Card, Paypal or Cash (either on delivery or if you go in-store to pick-up

11. Order Completion
9. Once you have made your payment – you will receive a pop-up message telling you the next steps
12. Email Confirmation
10. An email confirmation is sent to you with the details of the order, as well as giving you a tax invoice

12a SMS Confirmation
11. An SMS is sent as well stating the order number and the time of delivery, as well as contact details of the restaurant should you need to get in contact with them

1. EatNow App  13. Can view your order from home screen
12. When you return to the App – you can review your order and if you enjoyed this particular order you can re-order the exact same order

14. Can also write a review 14a. Email review
13. You can also leave a review for the restaurant

  Closeup of EatNow Order from Swan Thai EatNow Order from Swan Thai EatNow Order from SwanThai
The delicious food from Swan Thai Restaurant

I was invited by EatNow to try their online takeaway feature in order to show the ease and convenience of using this service. For those of you who haven’t heard of EatNow they are an Australian owned and operated business that was founded in 2010 by a few hungry Australians, that aims to provide excellent coverage for takeway food and home delivery Australia Wide. EatNow belong to Australia’s Number 1 Online Takeaway Group – Catch Group and have 4400+ restaurants listed and are continuously looking for new restaurants to add to their list – in fact if you can’t find your favourite restaurant you can suggest it via their website to let them know.

There are also special offers and discounts that are offered to you when you make an order – for example the restaurant that you are ordering from could have a special deal. There is no sign up fee at all and the site is free to use – and you receive an instant SMS confirmation once your order has been placed.

I decided to test out the app version of EatNow as these days almost everyone is constantly on their phone and use apps regularly to get things done. I downloaded the EatNow app from the Google Play Store and proceeded to start the app up. If you have your location services on your phone – the suburb of the area you are located in will come up, if not you simply enter either your suburb name or the postcode – then select your suburb.

Next a list of restaurants will come up relating to your suburb. There are also two tabs that you can choose from – PICK UP or DELIVERY. I wanted to see the list of restaurants under DELIVERY. You can view at a high level the rating that fellow EatNowers have given the restaurants, as well as the cuisine (e.g. Italian, Pizza, BBQ & Grill, Dessert etc.) and dietary requirements – such as Gluten Free, Halal etc. Here you can also see which restaurants you can PRE-ORDER (this means that you can place an order with them before the actual restaurant is open or even for the next day) at as well as restaurants that have special DEALS associated with them.

We felt like Thai food for dinner on Sunday night so we picked Swan Thai. Once you click into the restaurant you can browse their menu. If you are a regular and know what you want already there is a button located at the top right hand corner which says “Skip To..” – this allows you to go straight to the menu section you are after to choose your dish. From this page you can also view Customer Reviews and see any deals (if any) the restaurant has.
I am not a regular so therefore I decide to scroll thru the menu. I see a dish that sounds delicious – Fresh Thai Basil Stir Fried – there is a description of the dish as well. I click on this and a pop up appears allowing me to choose if I want Prawns, Beef, Vegetable or Chicken. One modification that I would suggest here would be a comments section if you wanted to make any modifications to the dish such as making the dish less spicy or spicier, or if you wanted to have both chicken and prawns in your dish. I did have a look at other restaurants and you get the option to modify dishes – such as with pizza’s – you can select which toppings you want to add and at an Indian restaurant it allows you at this stage to choose the spiciness.
I pick Vegetable and then click the Add to Cart button. You can view your cart at any time by clicking the icon located in the top right hand corner. Once inside your cart you can easily use the + and – buttons to add extra quantity. The Cart also gives you a sub total.

Once you have finished picking out what you want to order you click on the Shopping Cart Icon and scroll down to select which Deal (if the restaurant you have selected offers one) you want, followed by the delivery time. Something cool to note is that if the restaurant is already open – there is a delivery time set as default to “ASAP.”
For first time users you will be required to click “Continue” – once you do this you will be taken to “Sign In” page – where you can register as a New User or login with your Facebook Account. I register myself as a new user. You receive an email confirmation about signing up to EatNow.

You then are taken back to the Shopping Cart page and this is where you fill in your Delivery Address, Mobile Number and enter your payment details. At this stage there is a Comments section where you can add any comments you want to make for your order. As I mentioned earlier I think it would be handy to do it at the dish level. Once you have entered all these details in and press Place Order you will receive a pop up that tells you that once the order has been accepted by the restaurant you will receive an SMS and an email will follow.

About 1 minute later I receive an SMS telling me my order number as well as a delivery time (in my case it was 45 minutes). It also has the phone number of the restaurant in case we need to make any changes. I check my email and there is an email confirmation with the same details as well as giving you a tax invoice.

The home page of the app has the list of orders that you have put in so that you can view what you have ordered. There is also an option to re-order the same order that you have placed another time, as well as to leave a review for the restaurant. There is also a list that starts to populate with “My Recent Restaurants” which I think is handy to have if you generally are ordering from home and want to have it as your regular.

The order arrives 15 minutes before its mentioned arrival time – so the order gets to me in 30 minutes. The food comes packaged well and was still very warm. The fried rice and curries came in a plastic container with the roti in a brown paper bag.

The Fresh Thai Basil Stir Fried Vegetable was delicious and spicy – just how we like it! The vegetables were fresh and crunchy. The Thai Style Fried Rice Vegetable and Black Pepper and Garlic Stir Fried Chicken were just as delicious – fresh, wholesome and all round tastiness. The Roti Bread was crunchy, crispy and came served with a satay sauce – perfect!

The experience with the EatNow app was brilliant – simple, intuitive and easy to use. I would definitely be using the app again to order in and would recommend it to everyone to try it out – especially for those lazy nights when you don’t feel like cooking or just want a late night snack.
You can also subscribe with EatNow to save your details which greatly increases the speed and ease of ordering your takeaway next time and important updates – or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Definitely 5 Pandas for service!

So just to recap, the general order process is simple:

– Search for restaurants in your suburb
– Browse by restaurants or cuisine
– Filter results by user reviews, distance, latest deals/offers, minimum delivery
– Order using the interactive menus – want extra spicy or hate mushrooms? No problem with our customisable options
– Get real-time notifications and a confirmation of your order, letting you know how long your order will be
– Secure and safe payment options, PayPal, Visa, Cash
– With EatNow you can order food from your mobile, tablet or PC
– Download the award winning EatNow App – 2013 Winner of the Oria Best App, Online Retail Industry Awards

Check out EatNow

Twitter: www.twitter.com/EatNowAu
@EatNowAu

Instagram: www.instagram.com/eatnowau
eatnowau

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eatnow.com.au/timeline?ref=page_internal

Swan Thai
25-27 Lake Street, Caroline Springs
Tel No: 8358 5555

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Wednesday to Sunday: 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Dinner:
Monday to Sunday: 5:30pm – Late

Click to add a blog post for Swan Thai Restaurant on Zomato

Experiencing Box Hill Central Like Never Before….

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I was lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people from PR Edge to get a chance to experience the talent of former Magic Owner-chef James Tan as he hosted an exclusive tour of Victoria’s most authentic Asian fresh food market located at Box Hill Central. After the tour finished, we were treated to a tantalising 3 course meal that James cooked in front of us. I mean how can you say No right?

Box Hill Central is located in Box Hill and is full of culinary hidden gems, rare ingredients and traditional treats – and it has a history. Originally this space was a market that opened in 1895 becoming a part of the shopping centre when it was developed in 1987. There are now two shopping centres located on the one site – Box Hill Central North and Box Hill Central South.

Box Hill Central North was originally opened as Whitehorse Plaza but after a lack of patrons closed down in 2000. After major refurbishments it was reopened in 2003 as Centro Whitehorse, which then rebranded to Centro Box Hill North in 2007 before finally being changed to Box Hill Central North in 2013.

Box Hill South (where the original Box Hill Central was located) – was built when the old railway station and level crossing was removed and has undergone refurbishments to what stands there today. The original market is now incorporated into the shopping centre but was redeveloped to what it is today. Box Hill Train station is also located here.

I was a bit late (for those of you who don’t know Box Hill gets super busy – especially on a Saturday and finding a car park is almost as bad as finding a needle in a haystack!) so missed the initial welcome and introductions from James, however I met up with the rest of the bloggers and James as they were getting through a talk from one of the Fresh Seafood store’s owners – Elaine from Box Hill Fish Market. Here we got to sample oysters – they were fresh, punchy and full of flavour! You can have a look at some of my pictures of the Box Hill Fish Market store – you really can see the freshness and the high quality – they sell sashimi grade products – that this store has, as well as the variety and range – they have Blue Swimmer Male Crabs!
Elaine and her staff are very helpful and accommodating and mentioned that they try and cater for their clients’ needs in whichever way they can – all they have to do is ask. I really like that philosophy!

Next we briefly stopped at one of James’ favourite butchers – Central Meats – who sells specialised meats and once again are very accommodating and can get you what you.

Our next stop was at Food Master which provides Asian spices and herbs and dried and preserved foods – a shop with literally everything you could possible need – from Dried Figs to Lily Bulb. If you are Asian and were used to your mums or grandparents herbal home remedies – chances are that you could find the ingredients for this remedy from here. Check out the pictures for the variety!

That brought us to the end of the tour and we were led back to our little area that had been decorated with bamboo fences and bamboo trees – with the table for the bloggers in the centre. There were many inquisitive questions as to what was going on and how they could be involved from passer-byers. The centre pieces were simple and brilliant – vases filled with fresh bok choy together with a basket filled with fresh veggies such as carrots, eggplants and mushrooms.
James had his setup at the top end of our table so we could watch as he prepared our three course meal.

Whilst James starting cooking the first dish we were given 100% natural Coconut Water from Raw C. James told us that he wanted to source fresh coconuts for us however he couldn’t find the ideal ones he wanted for us. None of us around the table had heard or seen this brand before – Pete Evans appears on the back of the packaging which we all found amusing. The Coconut Water is actually one of the better ones I have tried and kept the authentic coconut water flavours vibrant.

For the first course we were served Palm Sugar Cured Atlantic Salmon with Fried Kumara, Petit Herb Salad. The dish was impeccably presented – the palm sugar cured atlantic salmon acting as the base of the dish, topped with fried kumara and finished with the petit herb salad (which included avocado and tomato). The salmon was fresh and cured to perfection with the palm sugar enhancing the flavour thanks to its sweetness. I loved the crunch of the fried kumara as well as its distinct flavour. The petit herb salad really brought the dish together for one flavour explosion in your mouth. Delicious!

The next course was the Mud Crab Coconut Salad with Chilli Lime Dressing, Crispy Rice Crackers. We were told the way to eat this dish was to serve some of the crab onto the crispy rice crackers and eat them together in one go. Doing this gives you the element of crunch followed swiftly with a burst of distinct flavours – creamy coconut, sultry crab and ending with the hit of chilli. I am a huge of anything to do with crab so this dish was delicious – my only thought was that the coconut flavour somewhat overpowered the uniqueness of the crab.

To finish James prepared a Lacquered Soy Duck with Shitake, Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil. As I do not eat duck I only had the Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil and Shitake. I adored the presentation that James did with my dish. He piled the noodles together – they were rolled into small cylinders, poured the soy reduction over the noodles and finished this with the shitake and herbs. I have never eaten these type of noodles before but quite enjoyed the flavours – the saltiness of the soy reduction paired with the rustic flavours of the shitake and the smoothness of the noodles worked well together.
The duck was a clear hit with the other bloggers – who even went in for seconds. They were surprised at how tender the duck was and the flavouring of the sauce on the side was something they all loved.

Next up was a chance to experience an authentic Chinese Tea Ceremony from Spencer Wong at Cha-t. Refer to the section below to learn more about Spencer.
The front window of Cha-t is visually stunning itself – a round wooden circular shelf with tiny compartments which are filled with paraphernalia relating to Chinese tea such as claypots, incense holders and dainty tea cups – but once you step inside – you truly feel like you are transported to the world of tea. There intricately detailed wooden furnished together with chairs that have been carved from roots of trees. It really is a place that you need to visit to capture its beauty.

Cha-t is all about the teas – with the menu only listing a variety of teas – from Pu-erh / Pu-er Tea to Medicinal Teas. Cha-t is all about appreciation of Chinese tea as well as Chinese culture and really is a one stop shop of its kind here in Melbourne. It is quite common to find many of these types of shops in China – as their favourite past times is to drink tea all day.

Spencer seats us around a wooden table that has been especially made for tea ceremonies. It is equipped with all the utensils and pots required to carry out a tea ceremony, including a section that places filtered water into a pot and warms the water to correct temperature required. I was even amazed at just watching the water being warmed and the main ceremony hadn’t even started! The table had holes which allowed for the excess water to travel through and be collected under the table – genius.

Spencer starts by telling us the background and history of the tea and tells us the different types of teas that we will be trying today. We start off with Pu-erh Tea which is a variety of fermented dark tea produced in the Yunnan province in China.
Pu-erh Tea starts off as a Camilla Plant first and for the next 1 to 5 years becomes a greeny yellowy colour, then from 5 to 15 years changes to a red colour and after about 50 years it becomes the black tea that we would be drinking today. The tea that we would be trying is a 1989 tea!!!
Spencer tells us that all you need for a good cup of tea is around 7-8 grams of tea – which he measures out using a scale. He places the tea into a bowl like cup and pours the hot water (90 degrees) onto it. Once this brews for a bit he pours the tea into a beaker. He tells us that the first two brews are to wake up the tea and hence the flavouring is always light. It also serves as a double purpose to warm the tea cups that you use to drink the tea in.

We all cannot wait to taste the tea – we are served in small glass cups and are told by Spencer how to drink the tea. You are meant to slurp in a sip and then savour the flavour between sips – certain teas give out flavours that you can feel at the back of your throat. The initial 2 brews are light, but as the brews get higher – the strength increases. The tea is warming and uniquely flavoured.

The next tea that we try is from 1984 and the 7g of tea that we all share is worth $400!!! This means that a kilogram will cost around $57K! Who would have ever thought that tea would be worth that much money! For this tea Spencer once again measure 7g of the tea and places it into a specially made purple sand pot. He tells us that these containers can cost up to 1 million dollars (!!!) – the cost is dependent on the level of the masters that are creating the containers. For example if they are Level 2 masters the cost of the containers (depending on the size and the type) that they make could be worth up to $100K with Level 1 masters containers being worth up to $1 Million. The small pot that he is using today is worth $500.

Once the water has boiled – to 100 degrees – Spencer pours the water into the pot and allows the tea to brew. Spencer carefully pours water over the pot to warm the tea and then swills the inside. When we were served the tea you could tell why it was worth the $400! The flavour was light initially and left a honey after taste. Another key to identifying great quality tea is that the smell that it leaves on the cup – it smelt of fresh honey and did so for a long period of time! Lower quality teas would have the smell of the actual cup or the remnants of your saliva. We had about 4 rounds of this tea and each time the flavour intensified but the honey after taste still remained in the same intensity. Beautiful.

Spencer also showed us the incense and how he prepares the incense – the incense helps to create the atmosphere and further enhances the tea experience. The smells were strong yet calming. The process – as with the serving of tea – is a very intricate, careful and detailed process. I love the dedication and passion!

Spencer also showed us some other tricks – like frogs that we thought were just ornaments – were in fact not just ornaments. If you place hot water over the frog – it squirts out the water – a nice party trick!

Cha-t also specialises in cigars (although they are not visibly in sight and you cannot smoke them in store) which range from Bolivar to Cuban Sancho Panz. There is also quite the variety of top shelf whiskeys on display. There are also some snack type foods available such as sun dried mango, sour plums, seaweed etc.

Cha-t is opening soon in Bourke St in the Melbourne CBD and also run various tea appreciation classes for those interested in learning more about tea and its rich history.

The entire day was a brilliant experience that you wouldn’t normally get to go through – from the personal tour from James of Box Hill Central to the intimate and eye opening tea ceremony. I would definitely encourage you all to check out Cha-t and experience the tea ceremony – it feels like a little bit of China right here in Melbourne.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to Box Hill Central as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

About James Tan                                              About Spencer Wong

About James Tan                                                             About Spencer Wong

Box Hill Central
1 Main St, Box Hill
Tel No: 9843 3900

Cha-T
17 Market St, Box Hill
Tel No: 0433 588 578

A La Folie – Magnifique Macarons & More

panda 4.5 rating
a la folie

Our Order with the Valrhona Hot Chocolate

Our Order with the Valrhona Hot Chocolate

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I have previously been in the South Yarra area and walked past the colourful and breathtaking A La Folie. You will find that people taking a glance at the window and then double back and stop and take a detailed look, and most of the time walking into the store to observe the delectable sweets up close and personal.

A La Folie which can loosely be translated to mean ‘madness’(in the context of love to mean that a person is madly in love) showcases Mercédé Coubard passion and love for baking and creating unique small French treats. Located in Chapel Street, South Yarra, A La Folie is a store that creates wonderful tasting Macaron, Petits Choux, slices and delicate French pastries. Coubard was trained at the Alain Ducasse culinary school and uses A La Folie to showcase her brilliant talent – even catering for special events such as weddings, engagements and birthdays – creating Petit Choux towers.

A La Folie is a type of place that makes you feel like you are in a cute little café right on the streets of Paris – complete with a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower coupled with cute little tables and chairs to match; dotted with red accents of color. Magnifique!

You cannot help by ooh and aah whilst looking through the glass display cases of the colourful macarons, slices and Petit Choux. All products are made in on offsite location and brought to A La Folie.
There are around 17 different macaron flavours to choose from which can include – Valrhona Caraibe Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Vanilla / Soft Caramel, Dulce Chocolate, Pistachio, Matcha / Red Currant, Guanaja / Orange Juice, Passionfruit Ganache, Coconut (Malibu), Grapefruit, Lemon Ganache, Fairy Floss, Blueberry Ganache, Strawberry Mint, Raspberry Ganache, Rose Delight and Champagne.
There are also a number of dainty looking Petit Choux to choose from – Chocolate Coconut, P125 Chocolate, Coffee, Madagascan Vanilla, Pistachio, Raspberry, Mango & Passionfruit, Salted Caramel and Praline – as well as daily special flavours for you to try out in combinations like Lime & Coconut.
A La Folie’s latest creations are the introduction of impressive looking Tarts – which can range from Mixed Fruit, Berry, Lemon Meringue just to name a few. There also is a combination of giant sized macarons and normal sized macarons; which come laced with extra buttercream/ganache in the centre and topped with a delicate decoration on top to match.

It really was a tough decision that A and I had to make to select which flavour macaron and petit choux we wanted to try – after much deliberation I decided on the Vanilla / Soft Caramel Macaron and the Pistachio Petit Choux. A picked the Soft Caramel Macaron and chose the flavour of the day special for her Petit Choux – Lime & Coconut. We also both chose to have the Valrhona Hot Chocolate which sounded amazing when Mercédé described it to us.

We were there on a Saturday around lunch time and thanks to the striking and colourful front window it really does draw in a crowd. Whilst we were there a tour group came in which was great as we got learn a bit about Mercédé and how she got into her love for baking. We even got to meet her daughter (who was working in store).

The macarons were perfect any way you looked at it – from the crispy thin egg-shell like meringue crust complete with chewy almond biscuit to the soft, smooth and flavoursome filling. My Vanilla / Soft Caramel macaron was divine – the perfect level of sweetness and the flavours of vanilla and caramel in perfect balance of each other.

The Petit Choux was decadent. The choux pastry was somewhat crunchy on the outside but light, soft, airy and tantalising on the inside giving way to the silky crème patissière. The crème patissière adds the vibrant burst of flavour once you take your first bite. My pistachio Petit Choux was blissfully delicious; the pistachio flavour delicate and vibrant all at the same time – topped with pistachio fondant and finished with a pistachio nut.

The Valrhona Hot Chocolate is definitely one for Chocoalate lovers – rich, silky and thick, finished with shavings of Valrhona chocolate. Both A and I needed some extra milk to dilute the richness – which allowed us to enjoy and appreciate the drink.

A La Folie also works together with Anthony Hart (Don’t Lose Your Temper – check out his website at http://dontloseyourtemper.com) – who has previously worked at Vue de Monde and The Press Club creating delightful, unique looking desserts – to create Premium Chocolate made specifically for A La Folie. Flavours include Poppin’ Bubble Gum Raspberry and Choc Riso Pops, as well as their very own version of a Wagon Wheel – made of marshmallow, raspberry jam, Turkish delight, rice shortbread and coated with white chocolate and popping candy.

A La Folie is a cute café that oozes French sophistication – the staff here are friendly and Mercédé herself is delightful to talk to. She really does love what she does and the fruition of her ideas that emanated into the standalone A La Folie store is magnificent. The sweet treats are delicious and made with natural and fresh ingredients wherever possible. Put some joy, fun and France into your life and visit A La Folie.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda (& a guest) were invited to dine at A La Folie as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A great variety and selection of sweet treats – including Macarons, Petit Choux and Tarts
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Feels like you are in a cafe on the streets of Paris
Service: Friendly, Warm and Welcoming
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.alafolie.com.au/
589 Chapel St, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 3337

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Thursday : 10:00 am – 5:30 pm
Friday & Saturday : 10:00 am – 7:00 pm

A La Folie Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-La-Folie-Macarons-Petits-Choux/217631421649508
Instagram: macaronsandpetitschoux

Roti Road – Roti Show and A Whole Lot More!

panda 3.5 rating

 

A friend told me about Roti Road and how the Roti Chef does a “Roti Performance” where he flips, twirls roti bread to a variety of musical tunes – this can include Michael Jackson! The food was tasty as well she said so I was intrigued and curious to try it out for myself.

Roti Road is Malaysian Chinese fusion restaurant located in Footscray – taking over what used to be Yummie – and is half owned by David Tran (son of Yummie’s Annie and John Tran). It has received a grand make over which sees the fit-out being completed with glossy wood, red banquettes, a fish tank and an open view into the kitchen. You are initially greeted by two large doors which lead you into the restaurant. Inside there are two main dining areas – one to the left and one to the right. If you are in the dining room to the right – you can be seated with a view looking into the kitchen where you can watch Awi – the master roti maker in action. If you are seated to the left – Awi will come to you and showcase his brilliant roti making skills. The times of his performance varies according to crowd levels but is generally around the 8pm mark each night – with some nights having two performances.

The menu is extensive and they serve Yumcha daily till 3pm (as per its previous life as Yummie). All food is made in-house from the roti to the laksa paste. There are Stir Fried Noodles, Noodles in Soup, Mains, Rice Dishes, Vegetable Dishes and Desserts to choose from. The menu is a mixture of words as well as pictures of certain dishes which can sway your decision of what to order. However ordering Roti is a must – after all the place is called Roti Road – trust me you won’t be disappointed. For Desserts – they serve Roti Tisu / Roti Pisang – which is a Roti that comes out looking like a teepee with a side serving of ice cream. The Roti is coated in sugar – this is yet another must try dish! Other dishes on their menu include Nasi Lemak, Char Kuay Teow, Maggie Mee Goreng, Malaysian Style Fish Head Curry, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Nasi Goreng just to name a few.

I am a huuggggeeee fan of bubble tea so when I got to the drinks menu and saw they had a number of flavours I hadn’t encountered before I had to order one. The one that caught my eye was the Oreo Bubble Tea – Oreos have always been my weak point in the biscuit range, so when it is combined with my other favourite bubble tea – I was really excited! And boy did it not disappoint! The bubble tea came out served in a large beer mug glass, with the pearls at the bottom and an oreo floating at the top. The flavour was absolute heaven – it was the creaminess of the milk together with crunchy pieces of Oreo throughout the milk tea with the pop of the pearls. You have to try it just to know how good it is!

N ordered the Chicken Satay which had hints of the smokiness thanks to the use of the charcoal grill. I tasted the accompanying satay sauce which was a lot spicier than most of the other peanut sauces I have tasted – a winner in my book!

I ordered the Seafood Cigars – which come served in a cocktail glass filled with shredded carrot. The Cigars are quite tall in size and are topped and tailed with black sesame seeds. The pasty on the outside is crunchy in texture and works well with the wholesome prawn filling.

N and I both ordered a serving of the Roti. The Roti comes served on a tin plate which has separate sections for the sambal, dhal and curry sauce. The sambal is spicy goodness, the dhal has subtle hints of earthy tones and the curry sauce is full of flavour with a hint of spice. The Roti is to-die-for – it is crisp, light and fluffy – and is good enough to eat on its own. You seriously could have a tonne of these Roti’s! The combination of the roti with its constituents is fantastic and I love the idea that you can mix and match the differing flavours. You can also add either chicken curry or beef rending curry to the mix as well if you want. We also ordered the Belachan KangKung – a fresh tasting dish which combined the crunch of the kangkung with the deep spicy flavours of the shrimp paste.

I was really hungry that day so I also ordered the Seafood Curry Laksa. The serving size is quite generous ( I struggled to finish the entire bowl). You are greeted by the enticing smell and the deep red hues as it is placed in front of you – with the inviting seafood, bean shoots and eggplant bopping up and down. The egg noodles are hidden away at the bottom and you need to dig deep to get to them. The Laksa is bursting with flavour – rich and spicy and it really hits the spot. It would be especially perfect on a freezing cold & rainy day. The tofu is divine and the seafood fresh.

We went to dinner on a Sunday and didn’t get a chance to stay for the show at 8pm, however as we were seated in the dining room to the right – we had a clear view of the kitchen window and got to enjoy Awi’s Roti magic. He starts off by spreading a ball of dough, then he lifts, flips and slaps it around to get it into a rectangular shape. This is when the show really begins – there is twirling, throwing and catching – all whilst not making so much as a tear or rip in the dough. Once he has completed this he then lays it back on the bench and folds it into the desired shape to be cooked. I will definitely be back bringing more people here to not only try the food out but to stay for the show performance that happens out in the dining area amongst the crowd to tunes.

Service is good – staff are friendly and happy to answer any questions – but it seems like once you get your food this lowers. It also took a long time to get someone’s attention to ask for the bill that in the end up we ended up going to the counter itself to pay.

Roti Road has great tasting authentic Malaysian food with the added bonus of a Flying Roti show. The menu has a huge variety that even the fussiest person will something that they want to eat – be it from soups, noodles to veggies. Check it out and DEFINITELY try the ROTI!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above of their Takeaway Menu or you can find a link here – http://www.urbanspoon.com/cities/71/restaurants/1835788/menu_photos/438713
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely and Casual. Great for a family dinner.
Standout Dish: Roti!!
Service: Not too bad – sometimes it can be hard to get the attention of staff. But when you do they are friendly and helpful.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.rotiroad.com.au
189-193 Barkly Street, Footscray
Tel No: 9078 8878

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday : 10.30am – 9.30pm
Friday & Saturday: 10:00am – 10:00pm
Sunday: 10.30am – 9.30pm

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rotiroad

Roti Road on Urbanspoon

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

Northern Lights Bar & Eatery – Fusion Food with Fanciful Lights

panda 4 rating 
Love the Lights!

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Menu:
Northern Light Menu

We needed a place to have dinner after a full day at the Good Food and Wine show in the Fitzroy / Collingwood area, as we were heading to drinks in that area later. I referred to my trusty list of places I wanted to go and realised Northern Light Bar & Eatery worked perfectly.

Northern Light is located on Smith Street in Collingwood – in what used to be the old Gigibaba. Venue owners are Adam Liston and Glen Bagnara (ex-Chester White) together with manager Emily Pullen, and they have created a fusion Chinese and Japanese eatery that is all about shared dishes. Clearly the years Liston spent in Shanghai were utilised in the creation of the menu and the idea behind Northern Light.

From the moment you step in you feel like you are transported to another world – almost forest like (hence the name) – thanks to the plethora of dangling combination of light bulbs and lanterns. It’s beautiful. The next thing your eyes are drawn to is the marble white bar that takes up the length of the venue, finished with dark wood. There is seating all along the bar, along with lower tables at the front which has a massive white decorative mirror overlooking it. Exposed brick walls and mood lighting completes the look.

The menu designed by Liston and is split into 6 different sections – Snacks, Plates, Cooked over Binchotan, Meat, fish & Vegetables, Sides and finishes with Desserts. You can pick from the enticing dishes yourself or have the banquet menu – 5 courses for $55 and 7 courses for $75. Snack dishes include Spiced Prawn Cracker, a golden egg, Plate dishes which are slightly larger consists of an edamame dish with kimchi sauce, an interesting eel dish and air dried Blackbmore beef. Cooked over the Binchotan have a selection of skewers that come in the form of mushroom, chicken, beef or pork belly. The meat, fish & vegetable section include soba noodles, suckling pig, a smoked trout okonomiyaki and lamb ribs. There are three different sides to choose from as well three different desserts.

The drink menu includes Sapporo on tap along with other drink options include cider, wine, and a concise selection of cocktails. I ordered a mocktail of mint and pineapple and it was quite tasty.

We have a few dietary requirements and the staff are happy to help us out and let us know which dishes are Gluten-free. With that knowledge we decide to order for ourselves – there are four of us – and get a couple of dishes from each section. What I also liked was that each time a dish came out – the staff explained what the dish was and each component.

We start off with the Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake. This came highly recommended from the staff, and after eating this dish we could see why. The dish was quite a colourful dish thanks to the blue background of the plate together with the fried shallots and furikake (nori, seasame and chilli) all adding to the colourfulness. The golden egg was perfectly soft centered – it had been poached and then flash fried to create a crackling outer shell that had been rolled in caramel. The dish was finished with the onion as well as the furikake and worked extremely well together. It was a combination of spice, salt, sugar, crunch and gooeyness – try it out for yourselves.

The Sichuan Spiced School Prawns, Curry Mayo were up next. There was a bit division here with this dish but only with regards to the Curry Mayo – half of us liked it and half of us didn’t. I was on team I LIKE THE MAYO – it was an interesting combination and I think it worked well with the flavour of the prawns. The Sichuan spiced prawns on the other hand was a clear winner – everyone loved it and we sat around discussing how we could recreate this dish at home. They were perfectly crunchy and flavoured well and you could sit there eating them all day!

The Edamame, Broccolini, Gai Lan, Kimchi Sauce was an interesting dish. I am obsessed with Broccolini at the moment, so when I saw this as one of the components I had to get it. The Edamame came already out of the pod – which was a bit disappointing – the whole fun attributed to popping them yourself was missing, however I get why it was done for this dish. The dish was fresh and tasty thanks to the kimchi sauce.

Next up was the Eel unagi, Squid Sauce, salted Grapes, Mojama. This was a really great dish! A hadn’t ever had eel before and she tried it for the first time here and quite enjoyed it. The dish was presented interestingly, with grape halves dispersed amongst the eel, which lay on top of the squid sauce and topped with mojama (salt-preserved tuna). The eel was smooth and had a smoky flavour which worked well when coupled with the sweetness of the grapes and the saltiness of the mojama. A dish well worth ordering.

The Air dried Blackmore beef, wasabi, yolk, fried potato was another interestingly plated up dish – the main focus was the nest of thin potato slices that you needed to push aside to reveal the vibrant Blackmore beef and the bright yolk. The dish was completed with fresh wasabi, horseradish and sorrel leaves. The boys quite enjoyed the beef dish and said it was interesting to have it combined with the walk runny yolk.

The Wagyu oyster blade skewers with Bulldog Sauce were a hit as well. They are quite small in size and I am sure they all could have eaten another three skewers each – they were that easy to eat – tender and flavoursome, and the bulldog sauce always makes things more interesting.

I used to order vegetarian okonomiyakis all the time and really enjoyed the dish, so was interested to see what Northern Light’s version would taste like. We ordered the Smoked trout, salted shrimp okonomiyaki, katsuobushi (this is the Japanese name for dried, fermented and smoked skip jack tuna). We were all enthralled by this dish when it was placed in front of us as we saw pieces of food moving – this turned out to be the katsuobushi. When placed on hot food, the heat waves causes the thin and light katsuobushi to move about which made the dish seem alive with the “dancing” katsuobushi. The dish resembled a seafood omelette and was quite tasty – however we found it a tad bit too salty. The saltiness took over the other flavours of the dish so I couldn’t really taste the smokiness of the trout.

To accompany the dishes we had ordered we also ordered the Warm soba noodles, wild mushrooms, white sesame and the Vegetarian Fried Rice. The soba noodle dish I loved – anything combined with mushrooms and sesame to me is brilliant. The noodles weren’t overcooked either so all in all a good dish.

After all the dishes we got try I actually was quite full and wasn’t really considering dessert – but I am glad that I decided to change my mind at the last minute. I ordered the Broken Ice Cream Sandwich. This was yet another interestingly presented dish – it came out with jagged edged shards made out of chocolate and reminiscent of a hardened cake – placed in form of a tent shape. Once you open this fort like surrounds you reveal a luscious and creamy vanilla ice cream rectangle chunk, which is topped with dollops of equally creamy chocolate mousse and gooey salted caramel. The combination of these three elements together was spectacular and it was the best end to a great meal. Who knew something so simple when put together could taste so great!

We apparently beat the Saturday night rush as we had a pretty early dinner – around 6pm and left around 7:30pm. So if you want to beat the rush go early! Northern Light Bar & Eatery is a great place to just hang out and enjoy some great Japanese/Chinese inspired dishes whether it be with a group of four people or even a romantic night out. The mood is casual and relaxed, the staff really friendly and those multiple hanging lights are a winner in my book!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above pic. Menu can also be found at http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Romantic, Mood Lighting, Casual and Relaxed. Great for a first date – but works well for a group of 4 as well!
Standout Dish: Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake AND Broken Ice Cream Sandwich
Service: Fantastic! Very helpful when we needed to find out about which dishes were Gluten Free. Friendly as well!
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/bookings/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/
102 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9416 0698

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:30pm – Late

Northern Light on Urbanspoon

Jr Morse – Coffee Window Fun

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Menu at Jr Morse

Jr Morse is a window tucked underneath Victoria Park station and serves morning patrons with coffee – from single origin ice lattes, cold drips, hot chocolate, chais etc. From the window you can also order breakfast and lunch – and sit outside on the creatively organised milk crates – some of which have fake grass on top to cushion one when seated. The morning menu consists of Jaffles, Bahn Mi, Tacos and Chips, there is also a special of crumpets available. There are also breakkie rolls, egg and bacon tarts and a selection of muffins available too.

Coffee is sourced from a Canberra roastery – ONA Coffee and pumped out by head barista Chris Graham. Coffee is definitely the hit here – my latte was creamy and had flavours of nuttiness, caramel and maple bundled together. N had an espresso and absolutely loved it (it comes with mineral water as well to cleanse the palate).

I also ordered a Chai Latte to take away which was made from fresh Chai leaves and tasted delicious, rich and full of flavour. It had the perfect fusion of spice and cinnamon.

Sitting outside on the crates adds to the coolness and funk of this place – especially when it is a great sunny day! The baristas are friendly and are a wealth of knowledge – ask them anything – they are happy to share! Come by the coffee window and enjoy a great tasting coffee & experience.

Check out the blog post about Dr Morse at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/dr-morse-bringing-crowds-back-to-abbotsford

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above picture
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Relaxed
Service: Friendly and knowledgeable
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/drmorsebar
274 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
Tel No: 9416 1005

Opening Hours:

Hours (Dr Morse)
Sun to Wed 11.30am–11pm
Thu to Sat 11.30am–1am

Hours (Jr Morse)
Mon to Fri 7am–4pm
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm

Supernormal Canteen – Another McConnell Gem!

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:

Menu at Supernormal Canteen

T and I were heading out to dinner and decided to check out Andrew McConnell’s latest venture and temporary pop-up in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. The name of his new place, which is located right next door to Cutler and Co. is called Supernormal Canteen – which is due to open in March next year at its permanent location in Flinders Lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

As you walk in you are greeted with an open space filled with wooden communal and individual tables with Japanese characters saying “Suupaanoormaaru” (Supernormal) all along the table top. To the left is a white washed brick wall with its name – half in neon red lights. The centrepiece is the hundreds of lanterns complete with googly eyes that line the ceiling. Spectacular. The design gurus Projects of Imagination are to thank for the design here. The whole vibe of the place is relaxed and fun and has a food and drink menu to match. There are two main dining areas, as well as some seating out the front.

Supernormal Canteen was launched in November as part of The Age Good Food Month and was only meant to be open until December 21st, but due to its overwhelming popularity was extended till the beginning of March. Supernormal Canteen serves Japanese/Chinese food together with sake and Asahi beer, and gets packed by about 6:30pm – where you would then expect a wait for a table.

The menu consists of about 18 dishes to share which vary in size, as well as 4 different desserts. The dishes range from Wood Grilled Cabbage, Pepper Cured Blackmore Brisket, the famous Lobster Roll, Chicken & Prawn Dumplings and Szechuan Lamb just to name a few.

T & I decided to order some dishes to share. For drinks I ordered the Iced Coffee – which comes with a little aluminium cup with extra sugar syrup for you to add when you feel like it. The coffee was strong but delicious and I loved the addition of the extra sugar syrup for later. We were also given some roasted peanuts (in place of where most restaurants would give out bread) to nibble on whilst we waited for our dishes to arrive. They were deliciously flavoured – and you had to stop yourself from eating the whole bowl in one go.

The first dish we got was the Bonito Sashimi, Dashi, Radish & Seaweed. The dish comes with the Kingfish at the bottom of the plate with the radish on the next layer and finished with the seaweed on top. The Kingfish was fresh, thick and just perfect, paired with the dashi and the crunch of the radish and seaweed it really was quite delicious. A really great combination.

Our next sharing dish was the Fried Mussels, Egg Mayo, Lettuce. The sauce was interesting as on the bottom there was chilli and the egg mayo was placed on top – so when you dunked in the mussels you got a combination of both the sauces – really great! The Fried Mussels itself were delicious and the first time that I was eating mussels this way! The mussels were crisp on the outside and just still moist and juicy on the inside. The way you were meant to eat it was to wrap the mussels in the lettuce and dip it into the sauce. Any which way you eat it – this dish is just fantastic and I would highly recommend it.

Next up I ordered a Lobster Roll – I mean how could you not order one especially if you have tried one before (I had my last one at Golden Fields). The bun was sweet as was he lobster and combined with the tang of the mayo was just delicious. It definitely kept me wanting more. I would have loved a bit more lobster in my roll though.

We went with some of the larger dishes as well with T ordering Grilled Ox Tongue, Tomato, Yuzu & Potato for her and we also ordered the Steamed Snapper, Ginger, Coriander. T said the Ox tongue was cooked well and she did enjoy the flavours. The Steamed Snapper dish came out with the snapper being buried under the coriander and radish – you had to push that all aside to reveal the snapper. The snapper was perfectly cooked – not too soft, not too tough – and the flavours of ginger, spring onion together with the fresh coriander was quite good. It smelt great and tasted Just as it smelt – it was also a very generous serving.

Even though I was quite full I had to have dessert – and lucky I didn’t skip it as it turned out to be the yummiest and one of my most favourite desserts ever. I ordered the Yoghurt Cream, Lychee & White Chocolate. When it comes out it looks like berries and lychees have been buried in a powdery snow like substance – and it really doesn’t look like much. Just wait till you dig into the dish. The powder was an awesome texture and as you dig further you get the hit of the white chocolate. Combined with the freshness and tang of the berries and the “yoghurt”, sweetness of the lychees and the white chocolate – the result is absolutely divine! I really do hope they keep this dessert on the menu when they move to Flinders Lane.

I really enjoyed the vibe and the atmosphere at Supernormal Canteen. They serve really delicious, casual Asian inspired dishes and have a great drinks menu to go with it. The staff are super friendly and very knowledgeable about the food. There are rumours that when the new permanent venue opens up it will also house a karaoke bar – for extra added fun! I for one cannot wait to see the permanent venture opened.

 

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Menu consists of shared dishes and a great drink menu – refer to above section for Menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Yoghurt Cream, Lychee & White Chocolate
Service: Friendly and very knowledgeable

http://supernormal.net.au/

Supernormal Canteen will be opening in Flinders Lane sometime around March 2015

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