Woody P – When In Rome…

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menu Pizza Menu

It was a Friday night date night and we decided to eat in the city. I remembered hearing about a new restaurant that had opened up called Woody P. It was earlyish – around 6:30pm so we decided to see if we could get a table without a booking. We were able to score some high seats by the window with a view looking into the kitchen area and were told that when a table becomes available they would move us. Perfect!

Woody P is located on Flinders lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD – with neighboring restaurants such as Chin Chin, Coda and Cumulus Inc. Woody P is brought to us by Pierre Semaan and Robert Rae who previously owned Fashion Lounge – the nightclub – which is the very place that Woody P has taken over.

Woody P has such an interesting space which has been designed by Eades and Bergman (who have also designed Kong and The Meatball and Wine Bar). As you are about to enter the restaurant – you know you are at the right place when you see a neon blue W sign out the front – and if you look down – the WOODY P name made out of small tiles.
The venue spans over two floors complete with a combination of exposed brick walls, wooden floors, blond wood and marble – what a combination! The restaurant is artfully sectioned off into distinct areas – separated by exposed brick beams on one side and indoor suspended greenery (planter boxes) on the other side. The front section is for casual walk-ins, with a semi private area just behind it, followed by a marble bar with mosaic tiles for cocktails and towards the back overlooking the kitchen – high table seating. I love the brightly lit blue neon sign “When in Rome” which works beautifully against the exposed brick wall which catches your eye as you walk towards the bar. There is also a terrace for outdoor seating to dine al fresco once the sun comes out in Melbourne!

The menu has both Italian and Mediterranean influences and has been created by head chef Clinton Camilleri (Eleonore’s, The Lake House, The Royal George Hotel). The menu pretty much has something for everyone – from White Anchovy, Caramelised Onion, Puff Pastry starters to 48-hour Slow Cooked Beef Rib, Roast Onion, Gremolata to a selection of Pizzas and Pastas. The menu is split into 8 sections – Piccolo (Entrees), Salumi, Pizza, Grande (Mains), Pasta, Sides, Formaggi and Dolce (Dessert). You can select the “Time to Feast” menu for $55 per person for groups of four or more.
The Pizza menu can either be Eat In or Take-Away and to view the list available to choose from you simple flip over the menu given to you. There are 7 pizzas to select from including Margherita, San Daniele, Gamberi, Funghi, Patatina, Zucca and Porchetta.

N and I were seated at the high tables and were given the menus in case we wanted to have some snacks whilst we waited for our table. We were also asked if we wanted sparkling water which we said yes to. The sparkling water was from Bolle Stille and was better than any of the sparkling waters I have tasted around. Before deciding on what snacks/entrees we wanted we decided to order a drink. I asked what mocktails they had available and the friendly waitress informed me that there were two options – I ended up going with the Peaches & Cream. I have never come across a place that does a Peach mocktail so I was very interested to see what this was all about. The mocktail came out and just like the drink had peachy tones completed with a wedge of lemon – and tasted spectacular – exactly as you would imagine peaches and cream to taste like – slightly sour with a great creamy after taste! Delicious and definitely highly recommended!

It was time to decide what food to eat – we ordered the Panisse Chips, Truffle, Taleggio, Cauliflower to start while we thought about what we wanted for our mains. I had never heard of Panisse before so was intrigued to see what it was like – essentially it is reminiscent of polenta and comes served in fingers which resemble fries. The exterior was crumbed perfection with the inside reminding me of custard – I would have liked a bit more seasoning to the flavour such as salt and pepper but overall it was an interesting dish.

For mains I decided to go with the Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi, Tomato Sugo, Ricotta Salata and N went with Chargrilled Grass-Fed T-Bone (500gm), Salsa Verde. We also decided to get the Broccolini, Grilled Onion, Honey Mustard as a side – we absolutely love Broccolini and were interested to try the honey mustard flavouring.

My Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi, Tomato Sugo, Ricotta Salata was a beautifully presented dish – the Tomato Sugo oozed brightness at the base of the dish where the Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi were placed upon and finished with Ricotta Salata and Basil leaves. Gnudi is essentially a type of round gnocchi and Woody Ps take on it was smashingly delicious. The Gnudi balls were generous in size and quite dense in texture with the taste perfect. The Tomato Sugo was rich and complemented the ricotta and spinach fantastically. Overall a good tasting dish.
N’s T Bone was styled simply – the steak pieces cut up into bite sized pieces with the salsa verde dressed on top and finished with half a lemon. N thoroughly enjoyed his dish so much so that he didn’t even realise he was eating 500grams of meat!
The Broccolini was such a simple dish with bursting flavours that I loved. The Honey Mustard combined with the grilled onions meshed really well with the Brocollini. I think we will definitely be trying to replicate this dish at home!

As you all know I cannot leave a place without sampling the dessert menu. It was a tough choice to make but in the end I went with the Chocolate & Giandujua Budino, Crème Fraiche, Sour Cherry Ice Cream – and boy am I glad I did. I was raving about this dessert weeks later! This dessert isn’t just for all Chocolate lovers – but for anyone! Giandujua for those of you who don’t know is a sweet chocolate hazelnut spread and a Giandujua Budino is an Italian pudding made with this spread. This was served with quenelles of chocolate ganache as well as Sour Cherry Ice Cream. The combination of the rich chocolatey goodness combined with the sourness of the ice cream was brilliant. I could actually eat a bowl full of Sour Cherry Ice Cream on its own as well – it was simply divine!

On a different occasion (when I went to Woody P for lunch) – I ordered the Roast Potato, Truffle & Persian Fetta Tortellini, Cauliflower, Cavolo Nero. This would have to be my favourite dish from Woody P so far (aside from the delicious Chocolate dessert of course). The dish is immaculately presented – with the cauliflower puree at the base of the dish with the three tortellini placed in a triangle on top – finished with sultanas and Cavolo Nero. It was almost too pretty to eat…almost! From the first bite I was in Tortellini heaven – the combination of potato, fetta and perfectly made pasta was delicious – there was the right amount of seasoning and combined with the smooth creamy cauliflower puree. I am not usually a sultana fan but it really worked in this dish and added a sweetness to the dish which complemented all the other flavours. My only gripe would be that it too small – I would have like maybe 1 or 2 more tortellini – but I guess that’s only because the dish was DELICIOUS! On the same occasion C ordered the Gamberi Pizza – Tiger Prawns, San Marzano Tomato, Chilli, Garlic, Salsa Verde. I was lucky enough to sample a piece and it was quite good as well! When the pizza came out it came served with a little dish that had extra salt, herbs and chilli which I thought was a great idea as usually I have to ask for extra chilli on the side. The base of the pizza was thin, fresh and crispy on the edges with the ingredients all working well together.

Woody P is up there with one of my favourite restaurants of 2015 and one that I recommend to people when they ask me for a place to eat in the city! Service is brilliantly friendly and the vibe is welcoming and homely – it is a great place for Friday night drinks or just to have a quiet date night. The music is great and really allows you to let your hair down!
Also something to note the Woody P team are still deciding what their downstairs basement space will be transformed into. So stay tuned for something like a relaxed cocktail and wine / cheese bar come next summer.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to https://thegrazingpanda.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/bd409-woody-pmenujune2015.pdf or refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vibrant, Relaxed and Welcoming. Great for Friday Night drinks or Date Night. Alternatively it is also a great place to grab lunch during the week.
Standout Dish: Roast Potato, Truffle & Persian Fetta Tortellini, Cauliflower, Cavolo Nero
Service: Friendly, Attentive and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via this link
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.woodyp.com.au/
121 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 5000

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12:00pm to 12:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/woodypmelb

Instagram: woodypmelb

Click to add a blog post for Woody P on Zomato

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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

The Grain Store – European Dinner Flair

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Grain Store Menu for the night

I have been a HUGE fan of The Grain Store ever since its inception (check out my previous blog here for them – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-grain-store-honest-cooking/ )– initially starting off with trying their breakfast menu (a few times!) and then branching out to try their lunch menu. I loved all of their food, ingredients and plating up of dishes. So naturally I was excited when I received an invite from Zilla & Brook,  to try out their latest dinner offering at an intimate bloggers’ dinner.

On arrival we were all greeted and asked to select from a choice of drinks. I opted for Hepburn Mineral Springs Organic Lemonade which was refreshing and perfect after walking from Southgate to the venue.

As the rest of the bloggers started to arrive, we received small starters which were elegantly presented in clear egg shaped glass cups. You could see the distinction of two layers through the clear glass – a savoury mushroom jelly topped with a layer of pumpkin foam and finished with a crisp triangle of chickpea biscuit. The combination was delicious – the vibrant mushroom flavour paired with the sweetness of the pumpkin. The silky jelly combined with the smooth foam was a texture party for your senses.

Once we had all sampled the starter we were led into an intimate private dining room which had been set up especially for us. It was a cosy group of about 15 of us – which was the perfect size. When we were all seated, head chef Ingo Meissner came out to say hello and gave us some information about the Grain Store – its background, philosophy and ideologies. Meissner himself is from Europe and hence there are many Mediterranean and French influences throughout the menu – that utilise both traditional and new techniques.
The Grain Store sources local produce – for example the Burrata is from Carlton, the duck is from Daylesford. But their main point of difference is that they have their very own Rooftop Garden where they grow seasonal produce – as well as the pretty flowers, petals for that little bit of jazz when plating up – that ends up on your plate. What a great idea!

The night started off with Entrees which was a selection of three small dishes – all plated up on the one plate which I thought was a great idea to showcase a variety of their dishes succinctly. These dishes included:
Green asparagus, burrata, char-grilled orange, black barley, hazelnut, rosemary sablé
Poached veal fillet, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, charred shallots, white anchovies, caper berries
Pan seared scallops, smoked eggplant, butternut boudin noir sandwich, ricotta lemon curd, crisp leeks
As I couldn’t have the Poached Veal Fillet – I was substituted with a salad consisting of a variety of ingredients.

The plating up of this dish was done really well – with the standout definitely being the bright purple cauliflower; everyone was wondering what taste they would have when they took their first bit into it. The cauliflower had been beetroot cured and therefore had a bit of tang to it – really good! Each of the components worked well together and I especially loved the black barley – which not only added texture but a great earthy tone to the dish. I loved the addition of orange to this dish to add an element of sweet and citrus.

The scallop component was definite highlight amongst the other dishes on this Entrée plate – the scallop had been seared to perfection and flavoured well. The butternut boudin noir sandwich was a welcome component adding a sweet touch to combine with the ricotta and lemon curd. I enjoyed the finish of the crisp leek – adding depth to the dish.

Next up was the mains – we were served alternative dishes between a Fish dish and a Duck dish – Free range Aylesbury duck breast, fennel slaw, Nicola potato, crème fraiche, caramelised carrot and pine nuts. There was a resounding “delicious” for the guests in the room that had this dish – with the duck being succulently cooked and the flavours of the fennel furthur enhancing the duck flavour. The Nicola potato component that it came served was glistening and looked divine!

I had the Lakes Entrance Dory fillets, new season asparagus, soft herb spätzle, charred corn salsa. This dish was plated up simply, yet it was a colourful visual spectacle. The star attraction was the fish which front and centre and sat on a green bed of soft herb spätzle (I asked Ingo later how it was made and he told me that it was made much like that of pasta – with flour and eggs, with the addition of herbs to give it that vibrant green colour), and surrounded by the asparagus and the charred corn salsa. Each component added flavour and texture to the dish. The Dory fillets were lightly battered on the outside and cooked well – resulting in soft white kernels of delicious fish on the inside. I loved the look, feel and taste of the spätzle – it was the first time I was eating this and I was highly intrigued – it is the type of dish that you keep going back for more as it is easy to eat and tastes great. The charred corn salsa had the perfect level of smokiness that worked well with the simple flavours of the fish. I would definitely recommend this dish!

Whilst we were eating our mains we were also given polenta chips topped with herbs and salt – which came out stacked like a jenga game. They were really tasty as well – crispy on the outside with a dense softness on the inside. A really great side dish addition to enhance your food experience.

It had been a great night of conversation and simply designed tasty food so far but my favourite part of any meal was still to come. For dessert we lucky enough to be served a selection of desserts which included – Black forest gateau, chocolate ganache, cherries, vanilla kirsch panna cotta, coca nibs together with a Grain Store Soufflé (Strawberry with Goats Cheese sorbet and fresh strawberries).
It was a tough choice of deciding where to begin on this sweet delight. I started with the black forest gateau – dense, rich and with added flavour from the berry centre. The chocolate ganache was the bomb – smooth, silky and full of chocolate goodness – you could seriously eat bucket loads of this ganache. The vanilla panna cotta came in a pyramid bite size piece – it was creamy and yet another delicious component.
The Grain Store Soufflé was delightful – light, soft, melt in your mouth and filled with a strawberry flavour. A truly great dish! I wasn’t a huge fan of the goats cheese sorbet that was its accompaniment and felt soufflé on its own was all that was needed.

The night was a fantastic event to meet new people and exchange stories, compare notes – all in the name of food – and more! The Grain Store should be a place that should be added to your list of restaurants that you must try in Melbourne – be if for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All dishes that I have tried here are delicious and well worth the effort.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to dine at The Grain Store as a guest by Zilla & Brook, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Elegant and Inviting
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.grainstore.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.grainstore.com.au/
517 Flinders Lane
Tel No: 9972 6993

Opening Hours:
Breakfast & Lunch
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Dinner
Wednesday to Saturday: 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grainstore517
Instagram: GrainStore517
Twitter:@GrainStore517

Dig A Pony – Uniquely Delicious

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Dig A Pony Menu Dessert Menu    halal (1)** ONLY DUCK IS HALAL**

We (there were four of us) had just visited a friend in the Williamstown area and needed to find a place to have early dinner. After a bit of googling dinner places around the area, we stumbled on Dig A Pony. A quick phone call and we found out that they wouldn’t be open for another 30 minutes, but that would be about the time we would take to drive there.

We arrived about 15 minutes before their opening time however since they knew we were coming they saw us hovering around the outside and let us come in early – which was nice of them.

Dig A Pony was opened by owners Mike and Hannah Bacarella in 2009, to create a place that they would enjoy – a place that was welcoming and relaxed to enjoy good food, wine, music with great friends. The name Dig A Pony is inspired by the name of a classic song by The Beatles which was features on their final album “Let It Be” – and was known as a whimsical and eclectic song – which is the vibe that this restaurant and bar is going for.

From the outside Dig A Pony looks like your normal corner bluestone pub, but once you step inside you are greeted with wooden tables, creative lamps and lighting along with a variety of seating – from leather lounges to antique chairs as well as bar stools and armchairs – there is bound to be a seating arrangement that you enjoy. During daylight hours the natural light is let in through the many windows, however once night time hits the only lighting is from the light shades and few down lights around the venue – it can get a tad dark.

The menu initially was based around Mediterranean Tapas with authentic recipes hailing from Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and France – keeping firm the concept of food designed to be shared and enjoyed by all at the table. Enter in Mark Briggs (Vue de Monde, Sharing House) who added his touch of elegance and fine dining background to create an exciting menu that consists of delicious snacks, enticing small dishes as well some spectacular combinations for its larger plates. The concept of sharing, enjoying and having a bit of fun still remains.

The menu starts off with eight “Small Bites” – consisting of Oysters, Croquettes (Mac and Cheese) – how awesome do these sound! – just to name a few. Next on the menu are “Small Plates” (you can select from a selection of nine dishes – these include the likes of Mushroom Cannelloni (with Parmesan Mousse & Mushroom Ketchup), Moules Mariniere (Mussels in White Wine, Garlic & Cream), Chicken Kiev (with Crispy Kale & Broccoli), Tartare (Classic Beef with Egg Yolk Puree & ‘Chips’). There is only a selection of three “Larger Plates” to choose from – Duck, Goat or Wagyu Brisket. There are “Vegetables and Salads” to choose from as well as a “Charcuterie” section. If you find yourself not wanting to decide dishes on your own there are two Chef’s Selection Menu’s available – Five Plates ($45 per person) or Eight Plates ($55 per person).

Their drinks menu is quite extensive – consisting of wines, international and local boutique craft beers, spirits as well as a selection of intriguing cocktails. They also have unique combinations such as beer and whisky for those wanting a drink with a difference. In fact I think if you ask – you can mix just about any drink! I ordered a mocktail – which had flavours of Apple, Mint and Tang – a combination that quite refreshing on the palate.

There were two of us who had dietary requirements in the form of Dairy Free and Gluten Free and out waiter was very helpful in identifying which dishes could be consumed to suit. I also thought I would try my luck and ask if any of the meat or chicken was Halal – he found out that the Duck was – so of course we had to order it.

There were four of us at dinner so we decided to order a few dishes from each section.
We ordered three dishes from the Small Bites section. The first dish was the Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple – which came out looking as the menu read – in a cone shape sitting upright on a wire rack. Inside the cornetto cone was the mix of fresh ocean trout mixed with granny smith apple, capers and lime. I loved the mix of the crunchy cone together with the softness of the trout. The trout itself mixed with the apple was a brilliant combination – a hit of flavours for your tastebuds and a must try dish.

The next dish we received was the Cauliflower Popcorn with Roast Garlic Aioli – which comes served in a jar with the aioli placed on top. The cauliflower was crumbed and fried to create the popcorn effect and was seasoned well. The roast garlic aioli complimented the cauliflower well and tied the whole dish together. My only comment about the dish is to have the aioli in a separate little dish to make it easier for dipping purposes. The way it was with the aioli on top, when you got towards the middle or near the bottom of the jar you had run out of the aioli.

The last dish from the Small Bites section was the Buffalo Wings with Ranch Dressing. I didn’t try this dish; however I did try the Ranch Dressing which was absolutely divine – tangy with a kick of heat of it. Everyone around the table thoroughly enjoyed this dish as well and especially enjoyed the hint of chilli at the end.

From the Small Plates menu section we ordered the Confit Salmon with Clams and Savoy Cabbage and Scallops with Caramelized Cauliflower Puree & Sour Raisins.
The Confit Salmon usually comes with Pancetta, however we ordered this dish sans Panchetta. The dish was plated beautifully with flavours to match. The salmon had great texture and colouring and was cooked perfectly. The clams for me were the hero of this dish – delectable. Each of the elements brought a different flavour and depth to the dish – from the savoy cabbage laced in dressing to the pumpkin puree and finally the fried onions. A great tasting dish.
The Scallop dish was another good dish – the scallops were seared perfectly, the cauliflower puree worked brilliantly with the other elements on the dish and the raisins provided sweetness.

After these Small Plates we were onto our Large Plates of which we ordered two. First up was the Goat Hot Pot – Shoulder of Goat with Fennel and Rosemary. I loved the way this dish was presented – in a clay pot with a ring of scalloped potatoes on top. This was a clear favourite around the table – with the goat being melt-in-your-mouth, with the flavours being infused in the right proportions.
The next Large Plate dish was the Duck A L’Orange – Roasted Breast, Confit Leg & Brussel Sprouts. The duck was a bit on the tough side when you went into cut into it but the crispy skin on the outside was perfect. The velvety citrus sauce was rich yet subtle and really complemented the duck. This was my first experience of Duck A L’Orange and I must say I did quite enjoy it.

We also ordered the Quinoa with Pomegranate, Pistachio & Dates from the Vegetables and Salads section. The elements of tang from the pomegranate and sweetness of the dates, together with the nutty flavours worked well – you really cannot go wrong with this combination.

We were all really full from our meals but everyone needed a coffee for the drive home and so we looked at the dessert menu as well. There are five desserts to choose from and I was stuck in choosing between the Violet Crumble and the Parfait. In the end I went with the Parfait of Honey with Chocolate Mousse & Popcorn Granola. This was a really memorable and divine dessert. The chocolate mousse was rich, the parfait was creamy, the popcorn granola was caramelized and if you take each of these components together in one mouthful you will be heaven! If this dessert was this good – I can imagine just how good the other desserts would be!

Dig A Pony is the type of place that I wish I had stumbled upon a lot earlier as it serves up some great tasting food using simple ideas and a mix of interesting ingredients. The vibe is relaxed and casual – it’s a great place for a catch-up dinner with friends, as well as for a celebration. Staff are friendly and go out of their way to help in any way they can. If I was you I would definitely make a trip to Yarraville.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://digapony.com.au/wintermenu.htm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Casual and Welcoming. Great for any occasion.
Standout Dish: Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple
Service: Friendly, Knowledgeable and very helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://digapony.com.au/bookings.htm
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://digapony.com.au
58 Ballarat Road, Yarraville
Tel No: 9689 0110

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Friday to Sunday: 5:00pm – 12:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dig-A-Pony/199011662736
Instagram: Dig_A_Pony_
Twitter: @dig_a_pony_

Dig A Pony on Urbanspoon

SEZAR – Armenian Hit

panda 4 rating

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halal (1)*NOTE: The meats are all HALAL Certified. You might need to specify that you want the food cooked in a HALAL Manner.

Menu:
Menu at Sezar

It was N’s birthday and I wanted to take him to  somewhere different and to try out a cuisine we haven’t had before – what better way than to try out the newly opened Armenian restaurant Sezar – located right in the heart of Melbourne CBD.

Sezar comes from head chef and co-owner Garen Maskal (also head chef of The Black Toro) and his business partners Aret and Sasoon Arzadian – and is named after his grandmother. Franc Bakkes (ex Ezard) takes the reins in the kitchen and has helped create a menu that exudes a combination of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean.  Sezar is located in the Melbourne CBD in an alleyway that used to house the Canary Club and Saint Peter’s – there is a graffitied mural which a street art mural of Haik Nahapet and ties in with the mural inside the restaurant of Mount Ararat.

Sezar’s vibe is sophistication and elegance which is demonstrated by its dim lighting, black tables and wooden chair combination. As you entered you are greeted by the mural and the colourful follows the mural wall to the length of the restaurant. The kitchen is located at the end of the bar. There are tables which can seat from two to four people, as well as space at the bar with high stools to sit on.

We are seated at our table by the window and order drinks. Their drinks menu is quite extensive and there is a good selection of cocktails. I order a mocktail which they can come up with on the whim – you just have to specify what type of flavour you want – I wanted something sweet and sour.  The result was exactly what I wanted and was the perfect balance of both flavours.

The menu is split into four sections starting off with Bzdig (small dishes), then Medz (medium dishes), Kove (the side dishes) and ending with Anoush (Dessert). There are around 14 small dishes to choose from which consist of Oysters, Spanner Crab Falafel, Grain Salad, Chicken Wings and Lamb Kebabs. The medium dishes of which there are 6 to choose from – cover all your main meats as well as a veggie dish.  There are 4 side dishes and desserts to choose from as well. Desserts include a Nutella Pide for all you chocolate lovers. The other option if you can’t decide is to have the Djash Ger-Ouyt – which is the Dinner Party Banquet which includes Dessert for $65 per person. We decided to do the banquet and let the chef pick the dishes. They ask you what dietary requirements you have and tailor this to suit your needs.

The first dish that we received was the Hervey Bay Scallops with Cauliflower, Cumin and Zaatar. This dish came served on the scallop shell itself on a black plate. The scallop was perfectly grilled – tender and sweet, with a base of creamy cauliflower puree and topped with the cumin and zaatar which was a delicious accompaniment and a great way to start the menu.

Our next dish was the Boreg – Spinach, Feta Cheese and Aleppo Mayo. The Boreq came plated up with the Aleppo may in a separate sauce dish. I loved this dish – the outside of the Boreg was flakey, buttery and crispy which made a loud crunch as you bit into it. The filling was to die for – there was an abundance of spinach mixed together with the creaminess and saltyiness of the fetta – but the balance and mix was just right. The Aleppo mayo was also really fantastic! I loved the taste of the spice and tang together, and paired with the boreg – it was just simply heaven! Another must try dish.

Next up was the Cured Ocean Trout – Fennel, Sumac and Almond Cream. The dish was visually pleasing with the almond cream spread out at the base of the place and the brightly coloured cured trout placed in strips on top, and finished with the fennel and sumac. The trout is cured with salt, cardamom, cumin and black seasame and was soft and wholesome. The fennel and sumac added the crunch of texture and the strong flavour paired with the almond cream was a really good addition to the cured trout. It was yet again another great dish.

Our next course was the BBQ Shitake Mushroom on a skewer – with Haloumi and Grape Leaf Wraps. The skewers came with the glistening mushrooms between the salty haloumi and slices of red onion, served with grape leaves on the side. This dish was good but not as spectacular as the other dishes. The combination of the mushroom and haloumi wrapped in the grape leaf was a fun and interesting dish that was flavoured well.

The final of the small dishes was the Lamb Kebab – Baby Gem Lettuce, Sour Cherry Sauce. I really enjoyed this dish. We were told to wrap the kebab in the lettuce and dip into the cherry sauce. The lamb was spicy, moist and tender. I have never had my lamb with a cherry sauce before – but this combination I felt was perfectly suited to the lamb. The lettuce added an extra dimension of crunch.

We were getting quite full with all the small dishes, but had the main big sized dish up next. For this we were given the Braised Beef Cheek with Tomato, Pea and Steamed Rice. You could smell the aromas of the dish as it was placed on the table and there was a brightness and freshness to the dish – the accented green against the savoury brown. The beef was really well cooked and was literally melt in your mouth. The sauce was a nice addition although I thought it could have used with a little more flavour (salt) and spice.

To finish the meal we were given two desserts – Baklava with Crispy Filo, Walnut Ice Cream and Caramel as well as the Semolina Cake with Almond Crumble and Crème Fraiche. Both dishes were beautifully presented – the semolina against the black backdrop of the plate and the baklava against a white and pink backdrop of the plate.

The Baklava was a great modern take to what you would usually expect. The crispy and sweet filo pastry encompassed the quenelle of beautifully creamy walnut ice cream and was finished with the drizzle of sticky caramel and topped with walnuts and lilac flowers. The pastry was once again to die for and the combination of the ice cream, nuts and caramel made for a really great dish!

The Semolina Cake was a dense piece of almond flavoured cake which I found in some parts to be quite dry, placed with a dollop of crème fraice and finished with caramelised almond bits and colourful flowers. Having just come back from Turkey and eating their version of the semolina cake I guess I was expecting similar flavours to what I had there – but this was different. It still was a really good dish with all the right flavours and textures.

The banquet is a great way to experience not only a variety of dishes but a difference of flavours and textures. I think the mix of the small dishes covered a great range and the fact that we were given two desserts was an added bonus. Sezar is a great place for a relaxed yet classy dinner where the staff are helpful and friendly, as well has having a colourful and extensive drinks list. Lookout for cocktail bar that will be opened in the near future which is located just upstairs of Sezar.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to menu above or link here http://sezar.com.au/SezarMenu.pdf. There are small, medium, sides and desserts to choose from. You can also have a Dinner Party banquet (Djash Ger-Ouyt) for $65 pp which includes a couple of small dishes, a medium dish and desserts.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant, Classy and Relaxed. Great for date night or a special occasion
Standout Dish: Hervey Bay Scallops with Cauliflower, Cumin and Zaatar AND Lamb Kebab – Baby Gem Lettuce, Sour Cherry Sauce
Service: Fantastic, Friendly, Helpful and Attentive. Our waitress was informative and knew a lot about the dishes when asked.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://sezar.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://sezar.com.au/
6 Melbourne Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 9882

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Thursday and Friday: Noon till 5:00pm
Dinner
Monday to Saturday: 5:30pm to Late

Sezar on Urbanspoon

Rosa’s Kitchen – Sicilian Homely Treat

panda 3.5 rating

It was time for another one of our regular catch ups for A and I and this time our destination was Rosa’s Kitchen. As we were going to watch King Kong after dinner at the time of booking I told the restaurant that we needed to be out by a certain time which worked well with their sitting times.

Rosa’s Kitchen is located in Punch Lane – a wonderful side street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD – and is a venture by Rosa Mitchell (ex-Journal Canteen), David Mackintosh and Peter Bartholomew (Coda, Movida Group, Pei Modern). The venue itself is quite dark yet warm thanks to the soft glow of the lanterns, cosy and playful at the same time – this is evident with the mismatched and colourful chairs at the mix of timber and black plywood tables. There are polished concrete floors together with a whitewashed brick wall to match and there is a red glow through the whole venue.

What is strikingly different from any other place is that there is no menu given to you to decide what you want to eat – you have to look at the blackboard along the sides of the walls as well as above the bar/kitchen area and decide what you want there. Specials are spoken out to you by the friendly staff. The way the menu works is that it rotates fortnightly – all depending on the ingredients which come from Mitchell’s 140 acre farm near Yandoit – keeping with the fresh produce theme that Mitchell wants to achieve. The cuisine is Sicilian influenced in the form of homely and comforting dishes by Lucy David (ex-Coda, Pei Modern) and consists of four pastas and five mains generally, such as Orecchiette alla Trapanese which has a Sicilian-style pesto with almonds sauce or Meatballs with fresh tomato sugo. There is also a great drinks list which has been put together by sommelier Lazlo Evenhuis (ex-The Crimean), as well as snacks menu to go with the drinks.

We ordered the Calamari with potatoes and herbs for “entrée” but really this dish could have been a main on its own. There was a tangy taste combined with the soft and crunchy in parts potato which served as a wonderful combination. I ordered the Bugspasta which was cooked beautifully with the combination of oil, garlic and parsley and topped with toasted breadcrumbs which added texture, flavour and crunch. The Bugs were cooked perfectly and really complemented the other flavours of the dish. My friend A ordered the lamb special which she enjoyed but couldn’t finish due to the generous serving size. The lamb she said was soft, tender and full of flavour.

We were running out of time and were both quite full so decided to share the Canoli as I had heard that this was a must try. And I can see why. The Canoli had crispy pastry casing which was filled with whipped ricotta and combined with honey, sugar and lemon zest and finished with toasted and crushed pistachios on the outside.

The food at Rosa’s Kitchen is rustic and really does feel like you are in a Sicilian town eating food that has been created with a feeling of love and happiness. They don’t try to make the dishes overly complex – just simple home style cooking at its best. Try it out for yourselves.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – The food menu – http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/Rosas%20Kitchen%20Full%20Menu.pdf
The drinks menu – http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/Rosas%20Kitchen%20Drinks%20Menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Homely and Cosy
Standout Dish: Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, Parsley and Garlic
Service: Friendly and Accomadating
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/
22 Punch Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9662 2883

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00pm – 11:00pm

Rosa's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Jimmy Grants – Chill & Have a Souva

panda 4 rating


halal (1)ONLY THE CHICKEN IS HALAL

I visited Jimmy Grants during a day off during lunchtime as I had heard about their souvas. Jimmy Grants is the latest opening from the Made Establishment group – which also consist of Gazi, Mama Baba, St Katherine’s and HellenicRepublic and headed up by none other than Greek King George Calombaris. It is located in just off Smith Street in Fitzroy. There are more stores planned to open with one in CBD and one in Ormond. Another focus in the future is also to have a delivery service.

The name comes from the rhyming slang name for the Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern immigrants to Melbourne and pays homage to them in the naming of dishes. For example the Patris is named after the migrant ship that carried assisted migrants from Europe to Australia – and is souva which comprises of prawns, attiki honey, mayonnaise, cucumber, mint and coriander. Yum! Jimmy Grants has a very short and concise menu which consists of souvas, rotisserie meats, salads, sides and of course dessert.

The main focus here is on souvas (souvlakis) all of which are under $10. The souvas come in a warm and fluffy wholemeal pita which is stuffed with either free range chicken, lamb, prawns or falafel together with other additions that you would finding a souvlaki such as onions, parsley as well as delicious, crispy,crunchy chips! There are also the “Jimmy Dimmy” which is their take on the humble Dim Sim. I wanted to try this out but was too full after my souva so I definitely have to come back and try it out.

In addition to the souvas, there are also salads available such as the simple iceberg salad with oregano, lemond and oil, the Hellenic Slaw with honey and Balsamic as well as a Grain salad that has a combination of pulses, nuts and grains mixed with parsley and Greek Yoghurt.  You can also order either the free range chicken or the spit roasted lamb shoulder from the rotisserie together with pitas and a side (a kind of do-it-yourself souva if you will)  at $15 and you can also add a salad or extra pita breads for an extra $5 – the choice is up to you.

The menu of course has to finish with Desserts and these ranges from the Greek doughnuts with walnuts and honey (made by chef  Travis McCauley), to a Greek Yoghurt, honey and white chocolate “choc top” as well as their version of the Wagon Wheel (filled with strawberry marshmallow (all of which are made by Darren Purchese).

I ordered the chicken souva and it was quite tasty but slightly smaller in size than your standard kebab. I loved the addition of the chips for the extra crunch and the sauce used was delicious. Sometimes I found the chicken sizing to be too big to fit inside the kebab (but then again who would complain about that =p) The chicken is moist and tender at the same time and is flavoured perfectly.

For dessert I ordered the Wagon wheel which was chocolate filled with a strawberry marshmallow gooey centre. It was decently sized as well and I couldn’t eat all of it in one go – but it was certainly just as delicious as biting into it the first time.

The space in which Jimmy Grants was created was designed by Techne Architects and features low table seating in the front room, followed by high bar stools and high communal table in the back room. The historical and cultural references can be seen in the décor with splashes of the Greek blue against the white washed brick walls. There are also feature walls done by Dan Wenn which show a DC-3 aircraft as well as The Patris (the tall ship with silhouettes of friends and family waiting for their loved ones in the foreground).

Jimmy Grants is a licensed bar, diner and takeaway all in one where the staff are warm, welcoming, friendly and funny! Jimmy Grants delivers quick, easy and tasty Greek food that doesn’t cost much at all. It’s a no fuss souvlaki bar which is soon to open up in other locations and I cannot wait for a branch closer to me.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://jimmygrants.com.au/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Friendly, Welcoming and A piece of Greek in Fitzroy
Standout Dish: Any of the Souva’s
Service: Fantastic and Attentive. The wait staff are super funny as well!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://jimmygrants.com.au/
113 Saint David Street, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – 10pm

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

Brutale – Homely Croatian Food

panda 4 rating

It was time for another catchup dinner with A and I selected Brutale as both of us had never eaten Croatian food before. Brutale is located in a laneway in the heart of Melbourne CBD in Corrs Lane – and is under Berlin Bar (where the old Eurotrash nightclub was). It is the latest restaurant from chef Daniel Dobra (ex-The Aylesbury and St Ali), and he gets to share and promote his Croatian heritage by showcasing delicious Croatian food which he grew up with.

Dobra is all about family and Brutale is his way of sharing a piece of his family with us. The restaurant could almost be mistook for his very own family living area – aside from the disco ball bomb, soldier helmet lightshades, not to mention the full pig’s carcass hanging behind the glass at the entrance as well as the interesting artwork (such as huge pictures of broads with the faces of pigs) around the room and a DJ playing records in the background.

The menu consists of appetisers, larger dishes and finishes with desserts and consists of genuine family recipes handed down to him by his father and grandmother. Dishes like his Dad’s oxtail goulash are an example, where it is cooked in the restaurant just as his dad would at home. There are also dishes such as Grandma’s Greens – which is a simple stew of vegies that his grandmother cooked with every meal- and Father’s Chips which pays homage to his family. The Cabbage Rolls and Croatian Donuts are also a recipe passed down from his grandmother. Additionally you can select the ‘Dobra Family Banquet’ and be one of the family for the night. Most of the dishes are cooked in the tailor made kitchen and are cooked over wood and coals to give it a truly authentic flavour. There are other Croatian homestyle techniques such as spit-roasting, pickling and cooking in the peka – a roasting dish with a domed lid.

For drinks there is a selection of unusual Croatian wines, including some grape varieties that aren’t grown anywhere else. The most famous is the Rakija – a spirit distilled from plum and other fruits. This variety continues with their non-alcoholic drinks with drinks such as Cokta – which is described as the Croatian version of Coca Cola. I ordered this and despite not being a huge fan of Coca Cola – this drink was refreshing and addictive (and has the added bonus of having vitamins added too!). A ordered the *orange* drink and said it was an interesting flavour.

We were told by the waiter that most of the dishes were designed to share so that is what A and I decided to do. We weren’t sure if we had ordered too little or too many dishes, so the waiter helped us out with that as well.

We ordered the Pierogi – Polish Dumplings, Soured Cream – which was stuffed with wild mushrooms. This was a really great dish and the sour cream really complemented the dish. The dumpling casing was cooked perfectly and tasted just as good. Another dish that we ordered was the Grilled Calamari with Garlic, Parsley and Olive Oil . This was yet another stand out dish – the calamari was charred perfectly and the combination of the garlic, parsley and olive oil added moistness, flavour and tang. The serving was quite a huge size as well.

The Father’s Chips with Salt, Pepper and Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was really great as well, although I found that it had a bit too much salt. The Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was definitely a hit – I could eat this by the spoonful! It was smooth and creamy with a hint of spice and I think you can use it as an addition to any dish really.

We also ordered the Shopska Salad which was very colourful dish and contained Tomato, Cucumber, Pickled Onion, Paprika, White Cheese. The dish was tangy and salty all at the same time and was quite a refreshing dish that I quite enjoyed. The serving size is very generous and we couldn’t finish this dish in its entirety.

The last dish we had was an eggplant dish that had red onions with paprika and coriander on top of it. Usually I am not a fan of eggplant dishes but this was really great. The eggplant was soft and easy to eat and the flavoring complemented the eggplant.

At this point we were really quite full, but decided to share a dessert as well. I sure do love my sweets! We went with the Croatian Doughnuts – Flavoured with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Raisin, Vanilla and Served with Walnut Rakija Cream. Seriously these are the best donuts I have ever tasted. They were served warm and cinnamon, nutmeg, raisin combination was fantastic. This is definitely a dessert you have to try and after all it is Dobra’s Grandmothers recipe.

What is also quite different about Brutale is that there is no bell to let the floor staff knows that a food dish is ready, they just clap their hands and the staff know to go and pick up the food. I really like that idea. The service was great – friendly and helpful but sometimes it was quite hard to get the attention of the waiter if we needed to order something or ask something. And one more downside is that if you want bread you need to order it off the menu, it isn’t served otherwise. Overall Brutale serves delicious Croatian food that is both authentic, simple and delicious in an atmosphere that makes you feel at home.

PS The dish that is highly sought after and talked about is the free-range organic pig – hand-reared on a farm in Bendigo – which is spit roasted for five hours then served with crackling and  jugs of apple purée and roasting juices. I of course couldn’t eat this dish, but is a must try for most people that have been to Brutale.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.brutale.com.au/#!food/c1rcm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Inviting and Homely. There are also interesting pieces of artwork and objects that will keep you amused through dinner
Standout Dish:  Pierogi  and Croatian Donuts
Service: Frienldy and Helpful, but most times it was hard to get the attention of the wait staff.
Online Booking: Yes via http://www.brutale.com.au/#!bookings/chva
Restaurant Details and Location:
brutale.com.au
18 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 4411

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 6pm–1am

Brutale on Urbanspoon

Gorksi and Jones – Melbourne Style, Simple Tasty Food

panda-3-5-rating2

For my birthday dinner with my group of friends I picked Gorski & Jones. This great restaurant is located in Smith Street in Collingwood and is brought to you by Paul and Linda Jones – who also head up Brunswick Street’s popular Alimnetari together with Meaghan Gorski (ex-Jacques Reymond, St Peter’s) and voila you get the name Gorski & Jones. It was Gorski herself who drew up the initial sketches to overhaul what used to be The Last Record Store (which had been here for the last 18 years) and gave the ideas over to artist David Murray.

The result is a welcoming and warm room despite its high wooden ceilings – it is complete with bare brick walls, industrial lightshades which create mood lighting, plant boxes, an open kitchen with white tiles and the highlight of the kitchen – the wood-fire oven. The other main highlight of the room is the long marble bar with dark wooden pannelling. Atop of the bar is ever changing daily selection of antipasti which is displayed in a glass cabinet.You can walk through the main room through to the well constructed outside inside courtyard, so it’s a great place for all types of weather. The courtyard is long, homely and warm complete with its wooden floors and over-sized lights.

The wait staff are just as warm as the venue is and are super-friendly and happy to help in any way. They knew it was a birthday dinner and offered the table a free glass of wine for everyone which I thought was a nice touch. The menu is split into 5 different sections – antipasto, entree, main, sides and desserts. We are all quite hungry so it doesn’t take too long to decide on what we want. There were some specials that were available as well – with the highlight amongst the table being the crackling pork. The fish of the day was a Snapper cooked whole. I was deciding between the fish of the day, the risotto and the gnocchi pasta. I decided to go with the gnocchi in the end.

Whilst our food arrived we were given warm house made bread together with ricotta which was placed along with the olive oil. Something so simple yet tasted so good and everyone around the table enjoyed this addition of ricotta. Gorski and Jones was already off to a great start in terms of food.

For starters we got a serving of the Zucchini Flowers – Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Mozzarella and Peperonata. The Zucchini Flowers come in a tempura style covering and are stuffed with delicious creamy ricotta which comes atop of the peperonata. The dish is fresh and flavoursome and one of the better zucchini flowers I have tasted.

There was a variety of different dishes around the table for mains. This ranged from lamb to chicken livers! There was Chicken Cacciatore, Pancetta, Kiplers, Olives as well as Pappardelle, Guanciale, Chicken Livers, Caramelised Onions & Radicchio. N had the pasta with chicken livers and thought it was quite a tasty dish, however couldn’t finish the entire dish as it was quite filling. S had the Roasted Lamb Rump with White Beans, Rosemary and Olive Tapenade – which was quite a generous serving and the white beans complimented the perfectly cooked lamb. M had the Saffron Risotto with Scallops, Peas, Dill and Lemon – of which I got to taste a portion of. The risotto was cooked well and had all the seafoody flavours from the scallops – the only feedback that both M and I would have was that there could have been more scallops added. L had the Fish of the Day which was the Snapper on this night ( I got to try a bit of this dish as well) – the snapper came with the bones attached and was flavoured with a lemon sauce with capers. The dish that I got for my main was the Ricotta Gnocchi, Broccolini, Pangratata. The gnocchi was quite tasty and perfectly sized – some pieces were tougher than others. I enjoyed the combination of the Broccolini and Pangratata (which is breadcrumbs), together with the tangyness of the tomato. The portion sizing might look small – but it definitely fills you right up. L&P both ordered the special of the Crackling Pig Pie with Potatoes and both loved the dish! If you have a look at the pictures of these dishes – the serving sizes were massive! It was safe to say that everyone around the table were quite satisfyingly full after each of their mans. The food was homely and delicious thanks to the fresh produce and the interesting combination of flavours.

Some of us around the table decided to get dessert dishes and share them – we got the Squacquerone Panna cotta, Spiced Pear and the Hot Chocolate Pudding, Chestnut Ice Cream. We all wondered what squacquerone was – turns out it is a type of cheese – quite mild in taste and reminds me of a tangy version of mascarpone. I have never had a cheesy flavoured panna cotta before so was intrigued to see what it tasted like. This panna cotta was different to any other panna cotta I have tasted before – it had sour tang flavour to it that blended well with the vanilla bean taste of the panna cotta – put together with the spiced pear it worked effortlessly. This flavour combination is something that I am quite sure most people would never have tried – but definitely try this dish when you come to Gorski and Jones. The Hot Chocolate Pudding was another great dessert dish – warm and with a gooey chocolatey centre paired with the chestnut ice cream. A must for chocolate lovers.

Gorski and Jones is a great venue for any occasion – be it a casual or more formal affair. It presents affordable dining in typical Melbourne surrounds that is warm and refreshing. The menu has an Italian influence with modern touches and is all round delicious. Next time you are in the area – come into Gorski and Jones – you really wont regret it!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.gorskiandjones.com/ for Breakfast (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/breakfast.pdf), Lunch (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/lunch.pdf), Dinner (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/dinner.pdf), Drinks (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/drinks.pdf), Wines (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/winelist.pdf) and Dessert (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/dessert.pdf) menus
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Fun and Casual. Great place to just chill out and enjoy some great food amongst friends.
Standout Dish: Squacquerone Pannacota, Spiced Pear
Service: Friendly, Warm and Receptive.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://gorskiandjones.com/wordpress/
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.gorskiandjones.com
304 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9417 7779

Opening Hours
Mondays Closed
Tuesday: 5pm to 11pm
Wednesday to Sunday: 8am to 11pm

Gorski & Jones on Urbanspoon

Mister Bianco – Sicilian Great

panda-4-rating1

It was a combined dinner for myself and V and the place that we decided on was Mister Bianco. Mister Bianco, which is named after a municipality in Sicily, is located on High Street in Kew and is amongst other restaurants such as Estivo and St Katherine’s in that strip. This great Sicilian restaurant is a stylish and romantic restaurant brought to you by Joseph Vargetto (Mezzo Bar & Grill) and serves food and flavours from Southern Italy.

When you walk into Mister Bianco there is warm and welcoming feel to it – there is soft lighting and classy touches. There are two adjoining dining rooms – one at the front-  where the wooden bar is housed with tables surrounding it – as well and one further behind which houses more tables. There is also extra space upstairs which includes a private dining room. It really is like a typical Italian Bistro Style restaurant, which further adds to the comfort and feel. The tables are decked out in crisp white linen, topped with monogrammed wine glasses and completed with a variety of salts and olive oil for the bread to come. There is abstract art work in bright tones that stick out on the white walled background, which is further emphasized from the soft glow of lighting.

The menu comes from Vargetto’s extensive experience coupled with his traditional Sicilian roots and brings it together to form a modern take on Sicilian food – flavours, ingredients and cooking methods. The menu is divided into different sections –  stuzzichini (little starters), entrees and mains and a separate heading for shucked shells, steaks as well as pasta and risotto, and finally sides. On the main menu there is also a box which is titled – “Save some room for dessert” which I think is quite a good idea. I mean who doesn’t have room for dessert?

There was 6 of us at dinner so we decided to share a combination of stuzzichini and entrees and then get a main meal each. Yes, we were all really hungry on this day! First we recieved the Our Meatballs ‘Messinese’, Cous Cous + Tomato Sugo. The others really enjoyed these meatballs which also had a hint of chilli and paprika which enhanced the tomato and meat flavours. The Cous Cous comes with pine nuts, sultanas and saffron and was cooked perfectly and was the great addition to the meatballs.

We also ordered the Arancini of Blue Swimmer Crab + Stinging Nettle with Romesco Sauce. The Arancini was perfectly crumbed and was crunchy and tasty with a soft gooey centre of crab. The Romesco Sauce was a strong flavour but with the addition of the lemon gave a great tang and lessened the flavour. A tasty dish all in all.

Next up was the Burrata Mozzarella (money bag style), Roasted and Raw Heirloom Beetroots, Candied Walnuts, Grissini and Balsamic Reduction. I was intrigued by this dish as the Mozzarella on the menu stated that it was money bag style and indeed when it came out it did resemble a money bag and was the centre piece of the dish. It was surrounded with the other ingredients, with the Grissini topping the dish off in criss cross style. The combination of the mozzarella, beetroot with its sweet taste coupled with the tang of balsamic reduction and the walnuts was delicious. It was a really interesting dish and a great light entree.

The last share dish we had was the Tuna Carpaccio ‘Alla Zingara’, Avocado Puree + Cucumber, Fennel Bread. This was a spectacularly presented dish – the tuna is seared on the outside and comes in the form of three mini hamburgers. There are three tuna pieces which make up the hamburger and are sandwiched between tomato, cucumber and avocado. The tuna “burgers” are topped with sesame seeds just like a real burger would be. Its little details like this that make a difference. Surrounding the “burgers” are shaved bottarga, pistachios, fried capers and greens, together with fennel bread. This is really a fantastic dish and a must try!

For mains there was a variety of dishes chosen but the clear favourite was the Hand Cut Cavalo Nero flavoured Tagliatelle, Poached Spanner Crab and Grilled Scampi, Chilli, Garlic with three of us selecting this dish. And this dish certainly didn’t disappoint – the pasta (all hand made) was fresh, tasty and green as it was flavoured with cavalo nero. The flavours were rich and full of flavour and just yum – my one comment would be that there wasn’t much poached spanner crab in the dish and there was heaps of oil around the dish. I love how the dish was topped with grilled scampi and it certainly was the highlight of the dish – it was once again cooked perfectly and flavoured nicely.

Another dish around the table was the Potato Gnocchi with Slow Braised Organic Chicken, Farmed Rabbit, Corn Ragu and Crispy Parsnips – the pasta once again was soft and fresh and literally melted in your mouth. What caught V to pick this dish was the corn ragu – it was an interesting concept to the dish. She enjoyed the dish and as gnocchi dishes usually are was quite a heavy dish – the addition of both the chicken and the rabbit intensified this. C ordered the Slow Braised Organic Beef Cheek in Red Wine, Creamed Spatzle and Pickled Raddichio – which was another impressive dish. The Beef Cheek was glossy and cooked so the point where it literally fell off the “bone” and coupled with the creamed spatzle and tanginess of the raddichio was delicious. H ordered the Slow Cooked Otway Ranges Pork Belly with Peppers, Capers + Raisins, Sauce ‘Agrodolce’ – which he enjoyed quite a lot as well.

Next up was dessert – and since there was 6 of us we decided to order 4 different desserts and share them all. This way we got to sample and try a variety of what they had to offer. Desserts are done by pastry chef Maria Lantelme. The first of the four desserts was the Sicilian Style Donuts with Chocolate Gelato + Strawberry Jam. This has to be one of my favourite dishes as of late – the most interesting part of the dish was that it came with a syringe of jam which you use to inject the jam into the donuts yourself. I love this concept – its a bit different and allows you to interact with the food in a different sense, rather than just putting it in your mouth and eating it. The donuts itself were warm, delicious and had the right amount of sweetness topped with icing sugar. My only qualm would be that more jam was needed – perhaps two jam-filled syringes? =p The next dessert we tried was the Our Pineapple “Sundae” – Pineapple Carpaccio, Prosecco Jelly, Roasted and Glazed Pineapple, Pineapple Sorbet – it was all about the Pineapple. It came out in a martini glass that was covered with pineapple pieces on the outer edge and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The different ways that the pineapple had been encapsulated was interesting and it was quite a sweet tasting dessert. The other two desserts were the Strawberries + Cream Soufflé, White Chocolate Chips + Strawberry Sorbet + Raspberry Crisps and the dessert special of Orange Almond Sponge Cake with Creme Fraiche. Both of these desserts were exceptionally tasty as well. The souffle was warm and gooey and the sorbet oozed with the tangy and sweet strawberry flavour. The Orange Almond sponge cake was moist and full of the orange flavour, with the creme fraiche helping to smooth out the strong orange flavour.

Overall, the staff are friendly and always helpful – just a pity on the night it seemed quite hard to get their attention when we wanted to order a drink or something off the menu. The place is soothing, calming and generally all round cozy and serves up great Sicilian food with a modern twist.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Main Menu – http://www.misterbianco.com.au/images/PDF/mister_bianco_menu.pdf. Dessert Menu – http://www.misterbianco.com.au/images/PDF/mister_bianco_desserts_drinks_menu.pdf
The generic link for the menu can be found at http://www.misterbianco.com.au/index.php/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable, Cosy, Romantic – great for date night or celebrating that special occasion.
Standout Dish: Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
Service: Friendly, Welcoming and Knowledgeable. Just a note on the night that we went – there were about 3 waitresses – but it just seemed hard to get anyone’s attention at times if we did need something – but having said that they were really great in ensuring that our glasses were always topped up.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.misterbianco.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.misterbianco.com.au/
285 High Street, Kew
Tel No:  9853 6929

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Wednesday – Friday: From 12:00pm
Dinner
Monday – Saturday:  From 6:00pm

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