Halal Snack Pack – HSPs – Learn what the Fuss is all about!

HSP Goodness!

HSP

Halal Snack Pack or HSPs as they are affectionately known as are the latest food craze to trend in the foodie world – this has further been promoted thanks to the federal elections where NSW Labor senator Sam Dastyari offered to meet Pauline Hanson and get her to try this delicious dish; much to her offense and disgust (?!).

So what exactly is a HSP?
It is a dish containing meat – typically beef, chicken or lamb – together with chips and one or more sauces – especially Chilli, Garlic and Barbeque. It traditionally comes served in a styrofoam container. Some kebab stores refer to it as a Snack Box or Mixed Plate.

HSP!

This infamous dish has contributed to the flourishing success of many kebab stores around the country. There is also the creation of the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society (HSPAS) on Facebook which began in December 2015 by a couple of good mates- with the group having over  159K members! It started off in a small scale with a few thousand people sharing their favourite styrofoam encased meals and engulfed into what it is today being an international phenomenon.
The main aim of this group is to identify some of the best HSPs around the country and eventually identify the World’s BEST HSP!The group also raises funds to support the Australian Relief Organisation, an organization that assists underprivileged people to attain cataract surgery and assists orphanages with matters regarding water supplies.

A typical post on the page involves a picture of a recently-purchased halal snack pack, along with an informal review that scores the dish on various criteria; including meat, chips and sauce quality, clarity of halal signage, packaging, price and greeting.

Below is the marking scheme taken from the page.
1. The greeting: Anything Less than good day brother or sister is Haram.
2. The Sign: There needs to be some sort of Halal sign visible, or, you guessed it, Haram!
3. The chips: You nailed this, they need to be a good Ratio to the meat and chips
4. Cheese: Cheese would be a layer on the chips and then a layer on the meat with sauce on top. You may get roasted you for this…
5. The meat: Mixed meat is a winner with the crowd, marking it on quantity/ratio and juiciness.
6. Now… The Sauce: Anything less than the HOLY TRINITY  – GARLIC, CHILLI, BBQ – may get a good roasting from the crowd. BBQ is second selection but you have to have the KEY garlic in there
7. Packaging: anything less than styrofoam container is haram and marked 0/10

As you can see HSPs are serious business! By the way to get you down with the lingo here are some of the terms explained:

  • Expressing approval of a snack pack can be described by using the term “Halal”
  • Expressing disapproval of a snack pack can be described by using the term “Haram”
  • A member/customer who requests tomato sauce, salad, rice or anything that is not meant to be part of the HSP – with their snack pack is referred to as a “Haram Dingo”

There are many claims to having created this exceptional dish including the Kapsalon – which is a Dutch food item consisting of fries, topped with shawarma meat, grilled with a layer of Gouda cheese until melted and then covered with a layer of dressed salad greens. The dish is often served with garlic sauce and sambal. The key difference here is the use of salad. This dish was conceived in 2003 by Nathaniël Gomes, a Cape Verdian hairdresser in Rotterdam; who in collaboration with the neighboring shawarma store “El Aviva” combined all his favorite ingredients into one dish.

Another similar dish is the AB from Adelaide who claims to have invented this dish between 1969 and  1989. An AB is prepared using gyro meat, chips, tomato sauce, chilli sauce, barbeque sauce and garlic sauce. Two restaurants in Adelaide have claimed to have invented the dish – The North Adelaide Burger Bar and the Blue & White ; with the key difference here being the addition of tomato sauce (haram!)

There has even been the creation of the world’s biggest snack pack which was covered by Sunrise – you can check out the video here – https://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/video/watch/31864783/the-worlds-biggest-halal-snack-pack/#page1

I myself was quite late to jump on the HSP bandwagon as well – but ever since trying this calorie, carb-filled dish I must admit I am in love (as is my husband!) We have a kebab store just down the road from us where we get our HSPs (although they call is a Snack Pack – so that’s haram already!) which is simply delicious and is shown in the pictures above.

Since I am quite “new” to the world of HSPs – I am not too sure about where the BEST HSP is in Melbourne – however there is a website – http://getmehsp.com.au/- which helps you locate where you can get a HSP from. Of course there is the HSPAS which has been created for this very reason to find that perfect 10/10 HSP. If you have any recommendations please comment below and I will add them to the list.

Happy HSPing!!

Here are some of the special mentions of Kebab stores around Australia that you could check out (in no particular order):

Melbourne
Melbourne Kebab Station, Coburg
Clayton Kebab House, Clayton
Little Bad Wolf, Noble Park
Yozzy Kebab and Carwash, Doveton
Hot Kebabs, Doncaster East

Sydney

King Kebab House, Campbelltown
Oz Turks Jnr, Redfern
Metro One Kebab, Ashfield

Western Australia
Perth Kebab Station, Subiaco

Queensland
Kebab Shack & Takeaway, Caboolture

 

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

Cupp – Melbourne’s First Superfood Cafe

panda 4 rating

 

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Blended Smoothie Menu:
Cupp Menu Cupp Menu Cupp Menu

These days the main topics of conversations that you hear a lot of are centred on exercise and eating healthy which includes smoothies and of course; products such as the Nutribullet, the Ninja, the Magic Bullet and any other intriguing fast paced named machines.
Talking about what ingredients you put in your healthy smoothie each morning as well as learning about what specific fruits and vegetables combine to create the perfect flavour combination is all the rage. Welcome Melbourne’s first Superfood café Cupp – located in the heart of the CBD in the unique Manchester Unity Building Arcade (right near the corner of Collins and Swanston Streets).

Cupp was created by owner Victoria Pajouhesh and specialises in blending natural superfoods and raw ingredients all whilst retaining 100% of the nutrients and creating a delicious and wholesome smoothie.
Blending is seen as the healthiest method out there, even when compared to pressed juices which are known to lose a significant amount of natural goodness from the ingredients during the juicing process.

There is a very personal story behind the creation of Cupp – which begins when Victoria’s mother was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at the tender age of 43. Finding out that the benefits from juicing could be useful in fighting this disease, Victoria helped her mother in trying an intensive course of juicing by making her a variety of juices a few times a day. She was dismayed at the amount of waste that was produced by this process as well learning that juicing strips the natural fibres of the fruits and vegetables leaving the sugar content to be very high.
A few year after her mother passed away, Victoria discovered that she had inherited the BRAC1 gene and had an 85% change of having Ovarian Cancer and a 65% chance of Breast Cancer. It was knowing this that pushed her into wanting to start the juicing process early and fortunately for Victoria she happened to see a demonstration on blending fruits and vegetables together – using the entire piece and not having to get rid of the pulp. From this day on she would only have blended smoothies and it was her mission to pack as many superfoods and vegetables as she could together all whilst making them taste delicious. She also found herself feeling fuller for longer and not wanting to snack as much. It was this drive, passion and her husband’s need for wanting a healthy smoothie in the area that led to Cupp being created.

Cupp blends are made from whole pieces of fruit and vegetables blended with natural yoghurt, coconut water and a choice of milk, plus superfoods like chia seed, linseed, oats or whole grains. They are created together with specialised nutritionalists to ensure that their smoothies and meals are nutritious, delicious, low in sugar and can be adequate meal replacements.
The Cupps are made fresh daily and presented on shelves in store pre-blended, to show off their raw ingredients in layer form. Customers can then select the right Cupp for them based on the step-by-step blend guide in store (or by asking the friendly Cupp staff about each of the blends and their benefits).
Cupp also has a large variety of salads, wraps and soups in store as well as on-to-go snacks like raw veggies, chia seed puddings, organic slices, protein energy bites and fro-yo.

The Cupp store itself is small yet roomy – with limited bench seating located in store with more tabled seating directly outside the store. As you walk in you are greeted by the friendly staff behind the counter. To the right is an open display which showcases all of Cupp’s products from Salads, Puddings, Yoghurts and of course their range of blended smoothies. Cupp has recently developed a Kosher range to cater for the growing need and interest – showing their ability to adapt to their varying customer base. Another positive about Cupp is that everything is packaged separately – for example you can buy a boiled egg on its own, a combination of vegetables on its own, tuna on its own – which allows you as the customer to create your own lunch combination. The labels let you know what ingredients have been put into each dish as well letting you know what dietary requirements it covers which makes it a lot easier for customers.
To order a blended smoothie you simply pick your Cupp, take it the counter, select your liquid that you want added to the Cupp, the friendly staff will then blend it for you and voila you are ready to enjoy your Superfood – Superfast!

Cupp works together with many gyms and fitness venues in and around the Melbourne CBD and often creates fun events to showcase their vision and products. Cupp caters for a wide range of customers especially office workers as they can quickly create a blended smoothie as well as having a healthy lunch all ready and prepared for their customers to have on the go.

I was lucky enough to be invited down to Cupp and speak to the owner – Victoria – as well as trying out their blended smoothies. Victoria is friendly as well as being both passionate and determined about getting the word out that healthy eating can be both fun and delicious and there shouldn’t be any bad stigma attached to it. She loves the idea that she can get her kids (and I’m sure any other children for that matter) to eat vegetables like spinac, kale when mixing it together with other natural ingredients and they have no idea that they are eating them! It just tastes that good!

The Blended Smoothie Menu is great – it lists out each of the ingredients that are in the smoothie as well as outlining the benefits of each of the ingredients – which allows you to pick a smoothie to really target any areas that you feel are lacking. After looking at the menu for a good while (there were so many that I wanted to try) I finally settled on the Warm Me Blended Smoothie – Banana, Coconut Oil, Tumeric, Cinnamon, Ginger, Avocado, Mango and Almond Milk. I have never seen the use of Tumeric in smoothies before, so really wanted to see how it worked with the other ingredients. As the name states – the turmeric really does provide that “warming” feeling and is complemented by the other ingredients, all whilst not being too strong. I really enjoyed the blended smoothie – the sweetness from the mango coupled with the avocado and cinnamon were divine!

I also got to sample some of the Cupp’s other products such as the Superfood Cupp Corn and Beetroot Chips.
The Superfood Cupp Corn was out of this world AMAZING! Made up of Popcorn, Butter, Vanilla Essence, Chia Seeds, Cashews, Almonds, Pistachios, Coconut and finished with a Rice Malt Syrup – it was delicious. I loved the different textures that you got when you took a pinchful to put into your mouth. It was so addictive that you couldn’t help but finish the whole cup in a record time! If you love popcorn and always feel guilty eating the unhealthy version – you should definitely try Cupp’s version.
The Beetroot Chips sounded interesting from the get go. Made simply using Beetroot, Thyme, Lemon Zest and Salt and baked in the oven. They tasted pretty good but I found that some of the chips were blackened a bit too much and therefore gave a “burnt” taste to it.

Cupp is a great addition to the city and serves a range of blended smoothies and healthy meals which caters for a large variety of customers. They are looking to expand this customer base further by looking into creating meal plans that customers can tailor to suit them, as well as opening more stores. They love to support local business such as counsellors, beauty stores and gyms as well as sourcing local and organic ingredients. If you want smoothies with a difference, delicious and healthy snacks to keep you going through your work or uni day or even for a great tasting meal – then Cupp is the place for you. Also keep a look out on their Youtube Channel ( https://www.youtube.com/user/cuppaustralia) for fun workout videos, recipes and more!

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

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A great range of blended smoothies, salads, water, yoghurts, puddings and desserts – Refer to http://cupp.com.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable and Relaxed
Standout Dish:Superfood Cupp Corn
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, Warm and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://cupp.com.au/
Manchester Unity Building Arcade
220 Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 5494

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 4:00pm
Closed Weekends

Cupp on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cuppaustralia
Twitter: @CuppAustralia
Instagram: cuppaustralia
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/cuppaustralia

 

Pad Thai Restaurant – There’s More to Pad Thai

panda 4 rating Green Curry Fried RiceGreen Curry Friend Rice

Close up of Green Curry Fried Rice

Menu:
Pad Thai Menu Pad Thai Menu

I am a huge fan of Thai food – from the spiciness to the distinct Thai flavours – with Pad Thai being one of my all time favourite dishes. When I discovered that there was a restaurant conveniently located in the Melbourne CBD called Pad Thai Restaurant I simply had to try it out.

Pad Thai Restaurant was name simply because most Australians are familiar with the popular Thai dish as well wanting to showcase variations to the traditional Pad Thai that people are used to. Instead of focussing on a large range of dishes, their main focus is on to deliver other popular Thai dishes and do them really well, all whilst bringing you the real authentic taste of Thai food.

There are three different types of Pad Thai to choose from – Sen Jan (Rice Stick Noodle), Kiew Krob (Fried Wonton) and Voon Sen (Glass Noodle). The rest of the menu compromises of other noodle dishes, Thai Noodle Soup, Rice and Fried Rice, Curries, Small Bites and a Large Variety of Salads as well as Thai’s All Time Favourites – which include Suki Dry/Wet, Pla Too Nam Prik Krapi and Khao Pad Nahm.
The menu has pictures which show some of the dishes that you can order, along with a chilli indicator to notify patrons of how hot a dish is.

I wanted to order something other than a Pad Thai and therefore ordered the Green Curry Fried Rice – Fried Rice with Green Curry Paste, Green Beans and Sweet Basil Leaves – Extra Spicy. The serving sizes are quite generous and I struggled to finish my one serve. The dish was visually pleasing and had the perfect amount of vegetables to rice combination. The flavour was just what I was expecting – the green curry paste laced through the rice with the vegetables cooked just how I liked it and the basil leaves finishing off the Thai flavours.

A perfect lunch venue in my opinion – great service and the food is brought out in a quick timeframe for those who want a quick lunch break. The place itself is located in the food court area and has many different seating options available, both inside the venue and just outside.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Laid back and Relaxed
Service: Friendly and Quick
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://padthairestaurant.com.au/
246 Bourke St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 6868

Opening Hours:

Monday to Friday: 11:00 am – 7:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am – 6.30pm
Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm

Pad Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pad-Thai-Restaurant-Melbourne/372153372522
Instagram: padthaieatery

Shizuku – Ramen & Ramen Burger Extravaganza!

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Page 1 Menu  Page 2 Menu  Page 3 Menu
Shizuku is located at the Abbotsford end of Victoria Street, and is a recently opened Japanese restaurant, nestled amongst a street that is known for its Vietnamese cuisine. Their main focus is on Ramen – which sits up there as one of my favourite foods – and I cannot wait to try out their offerings.

L & I arrived on a weekday night and were greeted by large heavy wooden doors – as you step inside you are greeted with a simple yet snazzy set up. There are lanterns hanging from the ceiling that remind you of flower blossoms that provide lighting for the whole restaurant. Your eyes are also drawn to the colourful bar counter which houses their variety of drink offerings as well as a tree branch that has been decked out with hanging clear baubles – I love this display, adds a touch of vintage chic to this otherwise modern looking venue. The tables are black and wooden; with seating able to cater mostly two’s and fours, however you have the option to join tables together for larger groups.

David Chen is the owner of Shizuku who was inspired to open his own Japanese restaurant after working as an assistant manager at Shoya Japanese Restaurant. Together with partner, Shinako Suzuki, his dreams were made into reality, with doors opening for Shizuku in July 2013.

We are shown to our table and handed a book of a menu – there is so much variety to choose from! Another touch I like are the water bottles at the table, which are re-used colourful alcohol bottles that have been finished – adding a pop of colour to the otherwise black surroundings.

The menu begins with ‘Zensai to Share’ which are Entrees – there is a HUGE (an I am not exaggerating when I bold and capitilise this) selection – think double columns of an A4 page! Reading down the list you will find yourself saying ‘yep I want to try this and I want to try that’ for every dish. Some Zensai include Lobster or Pork Sliders, Uni Sake Shots, Octopus Sashimi, Unagi Salad, Croquettes (Vegetarian or Crab Meat), Octopus Balls, Salt & Pepper Squid, Wasabi Prawns, Pickles, Kimchi, Spicy Bamboo and Edamame. Following the Zensai menu is the Gyoza section where you can choose from six different gyoza’s. Unfortunately for me none of the gyoza’s only had seafood or vegetables, but were pork filled and therefore I couldn’t try any

Next on the menu is the star of Shizuku – authentic Ramen. Head chef Ken Yoshida who has a wealth of experience and has worked in some of Japan’s renowned ramen shops is the man behind this traditional ramen – which has been prepared over 15 to 18 hours. There are thirteen different types of Ramen to choose – from the Tan Tan Men to the Spicy Miso Ramen to the Kimchi Ramen, and they even have a Vegetarian Ramen. All Ramen is made with no MSG and they try to locally source ingredients – even the miso soup is made by the chefs onsite.

What is definitely a game changer and what has critics raving is the Ramen Burger – created by chef Hiromi Hanzawa (previously Aka Siro and Pabu). The bun is made of tightly packed ramen noodles, that have been bound together with eggs and cooked on a flat top, with a lightly crunchy texture on the outside. The Ramen Burger comes in two different flavours – Candied Pork Belly with homemade plum and prune sauce, kewpie mayonnaise OR Miso Glazed Eggplant with sweet miso jam. These culinary creations hail from New York – where Ramen burgers are all the rage, but here at Shizuku they are the first and only Australian restaurant to replicate these delicious burgers. More on these later.

Whilst we were waiting for our dishes to be served we were given a White Radish, Wombok and Wombok with Carrot dish to prepare the palate. They were all unique in flavouring with a consistent vinegary taste through all of them. Quite tasty.

The first entrée we ordered was the Uni Spoon – Sea Urchin Sashimi, Cucumber, Wasabi Soy. Both L and I hadn’t had Sea Urchin before so were keen to see what type of flavour it had. The Uni Spoon (as the name specifies) comes served on a spoon, with a base of cucumber, topped with the sea urchin and drizzled with wasabi soy to finish.

I ordered the Lobster Slider – Lobster kewpie salad, pickled carrot and daikon, corn brioche bun – as I wanted to see their take on a Lobster slider. The serving of lobster was quite generous, but I think there was a bit too much of kewpie mayonnaise added which drowned out the natural lobster flavour. I did enjoy the combination of the pickled carrot and daikon with the sweetness of the lobster and kewpie.

My favourite dish of the day was the Shizuku Spring Rolls – Spring rolls stuffed with melted cheddar and edamame young soy beans. Just reading this dish on the menu set my creative juices flowing trying to envision what this dish would look like. The spring rolls were angularly cut to showcase the rich inside filling – which was the edamame soy beans enveloped in melted cheese. The combination was absolutely divine! The crunch of the outside combined with the soft billowy pea puffs and warm melted cheese was happiness in your mouth. Definitely one to try!

We also couldn’t leave Shizuku without trying their signature Ramen Burger – Ramen noodle patty “buns”,miso glazed eggplant. The bun is made with ramen noodles bound together with eggs and cooked with a slight crunch on the top exterior layer – leading into a softer noodle layers for the rest of the “bun.” The filling was made of soft, delicious eggplant that was beautifully complimented by the miso jam. There were also salad leaves, coriander and onions added. Every bite you take of the ramen burger was delightfully filled with an explosion of juicy flavours – the burger was not greasy at all which further added to the ramen burger love. Yet another dish to try out – you have to experience it to understand the feeling!

It was time for our main dishes – Ramen! L ordered the Tan Tan Men – Free range pork mince, egg, chilli oil, preserved vegetables, rich sesame flavoured broth – which is the Chef’s Signature Ramen as well as their best seller. L really enjoyed her ramen and almost finished her entire generous serving!

I initially wanted the Spicy Miso Ramen – however as that was made with a pork and miso based broth I couldn’t, instead the helpful waiter told me to order the Vegetarian Ramen – Mix vegetables with miso sauce flavoured broth – with an added spicy chilli spoon to give it that spice and kick. The Ramen was quite tasty – the broth was thick, flavoursome and quite wholesome yet light at the same time – just the way that I like it. The vegetables added were fresh and still had a bit of crunch to it, which I think makes a dish better. The noodles were cooked perfectly which further added to the great quality of the ramen produced.

We were both really full, however we did need something sweet to complete our palate sensations. There are five desserts to choose from which include Almond Tofu, Espresso Pudding, Green Tea ice Cream, Black Sesame Ice Cream and Miso Caramel Ice Cream.

L ordered the Green Tea Ice Cream and I ordered the Pannacotta (which was a special for the day) which came served with Blueberries. Both desserts rated quite highly on our palates and were just the ending we needed to a great meal.

Shizuku offers delicious food at an affordable price in a relaxed, welcoming ambiance together with friendly service. Next time you are considering suitable dining options with a homely touch check out Shizuku – it really is a welcome addition to Victoria Street.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above or have a look at the Takeaway menu at http://shizuku.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Warm and Welcoming
Standout Dish: Shizuku Spring Rolls – Spring rolls stuffed with melted cheddar and edamame young soy beans and Ramen Burger
Service: Friendly, Warm and Happy to help out with any queries or questions
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://shizuku.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://shizuku.com.au/
309 Victoria St, Abbotsford
Tel No: 9995 8180

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Sunday: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner
Monday to Sunday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Shizuku Ramen on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shizukujapanese
Instagram: shizukuramen
Twitter: @ShizukuJapanese

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

Göz City – Gözleme Charm

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Menu Gözleme menu halal (1)

One of Grazing Panda’s readers emailed me about Goz City to let me know that it was a restaurant that I should add to my Halal Restaurant tab – and from that time onwards I was keen to check it out. Having visited Turkey earlier in the year I was looking forward to eating one of Turkey’s famous age-old foods.

Goz City is the first of its kind – the first standalone speciality gözleme store in the Melbourne CBD, well just Melbourne even – and was opened in January by Taylan Aksoy. Aksoy together with his dad Alan also owns Koy in South Melbourne – where you can purchase gözlemes as well; and on a busy day they can sell upwards of 300!

Goz City is a smallish store located near the corner of Little Collins and Williams Street in the Melbourne CBD, complete with a cosy, homely and relaxed vibe. What I love is that you can stand out the front and watch through the front window as the gözleme are made. You can watch their swift, efficient process as they churn out these traditional flatbreads. The process involves the yufka pastry being rolled, flattened, filled with your choice of topping and cooked to order.
The menu consists of four different varieties – Cheese & Spinach, Herbed Chicken & Mushroom, Minced Meat (Beef) or Mushroom & Vegetables – which are $10 each (or if you want to purchase it with a drink $12). These are complemented weekly, with unique and seasonally-driven gözleme flavours.
There are also Boreks ($4 each or if you order it with a coffee for $6) available in the same flavours, as well as Pides (such as Tomato & Egg or Sucuk Sausage & Egg for $5 each or $7 with a coffee). There is also the option of House Made Soup served with a toasted Turkish Bagel (when I visited the soup of the day was Mushroom). There is also a great selection of Turkish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired salads such as Cypriot Cauliflower or Quinoa Tabouli.
Coffee served is from Tobys Estate and comes in a House Blend as well as a Single Origin.

Their main focus is on takeaway – but if you get in early and beat the rush there are around 14 seats available – both inside and outside – there is a high bench for seating as well as some lower wooden tables. Lines are out the door especially if you arrive after 12pm with the wait time not too long (you are getting fresh, made to order gözlemes after all!).
Earthy, rustic and warm tones are used throughout the venue coupled with black and white pictures. Gözlemes are presented on a wooden board – with the gözleme cut into convenient mixed sized rectangles and served with sour cream. The serving size is very generous (I struggled to finish the entire serving!) – and the dish is very very filling. I ordered the Herbed Chicken & Mushroom gözleme – which had been seasoned perfectly and tasted great. The bread was cooked just right as well – crispy on the outside and soft on the lower layers. My only critique would be that instead of the gözleme being served with sour cream I would have preferred it to be garlic sauce.
I also had a minced lamb borek – which was a tad bit on the oily side – but was succulent and delicious. The pastry used for the borek is thin, light and crunchy.

There are also Homemade Turkish sweets such as Baklava and Turkish Delight available for sale as well as Turkish Coffee.

Goz City combines the age-old gözleme tradition with a distinct modern twist – offering a unique Turkish food experience. Gözleme is fast becoming the latest street food craze to hit town and if the queues are anything to go by – it will be one to stick around for a while to come!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the pictures above or go to http://www.gozcity.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Homely and Relaxed
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gozcity.com.au/
502 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9041 5667

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 4:-00pm
Saturday & Sunday: CLOSED

Goz City on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gozcitycbd
Twitter: @GozCity
Instagram: Goz City

The Kettle Black – Next Level Cafe

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Drinks Menu Food Menu Drinks Menu

Leading up to and in the just the few days that The Kettle Black had opened there been a lot of hype surrounding it – from the visual spectacle of the venue to the highly anticipated crayfish roll and of course, the delicious coffee. So of course I had to go and check it out for myself.

I decided to go during lunchtime (a late lunch around 2pm) as it is a short 10 minute tram ride from work. The Kettle Black is located on Albert Road in South Melbourne – a short walk from Domain Interchange. As you make your approach to The Kettle Black you are greeted by the white visual spectacle – a combination of a grand old Victorian building together with the ground floor of an Elenberg Fraser designed residential complex – 21 storeys in fact (!) – called Fifty Albert.

This magnificent -must try place – is brought to you by the team who are responsible for places like Top Paddock, Two Birds One Stone! Jesse McTavish (chef from Top Paddock) together with Top Paddock owner Nathan Coleman, along with business partners Ben Clark and Diamond Rozakeas, as well as Tim James (Two Birds One Stone) and Sam King (ex De Clieu). What a team! Coleman is in charge of the running the floor with King in charge of the coffee side of things.

The fit out is designed by the awesome twosome Kestie Lane and Hana Hakim from the quirky cool design company Studio You Me. They have brought two very different worlds seamlessly together using white walls, green Italian tiles as well a marble and brass detailing. The breathtakingly beautiful building begins with an outside eatery area located in front of the Victorian terrace. As you enter the venue there is a coffee cart where you can purchase takeaway coffees whilst you wait. Once you step inside you are greeted by a hotel like reception / cashier desk / sweet counter – there are a selection of sweet treats on display for you to choose from including the melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts from Doughboy Donuts.
From here the interior splits into two halves – the left side sits in the converted apartment block and is complete with a modern vibe, high ceilings (which is simply stunning and has a great effect thanks to a method of layering of white tiles against each other), fresh sunlight streaming in – thanks to the floor to ceiling windows – as well as an emerald green tiled and marble barista station. There is also the striking porthole-like wall which is a highlight in this room. The right side sits in the Victorian terrace side has a more homely feel complete with gold and brass trimmings (a very interesting looking light fitting that is reminiscent of two gold earrings), flowers and arched windows.
Another highlight that I saw whilst waiting for my table was the unique watering station – which consisted of a stone base with a gold sink and finished black tap ware with small square tiles in the background. Tables are wooden and there are mixtures of low tables, as well as one tall communal table. You can sit at the barista marble bar as well – with the look finished with green stools. What is also great is the addition of flowers in bottles throughout the venue – adds colour and class to the already classy venue.

The menu by McTavish is focussed on using mainly Victorian produce – or Australian when Victorian isn’t possible. The relishes and butter are made in house with bread supplied from Burnham Beeches, Wallaby from Flinders Island, Steak from Robbins Island, Seafood from King Island and house-fermented yoghurt. Coffee (espresso) is a custom blend from 5 Senses, as well as a rotating single origin. Filter coffee is sourced from specialists such as Small Batch and Market Lane. Another interesting fact to note is that The Kettle Black makes their own compost which they then use to grow their own leaves, herbs and flowers in their greenhouses and gardens.
Drinks include Cold Press Juices (there are two to choose from) as well as Fresh Juices (Orange or Ruby Grapefruit). There are also a selection of bottled drinks as well as Ice Chocolate and Iced Coffee available, as well as Tea.

The food menu comprises of a unique take on your normal breakfast dishes – there are a variety of combinations that are served with eggs that you wouldn’t usually see such as Chilli Scrambled Eggs with Air Dried Flinders Island Wallaby or Tataki Ocean Trout with Raw Kale, Seaweed Salad and Poached Eggs. The famous hotcakes – that are served in Top Paddock – have made their place here on The Kettle Black menu. There is also Polenta Porridge, Fruit Toast, Muesli and House-Made Coconut Yoghurt. More food is available that strikes me as a lunch offering, however this isn’t stated – items like Kingfish with Potato Crisps, Robbins Island Wagyu Skirt Steak served on the Kettle Black Bun, Mixed Beans, Burrata and the famously known King Island Crayfish Roll.

Even during a late lunch hour – there was still a list of people wanting a table. I had a wait time of about 10-12 minutes. You don’t really feel the wait time as there is a lot that too look at and observe or even order a takeaway coffee from the coffee cart. I was seated at the marble bar, perched on a stool that allowed me to observe the coffees as they were cranked out. I ordered a latte whilst deciding on what I should eat.

The latte arrived shortly after and was delicious! It is definitely one of the best coffees I have had this year (refer to my Coffee page for their rating at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/coffee-worlds-best-pick-me-up/). The coffee was strong with notes of caramel mixed together with floral and a hint of citrus at the end. The after taste was creamy and memorable. I would happily make the trek from work on the tram just to have this coffee.

After much consideration I decided to order the King Island Crayfish in an Ash Roll with Native Coastal Spinach, Lime & Yuzu Mayonnaise. The Crayfish Roll comes served on a heavy stone curved square plate, with a lime wedge placed next to it. It is visually stunning especially against the grey backdrop of the stone. The ash roll is clearly evident together with the fresh smell of crayfish emanating through preparing your taste-buds. The green and purple of the native coastal spinach as well as the addition of the yellow flowers brings the whole dish together.
The bun was soft, warm and delicious. The crayfish was oozing freshness and flavour and was perfectly poached. The mayonnaise was tangy and full of all the right flavours, which brought the whole dish together, however I would have liked more mayonnaise in my bun. Overall, the dish was good but I wasn’t blown away as I had expected to be from all the rave reviews of the crayfish bun – it almost felt like an extra ingredient was needed to add more depth and flavour.

I also decided I needed to end on something sweet – so I ordered the House-made Coconut Yoghurt with Gluten-Free Grains, Seeds & Nuts, Toorak Station Prickly Pear, Rhubarb, Citrus Powders, Fruits and Flowers. The presentation of this dish was beautiful – too beautiful to the point that a part of me didn’t want to touch it – and reminded me of a flower garden bed. Served on a glossy black plate which allowed the white coconut yoghurt to really shine through and topped with the spectacular bright colours of the watermelon, strawberry, blueberries and assorted flowers, finished with citrus powders. The yoghurt was smooth, creamy and the perfect balance of the coconut flavours flowing through. I loved that the grains were hidden under the fruit – it made for a great surprise with every mouthful. The components of the dish worked extremely well together and the mix of flavours were tasty. My only criticism would be that the watermelon didn’t have the crunch and freshness I expected.

The staff are super friendly and accommodating in any way they can. The Kettle Black is one of those places that you will find yourself coming back to and when people ask me for a brunch place that I would recommend – this is the first place I tell them.

The Kettle Black exudes class, style and swank all without the attitude and pretense. The venue is delightful and a visual spectacle that is must see yet the atmosphere remains relaxed, lively and fun. The menu has been carefully designed and the dishes will get your taste buds pumping. The presentation is excellent and the coffee top notch. Come and see for yourself.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Breathtaking and Spectacular Venue – with a relaxed, carefree, lively and fun atmosphere. Definitely one to bring people from overseas or interstate – anyone really!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, accommodating and welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://thekettleblack.com.au/
50 Albert Road, South Melbourne
Tel No: 9088 0721

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kettle-Black/707633809303415
Twitter: @kettleblackcafe
Instagram:
kettleblackcafe

The Kettle Black on Urbanspoon

Kong BBQ – Worth All The Hype!

panda 4 rating

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There was so much hype surrounding the opening of Kong in Richmond, especially after the trial run of some of the food you could eat at the Rue & Co branch. The branding is all about the Pandas – and as per my blog name – anything to do with Pandas and I am in! A bunch of us (there were 6 of us) decided to try it out on a Tuesday night and aimed to get there around 6pm. I had heard about the long queues – with the wait time being over an hour! Kong doesn’t take bookings, however if you arrive at the restaurant you can put your name down for a table and they will contact you when a table comes up.

Kong is the latest addition to The Lucas Group. Chris Lucas has brought us the likes of Chin Chin (Melbourne CBD) and Baby (Richmond – and just up the road from where Kong is located). Kong is located on the site of what was once Pearl, and Eades & Bergman have been brought in to help with this transformation. Kong seats 60 people – with a mixture of single low tables, long communal tables and seating all around the bar / kitchen, as well as in the corridor as you walk into the restaurant. These seats give you a vantage point to see your dishes being prepared. The tables are blonde wood, the look industrial mixed together with an anime vibe thanks to the array of pandas around the venue. There are the signature neon signs (these can be found in all their other venues) as well as a film being projected. During the day you can imagine fresh sunlight streaming in from its floor to ceiling windows which surround the restaurant this corner site restaurant.

The Executive Chef here is Benjamin Cooper together with Dan Briggs and all the chefs here at Kong wear red baseball caps which have three letter slogans on them – either KIM, CHI or BBQ – a nice touch that further adds character to Kong.
The idea behind Kong is to combine barbeque pit cooking techniques with Japanese and Korean flavours. The focus is on seafood and meat being cooked on either an open-flamed charcoal grill or in a smoke oven. If you get seating around the kitchen you can experience the smoke rising from the pit ovens which is a visual spectacle that will have your taste buds dancing being tantalized in anticipation of the meats/seafood to come. It is also good to note that Kong uses only chemical free charcoal and sustainable Australian Hard-Wood.

The menu is split into 8 different sections – Small, Ssam Roti-Roll, Buns, Wings, Natural Fire, Ribs, Rice & Green and Desserts. Small dishes include Wood Grilled Scallops, Trio of Kimchi & Pickles, Beef Tartare and Nasu Miso just to name a few. The Ssam Roti-Roll have fillings such as Teriyaki Roast Ora King Salmon, BBQ Chicken, Grilled Miso Marinated Tofu and Pulled Pork. Smoked Brisket, Spicy Pork Belly, Soft Shell Crab and Peanut Butter Salt & Pepper Tofu are the options you have to choose from in the Bun Section. There are four variations of Wings that you can order from – Honey, Garlic & Sesame Korean Wings, Hot Wings with Gochujang and Chipotle, Soy Wings or Peanut Butter Wings.
Natural Fire are from the BBQ Pit and cover most seafood and meat options. There is also a Kong Bossam BBQ Tray – Chicken, Pork, Pork Belly and Beef Brisket served with Lettuce, Pickles, Kimchi and Walnut Ssamjang – at a bargain price of $28 a tray. Rice & Greens include two different types of Fried Rice, Dukkbokki Rice Cakes, Spicy Cabbage Slaw, Wood Roasted Pumpkin etc. Desserts have a smaller selection – only 4 to choose from but they all sound quite delicious so the number doesn’t really matter.

I arrived before the other girls around 6:15pm and as there were going to be six of us (as everyone had to be there before we could have a table), I put my name down on the list and the wait even at that time was going to be around 45mins. Since I had been fasting all day I wanted to order something small whilst I was waiting for the others to arrive. I was seated along the wall on the high benches and decided on the BBQ Corn with Chilli Salt and Miso Butter. It wans’t just because I was really hungry but this corn was deliciously amazing! The corn had been bbq’d perfectly and emit just the right amount of smoky flavours. The corn itself was juicy and “crunchy” and the combination of the miso butter and chilli salt was the icing on the corn so to speak – it added an additional salty and spicy hit to combine with the sweetness of the corn.

Whilst waiting for the girls to arrive and for our table to be ready we were able to order drinks – I ordered the Lychee & Grapefruit Crush with Coconut Water. This drink came out in a glass jar topped with ice and pieces of fresh grapefruit and was not only thirst quenching but refreshing as well. I had to stop myself from drinking it all in one sip!

Once we were seated we had the mammoth task of deciding what dishes we wanted to order. We had a mix of vegetarians and a pescatarian (me!), as well as people that could eat everything. We picked dishes that we would work to cater to everyones needs and asked our friendly waiter if the amount of food we ordered was enough. He was happy to assist and told us that if we wanted anymore dishes we could just order as we went.

We started off with the Wood Grilled Edamame with Chilli and Sea Salt. The Edamame was fresh and had somewhat of a smoky flavour coming from the wood grill with a hint of spice. A tasty dish.

Next up we ordered the famous Ssam Roti Rolls – we got a serving each to suit the three categories of requirements – Ssam Roti Roll – BBQ Chicken with Lemon, Gochujang and KimChi, Ssam Roti Roll – Grilled Miso Marinated Tofu with Pickled Cabbage and Kewpie Mayo and Ssam Roti Roll – Teriyaki Roast Ora King Salmon, Wok Fried Broccoli and Tomato.
I tasted the Ssam Roti Roll with the Roast Ora King Salmon which was superb! The roti on the outside was divine – thin, crispy and buttery – the perfect casing. The filling was rich and full of flavours with the broccoli, tomato and the spicy, creamy sauce working seamlessly with the perfectly cooked salmon. I would definitely recommend this dish. I did also sample the Ssam Roti Toll with Tofu which was another flavoursome dish, but my pick would definitely be for the King Salmon.

Some of the other girls ordered the Wings – Korean Fried Wings with Honey, Garlic and Sesame, however upon eating this they found the chicken overly sweet and couldn’t eat the dish. They knew the dish would have a sweet tone to it – after all it did contain honey; however they weren’t expecting the sweetness to be so overpowering. They mentioned this to our waiter who was happy to replace the wings with another serving in a different flavour. They then ordered the Wings – Hot Wings with Gochujang and Chipotle. They really enjoyed this dish which had a real kick of spice and a peppery taste.

I also ordered a serving of the Soft Shell Crab with Salted Duck Egg Relish and Coriander. The bao bun was soft and as you bit into it felt like you were eating clouds. This combined with the crunch of the crab paired with the amazing creamy duck egg relish was a match made in heaven! The coriander added freshness to the whole dish. You could just keep eating these buns and not get sick of them.

A few of the girls ordered the Wood Grilled Scallops with Tobanjan and Mirin Pickled Radish – which comes served in a shell and topped with micro herbs and radish. They loved the flavours and really enjoyed the scallops – which were cooked to the right consistency.

We ordered the Dukkbokki Rice Cakes with Red Chilli, Gochujang and Roasted Parsnip which was quite the colourful dish when it came out. Amid a dark blue backdrop of the dish – the rice cakes were a vibrant burnt orange colour peppered with greens and reds. I have never seen rice cakes in this form before and was intrigued to see how it tasted. The cakes were rectangular in shape and were soft to eat – with the dish having a sweet and sour flavour to it. I loved the addition of the veggies and the chilli which worked well with the texture and flavouring of the dish as a whole.

We couldn’t leave Kong without trying something from the Natural Fire section and ordered the Wood Roasted Salmon with Crispy Skin, Seaweed Salad and KimChi. The dish was beautifully presented with the Crispy Skin standing tall next to the Roasted Salmon. Instead of the seaweed salad we had a broccoli salad mix – which I found to be quite fresh and tasty. The wood roasted Salmon was another good dish – the smoky flavours immersed with the natural flavours of the salmon.

We were all keen to try the Kimchi at Kong – after all Kimchi is a signature Korean dish! And the fact that Kong has signs relating to this dish – “It’s not ordinary cabbage, it’s fermented cabbage” almost egged us on to try the dish out. The Kimchi was spicy, tangy and flavoursome and went above and beyond all of our expectations. Yum!

The last dish that we ordered was the Fried Rice with Spicy Enoki Mushroom and Soy Charred Tofu. I was surprised to see pumpkin seeds on top when it came out. The dish was fresh, spicy and delicious. I loved the combination of tofu and mushrooms in the rice.

The dessert offerings when compared with the rest of the menu are minimal but the quality and taste that they come in make up for this fact. We ordered the Coconut Sago with Passionfruit and Pineapple Trifle and the Apple and Walnut Tart with Miso Butterscotch and Japanese Whisky Ice Cream. Both dishes are impeccably presented with flavours to match.

The Trifle comes served in a clear glass – showcasing the many layers of the trifle. The trick with these desserts is to get a taste of each layer in one mouthful. The finely cut pieces of pineapple makes up the base layer, with the passionfruit compote with passionfruit seeds being the next layer, and finished with the coconut sago. This dessert was a light and refreshing dessert packed with fruity flavours and textures. A definite fave of mine.

The girls enjoyed the apple and walnut tart – which came out presented with a large ball of Japanese Whisky Ice Cream on placed on top amidst the array of walnuts. They said there was only a slight taste to the whisky ice cream but was delicious nonetheless. The pastry that encased the tender apples was buttery and soft, with the added crunch of the walnut crumble. There was a sweet caramel taste mixed with the creaminess of the ice cream.

What needs to be mentioned is the staffing – they are friendly and helpful and despite the lines going out the door they do not come across as flustered at all. They keep an calm demeanour and go above and beyond expectations to make you feel at home even if you are waiting upwards of an hour. Another reason why this place is doing so well.

Kong is brilliant addition to the wonderful world of dining that exists in Melbourne – with offerings of an interesting menu complete with fresh flavours, smoky excitement and spiciness. Meat lovers will adore this place (especially the BBQ Tray) but really anyone will love it. What’s not to love about a friendly and warm welcome, together with cute pandas, a great fit-out and an enthusiastic vibe?

NOTE: Kong now offers Takeaway – which can be ordered online for pickup.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to Picture above. You can find the Takeaway menu at http://www.kongbbq.com.au/takeaway which will give you an idea of what the main menu has to offer.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vibrant and Fun-Filled. Great for a catchup with friends and family.
Standout Dish: Bun – Soft Shell Crab with Salted Duck Egg Relish and Coriander, Ssam Roti Roll – Teriyaki Roast Ora King Salmon, Wok Fried Broccoli and Tomato
Service: Fantastic – really friendly and helpful! They really do well for a place that is packed to brim majority of the time.
Online Booking: No – Kong is a walk-in only restaurant.
Restaurant Details and Location:
kongbbq.com.au
599 Church St, Richmond
Tel No: 9427 1307

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – Late

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kongbbq
Twitter: @kongbbq
Instagram: kongbbq

Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

Hooked – Delicious Tasting Healthy Seafood

panda 4 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooked on Urbanspoon

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

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

Hooked on Urbanspoon                                                                                                      Hooked on Urbanspoon