Honcho Noodle – Oodles of Delicious Noodles

panda-4-5-rating

Menu:
Honcho - Drinks Menu Honcho - Dinner Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram: @honchomelbourne

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Pho24 – Pho in Under a Minute!

panda 3.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Pho24
The recent phenomenon in Melbourne seems to be a large amount of Vietnamese restaurants opening up at every turn you look. I happened to be driving on Spencer Street and another one caught my eye – Pho24. It was about a week or so later that I received an invite from Two Birds Talking to come and experience Pho24’s offerings.

Pho24 is a franchised outlet from Vietnam, with the journey beginning 10 years ago and has 73 stores operating successfully throughout Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Indonesia, Korea and Philippines. The main aim of Pho24 is to serve healthy pho to its customer in less than one minute, using a combination of simple and fresh ingredients in a modern and welcoming environment.

Craig Birchall together with Andrew Bunn are the co-founders of the Australian Pho24 business – with Craig coming across the chain several years ago when he was travelling through Vietnam. He shared his story and background about how he came to realising that Pho24 would be a great fir for Australia. It was not only the products and the vibe of the place that Craig thought was fantastic but the passion, love and service of the staff – they really were proud of the food being produced.

Pho24 is a quick and modern take of an old Vietnamese classic – that comes with no added MSG and is made with different techniques such as sous vide cooking style. This method allows for the retention of both flavour and nutrients – which you tend to lose in other methods of cooking. Together with this is their unique design of the nickel plated vats (PhoStillery), controlled evaporation, flavour and temperature which provides the clear stock to be infused with flavours perfectly. The equipment is also able to omit the fat layer of the broth that usually gets ladled out in other venues that sell pho.

Pho24 is located in a great location – opposite Southern Cross Station – on the corner of Little Bourke and Spencer Street. It has easy accessibility from the Southern Cross shops as well as Etihad Stadium – great for the footy or concert crowds to stop by for a quick bite. The venue size is quite large in size with a great outdoor area which overlooks busy Spencer Street. As you step inside you are greeted with colourful lanterns that hang from the high ceiling – which further creates space. The venue is bathed with natural light thanks to the windows that wraparound, with wooden accents throughout adding a modern touch. There are projection screens which showcase scenes from Vietnam such as rice paddy fields and people enjoying street food. One of my favourite aspects of Pho24 is that there are herbs placed around the projection screens with scissors hanging to allow you to cut your own herbs to add to your dish. What a great concept!
There are low wooden tables as well as high bench seats by the window to sit – depending on what you feel like. Most seats have a view of the open kitchen – where you can watch as your dishes are prepared in front of you. I also love the centre piece table setting which comprised of an Asian straw conical hat that dispenses tissues, alongside chilli sauce, soy sauce and Squid Brand fish sauce.

When we first walked in we were greeted and served an assortment of handmade sliders and offered a selection of drinks – wine from DOC Wines, beer, soft drinks and coconut juice. I decided to have a coconut juice from Pearl Royal which was refreshing. It was great being able to chat to fellow bloggers, staff from Two Birds Talking as well as one of the founders of Pho24 – Andrew (Craig – the other founder- was busy in the kitchen prepping our food), whilst standing around having the canapés dishes. Nothing better than good conversation and nibbles of great tasting food to eat.

We all proceeded to the long table that had been set up for the night (under the colourful lanterns) and were welcomed by Craig – who told us a little about the franchise and about what dishes we could expect tonight.
The menu started off with Vietnamese Street Starters with the first dish being Fresh Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls – that had been cut up into bite sized pieces and served on an oriental spoon. The rolls were fresh and had a kick of spice through it which tasted good – a light and healthy dish.
Next starter to be served was the Baby Octopus Salad. The octopus salad came served in a glass jar with lettuce cups surrounding it. Craig told us that we were to spoon some of the octopus salad into a lettuce cup and then bite into it. The octopus was absolutely divine – tender bite size pieces of octopus paired together with vinegar and punchy chilli notes. I loved the combination of the crunchy fresh cold lettuce against the warmth of the octopus and chilli. A really great tasting dish that I could see myself eating jarfuls of.

Next up was the Vietnamese Pork Bahn Mi (which I couldn’t eat) – but judging from the response from around the table and from N they were good! The bread was crusty and the filling fresh and juicy, with the pate having a subdued taste compared to traditional pates.

Prawn Spring Rolls were next on the list. The spring rolls were filled with whole prawns and covered with a crispy layer of pastry. Just like with the octopus salad – we were told to wrap the lettuce around the spring roll and dip it into the vinegary daikon and carrot with a hint of chilli. The flavouring of the prawn spring roll was delicious and worked perfectly with the vinegar chilli sauce. I loved the combination and texture of hot (from the spring roll) and cold and crunchiness (from the lettuce).

The next starter was the Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Steamed Buns (which once again I couldn’t eat). These came out steaming with carrot, coriander and lettuce piled upon the slow cooked pork which was placed atop a halved steamed bun. The flavours were clearly delicious as they were devoured up quite quickly around the table to sounds of mmm and yum.

We were all getting quite full from these delectable starters, but it was time for the main event: Pho served to us in under a minute. Craig explained the idea behind this was for people who were after a quick, healthy and tasty meal – in their lunch break or at dinner time – and one that would allow them to sit in store and eat it (due to the super quick cooking times) and actually feel like they have had a break.
We had three flavours to choose from on this night – Tender Beef Scotch Fillet, Poached Chicken and Silken Tofu, however their menu caters for a bigger variety. The Pho also comes in two sizes Regular (380ml) or Large (500ml). N ordered the Regular Tender Beef Scotch Fillet and I ordered the Regular Silken Tofu.

The process was to simply order at the counter with a tray. Once you have placed your order just slide your tray along to the very end and by the time that you get down there – your Pho will be steaming hot and ready for you to eat! As you move your tray along you can watch as the team of staff preparing your order – each team member having their own responsibility; be it adding the noodles, broth or vegetables.
Something interesting to note is that the noodles that go into your pho is weighed to ensure consistency between each bowl of Pho – this way each bowl has the same amount of noodles! The Pho broth is ready to pour out of a PhoStillery that has a beer tap to dispense the liquid out – quite nifty and quick!

Unlike other Vietnamese restaurants who give you a plate of bean shoots and herbs separately – Pho24 already includes this in the pho making process. When you pick up your pho you can add lemon and chilli. And as mentioned before if you feel like you are in need of extra herbs (coriander and basil) you can cut this up for yourselves at the herb stations.
N said the scotch fillet of beef was thinly sliced and cooked to perfect medium rare and was soft and tender – melt in your mouth. He said the broth was full of flavour and wholesome. I really enjoyed my silken tofu pho – the noodles were cooked perfectly – smooth and well textured. The tofu was perfectly sliced in thin rectangular pieces and was like soft pillows of goodness. I loved the crunch of the beanshoots along with the big kick of chilli (I added a whole load of chilli) – it paired well with the pho broth. Overall we both really enjoyed our pho meals and I struggled to finish my bowl due to the largeness in size.

Craig was nice enough to offer everyone a tour of the kitchen and how each component was made – such as the sous vide meat packages, the large vats of chicken and beef stock that is left to brew for 6-8 hours, the pate that is freshly made onsite to the oven that toasts the buns for the Bahn Mi’s. Craig also mentioned to us that the name Pho24 not only came from wanting to be open 24 hours a day, but in fact there are 24 components that go into the process of making pho – from start to finish.

Once we got back to our tables we found that dessert had been served – Taro Pudding – one of their specialty desserts. This was served warm with sticky rice and further sweetened with dates and topped with a banana leaf. I am usually not a fan of taro flavouring, however the taro flavour in this pudding wasn’t as intense and I didn’t mind eating the pudding. Craig mentioned that they were looking into producing more varieties of desserts such as sago, but were investigating ways in which to plate the

Pho24 offers a healthy alternative for lunch or dinner at an affordable price point that works well for everyone, especially for students. The staff are friendly and you can tell that both Andrew and Craig really value the hard work and efforts of each and every one of them. Currently, Pho24 is open 7 days a week till late (usually around 9pm or 10pm) but is looking to being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you want to experience good tasting pho – IN UNDER A MINUTE – check out Pho24 now!

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to dine at Pho24 as a guest by Two Birds Talking, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://pho24.net.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Funky, Welcoming and Vibrant
Standout Dish: Octopus Salad, Prawn Spring Rolls and Pho
Service: Friendly and Super Quick! #phoinunderaminute #phoinaminute
Online Booking: Yes via website –
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://pho24.net.au/
656 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
Tel No: 5915 9047

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 7:00am – 9:00pm
Thursday: 7:00am – 9.30pm
Friday: 7:00am  -10:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 10:00pm
Sunday: 10:00am – 9:00pm

PHO24 on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pho24Australia
Instagram: pho24aus
Twitter: @Pho24Aus

Burma Lane – Burmese Wonder

panda 4.5 rating

Burma Lane has newly opened in the venue that once used to be Mahjong Black – on Little Collins street – and serving up traditional Southeast Asian flavours from Burma. This new venue comes from the people who brought us Red Spice Road – Adam Trengove and Shaun Moorhouse.

The interior hasn’t changed too much from when it used to be Mahjong Black but there are accents of Burma all around the venue. The signature style of Red Spice Road with large paintings of women continues upstairs here at Burma Lane with four colourful portraits of women on the back wall. There are birdcage light fittings as well but the centrepiece is the iconic “Freedom to Lead” image of  Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by Sherpard Fairey– which is  on the right hand side wall as you walk into the venue and go up the stairs. There is seating downstairs as well upstairs in this split level venue which consists of wooden table and chairs, finished with terracotta coloured plates that sit on top of the menu. There are also tea-stained posters which have been pasted onto one of the columns where the stairs are, and there is also a wall of holiday pictures from Burma.

The menu consists of several small bites, noodle dishes (there are four to choose from), salad dishes (five to select from), and then has bigger bites and finishes with desserts. The bigger bites consist of mostly curry dishes, and come with a bowl of rice and cover most meats – fish, goat, beef, egg, prawns and pork – take your pick. The drinks list is impressive and there is even a section for mocktails which I thought was great. There are drinks like Land of Milk & honey, Swami Delight and Thai Dai. I ordered the Thai Dai which had Lychee Juice, Pomegranate Juice, Kaffir Syrup. This drink is quite refreshing and came topped with a passionfruit piece which a nice way to finish the drink off. I also got to sample the Swami Delight – Apple, Indian Yoghurt Cardamom Syrup, Agave. This drink was very tasty and was a different take on the original Lassi as usually you have Mango lassi, but this consisted of Apple, Cardamom and Agave – the result was a fantastic tasting combination. I would definitely recommend trying out these mock tails.

As we had more than 8 people we had to do the 4 course set menu which I thought was quite reasonably priced at $30. For these 4 courses we received – 2 small bite dishes, 1 noodle dish and 1 bigger bite dish. There is also a Chef’s tasting menu called ‘Taste the Best of Burma’ which costs $65. These options are quite wise as you can get a bit overwhelmed with the menu selection as all the dishes and their combination of ingredients sounds so enticing. There are so many dishes that I want to come back and try especially the Potato Cake which is filled with Slow Roasted Lamb Belly, Cabbage and Minty Yoghurt – how amazing does that sound! And on another note what I also love about Burma Lane is that the meat is certified halal – so I can actually have a majority of the dishes!

The first dish that we were brought out was Kun Sar Thi – Betel leaf with chicken, shallot, green mango & Sichuan pepper. The dish came out beautifully presented – with the chicken, shallot, mango mix placed in a bowl in the centre with the betel leaves surrounding it. We were told by the waiter that we were to place the chicken on top of the betel leaf and eat them together. The result was a flavour hit in your mouth together with the crunch of the betel leaf. The flavour combinations were unique and delicious all at the same time.

Next up was the Chargrilled ginger, turmeric chicken chops with lime & chilli – these came out looking glossy and perfectly grilled in a terracotta bowl together with a piece of lime and topped with chilli. The chicken was pretty good but not fantastic. The outside flavouring and coating of the chicken was delicious however, the inside was quite bland to me. I should also mention before we were given our dishes, the waiter brought us out 3 different types of sauces and chutneys and explained what was in each of them as well as giving us the spiciness rating. I thought the idea of this was quite fantastic. What made this even better was as each dish was brought to our table and explained to us – he would tell us which one of the three sauces would match perfectly with each dish. Ingenious! Back to the chicken – it was a great snack dish and together with the desired sauce was overall a great dish.

Next we moved onto a dish from the noodle section and were given the Fat rice noodles with tofu puffs, spicy coconut broth, greens & bean sprouts. The first thing you notice about this dish when it comes out is that it is fresh looking and very colourful (especially against the black backdrop of the bow) and it draws you in immediately making every tastebud on your tongue water. And when you take that first mouth, it definitely doesn’t disappoint. This dish is semi wet dish thanks to the spicy coconut broth and the combination of flavours is fantastic. I really enjoyed this dish and especially loved the combination of the tofu puffs.

The last dish that we had was the Rockling cooked in turmeric, lemongrass & tomato with noodles, mustard greens & egg AKA Funky Mohingha, our take on a Burmese classic. From having read up on people who had previously been to Burma Lane – this is their signature dish – so I was so happy to know that they featured it on this 4 course menu. Once again fantastically presented – with egg halves bopping in the tangy and tantalizing looking gravy along with the pieces of rockling – it was a dish I couldn’t wait to try. You get the waft of the lemongrass and tumeric as it was placed on the table, and these flavours carry thru as you take your first bite. The rockling is soft and tender and is complimented with the flavours and literally melts in your mouth. This is definitely a dish to try and is a true testament to Burmese cooking.

Despite initially thinking that we wouldn’t be full from the meal we were quite satisfied and didn’t have any room for dessert. Desserts ranged from Sago and Coconut Pudding, Pandan and Coconut Jelly with Jasmine Rice Ice Cream, as well as Coconut Ice Cream on its own.

Burma Lane is a great new addition to the Melbourne CBD food scene and truly brings you flavoursome and authentic Burmese food – ranging from small offerings to their larger dishes of tantalizing and deliciously aromatic curries. Another thing to note about Burma lane is that they support a number of charities through Pomelo, which is an umbrella group that provides practical training and financial aid to disadvantaged communities in Burma. Great food and supporting charities back in Burma – what more could you ask for?

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Food Menu at http://burmalane.com.au/food-menu, Drink Menu at http://burmalane.com.au/wine and a little bit about Burmese food can be found here http://burmalane.com.au/about-the-food
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy, Elegant yet Relaxed and a great place for entertaining or even just catching up with people.
Standout Dish: Fat rice noodles with tofu puffs, spicy coconut broth, greens & bean sprouts OR Funky Mohingha
Service: Friendly, Helpful and very Knowledgeable. They are happy to help and really do the menu inside out.
Online Booking: Yes  – you can book online at http://burmalane.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
burmalane.com.au
118 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9615 8500

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Friday: 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Dinner
Monday to Friday: 6:00 pm – 12:00 am
Saturday: 6:00 pm – 12:00 am

Burma Lane on Urbanspoon