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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Sorry for being MIA….

Hi Everyone!!

It has been quite a while since I have done a post – sorry everyone! It has been a busy year indeed – planning a wedding, getting married together with work being crazy busy! But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been out and about trying out new places – I have – I mean a girl has got to eat right! So in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas I will post a few blogs…. PROMISE!!

Leading up to Christmas is a time when people are wanting to get together with family and friends and of course enjoy a good meal. So I will just name a few places that I have been to lately that I would highly recommend.

Enjoy and have a great Christmas and an awesome New Year!!

xx

Grazing Panda

Breakfast and Brunch

Denis the Menace – Cremorne
A cool coverted space that serves Breakkie with a difference. Sugar bowls are Mr and Miss Cups. This was my dish Something Fishy Is Going On Here – Garden Pea Puree, Asparagus, Avocado, Steamed Spinach, Crispy Red Kale and Hot Smoked Trout with a Poached Egg

Website: https://www.facebook.com/denisthemenacecafe

Denis The Menace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Denis The Menace - Something Fishy Is Going On Here - Garden Pea Puree, Asparagus, Avocado, Steamed Spinach, Crispy Red Kale and Hot Smoked Trout with a Poached Egg_

Two Birds – Collingwood
They have an amazing looking and delicious Chai Pudding. Looks like a mini garden sitting on top of the chia pudding.
They also do a Kaffir Lime Crumbed Poached Egg which is DIVINE!!

Website: http://www.twobirdscafe.com.au/
Menu: http://www.twobirdscafe.com.au/#!menu/e0wqw

Two Birds Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Two Birds

Ascot Food Store – Moonee Ponds
A really great menu which leaves you second guessing what you want to order – from a big breakkie to a crab burger they have it all. They also do these really amazing desserts such as Raspberry and White Chocolate Filled Cronut. Their coffee is delicious and their Tea Selection is fantastic!

Website: www.facebook.com/ascotfoodstore.com.au
Menu: https://www.zomato.com/melbourne/ascot-food-store-moonee-ponds/menu

Ascot Food Store Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Ascot Food Store - Raspberry and White Chocolate Filled Cronut

The Reverend Cafe – Ascot Vale
These were their special – Rocky Road Waffles – Fresh Berries, Toasted Marshmallows, Raspberry Curd, Lemon Curd, Vanilla Mascarpone, Fruit Jelly & Chocolate Almond Crumble. YUMMMM!

Website: http://thereverendcafe.com.au/
The Reverend Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Reverend Cafe - Rocky Road Waffles - Fresh Berries, Toasted Marshmallows, Raspberry Curd, Lemon Curd, Vanilla Mascarpone, Fruit Jelly & Chocolate Almond Crumble

Rustica Canteen – Melbourne CBD
Rustica Canteen is newly opened in the Melbourne CBD and has this delicious Nutella and Banana finished with Hazelnuts on toast. They also serve other delicious meals for breakfast and lunch such as this Quinoa Salad. Another highlight of Rustica Canteen is the delectable selection of cakes, dounts and crossiants like the Ispahan Rose Crossiant. A must try!

Website: http://www.rusticacanteen.com/
Menu on website

Rustica Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rustica - Brioche Toast - Nutella, Sliced Banana, Smashed Hazelnuts
Rustica Canteen - Freekah, Wild Rice, Kale, Rocket, Chai Soaked Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Minted Yoghurt, Fried Egg Rustica Canteen

Long Story Short Cafe – Richmond
A cute cafe with a great range of dishes for breakfast and lunch.

Website: http://www.longstoryshortcafe.com.au/
Menu: http://www.longstoryshortcafe.com.au/wp-content/uploads/bsk-pdf-manager/long_story_short_menu_5.pdf

Long Story Short Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Long Story Short Cafe

Bawa – Hawthorn
A newly opened cafe this year – named after Geoffrey Bawa who was Sri Lanka’s most prominent architect and a driver of the 20th century style known as “tropical modernism”, known for bringing the outdoors in, mixing elements from different times and places, and making use of lots of greenery – which is exactly the philosophy that Bawa follows. The menu is versatile and covers a range of dishes – trust me there will be something for everyone. Below is a picture of the delicious Ricotta Hot Cakes with Lavender Custard.

Website: http://bawacafe.com/
Menu: http://bawacafe.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Bawa_Menu1.pdf

Bawa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bawa Cafe - Ricotta Hot Cakes with Lavendar Custard

Mastic – Kew
Mastic has a very healthy but delicious take on breakfast. The larger tables are table tennis tables so if the cafe is really quiet you can even enjoy a game of table tennis! Love the decor and the service is great.
We had the French toast, blueberries, strawberries, crème fraiche, buckinis and the Roasted mushrooms, poached eggs, avocado mousse, carob croutons, feta

Website: www.mastic.com.au
Menu:
http://hellenicrepublic.com.au/menu/mastic-takeaway

Mastic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mastic

The Premises – Flemington
The Premises is one of my fave places for breakfast. Always impressed by their dishes – be it a bread pudding special to these delicious dishes we had which came on the best tasting Turkish bread I have ever tasted. Delicious!

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Premises/170466319637539

The Premises Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Premises

Trei Cafe – Glen Waverly
I love the fitout of this cafe – lovely pastel shades line the back walls and the chairs – super cute. They also do a really great Matcha Latte and the food not only looks but tastes great. I still have to go back and try the coconut pancakes – there are a limited amount each day so if you want to try these awesome looking dish – get in early!
Check out the colourful pics on their Instagram Page : https://www.instagram.com/treicafe/?hl=en

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Trei-Cafe/454227061427297

Trei Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Trei Cafe Trei Cafe - Matcha Latte

Naughty Boy Cafe – Carlton
A cute little cafe located on Lygon Street. I had the Red Velvet Pancakes – Fresh Berries, Vanilla Mascarpone, Chocolate Soil, Freeze Dried Mandarin, Citrus Powder, Burnt Meringue.

Website: http://www.naughtyboycafe.com.au/
Menu: http://www.naughtyboycafe.com.au/food/

Naughty Boy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Naughty Boy - Red Velvet Pancakes - Fresh Berries, Vanilla Mascarpone, Chocolate Soil, Freeze Dried Mandarin, Citrus Powder, Burnt Meringue

Let Me Be Frank – South Melbourne
This cafe is hidden in the streets of South Melbourne and was such a gem of a find. As you step inside you feel as if you have stepped into your grandmorther’s living area. There are bookshelves filled with books for the lil ones as well as toys. There is a huge communal table as well as individual tables. The menu is extensive and have such gems as the picture below – French Toast with Berries, Plums and Maple Syrup.
Let Me Be Frank - French Toast with a difference

Square and Compass – East Melbourne
There is a wealth of experience behind the creation of Square and Compass – located on Clarendon Street in East Melbourne. The menu has changed since I have been – they now have a variation of the waffle dish that I had below. Great selection of dishes!

Website: http://squareandcompass.com.au/
Menu: http://squareandcompass.com.au/_pdfs/menu.pdf

Square and Compass Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square and Compass - Waffles

Baba Sus – Glen Iris
Baba Sus serves all day breakfast which includes the delicious Hong Kong Egg Waffles –  Vanilla Custard, Berry Compote, Green Tea Ice Cream, Pistachio Praline. However they do sell out of these babies so get in early to try it out – well worth the early wake up call. They also do great combination milk shakes – COOKIES AND CREAM FTW!

Website: http://babasus.com.au/
Menu: http://babasus.com.au/images/BS_Menu_12.08.15%20-%20WINTER.pdf

Baba Sus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Baba Sus - Hong Kong Waffles with Green Tea Ice Cream

5 Lire – North Melbourne
Serving an all day breakfast consisting of Savoury Bites and Sweet Dishes as well as daily specials. I had the special which was a Breakkie Board which came with Toast, Poached Egg, Avacado, Orange Juice and Muesli with Fresh Fruit – sooo damn good!

Website: http://www.5lire.com.au/
Menu: http://www.5lire.com.au/menu/
5 Lire Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

5 Lires - Breakkie Tasting Board

The Black Trestle – Balwyn
A newly opened cafe in Balwyn that serves up great tasting coffee and delicious breakfast dishes to match. There are donuts from The Dessert Parlour that are also available. Food that looks and tastes great. Check out their Instagram page – https://www.instagram.com/theblacktrestlecoffee/

Website: https://www.facebook.com/The-Black-Trestle

The Black Trestle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lennox Coffee + Kitchen – Richmond
A cool cafe located in the streets of Richmond. There is an outdoor sitting area as well. I had “The Mushroom Dish” – Brioche, Mushroom, Parmesan Cheese, Egg. It certainly was a dish with a different with the egg located in the centre of the Brioche Bread!
Website:
http://www.lennoxcoffeeandkitchen.com/
Menu: http://www.lennoxcoffeeandkitchen.com/menu/

Lennox Coffee & Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lennox Coffee + Kitchen - The Mushroom Dish

Giddyup Mule – Yarraville
Giddyup Mule is attached to the state-of-the-art workout space, Art of Cycling. It is a great warehouse filled space – complete with a fireplace in the main room for those wintry days! Great selection of food on the menu with a healthy spin on classics. An all round place to just chill out at.

Website: http://www.giddyupmule.com.au/

Giddyup Mule Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Percy’s Aeroplane – Kew
They are trialing a new dish – Cacao Pikelets served with Matcha Panna Cotta. A cute space filled with a yellow aeroplane out the front and finished with a combinatino of delicious tasting food and coffee. Not to mention great service. Check out my review at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/percys-aeroplane-yellow-model-plane-tasty-food-all-in-one/

Website: www.percysaeroplane.com.au
Percy's Aeroplane Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Percys Aeroplane - Cacao Pikelets with Green Tea PannaCotta

Le Miel et la Lune – Carlton
I love the cute little bear logo that greets you at the entrance and braces all the coffee cups – it is super cute. The food menu has hidden suprises with bursts of excitement in the form of squid sausage for example. Coffee is from Proud Marys.

Website: http://www.lemiel.com.au/
Percy's Aeroplane Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch / Dinner

Benjamin’s Kitchen – Alphington
I absolutely love the illuminated paper clouds that sit in the centre of the restaurant, and pays homage to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, the walls are painted in white and grey tones. The menu is a fusion of Thai, Japanese and Chinese and simply wonderful. The menu is designed to share so grab a bunch of friends and try as much as you can from the menu.

Website: http://benjaminskitchen.com.au/
Menu: http://benjaminskitchen.com.au/menus/
Benjamin's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Inside Benjamins Kitchen

Zero95 Pizza – Doncaster
If you are after some delicious and fresh tasting wood fire pizza, pasta coupled with entertainment for all then this is the place for you. The boys who run this restaurant hail from Italy and if you are lucky enough to score a dinner booking – there will be a time when the lights turn off and out comes the twirling pizza dough show which is mighty impressive. If this isn’t enough to WOW about then you should try their Nutella calzone. It is to die for!

Website: http://www.zero95.com.au/
Menu: http://www.zero95.com.au/menus/
Zero95 Wood Fire Pizza Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zero 95 Pizza

Belles Hot Chicken – Fitzroy
Calling all chicken lovers! This is the place for you.You can the meat you want, then pick the Heat – Southern, Medium, Hot, Really Hot and Really F**kin Hot. I love my spice and can usually handle my spiciness but I got the HOT and this was pretty damn hot really – I cannot imagine what the Really F**kin Hot would taste like! All Meats come with a selectino of 1 side – be it Old Bay Fries, Broccoli & Almond Salad, Coleslaw, Mixed Pickles or 3 Bean Salad, Red Peppers and Dill. And you have a selection of sauces to choose from – Mississippi Comeback, Belles Ranch Dressing, Belles Blue Cheese, House Made Ketchup, House Made Hot Sauce.

Website: http://belleshotchicken.com/
Menu located on website
Belle's Hot Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Belles Hot Chicken

L’Altro Mondo – Albert Park
I am actually not sure how I stumbled on this restaurant – but I am sure glad I did. The cuisine is Italian and the main meals were wholesome and really tasty. Then you come to dessert and they were certainly different. The Tiramasu is what appears inside of the sphere and the Poached Pear dessert had a mix of flavours that worked really well together. A degustation menu is also available.

Website: http://laltromondo.com.au/
Menu: http://laltromondo.com.au/menu/

L'Altro Mondo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

L'Altro Mondo - Formaggio con le pere - Poached Pear, Mascarpone Foam, Polenta Lavosh L'Altro Mondo - Tiramasu in a Sphere 0 L'Altro Mondo - Tiramasu in a Sphere 3

Johnny Pump – Essendon
Dessert Shakes are all the rage in 2015 and Johnny Pump are the king (IMO). There are 6 different flavours to choose from with a daily special. They taste pretty damn good too but once again this could depend on the flavour that you pick. They also do a great breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. Servings are very generous and there is a large variety of food to choose from.

Website: http://www.johnnypump.com.au/
Johnny Pump - Shakes

Son in Law – Collingwood
Son in law takes it’s name from a famous Thai street food favourite, a dish with a humorous back-story. Newly opened mid 2015 – it comes to us from Tony and Oh Rungpradit who used to own Ayatana on Chapel Street (and who was my very first blog invite 2 years ago when I started my blog – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/ayatana-authentic-thai-with-a-modern-twist/ -THANK YOU!)
The venue is bright, colourful and inviting. The service is warm and friendly. The food is really tasty and has all the right notes of spice. The stand out dessert is definitely the Marshmallow and Nutella Puffs (pictured below) and are a genius of an idea.

Website: www.soninlaw.com.au
Menu located on website

Son In Law Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Son In Law - Marshmallow & Nutella Puff - Berries, Crushed Cashew Nuts, French Vanilla Ice Cream

Emilia – Melbourne CBD
Emilia has taken over the old Gills Diner premises and brought a sweet charm to it thanks to great service, delicious food and exquisite artwork. Emilia showcases Italian dishes at its best with the dishes reflecting the diverse Italian flavours all whilst keeping the traditional techniques in check. You wont be disappointed.

Website: http://www.emiliamelbourne.com.au/
Menu: http://www.emiliamelbourne.com.au/

Trattoria Emilia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Emilia - Pasta Galore

Botherambo – Richmond
Botherambo is a newly opened Vietnamese and Thai restaurant open in Richmond. The food menu consists of dishes to share as well your larger dishes and one signature dish. Their Saigon Slushie mocktail is right up there with the best mocktails I have had – a combination of pineapple, coconut and mint – just divine! The food was tasty – some hits, some misses – but overall delicious. The dessert of Mango Sticky Rice with Coconut Ice Cream was the best way to finish off the meal. I really wanted to try the Banana Spring Rolls – however they had sold out by the time it was dessert time for us. Need to go back to try them out.

Website: http://www.botherambo.com.au/
Menu on website

Botherambo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Botherambo - Dinner
Botherambo - Mango Sticky Rice with Coconut Ice Cream

Belleville – Melbourne CBD
Belleville is a fusion of bar, cafe, restaurant and live entertainment venue, housed in a historic multi-storey building off Chinatown that captures the pure essence of Melbourne. The point of attraction is definitely the enormous Brazilian rotisserie (located in prime position in the kitchen), rotating up to 90 chickens at any one time. The chicken comes in quarter, half or whole serves, smothered in sauces from the mild house chicken gravy, to the “hot as F#@k – and the best part is that it comes to your table and the waiter cuts it up for you (refer to pic below). The chicken is cooked to perfection and the other food on the menu is just as good! Check it out for a quirky, uniquely Melbourne night out!

Website: http://belleville-melbourne.com/
Menu: http://belleville-melbourne.com/#Menu

Belleville Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Belleville - WHOLE CHICKEN

The Noble Experiment – Collingwood
The Noble Experiment is all about reliving the 1920s – Prohibition Era – and bringing a sense of theatre to every drink and dish they create. I don’t drink but the most interesting drink would have to be their Bathtub Gin which comes served in a miniature bathtub complete with a floating rubby ducky! How awesome is that. There is a wealth of different spaces to choose from when you come and visit – think pop up basement bars, cocktails on tap or a vintage Absinthe fountain surrounded by the comfiest chesterfield lounges. This three-tiered bar has been designed to explore. Great place for drinks and delicious tasting food – not sure why we waited so long to check it out!

Website: http://www.thenobleexperiment.com.au
Menu:
http://www.thenobleexperiment.com.au/menu/

The Noble Experiment Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Noble Experiment - Desserts

Longhorn Saloon – Carlton

Longhorn Saloon is a type of place that transports you into another time and place – where you could lose track of all your time and stay all night long. Named in honour of a shady bar where the underage Balleaus tasted their first beers – it has a great fit out to match thanks to naked bricks and wrought iron. I love the old chesterfield couches by a mini fireplace that you can just sit back and enjoy some drinks. The food servings are generous and taste amazing. They are known for their burgers – but I must admit their other dishes are just as good.

Website: http://www.longhornsaloon.com.au/
Menu: http://www.longhornsaloon.com.au/menus.html

Longhorn Saloon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NOTE: If you are looking for a restaurant simliar to this – check out Le Bon Ton – Collingwoodwww.lebontonmelb.com
I really loved my time at this place too – a New Orleans-inspired oyster saloon, smokehouse, cocktail bar and absinthe den. The food takes inspiration from American South – their smokehouse brisket is done Texas-style, their blackened fish and crab cakes come from the Louisiana Gulf Coast – with inspiration coming from as far west as New Mexico and as far east as Alabama.

Le Bon Ton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Longhorn Saloon

The Press Club – Melbourne CBD
The Press Club really needs no introduction – one of many of George Colombaris’ restaurants which has recently undergone a refurbishment. It is spectacular – filled with mirrors to make it look bigger than it actually is (especially when you look in from the outside).  Certain tables have a vantage point looking into the kitchen so you can watch as the chefs create your unique dishes. The Press Club is all about the attention to detail and great customer service – from the friendliness to the in-sync placed dishes on your table – there is nothing to fault. This dish pictured was given to us at the end of our meal – petit fours – their very own housemade chocolate and caramel cubes displayed on a mini clothesline. Adorable! The food is full of theatrics with a flavour to match. A must try!

Website: http://www.thepressclub.com.au/
Menus can be found on the website
The Press Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Press Club - Petit 4

Lounge – Melbourne CBD
Lounge has been around for years – located on Swanston Street – being quite  a popular night spot and bar for uni students. Most recently they have revamped their kitchen menu – to target a wider clientele. You can now find sliders, patatas bravas  and even a salted caramel panna cotta!

Website:  www.loungekitchen.com.au
Menu can be found on website

Lounge Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Lounge Kitchen + Bar - Sliders and Patatas Bravas

Port of Call – Melbourne CBD
Port of Call Salon Bar & Grill is a bar inspired by the eats, treats and beats of the Caribbean. My hubby is from the Carribean and has been telling me all about the foods that you can get there – such as Doubles and Bake and Shark – so I was really excited to try them out right here in Melbourne (until I actually get to visit the Carribean). I love that in Melbourne you can try out various types of cuisines from all around the world. Amazing. This place is a definite must try. And eventhough the dish sizes look small – they are deceivingly filling!

Website: http://www.theportofcall.com.au/
Menu can be found on website

Port of Call Saloon Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Port of Call

Sabas Ethiopian – Fitzroy
Speaking of being able to try out almost every cuisine right here in Melbourne – Ethiopian is yet another cuisine you can try out. This was always on my list to try and I was really excited to check out Sabas. Saba herself (who runs the restaurant) is lovely – she helped me out when I asked if the meat was halal (which it is btw). Hailing from the far northern region of Tigray, the beautiful meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes are served on the famous Injera bread. You get to experience the way that the Ethiopians eat as well – on a shared place with the curries you choose all placed in the middle of the injera – with extra injera surrounding it. Such a special thing to try out different customs and ways that different cultures embrace food-time.
The menu is completely gluten-free and vegans and vegetarians are well catered for. Ethiopia is a country with serious coffee-growing credibility, and Saba’s performs the coffee ceremony, which starts with roasting green beans, moves through grinding and brewing (in a jebena, which is like a clay moka pot) to serving in little cups.
Additionally you can purchase teff (gluten-free flour used to make injera​ flatbread) – which has been awarded a superfood status – and how Saba first started her business venture. A must visit.

Website: http://sabashealthfoods.com.au/pages/sabas-ethiopian-restaurant
Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Sabas Ethiopian Dinner

Mr Hive Kitchen + Bar – Crown Entertainment Complex
The many times that I have visited Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar – I have never been disappointed. Located at the Crown Metropol end of the Crown Entertainment complex – Mr Hive is a great place for a relaxed dinner date or catchup with friends.There is lively bar area at the front serving cocktails, snacks and shared platters. Move inside further where you will find tables spaciously laid out to devour your perfect meals. Service is great.

Website: https://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/restaurants/premium/mr-hive
Menu can be found on wesbite
Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Mr Hive Kitchen & Bar - Coconut Pannacotta (2)

Tip00 – Melbourne CBD
If you are in a pasta mood – then this is the place to be. Handmade in-house, fresh and super delicious! Tip00 is a name to reference the flour used in what they specialize in ‘pasta’. They also do a really great Panna Cotta! A point to note is that there are limited amount of seats available – so booking a table is highly recommended. Tip00 is really popular with the city folk and usually gets packed out at all times of the day! Yep it really is that good!

Website: http://www.tipo00.com.au/
Menu: http://www.tipo00.com.au/food/
Tipo 00 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Tip 00 - Pannacotta - Honey, Almond & Berries

Sugar Prawn – Collingwood
Sugar Prawn replicates the feel of a hawker market in Malaysia – complete with the plastic chairs and colourful decor. There is also fresh juice is available from Jasmine Jus Bar and their own in house radio station located across from this. Malaysian breakfasts are also served – think kaya (coconut jam) toast and coconut sago pudding with sliced fruit. You can also find Everyday Coffee which delivers quality filter coffee. At dinner time you can devour the most delicious chilli crab served with fried buns here along with other great tasting Malaysian inspired dishes!

Website: http://www.sugarprawn.com/
Menu: http://www.sugarprawn.com/menu/
Sugar Prawn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Sugar Prawn - Chilli Crab with Fried Buns

Dutchess – Melbourne CBD
Located on the third level of The Duke of Wellington with a New York vibe is a standing-room bar and 110-seat restaurant. There are two dinner settings with the later group (around 8:30pm) encouraged to stay around till lights out (around 1am). Resident DJs will play a mix of soul, funk, punk and anything you can’t find in the top 100, plus the DJ sets will be available on Dutchess’ own Spotify channel each week. The look and feel is luxurious which further encourages customers to want to stay. The food focus is on dry-aged steak with meals designed to be shared. There is also a raw bar focusing on seafood located next to the bar, for those looking for lighter snacks with a beverage, as opposed to a full meal. They also serve a King Crab Mac and Cheese which is the bomb!!

Website: http://www.dutchess.com.au/
Menu can be found on the website
Dutchess Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Duchess - King Lobster Mac and Cheese

Mr Huang Jin – Melbourne CBD
Mr Huang Jin used to be located within the Rialto building but has now moved and taken up shop in The Archway. The menu includes an array of traditional Taiwanese foods – think noodle soups, rice dishes and stir fries together with the signature handmade (on site) xiao long bao (soup dumplings). The dumplings here are really quite delicious and rival those made at the famous Hutong. I love the interior – complete with pale timbers which is reminiscent of bamboo steamers – and rather interesting chairs (when you visit you will see what I mean). The space is quite small (seats about 40) so perhaps you would want to book just in case. You don’t want to miss out these dumplings.

Mr Huang Jin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mr Huang Jin - Dumplings & Banana Fritters

The Millhouse – Melbourne CBD
The Millhouse is located in the heart of the city and resides in the basement of Tomasetti House (which was built in 1851 to house a steam flour mill). The original bluestone walls remain with additional features such as brass finishes and recycled beechwood accents to created a relaxed bar and eatery. There is a subtle South American influence over the menu thanks to Peruvian chef Augustin Ortega. The menu is designed to share – and the portions are generous indeed! I love the picture themed words that you will find on the menu as well as the coasters (not to mention their website) – enjoy deciphering these! Great chilled out space with fantastic bar tenders who can whip up great mocktails / cocktails!

Website: http://themillhouse.com.au/
Menu: http://themillhouse.com.au/pdf/TheMillHouse_Menu.pdf

The Mill House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Millhouse

MJR Tom – Collingwood
MJR Tom is the newest venue to grace Smith Street in Collingwood – there are two main areas to it – a cosy front cafe dominated by tables and benches and a big standing-room bar out back, with a bluestone pool table den downstairs. I love the fitout – complete with plywood – it creates light and an inside-outside vibe. During the day you will find a breakfast menu which includes blue swimmer crab omelette with papaya and Vietnamese mint, patatas bravas and pa amb tomàquet. The lunch and dinner menu has a somewhat Asian / Latin feel to it. Also a great place to have drinks and hang with friends. The night we went – there were a lot of parties happening.

Website: http://www.mjrtomcollingwood.com.au/
MJR TOM Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dinner by Heston – Crown Entertainment Complex
Dont think this place even really needs a spiel about it – Heston Blumenthal – that is all!
Your best bet at getting a table here is booking online and looking out for available tables. Bookings also open two months out from a date.

Website: http://dinnerbyheston.com.au/
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OTHER

Dex2Rose – Melbourne CBD
Love Hot Chocolates? Dex2Rose does one with a difference – it comes with our very own mini fire to toast marshmallows one.And the best bit – aside from the taste – is that there an unlimited amount of fire and marshmallows!
Dex2rose Nitrogen Gelato Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dextrose - Hot Chocolate

Hash Specialty Coffee – Melbourne CBD
Want another type of Hot Chocolate with a difference – check out Hash Specialty. This comes served with pure melted chocolate served with Fairy Floss to lend some extra sweetness.

Hash Specialty Coffee & Roasters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Hash Specialty - Hot Chocolate

Bibelot – South Melbourne
Love cakes, macaroons or chocolate? Then this is the place for you. Has great tasting coffee to match as well. They also do cakes for any special occasions that you need to pre-order. I ordered one for my sisters 21st – and it was soo good! Highly Recommended.
Bibelot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bibelot - Coffee & Pistachio Macaron

Kwak Scrolls
I got this from Code Black Coffee Roasters (Southgate, Docklands)
Cookies and Cream FTW!! SOOO DELISH! Check out @kwakscrolls for current locations.
Kwak Scrolls - Cookies and Cream

Code Black Coffee Roasters – Southbank, Docklands, Brunswick
MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE COFFEE PLACE! Really great tasting coffee and great service. Not to mention the special sweet and savoury treats that you can get to go with our coffee such as Kwak Scrolls (see above) and these addictive Butter Bing Cookies! Enough said!
Website: http://codeblackcoffee.com.au/
Code Black Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Code Black Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Code Black Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Butter Bing Stockists: https://butterbing.neto.com.au/stockists-list
Code Black Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Code Black Coffee + Butter Bing Cookie

 

T by Luxbite – All About the Tarts!

panda 4 rating

Menu:
T By Luxbite Store T By LuxBite Menu T By LuxBite Menu (2) Slices from T By Luxbite

I am a huge sweet lover and when LuxBite first opened, I made the effort to get from the Melbourne CBD on a train to check out the beautifully presented desserts they had to offer. So when I heard about their new venture – T by Luxbite (the T stands for Tarts) – I couldn’t wait to check it out.

The creators of South Yarra patisserie – LuxBite – Bernard Chu and partner Yen Yee opened their latest venture last year – T by LuxBite – located in the Melbourne CBD at the new CBD development – The Archway (near the Spencer Street end of Flinders Lane) making them neighbours with Altius Coffee Brewes and 5 & Dime Bagels. Unlike at LuxBite where you can experience macarons and cakes, T by Luxbites main focus is on tarts, emulating their classic French technique and quirky Asian influence – hence the name.

The store itself is small, modern and cosy – with only take away available. Each day there will be 10 different tarts available on offer. The main showcase is the tarts on display along with signage stating the name and the ingredients of each tart – which allow you to understand the Asian flavour combinations which are certainly interesting. Macarons are also available to be purchased and the larger macaron cakes can be ordered. Some tarts are shaped to look like a common character – such as Gingy from Shrek, Rilakkuma and most recently a Panda to support Earth Hour.

The Kuma Tart – Cookie, Mork Hot Chocolate, Strawberry, Banana, White Chocolate Milkshake Mousse, Caramel, Chocolate Tart (and is Nut Free). This tart is way too cute to eat but after one mouthful you will soon get over that and want to keep eating more and more of this tart. The Banana flavour wasn’t too strong, which was what I was worried about and the other ingredients really did work well together. The Caramel was the hero of this tart along with the mousse and chocolate base.

The Wang Wang Tart – Sour Cherry Jelly, White Sesame Caramel, Black Sesame Panna Cotta filled Chocolate Tart, Coffee and Hazelnut Praliné Mousse, White Chocolate Glaze. I love the fact that they made this tart to support Earth Hour – such a great cause to support! Once again I was a bit apprehensive of the Black Sesame flavouring being too overpowering – but it wasn’t. The sourness from the jelly together with the sweetness of the panna cotta and the mousse worked really well together.

The tarts are colourful, vibrant and bursting with Asian flavours. Tarts are only sold in takeaway boxes. Dessert lovers will definitely enjoy this store – check it out now!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to Picture above or at http://tbyluxbite.com.au/ and select Tart Collection
Atmosphere / Ambience:
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
tbyluxbite.com.au
Shop 2, 517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9629 9662

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 8:00am – 6:00pm

T By LuxBite on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TbyLuxBite
Twitter: @TbyLuxBite
Instagram: tbyluxbite

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

Lucy Liu – Red, Asian and Delicious

panda 4 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

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

Ruyi – A Different Kind of Chinese

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Lunch Menu Dinner Menu

P & I decided to check out Ruyi for lunch on a Friday as I had heard a lot of good things about the place. Ruyi which translates to – “as you wish” is a spiritual object or talisman which symbolises good fortune – and is owned by Sheng Fang in collaboration with this wife Qian Qian Luo-Fang.

Ruyi serves modern Chinese cuisine but looking in from the outside, as well as once you are well inside – you wouldn’t think this is your typical Chinese restaurant. There is no sight of the typical bright red and yellow colours, coupled with strong, thick wooden furniture. Instead you are greeted with the cooling green and light wooden tones.
The fit out was carried out by Paul Hecker of Hecker Guthrie with most fittings and stylings sourced from around the world. The lights are wooden ash colored handmade lights from France, with the wooden chairs and stools imported from Milan. All the plates, bowls, water glasses and pitchers are made exclusively for Ruyi from local ceramic artist Andrei Davidoff and they are beautiful and fit right in with the Ruyi theme. The feel is warm – thanks to the olive, beige tones – modern and sophisticated – which is somewhat of a cultural shift to the norm of a Chinese restaurant.

There is a lot to read in the menu which means there is plenty of selection to choose from. The two chefs behind the wonderfully created menu have come from Michelin starred Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club – it’s no wonder the result is magnificent. The menu begins with a selection of 3 different homemade soups to choose from (Duck and Tofu, Seafood & Egg White, Hot Sour), then proceeds with Dumplings (there are 4 different types to choose from – Pork and Crab Shao Long Bao, Streamed Vegetarian, Wonton in Chilli Sauce, Pan fried Pork and Chive), followed by Chinese Tapas ( there are 12 different dishes to try and include things like Prawn Cakes, Soft Shell Crab, Peking Duck Cone, Bao Bao, Chicken Wings, Eggplant Strips) and finishes up with the Bigger Dishes (there are 7 choices including Asian Mushrooms, Kong Bao Chicken, Oyster Beef Steak, Wagyu Beef and Duck Braised in home made stock) and Dessert – there is the usual Banana Fritters and Ice cream, but something different they have is the Hazelnut Paste Roll with Ice Cream as well as Sticky Rice Pudding. There is also a selection of sides that you can choose from – think mixed veggies, light chilli green beans, fried rice.

If the menu overwhelms you – you can select a Banquet menu – either a 5 course for $45 or an 8 course for $65. The menu also points out the Recommended dishes to help you select if you are stuck. As P & I went at lunch time – they had a separate Autumn / Winter Lunch Menu where all the Chinese Tapas were priced cheaper. There was also an option of two different set menus available – One for $18 and another for $35. Refer to the pictures above in the menu section to see what each set includes.

After much contemplation of the menu we decided to share some dishes. And since I simply couldn’t look pass ordering the Flaming King Prawn – I needed to know what this dish was about, as the menu states that the King Prawn sits on the fire – how cool!

Our first dish was the Fried Tofu with Szechuan Mayo – this is 3 pieces of lightly tempura battered tofu topped with Szechuan mayo and sprinkled with spring onions. The tofu was delicious – crispy and crunchy on the outside – whilst staying smooth and creamy on the inside. The Szechuan Mayo was light, tangy and refreshing and everything coupled together made for a really great dish.

We also ordered the Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings which come out in a serving of 5 green perfectly moon shaped pieces in a bamboo steamer. Each dumpling is made to order and you can really tell – the filling was fresh, had subtle flavours yet was tasty. I also liked the fact that Ruyi has chilli paste, and not only the chilli oil that is found in most other restaurants.

The last dish to arrive was the Flaming King Prawn – and indeed the prawns were sitting on the fire. I asked our waitress what creates the flame and she said it was the bed of salt coupled with lemon. The waitress also informed us that the prawns had already been cooked – so were ready to eat once we blew out the flame. The prawns were simply scrumptious and they are some of the best king prawns I have ever tasted! The prawns had a hint of spice and were barbequed perfectly – firm in texture yet soft to eat – and were topped with spring onion and capsicum.

We didn’t have enough time to check out the dessert menu – but I will definitely be back to try out more dishes from their menu and will definitely leave some room for dessert! The Hazelnut Paste Roll sounds tantalizing!

The staff are very friendly and quite knowledgeable of the dishes on the menu. Ruyi is a great modern addition to the Chinese cuisine and provides a elegant yet warm homely feel to it. There is an extensive wine list as well serving cocktails, beer and spirits. They also have a separate happy hour section (which is Monday to Friday, 5pm – 7pm).

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://ruyi.com.au/Dining%20Menu.pdf for the Dining Menu
Happy hour menu – http://ruyi.com.au/Happy%20Hour.pdf
Lunch Menu – http://ruyi.com.au/Lunch%20Menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Sophisticated, Elegant and Welcoming
Standout Dish: The Flaming King Prawn
Service: Friendly and very helpful – always very polite and always with a smile!
Online Booking: Yes via website – www.ruyi.com.au
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.ruyi.com.au
16 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9090 7778

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Mon to Fri 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Dinner
Mon to Wed 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Thu to Fri 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Sat 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm

RuYi Modern Chinese on Urbanspoon

Saigon Sally – Out of this World Vietnamese

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Saigon Sally

E was sadly bidding Melbourne adieu and we organized a dinner at Saigon Sally. Saigon Sally is the proud bigger sister of Hanoi Hannah – both located in the Prahran area. Hannoi Hannah is more of a Vietnamese hawker style eatery – a place where you can grab a quick bite to eat, whereas Saigon Sally has a great selection of Vietnamese favourites as well as a variety of wines, cocktails, mocktails and offers a great dining experience. Another plus point is that they take bookings!

Saigon Sally is opened by Simon Blacher, Paul Nguyen, Nick Coulter and Will Newton, together with Adrian Li (ex Donovan) as Head Chef and Tom Stonnill (ex Transit Bar) as Bartender.

From the moment you step into Saigon Sally – you need a minute to take it all in – there is loads of colour and atmosphere present. There is grand bar that is central to the entire venue – wooden and back lit and finished with colourful offerings on top (be it flowers, straws, cups or their colourful menus). What grabs your eye next is the lavish mural artwork of an Asian woman smoking by Michelle Lee, with the smoke from her cigarette swirling onto the concrete ceilings. The back wall is complete with various pictures of Vietnamese ladies in an array of poses. As you walk in to the left is a real life rickshaw filled with various paraphernalia, adding to the funky vibe and feel. What has been done with the space is fantastic and you feel as if you have been transported to another part of the world where you want to spend hours in.

There are a number of seating options available – a large communal table located under the stairs, banquet seating located one at the front of the venue and the second being at the back of the venue, as well as seating around the bar and there are a few tables for 2 located along the mural wall. Tables are wooden with a dash of colour thanks to Saigon Sally’s colourful menu that sits on top. Plates and cutlery – which includes chopsticks of course – is already set out as well. There was 6 of us on this night and we were seated in the back banquet – which suited the size of our group well as we could all comfortably talk and see each other.

We started off by ordering a mix of cocktails and mocktails. I ordered a mocktail which had lychee and passionfruit flavours finished with a purple orchid – I loved the colour contrast between the yellow of the drink and the purple of the flower. Due to the drink being simply delicious I don’t have a picture of it. M ordered the Boom Boom Mojito (Flor de caña white rum chili, viet-mint, kaffir lime leaf, lemon­grass, lime ginger syrup & soda) which came served with a fan of apple pieces, a circular slice of lemon and mint leaves to the side. The other cocktail L ordered had the main ingredient of Pandan – hence its strong green colour which she seemed to enjoy as well.

The menu created by Adrian Li is all about the home-style food which is made for sharing. Each dish takes the traditional Vietnamese dish pieces it together with modern techniques to produce a memorable tasting end product, each balancing the five elements of Vietnamese cuisine – sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. The menu is split into Small, Medium, Large, Sides and Desserts. There is also a “Feed Me” option for $59 per person (minimum 2 people required) which allows you to sample the chef’s favourites. There are around 6 to 9 dishes under each category to choose from.

Even though the menu is made for sharing – we decided to get our own dishes as we were quite hungry. We did however order the Prawn Pandanus – Smoked Prawn, Kaffir Lime, Tamarind & Sesame Caramel – to share. These come out in a serving size of 4 and are wrapped in a crisp pandan leaf – which we told by the waiter that you aren’t meant to eat, but to unwrap this pandan leaf and enjoy the prawn fritter and then eat it. The prawn fritter itself was delicious – semi crunchy on the outside – light and fluffy and flavour filled on the inside with the lovely tones of kaffir lime and tamarind. The sauce that came with the dish provided a sweet element to the whole dish which exemplified the prawn flavour. A great dish.

T ordered the Vietnamese Chicken Coleslaw – Black Bean Poached Chicken, Crisp Vermicelli and Peanuts. This dish comes out with the colourful mix of the tender poached chicken, bean shoots, carrot, Asian basil, peanuts and pickles sitting atop of the crisp white vermicelli. There are a multitude of textures and flavours that intrigue your senses. The flavours of the black bean sauce together with the subtle hint of spice and sweetness from the carrots work well together.

E and I both order the Saigon Chilli Crabs – Soft Shell Crabs, Tomato, Black Bean, Lime, Chilli & Basil. I absolutely loved this dish and it has to be one of the best crab dishes I have eaten. The crab was cooked to perfection – providing a soft and delicate crunch that was filled with delightful crab on the inside. The creamy mayo sauce was another highlight – it had a mixture of saltiness, spice and freshness to it. Together with the other elements of coriander, chilli, basil and cucumber the dish worked well together, with the flavouring spot on. I would highly recommend this dish to anyone.

V ordered the Grilled Quail – Stuffed with Sticky Rice, Spring Onion, Shitake and Lup Cheung. This was a pretty looking dish with the Quail being the centre piece of the dish with Chilli, sprigs of flowers and Onions placed around it. The Qauil looked amazing in all its glazed glory – with a touch of barbequing to provide a crisp skin. The stuffing mix of rice, spring onion, mushroom and Chinese sausage worked well with the flavours of the quail.

M ordered the Grilled Ocean Trout – Tumeric, Dill, Mustard Leaf, Ginger, Jalapeno and Banh Hoi. The trout had been wrapped and cooked in a pandan leaf which enhanced the flavours of the trout. The trout itself was cooked well and remained soft and tender, topped with tumeric, cubes of ginger and jalapeno – which added extra flavour and spice. Banh Hoi which is a Vietnamese dish consisting of rice vermicelli that has been woven into intricate bundles and topped with onions was to the side of the side along with a mixed salads consisting of mustard leaves and other mixed greens.

L asked me what she should order from the menu and I picked out the Shaking Beef Rib – Pho Glazed Short Rib, Crispy Onions, Watercress and Lemon. I was interested in the name of the dish – just what did they mean by “Shaking” beef rib? Later I understood that in Vietnamese the term “luc lac” translates to the word “shaking” and it represents the tossing of the beef back and forth in the wok after it has been seared. There are various ways in which to represent the traditional Bo Luc Lac dish and Saigon Sally does a great interpretation. The beef comes out along with the huge rib bone and sits on top of the watercress, onion, cucumber and coriander salad and is topped with sesame and chilli with a wedge of lemon. The beef was tender and had punchy flavours.

Despite being quite full from each of our dishes we did opt to try out some desserts – reading the dessert list gave us enough temptation and incentive. “Happy Endings” are made at the bar and if you score a spot at the bar you can watch as pastry chef Felix Goodwin prepares desserts.

We order the Banh Bo Nut – Vietnamese Doughnut, Salted Galangal, Caramel & Toasted Coconut Sorbet. These come served a dish which is reminiscent of an off-shaped boat, with 5 doughnut balls in place served with coconut sorbet and finished with a colourful cocktail umbrella. The doughnuts themselves are melt in your mouth delicious! They are served warm, with sugar crusting on the outside providing a crisp texture which works well against the fluffy insides. The salted galangal and caramel sauce adds a sticky texture and provides some extra sweetness, with the coconut sorbet provided a cool hit with a creamy flavour. A delicious dessert!

Next up we ordered the Tira-Ma-Sally -Macaron, Vietnamese Coffee Parfait, Condensed Milk & Peanut Brittle which is the house specialty. These come out looking like your normal everyday sandwich that you would expect to see in your lunch boxes – cut into triangles – but you could not be more wrong. They are far from just normal – they are out of this world amazing! What it is – two triangles of almond Macaron “bread” that is layered with strong, vibrant coffee parfait, condensed milk and peanut brittle. I am not a huge fan of peanut butter – but there was only a slight hint of the peanut taste. The ice cream layer had hints of caramel amongst it which served as a pleasant surprise. This is a definite must try – it’s a pity they don’t give you four pieces instead of two!

From the red glow as you step inside to the colorfulness on the inside Saigon Sally is a must visit place. The food stays true to the Vietnamese basics whilst adding a modern twist which produces great tasting and looking dishes. The concepts – from the unique and interestingly named drinks menu down to the “Happy Ending” desserts is fantastic. The staff are friendly, helpful and the vibe is trendy, inviting, vibrant and fun. As you step outside, don’t forget to check out the laneway filled with colourful street art, hanging lanterns and pairs of shoes. It serves as a great backdrop for photos or just to stare at awe in.

NOTE: Saigon Sally does cater for functions – refer to their website for further information about packages.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$S
Menu – Refer to picture above or look at http://www.saigonsally.com.au/SaigonSally_Menu_001.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Funky, Fun and Welcoming. A place where you could have a lot of fun! If you are looking to host your next function there is information available on their website – http://www.saigonsally.com.au/Saigon_Sally_Function_Menu001.pdf
Standout Dish: Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Fun
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.saigonsally.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.saigonsally.com.au/
2 Duek Street ,Windsor
Tel No: 9939 5181

Opening Hours:
Mon to Thu 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Fri to Sat 6:00 pm – 1:00 am
Sun 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Saigon Sally on Urbanspoon

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

 

Charlie Dumplings – Dumplings with a Twist

panda 4.5 rating

We had to organise a catch-up dinner in an area that was inner city with food that catered for vegetarians on a Monday night and ended up deciding on Charlie Dumpling. I had heard a lot of good things about this newly opened place located in High St, Windsor.

As you assume by the name – Charlie Dumpling – this venue by Dylan Roberts (ex Claremont Tonic, Ezard, Cutler & Co.) and restaurant manager Jamie Munro-Lynch (Anada, Cutler & Co, Circa) is all about the dumplings – but with a twist – and also serves up other delicious and interestingly flavoured bites to eat. Do not expect to see dumplings coming out in bamboo steamers here – instead you get beautiful rustic plates to match the vibe and feel of the venue. The fit-out is intriguing – complete with a feature wall of multi coloured window shutters (which is reminiscent of Potatohead in Bali) and rather funky – as well exposed brick walls, fishing nets – which have been turned into light shades (a very smart idea) and funky lights that hang over the bar. The design is by renowned architects DC Group & Newline Design and the result is a simple yet cosy and chilled vibe.

There is a selection of dining possibilities from tables in the front main dining area, stools at the bar, along the outside footpath or the courtyard area out the back – in total Charlie Dumpling can seat 60 people. There is also a private dining room located upstairs for 14-16 people which can be booked for functions as well. Another option is takeaway – you can order in advance via a handy app to save time.

The menu is split into 4 main sections – Small Bites, Salads & Noodles, Savoury Dumplings and Sweet Dumplings. The drinks menu has Dessert Cocktails, Cocktails, Beer (Tap – there is only one tap beer – Orion & Bottled) and Wines (Red & White). Small Bites include things like Edamame, two different types of Bao, Duck Leg, Grilled Skewers, Chicken Ribs, Sashimi – just to name a few. The menu also lets you know which of the dishes are Gluten Free and which are Vegetarian which avoids having to ask the wait staff to tell you which dishes are of these category.

Whilst deciding on what we wanted to eat – we ordered drinks. On this night however the beer on tap wasn’t available. I ordered myself a mocktail – I left the flavouring up to the bar tender and was pleasantly surprised when it came out to be lychee based – my favourite! The mocktail was refreshing and delicious – and quite large in size as well – double bonus!

There are 6 of us for dinner tonight, and we are seating by the window – so we get the best of both worlds – looking into the restaurant as well as out onto the street. The seating is a tad bit squishy I must admit, however this is a small negative. We decide to order a couple of dishes to share to start off with and decide later to order more if we need. We have a vegetarian on the table, as well as a Pescatarian so we had a selection of dumplings that cover these dietary requirements. Also something to note is that dumplings come in servings of 4 pieces per serving. There are sauces on the table which include Black Vinegar & Chilli, Soy, Shallot & Ginger and Red Nam Jin.

To start with we ordered the Charlies Fried Chicken Ribs, Five Spice Honey, Kewpie from the Small Bites section. The ribs came out piled on top of each other in a pyramid form looking glossy and exuding deliciousness. There was a resounding “mmm” and “yumm” around the table as each person took their first bite, followed by S saying she wanted another serving straight away. They were that good – a mix of sweet and savoury with chicken that was cooked to perfection.

We then got the succession of dumplings that we ordered. The Crispy Salmon, Tobbiko, Leek and Tumeric were the first dumplings I got to try. These dumplings were fried and had a crunchy coating of crumbs on the outside with the inside mixture providing a flavour hit for your taste-buds – the salmon flavour ringing true whilst staying fresh. The Leak and Tumeric puree together with the Tobbiko was what the dumplings were sitting on – this added a creamy aspect to the dish and worked well with the crumbed texture.

The Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean – these were steamed dumplings. These reminded me of a Thai Fishcake – juicy, full of flavour with a hint of spice – and finished with a spicy soy sauce and chilli combo. A really great tasting dumpling overall – I have never had a snapper dumpling before and wasn’t sure that this mixture would work – but it really does!

P ordered the Ricotta dumplings, Cauliflower, Anise, Gai Lan as she was vegetarian and I was lucky enough to sample some. My first thought when I looked at the dish was that it was reminiscent of a gnocchi or pasta dish. There were about 8-9 dumplings, as they were not your regular dumpling. This was quite a heavy dish but really tasty – the combination of ricotta and cauliflower worked well together, added with the crunch and texture of the slivered almonds as well as the freshness of the gai lan.

The Chicken, Ginger, Cabbage and Crispy Skin was a really interesting dumpling dish. They each came wearing a “hat” in the form of the crispy skin. The filling was once again juicy, light, flavoured with ginger and wrapped in the cabbage leaf – providing a mix of textures. This was a dish that everyone around the table enjoyed.

The last of the dumplings to arrive was the Steam Prawn and Bamboo Shoot, Har Gow, Sweet Corn, XO. These came out as glossy morsels complete with a tender filling which was simple and what you would expect from a steam prawn dumpling, but the twist of the sweet corn puree which it sat on was a brilliant addition . The sweetness combined with the chilli and prawn flavours was divine!

We also ordered the Spicy Dandan Noodles, Sesame, Szechuan, Peanuts and Pickled Chilli from the Salad & Noodle section to share with the table. The dish comes out un mixed – with the noodles forming the base of the dish, and each of the components placed separately on top – just like what you see at a ramen restaurant. There were peanuts, poppy seeds, chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, fried onions and coriander. I like this concept where you get to mix the ingredients into the dish yourself – kind of a do-it-yourself – makes you feel as if you made the dish yourself – almost! And another plus is that if you don’t like any one component you can avoid mixing it in.
The dish was spicier than I was expecting – and the addition of the poppy seeds left a tingling sensation on your lips. I quite enjoyed the dish and the different flavours that were mixed together – I wasn’t a huge fan of the addition of peanuts though. There was a resounding thumbs up for this dish from the entire table.

As I always do – I had looked at the dessert section before even looking at what was available for the main meals – I couldn’t wait to order dessert. I had heard great things about the Milk Chocolate dumplings. We ordered the Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet AND the Hot Apple and Sesame Mochi, Gingernut Ice Cream.

The Milk Chocolate dumplings were delicious – warm balls that have been batter dipped then deep fried, filled with gooey milk chocolate, topped with sugar and finished with a raspberry chilli sorbet. The sorbet was refreshing and bursting with flavour and tang, with the chilli hint at the end. This combination of creamy sweet chocolate mixed with the refreshing tang was impeccable.

The Hot Apple dumplings were entirely different to the milk chocolate dumplings. The apple filling was encased with the chewy mochi skins which were also topped with sesame seeds. The apple filling was warm, subtle and sweet, but I found the mochi skin was a bit too chewy. I loved the gingernut ice cream – there were pieces of gingernut throughout the ice cream which added both texture and extra flavour. The dish needed both the ice cream and the hot apple dumpling together – I think one without the other wouldn’t work.

The service at Charlie Dumpling was fantastic – everyone we had was really friendly and helpful and always had a smile on their face. I liked the fact that the staff had their own favourites and when we selected a dish they would add a comment of what they really liked about the dish. To end the meal when you get your bill – you get a bowl of fortune cookies as well – the fortunes inside might not be so great – but it is a great novelty idea.

Overall Charlie Dumpling is modern, sophisticated restaurant with a unique twist on the regular Asian Dumpling venue – a combination of street food meets fine dining. The vibe is funky, fun and lively and you can really find yourself getting lost in the world of dumplings. Charlie Dumpling really does stay true to its values and seems to always have a fun with a great attitude!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://charliedumpling.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2014/05/Charlie-Dumpling-Dine-In-Menu_12MAY14.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Chilled and Funky. Great for a dinner catchup with friends. You can also book a function in their private dining room too.
Standout Dish: Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean AND Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and always with a smile. They are happy to provide recommendations as well!
Online Booking: No – they don’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://charliedumpling.com.au/
184 High Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9510 4213

Opening Hours:
Monday: 6pm – Late
Tuesday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm then 5:30pm – Late

Charlie Dumpling on Urbanspoon

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

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