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

 

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Stagger Lee’s – Vintage Cool

panda 4 rating

stagger lee

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Menu:
Stagger Lee's Menu
Stagger Lees Drinks

It was a long awaited catch-up for the four of us – G, J, M and myself – and we decided to stick to something that was central between the four of us. This place happened to be Stagger Lee’s – located on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.  I have heard many good things about this place ever since it opened up and was keen to check it out for myself.

Stagger Lee’s is brought to you by the people of Proud Mary – it is a collaboration between Proud Mary owner Nolan Hirte, former Proud Mary general Manager Monica Chhay, Head Chef Chris Hamburger (ex The Aylesbury, St Ali North) and Mun Soon of MGS Architects and owner of Krimper Cafe (refer to https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/krimper-cafe-hidden-warehouse-style-treasure/ for my blog review of Krimper Cafe).

Stagger Lee’s is named after a pimp / bad-ass from St Louis – he infamously shot a cell mate in the 1900s for stealing his red Stetson hat and since this time over 400 musicians have retold the story of Stagger Lee. Here at Stagger Lee – this story reinforces the fact to “stick to your guns” and to “stand up for yourself” and most importantly are being the “bad-ass” of Ftizroy when it comes to great coffee and ingenious food.

The vibe is typical of what you would expect of the Brunswick / Fitzroy area – but with a whole lot more fun and excitement. There are exposed brick walls, concrete floors and huge glass windows which let the morning sunlight stream in. It’s a bit industrial, a bit indie – but rest assured feels welcoming and warm. There are wooden slatted tables for parties of varying sizes, as well as two large communal tables at the front – paired with metal chairs. There is both inside and Outside Street seating as well – they utilise their space well in terms of catering as many seats as possible without being too squishy. There are splashes of green thanks to the weatherboard effect around the kitchen window at the back of the venue, as well as the salt and pepper grinders placed on the tables and the coffee cups by the coffee machine. There are the usual filament lights that hang for lighting that I love as well.

The coffee here is a little bit different – they do not serve blends – only single origin espresso and filter coffees are being offered – and are pumped out of the stark white Synesso machine. They also use a EK 43 grinder which means they are getting the best extractions possible for the customers – allowing them to deliver some of the best coffee in town. I ordered a latte which was full bodied, strong and nutty and was perfect to wake me up first thing in the morning. The creamy after taste thanks to the fresh milk was also great. The decision not to blend comes from the work Proud Mary has been doing with the farms in Brazil and the quality of the single origin beans that work well with the milk without needing to be blended – and from my experience with their coffees this is working fantastically.

Another difference from Proud Mary is that they have a liquor license and look to open a few nights a week down the track.  They serve up wine, local and international beers and specially made cocktails – there is even one that contains cold drip coffee! Aside from specialising in coffee – they do also have an interesting list of juices, smoothies and milkshakes – with interesting names to match. Juices include Lance Armstrong (Carrot, Beetroot, Lemon, Ginger) and The Regulate (Apples, Strawberries, Coconut Water), there is a milkshake called Gangsta Milkshake, Crooks ‘n’ Creams – which is of course based on cookies and cream.

The food menu designed by Chris Hamburger (what a cool name!) is described as simple and sexy comfort food – and it really does comply.  The menu is split into a breakfast and lunch menu – both of which are available all day and there are gltuten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. There are dishes that covers all the main protein dishes that you would want to eat including lamb, bacon, beef, quail, chorizo and ham hock. From reading the menu you might not think these dishes really cut it – but trust me they do! There are your usual suspects such as Toast, Fruit Toast, Bircher Muesli, Granola and Porridge – but what makes it unique is the offerings that come with these basics. For example the porridge is buckwheat porridge together with chia, banana and honey. The first dish that caught my eye was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – I mean they had me at Coco Pop! The four of us quickly decided to share this amongst ourselves, thereby reserving some space for a proper savoury breakfast (and trying out more of the menu – win!). There are also dishes such as Shrooms ‘n’ Truffles which comes with Truffled Polenta, Poached Egg and Pepito, a Roasted Cauliflower and Quail dish, a Roasted Lamb dish that comes with Humms, Raisins and Toast as well as a Stacked Burger that comes with croquettes and greens.

When we arrived on this Sunday morning (around 10:30am) Stagger Lee’s was packed out already and we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table for the four of us. Initially we were given an area on the communal table all in a row – which would have made it hard for us to chat. However the staff had miscounted the number of seats and promptly moved us to a table which suited us better – making it easier for us to chat. Most of us ordered coffees to start and G ordered a juice whilst we decided what we wanted to eat. G ordered the Nice Pear – Apple, Pear, Mint, Lime. Juices come served in a generous size jar, with two big fresh mint leaves for more flavour- the juice was refreshing, tangy and produced a great flavour combination. M ordered the Frank ‘n’ Beans – Saffron Baked Beans, Smoked Ham Hock, Chorizo, Soft Poached Egg, Herb and Garlic Crumb Toast. The dish comes out presented well – the saffron baked beans together with the ham hock are at the base of the dish, with the poached egg and chorizo placed on top and finished with the garlic crumb toast. The Garlic Crumb Toast smelt and looked delicious – crispy on the outside and soft and filled with flavour on the inside. M seemed to enjoy her dish and the flavours – the poached egg was cooked to perfection with golden gooey goodness.

G originally ordered The Mexican – Soft Shell Corn Tortillas, Charred Corn, Lime and Tomatillo Salsa, Avocado, Fried Eggs, Creme Fraiche, Herbs. However, she has an allergic reaction to sesame seeds and some nuts, and although I don’t think that this dish had any of that, she started to get a reaction and therefore had to order something else. The dish came plated out with two tortillas, with the fried egg placed in side and topped with the charred corn, lime and tomatillo salsa and avocado, and finished with crème fraiche. The flavours were typically Mexican and the addition of the fried egg with its gooey runny yolk gave it the breakfast element.

J ordered the Smoked Trout Salad – House Smoked Ocean Trout, Grilled Asparagus, Soft Poached Egg, Butter Poached Potatoes, Shaved Fennel, Preserved Lemon Aioli and Green Goddess – which was quite the colourful dish thanks to the salmon colour of the ocean trout, purple colour of the radicchio, green colour of the salad and the white colour of the poached egg and lemon aioli. J did enjoy this dish and rated it better than The Mexican – the smokiness of the trout, together with the grilled asparagus and brilliance of the poached egg was a winner.

I ordered the The Fitz Royale – Grilled Asparagus, Cashew Cheese, Avocado, Fresh Herbs, Pea Tendrils and Citrus with a Poached Egg. The dish comes out with the fresh herbs being the centre of attention on the plate – the other components – toast, cashew cheese, avocado, grilled asparagus hidden underneath. The poached egg and the lemon slice are placed to the side. My favourite part of this dish was the cashew cheese which was placed like a spread on the toast – it was tangy and creamy all at the same time. Together with the subtle flavours of the asparagus and the softness of the avocado the flavours worked in perfect harmony. A great dish for asparagus lovers.

The last dish that we all got to sample was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – Coco Pop Cream Pat, Vanilla Ice Cream, Honeycomb and Raspberry Crumb. I don’t think much explaining needs to be done to understand how good a dish it really was. The plating wasn’t as clean as I had expected, as the Coco Pop Cream Pat resembled a messy blob, but I guess the consistency and texture of it didn’t help. I loved the mix of textures from the softness of the toast, cream pat and ice cream mixed together with the harder and grittier textures in the form of the tangy raspberry crumb, sweetness of the honeycomb and the pop of the cocoa pops sprinkled around. Overall I thought the flavours worked well together (I would have liked more raspberry crumb) – and was a great colourful dish that was the perfect way to end our meal at Stagger Lee’s.

The staff are quite accommodating and helpful, but are hard to get a hold of due to the sheer number of people they have to cater for. However, the wait to get their attention wasn’t too long. If you get a seat near the back of the venue – you can peer into the kitchen window and watch the chefs busily keeping up with the incoming orders. Even with the volume of orders –they keep a cool, calm and collected exterior and get on with the job.

There are also sweet treats that you can purchase from the counter – lamingtons, cupcakes, tarts and friands just to name a few.

Stagger Lee’s is a great addition to the grungy Fitzroy area and brings a somewhat homely and funky venue here. The vibe is buzzing, the place is warm, the menu is simple and unique and the staff friendly and always with a smile. Get down this weekend and check it out for yourself. The next time I come back – I am definitely trying the Shrooms ‘n’ Mushrooms.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – There is an all day breakfast and lunch menu – refer above to the pictures or look at http://staggerlees.com.au/food/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Casual and Welcoming – a great place that you can spend of your day in.
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly, sometimes it can be hard to their attention.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://staggerlees.com.au/
276 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9419 5564

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

Stagger Lee's on Urbanspoon

Little Creatures Dining Hall – Simple Food – Simply Delicious!

panda 4.5 rating

I have been to Little Creatures many a time before and have always enjoyed it – both the food and the atmosphere. It is definitely a place that you find yourself coming back to because it is just that great. There is a chilled, relaxed and welcoming vibe attached to it and the food is simple yet memorable and tasty.

Little Creatures Dining Hall is located in Brunswick on Johnston Street and is a large venue – and I don’t lie when I say large – it can seat up to 200 people! The way in which this open, expansive space has been sectioned off is quite smart. There is a somewhat cosier room located at the front which overlooks the street, another casual drinking area with tables and high bar stools and the main large dining area (located at the rear of the space) together with the open kitchen located at the back this area.
There are booth styles seats as well as wooden tables in this area – these can seat from two people right up to larger numbers depending on your party size. The look and feel is warehouse industrial chic complete with exposed brick walls and steel roof beams. There is a lengthy bar stocking Little Creatures on tap (as you would expect from the name). There are nice vintage touches on tables in the form of grouped brown bottles with a twig of flowers and finished with a candle for the light aspect of things. There are other splotches of colour laced through the venue as well which further add warmth and cosiness.
There is also a loft area which holds bikes which you can hire to ride around the area if you wish. Pretty cool I must say.

The menu is designed to go well with beers and consists of some snacks “to start” off with such as chorizo, peanuts, fries and breads with dips, followed by a “to share” section – which include dishes such as mussels, spiced lentil dip with bread, jamon and salaami board. Then there is a “side”s section, followed by a “pizza” section, a “fly solo” section (if you aren’t in the mood to share) and ends with a sweets section. There are 10 pizzas to choose from which consist of toppings such as kipfler potato, spiced meatball, salami just to name a few.

There were three of us on this night and we decided to share some snacks and order pizzas for our mains.

The first dish to arrive was the Fresh Cut Chips, Garlic Aioli. These were seriously the best chips I have EVER TASTED! They were absolutely amazing and writing about them now is making me wish I had some in front of me right now. These chips were literally potato pieces that had been cut up directly from the farm – there were bits of skin still left on which added a rustic edge to them – and lightly fried. Add the garlic aioli with a dusting of salt and you have a dish made in heaven.

We also ordered the Glazed Carrots, Silverbeet and Sesame Seeds – another dish that blew my mind. When you are reading this dish on the menu it sounds very simple but the taste is mind blowingly delicious. The dish had a sweet element to it in the form of honey in which it was laced with. This worked well with the crunch and juiciness of the carrots. Another really great dish!

The three of us ordered a pizza each for our mains. N ordered the Spiced Lamb, Sweet Potato, Tzatziki, Mozzarella, T ordered the Pumpkin, Spinach, Dukkah, Goats Cheese and I ordered the Prawn, Salsa Verde, Mozzarella. The pizzas are very generous in size and after seeing them come out – I knew I wouldn’t’ be able to finish the entire pizza (especially since I ate most of the chips *drool*). The pizza crust was thin and somewhat crispy on the outside – which is the way I like my pizza.

My pizza had a generous serving of prawns which had been flavoured well. I would have liked a bit more of the salsa verde on the pizza but overall it was a great tasting pizza – the coriander in the salsa verde worked well with the cheese and the prawn combination. I would have also liked a hint of chilli added.

The pumpkin pizza had large soft chunks of pumpkin which dominated the pizza amongst the spinach and cheese. The mix of the dukkah and the pumpkin were well suited to each other. The lamb pizza which had lamb in the form of mince was generously placed, with thin slices of sweet potato and tzatziki around the lamb. N said the lamb needed a bit more flavour – perhaps more salt – but overall it was quite tasty.

The staff is fantastic – and despite the many different areas to service and the large space they need to cover  – it isn’t a hassle to get their attention. They are friendly and helpful in anywhere possible.

Little Creatures is a great place with equally delicious food and is great for any celebration – small or big! There are other locations – Fremantle (where it all started) and Geelong (only the brewery) as well. Get down to Little Creatures and if you had to eat just one thing – get their Fresh Hand Cut Chips or the Carrot Side. You cannot go wrong!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer here for the Food Menu https://littlecreatures.com.au/system/venue/food_menu/0000/0002/Melbourne_menu.pdf
Refer here for the Drinks Menu
https://littlecreatures.com.au/system/venue/drink_menu/0000/0002/stash_list_august13.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Chilled and Funky. Great for any function or celebration, also great for drinks or food or both!
Standout Dish: Fresh Cut Chips, Garlic Aioli AND Glazed Carrots, Silverbeet and Sesame Seeds
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and always with a smile
Online Booking: No – they don’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.littlecreatures.com.au
222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9417 5500

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 10:00 am – 11:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday: 8:00 am – 12:00 am
Sunday: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm

Little Creatures Melbourne Dining Hall 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

The Smith – Knickerbocker Glory

panda 4 rating

A and I were looking for a place where we could have some dessert after dinner and I stumbled across The Smith and its renowned dessert – The Knickerbocker. It was a Friday night and I knew that they would be busy so I called up to see if they would have space for the two of us to have dessert – they were very helpful and said to come and they would find a space for us. How nice of them! So we headed down and literally had the best seats in the house – at the bar counter overlooking the kitchen –we could actually watch as our desserts were being made.

The Smith is located in High Street, Prahran – one of the trendier suburbs in Melbourne and the venue matches. The owner is Scott Borg (former director of Taxi and Circa), and he has created this swanky, sophisticated and fun venue that offers all day dining.

From the outside it looks like a pub, but once you are inside you are welcomed by a fun and casual vibe. To the right is the bar and courtyard and to the right is the main dining area, which travels all along to the back room which is another dining area. Here is where the fantastic open kitchen resides, with the opportunity to sit at the bar overlooking the kitchen – best view in the house! The back dining room has high ceilings together with a combination of round, square and communal wooden tables. The fit out is classy, elegant all whilst staying casual and welcoming.

We were just there for desserts so we were given the dessert menu to peruse. Whilst tossing up what we wanted to have for dessert – we could see the other meals being prepared in the kitchen and being sent out to the diners. They looked amazingly delicious! It made us wish that we had come here for dinner as well! The menu is prepared by Michael Lambie (also ex Taxi and Circa). The Smith offers six-course and eight-course tasting menus at $70 and $85.

The menu is split into six sections – starting off with “Oysters” (there are three to choose from), moving onto “Mouthful”, then “Tastes”, followed by “Fish & Meat”, then “Sides” and ending on dessert dubbed “To End.” Mouthful includes morsels of food that ranges from pork croquettes, to tempura king prawns, soft shell crab, tofu and salmon tartare. There are a number of “Tastes” and “Fish & Meat” dishes to select from as well – the variety ensures that there really is a dish for everyone and every dietary requirement. The menu is a combination of many cuisines – from Mexican to Thai to Japanese and even Modern Australian Country.

There were four different desserts to choose from which included The Smith Carrot Cake with citrus cream cheese, Chocolate dulce de elce with blood orange foam and the two desserts we chose to have. What is great about the desserts here are not only do they sound good, but most of them are Gluten-Free, Nut-Free etc. The menu marks down what each dessert is, as well as suggesting what drink it would go well with. There is also a cheese selection if you are a cheese fan.

I ordered the The Smith Knickerbocker Glory (GF, EF, NF) – which was essentially like a trifle – it had layers and layers of sweet goodness. There are layers of macerated sweet tart fruit including pomegranate molasses, berries, strawberries topped with whipped cream, chocolate buttons, jelly squares and chunky bits of honeycomb. There were so many textures and flavours going on and it really was a fun dessert to have. I loved the combination of cream and berries any day so this dessert worked really well for me and was just what I craved and wanted.

A ordered the Raspberry Souffle with White Chocolate Ice Cream (GF) which was mighty impressive when it was placed in front of us. The overflow of the soufflé looked delightful and was topped with icing sugar; to the side was the white chocolate ice cream. The soufflé was literally melt in your mouth and the tanginess worked extremely well in contrast to the sweetness of the white chocolate ice cream. A winner!

Whilst we were eating our desserts we watched as The Smith Carrot cake was being made and boy did it look impressive! There were so many elements that were added – as you watch you think that it would be the last ingredient placed – but wait there’s more – more and more elements added – and the end result: spectacular. The dish was finished with petals, flowers and reminded me of a swan. Definitely wanting to try this out next time!

We also ordered tea to go with our dessert – and I tried the Russian Caravan tea for the first time! I have previously not heard of this flavour and was intrigued to try it out. This tea is a blended oolong, keemun and lapsang souchong tea and has a vibrant and strong aroma to match a nutty, malty and smoky flavouring. I might actually consider purchasing some of my own Russian Caravan tea!

The staff were really helpful and our waiter especially was really friendly! Customer service was really good and the staff looked like they were having a good time.

The Smith is great place be it for a casual catch up dinner or a celebration. The atmosphere is lively, fun and very friendly. The Smith also has two function rooms upstairs, with a separate bar and kitchen. One of the rooms is called “Mr Smith” which is the more masculine version complete with leather seats and can seat up to 40 people. The other room is aptly named “Mrs Smith” – complete with white walls and can seat up to 24 people. There is a wall between the two that can be opened up to create one larger space if needed.

The Smith serves a large variety of food in a venue that is stylish, elegant yet casual and relaxed – the staff are friendly and helpful and the food dishes not only look spectacular but taste great too! What more could you ask for really?

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.thesmithprahran.com.au/the-food/ The drinks menu can be found here – http://www.thesmithprahran.com.au/the-drinks/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant, Stylish, Casual and Fun. There is an area for dining and an area for drinks, as well as a courtyard. There are also function rooms.
Service: Fantastic – very friendly and helpful!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.thesmithprahran.com.au
213 High St, Prahran
Tel No: 9514 2444

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm

The Smith on Urbanspoon

Dr Morse – Bringing Crowds Back to Abbotsford

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Dr Morse Menu

N and I headed to Dr Morse before heading out to the footy on a Sunday for lunch. Dr Morse is located on Johnston Street in Abbotsford, near the old Collingwood Football club (and near Victoria Park train station).

Dr Morse is the bigger older brother of Jr Morse – a coffee window which opened up in January this year – by Jon Costelloe and Anth Daniel (owner of The Aviary and The Vic Bar) together with manager Pete Walsh.

Dr Morse offers quite a large area of space and even has a beer garden out the back. The interior consists of exposed brick walls, concrete and timber – and includes the original early 1900s mural advertising “Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills” – which gave the venue it’s name. The renovations were all done by friends and took almost a year.

There is a mix of seating – a high communal table, some lower tables that seat two to four as well as window seating near the entrance, that allows you to look out onto the main street and crowd watch. The fit-out is simple but modern and works well as a whole creating a warm and relaxed feel.

The menu is created by head chef Josh Clark (ex 50 acres) together with sous chefs Kane Papworth (ex Proud Mary) and Tyler Preston (ex Chin Chin). The menu is split into 4 different sections – Sandwiches, Salads, Meals and Sweets. There are five different sandwiches to select from with a couple of vegetarian options, two different salads to choose from and 4 different meals dishes. These dishes include a classic beef burger, lamb ribs, chicken or fish with chips. For the sweets – you can try the S’mores or the poached pear, as well as a range of cakes and sweets from the counter. The usual drinks are available – coffee (hot or over ice), Tea from Storm in a Teacup, as well as freshly squeezed market juices and drinks from Soho. Coffee is sourced from a Canberra roastery – ONA.

For my lunch meal I ordered the Organic Quinoa, Avocado, Pistachio, Pomegranate, Corn & Egg Salad, as well as the freshly squeezed market juice of the day which was Apple & Blackcurrant. My salad came out looking quite colourful, with all the elements mixed together and the egg and watercress leaves placed on top. The egg looked to be cooked perfectly – with the right amount of gooeyness. The salad was a winner in my books – I loved the tanginess of the salad coupled with the bursts sweetness of the corn and the pop of pomegranate. A really great tasting dish and the serving size was quite generous as well. Pity I couldn’t take away the remains for later. Healthy and Tasty – you can’t go wrong!

The freshly squeezed market juice was refreshing as well – the hint of blackcurrant was nice and wasn’t overpowering which was good.

N ordered the Chicken and Chips with Slaw and Gravy. I tried some of his chips – and they were delicious! He did enjoy his dish and particularly liked the slaw.

We didn’t have time and I was really full to try out the desserts – but there is always next time! Next time I want to check out the courtyard / beer garden. For a great chilled out vibe with great tasting food and drink – come and try Dr Morse out!

Check out the review for Jr Morse at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/jr-morse-coffee-window-fun/

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

Opening Hours:

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

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

Dr Morse Bar & Eatery on Urbanspoon

The Petty Officer – Close Stroll to the Beach

panda 4 rating

After lining up for almost 5 hrs to get into The Block, N and I needed to grab something to eat. We decided to walk around the Albert Park area – where The Block was located – and stumbled on The Petty Officer. I had previously wanted to come here, but had momentarily forgotten about it.

The Petty Officer is located in Bridport Street in Albert Park and is owned by Dave and Zoe Makin, Adam Mariani and Matthew Lewin – who are also behind Axil Coffee (Hawthorn). Located in what used to be a former fine dining restaurant in its former life in a restored Victorian building. The fit out is brilliant – it has huge windows allowing the natural sunlight to stream through and is very spacey and roomy – thanks to the high ceilings, as well as the layout. As you walk in you are drawn to the massive bird motif behind the coffee station – which stands out in black & white against the white backdrop of the wall. The tables are all wooden – a mix of high and low tables – and paired nicely with black chairs and stools. Another stand out are the hour glass shaped light shades that dot the ceiling throughout the space. Near the back of the venue is a communal table complete with cherry blossom art work on the walls. Chic and classy, yet relaxed.

It was quite a nice Melbourne day – so we decided to sit outside. Being the owners of Axil – coffee is a strong point here at The Petty Officer. I order a latte whilst mulling over the menu. Espresso coffee is the main focus, however there are filter options as well. My latte is crisp, nutty and left a clean finish on the palate at the end. Delicious!

The head chef is Dan Woollard (ex-Il Solito Posto) and there is a breakfast menu that is served all day together with a lunch menu. Everything is made in-house except the bread. There are the favourites such as Avocado Smash with Feta, Buttermilk Pancakes, Baked Eggs, Bircher Museli with a yoghurt Pannacotta as well as a Fritter dish. For lunch you will find dishes such as a Lamb Wrap, Cauliflower Salad, a Pulled Pork burger as well as some Chicken Dishes. Refer to the menu above for more info.

I decide to order the Beetroot, zucchini and haloumi fritter, avocado, spinach, poached egg, tomato relish in the end. I was tossing up between this dish and the Spicy Baked Eggs. The dish was different to any other fritter dish I have seen – instead of smaller individual fritters on the plate – this fritter was one large round and flat fritter – with the avocado, spinach, poached egg and tomato relish all placed cleverly on top and finished with flowers. The fritter had an interesting combination of flavours and was not dry at all. The combination of beetroot, zucchini and haloumi was very refreshing and combined with the other whole elements was great. The fritter itself is quite dense and overall the dish is very filling. The poached egg was gooey and runny just like how it is meant to be.

N ordered the Local chorizo, potato croquettes, sautéed spinach, poached eggs, parsnip relish. The chorizo was in the centre of the dish, and is flanked by the potato croquettes and the poached eggs on top. N is a huge fan of chorizo and said that the quality and flavour of this chorizo was top notch. I tried some of his potato croquettes – which were crispy on the outside and soft and cloud-like on the inside – really delicious.

The Petty Officer is a licensed café and offers a selection of red and white wines, along with ciders and beers. There are sweet goodies in the form of cookies, cupcakes and muffins located at the counter inside that look scrumptious as well.

The Petty Officer (which takes its name from a navy rank) – is located a short stroll from the beach – is a great place to spend a weekend having a casual breakfast with dishes that bring you quality and taste.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to  http://www.thepettyofficer.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Classy, Relaxed. Great place to spend on the weekend just to chill out and enjoy some great coffee and food!
Service: Friendly staff
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
 http://www.thepettyofficer.com.au/
113 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park
Tel No: 9686 3000

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sun 7:00 am – 4:00 pm

The Petty Officer on Urbanspoon

duNord – Swedish Splendour

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menyu at duNord

G & I were catching up for dinner and decided to check out duNord which is located in Little Bourke St – right in the middle of the Melbourne CBD. duNord serves up Swedish flavours and Nordic inspired cocktails and is owned by Thomas Kiltorp (ex-Emerald Peacock, Red Hummingbird).

As you walk in you are greeted by the super long Beechwood bar which has solid bar stools that you can perch yourself up at. There are also higher tables near the bar. Following the bar is the kitchen and to the right of that there are lower blonde wooden tables for more seating. At the back of the venue is space called Back Pocket where you get fit between 30 to 70 people for a private function. There is exposed brick combined with the light wooden furniture combined with a neutral colour palette to create a warm, welcoming and inviting feel to the venue. The staff are ever so friendly and helpful.

duNord is known for its Nordic themed bar which includes Scandanavian beers, ciders but the main feature is their cocktails. This would be expected especially with Kiltorp at the helm. There is a daily “market cocktail” as well as a list of 12 different cocktails, which changes according to the produce available as well as the weather. Interestingly there is a mystery brown bagged beer – beer served in a brown bag to try out as well! There is also a snack menu – svenska bitar – which includes some Swedish meatballs or a smorgasbord platter of herring, gouda cheese, rye and pickles.

G & I arrived at duNord after work for dinner and were seated on the lower tables near the kitchen area. We actually didn’t order any of the cocktails and went straight to the food as we were starving. The menu is split into 5 sections beginning with the nibbles and followed by to start, vegetables, mains and finishing with something sweet. There are between 3 to 5 dishes to select under each of these menus. There is a great selection for vegetarians, and the meats range from venison to mutton and include pork loin, duck breast and smoked mackerel.

We decided to order two ‘nibbles’ dish to share, our own mains and a vegetable to share as well.For the two nibbles dishes we ordered the Smoked Eel and Acorn Croquettes in popcorn and the Pine Smoked Quails Nest.

I have never eaten Acorn before so was intrigued to find out what type of flavour it would be. It was a bit hard to differentiate as it was in a croquette style and mixed together with the smoked eel. However the result was delicious – the smokiness of the eel and the nuttiness of the acorn paired well together. It came in a serving of two so was perfect for the two of us. The outer layer was crumbed and crisped perfectly.

Before ordering the Pine Smoked Quail Nest – the waitress explained what the dish consisted of and it sounded really interesting. When the dish comes out it comes under a dome which houses the smokiness, and once it arrives at your table, this is removed and the vapours evaporate. The “nest” actually resembles a real life birds nest – with the “nest” made out of carrots and onions which are created to look like bark. Really cool! The quail egg sits in the centre of this nest. A really visually pleasing dish that makes you not want to eat it. However, we did eat the dish and the quail egg was really yum – the centre yolk was like liquid gold with the perfect texture to it. We had to ask if we could eat the “nest” and once told we could, we devoured every last bit. There was potato at the bottom which was my favourite tasting part.

For mains I ordered the Wild mushroom and Potato Ragout with Pearled Barley and Greens. This has to one of the prettiest dishes plated up that I have received this year. The Pearled Barley was in a heaped perfect circle, topped with the wild mushrooms and the green placed on top of the mushrooms – like a layered trifle. Beetroot jus was placed artistically around the plate along with a few of the wild mushrooms. I loved the combination of all the elements of the dish. The texture of the pearled barley with the mushrooms worked well together, and the flavours were all round delicious. A really great dish to try out.

G ordered the Duck breast, sautéed roasted vegetables, poached pears, blood and berry jus –w which was also beautifully presented. The sautéed roasted vegetables were colourfully placed in the centre of the black plate with the tender duck breast flanking each side. The poached pear was next to the duck breast and the dish was finished with a whole small red onion and berry jus. G did like her dish and said the duck was cooked really well, and overall the flavours combined together really well – she just wasn’t a fan of the beetroot (it just isn’t a veggie she likes).

We also ordered the Seasonal roasted vegetables on Goats curd with Ashed Goats Cheese to share which was actually quite a large dish. The dish was a variety of carrots char grilled and served with the fresh smoked cheese. The carrots were still juicy and sweet and combined with the smokiness and tang of the cheese was a great result. We were so full from our individual main dishes that we couldn’t finish this veggie dish – I guess in hindsight we ordered a bit too much.

When it came to dessert time we decided to share the Lavender Ice Cream, Lemon and Vanilla Sponge, White Chocolate Soil. The dish came plated up on a long dish with the lavender ice cream scoop on one side and the lemon and vanilla sponge on the other with the white chocolate soil diagonally placed around the two. The lavender ice cream was great- had the lavender flavouring mixed together in a creamy end result. The lemon and vanilla sponge was not as soft as I expected it to be but provided a different texture to the dish. The elements together worked quite well and the addition of the white chocolate soil I thought was a necessary component.

I really enjoyed the food, atmosphere and the helpfulness and friendliness of the staff at duNord. I loved the plating up of the food especially as well as the versatile and different flavours and elements used. If you visit on a Wednesday there is something called Lill Lördag (Little Saturday). This is a night of Swedish street food and drink specials on offer to celebrate the week’s halfway mark, along with some great music to match. Definitely check this place out and try out some delightful Scandinavian cuisine.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can find the menu here http://www.dunord.com.au/news/nordic-kitchen-here or look at the menu pic above.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Inviting, Relaxed and Welcoming
Standout Dish:Pine Smoked Quail Nest AND Wild mushroom and Potato Ragout with Pearled Barley and Greens (I had to pick two)
Service: Fantastic!! Really friendly and really know their information about each dish!
Online Booking: Yes via website – www.dunord.com.au – there is a DIMMI link
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.dunord.com.au
367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9642 0052

Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 12pm – Late
Friday: 12pm – 1am
Saturday: 6pm – 1am

duNord on Urbanspoon

Mugen Ramen – City’s First Tsukemen Ramen

panda 4 rating

I love Ramen so when I heard about Mugen I had to check it out. Mugen speciaiises in Ramen and is owned by Yoshi Kurosawa – who is also the owner of Robot bar which is located directly opposite. Mugen is located in a laneway off Flinders lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

Mugen (meaning infinite) is a schmick looking two-level venue which includes a basement izakaya which has seating and drinks available. At street level you can see into the kitchen as the chefs prepare your meals and there is two bench rows available to sit at. There is a black and blue theme running which adds a touch of elegance and warmth.

Mugen specialises in the Tsukemen style and is the first Tsukemen joints in the city. Tsukemen is a type of deconstructed ramen. It consists of the dipping house-made noodles which are plated separately and are served cold with warm charshu pork, sheet of nori and pickled bamboo shoots. To the side there is a small bowl of pork, chicken and fish sauce into which you put your ramen. The dish is available in two different sizes – 300g and 420g.  The menu has two types of Tsukemen – Wafu and Curry as well as two different types of normal Ramen – Miso and Wafu.

The menu is really interesting and has a comic – or manga as they would call it in Japan – on the back which pokes fun and tells you how to eat the Tsukemen, which I think is a innovative and great style of the menu. In addition to the Ramen, there are smaller dishes available such as Gyoza, Aburi Chasu, Potato Salad, Chips and more. When we went there was also a JAPAS (Japanese Tapas) menu that was coming soon. There were no desserts on the menu at this time – but I really do hope they expand into this as well. There are also a great selection of drinks – beers, sake and liquer– available. The beers include Codeo which is essentially a sweet potato lager – how interesting!

Unfortunately despite loving Ramen the fact that I can’t have any pork dishes, meant that I couldn’t try any of the ramen available. The waitress was very friendly and told me that I could get some Soba noodles with tofu made up – and this would the only vegetarian option available. I was happy to order that ( I do love tofu as well). N ordered the Tsukune and Tebasaki from the small dishes section.

The Tsukune – Japanese Grilled Chicken skewers made from tenderloin thigh and soft bones with Teriyaki sauce and egg yolk on the side to dip. There were four skewers that came out and N loved the flavours and softness to the chicken. The addition of the dipping egg yolk was different and further enhanced the flavour.

The Tebasaki – Japanese deep fried chicken wings. This came served in a stainless steel frying basket and was coated with a glaze of honey and sesame – they were crispy on the outside and juicy and delicious on the inside.

My vegetarian soba noodles with tofu, chilli and salad was a generous serving. The noodles were fresh and silky smooth and cooked perfectly. The dish overall was tasty and despite really wanting a dose of ramen hit the spot.

The vibe at Mugen is fantastic and it is a great place at the basement to enjoy drinks. The food smells delicious and I cannot wait to see what type of dishes will be on their Japas menu. The staff are friendly and really accommodating. Will definitely be back, even though I can’t eat their signature dish!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above picture
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy, Elegant and Fun
Service: Friendly, Helpful and VERY accommodating
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://mugenramenbar.com/
11 Bligh Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9620 3647

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday:
Lunch
11:30 am to 2:30pm
Dinner
6pm to 11pm
Sunday – Closed

Mensousai Mugen on Urbanspoon

Boney – Where The Old Pony Was

panda 4.5 rating

I was initially struck by the interesting name of the place and wanted to check out both the food and the venue – hence my visit initially to Boney.

Boney is a new venue for music, dancing and dining and resides in the location of the bar that used to be named Pony. Boney comes to you from Camillo and Daniel Ippoliti who are also responsible for such places as Revolver Upstairs, Cookie and The Toff in Town. Boney is a welcoming and intriguing place and the food is quite delicious and the menu varied that after the first time there I had to come back and check out quite literally everything else on the menu!

The original structure has been retained – although downstairs there is now a kitchen and the old furnishings have been replaced. There is a glow of red neon lighting throughout the venue which matches perfectly with the solid black walls. This was done in order to keep a Rock’n’Roll vibe as said by the owners. Upstairs will be turned into the venue’s intimate band room where live independent artists and DJs can perform (7 nights a week). In keeping with Pony’s trend – there will still be the infamous 2am live performance slot.

As you approach the venue, on the outside walls you are greeted by a large menu where you can have a read about the food you can order. Just from reading the menu there are so many options and varieties that you often can spend a long period of time deciding what you want to order. I certainly had that issue. There are many dishes for vegetarians as well which I think is fantastic! The menu is designed and crafted by Karen Baston and there is food available for Lunch, Dinner or Take-Away. Together with the standard menu, there is a selection of daily specials – two per day – one for lunch and one for dinner. The Menu has some smaller snack like dishes to start with and then progresses on the menu to the larger dishes and ends with sides and of course finishing with the Boney Sweet Spot.

The first time around I ordered the funkily named Tofu & Mushroom Hot “Diggity” Dog – which is vegetarian version of a hot dog – and I was impressed! When it comes out the filling inside the hot dog is quite colourful against the white backdrop of the plate. The tofu and mushroom “hot-dog” is separate and is encased in like a filo pastry and is very tasty – I always love the combination of tofu & mushroom. The flavours work well with the colourful ingredients – being tomatoes, peppers and finished with a chilli sauce. Really quite delicious. We also ordered a side of Potato Skins which were amazing! They were seasoned to perfection and coupled with sour cream have to be one of my favourite potato skin places. This is a great dish to just snack on as a bar snack if you have just come here for drinks. (I did have dessert the first time I went here but I will come back to that =p)

The next time around I came I ordered the Snapper Fillet with Green Mango, Lemongrass and Peanuts. Once again this was a colourful dish with the glossy snapper fillet sitting atop of the Thai inspired salad which consisted of the peanuts, lemongrass, green mango and many other things such as bean shoots, cucumbers, carrots, red onions. The snapper was cooked superbly and was moist and had been flavoured well to match the Thai flavours of the salad. It really did feel like a healthy dish which packed a punch. G ordered the Snapper Burger which came with Bread & Butter Pickle. When the burger came out it did look impressive and she wasn’t sure how to eat it as it was quite huge. There was of course the snapper burger, and layers of tomato, pickle and salads encased in buns. G said the burger was tasty and the snapper burger different to anything she has had before.

Now onto the desserts – the menu for desserts had changed since the first time I had been there but sounded just as great. The first time around I had the Chocolate Brownie, Roasted Rhubarb & Walnut Crumble. The Chocolate Brownie was absolutely to die for and came served warm – it was filled with rich chocolate gooeyness! The Roasted Rhubarb complemented the bitterness of the chocolate and added a tang to add depth to the dish. It really was delicious. This wasn’t there unfortunately the next time I went back, so that time I ordered the Pistachio’d Pav, Stone Fruit Compote & Cardamon Cream. I must admit this dessert wasn’t as good as the Chocolate Brownie, however it was an interesting tasting dish. The Pav was crunchy and literally melted in your mouth and I really did love the cardamon cream – the spiciness of the cardamom really did complement the stone fruit compote. As a whole the dish worked really well and it is definitely a dish to try. G ordered the Jaffa Mousse & Vanilla Mascarpone which was just as delicious. I did get to try this dessert as well and it was quite rich tasting and definitely one for chocolate and jaffa lovers. The Vanilla Mascarpone was a great addition to cut through this richness. Next time I really do want to check out the Ginger & Lemongrass Creme Brulee. Boney has created three really great desserts.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Boney – both times that I went there – it is a shabby chic venue that really has a personality and fantastic food that really is up there with the best of them. All this whilst staying casual, cool and funky. Definitely check it out whether it be for some casual drinks and snacks or a catch-up / hang out with some easy to eat and tasty food.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://boney.net.au/menu/ – consists of Small and Larger dishes as well as Dessert. There is also a Special Menu with dishes depending on what time and day it is.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Chilled Out and Just FUN!
Standout Dish: Tofu & Mushroom Hot Diggity Dog….and their desserts!
Service: Fantastic and Attentive. They are super friendly and helpful as well when you have a tough time deciding what you want to eat and believe me you will!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://boney.net.au/
68 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9662 1026

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 12:00 pm – 3:00 am
Thursday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 am
Friday to Saturday: 12:00 pm – 7:00 am
Sunday: 5:00 pm – 5:00 am

Boney on Urbanspoon