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

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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

Kong BBQ – Worth All The Hype!

panda 4 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – Late

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

Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon