Pad Thai Restaurant – There’s More to Pad Thai

panda 4 rating Green Curry Fried RiceGreen Curry Friend Rice

Close up of Green Curry Fried Rice

Menu:
Pad Thai Menu Pad Thai Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening Hours:

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

Pad Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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

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LadyBoy Dining – Cheeky Fun!

panda 4 rating

 

Menu:
Menu at LadyBoy Dining

With a name like Ladyboy Dining you are sure to strike up an interest – adding some curiosity, fun, spice and playfulness to the Richmond area. Ladyboy Dining is created by co-owners Fran Leaper and chef Mitch Townrow (Longrain) who are joined together with chef Pez Bowman (Melbourne Pub Group).

As you step inside you will feel like you have been transported to Bangkok, Thailand. The colourful, cheeky fit out has been done in collaboration with Ingrain Designs. A huge colourful sign with the word SAWASDEE (a greeting to mean welcome/hello) greets you together with a large striking street art ladyboy face. Next to it is a large bright yellow sign – LADYBOY – which hangs above the bar and overlooks the entire dining room. What I love is the installation of multi coloured wastepaper baskets that have been flipped to create light shades that drape loosely from the roof across the front dining area. At the end of the bar is a slightly smaller neon blue sign – ROCK OUT WITH YOUR WOK OUT – and below that is an open kitchen where you can watch as the chefs prepare your meals.

As you walk down the small walkway from the main dining area towards the back of the venue – more seating is available with a funky abstract artwork of an elephant. This leads to the back where there is a large area for the Buddha Bar complete with colourful umbrellas on the ceiling, awesome cane furniture (round, curved seating) and fake grass outside – to keep with the Thai relaxed theme. Here there is also fancy artwork of a large Buddha head on one and neon signage with the words BUDDHA BAR on the opposite side under which the wooden bar sits. The expansive courtyard will no doubt be a hit in the summer. Here you can enjoy the hawker style bar menu which includes oysters and green nahm jim, chicken wings and a selection of banh mi – all for $8, as well as salt & pepper tofu and pork hock with rum glaze. There are cheekily named drinks on their menu for offer such as Adam’s Apple and Trans-gin-der, as well as cocktail buckets and a good selection of beers and wine to try out.

The menu starts off with Smaller Bites such as Betel Leaf, Oysters + Nahm Jim and Son In Law Eggs – progressing to Smaller dishes where you will find Ceviche, Larb, Papaya Salad, Pork Hock and Salt & Pepper Tofu. This is then followed up with your larger dishes that include a selection of Curries (Red Duck or Tofu Curry, Green Fish Curry, Angus Brisket Penang Curry), Whole Fish, Pad Thai and Grilled Salad. There are a handful of sides to choose from which include Rice, Stir Fried Green, Chilli + Prawn + Smoked Coconut Samabl and Cucumber + Krachai + Mustard Green Relish. The menu ends with a selection of Sweet LadyBoy Treats – where coconut features mainly – with desserts such as Coconut Sorbet, Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue, Sago + Palm Sugar + Coconut and White Sticky Rice + Ice Cream + Thai Fruits.

There is also an option to enjoy the LadyBoy’s Banquet ($45) which will give you the kitchen’s daily selection. This will require a minimum of 2 people, and if you have a table then the whole table must go on this banquet.

There were four of us at dinner and we ordered the Betel Leaf + Char Grilled Calamari + Green Mango + Peanut each to start. Served on a betel leaf – the dish comes out with striking colours thanks to the chilli, coriander and peanuts. You eat the entire dish as is – betel leaf and all – and as you crunch into the first bite your tastebuds will soar just like fireworks. A combination of spice, tang and the softness of the fresh grilled calamari is breathtaking. A great way to start off your food experience at LadyBoy.

From the smaller dishes we ordered Salt & Pepper Silken Tofu + Chilli Jam and Crispy Pork Hock + Rum Glaze. The Salt & Pepper Tofu was crispy and crunchy on the outside whilst being soft and billowy on the inside. The Chilli Jam that accompanied this dish was just the right consistency and had a great balance of flavours – spice and tang.
The two guys really enjoyed the Pork Hock + Rum Glaze – so much so that they wanted to order another serving of the dish. Clearly a mighty delicious tasting dish.

We also ordered the Green Papaya Salad + Snake Bean + Peanuts from the smaller dishes. Think slivers of green papaya mixed with freshly cut snake beans and tomatoes topped with peanuts and drizzled in spicy and tangy sauce. This dish is refreshing and sure does pack a punch; I also loved the mixture of textures that you get as you delve into it. The addition of coriander adds further depth and flavouring to the dish.

From the larger dishes we ordered three dishes – Green Fish Curry + Apple Eggplant + Pea Eggplant,Dry Red Duck Curry + Snake Beans + Baby Corn and Pad Thai + Salted Calamari + Peanut.
The Green Fish Curry + Apple Eggplant + Pea Eggplant. The dish comes with a generous amount of fish pieces and has just the right amount of coconut to flavour the curry. I have never eaten pea or apple eggplant before – pea eggplants is a very small eggplant and as the name suggests; resembles a pea. They were cooked whole and pop in your mouth when you bite them which release a burst of bitterness that combines nicely with the rich heat of the curry. A great dish.
The duck curry was served dry and looked delicious when it was placed on the table – the vibrant colours of the red duck against the bright yellow of the sweet corn and green from the basil and bean was breathtaking. This was another dish that the table enjoyed.
The Pad Thai was another well cooked and flavoured dish – served with a wedge of lime for extra tang if needed. The serving as with all the other dishes was quite generous.

Dessert was definitely on the cards – out of the four desserts to choose from – I decided to order the Sago + Palm Sugar + Coconut and N ordered the Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue.
The Sago comes out served in a blue and white bowl – topped with star fruit and coconut flakes. I love anything with sago so thoroughly enjoyed this dessert. The coconut flakes added a crunch together with the star fruit adding citrusy and lime flavours.
I also had a chance to try out the Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue. I am usually not a fan of lemon meringues or key lime pies, but this version was absolutely delicious and had to be my favourite dessert of the night. The coconut meringue was generously placed and flamed to perfection on top of the kaffir lime infused pie and topped with crunchy coconut flakes. The kaffir lime was the star of the dish and together with the combination of the coconut meringue was divine. A definite must try dish that I know anyone would enjoy.

The service at LadyBoy Dining is great – friendly and the staff are knowledgeable and well informed about each dish. LadyBoy is mostly for walk-ins but they do take banquet bookings in the dining area for a group of eight or more. On Sundays they serve Thai style roasts from 5pm onwards. LadyBoy Dining serves up delicious tasting Thai food with a difference – added cheek and fun! Summer days will definitely see this place packed out – especially at the Buddha Bar out the back. Get down and check out LadyBoy Dining now.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://www.ladyboydining.com.au/#!dining/galleryPage
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Lively and Memorable. Such a colouful and fun-filled place to hang out and have a great night out with friends and family
Standout Dish: Salt & Pepper Silken Tofu + Chilli Jam AND Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue
Service: Fantastic  – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No, however you can book for 8 or more people.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.ladyboydining.com.au/
394 Bridge Road, Richmond
Tel No: 9421 3206

Opening Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday & Thursday: 6:00pm to Late
Friday – Sunday: 5:00pm to Late

LadyBoy Dining + Bar on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ladyboydiningInstagram: ladyboydining
Twitter: @LadyBoyDining

San Paolo Solarino – Sicilian in the City

panda 4 rating

I stumbled across San Paolo Solarino one day whilst out shopping in the lane ways of Melbourne in my lunch break. P and I were looking for a place to have lunch with another friend and I suggested Solarino.

Solarino is a contemporary Italian restaurant / bar that is located in Howey Place – a laneway off Little Collins Street – and nestled between stores such as Oroton, FCUK and the recently opened Phillipa’s. Solarino is brought to us by chefs Grant Phelan (Il Solito Posto, Ca De Vin) and Jade Amenta. It offers authentic and stays true to the Nonna style of cooking in presenting a modern twist on your traditional Sicilian food – and is open seven days a week for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

From the moment you walk inside – Solarino has a real sophisticated and elegant feel to it coupled with a air of casualness and comes complete with wooden tables and a swanky front bar. A highlight is the white washed walls with the name Solarino written in lights. The front counter hosts a silver coffee machine which pumps out delicious tasting coffee as well as cakes and a variety of desserts.

Their breakfast menu consists of the usual suspects such as Eggs any way you like it including Benedict, Florentine, Poached, Scrambled and Omelette. There is also Toast, French toast, Muesli and Crumpets available. Their lunch menu consists of Antipasti followed by Primi, Insalata and finishes with Speciali. There are around 7 different pasta dishes to choose from under the Primi heading – including Spaghetti, Fettuccine and Linguine. Insalata dishes include Calamari fritti and a variety of salads to choose from. Specials include Soft Shell Chilli Crab Salad, Sizzling Prawns, Veal as well as a Claypot Lamb.

I ordered the Penne with Garlic, Mushroom, Chilli, Onion and Fetta. The pasta was fresh and cooked to perfection. The flavour combination of the earthy tones from the mushroom paired with the garlic, and the caramelisation of the onion was simply divine. This was one fantastic mouth watering dish!

P ordered the Gnocchi Napoli Oven Baked and Topped with Grilled Mozzarella which came served out in a mini hot plate pan. P let me try some of her gnocchi and it was literally a melt in your mouth experience – heaven! The flavour combination of the Napoli and mozzarella worked together well. If you are a fan of gnocchi you have to try this dish out!

T ordered the Rigatoni with Aurora Style Pork Bolognese and Ricotta and said that he quite enjoyed the dish and the flavours. The dish looked fresh, vibrant and delicious.

Solarino is a fantastic venue that makes you feel comfortable and welcomed. It serves traditional Italian food with a modern twist – the dishes are a tad pricier that you would normally expect – but once you experience the flavours and freshness the price is simply an afterthought.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu:
Refer to the following for Breakfast: http://www.solarino.com.au/public/menus/solarino_breakfast.pdf
Refer to the following for Lunch: http://www.solarino.com.au/public/menus/solarino_lunch-dinner.pdf
Refer to the following for the wine list: http://www.solarino.com.au/public/menus/solarino_wine.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambiance: Stylish, Elegant, Classy and Comfortable
Standout Dish: Any of the Pasta dishes!
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.solarino.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.solarino.com.au/
Howey Place
279 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 2636

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 6:30am – 10:30pm

San Paolo Solarino - Pasta and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Hooked – Delicious Tasting Healthy Seafood

panda 4 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooked on Urbanspoon

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

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

Hooked on Urbanspoon                                                                                                      Hooked on Urbanspoon

 

Saint Crispin – Heavenly Dishes

panda 3.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Saint Crispin

It was time for our regular work catchup dinners and Saint Crispin was the venue of choice. We had to see what the recently awarded “Best New Restaurant” by The Age Good Food Guide 2014 was all about. Saint Crispin is located on Smith Street in Collingwood and has taken over where Cavallero used to reside. Saint Crispin is named after the patron saint of cobblers, tanners and leather workers and also ties in with the buildings original use as a cobbler’s workshop.

Scott Pickett (The Estelle) and Joe Grbac (ex-The Press Club) form a partnership to create this one hatted restaurant. As you walk in through the strong wooden doors which are flanked by cast iron black lattice you enter a classy yet casual venue. There is an exposed brick wall on one side and the long marble bar on the other side. Towards the back is the open kitchen, where you can see chefs creating each of the dishes that go out. The tables are strong wooden non polished tables and I like this – adding to the rustic feel which links it to the surrounding area – paired with leather comfortable seating on one and wooden chairs on the other with cushioning. There is seating at the bar as well on high stools which allows you view the kitchen from a better vantage point. The interior was designed by Leah Hart.

The menu is centred around using seasonal and fresh local produce and covers a variety of types – there are seafood, food, chicken, pork and vegetarian dishes on offer. There is also Alba White Truffle available for an extra $40 a serving which we were told was flown in that morning. The way the menu is designed is that there is a selection of three a la carte combinations. There is the two course ($50), three course ($60) and the chef’s tasting menu ($120) – which comprises of seven courses – five savoury courses and two desserts. There is also the option to order Little Bites and Sides. The Little Bites consist of charcuterie. Crudites, Oysters, Eel Croquettes and an interesting named dish called Snap, Crackle and Pop (which I learnt was the Pork Crackling in a Prawn Cracker format).

There for four of us and three of us decided to go for the three course menu and one person did the two courses.  Before deciding to order – we were given small starters that arrived on a wooden circle piece of wood. On this day we had Chickpea squares with Marshmallows. The squares were really delicious bite sized morsels and the marshmallow provided a sweet palate and was very soft and cloudlike. Once we had ordered our food we were served bread which came with a serving of butter and the yummiest Caramelised Onion and Cream Cheese spread. It really is a spread that makes you go ‘WOW’ and my only qualm would be that we received too little of the spread.

What I do like about Saint Crispin is when each dish is placed down they explain what each dish is and what is in it. I like this personal touch. For entrée I ordered the Sand Flathead, Mussels, Sea Vegetables and Crème Fraiche. I was interested to know what Sea Vegetables were and when I asked the waiter – he didn’t offer much of an explanation other than “things that you find by the sea shore.” The fish is the centrepiece of the dish, with the sea vegetables around and on top of the fish with the mussels on the side. The Crème Fraiche comes in a separate little jug which the waiter then pours on top of the fish for you. The fish was cooked just right and came in two pieces – however I felt that it could have been seasoned a bit more as I couldn’t eat the fish on its own – it needed the addition of the Crème Fraiche. As a whole the dish with all its elements especially the mussels, worked well together and the Crème Fraiche was delicious and perfectly seasoned. The sea vegetables were interesting and I am still not quite sure what each of them were called.

The others ordered the Atlantic Salmon, Shaved Calamari, Oyster, Squid Ink and Saffron for their entrées. I was lucky enough to try some of their dish. The dish was an extremely colourful dish set against the backdrop of a large black plate. The Salmon was cured and poached and as a result was tender and flavoured very well. There was shaved calamari and an oyster which was hidden underneath the salmon, together with a crisp tapioca coloured with black squid ink placed on top of the salmon which gave an added crunch. The combination of all the elements together with the saffron sauce and squid ink sauce created a truly magical dish.

After our entrees we were asked if we wanted more bread and how could you resist more of the Caramelised Onion and Cream Cheese spread – sadly however this never came.

For mains I ordered the Swordfish, Maloolabah Prawn, Nicola Potatoes and Kohlrabi. The swordfish came out beautifully presented. The piece of swordfish was thick and juicy and wasn’t dry at all – which is a sure good sign of a fish being cooked well! The addition of the balsamic sauce really made the dish and paired really well with the fish. The potatoes were creamy and smooth and added further compliments.

The others ordered the Bannockburn Chicken, Kalamata Olive, Cos and Spring Garlic. This was essentially chicken done in three ways – a popcorn chicken style – with crumbed and fried chicken which they all enjoyed, a coiled piece of chicken and a large thick seasoned piece of chicken with crispy skin. They seemed to like the dish but not love the dish and said elements needed to be worked on  or a different combination of ingredients added.

With our mains we ordered Sebago Potato Crisp, Seaweed Mayonnaise which was as expected really delicious. I did love their take on the seaweed mayonnaise – and it worked well with the crispy and crunchy potatoes.

Next up was dessert – which is the part of the meal that I look forward too. There were really great options to choose from but I opted for the Mango, Coconut, Vanilla and Verbena on recommendation from the waiter. He informed me that it was a pannacotta – and that was all he had to say to have me order this dish. I LOVE PANNACOTTAS. This dessert came out in a bowl and had a wafer like biscuit on the edge which looked like a spoon which I thought was quite funky. The Mango, foamy Coconut and other elements which included pretty pink and purple verbena flowers sat on top of the pannacotta. There were additional white chocolate balls which added crunch and texture. As a whole the dish worked really well together – I love the combination of mango and the creaminess of the pannacotta – it really is a great summery dessert. My one gripe though was for me there were too many white chocolate balls – and it made the dish too sweet for me, so towards the end I had to avoid eating them and just enjoy the other parts of the dish.

V ordered the Blood Orange Parfait, White Lemon, Yoghurt and Mandarin which I must say was the best dessert of the night. The dish when it came out looked fantastic – the presentation was amazing. – the rectangular parfait was topped with a colourful array of ingredients all placed on top of a white lemon smear. The parfait was creamy and smooth and had a really tasty cake crumb at the bottom and together with the acidity of the blood orange and the mandarin was the perfect balance of flavours. It was one of these desserts that you could eat a lot of and still not get sick of.

C ordered the Chocolate, Earl Grey, Milk and Ginger – which once again was nicely presented. This dessert was a chocolate mousse slice which was rich but light and airy just as a mousse should be. The Earl Grey ice cream was a great combination and worked well the rich and creaminess of the chocolate and really was the perfect addition. As a whole a really great dish for any one that loves chocolate.

As we were seated near the kitchen area, for most of the night we heard the head chef yelling out for the orders and telling the staff when the dishes were ready, which made it harder to keep a conversation going with people on the table. However, it did showcase the efficiency of the kitchen. To finish as we were waiting for the bill a wooden box made to replicate The Bible was placed on our table with a set of sweets inside – on this night we had a nougat – which had the perfect amount of stickiness and tasted delightful. It was a great way to finish off a good meal.

Saint Crispin delivers good food, presented exceptionally and provides great atmosphere. They provide interesting combination of ingredients together with some hidden surprises and familiar flavours. Desserts are definitely their strong point, as well as entrees following suit. I would like to see what dishes they serve up in the next menu change.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to the menu in the link above. You can also look at http://www.saintcrispin.com.au/menu.pdf. There is a choice of a Two Course ($50), Three Course ($60) and a Chef’s Tasting Menu – 7 courses ($120)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed yet classy and very enjoyable. Great place for a catch-up dinner with friends or family.
Standout Dish: Atlantic Salmon, Shaved Calamari, Oyster, Squid Ink and Saffron and  Blood Orange Parfait, White Lemon, Yoghurt and Mandarin
Service: Friendly and Attentive although sometimes forgetful?
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.saintcrispin.com.au/
300 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9419 2202

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 6pm – Late
Friday to Sunday: 12pm -3pm and 6pm – Late

Saint Crispin on Urbanspoon

Brutale – Homely Croatian Food

panda 4 rating

It was time for another catchup dinner with A and I selected Brutale as both of us had never eaten Croatian food before. Brutale is located in a laneway in the heart of Melbourne CBD in Corrs Lane – and is under Berlin Bar (where the old Eurotrash nightclub was). It is the latest restaurant from chef Daniel Dobra (ex-The Aylesbury and St Ali), and he gets to share and promote his Croatian heritage by showcasing delicious Croatian food which he grew up with.

Dobra is all about family and Brutale is his way of sharing a piece of his family with us. The restaurant could almost be mistook for his very own family living area – aside from the disco ball bomb, soldier helmet lightshades, not to mention the full pig’s carcass hanging behind the glass at the entrance as well as the interesting artwork (such as huge pictures of broads with the faces of pigs) around the room and a DJ playing records in the background.

The menu consists of appetisers, larger dishes and finishes with desserts and consists of genuine family recipes handed down to him by his father and grandmother. Dishes like his Dad’s oxtail goulash are an example, where it is cooked in the restaurant just as his dad would at home. There are also dishes such as Grandma’s Greens – which is a simple stew of vegies that his grandmother cooked with every meal- and Father’s Chips which pays homage to his family. The Cabbage Rolls and Croatian Donuts are also a recipe passed down from his grandmother. Additionally you can select the ‘Dobra Family Banquet’ and be one of the family for the night. Most of the dishes are cooked in the tailor made kitchen and are cooked over wood and coals to give it a truly authentic flavour. There are other Croatian homestyle techniques such as spit-roasting, pickling and cooking in the peka – a roasting dish with a domed lid.

For drinks there is a selection of unusual Croatian wines, including some grape varieties that aren’t grown anywhere else. The most famous is the Rakija – a spirit distilled from plum and other fruits. This variety continues with their non-alcoholic drinks with drinks such as Cokta – which is described as the Croatian version of Coca Cola. I ordered this and despite not being a huge fan of Coca Cola – this drink was refreshing and addictive (and has the added bonus of having vitamins added too!). A ordered the *orange* drink and said it was an interesting flavour.

We were told by the waiter that most of the dishes were designed to share so that is what A and I decided to do. We weren’t sure if we had ordered too little or too many dishes, so the waiter helped us out with that as well.

We ordered the Pierogi – Polish Dumplings, Soured Cream – which was stuffed with wild mushrooms. This was a really great dish and the sour cream really complemented the dish. The dumpling casing was cooked perfectly and tasted just as good. Another dish that we ordered was the Grilled Calamari with Garlic, Parsley and Olive Oil . This was yet another stand out dish – the calamari was charred perfectly and the combination of the garlic, parsley and olive oil added moistness, flavour and tang. The serving was quite a huge size as well.

The Father’s Chips with Salt, Pepper and Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was really great as well, although I found that it had a bit too much salt. The Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was definitely a hit – I could eat this by the spoonful! It was smooth and creamy with a hint of spice and I think you can use it as an addition to any dish really.

We also ordered the Shopska Salad which was very colourful dish and contained Tomato, Cucumber, Pickled Onion, Paprika, White Cheese. The dish was tangy and salty all at the same time and was quite a refreshing dish that I quite enjoyed. The serving size is very generous and we couldn’t finish this dish in its entirety.

The last dish we had was an eggplant dish that had red onions with paprika and coriander on top of it. Usually I am not a fan of eggplant dishes but this was really great. The eggplant was soft and easy to eat and the flavoring complemented the eggplant.

At this point we were really quite full, but decided to share a dessert as well. I sure do love my sweets! We went with the Croatian Doughnuts – Flavoured with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Raisin, Vanilla and Served with Walnut Rakija Cream. Seriously these are the best donuts I have ever tasted. They were served warm and cinnamon, nutmeg, raisin combination was fantastic. This is definitely a dessert you have to try and after all it is Dobra’s Grandmothers recipe.

What is also quite different about Brutale is that there is no bell to let the floor staff knows that a food dish is ready, they just clap their hands and the staff know to go and pick up the food. I really like that idea. The service was great – friendly and helpful but sometimes it was quite hard to get the attention of the waiter if we needed to order something or ask something. And one more downside is that if you want bread you need to order it off the menu, it isn’t served otherwise. Overall Brutale serves delicious Croatian food that is both authentic, simple and delicious in an atmosphere that makes you feel at home.

PS The dish that is highly sought after and talked about is the free-range organic pig – hand-reared on a farm in Bendigo – which is spit roasted for five hours then served with crackling and  jugs of apple purée and roasting juices. I of course couldn’t eat this dish, but is a must try for most people that have been to Brutale.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.brutale.com.au/#!food/c1rcm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Inviting and Homely. There are also interesting pieces of artwork and objects that will keep you amused through dinner
Standout Dish:  Pierogi  and Croatian Donuts
Service: Frienldy and Helpful, but most times it was hard to get the attention of the wait staff.
Online Booking: Yes via http://www.brutale.com.au/#!bookings/chva
Restaurant Details and Location:
brutale.com.au
18 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 4411

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 6pm–1am

Brutale on Urbanspoon

San Telmo – Argentinian Tapas!

San Telmo is an Argentine restaurant located in Meyers Place in the heart of the CBD in Melbourne. Their menu is based around the Parrilla (Imported Argentine charcoal grill that is 2.5 metres BIG). The owners (Jason and Renee McConnell and brothers Dave and Mickey Parker) together with head chef Mick Patrick have created a Tapas style menu using local produce. You walk into the restaurant and you are greeted with the warmth and the smoky, earthy smells from the Parrilla which is to the left, and is surrounded by seats all around so you can watch as the chefs create your meals. The vibe is lively and fun, and the decor rustic charm. The restaurant takes you back to olden day Buenos Aires from its 300 year old antique doors to the raw imported cow hides and coloured glass soda bottles from the suburb of San Telmo (it is the oldest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires) itself.

The menu at San Telmo is designed to be shared, which is the an integral part of Argentinian culture. It gives the opportunity to enjoy great food and wine with family and friends. My friend and I settled on a couple of dishes but sadly didn’t have any time for dessert as they needed the table back by 8pm. I have heard from other people who have dined at San Telmo that their dessert menu is just as good as their other foods so I definitely have to come back and check it out.

Argentinians are known for their love of meat, and at San Telmo this is what they specialise in. Meat cooked in the Parrilla. However, there are still plenty of veggie and seafood options as well. We ordered the Brócoli – Fried Broccoli, Salted Ricotta, Calamares – Local, line caught Calamari, Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon, Entraña – O’Connor Pasture fed Hanger Steak, Batatas – Coal roasted Sweet Potato and Spring Onion and Zanahorias – Burnt carrots, Thyme and Goat’s Curd. All the dishes we ordered bar the Broccoli were cooked in the Parrilla and the earthy flavours really did show. My favourite were the Carrots and I recommend people to order this dish when they do visit. They were perfectly smoked and the Goats Curd and Thyme added additional flavour – really delicious! The Calamares was a simple yet tasty dish. The Steak was a juicy, pink and tender – just what you look for in a good steak. Just a note with cuts of meats – they are presented with a recommended cooking degree, however they do accommodate requests for specific cooking preferences.

Loved the atmosphere, Loved the food, Great Service. Disappointed that I didn’t get to try the famous Dulce De Leche (Argentinian national dessert) – but I will definitely will be back to do so! Check this place out, you will not regret it!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Tapas Style sharing menu – http://www.santelmo.com.au/main/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lively and Rustic. A little bit of Argentina in Melbourne.
Standout Dish:  Entraña – O’Connor Pasture fed Hanger Steak AND Zanahorias – Burnt carrots, Thyme and Goat’s Curd
Service: Friendly and always ready to help out with reccomendations and let you know if you have or haven’t ordered enough dishes.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.santelmo.com.au/main/reservations
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.santelmo.com.au/
Between Bourke and Little Collins Streets
14 Meyers Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9650 5525

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – Late
Saturday: 12pm – Late

San Telmo on Urbanspoon