Panda Wedding Fun!

Hey Guys!

So relating to my previous post of being MIA – one of the main reasons was because I was busy planning a wedding and got married back in June 2015. We have been lucky enough to be nominated for Wedding of Year 2015 and would greatly appreciate your support. If you could click on the link below and Vote for Shazrina & Nik – that would be awesome.

I had a really fun time organising and planning all the details of the wedding – from the quote on the bottom of my shoe to the personalised thank you tags for guests, the photo collage in the shape of our initials – I really did love it all. Of course my favourite aspect was the food tasting and selecting of dishes for my guests on the two different nights.

For our Indian reception we had catering done from Topaz Catering – a delicious Sri Lankan banquet.
For the reception at Encore in St Kilda – we had the lovely staff provide our guests with a 3 course meal of dishes we selected.
Entree:
Spanner Crab with Avocado, Apple Puree, Daikon and Puffed Wild Rice
Slow cooked Buttermilk Chicken with Crisp Jerusalem Artichoke, Goats Curd and Figs

Main:
Truffled Chicken Breast with Boudin Blanc, Sweet Corn Polenta and Popcorn
Slow Cooked Salmon with Prawn Colcannon and Pea Puree

Dessert:
Caramel Ice Cream Paddles with Chocolate and Praline Hazelnuts
Passionfruit Tarts with Soft and Crispy Meringue
Wedding Cake

What I also enjoyed was cake tasting – and picking the different flavours for our – not one but TWO wedding cakes. My choices were White Chocolate Raspberry (which was my all time favourite), Caramel, White Chocolate and Chocolate Fudge.
We had the lovely Vinu from Vindya Boutique Cake Studio – https://www.facebook.com/Vindya-102326746613223/ (for the Indian Reception) and Jo from Splendid Servings – http://splendidservings.com.au/ (for the Encore Reception) creating our beautiful cakes.

If that wasn’t enough sweetness – we also had a beautiful blue themed dessert table created by ever talented Ngoc from The Dessert Parlour – http://thedessertparlour.com.au/. Our table was filled with homemade and personalized cookies, marble heart shaped chocolates and meringues – along with a variety of lollies and candies.

Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_005
Our Wedding Cake by Vindya Boutique Cake Studio (https://www.facebook.com/Vindya-102326746613223/)
Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_SBS_013-600x900
Our Wedding Cake by Splendid Servings (http://splendidservings.com.au/)
Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_016-900x600  Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_SBS_014-600x900
Our beautiful Dessert Table from The Dessert Parlour (http://thedessertparlour.com.au/)

If you could head to the following link(s) and Vote for Shazrina & Nik – that would be great!

http://www.easyweddings.com.au/real-weddings/competition/december-2015-nominees/

http://www.easyweddings.com.au/real-weddings/traditions-combine-shazrina-niks-three-day-cultural-wedding/

Thank you all so much for the support

Much Love

Grazing Panda xx

Pop Up Scroll – Bringing Scrolls Back Into Fashion!

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Drinks Menu Menu at Pop Up Scroll Close up of Menu at Pop Up Scroll Close up of Menu at Pop Up Scroll.

Amongst the entire Doughnut, Cronut, Dossiant, Cruffin hype comes the latest craze – SCROLLS! Enter Melbourne’s first new scroll boutique – Pop Up Scroll – located in Smith Street, Collingwood. Serving up freshly baked swirls of goodness made each morning alongside some delicious, carefully prepared coffee – which has been supplied by Coffee Supreme. Coffee and scrolls – a perfect combination to kick off your early morning start or for an afternoon treat.

Pop Up Scroll was created by trained cook, baker and now full time pastry chef Julian Chew together with his wife Tammy Chew. They are both not new to the food industry, having previously owned the popular Lip Café in Ivanhoe. Julian has previously apprenticed under Matt Moran (of famed restaurant Aria) and done stints at Loafer Bread and Da Noi – firmly cementing his niche as a pastry chef.

Here, the focus is on coffee and scrolls only and they do it very well. The idea came about when Julian used to prepare Cinnamon and Cream Cheese scrolls for his former café and he was finding that he would be selling out of these delicious goodies on a regular basis. People would come from near and far to sample these tasty scrolls. Due to its increasing popularity both Julian and Tammy thought it would be a good idea to expand the concept and invest in this idea further – and Pop Up Scroll was born!

Pop Up Scroll has a philosophy to take customers back to their childhood by producing beautiful, fresh scrolls in unique flavour combination by utilising some of the lost arts of cooking. Each scroll is made using techniques that Julian has learnt throughout his impressive fine dining pastry training and is made free of any chemicals and additives, and with the use of organic ingredients.

Eat a Scroll bake two batches of scrolls daily – one in the morning for the pre-work rush and another in the afternoon for the afternoon tea & coffee crowd. Currently there are six different flavours on offer – Traditional Cinnamon Bun with Cream Cheese Frosting, a Malaysian inspired scroll of Shredded Coconut and White Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana, Chocolate and Caramel as well as a Chocolate and Custard flavour – all of which are on a brioche base. The brioche base scrolls come in two sizes – large and mini – with certain special flavours available as well – the day that I went there was the Cherry, Cream Cheese & Gingerbread. There are also flavours available that are baked using a croissant base (similar to an escargot) – these are Pistachio and Cherry or Apple and Frangipane, Traditional croissants and almond croissants are also available for your eating pleasure.
There are the traditional coffees available as well as Affogato, Ice Coffee and House Blend Chai (which can be served Hot or Iced) served with Bonsoy & Coconut Milk if needed.

The vibe is blissfully charming, complete with a retro fit-out. I love the pastel shades that are used along with cute retro style girl and boy doll decals on the main wall, together with the words EAT A SCROLL and DRINK COFFEE. Simple yet effective styling. There are two mint green cabinetry units – one which displays packets of Callebaut Chocolate and King Island Coconut Milk Creamer, along with coffee cups and the other displaying Parker’s bottled drinks – Ginger Beer, Cola etc along with an old school radio. There is minimal seating available (seats around 15 people)– in the form of small round tables, as well some seating along the window, overlooking the main street. The simplicity together with the playfulness works well together.

When it came to ordering I decided to order a mini original cinnamon and cream cheese scroll and was tempted into getting the Gingerbread, Cherry & Cream Cheese scroll as well. I mean just have a look at the picture – how can you say no?

I had the mini original scroll as well as a latte to eat in and decided to take the bigger scroll home for later. The coffee was delicious – creamy, nutty and strong all at the same and really did make my day. The scroll was absolutely divine – the dough is moist, light and fresh and is of the perfect sweetness. The cinnamon flavoured rolls are topped with cream cheese frosting and infused with cinnamon and brown sugar. It really does feel like you are biting into the softest pillow and are light and airy, allowing you to have more than 2 and still keep you wanting more. You really need to try one to understand the pure indulgent feeling you get.

Pop Up Scroll is a great addition to not only the Collingwood area but to Melbourne in general. They bring together the simple concept of sentimental baking together with great coffee and delicious, light fluffy scrolls. One visit here and you will definitely be coming back for more.

As the name suggests, Pop Up Scroll is only around for a short time (until May 2015) but there are already big plans in the pipeline for the next project due to open straight after the pop up closes its doors. EAT A SCROLL will be located just around the corner from the current location and will be a more permanent scroll house.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Charming, Classic, Retro and Welcoming.
Standout Dish: Seriously any of the scrolls!
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.eatascroll.com.au/
86 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 0433 849 281

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 8:00am–4:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am–4:00pm

Pop Up Scroll on Urbanspoon

Facebook: facebook.com/Pop-Up-Scroll
Instagram: popupscroll
Twitter: @EatAScroll

Ilya – FROCHELLA – Frozen Yoghurt Heaven!

panda 3.5 rating
Pandan Coconut and Black Sesame Flavoured Froto

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Menu:
Menu at Ilya

In recent times frozen yoghurt has taken the world by storm! There are quite a few stores that have opened up around Melbourne. I was lucky enough to be invited to Ilya Frozen Yoghurt for their awesomely named event –FROCHELLA (Froyo + Coachella put together – smart right?!)

Ilya – located on Glen Huntly road in Elsternwick – was created by owners Natasha and Jason – who left the corporate world to pursue their passion for good food, giving back and having a blast doing it! There are quite a few differences when compared to other frozen yoghurt (froyo – the short form that it is affectionately known as) stores – Ilya is built around the interactive social and consumer experience AND they are organic, 100% natural and free from refine cane sugar.

Most people assume that Ilya stands for I Love Yoghurt Always, however Ilya is named after Ilya Mechnikov, a Russian scientist who pioneered the research into the immune system, probiotics in yoghurt and how that leads to longer life and even scored a Nobel Prize for it.
Ilya is proud to be the first and only organic self-serve frozen yoghurt store in Australia – having the lowest levels of sugar in the frozen yoghurt market – less than 1% – as well as being kosher, 100% natural and 99% fat free! All their yoghurts are made onsite – with no cane sugar in their yoghurt base, instead using Stevia and Erythitol (unprocessed sugars). Ilya is all about supporting Australian local farmers and use low fat fresh organic milk together with Five:AM yoghurt. All their froyo’s are flavoured in-house combining real fruit and natural flavours – allowing Ilya to stay true to their concept of delicious and healthy without compromising on taste.

Ilya is quite a sizeable venue and is split into two main areas – the front area where the main counter and all the toppings reside, as well as a communal table and high window seating, followed by the back room where more seating is available. The seating is casual with vintage looking wooden tables and milk crates to sit on. There is a mixture of walls – brick, chalkboard and plain white which adds to the funkiness of the place. Some walls are covered in artwork from kids with their perspective on the world of frozen yoghurt – a really nice touch and reinforces their interactiveness with the public.
The look and feel is relaxed and comfortable with the addition of nice little touches such as flowers in jars, the use of scrabble letters and the awesome standout light fittings. Between the front room and the back room there is an igloo-esque (complete with white brick which reminds you of ice) cocoon that loudly and proudly states GET SOME CULTURE – this is where the yoghurt magic takes place. Here there are 8 self-serve dispensers where you can get the flavours for the day – the way it works you grab a cup, fill it up, top it, weight and pay – and then of course eat and enjoy! (It costs $2.80 per 100g).

The main counter was an impressive long wooden bench that had a numerous amount of toppings available.If you refer to the pictures above you can see there is a HUGE selection of other toppings available as well – Marshmallow Rocks, Mango Mochi, Choc Chips, Sultanas, Cranberries, Halva, Lychee Boba, Mango Boba, Passionfruit Coulis, Mandarin, Hedgehog Slice, Choc Mud Slice and Protein Nut Mix – there is also Hot Caramel and Hot Choc sauce for your tasting pleasure! You get confused trying to decide which of these delicious topics you want to add as most people wanted a little bit of everything!

The Frochella event invited food bloggers and nutritionists to celebrate Ilya’s success as well as “it’s almost milestone 1st birthday” (they have been opened for 11 months). The idea was to taste test, provide ideas and feedback as well as come up with some new flavours that Ilya could create.

A total of 15 flavours were sampled – the first eight flavours were their core and current flavours (Menu A), and the next seven were a preview of their new limited edition Spring/Summer flavours (Menu B). I had to stay back at work on the night of Frochella and unfortunately missed out on most of the Menu A flavours – I only managed to taste Chai & Dry (Dairy free Soy Chai to satisfy the senses). When I arrived I was lucky enough to sit with some friendly fellow bloggers – Eve from Eve Lovelle and Minty from WanderingMint, as well as a nutritionist and their partners.

They gave me the rundown of the flavours that I missed out and what their favourites were. Eve liked the “Get Lucky” (Tart flavoured treats), “Empire State of Mind” (Organic Freeze-dried coffee froyo) with her ultimate favourite being “Sexy and I Know It” (Dairy free chocolate (vegan). Most of the others around the table enjoyed the “Katy Berry” (Real mixed berries to give your tastebuds a sweet treat!) as well as “Teenage Dream” (made from delicious Oreo cookies). I will definitely have to come back and try out these two flavours, as I am a hugeee berry and oreo cookie fan! The Chai & Dry froyo that I did get to sample was delicious – if you are a chai drinker you would love this flavour – if you are not a huge fan of chai’s but love cinnamon then this would be for you as well! The cinnamon/chai flavour is not too overpowering and coupled with the lightness of the froyo was really quite good.

In addition to the samples of Froyo’s we had access to an unlimited amount of toppings to use. Each table were given their own set of toppings – or you could go to the main counter where additional toppings were provided. Our table had Coconut flakes, Oreo Cookies, M&Ms, Kit Kat, Berry Coconut Muesli, Strawberries, Chocolate Cigars, Almond Flakes, Tiny Teddies, etc.

What was also great about the Frochella night was that we all were encouraged to participate in the Flavour Master competition. This was a competition around coming up with a frozen yoghurt flavour that you would like to see Ilya have. Five flavours will be chosen out a of a list and the flavour that is voted as most popular by the general public will have their very own frozen yoghurt flavour named after them and sold in Ilya.

The second round formed Menu B – which was to showcase their new limited edition Spring/Summer flavours.
The first flavour we got to sample from this menu was the “Welcome to the Jungle” – Exotic combination of Coconut and Pandan. The Froyo comes out in a beautiful aqua green colour and has more of a coconut flavour than a pandan flavour, so the only change I would recommend is to increase the amount of pandan – overall it was a delicious yoghurt!

The next flavour that came out was the “Titanium” – Crushed Black Sesame seeds infused Froyo. I am not a a huge Black Sesame fan so this flavour wasn’t my thing, but everyone around really enjoyed it. It had a lot of depth and a massive flavour hit – definitely one for Black Sesame lovers.

“Lana Del Grey” – Earl Grey tea combined with dried Cranberries – was the next flavour to sample and was one of my favourites! I must admit I am usually not an Earl Grey drinker or fan, however the flavour of the Earl Grey was subtle and coupled with the cranberries made for a very refreshing froyo! Yum!

Next up was the “Purple Rain” – Acai Berry & Organic Froyo – this was another one of my faves. I love the use of acai berry in this yoghurt which resulted in a punchy tangy flavour! “Where the Wild Rosemary Grows” – Combination Rosemary Cheesecake – was up next and this was one of the flavours that I didn’t quite fancy; the flavour was too “tarty” and the flavours did not work at all!

Our second last flavour was “Drop It Likes Its Choc and Orange” – Rich Chocolate combined with Citrus Orange – this was absolutely devine! The combination of the orange and chocolate was perfect and it tasted like a smooth Jaffa. Definitely one for chocolate lovers!

To end the night we finished with “Like a Virgin (Mary)” – Tomato and Tabasco Frozen Creation (Vegan) – which had flavours of peppers and Tabasco through it and was quite fiery on the palate. It was a bit strange to have these sensations and flavours associated with a yoghurt, so I wasn’t a fan of this flavour. However, kudos has to go to the team for thinking outside the box and trailing this flavour out.

In addition to seeling frozen yoghurts, Ilya also sells a selection of healthy smoothies (made together with their frozen yoghurt of course!) – there are 6 to choose from including Body Builder (Bananas, Protein Powder, Peanut Butter, Nuts, Cinnamon, Vegan Choc and Organic Milk), Tropical Paradise (Mango, Banana, Coconut yoghurt and Organic Milk) and Tummy Filler (Banana, Berries, Dates & Oats, Tart Yoghurt and Organic Milk) just to name a few.

At the end of night before leaving, we were all given a goodie bag which included a small tub of frozen yoghurt to take home and enjoy – I got the Cookie Dough flavour – which I was extremely excited about as it was one of the flavours that I really wanted to try (I love anything to do with cookies!). In our goodie bags we were also given a large empty froyo cup and were told that we could come back at any time and enjoy a free serving of frozen yoghurt on the house – an offer I will definitely be taking up!
Ilya has a feel-good vibe running through the venue; from the laid back and caring owners to the super-friendly and helpful staff. It is a great place to come with friends and hang out at – and also is great if you have younger kids who can contribute to the artwork that appears on the walls in their backroom. What better place than to enjoy a guilt-free treat that tastes delicious and has such variety in the number of flavours and toppings to choose from!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – 8 flavours available every day – they change day to day
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Comfortable and Relaxed. A great place to hang out with friends and family!
Standout Flavour: Cookie Dough, Purple Rain and Lana Del Grey. For those of you who like Pandan, Coconut and Black Sesame – go with “Welcome to the Jungle” , “Flawless” or “Titanium”
Service: Friendly, Fun and Helpful
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://ilyafroyo.com.au/
277 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick
Tel No: 9077 1080

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12:00pm – 10:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ilyafroyo
Instagram: ilyafroyo
Twitter: @ilyafroto

Ilya Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon

Saigon Sally – Out of this World Vietnamese

panda 4.5 rating

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Menu:
Menu at Saigon Sally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saigon Sally on Urbanspoon

Northern Lights Bar & Eatery – Fusion Food with Fanciful Lights

panda 4 rating 
Love the Lights!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Menu:
Northern Light Menu

We needed a place to have dinner after a full day at the Good Food and Wine show in the Fitzroy / Collingwood area, as we were heading to drinks in that area later. I referred to my trusty list of places I wanted to go and realised Northern Light Bar & Eatery worked perfectly.

Northern Light is located on Smith Street in Collingwood – in what used to be the old Gigibaba. Venue owners are Adam Liston and Glen Bagnara (ex-Chester White) together with manager Emily Pullen, and they have created a fusion Chinese and Japanese eatery that is all about shared dishes. Clearly the years Liston spent in Shanghai were utilised in the creation of the menu and the idea behind Northern Light.

From the moment you step in you feel like you are transported to another world – almost forest like (hence the name) – thanks to the plethora of dangling combination of light bulbs and lanterns. It’s beautiful. The next thing your eyes are drawn to is the marble white bar that takes up the length of the venue, finished with dark wood. There is seating all along the bar, along with lower tables at the front which has a massive white decorative mirror overlooking it. Exposed brick walls and mood lighting completes the look.

The menu designed by Liston and is split into 6 different sections – Snacks, Plates, Cooked over Binchotan, Meat, fish & Vegetables, Sides and finishes with Desserts. You can pick from the enticing dishes yourself or have the banquet menu – 5 courses for $55 and 7 courses for $75. Snack dishes include Spiced Prawn Cracker, a golden egg, Plate dishes which are slightly larger consists of an edamame dish with kimchi sauce, an interesting eel dish and air dried Blackbmore beef. Cooked over the Binchotan have a selection of skewers that come in the form of mushroom, chicken, beef or pork belly. The meat, fish & vegetable section include soba noodles, suckling pig, a smoked trout okonomiyaki and lamb ribs. There are three different sides to choose from as well three different desserts.

The drink menu includes Sapporo on tap along with other drink options include cider, wine, and a concise selection of cocktails. I ordered a mocktail of mint and pineapple and it was quite tasty.

We have a few dietary requirements and the staff are happy to help us out and let us know which dishes are Gluten-free. With that knowledge we decide to order for ourselves – there are four of us – and get a couple of dishes from each section. What I also liked was that each time a dish came out – the staff explained what the dish was and each component.

We start off with the Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake. This came highly recommended from the staff, and after eating this dish we could see why. The dish was quite a colourful dish thanks to the blue background of the plate together with the fried shallots and furikake (nori, seasame and chilli) all adding to the colourfulness. The golden egg was perfectly soft centered – it had been poached and then flash fried to create a crackling outer shell that had been rolled in caramel. The dish was finished with the onion as well as the furikake and worked extremely well together. It was a combination of spice, salt, sugar, crunch and gooeyness – try it out for yourselves.

The Sichuan Spiced School Prawns, Curry Mayo were up next. There was a bit division here with this dish but only with regards to the Curry Mayo – half of us liked it and half of us didn’t. I was on team I LIKE THE MAYO – it was an interesting combination and I think it worked well with the flavour of the prawns. The Sichuan spiced prawns on the other hand was a clear winner – everyone loved it and we sat around discussing how we could recreate this dish at home. They were perfectly crunchy and flavoured well and you could sit there eating them all day!

The Edamame, Broccolini, Gai Lan, Kimchi Sauce was an interesting dish. I am obsessed with Broccolini at the moment, so when I saw this as one of the components I had to get it. The Edamame came already out of the pod – which was a bit disappointing – the whole fun attributed to popping them yourself was missing, however I get why it was done for this dish. The dish was fresh and tasty thanks to the kimchi sauce.

Next up was the Eel unagi, Squid Sauce, salted Grapes, Mojama. This was a really great dish! A hadn’t ever had eel before and she tried it for the first time here and quite enjoyed it. The dish was presented interestingly, with grape halves dispersed amongst the eel, which lay on top of the squid sauce and topped with mojama (salt-preserved tuna). The eel was smooth and had a smoky flavour which worked well when coupled with the sweetness of the grapes and the saltiness of the mojama. A dish well worth ordering.

The Air dried Blackmore beef, wasabi, yolk, fried potato was another interestingly plated up dish – the main focus was the nest of thin potato slices that you needed to push aside to reveal the vibrant Blackmore beef and the bright yolk. The dish was completed with fresh wasabi, horseradish and sorrel leaves. The boys quite enjoyed the beef dish and said it was interesting to have it combined with the walk runny yolk.

The Wagyu oyster blade skewers with Bulldog Sauce were a hit as well. They are quite small in size and I am sure they all could have eaten another three skewers each – they were that easy to eat – tender and flavoursome, and the bulldog sauce always makes things more interesting.

I used to order vegetarian okonomiyakis all the time and really enjoyed the dish, so was interested to see what Northern Light’s version would taste like. We ordered the Smoked trout, salted shrimp okonomiyaki, katsuobushi (this is the Japanese name for dried, fermented and smoked skip jack tuna). We were all enthralled by this dish when it was placed in front of us as we saw pieces of food moving – this turned out to be the katsuobushi. When placed on hot food, the heat waves causes the thin and light katsuobushi to move about which made the dish seem alive with the “dancing” katsuobushi. The dish resembled a seafood omelette and was quite tasty – however we found it a tad bit too salty. The saltiness took over the other flavours of the dish so I couldn’t really taste the smokiness of the trout.

To accompany the dishes we had ordered we also ordered the Warm soba noodles, wild mushrooms, white sesame and the Vegetarian Fried Rice. The soba noodle dish I loved – anything combined with mushrooms and sesame to me is brilliant. The noodles weren’t overcooked either so all in all a good dish.

After all the dishes we got try I actually was quite full and wasn’t really considering dessert – but I am glad that I decided to change my mind at the last minute. I ordered the Broken Ice Cream Sandwich. This was yet another interestingly presented dish – it came out with jagged edged shards made out of chocolate and reminiscent of a hardened cake – placed in form of a tent shape. Once you open this fort like surrounds you reveal a luscious and creamy vanilla ice cream rectangle chunk, which is topped with dollops of equally creamy chocolate mousse and gooey salted caramel. The combination of these three elements together was spectacular and it was the best end to a great meal. Who knew something so simple when put together could taste so great!

We apparently beat the Saturday night rush as we had a pretty early dinner – around 6pm and left around 7:30pm. So if you want to beat the rush go early! Northern Light Bar & Eatery is a great place to just hang out and enjoy some great Japanese/Chinese inspired dishes whether it be with a group of four people or even a romantic night out. The mood is casual and relaxed, the staff really friendly and those multiple hanging lights are a winner in my book!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above pic. Menu can also be found at http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Romantic, Mood Lighting, Casual and Relaxed. Great for a first date – but works well for a group of 4 as well!
Standout Dish: Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake AND Broken Ice Cream Sandwich
Service: Fantastic! Very helpful when we needed to find out about which dishes were Gluten Free. Friendly as well!
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/bookings/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/
102 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9416 0698

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:30pm – Late

Northern Light on Urbanspoon