Shizuku – Ramen & Ramen Burger Extravaganza!

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Page 1 Menu  Page 2 Menu  Page 3 Menu
Shizuku is located at the Abbotsford end of Victoria Street, and is a recently opened Japanese restaurant, nestled amongst a street that is known for its Vietnamese cuisine. Their main focus is on Ramen – which sits up there as one of my favourite foods – and I cannot wait to try out their offerings.

L & I arrived on a weekday night and were greeted by large heavy wooden doors – as you step inside you are greeted with a simple yet snazzy set up. There are lanterns hanging from the ceiling that remind you of flower blossoms that provide lighting for the whole restaurant. Your eyes are also drawn to the colourful bar counter which houses their variety of drink offerings as well as a tree branch that has been decked out with hanging clear baubles – I love this display, adds a touch of vintage chic to this otherwise modern looking venue. The tables are black and wooden; with seating able to cater mostly two’s and fours, however you have the option to join tables together for larger groups.

David Chen is the owner of Shizuku who was inspired to open his own Japanese restaurant after working as an assistant manager at Shoya Japanese Restaurant. Together with partner, Shinako Suzuki, his dreams were made into reality, with doors opening for Shizuku in July 2013.

We are shown to our table and handed a book of a menu – there is so much variety to choose from! Another touch I like are the water bottles at the table, which are re-used colourful alcohol bottles that have been finished – adding a pop of colour to the otherwise black surroundings.

The menu begins with ‘Zensai to Share’ which are Entrees – there is a HUGE (an I am not exaggerating when I bold and capitilise this) selection – think double columns of an A4 page! Reading down the list you will find yourself saying ‘yep I want to try this and I want to try that’ for every dish. Some Zensai include Lobster or Pork Sliders, Uni Sake Shots, Octopus Sashimi, Unagi Salad, Croquettes (Vegetarian or Crab Meat), Octopus Balls, Salt & Pepper Squid, Wasabi Prawns, Pickles, Kimchi, Spicy Bamboo and Edamame. Following the Zensai menu is the Gyoza section where you can choose from six different gyoza’s. Unfortunately for me none of the gyoza’s only had seafood or vegetables, but were pork filled and therefore I couldn’t try any

Next on the menu is the star of Shizuku – authentic Ramen. Head chef Ken Yoshida who has a wealth of experience and has worked in some of Japan’s renowned ramen shops is the man behind this traditional ramen – which has been prepared over 15 to 18 hours. There are thirteen different types of Ramen to choose – from the Tan Tan Men to the Spicy Miso Ramen to the Kimchi Ramen, and they even have a Vegetarian Ramen. All Ramen is made with no MSG and they try to locally source ingredients – even the miso soup is made by the chefs onsite.

What is definitely a game changer and what has critics raving is the Ramen Burger – created by chef Hiromi Hanzawa (previously Aka Siro and Pabu). The bun is made of tightly packed ramen noodles, that have been bound together with eggs and cooked on a flat top, with a lightly crunchy texture on the outside. The Ramen Burger comes in two different flavours – Candied Pork Belly with homemade plum and prune sauce, kewpie mayonnaise OR Miso Glazed Eggplant with sweet miso jam. These culinary creations hail from New York – where Ramen burgers are all the rage, but here at Shizuku they are the first and only Australian restaurant to replicate these delicious burgers. More on these later.

Whilst we were waiting for our dishes to be served we were given a White Radish, Wombok and Wombok with Carrot dish to prepare the palate. They were all unique in flavouring with a consistent vinegary taste through all of them. Quite tasty.

The first entrée we ordered was the Uni Spoon – Sea Urchin Sashimi, Cucumber, Wasabi Soy. Both L and I hadn’t had Sea Urchin before so were keen to see what type of flavour it had. The Uni Spoon (as the name specifies) comes served on a spoon, with a base of cucumber, topped with the sea urchin and drizzled with wasabi soy to finish.

I ordered the Lobster Slider – Lobster kewpie salad, pickled carrot and daikon, corn brioche bun – as I wanted to see their take on a Lobster slider. The serving of lobster was quite generous, but I think there was a bit too much of kewpie mayonnaise added which drowned out the natural lobster flavour. I did enjoy the combination of the pickled carrot and daikon with the sweetness of the lobster and kewpie.

My favourite dish of the day was the Shizuku Spring Rolls – Spring rolls stuffed with melted cheddar and edamame young soy beans. Just reading this dish on the menu set my creative juices flowing trying to envision what this dish would look like. The spring rolls were angularly cut to showcase the rich inside filling – which was the edamame soy beans enveloped in melted cheese. The combination was absolutely divine! The crunch of the outside combined with the soft billowy pea puffs and warm melted cheese was happiness in your mouth. Definitely one to try!

We also couldn’t leave Shizuku without trying their signature Ramen Burger – Ramen noodle patty “buns”,miso glazed eggplant. The bun is made with ramen noodles bound together with eggs and cooked with a slight crunch on the top exterior layer – leading into a softer noodle layers for the rest of the “bun.” The filling was made of soft, delicious eggplant that was beautifully complimented by the miso jam. There were also salad leaves, coriander and onions added. Every bite you take of the ramen burger was delightfully filled with an explosion of juicy flavours – the burger was not greasy at all which further added to the ramen burger love. Yet another dish to try out – you have to experience it to understand the feeling!

It was time for our main dishes – Ramen! L ordered the Tan Tan Men – Free range pork mince, egg, chilli oil, preserved vegetables, rich sesame flavoured broth – which is the Chef’s Signature Ramen as well as their best seller. L really enjoyed her ramen and almost finished her entire generous serving!

I initially wanted the Spicy Miso Ramen – however as that was made with a pork and miso based broth I couldn’t, instead the helpful waiter told me to order the Vegetarian Ramen – Mix vegetables with miso sauce flavoured broth – with an added spicy chilli spoon to give it that spice and kick. The Ramen was quite tasty – the broth was thick, flavoursome and quite wholesome yet light at the same time – just the way that I like it. The vegetables added were fresh and still had a bit of crunch to it, which I think makes a dish better. The noodles were cooked perfectly which further added to the great quality of the ramen produced.

We were both really full, however we did need something sweet to complete our palate sensations. There are five desserts to choose from which include Almond Tofu, Espresso Pudding, Green Tea ice Cream, Black Sesame Ice Cream and Miso Caramel Ice Cream.

L ordered the Green Tea Ice Cream and I ordered the Pannacotta (which was a special for the day) which came served with Blueberries. Both desserts rated quite highly on our palates and were just the ending we needed to a great meal.

Shizuku offers delicious food at an affordable price in a relaxed, welcoming ambiance together with friendly service. Next time you are considering suitable dining options with a homely touch check out Shizuku – it really is a welcome addition to Victoria Street.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above or have a look at the Takeaway menu at http://shizuku.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Warm and Welcoming
Standout Dish: Shizuku Spring Rolls – Spring rolls stuffed with melted cheddar and edamame young soy beans and Ramen Burger
Service: Friendly, Warm and Happy to help out with any queries or questions
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://shizuku.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://shizuku.com.au/
309 Victoria St, Abbotsford
Tel No: 9995 8180

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Sunday: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner
Monday to Sunday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Shizuku Ramen on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shizukujapanese
Instagram: shizukuramen
Twitter: @ShizukuJapanese

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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

Paperboy Kitchen – Vietnamese Deliciousness

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Paperboy Menu

Asian street foods are all the rage at the moment and Paperboy Kitchen is a latest addition to the Melbourne CBD. Located on Little Lonsdale Street, between Elizabeth and Queen street is this small sized eatery. Set up by Adam Milgrom – who quit his marketing job and took up training at Leith’s cooking school in London – who started out creating a pop-up version before settling on a more permanent venue in the city.

The menu is simple, delicious and fresh. Paperboy serves rice-noodle bowls and bread rolls that come served with Asian slaw, carrot-daikon pickle, Sriracha -Mayo and Coriander. The menu is cleverly named Rolls or Bowls. Once you decide between these two – you then have to choose from a range of fillings which include Coconut Pepper Beef, BBQ Chicken, Satay Tofu, Panko Fish, Spicy BBQ Pork and Pulled Lamb & Hoisin. Both the rolls and bowls come served with a small side bowl of Popcorn topped with chilli spice. If snacks are what you are looking for – Crisp Fried Chicken served with Sriracha Mayo dip is available. If sweets is what you are after – the Milk-Bar Cookie is a must try.
Drinks from Charlie’s, Beers and Ciders as well Cola, Lemon Lime & Bitters, Lemonade and Ginger Ale from Phoenix are available, as well as fresh coconuts (that you pick you from the fridge and have them cut up). The coconuts come served with a cocktail umbrella to make you feel as if you are beachside.

The fit-out like the menu is simple – complete with wooden high tables and chairs to sit in and enjoy your scrumptious food. There is an industrial combined with an Asian grocer store feel to the venue thanks to the feature of wooden shelves that stored things like Sriracha sauce, soy sauce, water and plants.
The main counter from where you order from opens out into the kitchen – which you can peer into and watch as your meals are prepared. As you place your order you are given plastic animals that aid as table numbers which is a fantastic idea. On the tables together with Sriracha Sauce are bottles of chilli labelled “Hot Stuff” – the extra hot stuff for those who dare.

I ordered the bowl with Satay Tofu alongside a fresh coconut and a plastic giraffe. The food comes served on a wooden board with the Paperboy stamp on the bottom corner, with the bowl placed in the centre and side bowl of popcorn just above it. The serving size is very generous (I couldn’t finish the entire serving so took it away to have for dinner!) and from the moment it is placed in front of you, the smell of all the ingredients literally take your breath away. The dish is fresh, packs a whole load of flavour and is gobsmackingly delicious. The Sriracha Mayo is the perfect addition of spiciness and tanginess. The Asian Slaw is made from lettuce, cabbage, carrot and black sesame seeds. The Satay Tofu has a crunchy outside which complements the softness on the inside and flavoured to perfection. Together all the components of the dish work seamlessly together to provide a great flavour explosion for the palate.

The staff are friendly and always willing to go out of their way to help. Don’t delay the trip to Paperboy anymore!

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu:  Refer to the picture above or visit http://paperboy.com.au/#two
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Any dish really!
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.paperboy.com.au
320 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9642 0147

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 11:30am – 3:00pm

Paperboy Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaperboyKitchen
Instagram: paperboykitchen
Twitter: @PaperboyKitchen

Mr Big Stuff – Bringing Soul to Melbourne

panda 4.5 rating

 

Menu:
Drinks Menu
Food Menu House Spirits Menu

A and I were due for our regular dinner catch up and she suggested we check out Mr Big Stuff. We tried to book a table but due to its newness & popularity there were no tables available, however they did inform us that if we came in we could sit at the bar – so this is what we did.

Mr Big Stuff is the new, funky and soul filled restaurant that’s taking Melbourne by storm. It is located in Meyers Place (it resides where Senorita used to be) – pretty much in and around the centre of the Melbourne CBD. Mr Big Stuff is relatively new having only been open a few months (opened in May 2014) with the concept being to add a bit of soul into the Melbourne food scene – and adding soul they do! From the moment you step inside you feel like you have been transported to 70s – from the pumping soul music to the orange and red warm tones and completed by the swagger of the wait staff in cute retro diner attire – think suspenders and bow ties. You can thank the 5 partners, including Michael Chen and Adam Ong from Golden Monkey bar (located in Hardware Lane) together with Head Chef is Louis Naepels (ex-Grossi Florentino) for bringing this new style of venue to Melbourne.

Mr Big Stuff is all about sharing some great tasting soul food and bopping along to some really great music. The venue has a in-house turntable that plays Thursday to Saturday (the night starts out with soul music, then progresses to R’n’B and cranks up to Hip-Hop – pure awesomeness!) and is decked out with sound-proofing material on its walls. Mr Big Stuff has been designed by Techne architects and has wooden tables along with some banquet seating in the main dining area. The other main feature is the wooden bar and the hole in the wall which allows you to peer into the kitchen. The tones of orange, red and wood really make you feel like you have stepped into the 70s and get you prepared for the food adventure that is about to begin.

What I loved when I looked up the menu online was the drinks menu and the fact that you could have each and every traditional beverage sans alcohol. This was fantastic for me as I don’t drink!

You can choose from the Cold Pressed Kool-Aid drinks – there are 4 different flavours to choose from, or the Egg Cream – a New York-style spider, which interestingly is egg free – Homemade Chocolate Sauce, Milk/Cream & Soda is the flavour available here. There is also a selection of Cold Brew Ice Teas available – of which there are 5 to choose from.

There is a magnitude of choices to select from so it took me a while to decide what I wanted – if I had it my way I would have spent the entire night there sampling every drink! I decided to go with the Kickin’ Kiwi – Cold Pressed Kiwi Juice, Fresh Lemon Juice & Soda. The Kickin Kiwi was full of flavour, refreshing and hit the spot. The tangy flavouring of the cold pressed kiwi worked well with the lemon and soda, that had this effect of creating a party with every sip. A ordered the P.Y Tea – Cold Brew Hibiscus Tea, Fresh Cold Pressed Watermelon & Fresh Lemonade. A’s drink came out served in a tall glass and came with extra sugar syrup on the side in case she wanted to make it sweeter – which she did utilise as it was a tad bit bitter at the start. I sampled her drink and it was quite tasty and refreshing as well – with the hibiscus tea flavouring much stronger than the watermelon. An all round good drink!

The menu is designed and created by Louis Naepels and is broken into four sections – Small Stuff, Mid Stuff, Big Stuff and Sweet Stuff. Naepels has done great things with menu especially coming from cooking Italian at Grossi Florentino – it is adventurous, fun and mixes brilliant flavours together. Across each of these sections there are upwards of 5 different dishes to try, except for the Sweet Stuff – there are only 2 desserts for now to try. Small Stuff includes dishes such as Pickled Okra, Grilled Corn, Pig’s Ears and their famous Corn Bread. Mid Stuff includes a selection of sliders (there are 4 different ones to choose from), and dishes such as Mac & Cheese, Kale Greens, Chicken Wings and Roasted Bone Marrow. The Big Stuff consists of Blackened Snapper & Clams, Mussels, Veal, Beef and Pork Ribs. We were told by the friendly waitress that the menu was created to be shared – ordering a little bit from each section.

We decided to share some things and order some separate dishes for the each of us as well (this tends to be what happens when A & I go out as I am a pescatarian and she can eat everything).

One of the first dishes to come out was the Jumbo Prawns – Corn Meal Dusted, Cajun Spiced, Prawn Head Mayonnaise –you get one prawn per serving. The prawn came out looking deliciously crunchy and it sure didn’t disappoint! The Cajun spice mixed with the soft texture of the well-cooked prawn was scrumptious – pair that with the “prawn head” mayonnaise and you have a somewhat fiery hit mixed together with a creamy finish. You really could eat more than a handful of these at a time.

A ordered the Sweetbread Nuggets – Lamb Sweetbreads, Honey & Thyme Glaze. Initially she was a bit apprehensive to order this dish – but speaking to our waitress she reassured her that it was a great dish, and it just tasted like lamb. These came out in a serving of five and looked exactly like how you would imagine nuggets to look like – served in a turquoise blue bowl and topped with thyme sprigs. A really enjoyed this dish and mentioned more than once how good these nuggets were – crispy coating on the outside and soft, tender lamb on the inside with a sweet aftertaste to finish on.

I also couldn’t look past ordering a slider from the menu and went with the Shrimp Slider with Spicy Mayonnaise. Once again this was another stand out dish – the shrimp had been fried to provide a crunchy texture and together with the slight sweetness of the brioche and the spice of the mayonnaise were a great combination. There are no words to describe it – you just have to try it yourself!

A ordered the Fried Chicken & Waffles – Spiced Maple Syrup – which seemed like one of the more popular dishes on the menu to order. I mean it is quintessentially soul food after all! This is quite a generous dish and comes with couple of pieces of chicken off to one sized, with perfectly placed waffles on the other, with the spiced maple syrup in a separate mini pitcher. The chicken has been marinated overnight in buttermilk and a spice blend of black pepper, cloves and cayenne pepper. The result was that the batter was flaky, crunch and fell off the chicken in a way that you would want it to. The chicken was cooked to perfection – juicy whilst being tender- and had combined hints of smokiness, spiciness and sweetness.
The rosemary and cheddar flaked waffles were out of this world – crunchy and textured on the outside whilst being soft and fluffy on the inside. The combination of the savoury waffles with the sweetness of the spiced maple was interesting and must be experienced.

We also ordered the Mac & Cheese – Three Cheeses – to share. This dish comes served hot hot hot on a warm pan and from the moment it is placed down you get the wonderful aroma of the cheese. The top layer is a combination of the three cheeses and crumbed biroche which have been toasted just right. The cheesy creamy pasta of elbows had a great peppery taste to it – combine this with the crunchy breadcrumbs and this dish is heaven. For usual Mac & Cheese lovers – you wouldn’t want to share this dish!

What is also brilliant about Mr Big Stuff is that they make their own Hot Stuff Chilli sauce which is bottled and is made from Habanero Chillies, Cayenne, Carrot, Apple Cider Vinegar and Spices. This sauce sure does pack a bit of a punch and is great for all of you who want that extra hint of chilli in your dishes .This also works well with the Shoestring fries!

Despite being full we had to check out dessert – if the food was anything to go by then the desserts would be just as amazing. I ordered the Quince & Rhubarb Cobbler. Initially I wasn’t quite sure what a cobbler was so had to ask our friendly waitress. A cobbler usually consists of a fruit or savoury filling which is then put into a baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit, or pie crust before being baked – hence creating a combination of crunch and softness. Generally speaking I’m a sucker for anything with Crème Fraiche – I think it adds a great element and depth to a dish and brings out flavours even more. The cobbler was quite a refreshing dish – with a combination of star anise and fruity flavours. The “cake” bits were moist, soft and delicious with the bread crumbs providing another texture. You definitely needed the addition of the Crème Fraiche to add some creaminess and extra wetness to the dish. Overall a very different yet tasty dessert.

A ordered the Apple Pie – Cinnamon, Spiced Rum. This wasn’t like any apple pie you would normally order – they came out as individual little pockets which reminded me of mini pastries – you get 4 per serve. The pastry on the outside was buttery, flaky and had a great flavouring to it, coated with cinnamon sugar. The inside was filled with a smooth warm apple filling that was both juicy and tasty. A said she really liked this different take on the apple pie.

The staff here are really friendly and always ensure you feel looked after without being overbearing. They are happy to offer suggestions when you are ordering food and can assist in answering questions. Another stand out of the venue is the music – we both loved the music played – it brought back memories from our high school days with stand outs like MJ, TLC just to name a few. If the music was this good when the in-house DJ wasn’t playing I can’t wait to come and check out the DJ sets on Thursday to Saturday nights.

When we call for the bill – it arrives in a wallet with Mr Big Stuff engraved on the front – which I think is quite fun and fits in really well with the 7os theme. They also have a variety of uniquely designed coasters which use known brand logos such as Pringles, MTV but change it to reference the Mr Big Stuff  name. Creative!

Mr Big Stuff is a Soul Food inspired restaurant designed around sharing great tasting food with friends along with unique Kool-aid drinks and funky tunes in a lively and warm atmosphere. If you want to be transported to the 70s and try out a place that makes you feel like you are part of the Soul Train set – this is your place!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pics above or click here for the links
Food Menu: http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/files/MRBIGSTUFF_WEB_FOOD_140523.pdf
Drinks Menu:http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/files/MRBIGSTUFF_WEB_DRINKS_140523.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Soulful, Warm and Inviting – a great place for a celebration and an all round good time! They have  in-house turntables which place on Thursday to Saturday nights.
Standout Dish: Shrimp Slider with Spicy Mayonnaise, Three Mac & Cheese
Service: Fantastic  – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/
Meyers Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 7411

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 6pm – 11.30pm

A Lunch Service is COMING SOON!

 

Little Creatures Dining Hall – Simple Food – Simply Delicious!

panda 4.5 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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