Honcho Noodle – Oodles of Delicious Noodles

panda-4-5-rating

Menu:
Honcho - Drinks Menu Honcho - Dinner Menu

Ever since hearing that Adam Liston was opening a new venue in the CBD – it was quickly added to my list of places to check out once it opened. I have been to Northern Light (Liston’s previous restaurant) and loved the food there so it was a no brainer to want to check out his new venue.

Honcho Noodles is Liston’s three month long pop-up; located at Hotel Windsor (where the old Wallis + Ed is located) and is somewhat an entrée to the main event – Honcho which is set to open on Punch Lane in the Melbourne CBD in September. Honcho will have a custom-built charcoal grill which will be used to grill, spit roast and smoke yakitori skewers, poultry and vegetables. In addition to this there will be a raw bar where diners can eat sashimi and other raw dishes.

Back to Honcho Noodle – the menu has been designed to share in order to experience more of what they have to offer. There are a handful of starters such as Miso Soup, Prawn Crackers, Yakitori, Dumplings and Spring Rolls to name a few. This is followed by a selection of six Noodle dishes – and by selection I mean a wide variety of different noodles such as Korean Noodles, Squid Ink Noodles, Udon and Soba Noodles. For dessert there either Mango or Black Sesame Ice Cream.

The venue is minimal with a combination of splashes of neon and manga. The vibe is chilled out and funky with a buzz to it. The night I go the drinks menu is splashed against the back wall; almost enticing you into trying it all. I love that on the table you have access to your very own condiments – Katsubishi­-Infused Soy, House-­Made Togarashi and Chinese-­style Chilli paste – mmm!
The food menu has so many flavour combinations; leaving you wanting to try it all. It’s just the two of us tonight and we have a tight timeline as we have a show to see at 7:30pm (Singin’ in the Rain – such an awesome musical – I would highly recommend seeing it if you get the chance) – so we decide to get a few dishes and share.

We start off ordering drinks – we both get the Honcho Black Tea with Cranberry – however A decides to get it “Spiked” – which means you can either add Gin, Shochu or Whiskey. They have quite a variety of drinks which include the Japanese classics like Sake, Shochu etc. There are also Japanese themed Cocktails available.

I decide I want to try the Prawn Cracker, Chopped Prawn, Bottarga, Seaweed Mayonnaise and A orders the Chicken, Shrimp & Ginger Dumplings, Chinese Black Vinegar to start. It was only after ordering the dumplings (on recommendation from our waiter) that I asked if the any of the meats were Halal. I was super excited when we were told that the chicken is in fact Halal; which meant I could try the dumplings too! Win!

I used to eat prawn crackers all the time when I was younger – but never thought about putting more prawn flavour on top of the cracker – it was simply just ho’ing them down back then. They have the Pringles effect on me – once you crack (pop) you can’t stop! Back to Liston’s version of the Prawn Cracker with more prawn on top and finished with seaweed mayonnaise – ingenious! The flavour combination did take me a second to process; but once I did I loved it – the creaminess together with the tang of the seaweed worked perfectly completed by the crunch and sweetness of the prawn cracker / prawn. Definitely still holds the Pringle effect – delish!

Next up was the dumplings – no words can express how good these were! The chicken, shrimp and ginger combination was simply divine; mixed together with the tang of the Chinese black vinegar was the perfect combination. Anyone having a dumpling craving these will definitely satisfy you and leave you wanting more.

For our noodles dishes we ordered the Spanner Crab Udon, Smoked Crab Butter, Yuzu, Kizami Nori together with the Hot Soba Noodles, Kyoto Green Onion Oil, Radish, Black Vinegar, Shitake.

You can barely see the Udon when the dish comes out as it is covered with the Kizami Nori – and you might not think much of it – but wait until you dish it up and take the first bite. It is heaven in a spoonful. The smokiness of the crab butter together with the udon is magic. A definite must try!

The Hot Soba Noodles dish looks very impressive – the Shitake gleams up at you sitting high amongst the Soba Noodles, Radish, Kyoto Green Onion with an underlay of Black Vinegar. The vinegar shines through this dish and combined with all the ingredients makes for a spectacular dish. If you aren’t fan of too much of a tart taste you might not fully enjoy it – but I would give it a try!

We ran out of time to get dessert; however going from the scrumptious dishes we had I will definitely be back. After all those Chicken Ribs sounds mighty tempting; and after raving about this place to the hubby I need to bring him here!

NOTE: Honcho Noodle will run from June until September, and open for dinner from Monday through to Saturday only.

Honcho is expected to open for lunch and dinner Monday through to Saturday; around September in 18 Punch Lane, Melbourne. If you visit the Honcho website there is a countdown letting you know how many more days are left until Honcho opens up

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vibrant, Relaxed – a great place for good conversation and a catchup with friends
Standout Dish: Chicken, Shrimp & Ginger Dumplings, Chinese Black Vinegar AND Spanner Crab Udon, Smoked Crab Butter, Yuzu, Kizami Nori together with the Hot Soba Noodles, Kyoto Green Onion Oil, Radish, Black Vinegar, Shitake
Service: Friendly and Helpful; sometimes it can be hard to find people if you have a query but generally it was good!
Online Booking: Yes via http://honchomelbourne.com/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://honchomelbourne.com/
1 Bourke St (Hotel Windsor, where Wallis + Ed are)

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 5:00pm to Late

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Honcho-Noodle-1607362102914517/

Instagram: @honchomelbourne

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Sorry for being MIA….

Hi Everyone!!

It has been quite a while since I have done a post – sorry everyone! It has been a busy year indeed – planning a wedding, getting married together with work being crazy busy! But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been out and about trying out new places – I have – I mean a girl has got to eat right! So in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas I will post a few blogs…. PROMISE!!

Leading up to Christmas is a time when people are wanting to get together with family and friends and of course enjoy a good meal. So I will just name a few places that I have been to lately that I would highly recommend.

Enjoy and have a great Christmas and an awesome New Year!!

xx

Grazing Panda

Breakfast and Brunch

Denis the Menace – Cremorne
A cool coverted space that serves Breakkie with a difference. Sugar bowls are Mr and Miss Cups. This was my dish Something Fishy Is Going On Here – Garden Pea Puree, Asparagus, Avocado, Steamed Spinach, Crispy Red Kale and Hot Smoked Trout with a Poached Egg

Website: https://www.facebook.com/denisthemenacecafe

Denis The Menace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Denis The Menace - Something Fishy Is Going On Here - Garden Pea Puree, Asparagus, Avocado, Steamed Spinach, Crispy Red Kale and Hot Smoked Trout with a Poached Egg_

Two Birds – Collingwood
They have an amazing looking and delicious Chai Pudding. Looks like a mini garden sitting on top of the chia pudding.
They also do a Kaffir Lime Crumbed Poached Egg which is DIVINE!!

Website: http://www.twobirdscafe.com.au/
Menu: http://www.twobirdscafe.com.au/#!menu/e0wqw

Two Birds Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Two Birds

Ascot Food Store – Moonee Ponds
A really great menu which leaves you second guessing what you want to order – from a big breakkie to a crab burger they have it all. They also do these really amazing desserts such as Raspberry and White Chocolate Filled Cronut. Their coffee is delicious and their Tea Selection is fantastic!

Website: www.facebook.com/ascotfoodstore.com.au
Menu: https://www.zomato.com/melbourne/ascot-food-store-moonee-ponds/menu

Ascot Food Store Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Ascot Food Store - Raspberry and White Chocolate Filled Cronut

The Reverend Cafe – Ascot Vale
These were their special – Rocky Road Waffles – Fresh Berries, Toasted Marshmallows, Raspberry Curd, Lemon Curd, Vanilla Mascarpone, Fruit Jelly & Chocolate Almond Crumble. YUMMMM!

Website: http://thereverendcafe.com.au/
The Reverend Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Reverend Cafe - Rocky Road Waffles - Fresh Berries, Toasted Marshmallows, Raspberry Curd, Lemon Curd, Vanilla Mascarpone, Fruit Jelly & Chocolate Almond Crumble

Rustica Canteen – Melbourne CBD
Rustica Canteen is newly opened in the Melbourne CBD and has this delicious Nutella and Banana finished with Hazelnuts on toast. They also serve other delicious meals for breakfast and lunch such as this Quinoa Salad. Another highlight of Rustica Canteen is the delectable selection of cakes, dounts and crossiants like the Ispahan Rose Crossiant. A must try!

Website: http://www.rusticacanteen.com/
Menu on website

Rustica Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rustica - Brioche Toast - Nutella, Sliced Banana, Smashed Hazelnuts
Rustica Canteen - Freekah, Wild Rice, Kale, Rocket, Chai Soaked Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Minted Yoghurt, Fried Egg Rustica Canteen

Long Story Short Cafe – Richmond
A cute cafe with a great range of dishes for breakfast and lunch.

Website: http://www.longstoryshortcafe.com.au/
Menu: http://www.longstoryshortcafe.com.au/wp-content/uploads/bsk-pdf-manager/long_story_short_menu_5.pdf

Long Story Short Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Long Story Short Cafe

Bawa – Hawthorn
A newly opened cafe this year – named after Geoffrey Bawa who was Sri Lanka’s most prominent architect and a driver of the 20th century style known as “tropical modernism”, known for bringing the outdoors in, mixing elements from different times and places, and making use of lots of greenery – which is exactly the philosophy that Bawa follows. The menu is versatile and covers a range of dishes – trust me there will be something for everyone. Below is a picture of the delicious Ricotta Hot Cakes with Lavender Custard.

Website: http://bawacafe.com/
Menu: http://bawacafe.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Bawa_Menu1.pdf

Bawa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bawa Cafe - Ricotta Hot Cakes with Lavendar Custard

Mastic – Kew
Mastic has a very healthy but delicious take on breakfast. The larger tables are table tennis tables so if the cafe is really quiet you can even enjoy a game of table tennis! Love the decor and the service is great.
We had the French toast, blueberries, strawberries, crème fraiche, buckinis and the Roasted mushrooms, poached eggs, avocado mousse, carob croutons, feta

Website: www.mastic.com.au
Menu:
http://hellenicrepublic.com.au/menu/mastic-takeaway

Mastic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mastic

The Premises – Flemington
The Premises is one of my fave places for breakfast. Always impressed by their dishes – be it a bread pudding special to these delicious dishes we had which came on the best tasting Turkish bread I have ever tasted. Delicious!

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Premises/170466319637539

The Premises Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Premises

Trei Cafe – Glen Waverly
I love the fitout of this cafe – lovely pastel shades line the back walls and the chairs – super cute. They also do a really great Matcha Latte and the food not only looks but tastes great. I still have to go back and try the coconut pancakes – there are a limited amount each day so if you want to try these awesome looking dish – get in early!
Check out the colourful pics on their Instagram Page : https://www.instagram.com/treicafe/?hl=en

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Trei-Cafe/454227061427297

Trei Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Trei Cafe Trei Cafe - Matcha Latte

Naughty Boy Cafe – Carlton
A cute little cafe located on Lygon Street. I had the Red Velvet Pancakes – Fresh Berries, Vanilla Mascarpone, Chocolate Soil, Freeze Dried Mandarin, Citrus Powder, Burnt Meringue.

Website: http://www.naughtyboycafe.com.au/
Menu: http://www.naughtyboycafe.com.au/food/

Naughty Boy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Naughty Boy - Red Velvet Pancakes - Fresh Berries, Vanilla Mascarpone, Chocolate Soil, Freeze Dried Mandarin, Citrus Powder, Burnt Meringue

Let Me Be Frank – South Melbourne
This cafe is hidden in the streets of South Melbourne and was such a gem of a find. As you step inside you feel as if you have stepped into your grandmorther’s living area. There are bookshelves filled with books for the lil ones as well as toys. There is a huge communal table as well as individual tables. The menu is extensive and have such gems as the picture below – French Toast with Berries, Plums and Maple Syrup.
Let Me Be Frank - French Toast with a difference

Square and Compass – East Melbourne
There is a wealth of experience behind the creation of Square and Compass – located on Clarendon Street in East Melbourne. The menu has changed since I have been – they now have a variation of the waffle dish that I had below. Great selection of dishes!

Website: http://squareandcompass.com.au/
Menu: http://squareandcompass.com.au/_pdfs/menu.pdf

Square and Compass Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square and Compass - Waffles

Baba Sus – Glen Iris
Baba Sus serves all day breakfast which includes the delicious Hong Kong Egg Waffles –  Vanilla Custard, Berry Compote, Green Tea Ice Cream, Pistachio Praline. However they do sell out of these babies so get in early to try it out – well worth the early wake up call. They also do great combination milk shakes – COOKIES AND CREAM FTW!

Website: http://babasus.com.au/
Menu: http://babasus.com.au/images/BS_Menu_12.08.15%20-%20WINTER.pdf

Baba Sus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Baba Sus - Hong Kong Waffles with Green Tea Ice Cream

5 Lire – North Melbourne
Serving an all day breakfast consisting of Savoury Bites and Sweet Dishes as well as daily specials. I had the special which was a Breakkie Board which came with Toast, Poached Egg, Avacado, Orange Juice and Muesli with Fresh Fruit – sooo damn good!

Website: http://www.5lire.com.au/
Menu: http://www.5lire.com.au/menu/
5 Lire Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

5 Lires - Breakkie Tasting Board

The Black Trestle – Balwyn
A newly opened cafe in Balwyn that serves up great tasting coffee and delicious breakfast dishes to match. There are donuts from The Dessert Parlour that are also available. Food that looks and tastes great. Check out their Instagram page – https://www.instagram.com/theblacktrestlecoffee/

Website: https://www.facebook.com/The-Black-Trestle

The Black Trestle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lennox Coffee + Kitchen – Richmond
A cool cafe located in the streets of Richmond. There is an outdoor sitting area as well. I had “The Mushroom Dish” – Brioche, Mushroom, Parmesan Cheese, Egg. It certainly was a dish with a different with the egg located in the centre of the Brioche Bread!
Website:
http://www.lennoxcoffeeandkitchen.com/
Menu: http://www.lennoxcoffeeandkitchen.com/menu/

Lennox Coffee & Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lennox Coffee + Kitchen - The Mushroom Dish

Giddyup Mule – Yarraville
Giddyup Mule is attached to the state-of-the-art workout space, Art of Cycling. It is a great warehouse filled space – complete with a fireplace in the main room for those wintry days! Great selection of food on the menu with a healthy spin on classics. An all round place to just chill out at.

Website: http://www.giddyupmule.com.au/

Giddyup Mule Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Percy’s Aeroplane – Kew
They are trialing a new dish – Cacao Pikelets served with Matcha Panna Cotta. A cute space filled with a yellow aeroplane out the front and finished with a combinatino of delicious tasting food and coffee. Not to mention great service. Check out my review at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/percys-aeroplane-yellow-model-plane-tasty-food-all-in-one/

Website: www.percysaeroplane.com.au
Percy's Aeroplane Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Percys Aeroplane - Cacao Pikelets with Green Tea PannaCotta

Le Miel et la Lune – Carlton
I love the cute little bear logo that greets you at the entrance and braces all the coffee cups – it is super cute. The food menu has hidden suprises with bursts of excitement in the form of squid sausage for example. Coffee is from Proud Marys.

Website: http://www.lemiel.com.au/
Percy's Aeroplane Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch / Dinner

Benjamin’s Kitchen – Alphington
I absolutely love the illuminated paper clouds that sit in the centre of the restaurant, and pays homage to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, the walls are painted in white and grey tones. The menu is a fusion of Thai, Japanese and Chinese and simply wonderful. The menu is designed to share so grab a bunch of friends and try as much as you can from the menu.

Website: http://benjaminskitchen.com.au/
Menu: http://benjaminskitchen.com.au/menus/
Benjamin's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Inside Benjamins Kitchen

Zero95 Pizza – Doncaster
If you are after some delicious and fresh tasting wood fire pizza, pasta coupled with entertainment for all then this is the place for you. The boys who run this restaurant hail from Italy and if you are lucky enough to score a dinner booking – there will be a time when the lights turn off and out comes the twirling pizza dough show which is mighty impressive. If this isn’t enough to WOW about then you should try their Nutella calzone. It is to die for!

Website: http://www.zero95.com.au/
Menu: http://www.zero95.com.au/menus/
Zero95 Wood Fire Pizza Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zero 95 Pizza

Belles Hot Chicken – Fitzroy
Calling all chicken lovers! This is the place for you.You can the meat you want, then pick the Heat – Southern, Medium, Hot, Really Hot and Really F**kin Hot. I love my spice and can usually handle my spiciness but I got the HOT and this was pretty damn hot really – I cannot imagine what the Really F**kin Hot would taste like! All Meats come with a selectino of 1 side – be it Old Bay Fries, Broccoli & Almond Salad, Coleslaw, Mixed Pickles or 3 Bean Salad, Red Peppers and Dill. And you have a selection of sauces to choose from – Mississippi Comeback, Belles Ranch Dressing, Belles Blue Cheese, House Made Ketchup, House Made Hot Sauce.

Website: http://belleshotchicken.com/
Menu located on website
Belle's Hot Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Belles Hot Chicken

L’Altro Mondo – Albert Park
I am actually not sure how I stumbled on this restaurant – but I am sure glad I did. The cuisine is Italian and the main meals were wholesome and really tasty. Then you come to dessert and they were certainly different. The Tiramasu is what appears inside of the sphere and the Poached Pear dessert had a mix of flavours that worked really well together. A degustation menu is also available.

Website: http://laltromondo.com.au/
Menu: http://laltromondo.com.au/menu/

L'Altro Mondo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

L'Altro Mondo - Formaggio con le pere - Poached Pear, Mascarpone Foam, Polenta Lavosh L'Altro Mondo - Tiramasu in a Sphere 0 L'Altro Mondo - Tiramasu in a Sphere 3

Johnny Pump – Essendon
Dessert Shakes are all the rage in 2015 and Johnny Pump are the king (IMO). There are 6 different flavours to choose from with a daily special. They taste pretty damn good too but once again this could depend on the flavour that you pick. They also do a great breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. Servings are very generous and there is a large variety of food to choose from.

Website: http://www.johnnypump.com.au/
Johnny Pump - Shakes

Son in Law – Collingwood
Son in law takes it’s name from a famous Thai street food favourite, a dish with a humorous back-story. Newly opened mid 2015 – it comes to us from Tony and Oh Rungpradit who used to own Ayatana on Chapel Street (and who was my very first blog invite 2 years ago when I started my blog – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/ayatana-authentic-thai-with-a-modern-twist/ -THANK YOU!)
The venue is bright, colourful and inviting. The service is warm and friendly. The food is really tasty and has all the right notes of spice. The stand out dessert is definitely the Marshmallow and Nutella Puffs (pictured below) and are a genius of an idea.

Website: www.soninlaw.com.au
Menu located on website

Son In Law Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Son In Law - Marshmallow & Nutella Puff - Berries, Crushed Cashew Nuts, French Vanilla Ice Cream

Emilia – Melbourne CBD
Emilia has taken over the old Gills Diner premises and brought a sweet charm to it thanks to great service, delicious food and exquisite artwork. Emilia showcases Italian dishes at its best with the dishes reflecting the diverse Italian flavours all whilst keeping the traditional techniques in check. You wont be disappointed.

Website: http://www.emiliamelbourne.com.au/
Menu: http://www.emiliamelbourne.com.au/

Trattoria Emilia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Emilia - Pasta Galore

Botherambo – Richmond
Botherambo is a newly opened Vietnamese and Thai restaurant open in Richmond. The food menu consists of dishes to share as well your larger dishes and one signature dish. Their Saigon Slushie mocktail is right up there with the best mocktails I have had – a combination of pineapple, coconut and mint – just divine! The food was tasty – some hits, some misses – but overall delicious. The dessert of Mango Sticky Rice with Coconut Ice Cream was the best way to finish off the meal. I really wanted to try the Banana Spring Rolls – however they had sold out by the time it was dessert time for us. Need to go back to try them out.

Website: http://www.botherambo.com.au/
Menu on website

Botherambo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Botherambo - Dinner
Botherambo - Mango Sticky Rice with Coconut Ice Cream

Belleville – Melbourne CBD
Belleville is a fusion of bar, cafe, restaurant and live entertainment venue, housed in a historic multi-storey building off Chinatown that captures the pure essence of Melbourne. The point of attraction is definitely the enormous Brazilian rotisserie (located in prime position in the kitchen), rotating up to 90 chickens at any one time. The chicken comes in quarter, half or whole serves, smothered in sauces from the mild house chicken gravy, to the “hot as F#@k – and the best part is that it comes to your table and the waiter cuts it up for you (refer to pic below). The chicken is cooked to perfection and the other food on the menu is just as good! Check it out for a quirky, uniquely Melbourne night out!

Website: http://belleville-melbourne.com/
Menu: http://belleville-melbourne.com/#Menu

Belleville Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Belleville - WHOLE CHICKEN

The Noble Experiment – Collingwood
The Noble Experiment is all about reliving the 1920s – Prohibition Era – and bringing a sense of theatre to every drink and dish they create. I don’t drink but the most interesting drink would have to be their Bathtub Gin which comes served in a miniature bathtub complete with a floating rubby ducky! How awesome is that. There is a wealth of different spaces to choose from when you come and visit – think pop up basement bars, cocktails on tap or a vintage Absinthe fountain surrounded by the comfiest chesterfield lounges. This three-tiered bar has been designed to explore. Great place for drinks and delicious tasting food – not sure why we waited so long to check it out!

Website: http://www.thenobleexperiment.com.au
Menu:
http://www.thenobleexperiment.com.au/menu/

The Noble Experiment Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Noble Experiment - Desserts

Longhorn Saloon – Carlton

Longhorn Saloon is a type of place that transports you into another time and place – where you could lose track of all your time and stay all night long. Named in honour of a shady bar where the underage Balleaus tasted their first beers – it has a great fit out to match thanks to naked bricks and wrought iron. I love the old chesterfield couches by a mini fireplace that you can just sit back and enjoy some drinks. The food servings are generous and taste amazing. They are known for their burgers – but I must admit their other dishes are just as good.

Website: http://www.longhornsaloon.com.au/
Menu: http://www.longhornsaloon.com.au/menus.html

Longhorn Saloon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NOTE: If you are looking for a restaurant simliar to this – check out Le Bon Ton – Collingwoodwww.lebontonmelb.com
I really loved my time at this place too – a New Orleans-inspired oyster saloon, smokehouse, cocktail bar and absinthe den. The food takes inspiration from American South – their smokehouse brisket is done Texas-style, their blackened fish and crab cakes come from the Louisiana Gulf Coast – with inspiration coming from as far west as New Mexico and as far east as Alabama.

Le Bon Ton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Longhorn Saloon

The Press Club – Melbourne CBD
The Press Club really needs no introduction – one of many of George Colombaris’ restaurants which has recently undergone a refurbishment. It is spectacular – filled with mirrors to make it look bigger than it actually is (especially when you look in from the outside).  Certain tables have a vantage point looking into the kitchen so you can watch as the chefs create your unique dishes. The Press Club is all about the attention to detail and great customer service – from the friendliness to the in-sync placed dishes on your table – there is nothing to fault. This dish pictured was given to us at the end of our meal – petit fours – their very own housemade chocolate and caramel cubes displayed on a mini clothesline. Adorable! The food is full of theatrics with a flavour to match. A must try!

Website: http://www.thepressclub.com.au/
Menus can be found on the website
The Press Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Press Club - Petit 4

Lounge – Melbourne CBD
Lounge has been around for years – located on Swanston Street – being quite  a popular night spot and bar for uni students. Most recently they have revamped their kitchen menu – to target a wider clientele. You can now find sliders, patatas bravas  and even a salted caramel panna cotta!

Website:  www.loungekitchen.com.au
Menu can be found on website

Lounge Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Lounge Kitchen + Bar - Sliders and Patatas Bravas

Port of Call – Melbourne CBD
Port of Call Salon Bar & Grill is a bar inspired by the eats, treats and beats of the Caribbean. My hubby is from the Carribean and has been telling me all about the foods that you can get there – such as Doubles and Bake and Shark – so I was really excited to try them out right here in Melbourne (until I actually get to visit the Carribean). I love that in Melbourne you can try out various types of cuisines from all around the world. Amazing. This place is a definite must try. And eventhough the dish sizes look small – they are deceivingly filling!

Website: http://www.theportofcall.com.au/
Menu can be found on website

Port of Call Saloon Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Port of Call

Sabas Ethiopian – Fitzroy
Speaking of being able to try out almost every cuisine right here in Melbourne – Ethiopian is yet another cuisine you can try out. This was always on my list to try and I was really excited to check out Sabas. Saba herself (who runs the restaurant) is lovely – she helped me out when I asked if the meat was halal (which it is btw). Hailing from the far northern region of Tigray, the beautiful meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes are served on the famous Injera bread. You get to experience the way that the Ethiopians eat as well – on a shared place with the curries you choose all placed in the middle of the injera – with extra injera surrounding it. Such a special thing to try out different customs and ways that different cultures embrace food-time.
The menu is completely gluten-free and vegans and vegetarians are well catered for. Ethiopia is a country with serious coffee-growing credibility, and Saba’s performs the coffee ceremony, which starts with roasting green beans, moves through grinding and brewing (in a jebena, which is like a clay moka pot) to serving in little cups.
Additionally you can purchase teff (gluten-free flour used to make injera​ flatbread) – which has been awarded a superfood status – and how Saba first started her business venture. A must visit.

Website: http://sabashealthfoods.com.au/pages/sabas-ethiopian-restaurant
Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Sabas Ethiopian Dinner

Mr Hive Kitchen + Bar – Crown Entertainment Complex
The many times that I have visited Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar – I have never been disappointed. Located at the Crown Metropol end of the Crown Entertainment complex – Mr Hive is a great place for a relaxed dinner date or catchup with friends.There is lively bar area at the front serving cocktails, snacks and shared platters. Move inside further where you will find tables spaciously laid out to devour your perfect meals. Service is great.

Website: https://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/restaurants/premium/mr-hive
Menu can be found on wesbite
Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Mr Hive Kitchen & Bar - Coconut Pannacotta (2)

Tip00 – Melbourne CBD
If you are in a pasta mood – then this is the place to be. Handmade in-house, fresh and super delicious! Tip00 is a name to reference the flour used in what they specialize in ‘pasta’. They also do a really great Panna Cotta! A point to note is that there are limited amount of seats available – so booking a table is highly recommended. Tip00 is really popular with the city folk and usually gets packed out at all times of the day! Yep it really is that good!

Website: http://www.tipo00.com.au/
Menu: http://www.tipo00.com.au/food/
Tipo 00 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Tip 00 - Pannacotta - Honey, Almond & Berries

Sugar Prawn – Collingwood
Sugar Prawn replicates the feel of a hawker market in Malaysia – complete with the plastic chairs and colourful decor. There is also fresh juice is available from Jasmine Jus Bar and their own in house radio station located across from this. Malaysian breakfasts are also served – think kaya (coconut jam) toast and coconut sago pudding with sliced fruit. You can also find Everyday Coffee which delivers quality filter coffee. At dinner time you can devour the most delicious chilli crab served with fried buns here along with other great tasting Malaysian inspired dishes!

Website: http://www.sugarprawn.com/
Menu: http://www.sugarprawn.com/menu/
Sugar Prawn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Sugar Prawn - Chilli Crab with Fried Buns

Dutchess – Melbourne CBD
Located on the third level of The Duke of Wellington with a New York vibe is a standing-room bar and 110-seat restaurant. There are two dinner settings with the later group (around 8:30pm) encouraged to stay around till lights out (around 1am). Resident DJs will play a mix of soul, funk, punk and anything you can’t find in the top 100, plus the DJ sets will be available on Dutchess’ own Spotify channel each week. The look and feel is luxurious which further encourages customers to want to stay. The food focus is on dry-aged steak with meals designed to be shared. There is also a raw bar focusing on seafood located next to the bar, for those looking for lighter snacks with a beverage, as opposed to a full meal. They also serve a King Crab Mac and Cheese which is the bomb!!

Website: http://www.dutchess.com.au/
Menu can be found on the website
Dutchess Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Duchess - King Lobster Mac and Cheese

Mr Huang Jin – Melbourne CBD
Mr Huang Jin used to be located within the Rialto building but has now moved and taken up shop in The Archway. The menu includes an array of traditional Taiwanese foods – think noodle soups, rice dishes and stir fries together with the signature handmade (on site) xiao long bao (soup dumplings). The dumplings here are really quite delicious and rival those made at the famous Hutong. I love the interior – complete with pale timbers which is reminiscent of bamboo steamers – and rather interesting chairs (when you visit you will see what I mean). The space is quite small (seats about 40) so perhaps you would want to book just in case. You don’t want to miss out these dumplings.

Mr Huang Jin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mr Huang Jin - Dumplings & Banana Fritters

The Millhouse – Melbourne CBD
The Millhouse is located in the heart of the city and resides in the basement of Tomasetti House (which was built in 1851 to house a steam flour mill). The original bluestone walls remain with additional features such as brass finishes and recycled beechwood accents to created a relaxed bar and eatery. There is a subtle South American influence over the menu thanks to Peruvian chef Augustin Ortega. The menu is designed to share – and the portions are generous indeed! I love the picture themed words that you will find on the menu as well as the coasters (not to mention their website) – enjoy deciphering these! Great chilled out space with fantastic bar tenders who can whip up great mocktails / cocktails!

Website: http://themillhouse.com.au/
Menu: http://themillhouse.com.au/pdf/TheMillHouse_Menu.pdf

The Mill House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Millhouse

MJR Tom – Collingwood
MJR Tom is the newest venue to grace Smith Street in Collingwood – there are two main areas to it – a cosy front cafe dominated by tables and benches and a big standing-room bar out back, with a bluestone pool table den downstairs. I love the fitout – complete with plywood – it creates light and an inside-outside vibe. During the day you will find a breakfast menu which includes blue swimmer crab omelette with papaya and Vietnamese mint, patatas bravas and pa amb tomàquet. The lunch and dinner menu has a somewhat Asian / Latin feel to it. Also a great place to have drinks and hang with friends. The night we went – there were a lot of parties happening.

Website: http://www.mjrtomcollingwood.com.au/
MJR TOM Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dinner by Heston – Crown Entertainment Complex
Dont think this place even really needs a spiel about it – Heston Blumenthal – that is all!
Your best bet at getting a table here is booking online and looking out for available tables. Bookings also open two months out from a date.

Website: http://dinnerbyheston.com.au/
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OTHER

Dex2Rose – Melbourne CBD
Love Hot Chocolates? Dex2Rose does one with a difference – it comes with our very own mini fire to toast marshmallows one.And the best bit – aside from the taste – is that there an unlimited amount of fire and marshmallows!
Dex2rose Nitrogen Gelato Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dextrose - Hot Chocolate

Hash Specialty Coffee – Melbourne CBD
Want another type of Hot Chocolate with a difference – check out Hash Specialty. This comes served with pure melted chocolate served with Fairy Floss to lend some extra sweetness.

Hash Specialty Coffee & Roasters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Hash Specialty - Hot Chocolate

Bibelot – South Melbourne
Love cakes, macaroons or chocolate? Then this is the place for you. Has great tasting coffee to match as well. They also do cakes for any special occasions that you need to pre-order. I ordered one for my sisters 21st – and it was soo good! Highly Recommended.
Bibelot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bibelot - Coffee & Pistachio Macaron

Kwak Scrolls
I got this from Code Black Coffee Roasters (Southgate, Docklands)
Cookies and Cream FTW!! SOOO DELISH! Check out @kwakscrolls for current locations.
Kwak Scrolls - Cookies and Cream

Code Black Coffee Roasters – Southbank, Docklands, Brunswick
MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE COFFEE PLACE! Really great tasting coffee and great service. Not to mention the special sweet and savoury treats that you can get to go with our coffee such as Kwak Scrolls (see above) and these addictive Butter Bing Cookies! Enough said!
Website: http://codeblackcoffee.com.au/
Code Black Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Code Black Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Code Black Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Butter Bing Stockists: https://butterbing.neto.com.au/stockists-list
Code Black Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Code Black Coffee + Butter Bing Cookie

 

Experiencing Box Hill Central Like Never Before….

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I was lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people from PR Edge to get a chance to experience the talent of former Magic Owner-chef James Tan as he hosted an exclusive tour of Victoria’s most authentic Asian fresh food market located at Box Hill Central. After the tour finished, we were treated to a tantalising 3 course meal that James cooked in front of us. I mean how can you say No right?

Box Hill Central is located in Box Hill and is full of culinary hidden gems, rare ingredients and traditional treats – and it has a history. Originally this space was a market that opened in 1895 becoming a part of the shopping centre when it was developed in 1987. There are now two shopping centres located on the one site – Box Hill Central North and Box Hill Central South.

Box Hill Central North was originally opened as Whitehorse Plaza but after a lack of patrons closed down in 2000. After major refurbishments it was reopened in 2003 as Centro Whitehorse, which then rebranded to Centro Box Hill North in 2007 before finally being changed to Box Hill Central North in 2013.

Box Hill South (where the original Box Hill Central was located) – was built when the old railway station and level crossing was removed and has undergone refurbishments to what stands there today. The original market is now incorporated into the shopping centre but was redeveloped to what it is today. Box Hill Train station is also located here.

I was a bit late (for those of you who don’t know Box Hill gets super busy – especially on a Saturday and finding a car park is almost as bad as finding a needle in a haystack!) so missed the initial welcome and introductions from James, however I met up with the rest of the bloggers and James as they were getting through a talk from one of the Fresh Seafood store’s owners – Elaine from Box Hill Fish Market. Here we got to sample oysters – they were fresh, punchy and full of flavour! You can have a look at some of my pictures of the Box Hill Fish Market store – you really can see the freshness and the high quality – they sell sashimi grade products – that this store has, as well as the variety and range – they have Blue Swimmer Male Crabs!
Elaine and her staff are very helpful and accommodating and mentioned that they try and cater for their clients’ needs in whichever way they can – all they have to do is ask. I really like that philosophy!

Next we briefly stopped at one of James’ favourite butchers – Central Meats – who sells specialised meats and once again are very accommodating and can get you what you.

Our next stop was at Food Master which provides Asian spices and herbs and dried and preserved foods – a shop with literally everything you could possible need – from Dried Figs to Lily Bulb. If you are Asian and were used to your mums or grandparents herbal home remedies – chances are that you could find the ingredients for this remedy from here. Check out the pictures for the variety!

That brought us to the end of the tour and we were led back to our little area that had been decorated with bamboo fences and bamboo trees – with the table for the bloggers in the centre. There were many inquisitive questions as to what was going on and how they could be involved from passer-byers. The centre pieces were simple and brilliant – vases filled with fresh bok choy together with a basket filled with fresh veggies such as carrots, eggplants and mushrooms.
James had his setup at the top end of our table so we could watch as he prepared our three course meal.

Whilst James starting cooking the first dish we were given 100% natural Coconut Water from Raw C. James told us that he wanted to source fresh coconuts for us however he couldn’t find the ideal ones he wanted for us. None of us around the table had heard or seen this brand before – Pete Evans appears on the back of the packaging which we all found amusing. The Coconut Water is actually one of the better ones I have tried and kept the authentic coconut water flavours vibrant.

For the first course we were served Palm Sugar Cured Atlantic Salmon with Fried Kumara, Petit Herb Salad. The dish was impeccably presented – the palm sugar cured atlantic salmon acting as the base of the dish, topped with fried kumara and finished with the petit herb salad (which included avocado and tomato). The salmon was fresh and cured to perfection with the palm sugar enhancing the flavour thanks to its sweetness. I loved the crunch of the fried kumara as well as its distinct flavour. The petit herb salad really brought the dish together for one flavour explosion in your mouth. Delicious!

The next course was the Mud Crab Coconut Salad with Chilli Lime Dressing, Crispy Rice Crackers. We were told the way to eat this dish was to serve some of the crab onto the crispy rice crackers and eat them together in one go. Doing this gives you the element of crunch followed swiftly with a burst of distinct flavours – creamy coconut, sultry crab and ending with the hit of chilli. I am a huge of anything to do with crab so this dish was delicious – my only thought was that the coconut flavour somewhat overpowered the uniqueness of the crab.

To finish James prepared a Lacquered Soy Duck with Shitake, Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil. As I do not eat duck I only had the Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil and Shitake. I adored the presentation that James did with my dish. He piled the noodles together – they were rolled into small cylinders, poured the soy reduction over the noodles and finished this with the shitake and herbs. I have never eaten these type of noodles before but quite enjoyed the flavours – the saltiness of the soy reduction paired with the rustic flavours of the shitake and the smoothness of the noodles worked well together.
The duck was a clear hit with the other bloggers – who even went in for seconds. They were surprised at how tender the duck was and the flavouring of the sauce on the side was something they all loved.

Next up was a chance to experience an authentic Chinese Tea Ceremony from Spencer Wong at Cha-t. Refer to the section below to learn more about Spencer.
The front window of Cha-t is visually stunning itself – a round wooden circular shelf with tiny compartments which are filled with paraphernalia relating to Chinese tea such as claypots, incense holders and dainty tea cups – but once you step inside – you truly feel like you are transported to the world of tea. There intricately detailed wooden furnished together with chairs that have been carved from roots of trees. It really is a place that you need to visit to capture its beauty.

Cha-t is all about the teas – with the menu only listing a variety of teas – from Pu-erh / Pu-er Tea to Medicinal Teas. Cha-t is all about appreciation of Chinese tea as well as Chinese culture and really is a one stop shop of its kind here in Melbourne. It is quite common to find many of these types of shops in China – as their favourite past times is to drink tea all day.

Spencer seats us around a wooden table that has been especially made for tea ceremonies. It is equipped with all the utensils and pots required to carry out a tea ceremony, including a section that places filtered water into a pot and warms the water to correct temperature required. I was even amazed at just watching the water being warmed and the main ceremony hadn’t even started! The table had holes which allowed for the excess water to travel through and be collected under the table – genius.

Spencer starts by telling us the background and history of the tea and tells us the different types of teas that we will be trying today. We start off with Pu-erh Tea which is a variety of fermented dark tea produced in the Yunnan province in China.
Pu-erh Tea starts off as a Camilla Plant first and for the next 1 to 5 years becomes a greeny yellowy colour, then from 5 to 15 years changes to a red colour and after about 50 years it becomes the black tea that we would be drinking today. The tea that we would be trying is a 1989 tea!!!
Spencer tells us that all you need for a good cup of tea is around 7-8 grams of tea – which he measures out using a scale. He places the tea into a bowl like cup and pours the hot water (90 degrees) onto it. Once this brews for a bit he pours the tea into a beaker. He tells us that the first two brews are to wake up the tea and hence the flavouring is always light. It also serves as a double purpose to warm the tea cups that you use to drink the tea in.

We all cannot wait to taste the tea – we are served in small glass cups and are told by Spencer how to drink the tea. You are meant to slurp in a sip and then savour the flavour between sips – certain teas give out flavours that you can feel at the back of your throat. The initial 2 brews are light, but as the brews get higher – the strength increases. The tea is warming and uniquely flavoured.

The next tea that we try is from 1984 and the 7g of tea that we all share is worth $400!!! This means that a kilogram will cost around $57K! Who would have ever thought that tea would be worth that much money! For this tea Spencer once again measure 7g of the tea and places it into a specially made purple sand pot. He tells us that these containers can cost up to 1 million dollars (!!!) – the cost is dependent on the level of the masters that are creating the containers. For example if they are Level 2 masters the cost of the containers (depending on the size and the type) that they make could be worth up to $100K with Level 1 masters containers being worth up to $1 Million. The small pot that he is using today is worth $500.

Once the water has boiled – to 100 degrees – Spencer pours the water into the pot and allows the tea to brew. Spencer carefully pours water over the pot to warm the tea and then swills the inside. When we were served the tea you could tell why it was worth the $400! The flavour was light initially and left a honey after taste. Another key to identifying great quality tea is that the smell that it leaves on the cup – it smelt of fresh honey and did so for a long period of time! Lower quality teas would have the smell of the actual cup or the remnants of your saliva. We had about 4 rounds of this tea and each time the flavour intensified but the honey after taste still remained in the same intensity. Beautiful.

Spencer also showed us the incense and how he prepares the incense – the incense helps to create the atmosphere and further enhances the tea experience. The smells were strong yet calming. The process – as with the serving of tea – is a very intricate, careful and detailed process. I love the dedication and passion!

Spencer also showed us some other tricks – like frogs that we thought were just ornaments – were in fact not just ornaments. If you place hot water over the frog – it squirts out the water – a nice party trick!

Cha-t also specialises in cigars (although they are not visibly in sight and you cannot smoke them in store) which range from Bolivar to Cuban Sancho Panz. There is also quite the variety of top shelf whiskeys on display. There are also some snack type foods available such as sun dried mango, sour plums, seaweed etc.

Cha-t is opening soon in Bourke St in the Melbourne CBD and also run various tea appreciation classes for those interested in learning more about tea and its rich history.

The entire day was a brilliant experience that you wouldn’t normally get to go through – from the personal tour from James of Box Hill Central to the intimate and eye opening tea ceremony. I would definitely encourage you all to check out Cha-t and experience the tea ceremony – it feels like a little bit of China right here in Melbourne.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to Box Hill Central as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

About James Tan                                              About Spencer Wong

About James Tan                                                             About Spencer Wong

Box Hill Central
1 Main St, Box Hill
Tel No: 9843 3900

Cha-T
17 Market St, Box Hill
Tel No: 0433 588 578

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

8Bit – Burgers, Gaming & Milkshakes!

panda 4 rating

Burgers are still very much the rage in Melbourne town – in fact I think all around the world. 8Bit is the new kid in town and the brainchild of chef Shayne McCallum and Alan Sam (both of Captain Melville) and Sam’s high-school mate, Long Tran.  It is located in Droop Street in Footscray – known for its usual crowds of Vietnamese people.

With the restaurant named after the 8bit video games – the theme follows inside from the décor to the names on the menu – they are named after video game characters – and is completed by the arcade games (which you can play for free) located out the back. What I love as well is the table numbers which are constructed with video game characters – from PacMan to Donkey Kong to Super Mario.

The outside is very different to what you would normally find in that area  -a very modern, new age looking building. There are signs of what used to be with the Vietnamese lettering peeling away and new 8bit patterned black and white burger logo pasted all over the front façade. The modern bi fold doors create the entrance – and you walk in feeling like you are stepping into a  modern day cave – complete with white plaster that peels away to reveal exposed brick work – almost giving it an aged look and yet another reminder of what used to be. I love it.

There are seats available at the main front counter which allows you to look right into the kitchen – where there is a whole barrage of staff (I haven’t seen so many staffing working at the one time in a kitchen ever! You can also sit along the window where you can sit on high coloured stools. As you go further inside the venue towards the back there are a few lower wooden tables, and the back room is once again filled with high seating complete with a wooden  bench tops. The kitchen is stainless steel and has a backdrop of tiles that have a Tetris effect with colourful tiles splattered amongst the white tiles. There are filament lights to complete this modern day look.

The menu consists of Burgers, Hot Dogs, Sides, Desserts and Milkshakes. There are six different burgers to choose from — Beef, Chicken , Beef & Bacon and Portobello Mushrooms burgers. There are four hot dogs to choose from – 8bit Dog (Smoked Frank with onions and pickles), Wonder Boy (Smoked Frank with Bacon and Onions), Fatal Fury (Jalapeno and Cheddar Sausage with Chilli Beef) and 1942 (Grilled Bratwurst with Pickle and Slaw). There are six different sides to choose from – each coming in two different sizes – small and large. Sides include Beer Battered Fries, Onion Rings, Potato Gems, Cheese & Bacon Fries, Chilli Cheese Fries and Loaded ( which is a choice of Fries or Potato gems, Chilli beef, Cheese sauce, Bacon, Pickle relish, Grilled onions,, Jalapeños). Desserts include various flavours of Soft Serves. Milkshake flavours include Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Strawberry Cheese Cake Shake and Chocolate Bar Shake – with a different chocolate bar flavour each day.

The only burger that I could get was the 1 Up Mushroom Burger – Crumbed Portobello Mushroom, Cheese, Tomato, Red Onion, Green Tomato Relish, Lettuce, 8BIT Sauce. The burgers are perfectly sized – not as small as a slider but not as large as a oversized burger that you would find at the likes of Grilled. My burger is filled with the crumbed Portobello mushroom along with all the other ingredients that is put between two buttered and toasted organic Lievito brioche buns. You would expect the brioche buns to be sweet of nature, however these ones did not have much sweetness to them which I quite liked. I loved that the mushroom was crumbed – it added more flavour, texture and crunch to the whole burger. The combination of all the elements was fresh and delicious – the 8BIT Sauce was scrumptious as well, however I would have liked a bit more sauce in my burger. Overall – it is one of the best veggie burgers that I have had in Melbourne.

N ordered the After Burner – Beef, Tomato, Red Onion, Lettuce, Cheese, Chilli Sauce, Jalapenos, Chipotle Mayo. N enjoyed his burner but said that the burger could have been a tad bit spicier. The beef burger was crusty on the outside but stayed juicy on the inside – just how you would want your burger to be.

We also ordered two different sides – onion rings and fries. The onion rings I found were mostly batter and not much filling, so I didn’t enjoy them as much. The battering, crunchiness and texture was tasty.

I also ordered a chocolate bar milkshake – the chocolate bar for the day was mars bar. I loved the milkshake – it was literally like a “chocolate milkshake only crunchy”. There were bits of the chocolate bar mixed in with the milk and ice cream and it was beyond delicious. I would definitely recommend trying the milkshake – next time I want to try out the different flavours. I’m sure they are all just as delicious. There is also a range of canned beers and soft drinks such as Dr. Pepper, Mountain Goat and American craft producer Sierra Nevada.

8Bit is a great addition to the Footscray area – and sells some great tasting burgers!  The staff are friendly, helpful and look like they enjoy what they do.  We were lucky when we went and managed to beat the crowds and get a seat by the window – so one thing to be mindful of is that dependent on the time you go you might have to wait a while for your burgers. There is no better place than a place where you can play some old school video games, sip on some delicious crunchy milkshakes and smash down a tasty burger!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.eat8bit.com.au/ for the list of burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes, sides etc
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Casual and Welcoming
Service:
Friendly and Enthusiastic
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.eat8bit.com.au/
8 Droop Street, Footscray
Tel No: 9687 8838

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – 11pm

8bit. on Urbanspoon

Popol Nah – Latin American in Carlton

panda 3.5 rating

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After the footy one evening N & I needed a place for dinner and decided to venture to the Carlton area. We used to frequent this area quite a bit back in the uni days, but as of late this hasn’t been the case. Carlton (Lygon Street in particular) is best known for its abundance of Italian restaurants filled with pizzas, pastas and gelatos – and lesser known for other cuisines such as Thai, Latin American or even Modern Australian. I had come across Popol Nah a Latin American fusion restaurant located at the city end of Lygon Street and decided to try it out on this night.

Popol Nah – which can be roughly translated to “The Peoples House” occupies a medium sized space – set amongst the Italian competition of course – and has an interesting design element to it. There are wooden planks running along one wall, overlapping each other in a haphazard style that oozes creativeness along with a modern version of a moose head. On the other is a textured crinkled white wall, together with two antlers hanging. There are large sticks placed in a vase of water which is located at the bar. Quirky, fun and a tad bit strange but it works. There is a communal table at the front of the main dining area, along with wooden tables that seat from two to larger parties. There is also seating at the front on Lygon street itself, as well as small courtyard at the back. Popol Nah can seat around 80 people. The interior is created by Peter Strateas and Mario Luca Carlucci of Strateas (a Brunswick based label). Popol Nah is open 7 days a week for both brunch and dinner.

The menu is created by New York based, Honduran born Cali Rivera and constitutes of South American and Latin fusion cuisine. The dinner menu is split into three sections – Chicos (Small dishes), Intermedio (In Between dishes) and ends with Carnes (Meats). There is also a Desserts menu with a selection of 5 different dishes such as Dulce de Leche, Rice Pudding, Chocolate Cake and Poached Quince just to name a few. There is also a Brunch Menu available which is split into 7 sections – Licuados (Smoothies), Huevos (Eggs) – you can choose from Baked Eggs or Scrambled Eggs, Ensaladas (Salads) – you can choose from two different vegetarian salads such as Mixed Seasonal Fruit with Mint and Ginger or Zucchini, Kale, Cucumber and Pickled Veggies, Bocadillos (Sandwiches), Empanadas (Baked Pasties) – there is a vegetarian option – chickpea, sweet potato, silver beet with crème fresca or one with chorizo and potato with coriander mayo, Anafres (Hot Plates) – which constitute of cheese fondue and lastly Mas Comida (More Food) – which have dishes such as Lamb & Beef Meatballs, Patatas Bravas and Prawn skewers.

There is also an extensive drinks menu – from Sangrias, Cocktails to a variety of Wines – from countries like Spain, Chile, Argentina and Australia – to an interesting selection of non-alcoholic drinks. Carolyn Brown the sommelier has a great understanding and knowledge of drinks and has put together a great selection. I decided to try the Chicha Morada – a non-alcoholic drink which had Purple Corn, Pineapple, Cinnamon and Cloves. The drink was purple in colour – due to the use of purple corn of course. I have never had purple corn before – but I think that it essentially tastes the same as yellow corn but has better health benefits and a higher amount of antioxidants. The combination of pineapple, cinnamon and cloves made for an interesting taste – not too sweet with spicy hints. It was a non-alcoholic version of a sangria and I really enjoyed it.

The first dish we ordered was the Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa – Chorizo and Potato in Baked Pastry with Coriander Mayo. N really enjoyed this – the pastry was crisp, crunchy and tasty on the outside with the chorizo and potato filling on the inside flavoursome and light. The mayo was creamy and a delicious addition.

I ordered the Ceviche De Camaron – Carribean Style Ceviche – Shrimp, Red Onion, Lime, Coriander, Tomato and Chips. The combination of ingredients was refreshing – I especially liked the addition of the coriander and lime. My favourite part of this dish was the chips – they were crispy, crunchy and tasted delicious. They had just the right amount of seasoning and worked well with the ceviche. I also liked the presentation of the dish – it came out in a stone mortar and pestle and the way in which the ceviche and chips were positioned reminded me of a bouquet of flowers.

The last dish we ordered was the Cordero Ranchero – Slow Cooked Lamb Shank in Spicy Tomato, Fresh And Dried Peppers with Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad. The lamb was cooked beautifully and fell off the bone – just what you want from a dish like this. The sauce looked spicy and N said it did have a hint of spice to it. I tried the Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad – which was fresh, flavoured with a tang as well as a hint of chilli – the perfect combination. The dish was presented well again – the contrast of the blue background of the rectangular plate against the bright browny red sauce was magnificent.

The service of the staff is great – everyone that served us was really friendly and happy to offer us suggestions and ensure we had everything we needed.

The brunch menu looks really interesting and I will definitely be back to try out some of their dishes. The décor is interesting and very different to anything you would normally find on Lygon Street. Head down and check out some great tasting South American fusion food.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – For the Brunch, Dinner and Drinks menu refer to http://popolnah.com.au/?cat=2
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Interesting, Unique and Funky. Great relaxed feel.
Standout Dish: Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Warm
Online Booking: No, but Popol Nah takes bookings.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://popolnah.com.au/
171 Lygon Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9347 3293

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 11:30am – 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 11:30am – 11:00pm
Sunday: 11:30am – 10:00pm

Popol Nah on Urbanspoon

Charlie Dumplings – Dumplings with a Twist

panda 4.5 rating

We had to organise a catch-up dinner in an area that was inner city with food that catered for vegetarians on a Monday night and ended up deciding on Charlie Dumpling. I had heard a lot of good things about this newly opened place located in High St, Windsor.

As you assume by the name – Charlie Dumpling – this venue by Dylan Roberts (ex Claremont Tonic, Ezard, Cutler & Co.) and restaurant manager Jamie Munro-Lynch (Anada, Cutler & Co, Circa) is all about the dumplings – but with a twist – and also serves up other delicious and interestingly flavoured bites to eat. Do not expect to see dumplings coming out in bamboo steamers here – instead you get beautiful rustic plates to match the vibe and feel of the venue. The fit-out is intriguing – complete with a feature wall of multi coloured window shutters (which is reminiscent of Potatohead in Bali) and rather funky – as well exposed brick walls, fishing nets – which have been turned into light shades (a very smart idea) and funky lights that hang over the bar. The design is by renowned architects DC Group & Newline Design and the result is a simple yet cosy and chilled vibe.

There is a selection of dining possibilities from tables in the front main dining area, stools at the bar, along the outside footpath or the courtyard area out the back – in total Charlie Dumpling can seat 60 people. There is also a private dining room located upstairs for 14-16 people which can be booked for functions as well. Another option is takeaway – you can order in advance via a handy app to save time.

The menu is split into 4 main sections – Small Bites, Salads & Noodles, Savoury Dumplings and Sweet Dumplings. The drinks menu has Dessert Cocktails, Cocktails, Beer (Tap – there is only one tap beer – Orion & Bottled) and Wines (Red & White). Small Bites include things like Edamame, two different types of Bao, Duck Leg, Grilled Skewers, Chicken Ribs, Sashimi – just to name a few. The menu also lets you know which of the dishes are Gluten Free and which are Vegetarian which avoids having to ask the wait staff to tell you which dishes are of these category.

Whilst deciding on what we wanted to eat – we ordered drinks. On this night however the beer on tap wasn’t available. I ordered myself a mocktail – I left the flavouring up to the bar tender and was pleasantly surprised when it came out to be lychee based – my favourite! The mocktail was refreshing and delicious – and quite large in size as well – double bonus!

There are 6 of us for dinner tonight, and we are seating by the window – so we get the best of both worlds – looking into the restaurant as well as out onto the street. The seating is a tad bit squishy I must admit, however this is a small negative. We decide to order a couple of dishes to share to start off with and decide later to order more if we need. We have a vegetarian on the table, as well as a Pescatarian so we had a selection of dumplings that cover these dietary requirements. Also something to note is that dumplings come in servings of 4 pieces per serving. There are sauces on the table which include Black Vinegar & Chilli, Soy, Shallot & Ginger and Red Nam Jin.

To start with we ordered the Charlies Fried Chicken Ribs, Five Spice Honey, Kewpie from the Small Bites section. The ribs came out piled on top of each other in a pyramid form looking glossy and exuding deliciousness. There was a resounding “mmm” and “yumm” around the table as each person took their first bite, followed by S saying she wanted another serving straight away. They were that good – a mix of sweet and savoury with chicken that was cooked to perfection.

We then got the succession of dumplings that we ordered. The Crispy Salmon, Tobbiko, Leek and Tumeric were the first dumplings I got to try. These dumplings were fried and had a crunchy coating of crumbs on the outside with the inside mixture providing a flavour hit for your taste-buds – the salmon flavour ringing true whilst staying fresh. The Leak and Tumeric puree together with the Tobbiko was what the dumplings were sitting on – this added a creamy aspect to the dish and worked well with the crumbed texture.

The Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean – these were steamed dumplings. These reminded me of a Thai Fishcake – juicy, full of flavour with a hint of spice – and finished with a spicy soy sauce and chilli combo. A really great tasting dumpling overall – I have never had a snapper dumpling before and wasn’t sure that this mixture would work – but it really does!

P ordered the Ricotta dumplings, Cauliflower, Anise, Gai Lan as she was vegetarian and I was lucky enough to sample some. My first thought when I looked at the dish was that it was reminiscent of a gnocchi or pasta dish. There were about 8-9 dumplings, as they were not your regular dumpling. This was quite a heavy dish but really tasty – the combination of ricotta and cauliflower worked well together, added with the crunch and texture of the slivered almonds as well as the freshness of the gai lan.

The Chicken, Ginger, Cabbage and Crispy Skin was a really interesting dumpling dish. They each came wearing a “hat” in the form of the crispy skin. The filling was once again juicy, light, flavoured with ginger and wrapped in the cabbage leaf – providing a mix of textures. This was a dish that everyone around the table enjoyed.

The last of the dumplings to arrive was the Steam Prawn and Bamboo Shoot, Har Gow, Sweet Corn, XO. These came out as glossy morsels complete with a tender filling which was simple and what you would expect from a steam prawn dumpling, but the twist of the sweet corn puree which it sat on was a brilliant addition . The sweetness combined with the chilli and prawn flavours was divine!

We also ordered the Spicy Dandan Noodles, Sesame, Szechuan, Peanuts and Pickled Chilli from the Salad & Noodle section to share with the table. The dish comes out un mixed – with the noodles forming the base of the dish, and each of the components placed separately on top – just like what you see at a ramen restaurant. There were peanuts, poppy seeds, chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, fried onions and coriander. I like this concept where you get to mix the ingredients into the dish yourself – kind of a do-it-yourself – makes you feel as if you made the dish yourself – almost! And another plus is that if you don’t like any one component you can avoid mixing it in.
The dish was spicier than I was expecting – and the addition of the poppy seeds left a tingling sensation on your lips. I quite enjoyed the dish and the different flavours that were mixed together – I wasn’t a huge fan of the addition of peanuts though. There was a resounding thumbs up for this dish from the entire table.

As I always do – I had looked at the dessert section before even looking at what was available for the main meals – I couldn’t wait to order dessert. I had heard great things about the Milk Chocolate dumplings. We ordered the Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet AND the Hot Apple and Sesame Mochi, Gingernut Ice Cream.

The Milk Chocolate dumplings were delicious – warm balls that have been batter dipped then deep fried, filled with gooey milk chocolate, topped with sugar and finished with a raspberry chilli sorbet. The sorbet was refreshing and bursting with flavour and tang, with the chilli hint at the end. This combination of creamy sweet chocolate mixed with the refreshing tang was impeccable.

The Hot Apple dumplings were entirely different to the milk chocolate dumplings. The apple filling was encased with the chewy mochi skins which were also topped with sesame seeds. The apple filling was warm, subtle and sweet, but I found the mochi skin was a bit too chewy. I loved the gingernut ice cream – there were pieces of gingernut throughout the ice cream which added both texture and extra flavour. The dish needed both the ice cream and the hot apple dumpling together – I think one without the other wouldn’t work.

The service at Charlie Dumpling was fantastic – everyone we had was really friendly and helpful and always had a smile on their face. I liked the fact that the staff had their own favourites and when we selected a dish they would add a comment of what they really liked about the dish. To end the meal when you get your bill – you get a bowl of fortune cookies as well – the fortunes inside might not be so great – but it is a great novelty idea.

Overall Charlie Dumpling is modern, sophisticated restaurant with a unique twist on the regular Asian Dumpling venue – a combination of street food meets fine dining. The vibe is funky, fun and lively and you can really find yourself getting lost in the world of dumplings. Charlie Dumpling really does stay true to its values and seems to always have a fun with a great attitude!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://charliedumpling.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2014/05/Charlie-Dumpling-Dine-In-Menu_12MAY14.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Chilled and Funky. Great for a dinner catchup with friends. You can also book a function in their private dining room too.
Standout Dish: Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean AND Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and always with a smile. They are happy to provide recommendations as well!
Online Booking: No – they don’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://charliedumpling.com.au/
184 High Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9510 4213

Opening Hours:
Monday: 6pm – Late
Tuesday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm then 5:30pm – Late

Charlie Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Good Food & Wine Show – Thanks Rachel’s Gourmet Yoghurt

I was invited to check out the Good Food & Wine Show in Melbourne by Rachel’s Gourmet Yoghurt. I must say this year’s show was the best show put on than any of the other previous years I have attended. There were lots of interesting food and drink stalls, and in keeping with the times lots of products that were tailored to the growing need for Gluten-Free, Dairy Free, Lactose Free etc.

Rachel's Stand

Rachel’s Stand

Rachel's Stand

Rachel’s Stand

rachels

Rachel’s was launched in the early 90s and has grown onto becoming one of the UK’s favourite yoghurts. With that market secured they have transitioned to Australia to make the same indentation in the market. Rachel’s yoghurt is a low fat product that combines fresh Australian Milk together with a unique fusion of fruits resulting in creamy, delicious yoghurt. They use a traditional recipe and quality ingredients. There are currently 4 different flavours:
Mango & Madagascan Vanilla
Black Plum & Roasted Fig
Wild Strawberry & Rhubarb
Peaches & Vine Ripened Passionfruit
They can be purchased at Woolworths, Coles or favourite independent supermarket. And another fantastic fact to note is that they are Gluten Free! For more information check out their website at http://www.rachelsyoghurts.com.au/

It was quite ironic that I received this invite from Rachel’s as it was only the previous couple of weeks that I felt like yoghurt and went to Woolworths and ended up purchasing Rachel’s yoghurts as the flavour combination really interested me. I tried the Mango & Madagascan Vanilla, as well as the Black Plum & Roasted Fig. I loved and enjoyed both the flavours – they both had a smooth and creamy texture paired together with nice big fresh chunks of fruit! Perfect! What is even handier is that under the lid, there is a foldable spoon that you can use! Briiliant! They do really follow their tag line – Combining passion and care with premium ingredients.

I am just going to point of some of my highlights and stalls that I thought were pretty amazing. We started off with trying out some nuts (I don’t have any pictures, as I think I was too busy trying out the samples) – I ended up buying Chilli Macadamias and Chilli & Lime Cashews – both of which were delicious! They also had some sweet flavoured nuts – such as honey and caramel macadamias and cashews.

The Ginger People
Ginger People Product

The Ginger People were another stall that was exciting – we tried some lollies that contained ginger as well trying the ginger sweets – in the form of chewies and candies, as well trying out some of the beverages on offer. We found the crystallised ginger a bit too overpowering but enjoyed the ginger sweets and the beverages. One of their products that caught my eye was the Organic Ginger Syrup – their version of the honey maple syrup – unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try this out.

The Ginger People have been around for around 30 years and source premier quality ginger to create innovative ginger products that are healthy for you. They are Australian owned and operate dand the most award winning ginger brand. The Ginger People’s products can be purchased at Go Vita, Healthy Life, Natural & Organic Supermarket, Great Earth Super Discount Health Shop and select IGA stores. You can also order online from their e0tail partners – Kombu Wholefoods and Aussie Health Products. For more information check out their website at http://gingerpeople.com.au/. For Australia stockists you can visit http://www.aulifeproducts.com.au/stockists1.html

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale

One of my favourite stalls of the day would have to be the Bruce Cost Ginger Ale – where we got to sample ginger ale with a difference. I am the first to admit that I am not a huge fan of ginger beer or ginger ale, but I had a look at the flavours and they really tweaked my interest. The Jasmine Tea and Pomegranate with Hibiscus that caught my eye. There is also a Passionfruit with Yellow Ginger (Tumeric) flavour as well as the Original and ^66”. I tried the Jasmine Tea flavour first and loved the jasmine notes mixed together with the refreshing ginger. Next up I sampled the Pomegranate with Hisbiscus – the pomegranate was subtle and once again it was a refreshing drink. I did prefer the Jasmine Tea flavour so I decided to purchase some.

This ginger ale is sparkling and refreshing is made with only fresh ginger and pure cane sugar. To that they add the full leaf of jasmine or fruit pulp to get the flavouring just right. The end result is unfiltered, which has tiny ginger particles through it that need to be shaken before drinking and enjoying. It also provides a source of iron, calcium, vitamin A and C. For more information about their products and to find out where you can purchase their products from refer to their website at www.brucecostgingerale.com

Walker Foods
Carribean Sauces

Walkerswood Carribean Foods was another stall that caught my eye – as I LOVEE SPICY foods and sauces! I am always on the lookout for the next spiciest sauce that I can add to my food for that extra oomph! The Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce was my favourite and rather spicy! A clear runner up in terms of both flavouring and spice was the Jaimaican Jonkanoo Pepper Sauce.

Walkerswood Carribean Foods is named after a rural village in Jamaica hidden in the green hills of St Ann – there a factory produces these wonderful spicy tasting sauces, seasoning and condiments from the freshly harvested produce from the area. For more information about their beginning, their products and where you can purchase their products – visit their website at www.walkerswood.com

Boss Man Jamaican Jerk Boss Man Jamaican Jerk Cassowara Chips

 There was also the Jamaincan Boss Jerk Food stand and this is where we decided to get some food for lunch. There was corn on the cob for sale, as well as their famous Jerk Chicken, but we both decided to get the Cassava chips. They were so popular that we had to wait in line a good 10 minutes to get them. Cassava is a woody shrub and is a major source of carbohydrates and is also called manioc, yucca, mogo or tapioca root. The chips came in a cone shaped banana leave style paper with seasoning. I added some of the spicy sauces. The chips tasted great and were worth the wait – they had a sweetness to them and were soft on the inside.

Noshu Donuts Noshu Donuts
Noshu Donuts Close up of Noshu Donuts

Noshu (which literally means No Sugar) is an Australian owned company and strive to achieve their philosophy “All Love, No Sugar” – and I think they do this really well. When chatting to the girl working at the stall she mentioned that just because there are people out there with allergies, intolerances or even diabetes – they shouldn’t have to give up on proper tasting food and eat products that taste like cardboard – this is where Noshu steps in. Noshu is 100% sugar free and the sweetness that they do have in their products come from ingredients such as pumpkin, coconut and gluten free flours. What really caught my attention was when the girl mentioned that their baked donuts have less sugar, less carbs and more fibre than a medium apple! Amazing! Currently their products consist of donuts – there are three different flavours to choose from – however in the near future they are looking to extend these to include chocolate brownies and ANZAC biscuits.

The three flavours of donuts are – Dark Chocolate and Raspberry, Caramel Spice and Banana and Coconut. My favourite would have to be the Dark chocolate and raspberry and caramel spice. They have denseness to them, yet it feels and tastes really smooth. They really do taste good and you don’t have to feel guilty eating them! Double win!

You can store these donuts in the fridge for up to 4 weeks and up to 5 months in the freezer. You can purchase these products via their website www.noshu.com.au and they offer next day deliver to most post codes (no PO Boxes).

Coconut Essence Coconut Essence Product List Coconut Chips and Nutella

JT’s Coconut Essence was another stall that had some great products – their coconut chips in a variety of flavours as well as their version of nutella – cocotella were a hit. Their cocotella is sugar, gluten and nut free! The girl at the stall recommended eating the cocotella with banana – apparently they made for a great mix.

I really enjoyed their coconut chips – there is original, chocolate and salt & vinegar – especially the chocolate flavour. The Salt & Vinegar flavour I wasn’t a huge fan of, and the original was quite tasty as well. The coconut chips are baked not fried, and have the perfect crispness to them. They are high in antioxidants, minerals, caprylic and beneficial lauric acids, all whilst being vegan, dairy and gluten free together with having no cholesterol and trans fat. They are really addictive (in fact I am snacking on some whilst I write this post!)

JT’s Coconut Essence is an Austrlaian owned company and produce products that are pure, natural and healthy from fresh green coconuts that are harvested and canned on the same day. Other products they have are coconut water, coconut oil, coconut oil gel capsules and coconut sorbet! For more information on where to purchase these products and for recipes and other products refer to their website at http://www.coconutessence.com.au

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As well as visiting a number of other stalls, we also took a break from walking around carrying all the things we bought to watch Jacques Reymond Live at the Good Food Theatre. He was making a lamb dish, a pork belly dish and a dessert dish of balsamic strawberries and cream. It was great to watch a chef of his experience and talent in action, as well as listening to his helpful tips and secrets. He has a great character and exudes enthusiasm about cooking and food – and he is quite funny too!

Chorizo on a Stick Chorizo on a Stick Chorizo on a Stick

Another interesting find was seeing people eat this – Chorizo on a stick proudly supplied by Salumi Australia! They were a sure hit with many people at the show! Great idea! Check out their website for more information on their products and stockists at http://www.salumi.com.au/

Live Honey Bees

Live Bees were on show as well – this was wine made using honey!

Cheese from Boosey
Boosey Creek Cheese was one of the cheese we got to sample in a very busy and crowded Cheese Alley. Quite tasty I must say!

Great Offer for Cured Meats
This show-bag of Cured Meats from Barossa Fine Foods was fantastic – it came with 5 different types of cured meats as well as small cleaver which was not only a handy size but had a very sharp blade.

Overall A and I had a great time at the Good Food and Wine Show and walked away with many heavy bags of our purchases! So much so that we had to tram it to meet the boys to carry the heavy weights to the car!

Little Ramen Bar – Great for Winter

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Starters and Sides Ramen Menu Quick Lunch Menu Additional Ramen Toppings Drink Menu

I am a huge fan of Ramen and had not only heard about the Little Ramen Bar, but had seen the long lines during most lunch times and dinner sessions – so I had to check out what all the fuss was about.

The Little Ramen Bar is located in Little Bourke Street, right in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. It is a tiny store, but don’t worry just look out for the place with a line of people out the front and you won’t miss it. As you can tell by the name – they specialise in Ramen, however there are also a few different starters such as dumplings, edamame and kim chi to try out as well. The chefs behind these wonderful bowl of goodness creations are Michio Kurihara and Vianne Cheng.

There are 9 different Ramen dishes to select from – and the menu describes each dish as well as letting the customers know which of the dishes can be made vegetarian as well as having a spice indicator. They also cater for Gluten Free requirements and have Gluten Free noodles available on request. There are also additional ramen toppings that you can select from – as well making your ramen GODZILLA size for an extra $3.50 – which will double the soup and double the noodles!

The staff here are friendly and helpful, and have a great system in place to manage the lines. There is usually a very quick turnaround so your wait usually isn’t very long. Inside there are tables that seat between two and four people, as well as having a window seat for singles. Tables are wooden, there is exposed brick and there are vintage Sapparo posters around the venue, along with the word RAMEN in Hiragana characters over the main counter.

I take my seat and ponder which Ramen I should order and considering I love my spicy foods – I opt with the vegetarian option of the Spicy Miso Ramen – extra spicy! Something else that caught my eye was the Ramune drink – which had the description of Japanese lemonade with a fun marble bottle. I simply had to try. This was my first time trying this drink out – so I had to ask the waitress how to open the bottle. There is a trick to opening it – you have to take the main cap off the bottle and then push this cap into the neck of the bottle, which releases the marble into the bottle. FUNKY! The taste of the Ramnue is quite nice as well and I felt that it almost had a grape aftertaste together with the lemonade fizz.

The Spicy Miso Ramen comes out and looks delicious – the miso broth was an intense red colour, topped with fresh vegetables and the perfectly cooked egg – with the yolk in a liquid gold consistency – topped with seaweed, bamboo shoots, spring onions. The sweetness of the miso together with the spiciness that was added worked well together. The egg noodles had the right amount of softness to it and as a whole the dish worked well together. The serving size is quite generous and I struggled to finish my bowl.

Little Ramen Bar is reminiscent of a style and type of restaurant that you would find in Japan itself. The chefs use a traditional recipe for Ramen and get it right. If you want to go at lunch time – get there by midday as the lines start to build up from then. After work there is yet a line, but the wait is worth it. Perfect for the winter days ahead!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.littleramenbar.com.au/menu.html or the Menu pics above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Laid Back and has a very Japanesey feel!
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.littleramenbar.com.au/
346 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
(Near the corner of Elizabeth and Little Bourke St)
Tel No: 9670 5558

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Saturday: 11:50am to Last Order 2:30pm
Dinner
Monday to Saturday: 5:30pm to last order 9:00pm.
(Friday and Saturday last order for Dinner is 9:30pm)

Closed Sunday and Public Holidays

Little Ramen Bar on Urbanspoon

Rue & Co. – Great Addition to Melbourne

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:

St Ali Breakkie Menu St Ali Burger and Dessert Menu Kong Menu

It was after the footy game (Go the Hawks!!) and N and I were feeling a tad bit peckish – so we decided to check out the newly opened Rue & Co. Located off the main hustle and bustle of Collins Street, near Exhibition street is Melbourne’s version of street style food. It is an outdoor pop-up venue – around for 6 months – and has the following venues – Church of Secular Coffee (St Ali), Jimmy Grants and Kong BBQ – a joint venture between Salvatore Malatesta, George Calombaris and Chris Lucas.

Salvatore Malatesta’s

Salvatore Malatesta’s
George Calombaris,

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

The “fit-out” is very Melbourne – there is astro turf laid on the grounds, and the venues are located in a row under neath the massive wall artwork. On the opposite side to where the food is – is a stylish yet simple seating area decked out with minimal black stools, seats and tables. There is a combination of low seated stools as well as higher bar chairs. There are two areas – one area being covered complete with heating to keep customers warm (especially in the unpredictable Melbourne weather) – as well an open air area under trees with fairy lights.

We decided to try out Kong BBQ (opened by Chris Lucas – who brought us Chin Chin) as I had heard a lot about this place and wanted to see what we could expect once it opens its more permanent doors in Richmond.

I love the use of the Japanese characters to spell out BBQ in the name as well as the addition of the PANDA and the tag line HAPPY LIFE. As you all probably know I LOVE PANDAS! (haha hence the blog – Grazing Panda) – so I cannot wait to visit their permanent venue and see the use of the pandas. =)

The menu here at Rue & Co. is split up into 6 sections – Soup, Wings (6 pieces), Steam Buns (2 pieces), Kong Bo Ssam, Ssam Roti Roll and Salads. There are vegetarian and pescatarian options available under most of these headings.

I ordered the Peanut Butter Crusted Tofu, Pickled Cucumber and Spring Onion Kon Bo Ssam which comes served with Kimchi, Ssam Jang and Butter Lettuce. N ordered the Roast Gochujang and Chipotle Hot Wings.

The food comes out served in cardboard boxes with KONG BBQ stamped on the front of it. I loved my dish – I didn’t really get the Peanut Butter flavour on the tofu – but I like the crust and crispness that was present on the tofu. The kimchi was spicy and fresh – just how you want it to be. The whole combination of wrapping each element in the butter lettuce was tasty and the textures worked well together. I really liked the Ssam Jang – spicy and smooth!

N enjoyed his chicken wings – there were 4 pieces in his little boxed package – with the flavour combination working well together. Each of the dishes also come with a “Cools and Dries” towelette so you can feel free to get your fingers dirty.

I also decided to try out some dessert from St Ali – so got myself the remaining flavours of profiteroles for the day – Choc Hazelnut and a Vanilla Raspberry. Both of them were scrumptious! The Choc Hazelnut had a whole hazelnut in the middle combined with gooey rich chocolate. The Vanilla Raspoberry was my favourite out of the two however, with the creamy vanilla and sweet (but not too sweet) raspberry jam. The pastry itself was textured and crunchy to combine the smooth goodness inside. Pity they were so small!

The St Ali menu consists of a Breakfast menu which is served until 11:30m from 7am daily. Breakfast includes a Toast Bar from which you can choose from a number (five to be precise) of toppings, as well Crispy Potato Hash with the addition of either salmon, pork or mushroom and feta. There are also two bigger dishes – The Daddy – Breakfast bun with sausages and bacon and Mexican Cousin – Corn Fritters.

After 11:30am there is a Burger menu which is served until Late. There are four burgers to choose from – A Shrimp Burger (Seoul Searching), A Wagyu Burger (Royale with Cheese), Pork Burger (Pork Me) and a Vegetarian Burger (Cheech and Chong) all for $12.

And of course – the usual St Ali coffee is available, as well as the St Ali bottled Ice Coffee.

Jimmy Grants pop-up presents the “best of the menu” that could be found at its main venue in Fitzory – such as the delicious Souvas, slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks and dips. There is a vegetarian option – Homer – Falafels, Greek Yoghurt and Slaw.

Next is Jimmy Grants, the all-conquering Fitzroy-based souvlaki joint. The Rue & Co pop-up version presents a ‘best of’ menu, including slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks & dips, and of course JIMMY GRANTS’ AMAZING SOUVAS! Before you ask, YES CAPITALS ARE REQUIRED – THEY’RE THAT GOOD! Our pick of the two is the Mr Papadopoulos souva with its mix of lamb, mustard aioli, chips and onion, however the Homer (falafels, Greek yogurt and slaw) is also flippin’ delicious. Your Jimmy Grants experience at Rue & Co also won’t be complete without a steamed Jimmy Dimmy or two, along with some Hellenic Slaw, dips and pita bread. – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

Rue & Co. gives an almost picnic like vibe and is a great addition to the streets of Melbourne and is great if you want to grab a quick sneaky bite before heading off to a movie, footy game or even as a pre-dinner snack!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Picnic-like, Funky and Chilled out. Great for a morning coffee or after work drinks even! Versatile!
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/RueandCo
80 Collins St, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am to Late

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

St Ali on Urbanspoon