Kong BBQ – Worth All The Hype!

panda 4 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – Late

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

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Fiesta Mexican – Spicy, Lively & Fun

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Dessert Menu                       halal symbol
There is an increasing amount of halal restaurants that are opening up all around Melbourne, in fact all around the country! When we first came to Australia many years ago, halal restaurants were quite scarce – and to see them growing at an exponential rate is fantastic! And what I love is that it is not only restricted to the cuisines that you would normally associate with “halal” food such as middle eastern cuisine – but the cuisines itself have quite a variety as well – from Italian to Steakhouses!

When Bill Bilwani from Fiesta Mexican contacted me about coming to try out his restaurant and that the meat was entirely Halal I was wrapped! I am a huge fan of Mexican food and usually have to always stick to the seafood and vegetarian versions of the enchiladas, tacos etc – but with this restaurant being Halal I could experience what every other person gets to – the meat enchiladas, tacos etc! I headed down with my parents to experience this wonderful Mexican place for myself.

Fiesta Mexican has been around for just over 30 years and is located in Toorak Road in South Yarra. It is a family run business owned by Bill Bilwani with his son Shaheen helping out. The venue has had a makeover in the recent months and the result is a vibrant, colourful, mini-Mexico in Melbourne theme complete with psychedelic artwork which includes a hawk to the right when you enter as well as a woman with an eagle as her hair near the bar and counter area. There is mood lighting thanks to the Mexican Steer Bull shaped light shades – these look really cool lined up on the wall and further adding to the Mexican feel. There are wooden tables – each which have engraving on the table top – ours had a dancing Mexican lady – that can seat from 2 right up to 8 people depending on how large your group size is. We were seated at the front of the restaurant by the window – which allowed us to take in the whole length of the restaurant. There are stairs at the back which lead to a function area upstairs that can be booked out for celebrations. An interesting fact to note is that they have had celebrities like Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and even the Williams sisters come to dine here and there are some menu items named after them – the Agassi or Hewitt Burrito.

We were given our menus and I was overwhelmed by the choice and varieties before me – there were pages and pages of food to choose from and from reading the description of each I almost wanted a little taste of everything. There is an extensive range of tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas as well as a good selection of desserts. There is also a separate Gluten Free menu, and they also cater for vegetarians, coeliac guests and vegans too. The Dine in Menu is split into different sections – Apertivos, Soft Tacos , Entremese (Entrees), Ensaladas (Salads), Comidas (Main Courses) as well as Paellas. The Paellas however need to be ordered 2 days in advance and there are two different options – Chicken or Seafood. There is also a banquette menu – one for $35 and one $45 – the latter has a more seafood feel to it and includes 2 desserts, whereas the other has only one dessert and more of a beef and chicken feel to it. There is also a section that lists out the Vegetarian Main courses. Fiesta Mexican also has a takeaway menu and provides a delivery service as well – further extending out their clientele.

Whilst trying to decide what to order I ordered a drink from the list of Mocktails they had to offer – Mango Margarita. This came out in a larger than normal cocktail glass with a green stem – which contrasted really well with the yellow drink – there was salt around the rim of the glass in true margarita style. The drink was refreshingly sour and I quite enjoyed it.

We decided to order the Wingettes – fiery red hot marinaded chicken wingettes with chipotle and adobe mix, as well as the Carne Enchilada de Cheddar – Oven baked 6” corn tortilla rolled with slow cooked shredded topside beef, Monterey Jack cheese, white onion and mild smoked cayenne sauce to share. The chicken wingettes were delicious and tasted – they had a smoky, spicy yet sweet taste to them with the chicken cooked perfectly. The chipotle added a refreshing hit to those who would find the wingettes spicy.

The Carne Enchilada was soft and really easy to cut into – almost like butter. The beef inside was just as soft and tender – and flavoured deliciously. The combination of the beef, onion and smoky sauce on top was like a flavour hit in your mouth. A great way to start the meal. Each of these dishes came with a side salad consisting of salad leaves, red onions, cucumber and tomato.

For mains we ordered three dishes to share. The first dish was the Fiesta Autentica – the house specialty, a combination of beef, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, serrano chilli & fresh cilantro, delicious with flour tortillas, arroz verde & leaf salad. This was my favourite dish out of the three mains. The combination of both the beef, chicken and potatoes was fantastic and it had a great addition of spice. It actually reminded me of a dish that my mum used to make when I was younger so the memories it brought back were special too! The flour tortillas added the perfect addition to envelope this spicy tender mix and savor the flavours. Both the chicken and beef were tender and soft. If you love spicy dishes this is definitely one to try out.

The second of the mains we had was the Pollo Cajun – chicken breast coated in a blend of paprika, red pepper & garlic, served with, arroz verde & mango salsa. The coating on the chicken was delicious and really worked well with the texture of the chicken. The chicken wasn’t as tender as in the other dishes, however was still brilliant. The mango salsa was amazing as well – the spiciness mixed in with the sweetness of the mango worked well together. The rice – arroz verde -that came with these dishes were also really tasty – the rice grains were easily separated and was cooked pilaf style – my fave style of rice.

The last of the mains we ordered was the Carne En Tiras – two beef enchiladas with mild cayenne chilli sauce, served with brown rice & pico de gallo. This was similar to the entree that we had and was just as delicious – soft, spicy with a touch of smokines. The addition of the brown rice and pico de gallo was a great addition, and together with the enchiladas was tasty mouthful.

For dessert there was an interesting combination on the menu titled ‘Sensation is Mother of Invention’ – which had jalapeno, Rose Petal with Crunchy Candy Ice Cream – served with White chocolate and raisin sauce – however I wasn’t brave enough to see what that was about. We decided to order the ‘Crazy for Chocolate’ – chocolate mousse, chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate heart and vanilla ice cream with chocolate flakes. This dish was plated out differently to most other desserts I have come across. The chocolate mousse was in a square glass cup, the vanilla ice cream was in a black espresso cup topped with a strawberry, the chocolate dipped strawberries were placed around with the chocolate heart in the centre of the plate – which served as the “tray” for the dessert. I really liked the presentation and thought it was unique. The chocolate mousse was to die for – creamy, smooth and full of chocolatey goodness. The dipped strawberries had dark chocolate used and the bitterness of the chocolate worked well against the sweetness of the strawberry.

The staff are really friendly and lively which really does add to the complete the atmosphere of the place. From the moment you step in, you are greeted with a happy hello and shown to your table. They seem to really enjoy what they do. We also got to chat to Shaheen for a bit and learnt more about of his passion and drive for being in the food industry despite completing a law degree. He is very engaging and full of smiles, and goes from table to table ensuring all the guests are looked after. Great customer service! Despite being a Wednesday night – the place got really full – with the crowd ranging from couples to larger groups out for dinner.

There were other really interesting dishes around the room that other diners had ordered – such as the sizzling hot plates, and a drink that was flamed. The food was great and stayed true to the authentic Mexican flavours, the atmosphere was fun and lively and the staff friendly. There really is nothing more you can ask for when you go to dine out. The fact that the meat was all halal was a massive bonus for me. If you love Mexican food and want a huge variety to choose from, either way Fiesta Mexican is definitely a place for you!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/food_menu.php. If you want to order online you can do so on this link – http://www.menulog.com.au/order/fiesta-mexican-restaurant Refer above for the dessert menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Lively, Fun and Welcoming. You can definitely experience the Mexican vibe be it in the main dining rom or even in the function room located upstairs
Standout Dish:Fiesta Autentica – the house specialty, a combination of beef, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, serrano chilli & fresh cilantro, delicious with flour tortillas, arroz verde & leaf salad
Service: Fantastic –  Friendly and Welcoming. They also are great if you need any recommendations on what to order
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/
175 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 4593

Opening Hours:

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