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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Woody P – When In Rome…

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menu Pizza Menu

It was a Friday night date night and we decided to eat in the city. I remembered hearing about a new restaurant that had opened up called Woody P. It was earlyish – around 6:30pm so we decided to see if we could get a table without a booking. We were able to score some high seats by the window with a view looking into the kitchen area and were told that when a table becomes available they would move us. Perfect!

Woody P is located on Flinders lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD – with neighboring restaurants such as Chin Chin, Coda and Cumulus Inc. Woody P is brought to us by Pierre Semaan and Robert Rae who previously owned Fashion Lounge – the nightclub – which is the very place that Woody P has taken over.

Woody P has such an interesting space which has been designed by Eades and Bergman (who have also designed Kong and The Meatball and Wine Bar). As you are about to enter the restaurant – you know you are at the right place when you see a neon blue W sign out the front – and if you look down – the WOODY P name made out of small tiles.
The venue spans over two floors complete with a combination of exposed brick walls, wooden floors, blond wood and marble – what a combination! The restaurant is artfully sectioned off into distinct areas – separated by exposed brick beams on one side and indoor suspended greenery (planter boxes) on the other side. The front section is for casual walk-ins, with a semi private area just behind it, followed by a marble bar with mosaic tiles for cocktails and towards the back overlooking the kitchen – high table seating. I love the brightly lit blue neon sign “When in Rome” which works beautifully against the exposed brick wall which catches your eye as you walk towards the bar. There is also a terrace for outdoor seating to dine al fresco once the sun comes out in Melbourne!

The menu has both Italian and Mediterranean influences and has been created by head chef Clinton Camilleri (Eleonore’s, The Lake House, The Royal George Hotel). The menu pretty much has something for everyone – from White Anchovy, Caramelised Onion, Puff Pastry starters to 48-hour Slow Cooked Beef Rib, Roast Onion, Gremolata to a selection of Pizzas and Pastas. The menu is split into 8 sections – Piccolo (Entrees), Salumi, Pizza, Grande (Mains), Pasta, Sides, Formaggi and Dolce (Dessert). You can select the “Time to Feast” menu for $55 per person for groups of four or more.
The Pizza menu can either be Eat In or Take-Away and to view the list available to choose from you simple flip over the menu given to you. There are 7 pizzas to select from including Margherita, San Daniele, Gamberi, Funghi, Patatina, Zucca and Porchetta.

N and I were seated at the high tables and were given the menus in case we wanted to have some snacks whilst we waited for our table. We were also asked if we wanted sparkling water which we said yes to. The sparkling water was from Bolle Stille and was better than any of the sparkling waters I have tasted around. Before deciding on what snacks/entrees we wanted we decided to order a drink. I asked what mocktails they had available and the friendly waitress informed me that there were two options – I ended up going with the Peaches & Cream. I have never come across a place that does a Peach mocktail so I was very interested to see what this was all about. The mocktail came out and just like the drink had peachy tones completed with a wedge of lemon – and tasted spectacular – exactly as you would imagine peaches and cream to taste like – slightly sour with a great creamy after taste! Delicious and definitely highly recommended!

It was time to decide what food to eat – we ordered the Panisse Chips, Truffle, Taleggio, Cauliflower to start while we thought about what we wanted for our mains. I had never heard of Panisse before so was intrigued to see what it was like – essentially it is reminiscent of polenta and comes served in fingers which resemble fries. The exterior was crumbed perfection with the inside reminding me of custard – I would have liked a bit more seasoning to the flavour such as salt and pepper but overall it was an interesting dish.

For mains I decided to go with the Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi, Tomato Sugo, Ricotta Salata and N went with Chargrilled Grass-Fed T-Bone (500gm), Salsa Verde. We also decided to get the Broccolini, Grilled Onion, Honey Mustard as a side – we absolutely love Broccolini and were interested to try the honey mustard flavouring.

My Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi, Tomato Sugo, Ricotta Salata was a beautifully presented dish – the Tomato Sugo oozed brightness at the base of the dish where the Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi were placed upon and finished with Ricotta Salata and Basil leaves. Gnudi is essentially a type of round gnocchi and Woody Ps take on it was smashingly delicious. The Gnudi balls were generous in size and quite dense in texture with the taste perfect. The Tomato Sugo was rich and complemented the ricotta and spinach fantastically. Overall a good tasting dish.
N’s T Bone was styled simply – the steak pieces cut up into bite sized pieces with the salsa verde dressed on top and finished with half a lemon. N thoroughly enjoyed his dish so much so that he didn’t even realise he was eating 500grams of meat!
The Broccolini was such a simple dish with bursting flavours that I loved. The Honey Mustard combined with the grilled onions meshed really well with the Brocollini. I think we will definitely be trying to replicate this dish at home!

As you all know I cannot leave a place without sampling the dessert menu. It was a tough choice to make but in the end I went with the Chocolate & Giandujua Budino, Crème Fraiche, Sour Cherry Ice Cream – and boy am I glad I did. I was raving about this dessert weeks later! This dessert isn’t just for all Chocolate lovers – but for anyone! Giandujua for those of you who don’t know is a sweet chocolate hazelnut spread and a Giandujua Budino is an Italian pudding made with this spread. This was served with quenelles of chocolate ganache as well as Sour Cherry Ice Cream. The combination of the rich chocolatey goodness combined with the sourness of the ice cream was brilliant. I could actually eat a bowl full of Sour Cherry Ice Cream on its own as well – it was simply divine!

On a different occasion (when I went to Woody P for lunch) – I ordered the Roast Potato, Truffle & Persian Fetta Tortellini, Cauliflower, Cavolo Nero. This would have to be my favourite dish from Woody P so far (aside from the delicious Chocolate dessert of course). The dish is immaculately presented – with the cauliflower puree at the base of the dish with the three tortellini placed in a triangle on top – finished with sultanas and Cavolo Nero. It was almost too pretty to eat…almost! From the first bite I was in Tortellini heaven – the combination of potato, fetta and perfectly made pasta was delicious – there was the right amount of seasoning and combined with the smooth creamy cauliflower puree. I am not usually a sultana fan but it really worked in this dish and added a sweetness to the dish which complemented all the other flavours. My only gripe would be that it too small – I would have like maybe 1 or 2 more tortellini – but I guess that’s only because the dish was DELICIOUS! On the same occasion C ordered the Gamberi Pizza – Tiger Prawns, San Marzano Tomato, Chilli, Garlic, Salsa Verde. I was lucky enough to sample a piece and it was quite good as well! When the pizza came out it came served with a little dish that had extra salt, herbs and chilli which I thought was a great idea as usually I have to ask for extra chilli on the side. The base of the pizza was thin, fresh and crispy on the edges with the ingredients all working well together.

Woody P is up there with one of my favourite restaurants of 2015 and one that I recommend to people when they ask me for a place to eat in the city! Service is brilliantly friendly and the vibe is welcoming and homely – it is a great place for Friday night drinks or just to have a quiet date night. The music is great and really allows you to let your hair down!
Also something to note the Woody P team are still deciding what their downstairs basement space will be transformed into. So stay tuned for something like a relaxed cocktail and wine / cheese bar come next summer.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to https://thegrazingpanda.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/bd409-woody-pmenujune2015.pdf or refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vibrant, Relaxed and Welcoming. Great for Friday Night drinks or Date Night. Alternatively it is also a great place to grab lunch during the week.
Standout Dish: Roast Potato, Truffle & Persian Fetta Tortellini, Cauliflower, Cavolo Nero
Service: Friendly, Attentive and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via this link
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.woodyp.com.au/
121 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 5000

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12:00pm to 12:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/woodypmelb

Instagram: woodypmelb

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Polēpolē Bar – A Taste of Africa

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Pole Pole Menu

I had heard about Polēpolē – a new East African inspired bar and kitchen – opening up in the Melbourne CBD and four of us decided to check it out on a Friday night.

Polēpolē (which translates to “go easy” or “take it easy” in Swahili) is the creation by Dean and Jeanelle Mariani (former co-owner of award-winning café The Petty Officer and Deans brother), who quit their jobs and went travelling. Polēpolē is a result of their love and admiration for the culture, food and people of East Africa and wanting to share their experiences with Melburnians.

I arrived much later than the rest of us on a Friday night and the place was buzzing – it was really loud! N had told me prior to me arriving there that the place was packed and that it would be about 20 minutes to get a table for food (Polēpolē don’t take bookings for dinner). The venue was designed by Votre Monde and has resulted in an earthy and rustic vibe to it. As you ascend the stairs from Little Collins Street you are greeted by a painting of an African woman seated in black and white, against the red of the wall background. To the right is where the kitchen is located as well as booth seating for dinner – which is paired with a wall of zebra stripes. To the right is the bar which takes most of the length of the venue has tones of burnt orange, coupled with untreated woods and funky filament lighting. Next to the bar is a wall with a single golden acacia tree painted on it with high tables and more seating available. The building has a second level, which they expect to open in the coming months.

Food at Polēpolē is based around sharing plates which are broken into three main sections – “Not Ribs”, “Ribs” and “Dessert”. The menu was designed by consulting chef Andy Mac (Axil Coffee). There are 9 dishes to select from in the “Not Ribs” section which include Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas, House cured Biltong, Lentil and cauliflower fritters with whipped Tahini and Lemon Zest. The “Ribs” section consists of 4 dishes including Braised Beef Short Rib, Sticky Chicken Ribs, Smoked Pork Ribs and Harissa Lamb Ribs. There are only 2 choices for dessert – Rum and Raisin Mousse Cake with Crème Brulee or Banana and Date Bread with Salted Caramel, Banana Crumble and Cashew Parfait.

Drinks include a showcase of brands such as Tusker (Kenya), Dashen (Ethiopia) and Windhoek (Namibia) as well as German and Dutch style lagers. It is also great to note that a proportion of all beer sales go to YGAP who support social entrepreneurs in Africa, as well as Women for Women in Africa who support Kibera (Africa’s largest slum). There are a range of cocktails which have taken inspiration from their travels as well and consist of combinations such as ginger, honey, coconut and banana.

To begin the night I ordered a mocktail – which had minty and lime flavours laced through it and was quite tasty. As the other 3 had already been there for a while before I had gotten there – there were some leftovers from the “Not Ribs” section that they had ordered – Mount Zero Olives marinated in Lemon and Chilli as well as the Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas. I loved the Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas – the flavours and the combination of textures from the soft chickpea and the crunch of the pepitas was great.

We decided to order a selection of dishes from the Not Ribs section to share; and then the other 3 ordered a dish each from the Rib section (as their mains). As the meat wasn’t Halal I couldn’t eat any of the dishes under the Rib section.

We ordered the Chickpea and Corn Cakes with Okra and Kusandi (which came in a serving of 4) – with each cake being topped with the okra and kusandi. The chickpea and corn cakes on its own didn’t have much of a flavour to them and really needed the strong and vibrant flavours of the kusandi to liven up the dish. An addition of some spices or even salt to the chickpea and corn cake would have made a difference.

Next up was the House-made Flat Bread and Three Dips – the dips were beetroot, eggplant and hummus. The serving of the house-made flat bread was very generous and I really enjoyed this dish. The bread had been cut into triangles, and had a crunch to them and had a flavouring of wholemeal without tasting overly healthy. I couldn’t pick a favourite out of all the dips – they were all just as good as each other. I loved the vibrancy of the pink that came through with the use of beetroot. The smokiness in the eggplant dip worked well with the flavouring in the bread.

We also ordered the Eggplant Chips with Yoghurt and Zataar. I am usually not a huge fan of eggplant chips but the difference with these was the crumbed coating which made all the difference. The hint of spice and herbs (zataar) worked well with the flavouring of the eggplant and the tangy yoghurt. I also liked the fact that they left the chips the same length as the eggplant itself rather than cutting up the pieces into bite size pieces. My only criticism would be the oiliness of the dish.

The last of the “Not Ribs” dishes we ordered was the Apple, Cabbage, Fennel and Mint Salad. This salad was good but not great – for me it was missing a proper dressing to coat the salad. However I think dish is a great dish to have amongst all the meatiness of the ribs – acts as a palate cleanser.

N ordered the Harissa Lamb Ribs, Red Pepper Salsa, Tahini Yoghurt and Mint – which were simply yet beautifully presented on a rectangular plate with the lamb ribs criss-crossing each other and topped with the red pepper salsa and tahini capped with a mint leaf. The lamb delicately fell off the bone and had smoky barbeque and spicy flavouring to them.

We were all quite full at this stage so decided to skip on having dessert. As it was a Friday night it was getting quite loud in there, and even though we were sitting quite close to one another we were finding ourselves having to yell to hear each other talk.

Polēpolē has a great vibe and feel to it and is clearly a popular choice to have a drink especially with its variety of drink options available. The service is brilliant – with the wait staff going above and beyond what is expected of them. The food is tasty and is set out to work well with drink options. Want to trial a Taste of Africa – then head to Polēpolē.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Rustic and Earthy. Great for a catch-up celebration.
Standout Dish: Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.polepolebar.com.au/
1 / 267 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9650 2811

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Thursday: 4:00pm–11:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 4:00pm–1:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/polepole.bar.melb
Instagram: polepole_bar
Twitter: @polepole_bar

Polēpolē Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Pastuso – Peruvian Brilliance

panda 4.5 rating
pastuso

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Menu:
El Ceviche Menu La Comida De Le Calle Menu Para Acompanar Menu Los Fuegos Del Peru Menu Paste Para Todos Menu Uni Piquieto, No Mas Menu

N and I were in the city on a Saturday night and needed a place for dinner. Looking at my list of places to eat – I found Pastuso which was a newly opened restaurant in the city and we decided to try our luck and see if we could get a table as we hadn’t booked. It was quite early (around 6:30pm) for dinner so we did manage to get a table – and were seated at the marble bench which surrounded the main kitchen.

Pastuso is Melbourne’s newest Peruvian grill, cevicheria and pisco bar that comes from the team that opened Argentinian grill – San Telmo – Dave Parker, Michael Parker, Jason and Renee Mc Connell. They are joined at Pastuso by native Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia (from Sydney’s renowned Morena) and manager Ben Wood.

Pastuso is located in the ever cool ACDC Lane and fits in perfectly to this part of town. The space is quite large (I never realised just how big the space was!) and has been fitted out by architects SMLWRLD in collaboration with its owners. The use of space is impressive – there are three bars each servicing different parts of the menu and representing three regions of Peru: the Coast, the Andes and the Amazon Jungle.

As you enter you are greeted by the main bar (Amazon Jungle) – sleek and copper topped – which serves a list of Peruvian and Chilean piscos (white-grape brandy Peruvians drink), as well a huge variety of other drinks – cocktails, spirits, beer and wine. Just behind the main bar is the marble topped ceviche bar (the Coast) – where patrons can sit around and watch as chefs marinate and prepare your ceviche right in front of you. To the right of both these bars is the main kitchen bar (the Andes) – which also has marble seating around so that you can sit and enjoy the spectacular action that is the flaming and smoking of the meat and vegetables cooking on the grills and the coal-fired slow cookers – cilindro.

Surrounding the three main bar areas are seating on low tables – a mix of marble (near the main kitchen area) and wooden tables (near the ceviche bar) that can seat two, four or more people. There is also a raised area that has huge padded booths.
Another definite highlight is the colourful wall of Peruvian chicha (street art) posters that have been shipped directly from Peru. Next to this wall is an impressive glass box which displays various cuts of meat hanging.

The menu by Saravia boasts a huge variety and takes on the more modern approach rather than traditional. The menu is in the format of a book and starts off with the Un Piquieto, No Mas menu – which means “A Bite to Eat” – and would usually be enjoyed around a table together with friends and family with a good Peruvian Pisco. Dishes include El Choro Chalaco (Mussels), Pezcaditos Y Toastadas (Char Grilled Silver Fish with Corn Bread & Lemon and Rocoto Vinaigrette).

The menu then moves onto the El Ceviche Bar menu – which consists of many varieties of fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices – there are seven different choices to choose from.

Next on the menu is the La Comida de la Calle – which represents Peruvian street food that you would expect to find on a typical street corner in Lima. Dishes here include Anticuchos (Beef Heart and Swordwish Skewers), Papitas Rellena de Carretilla (Croquettes), Yucas (Cassava Chips) and Nuestra Causa de Pollo (Peruvian Yellow Potato with Chicken, Avocado, Cherry Tomatoes and Aji Mirasol).

Para Acompanar is next on the menu list – which are the dishes to accompany your main dishes and are designed to share – in other words sides. You can select from 5 different options including Ensalada de Quinoa (Quinoa cooked in Almond Milk with Pine Mushrooms, Cauliflower, Zucchini and Dutch Carrots), Solterito (Andean Cheese, Broad Beans, Soybean, Peruvian Olives, Heirloom Tomatoes, Watercress and Oregano).

Dishes cooked in either the Peruvian Smoking Chamber, Charcoal Grill or Spit lead up the next part of the menu in a section called Los Fuegos Del Peru – meaning to cook with fire. The first two dishes are cooked in the Cilindro Perliano (Peruvian Smoking Chamber) – you have an option of Pierna de Cordero (Slow Cooked Lamb Leg) or Paletilla de Cerdo (Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder) – both served with Peruvian Rice. There are three dishes to select from that come from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill) – Pezcado Amazonico (Barramundi in Banana Leaf), Ojo de Bife (Dry Aged Pasture Fed Rib Eye) and Costillas Tiernas de Alpaca (Alpaca Short Ribs). The last dish on this menu comes from the La Braza (Spit) – Pollo a la Braza (Roasted Peruvian Chicken).

A menu isn’t complete with a dessert menu and Pastuso’s certainly doesn’t disappoint – called Postre Para Todos – it showcases traditional Peruvian Desserts such as Un Clasico de Mazamorra y Arroz Con Leche (A combination of two traditional classics – Peruvian Style Rice Pudding, Purple Corn Gel, Poached Pineapple and Apples), Picarones (Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Doughnuts). You can also order a Dessert Tasting Plate which allows you to share a selection of desserts.

As you can see there was a lot of food to choose from and when reading the description of each dish you really do want to try them all – you almost forget that you can come back another time and try the dishes that you didn’t get to the first time around.
I ordered a mocktail which looked amazingly colourful and too good to drink – chunks of fresh strawberries muddled together with mint leaves, lime and citrus to give a refreshingly delicious taste that kept you wanting more. I had to stop myself from drinking it all in the one go.

We started off with the Cancha Serrana Y Los Chifles – Traditional Peruvian Roasted Andean Corn and Plantation Chips – which was the perfect way to start our Peruvian journey. The roasted corn kernels were crunchy with a hint of spice that made your tastebuds pop. The Plantation chips were out of this world – simple, textured and crunchy – the flavour was absolutely divine! A must try snack dish – it would work well as a bar snack.

For the next round we ordered the La Papa A La Huancaina A Mi Manera – Potato Gnocchi with a Traditional Huancaina Sauce, Botija Olives and Egg White. Huancaína sauce is normally served over boiled potatoes, and then topped with hard boiled eggs and olives – here at Pastuso instead they use potato gnocchi as an alternative – brilliant! The sauce is full of flavour together with a kick of spice thanks to the use of aji Amarillo peppers. If you are lucky enough to sit around the kitchen you can watch as the chefs make this sauce from scratch. The gnocchi was melt in your mouth and coupled with the creamy and spicy at-the-same-time huancaina sauce and slight tang of the botija olives made for one heavenly dish.

From the same La Comida de la Calle Menu we also ordered the Papitas Rellena De Carretilla – Street Cart Style Potato Croquettes filled with Pulled Beef Brisket, Pecans, Botija Olives, Watercress and Pickled Onion Salsa. N enjoyed these croquettes – crunchy and golden on the outside coupled with tender beef brisket and cloud like potato filling and finished with a pickled salsa. The only complaint would be that more of the beef brisket be used.

For our main dishes I ordered the Pezcado Amazonico – Baby Cone Bay Barramundi Grilled in Banana Leaf with Fresh Herbs and Amazonico Rub from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill). The presentation of this dish is simple – yet visually stunning. The whole baby barramundi is laid across the black backdrop of the plate (fish eye, tail and all) topped with the vibrant green Amazonico rub. In a separate small bowl there are some fresh sautéed vegetables with a lemon wedge off to the side. The barramundi is cooked perfectly and results in soft white fleshy morsels. The rub is delicious and flavoursome and is very much needed, as the fish on its own is very lightly flavoured. One for the fish and seafood lovers.

N ordered the La Braza – Pollo A La Braza – Free Range Roasted Peruvian Chicken from the La Braza (Spit) for his main. Once again – very simple plating techniques was used – to showcase the hero of the dish – the Peruvican chicken. A simple green dressing was provided in a separate bowl for additional flavour. The chicken has been slow-cooked after a lengthy marination period (think cumin, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, coriander, Sichuan pepper) and is moist and flavoured with pepper, spices and a kick of heat.

We also ordered Tallos de Acelga – Grilled Silverbeet Stems, Red Vein Sorrel, Confit Brown Onion Hearts and Garlic Chips. This dish was another standout – simple yet the flavours worked amazingly well together finished with the crunchiness of the garlic. The confit brown onion not only complemented but brought the whole dish together. If you enjoy a good salad this is one to try.

As full as we were the night wouldn’t have been complete without ending on a sweet Peruvian note. We ordered the Tres Leches – Traditional Latin American Sponge Cake soaked in Three Kinds of Milk served with Roasted Pineapple Ice Cream. The cake had a distinct texture (you would expect it to have a somewhat soggy consistency after being soaked in three types of milk) with a result of being light, moist and rich yet delicate (the flavour of 3 types of milk wasn’t over powering at all!). The roasted pineapple ice cream was delicious and the fresh pieces of pineapple embedded within the ice cream were refreshing.

Pastuso has such a lively and warm atmosphere. The open plan of the kitchen and ceviche bar is such a fantastic idea in this day as people like to watch how chefs prepare and create such great tasting dishes – especially here where you can see chefs as they delve into the fire chamber and have embers flow out – it all adds to the experience of the place. The staff are very friendly, always happy and knowledgeable – they can also assist you when ordering to ensure you do not over order. Want a truly memorable Peruvian experience – get down to Pastuso now!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to above Pictures
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lively, Fun, Warm and Inviting – such a great place for a celebration or a catchup – or even date night!
Standout Dish: Too many to name!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, Happy and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://pastuso.com.au/  NOTE: They also take bookings for larger groups in their flexible private dining area
Restaurant Details and Location:

http://pastuso.com.au/
19 ACDC Lane
Tel No: 9662 4556

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pastusorestaurant?fref=ts
Instagram: pastusorestaurant

Pastuso on Urbanspoon

Third Wave – American Smoked BBQ

panda 3.5 rating

I have previously heard about Third Wave café and their strong focus on American BBQ flavours on both meats and fish, so I was delighted when owner Greg invited me to come and experience this first hand at the Prahran Third Wave. One small hiccup when we arrived was that our reservation hadn’t been placed – luckily a table was available and we were shown our seats.

Third Wave is owned by husband and wife team – Greg and Inga and there are currently two locations – Port Melbourne and Prahran. The café in Prahran is the sister café to their first café / restaurant in Port Melbourne. Both venues hold true to their tag lines – “Café by day, American BBQ restaurant by night” – with the Prahran venue also having a specialised Paleo Menu. The Third Wave at Prahran focuses mainly on breakfast/brunch/lunch but from Wednesday to Saturday they open their doors at dinner time for patrons to enjoy the American BBQ experience.

The fit-out is simple – softly lit with a dark wooden decked ceiling pairs well with the dark wooden tables with curved white chairs – there is also some banquet seating available. The main attraction is the big marble topped bar / coffee counter – with the kitchen located behind. Their homemade sauces and fresh flowers line this bar for added colour and pop. The vibe is welcoming, bright and has a homely feel to it. Another thing to note is that Third Wave is not just about the American BBQ flavours – they are serious about their coffee as well. They use 5 Senses coffee and even have syphon coffee available.

Third Wave has revamped its menu after working tirelessly for many months – on “secret recipes”, as well experimenting with different cuts and cooking times. The idea is also to source some of the best hickory, maple and apple wood in order to impart distinctive flavours into the respective meat and fish dishes as well as using traditional dry rubs and barbecue sauces. The team has now perfected the art of barbequeing. The new menu has a strong focus on a range of slow cooked meats and fish that can be accompanied with homemade sauces and a selection of side dishes.

The menu is split into different sections – starting off with the Slow Smoked BBQ, “More”, Sides, Paleo Menu and ending with Sweets menu. The Drinks menu includes Beers, Ciders, Spirits, and Cocktails such as an Espresso Martini, Uptown Apple Cider and Pomegranate Cosmo. Sangrias are also available and served in a 500ml carafe. Other cold drinks that are available include the usual soft drinks, as well as juices (Pomegranate Juice, Blueberry Juice), Smoothies (Spirulina Smoothie, Mango Smoothie), Iced Drinks – such as Ice Coffee, Ice Chocolate and Ice Mocha.
The Slow Smoked BBQ includes the 6 main meats and fish (Salmon) such as Beef, Chicken, Lamb Shoulder, Pork and Beef Brisket which come in medium/half rack (recommended for 1 person) and large/full rack servings (to be shared by 2). All the meats and fish have been marinated for over 8 hours and the smoked using either apple, hickory or maple wood. They all come served with BBQ Sauces which are made in-house.
The “More” menu consists of dishes that are big enough to be considered mains if a Slow Smoked BBQ isn’t what you are up for and include dishes such as Gourmet Burger, two different Salads, Lamb Quesadilla, Crusty Salmon. There are around 8 dishes to select from the Paleo Menu which include Almond Crusted Chicken, Zucchini Fritters, Lamb Shakshuka just to name a few.
There are a number of Sides that can be ordered as well and most of these can be made into either Vegan/Vegetarian options. These include the Smoked Mac Cheese, Crispy Coleslaw, Glazed Mushrooms, Confit Kipfler Potatoes and a variety of salads.

N and I decide to dive straight into the Slow Smoked BBQ Section – N opting for the Beef Ribs and I went for the Salmon. We also ordered a side of Confit Kipfler Potatoes, Smoked Mac & Cheese and a Georgian Salad. For drinks I ordered a Pomegranate Juice – which came bottled and was actually 100% Pomegranate juice which I was impressed about. I am a huge fan of Pomegranates, so whenever I see it available on a menu I always order it – this was a massive tick in the box for me.

The Beef Ribs have been smoked using a special 9 spice dry rub and smoked with hickory wood. You can select either a half rack or a full rack – N opted for the half rack. The Beef Ribs come served with their homemade Spicy IQ BBQ sauce as well as a Horseradish sauce. N enjoyed thoroughly enjoyed his dish – the beef he said was tender, succulent and slid off the bone so easily. Further, the sauces were a great addition to the smoky flavours – with the IQ BBQ adding some spice and the horseradish bringing some creamy tang.

I ordered the Salmon which has been brined in salt, sugar and spices for 8 hours followed by being smoked over Apple wood to elicit a beautiful smoky spicy flavour combination. This flavouring really does complement the rich flavour of the salmon. The salmon itself was soft, moist and perfectly cooked and comes served with a homemade dill sauce. A wedge of lemon was also provided for extra flavouring which I didn’t think was needed. The addition of the dill sauce added a creamy, somewhat spicy tang which meshed well with the salmon. Overall a really great tasting dish.

We also ordered the Confit Kipfler potatoes which were dusted in rosemary. The potatoes were well cooked and had a beautiful crunchy casing with a soft, pillow like centre. They served as a great accompaniment for the Smoked BBQ dishes.

The Smoked Mac & Cheese is their take on the classic Mac & Cheese – with an added twist. Third Wave’s version is smoked with Hickory wood. The result is brilliant smoky flavours intertwined with the cheesy flavour. Anyone who is a fan of the traditional Mac & Cheese will definitely want to try out this version.

The Georgian Salad was a mixture of 5 herbs – parsley, coriander, dill, mint and basil – together with tomatoes, cucumber and red onions and dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil. The flavours were refreshing and punchy and worked well with the combination of the other dishes we ordered. This dish came recommended by our friendly waiter.

No meal is complete without dessert (even if you are really full!) so after much deliberation and some help from our waiter we ordered the Pecan Pie. I was tossing up between the Creamy Orange French Toast – which was concoction between a fluffy bread and butter pudding and a moist French Toast – will have to come back and get that next time around.
The Pecan Pie is served warm with Espresso Cream and Vanilla Ice Cream. I love the combination of a warm pie that literally melted in your mouth together with the coldness of the espresso cream and ice cream. The added texture thanks to the crunch of the pecans was an added bonus. The highlight for me was the espresso cream – with just the right flavouring of coffee.

Third Wave has an extensive menu complete with Russian inspired dishes and the hugely popular and great tasting American BBQ. I have also heard and read great reviews about their breakfast offerings (I must come back and try!). They also make homemade sauces such as Hot Bar-B-Que Nectar and Sweet Apple Bourbon sauce which you can in store. If you are looking for delicious food that you can’t find anywhere else in Melbourne – check out Third Wave!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to the pictures above. You can also find a menu at: http://thirdwavecafe.com.au/prahran/menu.php
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Homely and Welcoming. Great for a catchup dinner with friends.
Standout Dish: Any of the Smoked BBQ Dishes
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – For Prahran: http://thirdwavecafe.com.au/prahran/index.php For Port Melbourne: http://thirdwavecafe.com.au/index.php
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://thirdwavecafe.com.au/prahran/index.php
30 Cato St, Prahran
Tel No: 9510 2991

Opening Hours:
Monday to Tuesday: 8:00am to 4:00pm
Wednesday to Sunday: 8:00am to 10:00pm

Third Wave on Urbanspoon

Third Wave – Port Melbourne
http://thirdwavecafe.com.au/index.php
189 Rouse St, Port Melbourne
Tel No:

Opening Hours:
Monday, Wednesday to Friday: 7:00am to 10:00pm
Tuesday: 7:00am – 3:30pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 10:00pm

Third Wave Cafe on Urbanspoon

Mr Big Stuff – Bringing Soul to Melbourne

panda 4.5 rating

 

Menu:
Drinks Menu
Food Menu House Spirits Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Lunch Service is COMING SOON!

 

Saigon Sally – Out of this World Vietnamese

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Saigon Sally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saigon Sally on Urbanspoon

Stagger Lee’s – Vintage Cool

panda 4 rating

stagger lee

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Menu:
Stagger Lee's Menu
Stagger Lees Drinks

It was a long awaited catch-up for the four of us – G, J, M and myself – and we decided to stick to something that was central between the four of us. This place happened to be Stagger Lee’s – located on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.  I have heard many good things about this place ever since it opened up and was keen to check it out for myself.

Stagger Lee’s is brought to you by the people of Proud Mary – it is a collaboration between Proud Mary owner Nolan Hirte, former Proud Mary general Manager Monica Chhay, Head Chef Chris Hamburger (ex The Aylesbury, St Ali North) and Mun Soon of MGS Architects and owner of Krimper Cafe (refer to https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/krimper-cafe-hidden-warehouse-style-treasure/ for my blog review of Krimper Cafe).

Stagger Lee’s is named after a pimp / bad-ass from St Louis – he infamously shot a cell mate in the 1900s for stealing his red Stetson hat and since this time over 400 musicians have retold the story of Stagger Lee. Here at Stagger Lee – this story reinforces the fact to “stick to your guns” and to “stand up for yourself” and most importantly are being the “bad-ass” of Ftizroy when it comes to great coffee and ingenious food.

The vibe is typical of what you would expect of the Brunswick / Fitzroy area – but with a whole lot more fun and excitement. There are exposed brick walls, concrete floors and huge glass windows which let the morning sunlight stream in. It’s a bit industrial, a bit indie – but rest assured feels welcoming and warm. There are wooden slatted tables for parties of varying sizes, as well as two large communal tables at the front – paired with metal chairs. There is both inside and Outside Street seating as well – they utilise their space well in terms of catering as many seats as possible without being too squishy. There are splashes of green thanks to the weatherboard effect around the kitchen window at the back of the venue, as well as the salt and pepper grinders placed on the tables and the coffee cups by the coffee machine. There are the usual filament lights that hang for lighting that I love as well.

The coffee here is a little bit different – they do not serve blends – only single origin espresso and filter coffees are being offered – and are pumped out of the stark white Synesso machine. They also use a EK 43 grinder which means they are getting the best extractions possible for the customers – allowing them to deliver some of the best coffee in town. I ordered a latte which was full bodied, strong and nutty and was perfect to wake me up first thing in the morning. The creamy after taste thanks to the fresh milk was also great. The decision not to blend comes from the work Proud Mary has been doing with the farms in Brazil and the quality of the single origin beans that work well with the milk without needing to be blended – and from my experience with their coffees this is working fantastically.

Another difference from Proud Mary is that they have a liquor license and look to open a few nights a week down the track.  They serve up wine, local and international beers and specially made cocktails – there is even one that contains cold drip coffee! Aside from specialising in coffee – they do also have an interesting list of juices, smoothies and milkshakes – with interesting names to match. Juices include Lance Armstrong (Carrot, Beetroot, Lemon, Ginger) and The Regulate (Apples, Strawberries, Coconut Water), there is a milkshake called Gangsta Milkshake, Crooks ‘n’ Creams – which is of course based on cookies and cream.

The food menu designed by Chris Hamburger (what a cool name!) is described as simple and sexy comfort food – and it really does comply.  The menu is split into a breakfast and lunch menu – both of which are available all day and there are gltuten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. There are dishes that covers all the main protein dishes that you would want to eat including lamb, bacon, beef, quail, chorizo and ham hock. From reading the menu you might not think these dishes really cut it – but trust me they do! There are your usual suspects such as Toast, Fruit Toast, Bircher Muesli, Granola and Porridge – but what makes it unique is the offerings that come with these basics. For example the porridge is buckwheat porridge together with chia, banana and honey. The first dish that caught my eye was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – I mean they had me at Coco Pop! The four of us quickly decided to share this amongst ourselves, thereby reserving some space for a proper savoury breakfast (and trying out more of the menu – win!). There are also dishes such as Shrooms ‘n’ Truffles which comes with Truffled Polenta, Poached Egg and Pepito, a Roasted Cauliflower and Quail dish, a Roasted Lamb dish that comes with Humms, Raisins and Toast as well as a Stacked Burger that comes with croquettes and greens.

When we arrived on this Sunday morning (around 10:30am) Stagger Lee’s was packed out already and we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table for the four of us. Initially we were given an area on the communal table all in a row – which would have made it hard for us to chat. However the staff had miscounted the number of seats and promptly moved us to a table which suited us better – making it easier for us to chat. Most of us ordered coffees to start and G ordered a juice whilst we decided what we wanted to eat. G ordered the Nice Pear – Apple, Pear, Mint, Lime. Juices come served in a generous size jar, with two big fresh mint leaves for more flavour- the juice was refreshing, tangy and produced a great flavour combination. M ordered the Frank ‘n’ Beans – Saffron Baked Beans, Smoked Ham Hock, Chorizo, Soft Poached Egg, Herb and Garlic Crumb Toast. The dish comes out presented well – the saffron baked beans together with the ham hock are at the base of the dish, with the poached egg and chorizo placed on top and finished with the garlic crumb toast. The Garlic Crumb Toast smelt and looked delicious – crispy on the outside and soft and filled with flavour on the inside. M seemed to enjoy her dish and the flavours – the poached egg was cooked to perfection with golden gooey goodness.

G originally ordered The Mexican – Soft Shell Corn Tortillas, Charred Corn, Lime and Tomatillo Salsa, Avocado, Fried Eggs, Creme Fraiche, Herbs. However, she has an allergic reaction to sesame seeds and some nuts, and although I don’t think that this dish had any of that, she started to get a reaction and therefore had to order something else. The dish came plated out with two tortillas, with the fried egg placed in side and topped with the charred corn, lime and tomatillo salsa and avocado, and finished with crème fraiche. The flavours were typically Mexican and the addition of the fried egg with its gooey runny yolk gave it the breakfast element.

J ordered the Smoked Trout Salad – House Smoked Ocean Trout, Grilled Asparagus, Soft Poached Egg, Butter Poached Potatoes, Shaved Fennel, Preserved Lemon Aioli and Green Goddess – which was quite the colourful dish thanks to the salmon colour of the ocean trout, purple colour of the radicchio, green colour of the salad and the white colour of the poached egg and lemon aioli. J did enjoy this dish and rated it better than The Mexican – the smokiness of the trout, together with the grilled asparagus and brilliance of the poached egg was a winner.

I ordered the The Fitz Royale – Grilled Asparagus, Cashew Cheese, Avocado, Fresh Herbs, Pea Tendrils and Citrus with a Poached Egg. The dish comes out with the fresh herbs being the centre of attention on the plate – the other components – toast, cashew cheese, avocado, grilled asparagus hidden underneath. The poached egg and the lemon slice are placed to the side. My favourite part of this dish was the cashew cheese which was placed like a spread on the toast – it was tangy and creamy all at the same time. Together with the subtle flavours of the asparagus and the softness of the avocado the flavours worked in perfect harmony. A great dish for asparagus lovers.

The last dish that we all got to sample was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – Coco Pop Cream Pat, Vanilla Ice Cream, Honeycomb and Raspberry Crumb. I don’t think much explaining needs to be done to understand how good a dish it really was. The plating wasn’t as clean as I had expected, as the Coco Pop Cream Pat resembled a messy blob, but I guess the consistency and texture of it didn’t help. I loved the mix of textures from the softness of the toast, cream pat and ice cream mixed together with the harder and grittier textures in the form of the tangy raspberry crumb, sweetness of the honeycomb and the pop of the cocoa pops sprinkled around. Overall I thought the flavours worked well together (I would have liked more raspberry crumb) – and was a great colourful dish that was the perfect way to end our meal at Stagger Lee’s.

The staff are quite accommodating and helpful, but are hard to get a hold of due to the sheer number of people they have to cater for. However, the wait to get their attention wasn’t too long. If you get a seat near the back of the venue – you can peer into the kitchen window and watch the chefs busily keeping up with the incoming orders. Even with the volume of orders –they keep a cool, calm and collected exterior and get on with the job.

There are also sweet treats that you can purchase from the counter – lamingtons, cupcakes, tarts and friands just to name a few.

Stagger Lee’s is a great addition to the grungy Fitzroy area and brings a somewhat homely and funky venue here. The vibe is buzzing, the place is warm, the menu is simple and unique and the staff friendly and always with a smile. Get down this weekend and check it out for yourself. The next time I come back – I am definitely trying the Shrooms ‘n’ Mushrooms.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – There is an all day breakfast and lunch menu – refer above to the pictures or look at http://staggerlees.com.au/food/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Casual and Welcoming – a great place that you can spend of your day in.
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly, sometimes it can be hard to their attention.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://staggerlees.com.au/
276 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9419 5564

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 4pm

Stagger Lee's 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