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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Hawk and Hunter – Ripponlea Gem!

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menu

A and I were heading out on our usual brunch catch-ups and this time we were checking out Hawk and Hunter. We trekked down to the south east part of Melbourne – Ripponlea to be more specific – and after ordering enough for all three meals in a day, were happy with our decision to make the trek down.

Hawk and Hunter comes courtesy of owners Ben Avramides, Tommy McIntosh, Luke Holt and Simon Winfield – who are also responsible for The Little Ox (located in Brighton and is on the list of places that I have yet to try), as well as catering company Tommy Collins.

From the moment you step into Hawk and Hunter – you feel like you have been transported into another land – the interior is beautifully quirky and mismatched. There is a combination of wood, steel, neon mesh sculptures, artwork of old newspaper clippings, birdcages, ducks and a large cut up tree – but it all works amazingly well together. There are a plethora of tables at this large venue – with tables for groups, singles and couples.

A and I had to wait about 5-10 minutes for our table (you will need to queue up on the weekends – this place is highly popular with the locals) – but this meant that we got to take in the atmosphere and also peruse the counter with its baked cookies. We already made a mental note that we wanted one of each on display – there was a cookies and cream brownie, two different varieties of pops, granola and white choc truffles, orange blossom meringues and macaroons just to name a few. What also caught my eye was their fridge filled with home made ice-cream with flavors such as Ferro Rocher and Mango.

We were seated at the end of the communal table – which gave us a view into the kitchen and the dishes being prepared. We ordered coffees to start from our super friendly waiter – who was very keen to have chit chat. Always love great customer service! Coffee is from Red Star Coffee. I ordered a latte and it was quite tasty – smooth with plenty of fruity flavours and resulting in a crisp taste. A ordered a hot chocolate. We also saw the fresh juices and decided to order them. It came in a jar and was a mix of orange, passion fruit and watermelon – a really refreshing and tasty combination.

The menu consists of an all day breakfast menu which comprises a mix of sweet (there is banana bread, waffles) and savory dishes (scrambled eggs done in different ways, fritters, smoked salmon tartare) to choose from. There is also a lunch menu which is served from 11:30am onwards and includes a wagyu burger, chicken burger and a variety of salads. There are also daily specials for each category to choose from as well as a soup of the day.

After much deliberation I decided on the Corn and Zucchini Fritters, Avocado, Fetta and a Poached Egg. I was tossing up between this dish, the Salmon Tartare, the waffles and the special French toast. A and I decided to share the French Toast so that made the decision a little easier. My corn and zucchini fritters were plated up well – the fritters at the base, with the avocado and poached egg placed on top, with the fetta, pomegranate molasses and chilli sprinkled around. The fritters were smooth and soft and filled with flavour. Paired with the fetta, avocado and a hint of chilli worked well.

A ordered the Big Ed’s Scrambled Eggs, bacon, Chilli, Basil, Garlic Toast and Salsa Verde. The Scrambled eggs sure was a large and generous serving and A couldn’t finish it all. I did try some of the Garlic Toast – which wasn’t overpowering with garlic and was crunchy and buttery. The salsa verde was fresh and worked well I thought with the garlic toast.

We ordered the French Toast with Apple and Pear Compote, Pecans and Salted Caramel to share and boy am I glad we decided to order this dish. The dish was quite generous in serving once again and was plated up on a long white oblong dish. It had an Eaton Mess style of plating up – with the taste just divine. The Apple and Pear had been poached perfectly and had the right amount of softness. The addition of the salted caramel together with the other sweet elements and the crunch and texture of the pecans worked well together. This dish was a special the day we went, but if it does appear when you visit – definitely try it out.

Hawk and Hunter is a great place to try out for brunch – from the friendly staff to the very cool fit-out to the amazing array of sweets to try out, as well some home made ice cream to take home to remember the visit by. Well worth the travel I say!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pic above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Quirky, Fun, Relaxed – great to spend hours chatting and enjoy the weekend! Light-filled and great for people with kiddies.
Standout Dish: French Toast with Apple and Pear Compote, Pecans and Salted Caramel
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and Fun!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hawkandhunter.com.au/
8-10 Glen Eira Avenue, Ripponlea
Tel No: 9528 2719

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 6:30 am – 5:00 pm

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Touche Hombre – New Menu a Must Try!

panda-4-rating1

I have previously been to Touche Hombre – you can check out my full review at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/42/

This wont be really be a full review but just an update. I recently went back to Touche Hombre and learnt that they had changed their menu 6 weeks ago. Now there is a lot more dishes to choose from and the food is even more tastier and spicier! There are dishes such as Fatty Lamb Ribs and Shrimp Balls (Spicy Shrimp Balls, Arbol Chilli, Charred Brea) that have been added a well as Quesadillas with Wild Mushrooms, Ricotta, Pecorino, Mint, Salsa Verde and Creme Fraiche. The fatty lamb ribs just melts off the bone and is full of flavour. The Shrimp balls are spicy and have just the right amount of heat to it and the shrimp is fresh. The Quesadilla was delicious and crunchy and the addition of mint and creme fraiche was great. The Grilled Corn (Elotes Callejeros – Grilled Corn, Alba Pecorino, Chilli Pequin) is just as good as I remember it to be on my first couple of visits – juicy, sweet and grilled to perfection.

There is also a change to the dessert menu and they don’t seem to have the ice cream sandwich flavours that I loved so much anymore (see the  older review for a pic of these) – they do still have one flavour of these left Choc-Chilli, Peanut Ice Cream Sanga – Peanut Ice Cream Sanga, Choc-Chilli Cookie.  However they do have a Crema Cocida – Creme Fraiche, Panna Cotta, Spice Pineapple- which is absolutely delicious! One of the better pannacotta’s I have tried – and you can tell as well because there was no picture of it taken..it was eaten way too quickly =p

As I’ve said in my previous review – if you haven’t made your way down to Touche Hombre and really love Mexican food – definitely check it out!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A Selection of starters and a variety of tacos too! Menu can be found at http://www.touchehombre.com.au/ and click on the FOOD tab
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Very friendly staff who are interesting to chat to. An in-house DJ plays and the place is buzzing. There are old school pinball machines to play as well. A great night out with a friends or for a laid back date night.
Standout Dish: Albondigas De Camaron – Spicy Shrimp Balls, Arbol, Chilli, Charred Brea
Service: Fantastic and super friendly!
Online Booking: This place doesn’t take bookings. You have to go to the place and put your name and number on a list and they will call you. If you have a group of 10+ then you can make a Group Booking.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.touchehombre.com.au/
Cnr Tattersalls Lane and Lonsdale St
Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 0811

Opening Hours:
Lunch:
Tuesday to Saturday from 12pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday (Thursday to Saturday open 5pm – till late)

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Taco Truck – Delicious Mexican Food Truck

panda-4-rating1Taco Truck

20121207_200738The Potato Taco, The Fish Taco and two Chicken Tacos

20121207_200753Fish and Potato Tacos

Food trucks have been all the rage in America, and it has taken over Melbourne. Ever since I heard about the Taco Truck I wanted to try it. The Taco Truck is the mastermind of Raph Rashid (who also owns the Beatbox Kitchen – check out https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/trucks-and-burgers-good-mix/for my review). I finally got my chance to try out the Taco Truck when it was at the Big Designers Market at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. In order to track down the Taco Truck you need to decipher clues that are given out or follow them on Facebook or Twitter. The Taco Truck’s usual haunt is generally the inner city suburbs such as Carlton, Northcote, Brunswick.

The Taco Trucks sells ..you guessed it TACOS! You can individual tacos for $6 each or you can get a Taco Plate which comes with 2 Tacos  (of any combination) and a serving of house made corn chips for $12. There are three different types of Tacos – Fish, Potato or Chicken.

I ordered a Taco Plate with a fish and potato taco and N had a Taco plate with 2 chicken tacos. The potato taco comes with jalapeno, ‘slaw with salsa verde in a crispy tortilla topped with ricotta. This was the most interesting out of all the tacos, due to its crispy tortilla. The salsa verde and ricotta complimented the potato and the crunch perfectly. The fish taco is lightly battered and fried Rockling fillets, with rough ‘slaw, a squeeze of lemon and poppyseed aioli. The poppyseed aioli was fresh and had the right amount of tang and worked perfectly with the fish. These are cooked to order in the van, and have a glorious crunch when they come out. The chicken taco came with grilled chicken, fresh corn, baby spinach and a smoky chipotle mayo. I love how the corn in this taco just oozed out – it is one of the first times I have seen corn in a taco.

All the tacos are cooked to order and therefore have that fresh, unpretentious air about them and boy are they packed with flavour. If you love mexican food and love tacos, definitely hunt this truck down and try it out.

Taco Truck Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Taco-truck-melbourne/187938917910211

Twitter: @tacotruckmelb

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – 3 different types of Tacos – Chicken, Potato and Fish as well as House made Corn Chips
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun !!
Standout Dish: ALL THE TACOS!
Service: Friendly, inviting and fun!
Online Booking: No…you will need to track them down!!
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://tacotruck.com.au/
15 Keele St
Collingwood
(this is where they were intially based, but they go around to the inner suburbs, check their Facebook and Twitter for locations)
Tel No: 8060 6664

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