Sogni d’Oro ‘Aperitivo Danzante’ – ACT 1 – Two Italian Boys, Brunetti & White Rabbit Entertainment

Two Italian Boys, Brunetti and White Rabbit Enterntainment were behind the brilliant idea to create a series of events with the main aim of bringing people together to experience the real Italian Dream. The nights will run as a series of Acts (3 in total) beginning with Act 1 – Sogni d’Oro ‘Aperitivo Danzante’.

Unfortunately I wasn’t in Melbourne for Act 1 – which took place on Friday October 17, 2014 and was complemented with Italian food, drinks and dancing. However, I have seen many pictures, read the official media releases and heard a lot about the night from people lucky enough to have attended so thought it would be a great idea to mention it here at Grazing Panda – after all there are another 2 more Acts for everyone to experience and enjoy!

The name Aperitivio Danzante comes from the tradition of pre-dinner drinks which are accompanied by appetizers (Aperitivio) and ‘to dance’ (Danzante) – essentially translated to mean come for the appetizers but stay for the dancing fiesta! In Italy this generally means between the hours of 7pm – 9pm, followed by dinner …. and dancing!

On the night Two Italian Boys (Michael Pillon and Nick Guglielmino) launched a 2013 vintage Prosecco DOC which was produced in Valdobbiadene,Treviso- Italy’s best Prosecco making region. This new Prosecco wonderfully complemented the array of food on offer from the new and delicious Brunetti menu designed by Michele Circhirillo and Alessandro Violi. Some of dishes included pasta, wood-fire pizza and beautifully prepared tasting plates or stuzzichini – all of which were served throughout the night, so no guest was ever hungry or looking for food.

A live demonstration of mozzarella making by Australia’s best maker of Italian cheese, the ‘Maestro of Mozzarella’, Giorgio Linguanti (That’s Amore Cheese) gathered large crowds. The chef showcased his talent, experience and artisian skills whilst making round balls of mozzarella which had a taste to match the look.

Another highlight was the introduction by Burnetti of a specially developed range of alcohol infused Apertif gelato by by Chef Gelatiere Alessio Tavella, including Aperol and Campari Spritz, Prosecco – which is a first in Australia.

Brunetti is a Melbourne institution that has been around for years – since 1985 when the original store first opened up in Faraday Street – and is well known for its Italian style coffee as well as intriguing and huge variety of cakes. Brunetti is bringing a bit of Rome to Melbourne in an authentic fashion, and events like this clearly showcase its capability to do so.

The venue was divided into three sections and was recreating the timeless style of Federico Fellini’s film ‘La Dolce Vita.’ The rear section housing the DJ (where some funky Italian tunes were played) and a small bar, the middle section consisted of the Trevi Fountain (one of my absolute favourite places to visit in Rome) which aided to recreate the famous scene in the film, as well as a large wall painting and comfy seats. For added fun guests were invited to make a wish while tossing a coin into the fountain (just as you would if you went to visit the real Trevi Fountain), with all the proceeds going to Make –A-Wish Foundation. Such a brilliant idea and for such a great cause! The front section consisted of another bar as well as the gelato display and shelves which stocked traditional Italian good to welcome the guests.

From the pictures you can tell that everyone there had an extremely fun night that represented the true Italian way of celebrating. Both food and drinks were in abundance thanks to the waiters/waitresses walking around ensuring guests were always being looked after. The mix of the crowd – both of the younger and older generations – was clearly seen with mingling happening throughout the night.

Act 1 was clearly a hit amongst everyone that attended – especially after reading some glowing reviews – I cannot wait to see what the team has in store for Acts 2 and 3. Act 2 is set to take place on December 4th at Brunetti Carlton, with Act 3 to following on January 23rd at Brunetti City Square. Stay tuned for more information!

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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!

 

Boney – Where The Old Pony Was

panda 4.5 rating

I was initially struck by the interesting name of the place and wanted to check out both the food and the venue – hence my visit initially to Boney.

Boney is a new venue for music, dancing and dining and resides in the location of the bar that used to be named Pony. Boney comes to you from Camillo and Daniel Ippoliti who are also responsible for such places as Revolver Upstairs, Cookie and The Toff in Town. Boney is a welcoming and intriguing place and the food is quite delicious and the menu varied that after the first time there I had to come back and check out quite literally everything else on the menu!

The original structure has been retained – although downstairs there is now a kitchen and the old furnishings have been replaced. There is a glow of red neon lighting throughout the venue which matches perfectly with the solid black walls. This was done in order to keep a Rock’n’Roll vibe as said by the owners. Upstairs will be turned into the venue’s intimate band room where live independent artists and DJs can perform (7 nights a week). In keeping with Pony’s trend – there will still be the infamous 2am live performance slot.

As you approach the venue, on the outside walls you are greeted by a large menu where you can have a read about the food you can order. Just from reading the menu there are so many options and varieties that you often can spend a long period of time deciding what you want to order. I certainly had that issue. There are many dishes for vegetarians as well which I think is fantastic! The menu is designed and crafted by Karen Baston and there is food available for Lunch, Dinner or Take-Away. Together with the standard menu, there is a selection of daily specials – two per day – one for lunch and one for dinner. The Menu has some smaller snack like dishes to start with and then progresses on the menu to the larger dishes and ends with sides and of course finishing with the Boney Sweet Spot.

The first time around I ordered the funkily named Tofu & Mushroom Hot “Diggity” Dog – which is vegetarian version of a hot dog – and I was impressed! When it comes out the filling inside the hot dog is quite colourful against the white backdrop of the plate. The tofu and mushroom “hot-dog” is separate and is encased in like a filo pastry and is very tasty – I always love the combination of tofu & mushroom. The flavours work well with the colourful ingredients – being tomatoes, peppers and finished with a chilli sauce. Really quite delicious. We also ordered a side of Potato Skins which were amazing! They were seasoned to perfection and coupled with sour cream have to be one of my favourite potato skin places. This is a great dish to just snack on as a bar snack if you have just come here for drinks. (I did have dessert the first time I went here but I will come back to that =p)

The next time around I came I ordered the Snapper Fillet with Green Mango, Lemongrass and Peanuts. Once again this was a colourful dish with the glossy snapper fillet sitting atop of the Thai inspired salad which consisted of the peanuts, lemongrass, green mango and many other things such as bean shoots, cucumbers, carrots, red onions. The snapper was cooked superbly and was moist and had been flavoured well to match the Thai flavours of the salad. It really did feel like a healthy dish which packed a punch. G ordered the Snapper Burger which came with Bread & Butter Pickle. When the burger came out it did look impressive and she wasn’t sure how to eat it as it was quite huge. There was of course the snapper burger, and layers of tomato, pickle and salads encased in buns. G said the burger was tasty and the snapper burger different to anything she has had before.

Now onto the desserts – the menu for desserts had changed since the first time I had been there but sounded just as great. The first time around I had the Chocolate Brownie, Roasted Rhubarb & Walnut Crumble. The Chocolate Brownie was absolutely to die for and came served warm – it was filled with rich chocolate gooeyness! The Roasted Rhubarb complemented the bitterness of the chocolate and added a tang to add depth to the dish. It really was delicious. This wasn’t there unfortunately the next time I went back, so that time I ordered the Pistachio’d Pav, Stone Fruit Compote & Cardamon Cream. I must admit this dessert wasn’t as good as the Chocolate Brownie, however it was an interesting tasting dish. The Pav was crunchy and literally melted in your mouth and I really did love the cardamon cream – the spiciness of the cardamom really did complement the stone fruit compote. As a whole the dish worked really well and it is definitely a dish to try. G ordered the Jaffa Mousse & Vanilla Mascarpone which was just as delicious. I did get to try this dessert as well and it was quite rich tasting and definitely one for chocolate and jaffa lovers. The Vanilla Mascarpone was a great addition to cut through this richness. Next time I really do want to check out the Ginger & Lemongrass Creme Brulee. Boney has created three really great desserts.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Boney – both times that I went there – it is a shabby chic venue that really has a personality and fantastic food that really is up there with the best of them. All this whilst staying casual, cool and funky. Definitely check it out whether it be for some casual drinks and snacks or a catch-up / hang out with some easy to eat and tasty food.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://boney.net.au/menu/ – consists of Small and Larger dishes as well as Dessert. There is also a Special Menu with dishes depending on what time and day it is.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Chilled Out and Just FUN!
Standout Dish: Tofu & Mushroom Hot Diggity Dog….and their desserts!
Service: Fantastic and Attentive. They are super friendly and helpful as well when you have a tough time deciding what you want to eat and believe me you will!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://boney.net.au/
68 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9662 1026

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 12:00 pm – 3:00 am
Thursday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 am
Friday to Saturday: 12:00 pm – 7:00 am
Sunday: 5:00 pm – 5:00 am

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