Sorry for being MIA….

Hi Everyone!!

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

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

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

xx

Grazing Panda

Breakfast and Brunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bawa Cafe - Ricotta Hot Cakes with Lavendar Custard

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

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

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

Mastic

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

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

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

The Premises

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

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

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

Trei Cafe Trei Cafe - Matcha Latte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Square and Compass - Waffles

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

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

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

Baba Sus - Hong Kong Waffles with Green Tea Ice Cream

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

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

5 Lires - Breakkie Tasting Board

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

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

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

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

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

Lennox Coffee + Kitchen - The Mushroom Dish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lunch / Dinner

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

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

Inside Benjamins Kitchen

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

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

Zero 95 Pizza

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

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

Belles Hot Chicken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Noble Experiment - Desserts

Longhorn Saloon – Carlton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Press Club - Petit 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duchess - King Lobster Mac and Cheese

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

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

Mr Huang Jin - Dumplings & Banana Fritters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER

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

Dextrose - Hot Chocolate

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

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

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

Bibelot - Coffee & Pistachio Macaron

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

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

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

 

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Dig A Pony – Uniquely Delicious

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Dig A Pony Menu Dessert Menu    halal (1)** ONLY DUCK IS HALAL**

We (there were four of us) had just visited a friend in the Williamstown area and needed to find a place to have early dinner. After a bit of googling dinner places around the area, we stumbled on Dig A Pony. A quick phone call and we found out that they wouldn’t be open for another 30 minutes, but that would be about the time we would take to drive there.

We arrived about 15 minutes before their opening time however since they knew we were coming they saw us hovering around the outside and let us come in early – which was nice of them.

Dig A Pony was opened by owners Mike and Hannah Bacarella in 2009, to create a place that they would enjoy – a place that was welcoming and relaxed to enjoy good food, wine, music with great friends. The name Dig A Pony is inspired by the name of a classic song by The Beatles which was features on their final album “Let It Be” – and was known as a whimsical and eclectic song – which is the vibe that this restaurant and bar is going for.

From the outside Dig A Pony looks like your normal corner bluestone pub, but once you step inside you are greeted with wooden tables, creative lamps and lighting along with a variety of seating – from leather lounges to antique chairs as well as bar stools and armchairs – there is bound to be a seating arrangement that you enjoy. During daylight hours the natural light is let in through the many windows, however once night time hits the only lighting is from the light shades and few down lights around the venue – it can get a tad dark.

The menu initially was based around Mediterranean Tapas with authentic recipes hailing from Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and France – keeping firm the concept of food designed to be shared and enjoyed by all at the table. Enter in Mark Briggs (Vue de Monde, Sharing House) who added his touch of elegance and fine dining background to create an exciting menu that consists of delicious snacks, enticing small dishes as well some spectacular combinations for its larger plates. The concept of sharing, enjoying and having a bit of fun still remains.

The menu starts off with eight “Small Bites” – consisting of Oysters, Croquettes (Mac and Cheese) – how awesome do these sound! – just to name a few. Next on the menu are “Small Plates” (you can select from a selection of nine dishes – these include the likes of Mushroom Cannelloni (with Parmesan Mousse & Mushroom Ketchup), Moules Mariniere (Mussels in White Wine, Garlic & Cream), Chicken Kiev (with Crispy Kale & Broccoli), Tartare (Classic Beef with Egg Yolk Puree & ‘Chips’). There is only a selection of three “Larger Plates” to choose from – Duck, Goat or Wagyu Brisket. There are “Vegetables and Salads” to choose from as well as a “Charcuterie” section. If you find yourself not wanting to decide dishes on your own there are two Chef’s Selection Menu’s available – Five Plates ($45 per person) or Eight Plates ($55 per person).

Their drinks menu is quite extensive – consisting of wines, international and local boutique craft beers, spirits as well as a selection of intriguing cocktails. They also have unique combinations such as beer and whisky for those wanting a drink with a difference. In fact I think if you ask – you can mix just about any drink! I ordered a mocktail – which had flavours of Apple, Mint and Tang – a combination that quite refreshing on the palate.

There were two of us who had dietary requirements in the form of Dairy Free and Gluten Free and out waiter was very helpful in identifying which dishes could be consumed to suit. I also thought I would try my luck and ask if any of the meat or chicken was Halal – he found out that the Duck was – so of course we had to order it.

There were four of us at dinner so we decided to order a few dishes from each section.
We ordered three dishes from the Small Bites section. The first dish was the Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple – which came out looking as the menu read – in a cone shape sitting upright on a wire rack. Inside the cornetto cone was the mix of fresh ocean trout mixed with granny smith apple, capers and lime. I loved the mix of the crunchy cone together with the softness of the trout. The trout itself mixed with the apple was a brilliant combination – a hit of flavours for your tastebuds and a must try dish.

The next dish we received was the Cauliflower Popcorn with Roast Garlic Aioli – which comes served in a jar with the aioli placed on top. The cauliflower was crumbed and fried to create the popcorn effect and was seasoned well. The roast garlic aioli complimented the cauliflower well and tied the whole dish together. My only comment about the dish is to have the aioli in a separate little dish to make it easier for dipping purposes. The way it was with the aioli on top, when you got towards the middle or near the bottom of the jar you had run out of the aioli.

The last dish from the Small Bites section was the Buffalo Wings with Ranch Dressing. I didn’t try this dish; however I did try the Ranch Dressing which was absolutely divine – tangy with a kick of heat of it. Everyone around the table thoroughly enjoyed this dish as well and especially enjoyed the hint of chilli at the end.

From the Small Plates menu section we ordered the Confit Salmon with Clams and Savoy Cabbage and Scallops with Caramelized Cauliflower Puree & Sour Raisins.
The Confit Salmon usually comes with Pancetta, however we ordered this dish sans Panchetta. The dish was plated beautifully with flavours to match. The salmon had great texture and colouring and was cooked perfectly. The clams for me were the hero of this dish – delectable. Each of the elements brought a different flavour and depth to the dish – from the savoy cabbage laced in dressing to the pumpkin puree and finally the fried onions. A great tasting dish.
The Scallop dish was another good dish – the scallops were seared perfectly, the cauliflower puree worked brilliantly with the other elements on the dish and the raisins provided sweetness.

After these Small Plates we were onto our Large Plates of which we ordered two. First up was the Goat Hot Pot – Shoulder of Goat with Fennel and Rosemary. I loved the way this dish was presented – in a clay pot with a ring of scalloped potatoes on top. This was a clear favourite around the table – with the goat being melt-in-your-mouth, with the flavours being infused in the right proportions.
The next Large Plate dish was the Duck A L’Orange – Roasted Breast, Confit Leg & Brussel Sprouts. The duck was a bit on the tough side when you went into cut into it but the crispy skin on the outside was perfect. The velvety citrus sauce was rich yet subtle and really complemented the duck. This was my first experience of Duck A L’Orange and I must say I did quite enjoy it.

We also ordered the Quinoa with Pomegranate, Pistachio & Dates from the Vegetables and Salads section. The elements of tang from the pomegranate and sweetness of the dates, together with the nutty flavours worked well – you really cannot go wrong with this combination.

We were all really full from our meals but everyone needed a coffee for the drive home and so we looked at the dessert menu as well. There are five desserts to choose from and I was stuck in choosing between the Violet Crumble and the Parfait. In the end I went with the Parfait of Honey with Chocolate Mousse & Popcorn Granola. This was a really memorable and divine dessert. The chocolate mousse was rich, the parfait was creamy, the popcorn granola was caramelized and if you take each of these components together in one mouthful you will be heaven! If this dessert was this good – I can imagine just how good the other desserts would be!

Dig A Pony is the type of place that I wish I had stumbled upon a lot earlier as it serves up some great tasting food using simple ideas and a mix of interesting ingredients. The vibe is relaxed and casual – it’s a great place for a catch-up dinner with friends, as well as for a celebration. Staff are friendly and go out of their way to help in any way they can. If I was you I would definitely make a trip to Yarraville.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://digapony.com.au/wintermenu.htm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Casual and Welcoming. Great for any occasion.
Standout Dish: Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple
Service: Friendly, Knowledgeable and very helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://digapony.com.au/bookings.htm
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://digapony.com.au
58 Ballarat Road, Yarraville
Tel No: 9689 0110

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Friday to Sunday: 5:00pm – 12:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dig-A-Pony/199011662736
Instagram: Dig_A_Pony_
Twitter: @dig_a_pony_

Dig A Pony 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

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!

 

Ruyi – A Different Kind of Chinese

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Lunch Menu Dinner Menu

P & I decided to check out Ruyi for lunch on a Friday as I had heard a lot of good things about the place. Ruyi which translates to – “as you wish” is a spiritual object or talisman which symbolises good fortune – and is owned by Sheng Fang in collaboration with this wife Qian Qian Luo-Fang.

Ruyi serves modern Chinese cuisine but looking in from the outside, as well as once you are well inside – you wouldn’t think this is your typical Chinese restaurant. There is no sight of the typical bright red and yellow colours, coupled with strong, thick wooden furniture. Instead you are greeted with the cooling green and light wooden tones.
The fit out was carried out by Paul Hecker of Hecker Guthrie with most fittings and stylings sourced from around the world. The lights are wooden ash colored handmade lights from France, with the wooden chairs and stools imported from Milan. All the plates, bowls, water glasses and pitchers are made exclusively for Ruyi from local ceramic artist Andrei Davidoff and they are beautiful and fit right in with the Ruyi theme. The feel is warm – thanks to the olive, beige tones – modern and sophisticated – which is somewhat of a cultural shift to the norm of a Chinese restaurant.

There is a lot to read in the menu which means there is plenty of selection to choose from. The two chefs behind the wonderfully created menu have come from Michelin starred Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club – it’s no wonder the result is magnificent. The menu begins with a selection of 3 different homemade soups to choose from (Duck and Tofu, Seafood & Egg White, Hot Sour), then proceeds with Dumplings (there are 4 different types to choose from – Pork and Crab Shao Long Bao, Streamed Vegetarian, Wonton in Chilli Sauce, Pan fried Pork and Chive), followed by Chinese Tapas ( there are 12 different dishes to try and include things like Prawn Cakes, Soft Shell Crab, Peking Duck Cone, Bao Bao, Chicken Wings, Eggplant Strips) and finishes up with the Bigger Dishes (there are 7 choices including Asian Mushrooms, Kong Bao Chicken, Oyster Beef Steak, Wagyu Beef and Duck Braised in home made stock) and Dessert – there is the usual Banana Fritters and Ice cream, but something different they have is the Hazelnut Paste Roll with Ice Cream as well as Sticky Rice Pudding. There is also a selection of sides that you can choose from – think mixed veggies, light chilli green beans, fried rice.

If the menu overwhelms you – you can select a Banquet menu – either a 5 course for $45 or an 8 course for $65. The menu also points out the Recommended dishes to help you select if you are stuck. As P & I went at lunch time – they had a separate Autumn / Winter Lunch Menu where all the Chinese Tapas were priced cheaper. There was also an option of two different set menus available – One for $18 and another for $35. Refer to the pictures above in the menu section to see what each set includes.

After much contemplation of the menu we decided to share some dishes. And since I simply couldn’t look pass ordering the Flaming King Prawn – I needed to know what this dish was about, as the menu states that the King Prawn sits on the fire – how cool!

Our first dish was the Fried Tofu with Szechuan Mayo – this is 3 pieces of lightly tempura battered tofu topped with Szechuan mayo and sprinkled with spring onions. The tofu was delicious – crispy and crunchy on the outside – whilst staying smooth and creamy on the inside. The Szechuan Mayo was light, tangy and refreshing and everything coupled together made for a really great dish.

We also ordered the Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings which come out in a serving of 5 green perfectly moon shaped pieces in a bamboo steamer. Each dumpling is made to order and you can really tell – the filling was fresh, had subtle flavours yet was tasty. I also liked the fact that Ruyi has chilli paste, and not only the chilli oil that is found in most other restaurants.

The last dish to arrive was the Flaming King Prawn – and indeed the prawns were sitting on the fire. I asked our waitress what creates the flame and she said it was the bed of salt coupled with lemon. The waitress also informed us that the prawns had already been cooked – so were ready to eat once we blew out the flame. The prawns were simply scrumptious and they are some of the best king prawns I have ever tasted! The prawns had a hint of spice and were barbequed perfectly – firm in texture yet soft to eat – and were topped with spring onion and capsicum.

We didn’t have enough time to check out the dessert menu – but I will definitely be back to try out more dishes from their menu and will definitely leave some room for dessert! The Hazelnut Paste Roll sounds tantalizing!

The staff are very friendly and quite knowledgeable of the dishes on the menu. Ruyi is a great modern addition to the Chinese cuisine and provides a elegant yet warm homely feel to it. There is an extensive wine list as well serving cocktails, beer and spirits. They also have a separate happy hour section (which is Monday to Friday, 5pm – 7pm).

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://ruyi.com.au/Dining%20Menu.pdf for the Dining Menu
Happy hour menu – http://ruyi.com.au/Happy%20Hour.pdf
Lunch Menu – http://ruyi.com.au/Lunch%20Menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Sophisticated, Elegant and Welcoming
Standout Dish: The Flaming King Prawn
Service: Friendly and very helpful – always very polite and always with a smile!
Online Booking: Yes via website – www.ruyi.com.au
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.ruyi.com.au
16 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9090 7778

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Mon to Fri 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Dinner
Mon to Wed 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Thu to Fri 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Sat 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm

RuYi Modern Chinese on Urbanspoon

Hooked – Delicious Tasting Healthy Seafood

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Menu at Hooked Lunch Menu at Hooked Specials Menu at Hooked

Hooked is the brainchild of Ray Good and has been around for a while now serving healthy seafood – in three different branches – Fitzroy, Windsor and its newest branch in Hawthorn. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out their latest branch.

The fit-out is exactly what you would expect to find beach-side with a modern twist – white rustic wooden panels combined with white washed exposed brick walls. There is a large communal table at the centre of the venue, surrounded by wooden tables which largely seat parties of two. To the right along the wall are sailor striped booth style seats and a lifebuoy with the inscription – Hooked – In Cod we Trust – further adding to the seaside vibe. Painted on the brick wall as you walk in is a mural of a blue grenadier, further on the wall is a painting of a diver complete with a diving suit – something for you to admire whilst you await your food. These extra touches, together with the friendly smiles of the staff behind the counter complete the warm and welcoming feel.

The menu is located on top the counter which you order from – which is reminiscent of a your local fish and chip store. There are a plethora of selections to decide from. There is a Seafood section from which you can order House Fish (either Grilled or Lightly Tempura Battered) or Calamari (Grilled or Salt & Pepper Battered) both served with either Hand Cut Chips OR Rice & Asian Greens OR Salad. There are Boxes available – Box for One (1 House Fish, 6 Calamari), Box for Two (2 House Fish, 8 Calamari, 2 King Prawns) and a Kids Box (Fish Bites or Calamari with Rice or Mini Chips and Juice Box or Water – with a side salad). The two Boxes also come with the same option of Hand Cut Chips, Rice & Asian Greens or Salad.

There are also 3 different burgers to choose from – Hooked Fish Burger, Seared Tuna Burger and a Veggie Burger. If you are feeling like something different maybe you can try out their Taco and Burrito Menu (Fish Burrito) – with two selections of tacos – Baja Fish and Grilled Prawn. If Salads is more your thing – there are three delicious sounding salads to choose from – The Hooked Salad, Superfood Salad – think quinoa, broccoli, spinach, sunflower seeds etc and an Asian Slaw.

There are also specials that you can have during Lunch hours, as well as a Fisherman’s Soup all for $10.95. You can also buy Extras if you want to add to your meal – such as Chips, Prawns, Scallops. In addition to this are their Home Made Sauces – Dill & Caper Tartare, Sambal, Salsa Verde or Sweet Chili. What’s great is that they give you a recommendation as to which sauce works well with a particular dish. For example the Sambal is delicious with grilled fish with rice or salad. There are also Gluten Free options available. Drinks include the usual soft drinks, Charlies range of fresh juices as well as Phoenix New Zealand Organic drinks.

I decided to order the Box for One – and chose Grilled Fish and Salt & Pepper Calamari, as well as Rice & Asian Greens, with Sambal sauce on the side (I went with the recommended salsa – but was keen also to try the sauce). The dish comes out served on a large white round plate, with the seafood on the one side and the rice and Asian greens on the other with the salsa and a slice of lemon in the middle of the two. The house fish they serve is blue grenadier – the fish was fresh, white, fleshy and cooked to perfection and tasted absolutely delicious – you really don’t need the addition of anything else. The fish remained succulent and juicy which was another win. The rice has a mix of sweet and savory flavours – thanks to the combination of soy, kecap manis together with a dash of sesame oil. The grains are separate – just the way I like my rice. The Asian Greens are blanched and lightly sautéed – keeping in theme of being healthy whilst being the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the dish. The Calamari was another standout – I loved the lightly battered salt and pepper tempura flavouring. There wasn’t a thick layer of batter rather a light covering, which allowed you to enjoy the freshness of the calamari and also made for a less greasy dish overall.

S ordered the Superfood Salad (Quinoa, Broccoli, Rocket, Spinach, Semi Dried Tomatoes, Peas, Mint, Toasted Pumpkin, Sunflower Seeds & Sesame Seeds finished with a drizzle of Yoghurt Lemon Dressing) with a side of House Fish together with the Salsa Verde sauce. We shared our dish with each other so I got to sample some of her Superfood salad. Once again the salad had a combination of refreshing flavours and crunchy textures which was finished off well thanks to the yoghurt lemon dressing. S liked the salad so much that since then she has tried to replicate this at home. The Salsa Verde sauced packed a punch of flavours with coriander being the main character and was quite delicious.

Hooked prides itself on producing healthy food with the key factors being highlighted – low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein and rich in Omega 3. This is thanks to the use of cholesterol free cottonseed oil in all their cooking. Their chips are freshly hand cut from Gippsland potatoes each and every day, and cooked from scratch using cottonseed oil. A fun fact to note is that Hooked will not serve any flake – after all it isn’t a fish!

Hooked has created a modern day healthier version of your local fish and chip shop – which includes an inviting ambiance and vibe that makes you feel like you have just spent a day at the beach. Together with friendly and warm service, delicious tasting food and funky décor – it should be next on your list to visit!

Note: Students can receive a 10% discount (Monday to Thursday 11:30am – 5pm)
Another thing to note is that the Fitzroy and Windsor branches are fully licensed, with the Hawthorn Alcohol License coming soon!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to above pictures or check out http://www.hooked.net.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Warm, Inviting and Beach-like
Standout Dish: House fish & Calamari, Superfood Salad
Service: Friendly and Welcoming as well as prompt – we were surprised at how quickly our food came out, despite being quite full.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/hawthorn/
669 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
Tel No: 9939 4412

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon

Other Branches
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/fitzroy/                                                               http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/windsor/
384 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy                                                                                         172 Chapel Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9417 7740                                                                                                               Tel No: 9529 1075

Opening Hours:                                                                                                              Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm                                                                      Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm                                                                       Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon                                                                                                      Hooked on Urbanspoon

 

Fiesta Mexican – Spicy, Lively & Fun

panda 4.5 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening Hours:

Fiesta Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Smith – Knickerbocker Glory

panda 4 rating

A and I were looking for a place where we could have some dessert after dinner and I stumbled across The Smith and its renowned dessert – The Knickerbocker. It was a Friday night and I knew that they would be busy so I called up to see if they would have space for the two of us to have dessert – they were very helpful and said to come and they would find a space for us. How nice of them! So we headed down and literally had the best seats in the house – at the bar counter overlooking the kitchen –we could actually watch as our desserts were being made.

The Smith is located in High Street, Prahran – one of the trendier suburbs in Melbourne and the venue matches. The owner is Scott Borg (former director of Taxi and Circa), and he has created this swanky, sophisticated and fun venue that offers all day dining.

From the outside it looks like a pub, but once you are inside you are welcomed by a fun and casual vibe. To the right is the bar and courtyard and to the right is the main dining area, which travels all along to the back room which is another dining area. Here is where the fantastic open kitchen resides, with the opportunity to sit at the bar overlooking the kitchen – best view in the house! The back dining room has high ceilings together with a combination of round, square and communal wooden tables. The fit out is classy, elegant all whilst staying casual and welcoming.

We were just there for desserts so we were given the dessert menu to peruse. Whilst tossing up what we wanted to have for dessert – we could see the other meals being prepared in the kitchen and being sent out to the diners. They looked amazingly delicious! It made us wish that we had come here for dinner as well! The menu is prepared by Michael Lambie (also ex Taxi and Circa). The Smith offers six-course and eight-course tasting menus at $70 and $85.

The menu is split into six sections – starting off with “Oysters” (there are three to choose from), moving onto “Mouthful”, then “Tastes”, followed by “Fish & Meat”, then “Sides” and ending on dessert dubbed “To End.” Mouthful includes morsels of food that ranges from pork croquettes, to tempura king prawns, soft shell crab, tofu and salmon tartare. There are a number of “Tastes” and “Fish & Meat” dishes to select from as well – the variety ensures that there really is a dish for everyone and every dietary requirement. The menu is a combination of many cuisines – from Mexican to Thai to Japanese and even Modern Australian Country.

There were four different desserts to choose from which included The Smith Carrot Cake with citrus cream cheese, Chocolate dulce de elce with blood orange foam and the two desserts we chose to have. What is great about the desserts here are not only do they sound good, but most of them are Gluten-Free, Nut-Free etc. The menu marks down what each dessert is, as well as suggesting what drink it would go well with. There is also a cheese selection if you are a cheese fan.

I ordered the The Smith Knickerbocker Glory (GF, EF, NF) – which was essentially like a trifle – it had layers and layers of sweet goodness. There are layers of macerated sweet tart fruit including pomegranate molasses, berries, strawberries topped with whipped cream, chocolate buttons, jelly squares and chunky bits of honeycomb. There were so many textures and flavours going on and it really was a fun dessert to have. I loved the combination of cream and berries any day so this dessert worked really well for me and was just what I craved and wanted.

A ordered the Raspberry Souffle with White Chocolate Ice Cream (GF) which was mighty impressive when it was placed in front of us. The overflow of the soufflé looked delightful and was topped with icing sugar; to the side was the white chocolate ice cream. The soufflé was literally melt in your mouth and the tanginess worked extremely well in contrast to the sweetness of the white chocolate ice cream. A winner!

Whilst we were eating our desserts we watched as The Smith Carrot cake was being made and boy did it look impressive! There were so many elements that were added – as you watch you think that it would be the last ingredient placed – but wait there’s more – more and more elements added – and the end result: spectacular. The dish was finished with petals, flowers and reminded me of a swan. Definitely wanting to try this out next time!

We also ordered tea to go with our dessert – and I tried the Russian Caravan tea for the first time! I have previously not heard of this flavour and was intrigued to try it out. This tea is a blended oolong, keemun and lapsang souchong tea and has a vibrant and strong aroma to match a nutty, malty and smoky flavouring. I might actually consider purchasing some of my own Russian Caravan tea!

The staff were really helpful and our waiter especially was really friendly! Customer service was really good and the staff looked like they were having a good time.

The Smith is great place be it for a casual catch up dinner or a celebration. The atmosphere is lively, fun and very friendly. The Smith also has two function rooms upstairs, with a separate bar and kitchen. One of the rooms is called “Mr Smith” which is the more masculine version complete with leather seats and can seat up to 40 people. The other room is aptly named “Mrs Smith” – complete with white walls and can seat up to 24 people. There is a wall between the two that can be opened up to create one larger space if needed.

The Smith serves a large variety of food in a venue that is stylish, elegant yet casual and relaxed – the staff are friendly and helpful and the food dishes not only look spectacular but taste great too! What more could you ask for really?

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.thesmithprahran.com.au/the-food/ The drinks menu can be found here – http://www.thesmithprahran.com.au/the-drinks/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant, Stylish, Casual and Fun. There is an area for dining and an area for drinks, as well as a courtyard. There are also function rooms.
Service: Fantastic – very friendly and helpful!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.thesmithprahran.com.au
213 High St, Prahran
Tel No: 9514 2444

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm

The Smith on Urbanspoon

Northern Lights Bar & Eatery – Fusion Food with Fanciful Lights

panda 4 rating 
Love the Lights!

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Menu:
Northern Light Menu

We needed a place to have dinner after a full day at the Good Food and Wine show in the Fitzroy / Collingwood area, as we were heading to drinks in that area later. I referred to my trusty list of places I wanted to go and realised Northern Light Bar & Eatery worked perfectly.

Northern Light is located on Smith Street in Collingwood – in what used to be the old Gigibaba. Venue owners are Adam Liston and Glen Bagnara (ex-Chester White) together with manager Emily Pullen, and they have created a fusion Chinese and Japanese eatery that is all about shared dishes. Clearly the years Liston spent in Shanghai were utilised in the creation of the menu and the idea behind Northern Light.

From the moment you step in you feel like you are transported to another world – almost forest like (hence the name) – thanks to the plethora of dangling combination of light bulbs and lanterns. It’s beautiful. The next thing your eyes are drawn to is the marble white bar that takes up the length of the venue, finished with dark wood. There is seating all along the bar, along with lower tables at the front which has a massive white decorative mirror overlooking it. Exposed brick walls and mood lighting completes the look.

The menu designed by Liston and is split into 6 different sections – Snacks, Plates, Cooked over Binchotan, Meat, fish & Vegetables, Sides and finishes with Desserts. You can pick from the enticing dishes yourself or have the banquet menu – 5 courses for $55 and 7 courses for $75. Snack dishes include Spiced Prawn Cracker, a golden egg, Plate dishes which are slightly larger consists of an edamame dish with kimchi sauce, an interesting eel dish and air dried Blackbmore beef. Cooked over the Binchotan have a selection of skewers that come in the form of mushroom, chicken, beef or pork belly. The meat, fish & vegetable section include soba noodles, suckling pig, a smoked trout okonomiyaki and lamb ribs. There are three different sides to choose from as well three different desserts.

The drink menu includes Sapporo on tap along with other drink options include cider, wine, and a concise selection of cocktails. I ordered a mocktail of mint and pineapple and it was quite tasty.

We have a few dietary requirements and the staff are happy to help us out and let us know which dishes are Gluten-free. With that knowledge we decide to order for ourselves – there are four of us – and get a couple of dishes from each section. What I also liked was that each time a dish came out – the staff explained what the dish was and each component.

We start off with the Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake. This came highly recommended from the staff, and after eating this dish we could see why. The dish was quite a colourful dish thanks to the blue background of the plate together with the fried shallots and furikake (nori, seasame and chilli) all adding to the colourfulness. The golden egg was perfectly soft centered – it had been poached and then flash fried to create a crackling outer shell that had been rolled in caramel. The dish was finished with the onion as well as the furikake and worked extremely well together. It was a combination of spice, salt, sugar, crunch and gooeyness – try it out for yourselves.

The Sichuan Spiced School Prawns, Curry Mayo were up next. There was a bit division here with this dish but only with regards to the Curry Mayo – half of us liked it and half of us didn’t. I was on team I LIKE THE MAYO – it was an interesting combination and I think it worked well with the flavour of the prawns. The Sichuan spiced prawns on the other hand was a clear winner – everyone loved it and we sat around discussing how we could recreate this dish at home. They were perfectly crunchy and flavoured well and you could sit there eating them all day!

The Edamame, Broccolini, Gai Lan, Kimchi Sauce was an interesting dish. I am obsessed with Broccolini at the moment, so when I saw this as one of the components I had to get it. The Edamame came already out of the pod – which was a bit disappointing – the whole fun attributed to popping them yourself was missing, however I get why it was done for this dish. The dish was fresh and tasty thanks to the kimchi sauce.

Next up was the Eel unagi, Squid Sauce, salted Grapes, Mojama. This was a really great dish! A hadn’t ever had eel before and she tried it for the first time here and quite enjoyed it. The dish was presented interestingly, with grape halves dispersed amongst the eel, which lay on top of the squid sauce and topped with mojama (salt-preserved tuna). The eel was smooth and had a smoky flavour which worked well when coupled with the sweetness of the grapes and the saltiness of the mojama. A dish well worth ordering.

The Air dried Blackmore beef, wasabi, yolk, fried potato was another interestingly plated up dish – the main focus was the nest of thin potato slices that you needed to push aside to reveal the vibrant Blackmore beef and the bright yolk. The dish was completed with fresh wasabi, horseradish and sorrel leaves. The boys quite enjoyed the beef dish and said it was interesting to have it combined with the walk runny yolk.

The Wagyu oyster blade skewers with Bulldog Sauce were a hit as well. They are quite small in size and I am sure they all could have eaten another three skewers each – they were that easy to eat – tender and flavoursome, and the bulldog sauce always makes things more interesting.

I used to order vegetarian okonomiyakis all the time and really enjoyed the dish, so was interested to see what Northern Light’s version would taste like. We ordered the Smoked trout, salted shrimp okonomiyaki, katsuobushi (this is the Japanese name for dried, fermented and smoked skip jack tuna). We were all enthralled by this dish when it was placed in front of us as we saw pieces of food moving – this turned out to be the katsuobushi. When placed on hot food, the heat waves causes the thin and light katsuobushi to move about which made the dish seem alive with the “dancing” katsuobushi. The dish resembled a seafood omelette and was quite tasty – however we found it a tad bit too salty. The saltiness took over the other flavours of the dish so I couldn’t really taste the smokiness of the trout.

To accompany the dishes we had ordered we also ordered the Warm soba noodles, wild mushrooms, white sesame and the Vegetarian Fried Rice. The soba noodle dish I loved – anything combined with mushrooms and sesame to me is brilliant. The noodles weren’t overcooked either so all in all a good dish.

After all the dishes we got try I actually was quite full and wasn’t really considering dessert – but I am glad that I decided to change my mind at the last minute. I ordered the Broken Ice Cream Sandwich. This was yet another interestingly presented dish – it came out with jagged edged shards made out of chocolate and reminiscent of a hardened cake – placed in form of a tent shape. Once you open this fort like surrounds you reveal a luscious and creamy vanilla ice cream rectangle chunk, which is topped with dollops of equally creamy chocolate mousse and gooey salted caramel. The combination of these three elements together was spectacular and it was the best end to a great meal. Who knew something so simple when put together could taste so great!

We apparently beat the Saturday night rush as we had a pretty early dinner – around 6pm and left around 7:30pm. So if you want to beat the rush go early! Northern Light Bar & Eatery is a great place to just hang out and enjoy some great Japanese/Chinese inspired dishes whether it be with a group of four people or even a romantic night out. The mood is casual and relaxed, the staff really friendly and those multiple hanging lights are a winner in my book!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above pic. Menu can also be found at http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Romantic, Mood Lighting, Casual and Relaxed. Great for a first date – but works well for a group of 4 as well!
Standout Dish: Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake AND Broken Ice Cream Sandwich
Service: Fantastic! Very helpful when we needed to find out about which dishes were Gluten Free. Friendly as well!
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/bookings/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/
102 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9416 0698

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:30pm – Late

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duNord – Swedish Splendour

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menyu at duNord

G & I were catching up for dinner and decided to check out duNord which is located in Little Bourke St – right in the middle of the Melbourne CBD. duNord serves up Swedish flavours and Nordic inspired cocktails and is owned by Thomas Kiltorp (ex-Emerald Peacock, Red Hummingbird).

As you walk in you are greeted by the super long Beechwood bar which has solid bar stools that you can perch yourself up at. There are also higher tables near the bar. Following the bar is the kitchen and to the right of that there are lower blonde wooden tables for more seating. At the back of the venue is space called Back Pocket where you get fit between 30 to 70 people for a private function. There is exposed brick combined with the light wooden furniture combined with a neutral colour palette to create a warm, welcoming and inviting feel to the venue. The staff are ever so friendly and helpful.

duNord is known for its Nordic themed bar which includes Scandanavian beers, ciders but the main feature is their cocktails. This would be expected especially with Kiltorp at the helm. There is a daily “market cocktail” as well as a list of 12 different cocktails, which changes according to the produce available as well as the weather. Interestingly there is a mystery brown bagged beer – beer served in a brown bag to try out as well! There is also a snack menu – svenska bitar – which includes some Swedish meatballs or a smorgasbord platter of herring, gouda cheese, rye and pickles.

G & I arrived at duNord after work for dinner and were seated on the lower tables near the kitchen area. We actually didn’t order any of the cocktails and went straight to the food as we were starving. The menu is split into 5 sections beginning with the nibbles and followed by to start, vegetables, mains and finishing with something sweet. There are between 3 to 5 dishes to select under each of these menus. There is a great selection for vegetarians, and the meats range from venison to mutton and include pork loin, duck breast and smoked mackerel.

We decided to order two ‘nibbles’ dish to share, our own mains and a vegetable to share as well.For the two nibbles dishes we ordered the Smoked Eel and Acorn Croquettes in popcorn and the Pine Smoked Quails Nest.

I have never eaten Acorn before so was intrigued to find out what type of flavour it would be. It was a bit hard to differentiate as it was in a croquette style and mixed together with the smoked eel. However the result was delicious – the smokiness of the eel and the nuttiness of the acorn paired well together. It came in a serving of two so was perfect for the two of us. The outer layer was crumbed and crisped perfectly.

Before ordering the Pine Smoked Quail Nest – the waitress explained what the dish consisted of and it sounded really interesting. When the dish comes out it comes under a dome which houses the smokiness, and once it arrives at your table, this is removed and the vapours evaporate. The “nest” actually resembles a real life birds nest – with the “nest” made out of carrots and onions which are created to look like bark. Really cool! The quail egg sits in the centre of this nest. A really visually pleasing dish that makes you not want to eat it. However, we did eat the dish and the quail egg was really yum – the centre yolk was like liquid gold with the perfect texture to it. We had to ask if we could eat the “nest” and once told we could, we devoured every last bit. There was potato at the bottom which was my favourite tasting part.

For mains I ordered the Wild mushroom and Potato Ragout with Pearled Barley and Greens. This has to one of the prettiest dishes plated up that I have received this year. The Pearled Barley was in a heaped perfect circle, topped with the wild mushrooms and the green placed on top of the mushrooms – like a layered trifle. Beetroot jus was placed artistically around the plate along with a few of the wild mushrooms. I loved the combination of all the elements of the dish. The texture of the pearled barley with the mushrooms worked well together, and the flavours were all round delicious. A really great dish to try out.

G ordered the Duck breast, sautéed roasted vegetables, poached pears, blood and berry jus –w which was also beautifully presented. The sautéed roasted vegetables were colourfully placed in the centre of the black plate with the tender duck breast flanking each side. The poached pear was next to the duck breast and the dish was finished with a whole small red onion and berry jus. G did like her dish and said the duck was cooked really well, and overall the flavours combined together really well – she just wasn’t a fan of the beetroot (it just isn’t a veggie she likes).

We also ordered the Seasonal roasted vegetables on Goats curd with Ashed Goats Cheese to share which was actually quite a large dish. The dish was a variety of carrots char grilled and served with the fresh smoked cheese. The carrots were still juicy and sweet and combined with the smokiness and tang of the cheese was a great result. We were so full from our individual main dishes that we couldn’t finish this veggie dish – I guess in hindsight we ordered a bit too much.

When it came to dessert time we decided to share the Lavender Ice Cream, Lemon and Vanilla Sponge, White Chocolate Soil. The dish came plated up on a long dish with the lavender ice cream scoop on one side and the lemon and vanilla sponge on the other with the white chocolate soil diagonally placed around the two. The lavender ice cream was great- had the lavender flavouring mixed together in a creamy end result. The lemon and vanilla sponge was not as soft as I expected it to be but provided a different texture to the dish. The elements together worked quite well and the addition of the white chocolate soil I thought was a necessary component.

I really enjoyed the food, atmosphere and the helpfulness and friendliness of the staff at duNord. I loved the plating up of the food especially as well as the versatile and different flavours and elements used. If you visit on a Wednesday there is something called Lill Lördag (Little Saturday). This is a night of Swedish street food and drink specials on offer to celebrate the week’s halfway mark, along with some great music to match. Definitely check this place out and try out some delightful Scandinavian cuisine.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can find the menu here http://www.dunord.com.au/news/nordic-kitchen-here or look at the menu pic above.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Inviting, Relaxed and Welcoming
Standout Dish:Pine Smoked Quail Nest AND Wild mushroom and Potato Ragout with Pearled Barley and Greens (I had to pick two)
Service: Fantastic!! Really friendly and really know their information about each dish!
Online Booking: Yes via website – www.dunord.com.au – there is a DIMMI link
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.dunord.com.au
367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9642 0052

Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 12pm – Late
Friday: 12pm – 1am
Saturday: 6pm – 1am

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