Experiencing Box Hill Central Like Never Before….

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I was lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people from PR Edge to get a chance to experience the talent of former Magic Owner-chef James Tan as he hosted an exclusive tour of Victoria’s most authentic Asian fresh food market located at Box Hill Central. After the tour finished, we were treated to a tantalising 3 course meal that James cooked in front of us. I mean how can you say No right?

Box Hill Central is located in Box Hill and is full of culinary hidden gems, rare ingredients and traditional treats – and it has a history. Originally this space was a market that opened in 1895 becoming a part of the shopping centre when it was developed in 1987. There are now two shopping centres located on the one site – Box Hill Central North and Box Hill Central South.

Box Hill Central North was originally opened as Whitehorse Plaza but after a lack of patrons closed down in 2000. After major refurbishments it was reopened in 2003 as Centro Whitehorse, which then rebranded to Centro Box Hill North in 2007 before finally being changed to Box Hill Central North in 2013.

Box Hill South (where the original Box Hill Central was located) – was built when the old railway station and level crossing was removed and has undergone refurbishments to what stands there today. The original market is now incorporated into the shopping centre but was redeveloped to what it is today. Box Hill Train station is also located here.

I was a bit late (for those of you who don’t know Box Hill gets super busy – especially on a Saturday and finding a car park is almost as bad as finding a needle in a haystack!) so missed the initial welcome and introductions from James, however I met up with the rest of the bloggers and James as they were getting through a talk from one of the Fresh Seafood store’s owners – Elaine from Box Hill Fish Market. Here we got to sample oysters – they were fresh, punchy and full of flavour! You can have a look at some of my pictures of the Box Hill Fish Market store – you really can see the freshness and the high quality – they sell sashimi grade products – that this store has, as well as the variety and range – they have Blue Swimmer Male Crabs!
Elaine and her staff are very helpful and accommodating and mentioned that they try and cater for their clients’ needs in whichever way they can – all they have to do is ask. I really like that philosophy!

Next we briefly stopped at one of James’ favourite butchers – Central Meats – who sells specialised meats and once again are very accommodating and can get you what you.

Our next stop was at Food Master which provides Asian spices and herbs and dried and preserved foods – a shop with literally everything you could possible need – from Dried Figs to Lily Bulb. If you are Asian and were used to your mums or grandparents herbal home remedies – chances are that you could find the ingredients for this remedy from here. Check out the pictures for the variety!

That brought us to the end of the tour and we were led back to our little area that had been decorated with bamboo fences and bamboo trees – with the table for the bloggers in the centre. There were many inquisitive questions as to what was going on and how they could be involved from passer-byers. The centre pieces were simple and brilliant – vases filled with fresh bok choy together with a basket filled with fresh veggies such as carrots, eggplants and mushrooms.
James had his setup at the top end of our table so we could watch as he prepared our three course meal.

Whilst James starting cooking the first dish we were given 100% natural Coconut Water from Raw C. James told us that he wanted to source fresh coconuts for us however he couldn’t find the ideal ones he wanted for us. None of us around the table had heard or seen this brand before – Pete Evans appears on the back of the packaging which we all found amusing. The Coconut Water is actually one of the better ones I have tried and kept the authentic coconut water flavours vibrant.

For the first course we were served Palm Sugar Cured Atlantic Salmon with Fried Kumara, Petit Herb Salad. The dish was impeccably presented – the palm sugar cured atlantic salmon acting as the base of the dish, topped with fried kumara and finished with the petit herb salad (which included avocado and tomato). The salmon was fresh and cured to perfection with the palm sugar enhancing the flavour thanks to its sweetness. I loved the crunch of the fried kumara as well as its distinct flavour. The petit herb salad really brought the dish together for one flavour explosion in your mouth. Delicious!

The next course was the Mud Crab Coconut Salad with Chilli Lime Dressing, Crispy Rice Crackers. We were told the way to eat this dish was to serve some of the crab onto the crispy rice crackers and eat them together in one go. Doing this gives you the element of crunch followed swiftly with a burst of distinct flavours – creamy coconut, sultry crab and ending with the hit of chilli. I am a huge of anything to do with crab so this dish was delicious – my only thought was that the coconut flavour somewhat overpowered the uniqueness of the crab.

To finish James prepared a Lacquered Soy Duck with Shitake, Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil. As I do not eat duck I only had the Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil and Shitake. I adored the presentation that James did with my dish. He piled the noodles together – they were rolled into small cylinders, poured the soy reduction over the noodles and finished this with the shitake and herbs. I have never eaten these type of noodles before but quite enjoyed the flavours – the saltiness of the soy reduction paired with the rustic flavours of the shitake and the smoothness of the noodles worked well together.
The duck was a clear hit with the other bloggers – who even went in for seconds. They were surprised at how tender the duck was and the flavouring of the sauce on the side was something they all loved.

Next up was a chance to experience an authentic Chinese Tea Ceremony from Spencer Wong at Cha-t. Refer to the section below to learn more about Spencer.
The front window of Cha-t is visually stunning itself – a round wooden circular shelf with tiny compartments which are filled with paraphernalia relating to Chinese tea such as claypots, incense holders and dainty tea cups – but once you step inside – you truly feel like you are transported to the world of tea. There intricately detailed wooden furnished together with chairs that have been carved from roots of trees. It really is a place that you need to visit to capture its beauty.

Cha-t is all about the teas – with the menu only listing a variety of teas – from Pu-erh / Pu-er Tea to Medicinal Teas. Cha-t is all about appreciation of Chinese tea as well as Chinese culture and really is a one stop shop of its kind here in Melbourne. It is quite common to find many of these types of shops in China – as their favourite past times is to drink tea all day.

Spencer seats us around a wooden table that has been especially made for tea ceremonies. It is equipped with all the utensils and pots required to carry out a tea ceremony, including a section that places filtered water into a pot and warms the water to correct temperature required. I was even amazed at just watching the water being warmed and the main ceremony hadn’t even started! The table had holes which allowed for the excess water to travel through and be collected under the table – genius.

Spencer starts by telling us the background and history of the tea and tells us the different types of teas that we will be trying today. We start off with Pu-erh Tea which is a variety of fermented dark tea produced in the Yunnan province in China.
Pu-erh Tea starts off as a Camilla Plant first and for the next 1 to 5 years becomes a greeny yellowy colour, then from 5 to 15 years changes to a red colour and after about 50 years it becomes the black tea that we would be drinking today. The tea that we would be trying is a 1989 tea!!!
Spencer tells us that all you need for a good cup of tea is around 7-8 grams of tea – which he measures out using a scale. He places the tea into a bowl like cup and pours the hot water (90 degrees) onto it. Once this brews for a bit he pours the tea into a beaker. He tells us that the first two brews are to wake up the tea and hence the flavouring is always light. It also serves as a double purpose to warm the tea cups that you use to drink the tea in.

We all cannot wait to taste the tea – we are served in small glass cups and are told by Spencer how to drink the tea. You are meant to slurp in a sip and then savour the flavour between sips – certain teas give out flavours that you can feel at the back of your throat. The initial 2 brews are light, but as the brews get higher – the strength increases. The tea is warming and uniquely flavoured.

The next tea that we try is from 1984 and the 7g of tea that we all share is worth $400!!! This means that a kilogram will cost around $57K! Who would have ever thought that tea would be worth that much money! For this tea Spencer once again measure 7g of the tea and places it into a specially made purple sand pot. He tells us that these containers can cost up to 1 million dollars (!!!) – the cost is dependent on the level of the masters that are creating the containers. For example if they are Level 2 masters the cost of the containers (depending on the size and the type) that they make could be worth up to $100K with Level 1 masters containers being worth up to $1 Million. The small pot that he is using today is worth $500.

Once the water has boiled – to 100 degrees – Spencer pours the water into the pot and allows the tea to brew. Spencer carefully pours water over the pot to warm the tea and then swills the inside. When we were served the tea you could tell why it was worth the $400! The flavour was light initially and left a honey after taste. Another key to identifying great quality tea is that the smell that it leaves on the cup – it smelt of fresh honey and did so for a long period of time! Lower quality teas would have the smell of the actual cup or the remnants of your saliva. We had about 4 rounds of this tea and each time the flavour intensified but the honey after taste still remained in the same intensity. Beautiful.

Spencer also showed us the incense and how he prepares the incense – the incense helps to create the atmosphere and further enhances the tea experience. The smells were strong yet calming. The process – as with the serving of tea – is a very intricate, careful and detailed process. I love the dedication and passion!

Spencer also showed us some other tricks – like frogs that we thought were just ornaments – were in fact not just ornaments. If you place hot water over the frog – it squirts out the water – a nice party trick!

Cha-t also specialises in cigars (although they are not visibly in sight and you cannot smoke them in store) which range from Bolivar to Cuban Sancho Panz. There is also quite the variety of top shelf whiskeys on display. There are also some snack type foods available such as sun dried mango, sour plums, seaweed etc.

Cha-t is opening soon in Bourke St in the Melbourne CBD and also run various tea appreciation classes for those interested in learning more about tea and its rich history.

The entire day was a brilliant experience that you wouldn’t normally get to go through – from the personal tour from James of Box Hill Central to the intimate and eye opening tea ceremony. I would definitely encourage you all to check out Cha-t and experience the tea ceremony – it feels like a little bit of China right here in Melbourne.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to Box Hill Central as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

About James Tan                                              About Spencer Wong

About James Tan                                                             About Spencer Wong

Box Hill Central
1 Main St, Box Hill
Tel No: 9843 3900

Cha-T
17 Market St, Box Hill
Tel No: 0433 588 578

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LadyBoy Dining – Cheeky Fun!

panda 4 rating

 

Menu:
Menu at LadyBoy Dining

With a name like Ladyboy Dining you are sure to strike up an interest – adding some curiosity, fun, spice and playfulness to the Richmond area. Ladyboy Dining is created by co-owners Fran Leaper and chef Mitch Townrow (Longrain) who are joined together with chef Pez Bowman (Melbourne Pub Group).

As you step inside you will feel like you have been transported to Bangkok, Thailand. The colourful, cheeky fit out has been done in collaboration with Ingrain Designs. A huge colourful sign with the word SAWASDEE (a greeting to mean welcome/hello) greets you together with a large striking street art ladyboy face. Next to it is a large bright yellow sign – LADYBOY – which hangs above the bar and overlooks the entire dining room. What I love is the installation of multi coloured wastepaper baskets that have been flipped to create light shades that drape loosely from the roof across the front dining area. At the end of the bar is a slightly smaller neon blue sign – ROCK OUT WITH YOUR WOK OUT – and below that is an open kitchen where you can watch as the chefs prepare your meals.

As you walk down the small walkway from the main dining area towards the back of the venue – more seating is available with a funky abstract artwork of an elephant. This leads to the back where there is a large area for the Buddha Bar complete with colourful umbrellas on the ceiling, awesome cane furniture (round, curved seating) and fake grass outside – to keep with the Thai relaxed theme. Here there is also fancy artwork of a large Buddha head on one and neon signage with the words BUDDHA BAR on the opposite side under which the wooden bar sits. The expansive courtyard will no doubt be a hit in the summer. Here you can enjoy the hawker style bar menu which includes oysters and green nahm jim, chicken wings and a selection of banh mi – all for $8, as well as salt & pepper tofu and pork hock with rum glaze. There are cheekily named drinks on their menu for offer such as Adam’s Apple and Trans-gin-der, as well as cocktail buckets and a good selection of beers and wine to try out.

The menu starts off with Smaller Bites such as Betel Leaf, Oysters + Nahm Jim and Son In Law Eggs – progressing to Smaller dishes where you will find Ceviche, Larb, Papaya Salad, Pork Hock and Salt & Pepper Tofu. This is then followed up with your larger dishes that include a selection of Curries (Red Duck or Tofu Curry, Green Fish Curry, Angus Brisket Penang Curry), Whole Fish, Pad Thai and Grilled Salad. There are a handful of sides to choose from which include Rice, Stir Fried Green, Chilli + Prawn + Smoked Coconut Samabl and Cucumber + Krachai + Mustard Green Relish. The menu ends with a selection of Sweet LadyBoy Treats – where coconut features mainly – with desserts such as Coconut Sorbet, Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue, Sago + Palm Sugar + Coconut and White Sticky Rice + Ice Cream + Thai Fruits.

There is also an option to enjoy the LadyBoy’s Banquet ($45) which will give you the kitchen’s daily selection. This will require a minimum of 2 people, and if you have a table then the whole table must go on this banquet.

There were four of us at dinner and we ordered the Betel Leaf + Char Grilled Calamari + Green Mango + Peanut each to start. Served on a betel leaf – the dish comes out with striking colours thanks to the chilli, coriander and peanuts. You eat the entire dish as is – betel leaf and all – and as you crunch into the first bite your tastebuds will soar just like fireworks. A combination of spice, tang and the softness of the fresh grilled calamari is breathtaking. A great way to start off your food experience at LadyBoy.

From the smaller dishes we ordered Salt & Pepper Silken Tofu + Chilli Jam and Crispy Pork Hock + Rum Glaze. The Salt & Pepper Tofu was crispy and crunchy on the outside whilst being soft and billowy on the inside. The Chilli Jam that accompanied this dish was just the right consistency and had a great balance of flavours – spice and tang.
The two guys really enjoyed the Pork Hock + Rum Glaze – so much so that they wanted to order another serving of the dish. Clearly a mighty delicious tasting dish.

We also ordered the Green Papaya Salad + Snake Bean + Peanuts from the smaller dishes. Think slivers of green papaya mixed with freshly cut snake beans and tomatoes topped with peanuts and drizzled in spicy and tangy sauce. This dish is refreshing and sure does pack a punch; I also loved the mixture of textures that you get as you delve into it. The addition of coriander adds further depth and flavouring to the dish.

From the larger dishes we ordered three dishes – Green Fish Curry + Apple Eggplant + Pea Eggplant,Dry Red Duck Curry + Snake Beans + Baby Corn and Pad Thai + Salted Calamari + Peanut.
The Green Fish Curry + Apple Eggplant + Pea Eggplant. The dish comes with a generous amount of fish pieces and has just the right amount of coconut to flavour the curry. I have never eaten pea or apple eggplant before – pea eggplants is a very small eggplant and as the name suggests; resembles a pea. They were cooked whole and pop in your mouth when you bite them which release a burst of bitterness that combines nicely with the rich heat of the curry. A great dish.
The duck curry was served dry and looked delicious when it was placed on the table – the vibrant colours of the red duck against the bright yellow of the sweet corn and green from the basil and bean was breathtaking. This was another dish that the table enjoyed.
The Pad Thai was another well cooked and flavoured dish – served with a wedge of lime for extra tang if needed. The serving as with all the other dishes was quite generous.

Dessert was definitely on the cards – out of the four desserts to choose from – I decided to order the Sago + Palm Sugar + Coconut and N ordered the Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue.
The Sago comes out served in a blue and white bowl – topped with star fruit and coconut flakes. I love anything with sago so thoroughly enjoyed this dessert. The coconut flakes added a crunch together with the star fruit adding citrusy and lime flavours.
I also had a chance to try out the Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue. I am usually not a fan of lemon meringues or key lime pies, but this version was absolutely delicious and had to be my favourite dessert of the night. The coconut meringue was generously placed and flamed to perfection on top of the kaffir lime infused pie and topped with crunchy coconut flakes. The kaffir lime was the star of the dish and together with the combination of the coconut meringue was divine. A definite must try dish that I know anyone would enjoy.

The service at LadyBoy Dining is great – friendly and the staff are knowledgeable and well informed about each dish. LadyBoy is mostly for walk-ins but they do take banquet bookings in the dining area for a group of eight or more. On Sundays they serve Thai style roasts from 5pm onwards. LadyBoy Dining serves up delicious tasting Thai food with a difference – added cheek and fun! Summer days will definitely see this place packed out – especially at the Buddha Bar out the back. Get down and check out LadyBoy Dining now.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://www.ladyboydining.com.au/#!dining/galleryPage
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Lively and Memorable. Such a colouful and fun-filled place to hang out and have a great night out with friends and family
Standout Dish: Salt & Pepper Silken Tofu + Chilli Jam AND Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue
Service: Fantastic  – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No, however you can book for 8 or more people.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.ladyboydining.com.au/
394 Bridge Road, Richmond
Tel No: 9421 3206

Opening Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday & Thursday: 6:00pm to Late
Friday – Sunday: 5:00pm to Late

LadyBoy Dining + Bar on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ladyboydiningInstagram: ladyboydining
Twitter: @LadyBoyDining

Mister Jennings – Come & Meet the Great New Guy in Richmond

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Mister Jennings Menu Mister Jennings Dessert Menu

Mister Jennings is a newly opened restaurant located in Bridge Road in Richmond by owner and head chef Ryan Flaherty. Flaherty has previously worked at The Fat Duck (UK) and El Bulli (Spain), returning home to build up institution The Estelle (Northcote) before leaving last November. Fast forward to 2014 and Mister Jennings is Flaherty is his first solo project and he has enlisted the help of sous chef Jack Ingram in the kitchen, Malcolm Singh (Pei Modern) as restaurant manager and sommelier Lincoln Riley to create the spectacular wine list.

Mister Jennings – named after his favourite childhood author: Paul Jennings as well as his favourite school teacher – can seat 36 guests and additionally has a private dining room that can seat 16.
The venue itself has a Swedish minimalist feel to it complete with ash blonde tables together with key blue feature items on display in the form of wooden posable artists’ drawing models that cling to various places around the restaurant in cheeky positions, navy plumbing pipes, shelving and light blue plates on top of the tables. You can tell that during the day the space will be drenched with lots of natural light and would create a light and airy feeling. Two things I love – the random addition of a blue chair amongst the ash blonde chairs and the wooden bar above the main strip of seating that creates a trapeze like effect for the wooden posable models. Another feature highlight is the spectacular artwork by Mike Pelletier which features a man that looks like he has been carved out of gold.

The bar is visual spectacle complete with hexagonal mirror panels set against a navy blue backdrop in a honeycomb pattern, finished with stunning looking stools that have an ash coloured wooden top with dark metal rods forming the base (which were designed by local designer Lauren Garner).

The menu reads like one of experience and ingenuity- dish after dish of interesting and clever combinations, surprises and innovations. Essentially split into four sections – Starters, Entrees, Mains and Desserts – Mister Jennings wants you to be able to pick and choose what type of meal you want to have – be it drinks and snacks or a hearty meal of steak and chips. There is also the option to order the 5 course tasting menu ($80) if you want the chef to pick for you.
The Starters include dishes such as Oysters (there are two varieties to choose from – Coffin Bay or Cloudy Bay), Fuet Anis (which I learnt was a type of Salami) as well as the highly popular and known dish Boudin Blanc/Dagwood Dog.
The Entrée section is where the star dish from Mister Jennings can be found – Frozen Kangaroo, Wasabi, Nashi. Other dishes include Smoked Eel Parfait, Bread & Beets, Ocean Trout, Barley & capers, Foie, Rhubarb & Caraway Streusel.
The Mains include a Pasta dish, a Pork dish, a Duck dish, two selections of Fish dishes (Whole Baby Barramundi or Whole Sand Flathead) as well as two options of Sirloin (250g or 350g).
Dessert presents five options including a Cheese option – all of which sound extremely enticing.

We had organised one of our usual work catch-up dinners and had a booking for 8pm. Unfortunately due to a crazy busy work period going on I only arrived around 9:45pm – so I missed out on the “entrees” that the table had ordered.
They had ordered the Boudin Blanc/Dagwood Dog – a battered and deep fried boudin blanc (a white sausage made of pork liver and heart meat with pork rice dressing) served with homemade tomato ketchup with smoked paprika.

The Frozen Kangaroo, Wasabi, Nashi was another dish they had ordered. This dish is all about the mastery and ingeniousness – thinly sliced peppery kangaroo carpaccio is served frozen and only defrosts in the warmth of your mouth. It is served with Nashi pear, pickled onions, red wine, veal jelly together with an avocado and wasabi puree – creating hot and cold accents around your palate. My friends were left a little underwhelmed with this dish but did enjoy certain aspects of it.

The Leeks, Brown Butter Bechamel dish was also ordered. The roasted leek is hidden amongst the béchamel sauce which has the extra added flavouring of brown butter and topped with olives, parmesan and breadcrumbs. V said she really enjoyed this dish and the flavour combinations.

The last dish they ordered was the Snapper, Warrigal Greens, Tendons – the pan-seared snapper fillet sits at the base of the dish, amongst a soup of jus and covered with warrigal greens and finished with beef tendons that are reminiscent of a prawn cracker – as it has the same crispy coating and texture.

When I arrived the waitress we had was very helpful and talked me through the menu as well as answering any questions that I had. She even gave me suggestions as to what dishes she would recommend. As I was starving I ordered both an entrée and a main – she was nice enough to get me the entrée in quick time to ensure that my main came out at the same time everyone else at the table did. Love the service!

For the Entrée I ordered the Crab, Salmorejo, Chilli, Black Pepper to start. When the dish appears you can’t help but utter “oohs” and “ahhs”. There is vibrant orange colour of the Salmorejo that your eyes are immediately drawn to with a fresh green leaf placed delicately on top. Under this leafy green is the hidden mound of crab goodness. The crab was fresh mixed with celery and a mayonnaise type sauce. The Salmorejo was a brilliant mix of pepper, tomato and creaminess and together with the crab was one delicious dish. A must try.
For my main I ordered the Cavatelli, Pumpkin, Goats Cheese on recommendation from our friendly waitress – and am I glad she did. I had asked her what Cavatelli was and she replied with the perfect description – “If gnocchi and a tortellini had a baby – cavatelli is what you would get” – and she was entirely correct. The flavours of this dish were simply divine – the creamy pumpkin sauce with a hint of spice coupled with the silky goats cheese and the crunchy texture of the pine nuts. The cavatelli was not entirely soft but added the perfect addition to the smoothness of the other ingredients. This was my first cavatelli experience and boy was it an enjoyable one!

C ordered the Pork, Lime Pickle, Silverbeet dish. When the dish arrives you are greeted with a shroud of fresh green silverbeet and the anticipation builds up of what is underneath. Once you peek under you are greeted first by the bright orange baby carrots which sit atop of the pork. The nettle puree acts as the base together with the lime pickle. C got thru his dish in a ridiculous amount of time – clearly enjoying the dish A LOT!

V ordered the Whole Baby Barramundi, Lemon Parsley and H the Whole Sand Flathead, Caper Beurre Noisette. Both dishes were simply presented – allowing the fish and their flavours to speak for themselves. The fish was placed on the plate alongside half a lemon and topped with parsley and capers respectively. They both enjoyed the freshness and simplicity of the flavours which allowed the natural fish flavours to shine.

L ordered the Duck, Satay, Turnips. Once again the element of surprise was used in the plating up of this dish – with thin slices of turnip topped with peanuts, providing cover for the duck that was shielded underneath, sitting in a satay flavoured sauce. L thought this dish was average – and found that the overall flavouring of the dish somewhat masked the flavours of the duck.

A few of us still had room for dessert. I ordered the Jaggery Cake, Apricots, Double Cream. The dish came out looking nothing like what I had imagined. My first thoughts was that it looked like something I would find at the beach – sea sponge with green dustings of seaweed. However once you start eating this dessert your mind will be blown –the jaggery cake is crunchy and fluffy billows of sponge made with prune sugar, topped with cream. But wait there’s more – semi dried apricots appear hidden underneath added additional sweetness and tang to the dish. A unique dessert that you definitely won’t find anywhere else.

C ordered the Chocolate, Cardamon, Crunch – which was described to us “Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate” – and that is exactly what it was. The dessert is presented to you and then followed by rich chocolate sauce being drizzled out of a copper pot. There are bursts of citrus through the chocolate biscuit and creamy yet light chocolate moussed with a mix of hot and cold sensations – pure awesomeness!

The staff are superb – friendly and very helpful – they make the running of a restaurant despite the crowds look easy. The menu is a mix of adventurous and simple dishes – both of which are simply done well. The look and feel of the place is cheeky whilst maintaining a welcoming and relaxed vibe. Mister Jennings is definitely a place that I would recommend to anyone looking for a great food and flavour journey – and one that I will be returning to!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience:
Standout Dish: Cavatelli, Pumpkin, Goats Cheese
Service: Fantastic! Super friendly, helpful and knowledgeable as well as being relaxed, warm and welcoming.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.misterjennings.com.au
142 Bridge Road, Richmond
Tel No: 9078 0113

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Friday & Saturday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Mister Jennings on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MisterJenningsRichmond
Twitter: @_MisterJennings
Instagram:_misterjennings

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

Third Wave – American Smoked BBQ

panda 3.5 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third Wave on Urbanspoon

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

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

Third Wave Cafe on Urbanspoon

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

The Spotted Mallard – Quirky and Chilled

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
The Food Menu   The Menu   Poutine Menu   The Smaller Dishes   The Burgers and Sandwiches   The Larger Dishes   The Sides and Salads

We needed to find a venue in the Brunswick area for a catch-up and I picked The Spotted Mallard. It was a Tuesday night – which meant it was Trivia night also at the venue. It was free to enter if we wished. The Spotted Mallard is located where the old Metropolis Eating house used to live.

The Spotted Mallard is quite different to any other venue I have been to. It was a former reception centre and ballroom which has now been turned into a 300 seater bar/restaurant/live music venue/trivia night space. As you walk up the stairs to the main area, you are greeted by the long bar and the vast expanse of space. You are immediately drawn to the colourful stain glass ceiling which allows fresh sunlight through. But then there is so much going on in the space that you want to look at everything at the same time. There are accents of the spotted mallard ( a duck) all around the venue especially at the bar where the beer labels are in the shape of the mallard. They also make an appearance on the menus. The furniture is mismatched and quite eclectic and unique in style but it really does come together really well. The vibe is funky, vintage and chilled out.

There are also themed nights such as Middle Eastern or BBQ Sundays.

The Spotted Mallard is the idea from Sam Grose, Max Meshers and Samanda Black, who met working at Greasy Joe’s in St Kilda. Together they set about reinventing this space by rebuilding the kitchen, creating the bar and stage and buying the perfectly mismatched furniture. The menu is put together by Grose (ex Mamasita) and Dan O’Donoghue (ex Chester White) – and is a classier version of pub food with Mexican influences. There is a great drinks selection as well – from spirits to craft beers on tap. All of the food is main in house and they use local and environmentally friendly produce when they can. Even the fish (barramundi at the moment) is ethically caught! Their bread is organic and is sourced from Lievito Bakery.
The menu is split into the smaller dishes, the Poutines, the bigger dishes, Burgers and Sandwiches and finishes with Sides and Salads. For the desserts – as they change daily – you need to refer to the specials board.

Most of us around the table ordered burgers and we also ordered a poutine to share. All the burgers come served with hand cut chips and slaw complete with a Dijon-Caper dressing.

We ordered the Poutine to share at our table –  Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Poutine – Topped with Porcini, Swiss Brown and Field Mushrooms, Parmesan Cheese, Gravy and Caramelised Onions. The dish was very rich and full of flavour. The potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft and cloud-like on the inside. The combination of the sauteed mushroom and caramelized onion was a perfect compliment.

The burger I ordered was the Chickpea and Sweet Potato Burger – House made Chickpea and Sweet Potato Patty with Harissa Yoghurt, Pico de Gallo, Pickled Jalapenos and Roquette. I absolutely loved the chickpea and sweet potato patty – the sweetness of the potato together with the nutty flavour of the chickpea was sensational. The addition of the harissa yoghurt was a great “sauce” for the burger. I also liked the bun that came with this burger – complete with seasame and pumpkin seeds.

Most other people around the table ordered the Wagyu Beef and Bacon Burger – 150gm Wagyu Beef Patty with Bacon, Molten Gruyere Cheese, Caramelised Onion, PIckles and Chipotle Mayo. They all enjoyed the burger and thought that the Wagyu Beef was cooked quite well.

D ordered the 12 Hour Roasted Lamb and Black Bean – Hunks of Lamb marinated for 2 days in a mix of Dried Chilies, Cumin, Cinnamon, Vinegar then Slow Roasted served with Braised Black Beans. He wasn’t too thrilled with the flavours and as a result didn’t really enjoy his dish.

Overall, I thought the food was pretty good here at The Spotted Mallard. I love places that make their food in house and the burger I had was up there with my top veggie burgers. Check it out for a casual and laid back dinner out – or even some Trivia if you head there on Tuesdays!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.spottedmallard.com/menu/ – There are Small Dishes, Poutines, Bigger Dishes, Burgers and Sandwiches, Sides and Salads
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Eclectic, Vintage and Funky
Standout Dish:
Service:
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.spottedmallard.com/contact/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.spottedmallard.com/
314 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Tel No: 9380 8818

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 4:00pm – 1:00am
Saturday: 2:00pm – 1:00am
Sunday: 2:00pm to 11:00pm

The Spotted Mallard on Urbanspoon

Hihou – Great New Addition to the Melbourne Night Scene

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My friends and I headed to dinner at Hihou on a Friday night. Hihou, which means secret treasure, is a newly opened classy Japanese bar at the top end of Spring Street, which overlooks Treasury Gardens. It is located on top of Nama Nama – which is another Japanese restaurant which is known for really great Japanese dishes and especially it’s Bento Boxes.

Hihou comes to you from the owner of Izakaya Den – Simon Denton, and replaces what used to be the old split-level restaurant – Verge. Hihou is known for its variety of drinks and cocktails, as well as for its delicious Japanese dishes – the kitchen is open till midnight! In keeping with its name – there is a “secret” entrance to get into the venue. I actually had to go into Nama Nama and ask how I get into Hihou. There is heavy black door and a buzzer that you need to ring to be let in.

Hihou has a sense of elegance from the moment you walk in. The bar is dimly lit and the centrepiece is in the form of a communal black marble table, which has overhanging wooden storage (that stores some of the many drink on offer) which doubles as a lighting fixture. There are accents of light along the tables, in the form of multi coloured candles. The view from the communal tables and the other tables is beautiful – you can look into Treasury Gardens, thru the glass walls that Hihou has. The other main feature is the bar, which is lit up in accents behind the bar and houses various bottles of liquor all displayed in timber racks which add a nice effect to the entire venue. Adding to the splashes of colour at the bar are fruits that could be used in the drinks. Aside from this main dining area, Hihou has a lounge area – where guests in true Japanese style are encouraged to take their shoes up and get comfy on the large ottomans. This place is really full of surprises.

The drinks menu is exemplary – consisting of  hot shochu (a Japanese liquor similar to vodka), sake, plum wine, seasonal fruit ‘surprise’ cocktails, Japanese beers and whiskey. The drinks come with orb shaped ice – so round and big (as you can see in the picture above – which adds an essence of difference and I think is super cool. My mock-tail I got which had mango & passion fruit was delicious and was one of the surprise flavours.

We are seated on the end of the communal table (there were 5 of us on this night) and we were given the oshibori treatment – warm hot towels – followed by water, menus and utensils. Once we had time to look at the menu we selected a few dishes to share. We ordered the ‘Cuban’ Spicy Tuna Cigar, Kingfish Ceviche, Yuzu Kosho, Seaweed Crystal and Konbu Cured Snapper Sashimi, Spring onion purée, Crispy Wantan to start. The Spicy Tuna Cigars were tasty and the casing on the outside crisp and crunchy, just the kind of texture you would want when you bite into one of these. They were made perfectly and really did resemble a cuban cigar. The Spicy Tuna filling was fresh and flavoursome – a mix of Japanese flavours such as ginger together with a punchy freshness. The Kingfish Ceviche was another very fresh looking and tasting dish, and the serving size I thought was quite generous. The Cured Snapper Sashimi with the Spring Onion Puree was an interesting combination, but I must say that it worked – yum! For our “main” dishes we ordered Buckwheat Crepes –Tofu, Pickled Mushroom andLeek – for me and the Duck Breast, Pickled Mushroom and Leek for the others. They also ordered the Hihou Dog – Seasame Brioche, Arabiki Pork Sausage,Picked Cabbage (the most anticipated dish of the night).
The buckwheat pancake dish wasn’t one of my favourites but having said that I was a fan of the buckwheat pancakes. The dish came out with each separate element that you build to make your finished dish. I like this aspect of a dish. The rest of my friends loved the duck breast pancakes and I guess the duck is the clear winner out of the tofu and the duck. The Tofu was nicely sauteed and was quite tasty, but as a whole there was something more that I needed. Everyone loved the Hihou Dog and it was nicely sized as well. The sausage they said was cooked perfectly and combined with the pickled cabbage added the extra zing.

The atmosphere is fantastic here especially on this Friday night – it is comfortable, the service is friendly and attentive but not in your face. It really is a place that once you come to you don’t want to leave. The drinks are interesting and varied which will keep things interesting. This place definitely has a Japanese vibe to it and it does feel like a bit of Japan in Melbourne.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Dinner Menu – http://hihou.com.au/pdf/evening.pdf. There is also a Special Japanese set lunch, $35 plus specials that can be found at http://hihou.com.au/pdf/lunch.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant yet relaxing and comfortable. Great for a first date night as it has a great view overlooking the Treasury Gardens.
Standout Dish: ‘Cuban’ Spicy Tuna Cigar / Hihou Dog
Service: Friendly, Polite and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://hihou.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://hihou.com.au/
First Floor
1 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 5465

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Friday: 11:30am-2:30pm
Evenings
Monday to Saturday: 5pm-1am

Hihou on Urbanspoon