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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brunetti on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

Tomboy – Vintage Chic

panda 4 rating

Tomboy is the creation from co-owners Pia Hambour (ex Movida) and Georgina March (Box Brownies) whose initial dream was to create a shopfront to showcase the wholesale baking business Box Brownies – a business all about gluten-free and dairy free sweet treats! Currently these goodies are provided daily to cafes such as Seven Seeds, De Clieu and Brother Baba Budan.

Located in Smith Street, Collingwood, Tomboy has a rustic charm to it with a variety of pieces around the venue sourced from the Adelaide Hills (near where the girls grew up). There are many stylish one-of-a-kind pieces here at Tomboy – you will definitely find something that peaks your interest from any seat you sit at.

As you step inside you will see a vintage milk bar sign that hangs over the front counter which came from an old Collingwood business as well as an old school white scale. The counter itself is quite unique – there are 1970s speakers built into the counter and surrounded by brick. These speakers belong to March’s stepfather. The communal table located at the back of the venue against the brick wall is my favourite – it is reminiscent of a workman’s bench complete with dents, scratches and metal vise’s. The surrounding tables remind me of garden bench tables coupled with seating to match. There are little touches that bring the whole recycled, vintage, relaxed feel together such as jars filled with flowers, a ladder that houses magazines and newspapers, mint green light shades hanging from thick shades and wooden boxes that house vintage books. Most fittings and décor items come from ops shops, antique stores and friends. There is a small courtyard located at the back for those wonderful summer or spring days.
Both the owners are supportive of local artists and have one wall of the café dedicated to rotating exhibitions – the right wall has been plastered and painted white. The current feature comes from local street artist Drab and features a tattooed gangster “baby” with a mopey face and moustache, wearing a beanie – it is quite a feature and adds a great point of difference. I really love the décor and styling of Tomboy! This painting on the wall seems to tie into the front page of the menu and their takeaway coffee cups – which have portraits of the staff & friends illustrated. You then join in the fun of trying to find a portrait that resembles yourself- well at least I did anywhere.

The menu (which tends to have a vegetarian flair) changes seasonally but generally always has the main staples such as fruit toast, multigrain toast, a sweet dish (either brioche French toast or waffles), breakfast bun, Poached eggs with sides, bagels, selection of sandwiches and a Tomboy Tart of the Day served with a Salad, along with additionally dishes that vary with each season. These dishes could include Spicy Red Wine beans with Goats Fetta and a Poached Egg on Toast ( you could add a pork and fennel sausage if you wish), Roasted Swiss Mushroom with Meredith Goats Fetta, Sautéed Kale, Hazelnuts and a Poached Egg or Lentil and Wild Rice Salad with Pistachios, Almonds, Roast Capsicum, Currants and A Lemon Harissa Dressing (you can add Poached Chicken). You can either find the menu located on a giant reel of brown butcher’s paper attached to the wall, as well as a more detailed menu that will be given to you at your table.
The idea is to use vegetables that have been grown from the duos own vegetable patch as well as sourcing local suppliers. The meat dishes will be of the sustainable type which fits in with the healthy living ethos the duo follow.

I order a latte to start whilst deciding on what I want to eat. Coffee is from Seven Seeds pumped out through a Synesso Hydra espresso machine, with a single origin also being. My latte is strong yet smooth with both nutty and fruity hints and was brewed to perfection. A really great tasting coffee.

I was tossing up (once again) between a sweet or savoury dish – Elvis Waffles (Buttermilk Banana Waffles, Whipped Peanut Butter Mascarpone, Maple Syrup and a Peanut Brittle) and Crispy Potato Hash with Parsnip Puree, Grilled Asparagus, Kale Chips and a Poached Egg. In the end the savoury side won.

The dish was well presented with the Parsnip Puree spread as the base of the dish with the grilled Asparagus artfully placed on top with the Crispy Potato Hash in a rectangular shape placed to its side. The Poached Egg sat on top of the Potato Hash with the Kale Chips placed around all the components described. The egg was poached perfectly and the gooey golden yolk drizzled over the crunchy potato hash. The grilled asparagus was perfectly seasoned and flavoured with the creaminess of the parsnip puree adding the perfect complement. The Kale chips added some extra saltiness to the dish and were sublime. All the components on the dish worked well together and overall it was a truly superb dish that I would recommend anyone to try.

Looking for something sweet to eat then look no further than the front counter where the delectable delights from Box Brownie can be found – cakes, brownies and other bakes goods. All treats are gluten-free however you cannot tell by tasting them.

If you needed another reason to come and try out Tomboy – then you should check out the quarterly publication the duo have put together – The Tomboy Paper – which keeps diners up to date on all things to do with Tomboy, Box Brownie and Collingwood. They have enlisted the help of creative directors Emily Gillis and Camille Moir-Smith from Yolk Studio.

Tomboy exudes bucket loads of character and charm. The food displays uniqueness with its combinations of ingredients, the coffee is exceptionally brewed and the staff are friendly. Make Tomboy next on your list to visit.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above as well as at their website http://www.tomboymelbourne.com.au/#!food_menu/cl69
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Lively and Chilled Out
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.tomboymelbourne.com.au
356 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9486 0162

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Tomboy on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tomboymelb?ref=ts&fref=ts
Instagram: tomboymelbourne
Twitter: @tomboymelbourne

Nora – Home of the Charcoal Tarts!

panda 4 rating

Nora is a newly opened Thai inspired bakery and café, located on Elgin Street in Carlton. Owned by couple Jean Thamthanakorn and Sari (Tong) Rojanametin who are each individually responsible for various elements here at Nora – Jean for her spectacular charcoal tarts and Sari for his magnificent homemade sourdough.

Tong is a former artist and photographer and has previously worked in the coffee industry for a few years with stints at St Ali, Seven Seeds and Traveller. Most recently he has pursued cooking and worked at The Commoner, Longrain and Mr Nice Guy. Jean is a tax accountant as well as a self-taught baker and has honed in on a skill of baking over the last few years by baking for family and friends. It was Jean’s love of baking and her inventiveness that brought above the creation of charcoal tarts.

These charcoal tarts are seriously better than cronuts and will certainly take not only Melbourne but the rest of Australia by storm – they are amazingly divine! The tarts have a distinctive black pastry shell which is achieved by the addition of small amounts of food-grade activated charcoal which is made from coconut husks. Food-grade activated charcoal is safe to ingest and has reported healthy benefits such as being a detoxifier.
The tarts are filled with a variety of flavour combinations that have taken inspiration from the couples South East Asian background. Flavours include Lemongrass & Ginger Brûlée, Coconut Pandan, Strawberries with Tamarind Cream Cheese and Kaffir-Lime Custard with Sour Cherries. Get in quick each day as Jean only makes a limited number (around 100 a day).

The menu at Nora is simple; but reads and shows the depth of experience and advanced techniques of an experienced chef. There are six dishes to choose from – Our Water + Salt, Egg, Salmon, Bacon, Rice and Nora Flakes. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic mostly one worded headings, as when you read the elements that go into making that entire dish you will be impressed. For example the Salmon has been lightly smoked and jasmine cured, and is served with coconut, nashi and nasturtium. The Our Water and Salt comes served on a cute wooden tray with house made sourdough, semi churned butter, chicken-liver parfait together with ricotta and jam. The Nora Flakes consist of puffed polenta, wild rice, quinoa and crystallised nuts – and if you have seen any pictures they have a great marketing tool which is a mini-box with NORA MORN FLAKES plastered on the front.
They also serve a great selection of teas with Small Batch coffee being pumped out of their La Marzocco machines.

The interior of Nora is light filled, airy and very modern. As you step inside you are greeted by an illuminated sign with the letters NORA lit up. The next thing that catches your eye is the shiny new La Marzocco coffee machine, together with coffee smells in the air. A point of difference at Nora is the white table topped wooden table that have ingredients displayed out in an artistic manner which entices you to go over. Over to one side is a bunch of lemongrass paired with lemons and ginger. Just above this is a whole coconut, paired together with charcoal and the coconut husk base. There are also other ingredients paired together such as eggs, chocolate and sesame. Their décor is simple and minimalistic yet captures ones attention.
Tables are wooden and low paired with stylish round stools – and can seat from two to four people – there is limited seating available outside. From most tables you can take a sneak peak into the preparation of your meals as it overlooks the main counter.

I ordered a latte to start which was full bodied, aromatic and delicious – with notes of citrus and nuttiness. The perfect pick me up and start to what would be a great meal!

I was tossing up between the SALMON and the EGG and decided to go with EGG dish. This dish comes with Egg cooked in Nora’s special way, House Chilli Dressing, Garlic, Salted Shrimps and Thai Greens. I was very interested in seeing what Eggs done Nora’s way would be like. The dish came out with the Asian Greens dominating the round, deep plate, with the Egg hidden underneath. The House Chilli Dressing, Salted Shrimps were placed sporadically around the Egg and Asian Greens. The Asian Greens were refreshing and a very distinct Thai flavour to them – I loved the variety of greens that were use, they all worked seamlessly together. The Egg itself was reminiscent of tofu – smooth and silky and easy to eat – paired with the house chilli dressing – which had the perfect level of spice – together with the saltiness of the shrimps – was really delicious. It is the type of dish that makes you keep going back for more.
A definite highlight of the dish was the freshly made sourdough bread that came served in its own cup off to the side. The bread was heavenly – soft and fluffy on the inside, crunchy and texture on the outside with just the right amount of saltiness. It was that that great that I later asked how they made this bread – if only I was that skilful!

 

You cannot leave Nora without trying their signature charcoal tarts. I was worried as I knew that only a certain number was made; and I had arrived about an hour and a half before closing time. However I was in luck, they still two flavours left and I opted for the Kaffir-Lime and Sour Cherry Charcoal tart.
When it comes out to you it is covered with the silver dish that it would have been baked in to create the element of suspense and surprise. The unveiling of the charcoal tart builds up anticipation and delight. Once uncovered, the brilliant blackness of the tart is revealed along with bits of crumble and pistachio that surrounds the main black beauty. Once you delve into the tart you are greeted with the distinct Thai flavours (Kaffir Lime in this case) paired perfectly with a western element (Sour Cherries). The tart filling is gooey, smooth and velvety all at the same time. What makes these tarts especially amazing is the charcoal casing itself – it is flaky, crisp and soft – it literally melts in your mouth and you really could find yourself eating tart after tart after tart. The perfect addition of pistachios and crumble added texture and depth to the tarts. I cannot wait to come back and sample all the other flavour varieties.

Nora is a great new addition to the Carlton area – especially bringing Thai inspired breakfasts into the mix. Their signature charcoal tarts are (in my opinion) better than cronuts and would recommend anyone and everyone to try them – after all the charcoal used does have some health benefits! Get down to Nora now!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Laid back and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Any of the charcoal tarts
Service: Very Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
noramelbourne.com
156 Elgin Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9041 8644

Opening Hours:
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday: CLOSED
Tuesday: 7:00am – 3:30pm
Friday to Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Nora on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noramelburn?fref=ts
Instagram: nora_melbourne
Twitter: @Nora_Melbourne

Pana Chocolate – Raw, Healthy, Handmade & Guilt-free!

panda 5 rating

Pana Chocolate was founded by Pana Barbounis – who is passionate about raw and slow-cooked food – and following on from the success of his 45 gram raw, vegan chocolate bars has opened his first standalone raw-dessert shop.

Pana Chocolate is a wonderful addition to the Church Street, Richmond area and serves up healthy handmade raw, delicious tasting and looking desserts, as well interestingly flavoured chocolate bars. Pana Chocolate uses natural, vegan and organic ingredients like cacao, nuts, coconut and 100% pure essential oils to create wonderful and unique flavour combinations – which include Fig + Wild Orange, Sour Cherry + Vanilla, Rose and Mint just to name a few.

Prepare to be overwhelmed with the number of selections here which leaves you wanting to try out one of each. As mentioned before no desserts are made or sweetened with sugar but are all natural and made from plant-based, organic ingredients sourced from all around the world. Cacao beans come from the Amazon, Coconut Oil has been cold pressed in the Philippines,  Dark Agave Nectar comes from Mexico, Cinnamon is organic and certified from Sri Lanka (where I am from!!), Cacao Butter is organic, cold pressed and fair trade from Peru and organic carob comes from Spain.

The space is simple and clean – with most of its offerings for takeaway patrons – however if you did want to eat in there is a row of seats available by the window looking out onto Church street. I love the décor of Pana Chocolate – there is an entire wall that is covered with clipboards that have cute, inspirational quotes and sayings on them. This adds color, brightness and wow factor in such an easy and simple manner. Such an awesome idea – Love it!

There are 10 different types of chocolate bars to choose from– Eighty (80 % Cacao), Raw Cacao, Orange, Coconut + Goji, Fig + Wild Orange, Rose, Sour Cherry +Vanilla, Cinnamon, Nuts and Mint. All chocolates are low in GI, have no dairy or soy, are Gluten Free and are handmade. In fact they are all handmade in a small scale kitchen located at the back of the shop. A major difference with these chocolates is that you can envision and see the love and care that has been placed into each bar of chocolate or dessert for that matter – down to the packaging and wrapping of each individual piece – it has been done by hand and provides a human connection.

I have tried the Sour Cherry + Vanilla, as well as the Fig + Wild Orange flavours. Between those two the Sour Cherry + Vanilla would have to be my favourite – the chocolate is smooth, silky and not overly rich and literally melts in your mouth – with the sour cherry adding a great tangy sensation that glides over your tastebuds. The Fig + Wild Orange was also great – the combination works brilliantly together and if you are into the citrus flavours this would be one for you to try.

The piece of resistance at Pana Chocolate is the cabinet of goodies. The first row is full of their raw cheesecake / desserts of the day which are in a slice format, that can range from Raspberry Ripe (their version of a Cherry Ripe), Chocolate Strawberry & Rose, Spiced Apple, Blueberry & Ganache, Banana & Chocolate – these range from $6.50 to $8.50.
Their second row has smaller bite sized treats such as Lamingtons, Lemon Slice (this is new!), Pana Pop (more on this later), Brownie, Vespa Wheel (their version of a Wagon Wheel – complete with a buckwheat wafer biscuit and a soft coconut marshmallow centre encased in a gooey raspberry chia jam and dipped in cacao) and Fudge just to name a few – these range from $3.50 to $5.50.
The third row is full of individual raw chocolates like hazelnut mousse, coconut barrels and truffles – in flavours such as Coconut & Mint Cream, Rose & Pistachio, Hazelnut Praline, Sneakers (yep spelt like this), Lavender & Macqui, Mango & Salted Caramel and Coconut Barrel – there are more flavours in store!
At the very bottom of the cabinet are their chocolate bars in all the 10 flavours mentioned above for sale ($6.50).
There are also other healthy goodies for sale – from coconut water, coconut + cacao balls to their very own hot chocolate sealed with the pana heart of approval.

After marvelling at the cabinet of goodies and spending a good 5 minutes oohing and aahing I decided to ask the friendly staff member of what she thought would be good try out and settled on the Pana Pop as well as the Fresh Mint & Raspberry slice.

The Pana Pop – was a white chocolate cheesecake with a berry centre coated in delicious cacao – represented a mini Magnum. From the very first bite you could tell this would be a memorable treat – the soft textured coating coupled with the creamy white chocolate cheesecake and zing from the berries worked perfectly together. You could almost eat the entire Pana Pop in one mouthful – but I would advise against this and instead treasure every mouthful; or you could just order another Pana Pop!

The Fresh Mint & Raspberry slice was another winner. There were three distinct layers – the bottom layer being a combination of cashew and brazil nuts, the centre layer being the mint and the top layer representing raspberry. The consistency of all layers was dense yet smooth – with the perfect level of sweetness across all three layers. I couldn’t really taste the mint flavour that strongly – although the strip of green at the very top held quite the minty flavour. I love the use of the fresh raspberries through the raspberry layer which not only added texture but extra flavour. The base was wholesome and added further texture and flavour bringing the whole slice together.

I enjoyed my time thoroughly at Pana Chocolate – I actually perched myself in a corner seat by the window and enjoyed these treats whilst working away on my laptop. On my way out I ordered a lamington to take away (as I had been told by a friend that these were simply superb!) which was packed away in a takeaway bag and sealed with a massive heart sticker – the Pana symbol – which I thought was really cute.

Whether you are into healthy eating, have certain dietary requirements or not – Pana Chocolate is definitely a place to check out. It produces great tasting chocolate that have been lovingly prepared using quality ingredients for anyone and everyone to enjoy.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – The dessert menu changes daily but no doubt whatever dessert treat you get it will be delicious!
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Simple, Cosy and Enticing
Standout Dish: Pana Pop
Service: Very very friendly and helpful (especially when you are overwhelmed with choice and don’t know what you want)
Restaurant Details and Location:
panachocolate.com
491 Church St, Richmond

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 4:00pm

Pana Chocolate on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/panachocolate
Twitter: @pana_chocolate
Instgram:pana_chocolate

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

Touchwood – Great Place for Good Food and Relaxation

panda 3.5 rating



Touchwood is collaborative effort from the partners – Matt Vero and Steve Rowley  – behind Coin Laundry (Armadale), Station Street Trading Co (Port Melbourne), Tall Timber (Prahran), Pillar of Salt (Richmond) and Barry (Northcote).  They have enlisted Tristan White (ex-Ladro and Red Door) to look after the food side of things. Touchwood serves coffee from 5 Senses and is served from the custom made Synesso Hydra coffee machine.

Touchwood is located at Bridge road in Richmond (quite close to its sister café Pillar of Salt). It is located in an old recycled timber furniture store and takes on a MASSIVE SPACE – it can seat 120 people. There are large glass windows at the front which let lots of light and air into the venue, this entrance opens out into the main dining area. As you keep walking through the brick archway there is a back room with more seating and then finally outside at the back, there is a bright, sunny and open courtyard which seats 40.

The whole look and feel of the place – which kind of pays tribute to its former life – is wooden yet clean, casual and warm. There are concrete floors with white washed brick walls, planter boxes and hanging plants and finished with wooden tables and chairs. There are short tables as well as higher tables – take your pick of where you want to sit. The feature is of course a crate styled counter-top which houses the coffee machine as well as the sweet bites and takeaway savoury bites.

The menu consists of the breakfast favourites with the addition of components to creatively change the dish. There is a morning grain salad, as well as a tequila and citrus cured salmon dish, as well as the breakkie board which is featured from Tall Timber. If you are really hungry there is always the Touchwood Massive – which features just about everything including a lamb chop! A highlight on the menu is the much talked about peanut butter and jelly wholemeal waffles complete with peanut butter ricotta and brittle.
The lunch menu is just as enticing with things like Brioche Wagyu burgers, pulled pork tacos and toasted Po’ boys as well as a Mexican inspired salad. There are also two fresh juice combos to choose from – one with kale, celery, cucumber, apple, lime and parsley and the other with watermelon and mint.

I order a latte while I wait for L to arrive. The latte was smooth and creamy and a great start to this rainy day. There are many coffee options available such as cold drip and pour over. I wasn’t quite sure what to order to eat – I was tossing up between the Avocado toast, the omelette with shaved asparagus and goats cheese or the morning grain salad. I ended up getting the Avocado toast – with Beetroot Relish, Burnt Lime, Pickled Red Onion, Coriander, Mixed Seeds, Sumac Salt and I added a poached egg.

The dish came out and was quite colourful thanks to the black background of the plate, together with the bright pink/purples of the onion and beetroot, the green colouring from the avocado and coriander and the yellow from the burnt lime. I really enjoyed the addition of the beetroot relish together with the coriander as additional components to a normal avocado dish – I thought that they worked really well together. Even though I am not a fan of pickled onions, I did try some with all the other elements and it went quite well with the dish, you almost don’t realise that it was once an onion. The dish overall was a really well thought out dish and was quite filling as well.

The atmosphere at Touchwood is quite relaxed and chilled, and you can see yourself losing track of time. There is warm and inviting feel to the place thanks to the openness and the lighting. Add to this great coffee and some really delicious food combinations and you really do have a winner. Have to come back and try the peanut butter waffles!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – View the menu at http://touchwoodcafe.com/Touchwood_Menu_06.pdf – Breakfast, Lunch and Drinks
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Elegant and Chic. Has a relaxed feel thanks to vast openess, lighting and feel of the venue. The courtyard out the back is perfect on a sunny day!
Standout Dish: Avacado Toast with Beetroot Relish, Burnt Lime, Pickled Onions, Mixed Seeds, Sumac Salt with a Poached Egg (extra)
Service: Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://touchwoodcafe.com/
480 Bridge Road, Richmond
Tel No: 9429 9347

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saurdayt to Sunday: 7:30 am – 4:30 pm

Touchwood on Urbanspoon

Elceed – Vintage Brunch

panda 4 rating

Elceed is located in Queensberry St in North Melbourne and is a cosy cafe that is buzzing with activity. There is warmth as well as colour at Elceed, which has mismatched tables in various colours and yellow 1970s chairs. There is also an outside courtyard area with ladders and is a sort of urban chic.

G and I had to wait about 5 minutes to be seated as this quite a popular venue for Sunday breakkie/brunch. The small wait was forgotten once we were seated and served our warm beverages – we both had Chai Lattes. The menu is a mix of cuisines in each dish but this variety I think is great. It shows a place willing to try out different combinations and experiment. There is a Paprika spiced Chicken Burger, Brioche French Toast, Pie of the day or Smokin’ Eggs from their Menu and a board full of specials. It was on this specials board that I found my dish – Indian Spice Pumpkin Scone with Poached Eggs, Pesto, Tomato Salsa & Feta. G went for the Corn Fritters with Sour Cream, Salsa, Rocket & Pesto.

My dish was delicious! The only time I have had a scone is with cream and jam, so to have it as a savoury dish with pumpkin and spices was original and super tasty. Together with the eggs, pesto, tomato salsa & fetta – there was the right amount of flavours and moistness. The scone as expected was like how a sweet scone would be – dry and crumbly – just perfect. G enjoyed her corn fritters – although there was a bit too much tangy rocket.

I would definitely head back to Elceed to try out their other dishes on their menu and to see what specials they have on offer. At the counter there are tasty sweet treats that look enticing. It would be wonderful to sit out in the courtyard in the sunshine – perhaps next time!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast / Lunch Menu and there is also a specials menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant and Happening together with being relaxed and laid-back
Standout Dish: Indian Spice Pumpkin Scone with Poached Eggs, Pesto, Tomato Salsa & Fetta
Service: Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
610 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Tel No: 9326 8648

Opening Hours:
Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday – Friday: 7:30 am to 3:30 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am to 3:30 pm
Sunday: 9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Elceed on Urbanspoon