Honcho Noodle – Oodles of Delicious Noodles

panda-4-5-rating

Menu:
Honcho - Drinks Menu Honcho - Dinner Menu

Ever since hearing that Adam Liston was opening a new venue in the CBD – it was quickly added to my list of places to check out once it opened. I have been to Northern Light (Liston’s previous restaurant) and loved the food there so it was a no brainer to want to check out his new venue.

Honcho Noodles is Liston’s three month long pop-up; located at Hotel Windsor (where the old Wallis + Ed is located) and is somewhat an entrée to the main event – Honcho which is set to open on Punch Lane in the Melbourne CBD in September. Honcho will have a custom-built charcoal grill which will be used to grill, spit roast and smoke yakitori skewers, poultry and vegetables. In addition to this there will be a raw bar where diners can eat sashimi and other raw dishes.

Back to Honcho Noodle – the menu has been designed to share in order to experience more of what they have to offer. There are a handful of starters such as Miso Soup, Prawn Crackers, Yakitori, Dumplings and Spring Rolls to name a few. This is followed by a selection of six Noodle dishes – and by selection I mean a wide variety of different noodles such as Korean Noodles, Squid Ink Noodles, Udon and Soba Noodles. For dessert there either Mango or Black Sesame Ice Cream.

The venue is minimal with a combination of splashes of neon and manga. The vibe is chilled out and funky with a buzz to it. The night I go the drinks menu is splashed against the back wall; almost enticing you into trying it all. I love that on the table you have access to your very own condiments – Katsubishi­-Infused Soy, House-­Made Togarashi and Chinese-­style Chilli paste – mmm!
The food menu has so many flavour combinations; leaving you wanting to try it all. It’s just the two of us tonight and we have a tight timeline as we have a show to see at 7:30pm (Singin’ in the Rain – such an awesome musical – I would highly recommend seeing it if you get the chance) – so we decide to get a few dishes and share.

We start off ordering drinks – we both get the Honcho Black Tea with Cranberry – however A decides to get it “Spiked” – which means you can either add Gin, Shochu or Whiskey. They have quite a variety of drinks which include the Japanese classics like Sake, Shochu etc. There are also Japanese themed Cocktails available.

I decide I want to try the Prawn Cracker, Chopped Prawn, Bottarga, Seaweed Mayonnaise and A orders the Chicken, Shrimp & Ginger Dumplings, Chinese Black Vinegar to start. It was only after ordering the dumplings (on recommendation from our waiter) that I asked if the any of the meats were Halal. I was super excited when we were told that the chicken is in fact Halal; which meant I could try the dumplings too! Win!

I used to eat prawn crackers all the time when I was younger – but never thought about putting more prawn flavour on top of the cracker – it was simply just ho’ing them down back then. They have the Pringles effect on me – once you crack (pop) you can’t stop! Back to Liston’s version of the Prawn Cracker with more prawn on top and finished with seaweed mayonnaise – ingenious! The flavour combination did take me a second to process; but once I did I loved it – the creaminess together with the tang of the seaweed worked perfectly completed by the crunch and sweetness of the prawn cracker / prawn. Definitely still holds the Pringle effect – delish!

Next up was the dumplings – no words can express how good these were! The chicken, shrimp and ginger combination was simply divine; mixed together with the tang of the Chinese black vinegar was the perfect combination. Anyone having a dumpling craving these will definitely satisfy you and leave you wanting more.

For our noodles dishes we ordered the Spanner Crab Udon, Smoked Crab Butter, Yuzu, Kizami Nori together with the Hot Soba Noodles, Kyoto Green Onion Oil, Radish, Black Vinegar, Shitake.

You can barely see the Udon when the dish comes out as it is covered with the Kizami Nori – and you might not think much of it – but wait until you dish it up and take the first bite. It is heaven in a spoonful. The smokiness of the crab butter together with the udon is magic. A definite must try!

The Hot Soba Noodles dish looks very impressive – the Shitake gleams up at you sitting high amongst the Soba Noodles, Radish, Kyoto Green Onion with an underlay of Black Vinegar. The vinegar shines through this dish and combined with all the ingredients makes for a spectacular dish. If you aren’t fan of too much of a tart taste you might not fully enjoy it – but I would give it a try!

We ran out of time to get dessert; however going from the scrumptious dishes we had I will definitely be back. After all those Chicken Ribs sounds mighty tempting; and after raving about this place to the hubby I need to bring him here!

NOTE: Honcho Noodle will run from June until September, and open for dinner from Monday through to Saturday only.

Honcho is expected to open for lunch and dinner Monday through to Saturday; around September in 18 Punch Lane, Melbourne. If you visit the Honcho website there is a countdown letting you know how many more days are left until Honcho opens up

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vibrant, Relaxed – a great place for good conversation and a catchup with friends
Standout Dish: Chicken, Shrimp & Ginger Dumplings, Chinese Black Vinegar AND Spanner Crab Udon, Smoked Crab Butter, Yuzu, Kizami Nori together with the Hot Soba Noodles, Kyoto Green Onion Oil, Radish, Black Vinegar, Shitake
Service: Friendly and Helpful; sometimes it can be hard to find people if you have a query but generally it was good!
Online Booking: Yes via http://honchomelbourne.com/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://honchomelbourne.com/
1 Bourke St (Hotel Windsor, where Wallis + Ed are)

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 5:00pm to Late

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Honcho-Noodle-1607362102914517/

Instagram: @honchomelbourne

Lucy Liu – Red, Asian and Delicious

panda 4 rating

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The long awaited replacement for PM24 – Lucy Liu has arrived, and arrived with a vengeance. The entrance is located down the cobble stoned Oliver Lane – just follow the red neon lights that illuminate the short corridor (or tunnel – whichever you prefer to call it) where you are greeted with a large sign where its name appears – LUCY LIU.

From the moment you step inside you feel like you have been transported to another world – it almost feel like a movie set – complete with bamboo scaffolding, blonde timber, splashes of red (to keep the theme running from the entrance) and a buzz that further adds to the exciting and lively vibe. As you enter, to the right side are some tables if you wanted to just come in for a drink and to the left are tables located for dining and trying some of their delicious food dishes.

Lucy Liu is the brainchild of Michael Lambie (The Smith, Taxi, Circa), Scott Borg and Zac Cribbes. The fit out is done by March Studio (Gazi, Baker D Chirico, Young Bloods Diner and more ) and the result is spectacular. I love the aforementioned bamboo scaffolding which reminds you of building sites in Hong Kong and China mixed together with polished concrete floors and brickwork accents throughout the venue. There is a mix of communal tables, booth seating, low tables, high tables as well as seating at the bar. Tables are either wooden or Laminex topped paired with comfortable seats, with larger tables having a Lazy Susan for ease. There is also a private dining room available for larger parties.

The menu explores Lambie’s distinct fusing of Asian and western flavours to create a spectacular. Lucy Liu isn’t all about the one Asian cuisine, but a little bit of all of them – be it Chinese, Japanese, Thai.
The menu is split into six different sections – Small Bites & Tastes, Dumplings & Buns, Plates, Larger, Sides and Sweets. There is a lot of variety and you left confused with what to choose – there is a Let Lucy Choose option – where you let Lucy pick the dishes that come to your table. There is either a 5 Plate ($55 per person) or 7 Plate ($65 per person) option to choose from.

Small Bites & Tastes include Freshly Shucked Oysters with Red Nam Jim or Ponzu Dipping Suace, Tempura Soft-Shelled Crab, Korean Fried Chicken, Thai Fish Cakes and Organic Tofu just to name a few – there are 11 dishes to select from ranging from $4 to $22.

The Dumplings & Buns section has 4 different dumplings and 4 different “buns” to choose from. Interestingly vegetarian dumplings don’t make it to the list – Crystal Skin Prawn & Bamboo, Steamed Pork & Chestnut, Peking Duck and Barramundi & Scampi are on offer. BBQ Lap Chong ‘Hot Dog’, Crispy Pork Bun and Steamed Sticky Beef Bun are on offer together with a Soft Shelled Crab ‘Jianbing’ Pancake Roll.

Plates and Larger are your more substantially sized dishes and cover a good cross section of your Seafood and Meat dishes, however not very Vegetarian options are available. The Vegetarian options are more evident in the Sides section with Stir Fried Asian Greens, Lucy Liu Spiced Green Apple Coleslaw and Green Bean & Mizuna Salad are available.

Sweets showcase six different desserts, some having the Asian flair running through them. Chocolate lovers aren’t left out either with their delectable Chocolate Dulce de Leche.

I have been to Lucy Liu a few times now (yep it really is that great!) and mostly seem to stick to the dishes that I really love but have ventured into new territory and tried out other dishes as well. The first few times we were seated amongst where most of the tables are located with a view of the kitchen / bar, and the last time I went we sat at the bar and had a great view of the chef’s preparation of the dishes.

The table setting is quite unique with holographic placemats – each showcasing a different picture such as Koalas, Trees, Ducks – that you turnover to reveal the menu. Swanky!
You can’t help but order at least a dish from each of the sections – usually starting with the Small Bites & Tastes. My absolute favourite dish from this section is the Soft Shelled Crab Jianbing Pancake Roll with Spicy Hoi Sin Sauce. The pancake on the outsides is soft, thin and perfectly cooked and contrasts well with the crunch of the soft shell crab on the inside. The spicy hoi sin sauce really brings all the components of the dish together and the result will have your tastebuds dancing and craving more. The first time we ordered this dish, we were tempted to order another serving – a must try dish!

Another dish from the first section was the Crispy Fried Quail with Shichimi Pepper and Spicy Plum Dressing. The girls did enjoy this dish – the spices on the crispy coating on the outside paired well with the sweetness of the plum sauce, with the quail cooked well.

N also ordered the Korean Fried Chicken Ribs with Kewpie Mayo – a simple dish with a kick of spice and hint of garlic. Seeing how quickly the dish was demolished – another great tasting dish.

We all ordered a serving of the Fresh Betel Leaves with Kingfish and Chilli Peanut Sambal – which isto be eaten with the Betel Leaf. The Kingfish was fresh and succulent and the pairing of the Chilli Peanut Sambal worked well together – adding some spice and crunch.

A definite hit with everyone was the Crispy Pork Bun with Spicy Kimchi and Kewpie Mayo. There were many MMMs and YUMMMs mentioned throughout the consumption of this dish. Slightly larger than bite sized – the bun is soft and cloudlike paired together with the spicy kimchi, creamy kewpie mayo, pork and finished with coriander.

One of my favourite dishes is the Barramundi and Scampi Dumplings with Chilli, Ginger and Spring Onions. This was recommended to us the first time from our friendly waiter and boy am I glad he did. The combination when I first read it on the menu sounded intriguing as it is something you don’t usually see. The dish comes out with the dumplings hidden by the chilli, ginger, spring onions and coriander – the soft casing of the dumpling gives way to the exhilarating combination of barramundi and scampi on the inside, the topping of chilli and ginger are the perfect flavouring accompaniment. The sweet and sour hit paired with the freshness of the seafood is divine! Another must try dish!
The Yellow Fin Tuna Tataki, Wasabi Ginger Dressing and Sesame Crackers is an impressive looking dish – from the vibrant pink of the Yellow Fin Tuna to the snow white sesame crackers finishing with the orange tones of the salad. The textured coating of the tuna was delicious with the tuna itself being seared to perfection. The sesame crackers were reminiscent of the prawn crackers you would usually see at a Chinese restaurant and were an interesting addition. The Wasabi Ginger dressing provided some heat and spice which worked well with the sweetness of the carrot.

From the Plates section we ordered the Green Papaya Salad with Beans, Tomato, Peanuts, Hot Chilli. This was quite a colourful and vibrant dish – with the fresh green beans and red cherry tomatoes finished with crunchy peanuts. This dish had quite a lot of spice to it which I loved! Nothing works better than the addition of spice to balance out the tanginess of the papaya.

We also ordered the Tempura Organic Tofu and Seasonal Vegetables with Tomato Chilli Dipping Sauce dish from the Plates section. This was one dish that I didn’t enjoy quite so much. The flavouring of the Tempura itself was quite bland and lacked flavour. The Tomato Chilli Dipping sauce was definitely a needed component for this dish.

The Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Green Chilli Dhal and Cucumber Relish is yet another stand out dish. The Lamb Shoulder had been impeccably cooked – soft, tender and fell off the bone. The Green Chilli Dhal was absolutely divine – milky, wholesome with the right amount of spice to it. Together as a whole paired with the cucumber and yoghurt relish it was a truly great dish. One of those dishes that remind you of a typical lamb roast your mum used to make.

The Roast Barramundi Fillet with Black Bean & Chilli Sambal & Nouc Cham Dipping Sauce is a dish that you will find under the Larger menu. The Barramundi is served atop of the Black Bean & Chilli Samabl, with the Nuoc Cham Dipping sauce served separately in a cup. I am not a huge fan of Black Beans and try to avoid them whenever I can, however this Black Bean was simply delicious. The texture and flavouring worked extremely well with the perfectly roasted Barramundi Fillet – you almost didn’t even need the addition of the Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce. If you love your fish dishes – you should definitely try this dish out.

Despite being quite full, we had to try the desserts and since there was four of us – we decided to order three different desserts and share amongst ourselves.

The Ginger Crème Brulee – Palm Sugar Caramel and Sesame Tuile. The crème brulee was creamy, smooth and silky with the perfect level of crunchiness from the top coating of sugar caramel. The ginger flavouring was slight and not overpowering which is what you want in a dish like this. The sesame tuile was interesting in flavour and I am undecided about the pairing of this with the ginger crème brulee.

The Chocolate Dulce De Leche with Blood Orange Foam – the mousse was quite rich and heavy in flavour, however was light and fluffy in texture. The addition of the foam had a sherbet style tanginess to it which made your tastebuds pop and fizz. You couldn’t eat this foam on its own and the addition of the mousse worked well together – after all chocolate and orange really do seem to mesh.

The Lucy’s Knickerbocker Glory with Lychee Sorbet and Red Fruit Compote would have to be my favourite dessert out of the lot. The knickerbocker is a cross between a sundae and a trifle all rolled into one. There are layers of sweet tart fruit, topped with whipped cream, chocolate buttons, jelly squares and chunky bits of honeycomb. This really is a fun dessert to have as there are many textures and flavours to taste and enjoy. The surprise of every mouthful being different also adds to the deliciousness.

Lucy Liu is a great addition to Melbourne’s laneways bringing a vibrant, casual and funky eating and drink bar that serves up delicious tasting Asian cuisine coupled with brilliantly made drinks. The staff are fantastic – always helpful and offer great opinions on what dishes to order and the amount required for your party size. Another major advantage is that Lucy Liu takes bookings, but also reserves a part of the restaurant for walk-ins. I would highly recommend that you check this awesome place out!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above or visit
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Chick, Unique, Vibrant and Funky. A great place for catch up drinks, celebration dinner or even date night – such a versatile venue!
Standout Dish: Barramundi and Scampi Dumplings with Chilli, Ginger and Spring Onions / Soft Shelled Crab Jianbing Pancake Roll with Spicy Hoi Sin Sauce
Service: Friendly and very helpful. If you can’t decide what to order the staff will go out of their way to let you know their favourite dishes and what dishes work well together.
Online Booking: No – only via phone
Restaurant Details and Location:
lucylius.com.au
23 Oliver Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 5777

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

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LucyLiuMelbourne
Twitter: @LucyLiu_Melb
Instagram: lucyliu_melbourne

Kong BBQ – Worth All The Hype!

panda 4 rating

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There was so much hype surrounding the opening of Kong in Richmond, especially after the trial run of some of the food you could eat at the Rue & Co branch. The branding is all about the Pandas – and as per my blog name – anything to do with Pandas and I am in! A bunch of us (there were 6 of us) decided to try it out on a Tuesday night and aimed to get there around 6pm. I had heard about the long queues – with the wait time being over an hour! Kong doesn’t take bookings, however if you arrive at the restaurant you can put your name down for a table and they will contact you when a table comes up.

Kong is the latest addition to The Lucas Group. Chris Lucas has brought us the likes of Chin Chin (Melbourne CBD) and Baby (Richmond – and just up the road from where Kong is located). Kong is located on the site of what was once Pearl, and Eades & Bergman have been brought in to help with this transformation. Kong seats 60 people – with a mixture of single low tables, long communal tables and seating all around the bar / kitchen, as well as in the corridor as you walk into the restaurant. These seats give you a vantage point to see your dishes being prepared. The tables are blonde wood, the look industrial mixed together with an anime vibe thanks to the array of pandas around the venue. There are the signature neon signs (these can be found in all their other venues) as well as a film being projected. During the day you can imagine fresh sunlight streaming in from its floor to ceiling windows which surround the restaurant this corner site restaurant.

The Executive Chef here is Benjamin Cooper together with Dan Briggs and all the chefs here at Kong wear red baseball caps which have three letter slogans on them – either KIM, CHI or BBQ – a nice touch that further adds character to Kong.
The idea behind Kong is to combine barbeque pit cooking techniques with Japanese and Korean flavours. The focus is on seafood and meat being cooked on either an open-flamed charcoal grill or in a smoke oven. If you get seating around the kitchen you can experience the smoke rising from the pit ovens which is a visual spectacle that will have your taste buds dancing being tantalized in anticipation of the meats/seafood to come. It is also good to note that Kong uses only chemical free charcoal and sustainable Australian Hard-Wood.

The menu is split into 8 different sections – Small, Ssam Roti-Roll, Buns, Wings, Natural Fire, Ribs, Rice & Green and Desserts. Small dishes include Wood Grilled Scallops, Trio of Kimchi & Pickles, Beef Tartare and Nasu Miso just to name a few. The Ssam Roti-Roll have fillings such as Teriyaki Roast Ora King Salmon, BBQ Chicken, Grilled Miso Marinated Tofu and Pulled Pork. Smoked Brisket, Spicy Pork Belly, Soft Shell Crab and Peanut Butter Salt & Pepper Tofu are the options you have to choose from in the Bun Section. There are four variations of Wings that you can order from – Honey, Garlic & Sesame Korean Wings, Hot Wings with Gochujang and Chipotle, Soy Wings or Peanut Butter Wings.
Natural Fire are from the BBQ Pit and cover most seafood and meat options. There is also a Kong Bossam BBQ Tray – Chicken, Pork, Pork Belly and Beef Brisket served with Lettuce, Pickles, Kimchi and Walnut Ssamjang – at a bargain price of $28 a tray. Rice & Greens include two different types of Fried Rice, Dukkbokki Rice Cakes, Spicy Cabbage Slaw, Wood Roasted Pumpkin etc. Desserts have a smaller selection – only 4 to choose from but they all sound quite delicious so the number doesn’t really matter.

I arrived before the other girls around 6:15pm and as there were going to be six of us (as everyone had to be there before we could have a table), I put my name down on the list and the wait even at that time was going to be around 45mins. Since I had been fasting all day I wanted to order something small whilst I was waiting for the others to arrive. I was seated along the wall on the high benches and decided on the BBQ Corn with Chilli Salt and Miso Butter. It wans’t just because I was really hungry but this corn was deliciously amazing! The corn had been bbq’d perfectly and emit just the right amount of smoky flavours. The corn itself was juicy and “crunchy” and the combination of the miso butter and chilli salt was the icing on the corn so to speak – it added an additional salty and spicy hit to combine with the sweetness of the corn.

Whilst waiting for the girls to arrive and for our table to be ready we were able to order drinks – I ordered the Lychee & Grapefruit Crush with Coconut Water. This drink came out in a glass jar topped with ice and pieces of fresh grapefruit and was not only thirst quenching but refreshing as well. I had to stop myself from drinking it all in one sip!

Once we were seated we had the mammoth task of deciding what dishes we wanted to order. We had a mix of vegetarians and a pescatarian (me!), as well as people that could eat everything. We picked dishes that we would work to cater to everyones needs and asked our friendly waiter if the amount of food we ordered was enough. He was happy to assist and told us that if we wanted anymore dishes we could just order as we went.

We started off with the Wood Grilled Edamame with Chilli and Sea Salt. The Edamame was fresh and had somewhat of a smoky flavour coming from the wood grill with a hint of spice. A tasty dish.

Next up we ordered the famous Ssam Roti Rolls – we got a serving each to suit the three categories of requirements – Ssam Roti Roll – BBQ Chicken with Lemon, Gochujang and KimChi, Ssam Roti Roll – Grilled Miso Marinated Tofu with Pickled Cabbage and Kewpie Mayo and Ssam Roti Roll – Teriyaki Roast Ora King Salmon, Wok Fried Broccoli and Tomato.
I tasted the Ssam Roti Roll with the Roast Ora King Salmon which was superb! The roti on the outside was divine – thin, crispy and buttery – the perfect casing. The filling was rich and full of flavours with the broccoli, tomato and the spicy, creamy sauce working seamlessly with the perfectly cooked salmon. I would definitely recommend this dish. I did also sample the Ssam Roti Toll with Tofu which was another flavoursome dish, but my pick would definitely be for the King Salmon.

Some of the other girls ordered the Wings – Korean Fried Wings with Honey, Garlic and Sesame, however upon eating this they found the chicken overly sweet and couldn’t eat the dish. They knew the dish would have a sweet tone to it – after all it did contain honey; however they weren’t expecting the sweetness to be so overpowering. They mentioned this to our waiter who was happy to replace the wings with another serving in a different flavour. They then ordered the Wings – Hot Wings with Gochujang and Chipotle. They really enjoyed this dish which had a real kick of spice and a peppery taste.

I also ordered a serving of the Soft Shell Crab with Salted Duck Egg Relish and Coriander. The bao bun was soft and as you bit into it felt like you were eating clouds. This combined with the crunch of the crab paired with the amazing creamy duck egg relish was a match made in heaven! The coriander added freshness to the whole dish. You could just keep eating these buns and not get sick of them.

A few of the girls ordered the Wood Grilled Scallops with Tobanjan and Mirin Pickled Radish – which comes served in a shell and topped with micro herbs and radish. They loved the flavours and really enjoyed the scallops – which were cooked to the right consistency.

We ordered the Dukkbokki Rice Cakes with Red Chilli, Gochujang and Roasted Parsnip which was quite the colourful dish when it came out. Amid a dark blue backdrop of the dish – the rice cakes were a vibrant burnt orange colour peppered with greens and reds. I have never seen rice cakes in this form before and was intrigued to see how it tasted. The cakes were rectangular in shape and were soft to eat – with the dish having a sweet and sour flavour to it. I loved the addition of the veggies and the chilli which worked well with the texture and flavouring of the dish as a whole.

We couldn’t leave Kong without trying something from the Natural Fire section and ordered the Wood Roasted Salmon with Crispy Skin, Seaweed Salad and KimChi. The dish was beautifully presented with the Crispy Skin standing tall next to the Roasted Salmon. Instead of the seaweed salad we had a broccoli salad mix – which I found to be quite fresh and tasty. The wood roasted Salmon was another good dish – the smoky flavours immersed with the natural flavours of the salmon.

We were all keen to try the Kimchi at Kong – after all Kimchi is a signature Korean dish! And the fact that Kong has signs relating to this dish – “It’s not ordinary cabbage, it’s fermented cabbage” almost egged us on to try the dish out. The Kimchi was spicy, tangy and flavoursome and went above and beyond all of our expectations. Yum!

The last dish that we ordered was the Fried Rice with Spicy Enoki Mushroom and Soy Charred Tofu. I was surprised to see pumpkin seeds on top when it came out. The dish was fresh, spicy and delicious. I loved the combination of tofu and mushrooms in the rice.

The dessert offerings when compared with the rest of the menu are minimal but the quality and taste that they come in make up for this fact. We ordered the Coconut Sago with Passionfruit and Pineapple Trifle and the Apple and Walnut Tart with Miso Butterscotch and Japanese Whisky Ice Cream. Both dishes are impeccably presented with flavours to match.

The Trifle comes served in a clear glass – showcasing the many layers of the trifle. The trick with these desserts is to get a taste of each layer in one mouthful. The finely cut pieces of pineapple makes up the base layer, with the passionfruit compote with passionfruit seeds being the next layer, and finished with the coconut sago. This dessert was a light and refreshing dessert packed with fruity flavours and textures. A definite fave of mine.

The girls enjoyed the apple and walnut tart – which came out presented with a large ball of Japanese Whisky Ice Cream on placed on top amidst the array of walnuts. They said there was only a slight taste to the whisky ice cream but was delicious nonetheless. The pastry that encased the tender apples was buttery and soft, with the added crunch of the walnut crumble. There was a sweet caramel taste mixed with the creaminess of the ice cream.

What needs to be mentioned is the staffing – they are friendly and helpful and despite the lines going out the door they do not come across as flustered at all. They keep an calm demeanour and go above and beyond expectations to make you feel at home even if you are waiting upwards of an hour. Another reason why this place is doing so well.

Kong is brilliant addition to the wonderful world of dining that exists in Melbourne – with offerings of an interesting menu complete with fresh flavours, smoky excitement and spiciness. Meat lovers will adore this place (especially the BBQ Tray) but really anyone will love it. What’s not to love about a friendly and warm welcome, together with cute pandas, a great fit-out and an enthusiastic vibe?

NOTE: Kong now offers Takeaway – which can be ordered online for pickup.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to Picture above. You can find the Takeaway menu at http://www.kongbbq.com.au/takeaway which will give you an idea of what the main menu has to offer.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vibrant and Fun-Filled. Great for a catchup with friends and family.
Standout Dish: Bun – Soft Shell Crab with Salted Duck Egg Relish and Coriander, Ssam Roti Roll – Teriyaki Roast Ora King Salmon, Wok Fried Broccoli and Tomato
Service: Fantastic – really friendly and helpful! They really do well for a place that is packed to brim majority of the time.
Online Booking: No – Kong is a walk-in only restaurant.
Restaurant Details and Location:
kongbbq.com.au
599 Church St, Richmond
Tel No: 9427 1307

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – Late

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kongbbq
Twitter: @kongbbq
Instagram: kongbbq

Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

Rue & Co. – Great Addition to Melbourne

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:

St Ali Breakkie Menu St Ali Burger and Dessert Menu Kong Menu

It was after the footy game (Go the Hawks!!) and N and I were feeling a tad bit peckish – so we decided to check out the newly opened Rue & Co. Located off the main hustle and bustle of Collins Street, near Exhibition street is Melbourne’s version of street style food. It is an outdoor pop-up venue – around for 6 months – and has the following venues – Church of Secular Coffee (St Ali), Jimmy Grants and Kong BBQ – a joint venture between Salvatore Malatesta, George Calombaris and Chris Lucas.

Salvatore Malatesta’s

Salvatore Malatesta’s
George Calombaris,

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

The “fit-out” is very Melbourne – there is astro turf laid on the grounds, and the venues are located in a row under neath the massive wall artwork. On the opposite side to where the food is – is a stylish yet simple seating area decked out with minimal black stools, seats and tables. There is a combination of low seated stools as well as higher bar chairs. There are two areas – one area being covered complete with heating to keep customers warm (especially in the unpredictable Melbourne weather) – as well an open air area under trees with fairy lights.

We decided to try out Kong BBQ (opened by Chris Lucas – who brought us Chin Chin) as I had heard a lot about this place and wanted to see what we could expect once it opens its more permanent doors in Richmond.

I love the use of the Japanese characters to spell out BBQ in the name as well as the addition of the PANDA and the tag line HAPPY LIFE. As you all probably know I LOVE PANDAS! (haha hence the blog – Grazing Panda) – so I cannot wait to visit their permanent venue and see the use of the pandas. =)

The menu here at Rue & Co. is split up into 6 sections – Soup, Wings (6 pieces), Steam Buns (2 pieces), Kong Bo Ssam, Ssam Roti Roll and Salads. There are vegetarian and pescatarian options available under most of these headings.

I ordered the Peanut Butter Crusted Tofu, Pickled Cucumber and Spring Onion Kon Bo Ssam which comes served with Kimchi, Ssam Jang and Butter Lettuce. N ordered the Roast Gochujang and Chipotle Hot Wings.

The food comes out served in cardboard boxes with KONG BBQ stamped on the front of it. I loved my dish – I didn’t really get the Peanut Butter flavour on the tofu – but I like the crust and crispness that was present on the tofu. The kimchi was spicy and fresh – just how you want it to be. The whole combination of wrapping each element in the butter lettuce was tasty and the textures worked well together. I really liked the Ssam Jang – spicy and smooth!

N enjoyed his chicken wings – there were 4 pieces in his little boxed package – with the flavour combination working well together. Each of the dishes also come with a “Cools and Dries” towelette so you can feel free to get your fingers dirty.

I also decided to try out some dessert from St Ali – so got myself the remaining flavours of profiteroles for the day – Choc Hazelnut and a Vanilla Raspberry. Both of them were scrumptious! The Choc Hazelnut had a whole hazelnut in the middle combined with gooey rich chocolate. The Vanilla Raspoberry was my favourite out of the two however, with the creamy vanilla and sweet (but not too sweet) raspberry jam. The pastry itself was textured and crunchy to combine the smooth goodness inside. Pity they were so small!

The St Ali menu consists of a Breakfast menu which is served until 11:30m from 7am daily. Breakfast includes a Toast Bar from which you can choose from a number (five to be precise) of toppings, as well Crispy Potato Hash with the addition of either salmon, pork or mushroom and feta. There are also two bigger dishes – The Daddy – Breakfast bun with sausages and bacon and Mexican Cousin – Corn Fritters.

After 11:30am there is a Burger menu which is served until Late. There are four burgers to choose from – A Shrimp Burger (Seoul Searching), A Wagyu Burger (Royale with Cheese), Pork Burger (Pork Me) and a Vegetarian Burger (Cheech and Chong) all for $12.

And of course – the usual St Ali coffee is available, as well as the St Ali bottled Ice Coffee.

Jimmy Grants pop-up presents the “best of the menu” that could be found at its main venue in Fitzory – such as the delicious Souvas, slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks and dips. There is a vegetarian option – Homer – Falafels, Greek Yoghurt and Slaw.

Next is Jimmy Grants, the all-conquering Fitzroy-based souvlaki joint. The Rue & Co pop-up version presents a ‘best of’ menu, including slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks & dips, and of course JIMMY GRANTS’ AMAZING SOUVAS! Before you ask, YES CAPITALS ARE REQUIRED – THEY’RE THAT GOOD! Our pick of the two is the Mr Papadopoulos souva with its mix of lamb, mustard aioli, chips and onion, however the Homer (falafels, Greek yogurt and slaw) is also flippin’ delicious. Your Jimmy Grants experience at Rue & Co also won’t be complete without a steamed Jimmy Dimmy or two, along with some Hellenic Slaw, dips and pita bread. – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

Rue & Co. gives an almost picnic like vibe and is a great addition to the streets of Melbourne and is great if you want to grab a quick sneaky bite before heading off to a movie, footy game or even as a pre-dinner snack!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Picnic-like, Funky and Chilled out. Great for a morning coffee or after work drinks even! Versatile!
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/RueandCo
80 Collins St, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am to Late

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

St Ali on Urbanspoon

Barry – Fantastic Variety of Breakkie Dishes

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:

Barry Menu

Barry Menu

Barry Lunch Menu

Barry Lunch Menu

There is a wealth of experience behind the creators and owners of Barry in Northcote. Matt, Kael Sahely and Loren McBride are the geniuses behind Pillar of Salt and the Richmond café Touchwood. I must say that Barry has become one of my favourite café’s for brunch!

On this Saturday – as expected – Barry was bustling with activity and every table was full. We didn’t have to wait too long for a table for three though which was great. The venue is casual, light and airy – and you just feel like you want to be part of the action the moment you step inside. The interior fitout is done by Techne Architects – there are wall to wall custom shelving and crates that function as drawers located under the main coffee counter – which is great for storage! The wooden shelving along the wall have colourful potted plants amongst them for bits of colour amongst the wood and white washed brick walls.

There is a mix of high communal tables, low wooden tables for sets of 2, 3 and 4s as well as outside seating. I really loved the style of the communal table and kind of want one in my own place! =p I also loved the abstract lighting above the communal table – a bow and arrow shape if you will with filament lights on the end of each point.

The menu is designed by Stephen Svensen and serves Breakfast all day (WIN!). Breakfast dishes consist of your basics as well as the basics with a difference such as the scrambled red chilli eggs with bacon, spring onions, parmesan and toast (this comes from the sister café Pillar of Salt), as well as the Benedict poached eggs with potato rosti, slow braised ham hock, apple cider hollandaise and granny’s apples. See different! There is also a very interesting dish – inspired by Matt and Kael’s dad – which is Crunchy peanut butter, heirloom tomatoes, salt and pepper peanuts on toast – the menu says to trust them so it must really work. I am not a huge fan of peanuts so I didn’t venture into this dish – but would love to know people’s thoughts on it. The lunch menu which can be had from 11:30am onwards consists of a daily tart, a superfood salad and even a Korean sub and a beef wagyu burger just to name a few.

While trying to decide from the extensive menu of what we wanted to eat – we ordered some coffees. Coffee here at Barry is from 5 Senses and made on a schmick Synesso machine. There are akso Single Origin, Aeropress and Pour Overs available as well. My latte was great – it had a creamy, nutty almost smoky hit all in one with an end note of caramel.

I decided I needed something sweet instead of savoury so ordered the Brioche, Pistachio, Mascarpone, Rose Scented Raspberries, Halva dish. The dish came with two massive pieces of brioche – sitting on top of a rose scented raspberry coulis and topped with the halva and pistachios. The combination was quite good – although I wasn’t a huge fan of the halva – so I avoided eating that. I can see how the flavours of all the components could work well together though. The sweetness of the mascarpone and raspberry together with the softness of the brioche and the crunch of the pistachios was tasty. It is rather a filling dish – and I struggled to finish my dish.

N ordered the Cripsy Korean Chicken Sub, House made Wombok and Coriander Kimchi, Nori Mayo. The way this dish was plated up was impressive – it came out on a board with the Chicken Sub taking up half of the board and the house made wombok and coriander kimchi in a separate round side bowl, as well as the nori mayo in another separate bowl. N loved this dish! He is a massive fan of subs and this one did not disappoint – the chicken was crispy on the outside whilst being juicy and flavoursome on the inside. The kim chi had some of his favourite ingredients – coriander and wombok and had a great heat to it as well. Overall a huge and great tasting dish.

T ordered the Californian Superfood Salad – Tri Coloured Quinoa, Shredded Kale, Wild Organic Rice, Charred Corn, Salted Ricotta, Black Turtle Beans, Heirloom Tomatoes, Jalapeno, Gojis, Spicy Lime Vinaigrette. Just look at the number of elements in this dish! It sure is a superfood dish – and it was quite a generous serving as well! I did get to try some of this dish and if you had to describe this dish in just a few words it would be – packs a punch! All the elements worked really well together and you really didn’t feel as if you were eating a really healthy dish – it was fresh and tasty! And that charred corned was perfect!

You can tell by the crowds that seem constant that Barry is a sure winner, and after just one visit you can definitely tell why. The menu will suit just about everyone – there are gluten free options available and they do try and cater to any other requirements. The atmosphere is casual, loud (from all the chatter of the happy customers) and welcoming. I love the lightness to the place. Even if it not near you – make the effort to get down here!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://barrycoffeeandfood.com/ or refer to menu above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Light filled, Casual and a Great place to relax at
Standout Dish: Californian Superfood Salad
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://barrycoffeeandfood.com/
85 High Street, Northcote
Tel No: 9481 7623

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7.30am – 3.30pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 4pm

Barry on Urbanspoon

Collective Espresso – Breakkie with a Difference

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Menu at Collective Espresso Specials at Collective Espresso

P and I decided to catch up at a place that was central to both of us and that happened to be Collective Espresso located in Camberwell – right opposite the train station. Collective Espresso was opened by a group of friends with business partners Mark Jacobson, Graham Babbs and Duncan McCrane.

Where Collective Espresso resides now used to be a boutique store and the group has done the fitout themselves and the results are impeccable. The space is light, airy, open, inviting and welcoming – the centre piece is the large high wooden communal table which takes up most of the venue space together with quirky art work adding vibrancy and colour. . There are bars seats along the window and near the kitchen. The look is simple yet charming and comfortable.

Collective Espresso is named as such as it was the “collective” experience and knowledge they gained from working at Las Chickas and Galleon café that allowed them to create this café. The menu consists of Breakfast, Lunch as well Rolls and Subs and there are daily specials available as well. The breakfast menu has some really interesting combinations such as grilled zucchini and squash omelette; sesame fried eggs as well as the usuals such as Bircher Muesli and Baked beans and sausages. Their cold drinks menu is varied and interesting – they have slushies as well as white chocolate Tim Tam shakes.

Collective Espresso offers a house espresso blend and a changing daily single-origin coffee. The coffee is from Five Senses and the latte that I ordered was really quite delicious. The flavour was rich and had noes of caramel and paired with the perfectly frothed milk. They really do some of the best coffee.

We were seated at the end of the communal high table – I really do like the high tables at cafes – especially when the space is smaller. It gives a great sense of space and allows you to peer behind the counter if you wish. There was a bit of a mishap with our coffee orders – even though the coffee orders were taken before we ordered food – we only received the coffees after our food.

I ordered the Beetroot and Basil Cured Kingfish, Potato Rosti, Kim Chi and Sesame Fried Eggs. This dish came out on a wooden board, with the components of the dish being centred on the board. I quite liked the fact that normal plates weren’t used – it tied into the surroundings of the place as well as being different. The dish looked like a piece of artwork – with each component displayed artfully. The Sesame Fried Eggs were delicious and the sesame coating on the outside was an interesting addition. The egg was really a poached egg which had been fried and coated in sesame – the poaching was done perfectly and had the gooey yolk. The Beetroot Cured Kingfish was another difference that I haven’t had before and together with the other components really did work well together. The potato rosti was crispy and crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. The kim chi added an extra tang and spice for flavour and brought the whole dish together.

P ordered the Collective Sigh of Relief – Poached eggs, Spinach and Kale, Thyme and Garlic Mushrooms, Spiced Beans and Toast minus the Kaiser Fleisch. Her dish came out on a board as well with each ingredient placed in an expressive manner. One thing missing though was the spiced beans from the dish. There was many different parts to this dish and as a result it was quite a large size dish. P did enjoy her food and especially liked the mushrooms.

Collective Espresso serves delicious and simple food with a twist and has great coffee in a convenient and easy to access location especially for people going to the train station. It is welcoming and cosy and you can really spend half your day soaking up the atmosphere.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Welcoming and Light/Airy – great for a weekend catchup!
Standout Dish:
Service: Overall service was friendly – just a few stuff ups with the coffee coming with our food and missing some ingredients as part of the dish.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
3 Cookson St, Camberwell
Tel No: 9882 8995

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am to 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am to 4:00pm

Collective Espresso on Urbanspoon