Switchboard Cafe – The Cutest Retro Cafe Ever!

panda 4 rating

Switchboard Cafe

Switchboard Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

I was meeting C for a catch-up the other day and was looking for a coffee place located somewhere near City Square in the Melbourne CBD. C suggested Switchboard Café which I hadn’t heard of before and boy am I glad she introduced me to this quaint and cute little place.

Switchboard Café is located in a somewhat drafty arcade laneway on the ground floor of the Manchester Unity Building – located on the corner of Collins and Swanston street. It literally is what you would call a hole in the wall type of café – fitted out in a Retro style feel complete with green and white floral wallpaper and brass framed glass windows. There is the world’s smallest “living area” glass box where patrons can sit inside and avoid the cool drafts that flow through – that can seat about 7 to 8 people max (Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of this). Literally across from this hole is another hole in the wall – which used to be the building’s old switchboard cupboard (hence the name) where the coffees are made.

I ordered a latte to have in and took my seat in the tiniest living area while waiting for C. It almost felt like being down the rabbit hole on the set of an Alice in Wonderland movie! The latte was absolutely perfect – full bodied with a great nutty after taste. I would definitely recommend this place for a good hit of caffeine when you feel the need – or for anytime for that matter.

I didn’t get to try out their breakfast or lunch range – but C did tell me that it was really great tasting food. Think warm soup, toasties, baguettes (Smoked Salmon) and bagels – you can choose from melted Haloumi, Tomato and Avocado just to name a few. For breakfast there is also Bircher Muesli or Fruit Toast available.

Definitely go and check out Switchboard Café – especially if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy day at work! Next on the list for me is to come and try out their food!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A choice of soups, toasties, baguettes and bagels
Atmosphere / Ambience: Retro, Unique and Fun!
Service: Friendly!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
Ground Floor
Manchester Unity Building
220 Collins Street, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am – 3:00pm

Switchboard Cafe on Urbanspoon
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Switchboard-Cafe/158990604124405?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter: @switchboardcafe
Instagram: switchboardcafe

Delhi Streets – Indian Street Food Galore!

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Menu at Delhi Streets Menu at Delhi Streets         halal symbol

The newly opened Flinders Lane food precinct – The Archway (located on Katherine Place) – is all the buzz right now. Already home to 5 & Dime Bagels, T by Luxbite and Altius Coffee Brewers, there are three more new food venues that have recently opened – Hunters Roots (which provides a clean-eating experience, serving cold-pressed juice, smoothies, and healthy breakfast and lunch options), Delhi Streets and Mr Huang Jin.

On this Friday lunchtime – a few friends and I decide to try out Delhi Streets. I had heard the night before at a blogger’s dinner that this Indian food was “next-level” so of course I had to check it out!

Delhi Streets is owned by Charan Singh who says that this isn’t your typical Indian restaurant; instead there is a main focus on Indian street food which most Melbournians are yet to experience.
Delhi Streets makes use of its small space really well – peppered with colourful street art posters featuring Bollywood Films and film stars. It seats 28 people at its wooden tables and has a modern street vibe to it – completed with a view into the kitchen where you can watch chefs preparing your food as well as table numbers that sit into Indian refreshment bottles such as Thums Up (Indian version of Coca Cola) and Limca (Indian version of Lemonade and Lime). I love that the chairs have different Indian brands printed on the seats – further adding to the nice personalised touch to the décor.

The menu consists of five sections – beginning with dishes titled Street Chaat which include dishes such as Bhel Puri (Puffed Rice Indian Salad), Aloo Tikki and Samosa Chaat. Next on the menu are a great selection of Wraps and Burgers – including a Paneer Pizza Naan and Aloo Tikki Wrap. I am not sure where the burgers are on this menu – maybe they are the to be items in a future upcoming menu? Classics are followed next on the menu which include dishes such as Chicken or Vegetarian Biriyani, Thalis (which are plates that can house a ix of curries (can either be vegetarian or meat filled depending on what you want – together with rice, raita, pappadum and salads) and Uttapum (Savoury crispy pancake filled with veggies). The menu ends with a choice of four Sweets – Chocolate Naan, Gulab Jamun (Small syrupy donuts), Carrot Halwa (Carrot Pudding garnished with Almonds and Pistachios) and Pistachio Kulfi (Ice Cream).

It was extremely busy on this Friday Lunchtime – and I needed a table for 3 – and was told it would be around a 10 minute wait. I spent this time to try and figure out what I wanted to order – which was really quite difficult as I wanted to try everything!
It was less than 10 minutes and we were shown our table – where we had a clear view into the kitchen. It was refreshing to see the chefs smiling and enjoying preparing food for the patrons.

I had heard great things about the Pani Puri – Hands on Street food! – Crispy Lentil Cracker Balls stuffed with Potatoes, Chickpeas, Onions, Tamarind Chutney and Spiced Water – so had to order the dish to start. The Pani Puri comes served with five pieces on a silver round tray together with a bottle housing the spiced water – a great presentation. The way you are meant to eat this dish is to pour the spiced water in through the hole in the top of the Pani Puri and then eat it all in one go – almost like a shot – but with food! The flavours are delicious and it provides an explosion of flavours in your mouth. The spice of the vegetables together with the sweetness of the tamarind chutney is complemented by the spiced water.

For my main meal I ordered the Chicken Frankie Wrap – Fusion Burrito – Tender Juicy Chicken Tikka wrapped in Indian Bread along with Salad and Mint Chutney. The serving size of these burritos is quite large and I could only finish one half of the wrap (and took the other half away!). I loved the Naan – it was fresh, hot and crispy around the edges – just the way I like my Naan. The Chicken was spicy, full of flavour, tender and worked well with the Mint Chutney.

T ordered the Dahi Vada – Skinny Girl Choice – Feather light Lentil Dumplings served with Yoghurt and Sweet & Tangy Tamarind and Mint Chutneys. Despite looking like a small dish it was quite filling. The Dumplings were semi cold and had a soft cake like consistency which worked well with the smoothness of the yoghurt. I love the combination of the sour tamarind and the distinct flavouring of mint.

L ordered the Tandoori Chicken Pizza Naan – Chicken Pizza – Open face Wrap with a secret Masala Sauce and Chicken Tikka, Baby Spinach, Cheese, Capsicum and Onions. L isn’t a fan of coriander so opted to have none on his pizza. The Pizza Naan is such a simple yet unique idea and L enjoyed his meal.

If you are a follower of this blog you will know that I always check out the dessert menu first and I couldn’t look past the Chocolate Naan – Chocolate Delight –Indian Naan Bread stuffed with Chocolate M&Ms. We decided to share this dish as we were all so full from our savoury dishes. It was simply delicious – crispy on the outside, soft, gooey and scrumptious on the inside with a touch of crunch from the M&Ms. It is one of these dishes that you have to try to believe how good it is.

The service is very friendly and even though they are still finding their feet in some aspects such as some orders being misplaced and forgetting to bring us the drinks we ordered – you will soon forget these minor issues once the food arrives.

Delhi Streets is definitely a place that I would recommend to all my friends and a place that I would go back to – especially to eat the Pani Puri’s again. The prices are very reasonably especially for the serving sizes of the dishes. Delhi Streets is a great way to experience and enjoy real Indian street food – “Chai pani” or “Let’s go out to eat”!!

Also something to note is that the do catering as well and can cater for functions – just get in contact with via their website or phone number.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the menu pictures above or visit their website delhistreets.com.au
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Lively and Happening
Standout Dish: Pani Puri’s!!!
Service: Super friendly and welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
delhistreets.com.au
The Archway
22 Katherine Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9629 2620

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Friday: 11.30am – 2:30pm
Saturday: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner
Monday to Friday: 5:30pm to 9:30pm

Delhi Streets on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DelhiStreetsAU?ref=hl
Instagram: DelhiStreets
Twitter: @DelhiStreets

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

Pastuso – Peruvian Brilliance

panda 4.5 rating
pastuso

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Menu:
El Ceviche Menu La Comida De Le Calle Menu Para Acompanar Menu Los Fuegos Del Peru Menu Paste Para Todos Menu Uni Piquieto, No Mas Menu

N and I were in the city on a Saturday night and needed a place for dinner. Looking at my list of places to eat – I found Pastuso which was a newly opened restaurant in the city and we decided to try our luck and see if we could get a table as we hadn’t booked. It was quite early (around 6:30pm) for dinner so we did manage to get a table – and were seated at the marble bench which surrounded the main kitchen.

Pastuso is Melbourne’s newest Peruvian grill, cevicheria and pisco bar that comes from the team that opened Argentinian grill – San Telmo – Dave Parker, Michael Parker, Jason and Renee Mc Connell. They are joined at Pastuso by native Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia (from Sydney’s renowned Morena) and manager Ben Wood.

Pastuso is located in the ever cool ACDC Lane and fits in perfectly to this part of town. The space is quite large (I never realised just how big the space was!) and has been fitted out by architects SMLWRLD in collaboration with its owners. The use of space is impressive – there are three bars each servicing different parts of the menu and representing three regions of Peru: the Coast, the Andes and the Amazon Jungle.

As you enter you are greeted by the main bar (Amazon Jungle) – sleek and copper topped – which serves a list of Peruvian and Chilean piscos (white-grape brandy Peruvians drink), as well a huge variety of other drinks – cocktails, spirits, beer and wine. Just behind the main bar is the marble topped ceviche bar (the Coast) – where patrons can sit around and watch as chefs marinate and prepare your ceviche right in front of you. To the right of both these bars is the main kitchen bar (the Andes) – which also has marble seating around so that you can sit and enjoy the spectacular action that is the flaming and smoking of the meat and vegetables cooking on the grills and the coal-fired slow cookers – cilindro.

Surrounding the three main bar areas are seating on low tables – a mix of marble (near the main kitchen area) and wooden tables (near the ceviche bar) that can seat two, four or more people. There is also a raised area that has huge padded booths.
Another definite highlight is the colourful wall of Peruvian chicha (street art) posters that have been shipped directly from Peru. Next to this wall is an impressive glass box which displays various cuts of meat hanging.

The menu by Saravia boasts a huge variety and takes on the more modern approach rather than traditional. The menu is in the format of a book and starts off with the Un Piquieto, No Mas menu – which means “A Bite to Eat” – and would usually be enjoyed around a table together with friends and family with a good Peruvian Pisco. Dishes include El Choro Chalaco (Mussels), Pezcaditos Y Toastadas (Char Grilled Silver Fish with Corn Bread & Lemon and Rocoto Vinaigrette).

The menu then moves onto the El Ceviche Bar menu – which consists of many varieties of fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices – there are seven different choices to choose from.

Next on the menu is the La Comida de la Calle – which represents Peruvian street food that you would expect to find on a typical street corner in Lima. Dishes here include Anticuchos (Beef Heart and Swordwish Skewers), Papitas Rellena de Carretilla (Croquettes), Yucas (Cassava Chips) and Nuestra Causa de Pollo (Peruvian Yellow Potato with Chicken, Avocado, Cherry Tomatoes and Aji Mirasol).

Para Acompanar is next on the menu list – which are the dishes to accompany your main dishes and are designed to share – in other words sides. You can select from 5 different options including Ensalada de Quinoa (Quinoa cooked in Almond Milk with Pine Mushrooms, Cauliflower, Zucchini and Dutch Carrots), Solterito (Andean Cheese, Broad Beans, Soybean, Peruvian Olives, Heirloom Tomatoes, Watercress and Oregano).

Dishes cooked in either the Peruvian Smoking Chamber, Charcoal Grill or Spit lead up the next part of the menu in a section called Los Fuegos Del Peru – meaning to cook with fire. The first two dishes are cooked in the Cilindro Perliano (Peruvian Smoking Chamber) – you have an option of Pierna de Cordero (Slow Cooked Lamb Leg) or Paletilla de Cerdo (Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder) – both served with Peruvian Rice. There are three dishes to select from that come from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill) – Pezcado Amazonico (Barramundi in Banana Leaf), Ojo de Bife (Dry Aged Pasture Fed Rib Eye) and Costillas Tiernas de Alpaca (Alpaca Short Ribs). The last dish on this menu comes from the La Braza (Spit) – Pollo a la Braza (Roasted Peruvian Chicken).

A menu isn’t complete with a dessert menu and Pastuso’s certainly doesn’t disappoint – called Postre Para Todos – it showcases traditional Peruvian Desserts such as Un Clasico de Mazamorra y Arroz Con Leche (A combination of two traditional classics – Peruvian Style Rice Pudding, Purple Corn Gel, Poached Pineapple and Apples), Picarones (Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Doughnuts). You can also order a Dessert Tasting Plate which allows you to share a selection of desserts.

As you can see there was a lot of food to choose from and when reading the description of each dish you really do want to try them all – you almost forget that you can come back another time and try the dishes that you didn’t get to the first time around.
I ordered a mocktail which looked amazingly colourful and too good to drink – chunks of fresh strawberries muddled together with mint leaves, lime and citrus to give a refreshingly delicious taste that kept you wanting more. I had to stop myself from drinking it all in the one go.

We started off with the Cancha Serrana Y Los Chifles – Traditional Peruvian Roasted Andean Corn and Plantation Chips – which was the perfect way to start our Peruvian journey. The roasted corn kernels were crunchy with a hint of spice that made your tastebuds pop. The Plantation chips were out of this world – simple, textured and crunchy – the flavour was absolutely divine! A must try snack dish – it would work well as a bar snack.

For the next round we ordered the La Papa A La Huancaina A Mi Manera – Potato Gnocchi with a Traditional Huancaina Sauce, Botija Olives and Egg White. Huancaína sauce is normally served over boiled potatoes, and then topped with hard boiled eggs and olives – here at Pastuso instead they use potato gnocchi as an alternative – brilliant! The sauce is full of flavour together with a kick of spice thanks to the use of aji Amarillo peppers. If you are lucky enough to sit around the kitchen you can watch as the chefs make this sauce from scratch. The gnocchi was melt in your mouth and coupled with the creamy and spicy at-the-same-time huancaina sauce and slight tang of the botija olives made for one heavenly dish.

From the same La Comida de la Calle Menu we also ordered the Papitas Rellena De Carretilla – Street Cart Style Potato Croquettes filled with Pulled Beef Brisket, Pecans, Botija Olives, Watercress and Pickled Onion Salsa. N enjoyed these croquettes – crunchy and golden on the outside coupled with tender beef brisket and cloud like potato filling and finished with a pickled salsa. The only complaint would be that more of the beef brisket be used.

For our main dishes I ordered the Pezcado Amazonico – Baby Cone Bay Barramundi Grilled in Banana Leaf with Fresh Herbs and Amazonico Rub from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill). The presentation of this dish is simple – yet visually stunning. The whole baby barramundi is laid across the black backdrop of the plate (fish eye, tail and all) topped with the vibrant green Amazonico rub. In a separate small bowl there are some fresh sautéed vegetables with a lemon wedge off to the side. The barramundi is cooked perfectly and results in soft white fleshy morsels. The rub is delicious and flavoursome and is very much needed, as the fish on its own is very lightly flavoured. One for the fish and seafood lovers.

N ordered the La Braza – Pollo A La Braza – Free Range Roasted Peruvian Chicken from the La Braza (Spit) for his main. Once again – very simple plating techniques was used – to showcase the hero of the dish – the Peruvican chicken. A simple green dressing was provided in a separate bowl for additional flavour. The chicken has been slow-cooked after a lengthy marination period (think cumin, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, coriander, Sichuan pepper) and is moist and flavoured with pepper, spices and a kick of heat.

We also ordered Tallos de Acelga – Grilled Silverbeet Stems, Red Vein Sorrel, Confit Brown Onion Hearts and Garlic Chips. This dish was another standout – simple yet the flavours worked amazingly well together finished with the crunchiness of the garlic. The confit brown onion not only complemented but brought the whole dish together. If you enjoy a good salad this is one to try.

As full as we were the night wouldn’t have been complete without ending on a sweet Peruvian note. We ordered the Tres Leches – Traditional Latin American Sponge Cake soaked in Three Kinds of Milk served with Roasted Pineapple Ice Cream. The cake had a distinct texture (you would expect it to have a somewhat soggy consistency after being soaked in three types of milk) with a result of being light, moist and rich yet delicate (the flavour of 3 types of milk wasn’t over powering at all!). The roasted pineapple ice cream was delicious and the fresh pieces of pineapple embedded within the ice cream were refreshing.

Pastuso has such a lively and warm atmosphere. The open plan of the kitchen and ceviche bar is such a fantastic idea in this day as people like to watch how chefs prepare and create such great tasting dishes – especially here where you can see chefs as they delve into the fire chamber and have embers flow out – it all adds to the experience of the place. The staff are very friendly, always happy and knowledgeable – they can also assist you when ordering to ensure you do not over order. Want a truly memorable Peruvian experience – get down to Pastuso now!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to above Pictures
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lively, Fun, Warm and Inviting – such a great place for a celebration or a catchup – or even date night!
Standout Dish: Too many to name!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, Happy and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://pastuso.com.au/  NOTE: They also take bookings for larger groups in their flexible private dining area
Restaurant Details and Location:

http://pastuso.com.au/
19 ACDC Lane
Tel No: 9662 4556

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Friday & Saturday: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pastusorestaurant?fref=ts
Instagram: pastusorestaurant

Pastuso on Urbanspoon

Saigon Sally – Out of this World Vietnamese

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Saigon Sally

E was sadly bidding Melbourne adieu and we organized a dinner at Saigon Sally. Saigon Sally is the proud bigger sister of Hanoi Hannah – both located in the Prahran area. Hannoi Hannah is more of a Vietnamese hawker style eatery – a place where you can grab a quick bite to eat, whereas Saigon Sally has a great selection of Vietnamese favourites as well as a variety of wines, cocktails, mocktails and offers a great dining experience. Another plus point is that they take bookings!

Saigon Sally is opened by Simon Blacher, Paul Nguyen, Nick Coulter and Will Newton, together with Adrian Li (ex Donovan) as Head Chef and Tom Stonnill (ex Transit Bar) as Bartender.

From the moment you step into Saigon Sally – you need a minute to take it all in – there is loads of colour and atmosphere present. There is grand bar that is central to the entire venue – wooden and back lit and finished with colourful offerings on top (be it flowers, straws, cups or their colourful menus). What grabs your eye next is the lavish mural artwork of an Asian woman smoking by Michelle Lee, with the smoke from her cigarette swirling onto the concrete ceilings. The back wall is complete with various pictures of Vietnamese ladies in an array of poses. As you walk in to the left is a real life rickshaw filled with various paraphernalia, adding to the funky vibe and feel. What has been done with the space is fantastic and you feel as if you have been transported to another part of the world where you want to spend hours in.

There are a number of seating options available – a large communal table located under the stairs, banquet seating located one at the front of the venue and the second being at the back of the venue, as well as seating around the bar and there are a few tables for 2 located along the mural wall. Tables are wooden with a dash of colour thanks to Saigon Sally’s colourful menu that sits on top. Plates and cutlery – which includes chopsticks of course – is already set out as well. There was 6 of us on this night and we were seated in the back banquet – which suited the size of our group well as we could all comfortably talk and see each other.

We started off by ordering a mix of cocktails and mocktails. I ordered a mocktail which had lychee and passionfruit flavours finished with a purple orchid – I loved the colour contrast between the yellow of the drink and the purple of the flower. Due to the drink being simply delicious I don’t have a picture of it. M ordered the Boom Boom Mojito (Flor de caña white rum chili, viet-mint, kaffir lime leaf, lemon­grass, lime ginger syrup & soda) which came served with a fan of apple pieces, a circular slice of lemon and mint leaves to the side. The other cocktail L ordered had the main ingredient of Pandan – hence its strong green colour which she seemed to enjoy as well.

The menu created by Adrian Li is all about the home-style food which is made for sharing. Each dish takes the traditional Vietnamese dish pieces it together with modern techniques to produce a memorable tasting end product, each balancing the five elements of Vietnamese cuisine – sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. The menu is split into Small, Medium, Large, Sides and Desserts. There is also a “Feed Me” option for $59 per person (minimum 2 people required) which allows you to sample the chef’s favourites. There are around 6 to 9 dishes under each category to choose from.

Even though the menu is made for sharing – we decided to get our own dishes as we were quite hungry. We did however order the Prawn Pandanus – Smoked Prawn, Kaffir Lime, Tamarind & Sesame Caramel – to share. These come out in a serving size of 4 and are wrapped in a crisp pandan leaf – which we told by the waiter that you aren’t meant to eat, but to unwrap this pandan leaf and enjoy the prawn fritter and then eat it. The prawn fritter itself was delicious – semi crunchy on the outside – light and fluffy and flavour filled on the inside with the lovely tones of kaffir lime and tamarind. The sauce that came with the dish provided a sweet element to the whole dish which exemplified the prawn flavour. A great dish.

T ordered the Vietnamese Chicken Coleslaw – Black Bean Poached Chicken, Crisp Vermicelli and Peanuts. This dish comes out with the colourful mix of the tender poached chicken, bean shoots, carrot, Asian basil, peanuts and pickles sitting atop of the crisp white vermicelli. There are a multitude of textures and flavours that intrigue your senses. The flavours of the black bean sauce together with the subtle hint of spice and sweetness from the carrots work well together.

E and I both order the Saigon Chilli Crabs – Soft Shell Crabs, Tomato, Black Bean, Lime, Chilli & Basil. I absolutely loved this dish and it has to be one of the best crab dishes I have eaten. The crab was cooked to perfection – providing a soft and delicate crunch that was filled with delightful crab on the inside. The creamy mayo sauce was another highlight – it had a mixture of saltiness, spice and freshness to it. Together with the other elements of coriander, chilli, basil and cucumber the dish worked well together, with the flavouring spot on. I would highly recommend this dish to anyone.

V ordered the Grilled Quail – Stuffed with Sticky Rice, Spring Onion, Shitake and Lup Cheung. This was a pretty looking dish with the Quail being the centre piece of the dish with Chilli, sprigs of flowers and Onions placed around it. The Qauil looked amazing in all its glazed glory – with a touch of barbequing to provide a crisp skin. The stuffing mix of rice, spring onion, mushroom and Chinese sausage worked well with the flavours of the quail.

M ordered the Grilled Ocean Trout – Tumeric, Dill, Mustard Leaf, Ginger, Jalapeno and Banh Hoi. The trout had been wrapped and cooked in a pandan leaf which enhanced the flavours of the trout. The trout itself was cooked well and remained soft and tender, topped with tumeric, cubes of ginger and jalapeno – which added extra flavour and spice. Banh Hoi which is a Vietnamese dish consisting of rice vermicelli that has been woven into intricate bundles and topped with onions was to the side of the side along with a mixed salads consisting of mustard leaves and other mixed greens.

L asked me what she should order from the menu and I picked out the Shaking Beef Rib – Pho Glazed Short Rib, Crispy Onions, Watercress and Lemon. I was interested in the name of the dish – just what did they mean by “Shaking” beef rib? Later I understood that in Vietnamese the term “luc lac” translates to the word “shaking” and it represents the tossing of the beef back and forth in the wok after it has been seared. There are various ways in which to represent the traditional Bo Luc Lac dish and Saigon Sally does a great interpretation. The beef comes out along with the huge rib bone and sits on top of the watercress, onion, cucumber and coriander salad and is topped with sesame and chilli with a wedge of lemon. The beef was tender and had punchy flavours.

Despite being quite full from each of our dishes we did opt to try out some desserts – reading the dessert list gave us enough temptation and incentive. “Happy Endings” are made at the bar and if you score a spot at the bar you can watch as pastry chef Felix Goodwin prepares desserts.

We order the Banh Bo Nut – Vietnamese Doughnut, Salted Galangal, Caramel & Toasted Coconut Sorbet. These come served a dish which is reminiscent of an off-shaped boat, with 5 doughnut balls in place served with coconut sorbet and finished with a colourful cocktail umbrella. The doughnuts themselves are melt in your mouth delicious! They are served warm, with sugar crusting on the outside providing a crisp texture which works well against the fluffy insides. The salted galangal and caramel sauce adds a sticky texture and provides some extra sweetness, with the coconut sorbet provided a cool hit with a creamy flavour. A delicious dessert!

Next up we ordered the Tira-Ma-Sally -Macaron, Vietnamese Coffee Parfait, Condensed Milk & Peanut Brittle which is the house specialty. These come out looking like your normal everyday sandwich that you would expect to see in your lunch boxes – cut into triangles – but you could not be more wrong. They are far from just normal – they are out of this world amazing! What it is – two triangles of almond Macaron “bread” that is layered with strong, vibrant coffee parfait, condensed milk and peanut brittle. I am not a huge fan of peanut butter – but there was only a slight hint of the peanut taste. The ice cream layer had hints of caramel amongst it which served as a pleasant surprise. This is a definite must try – it’s a pity they don’t give you four pieces instead of two!

From the red glow as you step inside to the colorfulness on the inside Saigon Sally is a must visit place. The food stays true to the Vietnamese basics whilst adding a modern twist which produces great tasting and looking dishes. The concepts – from the unique and interestingly named drinks menu down to the “Happy Ending” desserts is fantastic. The staff are friendly, helpful and the vibe is trendy, inviting, vibrant and fun. As you step outside, don’t forget to check out the laneway filled with colourful street art, hanging lanterns and pairs of shoes. It serves as a great backdrop for photos or just to stare at awe in.

NOTE: Saigon Sally does cater for functions – refer to their website for further information about packages.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$S
Menu – Refer to picture above or look at http://www.saigonsally.com.au/SaigonSally_Menu_001.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Funky, Fun and Welcoming. A place where you could have a lot of fun! If you are looking to host your next function there is information available on their website – http://www.saigonsally.com.au/Saigon_Sally_Function_Menu001.pdf
Standout Dish: Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Fun
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.saigonsally.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.saigonsally.com.au/
2 Duek Street ,Windsor
Tel No: 9939 5181

Opening Hours:
Mon to Thu 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Fri to Sat 6:00 pm – 1:00 am
Sun 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Saigon Sally on Urbanspoon

Rice Paper Scissors – Laneway Funk

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Specials

L and I were meeting up for dinner and we decided to try out Rice Paper Scissors located in a funky laneway in the centre of the Melbourne CBD – Liverpool street to be precise. Rice Paper Scissor uses a Vietnamese and Thai fusion of flavours through its menu to create a hawker style menu. The place itself is quite funky – there is a bike on the wall behind the bar, as well as painting of a woman which catches your eye as you step inside. There is a mixture of seating – high tables near the bar together with seating along the length of the bar all the way up to the kitchen. There are also tables out the front when the weather is nice.

We were seated at the bar and whilst chatting and deciding what to eat we ordered drinks. The drink menu has a combination of Asian beers, as well as a great selection of cocktails, wines and spirits. There are also “Get a Crush” non-alcoholic drinks available as well as a whole fresh organic coconut, homemade ice tea and freshly brewed Vietnamese Ice Coffee.

I ordered a ‘Get a Crush’ drink of lychee, coconut and kaffir lime. These drinks come in a glass jar and was a very refreshing drink! Anything with lychee for me is a winner! The unique flavouring of the kaffir lime with the coconut and lychee worked really well together.

The menu consists of dishes that progressively get larger as the menu moves on – and are essentially sharing style dishes. There are also 3 different salads to choose from, with the option of gluten free available throughout the menu. Another option is to select any 5 dishes from the menu for a very reasonable $49. There are dishes like Lotus Root, Betel Leaf, Thai Fried Chicken, Steamed Buns, Mini Banh Mi (Vietnamese Baguette) and even BBQ Ribs. What I also love about this menu is that they give you the traditional name for each dish as well as the English translation.

We decided to order the Thai Ceviche, Tempura Prawn and the Som Otam Salad with Tiger Prawns.

The Thai Ceviche (Koi Pla) – lime cured kingfish salad with mint, chilli and shallots was the first dish we received and I loved the presentation of this dish. The Ceviche came out in a silver container which resembles a tuna tin almost, which had to opened up. The waiter opens up this up for you to reveal a colourful and fragrant dish. It comes served with rice crackers on the side. The kingfish was fresh and the combination of ingredients gave it a punch of flavours in your mouth. The addition of the rice crackers was great as well – I enjoyed the addition of the sesame seeds.

Next up we got the Tempura Prawn (Boor Thawt Goog) – minced prawns, lemongrass and kaffir lime wrapped in perila leaf. These come served with 3 pieces. They resembled curry puffs almost on the plate and came with a dipping sauce. The prawn meat mixed with the lemongrass and kaffir lime was reminiscent of a dumpling filling but more delicious. A really good dish overall.

Lastly we got the Som Dtam – green papaya salad with peanuts, long beans and chilli – to which we added tiger prawns (you can add pork belly as well if you want). This dish was quite large and is plenty for two people. The flavours in this dish were amazing – fresh, tangy and super tasty! The king prawns were also cooked to perfection and as a whole the combination was great.

We were both quite full from these dishes that we tried out but the desserts, when reading them on the dessert board sounded really interesting and different so we decided to share one.
There was a selection of :
Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich – Mango and Sticky Rice in a Sweet Toasted Bun
Black caviar – Sago Pudding with Peanut and Garam
Terranium – Vietamese Coffee Mousse with Peanut Soil

We ordered the Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich – Mango and Sticky Rice in a Toasted Sweet Bun. The bun was just the right size for a dessert dish and came out a dollop of Mango Ice Cream on the top with the bun having the sweet sticky rice on the inside. It was a great interpretation of an ice cream sandwich and I loved the combination of flavours. The bun came out warm and the mix of hot and cold added to yumness and enjoyability factor.

The staff are really friendly and very helpful, and it really does make you feel like you can sit and hang around for hours. The street food theme along with reasonable prices and great selection of drinks at this funky venue with a great vibe, will be sure to have people flocking down. Having been open only for a few months, on the night we went – it was a full house! If you are or are not a fan of Thai / Viet hawker style food – either way – you should check it out.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Tapas, Sharing Menu – can be found at http://www.ricepaperscissors.com.au/ There is a picture above for the list of specials that were on offer when I visited.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience:
Standout Dish:
Service:
Online Booking: No. There is availability to book a function here – Just contact them.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.ricepaperscissors.com.au/
19 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 9890

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Friday: 12pm – 3pm

Dinner
Monday to Friday: 6pm – Late
Saturday: 5pm – Late

Rice Paper Scissors on Urbanspoon

Mugen Ramen – City’s First Tsukemen Ramen

panda 4 rating

I love Ramen so when I heard about Mugen I had to check it out. Mugen speciaiises in Ramen and is owned by Yoshi Kurosawa – who is also the owner of Robot bar which is located directly opposite. Mugen is located in a laneway off Flinders lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

Mugen (meaning infinite) is a schmick looking two-level venue which includes a basement izakaya which has seating and drinks available. At street level you can see into the kitchen as the chefs prepare your meals and there is two bench rows available to sit at. There is a black and blue theme running which adds a touch of elegance and warmth.

Mugen specialises in the Tsukemen style and is the first Tsukemen joints in the city. Tsukemen is a type of deconstructed ramen. It consists of the dipping house-made noodles which are plated separately and are served cold with warm charshu pork, sheet of nori and pickled bamboo shoots. To the side there is a small bowl of pork, chicken and fish sauce into which you put your ramen. The dish is available in two different sizes – 300g and 420g.  The menu has two types of Tsukemen – Wafu and Curry as well as two different types of normal Ramen – Miso and Wafu.

The menu is really interesting and has a comic – or manga as they would call it in Japan – on the back which pokes fun and tells you how to eat the Tsukemen, which I think is a innovative and great style of the menu. In addition to the Ramen, there are smaller dishes available such as Gyoza, Aburi Chasu, Potato Salad, Chips and more. When we went there was also a JAPAS (Japanese Tapas) menu that was coming soon. There were no desserts on the menu at this time – but I really do hope they expand into this as well. There are also a great selection of drinks – beers, sake and liquer– available. The beers include Codeo which is essentially a sweet potato lager – how interesting!

Unfortunately despite loving Ramen the fact that I can’t have any pork dishes, meant that I couldn’t try any of the ramen available. The waitress was very friendly and told me that I could get some Soba noodles with tofu made up – and this would the only vegetarian option available. I was happy to order that ( I do love tofu as well). N ordered the Tsukune and Tebasaki from the small dishes section.

The Tsukune – Japanese Grilled Chicken skewers made from tenderloin thigh and soft bones with Teriyaki sauce and egg yolk on the side to dip. There were four skewers that came out and N loved the flavours and softness to the chicken. The addition of the dipping egg yolk was different and further enhanced the flavour.

The Tebasaki – Japanese deep fried chicken wings. This came served in a stainless steel frying basket and was coated with a glaze of honey and sesame – they were crispy on the outside and juicy and delicious on the inside.

My vegetarian soba noodles with tofu, chilli and salad was a generous serving. The noodles were fresh and silky smooth and cooked perfectly. The dish overall was tasty and despite really wanting a dose of ramen hit the spot.

The vibe at Mugen is fantastic and it is a great place at the basement to enjoy drinks. The food smells delicious and I cannot wait to see what type of dishes will be on their Japas menu. The staff are friendly and really accommodating. Will definitely be back, even though I can’t eat their signature dish!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above picture
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy, Elegant and Fun
Service: Friendly, Helpful and VERY accommodating
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://mugenramenbar.com/
11 Bligh Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9620 3647

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday:
Lunch
11:30 am to 2:30pm
Dinner
6pm to 11pm
Sunday – Closed

Mensousai Mugen on Urbanspoon

Brutale – Homely Croatian Food

panda 4 rating

It was time for another catchup dinner with A and I selected Brutale as both of us had never eaten Croatian food before. Brutale is located in a laneway in the heart of Melbourne CBD in Corrs Lane – and is under Berlin Bar (where the old Eurotrash nightclub was). It is the latest restaurant from chef Daniel Dobra (ex-The Aylesbury and St Ali), and he gets to share and promote his Croatian heritage by showcasing delicious Croatian food which he grew up with.

Dobra is all about family and Brutale is his way of sharing a piece of his family with us. The restaurant could almost be mistook for his very own family living area – aside from the disco ball bomb, soldier helmet lightshades, not to mention the full pig’s carcass hanging behind the glass at the entrance as well as the interesting artwork (such as huge pictures of broads with the faces of pigs) around the room and a DJ playing records in the background.

The menu consists of appetisers, larger dishes and finishes with desserts and consists of genuine family recipes handed down to him by his father and grandmother. Dishes like his Dad’s oxtail goulash are an example, where it is cooked in the restaurant just as his dad would at home. There are also dishes such as Grandma’s Greens – which is a simple stew of vegies that his grandmother cooked with every meal- and Father’s Chips which pays homage to his family. The Cabbage Rolls and Croatian Donuts are also a recipe passed down from his grandmother. Additionally you can select the ‘Dobra Family Banquet’ and be one of the family for the night. Most of the dishes are cooked in the tailor made kitchen and are cooked over wood and coals to give it a truly authentic flavour. There are other Croatian homestyle techniques such as spit-roasting, pickling and cooking in the peka – a roasting dish with a domed lid.

For drinks there is a selection of unusual Croatian wines, including some grape varieties that aren’t grown anywhere else. The most famous is the Rakija – a spirit distilled from plum and other fruits. This variety continues with their non-alcoholic drinks with drinks such as Cokta – which is described as the Croatian version of Coca Cola. I ordered this and despite not being a huge fan of Coca Cola – this drink was refreshing and addictive (and has the added bonus of having vitamins added too!). A ordered the *orange* drink and said it was an interesting flavour.

We were told by the waiter that most of the dishes were designed to share so that is what A and I decided to do. We weren’t sure if we had ordered too little or too many dishes, so the waiter helped us out with that as well.

We ordered the Pierogi – Polish Dumplings, Soured Cream – which was stuffed with wild mushrooms. This was a really great dish and the sour cream really complemented the dish. The dumpling casing was cooked perfectly and tasted just as good. Another dish that we ordered was the Grilled Calamari with Garlic, Parsley and Olive Oil . This was yet another stand out dish – the calamari was charred perfectly and the combination of the garlic, parsley and olive oil added moistness, flavour and tang. The serving was quite a huge size as well.

The Father’s Chips with Salt, Pepper and Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was really great as well, although I found that it had a bit too much salt. The Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was definitely a hit – I could eat this by the spoonful! It was smooth and creamy with a hint of spice and I think you can use it as an addition to any dish really.

We also ordered the Shopska Salad which was very colourful dish and contained Tomato, Cucumber, Pickled Onion, Paprika, White Cheese. The dish was tangy and salty all at the same time and was quite a refreshing dish that I quite enjoyed. The serving size is very generous and we couldn’t finish this dish in its entirety.

The last dish we had was an eggplant dish that had red onions with paprika and coriander on top of it. Usually I am not a fan of eggplant dishes but this was really great. The eggplant was soft and easy to eat and the flavoring complemented the eggplant.

At this point we were really quite full, but decided to share a dessert as well. I sure do love my sweets! We went with the Croatian Doughnuts – Flavoured with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Raisin, Vanilla and Served with Walnut Rakija Cream. Seriously these are the best donuts I have ever tasted. They were served warm and cinnamon, nutmeg, raisin combination was fantastic. This is definitely a dessert you have to try and after all it is Dobra’s Grandmothers recipe.

What is also quite different about Brutale is that there is no bell to let the floor staff knows that a food dish is ready, they just clap their hands and the staff know to go and pick up the food. I really like that idea. The service was great – friendly and helpful but sometimes it was quite hard to get the attention of the waiter if we needed to order something or ask something. And one more downside is that if you want bread you need to order it off the menu, it isn’t served otherwise. Overall Brutale serves delicious Croatian food that is both authentic, simple and delicious in an atmosphere that makes you feel at home.

PS The dish that is highly sought after and talked about is the free-range organic pig – hand-reared on a farm in Bendigo – which is spit roasted for five hours then served with crackling and  jugs of apple purée and roasting juices. I of course couldn’t eat this dish, but is a must try for most people that have been to Brutale.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.brutale.com.au/#!food/c1rcm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Inviting and Homely. There are also interesting pieces of artwork and objects that will keep you amused through dinner
Standout Dish:  Pierogi  and Croatian Donuts
Service: Frienldy and Helpful, but most times it was hard to get the attention of the wait staff.
Online Booking: Yes via http://www.brutale.com.au/#!bookings/chva
Restaurant Details and Location:
brutale.com.au
18 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 4411

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 6pm–1am

Brutale on Urbanspoon

Krimper Cafe – Hidden Warehouse Style Treasure

panda 4 rating

Krimper Café is located in a laneway off Queen Street – in Guildford lane – in a converted warehouse space. When you walk down the laneway to get to Krimper Cafe, there are a bunch of wooden panels at the entrance, one of which is a door – took me a second to register how to enter the premises. Once you walk in you are transported into another world – you are greeted by a large welcoming venue that has exposed brick walls and wooden beams, together with the wooden tables – lots of wood!! as well as three hanging road bikes. This space was previously a sawmill, then a cabinet making factory and then the Guildford Lane Gallery. The centre piece of the venue is an old elevator which has been somewhat restored – there is a table located inside this elevator that a group of up to 6 people can sit at. Another key piece of the venue is the “flying saucer” lights which were sourced from op shops – which are peppered throughout the venue.

The café name itself comes from furniture maker Schulim Krimper – who owner Min Soon admires as Soon is a designer and architect himself. There is a piece of Krimper’s work which is located at the café as well. Additionally each of the tables are made from an old spiral staircase that used to be located on the premises as well.

Coffee here is from Proud Mary and Krimper Cafe offers house blend or single origin.  The latte that I order is fantastic as expected – nutty, creamy and crisp all at the same time. Coffee perfection. The menu is short, simple but unique and has Japanese, French and American-style cooking involved. There are daily specials available as well. I was looking forward to trying the Almond Crusted French Toast but didn’t see this on the menu so decided to stick with the sweet them and ordered the Orange blossom spelt waffles, with blueberries, banana, ricotta and maple syrup. And this dish sure didn’t disappoint! The dish came out not only looking amazing but tasted even better. The dish was bursting with colours and flavours. I am generally not a fan of orange flavours but the orange blossom in the waffles was yummmm and was further complemented with the maple syrup and flavoursome fruits. Another winning component of the dish was the Ricotta which didn’t taste like ricotta at all – it tasted like a smooth vanilla tasting mascarpone – which I could eat table spoons of. I had to make sure that I didn’t gobble it down all at once. Overall it was a really great dish and made my morning!

Krimper Cafe is a very welcoming, relaxing and casual cafe that is going to do great things not only for the Melbourne breakfast and brunch scene but hopefully in the nighttime as well. Currently Krimper Cafe is not opened on the weekends, but hopefully that will change soon. Eventhough Krimper Cafe is no where near my work – I will definitely be coming back.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Relaxing, Laid-Back, Funky, Warehouse Style
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.krimper.com.au/
20-24 Guildford Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9043 8844

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – 5pm
Friday night drinks:  5pm- 7pm

Krimper on Urbanspoon

Bowery to Williamsburg – A Piece of NYC in Melbourne

panda-5-rating6

Bowery to Williamsburg is new to the cobblestone laneway of Melbourne namely Oliver Lane (which also houses the famous Coda) – is known for its fantastic bagels and out of this world sandwiches.

Bowery to Williamsburg is a New-York inspired deli style venue brought to you by the team behind the ever popular Hardware Societe (Will and Di). It is aptly named after the Bowery Station of New York and comes complete with an underground style area to sit. At cobblestone street level there are communal tables where you can sit outside as well as having its own Slayer coffee machine, step through the doors (which are cleverly held open by a brass shoe) and down the stairs and you are greeted by a massive Slayer coffee machine (which sources local espresso coffee- Padre coffee beans from Brunswick) and copper trimmed sandwich counter, completed with a large sign that tells you how to order. Its simple really – 1) Choose your sandwich, 2) Select your Side and 3)Add some pretzels & pickle and Pay – $16.50 for the lot or $12.50 for the sandwich only – which would mean you only complete step 1 =)

In this downstairs area there is also a large marble communal table with interesting chairs that you need to come early during the lunch hour to secure a seat. There are also other single tables around the place. The menu (as you can see from the above picture) comes on little cards and outlines exactly what is in each sandwich and the different sides that you can choose from. There is also a wooden wall with chalk boards that have the menu on it as well.  There are 10 different sandwiches to choose from – covering all bases from – mushrooms to salmon, to corned beef to pork and almond meatballs. The combinations are fresh and ingenious! Here they also cater for people that would require gluten-free bread – this will cost $1 extra.

Breakfast time is when the bagels are available – there are several varieties of bagel on offer – both savory and sweet – all made by 5 and Dime. Options include the sour cherry bagel with a smear of lemon curd, or perhaps a beetroot and rye bagel with cream cheese. There are cooked breakfasts too, like poached eggs with maple baked beans and a bacon slab. To add to this there is your something sweet which sits in the cabinet and the counter such as Key Lime Pie and Maple Pecan Pie.

Our waitress comes over and explains the special sides that we can order and takes our drinks order. I have to say now I am not a fan of peanut butter at all, but the sound of a peanut butter hot chocolate is tempting as does the Mofo Deluxe Hot Chocolate. I decide to give the Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate a go and I am so so so glad I did! It is one of the best hot chocolates that I have had and what makes it better is that it comes with a mini Reece’s Peanut Butter cup on the side! It comes served in a faux crumpled plastic cup and is so rich and chocolately and just simply delicious. If you are game you can add your mini Reece’s Butter Cup into the hot chocolate for more gooey yumness. Another point to note – coffees come out with a Hersheys’ Treat.

For lunch I decided to go with sandwich combo and get the pretzels, dill gherkin and a side – I mean why wouldn’t you – it just sounds and looks oh so good! I go for the Field Mushroom sandwich with pomegranate tabouli and minted yoghurt – and as my side I choose the Mac ‘n’ Cheese. I came with A and she ordered the Meatballs Sandwich on its own which comes with Pork & Almond balls, Harissa Tomato Sugo and Mozzarella. My sandwich was delicious – the mushroom was juicy and fresh and the addition of the tabouli and minted yoghurt with the bursts of pomegranate provided the tanginess and the acidity. Having a bite of the pickle added another depth to the meal. The Mac ‘n’ Cheese was warm and tasty and served off to the side in its own little jar with the cheese melted messily around it. I loved this concept. The whole meal came plated out on a wooden board.

The staff are friendly, welcoming and chirpy and are always willing to help you decide on menu. I will definitely be frequenting this place even though there might be lines – I think it’s worth the wait! The food brings together interesting combination of ingredients and is fresh and tasty. I really want to come back during breakfast time and try out the bagels and check out the breakkie menu as well. Bowery to Williamsburg is a homage to the underground station that is New York and really does bring that part of the world to what is typically a Melbourne laneway and is a great cafe / takeaway place.

NOTE: Bowery to Williamsburg is a CASH ONLY venue

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to the photos above for the menu – there are 10 different sandwiches to choose from. Breakfast consists of bagel, eggs etc
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: A piece of NYC in Melbourne – fresh, gritty and fun
Standout Dish: Any of the sandwiches really! Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate!
Service: Friendly, chirpy and always happy to help
Online Booking: No – seating is first in, first served. I suggest getting there at 12pm in order to get a seat during lunch hour.
Restaurant Details and Location:
16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9077 0162

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 3:30pm

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