Nora – Home of the Charcoal Tarts!

panda 4 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Nora on Urbanspoon

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

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LadyBoy Dining – Cheeky Fun!

panda 4 rating

 

Menu:
Menu at LadyBoy Dining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LadyBoy Dining + Bar on Urbanspoon

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

The Town Mouse – Great Addition to Carlton

panda-4-5-rating4

L and I headed to dinner to The Town Mouse on a Wednesday night. The Town Mouse has replaced the former fine dining restaurant Embrasse on Drummond Street in Carlton. The team behind this creation is the brother and sisters team of Christian McCabe (Honky Tonks and one of New Zealand’s best restaurants The Matterhorn) and Amber McCabe (Longrain), as well as Jay Comeskey (Amber’s husband).

The Town Mouse feels welcoming from the moment you walk in to the massive COME IN for GOOD TIMES welcome mat style etched into the entrance doorway. As you step in you are greeted by the glistening black tiles which are on all four walls, the centrepiece is the black bar which is lit up in all the right places and has a gunmetal grey lattice work, and is surrounded with high raw wooden stools and vintage lampshades which are dropped from the ceiling. The atmosphere is comfortable yet sophisticated. I love the use of wood against the backdrop of black – the only drawback being that there is only high stool seating.

The menu developed together with chef Dave Verheul has a strong emphasis on sharing plates and sits perfectly between the fine dining and casual categories. The menu  has been inspired by a Modern European style with flavours of Asia along the way, and is split into 6 different sections – To Start, Raw,  To Share, Vegetables (there are 5 different dishes to choose from), Meat & Fish and lastly Dessert. Looking at the dishes and the combinations of ingredients, there was a lot there that caught my attention – it was hard to just settle on a select few dishes to share between the two of us. The wine list consists of a wide selection and has been devised with the help of Lachlan Barber.

Once we had decided what we wanted and were waiting for our dishes to arrive – we were given bread along with seaweed butter. I am always a bit apprehensive about dishes that contain seaweed, but the seaweed flavour was subtle and added to the normal butter taste.

L and I started with something from the To Start section (how fitting =p) – we got the Goat’s Cheese Profiterole, Caraway, Thyme & Our Honey. They came out in tiny round morsels with a crisp crunchy outside casing and the Goat’s Cheese filling together with the spice & herbs was delicious. What made the dish interesting was the addition of the honey. I really do like the combination of the tangy cheese and the sweetness of the honey. This is a definite must try dish – a mix of savoury and sweet flavours!

Next up we got the Crab & Gurnard Terrine, Salted Lemon Curd, Nori, Pea Leaves and Crab Essence. This dish comes out beautifully presented and resembled a garden with the Crab & Gurnard Terrine being the flowers. Gurnard for those of you who don’t know is a type of sea fish. This was a dish full of flavour and textures – the terrine was soft and dense and the nori was crisp and salty. The combination of this was great and the salted lemon curd further enhanced this.

We followed up both these dishes with the Steamed Diamond Shell Clams, Black Mussels, Clam Bisque, Fennel & Rosemary and also got the Kipflers cooked in Toasted Hay, Buttermilk, Crisp Sage & Almond Brown Butter. We were also given extra bread to go with the Clam and Mussel dish to soak up the Clam Bisque – thoughtful! This dish was tasty and the seafood was fresh. The Clam Bisque was flavorsome and delicious (and there was heaps of this so the bread was definitely needed). When reading the Kipflers dish I loved the sound of all the components – especially the combination of the sage and almond brown butter – and it certainly wasn’t a let down when it came out. Once again the dish was beautifully presented with a fantastic taste to match. The almond brown butter and the buttermilk were delicious and the potatoes were cooked perfectly with the skin having a nice crunch to it in certain areas.

Next up was time for dessert and there were two dishes that caught my eye, so we asked our waiter which one we should try. He won us over with the description of the Chocolate Tart with Thai Flavors. Once again presentation of this dish was immaculate. The Chocolate tart was a rich deep dark brown colour that had a shiny glaze and was surrounded with the “Thai Flavours” – there was cucumber, mint, kaffir lime leaves, powders and crumbs. This was one of the most interesting dessert dishes I have tasted – the mix of chocolate and veggies in a sense was thrilling and actually tasted really good! The chocolate was rich and divine. A must try for all chocolate lovers.

The staff at The Town Mouse were friendly, attentive, helpful and accommodating which all added to the experience. By the time we had gotten our meals the place was buzzing and the atmosphere was warm, cool and suave all at the same time. I have already recommended this place to some of my friends and would definitely be heading back to try out the other dishes (really want to try out the Smoked Barramundi!). The Town Mouse is an awesome addition to the Melbourne food scene and the food is simply amazing – it really has surpassed its predecessors that used to accompany this venue. CHECK IT OUT for GREAT times =)

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Have a look at http://www.thetownmouse.com.au/downloads/Hungry.pdf  Wine List at http://www.thetownmouse.com.au/downloads/Thirsty.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cool, Sophisticated, Welcoming and Warm. Fantastic place for a catchup with friends, celebration – you really could spend a lot of time here.
Standout Dish: Goat’s Cheese Profiterole, Caraway, Thyme & Our Honey
Service: Fantastic and Attentive – Very Friendly as well.
Online Booking: No – But it would be best to call them up and make a reservation, as they do get quite full. There are two dinner sitting times as well.
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.thetownmouse.com.au
312 Drummond Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9347 3312

Opening Hours:
Wednesday: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Thursday to Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

The Town Mouse on Urbanspoon

Coda – European inspired food with Asian Influences

panda-4-5-rating4

I have previously been to Coda when it first opened and loved it. I remember the delicious crab dish which was quite decently sized and packed with flavour. This time around I was meeting a friend for lunch on a Friday just before the Christmas break. We were quite late in wanting a booking and was told that the place was booked out, however there would still be seating at the bar area available where you can order from their full menu. My friend J got there before 12pm to secure us a spot at the bar.

Coda is part owned by chef Adam D’Sylva alongside Kate Calder (ex-Taxi) and Mykal Bartholomew (ex-MoVida). Pastry chef Rebecca Creighton, (ex Pearl and Taxi), takes over for “The Sweet Stuff” and for the expertise in Wine it is the responsibility of Sommelier Travis Howe (ex-Taxi).

Coda was once a underground warehouse space, and has been renovated to fit into Melbourne laneways perfectly. The place has been renovated in tones of black and aluminium and is lit up by the massive bare windows and has a relaxing and chic atmosphere. The restaurant is split into two sections, the formal seating area and the seating at the bar. From the bar, you can look through to the kitchen as the chefs prepare your meals thru a mesh screen. An interesting feature are the light fittings ( I do seem to love interesting light decor) – at Coda they are metal meshing in the shape of a birdcage around a simple exposed lightbulb. It adds to the underground, quirky feel of the place.

The menu is split into 4 sections – Smaller Dishes (of which there are 19 different dishes to select from!), Larger Dishes (5 to choose from), Sides and of course The Sweet Stuff (Dessert!!) and encompasses mainly Asian style dishes, with a dash of European dishes strewn around the menu. J and I decided to order a couple of the smaller dishes and share these between us. We ordered  the following:
Fremantle Octopus, Green Mango and Cucumber Salad with Nahm Jim, Peanuts and Crispy Anchovies,
Spanner Crab, Galangal, Roasted Chilli and Lime Betel Leaf,
Sugar Cane Prawn with Sweet Chilli Sauce
Yellow Fin Tuna, Daikon, Green Apple Salad with Pinenuts, Ponzu and Fresh Wasabi.

We started off with the Spanner Crab in Betel Leaf which we were told to use our hands to eat – simply wrap the Betel leaf around the contents and eat away. There was also additional grapefruit pieces which added for an extra zang and burst of flavour (literally), together with the crab and chilli it was a memorable dish. We then had the Yellow Fin Tuna salad – the Tuna was cooked beautifully and had a really nice texture and mixed with the apple made for a really fresh tasting salad. Next we got the Sugar Cane Prawns and we were told to bite on the sugar cane to get the sugary goodness. This was a good looking and fun,but messy dish to eat. Inside the white squiggly noodle casing was prawn covered in ginger, coriander and lemongrass – it was flavoursome central! Definitely one of my favourite dishes. We ended the savoury part of the meal with the Octopus Salad (which I actually preferred over the other salad. J however liked the Yellow Fin Tuna Salad). I loved the freshness and sweetness that the green mango brought to the dish along with the crunch of peanuts and anchovies.

To end the meal we had to try “The Sweet Stuff”. We settled on the Toasted Meringue, Vanilla Chiffon Cake, Passionfruit Curd, Coconut and Mango Sorbet. We asked our friendly waitress what this dessert was about and when it came out it looked like exactly what she had described. Have a look for the pic of this dessert above – it was a spectacular looking dish! You almost weren’t sure where to start eating. The Sorbet was beautifully made and was fresh and packed with flavour and very smooth! The Chiffon Cake was not as soft as I thought it would have been, but this somewhat added texture together with the smoothness of the sorbet and the passionfruit curd. Eating all the different parts together was like a sweet heaven party in your mouth. It sure is one not only good looking dish but great tasting as well.

Coda is a funky restaurant that is good for any occasion – be it casual or formal. The staff are experienced and enthusiastic and if you ask them anything about the menu they go that extra mile to explain things to you. You can tell why this place is popular and books out quite fast. In short the food is great and there is a huge variety of dishes to choose one – it would be quite hard to not find at least one dish you wouldn’t enjoy, the venue is enticing and has a sense of fun and the staff welcoming. Be sure to try this place out!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Selection of dishes from Smaller, Larger, Sides and Desserts – http://www.codarestaurant.com.au/pdf/coda_menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Urban, Chic, Funky and Fun – Great for all occasions!
Standout Dish: Sugar Cane Prawns and any of their Desserts
Service: Fantastic, Enthusiastic and Knowledgeable. Very friendly as well!
Online Booking: No, Call them to make a reservation or for no bookings there is seating around the Bar
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.codarestaurant.com.au/
Basement
141 Flinders Lane (Cnr Oliver Lane)
Melbourne
Tel No: 9650 3155

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday
Lunch: 12pm to 3pm
Dinner: 6pm to 10:30pm

Coda on Urbanspoon