Dig A Pony – Uniquely Delicious

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Dig A Pony Menu Dessert Menu    halal (1)** ONLY DUCK IS HALAL**

We (there were four of us) had just visited a friend in the Williamstown area and needed to find a place to have early dinner. After a bit of googling dinner places around the area, we stumbled on Dig A Pony. A quick phone call and we found out that they wouldn’t be open for another 30 minutes, but that would be about the time we would take to drive there.

We arrived about 15 minutes before their opening time however since they knew we were coming they saw us hovering around the outside and let us come in early – which was nice of them.

Dig A Pony was opened by owners Mike and Hannah Bacarella in 2009, to create a place that they would enjoy – a place that was welcoming and relaxed to enjoy good food, wine, music with great friends. The name Dig A Pony is inspired by the name of a classic song by The Beatles which was features on their final album “Let It Be” – and was known as a whimsical and eclectic song – which is the vibe that this restaurant and bar is going for.

From the outside Dig A Pony looks like your normal corner bluestone pub, but once you step inside you are greeted with wooden tables, creative lamps and lighting along with a variety of seating – from leather lounges to antique chairs as well as bar stools and armchairs – there is bound to be a seating arrangement that you enjoy. During daylight hours the natural light is let in through the many windows, however once night time hits the only lighting is from the light shades and few down lights around the venue – it can get a tad dark.

The menu initially was based around Mediterranean Tapas with authentic recipes hailing from Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and France – keeping firm the concept of food designed to be shared and enjoyed by all at the table. Enter in Mark Briggs (Vue de Monde, Sharing House) who added his touch of elegance and fine dining background to create an exciting menu that consists of delicious snacks, enticing small dishes as well some spectacular combinations for its larger plates. The concept of sharing, enjoying and having a bit of fun still remains.

The menu starts off with eight “Small Bites” – consisting of Oysters, Croquettes (Mac and Cheese) – how awesome do these sound! – just to name a few. Next on the menu are “Small Plates” (you can select from a selection of nine dishes – these include the likes of Mushroom Cannelloni (with Parmesan Mousse & Mushroom Ketchup), Moules Mariniere (Mussels in White Wine, Garlic & Cream), Chicken Kiev (with Crispy Kale & Broccoli), Tartare (Classic Beef with Egg Yolk Puree & ‘Chips’). There is only a selection of three “Larger Plates” to choose from – Duck, Goat or Wagyu Brisket. There are “Vegetables and Salads” to choose from as well as a “Charcuterie” section. If you find yourself not wanting to decide dishes on your own there are two Chef’s Selection Menu’s available – Five Plates ($45 per person) or Eight Plates ($55 per person).

Their drinks menu is quite extensive – consisting of wines, international and local boutique craft beers, spirits as well as a selection of intriguing cocktails. They also have unique combinations such as beer and whisky for those wanting a drink with a difference. In fact I think if you ask – you can mix just about any drink! I ordered a mocktail – which had flavours of Apple, Mint and Tang – a combination that quite refreshing on the palate.

There were two of us who had dietary requirements in the form of Dairy Free and Gluten Free and out waiter was very helpful in identifying which dishes could be consumed to suit. I also thought I would try my luck and ask if any of the meat or chicken was Halal – he found out that the Duck was – so of course we had to order it.

There were four of us at dinner so we decided to order a few dishes from each section.
We ordered three dishes from the Small Bites section. The first dish was the Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple – which came out looking as the menu read – in a cone shape sitting upright on a wire rack. Inside the cornetto cone was the mix of fresh ocean trout mixed with granny smith apple, capers and lime. I loved the mix of the crunchy cone together with the softness of the trout. The trout itself mixed with the apple was a brilliant combination – a hit of flavours for your tastebuds and a must try dish.

The next dish we received was the Cauliflower Popcorn with Roast Garlic Aioli – which comes served in a jar with the aioli placed on top. The cauliflower was crumbed and fried to create the popcorn effect and was seasoned well. The roast garlic aioli complimented the cauliflower well and tied the whole dish together. My only comment about the dish is to have the aioli in a separate little dish to make it easier for dipping purposes. The way it was with the aioli on top, when you got towards the middle or near the bottom of the jar you had run out of the aioli.

The last dish from the Small Bites section was the Buffalo Wings with Ranch Dressing. I didn’t try this dish; however I did try the Ranch Dressing which was absolutely divine – tangy with a kick of heat of it. Everyone around the table thoroughly enjoyed this dish as well and especially enjoyed the hint of chilli at the end.

From the Small Plates menu section we ordered the Confit Salmon with Clams and Savoy Cabbage and Scallops with Caramelized Cauliflower Puree & Sour Raisins.
The Confit Salmon usually comes with Pancetta, however we ordered this dish sans Panchetta. The dish was plated beautifully with flavours to match. The salmon had great texture and colouring and was cooked perfectly. The clams for me were the hero of this dish – delectable. Each of the elements brought a different flavour and depth to the dish – from the savoy cabbage laced in dressing to the pumpkin puree and finally the fried onions. A great tasting dish.
The Scallop dish was another good dish – the scallops were seared perfectly, the cauliflower puree worked brilliantly with the other elements on the dish and the raisins provided sweetness.

After these Small Plates we were onto our Large Plates of which we ordered two. First up was the Goat Hot Pot – Shoulder of Goat with Fennel and Rosemary. I loved the way this dish was presented – in a clay pot with a ring of scalloped potatoes on top. This was a clear favourite around the table – with the goat being melt-in-your-mouth, with the flavours being infused in the right proportions.
The next Large Plate dish was the Duck A L’Orange – Roasted Breast, Confit Leg & Brussel Sprouts. The duck was a bit on the tough side when you went into cut into it but the crispy skin on the outside was perfect. The velvety citrus sauce was rich yet subtle and really complemented the duck. This was my first experience of Duck A L’Orange and I must say I did quite enjoy it.

We also ordered the Quinoa with Pomegranate, Pistachio & Dates from the Vegetables and Salads section. The elements of tang from the pomegranate and sweetness of the dates, together with the nutty flavours worked well – you really cannot go wrong with this combination.

We were all really full from our meals but everyone needed a coffee for the drive home and so we looked at the dessert menu as well. There are five desserts to choose from and I was stuck in choosing between the Violet Crumble and the Parfait. In the end I went with the Parfait of Honey with Chocolate Mousse & Popcorn Granola. This was a really memorable and divine dessert. The chocolate mousse was rich, the parfait was creamy, the popcorn granola was caramelized and if you take each of these components together in one mouthful you will be heaven! If this dessert was this good – I can imagine just how good the other desserts would be!

Dig A Pony is the type of place that I wish I had stumbled upon a lot earlier as it serves up some great tasting food using simple ideas and a mix of interesting ingredients. The vibe is relaxed and casual – it’s a great place for a catch-up dinner with friends, as well as for a celebration. Staff are friendly and go out of their way to help in any way they can. If I was you I would definitely make a trip to Yarraville.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://digapony.com.au/wintermenu.htm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Casual and Welcoming. Great for any occasion.
Standout Dish: Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple
Service: Friendly, Knowledgeable and very helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://digapony.com.au/bookings.htm
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://digapony.com.au
58 Ballarat Road, Yarraville
Tel No: 9689 0110

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Friday to Sunday: 5:00pm – 12:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dig-A-Pony/199011662736
Instagram: Dig_A_Pony_
Twitter: @dig_a_pony_

Dig A Pony on Urbanspoon

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SEZAR – Armenian Hit

panda 4 rating

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halal (1)*NOTE: The meats are all HALAL Certified. You might need to specify that you want the food cooked in a HALAL Manner.

Menu:
Menu at Sezar

It was N’s birthday and I wanted to take him to  somewhere different and to try out a cuisine we haven’t had before – what better way than to try out the newly opened Armenian restaurant Sezar – located right in the heart of Melbourne CBD.

Sezar comes from head chef and co-owner Garen Maskal (also head chef of The Black Toro) and his business partners Aret and Sasoon Arzadian – and is named after his grandmother. Franc Bakkes (ex Ezard) takes the reins in the kitchen and has helped create a menu that exudes a combination of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean.  Sezar is located in the Melbourne CBD in an alleyway that used to house the Canary Club and Saint Peter’s – there is a graffitied mural which a street art mural of Haik Nahapet and ties in with the mural inside the restaurant of Mount Ararat.

Sezar’s vibe is sophistication and elegance which is demonstrated by its dim lighting, black tables and wooden chair combination. As you entered you are greeted by the mural and the colourful follows the mural wall to the length of the restaurant. The kitchen is located at the end of the bar. There are tables which can seat from two to four people, as well as space at the bar with high stools to sit on.

We are seated at our table by the window and order drinks. Their drinks menu is quite extensive and there is a good selection of cocktails. I order a mocktail which they can come up with on the whim – you just have to specify what type of flavour you want – I wanted something sweet and sour.  The result was exactly what I wanted and was the perfect balance of both flavours.

The menu is split into four sections starting off with Bzdig (small dishes), then Medz (medium dishes), Kove (the side dishes) and ending with Anoush (Dessert). There are around 14 small dishes to choose from which consist of Oysters, Spanner Crab Falafel, Grain Salad, Chicken Wings and Lamb Kebabs. The medium dishes of which there are 6 to choose from – cover all your main meats as well as a veggie dish.  There are 4 side dishes and desserts to choose from as well. Desserts include a Nutella Pide for all you chocolate lovers. The other option if you can’t decide is to have the Djash Ger-Ouyt – which is the Dinner Party Banquet which includes Dessert for $65 per person. We decided to do the banquet and let the chef pick the dishes. They ask you what dietary requirements you have and tailor this to suit your needs.

The first dish that we received was the Hervey Bay Scallops with Cauliflower, Cumin and Zaatar. This dish came served on the scallop shell itself on a black plate. The scallop was perfectly grilled – tender and sweet, with a base of creamy cauliflower puree and topped with the cumin and zaatar which was a delicious accompaniment and a great way to start the menu.

Our next dish was the Boreg – Spinach, Feta Cheese and Aleppo Mayo. The Boreq came plated up with the Aleppo may in a separate sauce dish. I loved this dish – the outside of the Boreg was flakey, buttery and crispy which made a loud crunch as you bit into it. The filling was to die for – there was an abundance of spinach mixed together with the creaminess and saltyiness of the fetta – but the balance and mix was just right. The Aleppo mayo was also really fantastic! I loved the taste of the spice and tang together, and paired with the boreg – it was just simply heaven! Another must try dish.

Next up was the Cured Ocean Trout – Fennel, Sumac and Almond Cream. The dish was visually pleasing with the almond cream spread out at the base of the place and the brightly coloured cured trout placed in strips on top, and finished with the fennel and sumac. The trout is cured with salt, cardamom, cumin and black seasame and was soft and wholesome. The fennel and sumac added the crunch of texture and the strong flavour paired with the almond cream was a really good addition to the cured trout. It was yet again another great dish.

Our next course was the BBQ Shitake Mushroom on a skewer – with Haloumi and Grape Leaf Wraps. The skewers came with the glistening mushrooms between the salty haloumi and slices of red onion, served with grape leaves on the side. This dish was good but not as spectacular as the other dishes. The combination of the mushroom and haloumi wrapped in the grape leaf was a fun and interesting dish that was flavoured well.

The final of the small dishes was the Lamb Kebab – Baby Gem Lettuce, Sour Cherry Sauce. I really enjoyed this dish. We were told to wrap the kebab in the lettuce and dip into the cherry sauce. The lamb was spicy, moist and tender. I have never had my lamb with a cherry sauce before – but this combination I felt was perfectly suited to the lamb. The lettuce added an extra dimension of crunch.

We were getting quite full with all the small dishes, but had the main big sized dish up next. For this we were given the Braised Beef Cheek with Tomato, Pea and Steamed Rice. You could smell the aromas of the dish as it was placed on the table and there was a brightness and freshness to the dish – the accented green against the savoury brown. The beef was really well cooked and was literally melt in your mouth. The sauce was a nice addition although I thought it could have used with a little more flavour (salt) and spice.

To finish the meal we were given two desserts – Baklava with Crispy Filo, Walnut Ice Cream and Caramel as well as the Semolina Cake with Almond Crumble and Crème Fraiche. Both dishes were beautifully presented – the semolina against the black backdrop of the plate and the baklava against a white and pink backdrop of the plate.

The Baklava was a great modern take to what you would usually expect. The crispy and sweet filo pastry encompassed the quenelle of beautifully creamy walnut ice cream and was finished with the drizzle of sticky caramel and topped with walnuts and lilac flowers. The pastry was once again to die for and the combination of the ice cream, nuts and caramel made for a really great dish!

The Semolina Cake was a dense piece of almond flavoured cake which I found in some parts to be quite dry, placed with a dollop of crème fraice and finished with caramelised almond bits and colourful flowers. Having just come back from Turkey and eating their version of the semolina cake I guess I was expecting similar flavours to what I had there – but this was different. It still was a really good dish with all the right flavours and textures.

The banquet is a great way to experience not only a variety of dishes but a difference of flavours and textures. I think the mix of the small dishes covered a great range and the fact that we were given two desserts was an added bonus. Sezar is a great place for a relaxed yet classy dinner where the staff are helpful and friendly, as well has having a colourful and extensive drinks list. Lookout for cocktail bar that will be opened in the near future which is located just upstairs of Sezar.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to menu above or link here http://sezar.com.au/SezarMenu.pdf. There are small, medium, sides and desserts to choose from. You can also have a Dinner Party banquet (Djash Ger-Ouyt) for $65 pp which includes a couple of small dishes, a medium dish and desserts.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant, Classy and Relaxed. Great for date night or a special occasion
Standout Dish: Hervey Bay Scallops with Cauliflower, Cumin and Zaatar AND Lamb Kebab – Baby Gem Lettuce, Sour Cherry Sauce
Service: Fantastic, Friendly, Helpful and Attentive. Our waitress was informative and knew a lot about the dishes when asked.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://sezar.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://sezar.com.au/
6 Melbourne Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 9882

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Thursday and Friday: Noon till 5:00pm
Dinner
Monday to Saturday: 5:30pm to Late

Sezar on Urbanspoon

Jimmy Grants – Chill & Have a Souva

panda 4 rating


halal (1)ONLY THE CHICKEN IS HALAL

I visited Jimmy Grants during a day off during lunchtime as I had heard about their souvas. Jimmy Grants is the latest opening from the Made Establishment group – which also consist of Gazi, Mama Baba, St Katherine’s and HellenicRepublic and headed up by none other than Greek King George Calombaris. It is located in just off Smith Street in Fitzroy. There are more stores planned to open with one in CBD and one in Ormond. Another focus in the future is also to have a delivery service.

The name comes from the rhyming slang name for the Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern immigrants to Melbourne and pays homage to them in the naming of dishes. For example the Patris is named after the migrant ship that carried assisted migrants from Europe to Australia – and is souva which comprises of prawns, attiki honey, mayonnaise, cucumber, mint and coriander. Yum! Jimmy Grants has a very short and concise menu which consists of souvas, rotisserie meats, salads, sides and of course dessert.

The main focus here is on souvas (souvlakis) all of which are under $10. The souvas come in a warm and fluffy wholemeal pita which is stuffed with either free range chicken, lamb, prawns or falafel together with other additions that you would finding a souvlaki such as onions, parsley as well as delicious, crispy,crunchy chips! There are also the “Jimmy Dimmy” which is their take on the humble Dim Sim. I wanted to try this out but was too full after my souva so I definitely have to come back and try it out.

In addition to the souvas, there are also salads available such as the simple iceberg salad with oregano, lemond and oil, the Hellenic Slaw with honey and Balsamic as well as a Grain salad that has a combination of pulses, nuts and grains mixed with parsley and Greek Yoghurt.  You can also order either the free range chicken or the spit roasted lamb shoulder from the rotisserie together with pitas and a side (a kind of do-it-yourself souva if you will)  at $15 and you can also add a salad or extra pita breads for an extra $5 – the choice is up to you.

The menu of course has to finish with Desserts and these ranges from the Greek doughnuts with walnuts and honey (made by chef  Travis McCauley), to a Greek Yoghurt, honey and white chocolate “choc top” as well as their version of the Wagon Wheel (filled with strawberry marshmallow (all of which are made by Darren Purchese).

I ordered the chicken souva and it was quite tasty but slightly smaller in size than your standard kebab. I loved the addition of the chips for the extra crunch and the sauce used was delicious. Sometimes I found the chicken sizing to be too big to fit inside the kebab (but then again who would complain about that =p) The chicken is moist and tender at the same time and is flavoured perfectly.

For dessert I ordered the Wagon wheel which was chocolate filled with a strawberry marshmallow gooey centre. It was decently sized as well and I couldn’t eat all of it in one go – but it was certainly just as delicious as biting into it the first time.

The space in which Jimmy Grants was created was designed by Techne Architects and features low table seating in the front room, followed by high bar stools and high communal table in the back room. The historical and cultural references can be seen in the décor with splashes of the Greek blue against the white washed brick walls. There are also feature walls done by Dan Wenn which show a DC-3 aircraft as well as The Patris (the tall ship with silhouettes of friends and family waiting for their loved ones in the foreground).

Jimmy Grants is a licensed bar, diner and takeaway all in one where the staff are warm, welcoming, friendly and funny! Jimmy Grants delivers quick, easy and tasty Greek food that doesn’t cost much at all. It’s a no fuss souvlaki bar which is soon to open up in other locations and I cannot wait for a branch closer to me.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://jimmygrants.com.au/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Friendly, Welcoming and A piece of Greek in Fitzroy
Standout Dish: Any of the Souva’s
Service: Fantastic and Attentive. The wait staff are super funny as well!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://jimmygrants.com.au/
113 Saint David Street, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – 10pm

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

Casa Ciuccio – Great for Sharing Dishes

panda-4-rating1

Casa Ciuccio has been on my list of places to eat for a fair while now and we finally got to check it out for Dinner on a Saturday night. There were four of us and we had made a booking for the earlier sitting of 6pm (and the table was needed back by 8:30pm). N and I arrived before the other two, and as we walked in we thought it was a lovely, quaint place that had a rustic, charming and homely feel.

Casa Ciuccio is the latest restaurant from the Bar Lourinha (CBD) team – Jo Gamvros, Simon Benjamin and chef Matt McConnell (brother of Andrew McConnell of Cumulus Inc, Golden Fields etc)- which is located on the trendy Gertrude Street. Ciuccio means cheeky Neapolitan donkey and there is evidence of donkeys around the place such as behind the bar on shelves alongside a burnt red brick wall.  There are various dining spaces which consists of a front room ‘picar’ bar, a first floor private dining (which can seat up to 22 people) which adjoins ‘Bar Chooch’ and deck and is completed with a European-style courtyard. At the front room you can sit at tables or high stools or head into the ‘kitchen table’ where you can watch the chefs cook right in front of you.

The menu is Mediterranean-inspired (flavors of Spain and Portugal) and consists of share plates (raciones) and small snacks (para picar), has a great drink menu and larger dishes from the grill and coal pit. All the meats from the coal pit are cooked long and slow over coal (for between three and six hours) and fruitwood and served with potatoes and condiments to create a smokey flavour. Sounds tempting right? There is also a selection of vegetables to choose from. The menu is designed to share dishes thereby being able to try many dishes which is the best possible scenario.

There was four of us for dinner and we decided to get a dish from each section. We got the Yellowfin Tuna from the Para Picar section, the Ocean Trout from the Racione, the Octopus tentacle and Garfish from the Grill and the Wagyu Brisket from the Coal Pit. The Yellowfin Tuna came in three chunky pieces of tuna atop of a piece of potato and was delicious. The tuna was cooked perfectly and had a great rustic flavour and texture. Next up was the Ocean Trout which was served cold served with a lime dressing and had added tanginess with the gherkins. The trout was fresh and quite tasty.

The octopus tentacle was next and is quite impressive when it comes out – served on a plate with a wedge of lemon. The octopus is seasoned with lemon juice, oregano and garlic and is steamed and is a paler shade of tandoori red. It comes chargrilled and when we cut into the tentacle it is soft, tender and has a punch of spiciness to it. It definitely was the dish of the night and is a must try for anyone coming to try the food here. You really could eat it all night long.

The garfish dish was quite generous in serving size and came with two whole garfish on the plate draped in pieces of pomegranate. Pomegranate is one of my favourite fruits and it added a nice tang and sweetness to the dish. The only issue with garfish are the tiny tiny bones that make it hard to eat. The garfish was cooked just right and was juicy and flavorsome.

Next up was the Portuguese Goat and Rice and the Peppered Wagyu Brisket and Potatoes from the Grill. The Portuguese Goat and Rice was similar to a Paella and everyone around the table thoroughly enjoyed it, but would have liked more pieces of goat. The other three said the goat was tender and the flavours mixed with the rice, tomato was fantastic. The Wagyu Brisket was tender and the smokey flavours added depth to the perfectly cooked dish.

Eventhough we were all quite full from the dinner meals there was no way we were going to refuse dessert. We decided on ordering two desserts and sharing them between ourselves. We got the Chocolate Buneuelos and Hazelnut Sauce and Dulce de Leche Cream Pot and Peanut Praline. I didn’t know what a Buneuelo was – it is like a chocolate filled donut and together with the hazelnut sauce was quite delicious. The Buneuelos pastry was soft and tasted like a delicious cake and had icing sugar over the top. The best dessert however was the second one we had ordered – the Dulce de Leche Cream Pot. It was smooth and creamy and the peanut praline on the top added the texture of the crunch together with the caramelized sugar. If you have to pick one dessert to try – pick the Cream Pot! The caramelized sugar was made perfectly and looked like glass which I think is the best way to judge a good caramelization.

The staff at Casa Ciuccio were friendly and upbeat and have a wealth of knowledge in terms of the drinks on the menu and the food. Our waitress was very helpful in suggesting what dishes we wanted and if we had ordered enough. There is nothing better than having these qualities in your staff. Casa Ciuccio is a great place to experience some European dining that has a homely and rustic feel to it.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Donkey Express Lunch Menu – There are two menu’s to select from and costs $35 for 2 courses and a glass of wine – http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/pdf/Casa-Ciuccio-donkey-express.pdf
Dinner Menu – http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/pdf/Casa-Ciuccio-menu.pdf
Private Dining Menu – You can select from the $65, $75 or $85 menus – http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/pdf/Casa-Ciuccio_Private-dining-menus.pdf (You will need to make a reservation for private dining)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely and Rustic – classically European
Standout Dish: Octopus Tentacle
Service: Fantastic and Attentive and very helpful!
Online Booking:No, You will need to call up. They take reservations for Groups of 4 or more
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/
15 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 848 88150

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12pm to 11pm
Friday: 12pm to 1am
Saturday: 12pm to 12am
Closed Sundays

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