Woody P – When In Rome…

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menu Pizza Menu

It was a Friday night date night and we decided to eat in the city. I remembered hearing about a new restaurant that had opened up called Woody P. It was earlyish – around 6:30pm so we decided to see if we could get a table without a booking. We were able to score some high seats by the window with a view looking into the kitchen area and were told that when a table becomes available they would move us. Perfect!

Woody P is located on Flinders lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD – with neighboring restaurants such as Chin Chin, Coda and Cumulus Inc. Woody P is brought to us by Pierre Semaan and Robert Rae who previously owned Fashion Lounge – the nightclub – which is the very place that Woody P has taken over.

Woody P has such an interesting space which has been designed by Eades and Bergman (who have also designed Kong and The Meatball and Wine Bar). As you are about to enter the restaurant – you know you are at the right place when you see a neon blue W sign out the front – and if you look down – the WOODY P name made out of small tiles.
The venue spans over two floors complete with a combination of exposed brick walls, wooden floors, blond wood and marble – what a combination! The restaurant is artfully sectioned off into distinct areas – separated by exposed brick beams on one side and indoor suspended greenery (planter boxes) on the other side. The front section is for casual walk-ins, with a semi private area just behind it, followed by a marble bar with mosaic tiles for cocktails and towards the back overlooking the kitchen – high table seating. I love the brightly lit blue neon sign “When in Rome” which works beautifully against the exposed brick wall which catches your eye as you walk towards the bar. There is also a terrace for outdoor seating to dine al fresco once the sun comes out in Melbourne!

The menu has both Italian and Mediterranean influences and has been created by head chef Clinton Camilleri (Eleonore’s, The Lake House, The Royal George Hotel). The menu pretty much has something for everyone – from White Anchovy, Caramelised Onion, Puff Pastry starters to 48-hour Slow Cooked Beef Rib, Roast Onion, Gremolata to a selection of Pizzas and Pastas. The menu is split into 8 sections – Piccolo (Entrees), Salumi, Pizza, Grande (Mains), Pasta, Sides, Formaggi and Dolce (Dessert). You can select the “Time to Feast” menu for $55 per person for groups of four or more.
The Pizza menu can either be Eat In or Take-Away and to view the list available to choose from you simple flip over the menu given to you. There are 7 pizzas to select from including Margherita, San Daniele, Gamberi, Funghi, Patatina, Zucca and Porchetta.

N and I were seated at the high tables and were given the menus in case we wanted to have some snacks whilst we waited for our table. We were also asked if we wanted sparkling water which we said yes to. The sparkling water was from Bolle Stille and was better than any of the sparkling waters I have tasted around. Before deciding on what snacks/entrees we wanted we decided to order a drink. I asked what mocktails they had available and the friendly waitress informed me that there were two options – I ended up going with the Peaches & Cream. I have never come across a place that does a Peach mocktail so I was very interested to see what this was all about. The mocktail came out and just like the drink had peachy tones completed with a wedge of lemon – and tasted spectacular – exactly as you would imagine peaches and cream to taste like – slightly sour with a great creamy after taste! Delicious and definitely highly recommended!

It was time to decide what food to eat – we ordered the Panisse Chips, Truffle, Taleggio, Cauliflower to start while we thought about what we wanted for our mains. I had never heard of Panisse before so was intrigued to see what it was like – essentially it is reminiscent of polenta and comes served in fingers which resemble fries. The exterior was crumbed perfection with the inside reminding me of custard – I would have liked a bit more seasoning to the flavour such as salt and pepper but overall it was an interesting dish.

For mains I decided to go with the Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi, Tomato Sugo, Ricotta Salata and N went with Chargrilled Grass-Fed T-Bone (500gm), Salsa Verde. We also decided to get the Broccolini, Grilled Onion, Honey Mustard as a side – we absolutely love Broccolini and were interested to try the honey mustard flavouring.

My Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi, Tomato Sugo, Ricotta Salata was a beautifully presented dish – the Tomato Sugo oozed brightness at the base of the dish where the Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi were placed upon and finished with Ricotta Salata and Basil leaves. Gnudi is essentially a type of round gnocchi and Woody Ps take on it was smashingly delicious. The Gnudi balls were generous in size and quite dense in texture with the taste perfect. The Tomato Sugo was rich and complemented the ricotta and spinach fantastically. Overall a good tasting dish.
N’s T Bone was styled simply – the steak pieces cut up into bite sized pieces with the salsa verde dressed on top and finished with half a lemon. N thoroughly enjoyed his dish so much so that he didn’t even realise he was eating 500grams of meat!
The Broccolini was such a simple dish with bursting flavours that I loved. The Honey Mustard combined with the grilled onions meshed really well with the Brocollini. I think we will definitely be trying to replicate this dish at home!

As you all know I cannot leave a place without sampling the dessert menu. It was a tough choice to make but in the end I went with the Chocolate & Giandujua Budino, Crème Fraiche, Sour Cherry Ice Cream – and boy am I glad I did. I was raving about this dessert weeks later! This dessert isn’t just for all Chocolate lovers – but for anyone! Giandujua for those of you who don’t know is a sweet chocolate hazelnut spread and a Giandujua Budino is an Italian pudding made with this spread. This was served with quenelles of chocolate ganache as well as Sour Cherry Ice Cream. The combination of the rich chocolatey goodness combined with the sourness of the ice cream was brilliant. I could actually eat a bowl full of Sour Cherry Ice Cream on its own as well – it was simply divine!

On a different occasion (when I went to Woody P for lunch) – I ordered the Roast Potato, Truffle & Persian Fetta Tortellini, Cauliflower, Cavolo Nero. This would have to be my favourite dish from Woody P so far (aside from the delicious Chocolate dessert of course). The dish is immaculately presented – with the cauliflower puree at the base of the dish with the three tortellini placed in a triangle on top – finished with sultanas and Cavolo Nero. It was almost too pretty to eat…almost! From the first bite I was in Tortellini heaven – the combination of potato, fetta and perfectly made pasta was delicious – there was the right amount of seasoning and combined with the smooth creamy cauliflower puree. I am not usually a sultana fan but it really worked in this dish and added a sweetness to the dish which complemented all the other flavours. My only gripe would be that it too small – I would have like maybe 1 or 2 more tortellini – but I guess that’s only because the dish was DELICIOUS! On the same occasion C ordered the Gamberi Pizza – Tiger Prawns, San Marzano Tomato, Chilli, Garlic, Salsa Verde. I was lucky enough to sample a piece and it was quite good as well! When the pizza came out it came served with a little dish that had extra salt, herbs and chilli which I thought was a great idea as usually I have to ask for extra chilli on the side. The base of the pizza was thin, fresh and crispy on the edges with the ingredients all working well together.

Woody P is up there with one of my favourite restaurants of 2015 and one that I recommend to people when they ask me for a place to eat in the city! Service is brilliantly friendly and the vibe is welcoming and homely – it is a great place for Friday night drinks or just to have a quiet date night. The music is great and really allows you to let your hair down!
Also something to note the Woody P team are still deciding what their downstairs basement space will be transformed into. So stay tuned for something like a relaxed cocktail and wine / cheese bar come next summer.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to https://thegrazingpanda.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/bd409-woody-pmenujune2015.pdf or refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vibrant, Relaxed and Welcoming. Great for Friday Night drinks or Date Night. Alternatively it is also a great place to grab lunch during the week.
Standout Dish: Roast Potato, Truffle & Persian Fetta Tortellini, Cauliflower, Cavolo Nero
Service: Friendly, Attentive and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via this link
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.woodyp.com.au/
121 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 5000

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12:00pm to 12:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/woodypmelb

Instagram: woodypmelb

Click to add a blog post for Woody P on Zomato

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Mr Big Stuff – Bringing Soul to Melbourne

panda 4.5 rating

 

Menu:
Drinks Menu
Food Menu House Spirits Menu

A and I were due for our regular dinner catch up and she suggested we check out Mr Big Stuff. We tried to book a table but due to its newness & popularity there were no tables available, however they did inform us that if we came in we could sit at the bar – so this is what we did.

Mr Big Stuff is the new, funky and soul filled restaurant that’s taking Melbourne by storm. It is located in Meyers Place (it resides where Senorita used to be) – pretty much in and around the centre of the Melbourne CBD. Mr Big Stuff is relatively new having only been open a few months (opened in May 2014) with the concept being to add a bit of soul into the Melbourne food scene – and adding soul they do! From the moment you step inside you feel like you have been transported to 70s – from the pumping soul music to the orange and red warm tones and completed by the swagger of the wait staff in cute retro diner attire – think suspenders and bow ties. You can thank the 5 partners, including Michael Chen and Adam Ong from Golden Monkey bar (located in Hardware Lane) together with Head Chef is Louis Naepels (ex-Grossi Florentino) for bringing this new style of venue to Melbourne.

Mr Big Stuff is all about sharing some great tasting soul food and bopping along to some really great music. The venue has a in-house turntable that plays Thursday to Saturday (the night starts out with soul music, then progresses to R’n’B and cranks up to Hip-Hop – pure awesomeness!) and is decked out with sound-proofing material on its walls. Mr Big Stuff has been designed by Techne architects and has wooden tables along with some banquet seating in the main dining area. The other main feature is the wooden bar and the hole in the wall which allows you to peer into the kitchen. The tones of orange, red and wood really make you feel like you have stepped into the 70s and get you prepared for the food adventure that is about to begin.

What I loved when I looked up the menu online was the drinks menu and the fact that you could have each and every traditional beverage sans alcohol. This was fantastic for me as I don’t drink!

You can choose from the Cold Pressed Kool-Aid drinks – there are 4 different flavours to choose from, or the Egg Cream – a New York-style spider, which interestingly is egg free – Homemade Chocolate Sauce, Milk/Cream & Soda is the flavour available here. There is also a selection of Cold Brew Ice Teas available – of which there are 5 to choose from.

There is a magnitude of choices to select from so it took me a while to decide what I wanted – if I had it my way I would have spent the entire night there sampling every drink! I decided to go with the Kickin’ Kiwi – Cold Pressed Kiwi Juice, Fresh Lemon Juice & Soda. The Kickin Kiwi was full of flavour, refreshing and hit the spot. The tangy flavouring of the cold pressed kiwi worked well with the lemon and soda, that had this effect of creating a party with every sip. A ordered the P.Y Tea – Cold Brew Hibiscus Tea, Fresh Cold Pressed Watermelon & Fresh Lemonade. A’s drink came out served in a tall glass and came with extra sugar syrup on the side in case she wanted to make it sweeter – which she did utilise as it was a tad bit bitter at the start. I sampled her drink and it was quite tasty and refreshing as well – with the hibiscus tea flavouring much stronger than the watermelon. An all round good drink!

The menu is designed and created by Louis Naepels and is broken into four sections – Small Stuff, Mid Stuff, Big Stuff and Sweet Stuff. Naepels has done great things with menu especially coming from cooking Italian at Grossi Florentino – it is adventurous, fun and mixes brilliant flavours together. Across each of these sections there are upwards of 5 different dishes to try, except for the Sweet Stuff – there are only 2 desserts for now to try. Small Stuff includes dishes such as Pickled Okra, Grilled Corn, Pig’s Ears and their famous Corn Bread. Mid Stuff includes a selection of sliders (there are 4 different ones to choose from), and dishes such as Mac & Cheese, Kale Greens, Chicken Wings and Roasted Bone Marrow. The Big Stuff consists of Blackened Snapper & Clams, Mussels, Veal, Beef and Pork Ribs. We were told by the friendly waitress that the menu was created to be shared – ordering a little bit from each section.

We decided to share some things and order some separate dishes for the each of us as well (this tends to be what happens when A & I go out as I am a pescatarian and she can eat everything).

One of the first dishes to come out was the Jumbo Prawns – Corn Meal Dusted, Cajun Spiced, Prawn Head Mayonnaise –you get one prawn per serving. The prawn came out looking deliciously crunchy and it sure didn’t disappoint! The Cajun spice mixed with the soft texture of the well-cooked prawn was scrumptious – pair that with the “prawn head” mayonnaise and you have a somewhat fiery hit mixed together with a creamy finish. You really could eat more than a handful of these at a time.

A ordered the Sweetbread Nuggets – Lamb Sweetbreads, Honey & Thyme Glaze. Initially she was a bit apprehensive to order this dish – but speaking to our waitress she reassured her that it was a great dish, and it just tasted like lamb. These came out in a serving of five and looked exactly like how you would imagine nuggets to look like – served in a turquoise blue bowl and topped with thyme sprigs. A really enjoyed this dish and mentioned more than once how good these nuggets were – crispy coating on the outside and soft, tender lamb on the inside with a sweet aftertaste to finish on.

I also couldn’t look past ordering a slider from the menu and went with the Shrimp Slider with Spicy Mayonnaise. Once again this was another stand out dish – the shrimp had been fried to provide a crunchy texture and together with the slight sweetness of the brioche and the spice of the mayonnaise were a great combination. There are no words to describe it – you just have to try it yourself!

A ordered the Fried Chicken & Waffles – Spiced Maple Syrup – which seemed like one of the more popular dishes on the menu to order. I mean it is quintessentially soul food after all! This is quite a generous dish and comes with couple of pieces of chicken off to one sized, with perfectly placed waffles on the other, with the spiced maple syrup in a separate mini pitcher. The chicken has been marinated overnight in buttermilk and a spice blend of black pepper, cloves and cayenne pepper. The result was that the batter was flaky, crunch and fell off the chicken in a way that you would want it to. The chicken was cooked to perfection – juicy whilst being tender- and had combined hints of smokiness, spiciness and sweetness.
The rosemary and cheddar flaked waffles were out of this world – crunchy and textured on the outside whilst being soft and fluffy on the inside. The combination of the savoury waffles with the sweetness of the spiced maple was interesting and must be experienced.

We also ordered the Mac & Cheese – Three Cheeses – to share. This dish comes served hot hot hot on a warm pan and from the moment it is placed down you get the wonderful aroma of the cheese. The top layer is a combination of the three cheeses and crumbed biroche which have been toasted just right. The cheesy creamy pasta of elbows had a great peppery taste to it – combine this with the crunchy breadcrumbs and this dish is heaven. For usual Mac & Cheese lovers – you wouldn’t want to share this dish!

What is also brilliant about Mr Big Stuff is that they make their own Hot Stuff Chilli sauce which is bottled and is made from Habanero Chillies, Cayenne, Carrot, Apple Cider Vinegar and Spices. This sauce sure does pack a bit of a punch and is great for all of you who want that extra hint of chilli in your dishes .This also works well with the Shoestring fries!

Despite being full we had to check out dessert – if the food was anything to go by then the desserts would be just as amazing. I ordered the Quince & Rhubarb Cobbler. Initially I wasn’t quite sure what a cobbler was so had to ask our friendly waitress. A cobbler usually consists of a fruit or savoury filling which is then put into a baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit, or pie crust before being baked – hence creating a combination of crunch and softness. Generally speaking I’m a sucker for anything with Crème Fraiche – I think it adds a great element and depth to a dish and brings out flavours even more. The cobbler was quite a refreshing dish – with a combination of star anise and fruity flavours. The “cake” bits were moist, soft and delicious with the bread crumbs providing another texture. You definitely needed the addition of the Crème Fraiche to add some creaminess and extra wetness to the dish. Overall a very different yet tasty dessert.

A ordered the Apple Pie – Cinnamon, Spiced Rum. This wasn’t like any apple pie you would normally order – they came out as individual little pockets which reminded me of mini pastries – you get 4 per serve. The pastry on the outside was buttery, flaky and had a great flavouring to it, coated with cinnamon sugar. The inside was filled with a smooth warm apple filling that was both juicy and tasty. A said she really liked this different take on the apple pie.

The staff here are really friendly and always ensure you feel looked after without being overbearing. They are happy to offer suggestions when you are ordering food and can assist in answering questions. Another stand out of the venue is the music – we both loved the music played – it brought back memories from our high school days with stand outs like MJ, TLC just to name a few. If the music was this good when the in-house DJ wasn’t playing I can’t wait to come and check out the DJ sets on Thursday to Saturday nights.

When we call for the bill – it arrives in a wallet with Mr Big Stuff engraved on the front – which I think is quite fun and fits in really well with the 7os theme. They also have a variety of uniquely designed coasters which use known brand logos such as Pringles, MTV but change it to reference the Mr Big Stuff  name. Creative!

Mr Big Stuff is a Soul Food inspired restaurant designed around sharing great tasting food with friends along with unique Kool-aid drinks and funky tunes in a lively and warm atmosphere. If you want to be transported to the 70s and try out a place that makes you feel like you are part of the Soul Train set – this is your place!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pics above or click here for the links
Food Menu: http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/files/MRBIGSTUFF_WEB_FOOD_140523.pdf
Drinks Menu:http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/files/MRBIGSTUFF_WEB_DRINKS_140523.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Soulful, Warm and Inviting – a great place for a celebration and an all round good time! They have  in-house turntables which place on Thursday to Saturday nights.
Standout Dish: Shrimp Slider with Spicy Mayonnaise, Three Mac & Cheese
Service: Fantastic  – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/
Meyers Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 7411

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 6pm – 11.30pm

A Lunch Service is COMING SOON!

 

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

Charlie Dumplings – Dumplings with a Twist

panda 4.5 rating

We had to organise a catch-up dinner in an area that was inner city with food that catered for vegetarians on a Monday night and ended up deciding on Charlie Dumpling. I had heard a lot of good things about this newly opened place located in High St, Windsor.

As you assume by the name – Charlie Dumpling – this venue by Dylan Roberts (ex Claremont Tonic, Ezard, Cutler & Co.) and restaurant manager Jamie Munro-Lynch (Anada, Cutler & Co, Circa) is all about the dumplings – but with a twist – and also serves up other delicious and interestingly flavoured bites to eat. Do not expect to see dumplings coming out in bamboo steamers here – instead you get beautiful rustic plates to match the vibe and feel of the venue. The fit-out is intriguing – complete with a feature wall of multi coloured window shutters (which is reminiscent of Potatohead in Bali) and rather funky – as well exposed brick walls, fishing nets – which have been turned into light shades (a very smart idea) and funky lights that hang over the bar. The design is by renowned architects DC Group & Newline Design and the result is a simple yet cosy and chilled vibe.

There is a selection of dining possibilities from tables in the front main dining area, stools at the bar, along the outside footpath or the courtyard area out the back – in total Charlie Dumpling can seat 60 people. There is also a private dining room located upstairs for 14-16 people which can be booked for functions as well. Another option is takeaway – you can order in advance via a handy app to save time.

The menu is split into 4 main sections – Small Bites, Salads & Noodles, Savoury Dumplings and Sweet Dumplings. The drinks menu has Dessert Cocktails, Cocktails, Beer (Tap – there is only one tap beer – Orion & Bottled) and Wines (Red & White). Small Bites include things like Edamame, two different types of Bao, Duck Leg, Grilled Skewers, Chicken Ribs, Sashimi – just to name a few. The menu also lets you know which of the dishes are Gluten Free and which are Vegetarian which avoids having to ask the wait staff to tell you which dishes are of these category.

Whilst deciding on what we wanted to eat – we ordered drinks. On this night however the beer on tap wasn’t available. I ordered myself a mocktail – I left the flavouring up to the bar tender and was pleasantly surprised when it came out to be lychee based – my favourite! The mocktail was refreshing and delicious – and quite large in size as well – double bonus!

There are 6 of us for dinner tonight, and we are seating by the window – so we get the best of both worlds – looking into the restaurant as well as out onto the street. The seating is a tad bit squishy I must admit, however this is a small negative. We decide to order a couple of dishes to share to start off with and decide later to order more if we need. We have a vegetarian on the table, as well as a Pescatarian so we had a selection of dumplings that cover these dietary requirements. Also something to note is that dumplings come in servings of 4 pieces per serving. There are sauces on the table which include Black Vinegar & Chilli, Soy, Shallot & Ginger and Red Nam Jin.

To start with we ordered the Charlies Fried Chicken Ribs, Five Spice Honey, Kewpie from the Small Bites section. The ribs came out piled on top of each other in a pyramid form looking glossy and exuding deliciousness. There was a resounding “mmm” and “yumm” around the table as each person took their first bite, followed by S saying she wanted another serving straight away. They were that good – a mix of sweet and savoury with chicken that was cooked to perfection.

We then got the succession of dumplings that we ordered. The Crispy Salmon, Tobbiko, Leek and Tumeric were the first dumplings I got to try. These dumplings were fried and had a crunchy coating of crumbs on the outside with the inside mixture providing a flavour hit for your taste-buds – the salmon flavour ringing true whilst staying fresh. The Leak and Tumeric puree together with the Tobbiko was what the dumplings were sitting on – this added a creamy aspect to the dish and worked well with the crumbed texture.

The Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean – these were steamed dumplings. These reminded me of a Thai Fishcake – juicy, full of flavour with a hint of spice – and finished with a spicy soy sauce and chilli combo. A really great tasting dumpling overall – I have never had a snapper dumpling before and wasn’t sure that this mixture would work – but it really does!

P ordered the Ricotta dumplings, Cauliflower, Anise, Gai Lan as she was vegetarian and I was lucky enough to sample some. My first thought when I looked at the dish was that it was reminiscent of a gnocchi or pasta dish. There were about 8-9 dumplings, as they were not your regular dumpling. This was quite a heavy dish but really tasty – the combination of ricotta and cauliflower worked well together, added with the crunch and texture of the slivered almonds as well as the freshness of the gai lan.

The Chicken, Ginger, Cabbage and Crispy Skin was a really interesting dumpling dish. They each came wearing a “hat” in the form of the crispy skin. The filling was once again juicy, light, flavoured with ginger and wrapped in the cabbage leaf – providing a mix of textures. This was a dish that everyone around the table enjoyed.

The last of the dumplings to arrive was the Steam Prawn and Bamboo Shoot, Har Gow, Sweet Corn, XO. These came out as glossy morsels complete with a tender filling which was simple and what you would expect from a steam prawn dumpling, but the twist of the sweet corn puree which it sat on was a brilliant addition . The sweetness combined with the chilli and prawn flavours was divine!

We also ordered the Spicy Dandan Noodles, Sesame, Szechuan, Peanuts and Pickled Chilli from the Salad & Noodle section to share with the table. The dish comes out un mixed – with the noodles forming the base of the dish, and each of the components placed separately on top – just like what you see at a ramen restaurant. There were peanuts, poppy seeds, chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, fried onions and coriander. I like this concept where you get to mix the ingredients into the dish yourself – kind of a do-it-yourself – makes you feel as if you made the dish yourself – almost! And another plus is that if you don’t like any one component you can avoid mixing it in.
The dish was spicier than I was expecting – and the addition of the poppy seeds left a tingling sensation on your lips. I quite enjoyed the dish and the different flavours that were mixed together – I wasn’t a huge fan of the addition of peanuts though. There was a resounding thumbs up for this dish from the entire table.

As I always do – I had looked at the dessert section before even looking at what was available for the main meals – I couldn’t wait to order dessert. I had heard great things about the Milk Chocolate dumplings. We ordered the Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet AND the Hot Apple and Sesame Mochi, Gingernut Ice Cream.

The Milk Chocolate dumplings were delicious – warm balls that have been batter dipped then deep fried, filled with gooey milk chocolate, topped with sugar and finished with a raspberry chilli sorbet. The sorbet was refreshing and bursting with flavour and tang, with the chilli hint at the end. This combination of creamy sweet chocolate mixed with the refreshing tang was impeccable.

The Hot Apple dumplings were entirely different to the milk chocolate dumplings. The apple filling was encased with the chewy mochi skins which were also topped with sesame seeds. The apple filling was warm, subtle and sweet, but I found the mochi skin was a bit too chewy. I loved the gingernut ice cream – there were pieces of gingernut throughout the ice cream which added both texture and extra flavour. The dish needed both the ice cream and the hot apple dumpling together – I think one without the other wouldn’t work.

The service at Charlie Dumpling was fantastic – everyone we had was really friendly and helpful and always had a smile on their face. I liked the fact that the staff had their own favourites and when we selected a dish they would add a comment of what they really liked about the dish. To end the meal when you get your bill – you get a bowl of fortune cookies as well – the fortunes inside might not be so great – but it is a great novelty idea.

Overall Charlie Dumpling is modern, sophisticated restaurant with a unique twist on the regular Asian Dumpling venue – a combination of street food meets fine dining. The vibe is funky, fun and lively and you can really find yourself getting lost in the world of dumplings. Charlie Dumpling really does stay true to its values and seems to always have a fun with a great attitude!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://charliedumpling.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2014/05/Charlie-Dumpling-Dine-In-Menu_12MAY14.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Chilled and Funky. Great for a dinner catchup with friends. You can also book a function in their private dining room too.
Standout Dish: Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean AND Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and always with a smile. They are happy to provide recommendations as well!
Online Booking: No – they don’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://charliedumpling.com.au/
184 High Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9510 4213

Opening Hours:
Monday: 6pm – Late
Tuesday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm then 5:30pm – Late

Charlie Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Fiesta Mexican – Spicy, Lively & Fun

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Dessert Menu                       halal symbol
There is an increasing amount of halal restaurants that are opening up all around Melbourne, in fact all around the country! When we first came to Australia many years ago, halal restaurants were quite scarce – and to see them growing at an exponential rate is fantastic! And what I love is that it is not only restricted to the cuisines that you would normally associate with “halal” food such as middle eastern cuisine – but the cuisines itself have quite a variety as well – from Italian to Steakhouses!

When Bill Bilwani from Fiesta Mexican contacted me about coming to try out his restaurant and that the meat was entirely Halal I was wrapped! I am a huge fan of Mexican food and usually have to always stick to the seafood and vegetarian versions of the enchiladas, tacos etc – but with this restaurant being Halal I could experience what every other person gets to – the meat enchiladas, tacos etc! I headed down with my parents to experience this wonderful Mexican place for myself.

Fiesta Mexican has been around for just over 30 years and is located in Toorak Road in South Yarra. It is a family run business owned by Bill Bilwani with his son Shaheen helping out. The venue has had a makeover in the recent months and the result is a vibrant, colourful, mini-Mexico in Melbourne theme complete with psychedelic artwork which includes a hawk to the right when you enter as well as a woman with an eagle as her hair near the bar and counter area. There is mood lighting thanks to the Mexican Steer Bull shaped light shades – these look really cool lined up on the wall and further adding to the Mexican feel. There are wooden tables – each which have engraving on the table top – ours had a dancing Mexican lady – that can seat from 2 right up to 8 people depending on how large your group size is. We were seated at the front of the restaurant by the window – which allowed us to take in the whole length of the restaurant. There are stairs at the back which lead to a function area upstairs that can be booked out for celebrations. An interesting fact to note is that they have had celebrities like Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and even the Williams sisters come to dine here and there are some menu items named after them – the Agassi or Hewitt Burrito.

We were given our menus and I was overwhelmed by the choice and varieties before me – there were pages and pages of food to choose from and from reading the description of each I almost wanted a little taste of everything. There is an extensive range of tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas as well as a good selection of desserts. There is also a separate Gluten Free menu, and they also cater for vegetarians, coeliac guests and vegans too. The Dine in Menu is split into different sections – Apertivos, Soft Tacos , Entremese (Entrees), Ensaladas (Salads), Comidas (Main Courses) as well as Paellas. The Paellas however need to be ordered 2 days in advance and there are two different options – Chicken or Seafood. There is also a banquette menu – one for $35 and one $45 – the latter has a more seafood feel to it and includes 2 desserts, whereas the other has only one dessert and more of a beef and chicken feel to it. There is also a section that lists out the Vegetarian Main courses. Fiesta Mexican also has a takeaway menu and provides a delivery service as well – further extending out their clientele.

Whilst trying to decide what to order I ordered a drink from the list of Mocktails they had to offer – Mango Margarita. This came out in a larger than normal cocktail glass with a green stem – which contrasted really well with the yellow drink – there was salt around the rim of the glass in true margarita style. The drink was refreshingly sour and I quite enjoyed it.

We decided to order the Wingettes – fiery red hot marinaded chicken wingettes with chipotle and adobe mix, as well as the Carne Enchilada de Cheddar – Oven baked 6” corn tortilla rolled with slow cooked shredded topside beef, Monterey Jack cheese, white onion and mild smoked cayenne sauce to share. The chicken wingettes were delicious and tasted – they had a smoky, spicy yet sweet taste to them with the chicken cooked perfectly. The chipotle added a refreshing hit to those who would find the wingettes spicy.

The Carne Enchilada was soft and really easy to cut into – almost like butter. The beef inside was just as soft and tender – and flavoured deliciously. The combination of the beef, onion and smoky sauce on top was like a flavour hit in your mouth. A great way to start the meal. Each of these dishes came with a side salad consisting of salad leaves, red onions, cucumber and tomato.

For mains we ordered three dishes to share. The first dish was the Fiesta Autentica – the house specialty, a combination of beef, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, serrano chilli & fresh cilantro, delicious with flour tortillas, arroz verde & leaf salad. This was my favourite dish out of the three mains. The combination of both the beef, chicken and potatoes was fantastic and it had a great addition of spice. It actually reminded me of a dish that my mum used to make when I was younger so the memories it brought back were special too! The flour tortillas added the perfect addition to envelope this spicy tender mix and savor the flavours. Both the chicken and beef were tender and soft. If you love spicy dishes this is definitely one to try out.

The second of the mains we had was the Pollo Cajun – chicken breast coated in a blend of paprika, red pepper & garlic, served with, arroz verde & mango salsa. The coating on the chicken was delicious and really worked well with the texture of the chicken. The chicken wasn’t as tender as in the other dishes, however was still brilliant. The mango salsa was amazing as well – the spiciness mixed in with the sweetness of the mango worked well together. The rice – arroz verde -that came with these dishes were also really tasty – the rice grains were easily separated and was cooked pilaf style – my fave style of rice.

The last of the mains we ordered was the Carne En Tiras – two beef enchiladas with mild cayenne chilli sauce, served with brown rice & pico de gallo. This was similar to the entree that we had and was just as delicious – soft, spicy with a touch of smokines. The addition of the brown rice and pico de gallo was a great addition, and together with the enchiladas was tasty mouthful.

For dessert there was an interesting combination on the menu titled ‘Sensation is Mother of Invention’ – which had jalapeno, Rose Petal with Crunchy Candy Ice Cream – served with White chocolate and raisin sauce – however I wasn’t brave enough to see what that was about. We decided to order the ‘Crazy for Chocolate’ – chocolate mousse, chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate heart and vanilla ice cream with chocolate flakes. This dish was plated out differently to most other desserts I have come across. The chocolate mousse was in a square glass cup, the vanilla ice cream was in a black espresso cup topped with a strawberry, the chocolate dipped strawberries were placed around with the chocolate heart in the centre of the plate – which served as the “tray” for the dessert. I really liked the presentation and thought it was unique. The chocolate mousse was to die for – creamy, smooth and full of chocolatey goodness. The dipped strawberries had dark chocolate used and the bitterness of the chocolate worked well against the sweetness of the strawberry.

The staff are really friendly and lively which really does add to the complete the atmosphere of the place. From the moment you step in, you are greeted with a happy hello and shown to your table. They seem to really enjoy what they do. We also got to chat to Shaheen for a bit and learnt more about of his passion and drive for being in the food industry despite completing a law degree. He is very engaging and full of smiles, and goes from table to table ensuring all the guests are looked after. Great customer service! Despite being a Wednesday night – the place got really full – with the crowd ranging from couples to larger groups out for dinner.

There were other really interesting dishes around the room that other diners had ordered – such as the sizzling hot plates, and a drink that was flamed. The food was great and stayed true to the authentic Mexican flavours, the atmosphere was fun and lively and the staff friendly. There really is nothing more you can ask for when you go to dine out. The fact that the meat was all halal was a massive bonus for me. If you love Mexican food and want a huge variety to choose from, either way Fiesta Mexican is definitely a place for you!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/food_menu.php. If you want to order online you can do so on this link – http://www.menulog.com.au/order/fiesta-mexican-restaurant Refer above for the dessert menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Lively, Fun and Welcoming. You can definitely experience the Mexican vibe be it in the main dining rom or even in the function room located upstairs
Standout Dish:Fiesta Autentica – the house specialty, a combination of beef, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, serrano chilli & fresh cilantro, delicious with flour tortillas, arroz verde & leaf salad
Service: Fantastic –  Friendly and Welcoming. They also are great if you need any recommendations on what to order
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/
175 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 4593

Opening Hours:

Fiesta Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Northern Lights Bar & Eatery – Fusion Food with Fanciful Lights

panda 4 rating 
Love the Lights!

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Menu:
Northern Light Menu

We needed a place to have dinner after a full day at the Good Food and Wine show in the Fitzroy / Collingwood area, as we were heading to drinks in that area later. I referred to my trusty list of places I wanted to go and realised Northern Light Bar & Eatery worked perfectly.

Northern Light is located on Smith Street in Collingwood – in what used to be the old Gigibaba. Venue owners are Adam Liston and Glen Bagnara (ex-Chester White) together with manager Emily Pullen, and they have created a fusion Chinese and Japanese eatery that is all about shared dishes. Clearly the years Liston spent in Shanghai were utilised in the creation of the menu and the idea behind Northern Light.

From the moment you step in you feel like you are transported to another world – almost forest like (hence the name) – thanks to the plethora of dangling combination of light bulbs and lanterns. It’s beautiful. The next thing your eyes are drawn to is the marble white bar that takes up the length of the venue, finished with dark wood. There is seating all along the bar, along with lower tables at the front which has a massive white decorative mirror overlooking it. Exposed brick walls and mood lighting completes the look.

The menu designed by Liston and is split into 6 different sections – Snacks, Plates, Cooked over Binchotan, Meat, fish & Vegetables, Sides and finishes with Desserts. You can pick from the enticing dishes yourself or have the banquet menu – 5 courses for $55 and 7 courses for $75. Snack dishes include Spiced Prawn Cracker, a golden egg, Plate dishes which are slightly larger consists of an edamame dish with kimchi sauce, an interesting eel dish and air dried Blackbmore beef. Cooked over the Binchotan have a selection of skewers that come in the form of mushroom, chicken, beef or pork belly. The meat, fish & vegetable section include soba noodles, suckling pig, a smoked trout okonomiyaki and lamb ribs. There are three different sides to choose from as well three different desserts.

The drink menu includes Sapporo on tap along with other drink options include cider, wine, and a concise selection of cocktails. I ordered a mocktail of mint and pineapple and it was quite tasty.

We have a few dietary requirements and the staff are happy to help us out and let us know which dishes are Gluten-free. With that knowledge we decide to order for ourselves – there are four of us – and get a couple of dishes from each section. What I also liked was that each time a dish came out – the staff explained what the dish was and each component.

We start off with the Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake. This came highly recommended from the staff, and after eating this dish we could see why. The dish was quite a colourful dish thanks to the blue background of the plate together with the fried shallots and furikake (nori, seasame and chilli) all adding to the colourfulness. The golden egg was perfectly soft centered – it had been poached and then flash fried to create a crackling outer shell that had been rolled in caramel. The dish was finished with the onion as well as the furikake and worked extremely well together. It was a combination of spice, salt, sugar, crunch and gooeyness – try it out for yourselves.

The Sichuan Spiced School Prawns, Curry Mayo were up next. There was a bit division here with this dish but only with regards to the Curry Mayo – half of us liked it and half of us didn’t. I was on team I LIKE THE MAYO – it was an interesting combination and I think it worked well with the flavour of the prawns. The Sichuan spiced prawns on the other hand was a clear winner – everyone loved it and we sat around discussing how we could recreate this dish at home. They were perfectly crunchy and flavoured well and you could sit there eating them all day!

The Edamame, Broccolini, Gai Lan, Kimchi Sauce was an interesting dish. I am obsessed with Broccolini at the moment, so when I saw this as one of the components I had to get it. The Edamame came already out of the pod – which was a bit disappointing – the whole fun attributed to popping them yourself was missing, however I get why it was done for this dish. The dish was fresh and tasty thanks to the kimchi sauce.

Next up was the Eel unagi, Squid Sauce, salted Grapes, Mojama. This was a really great dish! A hadn’t ever had eel before and she tried it for the first time here and quite enjoyed it. The dish was presented interestingly, with grape halves dispersed amongst the eel, which lay on top of the squid sauce and topped with mojama (salt-preserved tuna). The eel was smooth and had a smoky flavour which worked well when coupled with the sweetness of the grapes and the saltiness of the mojama. A dish well worth ordering.

The Air dried Blackmore beef, wasabi, yolk, fried potato was another interestingly plated up dish – the main focus was the nest of thin potato slices that you needed to push aside to reveal the vibrant Blackmore beef and the bright yolk. The dish was completed with fresh wasabi, horseradish and sorrel leaves. The boys quite enjoyed the beef dish and said it was interesting to have it combined with the walk runny yolk.

The Wagyu oyster blade skewers with Bulldog Sauce were a hit as well. They are quite small in size and I am sure they all could have eaten another three skewers each – they were that easy to eat – tender and flavoursome, and the bulldog sauce always makes things more interesting.

I used to order vegetarian okonomiyakis all the time and really enjoyed the dish, so was interested to see what Northern Light’s version would taste like. We ordered the Smoked trout, salted shrimp okonomiyaki, katsuobushi (this is the Japanese name for dried, fermented and smoked skip jack tuna). We were all enthralled by this dish when it was placed in front of us as we saw pieces of food moving – this turned out to be the katsuobushi. When placed on hot food, the heat waves causes the thin and light katsuobushi to move about which made the dish seem alive with the “dancing” katsuobushi. The dish resembled a seafood omelette and was quite tasty – however we found it a tad bit too salty. The saltiness took over the other flavours of the dish so I couldn’t really taste the smokiness of the trout.

To accompany the dishes we had ordered we also ordered the Warm soba noodles, wild mushrooms, white sesame and the Vegetarian Fried Rice. The soba noodle dish I loved – anything combined with mushrooms and sesame to me is brilliant. The noodles weren’t overcooked either so all in all a good dish.

After all the dishes we got try I actually was quite full and wasn’t really considering dessert – but I am glad that I decided to change my mind at the last minute. I ordered the Broken Ice Cream Sandwich. This was yet another interestingly presented dish – it came out with jagged edged shards made out of chocolate and reminiscent of a hardened cake – placed in form of a tent shape. Once you open this fort like surrounds you reveal a luscious and creamy vanilla ice cream rectangle chunk, which is topped with dollops of equally creamy chocolate mousse and gooey salted caramel. The combination of these three elements together was spectacular and it was the best end to a great meal. Who knew something so simple when put together could taste so great!

We apparently beat the Saturday night rush as we had a pretty early dinner – around 6pm and left around 7:30pm. So if you want to beat the rush go early! Northern Light Bar & Eatery is a great place to just hang out and enjoy some great Japanese/Chinese inspired dishes whether it be with a group of four people or even a romantic night out. The mood is casual and relaxed, the staff really friendly and those multiple hanging lights are a winner in my book!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above pic. Menu can also be found at http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Romantic, Mood Lighting, Casual and Relaxed. Great for a first date – but works well for a group of 4 as well!
Standout Dish: Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake AND Broken Ice Cream Sandwich
Service: Fantastic! Very helpful when we needed to find out about which dishes were Gluten Free. Friendly as well!
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/bookings/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/
102 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9416 0698

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:30pm – Late

Northern Light 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

Burma Lane – Burmese Wonder

panda 4.5 rating

Burma Lane has newly opened in the venue that once used to be Mahjong Black – on Little Collins street – and serving up traditional Southeast Asian flavours from Burma. This new venue comes from the people who brought us Red Spice Road – Adam Trengove and Shaun Moorhouse.

The interior hasn’t changed too much from when it used to be Mahjong Black but there are accents of Burma all around the venue. The signature style of Red Spice Road with large paintings of women continues upstairs here at Burma Lane with four colourful portraits of women on the back wall. There are birdcage light fittings as well but the centrepiece is the iconic “Freedom to Lead” image of  Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by Sherpard Fairey– which is  on the right hand side wall as you walk into the venue and go up the stairs. There is seating downstairs as well upstairs in this split level venue which consists of wooden table and chairs, finished with terracotta coloured plates that sit on top of the menu. There are also tea-stained posters which have been pasted onto one of the columns where the stairs are, and there is also a wall of holiday pictures from Burma.

The menu consists of several small bites, noodle dishes (there are four to choose from), salad dishes (five to select from), and then has bigger bites and finishes with desserts. The bigger bites consist of mostly curry dishes, and come with a bowl of rice and cover most meats – fish, goat, beef, egg, prawns and pork – take your pick. The drinks list is impressive and there is even a section for mocktails which I thought was great. There are drinks like Land of Milk & honey, Swami Delight and Thai Dai. I ordered the Thai Dai which had Lychee Juice, Pomegranate Juice, Kaffir Syrup. This drink is quite refreshing and came topped with a passionfruit piece which a nice way to finish the drink off. I also got to sample the Swami Delight – Apple, Indian Yoghurt Cardamom Syrup, Agave. This drink was very tasty and was a different take on the original Lassi as usually you have Mango lassi, but this consisted of Apple, Cardamom and Agave – the result was a fantastic tasting combination. I would definitely recommend trying out these mock tails.

As we had more than 8 people we had to do the 4 course set menu which I thought was quite reasonably priced at $30. For these 4 courses we received – 2 small bite dishes, 1 noodle dish and 1 bigger bite dish. There is also a Chef’s tasting menu called ‘Taste the Best of Burma’ which costs $65. These options are quite wise as you can get a bit overwhelmed with the menu selection as all the dishes and their combination of ingredients sounds so enticing. There are so many dishes that I want to come back and try especially the Potato Cake which is filled with Slow Roasted Lamb Belly, Cabbage and Minty Yoghurt – how amazing does that sound! And on another note what I also love about Burma Lane is that the meat is certified halal – so I can actually have a majority of the dishes!

The first dish that we were brought out was Kun Sar Thi – Betel leaf with chicken, shallot, green mango & Sichuan pepper. The dish came out beautifully presented – with the chicken, shallot, mango mix placed in a bowl in the centre with the betel leaves surrounding it. We were told by the waiter that we were to place the chicken on top of the betel leaf and eat them together. The result was a flavour hit in your mouth together with the crunch of the betel leaf. The flavour combinations were unique and delicious all at the same time.

Next up was the Chargrilled ginger, turmeric chicken chops with lime & chilli – these came out looking glossy and perfectly grilled in a terracotta bowl together with a piece of lime and topped with chilli. The chicken was pretty good but not fantastic. The outside flavouring and coating of the chicken was delicious however, the inside was quite bland to me. I should also mention before we were given our dishes, the waiter brought us out 3 different types of sauces and chutneys and explained what was in each of them as well as giving us the spiciness rating. I thought the idea of this was quite fantastic. What made this even better was as each dish was brought to our table and explained to us – he would tell us which one of the three sauces would match perfectly with each dish. Ingenious! Back to the chicken – it was a great snack dish and together with the desired sauce was overall a great dish.

Next we moved onto a dish from the noodle section and were given the Fat rice noodles with tofu puffs, spicy coconut broth, greens & bean sprouts. The first thing you notice about this dish when it comes out is that it is fresh looking and very colourful (especially against the black backdrop of the bow) and it draws you in immediately making every tastebud on your tongue water. And when you take that first mouth, it definitely doesn’t disappoint. This dish is semi wet dish thanks to the spicy coconut broth and the combination of flavours is fantastic. I really enjoyed this dish and especially loved the combination of the tofu puffs.

The last dish that we had was the Rockling cooked in turmeric, lemongrass & tomato with noodles, mustard greens & egg AKA Funky Mohingha, our take on a Burmese classic. From having read up on people who had previously been to Burma Lane – this is their signature dish – so I was so happy to know that they featured it on this 4 course menu. Once again fantastically presented – with egg halves bopping in the tangy and tantalizing looking gravy along with the pieces of rockling – it was a dish I couldn’t wait to try. You get the waft of the lemongrass and tumeric as it was placed on the table, and these flavours carry thru as you take your first bite. The rockling is soft and tender and is complimented with the flavours and literally melts in your mouth. This is definitely a dish to try and is a true testament to Burmese cooking.

Despite initially thinking that we wouldn’t be full from the meal we were quite satisfied and didn’t have any room for dessert. Desserts ranged from Sago and Coconut Pudding, Pandan and Coconut Jelly with Jasmine Rice Ice Cream, as well as Coconut Ice Cream on its own.

Burma Lane is a great new addition to the Melbourne CBD food scene and truly brings you flavoursome and authentic Burmese food – ranging from small offerings to their larger dishes of tantalizing and deliciously aromatic curries. Another thing to note about Burma lane is that they support a number of charities through Pomelo, which is an umbrella group that provides practical training and financial aid to disadvantaged communities in Burma. Great food and supporting charities back in Burma – what more could you ask for?

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Food Menu at http://burmalane.com.au/food-menu, Drink Menu at http://burmalane.com.au/wine and a little bit about Burmese food can be found here http://burmalane.com.au/about-the-food
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy, Elegant yet Relaxed and a great place for entertaining or even just catching up with people.
Standout Dish: Fat rice noodles with tofu puffs, spicy coconut broth, greens & bean sprouts OR Funky Mohingha
Service: Friendly, Helpful and very Knowledgeable. They are happy to help and really do the menu inside out.
Online Booking: Yes  – you can book online at http://burmalane.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
burmalane.com.au
118 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9615 8500

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Friday: 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Dinner
Monday to Friday: 6:00 pm – 12:00 am
Saturday: 6:00 pm – 12:00 am

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Portello Rosso – Terrific Tasting Tapas!

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Portello Rosso is a small tapas and Jamón restaurant located in a laneway off Little Bourke street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. You walk into the restaurant via two big red rolling doors and are welcomed into a softly lit space that is filled with wooden hues. To the right hand side is a wall of wines, and as you enter there is a wooden table which is the share table from which you the kitchen is visible. There is also room to sit upstairs or at the bar. The atmosphere is romantic and casual all at the same time and is a fantastic place to just relax and chill. The staff are friendly and always have a smile.

The menu is absolutely delicious! The dishes are authentically Spanish from the way of dining and created by Aaron Whitney – sharing dishes-  to the huge variety of wine. Portello Rosso also serves Jamón which is commonly found in Spain, served on a Charcuterie Plate or simply wrapped around Prawns. The Patatas Bravas with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Spicy Tomato Jam & Aioli is my favourite dish on their menu and is the best Patatas Bravas I have had. The potatoes are fresh and juicy and the paprika is smoked to perfection. Roasted Baby Beetroot Salad with Pumpkin, Almonds, Goat’s Cheese & Sherry Caramel Dressing is another winning dish for me. The flavours just worked fantastically and it really didn’t feel like a salad dish. Mojama Air-Dried Yellow Fin Tuna on Grilled Garlic Crostini with Tomato, Cucumber & Herbs should be tried as well – the tuna tastes magnificent and paired with the tomato, herbs and cucumber really does make you feel like you are in Spain. Paella is also on their menu – there are four different types to select from and include a seafood and vegetarian version. They are made fresh to order and will require a 45 minute wait. Another thing to note on the menu is for groups of 8 or more- you can select from a Degustation menu starting from $32 up to $62. Bookings need to be made in advance for this and the different menus can be found via the menu link below.
The desserts are a must try as well – the menu has changed now – but the Spiced Chocolate Pudding and the Creme Catalana were delicious and flavorsome.

Portello Rosso is an intimate space and is great for a catchup with friends before you head next door to Murmur Bar or even a romantic night out that will definitely make you feel a little bit of Spain in Melbourne. Murmur Bar is another awesome place and make the best cocktails and mocktails around Melbourne. What a perfect night out – dinner at Portello Rosso followed by drinks at Murmur =)

The owners of both these establishments, have a third place as well – Brunswick Mess Hall – another bar and eatery which has the best atmosphere. They share the same philosophy of Portello Rosso and Murmur and is another definite must try. In the short time it has been around, it has drawn a massive crowd and Friday and Saturday nights are buzzing. Look for a review coming up in the near future .

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Tapas dishes – check out the menu at http://portellorosso.com.au/tapas.html. There are also a selection of Degustation menus which start from $32 up to $62 for groups of more than 8 (this needs to be booked prior)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed, and a piece of Spain in the Melbourne laneway. Great for a first date or a night out / catch-up with a group of friends.
Standout Dish: Patatas Bravas with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Spicy Tomato Jam & Aioli
Service: Friendly and Laid Back
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://portellorosso.com.au/reservations.html
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://portellorosso.com.au/home.html
15 Warburton Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9602 2273

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 12pm to 3pm & 6pm-Late
Saturday: 6pm-Late

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Mosq – A little piece of Morroco in the Heart of Chapel Street


                      
Mosq is an alluring restaurant / function space – it combines plush and comfortable day beds together with golden lanterns and lamps, woven rugs which makes it feel like you have stepped onto the set of Aladdin amidst a Moroccan palace. The venue also consists of intimate little alcove areas which are cosy and serve for great photo opportunities. One of my favourite areas is the day bed which is covered in woven rugs and you can just chill out and eat your tapas style food and sip on the yummy cocktails/mocktails.

We went to Mosq for my Mum’s birthday with some of her friends too – altogether there were 6 of us. We ordered some starters as well as three Tagines for the mains. The starters consisted of Chicken Kofte cooked with Pomegranate, Pistachios, Apricots and Mild Spices, Kataifi Wrapped Prawns with Cumin Yoghurt, Sucuk Beef Sausage Skewers grilled with Zucchini and Haloumi and lastly Mushrooms stuffed with Feta, Parmesan and Herbs. My favourite out of these dishes as the stuffed Mushrooms. They were tasty bite sized morsels complete with flavour, but not the usual overwhelming taste that parmesan gives. My mum and her friend started to discuss how to re-create these at home – they were that good! You seriously could eat a plate full of these and be content. The Kataifi prawns were crispy and the cumin yoghurt was a great combination. The Kofte had a mix of both sweet and spice – and the mix actually worked and was quite tasty.

The mains that came out – Lamb Tagine Tender Lamb, Slow Cooked in Mild Moroccan Spices with Winter Vegetables, Garnished with Dates and Almonds, Seafood Tagine Baramundi, Salmon, Mussels and Tiger Prawns Slow Cooked with Preserved Lemon and Olives, Seared Lamb with Moroccan Crust Pan Seared Lamb Crusted in Moroccan Spices served medium Rare on a Sweet Potato, Eggplant and Pistachio Cous Cous and Almond Rice Pilaf. The meats in each of these Tagines, true to their style were soft and tender and literally just melted in your mouth. I wasn’t overly impressed with the Seafood Tagine, but they were generous with the varieties of seafood. I am a huge fan of Rice Pilaf and the Mosq Pilaf was sublime. The pieces of almond together with the individually separated rice, which wasn’t too oily, was simply divine. The Cous Cous was aromatic and tasty, and the Moroccan Spices on the lamb mixed well with the Sweet Potato and Eggplant.

Overall the experience at Mosq was fantastic. The food was flavoursome and the decor made it feel like you had been transported to a little restaurant in Morocco. There is also entertainment from belly dancers to Thursday live flamenco and jazz guitarists. There is also an outdoor terrace area if you wanted to enjoy your food in the summer. There are also Shisha pipes available with or without tobacco in a range of flavours (including apple, strawberry and mint), which can be a great way to finish a meal, together with some mint tea (served in cute little glasses). The menu is authentic and full of Moroccan and Middle Eastern flavours and is affordable, although I sometimes did find the dishes a tad bit on the small side. They have a range of cocktail and mocktails which are delicious and creative.

Just a note for bookings – on Friday and Saturday nights Mosq is only available as a function venue. For functions there are flexible food and drinks menus available with the choice of adding in extras such as the belly dancers, Shisha pipes etc.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A La Carte – refer to http://mosq.com.au/
Fullness: 65%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy – it feels like you are in a classy Morrocan restaurant with the rugs, lanterns and lights, as well as the little intimate nooks and a makeshift daybed where you can just chill in a group.
Standout Dish: Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
Service: So-So. Maybe they were just having an off night – the service was good and quite friendly, however the dishes took ages to come out and we asked the waiter many times what was happening but they weren’t quite sure.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://mosq.com.au/
Shop 2
60 Bray Street, South Yarra
Tel No:  9804 7770

Opening Hours:
Monday -Thursday: 6pm-11pm
Friday – Sunday: 6pm – 1am

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