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

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Hooked – Delicious Tasting Healthy Seafood

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Menu at Hooked Lunch Menu at Hooked Specials Menu at Hooked

Hooked is the brainchild of Ray Good and has been around for a while now serving healthy seafood – in three different branches – Fitzroy, Windsor and its newest branch in Hawthorn. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out their latest branch.

The fit-out is exactly what you would expect to find beach-side with a modern twist – white rustic wooden panels combined with white washed exposed brick walls. There is a large communal table at the centre of the venue, surrounded by wooden tables which largely seat parties of two. To the right along the wall are sailor striped booth style seats and a lifebuoy with the inscription – Hooked – In Cod we Trust – further adding to the seaside vibe. Painted on the brick wall as you walk in is a mural of a blue grenadier, further on the wall is a painting of a diver complete with a diving suit – something for you to admire whilst you await your food. These extra touches, together with the friendly smiles of the staff behind the counter complete the warm and welcoming feel.

The menu is located on top the counter which you order from – which is reminiscent of a your local fish and chip store. There are a plethora of selections to decide from. There is a Seafood section from which you can order House Fish (either Grilled or Lightly Tempura Battered) or Calamari (Grilled or Salt & Pepper Battered) both served with either Hand Cut Chips OR Rice & Asian Greens OR Salad. There are Boxes available – Box for One (1 House Fish, 6 Calamari), Box for Two (2 House Fish, 8 Calamari, 2 King Prawns) and a Kids Box (Fish Bites or Calamari with Rice or Mini Chips and Juice Box or Water – with a side salad). The two Boxes also come with the same option of Hand Cut Chips, Rice & Asian Greens or Salad.

There are also 3 different burgers to choose from – Hooked Fish Burger, Seared Tuna Burger and a Veggie Burger. If you are feeling like something different maybe you can try out their Taco and Burrito Menu (Fish Burrito) – with two selections of tacos – Baja Fish and Grilled Prawn. If Salads is more your thing – there are three delicious sounding salads to choose from – The Hooked Salad, Superfood Salad – think quinoa, broccoli, spinach, sunflower seeds etc and an Asian Slaw.

There are also specials that you can have during Lunch hours, as well as a Fisherman’s Soup all for $10.95. You can also buy Extras if you want to add to your meal – such as Chips, Prawns, Scallops. In addition to this are their Home Made Sauces – Dill & Caper Tartare, Sambal, Salsa Verde or Sweet Chili. What’s great is that they give you a recommendation as to which sauce works well with a particular dish. For example the Sambal is delicious with grilled fish with rice or salad. There are also Gluten Free options available. Drinks include the usual soft drinks, Charlies range of fresh juices as well as Phoenix New Zealand Organic drinks.

I decided to order the Box for One – and chose Grilled Fish and Salt & Pepper Calamari, as well as Rice & Asian Greens, with Sambal sauce on the side (I went with the recommended salsa – but was keen also to try the sauce). The dish comes out served on a large white round plate, with the seafood on the one side and the rice and Asian greens on the other with the salsa and a slice of lemon in the middle of the two. The house fish they serve is blue grenadier – the fish was fresh, white, fleshy and cooked to perfection and tasted absolutely delicious – you really don’t need the addition of anything else. The fish remained succulent and juicy which was another win. The rice has a mix of sweet and savory flavours – thanks to the combination of soy, kecap manis together with a dash of sesame oil. The grains are separate – just the way I like my rice. The Asian Greens are blanched and lightly sautéed – keeping in theme of being healthy whilst being the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the dish. The Calamari was another standout – I loved the lightly battered salt and pepper tempura flavouring. There wasn’t a thick layer of batter rather a light covering, which allowed you to enjoy the freshness of the calamari and also made for a less greasy dish overall.

S ordered the Superfood Salad (Quinoa, Broccoli, Rocket, Spinach, Semi Dried Tomatoes, Peas, Mint, Toasted Pumpkin, Sunflower Seeds & Sesame Seeds finished with a drizzle of Yoghurt Lemon Dressing) with a side of House Fish together with the Salsa Verde sauce. We shared our dish with each other so I got to sample some of her Superfood salad. Once again the salad had a combination of refreshing flavours and crunchy textures which was finished off well thanks to the yoghurt lemon dressing. S liked the salad so much that since then she has tried to replicate this at home. The Salsa Verde sauced packed a punch of flavours with coriander being the main character and was quite delicious.

Hooked prides itself on producing healthy food with the key factors being highlighted – low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein and rich in Omega 3. This is thanks to the use of cholesterol free cottonseed oil in all their cooking. Their chips are freshly hand cut from Gippsland potatoes each and every day, and cooked from scratch using cottonseed oil. A fun fact to note is that Hooked will not serve any flake – after all it isn’t a fish!

Hooked has created a modern day healthier version of your local fish and chip shop – which includes an inviting ambiance and vibe that makes you feel like you have just spent a day at the beach. Together with friendly and warm service, delicious tasting food and funky décor – it should be next on your list to visit!

Note: Students can receive a 10% discount (Monday to Thursday 11:30am – 5pm)
Another thing to note is that the Fitzroy and Windsor branches are fully licensed, with the Hawthorn Alcohol License coming soon!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to above pictures or check out http://www.hooked.net.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Warm, Inviting and Beach-like
Standout Dish: House fish & Calamari, Superfood Salad
Service: Friendly and Welcoming as well as prompt – we were surprised at how quickly our food came out, despite being quite full.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/hawthorn/
669 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
Tel No: 9939 4412

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon

Other Branches
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/fitzroy/                                                               http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/windsor/
384 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy                                                                                         172 Chapel Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9417 7740                                                                                                               Tel No: 9529 1075

Opening Hours:                                                                                                              Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm                                                                      Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm                                                                       Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon                                                                                                      Hooked on Urbanspoon

 

Gelato Messina – A Bit of Italy in Fitzroy

panda 4.5 rating

Gelato Messina has come to Melbourne and taken everyone by storm. Newly opened in Smith Street, Fitzroy it has received a warm welcome with lines snaking out of the door and along Smith Street. Gelato has been a long love affair for many Melbournians especially people that frequent Lygon Street in Carlton. There are many different Gelato stores which serve up the classic traditional Italian style of ice cream but none quite like Gelato Messina. The main difference is that Gelato Messina pushes the boundaries when it comes to the rules of Gelato in the sense of being more inventive with flavours and combinations, combined with old-school techniques to maintain the integrity of the original gelato recipe. The Gelato Artisians or Gelartisans as they are fondly referred to as, have created flavours that have your mouth drooling just from reading what’s contained in each flavour.

Gelato Messina began in 2002 by by Nick Palumbo and is now co-owned by Donato Toce, Declan Lee, Danny Palumbo and John Stephens. Nick Palumbo comes from an Italian Messina background and it was visiting his grandparents in Messina that brought on his connection and love for gelato. Gelato Messina has many different locations around Sydney and even has one opening up in Hangzhou, China! It is no wonder that they have won many awards for their amazing Gelato. Just recently at the Melbourne Gelato World Tour they won first prize for a flavour called Cremino – salted caramel, gianduia (hazelnut chocolate), fresh meringue and amaretti.

What makes Gelato Messina different to other traditional Gelato stores is that they use real ingredients to make the gelato and it is hand churned on site. Everything is made fresh on the day without the artificial colours. The chocolate mint flavour uses actual mint leaves, the apple pie flavour consists of baked apple pies – and the list goes on. There is a list of about 40 permanent flavours and weekly specials. New daily flavours appear and they are constantly inventing bigger and better combinations to keep things intriguing. There are also fruity sorbets and dairy-free options for people who are in need of these. How great is it that they cater for one and all! Additionally, Gelato Messina makes ice cream cakes which are displayed in store as well – the infamous toadstool cake is present!

What is great about Gelato Messina is the connection that they have with the consumers – they have a huge online following and allow for people to submit and suggest different flavours. Allowing this personal interaction makes people wanting to keep coming back and trying out the different flavours and best of all bringing friends along to share in the experience.
Another great fact is that all the Gelartisans have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the world of Gelato making – like Simone Panetta (who is a partner in the Melbourne store) who has been making Gelato since he was 11 and was chosen to be a “Gelato Pioneer” at Carpigiani University in Bologna. They have recently put out a cookbook called Gelato Messina which can teach you how to make Gelato!

When you walk into the Melbourne store, the fit out has been done to keep in with the Fitzroy theme – there are exposed brick walls to give it a somewhat warehousey feel, together with colourful graffiti style wall mural by Jeremy Neale and a somewhat modern pressed metal enclosure which encases the gelatos. There is also a window where you can view the Gelartisans creating the many flavours on sale. You get to get a brief glimpse of the colourful and fresh gelato amongst the masses of the crowds. The staff are friendly and always have a smile on their face despite having to face an overwhelmingly large crowd throughout the day. Whilst waiting to order we are handed menus which was a good idea as after reading each flavour you are confused as to which one you want as they all sound sooo great. There is a list of special flavours on the wall (the same flavours get released in Sydney and Melbourne on the same day) – where as they get sold out a sign is placed to let people know until a new batch is made up. After much deliberation I decided to go with the Salted caramel and white chocolate as it was their biggest seller. N got the Mango Sorbet and Mint Chocolate Chip and M got the Twixed flavour.

You can either select if you want the gelato to come in a cup or a cone – I went with the signature green and orange cup for my scoop of gelato. The result was smooth and creamy consistency with accents of salted caramel and textured bits of white chocolate. The mix of the saltiness and the sweetness of the chocolate combined beautifully and this is the reason why it is their best selling flavour. I did get to try N’s mango sorbet which was tasted just like a mango in creamy smooth form and the chocolate chip mint gelato had a minty hint that I have never tasted before – in a great way! You can tell that fresh ingredients were used. The Twixed flavour was phenomenal – it was wholesome chocolaty goodness all in one scoop – rich and mouth watering! It also had shortbread and caramel mixed through it. I want to go back and try out the Cremino, Pistachio and Coconut & Lychee flavours – just to start..and eventually work my way through all the flavours! =p

Gelato Messina has so many flavours (in fact about a 900 flavour catalogue) to try out and with summer just around the corner there is no better time to try. I think Melbourne is lucky as it is currently their largest store to date which means more flavours to try out! Bring on summer and the year of Gelato!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the attachment above. Also look at http://www.gelatomessina.com/flavours/ and http://www.gelatomessina.com/flavours/our_top_10_flavour_combos/

Also refer to http://www.gelatomessina.com/ for the different Gelato Cakes which are made to order
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Chilled Out and Fun
Standout Flavours:
● Salted caramel and white chocolate (their biggest seller)
● Chocolate fondant
● Pandan and coconut
Service: Despite the long lines and queues, the staff are friendly and always have a smile on their face
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gelatomessina.com/
237 Smith St, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12pm – 11pm
Friday to Saturday: 12pm – 11.30pm
Sunday: 12pm – 11pm

Gelato Messina Fitzroy on Urbanspoon

The Black Toro – Hispanic Delight

panda 3.5 rating

It was a Tuesday night and my friend E and I were in the Glen Waverley area and wanted to grab some dinner – I have been wanting to try out The Black Toro for a while so we thought we would give it a shot. It was about 7pm on a Tuesday and we hadn’t made a booking and when we arrived were told that all the tables were taken but that something should come up in about 15-20 minutes time and that they would call us the moment a table came available. We thought this wasn’t too long a wait and decided to go have a coffee in a nearby restaurant whilst we waited. Although we didn’t get a phone call (hmm??), we decided to go and see if anything was available about 30 minutes later and a table had happened to be free – so we were seated.

The Black Toro is the venture from former Ezard chef, Garen Maskal and has a Hispanic theme to it offering a Mexican and Peruvian inspired menu which includes innovative and interesting tapas style dishes. It is located in the always bustling Kingsway strip in Glen Waverley (like I said we went on a Tuesday night and parking was a nightmare! And the restaurant was at full capacity). As the name suggest, there is a lot of black happening at the venue – from the signage to the wrought iron screens as you walk in the door and completed with dark timber tables and chairs. The lighting is dimly lit but enough to create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere. As you walk in you are greeted with the lengthy bar which is followed at the end by the kitchen. The main feature however, is the huge mural of a charging bull with smoking, angry eyes which helps to create the Latino vibe.

The menu is separated into 4 different sections – Poco Plates (which are your smaller dishes), Grande Plates (which as the name suggests are your larger dishes), Sides and Salsas and finishing with Desserts. The Poco Plates consists of dishes from Cured Salmon to Wagyu Beef Sliders (which from looking around at what people were ordering was one the popular dishes) to Crab. There are also quite a few vegetarian options as well. I also like how the Pico Plates section tells you how many pieces will come in a serving – saves you the trouble from having to ask the wait staff. Grande Plates include Lamb, Beef, Whole Chicken, Fish and two Veggie dishes. At the bottom of the menu is a glossary for some ingredients or foods that you might not know about which is handy.

The friendly waitress informed us that for the two of if we had about 2-3 poco plates and maybe 1 Grande plate that should be enough for us. We decided to go with 4 of the Poco Plates and also we got one side dish. You would think ordering 4 of the smaller sized dishes wouldn’t be enough but the serving size at The Black Toro is quite generous and even with these 4 “smaller” dishes we couldn’t finish all of our meals.

The first dish we ordered was the Mushroom Taco with Corn Truffle, Ricotta and Chive – which comes in a serving of two – which was perfect for the two of us. The mushroom and Corn Truffle filling is dense with a garlicky flavour added to the mushroom, coupled together with the salty smooth flavour of the cheese – it was a great combination. The overall juiciness of the mushroom combining with the semi crisp taco bread was divine.

The next dish – which I would have to say was one of my favourites for the night – was the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Buttermilk Dressing & Sriracha. Sriracha for those of you who do not know is a Thai Hot sauce made from sun-ripened chilli peppers together with vinegar and garlic – and tastes spicy and delicious. The Crispy Soft Shell Crab came beautifully presented with the crab being the centre of the dish with the sriracha around the crab. The outer coating of the crab was perfectly crisp with just the right amount of saltiness, and the crab on the inside was fresh and flavoured perfectly. The buttermilk dressing was smooth and flavoured correctly and combining it with the spiciness of the sriracha and the saltiness of the crab was a great flavour hit in your mouth.

The next dish we ordered was the Kingfish Sashimi with Orange Pressed Apple, Jicama and Burnt Agave Nectar. Once again the dish was beautifully presented on a long black dish which made the pinkness of the Kingfish and the Orange strand out. I was a tad bit disappointed with this dish, even though the Kingfish was fresh and had a great texture, the flavours just didn’t do it for me. The sweet and sourness of the orange and the apple paired with the Kingfish was nice but there was something missing in the flavour palate – it needed a bit of saltiness.

The side dish that we ordered (as it came recommended by our waiter) was the Zucchini & Corn Fritters – which were fluffy parcels of yumness! As a side dish once again the quantity was huge as there were about 10-12 pieces! These serving sizes are really quite generous! We also got some house made chilli sauce to go with this dish which further exemplified the dish.

E ordered the Sticky Chicken Wings with Cripsy Jalapeno and Coriander – which she was perfectly cooked and was crispy, glazed and salty on the outside whilst being juicy and soft on the inside.

Even though we were both quite full, we couldn’t leave this place without at least trying out a dessert so we decided to share the Frozen Nutella Parfait, Broken Tres Leches Cake, Toasted Meringue & Banana. This was a rather interesting dessert – with each part being deconstructed. Tres Leches Cake is a ‘three milk cake’ which resembles a dense sponge cake and is quite delicious in its own right. It is made by soaking butter cake in three different types of milk – evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. The Frozen Nutella Parfait was the centre of the dish and the key to this dish and was filled with hazelnuts yet kept its chocolatey flavour. The other elements surrounded this centrepiece and put together it was a welcome sweetness.

There is also an extensive drinks lists which covers wines, beers, cocktails as well as having 3 different mocktails. They really do cater for everyone =)

The Black Toro is a fantastic place for dinner – be it a catch up with friends or even a romantic dinner with your partner. It was established to bring something different to the Glen Waverley area – where the surrounding restaurants and cafes are of the Asian Cuisine – and the locals and non-locals sure do appreciate it. The dishes are quite different to what you would normally experience and show a range of skill and technique in its preparation. Having only sampled a few dishes I will definitely be visiting again to try out all the other delicious sounding dishes.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Poco Plates at http://theblacktoro.com.au/?page_id=832
Grande Plates and Sides/Salsas at http://theblacktoro.com.au/?page_id=953
Desserts at http://theblacktoro.com.au/?page_id=959
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Comfortable and bit Classy – the lighting is dimly lit and makes you feel at home. Check out the Raging Bull mural on the wall – this is the centre piece of the restaurant.
Standout Dish: Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Buttermilk Dressing & Sriracha
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking:  Yes – via http://www.bookarestaurant.com/widget/details/The-Black-Toro/4242
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://test.theblacktoro.com.au/
79 Kingsway, Glen Waverley
Tel No: 9561 9696

Opening Hours:
Lunch:
Monday to Sunday: 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Dinner:
Monday to Sunday: 6:00pm – Late

The Black Toro on Urbanspoon

John Gorilla – Great Summery Cafe for Catchups

panda-3-5-rating2
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice at John Gorilla Toasted Bagel filled with Smoked Salmon, Fresh Spinach, Sliced Avocado, Dill, Boiled Egg & Mayonnaise
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice and Toasted Bagel filled with Smoked Salmon, Fresh Spinach, Sliced Avocado, Dill, Boiled Egg & Mayonnaise
French Toast made with Brioche & Served with Fresh Strawberries, Kaffir Lime Leaf infused Raspberry Couli, Toasted Macadamias and Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
French Toast made with Brioche & Served with Fresh Strawberries, Kaffir Lime Leaf infused Raspberry Couli, Toasted Macadamias and Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil
 Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil

John Gorilla is relatively new cafe in West Brunswick that was opened up by Joanna Wilson (owner of the much loved Mart 130 cafe in Middlepark).  Wilson posted on an online fund-raising platform Pozible to assist in the funding to build this solo venture. Through the website, people could sign up for vouchers for coffee and food in exchange for donations. She quickly managed to raise almost $7K and the rest as they can say is history. This place has been full of patrons from day one and after visiting this place I can see why.

As you walk towards John Gorilla – which is located on Pearson St, which just your regular neighbourhood street – you are greeted with big windows and rulers which line the bottom front wall – which is the main design feature – in all types of colourfuls. This feature runs inside the cafe as well under the main countertop. The main countertop features some of sweets on sale such as cupcakes and muffins. Along the entrance there are a few tables and as you continue inside there are two main rooms, together with an Astro-turfed back garden to enjoy more of the sunshine.

The decor is colourful vintage chic with a few modern twists in the form of colourful wall mural (which is hand painted by Melbourne artist Beci Orpin)  – to keep with the colourful ruler theme. The lightshades are a main focal point made of wire and exposed bulb filament (I LOVE!). There is also a painting of John Gorilla himself which overlooks the coffee area – such a cute feature.

My girlfriends and I got seated in the outside courtyard area which had wooden table and soft spongy chairs that reminded me of classroom days back in primary school – not to say it wasn’t comfortable. The weather was beautiful and this arrangement surrounded with some of my best friends was great. We ordered coffee (John Gorilla serves Padre coffee) and fresh juices as we chatted and looked over the menus.

Shane Beazley is the head chef of John Gorilla and has created a menu that covers all bases and is enticing and appealing. The menu is broken up into 5 parts – Cereals Fruit &Toasts, Breakfast, Eggs, Sandwiches and Lunch. Breakfast dishes consist of French Toast, to Lamb fry to breakfast combinations such as eggs with mushrooms or baked beans but with additional ingredients to make the dish pop. Sandwiches aren’t your normal sandwiches – there is a bagel with smoked salmon, a steak sandwich and vegetarian option of an open toasted sandwich with pumpkin dahl, tomato and basil. Told you the menu covers all bases =p

I ordered the Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil which was quite a large sized dish! The mushrooms were plump, juicy and fresh and the combination of ingredients did work well. The shaved Pecorino wasn’t as “fresh” as I thought it would be and would be my only complaint. I struggled to finish my dish. I also tried some of my friends French Toast which was really delicious! I am a huge fan of vanilla bean and loved that this was the main flavour in the mascarpone. A definite must try!

My girlfriends and I continued to sit around in the courtyard chatting and sipping coffees for a good 4 hours and the staff were friendly and didn’t at any time tell us to leave – simply asked us if we needed anything else.

John Gorilla is a colourful and quirky cafe that serves great food and tasty coffee. It is a great place to come to spend a sunny afternoon or even if it is just for a quick coffee (which can be served through the front windows). This place is a definite must visit and a return to place on my list.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Great Breakkie selection – refer to http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/menu/1699339
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Retro, Comfortable and great for a Summery day catchup, especially in the outside courtyard
Standout Dish: Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: No – Cafe doesn’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.johngorilla.com/#
49 Pearson St, Brunswick West
Tel No: 9005 8680

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7:30am – 4:30pm

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