Lune Croissanterie – Worth the Early Start

panda 4 rating

My Order of Pastries

My Order of Pastries

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Menu:
Lune Info Lune Menu (2) Lune Menu

Lune Patisserie is one of those places in Melbourne that you just have to experience to understand the hype. It is all about bringing the taste of France (Paris) to Melbourne in the form of delicious tasting pastries and croissants.

Lune wants you to have that unmistakable Parisian experience of catching the scent of butter wafting down the sheet and following your nose only to find an unassuming hole-in-the wall bakery, where you will be served by the baker and you will experience what it is like to eat a croissant that was pulled from the oven no longer than one hour ago.

Located in Elwood (near the intersection of Scott and Tennyson Streets), Lune resides in a quaint double storey house, where owner and baker connoisseur Kate Reid – a former aeronautical engineer who worked as an Aerodynamicist for Formula One – resides as well, together with her business partner / brother Cam. Reid was inspired by a visit to Paris where she visited the famous Du Pain et des Idess and their delectable pastries and was inspired to pursue her love and passion for baking. Reid’s journey is wildly interesting – she began as a sales assistant at Phillipa’s Bakery before moving onto Three Bags Full where she was a pastry chef. As great as these jobs were, Reid had a longing for Paris and took a chance in emailing Du Pain et des Idess and asking them to take her on as an apprentice – which they agreed on. And the rest as they say was history! Reid worked under some of the best pastry chefs in Paris, including Christophe Vasseur who was awarded the Best Baker in Paris by Gourmet magazine in 2008 and Baker of the Year 2012 by respected restaurant guide Pudlo Guide – learning all there is to know about Parisian style patisserie. Reid then moved back to Melbourne where she is renowned for some of the best croissants in Melbourne with lines of people waiting to devour these goodies being a testament.

The croissant is understood to be one of the hardest pastries to master – requiring three days of preparation and four different types of machinery. The key factor is the butter used to make the croissant – you should be able to smell the butter before you bite into – creating a rich buttery goodness. The freshness is yet another key factor – and should generally be eaten within two to three hours of being baked. Another important aspect is that a croissant should be light and flaky – Reid says that after eating a croissant you should have a lap full of flakes!

Croissants take three days to make, with resting between each process to help the dough develop complexity of the flavouring. Reid follows a recipe she learnt from Du Pain et des Idess, which she adapts for Australian flour and milk, and to suit herself. On day one, the dough is mixed and rested for an hour before an 18-hour period of slow fermentation at a cool temperature.
On day two, she flattens the dough and laminates the butter into it, a process called beurrage, which takes up to five hours each day. The butter is folded through the dough and rolled out to create up to 27 layers. Between each fold and roll the dough must be allowed to rest or the gluten will overdevelop and ruin the flavour.
On day three, for the final rollout, the pastry is pressed to a thickness of about four millimetres, cut, and shaped. Once it’s at this stage, you must work quickly to get the croissants into the prover. Then, they are egg-washed and baked at 4am, and so the day begins again.

“Cruffins” is basically a croissant made in a muffin tin—often filled and topped with seasonal ingredients. Past cruffins flavours have included Pavlova, Tiramisu, Lemon & Kaya, Apple crumble, Lime & Yuzu, and “Cherry Ripe”.

On this Saturday morning – my friend and I decided to meet at Lune at 6:30am (which meant I had to be up by 5:45am!!). We both however overslept and I ended up getting there around 10 to 7. As I drove past Lune in search of a car park – I could see the line was at least 20 deep already! Once you arrive at Lune, the process is to line up for a ticket number (they only give out 60 tickets per day), and order a coffee; if you wish – and at that time of the day my guess is that you would definitely be in need for one.
The staff are super friendly, perky and chatty (especially since they would have been up even earlier than me!). I receive ticket number #29 along with the menu, and am asked which pastries I would be interested in. Reid’s brother – Cam – explains that the special flavoured pastries such as the Snickers Croissant (there were 10 available), Coconut Pandan Croissant, Tiramisu Cruffin (only 18 were made) have limited quantities. Whilst you receive your ticket number, you also have the opportunity to order a coffee (much needed especially given the time that some people arrive here!) and head on down to line up in the queue.

Lune officially opens its doors at 8am which gives you quite some time (depending on how early you arrive) to peruse the menu and decide which six pastries you want to take home – if you want to take home six (the average amount that people usually buy is four).

Once the blinds come up and Lune is open for business – you can hear the anticipation from people towards the back of the line as they wonder if they will get their first choice selections.

My order was as follows:

1 x Croissant – Traditional French Crossiant, prepared over 3 days

1 x Choc-Almond: Pain au Chocolate style, with almond & orange frangipane

1 x Kouign Amann – Traditional pastry from the Bretagne region of France – laminated with sugar and baked in a buttered, sugared mould until caramelized

1 x Cinnamon Kouign Amann – as above, with cinnamon added to the laminated pastry

1 x Cruffin – A Lune original Croissant pastry baked in a muffin tin and filled with weekly changing flavours – Jam & Cream and Tiramisu

1 x Twice Baked – Available weekends only – Traditionally in France left over croissants are sold the following day, filled with an almond frangipane and baked for a second time. At Lune we offer the traditional Almond Croissant, as well as special twice baked Croissants.
Almond: The original Croissant aux Amande, prepared with almond frangipane & garnished with a healthy amount of almonds. Coconut Pandan & Snickers were the two other flavours available.

The plain croissants are just divine – flaky, crunchy, soft and buttery – everything that you want out of a croissant that makes you come back for more. The Choc-Almond croissant has a crunchier texture in comparison to the plain croissant and I love the almond flavour that comes through, together with the hint of orange. I am not usually a fan of the orange flavouring in pastries or cakes, however I took quite a liking to how it is infused here at Lune.

The Kouign Amann is not as soft and flaky as a croissant, and it reminded me of something that I used to eat when I was younger – Butterfly Pastry. The sugar coating on the outside gives it the strong crunch, together with the buttery pastry layers that follow in a swirl shape that creates the interior of the pastry which gives a simple yet delicious flavouring. I got both the original and the cinnamon flavour – with the cinnamon Kouign Amann have a delicately strong cinnamon flavour to it. Yum!

The Cruffin would have to be my favourite out of all the pastries – if I had to pick. I had the Jam & Cream Cruffin and I swear this is something that you would get in heaven! The Cruffin comes looking like a muffin (of course!) but has the make-up of a croissant – the soft buttery layers – and topped with cream (in the case of the Jam & Cream flavour). The Jam had been carefully distributed in all the right places in the cruffin and together with the buttery soft layers and cream was delightful. If I was you I would definitely try out a cruffin – in whatever flavour is on offer as I am sure they would be all as good as each other!

People are constantly asking both Cam and Kate why they don’t just make more of the product – and their answer is always the same – they do not want to compromise on quality. Quality is always the key – and it really is a testament to the lines that are always present on the three days that they are open.
However, recently a window of opportunity has opened, and they are have a new partner in the form of Nathan Toleman, who owns The Kettle Black and Top Paddock and co-founded a string of cafes including Liar Liar, Three Bags Full and Two Birds One Stone. The Lune team are looking at sites on the north side of the city that will allow them to expand their production without sacrificing quality. So stay tuned – but in the meantime I would highly recommend you go down to Elwood and try these delicious pastries – trust me they are well worth the early wake up call!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu –Refer to picture above
Standout Dish: Cruffins!!
Service: Really friendly!!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://lunecroissanterie.com/
29 Scott Street, Elwood
Tel No: 9077 6463
Opening Hours:
Friday: 7:30am until Sold Out
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am until Sold Out

Lune Croissanterie on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LuneCroissanterie
Instagram: lunecroissant
Twitter: @LuneCroissant

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Nora – Home of the Charcoal Tarts!

panda 4 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Nora on Urbanspoon

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

Ilya – FROCHELLA – Frozen Yoghurt Heaven!

panda 3.5 rating
Pandan Coconut and Black Sesame Flavoured Froto

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Menu:
Menu at Ilya

In recent times frozen yoghurt has taken the world by storm! There are quite a few stores that have opened up around Melbourne. I was lucky enough to be invited to Ilya Frozen Yoghurt for their awesomely named event –FROCHELLA (Froyo + Coachella put together – smart right?!)

Ilya – located on Glen Huntly road in Elsternwick – was created by owners Natasha and Jason – who left the corporate world to pursue their passion for good food, giving back and having a blast doing it! There are quite a few differences when compared to other frozen yoghurt (froyo – the short form that it is affectionately known as) stores – Ilya is built around the interactive social and consumer experience AND they are organic, 100% natural and free from refine cane sugar.

Most people assume that Ilya stands for I Love Yoghurt Always, however Ilya is named after Ilya Mechnikov, a Russian scientist who pioneered the research into the immune system, probiotics in yoghurt and how that leads to longer life and even scored a Nobel Prize for it.
Ilya is proud to be the first and only organic self-serve frozen yoghurt store in Australia – having the lowest levels of sugar in the frozen yoghurt market – less than 1% – as well as being kosher, 100% natural and 99% fat free! All their yoghurts are made onsite – with no cane sugar in their yoghurt base, instead using Stevia and Erythitol (unprocessed sugars). Ilya is all about supporting Australian local farmers and use low fat fresh organic milk together with Five:AM yoghurt. All their froyo’s are flavoured in-house combining real fruit and natural flavours – allowing Ilya to stay true to their concept of delicious and healthy without compromising on taste.

Ilya is quite a sizeable venue and is split into two main areas – the front area where the main counter and all the toppings reside, as well as a communal table and high window seating, followed by the back room where more seating is available. The seating is casual with vintage looking wooden tables and milk crates to sit on. There is a mixture of walls – brick, chalkboard and plain white which adds to the funkiness of the place. Some walls are covered in artwork from kids with their perspective on the world of frozen yoghurt – a really nice touch and reinforces their interactiveness with the public.
The look and feel is relaxed and comfortable with the addition of nice little touches such as flowers in jars, the use of scrabble letters and the awesome standout light fittings. Between the front room and the back room there is an igloo-esque (complete with white brick which reminds you of ice) cocoon that loudly and proudly states GET SOME CULTURE – this is where the yoghurt magic takes place. Here there are 8 self-serve dispensers where you can get the flavours for the day – the way it works you grab a cup, fill it up, top it, weight and pay – and then of course eat and enjoy! (It costs $2.80 per 100g).

The main counter was an impressive long wooden bench that had a numerous amount of toppings available.If you refer to the pictures above you can see there is a HUGE selection of other toppings available as well – Marshmallow Rocks, Mango Mochi, Choc Chips, Sultanas, Cranberries, Halva, Lychee Boba, Mango Boba, Passionfruit Coulis, Mandarin, Hedgehog Slice, Choc Mud Slice and Protein Nut Mix – there is also Hot Caramel and Hot Choc sauce for your tasting pleasure! You get confused trying to decide which of these delicious topics you want to add as most people wanted a little bit of everything!

The Frochella event invited food bloggers and nutritionists to celebrate Ilya’s success as well as “it’s almost milestone 1st birthday” (they have been opened for 11 months). The idea was to taste test, provide ideas and feedback as well as come up with some new flavours that Ilya could create.

A total of 15 flavours were sampled – the first eight flavours were their core and current flavours (Menu A), and the next seven were a preview of their new limited edition Spring/Summer flavours (Menu B). I had to stay back at work on the night of Frochella and unfortunately missed out on most of the Menu A flavours – I only managed to taste Chai & Dry (Dairy free Soy Chai to satisfy the senses). When I arrived I was lucky enough to sit with some friendly fellow bloggers – Eve from Eve Lovelle and Minty from WanderingMint, as well as a nutritionist and their partners.

They gave me the rundown of the flavours that I missed out and what their favourites were. Eve liked the “Get Lucky” (Tart flavoured treats), “Empire State of Mind” (Organic Freeze-dried coffee froyo) with her ultimate favourite being “Sexy and I Know It” (Dairy free chocolate (vegan). Most of the others around the table enjoyed the “Katy Berry” (Real mixed berries to give your tastebuds a sweet treat!) as well as “Teenage Dream” (made from delicious Oreo cookies). I will definitely have to come back and try out these two flavours, as I am a hugeee berry and oreo cookie fan! The Chai & Dry froyo that I did get to sample was delicious – if you are a chai drinker you would love this flavour – if you are not a huge fan of chai’s but love cinnamon then this would be for you as well! The cinnamon/chai flavour is not too overpowering and coupled with the lightness of the froyo was really quite good.

In addition to the samples of Froyo’s we had access to an unlimited amount of toppings to use. Each table were given their own set of toppings – or you could go to the main counter where additional toppings were provided. Our table had Coconut flakes, Oreo Cookies, M&Ms, Kit Kat, Berry Coconut Muesli, Strawberries, Chocolate Cigars, Almond Flakes, Tiny Teddies, etc.

What was also great about the Frochella night was that we all were encouraged to participate in the Flavour Master competition. This was a competition around coming up with a frozen yoghurt flavour that you would like to see Ilya have. Five flavours will be chosen out a of a list and the flavour that is voted as most popular by the general public will have their very own frozen yoghurt flavour named after them and sold in Ilya.

The second round formed Menu B – which was to showcase their new limited edition Spring/Summer flavours.
The first flavour we got to sample from this menu was the “Welcome to the Jungle” – Exotic combination of Coconut and Pandan. The Froyo comes out in a beautiful aqua green colour and has more of a coconut flavour than a pandan flavour, so the only change I would recommend is to increase the amount of pandan – overall it was a delicious yoghurt!

The next flavour that came out was the “Titanium” – Crushed Black Sesame seeds infused Froyo. I am not a a huge Black Sesame fan so this flavour wasn’t my thing, but everyone around really enjoyed it. It had a lot of depth and a massive flavour hit – definitely one for Black Sesame lovers.

“Lana Del Grey” – Earl Grey tea combined with dried Cranberries – was the next flavour to sample and was one of my favourites! I must admit I am usually not an Earl Grey drinker or fan, however the flavour of the Earl Grey was subtle and coupled with the cranberries made for a very refreshing froyo! Yum!

Next up was the “Purple Rain” – Acai Berry & Organic Froyo – this was another one of my faves. I love the use of acai berry in this yoghurt which resulted in a punchy tangy flavour! “Where the Wild Rosemary Grows” – Combination Rosemary Cheesecake – was up next and this was one of the flavours that I didn’t quite fancy; the flavour was too “tarty” and the flavours did not work at all!

Our second last flavour was “Drop It Likes Its Choc and Orange” – Rich Chocolate combined with Citrus Orange – this was absolutely devine! The combination of the orange and chocolate was perfect and it tasted like a smooth Jaffa. Definitely one for chocolate lovers!

To end the night we finished with “Like a Virgin (Mary)” – Tomato and Tabasco Frozen Creation (Vegan) – which had flavours of peppers and Tabasco through it and was quite fiery on the palate. It was a bit strange to have these sensations and flavours associated with a yoghurt, so I wasn’t a fan of this flavour. However, kudos has to go to the team for thinking outside the box and trailing this flavour out.

In addition to seeling frozen yoghurts, Ilya also sells a selection of healthy smoothies (made together with their frozen yoghurt of course!) – there are 6 to choose from including Body Builder (Bananas, Protein Powder, Peanut Butter, Nuts, Cinnamon, Vegan Choc and Organic Milk), Tropical Paradise (Mango, Banana, Coconut yoghurt and Organic Milk) and Tummy Filler (Banana, Berries, Dates & Oats, Tart Yoghurt and Organic Milk) just to name a few.

At the end of night before leaving, we were all given a goodie bag which included a small tub of frozen yoghurt to take home and enjoy – I got the Cookie Dough flavour – which I was extremely excited about as it was one of the flavours that I really wanted to try (I love anything to do with cookies!). In our goodie bags we were also given a large empty froyo cup and were told that we could come back at any time and enjoy a free serving of frozen yoghurt on the house – an offer I will definitely be taking up!
Ilya has a feel-good vibe running through the venue; from the laid back and caring owners to the super-friendly and helpful staff. It is a great place to come with friends and hang out at – and also is great if you have younger kids who can contribute to the artwork that appears on the walls in their backroom. What better place than to enjoy a guilt-free treat that tastes delicious and has such variety in the number of flavours and toppings to choose from!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – 8 flavours available every day – they change day to day
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Comfortable and Relaxed. A great place to hang out with friends and family!
Standout Flavour: Cookie Dough, Purple Rain and Lana Del Grey. For those of you who like Pandan, Coconut and Black Sesame – go with “Welcome to the Jungle” , “Flawless” or “Titanium”
Service: Friendly, Fun and Helpful
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://ilyafroyo.com.au/
277 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick
Tel No: 9077 1080

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12:00pm – 10:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ilyafroyo
Instagram: ilyafroyo
Twitter: @ilyafroto

Ilya Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon

Saigon Sally – Out of this World Vietnamese

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Saigon Sally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Lunch at Gingerboy

Lunch at Gingerboy

From Left to Right on each Row:
– Steamed Prawn & Garlic Chive Sui Mai with Red Vinegar Dressing
– Grilled Wagyu in La Lot Leaves with Coriander and Mint Relish
– Sweet and Sour Chicken, Chilli Peanuts, Sweet Tomato and Thai Basil
– Green Curry of Sea Bream, Garlic Shoots and Baby Corn
– Coconut Chocolate Splice with Candied Chilli and Water Chestnut
– Caramelized Banana and Tapioca Salad with Pandan Ice Cream

Summary
Rating: 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu: A la Carte and Banquet Menu – can be found at http://www.gingerboy.com.au/food-wine/menu
Fullness Factor: 75%
Atmosphere / Ambience: On a Friday night, there are drinks at Gingerboy Upstairs which is fantastic. The restaurant itself is red themed and quite comfortable and relaxing. Great for group dinners or date night.
Standout Dish: Whole fried baby snapper, roast chilli, lime dressing, hot and sour salad
Service: Attentive and had helpful information when asked about the menu
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.gingerboy.com.au/reservations
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gingerboy.com.au
27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne
Tel No: +61 396624200

Gingerboy on Urbanspoon