Firechief – Chief of all Pizzas?

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It was Tuesday night catchup dinner with some of the guys from work and I picked Firechief. I had read up on this place as it had been rated quite highly in terms of having one of the best pizzas going around. I hadn’t made a booking but luckily we arrived around 6:15-6:30pm and got one of the last tables as it filled up pretty quickly after this.

Firechief comes to you from entrepreneur Paul Mathis (he also owns Coffeehead, Goldilocks Cafe to name a few) together with initiative of head pizza chef Daniel Baresse. When you walk in you think you are in a renovated fire station, however it is not. There are high ceilings completed with the centerpiece of the venue – a massive low hanging chandelier – made of timber and brass fittings. There are bright yellow metal beams which are framed around the room complete with red and white checkerboard tiles on the floor. From the main dining area you have a view of the open kitchen and you can see the chefs busily making your food for you in a flurry of activity. It looks and feels like quite a fun place to just hang out, with a family friendly atmosphere.

The pizza and the other food here is authentic to the extent where Mathis sent his head chef Gabriel Espinoza and head pizza chef Daniel Barrese to Naples to attain accreditation from Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana – an international body established to protect the heritage and tradition of the Neapolitan pizza. There are only 3 other accredited chefs in Australia and only around 370 world wide are permitted to use the DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or controlled designation of origin) certification.

To add to this Firechief has a trio of Italian-made overs – a Valoriani volcanic-clay wood-fire over, a Moretti twin-deck, stone-based model and a modern conveyor-belt oven – each of which cook at different rates and temperatures. The differences between these ovens are written in the menu and helps to provides the patrons with information on what they want to order. I think in doing this it allows us to also learn more about the different styles and how pizzas can be prepared.

From each of the three different ovens, there is a selection of 8 different pizza’s to choose from. It is quite tough making a decision on what pizzas you want. There is a choice of the common pizzas such as Margherita (you can choose a Margherita pizza from each of the three different ovens in fact), Mexicana, Hawaiian and Vegetarian. Then there are the interesting pizza’s which consist of a mixture of different ingredients such as Egg&Bacon, Fresh Sardines, Melanzane & Peperoni and Braised Lamb just to name a few.

There were three of us at dinner, so we decided to go with 2 pizza’s and a pasta dish, as well as a side – all to share. Due to my diet constraints we got the Prawn & Pancetta pizza minus the Pancetta, the Fresh Sardines pizza and the Tagliatelle Prawn. For the sides we were tossing up between the Pea & Spinach Salad and the Warm Chickpea Salad – we settled on the Chickpea Salad. Both the pizzas we chose came from the Moretti oven – which is worked on hand & shovel, cooked on a stone floor at 360 degrees for four minutes. This is one of the most popular types of pizzas in Italy.

The pasta is made fresh everyday at Mathis’ Coffeehead. The Tagliatelle Prawn came with cherry tomatoes, chilli, garlic, fresh herbs and of course prawns. The flavours were perfectly balanced and prawns fresh. My only critique was that the pasta stuck together and was hard to separate. Indeed the pasta was made beautifully and tasted delicious. There is a total of 3 different pasta dishes that you can try out.

The Prawn Pizza was my favourite dish of the night – the base was not too thick – just the way I like it and is made as per the DOP tradition and comprises of 00-flour, yeast, salt, purified water and no additives. Healthy and delicious  – the perfect pizza! The base was chewy and had the right amount of crisp to it. The Prawn pizza consisted of fior di latte cheese on the base which is topped with garlic marinated tiger prawn cutlets and topped with a mojo dressing and completed with fresh rocket. The prawns were marinated deliciously and tasted fantastic – it is one of the yummiest prawn flavours I have had – simple yet tasty. My one gripe would be that there was too much of rocket on top of the pizza, which made the great flavours get drowned out by the pepperyness of the rocket. But overall it was a super yummy pizza.

The Fresh Sardines pizza consisted of crushed tomato, fresh sardine fillets, shallots, capers, garlic, chilli & fresh parsley. This pizza was good, but not great. The Sardines were definitely fresh, however the flavour of the sardines for all of us was too strong. Not really a fan of the major fishy taste. What did help was adding some of the natural yoghurt (from the warm chickpea salad) – it helped cut through the strong fishy flavour. The capers added a tang and the chilli and parsley completed the mix.

The Warm Sauteed Chickpea Salad was another winner- it came with lemon spinach and natural yoghurt. The chickpeas were sauteed and had just the right amount of saltiness, together with the acidity of the spinach and the yoghurt it was a great mix. The warmness of the chickpeas and together with the coldness of the yoghurt further enhanced the dish.

Even though Firechief does specialise in Pizzas but they do have a section aptly titled “plates other than pizza..” with dishes like calamari, sausage, chicken breast just to name a few.

If you are a reader of my blog, you will know I am big fan of desserts, but tonight I was way too full to try any. Having to come back to try the desserts wont be my only excuse to come back to Firechief, the pizzas and pasta dishes do that all on their own. Their techniques are world class and the end result is delicious and authentic dishes. What more could you ask for?

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – can be found at http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/wp-content/firechief_uploads/FC_Menu-8April13-PDF.pdf
There is also a take away menu – http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/wp-content/firechief_uploads/FC_Takeaway_Menu_030313-.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Family Friendly and Welcoming. Its great for a chilled out catchup with friends and family after work. It truly is a great place to just relax and enjoy great food.
Standout Dish: Prawn(&Pancetta) Pizza from the Moretti Oven
Service: Friendly and happy to help explain any dishes that you might have a question about.
Online Booking:No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/
169 Camberwell Road, Hawthorn East
Tel No: 9831 1700

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm
Dinner
Monday to Sunday: 5pm – Late

Firechief on Urbanspoon

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Bangpop Thai – Popping Flavours

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I work around the Docklands / South Wharf area and we needed a place for a farewell lunch. I had heard about the newly opened Bangpop Thai and with such an interesting name and a cuisine that most people love I thought I couldn’t go wrong. The name comes from the Thai word for village – BANG and POP represents the bold  flavours, and vibrant colours.

Bangpop Thai is located in what used to be The Sharing House (and it still has the presence of the old venue in the form of the Lego bar) and the next venture by Paul Mathis. The atmosphere that has been created is reminiscent of the Bangkok hawker style street. The main attraction is the collection of bikes that are lined up outside the dining area – the bikes are named Venus and Mars and are in colourful colours of red and orange. The place as a whole is vibrant and welcoming.

There are mostly communal tables which match the menu of shared dishes. These tables serve well if you have a large group of people. There is also seating along the bar on high stools if you wish. The menu is separated out into 7 different sections – small plates, larger plates, noodles, rice, spicy salads and desserts – and has been devised by Karn McManamey in consultation with Yaigum – who is a Thai street food stall-holder with more than 40 years experience and has an extensive knowledge about Isaan cuisne (North-Eastern Thailand). In staying true to the Thai style dishes are centred on the spiciness and tang of lime/lemon along with the gingery and garlic flavours – YUM!

The aim of the restaurant is to create an affordable, casual and authentic menu and I really do believe they achieve this.

As we were on our work lunch break and there were about 13 of us, we had called up ahead and pre-ordered our dishes. We were also informed of the Lunch Specials menu where you would get a dish and a drink (beer, wine or soft drink) all for $15. Value for money indeed! When our dishes arrived, we were also presented with  four different condiments and were told that these were there to adjust the balance of flavours for our menu. The waitress explained each condiment was – I don’t have a picture of these but there was Sugar, two different types of Chilli and some spices.

I ordered the Thai Green Curry which came with Vegetables, Tofu, Thai Basil, Beanshoots and Chilli. The curry was delicious and had the flavours were great. I love my chilli so I did add extra chilli from the condiments that were given to us, but I am pretty sure that most people wouldn’t need to do that. The sauce was thick and the coconut flavour was fresh, paired with the basil. The tofu and vegetables were cooked perfectly as well. One thing to note was that the people that ordered the Lunch Special – the consensus was that the dishes were on the small side and it didn’t fill them up completely. T had the Yum Nua which is marinated beef sirloin salad and she said the Beef was tender and tangy and the dish as a whole was refreshing and tasted great.

A friend and I decided to share a dessert and went for the Saku Song Kreuang – Tapioca Pandan Pudding with Mango Sorbet. This is one of my new favourite desserts. I am a huge fan of tapioca pudding and mango is one of my favourite fruits – so to have them paired together in a dessert was bliss! I am not a huge fan of roasted coconut which was added on top of the pudding (and yes I know this is quite common in Thai desserts) – so I could have done without this addition. But overall the dessert was super tasty and had three different textures going on – the pop and jellyness of the tapioca pudding, the smooth coolness of the mango sorbet and the crunch of the coconut. The pandan flavour is quite light through the pudding as well and wasn’t too strong at all. A definite must try!

They also have an extensive drinks menu and whilst we were waiting for the rest of the team to arrive we saw the bar tender making some exciting looking cocktails. There are ingredients such as Kaffir lime leaves, ginger, chilli that are added to these cocktails for a Thai flavour. The beers also compromise of the traditional Thai beers as well as other craft beers.

The service at Bangpop was excellent – the staff was very helpful and friendly. A fellow colleague needed a vegetarian dish (and he didn’t like tofu) so a staff member was helpful in assisting him in finding a dish as there wasn’t really anything on the menu to have and consulted the chefs. Bangpop during the lunch hour filled up its large airy space and the atmosphere was vibrant yet not too loud. They are a very reasonably priced restaurant and a great addition to the South Wharf area.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Menu that is split into 7 different sections – view the menu at http://www.bangpop.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Electric and Fun. Really colourful and it does remind you of a busy street in Bangkok – hawker style!
Standout Dish: Saku Song Kreuang – Tapioca Pandan Pudding with Mango Sorbet
Service: Fantastic and Attentive, Friendly and very Helpful
Online Booking: Bangpop doesnt take bookings – just walk in!
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.bangpop.com.au/
35 South Wharf Promenande, South Wharf
Tel No: 9245 9800

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

BangPop on Urbanspoon

Coffeehead – Great Coffee, Food & Atmosphere

Brunch @ Coffeehead
Coffeehead Baked Eggs: 2 free range egg baked in capsicum ragout, topped w goats cheese served with sourdough toast AND
Big Head Breakfast: two eggs your way w bacon,avocado, chipolatas, spinach & toast

Coffeehead has opened up in an old warehouse space in Camberwell by Paul Mathis. Mathis is a somewhat mogul in the food industry being a restaurant and cafe owner with more than 17 businesses such as Taxi, SOS, 100 Mile Cafe, Firechief Pizzeria and Golidocks Cafe (there are others as well) as well as founding  Blue Train Cafe and Automatic in Southbank. Coffeehead stocks different brands of coffee such as local boutique blends, coffee-making equipment and showcases a variety of methods of coffee brewing which include Greek and Italian-style stove-top. For coffee lovers this place is a paradise. Their aim as it says on their website is bring coffee from Australia’s favourite roasters to the one location. They even have a online retail store where you can purchase coffee goods via their website.

Eventhough the main focus here is on coffee (hence the name coffee head) – the food is delicious as well. The menu used to be Spanish and Mexican inspired food by Chef David Airoldi (who used to work at Dukes Coffee Roasters), however now the menu has changed over to Italian inspired food by Oscar Rigo (he has come from Church Street Enoteca, Journal Canteen).

The venue is complete with checkerboard floors and is quite a colourful venue. There is even a Foosball table! It has a very old school feel to it as well. There are industrial workbenches and recycled tables in red and green. There are massive 12 kilo Probat roasting machines at the back of the venue that you can stare for hours at. D ordered the Big Head Breakfast served with avocado, chipolatas, spinach and toast and I ordered the Baked Eggs. The Baked Eggs were tasty and the mix of capsicum and tomato was a great mix, with the capsicum providing a peppery flavour. The sourdough bread served with the Baked Eggs was a great addition. The coffee I had was a latte and it was creamy and nutty at the same time. They do definitely know about coffee!

NOTE: I haven’t been to Coffehead since the head chef changed, or tried any of the new menu dishes.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Menu can be viewed at http://www.coffeehead.com.au/files/CH_menu_150812_PDF.pdf  (The menu on the website has not been updated to the new menu)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Old School and Fun. It has a very laid back chilled out atmosphere. Great for a weekend breakkie/brunch session.
Service: Friendly and Happy
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.coffeehead.com.au/index.html
8-10 Railway Parade, Camberwell
Tel No: 9831 1400

Opening Hours
Monday to Friday: 7am – 5pm
Saturday and Sunday: 8am – 5pm

Coffeehead on Urbanspoon