Popol Nah – Latin American in Carlton

panda 3.5 rating

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After the footy one evening N & I needed a place for dinner and decided to venture to the Carlton area. We used to frequent this area quite a bit back in the uni days, but as of late this hasn’t been the case. Carlton (Lygon Street in particular) is best known for its abundance of Italian restaurants filled with pizzas, pastas and gelatos – and lesser known for other cuisines such as Thai, Latin American or even Modern Australian. I had come across Popol Nah a Latin American fusion restaurant located at the city end of Lygon Street and decided to try it out on this night.

Popol Nah – which can be roughly translated to “The Peoples House” occupies a medium sized space – set amongst the Italian competition of course – and has an interesting design element to it. There are wooden planks running along one wall, overlapping each other in a haphazard style that oozes creativeness along with a modern version of a moose head. On the other is a textured crinkled white wall, together with two antlers hanging. There are large sticks placed in a vase of water which is located at the bar. Quirky, fun and a tad bit strange but it works. There is a communal table at the front of the main dining area, along with wooden tables that seat from two to larger parties. There is also seating at the front on Lygon street itself, as well as small courtyard at the back. Popol Nah can seat around 80 people. The interior is created by Peter Strateas and Mario Luca Carlucci of Strateas (a Brunswick based label). Popol Nah is open 7 days a week for both brunch and dinner.

The menu is created by New York based, Honduran born Cali Rivera and constitutes of South American and Latin fusion cuisine. The dinner menu is split into three sections – Chicos (Small dishes), Intermedio (In Between dishes) and ends with Carnes (Meats). There is also a Desserts menu with a selection of 5 different dishes such as Dulce de Leche, Rice Pudding, Chocolate Cake and Poached Quince just to name a few. There is also a Brunch Menu available which is split into 7 sections – Licuados (Smoothies), Huevos (Eggs) – you can choose from Baked Eggs or Scrambled Eggs, Ensaladas (Salads) – you can choose from two different vegetarian salads such as Mixed Seasonal Fruit with Mint and Ginger or Zucchini, Kale, Cucumber and Pickled Veggies, Bocadillos (Sandwiches), Empanadas (Baked Pasties) – there is a vegetarian option – chickpea, sweet potato, silver beet with crème fresca or one with chorizo and potato with coriander mayo, Anafres (Hot Plates) – which constitute of cheese fondue and lastly Mas Comida (More Food) – which have dishes such as Lamb & Beef Meatballs, Patatas Bravas and Prawn skewers.

There is also an extensive drinks menu – from Sangrias, Cocktails to a variety of Wines – from countries like Spain, Chile, Argentina and Australia – to an interesting selection of non-alcoholic drinks. Carolyn Brown the sommelier has a great understanding and knowledge of drinks and has put together a great selection. I decided to try the Chicha Morada – a non-alcoholic drink which had Purple Corn, Pineapple, Cinnamon and Cloves. The drink was purple in colour – due to the use of purple corn of course. I have never had purple corn before – but I think that it essentially tastes the same as yellow corn but has better health benefits and a higher amount of antioxidants. The combination of pineapple, cinnamon and cloves made for an interesting taste – not too sweet with spicy hints. It was a non-alcoholic version of a sangria and I really enjoyed it.

The first dish we ordered was the Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa – Chorizo and Potato in Baked Pastry with Coriander Mayo. N really enjoyed this – the pastry was crisp, crunchy and tasty on the outside with the chorizo and potato filling on the inside flavoursome and light. The mayo was creamy and a delicious addition.

I ordered the Ceviche De Camaron – Carribean Style Ceviche – Shrimp, Red Onion, Lime, Coriander, Tomato and Chips. The combination of ingredients was refreshing – I especially liked the addition of the coriander and lime. My favourite part of this dish was the chips – they were crispy, crunchy and tasted delicious. They had just the right amount of seasoning and worked well with the ceviche. I also liked the presentation of the dish – it came out in a stone mortar and pestle and the way in which the ceviche and chips were positioned reminded me of a bouquet of flowers.

The last dish we ordered was the Cordero Ranchero – Slow Cooked Lamb Shank in Spicy Tomato, Fresh And Dried Peppers with Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad. The lamb was cooked beautifully and fell off the bone – just what you want from a dish like this. The sauce looked spicy and N said it did have a hint of spice to it. I tried the Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad – which was fresh, flavoured with a tang as well as a hint of chilli – the perfect combination. The dish was presented well again – the contrast of the blue background of the rectangular plate against the bright browny red sauce was magnificent.

The service of the staff is great – everyone that served us was really friendly and happy to offer us suggestions and ensure we had everything we needed.

The brunch menu looks really interesting and I will definitely be back to try out some of their dishes. The décor is interesting and very different to anything you would normally find on Lygon Street. Head down and check out some great tasting South American fusion food.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – For the Brunch, Dinner and Drinks menu refer to http://popolnah.com.au/?cat=2
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Interesting, Unique and Funky. Great relaxed feel.
Standout Dish: Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Warm
Online Booking: No, but Popol Nah takes bookings.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://popolnah.com.au/
171 Lygon Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9347 3293

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 11:30am – 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 11:30am – 11:00pm
Sunday: 11:30am – 10:00pm

Popol Nah on Urbanspoon

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Chuckle Park – Caravan and Simple, Great Food!

panda 4 rating

ChucklePark is funky little eatery / bar which is located in a hidden alleyway off Little Collins Street, near Elizabeth street. It is located under the New Guernica’s entrance and is cosy outdoor space complete with its very own caravan style serving kitchen. Inspired from their holiday experiences in Phillip Island it is the brainchild of Dominic Lococo, Kyle Bush, Marcus Motteram, Steve Costa and Jaff Tzaferis.

As you enter, there is a lot to take in – from the hanging plants, the lights in jars that look like stars up high, to the main feature – the caravan with a colourful Jesus statue and surrounding flowers. There is also synthetic grass, high wooden tables as well as low tables – all made to resemble a park – hence the name ChucklePark. There is also gas heaters and awnings to protect the customers from the unpredictability that is Melbourne weather.

There is a simple menu with something on it to eat for everyone. The highlight of the menu – and there are many testaments for this is the Chuckle Park Pulled Pork Roll. Some of the other dishes included are the Albondigas  – which are Spanish meatballs – which comes served in the hot stoneware pan itself, as well as paella, Spanish Lentil Salad and Elote (think char grilled to perfection Corn on the Cob). For drinks there are canned beverages (Coke, Sprite etc) as well jugs of Sangria, aperitifs, beers, ciders and the usual hot drinks – coffee, tea etc.

We went to ChucklePark on a Friday at lunchtime – and we made sure that we got there by 12pm – lucky we did as it soon started to fill up after this time. Most of the boys ordered the Pulled Pork Roll and one guy ordered the Albondigas – the Spanish meatballs served in a hearty vegetable broth. I ordered the Frittata Roll – which was Spanish Style Vegetable Tortila Sandwich with Cheese, Spinach, Mayo and Eggplant Relish. I couldn’t have loved my Frittata Roll more! The patty made of veggies was delicious and flavoursome – you could almost even just eat it on its own. I loved the addition of the eggplant relish – it was the perfect complement to all the other ingredients. For any vegetarians out there you really must try this.

Suffice to say everyone loved their Pulled Pork Rolls – and the size of these “burgers” was HUGE! Its hard to imagine where one would start to eat this. The Albondigas was tasty as well and W who ordered the dish was quietly enjoying his dish.

ChucklePark is great for home-style dishes sourced from local produce that has superb flavourings. It is great for lunch and especially great for afternoon or late night drinks. The staff are hospitable and friendly and the place intimate, casual and cosy. Head down there now!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Food menu can be found at http://media.wix.com/ugd/190d00_a321c5f811c34bb0ad19147e87d561c3.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Relaxed and Funky! How many places have a caravan located with astro turf and lights in jars strung up !
Standout Dish: Fritatta Roll – DELICIOUS!
Service: Friendly, Welcoming and Accommodating! Always happy to help and turn on the heaters if you get cold.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.chucklepark.com.au/
322 Little Collins St, Melbourne CBD
Tel No: 8654 9954

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12:00pm – 1:00am

Chuckle Park Bar and Cafe on Urbanspoon