Eleni’s Kitchen – Family Owned & Authentically Greek!

Menu:

I hadn’t heard anything about Eleni’s Kitchen prior to visiting Yarraville – but boy am I glad I did find this gem of a restaurant! Eleni’s Kitchen is a family owned restaurant and not only has so much cultural richness and history attached to it, but an plenty of love and passion.

Eleni’s Kitchen pays homage to the owner, Thierry’s grandmother – affectionately termed YiaYia in Greek – who owned Yarraville lounge all the way back in 1971 – literally down the road from where Eleni’s Kitchen is located.  Opening Eleni’s Kitchen literally down the road was Thierry’s inspiration to keep the family history alive and continue the legacy her grandmother started.

The venue itself is fantastic – lined with pictures of the past – they can run you through what each of the pictures represent – it is cosy and homely – complete with a huge upstairs area; that is big enough to host functions!

The menu is made up of smaller dishes “Mezethes” followed by some Home Favourites, From the Sea, “Chef Hristos” Signature dishes, From the Field, From the Garden and Desserts. There is also the options of Eleni’s Banquet or Dimitris’ Banquet (which is the smaller banquet option out of the two). So there is a lot to select from – from smaller bites to larger mains and the menu is flexible enough to be enjoyed as a sharing style dinner or an ordering your own dish – either way you will find it hard to decide what you want – trust me!

We started with traditional Greek coffee which is brewed via the Briki. I have never had this type of coffee before and it was actually really delicious! The taste was strong and vibrant with a hint of sweetness at the end – I devoured the cup! It is similar to an espresso for those who love this type of coffee. For food we started with a few Mezethes which included the Fig Saganaki and Pontian Pipperies followed by the Prawn Saganaki and Lamb Gyros.

The Fig Saganaki – Grilled Greek Kefalograviera cheese served with house-made Fig Jam. The Saganaki was amazingly cooked – the saltiness of the cheese was balanced perfectly by the house made fig jam. I could have this dish throughout the whole day – it was that good! Next up was the Pontian Pipperies – Marinated mild peppers in a feta tomato based sauce. I am usually not a fan of peppers AT ALL – however this dish definitely changed my mind. The combination of the fresh tomato and the saltiness of the feta really brought out the smokiness of the peppers. A really great tasting dish!

For “mains” I had the Prawn Saganaki : King prawns in a feta tomato based sauce  – which comes cooked in an oven baked pan. The prawns were perfectly cooked and coupled with the tomato base brought out the richness of the seafoody taste. A dish I would recommend. The other dish we ordered was the Lamb Gyros – Lamb from the spit served with lemon potato, salad, tzatziki and pita bread. This dish is quite substantial as it comes with many accompaniments all of which added to the experience of the dish. The lamb itself was tender and succulently cooked!

Both quality and quantity here isn’t compromised here with meat being locally sourced (just down the road in fact – ensuring the best cuts are selected). If you want to experience an authentic Greek experience with service that truly feels like you are part of the family – you should definitely check out Eleni’s Kitchen. There are so many dishes to try out that this is one place that you will definitely be coming back again and again!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Homely, Great for functions!
Standout Dish: Fig Saganaki
Service: Friendly, Welcoming and Helpful!
Online Booking: Yes via 
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.eleniskitchen.com.au/
28 Anderson St, Yarraville

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 12:00pm to 10:00pm

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

Instagram: @eleniskitchenandbar

Eleni’s Kitchen and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Experiencing Box Hill Central Like Never Before….

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I was lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people from PR Edge to get a chance to experience the talent of former Magic Owner-chef James Tan as he hosted an exclusive tour of Victoria’s most authentic Asian fresh food market located at Box Hill Central. After the tour finished, we were treated to a tantalising 3 course meal that James cooked in front of us. I mean how can you say No right?

Box Hill Central is located in Box Hill and is full of culinary hidden gems, rare ingredients and traditional treats – and it has a history. Originally this space was a market that opened in 1895 becoming a part of the shopping centre when it was developed in 1987. There are now two shopping centres located on the one site – Box Hill Central North and Box Hill Central South.

Box Hill Central North was originally opened as Whitehorse Plaza but after a lack of patrons closed down in 2000. After major refurbishments it was reopened in 2003 as Centro Whitehorse, which then rebranded to Centro Box Hill North in 2007 before finally being changed to Box Hill Central North in 2013.

Box Hill South (where the original Box Hill Central was located) – was built when the old railway station and level crossing was removed and has undergone refurbishments to what stands there today. The original market is now incorporated into the shopping centre but was redeveloped to what it is today. Box Hill Train station is also located here.

I was a bit late (for those of you who don’t know Box Hill gets super busy – especially on a Saturday and finding a car park is almost as bad as finding a needle in a haystack!) so missed the initial welcome and introductions from James, however I met up with the rest of the bloggers and James as they were getting through a talk from one of the Fresh Seafood store’s owners – Elaine from Box Hill Fish Market. Here we got to sample oysters – they were fresh, punchy and full of flavour! You can have a look at some of my pictures of the Box Hill Fish Market store – you really can see the freshness and the high quality – they sell sashimi grade products – that this store has, as well as the variety and range – they have Blue Swimmer Male Crabs!
Elaine and her staff are very helpful and accommodating and mentioned that they try and cater for their clients’ needs in whichever way they can – all they have to do is ask. I really like that philosophy!

Next we briefly stopped at one of James’ favourite butchers – Central Meats – who sells specialised meats and once again are very accommodating and can get you what you.

Our next stop was at Food Master which provides Asian spices and herbs and dried and preserved foods – a shop with literally everything you could possible need – from Dried Figs to Lily Bulb. If you are Asian and were used to your mums or grandparents herbal home remedies – chances are that you could find the ingredients for this remedy from here. Check out the pictures for the variety!

That brought us to the end of the tour and we were led back to our little area that had been decorated with bamboo fences and bamboo trees – with the table for the bloggers in the centre. There were many inquisitive questions as to what was going on and how they could be involved from passer-byers. The centre pieces were simple and brilliant – vases filled with fresh bok choy together with a basket filled with fresh veggies such as carrots, eggplants and mushrooms.
James had his setup at the top end of our table so we could watch as he prepared our three course meal.

Whilst James starting cooking the first dish we were given 100% natural Coconut Water from Raw C. James told us that he wanted to source fresh coconuts for us however he couldn’t find the ideal ones he wanted for us. None of us around the table had heard or seen this brand before – Pete Evans appears on the back of the packaging which we all found amusing. The Coconut Water is actually one of the better ones I have tried and kept the authentic coconut water flavours vibrant.

For the first course we were served Palm Sugar Cured Atlantic Salmon with Fried Kumara, Petit Herb Salad. The dish was impeccably presented – the palm sugar cured atlantic salmon acting as the base of the dish, topped with fried kumara and finished with the petit herb salad (which included avocado and tomato). The salmon was fresh and cured to perfection with the palm sugar enhancing the flavour thanks to its sweetness. I loved the crunch of the fried kumara as well as its distinct flavour. The petit herb salad really brought the dish together for one flavour explosion in your mouth. Delicious!

The next course was the Mud Crab Coconut Salad with Chilli Lime Dressing, Crispy Rice Crackers. We were told the way to eat this dish was to serve some of the crab onto the crispy rice crackers and eat them together in one go. Doing this gives you the element of crunch followed swiftly with a burst of distinct flavours – creamy coconut, sultry crab and ending with the hit of chilli. I am a huge of anything to do with crab so this dish was delicious – my only thought was that the coconut flavour somewhat overpowered the uniqueness of the crab.

To finish James prepared a Lacquered Soy Duck with Shitake, Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil. As I do not eat duck I only had the Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil and Shitake. I adored the presentation that James did with my dish. He piled the noodles together – they were rolled into small cylinders, poured the soy reduction over the noodles and finished this with the shitake and herbs. I have never eaten these type of noodles before but quite enjoyed the flavours – the saltiness of the soy reduction paired with the rustic flavours of the shitake and the smoothness of the noodles worked well together.
The duck was a clear hit with the other bloggers – who even went in for seconds. They were surprised at how tender the duck was and the flavouring of the sauce on the side was something they all loved.

Next up was a chance to experience an authentic Chinese Tea Ceremony from Spencer Wong at Cha-t. Refer to the section below to learn more about Spencer.
The front window of Cha-t is visually stunning itself – a round wooden circular shelf with tiny compartments which are filled with paraphernalia relating to Chinese tea such as claypots, incense holders and dainty tea cups – but once you step inside – you truly feel like you are transported to the world of tea. There intricately detailed wooden furnished together with chairs that have been carved from roots of trees. It really is a place that you need to visit to capture its beauty.

Cha-t is all about the teas – with the menu only listing a variety of teas – from Pu-erh / Pu-er Tea to Medicinal Teas. Cha-t is all about appreciation of Chinese tea as well as Chinese culture and really is a one stop shop of its kind here in Melbourne. It is quite common to find many of these types of shops in China – as their favourite past times is to drink tea all day.

Spencer seats us around a wooden table that has been especially made for tea ceremonies. It is equipped with all the utensils and pots required to carry out a tea ceremony, including a section that places filtered water into a pot and warms the water to correct temperature required. I was even amazed at just watching the water being warmed and the main ceremony hadn’t even started! The table had holes which allowed for the excess water to travel through and be collected under the table – genius.

Spencer starts by telling us the background and history of the tea and tells us the different types of teas that we will be trying today. We start off with Pu-erh Tea which is a variety of fermented dark tea produced in the Yunnan province in China.
Pu-erh Tea starts off as a Camilla Plant first and for the next 1 to 5 years becomes a greeny yellowy colour, then from 5 to 15 years changes to a red colour and after about 50 years it becomes the black tea that we would be drinking today. The tea that we would be trying is a 1989 tea!!!
Spencer tells us that all you need for a good cup of tea is around 7-8 grams of tea – which he measures out using a scale. He places the tea into a bowl like cup and pours the hot water (90 degrees) onto it. Once this brews for a bit he pours the tea into a beaker. He tells us that the first two brews are to wake up the tea and hence the flavouring is always light. It also serves as a double purpose to warm the tea cups that you use to drink the tea in.

We all cannot wait to taste the tea – we are served in small glass cups and are told by Spencer how to drink the tea. You are meant to slurp in a sip and then savour the flavour between sips – certain teas give out flavours that you can feel at the back of your throat. The initial 2 brews are light, but as the brews get higher – the strength increases. The tea is warming and uniquely flavoured.

The next tea that we try is from 1984 and the 7g of tea that we all share is worth $400!!! This means that a kilogram will cost around $57K! Who would have ever thought that tea would be worth that much money! For this tea Spencer once again measure 7g of the tea and places it into a specially made purple sand pot. He tells us that these containers can cost up to 1 million dollars (!!!) – the cost is dependent on the level of the masters that are creating the containers. For example if they are Level 2 masters the cost of the containers (depending on the size and the type) that they make could be worth up to $100K with Level 1 masters containers being worth up to $1 Million. The small pot that he is using today is worth $500.

Once the water has boiled – to 100 degrees – Spencer pours the water into the pot and allows the tea to brew. Spencer carefully pours water over the pot to warm the tea and then swills the inside. When we were served the tea you could tell why it was worth the $400! The flavour was light initially and left a honey after taste. Another key to identifying great quality tea is that the smell that it leaves on the cup – it smelt of fresh honey and did so for a long period of time! Lower quality teas would have the smell of the actual cup or the remnants of your saliva. We had about 4 rounds of this tea and each time the flavour intensified but the honey after taste still remained in the same intensity. Beautiful.

Spencer also showed us the incense and how he prepares the incense – the incense helps to create the atmosphere and further enhances the tea experience. The smells were strong yet calming. The process – as with the serving of tea – is a very intricate, careful and detailed process. I love the dedication and passion!

Spencer also showed us some other tricks – like frogs that we thought were just ornaments – were in fact not just ornaments. If you place hot water over the frog – it squirts out the water – a nice party trick!

Cha-t also specialises in cigars (although they are not visibly in sight and you cannot smoke them in store) which range from Bolivar to Cuban Sancho Panz. There is also quite the variety of top shelf whiskeys on display. There are also some snack type foods available such as sun dried mango, sour plums, seaweed etc.

Cha-t is opening soon in Bourke St in the Melbourne CBD and also run various tea appreciation classes for those interested in learning more about tea and its rich history.

The entire day was a brilliant experience that you wouldn’t normally get to go through – from the personal tour from James of Box Hill Central to the intimate and eye opening tea ceremony. I would definitely encourage you all to check out Cha-t and experience the tea ceremony – it feels like a little bit of China right here in Melbourne.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to Box Hill Central as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

About James Tan                                              About Spencer Wong

About James Tan                                                             About Spencer Wong

Box Hill Central
1 Main St, Box Hill
Tel No: 9843 3900

Cha-T
17 Market St, Box Hill
Tel No: 0433 588 578

The Kettle Black – Next Level Cafe

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Drinks Menu Food Menu Drinks Menu

Leading up to and in the just the few days that The Kettle Black had opened there been a lot of hype surrounding it – from the visual spectacle of the venue to the highly anticipated crayfish roll and of course, the delicious coffee. So of course I had to go and check it out for myself.

I decided to go during lunchtime (a late lunch around 2pm) as it is a short 10 minute tram ride from work. The Kettle Black is located on Albert Road in South Melbourne – a short walk from Domain Interchange. As you make your approach to The Kettle Black you are greeted by the white visual spectacle – a combination of a grand old Victorian building together with the ground floor of an Elenberg Fraser designed residential complex – 21 storeys in fact (!) – called Fifty Albert.

This magnificent -must try place – is brought to you by the team who are responsible for places like Top Paddock, Two Birds One Stone! Jesse McTavish (chef from Top Paddock) together with Top Paddock owner Nathan Coleman, along with business partners Ben Clark and Diamond Rozakeas, as well as Tim James (Two Birds One Stone) and Sam King (ex De Clieu). What a team! Coleman is in charge of the running the floor with King in charge of the coffee side of things.

The fit out is designed by the awesome twosome Kestie Lane and Hana Hakim from the quirky cool design company Studio You Me. They have brought two very different worlds seamlessly together using white walls, green Italian tiles as well a marble and brass detailing. The breathtakingly beautiful building begins with an outside eatery area located in front of the Victorian terrace. As you enter the venue there is a coffee cart where you can purchase takeaway coffees whilst you wait. Once you step inside you are greeted by a hotel like reception / cashier desk / sweet counter – there are a selection of sweet treats on display for you to choose from including the melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts from Doughboy Donuts.
From here the interior splits into two halves – the left side sits in the converted apartment block and is complete with a modern vibe, high ceilings (which is simply stunning and has a great effect thanks to a method of layering of white tiles against each other), fresh sunlight streaming in – thanks to the floor to ceiling windows – as well as an emerald green tiled and marble barista station. There is also the striking porthole-like wall which is a highlight in this room. The right side sits in the Victorian terrace side has a more homely feel complete with gold and brass trimmings (a very interesting looking light fitting that is reminiscent of two gold earrings), flowers and arched windows.
Another highlight that I saw whilst waiting for my table was the unique watering station – which consisted of a stone base with a gold sink and finished black tap ware with small square tiles in the background. Tables are wooden and there are mixtures of low tables, as well as one tall communal table. You can sit at the barista marble bar as well – with the look finished with green stools. What is also great is the addition of flowers in bottles throughout the venue – adds colour and class to the already classy venue.

The menu by McTavish is focussed on using mainly Victorian produce – or Australian when Victorian isn’t possible. The relishes and butter are made in house with bread supplied from Burnham Beeches, Wallaby from Flinders Island, Steak from Robbins Island, Seafood from King Island and house-fermented yoghurt. Coffee (espresso) is a custom blend from 5 Senses, as well as a rotating single origin. Filter coffee is sourced from specialists such as Small Batch and Market Lane. Another interesting fact to note is that The Kettle Black makes their own compost which they then use to grow their own leaves, herbs and flowers in their greenhouses and gardens.
Drinks include Cold Press Juices (there are two to choose from) as well as Fresh Juices (Orange or Ruby Grapefruit). There are also a selection of bottled drinks as well as Ice Chocolate and Iced Coffee available, as well as Tea.

The food menu comprises of a unique take on your normal breakfast dishes – there are a variety of combinations that are served with eggs that you wouldn’t usually see such as Chilli Scrambled Eggs with Air Dried Flinders Island Wallaby or Tataki Ocean Trout with Raw Kale, Seaweed Salad and Poached Eggs. The famous hotcakes – that are served in Top Paddock – have made their place here on The Kettle Black menu. There is also Polenta Porridge, Fruit Toast, Muesli and House-Made Coconut Yoghurt. More food is available that strikes me as a lunch offering, however this isn’t stated – items like Kingfish with Potato Crisps, Robbins Island Wagyu Skirt Steak served on the Kettle Black Bun, Mixed Beans, Burrata and the famously known King Island Crayfish Roll.

Even during a late lunch hour – there was still a list of people wanting a table. I had a wait time of about 10-12 minutes. You don’t really feel the wait time as there is a lot that too look at and observe or even order a takeaway coffee from the coffee cart. I was seated at the marble bar, perched on a stool that allowed me to observe the coffees as they were cranked out. I ordered a latte whilst deciding on what I should eat.

The latte arrived shortly after and was delicious! It is definitely one of the best coffees I have had this year (refer to my Coffee page for their rating at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/coffee-worlds-best-pick-me-up/). The coffee was strong with notes of caramel mixed together with floral and a hint of citrus at the end. The after taste was creamy and memorable. I would happily make the trek from work on the tram just to have this coffee.

After much consideration I decided to order the King Island Crayfish in an Ash Roll with Native Coastal Spinach, Lime & Yuzu Mayonnaise. The Crayfish Roll comes served on a heavy stone curved square plate, with a lime wedge placed next to it. It is visually stunning especially against the grey backdrop of the stone. The ash roll is clearly evident together with the fresh smell of crayfish emanating through preparing your taste-buds. The green and purple of the native coastal spinach as well as the addition of the yellow flowers brings the whole dish together.
The bun was soft, warm and delicious. The crayfish was oozing freshness and flavour and was perfectly poached. The mayonnaise was tangy and full of all the right flavours, which brought the whole dish together, however I would have liked more mayonnaise in my bun. Overall, the dish was good but I wasn’t blown away as I had expected to be from all the rave reviews of the crayfish bun – it almost felt like an extra ingredient was needed to add more depth and flavour.

I also decided I needed to end on something sweet – so I ordered the House-made Coconut Yoghurt with Gluten-Free Grains, Seeds & Nuts, Toorak Station Prickly Pear, Rhubarb, Citrus Powders, Fruits and Flowers. The presentation of this dish was beautiful – too beautiful to the point that a part of me didn’t want to touch it – and reminded me of a flower garden bed. Served on a glossy black plate which allowed the white coconut yoghurt to really shine through and topped with the spectacular bright colours of the watermelon, strawberry, blueberries and assorted flowers, finished with citrus powders. The yoghurt was smooth, creamy and the perfect balance of the coconut flavours flowing through. I loved that the grains were hidden under the fruit – it made for a great surprise with every mouthful. The components of the dish worked extremely well together and the mix of flavours were tasty. My only criticism would be that the watermelon didn’t have the crunch and freshness I expected.

The staff are super friendly and accommodating in any way they can. The Kettle Black is one of those places that you will find yourself coming back to and when people ask me for a brunch place that I would recommend – this is the first place I tell them.

The Kettle Black exudes class, style and swank all without the attitude and pretense. The venue is delightful and a visual spectacle that is must see yet the atmosphere remains relaxed, lively and fun. The menu has been carefully designed and the dishes will get your taste buds pumping. The presentation is excellent and the coffee top notch. Come and see for yourself.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Breathtaking and Spectacular Venue – with a relaxed, carefree, lively and fun atmosphere. Definitely one to bring people from overseas or interstate – anyone really!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, accommodating and welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://thekettleblack.com.au/
50 Albert Road, South Melbourne
Tel No: 9088 0721

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kettle-Black/707633809303415
Twitter: @kettleblackcafe
Instagram:
kettleblackcafe

The Kettle Black on Urbanspoon

Brothl – Cheeky & Healthy!

panda 3 rating

Menu:
Brothl Menu Brothl Drinks Menu

Brothl has taken over where Silo by Joost left off. It is small cafe located in Hardware Lane by passionate eco-entrepreneur, enthusiast and sustainable design champion, Joost Bakker. The idea behind Brothl came about from Bakker, who was a florist and designer, and supplied flowers to Neil Perry’s Rockpool and saw the wastage that occurred in the form of bones from the meats and seafood that was being used. He then asked Perry if he could take these bones and Perry was more than happy to oblige. The same context of using “the stuff other people throw out” that was behind Silo is being rehashed here at Brothl – and it works thanks to Bakker and his team, which includes chef Ryan Bussey.

Brothl centres around the creation of four different nutritional and delicious broths that take these unused bones – taken from high end Melbourne restaurants such as Rockpool , Attica and The European – and is slowly stewed for an optimum period of time.
Broths are all made with rainwater from Monbulk and include a 48-hour stock from the bones of Rockpool’s Cape Grim beef; a chicken stock simmered for 24 hours; and a 12-hour seafood version from fish and different crustaceans, including marron and crab. There is also a vegetarian option with stock being made from kelp foraged from the Bellarine Peninsula and simmered for 8 hours. There is an organic breakfast broth available as well – made with fruit skins, seeds and cores and is served with oats, seasonal fruit, nuts and optional Schulz milk.

The way in which Brothl works is that you first select the type of broth you want – beef, chicken, seafood or veggie – to act as your base (this will cost you $10). You then can choose from 18 different add-ons such as house-made spelt or soba noodles, foraged kelp, beef brisket, poached chicken or mussels, seasonal vegetables, hard or soft egg, kimchi and bacon or even chicken feet! These additions will cost you between $1 – $8. Each broth option also comes with a Chef’s Recommendation – which is what the chef recommends you should add-on to the broth – that you could opt for if the choices are too hard for you to make. The menu also informs you of what vitamins, nutrients and minerals each broth will bring you.
There are also some “Not Broth” options such as the Chickpea Falafels and House Grain Salad. The drinks menu includes a list of “Live Drinks” – Remedy Kombucha (good for your liver), Citrus Juice, House made Lemonade. Coffee is from Riverside Coffee and they also serve Almond Milk if that is your preference, along with Staple Store Teas (Sparkle My Skin, Phoebe, Gen Mai Cha, Longevity). There are also a small selection of Beers, Ciders and Wines available.

As you step into the store you are greeted by a large neon sign with the café name, located at the front counter. This counter also houses some delicious sweet treats and desserts – some of which are gluten-free. Brothl is fitted out with entirely recycled or recyclable material – from the hand-cut flowers from Bakker’s garden itself, communal dining table to the crates that line the ceiling, as well as the all-natural paint and stools made from irrigation pipes and leather offcuts (these stools are a tad bit uncomfortable to sit on, however are quite funky !) The coffee machine has clear side panels which allow you to look at the machinery behind making a coffee which I think is brilliant. The result is an unique, funky and cosy little cafe – where you can watch as the chefs prepare your food as the kitchen and the dining area are pretty much as one.

I visited Brothl during my lunch break – around 1pm – and it was very packed, however I managed to grab a seat near the front counter. For my base broth I was deciding between the seafood option and the vegetarian option and ended up choosing the seafood option. For my add-ons I went with Mushrooms, Seasonal Vegetables and House made Soba Noodles. The broth comes served with House made bread and butter. Whilst I waited for my broth – I ordered a Latte and opted to have Almond Milk. The latte was delicious and I loved the difference in taste due to the use of almond milk. I am quite the fan!

The broth is served in terracotta pots which have been coated in white on the inside, with the bread and butter (served in a separate dish) all on a round serving tray/dish. From the moment it arrives, you can smell the seafood in the air – it is strong and takes you to the shores of a beach. The broth has a rich depth and is quite tasty – the seafood flavours were evident from the start to end of your slurp, however for me the overpowering smell got to me and I couldn’t finish my entire bowl. The add-ons were fresh and worked well with the flavouring of the soup. I think next time I will opt for the vegetable broth and see how I go. The bread and butter were a great addition as it helped to soak up the broth and add another level of depth, texture (bread) and saltiness (butter) to the meal.

Brothl really does achieve its main goal of seeing more organic waste consumed as nutrient-rich food. It is a healthy and fun option that you can’t get anywhere else in the Melbourne CBD. Brothl is open for breakfast (from 10am), lunch and dinner – so head down and check it out.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above or online at http://byjoost.com/brothl/food-drink/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Relaxed. Great for a lunchtime health boost!
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No – Brothl is a Walk-In restaurant only
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://byjoost.com/brothl/
123 Hardware Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9600 0588

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 10:00am – 10:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joost-Bakker/105493049526332
Twitter: @greenhousejoost
Instagram:
brothl

Brothl on Urbanspoon

Kong BBQ – Worth All The Hype!

panda 4 rating

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There was so much hype surrounding the opening of Kong in Richmond, especially after the trial run of some of the food you could eat at the Rue & Co branch. The branding is all about the Pandas – and as per my blog name – anything to do with Pandas and I am in! A bunch of us (there were 6 of us) decided to try it out on a Tuesday night and aimed to get there around 6pm. I had heard about the long queues – with the wait time being over an hour! Kong doesn’t take bookings, however if you arrive at the restaurant you can put your name down for a table and they will contact you when a table comes up.

Kong is the latest addition to The Lucas Group. Chris Lucas has brought us the likes of Chin Chin (Melbourne CBD) and Baby (Richmond – and just up the road from where Kong is located). Kong is located on the site of what was once Pearl, and Eades & Bergman have been brought in to help with this transformation. Kong seats 60 people – with a mixture of single low tables, long communal tables and seating all around the bar / kitchen, as well as in the corridor as you walk into the restaurant. These seats give you a vantage point to see your dishes being prepared. The tables are blonde wood, the look industrial mixed together with an anime vibe thanks to the array of pandas around the venue. There are the signature neon signs (these can be found in all their other venues) as well as a film being projected. During the day you can imagine fresh sunlight streaming in from its floor to ceiling windows which surround the restaurant this corner site restaurant.

The Executive Chef here is Benjamin Cooper together with Dan Briggs and all the chefs here at Kong wear red baseball caps which have three letter slogans on them – either KIM, CHI or BBQ – a nice touch that further adds character to Kong.
The idea behind Kong is to combine barbeque pit cooking techniques with Japanese and Korean flavours. The focus is on seafood and meat being cooked on either an open-flamed charcoal grill or in a smoke oven. If you get seating around the kitchen you can experience the smoke rising from the pit ovens which is a visual spectacle that will have your taste buds dancing being tantalized in anticipation of the meats/seafood to come. It is also good to note that Kong uses only chemical free charcoal and sustainable Australian Hard-Wood.

The menu is split into 8 different sections – Small, Ssam Roti-Roll, Buns, Wings, Natural Fire, Ribs, Rice & Green and Desserts. Small dishes include Wood Grilled Scallops, Trio of Kimchi & Pickles, Beef Tartare and Nasu Miso just to name a few. The Ssam Roti-Roll have fillings such as Teriyaki Roast Ora King Salmon, BBQ Chicken, Grilled Miso Marinated Tofu and Pulled Pork. Smoked Brisket, Spicy Pork Belly, Soft Shell Crab and Peanut Butter Salt & Pepper Tofu are the options you have to choose from in the Bun Section. There are four variations of Wings that you can order from – Honey, Garlic & Sesame Korean Wings, Hot Wings with Gochujang and Chipotle, Soy Wings or Peanut Butter Wings.
Natural Fire are from the BBQ Pit and cover most seafood and meat options. There is also a Kong Bossam BBQ Tray – Chicken, Pork, Pork Belly and Beef Brisket served with Lettuce, Pickles, Kimchi and Walnut Ssamjang – at a bargain price of $28 a tray. Rice & Greens include two different types of Fried Rice, Dukkbokki Rice Cakes, Spicy Cabbage Slaw, Wood Roasted Pumpkin etc. Desserts have a smaller selection – only 4 to choose from but they all sound quite delicious so the number doesn’t really matter.

I arrived before the other girls around 6:15pm and as there were going to be six of us (as everyone had to be there before we could have a table), I put my name down on the list and the wait even at that time was going to be around 45mins. Since I had been fasting all day I wanted to order something small whilst I was waiting for the others to arrive. I was seated along the wall on the high benches and decided on the BBQ Corn with Chilli Salt and Miso Butter. It wans’t just because I was really hungry but this corn was deliciously amazing! The corn had been bbq’d perfectly and emit just the right amount of smoky flavours. The corn itself was juicy and “crunchy” and the combination of the miso butter and chilli salt was the icing on the corn so to speak – it added an additional salty and spicy hit to combine with the sweetness of the corn.

Whilst waiting for the girls to arrive and for our table to be ready we were able to order drinks – I ordered the Lychee & Grapefruit Crush with Coconut Water. This drink came out in a glass jar topped with ice and pieces of fresh grapefruit and was not only thirst quenching but refreshing as well. I had to stop myself from drinking it all in one sip!

Once we were seated we had the mammoth task of deciding what dishes we wanted to order. We had a mix of vegetarians and a pescatarian (me!), as well as people that could eat everything. We picked dishes that we would work to cater to everyones needs and asked our friendly waiter if the amount of food we ordered was enough. He was happy to assist and told us that if we wanted anymore dishes we could just order as we went.

We started off with the Wood Grilled Edamame with Chilli and Sea Salt. The Edamame was fresh and had somewhat of a smoky flavour coming from the wood grill with a hint of spice. A tasty dish.

Next up we ordered the famous Ssam Roti Rolls – we got a serving each to suit the three categories of requirements – Ssam Roti Roll – BBQ Chicken with Lemon, Gochujang and KimChi, Ssam Roti Roll – Grilled Miso Marinated Tofu with Pickled Cabbage and Kewpie Mayo and Ssam Roti Roll – Teriyaki Roast Ora King Salmon, Wok Fried Broccoli and Tomato.
I tasted the Ssam Roti Roll with the Roast Ora King Salmon which was superb! The roti on the outside was divine – thin, crispy and buttery – the perfect casing. The filling was rich and full of flavours with the broccoli, tomato and the spicy, creamy sauce working seamlessly with the perfectly cooked salmon. I would definitely recommend this dish. I did also sample the Ssam Roti Toll with Tofu which was another flavoursome dish, but my pick would definitely be for the King Salmon.

Some of the other girls ordered the Wings – Korean Fried Wings with Honey, Garlic and Sesame, however upon eating this they found the chicken overly sweet and couldn’t eat the dish. They knew the dish would have a sweet tone to it – after all it did contain honey; however they weren’t expecting the sweetness to be so overpowering. They mentioned this to our waiter who was happy to replace the wings with another serving in a different flavour. They then ordered the Wings – Hot Wings with Gochujang and Chipotle. They really enjoyed this dish which had a real kick of spice and a peppery taste.

I also ordered a serving of the Soft Shell Crab with Salted Duck Egg Relish and Coriander. The bao bun was soft and as you bit into it felt like you were eating clouds. This combined with the crunch of the crab paired with the amazing creamy duck egg relish was a match made in heaven! The coriander added freshness to the whole dish. You could just keep eating these buns and not get sick of them.

A few of the girls ordered the Wood Grilled Scallops with Tobanjan and Mirin Pickled Radish – which comes served in a shell and topped with micro herbs and radish. They loved the flavours and really enjoyed the scallops – which were cooked to the right consistency.

We ordered the Dukkbokki Rice Cakes with Red Chilli, Gochujang and Roasted Parsnip which was quite the colourful dish when it came out. Amid a dark blue backdrop of the dish – the rice cakes were a vibrant burnt orange colour peppered with greens and reds. I have never seen rice cakes in this form before and was intrigued to see how it tasted. The cakes were rectangular in shape and were soft to eat – with the dish having a sweet and sour flavour to it. I loved the addition of the veggies and the chilli which worked well with the texture and flavouring of the dish as a whole.

We couldn’t leave Kong without trying something from the Natural Fire section and ordered the Wood Roasted Salmon with Crispy Skin, Seaweed Salad and KimChi. The dish was beautifully presented with the Crispy Skin standing tall next to the Roasted Salmon. Instead of the seaweed salad we had a broccoli salad mix – which I found to be quite fresh and tasty. The wood roasted Salmon was another good dish – the smoky flavours immersed with the natural flavours of the salmon.

We were all keen to try the Kimchi at Kong – after all Kimchi is a signature Korean dish! And the fact that Kong has signs relating to this dish – “It’s not ordinary cabbage, it’s fermented cabbage” almost egged us on to try the dish out. The Kimchi was spicy, tangy and flavoursome and went above and beyond all of our expectations. Yum!

The last dish that we ordered was the Fried Rice with Spicy Enoki Mushroom and Soy Charred Tofu. I was surprised to see pumpkin seeds on top when it came out. The dish was fresh, spicy and delicious. I loved the combination of tofu and mushrooms in the rice.

The dessert offerings when compared with the rest of the menu are minimal but the quality and taste that they come in make up for this fact. We ordered the Coconut Sago with Passionfruit and Pineapple Trifle and the Apple and Walnut Tart with Miso Butterscotch and Japanese Whisky Ice Cream. Both dishes are impeccably presented with flavours to match.

The Trifle comes served in a clear glass – showcasing the many layers of the trifle. The trick with these desserts is to get a taste of each layer in one mouthful. The finely cut pieces of pineapple makes up the base layer, with the passionfruit compote with passionfruit seeds being the next layer, and finished with the coconut sago. This dessert was a light and refreshing dessert packed with fruity flavours and textures. A definite fave of mine.

The girls enjoyed the apple and walnut tart – which came out presented with a large ball of Japanese Whisky Ice Cream on placed on top amidst the array of walnuts. They said there was only a slight taste to the whisky ice cream but was delicious nonetheless. The pastry that encased the tender apples was buttery and soft, with the added crunch of the walnut crumble. There was a sweet caramel taste mixed with the creaminess of the ice cream.

What needs to be mentioned is the staffing – they are friendly and helpful and despite the lines going out the door they do not come across as flustered at all. They keep an calm demeanour and go above and beyond expectations to make you feel at home even if you are waiting upwards of an hour. Another reason why this place is doing so well.

Kong is brilliant addition to the wonderful world of dining that exists in Melbourne – with offerings of an interesting menu complete with fresh flavours, smoky excitement and spiciness. Meat lovers will adore this place (especially the BBQ Tray) but really anyone will love it. What’s not to love about a friendly and warm welcome, together with cute pandas, a great fit-out and an enthusiastic vibe?

NOTE: Kong now offers Takeaway – which can be ordered online for pickup.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to Picture above. You can find the Takeaway menu at http://www.kongbbq.com.au/takeaway which will give you an idea of what the main menu has to offer.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vibrant and Fun-Filled. Great for a catchup with friends and family.
Standout Dish: Bun – Soft Shell Crab with Salted Duck Egg Relish and Coriander, Ssam Roti Roll – Teriyaki Roast Ora King Salmon, Wok Fried Broccoli and Tomato
Service: Fantastic – really friendly and helpful! They really do well for a place that is packed to brim majority of the time.
Online Booking: No – Kong is a walk-in only restaurant.
Restaurant Details and Location:
kongbbq.com.au
599 Church St, Richmond
Tel No: 9427 1307

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – Late

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kongbbq
Twitter: @kongbbq
Instagram: kongbbq

Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

Banoi – A Piece of Vietnam in Docklands

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Food Menu Drinks Menu

If you work around the Docklands vicinity you would have noticed the recent influx of Vietnamese food ventures opening up. Banoi is one of these Vietnamese venues that have opened up in this area and is located opposite the brightly coloured NAB building on Bourke Street.

Banoi is owned by a Vietnamese team and is all about offering a contemporary dining experience all whilst staying true to the Vietnamese heritage and culture, using quality local fresh Melbourne produce.

The fit out is fantastic – modern yet vintage with touches which are reminiscent of the Saigon markets back in Vietnam. There are timber feature walls, vibrant use of colours, detailed light fittings with filament light bulbs, hand painted works and imported tiles in the bar and coffee area. There are timber tables inside – both communal and individual tables – some with stools fixed with bicycle pedals (how awesome!) – as well as seating outside. The tables are set up like any other Vietnamese restaurant whereby there is easy access to cutlery and condiments.

The food menu is set out like a lunch order menu where you place the number in the box alongside the item that you want. The Menu is broken up into a number of sections – Rice Paper Rolls (there are 6 to select from), Snacks (consisting of spring rolls mostly and one skewer dish), Noodle Soup (Pho – either beef or chicken), Banoi’s Lunch Special – there are two that you can choose from A or B, Vermicelli Noodles (there are seven different flavours to choose from) and Salads (either a Wagyu Beef Salad or Chicken Salad). The menu also highlights which dishes are Vegetarian and Gluten-Free.
At just $15 the Banoi’s Lunch Special are a smashing deal and great value for money. Lunch Special A consists of a Beef Pho Cup, Banh Mi Half together with Imperial Spring Rolls of which you get 3. You can also select a drink of either a Vietnamese Iced Coffee or Kumquat Lemonade. Lunch Special B consists of Vietnamese Beef Curry Vermicelli with your selection of a drink as above.

The drinks menu is quite extensive and consists of a selection of drinks such as Kumquat Lemonade, Vietnamese Ice Coffee, Coconut Crush, Lychee Crush, Custard Apple Smoothies etc. There is also a selection of beers and wines, as well as the usual soft drinks and tea.

Banoi gets really busy during lunch times and I would suggest getting there at 12pm sharp in order to get yourself a table. They do take bookings but only if the booking is for 12pm, as they want to cater for walk-ins after that time. For those on the go there is a separate line / window where you can order rice paper rolls and drinks to take away.
The first time I tried Banoi I used this take away line and tried out two different types of rice paper rolls. I ordered the Fried Salt & Pepper Tofu with Kim Chi Sprouts as well as the Grilled Salmon with Avocado. Each serving comes with 2 rolls per serve. You also get your choice of sauces. The rolls were delicious and are fresh (as they are made fresh daily) and full of flavour and crunch thanks to the inclusion of traditional Asian herbs. My favourite out of the two was the Salt & Pepper tofu roll which had some added spice thanks to the use of Kim Chi sprouts. These rolls are quite generously sized and I had enough for dinner time as well!

The second time around we booked a table for 12pm and were seated inside. The atmosphere is buzzing and does make you feel like you are in downtown Vietnam in the markets. As I can only eat Halal meats the lunch special option was out for me so I decided to order the Silken Tofu Vermicelli Noodles – with wok tossed fried silken tofu and vegetarian spring rolls. I did ask the waitress if she could change these vegetarian spring rolls to the imperial spring rolls (which had crab & prawn inside them) however she said this couldn’t be done.

I ordered a Kumquat Lemonade drink which was refreshing. I really loved the flavour combination of kumquat and lemonade and had to stop myself from finishing the drink all in one go. A ordered the Coconut Crush which was just as good and had fresh pieces of coconut through the drink.

The Silken Tofu Vermicelli Noodles comes out presented beautifully – the salt and pepper crusted tofu sitting on top like soft pillows amongst the colourful greens, Kim Chi sprouts and spring rolls all served in a blue and white bowl, with the Vermicelli hidden underneath. There is sweet soy sauce on top in a separate dish as well. Just from the look of the dish I can barely contain myself to take picture of the dish without wanting to tuck into it. I pour the sauce throughout the dish and take my first mouthful and am not disappointed. It was fantastically delicious! The crunchy outside of the tofu together with the soft silkiness inside along with the coriander, herbs and spicy crunch of the sprouts was a match made in heaven. I literally devoured the entire dish. The vegetarian spring rolls were full of flavour and added depth to the dish as well.
Around the table everyone was talking about how good the food was. J got the Lunch Special A and said the Beef Pho was delicious – with the quality of the beef being top notch together with a tasty broth and quality noodles. He also commented on the Banh Mi being flavoursome with the bread being crunchy and fresh. I got a chance to sample the Imperial Rolls which have a delicate netting on the outside which I loved the look of. The rolls were superb – with a great texture of crunch on the outside and soft flavoursome prawn and crab meat on the inside. These rolls are a definite must order for anyone and everyone.

Service is great with staff friendly and always happy to assist if you need anything. Banoi also has a strong focus on good coffee – they work with Campos coffee – and use a La Marzocco machine to pump out smooth tasting and full flavoured cups.

Banoi is all about Vietnamese food and Vietnamese food done well – the ever growing queues and crowds at lunchtime and dinnertime are testament to this. The trek down to Docklands is definitely worth it.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above or the website – http://www.banoi.com.au/#menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Laid Back, Funky. Has a market like feel to it that reminds you of the Saigon Market in Vietnam. It is great for a casual meal and catch up drinks.
Standout Dish: Silken Tofu Vermicelli Noodles and Imperial Spring Rolls
Service: Friendly, Warm and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.banoi.com.au/
807 Bourke Street, Docklands
Tel No: 8080 9699

Opening Hours:
Monday: 11:00am-4:00pm
Tuesday to Saturday: 11:00am-9:30pm
Sunday: CLOSED

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/banoi.com.au
Twitter: @BanoiDocklands
Instagram: banoidocklands

Banoi on Urbanspoon

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

 

Fiesta Mexican – Spicy, Lively & Fun

panda 4.5 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening Hours:

Fiesta Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

duNord – Swedish Splendour

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menyu at duNord

G & I were catching up for dinner and decided to check out duNord which is located in Little Bourke St – right in the middle of the Melbourne CBD. duNord serves up Swedish flavours and Nordic inspired cocktails and is owned by Thomas Kiltorp (ex-Emerald Peacock, Red Hummingbird).

As you walk in you are greeted by the super long Beechwood bar which has solid bar stools that you can perch yourself up at. There are also higher tables near the bar. Following the bar is the kitchen and to the right of that there are lower blonde wooden tables for more seating. At the back of the venue is space called Back Pocket where you get fit between 30 to 70 people for a private function. There is exposed brick combined with the light wooden furniture combined with a neutral colour palette to create a warm, welcoming and inviting feel to the venue. The staff are ever so friendly and helpful.

duNord is known for its Nordic themed bar which includes Scandanavian beers, ciders but the main feature is their cocktails. This would be expected especially with Kiltorp at the helm. There is a daily “market cocktail” as well as a list of 12 different cocktails, which changes according to the produce available as well as the weather. Interestingly there is a mystery brown bagged beer – beer served in a brown bag to try out as well! There is also a snack menu – svenska bitar – which includes some Swedish meatballs or a smorgasbord platter of herring, gouda cheese, rye and pickles.

G & I arrived at duNord after work for dinner and were seated on the lower tables near the kitchen area. We actually didn’t order any of the cocktails and went straight to the food as we were starving. The menu is split into 5 sections beginning with the nibbles and followed by to start, vegetables, mains and finishing with something sweet. There are between 3 to 5 dishes to select under each of these menus. There is a great selection for vegetarians, and the meats range from venison to mutton and include pork loin, duck breast and smoked mackerel.

We decided to order two ‘nibbles’ dish to share, our own mains and a vegetable to share as well.For the two nibbles dishes we ordered the Smoked Eel and Acorn Croquettes in popcorn and the Pine Smoked Quails Nest.

I have never eaten Acorn before so was intrigued to find out what type of flavour it would be. It was a bit hard to differentiate as it was in a croquette style and mixed together with the smoked eel. However the result was delicious – the smokiness of the eel and the nuttiness of the acorn paired well together. It came in a serving of two so was perfect for the two of us. The outer layer was crumbed and crisped perfectly.

Before ordering the Pine Smoked Quail Nest – the waitress explained what the dish consisted of and it sounded really interesting. When the dish comes out it comes under a dome which houses the smokiness, and once it arrives at your table, this is removed and the vapours evaporate. The “nest” actually resembles a real life birds nest – with the “nest” made out of carrots and onions which are created to look like bark. Really cool! The quail egg sits in the centre of this nest. A really visually pleasing dish that makes you not want to eat it. However, we did eat the dish and the quail egg was really yum – the centre yolk was like liquid gold with the perfect texture to it. We had to ask if we could eat the “nest” and once told we could, we devoured every last bit. There was potato at the bottom which was my favourite tasting part.

For mains I ordered the Wild mushroom and Potato Ragout with Pearled Barley and Greens. This has to one of the prettiest dishes plated up that I have received this year. The Pearled Barley was in a heaped perfect circle, topped with the wild mushrooms and the green placed on top of the mushrooms – like a layered trifle. Beetroot jus was placed artistically around the plate along with a few of the wild mushrooms. I loved the combination of all the elements of the dish. The texture of the pearled barley with the mushrooms worked well together, and the flavours were all round delicious. A really great dish to try out.

G ordered the Duck breast, sautéed roasted vegetables, poached pears, blood and berry jus –w which was also beautifully presented. The sautéed roasted vegetables were colourfully placed in the centre of the black plate with the tender duck breast flanking each side. The poached pear was next to the duck breast and the dish was finished with a whole small red onion and berry jus. G did like her dish and said the duck was cooked really well, and overall the flavours combined together really well – she just wasn’t a fan of the beetroot (it just isn’t a veggie she likes).

We also ordered the Seasonal roasted vegetables on Goats curd with Ashed Goats Cheese to share which was actually quite a large dish. The dish was a variety of carrots char grilled and served with the fresh smoked cheese. The carrots were still juicy and sweet and combined with the smokiness and tang of the cheese was a great result. We were so full from our individual main dishes that we couldn’t finish this veggie dish – I guess in hindsight we ordered a bit too much.

When it came to dessert time we decided to share the Lavender Ice Cream, Lemon and Vanilla Sponge, White Chocolate Soil. The dish came plated up on a long dish with the lavender ice cream scoop on one side and the lemon and vanilla sponge on the other with the white chocolate soil diagonally placed around the two. The lavender ice cream was great- had the lavender flavouring mixed together in a creamy end result. The lemon and vanilla sponge was not as soft as I expected it to be but provided a different texture to the dish. The elements together worked quite well and the addition of the white chocolate soil I thought was a necessary component.

I really enjoyed the food, atmosphere and the helpfulness and friendliness of the staff at duNord. I loved the plating up of the food especially as well as the versatile and different flavours and elements used. If you visit on a Wednesday there is something called Lill Lördag (Little Saturday). This is a night of Swedish street food and drink specials on offer to celebrate the week’s halfway mark, along with some great music to match. Definitely check this place out and try out some delightful Scandinavian cuisine.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can find the menu here http://www.dunord.com.au/news/nordic-kitchen-here or look at the menu pic above.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Inviting, Relaxed and Welcoming
Standout Dish:Pine Smoked Quail Nest AND Wild mushroom and Potato Ragout with Pearled Barley and Greens (I had to pick two)
Service: Fantastic!! Really friendly and really know their information about each dish!
Online Booking: Yes via website – www.dunord.com.au – there is a DIMMI link
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.dunord.com.au
367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9642 0052

Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 12pm – Late
Friday: 12pm – 1am
Saturday: 6pm – 1am

duNord on Urbanspoon

Bomba – Spanish with a View

panda 4 rating

Menu:

Menu at Bomba

Menu at Bomba

Dessert Menu at Bomba

Dessert Menu at Bomba

After attending a Virgin Australia Fashion show – J, G and I decided to head over to Bomba to try out some food.

Bomba Tapas Bar and Rooftop is located on Lonsdale St in the Melbourne CBD and replaced the old Aylesbury (where G and I had previously dined at). Bomba is c0-owned by chefs Jesse Gerner and Andrew Fisk and they have returned to their Spanish roots when it comes to the menu. Downstairs is a funky, casual dimly light dining area and upstairs is a rooftop bar where you grab a cocktail, aperitif and enjoy the view. Here you can also grab some of the tapas that are on the menu.

When you walk in you are greeted by the centre piece of the room which is the bar followed by the open kitchen. There are a mix of high and low tables – the high tables being situated near the bar and kitchen – allowing you to be part of the cooking action. The aim was to create a Spanish worker style bar and they have succeeded – complete with low cane light shades, together with green and red tones – it does feel like a piece of Barcelona. The feel is relaxed, casual and simple with no fuss or frills, just simple great tasting authentic food – just what you want a tapas bar to be.

The rooftop bar is known for its Negroni as well for its vermouth component – which you can find on tap courtesy of Maidenii who have made them a special blend.

The menu by head chef Andrew Fisk is split into 7 sections and start off with an appetisers section, followed by a Charcuterie section and then Montadidos (which are literally bites on bread). Tapas, Paella, Raciones (your larger dishes), follow and the menu is finished with Verduras (Salads and Sides). We decided to order some tapas and montadido’s each and then share a Paella, main dish and the Patatas Bravas.

I ordered the Hervey Bay scallop with Lemon and Bread which came out served in a shell. The scallop was very fresh and the flavours refreshing. It was a great opener to the meal ahead. I also ordered the Crushed Pea & Goat’s Curd Toast. The combination of the pea and the goat’s curd worked quite well together and paired with the crunch of the toast was a good bite sized dish.

G ordered the Tomato, Burrata & Aged Sherry Vinegar Toast and quite enjoyed the dish as well.

J ordered the Quail with pistachio and buckwheat dish – which came out in the centre of the plate topped with the pistachio. J said the quail had great flavours and was quite tenderly cooked.

Both G & J ordered the Chicken, manchego and smoked paprika croqueta. They were crispy brown on the outside and the filling on the inside smooth, creamy with a hint of spice thanks to the paprika.

For mains we ordered the Catalan Arroz with Blue Grenadier, Prawns, Calamari, Mussels and Saffron Paella as well as the Crispy skin John Dory with Fennel Escabeche.

The Paella was served in a ceramic pot and was a really colourful dish – accents of black from the mussels, red from the sauce, yellow from the rice & lemon wedge and green from the coriander that was scattered on top. All the seafood components – from the fish to the prawns were fresh, succulent and juicy. The flavour was delicious – sour and smoky from the tomato and the flavourings from each seafood element – together with the perfectly cooked rice. Would definitely recommend this dish.

The Crispy Skin Dory came on a bed of Fennel topped with rosemary. The fish was seared really well to retain its moistness on the inside. The combination of the fennel with the vinegar and spices with the fish and the creamy sauce on the side resulted in a great dish overall. The fish was the clear winner of the whole dish.

The side dish that we ordered was the Patatas Bravas which was such an amazingly simple but fantastic dish! The potato was soft and fluffy on the side and came with a crisp outer that was covered in spices. They were placed on top of smoky tomato goodness and finished with creamy aioli. This is the type of dish that you find yourself going back for more and before you know it they are all gone.

We were all quite full at this stage but as the dessert menu was staring us right in the face (we were literally facing the dessert menu which his located just above the kitchen) – we decided to share the Chocolate Croquetas with Custard. The croquetas were warm and what made them even better was that they were filled with warm gooey chocolate on the inside. They were placed on the cool vanilla flavoured custard and this mix of hot and cold was fantastic. The outer shell was thin and perfectly crispy as well. It was like a Spanish donut!

The staff are super friendly, relaxed, warm and very helpful – not to mention knowledgeable –especially when we had a few questions about the menu.

Bomba is a great replacement to ‘The Aylesbury’ with its great simple Spanish food in the form of tapas as well as your larger raciones dishes. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and it really is place that you can spend a lot of time at. Even if you wanted to just come in for a snack and a drink the rooftop bar is a great place to do so – along with the great views across the Melbourne CBD. You can also grab a Sensory Lab coffee and a Portuguese tart from the window on Smythe Lane if you really want something super quick to drink and eat.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to  http://bombabar.com.au/menu/ or refer to the pic above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Welcoming. Dimly lit dining area downstairs and it’s great if you get the high tables near the kitchen/bar area if you want watch the chefs in action.
Standout Dish: PAELLA!!
Service: Fantastic and Attentive, also very friendly and helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://bombabar.com.au/ – there is a DIMMI online reservation button
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://bombabar.com.au/
103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9077 0451

Opening Hours:

Downstairs –
Monday to Friday the coffee window is now open from 7am with pastries and snacks

Lunch

Monday to Friday: 12:00pm – 3:00pm

Dinner
Monday to Sunday : 5pm – Late

Rooftop
Monday to Sunday: 3pm – Late

Closed all public holidays

Bomba Downstairs on Urbanspoon

Bomba Rooftop on Urbanspoon