SEZAR – Armenian Hit

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halal (1)*NOTE: The meats are all HALAL Certified. You might need to specify that you want the food cooked in a HALAL Manner.

Menu:
Menu at Sezar

It was N’s birthday and I wanted to take him to  somewhere different and to try out a cuisine we haven’t had before – what better way than to try out the newly opened Armenian restaurant Sezar – located right in the heart of Melbourne CBD.

Sezar comes from head chef and co-owner Garen Maskal (also head chef of The Black Toro) and his business partners Aret and Sasoon Arzadian – and is named after his grandmother. Franc Bakkes (ex Ezard) takes the reins in the kitchen and has helped create a menu that exudes a combination of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean.  Sezar is located in the Melbourne CBD in an alleyway that used to house the Canary Club and Saint Peter’s – there is a graffitied mural which a street art mural of Haik Nahapet and ties in with the mural inside the restaurant of Mount Ararat.

Sezar’s vibe is sophistication and elegance which is demonstrated by its dim lighting, black tables and wooden chair combination. As you entered you are greeted by the mural and the colourful follows the mural wall to the length of the restaurant. The kitchen is located at the end of the bar. There are tables which can seat from two to four people, as well as space at the bar with high stools to sit on.

We are seated at our table by the window and order drinks. Their drinks menu is quite extensive and there is a good selection of cocktails. I order a mocktail which they can come up with on the whim – you just have to specify what type of flavour you want – I wanted something sweet and sour.  The result was exactly what I wanted and was the perfect balance of both flavours.

The menu is split into four sections starting off with Bzdig (small dishes), then Medz (medium dishes), Kove (the side dishes) and ending with Anoush (Dessert). There are around 14 small dishes to choose from which consist of Oysters, Spanner Crab Falafel, Grain Salad, Chicken Wings and Lamb Kebabs. The medium dishes of which there are 6 to choose from – cover all your main meats as well as a veggie dish.  There are 4 side dishes and desserts to choose from as well. Desserts include a Nutella Pide for all you chocolate lovers. The other option if you can’t decide is to have the Djash Ger-Ouyt – which is the Dinner Party Banquet which includes Dessert for $65 per person. We decided to do the banquet and let the chef pick the dishes. They ask you what dietary requirements you have and tailor this to suit your needs.

The first dish that we received was the Hervey Bay Scallops with Cauliflower, Cumin and Zaatar. This dish came served on the scallop shell itself on a black plate. The scallop was perfectly grilled – tender and sweet, with a base of creamy cauliflower puree and topped with the cumin and zaatar which was a delicious accompaniment and a great way to start the menu.

Our next dish was the Boreg – Spinach, Feta Cheese and Aleppo Mayo. The Boreq came plated up with the Aleppo may in a separate sauce dish. I loved this dish – the outside of the Boreg was flakey, buttery and crispy which made a loud crunch as you bit into it. The filling was to die for – there was an abundance of spinach mixed together with the creaminess and saltyiness of the fetta – but the balance and mix was just right. The Aleppo mayo was also really fantastic! I loved the taste of the spice and tang together, and paired with the boreg – it was just simply heaven! Another must try dish.

Next up was the Cured Ocean Trout – Fennel, Sumac and Almond Cream. The dish was visually pleasing with the almond cream spread out at the base of the place and the brightly coloured cured trout placed in strips on top, and finished with the fennel and sumac. The trout is cured with salt, cardamom, cumin and black seasame and was soft and wholesome. The fennel and sumac added the crunch of texture and the strong flavour paired with the almond cream was a really good addition to the cured trout. It was yet again another great dish.

Our next course was the BBQ Shitake Mushroom on a skewer – with Haloumi and Grape Leaf Wraps. The skewers came with the glistening mushrooms between the salty haloumi and slices of red onion, served with grape leaves on the side. This dish was good but not as spectacular as the other dishes. The combination of the mushroom and haloumi wrapped in the grape leaf was a fun and interesting dish that was flavoured well.

The final of the small dishes was the Lamb Kebab – Baby Gem Lettuce, Sour Cherry Sauce. I really enjoyed this dish. We were told to wrap the kebab in the lettuce and dip into the cherry sauce. The lamb was spicy, moist and tender. I have never had my lamb with a cherry sauce before – but this combination I felt was perfectly suited to the lamb. The lettuce added an extra dimension of crunch.

We were getting quite full with all the small dishes, but had the main big sized dish up next. For this we were given the Braised Beef Cheek with Tomato, Pea and Steamed Rice. You could smell the aromas of the dish as it was placed on the table and there was a brightness and freshness to the dish – the accented green against the savoury brown. The beef was really well cooked and was literally melt in your mouth. The sauce was a nice addition although I thought it could have used with a little more flavour (salt) and spice.

To finish the meal we were given two desserts – Baklava with Crispy Filo, Walnut Ice Cream and Caramel as well as the Semolina Cake with Almond Crumble and Crème Fraiche. Both dishes were beautifully presented – the semolina against the black backdrop of the plate and the baklava against a white and pink backdrop of the plate.

The Baklava was a great modern take to what you would usually expect. The crispy and sweet filo pastry encompassed the quenelle of beautifully creamy walnut ice cream and was finished with the drizzle of sticky caramel and topped with walnuts and lilac flowers. The pastry was once again to die for and the combination of the ice cream, nuts and caramel made for a really great dish!

The Semolina Cake was a dense piece of almond flavoured cake which I found in some parts to be quite dry, placed with a dollop of crème fraice and finished with caramelised almond bits and colourful flowers. Having just come back from Turkey and eating their version of the semolina cake I guess I was expecting similar flavours to what I had there – but this was different. It still was a really good dish with all the right flavours and textures.

The banquet is a great way to experience not only a variety of dishes but a difference of flavours and textures. I think the mix of the small dishes covered a great range and the fact that we were given two desserts was an added bonus. Sezar is a great place for a relaxed yet classy dinner where the staff are helpful and friendly, as well has having a colourful and extensive drinks list. Lookout for cocktail bar that will be opened in the near future which is located just upstairs of Sezar.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to menu above or link here http://sezar.com.au/SezarMenu.pdf. There are small, medium, sides and desserts to choose from. You can also have a Dinner Party banquet (Djash Ger-Ouyt) for $65 pp which includes a couple of small dishes, a medium dish and desserts.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant, Classy and Relaxed. Great for date night or a special occasion
Standout Dish: Hervey Bay Scallops with Cauliflower, Cumin and Zaatar AND Lamb Kebab – Baby Gem Lettuce, Sour Cherry Sauce
Service: Fantastic, Friendly, Helpful and Attentive. Our waitress was informative and knew a lot about the dishes when asked.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://sezar.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://sezar.com.au/
6 Melbourne Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 9882

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Thursday and Friday: Noon till 5:00pm
Dinner
Monday to Saturday: 5:30pm to Late

Sezar 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

Spice Temple – Asian Fusion with Spice

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– Chinese Year Themed Drinks Menu
– Jasmine and Green Tea
– Ox – Buttermilk Yoghurt with Fresh Mango and Rose Petal
– Rat – Lavender Tea Soda with Hand Picked Mint
– Fried Salt and Pepper Silken Tofu with Spicy Coriander Salad
– Kung Pao Chicken – Sichuan peppercorn, heaven facing chillies and cashews
– Fish Drowned in Heaven Facing Chillies and Sichuan Peppercorns, Leatherjacket Sichuan Style
– Fish drowned in Heaven Facing Chillies and Sichuan Peppercorns, Leatherjacket Sichuan Style without the Chillies
– Hot and Numbing Crispy Duck
– Hot Pot of Fresh Shitake, Oyster, Enoki and wild Chinese Mushrooms, Yunna style
– Hunan Style Crisp Pork Belly with Fresh and Dried Chillies and Mushroom Soy
-Stir Fried Grass Fed Beef Fillet with Wok Blistered Peppers and Black Bean
– Stir Fried Spinach Sichuan Style
– Rose Granita with Fresh Lychees and Strawberries and Almond Milk Jelly
– Almond Milk infused Rice Pudding with Candied Fruit
– Caramel Chocolate and Peanut Parfait

SpiceTemple is Neil Perry’s foray into Asian cuisine. SpiceTemple has two branches – the first of which was opened in Sydney and later in Melbourne. The Melbourne venue resides at the Crown Entertainment Complex and has taken over from where Bistro Guillaume used to be. The look and feel of the restaurant is very dark, exotic and has hues of red and gold. Together with this there are solid dark wooden tables and low lantern like lights hanging over the tables. It gives a somewhat classy underground den like feel.

I went here for a group dinner with some friends and we got a variety of dishes to share – this is how the menu is designed – to share. We were impressed initially by the drinks menu – there was a100 wine menu list and they explain in 100 words why they have this many wines – innovative! There are also drinks created for each animal in the Chinese Year (refer to picture above). Being born in the year of the Rat – I had to try out the Year of the Rat drink of course. The drinks consisted of Lavender Tea Soda with Hand Picked Mint which was fresh and flowery. Another drink I tried was the Ox – Buttermilk yoghurt with Fresh Mango and Rose Petal. The Ox drink was absolutely amazing especially because I love mangoes – the creaminess of the buttermilk mixed with the mango definitely works! The only negative is the glass is half full and you want so much more. I guess this is their trick to keep you ordering more.

Prior to coming to eat at Spice Temple, I had read a review where the Fish drowned in Heaven Facing Chillies was mentioned as a must try and wanted to try it out. When the dish came out, all you could see was the heaven facing chilli’s just covering the whole dish (as you can see from the picture above). The waitress then removed these chillis, of which the fish had been “drowned” in to reveal the fish. The fish was spicy and the added peppercorns added the extra zing that you are made to feel on your tongue and your lips. It was a flavoursome dish and we all quite enjoyed it.

In fact, most dishes here at SpiceTemple include these peppercorns which give you that feeling. The initial reaction is “wow – this is quite an interesting experience,” however, once you get over that, to keep having that tingling sensation is a bit over whelming and annoying. You sometimes simply just want to eat your food and enjoy the flavours.
The Hot pot of Fresh Shitake, Oyster, Enoki and Wild Chinese Mushrooms, Yunna style was delicious. The mushrooms come out on a plate pre-cooked and you are shown by your waitress the different types of mushrooms, before they put it into the hot pot to cook in front of you. The broth had an added spice which meshed well with the mushrooms.

Dessert time consisted of Rose Granita with Fresh Lychees and Strawberries and Almond Milk Jelly, Almond Milk infused Rice Pudding with Candied Fruit and Caramel Chocolate and Peanut Parfait. The Rose Granita I had was fantastic. It had just the right amount of Granita to fruits and jelly. The combination of lychees and strawberries was unique and mixed well with the almond milk jelly. The flavours of rose and almond together gave you a creamy dreamy after-taste  The Caramel Chocolate and Peanut Parfait was like a circular snickers bar, and the parfait had the right amount of sweetness and consistency.

Overall, the atmosphere and environment were fantastic, although it could use a little bit more light. The dishes were good but not great and for the pricing is a bit on the high side. If you are a spice lover this would be the restaurant for you, however like I said before the tingling sensation of the peppercorns was a bit overwhelming . The drinks and the desserts were the winners here, but being a Neil Perry restaurant you would expect a bit more.

Rating : 2.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – A la carte – http://www.spicetemplemelbourne.com/wp-content/uploads/Main-Menu.pdf and Yumcha Menu – http://www.spicetemplemelbourne.com/wp-content/uploads/Yum-Cha-Menu1.pdf
Fullness: 80%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Dark, cosy and intimate.
Standout Dish: The Hot pot of Fresh Shitake, Oyster, Enoki and Wild Chinese Mushrooms, Yunna style
Service: Good Service and the wait staff were happy to assist with any questions we had. They also can recommend which dishes work well together according to the spice tolerance of people.
Online Booking:
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.spicetemplemelbourne.com/
Crown Complex,
Ground Floor, Shop 7
8 Whiteman Street, Southbank
Tel No: 8679 1888

Opening Hours:
Lunch (Yumcha)
Monday to Sunday:  12pm to 3pm

Dinner:
Monday to Sunday:  6pm to 11pm

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

Maha – Middle Eastern Treat

Maha – Middle Eastern Treat

                                     Gallery Pictures: – Beetroot Dip – Clams – Greek Salad with Tomatos, Salad – Lamb rib – Mary River Wild Barramundi, Halva Mayo, Pumpkin, Cumin – Olives in Greek Chilli – Spanner Crab with Chilli in Broth – Barramundi … Continue reading