Polēpolē Bar – A Taste of Africa

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Pole Pole Menu

I had heard about Polēpolē – a new East African inspired bar and kitchen – opening up in the Melbourne CBD and four of us decided to check it out on a Friday night.

Polēpolē (which translates to “go easy” or “take it easy” in Swahili) is the creation by Dean and Jeanelle Mariani (former co-owner of award-winning café The Petty Officer and Deans brother), who quit their jobs and went travelling. Polēpolē is a result of their love and admiration for the culture, food and people of East Africa and wanting to share their experiences with Melburnians.

I arrived much later than the rest of us on a Friday night and the place was buzzing – it was really loud! N had told me prior to me arriving there that the place was packed and that it would be about 20 minutes to get a table for food (Polēpolē don’t take bookings for dinner). The venue was designed by Votre Monde and has resulted in an earthy and rustic vibe to it. As you ascend the stairs from Little Collins Street you are greeted by a painting of an African woman seated in black and white, against the red of the wall background. To the right is where the kitchen is located as well as booth seating for dinner – which is paired with a wall of zebra stripes. To the right is the bar which takes most of the length of the venue has tones of burnt orange, coupled with untreated woods and funky filament lighting. Next to the bar is a wall with a single golden acacia tree painted on it with high tables and more seating available. The building has a second level, which they expect to open in the coming months.

Food at Polēpolē is based around sharing plates which are broken into three main sections – “Not Ribs”, “Ribs” and “Dessert”. The menu was designed by consulting chef Andy Mac (Axil Coffee). There are 9 dishes to select from in the “Not Ribs” section which include Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas, House cured Biltong, Lentil and cauliflower fritters with whipped Tahini and Lemon Zest. The “Ribs” section consists of 4 dishes including Braised Beef Short Rib, Sticky Chicken Ribs, Smoked Pork Ribs and Harissa Lamb Ribs. There are only 2 choices for dessert – Rum and Raisin Mousse Cake with Crème Brulee or Banana and Date Bread with Salted Caramel, Banana Crumble and Cashew Parfait.

Drinks include a showcase of brands such as Tusker (Kenya), Dashen (Ethiopia) and Windhoek (Namibia) as well as German and Dutch style lagers. It is also great to note that a proportion of all beer sales go to YGAP who support social entrepreneurs in Africa, as well as Women for Women in Africa who support Kibera (Africa’s largest slum). There are a range of cocktails which have taken inspiration from their travels as well and consist of combinations such as ginger, honey, coconut and banana.

To begin the night I ordered a mocktail – which had minty and lime flavours laced through it and was quite tasty. As the other 3 had already been there for a while before I had gotten there – there were some leftovers from the “Not Ribs” section that they had ordered – Mount Zero Olives marinated in Lemon and Chilli as well as the Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas. I loved the Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas – the flavours and the combination of textures from the soft chickpea and the crunch of the pepitas was great.

We decided to order a selection of dishes from the Not Ribs section to share; and then the other 3 ordered a dish each from the Rib section (as their mains). As the meat wasn’t Halal I couldn’t eat any of the dishes under the Rib section.

We ordered the Chickpea and Corn Cakes with Okra and Kusandi (which came in a serving of 4) – with each cake being topped with the okra and kusandi. The chickpea and corn cakes on its own didn’t have much of a flavour to them and really needed the strong and vibrant flavours of the kusandi to liven up the dish. An addition of some spices or even salt to the chickpea and corn cake would have made a difference.

Next up was the House-made Flat Bread and Three Dips – the dips were beetroot, eggplant and hummus. The serving of the house-made flat bread was very generous and I really enjoyed this dish. The bread had been cut into triangles, and had a crunch to them and had a flavouring of wholemeal without tasting overly healthy. I couldn’t pick a favourite out of all the dips – they were all just as good as each other. I loved the vibrancy of the pink that came through with the use of beetroot. The smokiness in the eggplant dip worked well with the flavouring in the bread.

We also ordered the Eggplant Chips with Yoghurt and Zataar. I am usually not a huge fan of eggplant chips but the difference with these was the crumbed coating which made all the difference. The hint of spice and herbs (zataar) worked well with the flavouring of the eggplant and the tangy yoghurt. I also liked the fact that they left the chips the same length as the eggplant itself rather than cutting up the pieces into bite size pieces. My only criticism would be the oiliness of the dish.

The last of the “Not Ribs” dishes we ordered was the Apple, Cabbage, Fennel and Mint Salad. This salad was good but not great – for me it was missing a proper dressing to coat the salad. However I think dish is a great dish to have amongst all the meatiness of the ribs – acts as a palate cleanser.

N ordered the Harissa Lamb Ribs, Red Pepper Salsa, Tahini Yoghurt and Mint – which were simply yet beautifully presented on a rectangular plate with the lamb ribs criss-crossing each other and topped with the red pepper salsa and tahini capped with a mint leaf. The lamb delicately fell off the bone and had smoky barbeque and spicy flavouring to them.

We were all quite full at this stage so decided to skip on having dessert. As it was a Friday night it was getting quite loud in there, and even though we were sitting quite close to one another we were finding ourselves having to yell to hear each other talk.

Polēpolē has a great vibe and feel to it and is clearly a popular choice to have a drink especially with its variety of drink options available. The service is brilliant – with the wait staff going above and beyond what is expected of them. The food is tasty and is set out to work well with drink options. Want to trial a Taste of Africa – then head to Polēpolē.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Rustic and Earthy. Great for a catch-up celebration.
Standout Dish: Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.polepolebar.com.au/
1 / 267 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9650 2811

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Thursday: 4:00pm–11:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 4:00pm–1:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/polepole.bar.melb
Instagram: polepole_bar
Twitter: @polepole_bar

Polēpolē Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Dig A Pony – Uniquely Delicious

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Dig A Pony Menu Dessert Menu    halal (1)** ONLY DUCK IS HALAL**

We (there were four of us) had just visited a friend in the Williamstown area and needed to find a place to have early dinner. After a bit of googling dinner places around the area, we stumbled on Dig A Pony. A quick phone call and we found out that they wouldn’t be open for another 30 minutes, but that would be about the time we would take to drive there.

We arrived about 15 minutes before their opening time however since they knew we were coming they saw us hovering around the outside and let us come in early – which was nice of them.

Dig A Pony was opened by owners Mike and Hannah Bacarella in 2009, to create a place that they would enjoy – a place that was welcoming and relaxed to enjoy good food, wine, music with great friends. The name Dig A Pony is inspired by the name of a classic song by The Beatles which was features on their final album “Let It Be” – and was known as a whimsical and eclectic song – which is the vibe that this restaurant and bar is going for.

From the outside Dig A Pony looks like your normal corner bluestone pub, but once you step inside you are greeted with wooden tables, creative lamps and lighting along with a variety of seating – from leather lounges to antique chairs as well as bar stools and armchairs – there is bound to be a seating arrangement that you enjoy. During daylight hours the natural light is let in through the many windows, however once night time hits the only lighting is from the light shades and few down lights around the venue – it can get a tad dark.

The menu initially was based around Mediterranean Tapas with authentic recipes hailing from Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and France – keeping firm the concept of food designed to be shared and enjoyed by all at the table. Enter in Mark Briggs (Vue de Monde, Sharing House) who added his touch of elegance and fine dining background to create an exciting menu that consists of delicious snacks, enticing small dishes as well some spectacular combinations for its larger plates. The concept of sharing, enjoying and having a bit of fun still remains.

The menu starts off with eight “Small Bites” – consisting of Oysters, Croquettes (Mac and Cheese) – how awesome do these sound! – just to name a few. Next on the menu are “Small Plates” (you can select from a selection of nine dishes – these include the likes of Mushroom Cannelloni (with Parmesan Mousse & Mushroom Ketchup), Moules Mariniere (Mussels in White Wine, Garlic & Cream), Chicken Kiev (with Crispy Kale & Broccoli), Tartare (Classic Beef with Egg Yolk Puree & ‘Chips’). There is only a selection of three “Larger Plates” to choose from – Duck, Goat or Wagyu Brisket. There are “Vegetables and Salads” to choose from as well as a “Charcuterie” section. If you find yourself not wanting to decide dishes on your own there are two Chef’s Selection Menu’s available – Five Plates ($45 per person) or Eight Plates ($55 per person).

Their drinks menu is quite extensive – consisting of wines, international and local boutique craft beers, spirits as well as a selection of intriguing cocktails. They also have unique combinations such as beer and whisky for those wanting a drink with a difference. In fact I think if you ask – you can mix just about any drink! I ordered a mocktail – which had flavours of Apple, Mint and Tang – a combination that quite refreshing on the palate.

There were two of us who had dietary requirements in the form of Dairy Free and Gluten Free and out waiter was very helpful in identifying which dishes could be consumed to suit. I also thought I would try my luck and ask if any of the meat or chicken was Halal – he found out that the Duck was – so of course we had to order it.

There were four of us at dinner so we decided to order a few dishes from each section.
We ordered three dishes from the Small Bites section. The first dish was the Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple – which came out looking as the menu read – in a cone shape sitting upright on a wire rack. Inside the cornetto cone was the mix of fresh ocean trout mixed with granny smith apple, capers and lime. I loved the mix of the crunchy cone together with the softness of the trout. The trout itself mixed with the apple was a brilliant combination – a hit of flavours for your tastebuds and a must try dish.

The next dish we received was the Cauliflower Popcorn with Roast Garlic Aioli – which comes served in a jar with the aioli placed on top. The cauliflower was crumbed and fried to create the popcorn effect and was seasoned well. The roast garlic aioli complimented the cauliflower well and tied the whole dish together. My only comment about the dish is to have the aioli in a separate little dish to make it easier for dipping purposes. The way it was with the aioli on top, when you got towards the middle or near the bottom of the jar you had run out of the aioli.

The last dish from the Small Bites section was the Buffalo Wings with Ranch Dressing. I didn’t try this dish; however I did try the Ranch Dressing which was absolutely divine – tangy with a kick of heat of it. Everyone around the table thoroughly enjoyed this dish as well and especially enjoyed the hint of chilli at the end.

From the Small Plates menu section we ordered the Confit Salmon with Clams and Savoy Cabbage and Scallops with Caramelized Cauliflower Puree & Sour Raisins.
The Confit Salmon usually comes with Pancetta, however we ordered this dish sans Panchetta. The dish was plated beautifully with flavours to match. The salmon had great texture and colouring and was cooked perfectly. The clams for me were the hero of this dish – delectable. Each of the elements brought a different flavour and depth to the dish – from the savoy cabbage laced in dressing to the pumpkin puree and finally the fried onions. A great tasting dish.
The Scallop dish was another good dish – the scallops were seared perfectly, the cauliflower puree worked brilliantly with the other elements on the dish and the raisins provided sweetness.

After these Small Plates we were onto our Large Plates of which we ordered two. First up was the Goat Hot Pot – Shoulder of Goat with Fennel and Rosemary. I loved the way this dish was presented – in a clay pot with a ring of scalloped potatoes on top. This was a clear favourite around the table – with the goat being melt-in-your-mouth, with the flavours being infused in the right proportions.
The next Large Plate dish was the Duck A L’Orange – Roasted Breast, Confit Leg & Brussel Sprouts. The duck was a bit on the tough side when you went into cut into it but the crispy skin on the outside was perfect. The velvety citrus sauce was rich yet subtle and really complemented the duck. This was my first experience of Duck A L’Orange and I must say I did quite enjoy it.

We also ordered the Quinoa with Pomegranate, Pistachio & Dates from the Vegetables and Salads section. The elements of tang from the pomegranate and sweetness of the dates, together with the nutty flavours worked well – you really cannot go wrong with this combination.

We were all really full from our meals but everyone needed a coffee for the drive home and so we looked at the dessert menu as well. There are five desserts to choose from and I was stuck in choosing between the Violet Crumble and the Parfait. In the end I went with the Parfait of Honey with Chocolate Mousse & Popcorn Granola. This was a really memorable and divine dessert. The chocolate mousse was rich, the parfait was creamy, the popcorn granola was caramelized and if you take each of these components together in one mouthful you will be heaven! If this dessert was this good – I can imagine just how good the other desserts would be!

Dig A Pony is the type of place that I wish I had stumbled upon a lot earlier as it serves up some great tasting food using simple ideas and a mix of interesting ingredients. The vibe is relaxed and casual – it’s a great place for a catch-up dinner with friends, as well as for a celebration. Staff are friendly and go out of their way to help in any way they can. If I was you I would definitely make a trip to Yarraville.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://digapony.com.au/wintermenu.htm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Casual and Welcoming. Great for any occasion.
Standout Dish: Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple
Service: Friendly, Knowledgeable and very helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://digapony.com.au/bookings.htm
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://digapony.com.au
58 Ballarat Road, Yarraville
Tel No: 9689 0110

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Friday to Sunday: 5:00pm – 12:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dig-A-Pony/199011662736
Instagram: Dig_A_Pony_
Twitter: @dig_a_pony_

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Pastuso – Peruvian Brilliance

panda 4.5 rating
pastuso

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Menu:
El Ceviche Menu La Comida De Le Calle Menu Para Acompanar Menu Los Fuegos Del Peru Menu Paste Para Todos Menu Uni Piquieto, No Mas Menu

N and I were in the city on a Saturday night and needed a place for dinner. Looking at my list of places to eat – I found Pastuso which was a newly opened restaurant in the city and we decided to try our luck and see if we could get a table as we hadn’t booked. It was quite early (around 6:30pm) for dinner so we did manage to get a table – and were seated at the marble bench which surrounded the main kitchen.

Pastuso is Melbourne’s newest Peruvian grill, cevicheria and pisco bar that comes from the team that opened Argentinian grill – San Telmo – Dave Parker, Michael Parker, Jason and Renee Mc Connell. They are joined at Pastuso by native Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia (from Sydney’s renowned Morena) and manager Ben Wood.

Pastuso is located in the ever cool ACDC Lane and fits in perfectly to this part of town. The space is quite large (I never realised just how big the space was!) and has been fitted out by architects SMLWRLD in collaboration with its owners. The use of space is impressive – there are three bars each servicing different parts of the menu and representing three regions of Peru: the Coast, the Andes and the Amazon Jungle.

As you enter you are greeted by the main bar (Amazon Jungle) – sleek and copper topped – which serves a list of Peruvian and Chilean piscos (white-grape brandy Peruvians drink), as well a huge variety of other drinks – cocktails, spirits, beer and wine. Just behind the main bar is the marble topped ceviche bar (the Coast) – where patrons can sit around and watch as chefs marinate and prepare your ceviche right in front of you. To the right of both these bars is the main kitchen bar (the Andes) – which also has marble seating around so that you can sit and enjoy the spectacular action that is the flaming and smoking of the meat and vegetables cooking on the grills and the coal-fired slow cookers – cilindro.

Surrounding the three main bar areas are seating on low tables – a mix of marble (near the main kitchen area) and wooden tables (near the ceviche bar) that can seat two, four or more people. There is also a raised area that has huge padded booths.
Another definite highlight is the colourful wall of Peruvian chicha (street art) posters that have been shipped directly from Peru. Next to this wall is an impressive glass box which displays various cuts of meat hanging.

The menu by Saravia boasts a huge variety and takes on the more modern approach rather than traditional. The menu is in the format of a book and starts off with the Un Piquieto, No Mas menu – which means “A Bite to Eat” – and would usually be enjoyed around a table together with friends and family with a good Peruvian Pisco. Dishes include El Choro Chalaco (Mussels), Pezcaditos Y Toastadas (Char Grilled Silver Fish with Corn Bread & Lemon and Rocoto Vinaigrette).

The menu then moves onto the El Ceviche Bar menu – which consists of many varieties of fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices – there are seven different choices to choose from.

Next on the menu is the La Comida de la Calle – which represents Peruvian street food that you would expect to find on a typical street corner in Lima. Dishes here include Anticuchos (Beef Heart and Swordwish Skewers), Papitas Rellena de Carretilla (Croquettes), Yucas (Cassava Chips) and Nuestra Causa de Pollo (Peruvian Yellow Potato with Chicken, Avocado, Cherry Tomatoes and Aji Mirasol).

Para Acompanar is next on the menu list – which are the dishes to accompany your main dishes and are designed to share – in other words sides. You can select from 5 different options including Ensalada de Quinoa (Quinoa cooked in Almond Milk with Pine Mushrooms, Cauliflower, Zucchini and Dutch Carrots), Solterito (Andean Cheese, Broad Beans, Soybean, Peruvian Olives, Heirloom Tomatoes, Watercress and Oregano).

Dishes cooked in either the Peruvian Smoking Chamber, Charcoal Grill or Spit lead up the next part of the menu in a section called Los Fuegos Del Peru – meaning to cook with fire. The first two dishes are cooked in the Cilindro Perliano (Peruvian Smoking Chamber) – you have an option of Pierna de Cordero (Slow Cooked Lamb Leg) or Paletilla de Cerdo (Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder) – both served with Peruvian Rice. There are three dishes to select from that come from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill) – Pezcado Amazonico (Barramundi in Banana Leaf), Ojo de Bife (Dry Aged Pasture Fed Rib Eye) and Costillas Tiernas de Alpaca (Alpaca Short Ribs). The last dish on this menu comes from the La Braza (Spit) – Pollo a la Braza (Roasted Peruvian Chicken).

A menu isn’t complete with a dessert menu and Pastuso’s certainly doesn’t disappoint – called Postre Para Todos – it showcases traditional Peruvian Desserts such as Un Clasico de Mazamorra y Arroz Con Leche (A combination of two traditional classics – Peruvian Style Rice Pudding, Purple Corn Gel, Poached Pineapple and Apples), Picarones (Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Doughnuts). You can also order a Dessert Tasting Plate which allows you to share a selection of desserts.

As you can see there was a lot of food to choose from and when reading the description of each dish you really do want to try them all – you almost forget that you can come back another time and try the dishes that you didn’t get to the first time around.
I ordered a mocktail which looked amazingly colourful and too good to drink – chunks of fresh strawberries muddled together with mint leaves, lime and citrus to give a refreshingly delicious taste that kept you wanting more. I had to stop myself from drinking it all in the one go.

We started off with the Cancha Serrana Y Los Chifles – Traditional Peruvian Roasted Andean Corn and Plantation Chips – which was the perfect way to start our Peruvian journey. The roasted corn kernels were crunchy with a hint of spice that made your tastebuds pop. The Plantation chips were out of this world – simple, textured and crunchy – the flavour was absolutely divine! A must try snack dish – it would work well as a bar snack.

For the next round we ordered the La Papa A La Huancaina A Mi Manera – Potato Gnocchi with a Traditional Huancaina Sauce, Botija Olives and Egg White. Huancaína sauce is normally served over boiled potatoes, and then topped with hard boiled eggs and olives – here at Pastuso instead they use potato gnocchi as an alternative – brilliant! The sauce is full of flavour together with a kick of spice thanks to the use of aji Amarillo peppers. If you are lucky enough to sit around the kitchen you can watch as the chefs make this sauce from scratch. The gnocchi was melt in your mouth and coupled with the creamy and spicy at-the-same-time huancaina sauce and slight tang of the botija olives made for one heavenly dish.

From the same La Comida de la Calle Menu we also ordered the Papitas Rellena De Carretilla – Street Cart Style Potato Croquettes filled with Pulled Beef Brisket, Pecans, Botija Olives, Watercress and Pickled Onion Salsa. N enjoyed these croquettes – crunchy and golden on the outside coupled with tender beef brisket and cloud like potato filling and finished with a pickled salsa. The only complaint would be that more of the beef brisket be used.

For our main dishes I ordered the Pezcado Amazonico – Baby Cone Bay Barramundi Grilled in Banana Leaf with Fresh Herbs and Amazonico Rub from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill). The presentation of this dish is simple – yet visually stunning. The whole baby barramundi is laid across the black backdrop of the plate (fish eye, tail and all) topped with the vibrant green Amazonico rub. In a separate small bowl there are some fresh sautéed vegetables with a lemon wedge off to the side. The barramundi is cooked perfectly and results in soft white fleshy morsels. The rub is delicious and flavoursome and is very much needed, as the fish on its own is very lightly flavoured. One for the fish and seafood lovers.

N ordered the La Braza – Pollo A La Braza – Free Range Roasted Peruvian Chicken from the La Braza (Spit) for his main. Once again – very simple plating techniques was used – to showcase the hero of the dish – the Peruvican chicken. A simple green dressing was provided in a separate bowl for additional flavour. The chicken has been slow-cooked after a lengthy marination period (think cumin, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, coriander, Sichuan pepper) and is moist and flavoured with pepper, spices and a kick of heat.

We also ordered Tallos de Acelga – Grilled Silverbeet Stems, Red Vein Sorrel, Confit Brown Onion Hearts and Garlic Chips. This dish was another standout – simple yet the flavours worked amazingly well together finished with the crunchiness of the garlic. The confit brown onion not only complemented but brought the whole dish together. If you enjoy a good salad this is one to try.

As full as we were the night wouldn’t have been complete without ending on a sweet Peruvian note. We ordered the Tres Leches – Traditional Latin American Sponge Cake soaked in Three Kinds of Milk served with Roasted Pineapple Ice Cream. The cake had a distinct texture (you would expect it to have a somewhat soggy consistency after being soaked in three types of milk) with a result of being light, moist and rich yet delicate (the flavour of 3 types of milk wasn’t over powering at all!). The roasted pineapple ice cream was delicious and the fresh pieces of pineapple embedded within the ice cream were refreshing.

Pastuso has such a lively and warm atmosphere. The open plan of the kitchen and ceviche bar is such a fantastic idea in this day as people like to watch how chefs prepare and create such great tasting dishes – especially here where you can see chefs as they delve into the fire chamber and have embers flow out – it all adds to the experience of the place. The staff are very friendly, always happy and knowledgeable – they can also assist you when ordering to ensure you do not over order. Want a truly memorable Peruvian experience – get down to Pastuso now!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to above Pictures
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lively, Fun, Warm and Inviting – such a great place for a celebration or a catchup – or even date night!
Standout Dish: Too many to name!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, Happy and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://pastuso.com.au/  NOTE: They also take bookings for larger groups in their flexible private dining area
Restaurant Details and Location:

http://pastuso.com.au/
19 ACDC Lane
Tel No: 9662 4556

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Friday & Saturday: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pastusorestaurant?fref=ts
Instagram: pastusorestaurant

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