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_

Dig A Pony on Urbanspoon

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Ruyi – A Different Kind of Chinese

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Lunch Menu Dinner Menu

P & I decided to check out Ruyi for lunch on a Friday as I had heard a lot of good things about the place. Ruyi which translates to – “as you wish” is a spiritual object or talisman which symbolises good fortune – and is owned by Sheng Fang in collaboration with this wife Qian Qian Luo-Fang.

Ruyi serves modern Chinese cuisine but looking in from the outside, as well as once you are well inside – you wouldn’t think this is your typical Chinese restaurant. There is no sight of the typical bright red and yellow colours, coupled with strong, thick wooden furniture. Instead you are greeted with the cooling green and light wooden tones.
The fit out was carried out by Paul Hecker of Hecker Guthrie with most fittings and stylings sourced from around the world. The lights are wooden ash colored handmade lights from France, with the wooden chairs and stools imported from Milan. All the plates, bowls, water glasses and pitchers are made exclusively for Ruyi from local ceramic artist Andrei Davidoff and they are beautiful and fit right in with the Ruyi theme. The feel is warm – thanks to the olive, beige tones – modern and sophisticated – which is somewhat of a cultural shift to the norm of a Chinese restaurant.

There is a lot to read in the menu which means there is plenty of selection to choose from. The two chefs behind the wonderfully created menu have come from Michelin starred Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club – it’s no wonder the result is magnificent. The menu begins with a selection of 3 different homemade soups to choose from (Duck and Tofu, Seafood & Egg White, Hot Sour), then proceeds with Dumplings (there are 4 different types to choose from – Pork and Crab Shao Long Bao, Streamed Vegetarian, Wonton in Chilli Sauce, Pan fried Pork and Chive), followed by Chinese Tapas ( there are 12 different dishes to try and include things like Prawn Cakes, Soft Shell Crab, Peking Duck Cone, Bao Bao, Chicken Wings, Eggplant Strips) and finishes up with the Bigger Dishes (there are 7 choices including Asian Mushrooms, Kong Bao Chicken, Oyster Beef Steak, Wagyu Beef and Duck Braised in home made stock) and Dessert – there is the usual Banana Fritters and Ice cream, but something different they have is the Hazelnut Paste Roll with Ice Cream as well as Sticky Rice Pudding. There is also a selection of sides that you can choose from – think mixed veggies, light chilli green beans, fried rice.

If the menu overwhelms you – you can select a Banquet menu – either a 5 course for $45 or an 8 course for $65. The menu also points out the Recommended dishes to help you select if you are stuck. As P & I went at lunch time – they had a separate Autumn / Winter Lunch Menu where all the Chinese Tapas were priced cheaper. There was also an option of two different set menus available – One for $18 and another for $35. Refer to the pictures above in the menu section to see what each set includes.

After much contemplation of the menu we decided to share some dishes. And since I simply couldn’t look pass ordering the Flaming King Prawn – I needed to know what this dish was about, as the menu states that the King Prawn sits on the fire – how cool!

Our first dish was the Fried Tofu with Szechuan Mayo – this is 3 pieces of lightly tempura battered tofu topped with Szechuan mayo and sprinkled with spring onions. The tofu was delicious – crispy and crunchy on the outside – whilst staying smooth and creamy on the inside. The Szechuan Mayo was light, tangy and refreshing and everything coupled together made for a really great dish.

We also ordered the Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings which come out in a serving of 5 green perfectly moon shaped pieces in a bamboo steamer. Each dumpling is made to order and you can really tell – the filling was fresh, had subtle flavours yet was tasty. I also liked the fact that Ruyi has chilli paste, and not only the chilli oil that is found in most other restaurants.

The last dish to arrive was the Flaming King Prawn – and indeed the prawns were sitting on the fire. I asked our waitress what creates the flame and she said it was the bed of salt coupled with lemon. The waitress also informed us that the prawns had already been cooked – so were ready to eat once we blew out the flame. The prawns were simply scrumptious and they are some of the best king prawns I have ever tasted! The prawns had a hint of spice and were barbequed perfectly – firm in texture yet soft to eat – and were topped with spring onion and capsicum.

We didn’t have enough time to check out the dessert menu – but I will definitely be back to try out more dishes from their menu and will definitely leave some room for dessert! The Hazelnut Paste Roll sounds tantalizing!

The staff are very friendly and quite knowledgeable of the dishes on the menu. Ruyi is a great modern addition to the Chinese cuisine and provides a elegant yet warm homely feel to it. There is an extensive wine list as well serving cocktails, beer and spirits. They also have a separate happy hour section (which is Monday to Friday, 5pm – 7pm).

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://ruyi.com.au/Dining%20Menu.pdf for the Dining Menu
Happy hour menu – http://ruyi.com.au/Happy%20Hour.pdf
Lunch Menu – http://ruyi.com.au/Lunch%20Menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Sophisticated, Elegant and Welcoming
Standout Dish: The Flaming King Prawn
Service: Friendly and very helpful – always very polite and always with a smile!
Online Booking: Yes via website – www.ruyi.com.au
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.ruyi.com.au
16 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9090 7778

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Mon to Fri 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Dinner
Mon to Wed 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Thu to Fri 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Sat 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm

RuYi Modern Chinese on Urbanspoon

Bar Nacional – Bringing Spain to Collins Street

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Raciones and Postres Bar Nacional Menu Comida Menu
D was down from Singapore visiting Melbourne and we needed a place to lunch in the Docklands area – what a perfect occasion to check out Bar Nacional. Bar Nacional is a partnership between Gavin Baker and Pete Evans who bring a bit of their time, memories and experience of San Sebastian to fruition.

Bar Nacional is a warm, inviting venue that is bustling with energy from the moment you step inside – be it at lunchtime, dinnertime, anytime. There is a central bar, with seats and tables surrounding it – the tables range from high to lower tables – and also ottomans and low chairs to sit comfortably. There are earthy tones together with bursts of orange. At the bar there are hanging cured meats to further complement the Spanish vibe.

The menu is created by head chef Alex Drobvsz (Daniel Boulud’s Bistro Moderne, Gordon Ramsay’s Maze) with desserts designed and perfected by Shaun Quade (The Royal Mail, Quay, Biota). Jo Barrett (MoVida Bakery) and Tom Beaumont (coffee director at St Ali) round up the rest of the team. The menu has a selection of tapas (small bites), Raciones (larger dishes – designed to share), and of course ending with Postres (desserts). There is also a Comida Menu which is available for lunch, which allows you try out some of the larger dishes and add some tapas dishes at a cheaper price, as well as adding a half glass of wine for $5. Many of the dishes display the wealth of experience that comes from the Chefs – and has an interesting array of unique ingredients, flavour combinations whilst staying true to the Spanish theme.

There is also a great drinks menu which encompasses wines from Spain and Australia, as well as house-made Sangria, Australian craft beers, ciders – all which when put together with the food are complementary.

For all the cured meat lovers – this is your heaven. There are three types of jamón, including the magnificently rich and sweet 36-month-cured jamón bellota puro, the deep-flavoured lomo (cured and seasoned pork tenderloin), the dry-cured bull negro sausage and a very good chorizo. These are all cured and sliced to order – either in 30 grams or 60 gram lots, but you can just order a charcuteria to get a selection to try them all out!

We ordered a mix of tapas and Raciones dishes for the 4 of us to share. We started off with the Charred Broccoli Croquette. Each croquette was securely placed on the plate with lemon aioli under each croquette. The Croquettes were delicious – golden perfection the outside, a great crunch combined with the rich, creamy and nutty flavouring on the inside. It was refreshing to see broccoli (one of my fave vegetables) to be inside, instead of the usual mushroom / rice combination you find.

We then received the Prawn Salad, Avocado, Lemon Puree, Saffron and Rooftop Greens and the Patatas Bravas. However, V realised that when the Prawn salad came out, there was still a plastic film left on top of the flat solid puree. We notified the waitress and she apologised and brought us a fresh dish sans plastic film. (They didn’t charge us for this dish). The Prawn salad was an interesting dish – it was refreshing and the combination of the elements and textures worked well together. It was a fancy interpretation of a salad that worked well.

The Patatas Bravas was delicious – crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside and finished with a smoky tomato sauce. You cannot go wrong by ordering this dish.

We also ordered the Grilled Bread, Marinated Yoghurt dish. The bread was soft, fluffy and beautifully made and I absolutely loved the seasoning on the crust of the bread – a combination of seasame, poppy seeds, dukkah and spices. The marinated yoghurt got lots of interesting mm’s and sounds around the table – with the result of enjoyment. The tanginess of the yoghurt worked well with the spices in the bread.

Next up was the very, very and by very I mean very impressive Racione dish of the Baked Flathead, Smoked Eggplant and Salad Greens. This has been cooked on a cherry-wood plate in a wood-fired Josper at 400 degrees. For the preparation of this dish Drobysz gets the firewood supplier to cut various fruit woods – varying from peach, cherry, olive and almond – into disc sized pieces and puts the whole fish on the board. The fish is then brushed with garlic oil, salt and pepper and put into the oven. Here the oils from the wood are released and mixed into the fish. The result is a smouldering (literally) dish that comes out to the table together with the brilliant smell of the smoky char. The plating of the dish is fantastic – the fish is casually draped on top of the wood that it was cooked in – to the side is a dollop of the smoky eggplant. The fish was perfectly cooked and was soft with a smoky flavour – the only issue was the abundance of the little bones – however all is forgiven when you eat the fish. The smoky eggplant was the perfect accompaniment to the fish.

The others also ordered the Braised Beef Empanada – which look like mini pocket samousas. They all enjoyed this and loved how soft and flavoured the beef was on the inside.

I couldn’t leave without trying one of Shane Quade’s desserts. I couldn’t decide which of his desserts I wanted but in the end went with the Baked Sweetcorn, Popcorn Ice Cream, Toasted Maize and Brown Butter. And am I glad I did. The dish came out plated beautifully – and is up there with the best in terms of presentation. There was a smooth, ice cream like consistency mousse that resembled that of a corn cob, together with a perfect quenelle of Popcorn Ice cream – I MEAN ITS POPCORN ICE CREAM! How awesome is that!! Finished with Toasted Maize sprinkled on top together with milk powder and fried polenta. It was a mix of savoury and sweet and it really worked! This dessert is quite a heavy dish, but you simply cannot leave any of it behind – its just too good! You find yourself going back for more even after you tell yourself you cannot put anymore down. Definitely try this dessert out! IT’S A MUST!

I had a great time at Bar Nacional – the staff are friendly and really know their dishes – you can ask them to describe a dish of what exactly it is and they are do so with a smile. The dishes are of great quality with a taste to match – aside from the one hiccup with the plastic film (all is forgiven as the food overall was just delicious). Bar Nacional is definitely bringing a bit of Spain / San Sebastian to Docklands – and a result will increase foot traffic to this part of town. Try it out for yourself and see what I am talking about.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to pics above or check it out at http://www.barnacional.com.au/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Funky and Chilled out
Standout Dish: Baked Flathead, Smoked Eggplant and Salad Greens and for Dessert – Baked Sweetcorn, Popcorn Ice Cream, Toasted Maize and Brown Butter
Service: Fantastic, Friendly, Knowledgeable
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.barnacional.com.au
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.barnacional.com.au/
727 Collins Street, Docklands
Tel No: 9252 7999

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 8:00 am – 9:00 pm

Bar Nacional on Urbanspoon

Rice Paper Scissors – Laneway Funk

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Specials

L and I were meeting up for dinner and we decided to try out Rice Paper Scissors located in a funky laneway in the centre of the Melbourne CBD – Liverpool street to be precise. Rice Paper Scissor uses a Vietnamese and Thai fusion of flavours through its menu to create a hawker style menu. The place itself is quite funky – there is a bike on the wall behind the bar, as well as painting of a woman which catches your eye as you step inside. There is a mixture of seating – high tables near the bar together with seating along the length of the bar all the way up to the kitchen. There are also tables out the front when the weather is nice.

We were seated at the bar and whilst chatting and deciding what to eat we ordered drinks. The drink menu has a combination of Asian beers, as well as a great selection of cocktails, wines and spirits. There are also “Get a Crush” non-alcoholic drinks available as well as a whole fresh organic coconut, homemade ice tea and freshly brewed Vietnamese Ice Coffee.

I ordered a ‘Get a Crush’ drink of lychee, coconut and kaffir lime. These drinks come in a glass jar and was a very refreshing drink! Anything with lychee for me is a winner! The unique flavouring of the kaffir lime with the coconut and lychee worked really well together.

The menu consists of dishes that progressively get larger as the menu moves on – and are essentially sharing style dishes. There are also 3 different salads to choose from, with the option of gluten free available throughout the menu. Another option is to select any 5 dishes from the menu for a very reasonable $49. There are dishes like Lotus Root, Betel Leaf, Thai Fried Chicken, Steamed Buns, Mini Banh Mi (Vietnamese Baguette) and even BBQ Ribs. What I also love about this menu is that they give you the traditional name for each dish as well as the English translation.

We decided to order the Thai Ceviche, Tempura Prawn and the Som Otam Salad with Tiger Prawns.

The Thai Ceviche (Koi Pla) – lime cured kingfish salad with mint, chilli and shallots was the first dish we received and I loved the presentation of this dish. The Ceviche came out in a silver container which resembles a tuna tin almost, which had to opened up. The waiter opens up this up for you to reveal a colourful and fragrant dish. It comes served with rice crackers on the side. The kingfish was fresh and the combination of ingredients gave it a punch of flavours in your mouth. The addition of the rice crackers was great as well – I enjoyed the addition of the sesame seeds.

Next up we got the Tempura Prawn (Boor Thawt Goog) – minced prawns, lemongrass and kaffir lime wrapped in perila leaf. These come served with 3 pieces. They resembled curry puffs almost on the plate and came with a dipping sauce. The prawn meat mixed with the lemongrass and kaffir lime was reminiscent of a dumpling filling but more delicious. A really good dish overall.

Lastly we got the Som Dtam – green papaya salad with peanuts, long beans and chilli – to which we added tiger prawns (you can add pork belly as well if you want). This dish was quite large and is plenty for two people. The flavours in this dish were amazing – fresh, tangy and super tasty! The king prawns were also cooked to perfection and as a whole the combination was great.

We were both quite full from these dishes that we tried out but the desserts, when reading them on the dessert board sounded really interesting and different so we decided to share one.
There was a selection of :
Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich – Mango and Sticky Rice in a Sweet Toasted Bun
Black caviar – Sago Pudding with Peanut and Garam
Terranium – Vietamese Coffee Mousse with Peanut Soil

We ordered the Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich – Mango and Sticky Rice in a Toasted Sweet Bun. The bun was just the right size for a dessert dish and came out a dollop of Mango Ice Cream on the top with the bun having the sweet sticky rice on the inside. It was a great interpretation of an ice cream sandwich and I loved the combination of flavours. The bun came out warm and the mix of hot and cold added to yumness and enjoyability factor.

The staff are really friendly and very helpful, and it really does make you feel like you can sit and hang around for hours. The street food theme along with reasonable prices and great selection of drinks at this funky venue with a great vibe, will be sure to have people flocking down. Having been open only for a few months, on the night we went – it was a full house! If you are or are not a fan of Thai / Viet hawker style food – either way – you should check it out.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Tapas, Sharing Menu – can be found at http://www.ricepaperscissors.com.au/ There is a picture above for the list of specials that were on offer when I visited.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience:
Standout Dish:
Service:
Online Booking: No. There is availability to book a function here – Just contact them.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.ricepaperscissors.com.au/
19 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 9890

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Friday: 12pm – 3pm

Dinner
Monday to Friday: 6pm – Late
Saturday: 5pm – Late

Rice Paper Scissors 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

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Bomba Rooftop on Urbanspoon

Lolo and Wren – Worth the Trek!

panda 4 rating

Menu:

Food Menu at Lolo and Wren   Croque and Roll Menu at Lolo and Wren  Food Menu at Lolo and Wren 2  Sides at Lolo and Wren  Drinks at Lolo and Wren  Drink Menu at Lolo and Wren

N and I made the trek down to Brunswick West to check out Lolo & Wren. Frank Caruso (ex- Richmond Hill Café & Larder) together with his wife Karen are to thank for this lovely café. The main focus behind this café is for it to become the people’s local – where they can come to get great food and coffee and most importantly to put a smile on people’s faces. I love this motto.

Lolo & Wren serves all day breakfast, as well as having a lunch menu and is located in Albion Street. The café sits under a newly built apartment building amongst a strip of shops. There is lots of parking available in the adjoining parking lot to the left of the café.

The décor is simple yet warm, with a strong focus on the use of recycled materials. The result is a light open and airy space to enjoy the perfect cup of coffee and some tasty morsels. The main feature is the counter and the communal table – both made out of wooden crates. I especially love the counter and really feel like it adds character and charm to Lolo and Wren. The high communal table is in the centre, and allows you to peer into the kitchen watching the chef’s pump out the meals. Frank used the help of his friend and cabinetmaker Craig Goodison to create this fantastic design and styling – even down to the painting of the venue! There are low tables situated around the main communal table, as well as outside under some shade.

The food comes from local and organic product from places like Fenton Farm, Jonsey’s Dairy Fresh, Flinders Island Meat, Melbourne Rooftop Honey, cheese from Savour and Grace and Coffee from 5 Senses. The menu has a focus on Spanish flavours and there really is something tempting for everyone to try.

Before trying to work out what we wanted to eat – N and I ordered coffee – he a long black and me a latte. Both our coffees came out and we were surprised to find a chocolate covered coffee bean on the side – a nice addition to the coffee. N’s long black came out with sparkling water on the side and he enjoyed the strong acidity. My latte was delicious – low acidity, nutty and creamy – just the perfect way to start out the morning.

The menu consists of dishes under the “Classic L & W” heading and includes dishes like Sweetcorn and Zucchini Fritters, Baked Beans, Roast Duck Breast Salad, ‘The Goodison’ Breakfast and two sweet dishes – the Peach Melba’ish’ Pancakes and Brioche French Toast ‘St Clements.’ There are also the usual Bircher Muesli, Banoffee Porridge and Organic Quinoa and Vanilla Soy Porridge available. There is also a selection of Toast and Eggs however you want it. There is a “Croque and Roll” menu – which consists of some rolls, a Cripsy Croque Monsiuer dish as well as Bruschetta. You can also alter most of their dishes to Gluten free or Dairy free options. Drinks include Juices from Market Juices as well as drinks from Hepburn and Daylesford Mineral Company. As Lolo and Wren have their liquor license – there is also a selection of beers available.

I decided to order the Sweetcorn and Zucchini Fritters – with peperonata ,Meredith Soft Goat Feta, pebre salsa, chilli jam and avocado. The dish came out presented very well – the fritters being the main component of the dish and all the other elements placed artistically around them. There was also a mix salad placed on top of the four fritters. The fritters were crispy on the outside and soft and textured on the inside. The addition of the stewed peppers and the chilli jam, salsa and avocado made for a very flavoursome dish. The Goat’s Feta was fresh and brought the tang element to this dish. It is quite a generous serving size and you can get quite full on this dish.

We also ordered the Peach melba’ish’ Pancakes – Caramelised peach and strawberry pancakes, macerated peaches, strawberry, fresh mint, almond praline, vanilla mascarpone and pure Canadian maple syrup. This was to be like my dessert dish at brunch time, and lets be honest was more for me than for N. This dish was a mighty colourful dish as well – the reds from the strawberries, mixed with the orange of the peach and speckles of green from the mint, against a white backdrop from the plate. There were two quite large sized pancakes together with a little yellow jug filled with the Canadian maple syrup. The pancakes were rich, sweet and delicious – the strawberry and peach were infused into the pancake itself yet the result was fluffy and soft. The hardness came in the form of the almond praline. This is a very sweet dish and the vanilla mascarpone helped to cut this sweetness a bit whilst adding a creamy and smooth flavour. This really is a dish for all sweet and pancake lover’s to try out.

‘The Goodison’ Breakfast – Potato and rosemary rosti, bacon, baked field mushrooms, sausage, homemade tomato relish, 2 free range eggs and organic sourdough. This is one huge breakfast dish and is great for anyone with an appetite. It has all your basic elements and cooked really well and comes with not 1 but 2 eggs!

Lolo and Wren is great café that sources local produce to create interesting dishes with a twist in generous portions. Lolo and Wren is also open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, and have also created a tapas menu. Bookings can be taken before 10am or after 1pm. Have to head back and try out their tapas menu. Trust me – its worth the trek!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to the pics above. There is a Croque and Roll Menu, Class L&W menu – which has your breakkie dishes, Through the Mill and Toast Menu as well as a Drinks menu. There is a newly created Tapas menu as well (which I do not have a picture at the moment)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Laid Back – very warm and inviting as well.
Standout Dish: Too hard to pick really but the Peach Melba ‘ish’ Pancakes were delicious!
Service: Friendly but sometimes when it is really busy it does take you a while to get their attention.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
facebook.com/LoloWren
484 Albion Street, Brunswick West
Tel No: 9383 3712

Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Friday7:00 am – 4:00 pm, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Saturday8:00 am – 4:00 pm, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sunday8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Lolo and Wren on Urbanspoon

Teppankai – Contemporary Japanese

panda 4 rating

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Teppankai is the idea from Malaysian born Richard Tan to create a Japanese fine-dining experience in Melbourne. Located just behind the bustling Chapel Street in South Yarra – Teppankai is both an a la carte and teppenyaki Japanese restaurant.  I was invited to a Blogger’s night to trial the new menu that was being put into place and was excited to see what the night had in store.

Richard and his childhood friend (from New Zealand) are the creators behind this venue and he explained the meaning of Teppankai – the first two characters of the Japanese logo mean open-grill and the third character “Kai” – translates to ocean in Japanese but also means food in Maori. The name needed to reflect the blending of the Japanese and New Zealand cultures and as a result means “seafood grilled on a plate. “

Teppankai was designed by the award winning retail and hospitality architect, Wayne Finschi. The entrance has an alfresco outdoor dining area complete with heaters and clear “curtains” to aid out the weather elements if it is raining or windy. It is also a great option on a sunny summery day – letting the natural sunlight in as you dine or even have drinks. As you walk into the restaurant thru the timber posts you are greeted with tones of red and black.  There is a private dining area to the right which has tables for a more intimate dinner. The main feature is located past the bar to the left of the entrance – which is the Teppanyaki grill which takes up the length of the restaurant – surrounded by chairs and tables just behind the main grill so you can watch as the chef prepares your meals in front of you.

The focus of Teppankai isn’t all the fun, tricks and throwing of food that comes with the association of Teppanyaki but there is more focus on creating beautiful dishes with great technique and skill together with the importance of being attentive to customers and providing great service.

The chef is Nooei Martens who has 25 years hospitality knowledge specialised in Japanese Cuisine, Teppanyaki and Asian Cuisine. He has used his experience in the food industry to create traditional Japanese meals but in a contemporary style.

The night starts off with a Starter dish of Horenso Ohistahi – Chilled Blanched Spinach & Shitake Mushroom in Light Soy. This comes served in a small stone dish with the brightness of the green spinach standing out against the black dish. The dish was a great starter to get the palate working thanks to the light soy sauce.

The next four dishes were classified as entrée dishes and are part of their new tapas style menu. The first entrée dish served up was Salmon Carpaccio – Salmon Sashimi with Tosazu & Micro Shisho. The salmon was of great quality and literally melted in your mouth. Each individual slice of salmon came with a wedge to add extra acidity and tang.  The tosazu sauce was another great flavour addition to complete a mouth-watering dish.

The second entrée dish was the Spicy Fish Tempura Roll – Lightly tempura battered spicy Salmon Sushi Roll with our special sauce and shredded Dried Chilli. The tempura batter was light yet crispy and had the perfect amount of coating on the fish roll as well as on the vegetables that came with the dish. The salmon in the sushi roll was an added contrast to the crispness of the tempura and was soft, tender and delicious. I loved the addition of the special sauce – it was creamy and spicy at the same – it added another dimension to the dish. All the components together worked really well and it was a great dish – you must try it out.

The third entrée was the Kai Kani Maki – Teppan seared Crab Salad wrapped in Nori Sheets & Barramundi, smothered in our Secret Aioli, flamed and topped with Tabiko and drizzled with a Sweet Soy Reduction. This has to be my favourite dish of the night – both in terms of taste as well as watching how it was made. This dish is crab meat sushi which have been wrapped in both barramundi fish and nori, covered with the secret aioli sauce and blow torched to create the most amazing dish. To finish it is topped with Tabiko (fish rose) and sweet soy sauce. The crab meat is soft, tender and flavoursome – paired with the crunchiness of the fish and seaweed and completed with the creaminess of the aioli and tang of the soy. It is a definite must try – even if it is the only thing you eat!

The last entrée was the Braised Japanese Hamburger – Braised beef ball in Japanese teriyaki glazed with Poached Egg and Lotus Root Chips with Matcha Salt. I didn’t try this dish as I couldn’t eat the meat, but I did see the dish on the tables around me and it was perfectly presented – a mini hamburger stye.

There were two main dishes that were served, the first being the Kaisen Teppanyaki – Chef’s selection of assorted seasonal Seafood cooked at the Hot Plate with Soy Ponzu Dipping Sauce and the second being the Kobe style Eye Fillet – Grain-Fed Eye Fillet seared on the Hot Plate with a splash of Sake, Assorted Mushroom and Miso Dipping Sauce.

The Kaisen Teppanyaki consisted of prawns, scallops, mussels, salmon and scampi – all of which were grilled on the hot plate and presented impeccably on an oval plate. Each piece was cooked perfectly and the addition of the dipping sauces complemented the dish. Overall it was a great dish to showcase the great taste of seafood.

To finish dessert was a Black Sesame Tiramisu –Ladyfinger with black sesame syrup and mascarpone. I am usually not a fan of black sesame and have definitely never seen it being used in a tiramisu so was very interested to see how this dish would work. The flavours actually did work really well together and it was an enjoyable dish. The ladyfingers soaked in the black sesame when combined with the creaminess of the mascarpone was tasty and removes the black sesame flavour for people who are not big fans of the taste.  It certainly did reinvent the traditional tiramisu dish.

The night at Teppankai was very enjoyable and the atmosphere was buzzing. Being able to talk to fellow bloggers as well as the owner of the restaurant was a great opportunity. With fellow bloggers you get to share your foodie experiences and swap notes on which places should be tried out and speaking to the owner of the restaurant allows you to understand their vision and plans.

The food is exquisite and really does showcase delicious Japanese dishes in a contemporary style. It really has had be wanting to visit Japan even more. For a truly authentic take on Japanese dishes, located away from the hustle and bustle of chapel street, check out Teppankai – whether it be for a great Teppanyaki experience or simply enjoying the tapas style dishes.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.teppankai.com.au/#!food/c1jo3 – You can find the Restaurant menu, Banquet Menu, Lunch/Special Menu, Sake Menu and Drinks menu here.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant and Welcoming. The front alfresco area is great for after work drinks or even drinks on a great sunny day! Also great for celebration dinners.
Standout Dish: Kai Kani Maki – Teppan seared Crab Salad wrapped in Nori Sheets & Barramundi, smothered in our Secret Aioli, flamed and topped with Tabiko and drizzled with a Sweet Soy Reduction
Service: Friendly and always full of smiles even when they get really busy! Welcoming and warm.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.teppankai.com.au/
34 Bray St, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 8822

Opening Hours:
LUNCH
Monday to Saturday: 12:00pm – 2:30pm

DINNER
Monday to Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Teppankai on Urbanspoon

Gazi – Greek Hawker Style Food

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halal symbol* NOTE : The Lamb and Beef are Halal – at the time I went they couldn’t confirm that the chicken was as they couldn’t get in touch with the supplier. So just call up and check if you want to know.

There was a long awaited catchup that was in order and I heard of George Calombaris’ new restaurant – Gazi – opening up so suggested we try it. Gazi is located where The Press Club used to reside – in Exhibition Street in the Melbourne CBD – and looks totally different to what The Press Club did. For all you Press Club fans – The Press Club will be re-opening in the later part of 2013 and located where The Little Press used to be situated (next door to Gazi).

Gazi can be seen as the city sister restaurant of Hellenic Republic (located in Brunswick) and is an all day diner that represents Hellenic street food- Calombaris dubs this “Hellenic dirty food” – delivered in classic Melbourne style. Gazi is named after Calombaris; favourite Athens neighborhood and has a wow factor as you walk into the elegant cave like restaurant. The wow factor I talk about comes from the ceiling canopy of more than 3000 terracotta pots turned upside down that also provide a glow to the ceiling. Beneath this breathtaking art installation is where diners seat. There are booths along the outer edges of the restaurants, as well as seating at the bar which allows you to see the chefs moving fast paced to make each and everyone of the dishes. There is also seating throughout the rest of the restaurant in the form of wooden tables and comfortable seating.

Another great aspect to the interior is the table decor – each table has royal blue plates with a huge evil eye located in the centre – which is called  μάτι (mati) – and is a charm of sorts that according to superstition wards off bad luck. There is a description of this on the menu. Something a little special to be noted is the presence of two suitcases as decor – they are mounted on the wall facing the kitchen. They both hang open and if you take a look inside there is a date and name present – and these represent the years and the names of Calombaris’ grandfather and grandmother. The years represent the years which they made their long journey across from Greece to Australia. Such a great touch and addition to this already spectacular place.

The staff are super friendly and welcoming – starting from the time you walk into the restaurant to when you leave. They welcome you with a Greek greeting such as “Kalispera” which means Good Evening. As I only eat halal meats, I asked our waitress if any of the meats were halal – she went to ask the chef if they were and came back to inform me that the Lamb and Beef were, but they weren’t sure if the Chicken was as they couldn’t get in touch with their supplier. The fact that they went to the effort to try and contact the supplier I thought was great. Thumbs up for service for sure. They are also enthusiastic and happy to offer up opinions on what types of foods we should try or if we had enough food ordered or not.

This night there were four of us for dinner and we were located in a booth seating and as we had an early dinner booking, they needed the table back by 8:30pm. As we perused the menu’s we ordered some drinks. The drinks menu is quite impressive in itself – there are cocktails, mocktails, wine, ouzo and more to choose from. There are 6 different mocktails to choose from all of which have really interesting ingredients for a mocktail drink such as cucumber, beetroot, egg white etc. I started off with the Cucumber, Rose Water, Lime and Soda which was quite different. The Cucumber taste was quite strong and left quite a dry taste in your mouth. I also go to try the Pear, Ginger, Lemon, Egg White (sour) drink which I preferred to the previous one.

The menu is split into 7 different sections – starting off with Dips, then Ethnika Vromika which are smaller dishes,  Soulakakakia, Wood Fire Grill and Wood Fire Spit sections, Salads, Vegetables, Pulses & Grains and finally ending with Dessert. Head chef is Luke Croston and he has done great things in providing an insight into food from street vendors as well as bustling ouzerias. At Gazi the kitchen not only has a wood fire grill but a wood fired spit as well (you can check it out in the gallery above). There is a 10-course sharing menu that you can choose that costs $69 per person – and the kitchen can tailor make this to be vegetarian, pescatrarian etc – and is aptly named “Doing It Greek Style”. We did consider this option however with differing dietary requirements amongst us we decided to do our own version of the 10-course menu =p Also something to note is for Lunch on Monday to Fridays there is a “Bend Over Box” which takes you from savoury to sweet – something that I need to come back to try.

We decided t o get 5 “Ethnika Vromika” dishes – which are the Hellenic Dirty Food hawker style dishes. The Crispy Lamb Brains with charred creamed leeks, picked grapes was first to arrive. I have never had lamb brains before so I was a bit apprehensive at first to try it out – but if you don’t keep thinking that they are lamb brains then it just tastes like a lamb cutlet really. There is a crunchy golden crumb on the outside and the lamb brain mixture on the inside is smooth and flavoursome – kind of creamy tasting. The addition of the creamy leeks and the pickled grapes which adds sweetness to the dish and it really is a great flavour combination.  I actually really enjoyed this dish.

Next we got the Prawns – Braised, Olives, Capers, Onions, Garlic & Parsley (there are three pieces of prawn in this dish). The prawns are decently sized and are wood-fired showcasing its woody flavours. The prawns are nice but not a stand out dish to me.

We also ordered the Koulourakia with meze – Lamb Keftethes, Braised Baby Octopus. I was really looking forward to this dish – I am a huge Lamb Kefte fan – but I was disappointed at the size of the Keftethes. They are as small as a marble. The flavours of the Keftethes however are delicious – perfectly seasoned and cooked. This meze comes with Braised Baby Octopus, as well as some Smoked Pork Belly and some Bread to eat all these elements with. The concept of the meze is good idea and it works – I just think the Keftethes could have been bigger.

We then got the Roast Bull Horn Peppers – Chargrilled Cuttlefish,Witlof. Garlic Dressing. This dish was quite colourful and vibrant, and had the flavours to match. The cuttlefish were cooked for just the right amount and wasn’t tough at all, the garlic dressing was punchy and together with the roast bull horn peppers (which provided the smokiness) worked well together.

Lastly we got the Saganaki – Cumquat and Currant Mustard Glyko. The Saganaki – which in this case is a wedge of Kefalograviera – serves as the base and the cumquat glyko with currants is smeared over the top of it. This dish is an interesting concept putting together the sweet and cheese flavours and I think (as did everyone else on the table) that it worked. The cumquat jam provided some tanginess and the currants some extra sweetness to balance out the strong cheese flavour.

We all had heard about the souvlakis’ here and couldn’t have come to Gazi for Dinner and not have tried them out. There are four different varieties to choose from – Chicken, Beef Brisket, Pork and Crab. I ordered the Crab Souvlaki. The Souvlaki is served on pillowy marshmallow soft flat bread which encases the soft shell crab that comes with coriander, mint and mayonnaise. There are juices which flood out the bottom, but you are still left with so much flavour as you bite into these. The other souvlaki have a welcome addition of French fries which I think is a great idea. I first had French fries in my souvlaki when I visited Saudia Arabia and it was strange at first – but a welcome strangeness.

At this point we were all pretty full and wondered if we had ordered too much food. We still had the Baby Snapper from the Wood Fire Grill and the Chicken from the Wood Fire Spit to come. Together with this we ordered two Salads – Marouli – Iceberg Lettuce, Lemon, Olive Oil, Oregano and the Beetroot – Roasted, Pearl Barley, Peanut Hommus, Toursi Red Onion, Watercress. I couldn’t try the chicken from the wood fire spit – but my friends told me that it was a really great dish – the chicken was moist and the combination of the feta and the red capsicum (tyrokafteri) together with the white beans was tasty. The Baby Snapper from the Wood Fire Grill was great as well – the snapper was moist and not too dry. The fish on its own didn’t have as much flavour as I would have expected, but with the topping of chickpeas and caramelised onions it enhanced this flavour.

The Beetroot salad was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The Pearl Barley together was soft and together with the crunchy sweetness of the beetroot and the nutty hommus – presented the perfect balance of flavours. The Marouli salad was a simple flavoured salad was a great palate cleanser from all the flavours we had had.

Despite being quite full we couldn’t leave without trying out the desserts. And really everyone somehow has space for desserts. We placed our order and went with getting the Pavlova, Loukomathes, Brulee and Bombe Metaxa. It was 8:30pm at this point, and when I had made the booking was told that they would need the table back by that time. So we had to move over to the bar to have our desserts which we were totally fine with, but the waitress felt so bad and was apologising profusely (eventhough we knew we had to be out of there by a certain time) – see service is a sure winner here at Gazi. And for our troubles, she ended up not charging us for one of the desserts for being so nice about moving.

The Pavlova is a dessert with the WOW factor – it is a spherical meringue that has been shaped around a balloon and dusted with dehydrated raspberry and musk. Inside this meringue cave is ruby red grapefruit sorbet and pomegranate seeds. There are so many little surprises in this dish and it’s really a fun dish to eat. The meringue is crunchy and not too sweet. I love the addition of pomegranate seeds adding a bit of tang amongst all the sweetness. Another WOW factor dish was the Bombe Metaxa which states is for two people but really it is so big that it could easily feed more. The dish come out and looks somewhat like a white bee hive (meringue) – once it has been placed on the table, it is flambed right in front of you. Inside is Tsoureki which is Greek Bread that is similar to Brioche, layered with chocolate ice cream and chocolate wafer. The meringue on the Bombe Metaxa is soft and gooey, whereas the meringue on the pavlova is crunchy and crisp.

The Brulee comes with Date, Turkish Delight Crumble and was also delish. The brulee custard  itself was smooth and creamy and full of flavour – the addition of dates and Turkish delight further added to this. Lastly we had the Loukomathes which are served with Cocoa Nibs and Honey. These are Greek donuts and are served warm and are like eating fluffy clouds. Really delicious.

The atmosphere is buzzing and vibrant and the place is full of character. Everyone is there to have a good time at dinner and enjoy this bit of Greece right in the heart of the CBD and its so easy to do here at Gazi. It is welcome addition to the MADE establishment and to Colombaris’ repertoire. The service is fantastic and the food is really really delicious. I would definitely recommend this place to any of my friends. From the drinks to the desserts there isn’t much you can fault. And you really do need to visit to check out the terracotta pot art installation – so grab a group of friends and explore the menu.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can view the menu at http://gazirestaurant.com.au/menu/.
Direct link for the Dinner Menu – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/menu/pdf/lunch-dinner
Direct link for the Drinks Menu – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/storage/menu/Gazi_Beverage_List.pdf

There is a 10 course tasting menu including your choice of souvlaki for $69 per person called “Doing It Greek Style” and a
Lunch menu for $27.50 which is called “Bend Over Box” which is available Monday to Friday till 3pm – it includes dishes from savory to sweet.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Casual, Fun and Enjoyable. Bring a group of friends as most of the menu is for sharing dishes – this way you can sample the menu.
Standout Dish: Souvlakis, Roast Bull Horn Peppers, The Pavlova, Lambs Brains, Beetroot – Roasted, Pearl Barley, Peanut Hommus, Toursi Red Onion, Watercress (I couldn’t pick just one – so picked one from each section of the menu)
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and very helpful if you want to know anything about the dishes or even if you want to find out if the meat is halal.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/ Bookings are recommended but if its not your thing you can just walk in.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://gazirestaurant.com.au/
2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9207 7444

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11:30am – 11:00pm

B’Stilla – Moroccan Talk of the Town

panda-4-rating1

halal symbol* NOTE THE GOAT, BEEF and LAMB are all Halal Certified.

It was birthday dinner time and I picked B’Stilla to try out. B’Stilla is a newly opened Moroccan restaurant tucked away behind Chapel Street in South Yarra. When I was making the booking I enquired if the meat was halal and co-owner Leon Kennedy was fantastic in responding and letting me know that the beef, goat and chicken are all Halal Accredited. Great service already!

B’Stilla is a modern and spacious restaurant with an open kitchen and an outside seating area in the form of a long terrace which has overhead industrial heaters and plastic screens to keep the cold out. It is named after Morocco’s most famous pastry dish – the sweet-savoury B’stilla. This is the latest project from Jason Jones who co-founded Mamasita and remains a co-owner, and Leon Kennedy (Padre, Proud Mary). Both took a trip to Morocco and fell in love with the cuisine and enrolled in cooking courses to learn more, and then forged ahead with this venture. The aim is to deliver authentic and approachable Moroccan food, celebrating essential balance of flavours and fresh local produce and it safe to say that B’Stilla ticks all of these boxes.

There is a real Moroccan feel to the place with its lattice of the 8 point star that is reminiscent with any Moroccan theme. This continues in ochre colours under the bar in the form of tessellated tiles. The open kitchen is lined with tagines and colourful preserved fruits and overlooks into a red painted dining area. This is where we were seated on this Friday night. There are simple wooden tables and chairs to further enhance the casual yet classy feel.

The menu is designed to share and is split up into smaller entrée size dishes, followed by larger dishes which consist of three different tagines and dishes like lamb shoulder and beef ribs. There there are seven different salads to choose from and of course dessert to finish off the meal. There are Banquet options available as well (refer to the Menu section below for options and pricing). There are plenty of vegetarian dishes available as well which makes the menu robust to all. In addition to this, if you flip the menu over there is a handy glossary on the back that run you through some of the elements mentioned in the dishes. I think this is a great idea – saves the customer from whipping out their smart phone and googling what each thing is or asking the wait staff.

After perusing the menu for a while we settled on a couple of the smaller dishes, two of the larger dishes with a salad – leaving room for dessert. I also ordered a mocktail – which had pineapple, passionfruit and mint flavours which was quite tasty as well. They ask you what flavours you want and make one up to suit that. Whilst we were waiting for our meals, we were brought out complimentary tea for each of us together with a small piece of date shortbread. This was a nice touch I thought and typically Moroccan. The mint tea was full of flavour and was a great way to start a meal.

The first dish we got was the Lamb Ribs, Apricot and Cardamom. This was a super tasty dish – the lamb was cooked delicately and just fell off the bone – the apricot sauce added a sweetness to this dish. Having sweet flavours mixed with lamb was a great combination. Next of the entrée dishes was the Chargrilled Whole Prawn, Pil Pil and the Rgahaif – we got the spinach, eggplant, almond and yoghurt option ( there is also an oxtail option). The Rgaghaif was one of my favourite dishes of the night – it reminded me of a samosa in a sense – it was pastry wrapped with spinach, eggplant, almond and yoghurt. The pasty was homemade and delicious – I could eat loads of the pastry all on its own. The mix of flavours with the mentioned ingredients was tasty and the spices added to it was a great hit, with the almond finishing the flavour palate. The prawn dish was good but not great – the prawns were grilled perfectly and the addition of the Pil Pil (which is made of garlic, chilli, lemon and parsley) added to the flavour of the prawn – there was just something lacking. The last of the dishes we got was the Medfouna – Beef Cheek, Cashews, Potato, Labne – this dish was yet another winner. It resembled what looked like a meat pie but tasted so much better! The filling was moist and flavoursome and each element worked perfectly together.

After letting our entrees settle we were ready to take on the mains. We ordered the Cous Cous Marrakech with Seven Vegetables, Seven Spices, Smen (which is oregano infused butter that has been aged and fermented). We also ordered the Fish Kefta Tagine and the Lamb Shoulder with the side of the Cauliflower, Pine Nut Paste, Ras el Hanout and Herbs Salad. Both the Cous Cous and Fish came in tagine dishes and were filled to the brim – serving sizes here at B’Stilla are quite generous. The Cous Cous with Seven Vegetables was flavoursome and fresh – the cous cous was cooked to perfection as were the vegetables which were piled up high atop the cous cous. Some of the veggies included chickpeas, potato, sweet potato, cabbage and zucchini.

The Fish Kefta Tagine comes with black cabbage, saffron and potato and was delicious. The fish kefta’s were green in colour which I thought was really interesting but do not let that fool you as the flavour was great. The juice I did find to be a bit runny and not as flavoursome – I think I would have preferred it to be a bit thicker in consistency. The Lamb Shoulder was another favourite dish of mine – it came with Ginger, Cumquats, Parsnip and Sumac. The lamb was once again cooked beautifully and was soft and tender and coupled with the parsnip puree was delicious. The cumquats added a tang to the dish as well. The side of cauliflower was also outstanding – the cauliflower being lightly charred and coupled with the pine nut paste and the ras el hanout and herbs was a great addition and complement to all the other dishes had.

We were all so full from the entrees and the larger dishes, but decided to share some desserts amongst the five of us. We got the Persimmon, Mehalabeya, Amlou dessert and the Rosewater Flan with Dates and Walnut Nougatine. The winner and standout out of these two was definitely the Rosewater Flan. The flan was something between a crème caramel and a crème brulee and had the right amount of wobbliness. The dish was creamy and smooth and the addition of the crispy walnut nougatine added texture to the dish. The Mehalabeya dessert I thought were just different elements put together on a dish that didn’t really mesh together all that well for me – I would have liked to have had more of the Mehalabeya component.

B’stilla also has a strong focus on coffee and serves French Press and Cold Drip – both of which are African varieties from Proud Mary Coffee. The staff are friendly and well informed about the menu, and always are energetic and have a smile on their face and are happy to help out at anytime. We were lucky enough to have Leon serving us, and he gave us a good background about the restaurant.

B’Stilla is a great addition to South Yarra and the fact that it is embracing Morrocan cuisine is a big win. The food is delicious and encompasses great ingredients in imaginative and unique combinations and the presentation is fantastic as well. The focus on a shared dish menu I think is great and more restaurants should encourage this. For a taste of Moroccan in Melbourne definitely check this place out.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://bstilla.com/menu.pdf. There are also Banquet menus available – 5 dishes and sides (savoury only) at $45 pp or 8 dishes and sides (includes desserts) at $65 pp. For Lunch there is a 3 course lunch menu for $35 pp. A minimum of two people are required for the Banquet menus.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Modern and Classy. It is a chilled out place and is reminiscent of being a piece of Morocco in Melbourne.
Standout Dish: Rgahaif –spinach, eggplant, almonds, yoghurt AND Lamb shoulder, ginger, cumquats, parsnip, sumac
Service: Fantastic, Super Friendly and Helpful. Staff always have a smile on their face and make you feel welcomed.
Online Booking: No. Point to note – Half the restaurant is reserved for bookings and the rest available for walk ins
For bookings, there are two seating times available: 6:00pm to 8.15pm OR 8:30pm to late
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://bstilla.com/
30b Bray St, South Yarra
Tel No: 9826 2370

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday – 5.30pm – Late
Friday & Saturday – 12.00pm – Late

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Casa Ciuccio – Great for Sharing Dishes

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Casa Ciuccio has been on my list of places to eat for a fair while now and we finally got to check it out for Dinner on a Saturday night. There were four of us and we had made a booking for the earlier sitting of 6pm (and the table was needed back by 8:30pm). N and I arrived before the other two, and as we walked in we thought it was a lovely, quaint place that had a rustic, charming and homely feel.

Casa Ciuccio is the latest restaurant from the Bar Lourinha (CBD) team – Jo Gamvros, Simon Benjamin and chef Matt McConnell (brother of Andrew McConnell of Cumulus Inc, Golden Fields etc)- which is located on the trendy Gertrude Street. Ciuccio means cheeky Neapolitan donkey and there is evidence of donkeys around the place such as behind the bar on shelves alongside a burnt red brick wall.  There are various dining spaces which consists of a front room ‘picar’ bar, a first floor private dining (which can seat up to 22 people) which adjoins ‘Bar Chooch’ and deck and is completed with a European-style courtyard. At the front room you can sit at tables or high stools or head into the ‘kitchen table’ where you can watch the chefs cook right in front of you.

The menu is Mediterranean-inspired (flavors of Spain and Portugal) and consists of share plates (raciones) and small snacks (para picar), has a great drink menu and larger dishes from the grill and coal pit. All the meats from the coal pit are cooked long and slow over coal (for between three and six hours) and fruitwood and served with potatoes and condiments to create a smokey flavour. Sounds tempting right? There is also a selection of vegetables to choose from. The menu is designed to share dishes thereby being able to try many dishes which is the best possible scenario.

There was four of us for dinner and we decided to get a dish from each section. We got the Yellowfin Tuna from the Para Picar section, the Ocean Trout from the Racione, the Octopus tentacle and Garfish from the Grill and the Wagyu Brisket from the Coal Pit. The Yellowfin Tuna came in three chunky pieces of tuna atop of a piece of potato and was delicious. The tuna was cooked perfectly and had a great rustic flavour and texture. Next up was the Ocean Trout which was served cold served with a lime dressing and had added tanginess with the gherkins. The trout was fresh and quite tasty.

The octopus tentacle was next and is quite impressive when it comes out – served on a plate with a wedge of lemon. The octopus is seasoned with lemon juice, oregano and garlic and is steamed and is a paler shade of tandoori red. It comes chargrilled and when we cut into the tentacle it is soft, tender and has a punch of spiciness to it. It definitely was the dish of the night and is a must try for anyone coming to try the food here. You really could eat it all night long.

The garfish dish was quite generous in serving size and came with two whole garfish on the plate draped in pieces of pomegranate. Pomegranate is one of my favourite fruits and it added a nice tang and sweetness to the dish. The only issue with garfish are the tiny tiny bones that make it hard to eat. The garfish was cooked just right and was juicy and flavorsome.

Next up was the Portuguese Goat and Rice and the Peppered Wagyu Brisket and Potatoes from the Grill. The Portuguese Goat and Rice was similar to a Paella and everyone around the table thoroughly enjoyed it, but would have liked more pieces of goat. The other three said the goat was tender and the flavours mixed with the rice, tomato was fantastic. The Wagyu Brisket was tender and the smokey flavours added depth to the perfectly cooked dish.

Eventhough we were all quite full from the dinner meals there was no way we were going to refuse dessert. We decided on ordering two desserts and sharing them between ourselves. We got the Chocolate Buneuelos and Hazelnut Sauce and Dulce de Leche Cream Pot and Peanut Praline. I didn’t know what a Buneuelo was – it is like a chocolate filled donut and together with the hazelnut sauce was quite delicious. The Buneuelos pastry was soft and tasted like a delicious cake and had icing sugar over the top. The best dessert however was the second one we had ordered – the Dulce de Leche Cream Pot. It was smooth and creamy and the peanut praline on the top added the texture of the crunch together with the caramelized sugar. If you have to pick one dessert to try – pick the Cream Pot! The caramelized sugar was made perfectly and looked like glass which I think is the best way to judge a good caramelization.

The staff at Casa Ciuccio were friendly and upbeat and have a wealth of knowledge in terms of the drinks on the menu and the food. Our waitress was very helpful in suggesting what dishes we wanted and if we had ordered enough. There is nothing better than having these qualities in your staff. Casa Ciuccio is a great place to experience some European dining that has a homely and rustic feel to it.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Donkey Express Lunch Menu – There are two menu’s to select from and costs $35 for 2 courses and a glass of wine – http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/pdf/Casa-Ciuccio-donkey-express.pdf
Dinner Menu – http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/pdf/Casa-Ciuccio-menu.pdf
Private Dining Menu – You can select from the $65, $75 or $85 menus – http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/pdf/Casa-Ciuccio_Private-dining-menus.pdf (You will need to make a reservation for private dining)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely and Rustic – classically European
Standout Dish: Octopus Tentacle
Service: Fantastic and Attentive and very helpful!
Online Booking:No, You will need to call up. They take reservations for Groups of 4 or more
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.casaciuccio.com.au/
15 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 848 88150

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12pm to 11pm
Friday: 12pm to 1am
Saturday: 12pm to 12am
Closed Sundays

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