Lucy Liu – Red, Asian and Delicious

panda 4 rating

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The long awaited replacement for PM24 – Lucy Liu has arrived, and arrived with a vengeance. The entrance is located down the cobble stoned Oliver Lane – just follow the red neon lights that illuminate the short corridor (or tunnel – whichever you prefer to call it) where you are greeted with a large sign where its name appears – LUCY LIU.

From the moment you step inside you feel like you have been transported to another world – it almost feel like a movie set – complete with bamboo scaffolding, blonde timber, splashes of red (to keep the theme running from the entrance) and a buzz that further adds to the exciting and lively vibe. As you enter, to the right side are some tables if you wanted to just come in for a drink and to the left are tables located for dining and trying some of their delicious food dishes.

Lucy Liu is the brainchild of Michael Lambie (The Smith, Taxi, Circa), Scott Borg and Zac Cribbes. The fit out is done by March Studio (Gazi, Baker D Chirico, Young Bloods Diner and more ) and the result is spectacular. I love the aforementioned bamboo scaffolding which reminds you of building sites in Hong Kong and China mixed together with polished concrete floors and brickwork accents throughout the venue. There is a mix of communal tables, booth seating, low tables, high tables as well as seating at the bar. Tables are either wooden or Laminex topped paired with comfortable seats, with larger tables having a Lazy Susan for ease. There is also a private dining room available for larger parties.

The menu explores Lambie’s distinct fusing of Asian and western flavours to create a spectacular. Lucy Liu isn’t all about the one Asian cuisine, but a little bit of all of them – be it Chinese, Japanese, Thai.
The menu is split into six different sections – Small Bites & Tastes, Dumplings & Buns, Plates, Larger, Sides and Sweets. There is a lot of variety and you left confused with what to choose – there is a Let Lucy Choose option – where you let Lucy pick the dishes that come to your table. There is either a 5 Plate ($55 per person) or 7 Plate ($65 per person) option to choose from.

Small Bites & Tastes include Freshly Shucked Oysters with Red Nam Jim or Ponzu Dipping Suace, Tempura Soft-Shelled Crab, Korean Fried Chicken, Thai Fish Cakes and Organic Tofu just to name a few – there are 11 dishes to select from ranging from $4 to $22.

The Dumplings & Buns section has 4 different dumplings and 4 different “buns” to choose from. Interestingly vegetarian dumplings don’t make it to the list – Crystal Skin Prawn & Bamboo, Steamed Pork & Chestnut, Peking Duck and Barramundi & Scampi are on offer. BBQ Lap Chong ‘Hot Dog’, Crispy Pork Bun and Steamed Sticky Beef Bun are on offer together with a Soft Shelled Crab ‘Jianbing’ Pancake Roll.

Plates and Larger are your more substantially sized dishes and cover a good cross section of your Seafood and Meat dishes, however not very Vegetarian options are available. The Vegetarian options are more evident in the Sides section with Stir Fried Asian Greens, Lucy Liu Spiced Green Apple Coleslaw and Green Bean & Mizuna Salad are available.

Sweets showcase six different desserts, some having the Asian flair running through them. Chocolate lovers aren’t left out either with their delectable Chocolate Dulce de Leche.

I have been to Lucy Liu a few times now (yep it really is that great!) and mostly seem to stick to the dishes that I really love but have ventured into new territory and tried out other dishes as well. The first few times we were seated amongst where most of the tables are located with a view of the kitchen / bar, and the last time I went we sat at the bar and had a great view of the chef’s preparation of the dishes.

The table setting is quite unique with holographic placemats – each showcasing a different picture such as Koalas, Trees, Ducks – that you turnover to reveal the menu. Swanky!
You can’t help but order at least a dish from each of the sections – usually starting with the Small Bites & Tastes. My absolute favourite dish from this section is the Soft Shelled Crab Jianbing Pancake Roll with Spicy Hoi Sin Sauce. The pancake on the outsides is soft, thin and perfectly cooked and contrasts well with the crunch of the soft shell crab on the inside. The spicy hoi sin sauce really brings all the components of the dish together and the result will have your tastebuds dancing and craving more. The first time we ordered this dish, we were tempted to order another serving – a must try dish!

Another dish from the first section was the Crispy Fried Quail with Shichimi Pepper and Spicy Plum Dressing. The girls did enjoy this dish – the spices on the crispy coating on the outside paired well with the sweetness of the plum sauce, with the quail cooked well.

N also ordered the Korean Fried Chicken Ribs with Kewpie Mayo – a simple dish with a kick of spice and hint of garlic. Seeing how quickly the dish was demolished – another great tasting dish.

We all ordered a serving of the Fresh Betel Leaves with Kingfish and Chilli Peanut Sambal – which isto be eaten with the Betel Leaf. The Kingfish was fresh and succulent and the pairing of the Chilli Peanut Sambal worked well together – adding some spice and crunch.

A definite hit with everyone was the Crispy Pork Bun with Spicy Kimchi and Kewpie Mayo. There were many MMMs and YUMMMs mentioned throughout the consumption of this dish. Slightly larger than bite sized – the bun is soft and cloudlike paired together with the spicy kimchi, creamy kewpie mayo, pork and finished with coriander.

One of my favourite dishes is the Barramundi and Scampi Dumplings with Chilli, Ginger and Spring Onions. This was recommended to us the first time from our friendly waiter and boy am I glad he did. The combination when I first read it on the menu sounded intriguing as it is something you don’t usually see. The dish comes out with the dumplings hidden by the chilli, ginger, spring onions and coriander – the soft casing of the dumpling gives way to the exhilarating combination of barramundi and scampi on the inside, the topping of chilli and ginger are the perfect flavouring accompaniment. The sweet and sour hit paired with the freshness of the seafood is divine! Another must try dish!
The Yellow Fin Tuna Tataki, Wasabi Ginger Dressing and Sesame Crackers is an impressive looking dish – from the vibrant pink of the Yellow Fin Tuna to the snow white sesame crackers finishing with the orange tones of the salad. The textured coating of the tuna was delicious with the tuna itself being seared to perfection. The sesame crackers were reminiscent of the prawn crackers you would usually see at a Chinese restaurant and were an interesting addition. The Wasabi Ginger dressing provided some heat and spice which worked well with the sweetness of the carrot.

From the Plates section we ordered the Green Papaya Salad with Beans, Tomato, Peanuts, Hot Chilli. This was quite a colourful and vibrant dish – with the fresh green beans and red cherry tomatoes finished with crunchy peanuts. This dish had quite a lot of spice to it which I loved! Nothing works better than the addition of spice to balance out the tanginess of the papaya.

We also ordered the Tempura Organic Tofu and Seasonal Vegetables with Tomato Chilli Dipping Sauce dish from the Plates section. This was one dish that I didn’t enjoy quite so much. The flavouring of the Tempura itself was quite bland and lacked flavour. The Tomato Chilli Dipping sauce was definitely a needed component for this dish.

The Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Green Chilli Dhal and Cucumber Relish is yet another stand out dish. The Lamb Shoulder had been impeccably cooked – soft, tender and fell off the bone. The Green Chilli Dhal was absolutely divine – milky, wholesome with the right amount of spice to it. Together as a whole paired with the cucumber and yoghurt relish it was a truly great dish. One of those dishes that remind you of a typical lamb roast your mum used to make.

The Roast Barramundi Fillet with Black Bean & Chilli Sambal & Nouc Cham Dipping Sauce is a dish that you will find under the Larger menu. The Barramundi is served atop of the Black Bean & Chilli Samabl, with the Nuoc Cham Dipping sauce served separately in a cup. I am not a huge fan of Black Beans and try to avoid them whenever I can, however this Black Bean was simply delicious. The texture and flavouring worked extremely well with the perfectly roasted Barramundi Fillet – you almost didn’t even need the addition of the Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce. If you love your fish dishes – you should definitely try this dish out.

Despite being quite full, we had to try the desserts and since there was four of us – we decided to order three different desserts and share amongst ourselves.

The Ginger Crème Brulee – Palm Sugar Caramel and Sesame Tuile. The crème brulee was creamy, smooth and silky with the perfect level of crunchiness from the top coating of sugar caramel. The ginger flavouring was slight and not overpowering which is what you want in a dish like this. The sesame tuile was interesting in flavour and I am undecided about the pairing of this with the ginger crème brulee.

The Chocolate Dulce De Leche with Blood Orange Foam – the mousse was quite rich and heavy in flavour, however was light and fluffy in texture. The addition of the foam had a sherbet style tanginess to it which made your tastebuds pop and fizz. You couldn’t eat this foam on its own and the addition of the mousse worked well together – after all chocolate and orange really do seem to mesh.

The Lucy’s Knickerbocker Glory with Lychee Sorbet and Red Fruit Compote would have to be my favourite dessert out of the lot. The knickerbocker is a cross between a sundae and a trifle all rolled into one. There are layers of sweet tart fruit, topped with whipped cream, chocolate buttons, jelly squares and chunky bits of honeycomb. This really is a fun dessert to have as there are many textures and flavours to taste and enjoy. The surprise of every mouthful being different also adds to the deliciousness.

Lucy Liu is a great addition to Melbourne’s laneways bringing a vibrant, casual and funky eating and drink bar that serves up delicious tasting Asian cuisine coupled with brilliantly made drinks. The staff are fantastic – always helpful and offer great opinions on what dishes to order and the amount required for your party size. Another major advantage is that Lucy Liu takes bookings, but also reserves a part of the restaurant for walk-ins. I would highly recommend that you check this awesome place out!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above or visit
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Chick, Unique, Vibrant and Funky. A great place for catch up drinks, celebration dinner or even date night – such a versatile venue!
Standout Dish: Barramundi and Scampi Dumplings with Chilli, Ginger and Spring Onions / Soft Shelled Crab Jianbing Pancake Roll with Spicy Hoi Sin Sauce
Service: Friendly and very helpful. If you can’t decide what to order the staff will go out of their way to let you know their favourite dishes and what dishes work well together.
Online Booking: No – only via phone
Restaurant Details and Location:
lucylius.com.au
23 Oliver Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 5777

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LucyLiuMelbourne
Twitter: @LucyLiu_Melb
Instagram: lucyliu_melbourne

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The Smith – Knickerbocker Glory

panda 4 rating

A and I were looking for a place where we could have some dessert after dinner and I stumbled across The Smith and its renowned dessert – The Knickerbocker. It was a Friday night and I knew that they would be busy so I called up to see if they would have space for the two of us to have dessert – they were very helpful and said to come and they would find a space for us. How nice of them! So we headed down and literally had the best seats in the house – at the bar counter overlooking the kitchen –we could actually watch as our desserts were being made.

The Smith is located in High Street, Prahran – one of the trendier suburbs in Melbourne and the venue matches. The owner is Scott Borg (former director of Taxi and Circa), and he has created this swanky, sophisticated and fun venue that offers all day dining.

From the outside it looks like a pub, but once you are inside you are welcomed by a fun and casual vibe. To the right is the bar and courtyard and to the right is the main dining area, which travels all along to the back room which is another dining area. Here is where the fantastic open kitchen resides, with the opportunity to sit at the bar overlooking the kitchen – best view in the house! The back dining room has high ceilings together with a combination of round, square and communal wooden tables. The fit out is classy, elegant all whilst staying casual and welcoming.

We were just there for desserts so we were given the dessert menu to peruse. Whilst tossing up what we wanted to have for dessert – we could see the other meals being prepared in the kitchen and being sent out to the diners. They looked amazingly delicious! It made us wish that we had come here for dinner as well! The menu is prepared by Michael Lambie (also ex Taxi and Circa). The Smith offers six-course and eight-course tasting menus at $70 and $85.

The menu is split into six sections – starting off with “Oysters” (there are three to choose from), moving onto “Mouthful”, then “Tastes”, followed by “Fish & Meat”, then “Sides” and ending on dessert dubbed “To End.” Mouthful includes morsels of food that ranges from pork croquettes, to tempura king prawns, soft shell crab, tofu and salmon tartare. There are a number of “Tastes” and “Fish & Meat” dishes to select from as well – the variety ensures that there really is a dish for everyone and every dietary requirement. The menu is a combination of many cuisines – from Mexican to Thai to Japanese and even Modern Australian Country.

There were four different desserts to choose from which included The Smith Carrot Cake with citrus cream cheese, Chocolate dulce de elce with blood orange foam and the two desserts we chose to have. What is great about the desserts here are not only do they sound good, but most of them are Gluten-Free, Nut-Free etc. The menu marks down what each dessert is, as well as suggesting what drink it would go well with. There is also a cheese selection if you are a cheese fan.

I ordered the The Smith Knickerbocker Glory (GF, EF, NF) – which was essentially like a trifle – it had layers and layers of sweet goodness. There are layers of macerated sweet tart fruit including pomegranate molasses, berries, strawberries topped with whipped cream, chocolate buttons, jelly squares and chunky bits of honeycomb. There were so many textures and flavours going on and it really was a fun dessert to have. I loved the combination of cream and berries any day so this dessert worked really well for me and was just what I craved and wanted.

A ordered the Raspberry Souffle with White Chocolate Ice Cream (GF) which was mighty impressive when it was placed in front of us. The overflow of the soufflé looked delightful and was topped with icing sugar; to the side was the white chocolate ice cream. The soufflé was literally melt in your mouth and the tanginess worked extremely well in contrast to the sweetness of the white chocolate ice cream. A winner!

Whilst we were eating our desserts we watched as The Smith Carrot cake was being made and boy did it look impressive! There were so many elements that were added – as you watch you think that it would be the last ingredient placed – but wait there’s more – more and more elements added – and the end result: spectacular. The dish was finished with petals, flowers and reminded me of a swan. Definitely wanting to try this out next time!

We also ordered tea to go with our dessert – and I tried the Russian Caravan tea for the first time! I have previously not heard of this flavour and was intrigued to try it out. This tea is a blended oolong, keemun and lapsang souchong tea and has a vibrant and strong aroma to match a nutty, malty and smoky flavouring. I might actually consider purchasing some of my own Russian Caravan tea!

The staff were really helpful and our waiter especially was really friendly! Customer service was really good and the staff looked like they were having a good time.

The Smith is great place be it for a casual catch up dinner or a celebration. The atmosphere is lively, fun and very friendly. The Smith also has two function rooms upstairs, with a separate bar and kitchen. One of the rooms is called “Mr Smith” which is the more masculine version complete with leather seats and can seat up to 40 people. The other room is aptly named “Mrs Smith” – complete with white walls and can seat up to 24 people. There is a wall between the two that can be opened up to create one larger space if needed.

The Smith serves a large variety of food in a venue that is stylish, elegant yet casual and relaxed – the staff are friendly and helpful and the food dishes not only look spectacular but taste great too! What more could you ask for really?

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.thesmithprahran.com.au/the-food/ The drinks menu can be found here – http://www.thesmithprahran.com.au/the-drinks/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant, Stylish, Casual and Fun. There is an area for dining and an area for drinks, as well as a courtyard. There are also function rooms.
Service: Fantastic – very friendly and helpful!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.thesmithprahran.com.au
213 High St, Prahran
Tel No: 9514 2444

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm

The Smith on Urbanspoon

Coffeehead – Great Coffee, Food & Atmosphere

Brunch @ Coffeehead
Coffeehead Baked Eggs: 2 free range egg baked in capsicum ragout, topped w goats cheese served with sourdough toast AND
Big Head Breakfast: two eggs your way w bacon,avocado, chipolatas, spinach & toast

Coffeehead has opened up in an old warehouse space in Camberwell by Paul Mathis. Mathis is a somewhat mogul in the food industry being a restaurant and cafe owner with more than 17 businesses such as Taxi, SOS, 100 Mile Cafe, Firechief Pizzeria and Golidocks Cafe (there are others as well) as well as founding  Blue Train Cafe and Automatic in Southbank. Coffeehead stocks different brands of coffee such as local boutique blends, coffee-making equipment and showcases a variety of methods of coffee brewing which include Greek and Italian-style stove-top. For coffee lovers this place is a paradise. Their aim as it says on their website is bring coffee from Australia’s favourite roasters to the one location. They even have a online retail store where you can purchase coffee goods via their website.

Eventhough the main focus here is on coffee (hence the name coffee head) – the food is delicious as well. The menu used to be Spanish and Mexican inspired food by Chef David Airoldi (who used to work at Dukes Coffee Roasters), however now the menu has changed over to Italian inspired food by Oscar Rigo (he has come from Church Street Enoteca, Journal Canteen).

The venue is complete with checkerboard floors and is quite a colourful venue. There is even a Foosball table! It has a very old school feel to it as well. There are industrial workbenches and recycled tables in red and green. There are massive 12 kilo Probat roasting machines at the back of the venue that you can stare for hours at. D ordered the Big Head Breakfast served with avocado, chipolatas, spinach and toast and I ordered the Baked Eggs. The Baked Eggs were tasty and the mix of capsicum and tomato was a great mix, with the capsicum providing a peppery flavour. The sourdough bread served with the Baked Eggs was a great addition. The coffee I had was a latte and it was creamy and nutty at the same time. They do definitely know about coffee!

NOTE: I haven’t been to Coffehead since the head chef changed, or tried any of the new menu dishes.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Menu can be viewed at http://www.coffeehead.com.au/files/CH_menu_150812_PDF.pdf  (The menu on the website has not been updated to the new menu)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Old School and Fun. It has a very laid back chilled out atmosphere. Great for a weekend breakkie/brunch session.
Service: Friendly and Happy
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.coffeehead.com.au/index.html
8-10 Railway Parade, Camberwell
Tel No: 9831 1400

Opening Hours
Monday to Friday: 7am – 5pm
Saturday and Sunday: 8am – 5pm

Coffeehead on Urbanspoon

Coda – European inspired food with Asian Influences

panda-4-5-rating4

I have previously been to Coda when it first opened and loved it. I remember the delicious crab dish which was quite decently sized and packed with flavour. This time around I was meeting a friend for lunch on a Friday just before the Christmas break. We were quite late in wanting a booking and was told that the place was booked out, however there would still be seating at the bar area available where you can order from their full menu. My friend J got there before 12pm to secure us a spot at the bar.

Coda is part owned by chef Adam D’Sylva alongside Kate Calder (ex-Taxi) and Mykal Bartholomew (ex-MoVida). Pastry chef Rebecca Creighton, (ex Pearl and Taxi), takes over for “The Sweet Stuff” and for the expertise in Wine it is the responsibility of Sommelier Travis Howe (ex-Taxi).

Coda was once a underground warehouse space, and has been renovated to fit into Melbourne laneways perfectly. The place has been renovated in tones of black and aluminium and is lit up by the massive bare windows and has a relaxing and chic atmosphere. The restaurant is split into two sections, the formal seating area and the seating at the bar. From the bar, you can look through to the kitchen as the chefs prepare your meals thru a mesh screen. An interesting feature are the light fittings ( I do seem to love interesting light decor) – at Coda they are metal meshing in the shape of a birdcage around a simple exposed lightbulb. It adds to the underground, quirky feel of the place.

The menu is split into 4 sections – Smaller Dishes (of which there are 19 different dishes to select from!), Larger Dishes (5 to choose from), Sides and of course The Sweet Stuff (Dessert!!) and encompasses mainly Asian style dishes, with a dash of European dishes strewn around the menu. J and I decided to order a couple of the smaller dishes and share these between us. We ordered  the following:
Fremantle Octopus, Green Mango and Cucumber Salad with Nahm Jim, Peanuts and Crispy Anchovies,
Spanner Crab, Galangal, Roasted Chilli and Lime Betel Leaf,
Sugar Cane Prawn with Sweet Chilli Sauce
Yellow Fin Tuna, Daikon, Green Apple Salad with Pinenuts, Ponzu and Fresh Wasabi.

We started off with the Spanner Crab in Betel Leaf which we were told to use our hands to eat – simply wrap the Betel leaf around the contents and eat away. There was also additional grapefruit pieces which added for an extra zang and burst of flavour (literally), together with the crab and chilli it was a memorable dish. We then had the Yellow Fin Tuna salad – the Tuna was cooked beautifully and had a really nice texture and mixed with the apple made for a really fresh tasting salad. Next we got the Sugar Cane Prawns and we were told to bite on the sugar cane to get the sugary goodness. This was a good looking and fun,but messy dish to eat. Inside the white squiggly noodle casing was prawn covered in ginger, coriander and lemongrass – it was flavoursome central! Definitely one of my favourite dishes. We ended the savoury part of the meal with the Octopus Salad (which I actually preferred over the other salad. J however liked the Yellow Fin Tuna Salad). I loved the freshness and sweetness that the green mango brought to the dish along with the crunch of peanuts and anchovies.

To end the meal we had to try “The Sweet Stuff”. We settled on the Toasted Meringue, Vanilla Chiffon Cake, Passionfruit Curd, Coconut and Mango Sorbet. We asked our friendly waitress what this dessert was about and when it came out it looked like exactly what she had described. Have a look for the pic of this dessert above – it was a spectacular looking dish! You almost weren’t sure where to start eating. The Sorbet was beautifully made and was fresh and packed with flavour and very smooth! The Chiffon Cake was not as soft as I thought it would have been, but this somewhat added texture together with the smoothness of the sorbet and the passionfruit curd. Eating all the different parts together was like a sweet heaven party in your mouth. It sure is one not only good looking dish but great tasting as well.

Coda is a funky restaurant that is good for any occasion – be it casual or formal. The staff are experienced and enthusiastic and if you ask them anything about the menu they go that extra mile to explain things to you. You can tell why this place is popular and books out quite fast. In short the food is great and there is a huge variety of dishes to choose one – it would be quite hard to not find at least one dish you wouldn’t enjoy, the venue is enticing and has a sense of fun and the staff welcoming. Be sure to try this place out!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Selection of dishes from Smaller, Larger, Sides and Desserts – http://www.codarestaurant.com.au/pdf/coda_menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Urban, Chic, Funky and Fun – Great for all occasions!
Standout Dish: Sugar Cane Prawns and any of their Desserts
Service: Fantastic, Enthusiastic and Knowledgeable. Very friendly as well!
Online Booking: No, Call them to make a reservation or for no bookings there is seating around the Bar
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.codarestaurant.com.au/
Basement
141 Flinders Lane (Cnr Oliver Lane)
Melbourne
Tel No: 9650 3155

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday
Lunch: 12pm to 3pm
Dinner: 6pm to 10:30pm

Coda on Urbanspoon