Pad Thai Restaurant – There’s More to Pad Thai

panda 4 rating Green Curry Fried RiceGreen Curry Friend Rice

Close up of Green Curry Fried Rice

Menu:
Pad Thai Menu Pad Thai Menu

I am a huge fan of Thai food – from the spiciness to the distinct Thai flavours – with Pad Thai being one of my all time favourite dishes. When I discovered that there was a restaurant conveniently located in the Melbourne CBD called Pad Thai Restaurant I simply had to try it out.

Pad Thai Restaurant was name simply because most Australians are familiar with the popular Thai dish as well wanting to showcase variations to the traditional Pad Thai that people are used to. Instead of focussing on a large range of dishes, their main focus is on to deliver other popular Thai dishes and do them really well, all whilst bringing you the real authentic taste of Thai food.

There are three different types of Pad Thai to choose from – Sen Jan (Rice Stick Noodle), Kiew Krob (Fried Wonton) and Voon Sen (Glass Noodle). The rest of the menu compromises of other noodle dishes, Thai Noodle Soup, Rice and Fried Rice, Curries, Small Bites and a Large Variety of Salads as well as Thai’s All Time Favourites – which include Suki Dry/Wet, Pla Too Nam Prik Krapi and Khao Pad Nahm.
The menu has pictures which show some of the dishes that you can order, along with a chilli indicator to notify patrons of how hot a dish is.

I wanted to order something other than a Pad Thai and therefore ordered the Green Curry Fried Rice – Fried Rice with Green Curry Paste, Green Beans and Sweet Basil Leaves – Extra Spicy. The serving sizes are quite generous and I struggled to finish my one serve. The dish was visually pleasing and had the perfect amount of vegetables to rice combination. The flavour was just what I was expecting – the green curry paste laced through the rice with the vegetables cooked just how I liked it and the basil leaves finishing off the Thai flavours.

A perfect lunch venue in my opinion – great service and the food is brought out in a quick timeframe for those who want a quick lunch break. The place itself is located in the food court area and has many different seating options available, both inside the venue and just outside.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Laid back and Relaxed
Service: Friendly and Quick
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://padthairestaurant.com.au/
246 Bourke St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 6868

Opening Hours:

Monday to Friday: 11:00 am – 7:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am – 6.30pm
Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm

Pad Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pad-Thai-Restaurant-Melbourne/372153372522
Instagram: padthaieatery

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Pho24 – Pho in Under a Minute!

panda 3.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Pho24
The recent phenomenon in Melbourne seems to be a large amount of Vietnamese restaurants opening up at every turn you look. I happened to be driving on Spencer Street and another one caught my eye – Pho24. It was about a week or so later that I received an invite from Two Birds Talking to come and experience Pho24’s offerings.

Pho24 is a franchised outlet from Vietnam, with the journey beginning 10 years ago and has 73 stores operating successfully throughout Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Indonesia, Korea and Philippines. The main aim of Pho24 is to serve healthy pho to its customer in less than one minute, using a combination of simple and fresh ingredients in a modern and welcoming environment.

Craig Birchall together with Andrew Bunn are the co-founders of the Australian Pho24 business – with Craig coming across the chain several years ago when he was travelling through Vietnam. He shared his story and background about how he came to realising that Pho24 would be a great fir for Australia. It was not only the products and the vibe of the place that Craig thought was fantastic but the passion, love and service of the staff – they really were proud of the food being produced.

Pho24 is a quick and modern take of an old Vietnamese classic – that comes with no added MSG and is made with different techniques such as sous vide cooking style. This method allows for the retention of both flavour and nutrients – which you tend to lose in other methods of cooking. Together with this is their unique design of the nickel plated vats (PhoStillery), controlled evaporation, flavour and temperature which provides the clear stock to be infused with flavours perfectly. The equipment is also able to omit the fat layer of the broth that usually gets ladled out in other venues that sell pho.

Pho24 is located in a great location – opposite Southern Cross Station – on the corner of Little Bourke and Spencer Street. It has easy accessibility from the Southern Cross shops as well as Etihad Stadium – great for the footy or concert crowds to stop by for a quick bite. The venue size is quite large in size with a great outdoor area which overlooks busy Spencer Street. As you step inside you are greeted with colourful lanterns that hang from the high ceiling – which further creates space. The venue is bathed with natural light thanks to the windows that wraparound, with wooden accents throughout adding a modern touch. There are projection screens which showcase scenes from Vietnam such as rice paddy fields and people enjoying street food. One of my favourite aspects of Pho24 is that there are herbs placed around the projection screens with scissors hanging to allow you to cut your own herbs to add to your dish. What a great concept!
There are low wooden tables as well as high bench seats by the window to sit – depending on what you feel like. Most seats have a view of the open kitchen – where you can watch as your dishes are prepared in front of you. I also love the centre piece table setting which comprised of an Asian straw conical hat that dispenses tissues, alongside chilli sauce, soy sauce and Squid Brand fish sauce.

When we first walked in we were greeted and served an assortment of handmade sliders and offered a selection of drinks – wine from DOC Wines, beer, soft drinks and coconut juice. I decided to have a coconut juice from Pearl Royal which was refreshing. It was great being able to chat to fellow bloggers, staff from Two Birds Talking as well as one of the founders of Pho24 – Andrew (Craig – the other founder- was busy in the kitchen prepping our food), whilst standing around having the canapés dishes. Nothing better than good conversation and nibbles of great tasting food to eat.

We all proceeded to the long table that had been set up for the night (under the colourful lanterns) and were welcomed by Craig – who told us a little about the franchise and about what dishes we could expect tonight.
The menu started off with Vietnamese Street Starters with the first dish being Fresh Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls – that had been cut up into bite sized pieces and served on an oriental spoon. The rolls were fresh and had a kick of spice through it which tasted good – a light and healthy dish.
Next starter to be served was the Baby Octopus Salad. The octopus salad came served in a glass jar with lettuce cups surrounding it. Craig told us that we were to spoon some of the octopus salad into a lettuce cup and then bite into it. The octopus was absolutely divine – tender bite size pieces of octopus paired together with vinegar and punchy chilli notes. I loved the combination of the crunchy fresh cold lettuce against the warmth of the octopus and chilli. A really great tasting dish that I could see myself eating jarfuls of.

Next up was the Vietnamese Pork Bahn Mi (which I couldn’t eat) – but judging from the response from around the table and from N they were good! The bread was crusty and the filling fresh and juicy, with the pate having a subdued taste compared to traditional pates.

Prawn Spring Rolls were next on the list. The spring rolls were filled with whole prawns and covered with a crispy layer of pastry. Just like with the octopus salad – we were told to wrap the lettuce around the spring roll and dip it into the vinegary daikon and carrot with a hint of chilli. The flavouring of the prawn spring roll was delicious and worked perfectly with the vinegar chilli sauce. I loved the combination and texture of hot (from the spring roll) and cold and crunchiness (from the lettuce).

The next starter was the Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Steamed Buns (which once again I couldn’t eat). These came out steaming with carrot, coriander and lettuce piled upon the slow cooked pork which was placed atop a halved steamed bun. The flavours were clearly delicious as they were devoured up quite quickly around the table to sounds of mmm and yum.

We were all getting quite full from these delectable starters, but it was time for the main event: Pho served to us in under a minute. Craig explained the idea behind this was for people who were after a quick, healthy and tasty meal – in their lunch break or at dinner time – and one that would allow them to sit in store and eat it (due to the super quick cooking times) and actually feel like they have had a break.
We had three flavours to choose from on this night – Tender Beef Scotch Fillet, Poached Chicken and Silken Tofu, however their menu caters for a bigger variety. The Pho also comes in two sizes Regular (380ml) or Large (500ml). N ordered the Regular Tender Beef Scotch Fillet and I ordered the Regular Silken Tofu.

The process was to simply order at the counter with a tray. Once you have placed your order just slide your tray along to the very end and by the time that you get down there – your Pho will be steaming hot and ready for you to eat! As you move your tray along you can watch as the team of staff preparing your order – each team member having their own responsibility; be it adding the noodles, broth or vegetables.
Something interesting to note is that the noodles that go into your pho is weighed to ensure consistency between each bowl of Pho – this way each bowl has the same amount of noodles! The Pho broth is ready to pour out of a PhoStillery that has a beer tap to dispense the liquid out – quite nifty and quick!

Unlike other Vietnamese restaurants who give you a plate of bean shoots and herbs separately – Pho24 already includes this in the pho making process. When you pick up your pho you can add lemon and chilli. And as mentioned before if you feel like you are in need of extra herbs (coriander and basil) you can cut this up for yourselves at the herb stations.
N said the scotch fillet of beef was thinly sliced and cooked to perfect medium rare and was soft and tender – melt in your mouth. He said the broth was full of flavour and wholesome. I really enjoyed my silken tofu pho – the noodles were cooked perfectly – smooth and well textured. The tofu was perfectly sliced in thin rectangular pieces and was like soft pillows of goodness. I loved the crunch of the beanshoots along with the big kick of chilli (I added a whole load of chilli) – it paired well with the pho broth. Overall we both really enjoyed our pho meals and I struggled to finish my bowl due to the largeness in size.

Craig was nice enough to offer everyone a tour of the kitchen and how each component was made – such as the sous vide meat packages, the large vats of chicken and beef stock that is left to brew for 6-8 hours, the pate that is freshly made onsite to the oven that toasts the buns for the Bahn Mi’s. Craig also mentioned to us that the name Pho24 not only came from wanting to be open 24 hours a day, but in fact there are 24 components that go into the process of making pho – from start to finish.

Once we got back to our tables we found that dessert had been served – Taro Pudding – one of their specialty desserts. This was served warm with sticky rice and further sweetened with dates and topped with a banana leaf. I am usually not a fan of taro flavouring, however the taro flavour in this pudding wasn’t as intense and I didn’t mind eating the pudding. Craig mentioned that they were looking into producing more varieties of desserts such as sago, but were investigating ways in which to plate the

Pho24 offers a healthy alternative for lunch or dinner at an affordable price point that works well for everyone, especially for students. The staff are friendly and you can tell that both Andrew and Craig really value the hard work and efforts of each and every one of them. Currently, Pho24 is open 7 days a week till late (usually around 9pm or 10pm) but is looking to being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you want to experience good tasting pho – IN UNDER A MINUTE – check out Pho24 now!

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to dine at Pho24 as a guest by Two Birds Talking, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://pho24.net.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Funky, Welcoming and Vibrant
Standout Dish: Octopus Salad, Prawn Spring Rolls and Pho
Service: Friendly and Super Quick! #phoinunderaminute #phoinaminute
Online Booking: Yes via website –
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://pho24.net.au/
656 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
Tel No: 5915 9047

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 7:00am – 9:00pm
Thursday: 7:00am – 9.30pm
Friday: 7:00am  -10:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 10:00pm
Sunday: 10:00am – 9:00pm

PHO24 on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pho24Australia
Instagram: pho24aus
Twitter: @Pho24Aus

Nora – Home of the Charcoal Tarts!

panda 4 rating

Nora is a newly opened Thai inspired bakery and café, located on Elgin Street in Carlton. Owned by couple Jean Thamthanakorn and Sari (Tong) Rojanametin who are each individually responsible for various elements here at Nora – Jean for her spectacular charcoal tarts and Sari for his magnificent homemade sourdough.

Tong is a former artist and photographer and has previously worked in the coffee industry for a few years with stints at St Ali, Seven Seeds and Traveller. Most recently he has pursued cooking and worked at The Commoner, Longrain and Mr Nice Guy. Jean is a tax accountant as well as a self-taught baker and has honed in on a skill of baking over the last few years by baking for family and friends. It was Jean’s love of baking and her inventiveness that brought above the creation of charcoal tarts.

These charcoal tarts are seriously better than cronuts and will certainly take not only Melbourne but the rest of Australia by storm – they are amazingly divine! The tarts have a distinctive black pastry shell which is achieved by the addition of small amounts of food-grade activated charcoal which is made from coconut husks. Food-grade activated charcoal is safe to ingest and has reported healthy benefits such as being a detoxifier.
The tarts are filled with a variety of flavour combinations that have taken inspiration from the couples South East Asian background. Flavours include Lemongrass & Ginger Brûlée, Coconut Pandan, Strawberries with Tamarind Cream Cheese and Kaffir-Lime Custard with Sour Cherries. Get in quick each day as Jean only makes a limited number (around 100 a day).

The menu at Nora is simple; but reads and shows the depth of experience and advanced techniques of an experienced chef. There are six dishes to choose from – Our Water + Salt, Egg, Salmon, Bacon, Rice and Nora Flakes. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic mostly one worded headings, as when you read the elements that go into making that entire dish you will be impressed. For example the Salmon has been lightly smoked and jasmine cured, and is served with coconut, nashi and nasturtium. The Our Water and Salt comes served on a cute wooden tray with house made sourdough, semi churned butter, chicken-liver parfait together with ricotta and jam. The Nora Flakes consist of puffed polenta, wild rice, quinoa and crystallised nuts – and if you have seen any pictures they have a great marketing tool which is a mini-box with NORA MORN FLAKES plastered on the front.
They also serve a great selection of teas with Small Batch coffee being pumped out of their La Marzocco machines.

The interior of Nora is light filled, airy and very modern. As you step inside you are greeted by an illuminated sign with the letters NORA lit up. The next thing that catches your eye is the shiny new La Marzocco coffee machine, together with coffee smells in the air. A point of difference at Nora is the white table topped wooden table that have ingredients displayed out in an artistic manner which entices you to go over. Over to one side is a bunch of lemongrass paired with lemons and ginger. Just above this is a whole coconut, paired together with charcoal and the coconut husk base. There are also other ingredients paired together such as eggs, chocolate and sesame. Their décor is simple and minimalistic yet captures ones attention.
Tables are wooden and low paired with stylish round stools – and can seat from two to four people – there is limited seating available outside. From most tables you can take a sneak peak into the preparation of your meals as it overlooks the main counter.

I ordered a latte to start which was full bodied, aromatic and delicious – with notes of citrus and nuttiness. The perfect pick me up and start to what would be a great meal!

I was tossing up between the SALMON and the EGG and decided to go with EGG dish. This dish comes with Egg cooked in Nora’s special way, House Chilli Dressing, Garlic, Salted Shrimps and Thai Greens. I was very interested in seeing what Eggs done Nora’s way would be like. The dish came out with the Asian Greens dominating the round, deep plate, with the Egg hidden underneath. The House Chilli Dressing, Salted Shrimps were placed sporadically around the Egg and Asian Greens. The Asian Greens were refreshing and a very distinct Thai flavour to them – I loved the variety of greens that were use, they all worked seamlessly together. The Egg itself was reminiscent of tofu – smooth and silky and easy to eat – paired with the house chilli dressing – which had the perfect level of spice – together with the saltiness of the shrimps – was really delicious. It is the type of dish that makes you keep going back for more.
A definite highlight of the dish was the freshly made sourdough bread that came served in its own cup off to the side. The bread was heavenly – soft and fluffy on the inside, crunchy and texture on the outside with just the right amount of saltiness. It was that that great that I later asked how they made this bread – if only I was that skilful!

 

You cannot leave Nora without trying their signature charcoal tarts. I was worried as I knew that only a certain number was made; and I had arrived about an hour and a half before closing time. However I was in luck, they still two flavours left and I opted for the Kaffir-Lime and Sour Cherry Charcoal tart.
When it comes out to you it is covered with the silver dish that it would have been baked in to create the element of suspense and surprise. The unveiling of the charcoal tart builds up anticipation and delight. Once uncovered, the brilliant blackness of the tart is revealed along with bits of crumble and pistachio that surrounds the main black beauty. Once you delve into the tart you are greeted with the distinct Thai flavours (Kaffir Lime in this case) paired perfectly with a western element (Sour Cherries). The tart filling is gooey, smooth and velvety all at the same time. What makes these tarts especially amazing is the charcoal casing itself – it is flaky, crisp and soft – it literally melts in your mouth and you really could find yourself eating tart after tart after tart. The perfect addition of pistachios and crumble added texture and depth to the tarts. I cannot wait to come back and sample all the other flavour varieties.

Nora is a great new addition to the Carlton area – especially bringing Thai inspired breakfasts into the mix. Their signature charcoal tarts are (in my opinion) better than cronuts and would recommend anyone and everyone to try them – after all the charcoal used does have some health benefits! Get down to Nora now!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Laid back and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Any of the charcoal tarts
Service: Very Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
noramelbourne.com
156 Elgin Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9041 8644

Opening Hours:
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday: CLOSED
Tuesday: 7:00am – 3:30pm
Friday to Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Nora on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noramelburn?fref=ts
Instagram: nora_melbourne
Twitter: @Nora_Melbourne

Paperboy Kitchen – Vietnamese Deliciousness

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Paperboy Menu

Asian street foods are all the rage at the moment and Paperboy Kitchen is a latest addition to the Melbourne CBD. Located on Little Lonsdale Street, between Elizabeth and Queen street is this small sized eatery. Set up by Adam Milgrom – who quit his marketing job and took up training at Leith’s cooking school in London – who started out creating a pop-up version before settling on a more permanent venue in the city.

The menu is simple, delicious and fresh. Paperboy serves rice-noodle bowls and bread rolls that come served with Asian slaw, carrot-daikon pickle, Sriracha -Mayo and Coriander. The menu is cleverly named Rolls or Bowls. Once you decide between these two – you then have to choose from a range of fillings which include Coconut Pepper Beef, BBQ Chicken, Satay Tofu, Panko Fish, Spicy BBQ Pork and Pulled Lamb & Hoisin. Both the rolls and bowls come served with a small side bowl of Popcorn topped with chilli spice. If snacks are what you are looking for – Crisp Fried Chicken served with Sriracha Mayo dip is available. If sweets is what you are after – the Milk-Bar Cookie is a must try.
Drinks from Charlie’s, Beers and Ciders as well Cola, Lemon Lime & Bitters, Lemonade and Ginger Ale from Phoenix are available, as well as fresh coconuts (that you pick you from the fridge and have them cut up). The coconuts come served with a cocktail umbrella to make you feel as if you are beachside.

The fit-out like the menu is simple – complete with wooden high tables and chairs to sit in and enjoy your scrumptious food. There is an industrial combined with an Asian grocer store feel to the venue thanks to the feature of wooden shelves that stored things like Sriracha sauce, soy sauce, water and plants.
The main counter from where you order from opens out into the kitchen – which you can peer into and watch as your meals are prepared. As you place your order you are given plastic animals that aid as table numbers which is a fantastic idea. On the tables together with Sriracha Sauce are bottles of chilli labelled “Hot Stuff” – the extra hot stuff for those who dare.

I ordered the bowl with Satay Tofu alongside a fresh coconut and a plastic giraffe. The food comes served on a wooden board with the Paperboy stamp on the bottom corner, with the bowl placed in the centre and side bowl of popcorn just above it. The serving size is very generous (I couldn’t finish the entire serving so took it away to have for dinner!) and from the moment it is placed in front of you, the smell of all the ingredients literally take your breath away. The dish is fresh, packs a whole load of flavour and is gobsmackingly delicious. The Sriracha Mayo is the perfect addition of spiciness and tanginess. The Asian Slaw is made from lettuce, cabbage, carrot and black sesame seeds. The Satay Tofu has a crunchy outside which complements the softness on the inside and flavoured to perfection. Together all the components of the dish work seamlessly together to provide a great flavour explosion for the palate.

The staff are friendly and always willing to go out of their way to help. Don’t delay the trip to Paperboy anymore!

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu:  Refer to the picture above or visit http://paperboy.com.au/#two
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Any dish really!
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.paperboy.com.au
320 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9642 0147

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 11:30am – 3:00pm

Paperboy Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaperboyKitchen
Instagram: paperboykitchen
Twitter: @PaperboyKitchen

Thaiger – Burgers with a Thai Twist

panda 4 rating

Having recently been to Fomo Thai and following them on Instagram – I learnt that the same owners were opening another place in the city. This time their focus would be simple and different – it would be all about burgers.

Thaiger Burger is the newly opened burger joint – located at The Walk Arcade in Causeway Lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. The point of difference with these burgers is their distinct Thai influence and flavourings. The shop itself is located next door to the ever busy Sushi Monger and does well with its small space. There aren’t many seating options available – four orange stools are available but during busy periods you will get interrupted by waiting customers. There is also a cosy little cubby hole that you can sit in whilst you wait for your burger to be made.

The space albeit being small is utilized well – as you walk up the stairs you are greeted buy an orange neon tiger symbol which works brilliantly against the backdrop of diamond shaped, shades of grey tiles. You have full view into the kitchen and can watch as each burger is carefully handcrafted – right from the base of the bun, to watching as each layer of ingredient is added as your bun grows in size to the packaging up of your burger.

Just past the cosy cubbyhole on your left hand side is the menu wall – which boasts their current menu of 14 different burgers – ranging from Crying Thaiger (Grilled Medium Rare Beef Rump Steak, Mixed Leaves, Nam Jim Joew dressing, Chik Chik Bang Bang (Crispy Chicken Thigh Fillet, Thai Sweet Chilli Mayo, Tomato, Lettuce, Sliced Boiled Egg) to the Pow Nim Black Burger (Crispy Soft Shell Crab, Granny Smith Asian Slaw, Sweet and Tangy Dressing). There is one vegetarian option at the moment – Green Thaiger – Pan-fried tofu, Enoki Mushrooms, Corn Fritter, Seasame Soy Mayo, as well as 3 Seafood Options. There are also your classic cheese burgers on offer, as well as a double cheese double beef burger.

For those who don’t feel like burgers, there are 5 salads on offer as well. For fries/chip lovers – there is also a serving of sweet potato fries available – a somewhat healthier option.

I was tossing up between the Pow Nim Black Burger and the Tom Yum Goong burger and decided to go with the latter in the end. The Tom Yum Goong – Grilled Spicy Prawns, Fresh Herbs, Coriander, Crispy Lettuce, Tom Yum Mayo. It was exactly what I was hoping for in terms of taste and flavour combinations. The Tom Yum flavour was vibrant and the main flavouring of the burger – it was like having the soup but in a burger form – it was simply delicious. The prawns were cooked perfectly, and the bun was soft which made it easier to bite into. The burger did fall apart towards the end with the filling remaining at the bottom.
The packaging is both cute and smart – a half-box with the Thaiger branding on it – with your burger sitting upright all set for the prime position for you to put your hands on and delve right into it. It’s smart as when the filling of your burger does fall through it just ends up in the box so you can still eat it (instead of ending up on the floor!

The friends that I went with were all impressed with their respective burgers – P got the Green Thaiger, T got the Chik Chik Bang Bang and K got the Crying Tiger (Grilled medium rare beef rump steak, mixed leaves,”Nam Jim Jaew” dressing). K did however comment that the beef in his burger was a tad bit chewy. T wanted to come back and try the whole range out and I definitely wanted to come and try the Black Burger.

The service can be a tad bit slow, however once you get your burger you forget the waiting time.

Thaiger is a great addition to the world of burgers – especially since my favourite cuisine is Thai! Not only do the burgers have interesting names but have an interesting mix of flavours and combinations which I am sure most people will enjoy. Check them out!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.thaiger.com.au/home.html
Service: Can be a tad bit slow especially during peak times, but it is well worth the wait
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thaiger.com.au/home.html
Shop 16 The Walk Arcade
309-325 Bourke St
Tel No: 9329 9446

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11:00am – 4:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thaiger/738112479587198?fref=ts
Instagram: thaiger_burger
Thaiger on Urbanspoon

Kong BBQ – Worth All The Hype!

panda 4 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – Late

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

Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

Banoi – A Piece of Vietnam in Docklands

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Food Menu Drinks Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banoi on Urbanspoon

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

Rue & Co. – Great Addition to Melbourne

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:

St Ali Breakkie Menu St Ali Burger and Dessert Menu Kong Menu

It was after the footy game (Go the Hawks!!) and N and I were feeling a tad bit peckish – so we decided to check out the newly opened Rue & Co. Located off the main hustle and bustle of Collins Street, near Exhibition street is Melbourne’s version of street style food. It is an outdoor pop-up venue – around for 6 months – and has the following venues – Church of Secular Coffee (St Ali), Jimmy Grants and Kong BBQ – a joint venture between Salvatore Malatesta, George Calombaris and Chris Lucas.

Salvatore Malatesta’s

Salvatore Malatesta’s
George Calombaris,

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

The “fit-out” is very Melbourne – there is astro turf laid on the grounds, and the venues are located in a row under neath the massive wall artwork. On the opposite side to where the food is – is a stylish yet simple seating area decked out with minimal black stools, seats and tables. There is a combination of low seated stools as well as higher bar chairs. There are two areas – one area being covered complete with heating to keep customers warm (especially in the unpredictable Melbourne weather) – as well an open air area under trees with fairy lights.

We decided to try out Kong BBQ (opened by Chris Lucas – who brought us Chin Chin) as I had heard a lot about this place and wanted to see what we could expect once it opens its more permanent doors in Richmond.

I love the use of the Japanese characters to spell out BBQ in the name as well as the addition of the PANDA and the tag line HAPPY LIFE. As you all probably know I LOVE PANDAS! (haha hence the blog – Grazing Panda) – so I cannot wait to visit their permanent venue and see the use of the pandas. =)

The menu here at Rue & Co. is split up into 6 sections – Soup, Wings (6 pieces), Steam Buns (2 pieces), Kong Bo Ssam, Ssam Roti Roll and Salads. There are vegetarian and pescatarian options available under most of these headings.

I ordered the Peanut Butter Crusted Tofu, Pickled Cucumber and Spring Onion Kon Bo Ssam which comes served with Kimchi, Ssam Jang and Butter Lettuce. N ordered the Roast Gochujang and Chipotle Hot Wings.

The food comes out served in cardboard boxes with KONG BBQ stamped on the front of it. I loved my dish – I didn’t really get the Peanut Butter flavour on the tofu – but I like the crust and crispness that was present on the tofu. The kimchi was spicy and fresh – just how you want it to be. The whole combination of wrapping each element in the butter lettuce was tasty and the textures worked well together. I really liked the Ssam Jang – spicy and smooth!

N enjoyed his chicken wings – there were 4 pieces in his little boxed package – with the flavour combination working well together. Each of the dishes also come with a “Cools and Dries” towelette so you can feel free to get your fingers dirty.

I also decided to try out some dessert from St Ali – so got myself the remaining flavours of profiteroles for the day – Choc Hazelnut and a Vanilla Raspberry. Both of them were scrumptious! The Choc Hazelnut had a whole hazelnut in the middle combined with gooey rich chocolate. The Vanilla Raspoberry was my favourite out of the two however, with the creamy vanilla and sweet (but not too sweet) raspberry jam. The pastry itself was textured and crunchy to combine the smooth goodness inside. Pity they were so small!

The St Ali menu consists of a Breakfast menu which is served until 11:30m from 7am daily. Breakfast includes a Toast Bar from which you can choose from a number (five to be precise) of toppings, as well Crispy Potato Hash with the addition of either salmon, pork or mushroom and feta. There are also two bigger dishes – The Daddy – Breakfast bun with sausages and bacon and Mexican Cousin – Corn Fritters.

After 11:30am there is a Burger menu which is served until Late. There are four burgers to choose from – A Shrimp Burger (Seoul Searching), A Wagyu Burger (Royale with Cheese), Pork Burger (Pork Me) and a Vegetarian Burger (Cheech and Chong) all for $12.

And of course – the usual St Ali coffee is available, as well as the St Ali bottled Ice Coffee.

Jimmy Grants pop-up presents the “best of the menu” that could be found at its main venue in Fitzory – such as the delicious Souvas, slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks and dips. There is a vegetarian option – Homer – Falafels, Greek Yoghurt and Slaw.

Next is Jimmy Grants, the all-conquering Fitzroy-based souvlaki joint. The Rue & Co pop-up version presents a ‘best of’ menu, including slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks & dips, and of course JIMMY GRANTS’ AMAZING SOUVAS! Before you ask, YES CAPITALS ARE REQUIRED – THEY’RE THAT GOOD! Our pick of the two is the Mr Papadopoulos souva with its mix of lamb, mustard aioli, chips and onion, however the Homer (falafels, Greek yogurt and slaw) is also flippin’ delicious. Your Jimmy Grants experience at Rue & Co also won’t be complete without a steamed Jimmy Dimmy or two, along with some Hellenic Slaw, dips and pita bread. – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

Rue & Co. gives an almost picnic like vibe and is a great addition to the streets of Melbourne and is great if you want to grab a quick sneaky bite before heading off to a movie, footy game or even as a pre-dinner snack!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Picnic-like, Funky and Chilled out. Great for a morning coffee or after work drinks even! Versatile!
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/RueandCo
80 Collins St, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am to Late

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

St Ali on Urbanspoon

Nieuw Amsterdam – French Bistro with New York Style

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menu at Nieuw Amsterdam

Nieuw Amsterdam is a newly opened restaurant / bar in the heart of the city – located in Hardware Street in Melbourne. From the name I assumed that it had a Dutch influence  to the food but stepping inside and looking at the menu I realised I was wrong – there was a strong New York vibe to the venue and even the staff had the same vibe. Nieuw Amsterdamn was actually named after the original Dutch settlement on the island of Manhattan.

As you enter the venue you are greeted by a set of stairs which takes you to the main restaurant area. As you go up the stairs the menu is open space with the bar/kitchen to the left and the seating area all around. There is exposed brick, wooden floors, dark wooden tables and large windows. If you venture down the stairs to the basement area, you will find yourself at the Bar part of Nieuw Amsterdam and it really does feel like you are in downtown New York – dark and mood-lit, with a DJ spinning some tunes. The interior was designed by Eades & Bergman who are also responsible for places such as The Meatball & Wine Bar, Mr Miyagi and Bomba Bar.

Nieuw Amsterdam is owned by Michael Roszbach (ex Cookie) and the chef is Nick Stanton (ex Woods of Windsor) – who brings a French influence to his American style cooking passion. Everything is made in house and is a testament to great food. We are given the most delicious pull apart bread which was warm, fluffy and simply devine to start with! Needless to say it was gone pretty quickly.

The menu is split into 5 sections – Appetisers, Mains, The Pit Grill, Sides and Desserts. There is a focus on meat dishes, but there are actually a variety of vegetarian and seafood dishes as well. The dessert even has a Pumpkin Donut dish served with Kentucky bourbon cream! Appetisers consist of dishes like Chicken Waffles, Cured Meats and BBQ Scallops, Kingfish Ceviche. The Pitt Grill have dishes which have lamb, chicken, beef and pork and the mains consist of two vegetarian dishes, clam chowder and rabbit meatballs. There are 5 sides and 3 desserts to choose from as well. If you don’t want to have to pick your dishes there is the Nieuw Banquet which costs $45 per person to try out the chefs recommendations. Nieuw Amsterdam also does lunch and has offerings such as deli style sandwiches  as well as a BBQ meat tray – where you choose three types of proteins and it comes with a side. Check out the link to their lunch menu below.

There were three of us at dinner so and as most of the dishes could be shared we picked 2 appetiser dishes, 1 main, 1 pit grill and 1 side dish and of course finished it off with a selection of 2 desserts.

The first appetiser we ordered was the Kingfish Ceviche – Daikon, Dashi dressing, Crunchy Quinoa, finger limes, topped with salmon roe. The dish was presented beautifully and was quite colourful. The crunchiness of the quinoa paired with the kingfish coupled with the daikon and dashi dressing was fantastic. All the components together really did enhance the flavour of the fresh kingfish. The additional pop and burst of flavour from the salmon roe was a treat as well.

The next appetiser we got was the BBQ Scallops with Mango Gazpacho, Avocado and Chilli – once again brilliantly plated up and even more colourful than the Kingfish dish – with the bright red of the chilli contrasting against the cream coloured scallops with the hint of brown on the top and the soft green avocado, finished with the bright yellow of the mango gazpacho. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the right amount of smokiness and BBQ flavouring. The combination of the mango, avocado and chilli were truly divine – another must have dish.

Next up were the main dish and the pit grill dish. The main dish we ordered was Baked Eggplant with Grilled Tofu, Mushrooms and Spiced Yoghurt with the pit grill dish being Spiced Lamb Leg with Cauliflower, Pomegranate and Herb Dressing.

The Eggplant dish came with the eggplant at the base with the tofu, mushroom sitting on top with the spiced yoghurt dressing drizzled around it. I am usually not a fan of cooked eggplant like this but this dish I must say was quite good. The rich flavour of the eggplant together with the tofu and mushrooms finished with the tang of the spiced yoghurt did have me going back for more.

The Lamb leg was cooked perfectly and you can see for yourself in the picture – darker on the outside and a light browny pink shade on the inside. The pomegranate and cauliflower combination really did work well with the flavours of the lamb.

For the sides we ordered the Red Cabbage and Chilli Slaw – and was quite a large and generous serving. The bright purple cabbage together with splashings of the red chilli and fried onion was a really great side dish. There was a mixture of crunch, freshness, tang and spice all in the one dish. You could almost just have it on its own.

You cannot end a fantastic meal like we were having without trying at least one thing from the dessert menu. There are only three desserts to select from – we went with the Berry Split – Berry jelly, White Chocolate Mousse, Cream Cheese Sorbet and the The Nieuw Chocolate Bar – Banana, Tonka Bean Ice Cream. The other dessert was the Pumpkin Donuts.

The Berry Split desserts comes in a glass and is a layered dessert almost reminiscent of a trifle – and the best way to enjoy the dish is to make sure you get all the layers in one spoonful. There was an added bonus of popping candy added at the very top for even more excitement. The bottom layer is the white chocolate mousse, next is the berry jelly and the final layers are the cream cheese sorbet and popping candy with fresh berries laced in between and topped with a almond praline crisp. The flavours really work together and are a really fresh and delicious dessert – I couldn’t get enough of it!

The Nieuw Chocolate Bar dessert was a really rich, smooth and chocolaty dessert coupled with the sautéed banana and finished with the vanilla bean ice cream. It was presented beautifully with a taste to match – it really does taste as good as it looks!

The staff are very friendly and helpful in identifying how many dishes will suffice for your table and recommend dishes that they think are great. They really are quite passionate about the food they serve and will let you know when they love a dish – I think this such a great trait – if the staff are excited about the food – you know you are onto a good thing.

Nieuw Amsterdam is a great new venue with a fantastic location and a great vibe! If you have never been to New York or are missing your New York days – check this place out!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above. Consists of Appetisers, Mains, The Pit Grill, Sides and Desserts. There is also the Nieuw Banquet for $45 per person where the chef picks your dishes.

Lunch Menu:  http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/assets/lunch.pdf
Dinner Menu: http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/assets/dinner.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Casual and Funky – a little piece of downtown Manhattan right here in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.
Standout Dish: BBQ Scallops with Mango Gazpacho, Avocado and Chilli  AND Berry Split – Berry jelly, White Chocolate Mousse, Cream Cheese Sorbet
Service: Fantastic and Really friendly. Helpful in assisting with the selection of dishes as well.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/
106-122 Hardware Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9602 2111

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 12pm -1am
Thursday & Sunday: 12pm -3am
Friday & Saturday: 12pm – 5am

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