Experiencing Box Hill Central Like Never Before….

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I was lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people from PR Edge to get a chance to experience the talent of former Magic Owner-chef James Tan as he hosted an exclusive tour of Victoria’s most authentic Asian fresh food market located at Box Hill Central. After the tour finished, we were treated to a tantalising 3 course meal that James cooked in front of us. I mean how can you say No right?

Box Hill Central is located in Box Hill and is full of culinary hidden gems, rare ingredients and traditional treats – and it has a history. Originally this space was a market that opened in 1895 becoming a part of the shopping centre when it was developed in 1987. There are now two shopping centres located on the one site – Box Hill Central North and Box Hill Central South.

Box Hill Central North was originally opened as Whitehorse Plaza but after a lack of patrons closed down in 2000. After major refurbishments it was reopened in 2003 as Centro Whitehorse, which then rebranded to Centro Box Hill North in 2007 before finally being changed to Box Hill Central North in 2013.

Box Hill South (where the original Box Hill Central was located) – was built when the old railway station and level crossing was removed and has undergone refurbishments to what stands there today. The original market is now incorporated into the shopping centre but was redeveloped to what it is today. Box Hill Train station is also located here.

I was a bit late (for those of you who don’t know Box Hill gets super busy – especially on a Saturday and finding a car park is almost as bad as finding a needle in a haystack!) so missed the initial welcome and introductions from James, however I met up with the rest of the bloggers and James as they were getting through a talk from one of the Fresh Seafood store’s owners – Elaine from Box Hill Fish Market. Here we got to sample oysters – they were fresh, punchy and full of flavour! You can have a look at some of my pictures of the Box Hill Fish Market store – you really can see the freshness and the high quality – they sell sashimi grade products – that this store has, as well as the variety and range – they have Blue Swimmer Male Crabs!
Elaine and her staff are very helpful and accommodating and mentioned that they try and cater for their clients’ needs in whichever way they can – all they have to do is ask. I really like that philosophy!

Next we briefly stopped at one of James’ favourite butchers – Central Meats – who sells specialised meats and once again are very accommodating and can get you what you.

Our next stop was at Food Master which provides Asian spices and herbs and dried and preserved foods – a shop with literally everything you could possible need – from Dried Figs to Lily Bulb. If you are Asian and were used to your mums or grandparents herbal home remedies – chances are that you could find the ingredients for this remedy from here. Check out the pictures for the variety!

That brought us to the end of the tour and we were led back to our little area that had been decorated with bamboo fences and bamboo trees – with the table for the bloggers in the centre. There were many inquisitive questions as to what was going on and how they could be involved from passer-byers. The centre pieces were simple and brilliant – vases filled with fresh bok choy together with a basket filled with fresh veggies such as carrots, eggplants and mushrooms.
James had his setup at the top end of our table so we could watch as he prepared our three course meal.

Whilst James starting cooking the first dish we were given 100% natural Coconut Water from Raw C. James told us that he wanted to source fresh coconuts for us however he couldn’t find the ideal ones he wanted for us. None of us around the table had heard or seen this brand before – Pete Evans appears on the back of the packaging which we all found amusing. The Coconut Water is actually one of the better ones I have tried and kept the authentic coconut water flavours vibrant.

For the first course we were served Palm Sugar Cured Atlantic Salmon with Fried Kumara, Petit Herb Salad. The dish was impeccably presented – the palm sugar cured atlantic salmon acting as the base of the dish, topped with fried kumara and finished with the petit herb salad (which included avocado and tomato). The salmon was fresh and cured to perfection with the palm sugar enhancing the flavour thanks to its sweetness. I loved the crunch of the fried kumara as well as its distinct flavour. The petit herb salad really brought the dish together for one flavour explosion in your mouth. Delicious!

The next course was the Mud Crab Coconut Salad with Chilli Lime Dressing, Crispy Rice Crackers. We were told the way to eat this dish was to serve some of the crab onto the crispy rice crackers and eat them together in one go. Doing this gives you the element of crunch followed swiftly with a burst of distinct flavours – creamy coconut, sultry crab and ending with the hit of chilli. I am a huge of anything to do with crab so this dish was delicious – my only thought was that the coconut flavour somewhat overpowered the uniqueness of the crab.

To finish James prepared a Lacquered Soy Duck with Shitake, Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil. As I do not eat duck I only had the Chong Fun Rice Noodles, Truffle Oil and Shitake. I adored the presentation that James did with my dish. He piled the noodles together – they were rolled into small cylinders, poured the soy reduction over the noodles and finished this with the shitake and herbs. I have never eaten these type of noodles before but quite enjoyed the flavours – the saltiness of the soy reduction paired with the rustic flavours of the shitake and the smoothness of the noodles worked well together.
The duck was a clear hit with the other bloggers – who even went in for seconds. They were surprised at how tender the duck was and the flavouring of the sauce on the side was something they all loved.

Next up was a chance to experience an authentic Chinese Tea Ceremony from Spencer Wong at Cha-t. Refer to the section below to learn more about Spencer.
The front window of Cha-t is visually stunning itself – a round wooden circular shelf with tiny compartments which are filled with paraphernalia relating to Chinese tea such as claypots, incense holders and dainty tea cups – but once you step inside – you truly feel like you are transported to the world of tea. There intricately detailed wooden furnished together with chairs that have been carved from roots of trees. It really is a place that you need to visit to capture its beauty.

Cha-t is all about the teas – with the menu only listing a variety of teas – from Pu-erh / Pu-er Tea to Medicinal Teas. Cha-t is all about appreciation of Chinese tea as well as Chinese culture and really is a one stop shop of its kind here in Melbourne. It is quite common to find many of these types of shops in China – as their favourite past times is to drink tea all day.

Spencer seats us around a wooden table that has been especially made for tea ceremonies. It is equipped with all the utensils and pots required to carry out a tea ceremony, including a section that places filtered water into a pot and warms the water to correct temperature required. I was even amazed at just watching the water being warmed and the main ceremony hadn’t even started! The table had holes which allowed for the excess water to travel through and be collected under the table – genius.

Spencer starts by telling us the background and history of the tea and tells us the different types of teas that we will be trying today. We start off with Pu-erh Tea which is a variety of fermented dark tea produced in the Yunnan province in China.
Pu-erh Tea starts off as a Camilla Plant first and for the next 1 to 5 years becomes a greeny yellowy colour, then from 5 to 15 years changes to a red colour and after about 50 years it becomes the black tea that we would be drinking today. The tea that we would be trying is a 1989 tea!!!
Spencer tells us that all you need for a good cup of tea is around 7-8 grams of tea – which he measures out using a scale. He places the tea into a bowl like cup and pours the hot water (90 degrees) onto it. Once this brews for a bit he pours the tea into a beaker. He tells us that the first two brews are to wake up the tea and hence the flavouring is always light. It also serves as a double purpose to warm the tea cups that you use to drink the tea in.

We all cannot wait to taste the tea – we are served in small glass cups and are told by Spencer how to drink the tea. You are meant to slurp in a sip and then savour the flavour between sips – certain teas give out flavours that you can feel at the back of your throat. The initial 2 brews are light, but as the brews get higher – the strength increases. The tea is warming and uniquely flavoured.

The next tea that we try is from 1984 and the 7g of tea that we all share is worth $400!!! This means that a kilogram will cost around $57K! Who would have ever thought that tea would be worth that much money! For this tea Spencer once again measure 7g of the tea and places it into a specially made purple sand pot. He tells us that these containers can cost up to 1 million dollars (!!!) – the cost is dependent on the level of the masters that are creating the containers. For example if they are Level 2 masters the cost of the containers (depending on the size and the type) that they make could be worth up to $100K with Level 1 masters containers being worth up to $1 Million. The small pot that he is using today is worth $500.

Once the water has boiled – to 100 degrees – Spencer pours the water into the pot and allows the tea to brew. Spencer carefully pours water over the pot to warm the tea and then swills the inside. When we were served the tea you could tell why it was worth the $400! The flavour was light initially and left a honey after taste. Another key to identifying great quality tea is that the smell that it leaves on the cup – it smelt of fresh honey and did so for a long period of time! Lower quality teas would have the smell of the actual cup or the remnants of your saliva. We had about 4 rounds of this tea and each time the flavour intensified but the honey after taste still remained in the same intensity. Beautiful.

Spencer also showed us the incense and how he prepares the incense – the incense helps to create the atmosphere and further enhances the tea experience. The smells were strong yet calming. The process – as with the serving of tea – is a very intricate, careful and detailed process. I love the dedication and passion!

Spencer also showed us some other tricks – like frogs that we thought were just ornaments – were in fact not just ornaments. If you place hot water over the frog – it squirts out the water – a nice party trick!

Cha-t also specialises in cigars (although they are not visibly in sight and you cannot smoke them in store) which range from Bolivar to Cuban Sancho Panz. There is also quite the variety of top shelf whiskeys on display. There are also some snack type foods available such as sun dried mango, sour plums, seaweed etc.

Cha-t is opening soon in Bourke St in the Melbourne CBD and also run various tea appreciation classes for those interested in learning more about tea and its rich history.

The entire day was a brilliant experience that you wouldn’t normally get to go through – from the personal tour from James of Box Hill Central to the intimate and eye opening tea ceremony. I would definitely encourage you all to check out Cha-t and experience the tea ceremony – it feels like a little bit of China right here in Melbourne.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to Box Hill Central as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

About James Tan                                              About Spencer Wong

About James Tan                                                             About Spencer Wong

Box Hill Central
1 Main St, Box Hill
Tel No: 9843 3900

Cha-T
17 Market St, Box Hill
Tel No: 0433 588 578

Switchboard Cafe – The Cutest Retro Cafe Ever!

panda 4 rating

Switchboard Cafe

Switchboard Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

I was meeting C for a catch-up the other day and was looking for a coffee place located somewhere near City Square in the Melbourne CBD. C suggested Switchboard Café which I hadn’t heard of before and boy am I glad she introduced me to this quaint and cute little place.

Switchboard Café is located in a somewhat drafty arcade laneway on the ground floor of the Manchester Unity Building – located on the corner of Collins and Swanston street. It literally is what you would call a hole in the wall type of café – fitted out in a Retro style feel complete with green and white floral wallpaper and brass framed glass windows. There is the world’s smallest “living area” glass box where patrons can sit inside and avoid the cool drafts that flow through – that can seat about 7 to 8 people max (Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of this). Literally across from this hole is another hole in the wall – which used to be the building’s old switchboard cupboard (hence the name) where the coffees are made.

I ordered a latte to have in and took my seat in the tiniest living area while waiting for C. It almost felt like being down the rabbit hole on the set of an Alice in Wonderland movie! The latte was absolutely perfect – full bodied with a great nutty after taste. I would definitely recommend this place for a good hit of caffeine when you feel the need – or for anytime for that matter.

I didn’t get to try out their breakfast or lunch range – but C did tell me that it was really great tasting food. Think warm soup, toasties, baguettes (Smoked Salmon) and bagels – you can choose from melted Haloumi, Tomato and Avocado just to name a few. For breakfast there is also Bircher Muesli or Fruit Toast available.

Definitely go and check out Switchboard Café – especially if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy day at work! Next on the list for me is to come and try out their food!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A choice of soups, toasties, baguettes and bagels
Atmosphere / Ambience: Retro, Unique and Fun!
Service: Friendly!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
Ground Floor
Manchester Unity Building
220 Collins Street, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am – 3:00pm

Switchboard Cafe on Urbanspoon
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Switchboard-Cafe/158990604124405?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter: @switchboardcafe
Instagram: switchboardcafe

Pop Up Scroll – Bringing Scrolls Back Into Fashion!

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Drinks Menu Menu at Pop Up Scroll Close up of Menu at Pop Up Scroll Close up of Menu at Pop Up Scroll.

Amongst the entire Doughnut, Cronut, Dossiant, Cruffin hype comes the latest craze – SCROLLS! Enter Melbourne’s first new scroll boutique – Pop Up Scroll – located in Smith Street, Collingwood. Serving up freshly baked swirls of goodness made each morning alongside some delicious, carefully prepared coffee – which has been supplied by Coffee Supreme. Coffee and scrolls – a perfect combination to kick off your early morning start or for an afternoon treat.

Pop Up Scroll was created by trained cook, baker and now full time pastry chef Julian Chew together with his wife Tammy Chew. They are both not new to the food industry, having previously owned the popular Lip Café in Ivanhoe. Julian has previously apprenticed under Matt Moran (of famed restaurant Aria) and done stints at Loafer Bread and Da Noi – firmly cementing his niche as a pastry chef.

Here, the focus is on coffee and scrolls only and they do it very well. The idea came about when Julian used to prepare Cinnamon and Cream Cheese scrolls for his former café and he was finding that he would be selling out of these delicious goodies on a regular basis. People would come from near and far to sample these tasty scrolls. Due to its increasing popularity both Julian and Tammy thought it would be a good idea to expand the concept and invest in this idea further – and Pop Up Scroll was born!

Pop Up Scroll has a philosophy to take customers back to their childhood by producing beautiful, fresh scrolls in unique flavour combination by utilising some of the lost arts of cooking. Each scroll is made using techniques that Julian has learnt throughout his impressive fine dining pastry training and is made free of any chemicals and additives, and with the use of organic ingredients.

Eat a Scroll bake two batches of scrolls daily – one in the morning for the pre-work rush and another in the afternoon for the afternoon tea & coffee crowd. Currently there are six different flavours on offer – Traditional Cinnamon Bun with Cream Cheese Frosting, a Malaysian inspired scroll of Shredded Coconut and White Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana, Chocolate and Caramel as well as a Chocolate and Custard flavour – all of which are on a brioche base. The brioche base scrolls come in two sizes – large and mini – with certain special flavours available as well – the day that I went there was the Cherry, Cream Cheese & Gingerbread. There are also flavours available that are baked using a croissant base (similar to an escargot) – these are Pistachio and Cherry or Apple and Frangipane, Traditional croissants and almond croissants are also available for your eating pleasure.
There are the traditional coffees available as well as Affogato, Ice Coffee and House Blend Chai (which can be served Hot or Iced) served with Bonsoy & Coconut Milk if needed.

The vibe is blissfully charming, complete with a retro fit-out. I love the pastel shades that are used along with cute retro style girl and boy doll decals on the main wall, together with the words EAT A SCROLL and DRINK COFFEE. Simple yet effective styling. There are two mint green cabinetry units – one which displays packets of Callebaut Chocolate and King Island Coconut Milk Creamer, along with coffee cups and the other displaying Parker’s bottled drinks – Ginger Beer, Cola etc along with an old school radio. There is minimal seating available (seats around 15 people)– in the form of small round tables, as well some seating along the window, overlooking the main street. The simplicity together with the playfulness works well together.

When it came to ordering I decided to order a mini original cinnamon and cream cheese scroll and was tempted into getting the Gingerbread, Cherry & Cream Cheese scroll as well. I mean just have a look at the picture – how can you say no?

I had the mini original scroll as well as a latte to eat in and decided to take the bigger scroll home for later. The coffee was delicious – creamy, nutty and strong all at the same and really did make my day. The scroll was absolutely divine – the dough is moist, light and fresh and is of the perfect sweetness. The cinnamon flavoured rolls are topped with cream cheese frosting and infused with cinnamon and brown sugar. It really does feel like you are biting into the softest pillow and are light and airy, allowing you to have more than 2 and still keep you wanting more. You really need to try one to understand the pure indulgent feeling you get.

Pop Up Scroll is a great addition to not only the Collingwood area but to Melbourne in general. They bring together the simple concept of sentimental baking together with great coffee and delicious, light fluffy scrolls. One visit here and you will definitely be coming back for more.

As the name suggests, Pop Up Scroll is only around for a short time (until May 2015) but there are already big plans in the pipeline for the next project due to open straight after the pop up closes its doors. EAT A SCROLL will be located just around the corner from the current location and will be a more permanent scroll house.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Charming, Classic, Retro and Welcoming.
Standout Dish: Seriously any of the scrolls!
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.eatascroll.com.au/
86 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 0433 849 281

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 8:00am–4:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am–4:00pm

Pop Up Scroll on Urbanspoon

Facebook: facebook.com/Pop-Up-Scroll
Instagram: popupscroll
Twitter: @EatAScroll

Where’s Marcel? – Great Vibe & Super Friendly!

panda 4 rating

Menu: 
Beverage Menu
Beverage Menu 3 Beverage Menu 2 Tea Brew Bar Menu Tea Brew Bar Menu 2 Iced Tea Infusions

I am always on the lookout for new cafes and new coffee joints in and around the city – as most times the new cafes are located in the suburbs or inner city – both of which I cannot access during the week when I am at work. My latest find – Where’s Marcel? – is thanks to moving onto a new client for work and hence a new work location. Where’s Marcel is located in the foyer of 180 Lonsdale St (near the corner of Russell and Lonsdale Street) – which used to be the BHP Biliton building and is near QV.

Where’s Marcel is a boutique coffee roastery and cafe with a casual and friendly vibe in a modern and welcoming setting. Where’s Marcel has an extensive menu of drinks available from coffee, tea, to fresh juices, milkshakes and iced tea infusions – the menu is spectacular. Coffee lovers will definitely enjoy what’s on offer here – they have a Brew Bar Menu which consists of Stove Top, Turkish, V60-Pour Over /Chermex, Batch Brew, Cold Drip Filter, French Press, Aero Press and Cupping. Have a look at the full menu in the pictures above. They roast their own coffee and have 3 different blends – Culture (this is the stronger blend), Evolve and Decaf.

Along with having a great variety of beverages on offer – they have an equally impressive food menu – consisting of sandwiches, salads and burgers, not to mention their delicious sweet varieties – cakes and raw balls. All food is made freshly each day with love and care.

On my first visit I was too tempted by the cakes and had to order one – I went with the Spice Apple Tea Cake with Maple Icing. I also ordered a Latte. The coffee was great – strong with hues of nuts and honey and the perfect amount of crema. The cake was absolutely divine – the combination of the soft, melt in your mouth spiced apple tea cake together with the sweetness of the maple icing. I would highly recommend anyone try this cake out – it is that good!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A whole selection of beverages and freshly made food
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Welcoming and Casual
Service: Super Super Friendly and Warm
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.wheresmarcel.com.au/
Located in the Foyer of
180 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 8593

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 5:00pm

Where's Marcel on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wheres-Marcel/1450308265201080?fref=ts
Instagram: wheresmarcelnow

Rekorderling Summer Recipe

With Summer here (some would say fast approaching) – there is nothing better than creating a summer salad with fresh, punchy and vibrant flavours. Thanks to Rekorderlig for sending through this recipe for you all to try – which incorporates their fresh new Premium Pomegranate flavour. Try it out for yourself and comment if you do and what you thought about the flavour combination.

Below is a recipe created by My Kitchen Rules winners Sammy and Bella. Check out their website www.sammyandbella.com for more delicious recipes! ENJOY!

About Rekordelig

Rekordelig cider was first created in 1999 with the purest spring water from Vimmerby in Sweden. They are stocked in a wide range of Australia’s favourite bars and retailers and is continuing to laucnh in new countries all around the world – maintaining its proud Swedish heritage.

Rekordelig is a typically Swedish fusion of high-end, premium design and modesty, it has a clear identity that sets it apart from others.

Enjoyed by those who yearn for something refreshingly different, join Rekorderlig on a journey of exploration, innovation and invigoration.

For more information & stockists please refer to http://www.rekorderlig.com/au/

rekorderling cider recipe
PEARL COUS COUS AND FETA SALAD WITH A REKORDERLIG POMEGRANATE SALAD
Serves 4Ingredients
1 cup pearl cous cous
40ml olive oil
1 eschallot, finely chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
½ a bunch mint leaves picked whole
¼ a bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 roasted and marinated red capsicums, sliced
80g feta
½ pomegranate (seeds removed)Dressing
200mL Rekorderlig Pomegranate Cider
40mL Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and PepperMethod
1) Place cous cous, chopped eschallot and olive oil in a pot
2) Fry on a medium heat with a pinch of salt until cous cous has lightly caramelised and eschallots have softened.
3) Add vegetable stock and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, adding some water if it gets too dry and stir from time to time.
4) Once cous cous has softened but is still al dente, drain and allow to cool.
5) For the dressing, reduce the Rekorderlig cider in a saucepan by 3/4 .
6) Next whisk in the extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper into the dressing.
7) Mix together cooled cous cous, herbs, sliced capsicum and dressing.
8) To finish, crumble the feta over the dish and sprinkle with fresh Pomegranate

LadyBoy Dining – Cheeky Fun!

panda 4 rating

 

Menu:
Menu at LadyBoy Dining

With a name like Ladyboy Dining you are sure to strike up an interest – adding some curiosity, fun, spice and playfulness to the Richmond area. Ladyboy Dining is created by co-owners Fran Leaper and chef Mitch Townrow (Longrain) who are joined together with chef Pez Bowman (Melbourne Pub Group).

As you step inside you will feel like you have been transported to Bangkok, Thailand. The colourful, cheeky fit out has been done in collaboration with Ingrain Designs. A huge colourful sign with the word SAWASDEE (a greeting to mean welcome/hello) greets you together with a large striking street art ladyboy face. Next to it is a large bright yellow sign – LADYBOY – which hangs above the bar and overlooks the entire dining room. What I love is the installation of multi coloured wastepaper baskets that have been flipped to create light shades that drape loosely from the roof across the front dining area. At the end of the bar is a slightly smaller neon blue sign – ROCK OUT WITH YOUR WOK OUT – and below that is an open kitchen where you can watch as the chefs prepare your meals.

As you walk down the small walkway from the main dining area towards the back of the venue – more seating is available with a funky abstract artwork of an elephant. This leads to the back where there is a large area for the Buddha Bar complete with colourful umbrellas on the ceiling, awesome cane furniture (round, curved seating) and fake grass outside – to keep with the Thai relaxed theme. Here there is also fancy artwork of a large Buddha head on one and neon signage with the words BUDDHA BAR on the opposite side under which the wooden bar sits. The expansive courtyard will no doubt be a hit in the summer. Here you can enjoy the hawker style bar menu which includes oysters and green nahm jim, chicken wings and a selection of banh mi – all for $8, as well as salt & pepper tofu and pork hock with rum glaze. There are cheekily named drinks on their menu for offer such as Adam’s Apple and Trans-gin-der, as well as cocktail buckets and a good selection of beers and wine to try out.

The menu starts off with Smaller Bites such as Betel Leaf, Oysters + Nahm Jim and Son In Law Eggs – progressing to Smaller dishes where you will find Ceviche, Larb, Papaya Salad, Pork Hock and Salt & Pepper Tofu. This is then followed up with your larger dishes that include a selection of Curries (Red Duck or Tofu Curry, Green Fish Curry, Angus Brisket Penang Curry), Whole Fish, Pad Thai and Grilled Salad. There are a handful of sides to choose from which include Rice, Stir Fried Green, Chilli + Prawn + Smoked Coconut Samabl and Cucumber + Krachai + Mustard Green Relish. The menu ends with a selection of Sweet LadyBoy Treats – where coconut features mainly – with desserts such as Coconut Sorbet, Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue, Sago + Palm Sugar + Coconut and White Sticky Rice + Ice Cream + Thai Fruits.

There is also an option to enjoy the LadyBoy’s Banquet ($45) which will give you the kitchen’s daily selection. This will require a minimum of 2 people, and if you have a table then the whole table must go on this banquet.

There were four of us at dinner and we ordered the Betel Leaf + Char Grilled Calamari + Green Mango + Peanut each to start. Served on a betel leaf – the dish comes out with striking colours thanks to the chilli, coriander and peanuts. You eat the entire dish as is – betel leaf and all – and as you crunch into the first bite your tastebuds will soar just like fireworks. A combination of spice, tang and the softness of the fresh grilled calamari is breathtaking. A great way to start off your food experience at LadyBoy.

From the smaller dishes we ordered Salt & Pepper Silken Tofu + Chilli Jam and Crispy Pork Hock + Rum Glaze. The Salt & Pepper Tofu was crispy and crunchy on the outside whilst being soft and billowy on the inside. The Chilli Jam that accompanied this dish was just the right consistency and had a great balance of flavours – spice and tang.
The two guys really enjoyed the Pork Hock + Rum Glaze – so much so that they wanted to order another serving of the dish. Clearly a mighty delicious tasting dish.

We also ordered the Green Papaya Salad + Snake Bean + Peanuts from the smaller dishes. Think slivers of green papaya mixed with freshly cut snake beans and tomatoes topped with peanuts and drizzled in spicy and tangy sauce. This dish is refreshing and sure does pack a punch; I also loved the mixture of textures that you get as you delve into it. The addition of coriander adds further depth and flavouring to the dish.

From the larger dishes we ordered three dishes – Green Fish Curry + Apple Eggplant + Pea Eggplant,Dry Red Duck Curry + Snake Beans + Baby Corn and Pad Thai + Salted Calamari + Peanut.
The Green Fish Curry + Apple Eggplant + Pea Eggplant. The dish comes with a generous amount of fish pieces and has just the right amount of coconut to flavour the curry. I have never eaten pea or apple eggplant before – pea eggplants is a very small eggplant and as the name suggests; resembles a pea. They were cooked whole and pop in your mouth when you bite them which release a burst of bitterness that combines nicely with the rich heat of the curry. A great dish.
The duck curry was served dry and looked delicious when it was placed on the table – the vibrant colours of the red duck against the bright yellow of the sweet corn and green from the basil and bean was breathtaking. This was another dish that the table enjoyed.
The Pad Thai was another well cooked and flavoured dish – served with a wedge of lime for extra tang if needed. The serving as with all the other dishes was quite generous.

Dessert was definitely on the cards – out of the four desserts to choose from – I decided to order the Sago + Palm Sugar + Coconut and N ordered the Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue.
The Sago comes out served in a blue and white bowl – topped with star fruit and coconut flakes. I love anything with sago so thoroughly enjoyed this dessert. The coconut flakes added a crunch together with the star fruit adding citrusy and lime flavours.
I also had a chance to try out the Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue. I am usually not a fan of lemon meringues or key lime pies, but this version was absolutely delicious and had to be my favourite dessert of the night. The coconut meringue was generously placed and flamed to perfection on top of the kaffir lime infused pie and topped with crunchy coconut flakes. The kaffir lime was the star of the dish and together with the combination of the coconut meringue was divine. A definite must try dish that I know anyone would enjoy.

The service at LadyBoy Dining is great – friendly and the staff are knowledgeable and well informed about each dish. LadyBoy is mostly for walk-ins but they do take banquet bookings in the dining area for a group of eight or more. On Sundays they serve Thai style roasts from 5pm onwards. LadyBoy Dining serves up delicious tasting Thai food with a difference – added cheek and fun! Summer days will definitely see this place packed out – especially at the Buddha Bar out the back. Get down and check out LadyBoy Dining now.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://www.ladyboydining.com.au/#!dining/galleryPage
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Lively and Memorable. Such a colouful and fun-filled place to hang out and have a great night out with friends and family
Standout Dish: Salt & Pepper Silken Tofu + Chilli Jam AND Kaffir Lime Pie + Coconut Meringue
Service: Fantastic  – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No, however you can book for 8 or more people.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.ladyboydining.com.au/
394 Bridge Road, Richmond
Tel No: 9421 3206

Opening Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday & Thursday: 6:00pm to Late
Friday – Sunday: 5:00pm to Late

LadyBoy Dining + Bar on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ladyboydiningInstagram: ladyboydining
Twitter: @LadyBoyDining

Göz City – Gözleme Charm

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Menu Gözleme menu halal (1)

One of Grazing Panda’s readers emailed me about Goz City to let me know that it was a restaurant that I should add to my Halal Restaurant tab – and from that time onwards I was keen to check it out. Having visited Turkey earlier in the year I was looking forward to eating one of Turkey’s famous age-old foods.

Goz City is the first of its kind – the first standalone speciality gözleme store in the Melbourne CBD, well just Melbourne even – and was opened in January by Taylan Aksoy. Aksoy together with his dad Alan also owns Koy in South Melbourne – where you can purchase gözlemes as well; and on a busy day they can sell upwards of 300!

Goz City is a smallish store located near the corner of Little Collins and Williams Street in the Melbourne CBD, complete with a cosy, homely and relaxed vibe. What I love is that you can stand out the front and watch through the front window as the gözleme are made. You can watch their swift, efficient process as they churn out these traditional flatbreads. The process involves the yufka pastry being rolled, flattened, filled with your choice of topping and cooked to order.
The menu consists of four different varieties – Cheese & Spinach, Herbed Chicken & Mushroom, Minced Meat (Beef) or Mushroom & Vegetables – which are $10 each (or if you want to purchase it with a drink $12). These are complemented weekly, with unique and seasonally-driven gözleme flavours.
There are also Boreks ($4 each or if you order it with a coffee for $6) available in the same flavours, as well as Pides (such as Tomato & Egg or Sucuk Sausage & Egg for $5 each or $7 with a coffee). There is also the option of House Made Soup served with a toasted Turkish Bagel (when I visited the soup of the day was Mushroom). There is also a great selection of Turkish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired salads such as Cypriot Cauliflower or Quinoa Tabouli.
Coffee served is from Tobys Estate and comes in a House Blend as well as a Single Origin.

Their main focus is on takeaway – but if you get in early and beat the rush there are around 14 seats available – both inside and outside – there is a high bench for seating as well as some lower wooden tables. Lines are out the door especially if you arrive after 12pm with the wait time not too long (you are getting fresh, made to order gözlemes after all!).
Earthy, rustic and warm tones are used throughout the venue coupled with black and white pictures. Gözlemes are presented on a wooden board – with the gözleme cut into convenient mixed sized rectangles and served with sour cream. The serving size is very generous (I struggled to finish the entire serving!) – and the dish is very very filling. I ordered the Herbed Chicken & Mushroom gözleme – which had been seasoned perfectly and tasted great. The bread was cooked just right as well – crispy on the outside and soft on the lower layers. My only critique would be that instead of the gözleme being served with sour cream I would have preferred it to be garlic sauce.
I also had a minced lamb borek – which was a tad bit on the oily side – but was succulent and delicious. The pastry used for the borek is thin, light and crunchy.

There are also Homemade Turkish sweets such as Baklava and Turkish Delight available for sale as well as Turkish Coffee.

Goz City combines the age-old gözleme tradition with a distinct modern twist – offering a unique Turkish food experience. Gözleme is fast becoming the latest street food craze to hit town and if the queues are anything to go by – it will be one to stick around for a while to come!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the pictures above or go to http://www.gozcity.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Homely and Relaxed
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gozcity.com.au/
502 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9041 5667

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 4:-00pm
Saturday & Sunday: CLOSED

Goz City on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gozcitycbd
Twitter: @GozCity
Instagram: Goz City

Mister Jennings – Come & Meet the Great New Guy in Richmond

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Mister Jennings Menu Mister Jennings Dessert Menu

Mister Jennings is a newly opened restaurant located in Bridge Road in Richmond by owner and head chef Ryan Flaherty. Flaherty has previously worked at The Fat Duck (UK) and El Bulli (Spain), returning home to build up institution The Estelle (Northcote) before leaving last November. Fast forward to 2014 and Mister Jennings is Flaherty is his first solo project and he has enlisted the help of sous chef Jack Ingram in the kitchen, Malcolm Singh (Pei Modern) as restaurant manager and sommelier Lincoln Riley to create the spectacular wine list.

Mister Jennings – named after his favourite childhood author: Paul Jennings as well as his favourite school teacher – can seat 36 guests and additionally has a private dining room that can seat 16.
The venue itself has a Swedish minimalist feel to it complete with ash blonde tables together with key blue feature items on display in the form of wooden posable artists’ drawing models that cling to various places around the restaurant in cheeky positions, navy plumbing pipes, shelving and light blue plates on top of the tables. You can tell that during the day the space will be drenched with lots of natural light and would create a light and airy feeling. Two things I love – the random addition of a blue chair amongst the ash blonde chairs and the wooden bar above the main strip of seating that creates a trapeze like effect for the wooden posable models. Another feature highlight is the spectacular artwork by Mike Pelletier which features a man that looks like he has been carved out of gold.

The bar is visual spectacle complete with hexagonal mirror panels set against a navy blue backdrop in a honeycomb pattern, finished with stunning looking stools that have an ash coloured wooden top with dark metal rods forming the base (which were designed by local designer Lauren Garner).

The menu reads like one of experience and ingenuity- dish after dish of interesting and clever combinations, surprises and innovations. Essentially split into four sections – Starters, Entrees, Mains and Desserts – Mister Jennings wants you to be able to pick and choose what type of meal you want to have – be it drinks and snacks or a hearty meal of steak and chips. There is also the option to order the 5 course tasting menu ($80) if you want the chef to pick for you.
The Starters include dishes such as Oysters (there are two varieties to choose from – Coffin Bay or Cloudy Bay), Fuet Anis (which I learnt was a type of Salami) as well as the highly popular and known dish Boudin Blanc/Dagwood Dog.
The Entrée section is where the star dish from Mister Jennings can be found – Frozen Kangaroo, Wasabi, Nashi. Other dishes include Smoked Eel Parfait, Bread & Beets, Ocean Trout, Barley & capers, Foie, Rhubarb & Caraway Streusel.
The Mains include a Pasta dish, a Pork dish, a Duck dish, two selections of Fish dishes (Whole Baby Barramundi or Whole Sand Flathead) as well as two options of Sirloin (250g or 350g).
Dessert presents five options including a Cheese option – all of which sound extremely enticing.

We had organised one of our usual work catch-up dinners and had a booking for 8pm. Unfortunately due to a crazy busy work period going on I only arrived around 9:45pm – so I missed out on the “entrees” that the table had ordered.
They had ordered the Boudin Blanc/Dagwood Dog – a battered and deep fried boudin blanc (a white sausage made of pork liver and heart meat with pork rice dressing) served with homemade tomato ketchup with smoked paprika.

The Frozen Kangaroo, Wasabi, Nashi was another dish they had ordered. This dish is all about the mastery and ingeniousness – thinly sliced peppery kangaroo carpaccio is served frozen and only defrosts in the warmth of your mouth. It is served with Nashi pear, pickled onions, red wine, veal jelly together with an avocado and wasabi puree – creating hot and cold accents around your palate. My friends were left a little underwhelmed with this dish but did enjoy certain aspects of it.

The Leeks, Brown Butter Bechamel dish was also ordered. The roasted leek is hidden amongst the béchamel sauce which has the extra added flavouring of brown butter and topped with olives, parmesan and breadcrumbs. V said she really enjoyed this dish and the flavour combinations.

The last dish they ordered was the Snapper, Warrigal Greens, Tendons – the pan-seared snapper fillet sits at the base of the dish, amongst a soup of jus and covered with warrigal greens and finished with beef tendons that are reminiscent of a prawn cracker – as it has the same crispy coating and texture.

When I arrived the waitress we had was very helpful and talked me through the menu as well as answering any questions that I had. She even gave me suggestions as to what dishes she would recommend. As I was starving I ordered both an entrée and a main – she was nice enough to get me the entrée in quick time to ensure that my main came out at the same time everyone else at the table did. Love the service!

For the Entrée I ordered the Crab, Salmorejo, Chilli, Black Pepper to start. When the dish appears you can’t help but utter “oohs” and “ahhs”. There is vibrant orange colour of the Salmorejo that your eyes are immediately drawn to with a fresh green leaf placed delicately on top. Under this leafy green is the hidden mound of crab goodness. The crab was fresh mixed with celery and a mayonnaise type sauce. The Salmorejo was a brilliant mix of pepper, tomato and creaminess and together with the crab was one delicious dish. A must try.
For my main I ordered the Cavatelli, Pumpkin, Goats Cheese on recommendation from our friendly waitress – and am I glad she did. I had asked her what Cavatelli was and she replied with the perfect description – “If gnocchi and a tortellini had a baby – cavatelli is what you would get” – and she was entirely correct. The flavours of this dish were simply divine – the creamy pumpkin sauce with a hint of spice coupled with the silky goats cheese and the crunchy texture of the pine nuts. The cavatelli was not entirely soft but added the perfect addition to the smoothness of the other ingredients. This was my first cavatelli experience and boy was it an enjoyable one!

C ordered the Pork, Lime Pickle, Silverbeet dish. When the dish arrives you are greeted with a shroud of fresh green silverbeet and the anticipation builds up of what is underneath. Once you peek under you are greeted first by the bright orange baby carrots which sit atop of the pork. The nettle puree acts as the base together with the lime pickle. C got thru his dish in a ridiculous amount of time – clearly enjoying the dish A LOT!

V ordered the Whole Baby Barramundi, Lemon Parsley and H the Whole Sand Flathead, Caper Beurre Noisette. Both dishes were simply presented – allowing the fish and their flavours to speak for themselves. The fish was placed on the plate alongside half a lemon and topped with parsley and capers respectively. They both enjoyed the freshness and simplicity of the flavours which allowed the natural fish flavours to shine.

L ordered the Duck, Satay, Turnips. Once again the element of surprise was used in the plating up of this dish – with thin slices of turnip topped with peanuts, providing cover for the duck that was shielded underneath, sitting in a satay flavoured sauce. L thought this dish was average – and found that the overall flavouring of the dish somewhat masked the flavours of the duck.

A few of us still had room for dessert. I ordered the Jaggery Cake, Apricots, Double Cream. The dish came out looking nothing like what I had imagined. My first thoughts was that it looked like something I would find at the beach – sea sponge with green dustings of seaweed. However once you start eating this dessert your mind will be blown –the jaggery cake is crunchy and fluffy billows of sponge made with prune sugar, topped with cream. But wait there’s more – semi dried apricots appear hidden underneath added additional sweetness and tang to the dish. A unique dessert that you definitely won’t find anywhere else.

C ordered the Chocolate, Cardamon, Crunch – which was described to us “Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate” – and that is exactly what it was. The dessert is presented to you and then followed by rich chocolate sauce being drizzled out of a copper pot. There are bursts of citrus through the chocolate biscuit and creamy yet light chocolate moussed with a mix of hot and cold sensations – pure awesomeness!

The staff are superb – friendly and very helpful – they make the running of a restaurant despite the crowds look easy. The menu is a mix of adventurous and simple dishes – both of which are simply done well. The look and feel of the place is cheeky whilst maintaining a welcoming and relaxed vibe. Mister Jennings is definitely a place that I would recommend to anyone looking for a great food and flavour journey – and one that I will be returning to!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience:
Standout Dish: Cavatelli, Pumpkin, Goats Cheese
Service: Fantastic! Super friendly, helpful and knowledgeable as well as being relaxed, warm and welcoming.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.misterjennings.com.au
142 Bridge Road, Richmond
Tel No: 9078 0113

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Friday & Saturday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Mister Jennings on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MisterJenningsRichmond
Twitter: @_MisterJennings
Instagram:_misterjennings

The Kettle Black – Next Level Cafe

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Drinks Menu Food Menu Drinks Menu

Leading up to and in the just the few days that The Kettle Black had opened there been a lot of hype surrounding it – from the visual spectacle of the venue to the highly anticipated crayfish roll and of course, the delicious coffee. So of course I had to go and check it out for myself.

I decided to go during lunchtime (a late lunch around 2pm) as it is a short 10 minute tram ride from work. The Kettle Black is located on Albert Road in South Melbourne – a short walk from Domain Interchange. As you make your approach to The Kettle Black you are greeted by the white visual spectacle – a combination of a grand old Victorian building together with the ground floor of an Elenberg Fraser designed residential complex – 21 storeys in fact (!) – called Fifty Albert.

This magnificent -must try place – is brought to you by the team who are responsible for places like Top Paddock, Two Birds One Stone! Jesse McTavish (chef from Top Paddock) together with Top Paddock owner Nathan Coleman, along with business partners Ben Clark and Diamond Rozakeas, as well as Tim James (Two Birds One Stone) and Sam King (ex De Clieu). What a team! Coleman is in charge of the running the floor with King in charge of the coffee side of things.

The fit out is designed by the awesome twosome Kestie Lane and Hana Hakim from the quirky cool design company Studio You Me. They have brought two very different worlds seamlessly together using white walls, green Italian tiles as well a marble and brass detailing. The breathtakingly beautiful building begins with an outside eatery area located in front of the Victorian terrace. As you enter the venue there is a coffee cart where you can purchase takeaway coffees whilst you wait. Once you step inside you are greeted by a hotel like reception / cashier desk / sweet counter – there are a selection of sweet treats on display for you to choose from including the melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts from Doughboy Donuts.
From here the interior splits into two halves – the left side sits in the converted apartment block and is complete with a modern vibe, high ceilings (which is simply stunning and has a great effect thanks to a method of layering of white tiles against each other), fresh sunlight streaming in – thanks to the floor to ceiling windows – as well as an emerald green tiled and marble barista station. There is also the striking porthole-like wall which is a highlight in this room. The right side sits in the Victorian terrace side has a more homely feel complete with gold and brass trimmings (a very interesting looking light fitting that is reminiscent of two gold earrings), flowers and arched windows.
Another highlight that I saw whilst waiting for my table was the unique watering station – which consisted of a stone base with a gold sink and finished black tap ware with small square tiles in the background. Tables are wooden and there are mixtures of low tables, as well as one tall communal table. You can sit at the barista marble bar as well – with the look finished with green stools. What is also great is the addition of flowers in bottles throughout the venue – adds colour and class to the already classy venue.

The menu by McTavish is focussed on using mainly Victorian produce – or Australian when Victorian isn’t possible. The relishes and butter are made in house with bread supplied from Burnham Beeches, Wallaby from Flinders Island, Steak from Robbins Island, Seafood from King Island and house-fermented yoghurt. Coffee (espresso) is a custom blend from 5 Senses, as well as a rotating single origin. Filter coffee is sourced from specialists such as Small Batch and Market Lane. Another interesting fact to note is that The Kettle Black makes their own compost which they then use to grow their own leaves, herbs and flowers in their greenhouses and gardens.
Drinks include Cold Press Juices (there are two to choose from) as well as Fresh Juices (Orange or Ruby Grapefruit). There are also a selection of bottled drinks as well as Ice Chocolate and Iced Coffee available, as well as Tea.

The food menu comprises of a unique take on your normal breakfast dishes – there are a variety of combinations that are served with eggs that you wouldn’t usually see such as Chilli Scrambled Eggs with Air Dried Flinders Island Wallaby or Tataki Ocean Trout with Raw Kale, Seaweed Salad and Poached Eggs. The famous hotcakes – that are served in Top Paddock – have made their place here on The Kettle Black menu. There is also Polenta Porridge, Fruit Toast, Muesli and House-Made Coconut Yoghurt. More food is available that strikes me as a lunch offering, however this isn’t stated – items like Kingfish with Potato Crisps, Robbins Island Wagyu Skirt Steak served on the Kettle Black Bun, Mixed Beans, Burrata and the famously known King Island Crayfish Roll.

Even during a late lunch hour – there was still a list of people wanting a table. I had a wait time of about 10-12 minutes. You don’t really feel the wait time as there is a lot that too look at and observe or even order a takeaway coffee from the coffee cart. I was seated at the marble bar, perched on a stool that allowed me to observe the coffees as they were cranked out. I ordered a latte whilst deciding on what I should eat.

The latte arrived shortly after and was delicious! It is definitely one of the best coffees I have had this year (refer to my Coffee page for their rating at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/coffee-worlds-best-pick-me-up/). The coffee was strong with notes of caramel mixed together with floral and a hint of citrus at the end. The after taste was creamy and memorable. I would happily make the trek from work on the tram just to have this coffee.

After much consideration I decided to order the King Island Crayfish in an Ash Roll with Native Coastal Spinach, Lime & Yuzu Mayonnaise. The Crayfish Roll comes served on a heavy stone curved square plate, with a lime wedge placed next to it. It is visually stunning especially against the grey backdrop of the stone. The ash roll is clearly evident together with the fresh smell of crayfish emanating through preparing your taste-buds. The green and purple of the native coastal spinach as well as the addition of the yellow flowers brings the whole dish together.
The bun was soft, warm and delicious. The crayfish was oozing freshness and flavour and was perfectly poached. The mayonnaise was tangy and full of all the right flavours, which brought the whole dish together, however I would have liked more mayonnaise in my bun. Overall, the dish was good but I wasn’t blown away as I had expected to be from all the rave reviews of the crayfish bun – it almost felt like an extra ingredient was needed to add more depth and flavour.

I also decided I needed to end on something sweet – so I ordered the House-made Coconut Yoghurt with Gluten-Free Grains, Seeds & Nuts, Toorak Station Prickly Pear, Rhubarb, Citrus Powders, Fruits and Flowers. The presentation of this dish was beautiful – too beautiful to the point that a part of me didn’t want to touch it – and reminded me of a flower garden bed. Served on a glossy black plate which allowed the white coconut yoghurt to really shine through and topped with the spectacular bright colours of the watermelon, strawberry, blueberries and assorted flowers, finished with citrus powders. The yoghurt was smooth, creamy and the perfect balance of the coconut flavours flowing through. I loved that the grains were hidden under the fruit – it made for a great surprise with every mouthful. The components of the dish worked extremely well together and the mix of flavours were tasty. My only criticism would be that the watermelon didn’t have the crunch and freshness I expected.

The staff are super friendly and accommodating in any way they can. The Kettle Black is one of those places that you will find yourself coming back to and when people ask me for a brunch place that I would recommend – this is the first place I tell them.

The Kettle Black exudes class, style and swank all without the attitude and pretense. The venue is delightful and a visual spectacle that is must see yet the atmosphere remains relaxed, lively and fun. The menu has been carefully designed and the dishes will get your taste buds pumping. The presentation is excellent and the coffee top notch. Come and see for yourself.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Breathtaking and Spectacular Venue – with a relaxed, carefree, lively and fun atmosphere. Definitely one to bring people from overseas or interstate – anyone really!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, accommodating and welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://thekettleblack.com.au/
50 Albert Road, South Melbourne
Tel No: 9088 0721

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kettle-Black/707633809303415
Twitter: @kettleblackcafe
Instagram:
kettleblackcafe

The Kettle Black on Urbanspoon

Popol Nah – Latin American in Carlton

panda 3.5 rating

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After the footy one evening N & I needed a place for dinner and decided to venture to the Carlton area. We used to frequent this area quite a bit back in the uni days, but as of late this hasn’t been the case. Carlton (Lygon Street in particular) is best known for its abundance of Italian restaurants filled with pizzas, pastas and gelatos – and lesser known for other cuisines such as Thai, Latin American or even Modern Australian. I had come across Popol Nah a Latin American fusion restaurant located at the city end of Lygon Street and decided to try it out on this night.

Popol Nah – which can be roughly translated to “The Peoples House” occupies a medium sized space – set amongst the Italian competition of course – and has an interesting design element to it. There are wooden planks running along one wall, overlapping each other in a haphazard style that oozes creativeness along with a modern version of a moose head. On the other is a textured crinkled white wall, together with two antlers hanging. There are large sticks placed in a vase of water which is located at the bar. Quirky, fun and a tad bit strange but it works. There is a communal table at the front of the main dining area, along with wooden tables that seat from two to larger parties. There is also seating at the front on Lygon street itself, as well as small courtyard at the back. Popol Nah can seat around 80 people. The interior is created by Peter Strateas and Mario Luca Carlucci of Strateas (a Brunswick based label). Popol Nah is open 7 days a week for both brunch and dinner.

The menu is created by New York based, Honduran born Cali Rivera and constitutes of South American and Latin fusion cuisine. The dinner menu is split into three sections – Chicos (Small dishes), Intermedio (In Between dishes) and ends with Carnes (Meats). There is also a Desserts menu with a selection of 5 different dishes such as Dulce de Leche, Rice Pudding, Chocolate Cake and Poached Quince just to name a few. There is also a Brunch Menu available which is split into 7 sections – Licuados (Smoothies), Huevos (Eggs) – you can choose from Baked Eggs or Scrambled Eggs, Ensaladas (Salads) – you can choose from two different vegetarian salads such as Mixed Seasonal Fruit with Mint and Ginger or Zucchini, Kale, Cucumber and Pickled Veggies, Bocadillos (Sandwiches), Empanadas (Baked Pasties) – there is a vegetarian option – chickpea, sweet potato, silver beet with crème fresca or one with chorizo and potato with coriander mayo, Anafres (Hot Plates) – which constitute of cheese fondue and lastly Mas Comida (More Food) – which have dishes such as Lamb & Beef Meatballs, Patatas Bravas and Prawn skewers.

There is also an extensive drinks menu – from Sangrias, Cocktails to a variety of Wines – from countries like Spain, Chile, Argentina and Australia – to an interesting selection of non-alcoholic drinks. Carolyn Brown the sommelier has a great understanding and knowledge of drinks and has put together a great selection. I decided to try the Chicha Morada – a non-alcoholic drink which had Purple Corn, Pineapple, Cinnamon and Cloves. The drink was purple in colour – due to the use of purple corn of course. I have never had purple corn before – but I think that it essentially tastes the same as yellow corn but has better health benefits and a higher amount of antioxidants. The combination of pineapple, cinnamon and cloves made for an interesting taste – not too sweet with spicy hints. It was a non-alcoholic version of a sangria and I really enjoyed it.

The first dish we ordered was the Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa – Chorizo and Potato in Baked Pastry with Coriander Mayo. N really enjoyed this – the pastry was crisp, crunchy and tasty on the outside with the chorizo and potato filling on the inside flavoursome and light. The mayo was creamy and a delicious addition.

I ordered the Ceviche De Camaron – Carribean Style Ceviche – Shrimp, Red Onion, Lime, Coriander, Tomato and Chips. The combination of ingredients was refreshing – I especially liked the addition of the coriander and lime. My favourite part of this dish was the chips – they were crispy, crunchy and tasted delicious. They had just the right amount of seasoning and worked well with the ceviche. I also liked the presentation of the dish – it came out in a stone mortar and pestle and the way in which the ceviche and chips were positioned reminded me of a bouquet of flowers.

The last dish we ordered was the Cordero Ranchero – Slow Cooked Lamb Shank in Spicy Tomato, Fresh And Dried Peppers with Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad. The lamb was cooked beautifully and fell off the bone – just what you want from a dish like this. The sauce looked spicy and N said it did have a hint of spice to it. I tried the Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad – which was fresh, flavoured with a tang as well as a hint of chilli – the perfect combination. The dish was presented well again – the contrast of the blue background of the rectangular plate against the bright browny red sauce was magnificent.

The service of the staff is great – everyone that served us was really friendly and happy to offer us suggestions and ensure we had everything we needed.

The brunch menu looks really interesting and I will definitely be back to try out some of their dishes. The décor is interesting and very different to anything you would normally find on Lygon Street. Head down and check out some great tasting South American fusion food.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – For the Brunch, Dinner and Drinks menu refer to http://popolnah.com.au/?cat=2
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Interesting, Unique and Funky. Great relaxed feel.
Standout Dish: Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Warm
Online Booking: No, but Popol Nah takes bookings.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://popolnah.com.au/
171 Lygon Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9347 3293

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 11:30am – 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 11:30am – 11:00pm
Sunday: 11:30am – 10:00pm

Popol Nah on Urbanspoon