Saigon Sally – Out of this World Vietnamese

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Saigon Sally

E was sadly bidding Melbourne adieu and we organized a dinner at Saigon Sally. Saigon Sally is the proud bigger sister of Hanoi Hannah – both located in the Prahran area. Hannoi Hannah is more of a Vietnamese hawker style eatery – a place where you can grab a quick bite to eat, whereas Saigon Sally has a great selection of Vietnamese favourites as well as a variety of wines, cocktails, mocktails and offers a great dining experience. Another plus point is that they take bookings!

Saigon Sally is opened by Simon Blacher, Paul Nguyen, Nick Coulter and Will Newton, together with Adrian Li (ex Donovan) as Head Chef and Tom Stonnill (ex Transit Bar) as Bartender.

From the moment you step into Saigon Sally – you need a minute to take it all in – there is loads of colour and atmosphere present. There is grand bar that is central to the entire venue – wooden and back lit and finished with colourful offerings on top (be it flowers, straws, cups or their colourful menus). What grabs your eye next is the lavish mural artwork of an Asian woman smoking by Michelle Lee, with the smoke from her cigarette swirling onto the concrete ceilings. The back wall is complete with various pictures of Vietnamese ladies in an array of poses. As you walk in to the left is a real life rickshaw filled with various paraphernalia, adding to the funky vibe and feel. What has been done with the space is fantastic and you feel as if you have been transported to another part of the world where you want to spend hours in.

There are a number of seating options available – a large communal table located under the stairs, banquet seating located one at the front of the venue and the second being at the back of the venue, as well as seating around the bar and there are a few tables for 2 located along the mural wall. Tables are wooden with a dash of colour thanks to Saigon Sally’s colourful menu that sits on top. Plates and cutlery – which includes chopsticks of course – is already set out as well. There was 6 of us on this night and we were seated in the back banquet – which suited the size of our group well as we could all comfortably talk and see each other.

We started off by ordering a mix of cocktails and mocktails. I ordered a mocktail which had lychee and passionfruit flavours finished with a purple orchid – I loved the colour contrast between the yellow of the drink and the purple of the flower. Due to the drink being simply delicious I don’t have a picture of it. M ordered the Boom Boom Mojito (Flor de caña white rum chili, viet-mint, kaffir lime leaf, lemon­grass, lime ginger syrup & soda) which came served with a fan of apple pieces, a circular slice of lemon and mint leaves to the side. The other cocktail L ordered had the main ingredient of Pandan – hence its strong green colour which she seemed to enjoy as well.

The menu created by Adrian Li is all about the home-style food which is made for sharing. Each dish takes the traditional Vietnamese dish pieces it together with modern techniques to produce a memorable tasting end product, each balancing the five elements of Vietnamese cuisine – sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. The menu is split into Small, Medium, Large, Sides and Desserts. There is also a “Feed Me” option for $59 per person (minimum 2 people required) which allows you to sample the chef’s favourites. There are around 6 to 9 dishes under each category to choose from.

Even though the menu is made for sharing – we decided to get our own dishes as we were quite hungry. We did however order the Prawn Pandanus – Smoked Prawn, Kaffir Lime, Tamarind & Sesame Caramel – to share. These come out in a serving size of 4 and are wrapped in a crisp pandan leaf – which we told by the waiter that you aren’t meant to eat, but to unwrap this pandan leaf and enjoy the prawn fritter and then eat it. The prawn fritter itself was delicious – semi crunchy on the outside – light and fluffy and flavour filled on the inside with the lovely tones of kaffir lime and tamarind. The sauce that came with the dish provided a sweet element to the whole dish which exemplified the prawn flavour. A great dish.

T ordered the Vietnamese Chicken Coleslaw – Black Bean Poached Chicken, Crisp Vermicelli and Peanuts. This dish comes out with the colourful mix of the tender poached chicken, bean shoots, carrot, Asian basil, peanuts and pickles sitting atop of the crisp white vermicelli. There are a multitude of textures and flavours that intrigue your senses. The flavours of the black bean sauce together with the subtle hint of spice and sweetness from the carrots work well together.

E and I both order the Saigon Chilli Crabs – Soft Shell Crabs, Tomato, Black Bean, Lime, Chilli & Basil. I absolutely loved this dish and it has to be one of the best crab dishes I have eaten. The crab was cooked to perfection – providing a soft and delicate crunch that was filled with delightful crab on the inside. The creamy mayo sauce was another highlight – it had a mixture of saltiness, spice and freshness to it. Together with the other elements of coriander, chilli, basil and cucumber the dish worked well together, with the flavouring spot on. I would highly recommend this dish to anyone.

V ordered the Grilled Quail – Stuffed with Sticky Rice, Spring Onion, Shitake and Lup Cheung. This was a pretty looking dish with the Quail being the centre piece of the dish with Chilli, sprigs of flowers and Onions placed around it. The Qauil looked amazing in all its glazed glory – with a touch of barbequing to provide a crisp skin. The stuffing mix of rice, spring onion, mushroom and Chinese sausage worked well with the flavours of the quail.

M ordered the Grilled Ocean Trout – Tumeric, Dill, Mustard Leaf, Ginger, Jalapeno and Banh Hoi. The trout had been wrapped and cooked in a pandan leaf which enhanced the flavours of the trout. The trout itself was cooked well and remained soft and tender, topped with tumeric, cubes of ginger and jalapeno – which added extra flavour and spice. Banh Hoi which is a Vietnamese dish consisting of rice vermicelli that has been woven into intricate bundles and topped with onions was to the side of the side along with a mixed salads consisting of mustard leaves and other mixed greens.

L asked me what she should order from the menu and I picked out the Shaking Beef Rib – Pho Glazed Short Rib, Crispy Onions, Watercress and Lemon. I was interested in the name of the dish – just what did they mean by “Shaking” beef rib? Later I understood that in Vietnamese the term “luc lac” translates to the word “shaking” and it represents the tossing of the beef back and forth in the wok after it has been seared. There are various ways in which to represent the traditional Bo Luc Lac dish and Saigon Sally does a great interpretation. The beef comes out along with the huge rib bone and sits on top of the watercress, onion, cucumber and coriander salad and is topped with sesame and chilli with a wedge of lemon. The beef was tender and had punchy flavours.

Despite being quite full from each of our dishes we did opt to try out some desserts – reading the dessert list gave us enough temptation and incentive. “Happy Endings” are made at the bar and if you score a spot at the bar you can watch as pastry chef Felix Goodwin prepares desserts.

We order the Banh Bo Nut – Vietnamese Doughnut, Salted Galangal, Caramel & Toasted Coconut Sorbet. These come served a dish which is reminiscent of an off-shaped boat, with 5 doughnut balls in place served with coconut sorbet and finished with a colourful cocktail umbrella. The doughnuts themselves are melt in your mouth delicious! They are served warm, with sugar crusting on the outside providing a crisp texture which works well against the fluffy insides. The salted galangal and caramel sauce adds a sticky texture and provides some extra sweetness, with the coconut sorbet provided a cool hit with a creamy flavour. A delicious dessert!

Next up we ordered the Tira-Ma-Sally -Macaron, Vietnamese Coffee Parfait, Condensed Milk & Peanut Brittle which is the house specialty. These come out looking like your normal everyday sandwich that you would expect to see in your lunch boxes – cut into triangles – but you could not be more wrong. They are far from just normal – they are out of this world amazing! What it is – two triangles of almond Macaron “bread” that is layered with strong, vibrant coffee parfait, condensed milk and peanut brittle. I am not a huge fan of peanut butter – but there was only a slight hint of the peanut taste. The ice cream layer had hints of caramel amongst it which served as a pleasant surprise. This is a definite must try – it’s a pity they don’t give you four pieces instead of two!

From the red glow as you step inside to the colorfulness on the inside Saigon Sally is a must visit place. The food stays true to the Vietnamese basics whilst adding a modern twist which produces great tasting and looking dishes. The concepts – from the unique and interestingly named drinks menu down to the “Happy Ending” desserts is fantastic. The staff are friendly, helpful and the vibe is trendy, inviting, vibrant and fun. As you step outside, don’t forget to check out the laneway filled with colourful street art, hanging lanterns and pairs of shoes. It serves as a great backdrop for photos or just to stare at awe in.

NOTE: Saigon Sally does cater for functions – refer to their website for further information about packages.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$S
Menu – Refer to picture above or look at http://www.saigonsally.com.au/SaigonSally_Menu_001.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Funky, Fun and Welcoming. A place where you could have a lot of fun! If you are looking to host your next function there is information available on their website – http://www.saigonsally.com.au/Saigon_Sally_Function_Menu001.pdf
Standout Dish: Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Fun
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.saigonsally.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.saigonsally.com.au/
2 Duek Street ,Windsor
Tel No: 9939 5181

Opening Hours:
Mon to Thu 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Fri to Sat 6:00 pm – 1:00 am
Sun 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Saigon Sally on Urbanspoon

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Hooked – Delicious Tasting Healthy Seafood

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Menu at Hooked Lunch Menu at Hooked Specials Menu at Hooked

Hooked is the brainchild of Ray Good and has been around for a while now serving healthy seafood – in three different branches – Fitzroy, Windsor and its newest branch in Hawthorn. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out their latest branch.

The fit-out is exactly what you would expect to find beach-side with a modern twist – white rustic wooden panels combined with white washed exposed brick walls. There is a large communal table at the centre of the venue, surrounded by wooden tables which largely seat parties of two. To the right along the wall are sailor striped booth style seats and a lifebuoy with the inscription – Hooked – In Cod we Trust – further adding to the seaside vibe. Painted on the brick wall as you walk in is a mural of a blue grenadier, further on the wall is a painting of a diver complete with a diving suit – something for you to admire whilst you await your food. These extra touches, together with the friendly smiles of the staff behind the counter complete the warm and welcoming feel.

The menu is located on top the counter which you order from – which is reminiscent of a your local fish and chip store. There are a plethora of selections to decide from. There is a Seafood section from which you can order House Fish (either Grilled or Lightly Tempura Battered) or Calamari (Grilled or Salt & Pepper Battered) both served with either Hand Cut Chips OR Rice & Asian Greens OR Salad. There are Boxes available – Box for One (1 House Fish, 6 Calamari), Box for Two (2 House Fish, 8 Calamari, 2 King Prawns) and a Kids Box (Fish Bites or Calamari with Rice or Mini Chips and Juice Box or Water – with a side salad). The two Boxes also come with the same option of Hand Cut Chips, Rice & Asian Greens or Salad.

There are also 3 different burgers to choose from – Hooked Fish Burger, Seared Tuna Burger and a Veggie Burger. If you are feeling like something different maybe you can try out their Taco and Burrito Menu (Fish Burrito) – with two selections of tacos – Baja Fish and Grilled Prawn. If Salads is more your thing – there are three delicious sounding salads to choose from – The Hooked Salad, Superfood Salad – think quinoa, broccoli, spinach, sunflower seeds etc and an Asian Slaw.

There are also specials that you can have during Lunch hours, as well as a Fisherman’s Soup all for $10.95. You can also buy Extras if you want to add to your meal – such as Chips, Prawns, Scallops. In addition to this are their Home Made Sauces – Dill & Caper Tartare, Sambal, Salsa Verde or Sweet Chili. What’s great is that they give you a recommendation as to which sauce works well with a particular dish. For example the Sambal is delicious with grilled fish with rice or salad. There are also Gluten Free options available. Drinks include the usual soft drinks, Charlies range of fresh juices as well as Phoenix New Zealand Organic drinks.

I decided to order the Box for One – and chose Grilled Fish and Salt & Pepper Calamari, as well as Rice & Asian Greens, with Sambal sauce on the side (I went with the recommended salsa – but was keen also to try the sauce). The dish comes out served on a large white round plate, with the seafood on the one side and the rice and Asian greens on the other with the salsa and a slice of lemon in the middle of the two. The house fish they serve is blue grenadier – the fish was fresh, white, fleshy and cooked to perfection and tasted absolutely delicious – you really don’t need the addition of anything else. The fish remained succulent and juicy which was another win. The rice has a mix of sweet and savory flavours – thanks to the combination of soy, kecap manis together with a dash of sesame oil. The grains are separate – just the way I like my rice. The Asian Greens are blanched and lightly sautéed – keeping in theme of being healthy whilst being the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the dish. The Calamari was another standout – I loved the lightly battered salt and pepper tempura flavouring. There wasn’t a thick layer of batter rather a light covering, which allowed you to enjoy the freshness of the calamari and also made for a less greasy dish overall.

S ordered the Superfood Salad (Quinoa, Broccoli, Rocket, Spinach, Semi Dried Tomatoes, Peas, Mint, Toasted Pumpkin, Sunflower Seeds & Sesame Seeds finished with a drizzle of Yoghurt Lemon Dressing) with a side of House Fish together with the Salsa Verde sauce. We shared our dish with each other so I got to sample some of her Superfood salad. Once again the salad had a combination of refreshing flavours and crunchy textures which was finished off well thanks to the yoghurt lemon dressing. S liked the salad so much that since then she has tried to replicate this at home. The Salsa Verde sauced packed a punch of flavours with coriander being the main character and was quite delicious.

Hooked prides itself on producing healthy food with the key factors being highlighted – low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein and rich in Omega 3. This is thanks to the use of cholesterol free cottonseed oil in all their cooking. Their chips are freshly hand cut from Gippsland potatoes each and every day, and cooked from scratch using cottonseed oil. A fun fact to note is that Hooked will not serve any flake – after all it isn’t a fish!

Hooked has created a modern day healthier version of your local fish and chip shop – which includes an inviting ambiance and vibe that makes you feel like you have just spent a day at the beach. Together with friendly and warm service, delicious tasting food and funky décor – it should be next on your list to visit!

Note: Students can receive a 10% discount (Monday to Thursday 11:30am – 5pm)
Another thing to note is that the Fitzroy and Windsor branches are fully licensed, with the Hawthorn Alcohol License coming soon!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to above pictures or check out http://www.hooked.net.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Warm, Inviting and Beach-like
Standout Dish: House fish & Calamari, Superfood Salad
Service: Friendly and Welcoming as well as prompt – we were surprised at how quickly our food came out, despite being quite full.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/hawthorn/
669 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
Tel No: 9939 4412

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon

Other Branches
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/fitzroy/                                                               http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/windsor/
384 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy                                                                                         172 Chapel Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9417 7740                                                                                                               Tel No: 9529 1075

Opening Hours:                                                                                                              Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm                                                                      Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm                                                                       Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon                                                                                                      Hooked on Urbanspoon

 

Charlie Dumplings – Dumplings with a Twist

panda 4.5 rating

We had to organise a catch-up dinner in an area that was inner city with food that catered for vegetarians on a Monday night and ended up deciding on Charlie Dumpling. I had heard a lot of good things about this newly opened place located in High St, Windsor.

As you assume by the name – Charlie Dumpling – this venue by Dylan Roberts (ex Claremont Tonic, Ezard, Cutler & Co.) and restaurant manager Jamie Munro-Lynch (Anada, Cutler & Co, Circa) is all about the dumplings – but with a twist – and also serves up other delicious and interestingly flavoured bites to eat. Do not expect to see dumplings coming out in bamboo steamers here – instead you get beautiful rustic plates to match the vibe and feel of the venue. The fit-out is intriguing – complete with a feature wall of multi coloured window shutters (which is reminiscent of Potatohead in Bali) and rather funky – as well exposed brick walls, fishing nets – which have been turned into light shades (a very smart idea) and funky lights that hang over the bar. The design is by renowned architects DC Group & Newline Design and the result is a simple yet cosy and chilled vibe.

There is a selection of dining possibilities from tables in the front main dining area, stools at the bar, along the outside footpath or the courtyard area out the back – in total Charlie Dumpling can seat 60 people. There is also a private dining room located upstairs for 14-16 people which can be booked for functions as well. Another option is takeaway – you can order in advance via a handy app to save time.

The menu is split into 4 main sections – Small Bites, Salads & Noodles, Savoury Dumplings and Sweet Dumplings. The drinks menu has Dessert Cocktails, Cocktails, Beer (Tap – there is only one tap beer – Orion & Bottled) and Wines (Red & White). Small Bites include things like Edamame, two different types of Bao, Duck Leg, Grilled Skewers, Chicken Ribs, Sashimi – just to name a few. The menu also lets you know which of the dishes are Gluten Free and which are Vegetarian which avoids having to ask the wait staff to tell you which dishes are of these category.

Whilst deciding on what we wanted to eat – we ordered drinks. On this night however the beer on tap wasn’t available. I ordered myself a mocktail – I left the flavouring up to the bar tender and was pleasantly surprised when it came out to be lychee based – my favourite! The mocktail was refreshing and delicious – and quite large in size as well – double bonus!

There are 6 of us for dinner tonight, and we are seating by the window – so we get the best of both worlds – looking into the restaurant as well as out onto the street. The seating is a tad bit squishy I must admit, however this is a small negative. We decide to order a couple of dishes to share to start off with and decide later to order more if we need. We have a vegetarian on the table, as well as a Pescatarian so we had a selection of dumplings that cover these dietary requirements. Also something to note is that dumplings come in servings of 4 pieces per serving. There are sauces on the table which include Black Vinegar & Chilli, Soy, Shallot & Ginger and Red Nam Jin.

To start with we ordered the Charlies Fried Chicken Ribs, Five Spice Honey, Kewpie from the Small Bites section. The ribs came out piled on top of each other in a pyramid form looking glossy and exuding deliciousness. There was a resounding “mmm” and “yumm” around the table as each person took their first bite, followed by S saying she wanted another serving straight away. They were that good – a mix of sweet and savoury with chicken that was cooked to perfection.

We then got the succession of dumplings that we ordered. The Crispy Salmon, Tobbiko, Leek and Tumeric were the first dumplings I got to try. These dumplings were fried and had a crunchy coating of crumbs on the outside with the inside mixture providing a flavour hit for your taste-buds – the salmon flavour ringing true whilst staying fresh. The Leak and Tumeric puree together with the Tobbiko was what the dumplings were sitting on – this added a creamy aspect to the dish and worked well with the crumbed texture.

The Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean – these were steamed dumplings. These reminded me of a Thai Fishcake – juicy, full of flavour with a hint of spice – and finished with a spicy soy sauce and chilli combo. A really great tasting dumpling overall – I have never had a snapper dumpling before and wasn’t sure that this mixture would work – but it really does!

P ordered the Ricotta dumplings, Cauliflower, Anise, Gai Lan as she was vegetarian and I was lucky enough to sample some. My first thought when I looked at the dish was that it was reminiscent of a gnocchi or pasta dish. There were about 8-9 dumplings, as they were not your regular dumpling. This was quite a heavy dish but really tasty – the combination of ricotta and cauliflower worked well together, added with the crunch and texture of the slivered almonds as well as the freshness of the gai lan.

The Chicken, Ginger, Cabbage and Crispy Skin was a really interesting dumpling dish. They each came wearing a “hat” in the form of the crispy skin. The filling was once again juicy, light, flavoured with ginger and wrapped in the cabbage leaf – providing a mix of textures. This was a dish that everyone around the table enjoyed.

The last of the dumplings to arrive was the Steam Prawn and Bamboo Shoot, Har Gow, Sweet Corn, XO. These came out as glossy morsels complete with a tender filling which was simple and what you would expect from a steam prawn dumpling, but the twist of the sweet corn puree which it sat on was a brilliant addition . The sweetness combined with the chilli and prawn flavours was divine!

We also ordered the Spicy Dandan Noodles, Sesame, Szechuan, Peanuts and Pickled Chilli from the Salad & Noodle section to share with the table. The dish comes out un mixed – with the noodles forming the base of the dish, and each of the components placed separately on top – just like what you see at a ramen restaurant. There were peanuts, poppy seeds, chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, fried onions and coriander. I like this concept where you get to mix the ingredients into the dish yourself – kind of a do-it-yourself – makes you feel as if you made the dish yourself – almost! And another plus is that if you don’t like any one component you can avoid mixing it in.
The dish was spicier than I was expecting – and the addition of the poppy seeds left a tingling sensation on your lips. I quite enjoyed the dish and the different flavours that were mixed together – I wasn’t a huge fan of the addition of peanuts though. There was a resounding thumbs up for this dish from the entire table.

As I always do – I had looked at the dessert section before even looking at what was available for the main meals – I couldn’t wait to order dessert. I had heard great things about the Milk Chocolate dumplings. We ordered the Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet AND the Hot Apple and Sesame Mochi, Gingernut Ice Cream.

The Milk Chocolate dumplings were delicious – warm balls that have been batter dipped then deep fried, filled with gooey milk chocolate, topped with sugar and finished with a raspberry chilli sorbet. The sorbet was refreshing and bursting with flavour and tang, with the chilli hint at the end. This combination of creamy sweet chocolate mixed with the refreshing tang was impeccable.

The Hot Apple dumplings were entirely different to the milk chocolate dumplings. The apple filling was encased with the chewy mochi skins which were also topped with sesame seeds. The apple filling was warm, subtle and sweet, but I found the mochi skin was a bit too chewy. I loved the gingernut ice cream – there were pieces of gingernut throughout the ice cream which added both texture and extra flavour. The dish needed both the ice cream and the hot apple dumpling together – I think one without the other wouldn’t work.

The service at Charlie Dumpling was fantastic – everyone we had was really friendly and helpful and always had a smile on their face. I liked the fact that the staff had their own favourites and when we selected a dish they would add a comment of what they really liked about the dish. To end the meal when you get your bill – you get a bowl of fortune cookies as well – the fortunes inside might not be so great – but it is a great novelty idea.

Overall Charlie Dumpling is modern, sophisticated restaurant with a unique twist on the regular Asian Dumpling venue – a combination of street food meets fine dining. The vibe is funky, fun and lively and you can really find yourself getting lost in the world of dumplings. Charlie Dumpling really does stay true to its values and seems to always have a fun with a great attitude!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://charliedumpling.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2014/05/Charlie-Dumpling-Dine-In-Menu_12MAY14.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Chilled and Funky. Great for a dinner catchup with friends. You can also book a function in their private dining room too.
Standout Dish: Snapper, Chilli, Lime and Blackbean AND Milk Chocolate Dumplings with Raspberry-Chilli Sorbet
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and always with a smile. They are happy to provide recommendations as well!
Online Booking: No – they don’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://charliedumpling.com.au/
184 High Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9510 4213

Opening Hours:
Monday: 6pm – Late
Tuesday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm then 5:30pm – Late

Charlie Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Two Lost Boys – Brilliant Food & Coffee

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Breakfast Menu Lunch Menu

G and I headed to Two Lost Boys for brunch one Sunday and despite being quite busy didn’t have to wait long at all for a table. Two Lost Boys is café located in a small street, overlooking Windsor station – in Windsor (duh!) – by Justin Kony and Michael Almagor (ex Hobba and Dukes Coffee Roasters).

Despite being almost hidden away on Maddock street, the size of this café is impressive – from walking in from its ceiling to floor glass doors you are greeted by the central counter, which is located just to the left of the kitchen window – it almost deceives you with how big it actually is. This counter is definitely the star attraction – it uses recycled parts of vintage stained-glass doors (from Gumtree!) as its frame and is completed by the impressive Synesso coffee machine pumping out coffees for the patrons.

The feel of the place is fun, lively yet relaxed and happy. Thanks to the surrounding glass windows of the place – the place feel light, airy and welcoming. In terms of seating there is a communal table located directly right of the kitchen, with other seating located past the main counter to the left of the kitchen. There are wooden benches that you can perch yourself on along the wall of windows which overlooks the small street and Windsor station, with tables that seat from 2 to 4 people in the main dining area. There are also some tables located outside – great for a nice sunny day!

Coffee – both filter and espresso – comes from Monk Bodhi Dharma 0 an East St Kilda boutique roster, and they use Schulz Organic Farm milk, which is located in Timboon. You can choose from a house blend as well as two ever-changing single origin blends. There is also a good selection teas and juices.  I order a latte to start which was the pick me I needed – full bodied and had a mixture of a fruity and nutty taste, ending on a creamy note. Perfect!

The idea behind Two Lost boys is to create the perfect balance between great tasting coffees with emphasis on organic locally farmed produce, with the aim to create an environment where quality produce is of the upmost importance. That is such a great value to uphold to and I think the menu here at Two Lost Boys is a real testament to this. The menu has an All Day Breakfast, as well as a Lunch menu which can be served from 11:30am onwards. The chef is Moshe Ittah, and touches of his middle-eastern background can be seen in the menu.

The All Day Breakfast menu consists of the usual’s that you would expect to find but with a Two Lost Boys touch such as Toast, Fruit Bread, Porridge (Coconut Quinoa porridge served with fruit compote, mixed nuts and cinnamon spice), Avo Smash which is served with Labneh and topped with zaatar. There is also a choice of Stuffed Mushrooms, Two Lost Boy Fritters or Baked Eggs – with an option to change it up by adding a Mediterranean Sausage or extra chilli – love this option of adding extra chilli!

The Lunch menu consists of a soup of the day, as well as a selection of salads – salmon, cauliflower or chicken. There is the necessary burger dish which here is served on a brioche bun, as well as a selection of tasty sandwiches.

After much contemplation (I was deciding between the fritters, baked eggs and stuffed mushrooms) I settled for the Two Lost Boy Fritters – Sweet Potato and Beetroot Fritters with House-Cured Salmon Carpaccio, Spinach, Horseradish & Walnut Cream served with Two Poached Eggs. I love the fact that this dish comes with not one but TWO poached eggs. I loveee poached eggs and to have two with my fritters was brilliant. The dish comes out plated up beautifully – the square shaped corn fritter at the base, topped with poached eggs, spinach, salmon in the shape of a rose and a quinelle of horseradish & walnut cream. To start both the eggs were perfectly poached with the silky golden yolk in just the right consistency. I think this was a great interpretation of the usual fritters you find – the combination of sweet potato and beetroot worked well together especially combined with the tang and zestiness of the horseradish and walnut cream. A must try dish!

G ordered the Stuffed Mushroom – Ricotta Stuffed Mushroom with a Poached Egg, Spinach, Spiced Bread Crumbs, Prosciutto and Peperonata Served on Brioche Bread. G did enjoy her dish – the combination of the spice bread crumbs together with the saltiness and creaminess of the ricotta against the smooth mushroom was delicious. The textures and flavours were great – G did let me try some.

We also ordered the Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes – Pancakes with Berry Mascarpone, Fresh Blueberries, Topped with Berry Coulis to share. This was actually a generous sized dish and I am not sure how one could eat all this on their own – I am glad we decided to share this dish! There were 3 Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes piled up on top of each other in a pool of berry coulis, topped with fresh blueberries and mascarpone. The pancakes were light, fluffy and a dream to eat – the tanginess of the lemon worked well with the sweetness of the berries and the mascarpone.

 

The staff are friendly and vibrant, with the service being professional. I love their focus on building relationships with farmers and sourcing organic produce to prepare meals. The food is fresh, delicious and you can tell it is made with care. There are also house made sweet treats which are located at the main counter that can be purchased such as Alfajoes, Mixed Brownies, Mini Date and Oates Crumble just to name a few that were available on the day I visited.
Two Lost Boys is a hidden away gem off the hustle and bustle of Chapel Street, that is well worth your time and effort for a visit. The fit out is simple and welcoming and it really is a place that you could lose track of time in.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch menu – refer to Menu above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Relaxed
Standout Dish:
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.twolostboys.com.au/
20/2 Maddock Street , Windsor
Tel No: 9939 9313

Opening Hours:
Monday to  Friday: 6:30am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday – 8am – 4pm

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The Smith – Knickerbocker Glory

panda 4 rating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Smith on Urbanspoon

Morris Jones & Co – Sophisticated on Chapel

 panda 4.5 rating

A & I were catching up for dinner and decided to check out Morris Jones & Co – located in the Windsor end of Chapel Street in an 1887 heritage warehouse. Owned by Paul Kasteel and business partner Hayden Burbank and still houses the original signage on the exterior façade.

In its previous life, Morris Jones & Co was a furniture emporium – prior to that it has seen many different businesses such as an auto shop, hardware store and most recently a second hand clothing discount shop. The new fit out was inspired by the French 1960s actor Jean-Paul Belmondo with different parts of the venue representing his varying moods and outfits.

The team behind Attica and St Jude’s Cellars – Russell & George – are responsible for the revamping of this enormous space, creating several different drinking and dining areas across two levels and an outside courtyard – and they have done a remarkable job. The end result is elegant, classy and relaxed with the interior being moody and rustic together with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and dim lighting.

As you enter the venue you feel like you are transported into a sophisticated world. You are greeted by the massive bar which takes up the length of the venue and it located front and centre. If you turn right immediately as you enter you are in the area which is dubbed the Den – a Morris Jones’ hideaway. There are long black and white plaid seats together with mosaic tiled tables and colourful abstract artwork, and allows you to look at passers-by on the streets thru its floor to ceiling windows. Going back to the bar, to the left is the bar area and if you venture further an open garden room with views to the courtyard which is located at the rear. The courtyard is complete with a beautiful vertical garden,  together with long benches as well as high tables and finished with fake grass on the ground. To the right of the bar is the Main Dining Room – which is a large space that allows you to look into the kitchen. Here there are black leather club chairs with the colour palette being tan and black.

The menu here is created by Head Chef Matthew Butcher (ex Maze) – which showcases dishes that are European French meets Modern Australian. I love how the menu is written and showcased. The menu is split into different sections such as From the Garden, From the Land, From the Sea, From the Fire, On the Side and finishes with Sweet World and Cheese. Under each section there are a list of dishes – which is shown in diagrammatic format –  in a bubble (or circle) of its own and the ingredients listed via a line off the bubble. I haven’t seen a menu like this before and absolutely LOVE IT! THUMBS UP! There are about four to five dishes under each section to select from and it really is hard to decide. There are so many interesting components to each dish, that you are left wondering how on earth they even go together. Some interesting components we came across was Gunpowder, LSA, Salmon Floss and Rhubarb Caramel – just to name a few. From reading the menu you know here at Morris Jones you are about to embark on a culinary journey that you are bound to enjoy.

There is also a fantastic wine list – compromising of wines from Australia and France, as well as a great selection of cocktails. Coffee here is from All Press. The vast array of wines can be viewed as you walk in – situated between the Den and the Main Dining Area.

After mulling over the menu and asking questions from staff – we were finally ready to order. We decided to share one of the From the Garden dishes, and get separate mains ourselves and share some On the Side dishes as well.

To start the meal we were given Bread with Honey Salted Caramel Butter. I cannot begin to tell you just how amazing this butter was! It is hands down the best butter I have ever tasted – and you can really just keep eating and eating it. For all butter lovers – this is a MUST TRY! The combination of the honey, caramel finished with the saltiness was mind blowing. The texture was smooth and creamy. We devoured the bread and butter, and were almost tempted to ask for round 2.

The dish that we shared From the Garden was the Pumpkin Patch – Chickpea Fritter, Labneh, Pumpkin and Yuzu Jam. The Chickpea Fritter came out in little rectangles and was crispy on the outside and soft and cloudlike on the inside. All the components of the dish worked really well together when combined – and it resulted in a really tasty dish. They have really created a clever dish using pumpkin as its core ingredient.

For mains both A and I got dishes from the From the Sea section. I ordered the Pink Salmon, Beetroot, Grapefruit, Salmon Floss. This dish came out plated up quite nicely with the bright pink salmon the main focus of the dish. The other components were placed colourfully around the salmon. The grapefruit pieces were artfully hidden under the salmon and together with the caviar added some orange colour to the dish. The Salmon Floss was one part of the dish that I wasn’t a huge fan of and avoided mixing it with the rest of the dish. The salmon cured in beetroot – hence the vibrant pink colour – was perfectly cooked and tasted delicious. I loved the combination of the salmon, with the beetroot flavouring together with the acidity of the grapefruit and the pop of caviar. A great dish!

A ordered the Kingfish Sashimi, Gun Powder, Yuzu Juice, LSA – which once again was a well plated up dish. The Sashimi was the her of the dish and lay in the centre of the plate – with cones of avocado puree, Gun Powder and LSA placed creatively on top. The Yuzu juice (and it wasn’t until A was adding this to her dish did I realise) came in a pipette which you squeeze out yourself (check out the pics to see what I mean). I like the idea of controlling how much dressing you want on your food. A did enjoy her dish and was nice enough to let me taste too. The Sashimi was fresh and bursting with flavour and was overall a good dish.

We also ordered some On The Side dishes – Triple Cooked Chips and Broccoli Polonaise. I mean really who could look past chips that have been Triple Cooked! And they really did not disappoint. They were crisp and somewhat crunchy – I would have thought they would have been crunchier – and soft and fluffy on the inside. Potato and chip lovers all around the world could seriously eat a whole bowl on their own and then some. The Broccoli Polonaise was my absolute favourite I must say! I am a hugeeee fan of broccoli and this was fantastic. Polonaise means to “top with breadcrumbs” – but it was not only this but the addition of almonds and mushrooms together with the flavouring which was tangy and creamy all at the same time that made it that yummy! I really do want to try and re-create this dish at home!

Having experienced such great dishes so far – we couldn’t leave without try their desserts. I decided to try the Our Violet Crumble, Honeycomb, Violet Ice Cream – which came highly recommended by our waiter – and after trying it out I can see why. The dessert comes in a glass, so you can see the different layers of the dish, topped with Violet Ice Cream and finished with a bright pink flower. The combination of the chocolate with the honeycomb – which was light, crunchy, sweet and golden – was mind-blowing. Pair that with the violet ice cream and the popping candy and you have a dreamy – takes me to a faraway place kind of dessert. A definite must try!

A ordered the Chocolate Pudd, Salted Caramel, Raspberry Sorbet – which had a gooey centre which flowed like liquid gold. It was perfectly cooked and together with the salty caramel and tanginess of the sorbet – made for an interesting mix of flavours. This is one for the chocolate lovers!

The staff at Morris Jones are extremely friendly both behind the bar and on the floor, as well as very attentive and knowledgeable. I noticed that at all times whenever our dishes were brought out – there would be a waiter who would place the dishes on our table and explain what the dish comprises of, and there would be another member of staff behind them. I am not sure whether this was because our waiter was new – but either way it was good to see the support that existed between the staff.

Morris Jones is open seven days for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper with a full cocktail bar open till 1am. If you have that special event that you need to celebrate, or even dinner just because I would highly recommend eating here! I need to head back and check out what their breakfast/brunch offering is like!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.morrisjones.com.au/the-restaurant – There is a Dinner, Breakfast, Snack and Beverage menu to look at
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Sophisticated, Classy, Mood lighting yet relaxed. Can be great for a formal function or even a celebration dinner. There are function rooms available for hire if required. There is more information on their website.
Standout Dish: I really can’t pick one – Honey Salted Caramel Butter, Pumpkin Patch – Chickpea Fritter, Labneh, Pumpkin and Yuzu Jam and lastly the Our Violet Crumble, Honeycomb, Violet Ice Cream
Service: Fantastic! Very friendly, knowledgeable and attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.morrisjones.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
 http://www.morrisjones.com.au/
163 Chapel St, Windsore
Tel No: 9533 2055

Opening Hours:
Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday to Friday: 4pm – 1am
Saturday & Sunday: 9am – 1am

Morris Jones on Urbanspoon

 

Ayatana – Authentic Thai with a Modern Twist

panda-4-rating1

I was invited to try out the food at Ayatana – a restaurant and wine bar located at Chapel Street in Windsor. The restaurant is a small, modern and stylish Thai restaurant which offers a very authentic menu with fragrant flavours. Ayatana is owned by the chef himself Piyawut Rungpradit, nicknamed Tony.

We visited the restaurant on a Wednesday night around 7:30pm and the place filled up quite quickly after this time – both inside and outside the restaurant. There are about 12-15 tables inside and  a couple of tables which look out onto Chapel Street itself. Having the restaurant almost filled up on a Wednesday says something about the place and about the taste and quality of food.

The décor is modern and inviting – the theme colours are white and grey, with dark wooden tables. Around the walls framed pictures of Thailand proudly hang and showcase a little bit of the Thai culture. There are rows of wine bottles in wooden shelves above the main wall as well as behind the main counter, which showcase their extensive wine list – which is a nice touch to the restaurant.

The menu is in a book style and the opening page gives you a background about Ayatana and what they aim to achieve in terms of your experience at the restaurant which I think is a nice touch. Hot, Sweet, Sour and Salty they say are the main 4 points of Thai cuisine and that is what they bring to all their dishes. The menu comprises of starters, entrée, mains, followed by a section for the vegetarians which compromises of entrees and mains. There are also a list of sides and desserts, coffee and tea which follow.

The menu is unique and doesn’t contain the usual dishes of pad thai and skewers with peanut sauce, but a large variety with dishes you don’t find in other Thai restaurants. This is what sets aside Ayatana from any of the other Thai Restaurants. There are items like Crispy Sardines, Barramundi cooked in different ways as well your choice of meat with Roasted Macadamia and Cashew Nuts.

For starters I ordered the Japanese Scallop which came with Bean Shoots, Basil, Mint, Corriander, Onion and Hot Homemade sauce which was topped with Yarra Valley Caviar. The caviar was a nice addition and touch – I have never had combination of caviar and scallop before. The flavours were creative and punchy. You could tell the ingredients were fresh and cooked to perfection. The scallop was well presented in a shell and sat atop the other components of the dish beautifully.

Next was the entrée course and the Crispy Tamarind Rice caught my eye as I wasn’t sure what to expect with this dish. The dish came out once again and was visually appealing.. It was in a triangular stack and consisted of Cashew Nuts, Green Apple, Bean Shoots, Mint, Coriander, Red Onion, Mixed Salad and topped with Crispy Noodles. The dish was tangy and sweet all at the same time and the texture of the nuts and the crispy noodles completed the dish.

It was so hard to pick what dish to order for the mains as they all looked really great. In the end we settled for Blue Swimmer Crab, Steamed Fresh Tofu & Mushroom and a Pork Belly dish. The Blue Swimmer Crab was the stand out dish of the night for me. The dish came with Tiger Prawns & NZ Calamari which was stir fried with Tom Yum sauce and had asparagus, mushroom, vegetables and kaffir lime leaves. The dish once again looked spectacular when it came out and looked like a lot of care went into how it was being presented. The crab was sitting on top and the other seafood and vegetables underneath. For any lovers of the Tom Yum flavour this is one dish to definitely check out. The flavours mixed together with the kaffir lime leaves are perfect and the crab and seafood were cooked perfectly.

The Steamed Fresh Tofu and Mushrooms was also a great dish with wild ginger and a light soy sauce. Having being used such bags of flavour from the other dishes, this dish didn’t have as much flavour. But in having said that, it did allow your taste buds a rest and showed that even simple flavours can taste just as good.

For dessert the menu consisted of Black Sticky Rice Pudding, Steamed Banana or Warm Coconut Tapioca Pearl. There is also a tasting platter which gives you a selection of each of the above together with mango sorbet. I was so full from my meal but couldn’t pass up on dessert so I ordered the Warm Coconut Tapioca Pearl. What interested me most in this dish was that I have never seen this dessert in any other Thai restaurant before, as well as the fact that there was sweet corn in the dish as well. The warm coconut tapioca pearl with sweet corn, palm sugar and fresh pieces of coconut came out in a glass in liquid form – which reminded me of bubble tea – with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the side. The dessert was a very dish to anything I have had and was very sweet. I asked Tony about this dish and he said it was a traditional Thai dessert and they did a modern take on it.

The staff at Ayatana are very welcoming, attentive and friendly, they are happy to answer any of your questions and always have a smile on their faces. The restaurant itself is a very modern fit out with mood lighting and is great for any occasion – from a group gathering to a romantic dinner for two. The music sets the mood as well and the vibe is very relaxed and funky – a setting with a great ambience.

The dishes are wonderfully presented and have flavours which will make you feel like you are in Thailand. For me the Blue Swimmer Crab and the Japanese Scallop are winning dishes. The menu is vast and boasts so many dishes that I definitely have to come back and try out the other interesting dishes!

Thanks for the invite to try out your food Tony – it is one of the top rating restaurants in Melbourne.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A la carte. You can view a sample of the Takeway Menu at http://www.ayatana.com.au/TAKE%20AWAY%20MENU.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Romantic, Cosy and Stylish. Modern interior mixed with a comfortable setting
Standout Dish: Blue Swimmer Crab, Tiger Prawns & NZ Calamari – Stir Fried with Tom Yum Sauce, Mushroom, Asparagus, Onion, Vegetables, Kaffir Lime Leaves
Service: Fantastic, Attentive and Friendly
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.ayatana.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.ayatana.com.au/
97 Chapel St, Windsor
Tel No: 9533 8813

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Thursday to Saturday: 12pm to 4L30pm
Dinner
Monday to Sunday: 5pm till late

Ayatana on Urbanspoon