Monday, August 18, 2014

Grossi Florentino - The Cellar Bar

This place, is an iconic Melbourne establishment's little sister. The Cellar Bar is the no frills, simple sister eatery of the famous Grossi Florentino. You walk in and you feel like you are in a little bistro in Italy. You are greeted with a friendly waiter, ready to escort you to a table or hustle you to the bar to wait.

To start we got some small tapas to share. My favourite cheese, percorino  was drizzled with a bit of honey. I'm normally not a hard cheese person but I have a soft spot for percorino, especially when there is added sweetness to it. 

As a bit of a balance we got the ricotta peas to feel less guilty. Sweet, buttery peas with ricotta on top.

As a entree, we got the minestrone soup to share. This came with lots of vegetables. It was nice and hearty. If you plan on getting this alone, it does not have much (if any) pasta in it, so it's not very filling.

We also got the mussels to share. This came with a tomato based broth with a bit of kick to it. It wasn't too overpowering, so the natural taste of the mussels were still in place.

I had the bolognese, and I this is one of my favourite places to get this classic. It's always so rich and meaty. I could eat this everyday.

D decided to be adventurous and get the pizzoccheri della valtellina with asiago. This was a cheese, potato, sage and cabbage pasta. Since it was baked and not too saucy, it had a much lighter taste compared to the bolognese. 
 D got food envy after he had a taste of my bolognese.

Having skipped lunch we also go the gargenelle with spiced ragu. The ragu was slightly spicy veal sauce with strong tomato elements. It's the perfect winter dish for a hungry stomach.

For sides we got the chips to share. These are thick cut and will fill you up fast, if you are having pasta as well. 

For dessert we got the bread and butter pudding. This was very heavy, so I won't recommend it after getting 3 pastas to share between 2.

The second dessert was the tiramisu, generous layers of coffee dipped sponge fingers and mascarpone. This reminded me of my time in Florence.

Overall 16/20 Cellar Bar never fails me when I'm after a no-frills, homey, traditional Italian feed. The pricing is very reasonable too, most mains/pasta are under $20. The service is attentive and always friendly.

Grossi Florentino Cellar Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Kettle Black

When I discovered that Top Paddock had a sister store I was really excited and ventured my way to South Melbourne on one of the coldest days in the year. I got there around 2pm on a Saturday to find a very busy rush. I was told the wait was over 45 minutes for a table but I was determine to get that brunch into my belly.

After over an hour wait, D, K and I finally sat down. The staff were lovely and very appreciative that we waited in the cold. They got us our coffees promptly and even let us move from the bench to the table so we could take photos more easily. For a busy venue the staff were still friendly and ready to assist.

The coffees were 5 senses blend and was just right in terms of aroma and bitterness. My soy latte was perfect way to start my feast brunch

After waiting for so long we were quite famished and decided on four things to share; two sweet and two savory.

Our first savory was the mixed beans with home made tomato sauce served with bread. I also took up the pork sausage option to get a bit of protein on the plate. The sauce came in a beer bottle that was opened on the table. The tasted of ripe and juicy tomatoes and with just the right amount of seasoning. It went great with the beans on toast. The slightly spice from the sausage was also a delight with an added note to the senses. This was a good dish but in comparison to the others we ordered, this felt slightly average. It's not to say I didn't enjoy it, but if I ordered this alone and say someone else get the hotcakes or tataki trout, I would have food envy.

 The other savory option we picked was the tataki ocean trout with seaweed salad and poached egg. This was the most interesting dish and we all agreed it something we kept going back for more. The trout had a crispy skin and a delicate sweet seasoning. The kale/seaweed salad was a beautiful balance of texture. The egg just completed it, to be the perfect brunch dish.

For the sweets, I had to pick the ricotta hotcake. I love the one at Top Paddock so I just couldn't resist. The hotcake was fluffy and the amount of velvety double made it a heaven match. The berries gave it that sweet yet slight acidic element to break up the sweetness. This is a never fail option to order for brunch in my eyes.

To make myself feel less guilty and because it looked so pretty, we also ordered the coconut yogurt. This had a delightful coconut milkiness to it while maintaining the yogurt tanginess. It is a light breakfast but it's paired with grains, poached prickly pear, rhubarb and berries to keep you full. I really liked this one and would recommend it to people who want an alternative to burcher muesli. However if you are famished, maybe order something else.

There were also platters of brownies, muffins, slices and pies at the counter. My mouth was watering just looking at it, but sadly I was too full.

Overall 17.5/20 I really liked it and despite waiting over an hour it still felt like it was worth the wait. Good coffee and innovation at brunch matched with great flavours that make you want more. It is more on the pricy side but given it's location it's understandable.

The Kettle Black on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Little Temper

Located on Burwood Rd, near St James Park, it is one of those places that you can easily drive by and not notice. It is a cosy, new cafe that caters for the local with good coffee and a  brunch menu.

I only discovered this place, because TK comes here for coffee every day, and has been raving on and on about their coffee. He was correct too.... the owner is more than happy to make the coffee to your liking and generally doesn't disappoint.

The ricotta hotcakes were serve with a raspberry compote, mascarpone and mint. The hotcakes were creamy with an evident ricotta taste. There was a very generous amount of blueberries, this made TK very happy. The berry flavours with creamy mascarpone was a perfect combination on the hotcakes. I just wish there was another hotcake on the plate.

Their avocado toast deserves a mention. It differs from your typical plain avocado and fetta on toast. This has corn/tomato salsa and chilli laced through the avocado and fetta to give it more texture and a small kick from the chilli. One of the better avocado toast that I have tasted in the last few years. However it did feel slightly incomplete without a poached egg (yes, I am greedy).

Overall 14/20. As a new kid on the Melbourne cafe scene, I was very impress with the food plated up. I would be keen to go back and try other things on their menu.

Little Temper on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 4, 2014

Shizuku Ramen

Located on Victoria Street in Richmond, in a usually Vietnamese cuisine oriented spot, I was fortunate enough to be invited here by the owner of Shizuku to try their ramen or ramen burger. Since I am a lover of ramen I couldn't turn the offer down.

Shizuku is a modern Japanese restaurant that offers a range of tapas style starters, as well as ramen (with two ramen burger options). The fit-out is unique and contemporary, with nice use of lights and speaker system. Seeing the large menu on offer, with a lot of the dishes appealing I got D, K and R to join me so I could try more.

For starters we got the the gyoza platter, shizuku spring rolls and the soft shell crab tempura to share.

The gyoza platter had an assortment of 4 styles; classic (pan fried, with a vinegar dressing), kenji (pan fried with char siu and a BBQ sauce on top), cali (pan fried with a kewpie mayo sauce) and sui (boiled, with sesame vinegar). If you are coming with friends and want to try more than one flavour, this is a good dish to share. I found the gyoza with the kewpie mayo to be my favourite out of the lot.

Shizuku spring rolls was something I looked over in the menu but later we were advised by our waiter it was something to try. It was a very interesting concept, it was stuffed with cheese and edamame, served with saffron and sweet chilli sauce. This took me by surprise because worked really well together.

The soft shell crab tempura was the standard deed fried crab seasoned with salt, pepper and shichimi. The crab had a lovely crisp coat of tempura with a very strong seasoning finish, definitely for someone who likes their food salty.

For mains D got the ramen burger; this choice was as much for novelty as it's not something you come across often (especially when the many ramen options sounded tempting). It was served with 2 ramen noodle patties holding together lettuce and miso eggplant. The ramen was crisp and the miso eggplant had a silky finish. It is not easy to eat as the burger just falls apart. If I had to be critical, it came quite poorly presented and wrapped up.

R got the signiture tan tan men. Rich soup base with mince pork and chewy noodles. The best ramen out of the 3 we tried.

K got shoyu ramen. We were advised that the soy soup base was home brewed. It came with the usual char siu and bamboo shoot combo. K will have more details about this one on her blog, once she gets around to writing the review up. This soup base was more delicate compared to the others.

I got the Hokkaido miso ramen. This was packed with char siu, corn, butter, sprouts and egg. This is not for the faint-hearted. The soup base was a  salty mixture of red and white miso. I would not recommend this it you prefer a lighter taste. This packed a salty punch from the miso and is reminiscent of the ramens you get in Japan.

After all the mains, we were so full and all on the verge of a food coma, so for dessert we just opted for something small. We tried the miso caramel ice cream and was quite pleased with it. The miso caramel worked well together and the sesame gave it that extra element.

Overall 14.5/20 I really liked the concept of their tapas and innovative side of their menu. Ramen is slightly pricier than other places around Melbourne, but worth trying (especially the signature ramen). The staff were friendly and welcoming, make a good place for a catch up with friends in winter.

Shizuku Ramen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Builder's Arm Hotel

Located on Gertrude St in Fitzroy, it is another venture of Andrew O'Connell. Pitched at as sophisticated pub style dining where it is split into a dining room by the name of Moon Under Water and the Bistro. As we were only here for a casual affair we decided on the bistro. This is not the first time D and I have dined here. Last time we were here, it was for a surprise birthday dinner for D. So it bought back good memories.

To start we got the pot of curried mussels to share. The last time I had a pot of mussels was in Paris so a small part of me was hoping for something similar. When it arrived it was nothing like I expected. The serving I found a bit on the small side as we were advise it's something that's to be share and quite big. However that was compensated with the creamy curry flavours.

The frito mistro was done better compared to what I have eaten in the past. I liked the variety of seafood and the garlic mayo was just right.

As a main I had to try the fish pie. Baked in the dish with a fluffy pastry it did not disappoint. The filling was a combination of trout, prawns, rockling and sorrel. I was very pleased that the fish wasn't overcooked and there was just the right amount of sauce. The sauce was delicate and allow the true flavours of the fish to come through.

D got the sausage special which was made up of 5 different sausages; pickled, smoked and cured pork, mustard and sauerkraut. This was a once off special they had. it wasn't anything exciting. I found it to be too much meat on one plate for me. Though I did enjoy the pork belly on top.


To keep things slightly more balanced chopped broccoli, freekah salad on the side. This had a good fresh flavour, to help with the heaviness of the 2 mains.

By the end of mains, we were too full so we decided to go for a drive and ended up getting N2 afterwards which suited me just fine.

Overall 15/20 It's better than your average pub food and I really like the play on pub ideas like fish and chips, pie etc.  into a more refined dish.

Builders Arms Hotel Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nieuw Amsterdam

On a winter Monday night, we braved the cold and decided to try our luck here. Since it has opened it has become very popular in the Melbourne food scene and getting a table on Fridays and Saturdays can be a challenge. We were quite fortunate and were able to get a table with minimal wait. I was quite surprised to see so many dine there on a Monday night. There was a beautiful, casual ambiance to the restaurant, it felt like the perfect spot to 'catch up' with friends.

Being an American influenced eatery I couldn't pass the offer to try the chicken waffles. It came with pate, terrine and crispy chicken skin with orange sauce. It's all things bad for you but it was honestly delicious. The smoothness of the pate, with the crispiness of the chicken skin and that bit of tangy orange flavour. It was divine!

Broccoli and cheese profiteroles were something I have never tried before. The pockets of the pastry were filled with oozy cheese. The goat curd was delicate and not too overpowering, it went well with the broccoli sauce. It's very different from your typical appetizers.

For mains we got the Southern style pork belly chops. We were told that this was their signature dish. The pork belly was soft and full of fat with a crispy skin. Don't get it if you are on a diet. The layers of goodness comes with a lot of fat but otherwise, go wild!

Smoky beef brisket was another signature dish of theirs, the meat was juicy and just the right amount of smokiness. It wasn't outstanding but it was nice.

Final main we go to share was the Grit Fritters. These were sweetcorn fritters by name, but tasted more like sweetcorn gnocchi in flavour and texture. Topped with more sweetcorn, beetroot and cheese, I found myself really liking this dish. I love the light and sweetness the corn gave. This was my favourite, out of all the mains

For a side, we got the Dutch fries. The big potato chunks, came with a sriracha mayo as dipping sauce. If you like crispy, crunchy fries, I suggest you order a different side. This was a very heavy and big chip. I found it quite enjoyable but the party I was with, didn't agree with me. I liked the sriracha (chilli) mayo too, it inspired me to try making it at home.

Dessert, we couldn't decide so we got one of everything. 

Pumpkin doughnuts with bourbon cream didn't jump at me off the menu, but it did jump at me when I tasted it. The fluffy doughnut with the delight bourbon cream was a highlight. I never knew bourbon with cream could taste so good.

Chocolate delice reminded me of milo mousse with honeycomb. It was light and airy with a biscuit base and chunks of honeycomb.

Peanut butter waffle was served with raspberry sorbet and salted peanut caramel. It was as you would imagine it to be. Yes, it was very heavy, lucky we were sharing.

Lastly, there was the lemon mess. Lemonade granita, cream cheese sorbet and ginger crumble. Who knew they could work so well together. I just kept going back for more. It fresh and still creamy and a play on texture with the ginger crumble. Definitely recommend this.

If you don't plan to be as crazy as me and my friends (and maybe if there were less of you). I would pick the lemon mess and pumpkin doughnuts. Yum yum yum!

Overall 15.5/20 I was impressed overall. This is a place I would go back for another visit. There was a lovely atmosphere and the service was excellent, despite sitting in a corner, our waiter was attentive and friendly. If you were to come here make sure to book online via email, as we were told they don't attend to their phones very often.

Nieuw Amsterdam on Urbanspoon