Thursday, January 29, 2015

Grand Trailer Park Taverna

I was fortunate enough to be invited to try out the burgers at Grand Trailer Park Taverna, and they were nice enough to let me bring 3 friends along, so Bear, Miss P and Mario staked their spot with great pride. The three of them actually came without me when it first opened (because I ended up stuck at work on a Friday) so they knew what to expect.


Grand Trailer Park is actually created by the people behind Dandenong Pavilion (if you have read my other post before, you will know that I have a secret love affair with the burgers there behind Mario's back) and Pawn &  Co. So I was expecting nothing less than amazing burgers.

When I saw the place I was actually quite surprised because in my mind I had pictured it being outdoors and full of fake grass; it was actually located upstairs on the corner of Exhibition St and Bourke St. We got there at 7 and the place was packed and buzzing, there was an outdoor section but we opted for the indoor section near the bar so I could watch burgers come out of the kitchen. We were greeted by Brooke who was friendly and explained our menu to us. Despite how busy the place was, she ensured we were looked after well all night.

Now to the important part, the food! I eyed the McDowell on the menu and was very tempted to get that but was convinced by Miss P I should get the Francis Underwood like her because last time when they came the boys had burger envy. So I took her advice and decided tonight was the night I tried something else. The Francis Underwood came with a beef patty, cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, burger sauce, mustard and the hero filling of a potato mac and cheese croquette. The combination worked really well. It was a very big burger but all the fillings each played a part. The patty was juicy and the croquette was that thing you didn't need but glad you got. Miss P was right, it was a damn good burger.


Bear got the Ivan Drago. I asked the guys behind the counter and this is actually the least popular burger. This came as a surprise and you'll see why in a moment. Ivan Drago came with a beef patty, cheddar cheese, bacon, beetroot, black Russian tomato and tsar burger sauce on a brioche bun. This burger has everything you want in a good burger, it has CRISPY BACON and it tastes like heaven on the lips and nowhere near as oily as I expected it to be. The beetroot gave the sweetness to cut through the meat mass in the burger. So if you go, I suggest you don't rule out Ivan Drago, as soon as you skim pass it.

Mario got the Atomic which had a beef patty, cheddar cheese, chilli cheese kransky, bacon, bbq sauce and truffle mayo. If you love truffle, you can't go past this burger; the creamy, potent truffle mayo is going to win over any truffle lover. The cheesiness from the cheddar and the kransky then a kick of truffle mayo..... best burger of the night!

Besides burgers, we each got a spiked milkshake. This is as the name suggests.... an alcoholic milkshake. Miss P and I got the Kinder Surprise which was a nutella milkshake laced with frangelico and baileys topped with a big kinder surprise on top. This was a fun and delicious shake. Chocolatey enough to be indulgent but not to the point it's too rich.


Mario got the Peanut Butter and jelly which was a strawberry, peanut butter milkshake with rum. This was very sweet, as you would expect it to be.

Bear's one was the most interesting one, he got the salted caramel with maple bacon. This was the strongest out of all the shakes, the only one where the alcohol tasted strong, but I didn't mind it and quite enjoyed it, especially with a bite of the maple bacon.


What is a burger meal without chips? We got 2 large chips to share (which we couldn't finish) and it came with some of the burger sauces. The hand cut chips were well seasoned and with the truffle mayo it was a delight.

Even though we were all very full, I was determined to fit dessert in as well. I really wanted the Bananarama but sadly had no space for it and the other 3 refused to share it with me in their food coma state, so I had to get the smallest dessert on the menu which was the wizz fizz ice cream. These were actually perfect in their bite size form. 3 cones of vanilla ice cream topped with sherbet. I would have liked more sherbet on the ice cream but I was too full to care at that point and the dessert hit the spot for me. I got my ice cream fix and wasn't struggling to finish it.

Overall 17.5/20 I loved my experience here. The burgers were constructed with care, and quality ingredients in the filling. My only criticism is they don't offer kid size burgers and maybe another vegetarian option. If I was starving I would come here but if I wasn't feeling a bit peckish and wanted a burger, I might have reservations. I don't think they should change anything now, but I see potential for that menu to be expanded for a second vegetarian option and a smaller size burger for small eaters/dieters/kids.

  Grand Trailer Park Taverna on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Noir

Last week on date night, D took me to Noir. It's a small French inspired, contemporary restaurant located on Swan Street in Richmond. The newly renovated premises has dimmed yet artistic decor to make it a perfect venue for a special occasion.




When D and I saw the menu, we had difficulty choosing so we opted for the tasting menu with a small change. We swapped the kangaroo for the mushroom pie; I am fond of french pastry so I had to try the pie. 

We were given complementary canapes while we waited for our tasting menu to be prepared. Small pastry cases with a filling of flavoured cauliflower, capsicum and pea puree. It was a nice touch and a good way to start the meal.

Our first course consisted of a few things to share. 

Beef tartare, waldolf salad and potato grits made up the first entree. The beef tartare was fillet mince with perfect seasoning and just enough onions in it. Waldorf salad was presented in a deconstructed manner that made it easy to pile the salad and beef onto the potato grits.

Cold smoked oysters were interesting. The oysters came in a ceramic oyster shell in a bed of salt water and in a glass cloche filled with smoke.

Next starter was the kingfish with vichyssoise, sugar snaps and potato crisp. The diced kingfish with the creamy vichyssoise (onion, potato, leak, chicken cream soup) worked wonders with the sugar snap and potato crisp. This dish was the perfect example of balanced textures and balanced flavours.

Final starter was crayfish tortellini on a heirloom tomato with pesto and basil. Crayfish flavors were delicate in an al dente pasta shell. The tomato and pesto, gave it that kick to elevate it from delicate and safe, to bold and refined. There isn't that much creative flare in this dish but it was still a good dish.

A pallet cleanser was next. This played on the gin and tonic concept. It was sweet tonic sorbet with cucumber pieces and the gin was served at the table. Of all the pallet cleansers I've tasted this stand outs above the rest. It was the perfect amount of gin to sorbet to cucumber. If this was a dessert option, I would have ordered it because I just wanted more. It was refreshing and a fun twist.

Our first main was duck with cherries and kohlrabi. The duck skin was crisp and together with the plump cherries on the plate, it made you want more. To add a more creamy flavour to the plate was the kohlarabi, it taste like a rough cauliflower puree and matched the duck well. It gives the diner a choice creamy duck, sweet duck or a bit of both.

Instead of kangaroo, we swapped it for the mushroom pie on the menu. It arrived on the table as mash and brocollini on the plate and the host removed the pastry of the pie and placed it over the mash so it became a bowl, before he proceed to spoon all the pie filling into the now pastry bowl. The mushroom pie had a creamy sauce and it is evident it uses a good strong stock base. Once you spoon the pie with a bit of mash, the sauce would drip onto the mash. I was extremely pleased with this dish. A classic but with a twist on how it's presented.



For dessert it was creme d'anjou with berries, honeycomb and raspberry sorbet. This was my first time having creme d'anjou so I wasn't sure what to expect. Once I had my first spoon, the velvety smooth texture that was creamy but not heavy made me fall in love. Along with the honeycomb and sorbet, it was just perfect.

Overall 18/20 I was extremely surprised and pleased with this visit. The menu didn't look too exciting when I first saw it and I almost went for the basic 3 course al la carte but lucky I was hungry. Where the dishes were typical classics, the presentation and creativity in plate up took it to that next level. Where it was creative, it was impressive. Paired with the attentive and knowledgeable service, it made the experience that extra bit special. I would recommend anybody who wants to impress a date to come here.


Noir on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nero Group

Recently D and I had a catch up with Mr Lego, Stacky, Princess D and Pasta. Mr Lego suggested Nero Group on Lygon in Carlton and seeing I haven't headed out that way in awhile, it made the perfect reason for me to drive there. Italian food and good friends, I really couldn't think of a reason to say no.

Nero is located on Lygon St, opposite the park. On a beautiful sunny day, it's the perfect spot to get a bite, chat with friends and just watch the world go by.

Since none of us were particularly hungry, we decided to skip entrees and just get a bunch of mains to share. Princess D, Mr Lego and I had all eyed the squid ink risotto on the menu, so we ordered 2 portions to share along with other things.

The squid ink risotto was served with seared scallops and fresh calamari. The scallops were beautifully seared and the calamari was finished with lime for a light zesty flavour. This was a good dish in general but I found it lacking in flavour or just more saltiness. By the time I added salt it was fine, but I find it disappointing when I need to reach for salt, I am a firm believer that when a dish is served to the table, the flavours should be all there and only a small group of people who like their food salty should reach for the salt. I know I am normally not one of those people, so that to me indicated it was a bit bland, though Stacky and Mr Lego disagreed with me. This one might be one of those dishes you need to try and form an opinion on your own.

The other pasta we got was the taggliatelle which came with wild boar ragu and mushrooms. The tagliatelle was cooked to the perfect al dente. This was not the usual tomato base ragu but a more refined and stewed boar ragu. The meat was soft and just fell apart, it wasn't as heavy as I had imagined. It was a pleaseant surprise and plenty of meat on the plate.

First pizza we got to share was the valentia. Tomato, mushroom, fior de latter (buffalo mozzarella), proscuitto, rocket and parmesan. This pizza has everything I like in a pizza, done on a thin base and with just the right quantity of topping. I made sure I got seconds.

Second pizza was the contadina, this came with pork sausage, cherry tomato, spinach and fior de latte. This was a light and tasty pizza, created with simple toppings. The bite size bits of pork sausage worked well to create a proportional intensity of taste. Cherry tomato and spinach give that small element of freshness; and the cheeses just tie it all together.

On top of the mains, Stacky and I also ordered a side of the handout chips with rosemary.

Overall 14.5/20 I walked out happy and content. The pizzas were good and I would happily go back for a revisit. It was good to see squid ink on the menu, besides the lack of salt it was very enjoyable.



NERO Carlton on Urbanspoon




Monday, January 19, 2015

Proud Mary

On a lovely Summer Sunday, K and I ventured to Collingwood for some brunch action at Proud Mary. I have heard about it but never had the time to go there, so K (my favourite eating partner) drove to my house, gave me a kick up the butt, and we ventured to Collingwood to continue my brunch adventures.




We got there around 2pm and was told there was a bit of a wait, and we were fine with it. It was a lovely day and I could do with some vitamin D in my system. After about 20 minutes we were seated and the lovely waiter got us our menus and made sure we were will caffined up.

I got a soy latte to kick start my meal, and K opted for a flat white. The coffee was smooth and velvety, no wonder K was gushing about their coffee on our way there.


For the main show, we got 2 things to share. We picked one sweet and one savory.

The sweet was an easy choice, as soon as we saw the menu, both our eyes were glued to the ricotta hotcakes. It had a caramelised blood orange sauce with 3 fluffy hotcakes, coconut ice cream, slices of oranges and orange blossom. This was a very strong citrus sauce, and it really needed the coconut ice cream to penatrate through the zest. It was really scrumptious but if you don't eat it with the ice cream, you may get a slight bitter aftertaste.

For the savory we got the potato hash. This came with charred kale, smoked bacon, poached egg and bang cauda (Italian sauce of anchovies and garlic). It came with a big bed of potato hash. It was crispy on the edges and soft in the centre. The bang cauda tied the bacon and egg together with the hash really well. the charred kale tasted like crispy seaweed. The dish as a whole executed well and delicious all round. It is something I would happily go back for every week.

Addition to the coffees and the 2 dishes I made K share a super smoothie with me too. This was made up of acai berries, banana and cacao. This was a heavy smoothie and I was very glad I asked K to share with me, because there was no way I could finish it on my own.

Overall 16/20 it was a very delightful visit. The food was delectable and the coffees were good. I found the whole experience very enjoyable and it was the highlight of my Sunday.


Proud Mary on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 16, 2015

Gradi - Crown

After many months of travelling, I finally got a chance to have dinner with my family to celebrate the Menulog Blogger award win. Gradi is the new kid in town at Crown, so I thought it would be a perfect way to treat my family,  since grandma rarely agrees to go to Italian for dinner, Gradi was a perfect candidate.  Gradi took out the gong for world's best pizza award in 2014, so I really wanted mum and grandma to try it.


To start, sis got the bruschetta to share; it came with 4 servings. The bruschetta came with generous amounts of tomato covered in oregano and garlic olive oil. It would have been ideal if the waiter advised us that it came with a serving of 4, since there was 5 of us and it was the only starter we got.


For mains, we ordered a few things to share so we could try everything. 



Given their margarita is the award winning pizza, it was a "must order". This came on a very thin tomato pizza base with the classic ingredients: Napoli sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil. You need to eat the pizza fast if you don't want it soggy, because the base is very thin, it doesn't take long for the moisture in the paste to soak through and leave you with a soggy pizza. The pizza as a whole was very light, and unlike your typical pizzas it did not feel heavy and you could easily eat an entire pizza and not feel uncomfortably full.

The other pizza we got to share was parmigiana. This came with parmesan, eggplant and basil. Like the margarita, the pizza base was very thin but because it didn't have a big layer of tomato paste like the margarita, it wasn't as soggy. Grandma really liked this one, it was very soft and even the crust was light and airy. There was just the right amount of topping and perfect flavour.


For the pastas we went for another classic, bolognese with fettuccine. This was served in a thick, almost creamy meat sauce. It was rich and hearty, but I was disappointed in the way the pasta was cooked. A lot of the fettuccine was still stuck together, when I pulled it apart I could still see the flour on the pasta.


Next pasta was the tagliolini allo scoglio. This was basically tagliolini, with a seafood assortment of scallops, prawns, clams and mussels in a light napoli base.The seafood was fresh and the sauce wasn't too overpowering.


Third pasta was the pappardelle fungi. Variety of dry porcini, shitake, oyster and shimeji mushrooms in what tasted and looked like a butter sauce (but the menu read napoli sauce). The pasta was very firm and just too hard for my liking. The mushroom sauce was interesting as it played on the different textures of the various mushrooms.


Final main was the grigliata mista di pesce del giorno (mixed grilled fish of the day). The mixed seafood platter consisted of prawns, scallops and calamari. It was grilled well and a good amount of seasoning on top, with the scallops seared to perfection. A good squeeze of lemon on top, and it became summery and fit for the current Melbourne season. Simple and full respect to the produce, I liked the simplicity of this dish.

For dessert, my grandma gave up because she was too full, decided she needed a walk and ditched us. Since it was just sis and I who wanted dessert, we ordered a chocolate pudding to share. This was a molten chocolate pudding with a side of ice cream. The pudding was hard on the outside, and surprisingly softer than I anticipated on the inside. The side of ice cream to cut through the richness of the pudding would have been a perfect balance, but sadly the ice cream was so frozen we could barely spoon it out. It was obvious from the frozen condensation on the side of the ice cream cup, it was pre-scooped and frozen, which would explain why the ice cream was so hard.



Overall I found it difficult to score this place. The food wasn't bad but the service was just horrible. For a night that I had intended to be a special celebration with my family, resulted in me feeling like bad dining experience tarnished by the poor service. If not for the service, I would have given them 14.5/20. I understand the place is new and staff is still new to the environment but it was the attitude of the staff that annoyed me more than anything. After taking the service into account I rate them 11.5/20. All I can say is, it was a very disappointing dining experience.

If you want to hear my vent see below, otherwise this concludes my review.

Gradi on Urbanspoon









A couple of instances took place during this dinner that I need to mention. I am not normally one to make a fuss and go to extensive details in my review about service but I left the restaurant so infuriated, I just have to voice it. 

First issue: the place was full of wait staff but it was extremely difficult to get their attention, and when we finally got the attention of one of the waiters, it was pretty clear he wasn't assigned to our table, so he passed the message to another person, then another to another, before it got to our initial wait staff. Oh, and this was just to give us more water and the jug was literally in front of the first wait staff we spoke to and the jug was NEXT to our table. For the entire night our waitress was far from attentive and borderline smug, it came across as quite rude to us. I didn't want to ruin a night out with my grandma so I kept it in the whole time and still tried to be as friendly as I could.


Second issue: we added on a side of potatoes a few minutes after we placed our order. Then when we were about 75% into our meal, it still had not arrived. I flagged down our waitress (who was assigned to our table) and she explained it wasn't added in earlier by the waiter who took the side potato order,  and she will tell the kitchen to make it now, as we were so far into our meal already we told her not to worry about and leave it off. Then when our bill came, the potatoes were there. 

Last instance was the dessert ordeal. On the menu it said white chocolate heart on the description of the chocolate pudding, so when it came and it was nowhere in sight I was curious, I asked our waitress and she explained it meant a small dollop of white chocolate inside the molten dark chocolate. We told her it wasn't there because we did smash it open to look for it. She said it may have been mixed in with the dark chocolate so we couldn't see it. A bit later when my sister and I had already dug into our dessert, another waiter came over and spoke to us to check if everything was ok, it was clear that our waitress relayed our concerns to someone and he was sent over to check on us. We asked him the same question of where was the white chocolate heart or maybe it was just the menu's creative way to explaining something. He admitted he didn't know the answer and went to the kitchen to check. He then returned to explain the whole dollop of white chocolate in the centre of the pudding. I must say this was the FIRST time the entire night that we had a wait staff that was attentive and gave us genuine service. (If I had been served by Jordon the entire night I think I would have walked out very happy and thinking about the next time I would revisit.) Then when we finally asked for the bill, our waitress came over and explained to us she gave us a 10% discount off the dessert, because the white chocolate heart wasn't present.  When I took my bill over to the counter to pay, the blonde girl who was supposed to be a manager could not even crack a smile when processing my payment and didn't even ask 'how my night was', as you normally would at most other places.