Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hello Sam

On a bright sunny midweek lunch date, AH and I wandered out to celebrate her belated birthday lunch.... and what better way to celebrate than over a burger! Perched on the sidewalk table, AH and I couldn't wait to sink our teeth into some tasty burgers.

I got the Simply Sam, which was medium cooked Angus patty served on a brioche bun with mustard mayo, tomato, lettuce, onion and relish. I loved the charred brioche that bought the sweetness to the burger and the patty was so succulent. This burger was a upmarket classic from any angle you look at it. My favorite burger place at the moment is Pavilion but for some reason I felt it was unfair to compare the 2. As Pavilion is more the


super tasty, greasy, guilty pleasure and Hello Sam is a sophisticated classic you expect in a nice hotel bar.

AH got the Too cheesy which was the same as Simply Sam except for the extra cheddar ale. A described her burger as "delicous sooo tasty, like a party in my mouth but only the cool people are invited with the good alcohol". I got jealous of the cheddar she got, once our burgers arrived. I made myself a mental note, to never repeat that mistake again.

Between us we shared the beer batter chips. It was golden, fluffy, crispy goodness. The garlic aioli was a bit boring, it was not a bad garlic aioli but with the competition in Melbourne cafe these days, it lacked the flare.

Overall 15/20 the heart of the burger (ie the patty) was cooked to perfection. Chips were good, and I'm keen to try the other burgers on the menu next time.  Great place for a perfect, classy bite of burger. Hmm on my next visit, think I'll go with a chicken burger.

Hello Sam Burger Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tonka

After months and months of rescheduling, I finally booked in Tonka with CB. Located in a laneway (typical Melbourne fashion), it is not a place you would just 'walk past'. Tonka is slightly different to all the other modern fusion in Melbourne (generally Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese fusion); it offer's fine dining Indian fusion food (it also takes bookings which is not the norm these days!!).  From the moment you walk through the door, that fine dining atmosphere is apparent with a long bar, dim lighting and a sleek interior.

To start with, we got a soft shell crab deep fried with a side of cucumber and chilli, lemon, mint sauce. I found the chickpea batter on this to be quite interesting, as it is done to mimic normal batter and you won't know it's chickpea unless someone told you.


The scallops with peppers and spiced cauliflower puree was our next starter. I can't find much to fault with this dish, but also there is nothing special about it either. The spiced cauliflower puree was a nice compliment to the scallop, but at $7.80 a scallop I was really looking for a 'wow' factor.


Our last started was the spanner crab salad with puffed rice, green papaya, chilli and peanuts. I found this to be the most interesting starter. The puffed rice gave it a nice crunchy texture to balance the soft crab meat. The mild spiciness also worked very well with the flavours.



For mains we got the duck which was served with cucumber, mint and goat curd. This was not very spicy which was good, since the redness scared me off when it first came out. The meat was soft and falling off the bone but still had some texture to it. A good dish overall.

The Goan fish was soft and succulent, the spice was just right, it managed to maintain the fish flavours without the spices overpowering the dish. The salad is a great compliment - this dish is a real winner.


We also got adventurous and tried one of the daily specials. Initially we were unsure but it turned out to be the lamb ribs and it was an excellent choice. The aromas infused into the meat was just beautiful, and the meat just fell off the bone. Yummmmmmm


On the side was the fried cauliflower with a yoghurt dressing. This was well seasoned and worked well with the spice in the rest of the meal. The creaminess just cut through the spice and balanced the whole meal.




For dessert I decided on the banana parfait with a chocolate mousse and coconut sorbet. There was also a bit of sherbet to tie the whole thing together. It sounds like a mess when I re-read my own description, but when I ate it, everything just fell into place and tasted great. The mousse had a velvet texture, the coconut sorbet was light and refreshing. Just the perfect way to end the meal - just try it when you are there and you will see for yourself.

Overall 16/20 Besides the creativity in the menu, they had outstanding and attentive service. The staff had great knowledge on the menu and the sommelier was helpful with the wine list. Personally I am not a big fan of Indian, but Tonka made me want to try more.






Tonka on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wharf Hotel

I was lucky enough to get invited by the Wharf Hotel to try their menu. Hate to admit it, but prior to the invitation, I had never heard of Wharf Hotel, so I wasn't sure what to expect. So D and I decided to make a date night out of this outing, and it was a good thing that we did. Wharf Hotel is located along the Yarra opposite the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. It is a beautiful and Melbourne scenic location on a day/night with lovely weather. It is a casual pub style setting, so it's a perfect venue to kick back for a few lazy drinks and nibbles.

To start with, we got the southern fried chicken and the beer battered prawns. The chicken was served with a rich blue cheese sauce and some celery sticks (to help you feel less guilty). The chicken was crisp and juicy and if you like blue cheese, the sauce won't disappoint.


The beer battered prawns were well coated, with the hero of the dish being the miso mayo that it came with. D and I had a difference of opinion here. He thought this dish was very ordinary but I didn't mind it and would order it again.


For main, D went with classic pub style food getting the chicken parma. This came with a generous side serve of chips and salad. The chicken was tender and there was just the right amount of Napoli sauce without the parma getting too soggy. After a long day's work, I would happily demolish this.





I went with the market steak. It was served with a red wine jus on a bed of baked cauliflower and sweet potato. There was a lot happening on this plate and I just didn't know where to start. All the elements were great on their own, but once it was all put together on the plate, I just couldn't finish it and found it very heavy. I would recommend this to a big eater or someone very hungry.


For dessert D and I shared the salted creme caramel. I loved how this was served with gingerbread and walnuts. I really liked the twist on a traditional creme caramel. Only downfall was the creme caramel was too eggy for my liking and the crumbed gingerbread should have been served in a finer portion rather than large chunks.

Overall 14/20 I think Wharf Hotel does a great job in making your usual pub dishes in a more refined manner. The staff were friendly and attentive, it wasn't just because I was invited and the knew I was a food blogger. I noticed they were attentive to all the tables and knowledgeable with their menu.


The Wharf Hotel on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dandenong Pavilion

On a Saturday night, D, R, this (hungry) little piggy, A, Bobo and I wandered into a different side of town. We visited Dandenong Pavilion for some burger action. My sis had told me about the fabulous burgers this place offered on a number of occasions, so I decided it was time that I finally try it. I am one of those people who is an attracted to a good burger like a fly to a light; sadly it's not part of the healthy eating diet. Lucky Pavilion was worth my cheat day.

When we arrived we were greeted warmly by the staff. The venue appeared to be a family/pub styled restaurant and was buzzing with people as it was a full restaurant. The others knew we were there for the burgers, but didn't know about the secret burger menu (on the actual menu there are only two burgers). Even when I told them, they were a bit puzzled and didn't believe me. However when I asked the waitress, she came back with this special menu, we all got excited.

For starters we got Jalapeno poppers and the Buffalo wings. The peppers were crumbed and crunchy on the outside with a cream cheese stuffing inside the pepper. It is not too spicy and great if you like Jalapenos. The Buffalo wings weren't too over powering but had just enough kick to make you sweat a little. The meat was juicy and well cooked.




R got the Jiro, which was made up of: beef patty, lamb, swiss cheese and truffle mayo on a white bread roll. The hero in this burger was the truffle mayo, it gave it the sophisticated edge compared to your average pub burger. The patty and lamb was also divine.


A, K and myself got the McDowell with added bacon. This was the best burger out of the lot. It had 2 pattys, generous amounts of swiss and cheddar cheese, lettuce and their special sauce. The only way I can describe this burger, is that it taste like a big mac but 100 times better. The cheesiness with the juicy patty, and that sauce (drool...). Everything about this burger was just done so well. If I was to rate this burger alone I would give it a 9.5/10. It was the first time I ever walked away from such a big burger and still had burger cravings for the rest of the week! I did have difficulties finishing it towards the end, but I blame it on my greediness for wanting the extra bacon. (This photo, doesn't do the burger justice)


D got the General which also had 2 pattys, pickles, jalapenos, mustard served on a brioche bun. This burger is great for those who like their pickles and jalapenos. Normally I am not a pickle person but I found myself happily taking bites of this burger.


Bobo decided to be different and picked the Senor Chile burger from the daily specials menu. This had a beef patty, chilli con carne, cheddar cheese and pickles on a brioche bun. The chilli con carne was a good twist to your regular burger fillings. The cheese was nicely melted into the patty and con carne. I think this burger would have been a real winner if I hadn't also tasted the McDowell in the same meal. If I didn't know the McDowell existed and I ordered this burger, I would have been very happy.


All the burgers came with a side of chips which were well seasoned and crunchy yet fluffy inside. There isn't much for me to fault, except I wished the tomato sauce was in squeeze bottles rather that little sachets. I say this for 2 reasons: a) It looks out of place on the plate, since I am sitting down eating and not taking away and b) if someone was to be a tomato sauce dipper for their chips, that single satchet would not be enough. Also, I wish there was a side of the special sauce for the chips.

When it came to dessert time, we were all really stuffed but K, Bobo and I spotted the word Nutella on the menu earlier. The boys were ready to throw in the towel and said we could only have 2 to share between all of us. However there were 3 that we wanted and had difficulty deciding. When we asked the host which 2 were the best out of the 3, he was nice enough to let us order 2 and he threw in the last dessert on the house.

Our first dessert was the nutella doughnuts. This came out warm and nutella oozing out of a soft doughnut. I would have preferred the doughnut to be more soft and fluffy on the inside but it was an overall good doughnut.


Next was the Ace of Spades, this was a nutella parfeit with marshmallow and nutella ice magic. The nutella ice cream in the centre was soft and not too sweet, the marshmallow was just enough and the chocolate shell, finished it off perfectly. I expect to see this dessert at a fine dining restaurant and was honestly surprised and pleased to see this being served up in a family restaurant. You can probably guess - this was my favourite dessert.


Finally was the bananarama which had banana ice cream, layered with fresh bananas, vanilla custard, meringue and nutella. This was seriously banana-y in a good way. Compared to all the other things I had in this meal, this was the least guilty dish. The components all went well together, the only thing was, I couldn't really taste the meringue, so it would have been good if there was more meringue in this dish.


Overall 17.5/20 I walked out holding my belly, surprised, impressed and wanting to come back for more. Dandenong Pavilion sets the bar extremely high for burgers, and family restaurant dishes in general.  I just wished I had a bigger stomach, I will be definitely going back to try the other 2 burgers on that secret menu.


Dandenong Pavilion on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rare Steakhouse

As date night, D took me to Rare on a Monday because he managed to get hold of their 50% off whole menu special from Dimmi. Located on the corner of Flinders Lane and King Street, it is the more adult part of the city.

Rare has a great atmosphere with the low lighting and slight business feel to it. I could imagine a number of business lunches and dates taking place in this venue.

For starters I ordered the Coffin Bay oysters tasting plate. This done 4 ways: Kilpatrick, natural, vinegarette and mornay. The oysters were creamy and the mornay further enhanced that. The Kilpatrick had good worchester sauce and bacon ratio. The vinegarette was a nice compliment to the mornay flavour, it got my palette ready for the next entree.


The other starter was the 500g pork ribs. Ribs are always a favourite of D's but sadly this one didn't make the cut. The ribs were not as saucy as we had hoped (I was expecting something a very big rack meaty ribs, dripping in sauce). The meat was well cooked, it was soft and tender but I found it a slightly dry and underwhelming.


For mains, I got the wagyu porterhouse with chips on the side, for sauce I selected blue cheee. That steak was devine, it was a perfect medium rare and just melted away in my mouth. The basting was nice but I prefer the one at Meat Wine & co, but the cut was so good I would happily overlook it. The chips were the perfect side, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The blue cheese sauce was too thick and strong. I like a good blue cheese but this was overpowered the steak too much.


D got scotch fillet, this was also perfectly the medium rare. The meat was tender, his creamy garlic was also a great chip dip.

As sides coleslaw and cauliflower gratin. The cauliflower was creamy with a good amount of cheese. Coleslaw was just disappointing, for a restaurant of this calibre it was lacking. Felt like KFC coleslaw was better tasting.

After all that we had no room for dessert.

Overall 13.5/20 the staff was attentive and the wagyu was unforgettably good. The major let downs were the ribs and sides. Come here to expect good steak and nothing else, if I was to rate purely on the steaks alone it would have scored a 17/20

  Rare Steakhouse King St on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shyun Ramen Bar

Shyun is my usual go to place when I'm after good, local Japanese food. So naturally when I learnt they opened a sister raman bar on the same stripe in Koornang road, I was excited and keen to try it. The place had a modern rustic decor and fitted out to be a casual eatery. When we arrived it was buzzing already and shortly after we were seated (on a communual share table) a line formed outside.

Bobo, K and I decided to give it a visit for one of our girls night. We got 2 ramen, 1 udon and a few sides to share.




First up was the takoyaki octopus balls. These were small and came with a generous pieces of octopus inside. The outside was crunchy with just the right bite.




Adegashi tofu was lightly fried and simply disappointing. It was deep fried enough, you can see the outer coating being very light yellow in colour. The starch coating was all gelatin like and not crispy.


Gyoza, was again pan fried with a gelatin like coating on top. The base wasn't crispy enough and the filling was salty.

As mains we got the tori gara udon. This came with a tasty soup base and the udon were perfectly al dente.

The next was the tonkontsu kenkigara which was  spicy pork broth ramen with mince meat. This was packed a punch and the soup base was very salty.

Their signature ramen was tonkotsu charsiu. This was a rich broth with a shoyou base. Sadly it failed to hit the mark. It tasted like it was full on MSG, I felt very thirty after a few mouthfuls.

Overall 11/20 I found it extremely disappointing. Most of the food was too salty. I am hoping that this is purely because it's newly opened and they will iron out the problems later.


Shyun Ramen Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 1, 2014

Dukes Coffee Roasters

On a wet, wet Saturday, D, F and I ventured out here since none of us have tried Dukes before, and wanted something different (TK kept telling me, how him and his awkward boss loves this place). It's located on a busy part of Chapel St towards the Windsor end. Despite it being 2.30 when we arrived, there was still a 30 minute wait for a table.

Once we sat down we were greeted with a friendly waiter who was quick to grab our drinks order and return with warm coffee quickly. They acknowledge our wait and was fast to get our orders in, and food to stop our rambling stomachs. The coffees also arrived very quickly. My latte had a beautifully blend smooth taste with great aroma and just the right temperature soy (there is nothing worst than burnt soy milk).


F got poached eggs, crispy pork croquette with hollandise, apple and spinach on English muffin. The eggs were perfectly runny and the croquette was crispy without being too oily. Along with the apple crunchy and spinach to make you feel less guilty, this was exceptional menu item. Only wish there was more on the plate. For $17 it would have been good to see one more on the plate.

D got avocado hummus toast with dukkah, poached eggs and candied bacon. There is no denying, it was candied bacon which got our attention on the menu. The avocado hummus was a good way to jazz up traditional avo toast. The candied bacon was sweetened with honey. I was hoping for something more crispy, instead they were little oblong cubes of crisp outer/soft inner bacon and bacon fat. It was fun but it did not live up to my expectations. The dukkah added another texture element to the dish, I really liked this addition.


When I got the menu, the first thing I noticed was the crumpets with salted caramel, blueberries and hazelnut. The crumpets came drenched in blueberry and coated with a salted caramel/hazelnut sauce. This was the first time I had crumpets this way. The sourness of the blueberries matched the sweet and slightly saltiness of the sauce perfectly.  The airpockets within the crumpets caught all the sauce, making every mouthful a deliciously guilty taste.

Overall 15/20. Dukes was a delight, the staff was friendly and the coffee was fantastic. D, F and I all agreed that the food was good with great creative twist to classics.

NB:Only thing that hampered my experience was my umbrella getting stolen and we had to walk back to the car in pouring rain. So be careful of theives in this area.

Dukes Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon