Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spice Temple - Crown Casino

As part of a milestone celebration D's family took us all to Spice Temple. Most people would have heard about Neil Perry's Rockpool but it's sister restaurant, Spice Temple many don't know about and should try out. Spice Temple is Perry's take on Asian Sichuan food, headed up by Ben Pollard. Located in Crown Casino along with this other ventures in Melbourne, it is modern spicy Asian fusion with a fine dining touch in a dark mysterious ambient atmosphere.

As with most Chinese food, we ordered a range of dishes to share.

Stir fried prawns with salted duck eggs and four chillis. Beautiful creaminess laced with fragrant of the salted duck egg. This is one of the dishes highlighted in red so it's not for someone who can't take their spice. But if you can, it's a must try on the menu.

Fish fragrant eggplant was done with a modern twist. It was not served in a pot with mince meat but instead the pieces of eggplant were deep fried and infused with the fish sauce mixture. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It didn't look it, but there was a small kick to this one.

Stir fried mushrooms was a combination of brown mushrooms, shitaki , oyster mushrooms, enoki and white fungus. This is one of the none spicy dishes. The range and mushroom texture difference made it an interesting dish and a great way to balance out the spiciness in all the other dishes.

Hot and numbing duck is one of their signature dishes, It's a crispy skinned duck served with a fiery peppercorn themed sauce. As the name suggest, it does leave  a tingly numbing feeling but delicious flavors that make it worth leaving your mouth numb.

Corn with smoked pork and chives. This is a simple sweet corn dish with the goodness of smoked pork oil as the key hero ingredient. The small pork pieces  gave it that rich taste to balance out the sweetness in the corn and the chives added to the aroma. This was my favourite dish of the night, along with the prawn.

The string beans with pork belly is a colour dish that had a LOT of chillis thrown in, but we were advised it was merely to garnish and not to be eaten. This had large chunks of pork belly in a spicy state.  Personally I found the pork belly to be too fatty, and not something that I could eat more than one piece.

We also got the hand made noodles with scallop and chilli paste. Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of it and should have, It is something I would recommend if you are going in a smaller crowd, for a larger crown it becomes hard to share and each person only ends up with like 1 strand of noodle and the noodle is good, so one strand isn't quite enough.

Overall  16.5/20. I was actually very surprised and very pleased with this visit. I have been to Spice Temple on various occasions over the years and this was the best visit by far.  Most of the food made me want more and even though it was spicy, it was very appetizing and a great offering. I am looking forward to coming back more.

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 12, 2014

Vapiano - Melbourne

A few weeks back I was lucky enough to win the competition that Confessions of a Little Piggy was running on her site. It got me a dinner for 2 to try out Vapiano's Spring/Summer menu. K and D being my usual and favourite eating buddies, made it hard for me to choose, so I decided to take them both and just split the cost of the 3rd person amongst ourselves.

K has never been to Vapiano before, so the concept of lining up in front of a chef to watch him/her cook for you on the spot was new to her. Vapiano is one of my regular dining places when working in Brisbane as one of my Italian colleagues can never get sick of it and I must admit, I usually quite enjoy their food too while on work assignment.

I got the pasta special (Gamberi con rosso) which was similar to the normal menu Gamberi pasta they usually have. It came with prawns, sundried tomatoes, chilli in a sun dried tomato pesto base. The sauce was nice and light and served with freshly made pasta (which is actually made on premises). It is nothing like the traditional thick and saucey pasta, but more of the pasta being just coated with enough flavour and the prawns to be the hero of the dish. Fresh and simple flavours.

K got the pizza porporrano which had a tomato base, topped with air dried beef, mozzarella, rocket, parmesen and finished with a generous drizzle of truffle oil, The pizza base was not too thick, not too thin but just right. The truffle oil turned this pizza into a gourmet pizza. Yum yum, perfect carb fix and the rocket made it feel less guilty with all the greenness.

D opted for something on the normal menu. He got the pollo e spinaci, which has a basil pesto base with chicken breast pieces, spinach, caramelised onions, pine nuts and topped with freshly shaved parmesan. It's nothing special that will blow your mind, but just good enough where it's satisfying and you will feel like you had a good meal.

For dessert, K and I got 2 to share. The first one was the white chocolate cheesecake with salted caramel and honeycomb. Creamy cheese on a crumbly base and chunks of honeycomb. It's a no frills dessert, but a good way to finish a meal. Second dessert was the tiramisu, it's almost a sin to visit an Italian restaurant and not have tiramisu for dessert. Again, this was a simple tiramisu, with layers of coffee mascarpone, and sponge fingers.

Overall 13.5/20 for the space that it plays in, Vapiano is a great casual dining experience, you watch the chef cook so you can tell them exactly how you like your meal. The pasta menu tends to have non saucey pasta, so if you like your pasta very wet, you would need to tell the chef who is cooking it. The pizza here is a favourite of mine, and for similar pricing to Crust, I would prefer Vapiano any day.

  Vapiano on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Breakfast Thieves

After some post auction fun, D and decided to head to brunch with our usual brunch buddies K and R. So we decided to hit up Breakfast Thieves out in Brunswick. Located in the back streets of Brunswick, it's really one of those places where you read about it, hear about it or you live locally and you are in the know.

Feeling quite famished we got straight into ordering. I got the PB & J, it was an easy decision since I love peanut butter and jam as a combo and french toast is one of my favorite things to eat for brunch; match made in heaven. The French Brioche toast was served with chunks of peanut butter in a crumbled dough like form, raspberry jelly, lemon curd and candied bacon. It was an interesting, refreshing and new way to eat the classic PB and French toast. I loved the play on textures and found the presentation to be above the rest of the food we ordered in terms of brunch plate up. Definately worth trying!

K got the Breakfast chain. It came with soft boiled eggs, apple crumble, berry yoghurt and cheesy soldiers. This is the perfect choice for someone who can't decide on having sweet or savoury. The cheesy toast is a great warmer to keep you full with that stringy, cheesy goodness. Then you have your solid breakfast favourites like eggs and yoghurt with just enough berry and muesli ratio. Finally the apple crumble is like the naughty way to finish off a good breaky.

R got the baked eggs which came with garlic toast on the side. Tomato based with generous amounts of chorizo, fetta and peas all cooked together. It is a heavier option compared to the others, but it's hearty and perfect for a cool morning.

D got the Ms Omega which was a cured trout with poached eggs and hollandiase sauce on toasted sour bread. It's nothing fancy but if no frill is what you want, then this hits the mark. The egg was perfectly poached and the trout was a nice alternative to the usual ham or smoked salmon that goes with eggs benedict. However for $16, I wish there was a little more on the plate.

Overall 14/20 I really enjoyed their creativity and I found most things nicely executed. I just wished they had more juice options, especially on warmer days when you don't feel like a coffee.

Breakfast Thieves on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Jinda Thai

D has been talking about this place for almost a year now. His colleague O recommended it to him and has visited a few times without me. He knows I love Thai food but sadly each time he attempts to take me there, Jinda Thai is either booked out or I'm working interstate. Anyway... I finally made it and got to dine there. *fist pump* 

It's located in Abbotsford, off Victoria Street on the "Thai" end of the famous strip of pho noodle shops. It's tucked away and you would easily drive on Victoria St and not notice it. Inside the warehouse conversion style restaurant is a trendy, upbeat modern Thai restaurant. With Thai inspired decor, it really is a hidden gem (like many good Melbourne restaurants). As you can tell by the pictures the place was packed on a Sunday night.

There was no way D was going to a Thai restaurant and not ordering a Thai Milk Tea - it was creamy and sweet. It was the perfect drink to pair with the spiciness to come. I opted for the longan drink which had a concentrated flavour of sun dried longan.

To start we got the Soft shell crab with green apple salad. The crab was crisp and had just the right amount of salt. The green apple salad is for someone that can take heat in their food. The initial taste has a zesty tang, followed by the sweetness of the green apple. However the heat will set in fast and I will not recommend this to people who cannot handle spicy food. Normally I would take chilli with most Thai and Malaysian dishes and be fine with it. This time it was different. I struggled and the worst part was, it was so tasty, I just kept torturing myself with the heat because the other parts of the salad was so good. Just wish the spiciness was more toned down on this dish.

As a balancing act to maintain a 'healthy' diet (I use those words very loosely, I am horrible at dieting), we got the Pad Ka Na. This was Chinese broccoli cooked with garlic and salted Mackerel. Crunchy stems of greens with an intense salted mackerel laced through the stir fry. This is the 'yummy' way to eat your greens!

It is part of the usual routine that D has to order green curry, coconut rice and pad thai at any Thai restaurants we ever visit.  This chicken green curry was creamy and sweet. It's tailored more towards a "western" taste so don't come here expecting the same punch as you would get in Bangkok. However, I still quite enjoyed it with the coconut rice. 

The pad thai had the usual suspect of ingredients. Peanuts, lemon juice, fish sauce, bean shoots and we picked prawn for the core ingredient. The stick noodles were cooked to a nice soft and smooth state. Good classic, only downside is the size. If I was dining alone and ordered just that, I would walk out hungry.

For dessert I got the famous crepe cake. I keep seeing these photos pop up on my Instagram, so it was a must. The flavor of the cake was green tea with red bean and served with coconut ice cream. I really enjoyed the many layers of green tea and cream between the crepes which gave it the perfect texture. This was a light dessert, so I walked out very happy.

Overall 16.5/20 I found myself to enjoy most things, even when I struggled with the spiciness. The dessert was the highlight for me.  I am looking forward to going back to try other things such as the boat noodles. 

Jinda Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pappa Rich - Knox City

Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest along with D to taste some of the dishes the new Pappa Rich in Knox City had to offer. Located in the Ozone area, Pappa Rich had a fast pace buzz and a small queue of people at the door around 1pm. With an array of authentic Malaysian dishes to choose from, Pappa Rich is just one of those places you go when you want a no frills, good Malaysian feed. Perfect catch up space between shopping.

To start, satay was passed along the table for all the guest to try. D and I arrived late so there wasn't much left by the time we got ours. D had one and said it was tasty and well cooked.

For my main dish I ordered the Chilli Pan Mee. This was a noodle dish served with ikan bilis (fried anchovies), mince meat, spinach, chilli paste and finished with a soft boiled egg. To eat it, I popped the egg yolk and mixed everything up. This had the small kick from the sauce and wonderful balance of textures.

D got the nasi lemak, coconut rice with curry chicken, ikan bilis, egg and prawns. I consider this the perfect after school feed. 

Then there was dessert. The sago pudding was in a bowl of coconut milk, palm sugar, topped off with read bean.  All classic elements of a Malaysian dessert in one bowl.

The egg sago pudding was a small egg pudding surrounded in a pool of coconut milk sago. Nothing to fault in this, except I wish I had more!

Overall 13.5/20. This is good, trusty reliable Malaysian food but it hasn't reached the same 'high' as their other stores, though it is still a store I would happily visit for lunch or dinner if I was around Ozone for a movie or shopping. 

Papparich Knox City on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Night Noodle Market 2014

November is Good Food Month in Melbourne so it's the best month of the year to be a foodie. From once off events in restaurants, to the Taste of Melbourne Festival and the Night Noodle Market. In it's second year, this time round it was hosted at Birrarung Marr. With heaps of stalls to choose from spread over 3 areas this is how my exploring went....

Mr Miyagi

For those who read my blog on a regular basis, would know how much I love fried chicken. So trying the MFC was a must. Between Bobo, Az, D, K and I, we got the 20 piece and smashed it! The crisp chicken skin with juicy, succulent chicken inside. It's finger licking good!

Mr. Miyagi on Urbanspoon

To continue my binge on guilty pleasures, I got the Japanese poutine. Bits of broken up twister chips, covered with Japanese curry sauce and cheese. It was unexpectedly good!
Shimbashi Soba & Sake Bar on Urbanspoon

New Shanghai
From New Shanghai we got the combo pack (which only saved us $0.50). It came with the famous pan fried pork buns, spring onion pancakes and steamed dumplings.

The pan fried pork buns were good but is better in store. It was difficult to eat without a spoon with all the soup inside.

Spring onion pancakes and the steamed dumplings were nice but nothing exceptional.

New Shanghai on Urbanspoon

Whenever Messina as dessert is an option, then it is a must have. We got the Street Hawker and Phuc Khing Tasty. Street hawker has a brownie base with lashings of peanut gelato, peanut cookie and coconut and caramel jam.

Phuc Khing Tasty, is as the name suggests, F'ing tasty. The coffee gelato, cinnamon scroll,  with the spiced cookie was just delicious and a wonderful combination of flavours.

Gelato Messina Fitzroy on Urbanspoon

I can't wait for 2015's noodle market!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Skinny Dog Hotel

YY, D, P and I decided to check out Skinny Dog Hotel. Every year YY and I get the ET book and every year we vow to try something new out of the book. I can't say we have stuck to that vow every year so this time I made sure the suggestion was something we haven't tried before and was out of the ET book.

Located in Kew junction, Skinny Dog Hotel is your local pub with a refined atmosphere.

To start, we couldn't decide on what starter to get so we went with the chef platter which had dip, pork belly bites, calamari and barbecue prawns. The dips were beetroot and balsamic oil with dukkah spice. The texture was nice and smooth, but it was a bit bland for my liking. The calamari was nice and crispy on the outside without being too oily however it lacked a bit of salt. I found myself to be constantly reaching over to the salt and pepper grinder for this dish. The prawns were my favourite part of the platter. 

YY went with the beef burger. This has a wagyu patty with egg, bacon, lettuce, bbq relish. To top the burger off, was a giant onion ring on top of the burger. It was one good patty with lots of extras.

P went with the steak. This is something to order only if you are very hungry. It came with a generous amount of sauteed potatoes, carrots and broccoli. Finished with a mushroom sauce, it will curb any hungry beast.

D opted for their signature parma. A generous schnitzel with tangy Napoli sauce, ham and basil. The iconic classic in every angle. Served with a side of chips and salad.

I decided on the BBQ ribs. Slow cooked pork ribs with sweet potato chips and coleslaw. The meat fell off the bone. Their basting was thick and I would have preferred something lighter but more sauce. Sweet potato chips were a good change to the usual potato variety.

Being a pub, there is also a good range of beer. However I was in the mood for lemon, lime and bitters so we decided to get a jug. The whole night the waiter made fun of me constantly taking photos of my food.  The staff in general were friendly and our waiter was even willing to pose with a big jug of lemon, lime and bitters for my camera.

Overall 14/20 this is a great local pub with a good variety of menu choices. It's signature parma is deserving to be their signature dish. Perfect place for a local, casual feed.

Skinny Dog Hotel on Urbanspoon