Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Izakaya Wagaya

Wagaya is a new Izakaya style Japanese restaurant in Melbourne, with interactive (ipad) ordering feature. I was fortunate enough to be invited to review the restaurant, at the invitation of their lovely marketing team. To be honest, I had never heard of Wagaya prior the invitation as I have been travelling in and out of Melbourne regularly in the past 6 months and my weekends have normally been based off a long list of 'to eat' places, so I was very pleased to learn there was a new Japanese restaurant in town.





Since it was a tapas styled eatery I was able to try quite a few things without entering into a food coma after 2 dishes.

When we got there we were greeted by a lovely entrance of cherry blossom. The booths were spacious so it gave K and I plenty of space to put our bags.



First thing we tried was the soft shell crab salad. It came on a bed of leafy greens, a zesty salad dressing, lotus chips, corn and cucumber. I liked the crunch the lotus chips added to the salad. As much as I like corn normally, the corn felt out of place in this salad,

How could I have Japanese for dinner and no sashimi? I ordered the salmon sashimi, it came with generous, large thick slices of salmon.

Next we got a bit adventurous and tried the eel and cream cheese California roll. This had the sweetness of the marinate on the eel and the creaminess from the cheese. Texture wise, I found this quite mushy, I think it had to be eaten with the lotus chip, but I found it a tad annoying there was 3 slices of sushi but only 2 slices of lotus chips.

Then came the tomato, mayo, corn pizza. Honestly, I ordered this out of curiosity more than anything. It was the first time K and  I had heard or seen such a combination presented. I found it very interesting, there was a generous amount of topping (calamari, mushroom, tomato, corn) and oozing with cheese on top. The pizza itself was thin base, so if you plan to order it, make sure you eat it fast, before it gets soggy.

The skewers were next, first skewer was the fish cake. It was nicely charred and the cheese melted on top was just the right of melted cheesiness goodness to fishcake ratio.

Second skewers we got was the ox tongue. It was soft and juicy, grilled to just the right amount of time

The last of the savory we got was ramen, The noodle had a bit of a bite to it, so it's perfect for those who don't like their noodles soft. The soup was not as think as I would like it to be but it still contained a rich tonkotsu flavour. It had a bit of a kick to it, tasted like pepper or shimichi.

For desserts we got the parfait. This had a generous amount of green tea ice cream, I really enjoyed the layer of crunch and the red bean topping.

Also we got the WA assorted to share, this came with green tea cheesecake, black sesame ice cream and daifuku. The cheesecake was rich and dense, strong green tea flavours, the black sesame ice cream was not as creamy as I would like it to be, it tasted quite icy and the daifuku was very ordinary.

The also offered a wide selection of drinks, from cocktails, mocktails, beers, sake. So it fits in perfectly to the Izakaya theme

Overall I found Wagaya to be very interesting, their menu is very creative and good place to chat catch up with friends over some sake and Japanese tapas




Izakaya WAGAYA Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 23, 2015

Koko

I was lucky enough to tag along to an event hosted by Crown Casino at Koko. Koko is one of Crown's Premium restaurants and one of the fine dining Japanese restaurants that has been around for a long time. It is located near the mahogany room, tucked towards the spa in Crown Towers; it's not something you will normally walk past, but it has a lot of loyal customers that know their way there and spread the name via word of mouth.


We got one of the their many teppanyaki sets. Once we were seated we got a sashimi assortment made up of salmon, tuna, kingfish and tobiko nigiri as starters. The fresh fish was a great way to prep my pallet for all the Japanese goodness to come for the night.

Next was dobin mushi which was a consomme with prawn, chicken, mushroom served in a clay teapot. The soup had a intense flavour but a light texture. Along with a small dash of lemon juice it was in a weird way, refreshing. I found this very enjoyable.



Another part of the appetizers was a mixed green salad with sesame dressing. Sesame dressing is my favorite salad dressing so this was one of those salads I could eat a second and third serving of.

Last of the starters was the crayfish tempura. This was in a light batter that wasn't too oily. It was served with a wasabi mayo. I think it tasted fine without the wasabi mayo but since I had the option I won't say no.

Finally it was time for the teppanyaki. It started off with the fish of the day and scallops. The fish was Patagonian toothfish which is one of my favourite fishes. I love the succulent flavours, it's delicate with the perfect flakey texture and this was no exception; it was cooked perfectly on the hotplate. The scallops were perfectly seared on either side.

Next up was the prawns cooked with butter on a hot plate; the butter accentuated the flavours of the seared prawns. To top this off we were also served the prawn heads extremely crispy and had the natural prawn taste in the head enhanced by the butter earlier.



To balance all the protein, broccolini, baby carrots and beanshoots were served up with the prawns. Something simple yet a good change of pace to break up the meal.

Finally came the star of the teppanyaki show, the waygu. It was cooked to our liking and I went with medium rare. The fattiness from the meat with the sizzling hot plate seems like a match made in heaven. The way it was cooked, the integrity of the meat was maintained and it also highlighted the texture of the great cut that it was. It was easy to eat and free of the chewy bits which you get in cheaper cuts of beef.



If you were still hungry after the point above there was friend rice too.

After all that, I was about to enter into a food coma and then dessert was served. Lucky dessert wasn't very big and heavy - it was just a simple vanilla ice cream with a few pieces of melon and orange.

Overall 15/20. I find that Koko is a reliable and constant place where you can visit for quality classic-style Japanese food. I always enjoy their teppanyaki when I attend. It is in the higher price bracket but I find that it's fitting to the quality of produce, atmosphere and the level of service.


Koko on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Miss Katie's Crab Shack

On the homebound leg of a road trip with Princess, Pasta and D we hit up Katie's crab shack after a doughnut binge at QVM. Katie's Crab Shack is something I've long wanted to visit. It's located right opposite QVM so it so close I couldn't say no to it.



We weren't very hungry so we just got a few things to share. First thing was Katie's Fried Chicken, as many of you know, I always have a soft spot for fried chicken. Katie's fried chicken came in a serving of 8 pieces with a side of fries and ranch dipping sauce. The outside was nice and crispy but it lacked  seasoning. Without the ranch dipping sauce it felt bland, I am use to fried chicken that has more 'oomph' in taste. It's not a bad fried chicken but more seasoning would have been preferred. The seasoning in the fries were good though. Their "Old Bay" seasoning was a good blend of salty goodness.


The crab burger was a blue swimmer crab patty, with slaw, herb mayo and a big pickle on the side. Patty was moist and had a lot of crab inside. This is more of a delicate burger and would be perfect with a big glass of cider.

Overall 13.5/20 I was blown away with what I ate but I do know, I didn't try their signature crab boil. With what I ate I was happy, I won't drive out there just to visit but if I was in the vicinity I won't mind dropping in again to try other things on the menu.

  Miss Katie's Crab Shack on Urbanspoon

Shake Shack

What is a girl to do when she is alone on Valentine's Day in a city that reminds you about this holiday at every corner you turn to. Well she goes shopping, gets herself a manicure and line up for a burger from Shake Shack.

Shake Shack is renowned for it's famous burgers, I visited the branch on 8th Avenue in the theatre district. I got there around 6pm and the line was out the door. In the blistering cold weather and the snow coming down fast outside, people lined up and like all those other people, I wanted my burger so I joined the queue. Lucky the queue was moving fast and within 25 minutes I was placing my order.

I got the single shack burger, this was the classic cheeseburger. With a soft bun and medium cooked angus patty with cheese perfectly melted on top. I can understand why this place is so famous. The shack sauce along with the tomato and lettuce just tied everything beautifully together. The best part, was this burger wasn't huge so I could eat a second one if I wanted to or just get other things as well.


The cheesy fries caught my eyes as soon as I saw it on the menu. We don't get this on the menu often in Australia, so there was no debating in my mind. The chips were crinkle cut and cooked just right, the sauce was a creamy thick cheddar sauce. It was nice but I had to have a few chips dunked in ketchup along the way to help break down the creamy and cheesiness.

Finally, I decided to skip the drink and went straight for dessert. I got  pretzel the concrete, which is what they call an ice custard. It was a chocolate custard with pretzel pieces, chocolate bites, mashmellow and peanut butter sauce. It is all your textbook naughties all mixed together in a cup and it was heaven in every spoon I ate. The flavour compliment each other well. All those toppings can be very rich, but that was combated with an ice cream that wasn't too rich but more creamy to bring the element together.

Since the first visit was so good, I decided to make another visit to try out more of the menu. 

This time I got Smoke Shack which had a patty with cheese melted on top, bacon, cherry peppers and shack sauce. The bacon was crispy with a smoky taste to it. Complimented with the sauce and a bit of a kick in the peppers, it was a nice twist to the classic.

This time round, instead of fries I got the ShackMeister dog. This was a dog stacked with cheddar sauce and shallots. I couldn't help myself and added ketchup but it really didn't need the ketchup. This was the perfect snack size for anyone who was feeling peckish. The dog itself was not too heavy and the simplicity of this made it something you can happily eat more than one of.

Since it was my second visit, I decided to be more creative and make my own concrete. I put the chocolate custard with fudge sauce, cheesecake and doughnuts. I got lots of doughnuts and cheesecake in it. Can't say i did a bad job in designing my own, but I did like the predesigned pretzel one more. It had the salty and sweet that mine didn't.

Overall 17/20 I really enjoyed my visit, as you can tell I liked it so much I went twice. The burgers are the right size. If you are starving get 2, if you are just a bit hungry get 1. It was the right level of guilt with the bite and the taste made it a very rewarding experience.

  Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sushi Burger aka J Cafe

Located on Exhibition St, J Cafe is one of those places that has been around for ages. J Cafe was one of the first places to offer sushi burger and is well known for it. On a particular Friday with my usual burger friends Mario, Bear and Miss Pika, we decided it was more a sushi burger day than a beef patty burger day.

Bear decided to go with the bento sushi burger combo. For the sushi burger he picked hamburg which was a beef and pork patty and tonkotsu as a main. The patty was nice and juicy together with the big piece of green and mayo, it was a perfect size treat. The tonkotsu was done with a well crumbled exterior. He got the spicy salmon sushi burger


Miss P decided she wanted 2 sushi burgers and nothing else. She got the spicy raw salmon and the croquette sushi burger. Both sushi burgers hit the spot, the rice was soft and the seaweed held it together nicely. There might have been a bit too much sauce, but it's more a personal preference.

Mario also got the bento and he got his with the soft shell crab burger. His sushi burger was my favourite out of the whole table, I love how the deep fried soft shell crab gave the burger that crunchy and bite.


I was having a 'guilty, fat day' so I got the chirashi salmon bowl. This came with generous amounts of salmon with a drizzle of terriyaki sauce and kewpi mayo. Not bad value, considering how much was in the bowl.


Overall 14/20 this is the original sushi burger in Melbourne, some say it's not quite Mos Burger, but I actually like it more than Mos burger. If you don't want a sushi burger there are other choices too.



Sushi Burger on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

D'Elephant Thai - Chadstone

I was fortunate enough to be invited to D'Elephant Thai's VIP tasting event. D'Elephant Thai is a new casual Thai eatery which caters for authentic Thai at a family friendly price point. It's located at Chadstone Shopping Centre near the Paparich/Simon Johnson entrance

To start we were served 4 canapes of pla goong, toong tong, mhu bhing ans satay gai. Pla goong was a prawn salad with line leaves and lemon grass. It was light and refreshing. Toong tong was a small fried dumpling with wonton skins of corn kernels and  pork. Perfect if you come with kids.

Mhu bhing was a  grilled pork skewer and satay gai was chicken satay served with a peanut sauce.

Then we were invited to try the som tum by the owner Phoon. This was done at a salad station where there were jars of salted duck egg, prawns, crackling, bean shoots, cherry tomatoes etc. It was made for you on the spot and you can tell them exactly how spicy you want it. The salad was fresh and crisp and the dressing was the right amount of zest and heat. I didn't like the duck egg in it but D was happily chomping them down, while I went for more crackling.



For starters we picked the tom yum prawn and red curry roast duck. The red curry roast duck was a rich creamy curry that had coconut milk fragrant laced into it lightly. It's the type of sweet curry that is good for those who don't like too much heat and prefer a mild, sweet curry.

Tom yum prawn was my favourite dish of the night. The broth was perfectly sour with just the right amount of spiciness. Loved how it was generous with the vegetables too.

Next was the mains, D picked the Chinese broccoli stir fried with pork belly

 I went for the chilli jam cashew chicken. Really enjoyed the classic flavours in this one.

For dessert we were all served a mango sticky rice with coconut ice cream and cantaloupe sago with coconut milk.

D'Elephant also offers a range of Thai drinks such as Thai ice milk tea,  Nom yen (ice rose milk) and pandan lemon grass cooler. Be warned though, Thai drinks are on the sweet side.

Verdict?

I think it's a great addition to the Chadstone food scene, it makes a great local restaurant and on the likes of Paparich, it's one of those places you can bring your family and expect good classic dishes.


D'Elephant Thai on Urbanspoon