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 the side of a bed of chips. 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. There 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 bitter 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 a willing to pose with a big jug of lemon, lime bitters for my camera.

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


Skinny Dog Hotel on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tutto Bene

Good Food Month in Melbourne is exciting. Many restaurants will have special menus for the month, the taste of Melbourne hits town and there is the addition of the night noodle markets in the recent years. As part of the Good Food month celebrations on South Gate L (Size 8 Glutton) got invited to a tasting and I was lucky enough to be her plus 1.  

We tried Tutto Bene which is a traditional Italian restaurant overlooking the Yarra. As L described it, "Tutto Bene is a place you would take your parents or your in-laws, especially if they don't understand all the fuss about fusion, and the having to wait 30 minutes for hipster food".
  


As starter we choose the Sardine di pangrattato. This was  3 grilled sardines with lemon parsley fennel and freshly sliced orange. It's not served with bread but we choose to have ours over bread (just speak to the friendly wait staff and they'll come over with bread and olives). Normally sardine would not be my fish of choice but this one worked well. I did enjoy the citrus, sweetness the orange bought to the dish.

For out main, we were served the Granchio risotto as part of our deal. This is one of Tutto Bene's signature dish. The risotto was served with spanner crab, tomato and chilli. The flavours were blended together went very well, I always love a bit of a kick in tomato based sauce and this did just that. However the key element of the dish was a let down. The risotto was under cooked, the grains of rice were chewy and just let the whole dish down. When the wait staff came over to check how we were going, we told about the rice and they were very apologetic and offered us a complimentary dessert and tea/coffee to make up for it. I am not one to say no to a free dessert, so I gladly accepted

For dessert we got the Eton mess. When it came it was so pretty on the plate, it was hardly a mess. Passionfruit puree, blackberry mousse, freeze dried berries and delightful meringue pieces. 

Overall 15/20 The flavours in all our dishes were nicely executed, they offer a good breadth of choice for traditional Italian dishes.

NB: For good food month, Tutto Bene's offer was their signature dish along with a glass of wine. The starters and dessert was something we ordered in addition to their usual offer

Tutto Bene on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pastuso

A couple of weeks ago I had a dinner catch up with the girls from Uni. Initially we were going to KBBQ but then J suggested Peruvian food from Pastuso. I've never had Peruvian before so I was quite easily convinced for the change of venue. Located in a typical Melbourne fashion on a graffiti back alley, Pastuso does have it's charm. From the cosy booths and friendly table setting, it was the perfect catch up spot. Being a girls catch up, getting a cocktail to start was practically mandatory, we got the Pisco Sour to awaken our taste buds. It was a good balance of citrus and creaminess from the egg white.


To start we got some ceviche. First ceviche was the snapper with sweet potato, cancha and leche de tigre. This was a fresh snapper with a zesty twist and puffs of corn. 


Second ceviche was the swordfish with cucumber. The citrus juice curing was fabulous with the cucumber.


From the street food selection we got the Anticuchos which was beef heart and swordfish skewers. The beef heart was surprisingly good.

Then there was the Cassava chips. I would never say no to chips with cheese. This was no different. I loved the sweet starchy flavours of the roots with the cheese

From the Grill we got the rib eye and roast chicken to share. The rib eye was the perfect soft meat as you would expect and served with a side of green salsa dressing.

The marinate on the chicken was so good, words cannot do it justice. The meat was tender and the basting was just the right level of smokiness and bursting with flavour.


To balance out the out we got the amazon salad which was radicchio, shallots, tomatoes in a passionfruit dressing. I found the sweet and tanginess of the passionfruit to be a great way to cut through the heaviness of the earlier dishes.


Overall 16.5/20 I really enjoyed Pastuso and love that it adds another variety and cuisine choice to the already expansive eatery choice in Melbourne. Everything I tried was executed well and I would love to go back and try out the rest of the menu.


Pastuso on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bird's Nest

Back to Brisvegas for work, so catching up with C was almost compulsory. This time I was lucky enough to finally meet C's wifey, E (I had a long suspicion that C made her up). Lucky for me, C and E both love Japanese food and took me to a yakitori place in West End.

Bird's Nest isn't your typical Japanese restaurants as they specialize in yakitori (skewers) and if you want something else, then this is not the place for you. They only do skewers and they do it well. It is a popular venue too, even for a Wednesday night, booking in advance was essential.

Shortly after E finished her complimentary chicken broth, we decided to go with the 7 skewer set and added in 2 more dishes to compliment (Chicken karage and dashimaki tamago) .

The side dishes were the first to arrive. The chicken karage was served with lemon and wasabi mayo. Succulent bites of seasoned chicken thigh. Perfect balance of batter and the oily guilt factor.


Dashimaki tagamo is an Japanese egg omelette cooked with broth and severed with radish shavings. The broth flavours infused into the omelette was a good twist compared to typical breakfast styled omelettes.

First skewer off the grill was the tenderlion with wasabi mayo. As the name suggests, the meat was very tender and cooked just right. 
Next was the chicken wings. Who doesn't love a grilled chicken wing and anybody who get this wrong, isn't worthy of staying in the kitchen.


Third was the thigh with lemon. I loved the zest of the lemon fused with the charcoal aromas of the thigh meat.




Then came the thigh pieces with shallots. I am not a fan of shallots so for me, this was just another thigh skewer as I left all my shallots on the plate. 


Then my hero skewer, the tomato wrapped in pork belly. This was a genius combination, the acidic tomato popping in your mouth, paired with fatty pork belly goodness. I like to lie to myself and say it makes a balance diet.

Last 2 skewers were the chicken meatballs and the chicken tail (aka chicken bum). The chicken meat balls were nice but at this stage of the meal I wish I got something other than chicken. A skewer with some vegetables on it would have been nice. The chicken tail skewer was really nice. The meat was quite silky in comparison to the other parts of chicken we ate earlier.


I didn't get any dessert, as they only had the single option of a Japanese creme caramel. I understand it's a Japanese skewer specialist place but surely they can offer more than 1 option for dessert. I am of the opinion you offer more or none at all. This part was a disappointment to me.

Overall 14/20 I really enjoyed their authentic flavors and would recommend this place as a catch up with friends. 



Bird's Nest Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kong BBQ

What do I like to do on a Friday after work? Eat of course! So last Friday was not any different. With my usual dining buddies D and K, we decided to hit up Kong. It was not my first time there but it was definitely going to be a different experience as previous times were for lunch, this time I had the power to order a lot more since there as more people to share it with (yes I eat a lot and lucky for me, so does D and K).

K and I each got a drink. I opted for the coconut slush which had watermelon, apple with refreshing coconut. K got the popcorn tea and said it was very average.

To start we got the mandhu which is a steamed Korean dumpling with waygu and kimchi served with soy vinegar. I had to say, this was disappointing, I felt the dumplings would have been better fried. The skin was lovely and soft and as was everything else, so it was a bit too mushy. The filling flavour was great but it lacked that solid factor or a small  crisp to it.

Next was the nasu miso which was eggplant pieces served on ice berg lettuce with yuzu, sesame and chervil. I like the spiciness to the eggplant but wished the miso flavors were stronger. The way it was served it almost needed something else to it. Something either crunchy or a bit dry. The eggplant was soft along with waterful lettuce it just needed something else to soak it all up. The flavours were excellent just needed an extra texture to it.

For the roti roll, we naturally went with pulled pork D, K and I had our eyes glued to that once we saw the menu for roti rolls. The generous amounts of tender, sweet pork came with slack, kimchi and chilli mayo wrapped in a soft roti bread. The slaw made it feel fresh and the roti was fluffy. Only thing was, as you ate, sauce dripped down your hand. So have a napkin ready when attempting to eat this one.

Buns, we got pork belly, peanut butter salt and pepper tofu and soft shell crab. First to arrive on the table was the soft shell crab bun. It was served with salted egg relish and coriander. I loved the gritty salted egg with the soft shell crab. The sweet bao balanced off the saltiness and the deep fried soft shell crab, gave it that extra flare.

K picked the peanut butter, salt and pepper tofu for her bun. The creamy nature of the peanut butter, along with the tofu was a good pairing. Then with the salt and pepper, it made it feel extra guilty (reminder of calamari).

Final bun was the pork belly with pickled cucumber and chilli. This packed a small kick to the otherwise simple bun.


Finally, when the mains arrived we were already semi full from the all the carbs in our starters, though like any good foodie, we powered on. First main was the baby back ribs with the Kong crazy horse chilli. When we asked if it was really that "crazy" hot and the waiter we got must have really been able to take his spicy sauce because it was "crazy" hot. I would advise getting a drink if you want to try this one. The spice level packs a intense flavour to go with the soft meat that just fell off the bone.


Then there was the Bossam pork belly. This was a delightful pork belly soba noodles that came with nashi and apple soy as well a super crunchy crackling on top.


Like any good Korean fusion eatery, there was kimchi fried rice on the menu. Kong served their version with beef brisket and a egg on top. The rice was very dense as it packed a lot of sauce and meat. This is also on the spicy side so I would not recommend it for the faint hearted. The overall dish was more on the oily side but not so oily that it felt like eating fast food.

To balance out the guilt with all the meat and carbs, we added an order of iceberg lettuce salad. These were baby icebergs dressed with shimichi (Japanese chilli powder) ponzu and parmesan oil. I like the concept and the fusion factors in this dish.

We were completely stuffed at this point but K and I had to try at least one dessert, so we got the coconut sago to share. The layers of passionfruit and pineapple truffle with the sago was just the perfect finish to the meal.

Overall 16/20 Kong does a good play on fusion concepts and mashed up of new flavours from existing known dishes. I walked out unbelievably full and still wanted to try more on the menu (slightly disappointed I didn't have any room for the Korean fried wings and wood roasted pumpkin)


Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sarti

Quite a few months back, D got us a Scoopon for a 3 course meal at Sarti. Sarti is not new to me, so I was very happy when he told me about it. For those who haven't been before, Sarti is very typically Melbourne, it is tucked away in an side street off the busy main road. Once you walk in, it feels like you have found that secret spot.

As part of our 3 course I decided to start with Fritto Misto. This came on a chopping board filled with deep fried soft shelled crab, calamari, whitebait. Served with chili tartare as dipping sauce, it was a good compliment of creaminess to the fried goodies.




D got the Fiori Di Zucca which in layman terms is fried zucchini flower stuffed with buffalo mozzarella. It's a nice dish and a good option if you are vegetarian but I didn't find this to do anything I would go 'wow' about or memorable. D seemed to enjoy it but we both agreed that the Fritto Misto would be the 'go to' dish out of the 2.



For mains I went with the Spaghetti Alla Chitarra which was a squid ink pasta served with blue swimmer crab, chilli, garlic, tomato and a generous amount of roe. The thing I liked most about this dish was the roe and chilli. Roe bursting with each bite, gave it another texture and the chilli went well with the delicate, sweet taste of the crab meat.



D went with the steak which was a 200gm sirloin it came with potato puree, onion rings and  kale. I wouldn't call it a bad steak but I also won't go to Sarti for steak. It was cooked well but it wasn't groundbreaking, however given the nature of the Scoopon offer, I would consider this a good value option.



For desert we got the Bombolini and Tiramisu. The Tiramisu was 5 layers consisting of hot and cold levels. I loved the strong robust coffee flavours and the warmness gave me a giddy feeling (not quite sure why, but it was definitely how I felt when I ate a big spoonful)



The Bombolini was small Italian doughnuts with a dish of warm nutella and hazelnut sprinkles. The crispy outside and fluffy inside pair beautifully with the smooth chocolate. Only downside, the doughnuts had a bit too much oil for my liking.

During the evening, we dined next to a couple from Adelaide and noticed they received excellent service compared to D and I. We ended up feeling like we got a different treatment because we were on the Scoopon deal, the host was friendly and welcoming but the waiter for our table was otherwise. This made me feel quite infuriated, as the point of a Scoopon deal is to bring awareness and attract most customers. It was not my first time at Sarti, from previous experience, coupled with the service the couple next to us received from the same waiter, it just made the evening and experience a bit disappointing.

Overall 14/20 The food was good and they have a decent selection for fine dining without the attitude (I'm talking about the atmosphere). Main let down for me was the service, however if i set that aside I would consider them a classic Melbourne modern fine dining restaurant.

Sarti on Urbanspoon