Review: Bekendales (Melbourne, VIC)

Review: Bekendales (Melbourne, VIC)
1/50 Main Street
Croydon VIC 3136
http://bekendales.com/

It’s been three months since my last post – so much for promising to write more often, despite my best intentions.

Over the last few weeks, I have toyed with the idea of going on an indefinite hiatus. What’s the point of keeping this blog running when I can’t be sure when my next post will be published? Why bother, when there’s so much stuff I have to do in the real work?

After pondering some more, I decided to keep this blog going.

Sure, there are plenty of things that keep me busy right now (self-employment, navigating a new country – I’m currently based in Berlin – and a new language, not to mention all sorts of life admin). But they’re not big enough reasons for me to stop blogging. So what are some of the reasons why I want to keep going? Well. In the time it takes me get through an episode of Game of Thrones (a show I stopped really caring about a season ago but nevertheless continued to watch out of habit), I could have churned out a quick blog post.

Secondly, blogging helps me clear my mind – and quite frankly, it’s all over the place at the moment. Other people use different methods to clear their minds; some might run, others may do yoga while some see psychologists. (I did think about seeing one but my German health insurance doesn’t cover me for that.). I do quite a lot of writing for work and I’ve noticed that incidences of writer’s block have increased lately. While I do get the work done in the end, no doubt efficiency is something I can work on. To be a more efficient writer means I need to keep exercising my writer’s muscles so my mind stays alert. And this is where my blog will come in handy again.

Finally, I know there are quite a few of you who still read my blog – thank you so much for your support! Even if no one read my blog, I would still be doing it but the fact that I have more fans than haters does encourage me. Thank you.

I’ve set myself a goal of two blog posts a week. I’m sure I can churn out more than that when I’m on fire but let’s assume that I’ll have more busy weeks than not and leave it at two. If I end up doing more than two, great. If not, then you’ll know that it’s been one of those weeks where I’ve had to climb a mountain of work, get buried in more life admin or deal with yet another German bureaucrat.

Anyway, enough about me. It’s time to talk about FOOD!

This time, I’ll be taking you to Croydon where two of my good friends now live. Their go-to local for breakfast is now Bekendales on the Main Street which, let’s face it, may not be as hip and out there as Melbourne’s inner city cafés these days but it’s cosy, homely and the locals love it.

Buttermilk pancakes with vanilla ricotta and berries ($16)
Buttermilk pancakes with vanilla ricotta and berries ($16)

Cathy ordered the buttermilk pancakes, which came with ricotta as a default. The toppings change according to what’s available and in season; today, she received berry compote and fresh strawberries. It was a very tasty breakfast and great if you want your first meal of the day to be sweet and heavy (not for me).

Sourdough toast with Barney’s preserves ($6)

Sourdough toast with Barney’s preserves ($6)
Sourdough toast with Barney’s preserves ($6)

Aaron kept it simple with two pieces of sourdough, butter and some preserves (you can also opt for Vegemite if preserves ain’t your thing). I don’t order toast when I’m eating out but Aaron gave it his two thumbs up.

Kransky with chips and aioli ($16)
Kransky with chips and aioli ($16)

I chose one of Bekendales’ specials: the breakfast kransky. While the chips were leaning towards the undercooked side, I did enjoy the kransky very much. It came with caramelised onions, Dijon mustard, Swiss cheese and salsa for a tasty breakfast that was, okay, maybe a little too heavy in hindsight but one I enjoyed.

While I wouldn’t implore you to drive all the way to Bekendales if you’re living on the other side of Melbourne, it’s nevertheless a lovely little local if you happen to be in Croydon or surrounding suburbs – or heading towards the Yarra Valley wineries and needing somewhere to fuel up before you hit the grapes.

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Review: Entrecote (Melbourne, VIC)

6 Alfred Place
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9654 8184
https://www.entrecote.com.au/

So, I’m pretty bad at this ‘promising to blog more’ thing. One moment, I’m inspired to write and clear all my backlog; the next moment, I’m caught up in a this little thing called life and stuffing my face with honey mustard flavoured potato chips. A few of my friends suggested I shut down my blog if I’m not going to update it often – yet, I can’t. Not just yet. Let’s see if I can actually keep my promise this time around.

What’s been happening in my life?
– I’m now living in Berlin – and have been since last year but I neglected to mention it here.
– I’ll be back in Australia sometime this year. Which city? I’m keeping this one a secret…
– I’m now self-employed. The bulk of my days involve marketing and PR but I want to get back into writing, so I’m working on getting my copywriting business up and running.
– I’m working on a travel blog (details soon to come).

So now that you’re all up to date with my happenings, here’s a short review of Entrecote (city), the last place I visited in Melbourne during my last trip there.

While I was away Melbourne went crazy over Entrecote, a classic French bistro-style steak house. Melbourne may have its fair share of steak houses and French restaurants but a Parisian steak house that embraces all things fun and French? Nope. Entrecote opened its flagship restaurant on Domain Road in South Yarra before opening its second outlet in the city, which we visited for dinner on a Tuesday night.

Entrecote has a succinct menu of Hors d’Oeuvres, mains and sides – but it’s hard not to order their signature steak frites ($44.90), pictured rather badly below.

Steak frites ($44.90)
Steak frites ($44.90)

The steak frites dishes comprises of a grilled pastured fed Angus Porterhouse (mine was done medium rare) drizzled with a herb and butter sauce, and served with a soft leaves salad and bottomless frites. To be honest, I couldn’t see why this dish has been getting a lot of hype. Sure, it’s good but not that good – I’ve had much tastier steak elsewhere in Melbourne. This steak was a bit dry, kind of bland and the sauce didn’t really do much to elevate the meat’s natural flavours. Some might say that me living in Europe tarnished my opinion but I don’t think so – hell, I had a much better steak at Les Bubbles in Brisbane for only $34.95. Yes, BRISBANE. And that’s saying something.

I also sensed that our waiter wasn’t too thrilled that we didn’t order any alcohol. Now, I’m no teetotaller and I’m generally the first one to raise my hand for a glass (or two) of wine when I’m out having dinner. I was, however, T minus four hours from getting on a plane and doing a long haul trek to London; drinking wine before a long flight is definitely a no-no for me – and I told the waiter that, thinking that he’d totally get it but you can tell that he wasn’t pleased.

I’ve been told that the original Entrecote restaurant in South Yarra is a lot better but after my experience at the city restaurant, I’m reluctant to give Entrecote a second visit. After all, there are a crapload of other restaurants I want to check out in Melbourne and I’m fairly certain I won’t get the ‘look’ for saying no to the wine list.

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Review: The Winey Cow (Mornington, VIC)

39A Main Street
Mornington VIC 3931
+61 3 5976 4018
http://wineycow.wixsite.com/thewineycow

Whenever I visit Melbourne, I always try my best to squeeze in a day trip outside the city somewhere. Of course, it doesn’t always happen – especially when you’re only in Melbourne for two or three days – but when it does, I always have the best time. It’s nice to get away from the big smoke – not that Melbourne is a massive city in terms of population and size by any means but you get the hint.

Earlier this year, Aaron and Cathy took me down to the Mornington Peninsula to explore some markets, go for leisurely walks along the coastline and check out some rose gardens (not my idea, btw). By the time we arrived in Mornington, the three of us were quite peckish – but it was still too early for lunch. At this point in time, Aaron had just started using Instagram and suggested we check out, The Winey Cow, a café that recently followed his account. ‘They do cheese and wine, hence the name,’ he said. ‘But they also seem to do decent coffee.’

At 10am, cheese and wine didn’t seem like the best idea – but coffee was just what we needed. We ordered some banana bread to share between the three of us too – yes, it was a bit of a tight ass move but hey.

Some much needed coffee
Some much needed coffee
Banana bread with espresso butter ($9.50)
Banana bread with espresso butter ($9.50)

I’m usually meh when it comes to ordering banana bread at cafés but this one was pretty good. The bread was buttery and dense, and we enjoyed it warm. We were given three topping options: date whip, espresso butter and berry mascarpone; all sounded great but we went for the lovely espresso butter in the end.

I would have loved to stay longer to try their interesting brunch options such as their Southern Affair (housemade cheesy cornbread with southern spiced pulled beef) or black pudding and bacon risotto croquette. Alas, we had a rose garden to visit so brunch will have to wait another time.

The Winey Cow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Mammoth (Melbourne, VIC)

736 Malvern Road
Armadale VIC 3143
+61 3 9824 5239
http://www.eatmammoth.com/

As much as I like to hate on brunch, there are odd instances where I do actually say ‘yes’ to the odd brunch invitation. These include the following: when an interstate or overseas friend is in town for only 24 hours and brunch is the only time they are free, when I’m too lazy to drive and there’s no non-brunch venues open that particular Saturday morning (a ludicrous notion in Melbourne but all too real in Gold Coast) and when I see a brunch menu that’s actually super interesting enough for me to muster up some enthusiasm.

Mammoth in Armadale fits the latter category.

It also didn’t help that my friend Brandon was moving back to Malaysia and this Wednesday morning was actually the only time we were both free. To his credit though, he promised that I wouldn’t yawn when I saw Mammoth’s menu. ‘Apparently they do a lobster donut burger,’ he said. Well, dammit, I was SOLD.

Although it was a Wednesday morning, we were both surprised to see this café almost full. We were lucky to snag the last table but had we rocked up even five minutes later, we would have had to wait. We were informed that the famous lobster donut burger had sold out (nooooo), so we decided to peruse the menu for a bit while enjoying some coffee made with the Tightrope blend from Five Senses.

Latte ($4.20), macchiato ($3.50)
Latte ($4.20), macchiato ($3.50)

Brandon was right: Mammoth’s brunch menu had all sorts of unusual twists. Lobster donut burgers aside, there was also a cherry lamington puffed pancake and something called the North Shore (ham hock, pineapples and all sorts of other stuff that seemed more Hawaiian pizza than Mosman chic). You can also order poached eggs on toast if you want to stay on the conservative side, but that was seriously the most ‘normal’ thing on the menu. Much to my relief, you couldn’t get smashed avocados on toast here (and I’ll refrain from making a joke about house prices because I’m sure you’ll all sick of them). You can, however, order some avocado on the side for $4. Mind you, Mammoth’s sides menu offered cooler-sounding items such as egg and bacon popcorn or backyard fried haloumi with house-made HP sauce.

Brandon had the Mammoth version of the classic eggs benedict. It came with all sorts of things that you wouldn’t normally find in your eggs benny: duck sausage, orange and corn blini, pickled onion, fried egg and smoked maple Hollandaise. If you disregard the fact that my photo of this dish isn’t very good, the presentation was actually quite cool – and the overall dish was tasty to the last mouthful, too.

The Benedict ($21.50)
The Benedict ($21.50)

I had the char spanner crab egg crepe. On paper, this dish sounded like one of those annoying ‘Asian-inspired’ dishes that could go either way – thankfully, I gave it two thumbs up. The crepe was fluffy and light, with a generous amount of crab meat in it. Throw in some water chestnut pieces for a bit of texture and a bean shoot salad on the side ‘just because’ (though tbf, it was lovely). I wasn’t sure if the lemon sorbet added anything to the dish, though.

Char spanner crab egg crepe ($24)
Char spanner crab egg crepe ($24)

We shared the only dessert that was available on the menu that day, the Golden Gaytime panna cotta. I’m not usually one to order panna cotta at restaurants (it’s such an easy dish to make but restaurants serve it because of high profit margins) but in this case it was hard to say ‘no’ to the combination of honeycomb, sable biscuit and chocolate coated popping candy. A great dish to finish off on.

Golden Gaytime panna cotta ($15)
Golden Gaytime panna cotta ($15)

Mammoth changes their menu quite a bit so I’m not even sure you can get all of the above items if you were to go today. I do, however, know that you’ll be presented with a menu full of so many interesting and unique dishes that it’ll be hard for you to choose one. Unless, of course, the lobster donut burger is available and in which case you MUST order it and tell me what you think!

Mammoth Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Blue Chillies (Melbourne, VIC)

182 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 3 9417 0071

Disclaimer: I dined as Thanh’s guest; he got invited by Blue Chillies for a complimentary meal and I tagged along.

I’ve always been sceptical of modern Asian restaurants, especially when the end result tastes like nothing even remotely resembling Asian food (and no, splashing fish sauce on everything doesn’t work). That said, there are some excellent modern Asian restaurants in Melbourne that do a great job; they’re the ones that strike the perfect (and usually difficult) balance between paying tribute to decades-old cooking methods and contemporary ingredients. Blue Chillies on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy is one of them.

I liked my lunch there because the menu stays true to traditional Malaysian flavours but casually throws in some surprise twists here and there. There’s none of that contrived hipster wankery that you see all too often in this part of Melbourne – and there are no signs of wooden serving boards anywhere. It’s the sort of place you can easily bring your young work buddies before Wednesday night  trivia at the pub or your fussy Asian parents to for lunch on weekends.

Our host Ricky warmly greeted us, suggesting we start off with some booze. Thanh stuck with a glass of white wine while I said yes to an aperitif called ‘Linh’s party starter,’ a refreshing mix of ginger wine and apple juice topped with sparkling wine, served in a champagne glass.

Linh’s party starter ($14)
Linh’s party starter ($14)

We began our meal with some steamed buns filled with duck rendang. This dish itself isn’t on the a la carte menu (at least the current version of it anyway), but it appears as part of Blue Chillies’ celebration and deluxe banquet menus ($50 and $65 per head, respectively). The a la carte menu does offer duck rendang as a main, though so I’m guessing they serve it in bao form to prevent wastage.

As an Indonesian, I grew up eating lots of rendang – but only ever the beef kind. I’ve never even thought about using duck in rendang and I kind of wish I did. The gamey duck flesh paired beautifully with the aromatic spices and chillies in the curry, making it more exciting to eat than the traditional beef version (but probably costlier to make).

Duck rendang bao
Duck rendang bao

I’m not a huge fan of soft shell crab so I didn’t attack this dish as ferociously as Thanh did. Still, I ate it all, piquant black pepper sauce and all. Also, it may not look like it in the photo but the batter arrived on our table super crispy and light.

Black pepper soft shell crab ($15)
Black pepper soft shell crab ($15)

The rockling with butter egg floss was, by far, my favourite dish of the day. Fish is my favourite meat and I love duck eggs so really, this dish was a winner in my eyes before I even touched it. Take rockling pieces, lightly fry them in batter until they’re gorgeously crispy and then add some duck egg floss on top along with fried curry leaves and chilli for good measure. True, you really can’t go wrong with duck egg but the combination of textures and flavours just made this dish a ‘must order’ for when I next visit Blue Chillies.

Rockling with butter egg floss ($18)
Rockling with butter egg floss ($18)

Blue Chillies offers a range of curries and noodle dishes for lunch, but Ricky suggested we try the assam prawns instead. The prawns were gently cooked in a beautifully tangy tamarind curry that was light and piquant with the slightest hint of chilli. I like my curries heavy but sometimes it’s nice to go for a version that’s less likely to make you bloat like crazy.

Assam prawns with okra, stringless beans and tomatoes ($18)
Assam prawns with okra, stringless beans and tomatoes ($18)

We shared a serving of belachan spinach on the side. At $19, I found the price point of the spinach a bit odd given that it’s a side dish – especially also given that Blue Chillies’ medium-sized dishes were on the $18-20 mark. That said, the serving size was extremely generous – I love belachan (shrimp paste) so much that I would have happily enjoyed this one dish on my own for lunch.

Belachan spinach ($19)
Belachan spinach ($19)

I was a bit of a dill and accidentally deleted the one and only photo I had of our dessert, the pandan crepes ($10). Sorry folks, you’ll just have to rely on my flimsy description of this dish. Picture a pair of mutant-green crepes filled with wok-roasted coconut and palm sugar and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Yup, it’s Blue Chillies’ version of kueh dadar, a sweet Nonya-style dessert that many Malaysians would have grown up eating.

Later on, I was surprised to find that Blue Chillies had been trading since my rebellious teenage years – 1999, to be exact. Yet, I had only just heard about them. I think it’s great that Blue Chillies managed to survive on such a competitive street for so long and continue to do well. Hopefully they’re still around when I’m in Melbourne and craving those butter egg floss rockling fillets.

Blue Chillies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Bugda Uyghur Restaurant (Melbourne, VIC)

19 Railway Parade North
Glen Waverley VIC 3150
+61 3 9886 5395

In my teenage years, Glen Waverley was a suburb full of cheap and cheerful Cantonese restaurants, a place where my friends and I would trek to when we got a tad over the Box Hill or Doncaster Shoppingtown scene. These days, I don’t go to ‘Glenny’ very often but when I do, I’m often amazed at how different the suburb looks compared to my last visit. It’s an area that seems to be exponentially growing at ridiculous rates – and with a rising population growth comes an increase in the variety of eateries this leafy eastern suburb has to offer.

These days, I’m really loving Uyghur food, the cuisine of the Turkic ethnic group in China’s Xinjiang region. When it comes to regional Chinese cuisine, Cantonese food will always be my top pick but sometimes I feel like something with a bit more heat and something more robust and down-to-earth. My friends Cathy and Aaron are also fans of Uyghur food so when they suggested we go to Bugda Uyghur in Glen Waverley, I eagerly said ‘sure!’

Bugda Uyghur was not around in my teenage years – but then again, neither was modern Hispanic eatery The Black Toro or burger joint YOMG. In fact, Bugda Uyghur is a bit out of the way; it’s more towards the railway station end than the bustling Kingsway precinct which means it doesn’t get as much foot traffic but it does attract its loyal customers each night.

One does not go to an Uyghur restaurant without ordering some sort of meat on skewer – so we ordered a handful of marinated lamb shish kebabs. The meat was juicy, with the balanced combination of chilli, cumin and the remnants of smoke from the charcoal grill making this thing the best $2 you’ll probably spend this month.

Gosh kawab, $2 each
Gosh kawab, $2 each

We then enjoyed a serving of barangga laghman, handmade noodles with stir-fried shredded potatoes and lamb. While noodles in Cantonese dishes tend to be more refined, these ones were heartier and thus would probably be more effective if you happen to be carb loading or struggling to fit in some macros for the day. I probably would have been okay without all the shredded potatoes on top, though Cathy loved them for the added crunch they brought to the dish.

Barangga laghman ($12)
Barangga laghman ($12)

If you’re still short of macros after those noodles, then the Anjan polu (pilaf rice) would definitely do it for you. I’d say that most of the dishes on an Uyghur restaurant menu are cooked with some sort of cumin/oil/chilli/lamb combination so if you want a dish that’s milder, this would be it. Yes, there’s braised lamb and yes, there’s perhaps a little bit of heat – but it’s pretty tame… and insanely delicious. I also liked the way the currants added a lovely dimension of sweetness to the dish.

Anjan polu, $15
Anjan polu, $15

I find it hard to go to any sort of Chinese restaurants without ordering a plate of dumplings. Thus, some steamed lamb dumplings were ordered – no pork because Uyghurs are predominantly Muslim so you’ll hardly ever see pork on the menu at an Uyghur restaurant. Hearty and generously sized, the dumplings were tasty though I think my preference for dumplings is still pork. This is because the other lamb dishes we ordered were seasoned with a lot of flavours, thus masking that distinctive lamb smell that many people find unpleasant including myself sometimes. With these dumplings though, there was nothing to mask the smell which somewhat affected my enjoyment of them.

Tugire, 15 pieces for $12
Tugire, 15 pieces for $12

Bugda Uyghur is definitely a most welcome addition to the Glen Waverley dining scene; I can see myself returning if I’m in the area and am craving lamb skewers or handmade Uyghur-style noodles (though I’d probably order ones without potatoes on them). Shoot me if you ever see me queuing for burgers at YOMG, though.

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Review: Ricky & Pinky (Melbourne, VIC)

211 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 3 9417 7700
http://buildersarmshotel.com.au/bar-bistro/

WOAH. Look what we have here: a new blog post!

It’s been a super long time since I updated this blog and this is where I give all the generic excuses about life getting in the way, being busy adult-ing (I don’t like using the word ‘adult’ as a verb but the cool kids seem to be doing it these days) and getting really stuck into the scary but exciting world of self-employment – and by that, I don’t mean selling weight loss teas on Instagram.

Actually, I didn’t think that people still read my blog so for a while, I was happy leave it unattended like an electric slow cooker filled with soon-to-be hearty beef stew. The other day, though, Nee tweeted that she missed me (I don’t live in Melbourne anymore – but most of you already know that) and subsequently started going through my old blog posts. While I’m not much of a sentimental person, that really touched me – in fact, it was enough for me to get inspired to start blogging regularly again.

The last time I saw Nee in real life was in Melbourne more than a month ago. Bean and I were visiting Melbourne – on Grand Final Day, no less. Bean isn’t a sportsball fan and having lived in Queensland for so long, I’ve been so out of touch with the AFL scene so I couldn’t really muster up the enthusiasm to watch the Grand Final. Nee was also free that day so it was a perfect time to catch up for lunch while the rest of Melbourne cheered on the doggies. We’re all fans of Andrew McConnell and I’d been wanting to check out his newest addition to the McConnell empire: Ricky & Pinky, a Cantonese-style gastropub (for lack of better word). Hence, we decided to make it our lunch venue for the day.

Out of all the Andrew McConnell joints we’ve been to, I’d say Ricky & Pinky was probably the less ‘pretty-looking’ out of the lot. It was obvious that the aim was to capture the essence of the much adored suburban Australian Chinese restaurant from the 80s and 90s, hence the green carpeting, fish tank filled with live seafood and lazy susans. But there was also a touch of the modern throw in: gold pipes, sleek white walls and a team of young hipsters. Also, you had to go through the Builders Arms Hotel (a pub) to get into Ricky & Pinky, which was a little bit weird. But anyway.

Every Asian household had/have these chopsticks
Every Asian household had/have these chopsticks

We picked a bottle of 2011 Magpie Estate ‘The Schnell’ Shiraz Grenanche, Barossa Valley ($59) to share. The wine’s name was fitting in both ways: Bean was flying back to Berlin that evening (‘schnell’ is the German word for ‘fast’ or ‘quick’) and I now have a strong hatred of magpies due to a nasty swooping incident while innocently walking through Bond University last spring. In any case, the wine was lovely – just the right amount of body to keep Bean happy but not too heavy for me (I don’t like combining Asian food with rich reds).

Amuse bouche: peanuts and cabbage
Amuse bouche: peanuts and cabbage

These days, I can’t sit through an Andrew McConnell meal without at least one serving of dumplings. I blame two years of living in Gold Coast and not having access to good and honest dumplings. These dumplings definitely hit the spot: I loved the combination of their silky smooth skins and the fiery chilli oil punctuated with gloriously numbing bursts of Sichuan peppercorns. The filling was robust and tasty, too.

Sichuan pork dumplings with garlic chive and chilli oil ($15)
Sichuan pork dumplings with garlic chive and chilli oil ($15)

I ordered the spring rolls not knowing what ‘scamorza’ meant. Well, it turned out to be a cow’s milk cheese that was similar to mozzarella but with a milder flavour. It was an odd feeling biting into the crispy spring roll skin expecting your typical filling of minced pork or even vegetables, only to be greeted by a stream of bubbling hot cheese. Bean wasn’t a fan, but I didn’t mind it – I mean, who doesn’t like anything that involves deep frying and cheese?

Scamorza spring roll, plum sauce (two for $8)
Scamorza spring roll, plum sauce (two for $8 – but you can ask for three)

Next, we had the pipis and XO sauce, a Cantonese classic and the one dish I always insist on ordering whenever I’m at Chinatown institution Supper Inn. I can’t remember how much the pipis were (damn ‘MP’) but we got half a kilo of them, a pretty generous serving. Best of all, the pipis were drowned in a lovely housemade XO sauce – plenty to soak up with the fried Chinese doughnuts provided on the side. Oh yeah.

Pipis and XO sauce, fried doughnuts (MP)
Pipis and XO sauce, fried doughnuts (MP)

These days, we find it hard to resist duck when it’s on the menu so it comes as no surprise that the dry aged duck was ordered. Beautifully juicy and tender, each duck breast piece imparted a slight smoky flavour. Serving suggestion: whacked on top of a warm steamed bun with plenty of hoisin sauce slathered all over. Two thumbs up – but not for the unflattering photo of it below (ha!).

Dry aged duck ($32)
Dry aged duck ($32)

We were pretty full at this stage but Bean was enjoying himself a bit too much so he cheekily asked for a serving of the steamed five-spiced salt chicken, one of the items from the mains (all designed to share, of course). Tender and juicy, the chicken was served with a large serving of egg fried rice along with ginger and spring onion sauce (the kind that David Chang made hipster famous). There was a beautiful balance of flavours but more importantly, it was tasty; the perfect dish to end a leisurely Saturday lunch on.

Steamed five-spiced salt chicken with egg fried rice ($44)
Steamed five-spiced salt chicken with egg fried rice ($44)

We shunned the dessert menu for coffee elsewhere; if we had more room in our collective stomachs though, we probably would have been more inclined to order more savoury dishes than peruse the dessert menu – like I’d pay $4 for a large fortune cookie. But never mind, we’ll be back next time to explore the rest of Ricky & Pinky’s menu – and maybe order more of those pipis.

Ricky & PInky Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Doodee Paidang (Sydney, NSW)

9/37 Ultimo Road
Haymarket NSW 2000
+61 2 8065 3827
http://www.dodeepaideng.com.au/

I’m not sure what it is about Aussies and their love for Thai food – but when I say Thai food, I’m not talking legit Thai food that you get in the bustling streets of Bangkok. No, we’re speaking of one-dimensional green curries without any discerning flavours or heat. We’re talking pad thai noodles that’s missing the well-balanced ratio of salty-sweet-spicy-sour and the all-important wok hei. And finally, all the fake elephants and purple. Bleh!

Thankfully, you’ll find none of that here at Doodee Paidang, a small chain of Thai restaurants in Sydney. Specialising in tom yum noodle soups, Doodee is a favourite cheap eats joint for Thai international students so you know you’ll expect more than a decent level of authenticity.

Doodee has branches in Cabramatta, Bondi Junction and Haymarket; for folk that work in the city, Haymarket is the most convenient location – that’s where I caught up with fellow foodie Julie for a post-work dinner one evening.

You can choose between seven levels of spiciness, starting with the mild (albeit Thai mild which is different to gweilo mild) Doodee Monster right through to the sadistic Doodee super nova at level seven. Technically though, there really are only five levels – they omit numbers four and six as they’re unlucky numbers. I also liked that you can choose between a jumbo bowl if you’re hungry or a small bowl if you want to try other stuff on their menu, such as rice dishes or non-spicy noodle soups.

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Being indecisive, I ended up going for the Dooedee duo ($14). On one side there was the Doodee vermicelli with tender braised pork, fish and beef balls and crispy wonton skin shreds; on the other side, there was the Doodee barbeque pork with egg noodles. There was no chilli in any of my dishes but on every table, there is a condiments island so you can DIY heat. (and suffer the consequences of putting way too much chilli – but my iced Thai milk tea ($4.50) saved the day.)

Meanwhile, Julie went a la carte. She divided her attention between two small dishes: the soft boil rice with prawns ($6.90) and the tom yum noodles with ribs ($6). I snuck several bites from each bowl and loved the gorgeous balance of intricate flavours that came out of every spoonful. And while I’m more of a noodles>rice person, I did find the rice dish much nicer – the rich seafood broth was beautifully infused with pork, chilli and lime.

I have to say that this was one of the best Thai meals I’ve had in Australia. All our dishes struck the perfect balance of spicy, salty and sweet – and if you happen to go for one of the spicy options, heat. The liberal use of fresh herbs such as coriander also helped to lift the flavours of each dish to another level that surpassed your average suburban Thai restaurant.

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Review: David & Camy Noodle Restaurant (Melbourne, VIC)

605 Station Street
Box Hill VIC 3128
+613 9898 8398

One thing I really miss about living in Melbourne is the proximity to dodgy dumpling places. By dodgy dumplings, I mean plates cheap, greasy yet oh-so-damn-tasty dumplings that’s best enjoyed with beer as well as after a hangover. There are plenty of those sots of places in the city and in suburban Asian enclaves such as Box Hill and Glen Waverley.

Unfortunately, these sort of joints are rare if not non-existent where I live now so I have to do without – or make my own from scratch if I’m craving. It’s no wonder, then, why most of my Melbourne trips include a trip to Shanghai Village or Shanghai Street et al. On my last Melbourne trip, I ended up at David & Camy Noodle Restaurant in Box Hill. They’ve been around since 1988 and were one of my go-to places for dumplings when I was growing up; these days, they’re still going strong.

Matt was my dining partner for the evening; in hindsight, this was probably a terrible idea because he had become a vegetarian a year or so ago – something which I completely forgot about. Regardless, David & Camy still has plenty of vegetarian options to choose from.

Spring onion pancake ($3)
Spring onion pancake ($3)

Like the spring onion pancakes, for example. At $3 a pop, it’s easy to slip in a serving when you’re having a dumpling feast. I make these at home a lot these days so rarely do I order them when I’m out but they’re a good dish to share when you’re out with vegos. Plus, they’re cheap too.

Shanghai vegetarian fried noodles ($9)
Shanghai vegetarian fried noodles ($9)

We ordered a plate of Shanghai noodles – sans pork – to share. David & Camy are very generous when it comes to serving sizes and the mountain of noodles we received was MASSIVE. In fact, we couldn’t even finish these between the two of us despite how ridiculously tasty they were (it’s all in the mushrooms, didn’t you know). Yes, it was very greasy and yes, they probably used old vegetables as they had a very limp texture – and yes, my photos are pretty horrible – but so what.

Fried Peking pork dumplings (15 pieces, $9.50)
Fried Peking pork dumplings (15 pieces, $9.50)

I ordered these, thinking that I’d be able to finish them on my own but after helping Matt with his noodles, I admitted defeat. I think I ate about seven before I gave up and asked for a plastic container. Crispy and full of bite, these dumplings were as good as I remember. While they won’t win any dumpling equivalent of Michelin star awards (they’d probably take marks off for being on the very oily side), they did the job and I was happy.

David & Camy Dumpling Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: San Antone by Bludsos (Melbourne, VIC)

Level 1, Crown Casino
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006
+61 3 8658 3441
https://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/restaurants/casual/san-antone

After a day of roaming Fitzroy and Brunswick, my friends and I ended up at Crown Casino. It’s been a while since I’ve set foot on its carpeted floors and goodness knows why and how we ended up there. It was, however, Easter Monday and a lot of places were either closed or packed out for dinner – maybe we figured that our only chances of snagging a table somewhere without going too far from the city was at Crown.

We ended up at San Antone by Bludsos, a kinda-but-not-really new eatery just around the corner from Village cinemas. Being completely out of the loop when it came to new openings in Melbourne, I didn’t know that this place existed though my dining companions Aaron and Cathy had heard about it. A product of third-generation barbeque pit master Kevin Bludso, San Antone is a new player on the Melbourne American barbeque scene. With restaurants in Compton and Hollywood, Melbourne was San Antone’s third location – and going by how packed it was on a Monday evening, it seems like the gamble has paid off for Bludso. There was a queue to get into the restaurant, but we were lucky just to make the cut for the last empty table.

Peach iced tea ($8)
Peach iced tea ($8)

After having spent the good part of that afternoon hitting the beers, I decided to stay away from alcohol. Instead, I opted for San Antone’s homemade peach iced tea. At $8, the tea was a bit of a rip given that it was rather sweet and one-dimensional; I couldn’t even taste the advertised thyme they added in the drink.

Meanwhile, Aaron ordered the ‘American-style diner coffee’ which was $4 – a laugh because hello, this is Melbourne! This is the land of amazing coffee, bitch! Curiously, the coffee appeared in the dessert menu rather than the drinks menu but Aaron specifically requested to have the coffee ‘served now.’ It took until after we were halfway through our food for his coffee to arrive – and only after three reminders to the staff. As predicted, the mud didn’t taste so good.

Shared platter for two ($64)
Shared platter for two ($64)

We shared a meat platter between the three of us. Although the platter was designed to be shared between two, the waiter didn’t object when that was all we ordered – and it was just the right amount of food to share, too. On the plate was some pulled pork, half a chicken, a chicken sausage and San Antone’s signature beef brisket that had been cooked in Old Hickory smokers on low heat for 12 to 15 hours. They also threw in two types of homemade barbeque sauce (one hot, one not) and some sides: chilli con carne, mac and cheese and slaw.
fb3Oh yes, that brisket.

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Unfortunately, I can’t say I was in love with our meal. In most cases, the meat was dry and lacking in flavour beyond smoky but even that was one-dimensional. The only good bit was the brisket, but only because there was just enough fat on the meat to carry the flavour through. I found the sides ordinary too – the chilli con carne was nothing I can’t make at home while half drunk after a night out while the ‘tangy coleslaw’ was anything but tangy. I guess the mac and cheese tasted okay but then again, it’s hard to go wrong with pasta and cheese.

San Antone has hit the jackpot with its mass bogan appeal, but it will have to work hard if they want to steal fans away from the likes of Le Bon Ton, Blubonnet BBQ, Big Boy BBQ et al. San Antone’s initial offerings of authenticity may appeal to begin with, but its dumbed down flavours and price point is likely to deter many from returning.

San Antone by Bludso's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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