The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

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

Review: Tran Tran (Melbourne, VIC)

74/76 Victoria Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9429 6147

One thing that Gold Coast lacks is a decent Vietnamese restaurant. There are a few up on the Glitter Strip but sadly, these places often serve a very modified version of pho that’s way overpriced and lacking in flavour. So whenever I’m down in Melbourne, I make it my aim to visit at least a couple of Vietnamese joints, whether it be a banh mi (Vietnamese pork roll) kiosk in Footscray or a restaurant on Victoria Street that dishes out piping hot bowls of pho.

In the past, I’ve enjoyed these Vietnamese meals with my parents. Excited about the possibility of enjoying yet another bowl of aromatic pho, I asked my folks if they were free to do lunch on Victoria Street one Sunday afternoon – they were. And all throughout that Sunday morning, my stomach growled in anticipation: I was finally going to have a proper bowl of pho after three months.

During those three months I was away, however, something strange happened to my parents: their taste in Vietnamese food – and restaurants – changed… and I had no idea how, why and when. In the past, my parents were happy going to places like Hung Vuong and Chu The. Now, they claim they’re ‘too dirty’ and instead, prefer sanitised places like Tho Tho that obviously cater to a western audience. This was very strange – especially since my parents grew up in Indonesia, having happily eaten roadside chicken satays for a number of decades before moving to Melbourne. And even then, they were more than happy with sitting down at a run-down Vietnamese point, slurping bowls of pho.

As it happened, we ended up at Tran Tran, just down the road from Tho Tho. Graced with polished white tile walls and orb lighting, the people running Tran Tran created an impressive space that was clean and contemporary – and not a single Asian was sitting inside. Sadly, these were the sort of places I would have normally avoided if I wanted authentic Vietnamese food. In fact, the waitress actually looked surprised to see us, three Asians, walking in.

I glared at my parents but my dad only shrugged, meekly saying: ‘blame your mother’ before she responded with a: ‘at least this place is smart – it attracts all the orang bule.’ I guess she had a fair point, from a marketing perspective anyway. But anyway, let’s get onto the food.

Spring rolls

Spring rolls

The three of us shared some prawn and pork spring rolls to start off with. I don’t remember how much they were but they did the job – nothing special but they curbed my cravings for the humble crispy ‘roll.

Pho ($9)

Pho ($9)

I had the pho – or as they said on their menu, ‘noodles with sliced beef with a choice of rice or egg noodles’ (dear me). My first thought was: ‘why does it come with fried shallots?’

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My second thought was ‘why is there a helluva lot of overcooked bean shoots underneath the noodles?!’

It was the strangest bowl of pho, I’ve ever had – at least in Melbourne. There was a slight hint of flavour in the broth, so at least you can say that they tried to make it taste like proper pho (cf. Berlin where it’s blatantly obvious that they sweeten the crap out of the broth to appease local diners). Overall though, it lacked the depth that one would normally expect from a good bowl of pho.

There is certainly a market for places like Tran Tran in Melbourne; indeed, they were doing a roaring lunchtime trade with happy Caucasians filling each table. But I’d never go back, especially since there are much better places on the same strip. One thing’s for sure though: I’m never agreeing to Vietnamese with my folks ever again.

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

Review: Pillar of Salt (Melbourne, VIC)

541 Church Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9421 1550
http://www.pillarofsalt.com.au/

A weekend down in Melbourne saw me catch up with inspirational foodie friends, Thanh and Hannah. For the most part, Thanh and I don’t particularly love brunch food – or the act of spending half our mornings freezing our bums off in the cold while we wait for a coveted table at Melbourne brunch hotspot #432432 to clear. Yet somehow, the three of us agreed to meet at Pillar of Salt, yet another one of Melbourne’s most popular brunch spots.

I can’t remember what time we agreed to meet that Saturday morning – it was definitely not before 9am (Melburnians don’t get up that early) but we weren’t pushing lunchtime, too. Either way, we were told (sometime between 10am and 11am) that there would be a 30-minute wait. I don’t like queuing for food so in normal circumstances, I would have said, ‘yeah nah, not waiting’ and then looked for other options. Hannah, however, had arrived there a good 10 minutes before Thanh and I – and had already invested that time in line. So we agreed to wait.

I think we waited more than 30 minutes. As the clock inched towards the 45-minute mark, we started to get narky. Why was this café named after the Biblical Lot’s wife attracting such long wait queues? Is the food really that good? Are the coffees made out of magical beans? Finally, we were seated.

Macchiato ($3.80)

Macchiato ($3.80)

From there, the service was speedy with a liberal dose of friendliness and good humour. So far, so good. My (second) macchiato (of the day) was indeed magical, a smooth house blend roasted by Five Senses was enough to curb my hunger pangs and yearning for a GOOD Melbourne coffee. (I had arrived from Queensland only the day before.)

Kimchi, corn and sweet potato fritters ($17)

Kimchi, corn and sweet potato fritters ($17)

Thanh ordered the kimchi fritters, corn and sweet potato fritters, a dish that I would not have otherwise ordered myself as I’m not a fan of sweet potato. That said, the fritters themselves weren’t too bad – there was a well-balanced mix of flavours and the kimchi was not at all overpowering. I did find all the add-ons (pink grapefruit cured kingfish, pineapple and wombok slaw, sour cream and house-made kimchi hot sauce) a bit too much, though.

Pan-fried Portuguese sardines ($16.50)

Pan-fried Portuguese sardines ($16.50)

I had originally opted for the pan-fried sardines – and Hannah, the porridge. A serious case of food envy, however, saw Hannah constantly eying my sardines and so we swapped. That was okay – I was also eyeing her porridge anyway. The sardines were served on toast with house-made ketchup, pickled red onions, truss cherry tomatoes, capers and preserved lemon. It was a much simpler combination than Thanh’s overly complicated fritters – and it worked. A great balance of flavours and a dish that wasn’t too heavy on the stomach, either.

Organic wholegrain porridge ($14.50)

Organic wholegrain porridge ($14.50)

I’m not normally one to order sweet breakfasts but this porridge was definitely one I can see myself ordering if I came here again. The grains were cooked in almond milk and served with strawberries, bananas, Coyo yoghurt and toasted shaved coconut. For an added flavour boost, they also threw in some agave syrup and activated almonds, which I thought was borderline wanky but anyway. It was a dish that was certainly worthy of a hundred Instagram likes, but also lived up to its good looks. Full of substance, flavour and texture, it was the perfect heart- and soul-warming dish to start a cold autumn morning on.

Boasting some excellent dishes and wonderful service, I can see why Pillar of Salt is one of Richmond’s better places to visit for a weekend brunch. The food errs on the quirky side and when done well, the results were amazing. And despite the fact that there was a constant queue outside, we – and the rest of the patrons sitting inside – did not feel rushed to finish our food and get the hell out. I’d definitely go back – but I’d make sure I’d be there early to avoid the wait.

Pillar of Salt Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review: L’Espresso (Ballarat, VIC)

417 Sturt Street
Ballarat VIC 3350
+61 3 5333 1789

A day trip out to Creswick one Tuesday saw my friends and I swing past Ballarat for a short recharge and refuel – at popular lunchtime institution L’Espresso, to be exact. Founded as a record shop in the 1970s, the establishment eventually became a place for locals to wine and dine to soft jazz music and a Euro-centric buzzing atmosphere. You could even see CDs being offered for sale here. Yup, a piece of Melbourne in Ballarat.

Short macchiato

Short macchiato

I already had my morning coffee in Melbourne earlier that day but like I was going to pass up a chance to have another one – after all, we were heading west to do an afternoon hike and I needed all the stimulants I can get. The coffee was a little bitter, sadly.

Linguine Bolognese ($16.50)

Linguine Bolognese ($16.50)

As its name suggests, L’Espresso’s menu has an Italian focus so there’s a lot of pastas to share around the table. There’s also sandwiches, pizzas and specials, including hearty regional dishes for the cooler afternoons. Aaron opted for the linguine Bolognese topped with freshly shaved Parmesan, a L’Espresso classic that, like good jazz music, doesn’t go out of style.

Gnocchi with fontina, broccoli and garlic pangrattato ($18.50)

Gnocchi with fontina, broccoli and garlic pangrattato ($18.50)

I decided to go vegetarian (why, I don’t know) and went for the homemade. Soft and pillowy – and loaded with a generous amount of delicious fontina cheese and crunchy garlic-spiked breadcrumbs, the each gnocchi square was glorious. There was also enough broccoli in the dish to make me feel a little less guilty about eating such a rich lunch.

Pork belly cassoulet with chickpeas, chorizo, beans, crispy prosciutto and toasted casalinga ($18.50)

Pork belly cassoulet with chickpeas, chorizo, beans, crispy prosciutto and toasted casalinga ($18.50)

Cathy went for one of the seasonal specials, a pork belly cassoulet which she managed to polish off before either Aaron and I got a chance to sample some. She declared her dish to be delicious but wished for a slightly bigger portion, though she only said it because Aaron’s and my pasta portion sizes were quite heavy.

With satisfied tummies, the three of us left L’Espresso ready to venture on our afternoon hike. Had we not made plans to be back in Melbourne by 6pm that evening, we were pretty sure we would have been back at L’Espresso later that afternoon (or evening) for some post-hike carbs.

L'Espresso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review: Just Fine Food (Sorrento, VIC)

23 Ocean Beach Road
Sorrento VIC 3943
+61 3 5984 4666

I was down in Melbourne over the Easter weekend to visit the family, catch up with friends and soak up as much good coffee (not to mention, food and wine) as I can. There was also a day trip with the folks thrown in the mix too. After spending the morning at a market down in Red Hill, we found our way up to Rye before stopping at Sorrento for lunch. As you can imagine, the main strip was flooded with Melburnians wanting to escape the big smoke for a whiff of fresh air, coastal vibes and overpriced cafés.

Just Fine Food was one of the latter.

Now, Just Fine Food is famously known for its vanilla slices. If you’re a dessert lovin’ Melburnian, no doubt you would have made the drive down Eastlink for that slice of clould-like vanilla heaven. My dad isn’t an avid by any means but he does have his favourite dishes – and he would go out of his way for them, even if it means a long drive to get that dish in his belly. A good vanilla slice is one of them.

My parents had been going to Just Fine Food for a number of years before they changed hands. And although new owners meant a new menu, Just Fine Foods wouldn’t remove their vanilla slice – and why would they, it’s their best selling item by far. I’m not one to go out of my way for cakes but even I had to admit that I was curious about this so-called amazing vanilla slice.

Despite it being Easter weekend (and thus, packed), we were able to squeeze into a spare table in the middle of the tiny café. There, we placed our order – just a coffee each, a pie to share and a vanilla slice. We didn’t want to go big because we had already consumed quite a lot of food at the market beforehand. Plus, we also had a Persian feast in Melbourne to look forward to that night.

For a non-single origin/house-roasted coffee made with the blood, sweat and tears of a bearded hipster, our lattes were on the pricier end of the spectrum. It wasn’t a terrible coffee but for that price, I did expect a little more depth and flavour.

Latte ($4.20)

Latte ($4.20)

All of Just Fine Food’s family-sized pies were sitting on display behind the glass counter so I knew they were going to cut out a slice. I wasn’t sure how big each slice was but for $18.50, I was expecting a quarter. Imagine our disappointment when we received a slice that was probably smaller than three party pies joined together – and as flat as a pancake, too.

Diamond Bay chicken and leek pie with chips ($18.50)

Diamond Bay chicken and leek pie with chips ($18.50)

To be fair, the filling was actually very tasty; each bite was generously packed with chunks of chicken followed by a healthy dose of homely spices and chopped leek. The pastry, though, was extremely disappointing; it was soft and soggy so it was obvious they just nuked it in the microwave rather than say, an oven or pie warmer. The chips were also underseasoned.

Vanilla slice ($8.50)

Vanilla slice ($8.50)

Thankfully, the vanilla slice was reasonably priced – and mighty delicious. A layer of gorgeously crispy puff pastry hid a slab of smooth, silky French vanilla that wasn’t too sweet – a plus in my books. And on the bottom, there was a smidgen of strawberry jam for a lovely bit of tartness. I could definitely see why people were going crazy over this cake.

For not a lot of food, our lunch was expensive – well over $40 for a measly slice of pie, a cake and three coffees. Even without the 15% public holiday surcharge, it would have still been pricey. I recommend sticking to Melbourne for coffee and getting lunch at the fish and chip shop next door, but definitely do pop in afterwards for a slice of vanilla heaven. (Great, I now have Dave Dobbyn in my head.)

Review: Addict Food and Coffee (Melbourne, VIC)

240-242 Johnston Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
http://www.addictfoodandcoffee.com.au/

Hipsters, ridiculously low speed limits and vegans aside, Fitzroy is actually a pretty cool place to spend a morning in with your mates. And despite the fact that it was Easter Monday, a fistful of places were still open – an Easter miracle, even with penalty rates and all. On the corner of Gore and Johnston Streets lies Addict, yet another brunch place in Melbourne’s inner burbs. What’s slightly different about Addict, however, was the fact that we did not have to wait in line for a table nor was the menu another boring list of poached eggs/smashed avocados/$4 bacon permutations. In fact, a table for three was immediately vacant by the time we walked in (another Easter miracle, I reckon) so walked in and ordered our first coffees for the day.

Short macchiato ($4)

Short macchiato ($4)

Addict uses Market Lane’s seasonal blend for their white coffees, which included the short macchiato I ordered ($4). You can seriously never go wrong with Market Lane and the beautifully familiar blend of milk chocolate, stone fruit and caramel notes went down like a treat.

Sweet and savoury board ($18)

Sweet and savoury board ($18)

Our original plan was to just have a coffee at Addict, before venturing to lunch elsewhere. My friends already had breakfast but I was starving as I’d left the house on an empty stomach. That said, I’m not one to waste stomach space on boring breakfast fare so had Addict’s menu consist of the usual poached eggs/smashed avocado/$4 bacon rubbish, I would have held on for another hour or two. Thankfully, Addict’s menu was actually interesting enough to capture my attention – and keep it. I ordered their sweet and savoury board ($18), which came with crispy bacon, mushroom and tomato relish on toast on one side and coconut and chia pudding on the other side. The savoury bit did its job (and hey, who doesn’t like mushrooms and bacon?) but it was the coconut chia pudding that did it for me.

While one of my friends screwed his nose up when I offered him a bite (‘Sorry, you lost me at vegan and gluten-free’), my other friend enjoyed it – and so did I. I loved the smooth, silky pudding that had every mouthful accuented by crispy bits of puffed buckwheat. The fresh fruits – the last of summer’s bounty – added a refreshing touch, too.

I can definitely see myself visiting Addict again when I’m back in Melbourne. It’s got an interesting menu with lots of options to keep me entertained and the service is quick, friendly and to the point. Now, let’s hope they have the smoked snapper congee with puffed wild rice on the menu the next time I visit – with no poached eggs on the side, naturally.

Review: Genkotsu Ramen (Brisbane, QLD)

25/258 Warrigal Road
Runcorn QLD 4113
+61 416 292 167

Rather than just sticking within the inner city boundaries when I’m dining in Brisbane, I’m slowly familiarising myself with its suburbs. As clichéd as it sounds, they say you can find some real gems if you’re willing to drive out – and they’re right. If you’re a ramen fanatic like I am, then I strongly implore you to make your way down to Runcorn Plaza, where many locals like to line up every weekend for their fix at Genkotsu Ramen.

The line was at least 20 people deep when Peter and I arrived. And because the restaurant is very small, it’s impossible to fit everyone at once. True to efficient Japanese style though, the turnover here is super fast and we were seated within 15 minutes or so.

Chicken karaage ($6)

Chicken karaage ($6)

I wanted gyoza but Peter wanted fried chicken so karaage, it was. Each morsel was crispy and full of flavour.

Tsukemen ($12)

Tsukemen ($12)

Peter ordered the tsukemen and declared it one of the best he’s ever had, a good call from the Tsukemen King. $12 gave him a very generous serving of fat noodles and a plate heaped with chasiu, menma, soft-boiled egg and shavings of bonito. I tasted the cool broth and it had plenty of depth, with a lovely acidic burst shining through.

Original shoyu ($10)

Original shoyu ($10)

I ordered a shoyu ramen. While I expected something a bit lighter than the soy-laced milky tonkotsu I received, I definitely wasn’t complaining. I also thought it was one of the better ramen I’ve had, at least in Australia. It had so much taste, depth and oomph. Loved it.

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My ramen was topped with chasiu, menma and half an egg (which was slightly beyond what I’d say would be a soft-boiled state). House-made thin straight noodles completed this glorious package, soaking up all the collagen, fats and goodness from the broth. I was so happy.

You can also order weird ass ramen dishes such as prawn or soft shell crab ramen if you want something a bit fancy. Personally, I think the simpler shoyu ramen is plenty enough for me. Sadly, Runcorn is a bit out of the way for me to make this trek a regular thing but thankfully, Genkotsu have recently opened up a branch in Toowong which is more accessible.

Review: Paradox Coffee Roasters (Gold Coast, QLD)

The 4217
7/10 Beach Road
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 3235
http://paradoxroasters.com/

These days, there aren’t many reasons for me to want to venture into Surfers Paradise. Call me boring, but I like the peaceful stillness that comes with living in an area that’s slightly inland, away from the beaches, crowds and loud bogans. In saying that, I do occasionally leave the house and make my way to Surfers Paradise if I feel like some ramen or if I’m meeting out-of-towners, who usually end up booking accommodation in the heart of Surfers because they don’t know better. Sometimes, I even like to come in for some coffee at Paradox Coffee Roasters.

Gold Coast may not be Melbourne when it comes to the coffee scene, but you can still find little gems scattered here and there if you know where to look. When it comes to regular coffee haunts, Blackboard is my #1 not just because the coffee there is good but, admittedly, because it’s very close to home. If I have time to kill and if I feel like venturing into Surfers though, I’d go to Paradox – personally, they have slightly better coffee.

Short macchiato ($3.50)

Short macchiato ($3.50)

I’ve never had a terrible coffee here. Regardless of whether I order a latte, an espresso or a macchiato, they always seem to get it right. Paradox’s house blend is a velvety mix of Nicaraguan and Ethiopian coffees, with delicious berry and rose notes. I don’t have lattes very much these days but when I do, I tend to order them here – the blend goes well with milk, with delicious caramel flavours shining through.

Slow roasted lamb salad ($17)

Slow roasted lamb salad ($17)

On one occasion, I decided to have lunch here. Paradox has a very extensive menu filled with gourmet sandwiches, vibrant salads and an all-day breakfast menu that starts light with granolas and bagels before shifting to heartier options such as eggs, hotcakes and big breakfast-type dishes. I decided to go for the lamb salad which came with a generous serving of warm Flinders Island slow roasted lamb shoulder, crunchy root vegetables (so, carrots), sultanas, smashed pomegranate and fresh mint.

I was so full halfway through that I couldn’t finish everything on my plate (I did eat all the lamb though); for $17, you’re definitely getting good value for money. Would I get the lamb salad again? Probably not. It was nice and all but I just got bored eating it after a while – in hindsight, I should have gone for the house-made spinach and crab gnocchi with heritage tomatoes.

But that’ll be a dish for the next time I decide to trek to Surfers.

Review: Harajuku Gyoza (Brisbane, QLD)

394 Brunswick Street
Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
+61 7 3852 4624
http://harajukugyoza.com/

Sometimes, all you want is a snack of several pieces of gyoza and maybe a beer – at least that’s what I told myself one afternoon when I was shopping in Brisbane. I wasn’t hungry enough for a massive lunch but I was certainly peckish enough to want more than just a $2.50 sushi roll from a food court. And so, I ended up at Harajuku Gyoza in Fortitude Valley.

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I grabbed my seat at the bar was greeted by probably the most awesomely kitsch plate I had seen in recent memory. There’s seriously nothing like grabbing bits of food with your chopstick off a sumo wrestler’s butt, I say.

Poached pork gyoza (five pieces, $8); grilled whole prawn gyoza (three pieces, $8)

Poached pork gyoza (five pieces, $8); grilled whole prawn gyoza (three pieces, $8)

The best thing about Harajuku Gyoza is that their serving sizes are small (between three to five pieces of gyoza) so it’s perfect if you want to try more than just one variety. The only problem is that if you end up ordering a few plates, the bill will add up. I paid $32 for my meal – so much for a ‘snack.’

Frozen Kirin slushie ($7)

Oh, and I ordered a frozen beer slushie because why not? Because the beer had been frozen, the slushie was watery. In hindsight, a normal beer would have been better but hey, the slushie is great purely for the novelty factor. It also brought me back to my Tokyo trip two years ago where I tried a banana beer slushie for the first time in Shibuya. The beer was interesting, the Tinder date was (unfortunately) the complete opposite.

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So that’s what the prawn gyozas look like – I liked that they used whole prawns rather than minced ones. That said, three pieces of prawns wrapped in gyoza skin for $8 did seem like a bit of a rip. Better were the poached pork gyozas – they were plump and juicy, bursting with a tasty filling. I will definitely try the fried version next time.

Peanut butter white chocolate gyoza served with vanilla ice cream ($9)

Peanut butter white chocolate gyoza served with vanilla ice cream ($9)

In addition to more substantial savoury dishes, Harajuku Gyoza also has a dessert menu featuring sweet-filled gyoza. My peanut butter and white chocolate gyoza were surprisingly quite delicious; each dumpling contained a simple yet tasty filling of crunchy peanut butter and melted white chocolate. A quick stint on the grill resulted in a gooey, warm filling. Definitely worth a try if you have room for dessert.

In hindsight, Harajuku Gyoza was definitely not a destination for a cheap snack – then again, I admit that my eyes were bigger than my stomach that day and over-ordered. Still, I’d say it’s a good place to bond with your Tinder date over beers and a selection of shared plates before – plus, the peanut butter and white chocolate gyozas ain’t bad too!

Review: Betty’s Burgers (Gold Coast, QLD)

Chevron Renaissance Shopping Centre
12-14/3240 Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 6565
http://www.bettysburgers.com.au/

Gold Coast seems to be in the midst of a burger and donut hurricane, with new establishments opening up seemingly every other fortnight. A while back, Betty’s Burgers took the Noosa cool crowd by storm before deciding to open a second outlet in Surfers Paradise. Gold Coast went NUTS when they heard that the ‘Shake Shack Rip-Off’ was opening in the 4217, despite the fact that a decent amount of new burger joints had opened shop in the space of a few months. I guess burgers are here to stay on the ‘coast…

Adam and I had the chance to check it out some weekends ago. After a leisurely (and by that, I meant boozy) Saturday afternoon session, we decided to walk over to Chevron Renaissance to suss this place out. At 6pm on a Saturday evening, the place was still dead (though it got busier as we left). Orders are placed at the counter, you’re then given one of those vibrating buzzers and asked to wait until it starts beeping.

Betty’s Classic ($10) and fries ($5)

Betty’s Classic ($10) and fries ($5)

Although there is a nice selection of burgers on the menu (including fried chicken, pork belly and mushroom), Adam and I decided to keep things simple with the Betty’s Classic and share a serving of fries which came sprinkled with ‘sea salt seasoning’ (read: just salt – and they were average). Beers at Betty’s range from pure bogan (XXXX Gold) to pure hipster (Pabst Blue Ribbon), and we both selected something in the middle – you won’t see this Victorian drinking XXXX Gold!

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The Betty’s Classic was essentially a cheeseburger: Angus beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and Betty’s special sauce completed a perfunctory package, bursting with striking block colours. As someone who thinks value for money equals generous serving sizes, Adam wasn’t wowed by his burger (‘for the same price, I can just walk down the road and get a bigger burger at Boom Boom Burger,’ he muttered). I, however, thought it was great. The closest comparison would be a Huxtaburger burger – the package came in a soft, buttery bun that was deflated rather than plump. The patty was well seasoned and while the burger itself wasn’t massive, I think it did the job for $10. I can see why Noosa and Gold Coast burger lovers adored Betty’s.

Blueberry cheesecake concrete ($8)

Blueberry cheesecake concrete ($8)

Another product that Betty’s is known for is the concrete, essentially frozen custard mixed with whatever descriptor is added to that particular concrete flavour. For example, the blueberry cheesecake concrete is a mix of vanilla custard, New York cheesecake, blueberry sauce and lemon that’s been mixed, blitzed and frozen. It’s interesting and certainly one for dessert fans – I enjoyed my concrete for what it was but it’s not really something I’d be in a rush to order again.

The burgers though are probably up there with Gold Coast’s best, despite what Adam thinks. For $10, you’re not getting the biggest burger ever but you’re getting something that’s tasty and will sufficiently satisfy your stomach even if you opt for no fries (which I strongly recommend).

Betty's Burgers and Concrete Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato