Review: Pendolino Caffe (Sydney, NSW)

The Strand Arcade
100/412-444 George Street
https://www.pendolino.com.au/

Every so often, I get restaurant suggestions from readers. Of course, it’s impossible for me to visit every single restaurant I get recommended but I do try and check out as many as possible. A few years, Melbourne reader Julie gave me a comprehensive list of her favourite places to eat in Sydney. This was before I became a regular visit to Sydney so her tips were much appreciated. It did, however, take me quite some time to visit Pendolino, one of her suggestions. In this case though, it was better late than never.

Pendolino is located in Sydney’s Strand Arcade so if you’re doing a bit of shopping in town, this is an ideal spot for lunch. The food is regional-inspired Italian cuisine and the restaurant’s selling point is artisanal pastas made freshly daily in the kitchen under the watchful eyes of Executive Chef Nino Zoccali. The venue itself is divided into the stylish restaurant area inside or the more casual ‘caffe’ area, overlooking the arcade. If all you want is a ‘get in, get out’ lunch, then you’re better off sitting at the caffe section. The caffe only does walk-ins though, so your best bet to get a seat is to come in as close to 11:30am as you can – easy for me these days do as I’m self-employed.

Bean is not self-employed but he happened to be on holidays that day so he was my Pendolino dining buddy. He ordered the gramigna (curly pasta) with pork, veal and tomato ragu. The pasta spirals themselves were made out of traditional wild weeds, giving them their avocado green colour. I couldn’t take the weeds themselves but the pasta was beautifully cooked with the right amount of resistance while the ragu was rich, flavoursome and comforting.

Gramigna con il ragu ($21.40)

The menu advertised the brodo (aka Auntie Lidia’s chicken meatball soup) as ‘the best soup in the world’ so it MUST be good, right? Well, it was. The giant chicken meatballs swam in a delicious broth that held plenty of depth. I would have preferred more quadretti pasta in there but if you’re someone who prefers a higher meat-to-pasta ratio (and loves soup), this would be your dish.

Popettini in Brodo della Zia ($14.90)

When I want simple and delicious Italian food in Sydney, I usually gravitate towards Fratelli Paradiso in Potts Points but Pendolino offers a good alternative – especially if you’re stuck in the city and don’t have time to make a short dash east. I’d probably go for the ragu over the brodo next time, though.

The Restaurant Pendolino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review: Da Vinci’s (Sydney, NSW)

25 Lackey Street
Summer Hill NSW 1230
+61 2 9716 9000
http://davincisydney.com.au/

I must admit that I’m not too familiar with the Inner West of Sydney, particularly the Summer Hill area. Though depending on who you speak to, Summer Hill is more Mid-West than Inner West … but that’s another debate for another time. Two things drew us to Summer Hill one weekend: the first one was the existence of a popular Italian restaurant called Da Vinci’s and the second one was Summer Hill resident Trish, an old friend of Bean’s and a new friend of mine.

Because it was a lovely evening, the three of us sat outside while we caught up on years of gossip over some booze. We also shared a serving of focaccia, aka wood-fried pizza bread that had been cut up and gently brushed with olive oil and dried herbs.

Focaccia ($6.50)

Da Vinci’s selling point is their pizza, made using dough that has been cold matured for at least 48 hours. Normally, traditional Neapolitan-style pizza dough goes straight into the oven without resting – this means that the yeast dies in the oven, creating all those lovely black bubbles. The Da Vinci method, however, allows the yeast to grow and then die before it reaches the oven, resulting is a crust that’s smoother, lighter and not so charred. Naturally, this method has attracted lots of fans though Bean and I preferred the traditional method (we want char, dammit!).

That said, the pizzas were still delicious; Trish ordered a vegetarian special (cherry tomatoes, eggplant and lots of rocket) while Bean ordered the diavola which was topped with San Marzano tomato, fior di latte, hot salami and olives ($19).

A feast fit for three hungry people

Although you’re meant to visit Da Vincis’ for their pizzas, that’s not to say that their pastas aren’t worth trying. My orecchiette was well-cooked (beautifully al dente and all) and served with a delicious Italian sausage, broccoli and extra virgin olive oil sauce. So simple, yet so tasty (though I did have a bit of pizza).

Orecchiette broccoli e salsiccia ($24)

Trish didn’t get to finish her pizza but the folks at Da Vinci were lovely enough to wrap it up so she can enjoy it for lunch the next day. As for us, we downed our food without any issues. Would we come back? Maybe. If we were Summer Hill residents, we would definitely not hesitate to make this our local pizza joint. But because we live on the other side of the harbour, getting here is too much of a trek without a car (it took us more than an hour!). Trish may lure us back to Summer Hill but we’re not sure if Da Vinci’s pizzas alone would be an incentive.

Da Vinci's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review: ACME (Sydney, NSW)

60 Bayswater Road
Rushcutters Bay NSW 2011
+61 435 940 884
www.weareacme.com.au

It goes without saying that my list of places to visit in Sydney grows constantly thanks to recommendations from friends and restaurants opening up all the time. One place in particular has been on my radar for quite some time, ACME in Rushcutters Bay. So the last time I was in Sydney, I made it my sole aim to ensure that I dined that – other things look a backseat on the priority list (pfft friends? I don’t need to see them just yet!)

It seems like most hospo groupies know the whole story: the name ACME comes from the first letters of each of the owner’s first names (Andy Emerson, Cam Fairbairn, Ed Loveday and chef Mitch Orr). The food is post-modern (i.e. hipster) Italian but with Asian influences. On paper, the menu suited my palette to a tee. In reality, however, I was underwhelmed. I’m not sure if it was because we came on a bad night or whether my expectations were set too high – after all, my friends couldn’t stop raving about this place. Or maybe we ordered the wrong things. My dining partner Bean agreed with me though to be fair, fusion cuisine is not really his thing.

Foodies will tell you to start your meal with a serving of Jatz crackers – yes, the ones you can grab from the Coles biscuit aisle. For $6, you will get four pieces of crackers topped with whatever the kitchen feels like on the night. Sometimes it could be liverwurst and pickles and sometimes it could be mustard butter and salami. Our topping was a creamy curried egg topping which, to be fair, was nice but I still think the whole Jatz thing is an overpriced gimmick.

Jatz a la Café Paci ($6)

Better was the baby calamari dish, grilled in a lovely lime and five-spice marinate. I’d say this was probably the less ‘fusion-y’ dish on the menu that evening – and ironically, it was probably the highlight.

Baby calamari with lime and five spice ($24)

When dining at ACME, you’d better order their signature pigs head macaroni or you’ll incur the shock of ACME fangirls and fanboys asking if you’re insane for skipping THE MOST AMAZING DISH EVER. After having this dish, I have to ask these fangirls and fanboys what they saw in this dish because honestly, I didn’t think it was that great. Don’t get me wrong – the maraconi shells were divine and possibly one of the best pastas I’ve had in Australia (Orr has amazing technique when it comes to handmade pasta thanks to having worked at Pilu et al). The sauce, however, didn’t impress me. It was more sweet than salty and I felt that the chilli didn’t really belong in there. I wanted to like this dish though and like I said earlier, perhaps I really did come on a bad night.

Pigs head macaroni with egg yolk ($22)

As far as the mains went, I liked the maltagliati a lot more. The combination of shiitake mushrooms, spring onions (why say scallion? We’re in Australia!) worked beautifully with the rich butter sauce. As for the pasta, oh my goodness, the texture! It was amazing! This dish definitely smashed it – in fact, I was expecting the other dishes to be more like this one.

Maltagliati with shiitake and burnt scallion ($22)

Bean isn’t keen to do a return visit and I’m not sure if I’ll be rushing back. That said, I’m still willing to give it another chance as I’m curious to try the other pasta dishes on the menu (though let’s face it – like I’d turn down a chance to eat more pasta). I’ll let you guys know how my second visit is – if it’s as underwhelming as my first visit, I’ll know that ACME was sadly not for me. If it’s a lot better, then I’ll know that even the most popular restaurants in Sydney occasionally have bad nights.

Review: Spice I Am (Sydney, NSW)

90 Wentworth Avenue
Surry Hills NSW 2010
+61 2 9280 0928
http://www.spiceiam.com/spice-i-am-surry-hills

When it comes to the battle of which city serves up the best Thai food in Australia, I’m sorry but I have to say that Sydney definitely beats Melbourne. That’s not to say that Melbourne doesn’t have great Thai restaurants. Nope, in fact, Melbourne’s Thai restaurant scene has caught up in the last five years or so. But when it comes to variety, accessibility and heat factor, Sydney definitely wins. And Spice I Am is one of Sydney’s darlings of the Thai restaurant scene.

I’m not saying that it’s the best Thai restaurant in Sydney. I’m not even saying that it’s the cheapest or most authentic but it’s a solid all-rounder that rarely puts a foot wrong. Spice I Am has several outlets in Sydney but I tend to stick to the original one on Wentworth Street, which is on the city-Surry Hill border. They do a lunch special from Tuesdays to Fridays where they offer a limited menu at slightly cheaper prices so if curries, soup and stir-fry dishes are your thing, then I highly recommend going for lunch. FYI, it’s cash only so leave your cards neatly tucked in your wallet.

In the past, I never ordered spring rolls at restaurants – they’re easy to make at home and being a typical Asian tight ass, all I think about when I see spring rolls on the menu is ‘EEEEK THE MARK UP!’ For some reason, I’ve ordered the mini spring rolls at Spice I Am several times and they’re always delicious. The filling is delicious and filled with a reasonable amount of pork mince and best of all, they’re actually bigger than ‘mini-sized.’

Deep fried mini spring rolls (six for $9.50)

The last time I visited Spice I Am, I ordered the po taek soup; it is a mixed seafood soup gently flavoured with fresh Thai herbs, lemon juice and a burst of chilli. Add some mushrooms for a bit of earthiness and a bit of rice for carb-loading purposes and you have yourself a meal. I love this soup because it’s so comforting, delicious and very light – a great alternative to the omnipresent tom yum (though that’s also available here). Meanwhile, my dining partner Bean loves to go for the curries – this time he had the kang ka ree (yellow curry) with chicken. It’s a delicious curry that’s packed with potatoes and red onion, perfect to mop up with spoonfuls of rice.

Po taek ($14.50); chicken yellow curry ($12.50)

You won’t find boat noodles or papaya salads during lunch service at Spice I Am but you’ll still find something that you’ll like – and you’ll definitely come back wanting more.

Spice I Am Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review: Ipoh on York (Sydney, NSW)

2/89 York Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 9299 0001
http://ipohcentral.com/

There seems to be a reasonable amount of Malaysian restaurants in Sydney’s CBD. In the past, I’ve dismissed them thinking that they were overpriced eateries serving mediocre and not-terribly-authentic food to time-poor suits. My recent lunch at Ipoh on York, however, proved me wrong.

The plan was for me to catch up for lunch with my friend Lawrence who worked in George Street. His favourite place to grab a cheap laksa in the city was Malay Chinese Takeaway, also known as ‘that Malaysian place on Hunter Street.’ I’ve walked past it many times without venturing in, assuming it was one of those Anglo-Asian joints that catered to white people. ‘No way!’ said Lawrence. ‘I’ve been going there with my mum since I was a child! This place is legit!’ As soon as he said that, I got excited – perhaps I was wrong all this time.

Sadly, we never made it to Malay Chinese Takeaway. By the time Lawrence was able to leave the office, it was well into peak lunch service. Apparently there was no way we’d get a seat then, he told me. Sydney’s weather gods also decided to release some torrential rain so walking up to Hunter Street was definitely out of the question now. Lawrence suddenly remembered the name of another Malaysian eatery that was closer to the office: Ipoh on York. He had never been himself but he’s had many colleagues recommend it. ‘Did you want to give it a go?’ he asked me tentatively. At this stage, I was happy to eat anything including McDonalds so I was like, sure, and off we went.

As predicted, Ipoh on York was already packed by the time we arrived but thankfully there were a few stray tables so we were quick to grab one. Upon arrival, you order at the counter, pay for your meal and grab a ticket. When your order is ready, you grab your tray and off you go. The set-up does remind me of a food court but when you’re getting flavours this good at a reasonable price (as reasonable as Sydney CBD can get anyway), who cares?

My initial plan was to get a laksa like Lawrence but I ended up opting for the eatery’s signature Ipoh hor fun ($12) – and I enjoyed every single spoonful of it. They gave me a generous amount of silky smooth rice noodles in a chicken and prawn broth, which was light yet extremely flavoursome at the same time. If you’re craving soup for a winter lunch without the heaviness of a laksa or a ramen, this ought to be your go-to dish.

Meanwhile, Lawrence chose the laksa. Here, you can get your laksa in different flavours ranging from the basic chicken to the more popular seafood. You can even order a vegetarian version though I’m not exactly sure how that works given that the basic laksa broth is flavoured with prawn shells in addition to other delicious ingredients not limited to chilli, lemongrass, galangal and candlenuts. Anyway, Lawrence chose the combination laksa ($15) so he can have a bit of everything, though the tofu to meat ratio was a bit skewed. I had a few spoonfuls of the broth and I can definitely verify its deliciousness.

Ipoh hor fun ($12), Combination laksa ($15)

Even though we didn’t get to try Malay Chinese Takeaway, Ipoh on York was definitely an excellent alternative and I’ll be back to enjoy a bowl of their laksa. I’m also keen to try their nasi lemak and their kway teow siram (wok-fried rice noodles in a silky egg gravy). A laksa at Malay Chinese Takeaway is still on my list, though.

Ipoh on York Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review: Ramen O-San (Sydney, NSW)

Shop F1A, Sussex Centre Food Court
401 Sussex Street
Haymarket NSW 2000
+61 439 945 245

For the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about Sydney restaurants – after all, I’ll be moving there soon so I may as well make myself more comfortable, right? And one of my favourite things about being in Sydney is being spoilt for choice when it comes to ramen restaurants. They can be found pretty much everywhere from Chinatown to Chatswood and there will normally be a restaurant that will make the type of ramen you prefer, whether it’s a bowl of nutty miso ramen or a thick collagen-laden tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen.

I have a long list of ramen places I work through whenever I’m in Sydney and in 2015, Ramen O-San appeared on the bottom of the list. Ramen O-San is owned by restaurateur Kazuteru Oh (hence, the name O-San); the Kyushu-born O-San is also responsible for Busshari and Kujin so I knew Ramen O-San was going to be good. My Sydney friend Lawrence was also keen on checking Ramen O-San out so when I was up in Sydney for a weekend, we decided to visit. Better late than never, right?

Ramen O-San can be found at Sussex Centre Food Court in Haymarket. Here, you can often find owner Kazuteru Oh manning huge stockpots of tonkotsu broth that’s been simmering for 12 hours so that the collagen from kilos of pork bone, skin, belly and trotters can create a rich, thick broth that’s full of flavour. The broth is also MSG-free – not that you really need flavour enhancers for a broth that’s being cooked for that long anyway! O-San’s ramen noodles are also handmade, which is always a plus in my books.

Lawrence ordered the signature tonkotsu ramen while I decided go to light with the chicken soy ramen. We both added a soy-marinated egg in our ramen ($1.50 each). O-san’s tonkotsu ramen is thick, luscious and decadent. There is also the option to opt for an even thicker broth upon request, something that Gumshara fans would no doubt be up for. Nevertheless, the default tonkotsu option here does the job – and Lawrence slurped every last drop.

Tonkotsu ramen ($9.80), chicken soy ramen ($9.80)

If you feel that the tonkotsu broth might be too heavy for you, O-San’s chicken soy ramen is a lighter option but one that still delivers on the taste front – at least that’s my opinion of it. I was expecting it to taste like a Tokyo-style shoyu ramen (i.e. heavy on the soy) but instead the broth was much lighter. Think light chicken broth with a just the lightest dash of soy.

Chicken soy ramen with chashu pork

Sydney’s ramen scene might have plenty of healthy competition but I’d definitely list O-San as one of my top places along with Manpuku and Gumshara (yes, sometimes I do crave a super thick tonkotsu broth). There’s a ramen for everyone and best of all, everything is authentic right down to the noodles and well priced.

Ramen O-San Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review: Ben Thanh Hot Bread & Bakery (Melbourne, VIC)

Shop G32A
46-58 Buckingham Avenue
Springvale VIC 3171
+61 3 9548 4500

In Berlin, I turn to the city’s many doner kebab kiosks for a sub five-euro lunch when I’m on the go. In Melbourne, my cheap and portable lunch equivalent is most definitely a Vietnamese pork roll (banh mi thit). For less than a $5 note, you can get your mix of protein and carbs in one neat little package – and there’s plenty of vegetables and fresh herbs in the mix to convince yourself that you’re eating something that’s kinda healthy.

One day, I caught up with my friend Thanh in Springvale for breakfast. We decided to stop by one of his favourite Vietnamese sandwich kiosks, Ben Thanh Hot Bread & Bakery in Springvale Central. If you’re familiar with the shopping centre, it’s the bakery that’s directly opposite the KFL supermarket with windows adorned with posters of shoplifters they’ve photographed and shamed (lol).

Like any banh mi kiosk in Springvale, you can take your pick of sandwich fillings including Ben Thanh’s famous roast pork. I always stick to the mixed ham sandwich though so that’s what I ordered to take away.

Assorted fillings

 

Banh mi packaging

My go-to for banh mi in Melbourne is Footscray’s Nhu Lan (also in Richmond) but I have to say that Ben Thanh offers an excellent substitute – especially since both sit at the $4.50 mark. I think the bread at Ben Thanh is better – it’s softer, fluffier and boasts a bit more texture. I also think they’re more generous with the pickled vegetables and their pâté has a bit more bite. That said, I think Nhu Lan wins overall – their cold slices are tastier, their sandwiches are bigger and they retain their crispiness better after they’ve sat around for a few hours.

Mixed ham banh mi from Ben Thanh

In saying that, Ben Thanh is still an excellent choice for banh mi if you’re in Springvale. I’d definitely go again, though I’m also open to other suggestions if anyone has any!

Ben Thanh Hot Bread & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review: Salona (Melbourne, VIC)

260A Swan Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9429 1460
www.salona.com.au

Melbourne is home to the largest Greek population outside of Greece – that’s a commonly known fact, especially if you’re from Melbourne yourself. This means there are more Greek restaurants in Melbourne than you can poke a souvlaki at. In addition to having some excellent Greek restaurants, however, Melbourne does have its fair share of mediocre ones. You know the ones I’m talking about: white washed walls, greasy and unseasoned meat platters and plates of soggy fried calamari with chips. They’re boring, overpriced and uninspiring.

Not Salona, though. They’ve been in the hospo business since 1972 and continues to retain a strong clientele. When I was living in Melbourne, I took the availability of Greek food for granted. It wasn’t until I moved did I realise how much I missed it. So when my friend Thanh asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner during a Melbourne catch-up, I was quick to say Greek food. Our friend Brandon tagged along and he, too, was more than happy to sink into plates of meaty goodness. (though Salona also do some vegetarian options these days – mushroom pastitsio, anyone?)

The restaurant itself is warm and cosy, especially during winter. The best way to do dinner at Salona is to order a bottle of Greek red wine to share (we got the Enotria Land Cabernet Sauvignon, $95) and select as many dishes to share. Be warned: things can get a bit messy.

I usually shy away from ordering dips at restaurants. To me, $10 for some bread and a little bit of dip brings out the Asian tightassness in me. That said, I do love a good taramasalata (cod roe dip) and Brandon was taking quite some time to get here so up went my hand and soon after, some dip landed in front of us. Salona uses a mixture of white and red cod roe in their dip, before infusing it with lemon and olive oil. The dip was sensational and so was the warm pita bread that came with it.

Tarama ($9)

By the time Brandon rocked up, we were ready to attack. Our first starter was the scallops, served with kalamata olive jam and mountain tea jelly (mountain tea being a Greek herbal tea). I loved how the team at Salona dared to play around with modern twists and this dish worked beautifully.

Grilled scallops with mountain tea jelly and kalamata olive jam ($17)

For the saganaki, I was expecting a neat wedge of saganaki in a pan and perhaps some prawns in a tomato and leek sauce on the side. Close, but no filo cigar. The prawns, tomato and leek were all baked inside the pan, which was closed off with some gooey kafelograviera cheese. It was decadent and oh-so-perfect given the chilly winter air outside.

King prawn saganaki ($17)

As to be expected, there was quite a lot of lamb on the menu so we were good to narrow our selections to just two options. First up, the lamb ribs glazed in a lovely ouzo and honey mixture and served with skordalia. The ribs were deliciously succulent and their sticky sweetness paired well with the garlicky potato puree.

Ouzo and honey glazed lamb ribs served with skordalia ($16)

Then came the lamb shoulder, which had been slow cooked in a rich tomato braise. While it was comforting and tasty, I enjoyed the lamb ribs more – the flavour combination for that dish was way more interesting.

Lamb Riganato shoulder served with baked potatoes ($34)

Of course, we had to order a salad to balance out all the meats. We ditched the ubiquitous Greek salad and went for the roasted beet salad, served with spring onion, walnut, grilled manouri cheese, house made pomegranate balsamic. I can’t really describe the salad as light but it was definitely tasty and would definitely stand on its own as a single meal.

Roasted beef salad ($17)

In hindsight, the Angus beef (the last of the savoury dishes to arrive) was probably a dish we didn’t need to order as we were pretty much full at this stage. Still, we weren’t going to say no to trying some beef ribs – especially since it was served on a pea and herb skordalia, something that I was curious to try. Put simply, they substituted the potatoes for peas and garlic for herbs. As a result, the puree was delicious but definitely lighter on the stomach than the traditional potato version. The beef ribs themselves were cooked in a rich tomato stew, very similar to the lamb shoulder so there was a bit of déjà vu happening. It was a nice dish but like I said, something that I could have happily passed.

Angus beef rib Kokinisto served on pea and herb skordali ($33)

We were ready to split but when our waiter came around with the dessert menu, telling us that the galaktobouriko was ‘really good’, well, how were we to say no? FYI, galaktobouriko is a type of semolina custard that’s either baked with filo in a shallow dish or wrapped in filo pastry and served individually as fingers. In this case, we got the shallow dish option that came with a LOT of vanilla bean custard. The custard was lovely, though I was hoping for a more even ratio of custard and filo to even out the richness. The lemon and cinnamon fused syrup on top did help a bit though.

Galaktobouriko ($13)

In Melbourne’s Greek restaurant scene, there are a lot of hits but just as many misses. As for Salona, I liked some dishes better than others but I would definitely class this one as a hit – and one that I’d definitely return to again.

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

Review: Kobe Teppanyaki (Melbourne, VIC)

261/265 Blackburn Road
Doncaster East VIC 3109
+61 3 9841 9889
http://www.kobeteppanyaki.com.au/

In the early 90s, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant opened just around the corner from our place. The restaurant was Kobe Teppanyaki and it always seemed to be packed in the evenings every time we drove past. For some reason, though, it never crossed our minds that we should try the restaurant. This was despite the fact that it was always busy and a lot of our family friends gave it glowing recommendations. Three decades later (!), it was time to finally give Kobe Teppanyaki a go.

I can’t remember what the occasion was but my entire family including my brother (normally AWOL due to work commitments) was present so it must have been a special occasion of some sort. Anyway, it was a Sunday afternoon so it was reasonably quiet when we arrived. It did pick up just as we were leaving, but I think it’s safe to assume that Kobe Teppanyaki gets the bulk of its customers in the evening.

Inside Kobe Teppanyaki

Wine is BYO at Kobe Teppanyaki, something I kind of wished I knew before arriving. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to enjoy green tea with a Japanese meal – at least in my opinion anyway. We were also given a sesame bean sprout salad as an amuse bouche.

Tea and bean sprout salad

Our Kobe sushi combo served as the perfect starter for this family of five. The menu says that it’s recommended for 3-4 people but I honestly thought this was a good size for the five of us. The usual suspects were there – kingfish, salmon and tuna – as well as the ubiquitous California roll. Some might be yearning for something more creative but I thought this was a solid effort and the fish was fresh.

Kobe sushi combo ($48)

Zucchini and pumpkin are my two least favourite vegetables (unless the pumpkin is in soup form – that’s a different story) so I silently groaned when I saw them featured in the mixed tempura platter. But you know what? The tempura zucchini and pumpkin were actually delicious – in fact, everything on that platter was. The light, airy and crispy batter was so addictive that it made me reach for a second zucchini.

Tatsuta age ($13), mixed tempura ($19)

The tatsuta age (fried chicken) was also tasty. When it comes to Japanese fried chicken, I prefer karaage but curiously they didn’t have it on the menu. What’s the difference? Well, karaage batter is made with wheat flour while tatsuta age uses potato starch. Still, the tatsuta age made everyone else on the table happy so there were no complaints there.

I’m a sucker for a good agedashi tofu and Kobe Teppanyaki’s version was one of the best ones I’ve had. At the more-than-$10 mark, it’s not cheap but it’s a small price I’d happily pay again for that thin yet handsomely flavoured dashi broth and the crispy batter coating the tofu squares.

Agedashi tofu ($11)

We ordered a serving of gyoza, only to be surprised when they came out with yellow siumai-like skins. We thought that maybe they wrote down ‘siumai’ on their order pads – after all, siumai was also on the menu, at the same price. The siumai, however, were described as steamed and obviously these had been pan-fried. The fillings were also 100% gyoza-like what with all the juicy cabbage so perhaps that’s just how they do it here. Yellow skins aside, they were tasty though I thought the price point was a bit steep for six dumplings.

Gyoza (six for $13.50)

I thought the kaisen soba noodles were delicious – but then again, I generally love most things that involve seafood and noodles so when you put them both together, well, it’s hard to go wrong. Lightly flavoured with soy, the noodles were soft fried and served with a generous handful of seafood including prawns, scallop and squid.

Kaisen soba ($21.50)

I’m not one to order teriyaki beef at Japanese restaurants (it’s the equivalent of ordering sweet and sour pork, in my opinion) but my brother is a fussy eater when it comes to Asian cuisine. Pork is generally out, whole fish usually gets a no and you can forget about offering him seafood; beef is usually a safe bet. Surprisingly, the teriyaki beef got resounding ‘yum, this is actually good!’ from everyone on the table, including myself. Sliced juicy eye fillet pieces were marinated in a delicious teriyaki sauce before being lightly grilled and served with some bean sprouts. A great dish to round off this leisurely lunch.

Teriyaki beef ($31)

While I wouldn’t recommend Kobe Teppanyaki for a cheap lunch, I’d definitely come back again for dinner to try their famed teppanyaki dinners. If you live far from Doncaster, I wouldn’t strongly urge you to make a special trip. If you happen to live in the area, however, this is a great spot to keep as your local if you want something more substantial than your cheap and cheerful takeaway options. Don’t forget to order the agedashi tofu!

Kobe Teppanyaki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review: Persian Flavours (Melbourne, VIC)

338 Springvale Road
Forest Hill VIC 3131
+61 3 9878 3087

Persian food. I must admit that I don’t know much about it, despite growing up in a suburb that has one of the highest concentrations of Persians and Iranians in Melbourne. I went to school with Persians. Our next-door neighbours were Persians. And every time I went from one end of this particular suburb to another, there’d always be a network called ‘Persian Empire’ present every time I tried to look for WiFi on my iPhone.

Thus, I’m surprised that it took me this long to try Persian food – and funnily enough, it was my dad who recommended Persian Flavours, a restaurant on Springvale Road. I say ‘funnily enough’ because he used to avoid going out of his comfort zone when it came to food but he (and my mother) are a lot more adventurous now.

A quick browse through Google brought me to the conclusion that Persian cuisine is heavily influenced by neighbouring cuisines, especially the Caucasus. There’s also a lot of Turkish influence as well as inspiration from north Indian cuisine. The owners of this restaurant seem to be heavily swayed by the latter because the menu seems to focus heavily on curries and charcoal grilled meats ‘from the tandoori oven.’ I also see typical Indian restaurant highlights such as butter chicken sitting alongside goat curry, nan bread and tikka masala.

I dined here with my parents and sister on a Sunday night; we ordered several dishes to share between us: lamb koobideh, butter chicken, nan bread and kismish polow (sultana rice). All the dishes arrived very quickly and our waitresses were very friendly throughout the evening.

Persian Flavours: assorted dishes, definitely enough to feed four people

‘Koobideh’ is the term given to meat skewers (usually beef or lamb, occasionally chicken) cooked over hot coals. The meat is minced, seasoned with parsley, onions and spices before being grilled. Persian Flavours’ lamb koobideh came in pairs and were served with side salad and plain nan bread (though you also have the option of going for Persian rice with tomato if salads ain’t your thang).

Lamb koobideh ($15.80)

We also ordered a serving of kismish polow ($7.50), sultana rice cooked the Persian way (parboiled, drained, then steamed). Soft, fluffy and fragrant, the rice was tasty enough to enjoy on its own thanks to the sweet sultanas and fried onions but it also did a great job in soaking up all the sauces from the butter chicken we ordered (see below).

Yep, butter chicken, a dish that you see on every Indian restaurant’s menu in Australia. This dish is probably the Indian equivalent of the ghastly Chinese lemon chicken but if I were to be honest, I don’t mind a good butter chicken – and my family agrees with me. (though wow, I can’t believe how bad that photo is!)

I couldn’t taste the difference between Persian Flavours’ butter chicken and one that you’d get at a good Indian restaurant but it doesn’t matter for it was delicious. Creamy and nutty, with the fragrant burst of browned butter shining through, this dish was a winner and paired well with the kismish polow and the two types of nan we ordered, garlic and plain.

Butter chicken (small, $11.50), garlic nan ($3) and plain nan ($3)

Persian Flavours always seems to be packed every time I drive past on a weekend and I can see why. The food is excellent value for money and everything we had was delicious. The service is warm and very efficient, with the staff making you feel right at home. I can definitely see myself coming back to try more Persian dishes, though I wouldn’t be surprised if I get tempted by the curries again…

Persian Flavours Takeaway & Eat In Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato