The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Review: Sagra (Sydney, NSW)

62 Stanley Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
+61 2 8307 0430
http://www.sagrasydney.com.au/

It’s so hard to find a good honest Italian restaurant these days – we’re not talking flamboyant $50-per-dish Guy Grossi masterpieces or anglicised Lygon Street ‘Forza Italia, bro’-type dishes. We’re talking about simple and understated dishes made with only the freshest ingredients and a sprinkling of love.

Thankfully, Sagra delivers on all those promises and a lot more in a cosy timber-lined dwelling that looks more like someone’s home in the inner ‘burbs than one of Sydney’s hottest restaurants. Having been completely out of the loop when it came to the Sydney dining scene, I had actually never heard of this place until Raphael (my go-to guide for anything to do with Sydney and food) mentioned it to me. I love a good Italian (lol) so with that in mind, I suggested pretty much forced my fellow Melbourne dining companions Sam and Nee, who were in Sydney with me for the weekend, to come dine with me.

The booking was made for 8:30PM (or was it 9:00PM? I can’t remember – either way, it was definitely a late dinner). We rocked up half an hour early and assumed that there was a bar area but unfortunately, there was one. With clear directions to disappear to a nearby bar (we didn’t, we just ended up walking around aimlessly), we then arrived back in time for our scheduled booking. Our table wasn’t ready so we stood awkwardly outside the restaurant in the cold with one of the waiters greasy-ing us from inside.

Bread and olives

Bread and olives

Finally, our table was ready. We started off with bread and olives – I can’t remember if they were on the house or if we paid for them. I think we might have paid for them though because the menu says that bread is $4.

Salumi misti: San Daniele prosciutto, coppa and farinata ($21)

Salumi misti: San Daniele prosciutto, coppa and farinata ($21)

Splitting a bottle of Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio between us, we got to work with the salumi platter. We shared some San Daniele prosciutto and coppa, the dry-cured muscle that runs from the pig’s neck to the shoulder. And what’s a farinata, you ask? It’s a crispy thin, unleavened pancake made with chickpea flour. It made for a nice change from your usual lavosh and breadsticks.

Carb fest: tortellini in brodo ($19); gnocchi with cavolo nero and gorgonzola ($16); pappardelle with pork sausage ragu ($18); rosemary potatoes ($7)

Carb fest: tortellini in brodo ($19); gnocchi with cavolo nero and gorgonzola ($16); pappardelle with pork sausage ragu ($18); rosemary potatoes ($7)

All the homemade pasta! I had the tortellini in brodo; the broth was lovely and delicate while each little parcel held a tasty chicken filling. It was the perfect dish to sooth my tired soul. Meanwhile, Sam’s pappardelle was tasty and rich, but he did say that he would have been happier with a bigger portion. Nee’s gnocchi was another fantastic dish – each little pillow was soft and buttery, soaking up the rich and creamy gorgonzola like a sponge.

Oh yeah, we also had potatoes.

Tiramisu; hazelnut tart

Tiramisu; hazelnut tart

But of course, we couldn’t leave without dessert. Like the rest of Sagra’s menu, the dessert menu changes all the time so you never know what you were going to get. We ended up with two safe options: the tiramisu and the hazelnut tart. I liked that the tiramisu was light and well-balanced. Meanwhile, the hazelnut tart was nice enough but it did skew towards the ‘more sugar, not enough nuts’ side for me.

The service at Sagra might not be warm and caring Sicilian grandmother-like but everything seemed to run like clockwork on a busy Friday night. The food was beautiful and unpretentious – the sort of Italian that I wished we saw more of in Australia. The best bit is that it doesn’t hit the wallet or stomach hard. Sure, it was a carb-heavy meal but the portions were well-controlled so we left without feeling like we needed to doze off – which was just as well because we needed to stay awake for a crazy night out at ivy (groan).

Sagra Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Review: Nomad (Sydney, NSW)

16 Foster Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
+61 2 9280 3395
http://restaurantnomad.com.au/

I always look forward to weekends in Sydney. They’re always filled with great company, lots of laughs and wonderful food – and in most cases, food that you can’t find in Melbourne. Melbourne might do coffee, mid-priced dining and understated steez better (sorry, it’s true) but when it comes to fine dining as well as the weird, the wonderful and the totally out there, Sydney is your go-to city.

Nomad in Surry Hills is one of those places; it has also been on my radar for quite some time. First, you have owners Rebecca Littlemore and Al Yazbek setting up a cellar door right in the middle of Sydney with a collection of good quality and underrepresented Australian wines. You then have Head Chef Nathan Stasi (ex-Rockpool and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal) who pickles, cures, smokes, ferments and dries everything he can get his hands on to whip up a Middle Eastern-influenced by Littlemore’s travels and Yazbek’s Lebanese heritage. Throw in a chic warehouse in a little Surry Hills street and BANG! Nomad is born.

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Julie and I had dinner at Nomad one Friday evening. It’s a beautiful place – thick warehouse chic, sexy mood lighting and timber furniture all over. It’s spacious, yet somewhat intimate at the same time.

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It may have only been 6:30PM when we rocked up but the place was pumping like a 90s rave party; it was packed and noisy. With strict instructions to leave by 8:30PM, we were immediately seated at the bar where we got full view of the open kitchen. (and by that, I really meant the cute guys working in the kitchen)

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I honestly can’t remember what wine I had but let’s face it, it was most likely a Riesling.

Woodfired sourdough with black salt butter ($2.50 per person)

Woodfired sourdough with black salt butter ($2.50 per person)

Having been to Nomad before, Julie knew what to order. Being from Melbourne, I’m not used to going to restaurants and not getting bread free of charge. So when I saw that there was a price tag attached to the sourdough with black salt butter, I immediately thought: ‘Yeah, nah, waste of carbs.’

Julie, however, insisted that the bread was worth ordering. Plus, what’s $2.50 per person? I’m glad I listened to her for the house made bread was lovely with just the slightly hint of smokiness. And who doesn’t like house-churned butter?

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Nomad is big on curing and smoking so it would have been silly not to try their charcuterie board.

Housemade Nomad charcuterie ($26)

Housemade Nomad charcuterie ($26)

The contents change regularly and I’ve been told that horse meat was presented on the board served a few times. Sadly, horse wasn’t on the menu that night (we asked) but we did get mortadella, wallaby salami and Serrano-style ham amongst other things.

BBQ king prawns with pine nuts, brown butter and parmesan ($18)

BBQ king prawns with pine nuts, brown butter and parmesan ($18)

To me, $18 for two bloody prawns seemed as tight as a guy who insists on going halves on an inexpensive first date. (sorry, I’m old fashioned)

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However, they tasted phenomenal – I loved how the prawn’s sweet flesh went well with the nuttiness of the dressing and the sexy smokiness that permutated all the way through.

Wood roasted pork with charred cabbage, served with sweet potato and cheddar gratin ($38)

Wood roasted pork with charred cabbage, served with sweet potato and cheddar gratin ($38)

The wood roasted pork was another standout dish. The pork crackling was beautifully crunchy against the soft fatty meat. And although I’m not a HUGE fan of sweet potato, the gratin was the perfect accompaniment to the pork – strangely enough, the sweetness effortlessly broke through all the richness.

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We really couldn’t finish the gratin.

Pedro Ximenez Magnum with salted peanuts ($7 each)

Pedro Ximenez Magnum with salted peanuts ($7 each)

However, we could still squeeze in a bit of dessert. It was approaching 8PM so we were well within time to finish our meal before they shooed us away. We were eyeing the bunuelos (South American donuts) that were making the rounds throughout the dining room so naturally we asked the waiter for some.

Unfortunately, they ran out (WTF? At 8PM?) so we ended up ordering a Pedro Ximenez Magnum each instead. They were no donuts but they nonetheless made us satisfied. (chocolate, a hint of liqueur and super salty peanuts to top it off – what more could you want?)

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Nomad; the food was exciting and delicious without being too complicated and left us wanting to return for seconds (or in Julie’s case, thirds). I also liked that in a city where people like to show off, there was none of that here; everything was refined yet unpretentious. Although we had a time limit, we did not feel rushed for the service was very professional, yet relaxed. It was the perfect meal to what had been a busy week in Melbourne for me.

Next time, there better be horse and donuts though.

Nomad on Urbanspoon

Review: Flour and Stone (Sydney, NSW)

53 Riley Street
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
+61 2 8068 8818
http://www.flourandstone.com.au/

If you’re going to Sydney, there is an unwritten rule that states that you MUST stop at famed patisserie Flour and Stone. Even if you’re not a huge cake person like I am, there is bound to be something wonderful for you to try on the spot or to take home with you to Melbourne in a huge Longchamp carry-on (cough).

I rocked up to Nadine Ingram’s famous café one Saturday morning when I had a bit of time to kill before my next appointment. Armed with instructions to take home ‘at least four panna cotta lamingtons’, I was ready with a large canvas tote bag to transport my precious goodies back to my AirBnb accommodation in the middle of Oxford Street.

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The diminutive café was packed when I arrived but the pastry gods must have been kind to me for I was able to score a small table against the wall. Once I paid for my two boxes (yes, TWO) of goodies, I grabbed the coveted seat and sat down with my Coffee Alchemy latte and super flaky almond croissant. While the coffee was just so-so, the croissant was delicious.

Panna cotta lamington ($6 each)

Panna cotta lamington ($6 each)

The lamingtons were bigger than I expected (then again, at $6 you’d want them to be, well, not tiny). Each lamington was a perfect cube made from two vanilla sponge slices, with the bottom layer of sponge soaked in creamy panna cotta to give it a pudding-like texture. The sponges were separated by a thin layer of sweet jam before being covered in chocolate and thick coconut pieces.

Look, I can see why people go nuts over them – and don’t get me wrong, they were delicious – but would I bring them back to Melbourne again? Probably not. I think it’s because I’m not big on traditional lamingtons nor do I like my sweet baked goodies to be anything BUT flaky or fluffy or airy. God, I’m so difficult.

Lemon curd tart; vanilla custard and raspberry doughnut ($4.50)

Lemon curd tart; vanilla custard and raspberry doughnut ($4.50)

I didn’t particularly like the vanilla custard and raspberry doughnut either – while the actual ‘dough’ bit of the doughnut was nice enough, there just wasn’t a lot of jam or custard so I felt a bit ripped off. MUCH better was the lemon curd tart – firm, right base combined with a lush velvety filling and a whole lot of bite/attitude made for the perfect post-dinner dessert.

I did find Flour and Stone a bit of a hit and miss but it’s got more to do with my weird tastes rather than a reflection of the quality of the goodies as fantastic as they are. Given the way people kept going on about the lamingtons, I guess I allowed myself to set unrealistic expectations for them. Meanwhile, I was delighted by the lemon curd tart and almond croissants, two Flour and Stone items that, imo, don’t get as much hype.

If I’m in the area, I’ll definitely stop by to pick up a few almond croissants and lemon tarts as well as try some of their other items – the too many pretty photos of the raspberry tart on Instagram did it for me.

Flour and Stone on Urbanspoon

Review: Gelateria Gondola (Sydney, NSW)

2/77 Archer Street
Chatswood NSW 2067
+61 2 8084 1714
http://gelateriagondola.com.au/

There’s some amazing gelati to be found in Sydney and we’re not just talking about the likes of Messina and Cow & The Moon (review to come soon). We’re also referring to the humble small operations in Sydney’s leafy ‘burbs that don’t get the hype as those big players do. Instead, they happily continue to do what they’ve been doing since day one without so much as a fuss. Chatswood’s Gelateria Gondola happens to be one of them.

I caught up with my brother-from-another-Asian-mother Lawrence one Friday night after dinner. Lawrence and I met on Tinder back in Melbourne one evening and after a couple of drinks at 1806 (a flowery cocktail for him, a whisky for me), we already knew we were going to be great friends. Lawrence is a Sydneysider so whenever I’m in town, we always catch up for dinner and/or drinks on the Friday night.

On this particular Friday night, we did laps around the North Shore before stopping for dessert. Preferring to shy away from Messina’s queues, Lawrence suggested we go to one of this favourite neighbourhood ice cream spots.

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Gondola’s all about making fresh artisan gelati in small batches every day. There is no wankery involved and no crazy flavours ‘just because’; it’s all classic flavours made with natural ingredients. Nothing more, nothing less.

Jersey milk gelato (one scoop, $5); pineapple and salted caramel gelati (two scoops, $7.50)

Jersey milk gelato (one scoop, $5); pineapple and salted caramel gelati (two scoops, $7.50)

Lawrence always goes for the fresh jersey milk gelato and I can see why – it’s so lusciously creamy with the slightest hint of sweetness for that bit of buzz. Meanwhile, I went sweet and sour with my pineapple and salted caramel combo. My salted caramel gelato was creamy – not as much as Lawrence’s but that was no problem – and, unlike other salted caramel-flavoured stuff out there, was actually more salty rather than sweet. LIKE LIKE LIKE. My pineapple gelato was cool and refreshing without being too sweet – it was almost like eating a frozen pineapple.

In my opinion, Gondola doesn’t get the recognition it deserves but the owners don’t seem to mind. All they care about is going about their business making good gelati with obvious passion rather than trending on Twitter. Much love to these guys – and their pineapple gelato.

Gelateria Gondola on Urbanspoon

Review: Chur Burger (Sydney, NSW)

48 Albion Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
+61 2 9212 3602
http://www.churburger.com.au/

As far as I know, Sydney doesn’t do burgers as well as Melbourne. We have a list of great places to grab a fantastic burger at a reason price that’s longer than the number of Brownlow votes Matthew Priddis pulled last night. Meanwhile, I’ve only had a good burger twice in Sydney: one at Mary’s in Newtown (post soon to come) and one at Chur Burger in Surry Hills.

Chur Burger is a bit of a Sydney success story. Started by former fine dining chef Warren Turnbull, the diner started off quietly as a drive-thru. These days, there are three branches in Sydney, including one in Manly, and one in Brisbane. And let’s face it, it probably won’t be long before Turnbull opens a Melbourne restaurant to compete with the dozens of already awesome burger joints around town.

But back to Sydney. This was the time when my Sydney network wasn’t as wide as it is now; subsequently, I found myself with no one to have dinner with on a Saturday evening. Earlier that afternoon, I had been casually playing on Tinder – it was the afternoon when I discovered the joys of Tinder trolling too – and matched with a nice, vanilla Asian guy who lived way out west. I wanted a dining companion and he wanted a companion for the evening (not that in way) so we agreed to meet up over burgers.

Although nothing evolved out of my meeting with Peter, we nonetheless had a lovely meal at Chur Burger. And even though it was 8PM on a Saturday night in Surry Hills, we only waited 15 minutes to get a table in the loud, boisterous dining room.

Fish burger: crumbed fish fillet, picked cucumber, lemon mayo, dill; chips ($5)

Fish burger: crumbed fish fillet, picked cucumber, lemon mayo, dill; chips ($5)

All burgers at Chur are $10, a steal given how delicious and generously sized they are. Peter went relatively healthy with the fish burger, which contained a massive slab of white fish. ‘Delicious’ and ‘yeah, pretty good’ were the words that came out of Peter’s mouth as he was eating it – and no, he wasn’t talking about me.

Beef burger: beef, pickle, cheese, tomato jam and Dijon mayonnaise

Beef burger: beef, pickle, cheese, tomato jam and Dijon mayonnaise

I played it safe with the beef burger. It was a fairly solid burger with all the ingredients ticking the boxes – the beef pattie was juicy and both the tomato jam and Dijon mayonnaise gave the package a lovely kick. I guess if I had to be picky, I’d say the bun was just average. Yeah, it’s brioche but it didn’t have that lovely Huxtaburger-like buttery texture we all know and love.

Chur Burger was great and all, but it would find it hard to compete with the Melbourne burger talent. I’ve been told that Chur was once super-fantastically-amazing but since it started multiplying, the quality control has been all over the place. Even the Brisbane restaurant was off to a shaky start but I’ll be the judge of that when I do get around to visiting at some point.

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon

Review: Riley Street Café & Wine (Sydney, NSW)

222 Riley Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
+61 2 8093 9807
http://www.rileystreetwine.com/

Surry Hills is one of my favourite suburbs in Sydney; I love the abundance of restaurants, cafés and wine bars and I love the buzz it generates as soon as the sun dips beneath the horizon. It also happens to be within easy walking distance from the city, making it one of the most convenient places to get to.

I woke up one morning in Darlinghurst and decided to go for a stroll to Surry Hills for a bite and a coffee before a day of talks and stuff at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. There are a hundred of apparently decent places to have breakfast in the area but somehow, I ended up at Riley Street Café & Wine.

Latte ($3.50 or $3.80, or something like that)

Latte ($3.50 or $3.80, or something like that)

The café made news two years ago when they decided to serve takeaway coffees for $2.50, something that’s totally unheard of. I don’t know if they still do it now though. Either way, I paid my $3.50-or-$3.80 for my latte which is market price – and it was okay; not enough body for my liking.

Egg and bacon roll ($14)

Egg and bacon roll ($14)

Riley’s egg and bacon roll is supposedly what they do best. Here, a gooey sunny-side egg and two slices of bacon were enveloped in a warm seeded roll along with some caramelised onion, rocket and salsa verde. There was also the option to add provolone cheese for $2 which would have been sweet but at the time of ordering, I thought it was too much so I didn’t.

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Look, the roll (which was more of a sandwich, really) was not bad. It filled me up and everything but was it worth $14? Probably not. The bread was lovely and nutty but perhaps a bit too hard – and that pretty much ruined it. Everything else was fine though.

Given that there are places to enjoy a nice(r) coffee and breakfast in Surry Hills, I probably wouldn’t go here again. For a $2.50 takeaway coffee if they still had it though? Maybe…

Riley Street Café & Wine on Urbanspoon

Review: Hakata-Maru Ramen (Sydney, NSW)

Shop 3, Level 3
Market City
9-13 Hay Street
Haymarket NSW 2000
+61 2 9281 6648

Disclaimer: Libby dined as a guest of Hakata-Maru Ramen.

I seem to be going to Sydney quite a bit these days so with that in mind, let me bring out the first of my protracted Sydney posts.

A while ago, Hidetoshi Tsuboi of Chinatown’s Hakata-Maru Ramen invited me to attend a mini-tour of the then-newly established ramen eatery in Market City. He must have somehow mistook me for a Sydneysider so I told him that I live(d) in Melbourne and that as much as I love ramen, I could not accept his invitation.

Regardless, Hide was lovely enough to keep the invitation open for my next Sydney visit – which wasn’t to occur for another eight months or something ridiculous like that. So on my first Sydney visit for 2014, I hopped off the plane at Sydney airport, checked into my accommodation (after accidentally walking into a crack den full of derros on Oxford Street – omg, don’t ask) and walked down to Chinatown to meet Hide.

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Hakata-Maru Ramen may have only been in business for a year but they’re already gaining a popular following. Their speciality is Hakata-style tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen, the same type that Ippudo also excels in. In fact, Hide went on to say that Hakata-Maru’s ramens were better value – ‘same thing, slightly different price points.’

After exploring the kitchen and trying my best not to drool at the big vats of stock bubbling away, Hide gave me a few things from the menu to try.

Chicken wings ($3)

Chicken wings ($3)

First up, the chicken wings. They similar to the Nagoya-style tebasaki chicken wings which are crispy as hell and glazed with a sweet and slightly sticky garlic glaze. These ones were more dry rather than sticky but I enjoyed them nevertheless.

White tonkotsu ramen ($8.80)

White tonkotsu ramen, with sesame seeds and pickled ginger on the side ($8.80)

I was then given their default white tonkotsu ramen as well as a bunch of trimmings on the side. The black stuff you see is the soy garlic sauce which, for an extra dollar, turns your white tonkotsu ramen into a black tonkontsu. Meanwhile, the fiery red stuff you see turns it into a potently spicy red tonkotsu.

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Hide offered me little bowls to spoon my ramen noodles and broth in so I can mix the toppings and flavours accordingly. I have to say that the pure white tonkotsu broth was my favourite – it was a milky, clean broth full of flavoursome goodness without the nasty oiliness that you get at Sydney’s rival ramen restaurants. And even though I love garlic, I found the black garlic broth a bit too pungent and the red one was nice but only in small doses.

Is it as good as Ippudo’s ramen? It’s definitely up there but Ippudo’s broth is perhaps a little more refined. That said, I’d happily go to Hakata-Maru Ramen if I’m too lazy to walk up to Pitt Street Mall or if I want to go somewhere more chilled and casual.

Hakata-Maru Ramen on Urbanspoon

Review: Dukes Coffee Roasters Windsor (Melbourne, VIC)

169 Chapel Street
Windsor VIC 3181
+61 3 9521 4884
http://www.dukescoffee.com.au/

Disclaimer: My friend and dining companion Sam works at Dukes so this meal was on the house.

My friend Linda got married to the guy who picked her up on a Qantas flight to Sydney a few years ago. And this year, Sam and I attended her beautiful wedding at a church in Toorak on a cold, miserable Melbourne morning. We had a bit of time to kill (and hungry stomachs to feed) before the evening reception so we decided to venture down to Dukes Coffee Roasters in Windsor for a late lunch.

Latte ($4)

Latte ($4)

After the morning I had (that is, MacGyver-ing to Linda’s wedding on time), I really needed a coffee. This is where a silky smooth latte made with Dukes espresso blend beans came in super handy.

Dukes might be famous for their coffees but that’s not to say that they don’t skimp on food. No, their brunch menu is pretty quirky and well worth the trek to Windsor for. Granted, they still had the odd staples such as the free range eggs on sourdough and bircher muesli options but for the most part, you’re getting dishes that you don’t find anywhere else – think English muffins with duck egg, Tasmanian truffle, braised kale and triple cream cheese.

Dr Marty’s crumpets, caramelised banana, maple syrup and pistachio crumble ($14)

Dr Marty’s crumpets, caramelised banana, maple syrup and pistachio crumble ($14)

Sam had the crumpets; like most multi-millionaires, it was very nutty and rich. And like a few multi-millionaires, I suppose, it was also very sweet. A few forkfuls made me happy but I don’t think I could have been able to eat it all on my own and walk out feeling fine. (woe the girl who loves savoury foods)

Avocado hummus toast, poached eggs, honey candied bacon and dukkah ($18)

Avocado hummus toast, poached eggs, honey candied bacon and dukkah ($18)

I had the avocado hummus toast and while I love all of the aforementioned items on their own, it was the honey candied bacon that won me over because as if you wouldn’t.

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Despite the dish sounding incredible on paper, I just felt that the whole thing was a bit too full-on. I’m not sure whether it was the bread that made me bloaty and carb-y and grumpy, or the fact that the candied bacon was a bit too sweet (yes, it’s possible). If I thought Sam’s breakfast dish was too rich, then this was definitely in the I’m-So-Rich-I-Own-All-Of-Queensland rich. It wasn’t a nice feeling. I guess it would be a different story if they removed perhaps one of the ingredients on the dish to make it a bit more balanced.

I might not have been wooed by my dish but that doesn’t mean I won’t be going back to Dukes again. I loved the coffee and even though Sam’s dish was too much (for me, because weak), I’m really looking forward to trying the other stuff on the menu.

Dukes Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

Review: Hihou (Melbourne, VIC)

1 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9654 5465
http://www.hihou.com.au/

No one in Melbourne does cool like Simon Denton. He’s the guy who bought us Izakaya Den and Nama Nama as well as Verge before closing that restaurant and re-opening it as Hihou. It was my birthday week so Nee and I decided to celebrate over a lovely mid-week dinner and drinks just before I was due to fly to Sydney for the Writers’ Festival that weekend.

The word Hihou means ‘secret treasure’ and without wanting to turn this post until something dirty, Hihou is indeed one. You have to find a black door just off the Flinders Lane/Spring Street corner, a few steps from Nama Nama. I was given clear instructions by a couple of fellow food bloggers but despite those and despite my geographical aptitude, I still had to ask a Nama Nama staff for help. Gawd, such fail. Regardless, I got there in the end; I found the hidden door, I found the door bell I was supposed to ring and up I went.

We were seated on super low stools and at a super low table by the window, overlooking Flinders Lane. Hihou is extremely sexy and sophisticated – and no, I’m not referring to the hotties in suits who were downing Japanese whiskies on the communal table in the middle of the diminutive dining room. Rather, I’m talking about the demure dark lighting, the gorgeous garden views and the calm and serene atmosphere – it was almost like I was at the Park Hyatt and I was Bill Murray. (I’d say Scarlett but I’m afraid I’m lacking in the chest department)

‘Cuban’ spicy tuna cigar ($6); eel and tofu croquette with tonkatsu sauce ($4 each)

‘Cuban’ spicy tuna cigar ($6); eel and tofu croquette with tonkatsu sauce ($4 each)

With a glass of Yamazaki in my hand, we decided to order a few dishes to share. I’m not sure what made the tuna cigar ‘Cuban’ (jeez, not all cigars are Cuban!) but whatever, it was lovely. I loved the delicately crunchy shell and the slightly creamy tuna filling which gave a bit of heat.

Meanwhile, the eel and tofu croquettes weren’t as stellar. I just found the filling too mushy and watery. (thanks to the tofu, perhaps)

Hihou dog: sesame brioche, arabiki pork sauge ($12)

Hihou dog: sesame brioche, arabiki pork sauge ($12)

We split the Hihou dog in two (ooh-er, dirty). It was a very simple dish – just bun, sausage and ‘kraut – but because it’s a Simon Denton establishment and because Japanese coarse grind sausages are used, naturally there was a price hike. It was delicious though, and we loved that we were given an assortment of sauces to dress our sausages up in. (oh stop it…)

Buckwheat crêpes with duck breast, pickled mushrooms and leek ($21)

Buckwheat crêpes with duck breast, pickled mushrooms and leek ($21)

We also loved the duck crêpes, a DIY dish that involved chucking a sliced duck breast or two onto a thick, doughy crêpe piece and dressing it with pickled mushroom and leek. I loved how the mushrooms’ earthy flavours paired beautifully with the duck meat and the sweet, soft crêpes.

Seared tuna with spring onion puree, ginger, dashi and fried parsnip

Seared tuna with spring onion puree, ginger, dashi and fried parsnip

The seared tuna was another fantastic dish, a study in Japanese effortlessness. The tuna pieces were super fresh, making them an excellent catalyst in soaking up the zesty ginger and dashi dressing. The fried parsnip chips also added a lovely crunchy to the dish.

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We skipped dessert because none of the dessert options wowed us (too much chocolate, imo) so ended up having cocktails instead, a lovely way to cap off a sexy, sleek dinner.

Hihou on Urbanspoon

Review: Kim Chi Hut (Melbourne, VIC)

185 Coleman Parade
Glen Waverley VIC 3150
+61 3 9574 8383

Linda and I don’t mind a bit of Korean every now and then. It’s been a while since either of us had ventured down to Glen Waverley for a feed so we decided to find the highest ranked Korean restaurant there on Urbanspoon for our next dinner destination.

We landed on Kim Chi Hut which had a score in the low 90s, a reputable score. It was a mid-week dinner so we walked in without making reservations. That said, it was surprisingly packed for a Wednesday night so ringing up to book anyway would be a wise decision.

Mandu (8 for $12)

Mandu (8 for $12)

We split a main-sized serving of Korean dumplings. I have no idea why a random bunch of sautéed mushrooms were dumped unceremoniously on top of the dumplings but I love my mushrooms anyway so it was no biggie. What turned out to be a biggie, however, were the dumplings – they were oily and soggy. Not cool, bro.

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Obligatory free banchan

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Not-so-obligatory free miso soup (but was appreciated nonetheless)

Beef rice stone pot with sweet soy marinated beef ($16.80)

Beef rice stone pot with sweet soy marinated beef ($16.80)

We both ordered the beef rice stone pot, or bibimbap. At $16.80, it was by no means the cheapest bibimbap in town.

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While the whole shebang was nice, I found the vegetable-beef-rice ratio a bit uneven. And what’s with the way too many pieces of cucumber slices and lettuce?! It was good but not $16.80 good.

Despite the ‘just okay’ food, the service was prompt and friendly. I don’t go to Glen Waverley much these days and probably wouldn’t go back again for a return meal. Hell, I probably wouldn’t go again even if I just so HAPPENED to be lurking around the area, especially since there are so many good food options nearby. I’m not sure why Kim Chi Hut scored highly on Urbanspoon; perhaps we just ordered the wrong thing or perhaps the voters ate a whole lot of mushrooms – and not the ones we consumed with the dumplings either…

Kimchi Hut on Urbanspoon