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: Three Red Stripes (Melbourne, VIC)

985 Doncaster Road
Doncaster East VIC 3109
+61 3 9841 8978

Back in Melbourne, I’m used to travelling across town just to get my Vietnamese fix. To me, taking a bus and then a train to go to Footscray for (imo) Melbourne’s best banh mi and pho was as normal as brushing my teeth twice a day. An efficient use of my time? Probably not. Worth it though? Hell, yes. These days though, I don’t have enough time in the day to spend two hours on the road just for 20 minutes of pho heaven. So when I heard that a Vietnamese restaurant was opening just 5 minutes from my house, you can imagine how excited I got.

In saying that, it took me an entire year to finally visit Three Red Stripes. Yes, a year. To be fair though, moving two states probably had something to do with it. But anyway. My visit comprised of a Sunday lunch with family – and by ‘family, I meant my parents, my siblings, two cousins, my aunty and husband, my cousin’s fiancé as well as his aunty and her husband. All in all, it was a large party.

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Traditional Vietnamese coffee ($4)
Traditional Vietnamese coffee ($4)

I needed a bit of coffee to wake me up and a hot condensed milk-laced Vietnamese coffee did the trick.

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We ordered a nice selection of your typical Vietnamese dishes, ranging from pho (beef and chicken) to rice dishes. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to sample many other dishes but judging by the resounding nods all over the table, I think we can assume that most dishes here pass the taste test.

Prawn spring rolls ($9)
Prawn spring rolls ($9)

My side of the table shared some fried prawn spring rolls; crispy and hot, they were a solid effort. I would have preferred a bit more prawn in my filling but then again, I’ve sort of come to expect scant flings in spring rolls when dining out anyway.

Bun bo hue ($11.50)
Bun bo hue ($11.50)

I decided to forgo the pho that my fellow dining buddies ordered, choosing the BBH instead. Three Red Stripes did a great version – the lemongrass and chilli ratio was spot on, and they were generous with the beef. There was also no sign of the block of pig’s blood jelly that you see in most BBH speciality restaurants, something that purists would probably not be thrilled with. As someone who isn’t a fan of pig’s blood jelly, however, I didn’t care. I wouldn’t go as far to say that this is the best BBH in Melbourne – it was a bit ‘clean’ and ‘too eastern suburb-y for me, where was the grittiness?! – but it’s good enough for Donny East.

Com tam ($12.50)
Com tam ($12.50)

My mother had the broken rice, another solid dish that ticked all the boxes, right down to the beautifully pickled carrots.

While I still prefer Footscray for its more ‘authentic’ Vietnamese food, Three Red Stripes is a much welcome addition to the Doncaster East food scene. We’re very lucky to have a decent splattering of Cantonese, Malaysian and Indian eateries serving authentic cuisine but we had been missing excellent Vietnamese restaurants for quite some time. Definitely one to go back to if you can’t be bothered driving to Richmond, Footscray or Springvale for a taste of Vietnam.

Three Red Stripes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Haveli

31-33 Tunstall Square
Doncaster East VIC 3109
+61 3 9842 9375
www.haveli.com.au

My mother had been a sheltered housewife until only very recently. Before she started working full time, she stayed at home during the day and did what housewives did and only hung around fellow Chinese-Indonesian housewives. Because of that, she had a very limited view of the world which translated to a very closed-minded attitude when it came to food. While she loved cooking and eating Indonesian and Chinese food, with the odd Italian and Vietnamese thrown in every so often, she was not keen on other cuisines. Growing up, I never dined at Thai restaurants because according to her, Thai food was ‘just like Indonesian food’ (pfft). We never dined in one of Doncaster’s many Greek restaurants because she didn’t like lamb. And as for Indian? Forget it.

But now that she’s been working full-time for a year or so and now that she’s made friends with people beyond her small social circle, she’s been exposed to a lot of wonderful new things. Her boss, for example, is German and often gives her German sausages to take home. This has resulted in us eating German-style sausage soups courtesy of the slow-cooker on cold winter days. Her boss is also a fan of Indian food so when they last had a team dinner, he ended up choosing local Indian restaurant Haveli as the destination. My mum was not particularly keen on the restaurant but 1) everyone else was and 2) the boss was paying so she really had no say in the matter.

Well, well, well! She got back from the dinner, ecstatic. She never knew just how GOOD Indian food was and she insisted that we MUST go to Haveli at some point. The opportunity came when her sister (my aunty), Emi, and her niece (Emi’s daughter and my cousin), Jess came to visit from Jakarta last month. It was their last night in Melbourne and they were keen for some local fare. As far as I know, their knowledge of Indian food pretty much extends to that Indian place at Doncaster Shoppingtown’s food court, which they really like. Hence, mum knew that they (and I) would enjoy Haveli, which opened in 1981 and was apparently the first Indian restaurant in Melbourne’s east.

Sunday nights at Haveli aren’t a full house but they are nevertheless reasonably busy. We did not make a booking beforehand so they ended up scrambling around to make room for five. We were, however, seated pretty quickly in the fairly dark dining room with shades of red dominating the carpets and tables. A waiter came around with a jug of water and pappadums to nibble on while we looked through the menu. We found that host and manager Vijay Lamba was not only extremely helpful in assisting us with portion sizes but engaged us during the meal with jokes (though dad didn’t take well to Vijay jokingly telling him that no Blackberries were allowed during dinner).

We started off with some vegetable samosas (two for $7.50). Our waiter didn’t believe that two samosas between five people sufficed, and convince us to order five. Thankfully, we didn’t listen to his advice for they were pretty large. We were expecting small flat triangles, so we were pleasantly surprised to see that the samosas were large pyramids stuffed with potato cubes, green peas and spices.

They were delicious and so filling that, in fact, two would have definitely sufficed if I had lunch here. I would even go so far to say that they were the best samosas I’ve ever had.

We then shared a tandoori platter. For $26, we received 10 pieces of sundry tandoori items. From tandoori chicken to chicken tikka and from tandoori lamb chops to chicken seekh kebabs, we got decent selection. My favourite was tandoori lamb chop which was tender and flavoursome.

For some reason, Haveli calls their butter chicken the ‘chicken butter cream’ and according to the menu, this dish is their signature. At $18, it’s not the cheapest butter chicken in Melbourne but it’s pretty damn good. The chicken thighs, having been marinated in tandoori spices, were mixed in with a creamy tomato and cashew nut sauce that had lovely hints of spice. Once the chicken had run out, Jess and I happily spooned the leftover sauce onto our saffron rice ($5) to enjoy spoonfuls of, well, rice butter cream.

I ordered the lamb korma ($18) because Classic Curry Restaurant make a good one and I thought I’d be getting something that tasted remotely similar. Unfortunately, we got something remarkably different. The lamb was so tough that I couldn’t help but think that had received mutton instead (mutton dressed as lamb? not cool). The sauce, while creamy, was too sweet for my liking. And while it was nutty enough, it didn’t have enough of the promised onions to give it a little bit of piquancy.

For some reason, I don’t have a picture of the vegetable curry ($13.50) we ordered but never mind. It was essentially a bowl of mixed vegetables cooked in an onion and yoghurt and gravy. I also believe that lots of coconut cream was used because the entire thing tasted like this Indonesian coconut vegetable curry that everyone in my family is very familiar with (I just wish I can imagine the exact name of it).

And of course, we shared several servings of garlic naan ($4 each) to mop up the creamy sauces. Each naan piece was wonderfully soft and chewy, with a slight crunch on the outside. I also liked that the garlic wasn’t overpowering too.

If we had room in our stomachs for dessert, we would have ordered some kulfi (Indian milk and pistachio ice cream flavoured with saffron, green cardamom and rose syrup). Instead, half of us had some mango lassi to wash everything down with. The lassi was smooth and creamy and the fact that it wasn’t overly sweetened made it a winner in my eyes.

At the cashier, we noticed a pretty platter filled with a wonderful mixture of spices. Vijay explained that it’s for diners to chew on after their meal to refresh their breath. We were encouraged to take a pinch of spices to try some and what do you know, this stuff was actually more effective than a packet of Extra – and it’s probably better for you too.

Haveli might be slightly more expensive than your average Melbourne Indian restaurant but given the number of locals, both Indian and otherwise, dining in on a Sunday evening, the extra dollars are worth it. While it’s not the best Indian I’ve ever had, I’m glad that there is a restaurant within comfortable driving distance that I can go to if I’m feeling like a nice serving of butter chicken, oh, sorry, chicken butter cream.’

Haveli Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kum Tong

21 Anderson Creek Road
Doncaster East VIC 3109
+61 3 9841 8688

Adam’s mum decided to take us out for dinner last night to celebrate both Adam’s and his grandma’s birthdays. Yeah, I know. Three dinners for this guy – spoilt much?! Anyway, having been to Kum Tong (a Chinese joint behind my house) the other week, Adam’s parents decided to take us there as they enjoyed the food there. I’ll keep it short and sweet. There really isn’t much to rave on about as the food wasn’t that fantastic. As my title suggests, you can probably make better food at home using them trust ol’ Kan Tong sauces… Sorry for not remembering the names of each dish. I didn’t really look at the menu and left it up to Adam’s parents to order.

Feast!

 

I think this was the only dish that was vague exciting. Jumbo-sized prawns fried in some really strange batter made out of salted duck eggs. It might look like a year.8 science experiment but I actually quite liked it.

We each got a bowl of long-life noodles to eat with our food but of course, two bites and the noodles were gone so we had to order some extra rice. The noodles were just your standard fried-in-oyster-sauce-with-beanshoots-and-Chinese-greens-added fare.

Now this was the dish that Adam’s parents kept raving on about. Steamed chicken with I-forgot-what-sauce. They kept going on about how the chicken must be organic because the meat texture was different to what you’d normally get at Chinese places and yeah, they were right but I honestly don’t know what kind of suburban Chinese restaurant would use organic chicken so I was reluctant to believe them (Flower Drum and Silks are a different story).

Fish with tofu. Too much ginger spoilt it for me.

Venison with XO sauce. This was the first time I’ve actually tried deer meat. And it tastes pretty much like beef. Except more tender. And a little bit sweeter. Not horrible but I wouldn’t go around ordering venison as it didn’t really do it for me. And heck, you can create the same effect by tenderising your beef and soaking it in sweet soy at home.

OX scallops. Yeah, Adam’s family love their OX sauce. It’s alright but I prefer my ginger and spring onion. This dish was alright though. Nothing spectactular.

There were a few other dishes but I didn’t take photos of them so you’ll just have to imagine the seafood claypot, the shark fin soup (okay fine, that was a special order just for grandma) and the fried rice but like the other dishes, they were all pretty ordinary. It’s not like the restaurant didn’t try – they DID and they provided very friendly service but the food was just bleh and certainly wasn’t worth driving from the other side of Melbourne for (Adam’s family). Heck, it was not even worth a 2 minute drive for me (from my house). Now that I think about it, the site of this restaurant has been home to many many Chinese places in the past – Yum Cha Palace, Seahorse Restaurant and lots more. But I don’t think that either of them have stuck around for more than 2 years before a new owner and new name popped up. Heck, I think this Kum Tong place has only been around for a few months and given by how dead the place was, I don’t think it’ll last much longer. God knows why this is the case. Bad feng shui maybe? Or maybe the fact that the restaurant is only a stone’s throw away from a prominent underworld figure’s house has scared all the owners away… hmmm…In short, almost a fail but the prawns were a saving grace. But you wouldn’t see Libby having a birthday party or a dinner at this joint ever!