195 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 9654 0090
You may have heard that Little Hunter was placed in liquidation the other week. The restaurant wasn’t paying its bills, the ATO was hunting them down and staff were walking away en masse. It was the sort of stuff that Gordon Ramsay’s producers would have been looking for – that is, if the whole thing did not happen so quickly.
It is therefore fitting (okay fine, inappropriate is probably a better word) that I make tonight’s review all about Little Hunter. Winston, Dave and I were here for dinner well before the storm approached so our experience was nothing like the papers described.
That said, the restaurant itself was a pain in the arse to find. Dave and I probably spent a good few minutes staring blankly at an empty spot on Little Collins Street where we thought the restaurant was. We then realised that we were on the wrong side of the street but even then, the restaurant wasn’t illuminated or anything – the only clue was a single red light bulb dangling above the door and ‘Little Hunter’ written in tiny serif font. Even then, we still had our reservations when we walked through that entrance, down some stairs and into some creepy basement.
We knew we finally reached the right place though when we saw a bunch of hipsters walk into the restaurant. We also saw chickens, cute little chickens.
Little Hunter’s problem wasn’t its lack of direction, a problem that seems to touch every second new restaurant that pops up in Melbourne. No, Little Hunter knew what it was doing and it did so pretty well. There was a focus on ‘the land, the farmer, and the finest breeds in Australia.’ Everything on the predominantly meat-filled menu was cured, smoked or preserved in-house. And Little Hunter was also big on using every bit of the animal as much as possible, which explains ingredients such as beef fat butter appearing on the menu.
A Pair of 8s: Ocho Reposado Tequilla, Poire William, pear puree, lime juice, thyme ($18)
Winston ordered The Pair of 8s cocktail, a very pear affair. Even though it sounded fantastic on paper, we were slightly underwhelmed by the taste. It was one-dimensional and sweet all over, with nary a hint of real ‘pear’ flavours.
Hot Buttered Rum: Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, spiced apple juice, brown butter ($16)
My warm cocktail was a lot better. It was equal parts spicy and warm, strengthened by a rich layer of smoothness. I also liked that the brown butter gave what would have otherwise been a sweet cocktail a bit of a salty kick. Two thumbs up.
We then ordered a bunch of entrées to share. Probably a bit too much in hindsight…
Cheesy bread with chicken skin butter
We knew we were onto a good thing when our complimentary cheese bread arrived with chicken skin butter on the side. Wait, chicken skin butter? Yep, that’s right. Chicken skin fat is melted into oil, and then the whole thing is mixed in it with butter. It may not be healthy but it certainly was delicious.
And so was the soft, pull-apart bread that was just oozing with cheesy goodness and hints of garlic and rosemary. Let me say here that cheesy bread and chicken skin butter combo was better than any of the non-complimentary dishes we were served that night…
Lobster hushpuppies, softened vinegar butter ($12)
After the bread’s grant entrance, it almost seemed a bit unfair to say that the lobster hushpuppies paled in comparison. I found them rather heavy on the batter and thus, couldn’t really taste any lobster.
Pork crackling, paprika, white cheddar, apple sauce ($6)
The pork crackling dish slightly lifted our spirits up, though. They were light and airy, with each little air socket peppered with small hints of paprika and white cheddar. The apple sauce was supposed to provide a sweet balance, I guess, but I found myself enjoying the pork cracklings more without the apple sauce.
The cured kingfish dish provided a refreshing interlude to what had been a fatty carb session thus far. While the kingfish pieces were super fresh, I did find the pepper on the side a bit too overpowering.
Hopkins River Rib Eye, bone marrow, beef fat butter ($54)
We were actually starting to get full even before the mains arrived so I couldn’t help but groan slightly when our Hopkins River rib eye landed in front of us, seemingly mocking us. At this stage, we had already consumed two types of butter so the thought of getting beef fat butter made me queasy.
Being the tenacious Taurean that I am, however, I wasn’t going to give up that easily. The steak was beautifully juicy and tender, as any good textbook steak should be. However, I found the bone marrow AND the beef fat butter a bit too much for me, despite tasting just fine on their one. If it weren’t for the decadent entrées, I think we would have been just fine. Hell, if we ordered the Cape Grim Filet Mignon with coffee and wood smoke ($43), we probably would have been okay too. Ah, hindsight.
Dry-aged lamb cooked with olives, crisped belly, parsley, orange ($36)
Our dry-aged lamb was okay, but nothing to write home about. The lamb erred on the stringy side and the orange-based sauce added nothing remarkable to the dish.
Grilled cabbage, blue cheese, anchovies, hazelnut vinegar ($9)
We chose the grilled cabbage dish as a side only because our waiter recommended it. We were expecting chopped cabbage leaves drizzled with hazelnut vinegar and sprinkled with the rest of the garnishes. Thus, we were surprised to receive half a head of cabbage – this made eating the salad a little awkward.
Additionally, we thought the dressing was extremely overpowering and just did not go well with the raw cabbage. We should have gone for the safe option of the fries ($6) or even the grits with herb butter and salt ($9). Ugh, never listening to waiters again.
Frangipane, meringue, passionfruit curd, whole pear sorbet ($15)
Despite the three of us being super-full, we still couldn’t leave without ordering a dessert to share. We chose the least decadent dessert, a fruity affair, which ended up being a tad rich for our delicate tastebuds anyway. We all loved the refreshing pear sorbet and the tart passionfruit curd, though we agreed that we could have gone without the other two.
Despite our lack of enthusiasm for the second half of the meal, we enjoyed our dinner. If we had chosen wisely (i.e. not go overboard with our entrées), then we probably would have enjoyed our mains a lot more (okay fine, maybe not the lamb). There were so many wonderful ideas and flavour combinations floating around on the menu but you had to be selective when ordering or you’ll end up in a fatty comatose afterwards (and if you’re anything like me, you’ll abstain from eating meat for the rest of the week).
Little Hunter held so much promise so it was a shame to hear that it shut down. Despite the restaurant’s financial problems, there have been talks of a ‘Junior Hunter’ opening up in the same space so it will be interesting to see how that goes. In the meantime, I may or may not be making my own chicken skin butter in the not too distant future.
I’m not normally one to celebrate Halloween (Hello? Relevance?) but when my boss announced a Halloween morning tea for the last day of the working week, I decided to use it as a chance to show off. By that, I meant whip up some Halloween-related treats in the kitchen rather than buy lollies from the supermarket.
To most people, Halloween means pumpkins. And I just so happened to have a tub of pumpkin puree in the fridge, left over from when I made roasted pumpkin soup the previous weekend. For me, making these brown butter pumpkin cupcakes was just a matter of chucking a bunch of ingredients I had at home. That said, it’s very easy to make your own pumpkin puree from scratch (see below). The same goes for salted caramel sauce, but you can easily use a store-bought version if you want to cheat.
The thought of eating pumpkin cupcakes may put some people off, but don’t be afraid to try it out. These cupcakes were a hit in the office – and trust me, I work with a bunch of fussy ladies. So if they like them, then I’m pretty sure you will do.
Recipe: Mini Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
170 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ⅔ cups plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree*
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Salted caramel Frosting:
150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
½ cup salted caramel sauce (see below)
Salted caramel sauce:
2 cups sugar
170 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup thickened cream, at room temperature
1 tbs sea salt flakes
*To make pumpkin puree, peel the skin off half a butternut pumpkin and cut into squares. Roast the pumpkin cubes in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the cubes have softened. Let the pumpkin cubes cool for 10 minutes, then blitz them in a food processor until smooth. Alternatively, use a potato masher.
Makes about 32 mini-sized cupcakes or 15 regular-sized ones.
1. We’ll start by making the cupcakes. Preheat your oven to 160°C. Line mini muffin tray with patty pans and set aside.
2. In a saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. Once melted, continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns golden brown. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl to stop it from cooking, then skim the foam from top.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together plain flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract and brown butter from step 2.
4. Add the flour mixture into the brown butter and puree mixture, and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the patty pans, filling each hole three-quarters full. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through – use the skewer test. Let the cupcakes cool down.
6. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the salted caramel sauce. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat in a bottom of a heavy saucepan. As soon as the sugar starts to melt, start swirling it around with a wooden spoon. The sugar will clump up, but keep stirring as it continues to melt. This is to prevent the sugar from burning. When all the sugar has melted, stop stirring.
7. Continue to cook the sugar, making sure the temperature doesn’t go higher than 170°C (use a candy thermometer). Once the sugar reaches a dark amber colour, slowly add the butter (it will bubble up).
8. Stir until all the butter is melted, then remove the pan from heat and slowly pour in the heavy cream. The caramel will bubble up, so be careful. Stir until the cream is fully incorporated and the caramel is smooth. Lastly, add the sea salt flakes.
9. Let the caramel sauce cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Reserve ½ a cup for the frosting, plus more for drizzling. You can store the rest of the caramel in a large jar where it will keep in the fridge for about a month.
10. Finally, it’s time to make the frosting. Using an electric mixer on medium-heat speed, beat the butter in a bowl until light in colour and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Reduce speed to low, add icing sugar and mix until completely incorporated.
11. Turn the mixer off, then add the ½ a cup of salted caramel sauce. Beat the frosting on low to combine, then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed (about 5 minutes).
12. Using a piping bag, frost the now-cool cupcakes with the salted caramel frosting. Drizzle the cupcakes with extra salted caramel sauce, if desired.
Tough economic times can cause companies to tighten their purse strings by getting rid of stuff they don’t deem as important. My workplace, for example, decided to scrap buying birthday cakes whenever someone had a birthday in order to save a couple of grand a year. Being a savoury>sweets person, it didn’t bother me so much, however I will admit that I do miss all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the cake-cutting and embarrassing the poor birthday person by loudly singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on their special day. Plus, it’s nice to have a slice of cake for morning tea every now and then.
I managed to enjoy one of the last company-funded birthday cakes earlier this year, before they stopped it in July. Even though I don’t love cakes myself, I know most of my colleagues do. I didn’t want those with birthdays in the latter months of the year to go through a morning tea on their birthday without a cake – especially my friend Peter who is one of the nicest and most interesting people I’ve ever met, despite the questionable company he keeps and the strange-coloured pants he wears sometimes.
Yesterday was Peter’s birthday. He is part Dutch-Sri Lankan, hence why I thought it’d be a good idea to make something from Sri Lanka. I happened to come across a Sri Lankan love cake recipe from Peter Kuruvita, so I thought I’d give it a go. Peter (Kuruvita, not Mr-Fancy-Pants) is one of my favourite Aussie chefs and he also happens to be half-Sri Lankan.
I’m not sure why this cake is called a ‘love cake’ (ask either Peter, I guess). And which Peter does this title refer to? I’ll leave it up to you to decide: Kuruvita, because I used his recipe; or Mr-Fancy-Pants because this cake’s for him.
These little cake slices are best enjoyed with a cup of hot tea – they’re so sweet and dense so do stop at one or two!
Peter’s Sri Lankan love cakes
Adapted from this recipe by Peter Kuruvita
Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
300 g semolina
125 g butter, chopped
10 eggs, separated
250 g caster sugar
60 g honey
185 unsalted cashews, crushed
2 tbsp rosewater
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger*
Zest of 1 lemon
Icing sugar, to serve (optional)
*The original recipe asks for ¼ cup grated crystallised pumpkin (available at Sri Lankan grocery stores). I don’t live close to a Sri Lankan grocery store so I had to use ground ginger instead.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Place the semolina and butter in a tray, then place the tray in the oven until the butter has melted.
3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Add the sugar and mix until combined. Stir in the honey and cashews.
4. Add the rosewater and stir to combine. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and ground ginger and stir until the mixture is pale.
5. In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the cake mixture. Stir in the lemon zest.
6. Add the semolina-butter mixture to the cake mixture. Pour into a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until you see the crust turn golden brown.
7. Cover the tray with aluminium foil (this is to stop the crust from burning due to the cake’s high sugar content), then continue to bake for another 45 minutes or until firm to touch.
8. When cooked, the cake should still be moist so the skewer test is not recommended. Remove from oven and set aside to cool – the cake will continue to cook as it sets.
9. Once cool, cut the cake into little squares to serve (with or without icing sugar on top).
Building 80 RMIT
445 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9995 4655
Disclaimer: Libby paid for her first meal at Hero, but dined as a guest of Hero and Brand Works on her second visit.
I’m not normally one to buy sandwiches (except for Vietnamese pork rolls) when I’m out because I am never satisfied with what I get. ‘Sif pay $8 for a piece of two pieces of stale bread smeared with processed mayonnaise and filled with a limp sheet of lettuce and meat that’s probably be sitting around for days! I’m not sure whether that makes me a food snob or a tight arse but whatever. Plus, I also make a mean chicken sandwich at home.
So when I heard that Hero, a new sandwich place – or more specifically, sub sandwich place – was opening up behind the new RMIT building on Swanston Street, I barely batted an eyelid. Surely this was just a copycat Subway joint? But then people started giving it the thumbs up on Twitter. And people started posting pics of their subs on Instagram. I can’t remember who posted a filtered photo of their sub loaded with onion rings but that user was responsible for me rocking up to Hero one Saturday afternoon during a study break. Because, well, onion rings.
Hero is the newest baby in Michael and Eleena Tan’s café empire. With Reading Room Café and the Grain Store all operating in full swing, they decided to open up a Brooklyn-inspired sandwich joint in the now-bustling RMIT section of the city. Half-sized subs are $7.80 while those with larger stomachs can purchase a full-length one for $11.80. You can choose from seven winning flavours, or Hero’s equivalent of a daily special – a ‘limited 6’ sub. As its name suggests, only six of these are made each day so you’d better get in quick before they sell out. In any case, you can buy the subs on their own or in a combo, the latter of which I did on my first visit.
Three-peat: half hero, hot ball donut and drink $9.90
The three-peat combo comes with half a sub, a drink and your choice of a cookie or a donut. Normal people would go for either a soft drink or a coffee but I’m not normal so I asked for water instead (yeah, WTF).
#KIDROYALE: smoked hickory rub slow roasted beef with onion jam, honey Dijon, baby spinach finished with onion rings
I chose the only sub that had onion rings in it: the #KIDROYALE. It was jam-packed like Rod Laver Arena during a Beyonce concert and bursting with so much flavour. I especially loved the contrast between the soft slivers of beef and the crispy and salty onion rings. My only criticism would be that the onion jam was too sweet though, especially given the fact that the spice rub was sweet enough on its own.
My lunch ended on a sweeter note, if that’s even possible. The jam donut was piping hot and full of sweet, sugary strawberry jam. It wasn’t bad at all but I don’t think anything can compare to the jam donuts they serve at Queen Vic Market and Olympic Donuts in Footscray. Ever.
My second visit was more of a savoury affair. This time I decided to get a coffee because, well, screw water! Also, I was on the pointy end of a really long semester so I decided all the caffeine that I could get that afternoon.
Americano coffee ($2.50)
I can’t say that my Americano
coffee cawfee tasted fantastic but hey, American coffee isn’t meant to be great. For that, I give props for authenticity.
#CATCHER: Panko crumbed shrimp tossed in Hero’s secret seasoning, slaw, finished with homemade Thousand Island dressing
I was very happy with my #CATCHER which was, thankfully, not as sweet as the #KIDROYALE. The prawns remained crunchy despite being lovingly drizzled with a creamy Thousand Island dressing while the slaw formed the vegie component. It was like a shrimp po’ boy, but better.
Shoestring fries with Hero secret spice ($4)
The fries were excellent; they were golden and crispy and covered with what tasted like a quasi-Old Bay seasoning mix. Delicious.
Of course, Hero isn’t all about sub sandwiches and hashtags. You can also buy muffins, Five & Dime bagels and Italian bread pockets here if you want something a little lighter. Meanwhile, I’m hoping that Hero’s current ‘limited 6’ sub #KAYNESREVENGE makes another appearance in the not too distant future. After all, I do like a nice crumbed fish fillet sandwich… (haha, Kayne, fish fillet, gedditgeddit?!?!)
Disclaimer: Libby attended the Supper Safari as a guest of the Publican Group and Dig + Fish.
When I received an email from PR company Dig + Fish inviting me to attend a ‘Secret Supper Safari’ not too long ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Apart from instructions to meet at a location on Little Bourke Street at 6:30pm one weekday evening, there was no other information in the email.
Now I’m a Type A freak who NEEDS to know exactly what’s going on so my instinct was to ignore the email. However, my curiosity got the best of me (and so did my lack of keenness to spend the best part of Thursday night home alone) and before I knew it, I was meeting Nicola from Dig + Fish on Little Bourke Street who then instructed a lady to accompany me to our first location, Campari House.
The evening began with a few canapés and cocktails along with some introductions and mingling. I enjoyed a glass of Campari Rose, a brew that was as sweet as its name suggested.
Sausage rolls with apple relish
Apologies for the crappy photos – it was a really dark room and I’m lousy with the camera! Anyway, I really enjoyed the housemade sausage rolls. The gloriously fatty fillings were neatly wrapped in a crispy pastry and a lovely apple relish provided a lovely dash of tanginess.
Chicken rice paper rolls
The chicken rice paper rolls were also nice, though paled in comparison. I guess when you’ve been spoiled by delicious renditions elsewhere (in Vietnamese restaurants and at my boyfriend’s house, for example), you kind of get a little picky.
Our next stop was at Mr Mason, a French restaurant that Dave and I visited several months earlier. Even though Mr Mason was within walking distance from Campari House, a mini bus took us to the second venue. Why walk when you can drive, right?
Confit duck leg, Rossini potato, golden beetroot, cherries
There were three dishes to choose from and while they all sounded delicious, it seemed like the duck was the most popular choice. The duck meat was beautifully tender and the skin so crispy. The only thing I would criticise about the duck was that it was perhaps a bit too salty but thankfully, the sweet jus and figs balanced everything out.
Joseph Cattin Pinot Gris
It seems that white wines were also pretty popular that night.
Dessert tray: Mr Mason baby soufflé, mini crème brûlée, lemon tarts and biscuit joconde, crème Chantilly and strawberries.
Finally, we were graced with the presence of a dessert tray to share with our seating companion. At this stage, I was already full so I couldn’t enjoy the desserts properly. That said, I did manage to savour a few spoonfuls of airy soufflé and the smooth crème brûlée, which I thought was the star of the dessert tray.
Our final destination was Terra Rossa on the other side of the city. I’m a huge fan of cheese so I was most excited when I was told that we’d share a cheese platter. Plus, I hadn’t been to this venue before so I had no idea what to expect…
Cheese platter: Montasio (Friuli, Italy), Gorgonzola Bonta della Bonta (Lombardy, Italy) and Mauri Taleggio (Pasturo, Italy).
We enjoyed a spectacular spread of cheeses accompanied by crackers and fruit, with wonderful commentary from Silvia, Terra Rossa’s charming Events and Marketing manager. In all honesty, I couldn’t figure out which cheese I liked the most. On one hand, I liked the creaminess of the Mauri Taleggio but on the other hand, I found that I couldn’t stop nibbling at the very rare Montasio, which only sneaks past Australian customs every five months. And while I normally find Gorgonzola too strong, I did enjoy the pungent and very creamy Bonta Delle Bonta.
I normally say ‘no’ to coffee after 3pm (unless I have a looming essay deadline and OMG, still have 2000 words to write in 24 hours) but I happily agreed to have a sip of the espresso martini. It was delicious and bold without being overpowering and even though I didn’t up sleeping until close to 2am that night, it was worth it.
We all received a goodie bag to take home containing all sorts of edible (and drinkable) treats, including this macaron. I wasn’t completely won over by it (the biscuit was perhaps a bit too thick and the ganache too buttery) but hey, it’s a lot better than what I could whip up in the kitchen. And again, apologies for the crappy photo – I blame the espresso martini for the shaky image.
Melbourne may be a jungle at the best of times, but attending a Supper Safari ensures that you get to sample some of Melbourne’s best venues for only $95 (more, if you want extras). This format also means that it’s the perfect way to enjoy a hen’s night or an end of year corporate function (that is, if your company is still making money and not skimping on costs when it comes to Christmas parties *cough*).
The Supper Safari was a good way to revisit old places and still be able to discover new dishes and learn new things. For example, I may have been to Campari House several times but I had no idea that the venue ran trivia evenings on Tuesday nights until I attended the Supper Safari. As soon as I found out, though, I was quick to make a couple of bookings for my work friends and I. Sadly, Campari House no longer do Tuesday trivia nights because some fun sponge complained about the noise (seriously, who the hell chooses to live in the city and complain about noise levels?).
Here are the venue deets:
Venue 1: Terra Rossa
87 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9650 0900
Venue 2: Mr Mason
Shop 10, 530 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9614 4500
Venue 3: Campari House
23-25 Hardware Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9600 1574
For bookings, phone Mr Mason on 9614 4500 or email email@example.com
Shop J, 535 Little Lonsdale Street (via Healeys Lane)
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9973 1761
Being a food wanker, I like things that are artisanal, sold in pop-up stores for a limited time and wrapped in a veneer of Duke, Franchise or Helvetica. Luckily, Melbourne’s newest doughnut store is all of those things and more.
Now, I might not go crazy over sugar and spice and all edible goodies ending in –ose (except for lactose, mmm) but I do love a good doughnut. Thankfully, Doughboy Doughnuts strongly delivers with a strong sugary punch.
Inspired by America’s long-lasting affair with doughnuts, creative duo Walter McKenzie and Brook Miller teamed up with Market Lane’s Anthony Ivey to open up Doughboy Doughnuts. With a focus on quality doughnuts that come in interesting flavours, Doughboy Doughnuts has already been a hit with those in the know.
You can find the boys at Mr Nice Guy Thai restaurant between 7:00 – 11:00 am on weekdays (though they’ve stopped trading on Tuesdays now), though it’s best to get in early. My workmate Pete and I rocked up to Doughboy Doughnuts at 10:00 am on what would have been their third day of trading – only to be told that they had already run out of doughnuts! Unperturbed, I decided to try again the following week – this time at 7:45 am.
Despite the ungodly early hour (I will never be a morning person as long as I live in Melbourne), there was still a sizeable crowd when I rocked up. I grabbed a few doughnuts to share with my workmates along with a cup of coffee – a solid latte that was slightly steep at $4 but hey, it was from Market Lane (and I think Market Lane serves some of Melbourne’s finest coffee) so all was forgiven.
From top left (clockwise): Lime coconut, pistachio and maple bacon
At $4.80 each, you may baulk at the price tag if you are used to buying Woolies cinnamon doughnuts or even Krispy Kreme doughnuts. However, they’re worth every cent. Each doughnut is big and puffy, with insides as soft as marshmallow yet beautifully dense enough for it to count as a legit breakfast item.
I enjoyed the pistachio doughnut with its vanilla icing tainted with zingy orange zest while the surprisingly sweeter lime coconut doughnut was beautifully topped with slivers of toasted coconut. My favourite one, however, was the maple bacon.
Yes, folks, maple bacon. I don’t think anything else needs to be said.
Flavours rotate regularly so you’ll never know what you’ll get when you rock up – I missed out on trying the salted caramel doughnut, for example.
You might be thinking, ‘Man, this bitch is a pig. Fancy eating all three doughnuts!’ In actual fact, I only chopped off a bite-sized piece of each doughnut before distributing the rest of the doughnuts to the hungry masses in the office. They may be amazing doughnuts, but even they’re a bit too much for me!
In all seriousness, they’re probably Melbourne’s best fancy doughnuts. I may not be an early riser but as long as Doughboy Doughnuts are occupying this space (from what I’ve heard, they’re here until the end of October), I’ll make an effort to stop by before work.
Fusion food is a topic that causes lively debate among foodies. While some embrace it like I embrace bad 80s music, self-confessed food purists abhor it – what’s the point of combining two seemingly different cuisines just for the sake of experimentation? Why fix something that simply ain’t broke?
Despite popular belief, however, fusion food is not a new phenomenon. Austrian celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, for example, has been marrying European techniques with Asian ingredients long before Teage Ezard wowed Australians with wasabi-infused oyster shooters. But even then, Puck isn’t doing anything particularly new.
Our ancestors have been enjoying fusion food for centuries now. When European powers colonised faraway countries, they unknowingly created fusion food when they had to modify their dishes according to what ingredients were available to them in their new homes. The beef-loving French colonialists in Vietnam arguably contributed to what is now a well-loved soup noodle dish called phở (from the French pot-au-feu, meaning ‘pot on the fire’). Similarly, French baking techniques combined with Vietnamese staples such as pork, coriander, daikon and fish sauce led to the bánh mì, a sandwich that boasts a colourful fusion of contrasting flavours and freshness.
As an Indonesian, it’s hard to deny the impact that the Dutch had on Indonesian food today. In 1619, the Dutch East India Company colonised the spice-rich archipelago of Indonesia for commercial purposes. When the company’s charter expired in 1799, the Dutch government governed Indonesia until independence in 1949. Today, the Dutch influence is still prevalent from beautiful Colonial-era stock architecture in cities such as Bandung and Surabaya to the food that’s still being enjoyed by millions around the country.
One such dish is the famous dessert called klappertaart, which hails from Manado, North Sulawesi. In Dutch, klappertaart means ‘coconut tart’, however its texture resembles that of a baked custard dessert. This wonderfully sweet – and indulgent – treat combines Dutch dessert-cooking techniques with cinnamon and fresh coconuts, both of which are common ingredients in Indonesian cooking.
Some klappertaart recipes contain egg whites for a crispy meringue topping, however this simplified version purely focuses on the creamy, cold custard. I’d even go so far to say that this klappertaart is fusion cuisine – it’s very hard to find canarium nuts at your local supermarket so walnuts are used here.
Enjoy your klappertaart – perhaps you might see a variation of it at your local Mod Oz restaurant one day!
Don’t be a sillyhead like me by leaving the klappertaarts in the oven for too long… oops.
500 ml milk
50 grams plain flour
30 grams tapioca
50 grams sugar (you can add a little bit more if you have a sweet tooth)
50 gram butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon rum
1 tablespoon condensed milk
1 tablespoon raisins or sultanas (and extras to top)
2 tablespoons walnuts, coarsely chopped (and extras to top)
3 egg yolks, whipped
Meat from two young coconuts, chopped
Cinnamon powder, for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Mix half the milk (250 ml) with flour and tapioca in a bowl, set aside.
3. Mix the rest of the milk with sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until it simmers.
4. Stir the milk and flour mixture from step 2 into the saucepan.
5. Bring the mixture to boil, then remove from heat (but don’t turn it off just yet).
6. Fold in the butter, vanilla essence, rum, condensed milk, raisins or sultanas, and walnuts.
7. Return the saucepan to low-medium heat and fold in the egg yolks and coconut meat.
8. Stir the mixture for a minute, or until the custard is smooth and thick. Remove from heat.
9. Pour the custard into ramekins or a big baking tray.
10. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
11. Let the klappertaart stand at room temperature to cool down, and then store in the fridge until it’s ready to be consumed.
12. Just before serving, garnish the top with raisins or sultanas, and walnuts, then dust with a bit of cinnamon powder.
1. Some recipes tell you to top the klappertaarts with raisins/sultanas and walnuts before putting it in the oven. I’d recommend topping the klappertaarts AFTER taking them out of the oven – both the custard and the raisins/sultanas contain lots of sugar and sugar burns really easily. Avoid this by topping the custard after they’re safely out of the oven – oh, and by not forgetting to take them out!
2. If you don’t like walnuts, try substituting with almonds.
3. If you can’t find fresh young coconuts (or can’t be bothered chopping them up), then store-bought shredded coconut meat will work.
What’s this? A recipe? On The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar? What the hell? How many mushrooms did I eat this morning?
No, you’re not seeing things.
For the first time ever, a recipe has been posted on this blog! When I first started blogging, my aim was to document restaurant visits and only restaurant visits. It wasn’t because I was a horrible cook (okay, so maybe that part is still true…), I just didn’t think I cooked stuff that people would actually want to make.
A bunch of friends then encouraged me to post recipes on my blog and so I figured that I’d give it a shot because hey, I’ve got nothing to lose. I mean, I write reviews on places that no one would even think of stepping foot in (a Vietnamese bakery in the middle of Rotorua, anyone?) so the same rationale ought to apply to recipes. At the end of the day, blogging is all about my journey more than anything. And if people decide to take my restaurant recommendations seriously or give my recipes a crack then hey, that’s a bonus.
My first recipe will be for a nice, comforting lasagne. Yes, I know it’s not as exciting as meat pie-infused Chantilly sorbets with fairy biscuit dust and bright pink edible flowers but baby steps, folks, baby steps… In saying that, the humble lasagne has got to be one of my favourite foods. There are so many recipes for lasagne out there and although I have my favourites (Guy Grossi and Matt Preston make a good one), they take hours to make so here’s one that cooks in half the time. My recipe might not be authentic (Maggi seasoning sauce? The hell?) but it sure is tasty. Promise.
A box of instant lasagne sheets
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped*
6 cloves garlic, chopped*
1 large carrot, chopped*
2 celery stalks, chopped
250g beef mince
250g pork mine
Salt and white pepper
1 cup white wine
A tsp of caster sugar
680ml tomato passata
400g can of diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
A dash of Maggi seasoning sauce
A pinch of nutmeg
1 handful of basil leaves, chopped
*Food processor is your friend. If you have one, use it.
2 tbsp plain flour
Salt and black pepper
A sprinkling of nutmeg
Serves 4-6 people
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. To make the meat sauce, start by heating the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Chuck the onions in and cook until they are soft and translucent.
3. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, but not brown.
4. Add the carrots and celery, cook until soft. This normally takes 2-3 minutes.
5. Crank the heat up to medium-high and chuck the beef and pork mince in, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Break the meat up – you can use a wooden spoon but I find that using a potato masher yields more effective results. Let the meat cook until it loses its raw colour.
6. Add the white wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has almost evaporated.
7. Add the sugar, passata, diced tomatoes and bay leaf and mix it all up.
8. Let the sauce cook until thickened. I usually give it about half an hour, but it may take you longer. Either way, your sauce should look like this:
9. Taste the sauce – you may find it a tad on the tangy side due to all the tomatoes in it. If that doesn’t float your boat, add a pinch of nutmeg to diffuse it. It also gives it a lovely sweet and nutty taste. At this stage, I also add a splash of Maggi seasoning sauce for an umami hit (yes, it’s weird but yes, it bloody works).
10. Once you’re pretty happy with the seasoning, add the basil. Set the meat sauce aside.
11. To make the Béchamel sauce, melt the butter in another saucepan over low-medium heat.
12. When the butter has melted, add the flour. Cook, stirring until a roux is formed.
13. Remove the pan from heat and add the milk, whisking to avoid lumps from being formed.
14. Return the pan to heat and continue to whisk, until the sauce boils and thickens. This might take a while, but the end result should look like this:
15. Remove the Béchamel sauce from heat and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
16. To assemble the lasagne, line a lasagne tray with a very thin layer of olive oil (I used a 37.5cm x 25cm x 5cm tray).
17. Place the lasagne sheets on top, then a layer of meat sauce (about a quarter). Layer the lasagne sheets and meat sauce two more times (or until the meat sauce is finished), then pour the Béchamel sauce all over the top layer. It’s okay to lick the spoon once or twice (or in my case, x + 5000 times).
18. Sprinkle Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese all over the Béchamel sauce layer.
19. Chuck the lasagne in the oven, and cook for 40 minutes or until the cheese has browned.
20. Take the lasagne out of the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
This is what my tray looked like the next morning (hence why the sheets look drier and the cheese not as stringy). In my opinion, lasagne tastes better the next day because the flavours would have intensified. Thus, make sure you’ve got enough for lunch the following day.
So there you have it! My first recipe. Let me know how well or how badly I’ve done, or what other dishes you’d like to see featured on this blog one day.
1. I usually cook a double batch of Béchamel sauce, because a single batch is NEVER enough. Plus, I like to use the leftover sauce to make croque-monsieur later in the week.
2. Six cloves of garlic is plenty for this dish, but I tend to go all out when it comes to garlic. This is how much I ended up using for this dish:
3. Dry bay leaves are fine, but fresh ones are better (luckily for me, I have a bay leaf plant in my backyard):
4. You can also add a bit of rosemary, or any herb to your sauce. Fresh is better, obviously, but you can also use dried ones. My rosemary bush is getting a bit out of control so I try to use rosemary as much as I can when cooking.
(Yes, I’m well aware that I need to get some weeding done).
329 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
To commemorate the very last time we’ll see Walter White grace our screens, this post will feature a little bit of science. Now I didn’t do so well in high school science (yes, DESPITE being Asian and DESPITE having siblings who are actually quite alright at it) so don’t worry, you don’t see a lot of Latin words and symbols that make no sense (to me anyway). Instead, this post will be all about gelati.
More specifically, a place that creates gelati using liquid nitrogen.
Yep, this concept was introduced by two crazy Sydneysiders, Min Chai and Angee Yeoh. A while ago, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal was doing all sorts of crazy – and edible – things with liquid nitrogen. I guess Chai and Yeoh thought it was very neat and subsequently, N2 Extreme Gelato was born.
The first store opened up in Sydney not too long ago and it wasn’t long before a Melbourne store was established. Despite not having a sweet tooth, I love ice cream more than I love the fact that the AFL season has just finished. Thus, when I saw that Ashley mentioned the opening of the Melbourne store on her Facebook, I was there the following day (keen, much?).
N2’s Melbourne store looks right at home in grungy Brunswick Street with Astroturf and milk crates all over the place – they even had the whole communal dining thing happening by way of a ‘bed’ by the window for groups to sit on. They also had this massive speel on the wall, pretty much saying how awesome they are. While the wall was kind of cute, I did find that some of the stuff written on it was a bit OTT (so if I ate a gelato here, my life would be as ‘tranquil and peaceful as Milford Sound’?! I DON’T THINK SO!).
To keep things fresh, N2’s menu changes weekly. You might get deconstructed pavlova one week while Earl Grey tea with dulce de leche might be on the menu the following week. N2 had a buttered popcorn gelato a while ago but unfortunately, I was too busy (or too lazy, whatever) to get my arse into the store when they had it so I missed out. You snooze, you lose, I suppose.
All gelati here are made to order. Once you place your order, the liquid nitrogen does its thang and within minutes, you have a cup of creamy smooth gelati that’s almost elastic. $6 gets you a cup with one flavour and although the menu board tells us that you also have the option of getting two flavours, it’s not recommended because two lots of gelati would be way too much.
Me So Happy: miso caramel with peanuts served on milk gelato
The first time I went, I ordered the Me So Happy. I love salted anything on desserts so I knew I was in for a good time. The milk gelato was creamy and yes, very elastic as promised. Think of it as a teh tarik (Malaysian pulled tea) but in ice cream form. As for the taste, the sticky miso sauce was sinfully salty nutty, creating a lovely contrast between the sweeter gelato. With a sprinkle of peanuts to round the whole thing off, the whole thing certainly made me so happy.
Crème brûlée ($8)
For my second visit, I got Dave and my workmate, Peter to come along. Dave was quick to get on the crème brûlée flavour, which was slightly more expensive than the standard $6 cup. The crème brûlée was blowtorched and all, which meant that you could crack it Amelie-style but instead of custard, you got ice cream. While Dave loved his gelato, he did mention that the ice cream was runny just underneath the shell no thanks to the heat of the blowtorch.
Meanwhile, Pete got the rum and raisin gelato. He, too, thought it was delicious thanks to the ‘nice crisp chunks.’ Of what? I’m not too sure; I didn’t try any myself nor would he elaborate. He did manage to finish his off before Dave and I did though, so suffice to say that it was excellent.
Wiki-leeks: leek and honey with crunchy croutons
Ha, trust me to go for the strangest flavour. I choose the Wiki-leeks, not just because of the cute name but because it was made with a vegetable. Plus, it had croutons! On paper, leek gelati sounds odd but I’ve tried oregano ice cream before and liked it so I figured that this might actually work.
And it did. The guys at N2 captured the essence of a leek soup perfectly in gelati-form. I don’t mean to sound clichéd but if Ms Leek Soup got with a tub of vanilla ice cream, this would be the result. It wasn’t overly sweet and you could almost taste a hint of cream cheese. Weird? Yes. Good? Absolutely.
Generally speaking, we all liked our gelati. I guess my only real criticism would be the fact that $6 gets you a decent-sized tub of just the one flavour whereas you can get a combination of flavours in the one tub if you were to go elsewhere. The reason behind this is that the smallest possible amount of liquid nitrogen yields a cup that size so it’s pretty much impossible to get a little bit of one flavour and a little bit of another. Thus, if you decide that you don’t like the flavour you ordered, you’re pretty much stuck with a whole tub of it.
Although liquid nitrogen gelato seems like a fad more than anything, I reckon N2 has captured the minds and tastebuds of Sydneysiders and Melburnians. While I’d rather go to Spring St Grocer for my gelati fix (because it’s better value for money and because it’s closer), I like that N2 constantly pushes boundaries in terms of technique and flavour combinations and Melbourne definitely isn’t poorer for it.
Level 5, 188 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 8078 7020
I’m wrapping up this Sydney series with a write-up of one of the highlights of our Sydney trip: our two visits to Ippudo, arguably Sydney’s most famous ramen restaurant.
In 1985, Shigemi Kawahara launched his first Ippudo restaurant in Japan to showcase what he can do with ramen, a Japanese staple – and from what I’ve tasted, those results are phenomenal. His first overseas franchise opened in New York in 2008, with the first Australian restaurant opening up late last year.
Although Kawahara tries to be all traditional when it comes to cooking ramen – using tried and true techniques to sculpt that perfect bowl of ramen, that is – I like how he also tries to cater to local tastes. For example, the Sydney restaurant serves green tea lamingtons and camembert tempura. While I love camembert, the thought of eating it in tempura form just makes me ill. Props for the idea, though… I guess.
Ippudo shrimp bun ($5)
My first visit began with a steamed bun filled with deep-fried shrimp. The bun went down a treat, with the white fluffy bao-like vessel holding a
shrimp prawn drizzled with what tasted a bit like a Thousand Island dressing. Quick and delicious.
Ippudo vegetarian noodles ($13)
For some reason, Marty went for the weener-y vegetarian noodles that could equally pass as a salad dish in most cafés in the inner suburbs. Marty normally goes for the heartier dishes but he decided that he wanted something light for dinner. He enjoyed the medley of cold sesame-coated noodles, avocadoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, mandarin, nuts and greens with a blob of yoghurt on the side.
Tied together with a ribbon of balsamic vinegar, the salad was refreshing and made for a nice change from the normally heavier meat dishes he ordered. That said, he got a major case of food envy when he saw my ramen…
Miso tonkotsu ($18)
The miso tontotsu was advertised as a ‘seasonal special’ so I was lucky I rocked up when it was being offered. The menu promised all sorts of lovely things in my bowl: pork belly chashu, menma (bamboo shoots), shallots, corn kernels, bean sprouts, half nitamago (soy egg) and naruto (fish cake). Oh, and a giant’s handful of chewy ramen noodles, of course.
This was hands-down one of the best ramen dishes I’ve ever had. I still think Taro’s in Brisbane makes the best ramen I’ve ever tasted in Australia but Ippudo’s miso tonkotsu is definitely a strong contender. At present, I don’t think there is any combination in the world that can beat nutty and salty miso and creamy and sweet tonkotsu… except for Gong Cha green tea and milk foam.
And if that bowl of ramen wasn’t awesome enough on its own, there is a small rice ball and a dab of ginger that you can dunk into your soup once all the noodles have gone. Man, these people think of everything!
Kurogoma panna cotta ($7)
I’m not normally one to order dessert at Japanese restaurants but we were so impressed with our meals that we couldn’t bypass the dessert selection. Marty had the black sesame panna cotta which was amazing. I especially loved the beautiful contrast between the dessert’s silky texture and the nutty, bold taste of the black sesame.
J. Lamington ($8)
I’d have to say, though, my green tea lamington was far better. A steady layer of green tea icing covered two sponge cake pieces sandwiching a red bean filling. This was a lot nicer than your ordinary Woolworths lamingtons. I had no idea what the ‘J’ in front of lamington meant though…
So impressed was Marty that we decided to return for lunch the following day (I sensed that he was upset about not ordering a bowl of ramen the first time, thus he wanted to rectify this situation).
Ippudo gyoza (5 pieces for $6)
We began by ordering the two types of gyoza dumplings available at Ippudo. First up, we have the Ippudo gyoza, which is pan-fried in the Hakata way – in other words, the style most commonly found in Japanese restaurants around Australia. Although I loved the very delicate skins, I thought that a bit more crispness would not have gone astray.
Age gyoza (5 pieces for $6)
In contrast, the second lot of gyoza dumplings were deep-fried all over. While I love anything that’s deep-fried (except for camembert, I guess), I much preferred the Hakata-style gyozas.
Karaka men chashu ($21): Ippudo original tonkotsu broth with special spicy miso, ground pork and simmered pork belly
Marty loves anything that’s spicy and contains pork so his choice of the karaka men chashu ramen was a no-brainer.
This ramen was essentially a bowl packed with plenty of bold flavours, the bulk of which came from that handful of spicy miso and ground pork-y goodness. While I personally don’t like mince in my ramen (too busy, imo), Marty thought it was fantastic.
Shiromaru tamago ($17): Ippudo original tonkotsu broth with flavoured egg
Noodles, pork loin, cabbage, black mushroom and shallots
After the flavour explosion that was the miso tonkotsu ramen the previous night, I toned it down this time by ordering the relatively tame shiromaru tamago, a classic Hakata-style ramen dish.
Although the broth was decent, there wasn’t as much going on for it as the miso tonkotsu. I also don’t like cabbage in my ramen and naturally didn’t read the menu description properly so I was surprised to see cabbage in my broth – and hated myself (and to an extent, the dish) for it. I also found the broth a tad too salty; I’m not sure if it was supposed to be like that or whether someone in the kitchen accidentally bumped a motherload of salt into the broth. Either way, I’m going to try the other ramen dishes on the menu the next time I’m here before going back to the shiromaru.
Overall, our Ippudo experience was a very positive one. I know that Sydney has a bit of a thriving ramen scene happening and subsequently, I would like to know if there are any restaurants that churn out ramen that’s on par, if not better than the ones we enjoyed at Ippudo. On both occasions, the service had been nothing short of fantastic even though we rocked up during peak periods. Highly recommended.