Review: Nam Fong (Sydney, NSW)

54 Bankstown City Plaza
Bankstown NSW 2200
+61 2 9708 4306

Upon leaving Pho An, it was time for me to head back up north. I may have been giddily full from eating the most scrumptious bowl of pho but no way I was leaving Bankstown empty-handed; I had to get my hands on a pork roll to take back home with me.

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Google took me to Nam Fong, one of Bankstown’s many Vietnamese bakeries that supposedly do a mean pork roll – at least according to the citizens of the internet. Nam Fong was bursting to the brim when I got there; predictably, there were no lines and no order – you simply had to walk and squeeze yourself right up to the front of the counter and catch the eye of one of the thong-welding ladies.

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There were so many things I wanted to buy at Nam Long, from the boxes of Vietnamese sweets right through to the meatball baguettes. However, I stuck to my original aim which was to get one original pork roll (banh mi thit) and walk off. After all, it was bad enough carrying one pork roll in your bag on public transport let alone half a dozen of them. (to the folk taking the bus to Padstow, the train to Wooli Creek, the train to Wynyard and the bus to the north shore on Sunday: please forgive me.)

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One thing I loved about Nam Fong was its retro pricing: my pork roll was only $3.50. You don’t come across many places that do a decent pork roll for less than $4 these days – at least not in Melbourne. This pork roll did it for me: it had a lovely mix of cold cuts and shredded barbeque pork complimented with the right amount of pickled vegetables and chillies. I also liked that they were very liberal with the condiments – the more fish sauce, pâté and mayo, the better. The bread was also notably crunchy and light, an impressive feat given that it did the 1.5-hour commute back north with me and sat in the fridge for an extra two hours.

I haven’t sampled enough of Sydney’s Vietnamese pork rolls to decide whether this one’s a sturdy winner, but suffice to say that I’d definitely come back again. It’s an excellent value roll for what it’s worth and a winner for those who like it saucy.

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Review: Pho An (Sydney, NSW)

27 Greenfield Parade
Bankstown NSW 2200
+61 2 9796 7826
http://anrestaurant.com.au/

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been more than TWO WHOLE MONTHS since I’ve updated this blog. Given that I was once someone who posted several times a week, this relatively long hiatus was somewhat out of character. If it weren’t for a few lovely readers asking me why I hadn’t updated in so long, I probably would not have been writing this – and that’s a shame because I do love blogging and hence, my keenness to resurrect this blog again. As a promise to you, dear reader, I’ll update this blog as much as I can. And if I ever slack off again, please send me a gentle reminder and I’ll be on my two feet again.

So that’s that.

It’s also been quite a while since I’ve sat down and had a solid bowl of pho so this post seems appropriate. Earlier today, I decided to trek down to Bankstown to try what is apparently one of Sydney’s finest pho. As some of you may know, I currently live in Gold Coast, a city where halfway decent and authentic Vietnamese food is severely lacking. Although I’ve been living (and working) in Sydney for the last month or so, I’m still kind of far away from good pho. And by good pho, I mean one that actually bear some semblance to the stuff they serve in Saigon and not diluted with a ridiculous amount of MSG.

Today, I finally had the chance to make the commute down to Bankstown – to Pho An, to be exact. In the grand scheme of things, Bankstown isn’t all that far – and nowhere near the long GC-Brisbane dash that we GC foodies have to contend with sometimes – but not having a car means that a Bankstown pho trek requires us to set aside an extra hour or two. That was fine.

Naturally though, there happened to be track works along the Bankstown line on the day I set aside for this trek. There were no other days left on my calendar in which I could complete this trek so I thought ‘what the hell’ and off I went.

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Was the three-hour travel time worth it?

As I said, it was my first bowl of half decent pho in a long time so yes.

Pho bo tai ($15), ca phe sue da ($5)
Pho bo tai ($15), ca phe sue da ($5)

I don’t remember the last time I’ve slurped a spoonful of soulfully delicious broth and sighed with happiness. It ticked all boxes: taste, depth and the MSG test (no tickle down my throat). The noodles were thick, glossy and gloriously slippery and they were generous with the sliced beef. I was also impressed with the service – my pho, drink and condiments all came within two minutes of ordering. The only con I could think of was that it wasn’t cheap – a medium bowl of pho was $15 and my Vietnamese iced coffee was $5 (say, what?!). The bowl wasn’t exactly big either; I suppose this is to encourage people to upsize for only an extra $1.50 but I’m not one to be able to order big bowls of pho these days and comfortably finish it.

So would I do the trek from the north shore to Bankstown via public transport for one bowl of pho again? If there were track works happening again, probably not. If I had a car, most likely yes. It was one of the better bowls of pho I’ve had in living memory but far out, getting there was a lot of work!

Pho An Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Kenzan (Melbourne, VIC)

Collins Place
45 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9654 8933
http://www.kenzan.com.au/

A Saturday evening family dinner saw us congregate at Kenzan, one of the finest – and first – Japanese restaurants in Melbourne. Having heard good things about their omakase sushi/sashimi dinners, I had been looking forward to this visit for quite some weeks.

Unfortunately, I am related to a weirdo (cough my brother cough cough) who doesn’t do seafood, let alone raw fish and shellfish so omakase was a bit out of the question. So table a la carte, it was. Still, that didn’t stop us from ordering several sneaky seafood dishes…

Large sushi and sashimi combination ($105)
Large sushi and sashimi combination ($105)

… like this big arse sushi and sashimi platter that came in a vessel half as big as the table. Despite the fact that it was just over $100, I don’t think any of us expected this platter to be so gigantic. ‘Should we cancel the rest of the dishes?’ asked my mum, looking a tad worried. Puh-lease, we’re a family of eaters – as if!

Each bit of fish was expertly cut and sublimely delicious and fresh. If we took my mum’s advice, I think I would have been happy; there was enough protein in there to stop my stomach from grumbling (and I had to sit through a long 3.5 hour stint at the hairdresser so I did rock up pretty damn hungry). In addition to the usual tuna, kingfish, salmon and prawn pieces, there were also some oysters drizzled in ponzu and soy which my father and I happily ate.

The rest of the food took a while to arrive – about 45 minutes. To be fair, it was a Saturday night so the place was full to the brim. It also didn’t help that the restaurant was massively understaffed that night. With that in mind, I think the place did pretty well to keep the food coming out as best as they could and the staff remained pleasantly friendly throughout.

Kenzan’s menu is predominantly the standard Japanese fare you can find at most mid-to-high end Japanese restaurants in Australia so if you’re looking for surprises, you don’t find it here. It’s all about wagyu steaks, sushi, tempura and all those sorts of things done well so don’t expect avant garde things like dried kombu pizza topped with sea urchin and bonito or anything like that.

Horenso gomaae ($12)
Horenso gomaae ($12)

A plate of blanched spinach drizzled with a light sesame seed sauce kicked off proceedings. It provided just the right amount of greens to keep the five of us tricking ourselves into thinking we were being healthy all throughout the evening.

Ebi shumai (four pieces, $16)
Ebi shumai (four pieces, $16)

The steamed prawn dumplings were impressive; the skins were delicately silky, bursting with a filling of pork fat and prawn pieces. They were also pretty generous with the prawn too, another plus in my books.

Tatsuta age ($20)
Tatsuta age ($20)

My sister loved her fried chicken so this was a ‘must order’ dish. Lightly dusted in flour, the marinated chicken thigh pieces were then deep fried. I’d say this was a ‘safe’ dish – it did everything right, but didn’t wow me enough to want to order it again. Then again, I’m not as much a fried chicken lover as she is.

We also ordered a serving of agedashi tofu ($16) but my photo of it was so bad that I had to flick it into the trash can. It was a shame because it was my favourite dish of the night and probably one of the best renditions of this classic I’ve had, not even kidding. I always love the combination of light crispy batter against cubes of silky soft tofu but the sauce here brought this humble dish to another level. Yes, there was dashi (and lots of it) but there were also mushrooms (and I love mushrooms) with a hint of vegetable stock in there somewhere too. Definitely a dish I’d order again – TWICE. In one sitting.

Gyu teriyaki ($35)
Gyu teriyaki ($35)

After the wonder that was the agedashi tofu, the grilled beef with teriyaki sauce paled in comparison. To be fair, it was well-cooked piece of steak oozing with juices and the teriyaki sauce was fine. The kitchen even threw us a bowl of rice to go with it. But ugh, I just could not stop thinking about the bloody tofu. Sorry cow, you lost by default this time.

Tempura moriawase ($35)
Tempura moriawase ($35)

They also threw in a bowl of rice with the tempura, which we found odd because we don’t normally get given rice when we order tempura. But anyway. The guys at Kenzan seem to be great at frying stuff (case in point, agedashi tofu) because the tempura was probably my second favourite dish of the night. Each piece of prawn, white fish and vegetable were lightly coated, then fried and then served on a paper doily which remained mostly untainted with residue oil for the duration of the dinner. I almost felt healthy eating it.

Mum wanted dessert after our savouries, only to be told that her first choice and then her second choice weren’t available that evening. In the end, we decided to grab the bill because the only option available by then was vanilla ice cream and like we were going to pay for vanilla ice cream at a Japanese restaurant.

To this day, I’m not still not sure how I feel about Kenzan. They do things well and I can see why they’ve won awards and hats as the years go by. I can also see myself coming back to order some dishes again (I’m looking at you, agedashi tofu). But when it comes to the other stuff, there’s a local Japanese restaurant just 5 minutes from my folks’ place that serves the same dishes, cooked just as well but 25% cheaper. Granted, I get that city rents aren’t cheap and all but if I want a good beef teriyaki, why drive into the city, wait for 45 mins and pay extra money for the privilege when you can have the same quality dish for cheaper minus the wait and drive?

Kenzan Japanese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Feast of Merit (Melbourne, VIC)

117 Swan Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9428 8480
http://www.feastofmerit.com/

It took my parents almost 30 years of Melbourne to get into brunch – or ‘white people food’ in general. You see, my folks (like a lot of Baby Boomer Asians) are stubborn creatures of habit when it comes to food so they normally stick to what they know. For them, it’s Indonesian food, Chinese food (and by Chinese, I mean Cantonese, Hokkien, Hainanese and maybe a bit of Shanghainese) and Japanese food as long as it’s not too expensive.

When it comes to Western food, however, things get a bit tricky. They like Italian food – but only the type they’re used to, so La Porchetta and Sofia’s (which ain’t really Italian food but let’s not get into that…). Greek food is too meaty. French food is too fatty. Spanish food is too exotic. German food is too bland. And so on.

They were also never into brunches either.

Then one day – and don’t ask me how because I don’t know – something changed. Suddenly, they were into their third wave coffees, their Saturday morning brunches in Camberwell and their paper bags filled with non-Nutella-filled donuts. I don’t know what happened and whether my absence may have something to do with it but hey.

The last time I was down, they took me to Feast of Merit. Neither my parents or myself had been there before but its proximity to where I needed to be later that morning and positive reviews was enough to get them to drive 30 minutes to Richmond, drive around for another 30 minutes to find parking and then wait another 10 minutes for a table to open up.

To be fair, a 10-minute wait was pretty good given Feast of Merit’s location, the time of day (9am, Saturday) and how busy the place was. Before we knew it, the three of us were seated in a cosy corner towards the back of the restaurant.

Coffee (lattes $3.80, short macchiato $3.30)
Coffee (lattes $3.80, short macchiato $3.30)

I really liked the coffees here; made with a special St Ali blend, our coffees were smooth with a strong chocolate and caramel finish. The milk they used was gloriously rich and creamy, hailing from Saint David Dairy in Fitzroy, the only micro-dairy in Melbourne’s inner ‘burbs.

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Now, I had another breakfast to go to that morning (!) so there was no way I was going to eat an entire big breakfast-esque dish to myself. In the end, we decided to share two dishes between the three of us. When it comes to most things (asking for free samples of Aesop products at David Jones, for example), I have no shame but here I was, worrying whether we’d be silently judged for being tight arses. If we were judged though, the staff didn’t show it. Instead, they happily offered to give us spare cutlery and plates so I can dig out my share of the edible goods.

Shakshouka ($16)
Shakshouka ($16)

Dad ordered the shakshouka (‘what’s this? It sounds unusual, I gotta have that!’). Upon first bite, he initially found the peppery tomato stew to be ‘very tangy, ugh.’ After a few more spoonfuls though, he got used to the taste. Combined with green eggs, tahini, labneh, cumin and harissa, it was a dish that filled him up quickly in a satisfying way – and best of all, he felt good about not having to eat meat.

Olive oil poached white fish, smoked potato, dukkah, whey dressing, soft egg, organic high tin toast ($18)
Olive oil poached white fish, smoked potato, dukkah, whey dressing, soft egg, organic high tin toast ($18)

Now THIS is a dish that you won’t find in many places. I’ve always loved the idea of having fish for breakfast (I was in heaven in Japan last year…) so when Mum decided she was going to have this dish, I did a little fist pump in my mind. The fish was beautifully cooked and tender to the touch. Matching it was a bit of smoked potato, dukkah, poached egg and toast. It would have been an excellent meal on its own but Mum insisted on adding a side of beech smoked bacon ($6). Now, I love bacon like the next (non-vegetarian) person but it did tip the dish into the ‘omg, this is too much’ territory. Thanks, Mum.

We were in and out within 45 minutes, an impressive feat given how busy they were. The three of us were happy with our dishes and the pace of our meal; I’d love to come back and try some of their other dishes, maybe even during dinner. Maybe after I’ve convinced my parents to try a tapas session or dig into a plate of schweinshaxe.

Feast of Merit Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Square and Compass (Melbourne, VIC)

222 Clarendon Street
East Melbourne VIC 3002
+61 3 9416 4914

East Melbourne may be home to some of Melbourne’s most gorgeous and expensive houses but when it comes to dining options, it’s not a gastronomical destination. No, the leafy residential streets of East Melbourne was where you’d typically go if you’re there to visit someone at one of its many hospitals or if you’re too tight to pay for parking at the MCG.

A few months ago, Square and Compass opened to cater to East Melbourne’s hospital workers wanting something more substantial than a feed at Hudson’s Coffee or Maccas. It’s also done well to get plenty of Melbourne’s brunch set through its doors too. And while I’m definitely not part of Melbourne’s brunch set, its location was a convenient one for me the morning I was due to catch up with my old friend Jen whom I hadn’t seen in years.

Much needed morning coffees ($4 a pop)
Much needed morning coffees ($4 a pop)

I took my first sip of Melbourne coffee for what seemed like a lifetime and a half, sighing with happiness. Square and Compass uses Seven Seeds blend for its espresso coffees; a strong and robust drop with a hint of mellow caramel notes was just the thing I needed at 8am on a cold Saturday morning after a big night out.

Crunchy peanut butter on toast ($13)
Crunchy peanut butter on toast ($13)

I’m not one to order stuff like toast, muesli or eggs and bacon when I’m out because puh-lease, I can make those things at home. However, I got sucked into the following description on the menu:

‘Crunchy peanut butter, heirloom tomatoes and salt and pepper peanuts on toast (trust us)’

In hindsight, I did feel a bit ripped off for ordering something so blatantly simple. On the other hand though, I could not have imagined that such a combination would taste so good and Jen agreed with me. I loved the gorgeous contrast between the creamy, crunchy peanut butter against the sweet, juicy tomatoes. The whole thing reminded me of something my friend Susie once said about modern art: ‘A: I could have painted that. B: But you didn’t.’

Pulled pork jaffle ($14)
Pulled pork jaffle ($14)

Jen had the pulled pork jaffle which came with apple sauce on the side. The pork on its own was a bit too sweet for my liking but thankfully a bit of Monterey Jack cheese sorted it out.

Since our visit, Square and Compass has added more items to their menu – I like the sound of the wholemeal carrot cake waffles and chia pudding with sesame snaps. I’m not sure about the Saigon roll (pickled carrots, red onion sambal, fried egg and Laughing Cow cheese), though I can appreciate what the kitchen was trying to do. In saying that, I do like that Square and Compass tries to be original with their dishes rather than play it safe with boring smashed avocado, $5 bacon and Bircher muesli options. It’s the sort of stuff that is likely to make me want to go back – that, plus speedy and friendly service and a warm environment in which weekend brunchers can chill without feeling the need to rush out.

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Oh, and Doughboy donuts on the counter too!

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Review: Juicy Bao (Melbourne, VIC)

178 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9041 7009

When Melbourne’s first Din Tai Fung restaurant opened a few months ago, the queues snaking up to the Emporium restaurant were insane. You’d think this was the first ever dumpling restaurant in Melbourne or something. 45 minutes just for the privilege of sitting down in the restaurant and eating probably the world’s most famous xiaolongbao? Yeah, nah.

Sure, I love my dumplings as much as the next human being but this was a line that I’m not willing to cross, especially given how pricey my DTF experience in Sydney was some years ago. Luckily, this is Melbourne which means that there’s plenty of other dumpling options in the city – and most of them are within walking distance of DTF. Like Juicy Bao, for example. I had never even heard of this place but during my last trip to Melbourne, my friend Sam alerted me to this place and suggested we have a late lunch there. They did dumplings, they did it cheap and chances are you didn’t have to wait ages.

Sold.

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We took the liberty of ordering several shared dishes.

Shanghai fried noodles ($9.80)
Shanghai fried noodles ($9.80)

The Shanghai noodles were excellent; I couldn’t stop slurping on the slippery fat wheat noodles, gorgeously coated with soy and oil, tinted with the slightest hint of sweetness. They were also generous with the mushrooms, greens and pork whereas many other places tend to be stingy on dishing those all important ingredients out.

Pork and prawn wontons in peanut, chilli and spicy sauce (15 for $9.80)
Pork and prawn wontons in peanut, chilli and spicy sauce (15 for $9.80)

Sam insisted I try their peanut butter pork and prawn wontons. They were a lot like the ones served at Shanghai Street; I can never get enough of the odd yet delicious combination of creamy peanut butter and unctuous chilli oil. I do prefer the ones at Shanghai Street though – the wontons there just seemed to have more texture and flavour.

Pork xiao long bao (8 for $10.80)
Pork xiao long bao (8 for $10.80)

Finally, we had to order a basket of their namesake xiao long bao. The skins may not have been as delicately silky as the ones that cover Hu Tong’s coveted XLBs but I loved the more robust flavours in the filling here. Those who prefer a sweeter XLB broth will also give these a thumbs up.

Juicy Bao may not have DTF’s accolades or the polished décor (and menu) that Hu Tong has. Hell, their name is borderline dirty. But if you’re after a no-nonsense dumpling feast that won’t break the bank and disappoint your tastebuds, then go here.

Juicy Bao Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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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

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Review: Ayam Penyet Ria (Melbourne, VIC)

248 Clarendon Street
South Melbourne VIC 3205
+61 3 9077 2947
http://www.ayampenyetriaindonesian.com.au/

Smashed avocados? Puh-lease, that’s so five years ago. Let’s talk about ayam penyet, an East Javanese dish that literally translates to smashed chicken. Don’t worry, the actual dish isn’t as violent as it initially sounds – it’s essentially a piece of fried chicken (usually a Maryland) that’s been smashed with a pestle, then served with a combination of sambal, cucumber, fried tofu, tempeh and white rice.

It’s the signature dish at Ayam Penyet Ria, in South Melbourne where Indonesian families and university students congregate for a hint of home-cooked goodness. Don’t feel like chicken? You can also select from the likes of terong penyet (smashed eggplant) and empal penyet (smashed beef), just to name a few of the other proteins on their menu.

Empal penyet ($12)
Empal penyet ($12)

For whatever reason, I didn’t feel like chicken that day so I went for the beef. ‘Empal’ refers to a dish of twice-cooked beef shank, a Sundanese dish. The beef is boiled to medium well, then smashed with a pestle to loosen the fibres up before being soaked in a sweet and aromatic mixture of spices, lemongrass, galangal, daun salam (Indonesian bay leaf) and coconut milk, then fried.

A plate of empal penyet is served the same way an ayam penyet is served: fried tofu, tempeh, rice, sambal and cucumbers, though I wish they gave us more than just one slice of cucumber. I do like my greens, you know. It’s a generous serving size that can keep two people happy (in this case, my mum and myself) or a hungry Indonesian student who’s just finished a heavy game of badminton and is looking to carb-load (there were half a dozen of those that night).

Gado-gado ($9)
Gado-gado ($9)

Of course, Ayam Penyet Ria also serves other Indonesian dishes such as gado-gado and soto ayam (Indonesian turmeric noodle soup). I felt like a bit of gado-gado so we also shared a plate. The gado-gado here is also of a generous size with a decent amount of tofu, tempeh, boiled egg pieces and cooked vegetables forming an all-vegetarian base, with a smattering of bitternut and prawn crackers for texture. I was also glad that they went easy on the peanut dressing – most places here tend to overdo it, therefore bogging down the dish. More does not necessarily mean better!

I’ll admit that ayam penyet is not my favourite Indonesian dish but when the craving does strike, I’m glad I can rely on Ayam Penyet Ria for my delicious authentic home-style protein fix.

Ayam Penyet RIA Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Menya Sandaime (Melbourne, VIC)

225 Russell Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9654 0989

When I heard that a 24-hour ramen restaurant was opening in my fair hometown of Melbourne, I clapped my hands with glee. I love ramen and almost anything that’s open all around the clock so I knew this place was going to be one of the first places I planned to visit on my next trip down south.

The eatery is called Menya Sandaime and it happens to be part of a global Korean-based franchise of ramen restaurants. Melbourne is its first foray into the Australian market and given that Melbourne’s ramen scene, to date, had been lacking, we welcomed Menya Sandaime with open arms and hungry stomachs.

I walked into the restaurant just before 11:30am on a Monday; it wasn’t terribly busy so I was able to be seated immediately. The service was efficient – I only had to wait a few minutes before I received my steaming bowl of ramen.

Menya Sandaime ramen ($11.80)
Menya Sandaime ramen ($11.80)

I ordered the basic ramen, which the menu vaguely described as ‘not your typical Japanese ramen.’ I’m not exactly sure what set this particular ramen apart from the other tonkotsu ramens around except for a piece of blanched bok choy. That said, who on earth puts bok choy in ramen???

wp1I was pretty disappointed with my ramen. For starters, the bok choy was enough to destroy any claims of authenticity. Secondly, the egg was more hardboiled than gooey (a no-no if you’re a ramen purist). Thirdly, the broth was very salty and one-dimensional, with no depth and no richness even the thin layer of fatty particles floating on top of the broth. Even a bowl of instant Mi Goreng noodles had more character than this!

In a way, I can understand that it’s a bit unfair to expect food coming out of a 24-hour establishment to be top notch. In saying that, I did expect a bit more from this highly anticipated ramen haunt than this! I guess one good thing about Menya Sandaime is that Melbourne now has more options for 3am revellers on the way home from the clubs. After all, a bowl of soup noodles is a better option than a McD’s burger or greasy souvlaki from Stalactites.

Menya Sandaime Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tipo 00 (Melbourne, VIC)

361 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9942 3946
http://www.tipo00.com.au/

Whenever I’m back in Melbourne, one thing I enjoy doing is checking out restaurants that have opened up during my absence. Refined Italian casual eatery Tipo 00 was one such place I went to on my last visit, before I was to disappear from the city for a few days for a spot of wilderness, hiking and wine with old friends.

Situated on the outdoor store end of Little Bourke Street, Tipo 00 has already etched an impressive following after only a month of operation. I can see why though; it’s an intimate polished space with a seasonal menu of delicious pasta, pasta and more pasta (and a couple of meaty mains but let’s face it, you’re here for the pasta). As for the team, they’re from some of Melbourne’s best names such as St Crispin, Vue de Monde, Merchant and Scusa Mi.

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Arriving just before the lunch crowd descended onto the 40-seater restaurant, I took my post by the window and ordered my food. Once my order was taken, I was presented with my wine (a delightfully aromatic Bardolino) and a complimentary warm focaccia slice drizzled with olive oil and paired with a soft pillowy scoop of ricotta.

Pappardelle with braised rabbit, marjoram and hazelnut ($27)
Pappardelle with braised rabbit, marjoram and hazelnut ($27)

Goah, this has got to be the most awkward pasta shot ever. I could have sworn I had a better photo in my phone but I don’t. Shrugs.

Anyway, the hardest choice you’ll ever make at Tipo 00 is what pasta to order. There’s their famous squid ink taglioni with bottarga that’s currently making the rounds on Instagram, while my neighbour’s black truffle risotto seduced with its sexy aroma. In the end, I chose the braised rabbit pappardelle because hey, Queensland.

It was the most wonderful plate of pasta I’ve had in a very long time. The handmade ribbons of carby goodness were silky smooth with the perfect amount of firmness to the bite, while the sauce was rich, earthy and flavoursome.

Tipomisu ($14)
Tipomisu ($14)

The pasta itself was enough to keep my tummy full until dinnertime but I couldn’t help but order dessert. In particular, I wanted to try Tipo 00’s famous tipomisu, their spin on an Italian classic.

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I’m not normally a big tiramisu eater (too much chocolate, too much richness, bleh) but this one really took the cake (pardon the intentional pun). Hyptonised, I watched the waitress pour the chocolate sauce all over the dessert before I eagerly dug in. The tipomisu was fantastic; unlike most tiramisus, all the flavours – chocolate, coffee and mascarpone – had equal weighting and none overpowered the other. It also wasn’t terribly sweet, thank goodness.

Tipo 00 is the sort of place that makes you fall in love with Melbourne over again – that is, if the coffee and hot guys in woollen suits haven’t done so already. It’s elegant, it’s down-to-earth and there’s a lot of carb-loaded substance behind that modern Italo-Melbourne style. I’m definitely getting the black truffle risotto next winter.

Tipo 00 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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