5 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda VIC 3182
+61 3 9534 9666
Disclaimer: Libby and her guests received a Best Restaurants $100 gift card from De Groots media which was used to pay for part of the bill at Sapore.
I don’t normally dine out on Monday nights – to me, Monday nights were specifically reserved for Eastbound & Down and Hello Ladies. But now that those shows have had their season’s run (and for Eastbound fans, it’s pretty much goodbye Kenny Powers forever), my Monday nights are free. And recently, I’ve come to realise that organising dinners on a Monday night is a good thing – restaurants are quieter and more often than not, they have specials on.
With that in mind, Daisy, Ricky, Dave and I decided to take advantage of Sapore’s Signature Dinner Menu. Available from Sunday through to Tuesday, you get a glass of wine and two courses for $38 per head (shared entrée and a choice of pasta for your main) and if you want dessert, it’s an extra $10. Given that Sapore has been around for seventeen years, collecting hats and awards here and there, we thought it was a pretty good deal. We also had a Best Restaurants $100 gift card to use thanks to the guys at De Groots media, which can be used at any participating restaurant on this list.
Head Chef and owner Simon Moss’s aim is simple: classic Italian food in a relaxed atmosphere. He pretty much got it down pat with the help of the restaurant’s casual beachside location and his staff’s warm hospitality throughout our meal. Daisy and I even got to sit on a banquette so comfortable that we were pretty much laying on it like gluttonous Roman senators towards the end of the night.
Oh, and the food wasn’t bad either!
Raven Park wines: 2012 Shiraz and 2011 Chardonnay
I love red wine but I don’t always order it as I’m self-conscious about walking around with stained teeth. That night, however, the white option was Chardonnay which I hate with a passion so Shiraz it was. No regrets, it was very plummy all over with lovely dabs of cherry notes.
I thought olive oil and bread died out along with molecular gastronomy five years ago? That said, the olive oil was very fruity and delicious – I still would have preferred butter though. Oh, we also received complimentary plump olives from Gippsland which was a nice touch.
Salumi plate: selection of cured meat with pickled peppers; salt & pepper calamari with aioli, bitter leaf salad and lemon vinaigrette
We started off with some nibbles to share: cold cuts on one side and salt & pepper calamari on the other.
Although I only had a slice of mortadella and salami, I thought the cold cuts were lovely in their simplicity. The cornichons and peppers were also there to break up all the salt.
I don’t normally order salt and pepper calamari at restaurants but I was pleasantly surprised at how good this was. The tentacles were amazingly tender and the batter was thin and crunchy. The aioli that came with the calamari wasn’t bad but I preferred to enjoy the calamari pieces sans-aioli.
Bruschetta with duck liver parfait, fig vincotto and toasted hazelnuts
The other entrée we had was the duck liver parfait bruschetta, which received shouts of praise all around the table. The parfait, which was velvety, was bursting with fatty flavour that would have been divine in little doses. The bruschetta slices, however, were loaded with a helluva lot of duck liver so I felt a bit overwhelmed. Thank goodness for the hazelnuts – they balanced out the fattiness really well.
Saffron risotto with calamari
Daisy ordered the saffron risotto for her main. None of us are big on risotto dishes but we were pleasantly surprised at how delicious this was. Each vibrantly-coloured grain was well-cooked, soaking up the lovely seafood stock. Meanwhile, the little calamari bits were amazingly tender. I was kicking myself for not choosing this dish.
Spaghetti with prawns, chilli, basil and blue swimmer crab bisque
Dave had the spaghetti with prawns, another excellent dish. The pasta was beautifully al dente, while the bisque provided a fragrant backdrop to the beautiful prawn, chilli and basil sauce.
Seafood linguine with calamari, fish, mussels, prawns, chilli and parsley
Ricky’s seafood linguine was probably my least favourite dish, but only because the other dishes shone so brightly that this dish was merely reduced to a quiet achiever. The medley of fresh seafood made this dish beautiful and would have been the highlight of any given dinner if the other dishes weren’t so good.
House-made potato gnocchi with braised rabbit and truffle butter
My gnocchi was probably the heaviest of the four. In fact, it was so rich and heavy that I couldn’t finish it all (see below).
I’m not one to order rabbit dishes because, let’s face it, rabbit is a very hard meat to cook properly and I’ve often been disappointed whenever I order rabbit at restaurants. Not this time, though. The rabbit was unbelievably tender and nothing like the dry stringy mess I’m used to.
The gnocchi pillows stole the show though – they were soft and velvety like a phone sex operator’s voice (sorry, was watching The Carrie Diaries last night) and soaked up the sauce effortlessly. If I had to complain, I’d say that the pungent truffle butter smell initially threw me off-balance but that feeling quickly went away when I dug in.
Dining with Daisy means that we can’t leave without dessert no matter how stuffed we are. Tonight was no exception but we did manage to compromise by sharing two desserts between the four of us.
Affogato: coffee with macadamia nut gelato, shortbread and orange & vanilla liqueur
The Signature Dinner Menu only gives us three dessert options so it was a bit like choosing the lesser two evils. First up, we had the affogato. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about it because I really wanted to sleep that night. I do remember the macadamia gelato being creamy and not overly sweet, though.
Banana donuts with salted caramel sauce and hazelnut ice cream
The banana donuts, however, were excellent. They were more like banana fritters though, as the filling was all banana and no dough. Not that we were complaining! Although I couldn’t really taste the salt in the salted caramel, I did like the very earthy hazelnut ice cream.
Thanks to the Best Restaurants $100 gift card, we only paid $18 each that night. Even without the gift card, though, we still thought $48 per head represented amazing value given the quality of food we had that night. I’ll definitely come back to have the saffron risotto to myself – and a banana donut or two if I still have room in my stomach. Not necessarily on a Monday either.
On that note, Best Restaurants is giving away two $300 Best Restaurants gift cards to be used at any participating restaurant in Australia. All you need to do to be in the running to win this awesome prize is to take a photo of a meal you’ve enjoyed at a restaurant listed on http://www.bestrestaurants.com.au and upload it on the Best Restaurants competition page. The two photos with the most votes will win.
81 Burwood Rd
Hawthorn VIC 3122
+61 3 9077 2389
Disclaimer: Peter and Libby attended this event as guests of Tusk Gallery and Undertow Media.
Growing up, I had quite a few Sri Lankan friends. Back then, I wasn’t the foodie that I am now so I never wondered why there were so many Sri Lankans in my school but barely any Sri Lankan restaurants in Melbourne. Hell, I only know one Thai person so what’s with all these suburban Thai restaurants?!
Recently though, I had a few conversations about Sri Lankan food with my part Dutch-Sri Lankan friend Peter. Wanting to know more about this mysterious cuisine, I asked him what he knew about it and whether he ate it a lot growing up. Sadly, he wasn’t particularly useful - all he could tell me was that Sri Lankans cooked a lot of curries and sweets with peculiar names such as ‘love cake’. Thus, when Roxanne from Undertow Media contacted me to see if I was keen to sample some Sri Lankan food at Tusk Gallery, I happily accepted.
As part of Good Food Month, several restaurants have been offering special set dinners under the ‘World Dinners’ banner. Tusk Gallery is one of the participating restaurants and their ‘Flavours of Old Ceylon’ four-course set dinner serves as a great introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine. This was perfect for a newbie like me and a fake Sri Lankan like Pete.
Hoppers: lamb and prawn
We began with some hoppers, which are pancakes made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk. They can be eaten plain or filled with anything from egg to honey to curries. Tonight, we were given two hoppers each. One had coconut sambol (chilli grated coconut) in it, while the other had meat (curried lamb for me, curried prawns for Pete).
We did the whole switcheroo-slash-mix-and-match thing so that we could sample both the lamb and prawn ones – both were delicious. In particular, the lamb curry was more Indonesian rendang than any Indian curry in that it was very rich with spices, but not a lot of heat. The best bit, however, was eating the hoppers themselves once they had soaked up all the curry sauces.
Kothu roti (or ‘chopped roti’)
When the waiter mentioned the name of this dish, I automatically assumed that we’d get a curry and roti-type dish so imagine my surprise when I saw a bowl filled with chicken, fried egg and vegies, garnished with micro herbs. I couldn’t see them at first, but there were also little bits of roti in the bowl. The type of roti used here is Godhamba roti, a dense roti that’s been chopped into little pieces using metal blades. It’s kind of like eating fried noodles – but with roti. Very delicious.
Then we had lamprais. No, not lampreys, Sir Tyrion. Lamprais. Pete said this was a Dutch Burgher dish that he’s enjoyed from time to time. I was actually excited about eating this dish because there is a very similar Indonesian dish called nasi bogana which is native to my mother’s hometown Tegal, Central Java. This then sparked a discussion about Dutch influences on both Sri Lankan and Indonesian food.
What both dishes have in common is first and foremost, the banana leaf that holds everything together. The fillings, of course, aren’t identical but very similar – rice, egg, sambal, curries and whatever else you feel like. While the Indonesian version has coconut-flavoured rice, the lamprais rice here is perfumed with onions, spices, stock and ghee.
Meanwhile, the chicken curry here was flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves rather than curry and chilli. This meant that it was not heavy, yet it still remained flavoursome. The fried ball you see on the left is a frikkadeller, a Dutch meatball. This Dutch ball got me excited (snigger, snigger) because again, there’s an Indonesian version of this called the perkedel – the same thing, but with mashed potatoes as well as meat.
Our dessert was the traditional wattalapam, a coconut pudding made with coconut milk and cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. Pete wasn’t familiar with this dish but Wikipedia told me that it’s a Tamil Muslim dish that’s popular in South India and Sri Lankan. Either way, it was a very lovely end to our meal – I thought of it as a Sri Lankan panna cotta.
Although Pete insisted that this wasn’t a true Sri Lankan dining experience per se (by that, he means that Sri Lankans generally don’t ‘do’ restaurants – street food and home cooked meals are the way to go), he still thought our meal was great. I had to agree and hey, c’mon, we were in Hawthorn after all. Our waiter was friendly and the food came out very quickly even though the restaurant got quite busy just as we left. The Flavours of Old Ceylon dinner was a great way to introduce the uninitiated to Sri Lankan food in a homely and intimate setting and based on my experience, I am keen to try more Sri Lankan restaurants.
Postscript: Tusk Gallery are offering the Flavours of Old Ceylon dinner for two more nights this year. Details: $40 per head, 28-29th November 2013, any time between 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Book now to secure your place!
270 Victoria St
North Melbourne VIC 3051
+61 3 9328 1221
I had cousins visit us from Indonesia in July and as well as showing them a thing or two about Melbourne (how shit the weather is in winter and my favourite places to drink and dance), my brother and I took them some of our favourite dining spots.
The plan was to meet at Melbourne Central at 5:45 pm one rainy Friday evening. Unfortunately, my cousins brought jam karet with them to Melbourne and subsequently did not show up until close to 7 pm. This meant that a lot of restaurants within walking distance were unable to accommodate a group of six people at the very last minute.
The weather gods may not have been on our side that night but Lady Lucky must have been because Wooga, one of my brother’s favourite Korean restaurants, had a table big enough to fit six crazy Indonesians. Not bad given that they’re usually booked out, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
Like most Korean restaurants in Melbourne, Wooga specialises in Korean BBQ so you select your raw meat from the menu and watch it cook in front of you. At Wooga, several combos are available and we chose Combo D ($119), the largest combo of them all. In addition to various cuts of beef (rib, topside, Scotch fillet and tongue, yo!), we also got two seafood dishes, a pork dish, a soup and four portions of rice (which was more than enough given all the protein we were getting).
Gotta love free-flowing banchan.
My cousins love their meat well-done while my brother and I prefer ours just cooked. Thus, coordinating the cook took some getting used to – especially after all the plum wine we had just drank.
We were given spicy pepper sauce and garlic oil to dip our meat in. They were great but they meat was so flavoursome that we probably would have been fine without the sauces.
‘Slaw was provided but for some reason, it mostly remained untouched. It wasn’t because it was awful (in actual fact, it was fine) but because my cousins love their meat so much.
The seafood pancake was very well done. In addition to being decently-sized, it was also dense and packed with generous doses of octopus, prawn and calamari.
Ojingeo Bokkeum: pan-fried squid in spicy sauce
Our pan-fried squid was also delicious with the right amount of spiciness to appease my sambal-loving cousins. While other Korean restaurants tend to make this dish a bit too sweet, I thought that this version was just right.
Yesss, more meat.
My cousin Jess loves pork so we ordered pork belly ($14) as an extra dish even though we were pretty much verging on full at this stage.
Soy marinated pork
Oh, not to mention that we still had to finish the cooked pork dish that came with the combo. The menu said that it came with bok choy but bitch, that green stuff ain’t bok choy! Anyway, it may not have been the best dish of the night, but it was nevertheless still good to eat a meat dish that didn’t have to be cooked on the barbie.
Spicy seafood soup
Our final dish was a heart-warming spicy soup containing prawns, squid and those really nice and chewy disc-shaped rice cakes. Unlike the pan-fried squid, the soup wasn’t overly spicy which was fine and all – in fact, I liked the delicate tangy broth.
Given that Wooga’s Combo D banquet comfortably fed six people, it was a pretty cheap meal. And while I liked it, my cousins couldn’t stop talking about it for days on end – I’m not sure if it’s because they’re easily pleased or because of the lack of good Korean restaurants in Jakarta. Either way, they definitely want to return to Wooga the next time they’re back. As for myself, I can definitely see myself coming here for dinner after work given that it’s not too far from the office. Hell, I’d come here for lunch if the jam karet concept applied at work and we didn’t have to rush back to our desk!
Gelato Messina (Melbourne)
237 Smith Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
Disclaimer: Daisy and Libby attended this event as guests of Gelato Messina and Kate & Co.
It may not be gelati weather in Melbourne just yet (this is the bit where I start chucking tantrums and throwing stuff all over the place), but you can’t keep ice cream lovers away tonight when Gelato Messina’s first Melbourne store finally opens.
I, for one, am pretty excited about this. Not just because we’re stealing yet another one of Sydney’s culinary icons, but because I friggin’ love Gelato Messina’s offerings so much – and this is coming from someone who’d rather starve all day then eat a motherload of sugar. Thus, I was delighted to be one of the lucky few to attend Gelato Messina’s ‘Sweet Degustation Evening’ earlier this week. Fellow blogger Daisy was there too and because she loves her desserts you can just imagine how excited she was!
The Smith Street store is bright and spacious, thus providing a great backdrop for what was to be a night of fresh flavours, great company and lots and lots of sugar. Co-owner Nick Palumbo explained that the reason why they chose Fitzroy as the location for the Melbourne flagship store was because it reminded them of Darlinghurst in Sydney, ‘junkies and all.’ But in all seriousness, I think they got it down-pat – it’s close to the city and it’s gritty yet respectable (in most cases anyway).
In addition to being able to entice customers with WTF flavour combinations (white chocolate potato chip, anyone?), Gelato Messina is successful largely because they use good quality ingredients in their gelati – and local ones too, where possible. Their dairy is from Warrnambool while fruits are seasonal and organic. And although their pistachios come all the way from Italy, they have the D.O.C. stamp of approval.
There was free-flowing Prosecco all evening but I was good and stuck to one (don’t worry, I made up for it in ciders the following evening during our embarrassing ninth place performance at trivia).
G M & T: Cucumber sorbet, Gin & Tonic jelly, rose and juniper cremeux
Our first course was a spin on the ol’ classic Gin & Tonic drink. There were some mixed reactions all around, with a lot of people on the other side of the room saying that it was ‘a bit strange’ and ‘too bitter.’ However, I quite liked it – I almost felt like I was drinking an actual G & T, and I found the cucumber sorbet very refreshing.
Foiedlepop: Foie gras gelato, cherry sorbet
When I saw the words ‘foie gras gelato’ on the menu, I was shocked – more shocked than yesterday’s Dutch parrot incident at work. However, that feeling turned into delight when I bit into the icy pole that was made up of a foie gras-infused vanilla body and sour cherry sorbet coating, tied together effortlessly with hints of beetroot. It was ah-mazing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same thing about Dutch parrot but that’s another story for another time (and not for this blog).
What’s Up, Doc: Carrot gelato, candied heirloom baby carrots, pickled heirloom baby carrots, mandarin jelly, orange blossom crème Chantilly, thyme honeycomb
There were more vegies in the next course, this time the humble carrot. There were heaps of elements in this plate and the whole idea was to grab as much of it as possible into one spoon and savour all the flavour combinations, spicy, sweet and sour. Unfortunately, my spooning abilities leave a lot to be desired so I was nibbling each bit separately – I still enjoyed this dish though.
Pork Crackling: Apple & black pepper sorbet, pork floss, malt pop rock feuilletine
Pork and ice cream? What the hell? Gelato Messina is famous for its extreme flavours (JUST IN CASE YOU COULDN’T TELL!) and this was a pure example of a crazy idea that was executed very well. I love meat but I was glad that the pork only made up a small portion of the dish – in pork floss form – while the centrepiece was a beautiful ball of apple sorbet. The long strip on top was a malt pop rock feuilletine which, to me, tasted like a sweet rice bubble strip. And the coolest thing about it? The pop rocks represented pork crackling. Man, that’s clever…
East Meets Chock: Lychee sorbet, white balsamic gel
We were told that the ‘chock’ thing was a nod to the gelato’s Italian origins. To be honest, I had never heard of the term ‘chock’ so I took it to mean that it was some sort of Sydney thing. Anyway, EMC was pretty much a palate cleanser course to prepare us for ‘dessert.’
I don’t like the smell of vinegar so I’d have to say that this was my least favourite course. It tasted beautiful and I was glad that the lychee flavour dominated the vinegar but the smell, as subtle as it was, just put me off a little bit.
Banana Split: Banana gelato, salted caramel Chantilly, freeze-dried raspberry crunch, peanut butter powder
The Banana Split was intricate in its presentation and taste. All the flavours – sweet, tangy and salty – contributed to this dish in equal parts, making it the highlight of the night so far. We also thought the peanut butter powder (which resembled pork floss in texture but definitely not taste) was a cute addition.
Donuts à l’Orange: Donuts, duck fat caramel, blood orange and fennel sorbet
Donuts! Cooked in duck fat! Duck fat caramel! Oh my! Our last course sounded like something you’d see on the menu at Vue de Monde, yet I think it felt right at home here. I’ve had Gelato Messina’s blood orange sorbet on its own before, but it was nice to see fennel mixed in today as the sweet anise-like notes drew out the caramel flavours.
We all received the Gelato Messina cookbook to take home, which I thought was a love touch. Given that I don’t have half the ingredients required to make one batch of ice cream, you won’t see me replicating any of the recipes any time soon (one day though…). We were also lucky enough to be treated to a tub ice cream to take home and even though I haven’t touched my tub yet, I’m pretty sure my people at home would have enjoyed the apple pie, Bounty and mango & coconut sorbet with pandan jelly ice creams.
Given Melbourne’s recent winds and rain, it’s hard to imagine that summer is less than three weeks away. It’s definitely not gelati weather at the moment, but I’m fairly confident there’ll be a queue at Gelato Messina tonight when the doors open. No doubt I’ll go there several times this year myself but for now, doona, laptop and apple pie gelati sounds good to me.
Mojo’s Weird Pizza
308 Bridge Road
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 9429 5535
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post brought to you by Eat Now Australia. I very rarely do paid sponsored posts but I thought this product was worth sharing.
I work in the Melbourne CBD – but the arse end of it. This means that I’m situated far away from all the hustle and bustle of the heart of the city and subsequently all the food options. These days, I very rarely buy lunch – not just because I’m trying to save money but also because there simply aren’t many good options. So when I heard about Eat Now, an online food delivery website that listed restaurants in the Melbourne city that delivered during lunch time, I was excited. Excited, because there were a handful of restaurants situated beyond the arse end but I didn’t have to leave the office to visit them.
Owned by the Catch group since 2012, Eat Now currently boasts more than 2000 participating restaurants across Australia. In addition to having a decent list of restaurants in the city, they also boast a variety of options in the Eastern suburb I live in. I don’t normally get food delivered at home as most non-pizza places in my area don’t deliver. However, it was good to know that I can now enjoy Cantonese food from Canton Chinese and even pizza from Heidelberg if I use the Eat Now website.
The Eat Now website is pretty easy to use. All you need to do is plug in your postcode in the search field and a list of restaurants in the area will appear – for example, a list of participating Melbourne restaurants can be found here. An iPhone app is also available and although I’ve yet to use it, I doubt that it’ll be difficult to navigate.
All restaurants have their menus up on the Eat Now website, including Mojo’s which you can find here. All you need to do is select whatever you want and it’ll appear on the right side of the screen where a running total is kept, including any delivery charges, first timer discounts or promo codes applied.
Eat Now accepts most payment types including credit card, cash on delivery and even PayPal. Once you’ve selected your payment type, you are prompted to enter a contact number and a delivery address. There is also room to write special comments if needed (I didn’t write that, of course. I was just trying to be funny – but failed, obvs).
You will then get a confirmation notification once everything is done. This means that all the details have been sent to the restaurant, and all you have to do is wait. I was pretty impressed with Mojo’s Weird Pizza – I told them to come at 12:30pm and they were there at 12:27pm. Of course, delivery times vary between restaurants and I was pretty lucky that day.
So how was the food?
We ordered the following pizzas, all in medium:
Tantulus: Pesto, semi-dried tomatoes, caramelised onions, tasty cheese, roasted and marinated pumpkin, potato, red capsicum and eggplant ($17).
Woodsman: BBQ sauce, hot salami, ham, tasty cheese, Spanish onion, bacon, chicken breast and sesame seeds (medium, $17).
The Lot: Napoli sauce, hot salami, ham, tasty cheese, onion, mushroom, green capsicum, pineapple, bacon, prawns, kalamata olives (medium, $15).
Mojo’s don’t make the sort of pizza you’d find in Naples or Rome, but they don’t pretend to either. Strange toppings are their selling point and given that there are a few Mojo’s stores around Melbourne, it seems that customers totally dig this concept.
Having said that, my favourite of three was ‘The Lot’ – I guess I’m too much of a conservative (then again, proper pizza lovers don’t eat pineapple on their pizzas don’t they? So hmmm…). The Woodsman was also very tasty but because I’ve never been a huge fan of BBQ sauce on pizza, I only had one slice. I didn’t like the Tantulus very much though – the pesto was way too sweet and that pretty much ruined the pizza for me.
Would I try Mojo’s again? Look, it’s alright and if there were no other pizza places that delivered to our office, I’d definitely make an order again. Thing is, there are at least a dozen of them on Eat Now’s list and I’d rather try the other places first.
But back to Eat Now. Would I use it again? I already have (review of Donburi to come). It’s so easy to use and it makes lunchtime slightly more bearable for us arse-end city workers.
131 Smith Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 3 9419 5101
Disclaimer: Libby attended this event as a guest of Huxtable, Hot House Media and Taste of Melbourne.
There always seems to be a food festival in Melbourne, so much so that Spring Street should pinch the ‘Festival State’ slogan from South Australian number plates. As some of you may know, Taste of Melbourne descends upon us this weekend and amidst a flurry of marketing and PR activities, there will be lots of good food from some of Melbourne’s hottest restaurants for patrons to enjoy.
One of the participating restaurants at Taste is one-hatted restaurant Huxtable, the monster that launched three burger offshoots, Huxtaburger. Huxtaburger may be big in Melbourne (by the time this post goes live, their third store in Prahran would have probably been opened) but it doesn’t mean that Huxtable doesn’t hold its own.
I recently attended Huxtable’s Ciders and Sliders event, a Taste of Melbourne preview dinner. The whole point of this event was to sample some of the dishes that Huxtable will be serving to the masses along with some of their signature dishes. Huxtable chef Daniel Wilson kindly took time out of his busy schedule to talk us through the menu as well as tell us what’s in store next for the Huxta-brand.
Accompanying our meal was a selection of Rekorderlig fruit-flavoured alcohol (sorry, I just can bring myself to call a drink that’s pumped with E preservatives and citric acid ‘cider’). Given that there were six of us on the table, there were probably about 42 glasses of Rekorderlig at one stage. Eeek.
Jalapeño and cheddar croquettes
I love croquettes more than Stevie Janowski loves Kenny Powers so I was delighted to see these jalapeño and cheddar croquettes appear first. They were creamy with just the right amount of spiciness from the chopped peppers.
Kataifi-wrapped lamb puttanesca
The kataifi-wrapped lamb puttanesca were also delicious. I always associate puttanesca with pasta so I had no idea how it was going to work when I saw the description of the dish on the menu. Essentially, it was pretty much lamb cooked in puttanesca sauce and securely bundled in crispy Kataifi strings.
XO buns with spanner crab and Thai basil mayo
My favourite starter, however, was the XO buns because well, who doesn’t like XO sauce? The soft – and slightly sweet – buns sandwiched a generous dollop of spanner crab and Thai basil mayo mixture. If I was to criticise this dish, it would be that I couldn’t really taste much XO flavour – that, or I was already slightly drunk on my third glass of Rekorderlig alcopop.
Mini Huxtaburgers: beef and wallaby
The burgers – from Huxtaburger across the road – were obviously the highlight of the dinner (not including the company, of course). We indulged in their signature beef burger, the Huxtaburger, and tried their wallaby burger for the first time.
I can’t remember whether this is the beef or the wallaby burger but I suppose they look the same anyway. Either way, both are burgers so delicious that I can eat them time and time again. On this note, the team at Huxtable are selling something called a ‘Douche Burger’ just for the Taste of Melbourne festival. I’m not sure how many Crowns (Taste of Melbourne ‘currency’) this burger will be worth as it contains wagyu steak and foie gras but I’m willing to part with my Crowns just because the name won me over.
Korean BBQ pork ribs
These Korean BBQ pork ribs came highly recommended and I can certainly see why. The ribs were cooked dry-style, but they still remained beautifully sticky and the spicy kim chi-like flavour shone through the tender meat. Accompanying the ribs was a decent slaw and some gherkins.
Mount Zero grain and broccoli salad
The Mount Zero grain and broccoli salad was probably the only healthy thing on the menu that evening. However, healthy at Huxtable doesn’t mean boring for the salad was bursting with fresh flavours and probably contained enough nutrients to fill me up if all I had for lunch was that.
We never got through all 42 glasses – I certainly didn’t drink all that was plonked in front of us – but we managed to plough through all the insanely delectable food while listening to stories about junkies passing out across the road.
Although Huxtaburger will always hold a place dear to my heart, Huxtable is up there with one of the better restaurants on Smith Street. I will certainly return for those ribs and that salad. Now allow me to awkwardly segue to Taste of Melbourne, which is happening this week.
As you now know, it’s a festival that features Melbourne’s hottest restaurants all in one spot. The entrance fee is $30, or you could enter my giveaway for a chance to win a double pass to attend Taste of Melbourne this weekend (you’ll save yourself $60). I have four passes on me now, so there will be two double pass packs to give out.
1. Follow me on Twitter (@libishski) if you haven’t already done so; and
2. Post a comment below. If you are already following me on Twitter, please mention it in your comment. You can write about anything, but no falling donkeys please.
Terms and conditions:
1. All entries must be received by Wednesday 13th November 2013 at 12pm AEDST (i.e. tomorrow!).
2. Please provide a valid e-mail address (and one that you check regularly) when you comment. I will be contacting the winners immediately to ask for their best mailing address.
3. Winners will be drawn at random.
4. If you have won and I have not received a mailing address response by Thursday 14th November at 4pm, I will ask you to collect the tickets from a mutually arranged spot in the Melbourne CBD.
5. The prize includes two (2) entry tickets to Taste of Melbourne. The prize does NOT contain Crowns, the vouchers you need to exchange for food and drink.
Taste of Melbourne details:
Where: Pelican Lawn at Albert Park Lake (off Aughtie Drive)
When: 14-17th November 2013
Thursday 14th November: 5.30pm – 9.30pm
Friday 15th November: 12.00pm – 4.00pm and 5.30pm – 10.00pm
Saturday 16th November: 12.00pm – 4.00pm (I will be at this session, come say hi!) and 5.30pm – 10.00pm
Sunday 17th November: 12.00pm – 5.00pm
For full details and prices on all events and activities, go to http://www.tasteofmelbourne.com.au.
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 a more than half-decent guy, 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?!?!)