The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Rockpool Bar & Grill (bar)

Crown Casino
8 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC 3006
+61 3 8648 1900
http://www.rockpool.com/

So Adam and I have been dying to try the famed David Blackmore wagyu burger at Rockpool Bar & Grill for quite some time now. To quote this year’s Good Food Guide, ‘you can feast on wagyu in hamburger form for [$22] while nearby restaurant-goers are having it unminced for $110.’ Because we were going to be in the city today for the Dali exhibition, we figured that it would be a great time to stop by Rockpool to suss out these supposedly awesome burgers before going to the gallery.

12pm on a Sunday afternoon. The place is dead quiet. The fact that Rockpool bloody charges a 10% surcharge on Sundays probably has something to do with it. I didn’t know about this surcharge and probably would not have chosen to come here today if I did so you can imagine how I felt when we were told that. Still, I figured that we may as well stick to our plan seeing as we were here anyway. Oh, and not to tip them anything beyond a few gold coins.

As you open the door, a smoky yet aromatic hits your nose. Walking through the hallway, which is covered in awards that the restaurant has won, you realise that the smell is coming from the grills of the open kitchen – a sign that this restaurant is a steakhouse. Further down the hallway, a glass cabinet that acted as a fridge filled with aged wagyu greets you.

Lovely .

When we told the waiter that we would like to eat from the bar menu, we assumed that we would actually be sitting on top of bar stools so we were impressed when we were led to a row of comfy booths. Granted, our table was not in prime position (i.e. by the window where natural lighting would have been my friend!) but this was pretty good.

Everything was so sleek, so sexy and so masculine. Leather-topped tables, leather seats, and strong mahogany panelings served as a testament to the fact that this restaurant was, after all, a steakhouse.

This photo of a cow appeared on the back of the menu to, once again, remind diners that WE WERE IN A STEAKHOUSE. Just in case we didn’t get it the first time.

Okay, I don’t know about you but unlike Jamie Oliver, I don’t really like being reminded where the food I’m about to consume is coming from. I’d rather be one of those ignorant people who like to think that our steak come from prepackaged plastic trays, churned out by robots in the coolroom of Safeway rather than a living, breathing cow. It does, after all, make me feel less guilty about eating meat … but anyway, that’s another issue for another time.

So the waiter asks us if we would like some bread and butter, to which we replied “yes, please.” I mean, isn’t it sort of a given at places like these?! We were both given one single slice of warm sourdough and a pat of unsalted butter with some Murray River sea salts to start off proceedings. Not the best bread I’ve had but nothing to whinge about.

We both decided to go for a bottle of McLaren Vale Pale Ale each ($9.50 each) which I thought was pretty sweet for a beer – almost as sweet as a wine even. I did enjoy it immensely though.

We asked for a serving of Neil Perry’s Four Raw Tastes of the Sea ($26) to share between the two of us and it was assumed that one big plate was going to be put on the middle of the table for us to share so imagine how delight when we both received our OWN plates for our convenience:

This dish comprises of four different kinds of sashimi, which you can see above, with their own little sauces and toppings, all made with an extra virgin olive oil base:
-Hiramasa kingfish with minched cos and tea smoked oyster topping
-Ocean trout with preserved lemon and harissa (my favourite one)
-Yellowfish tuna with julienned ginger and coriander
-A ceviche of swordfish belly with a citrus and jalapeno dressing

A fantastic way to explore the different textures of each individual fish and each dressing suited each individual morsel to a tee. I did, however, feel that the sashimi could have been a little bit more fresh but hey, that’s what I get for ordering fish on a Sunday…

There are two wagyu burgers offered at Rockpool: the full blood wagyu burger and the Mishima burger (both $22 each). Wanting to know what the difference between the two were, Adam decided to go the full blood while I chose the Mishima. Apparently, the Mishima cow is only found on a remote island in Japan and no one outside the country has access to them so it’s a mystery as to why David Blackmore ended up with the only Mishima cow to have ever left the country and has successfully bred it down the line to produce only 10 of its kind per annum which he ONLY supplies to Rockpool. Knowing this, I felt an air of exclusivity when our burgers finally arrived after a half an hour wait (!).

Our burgers looked exactly the same so I didn’t bother taking a photo of Adam’s one on its own. Each burger came in a bun with a slice of gruyere cheese, bacon, Zuni pickle and tomato relish. While Adam’s wagyu was extremely rich and full of taste (thanks to the high marbling content and the cow’s grain diet), mine was smokier and had a cleaner taste (perhaps thanks to its grass diet). While I preferred the full blood over the Mishima, it was nevertheless good to experience the two of them at once to see the difference. As good as both burgers were, I can’t see myself paying $22 for a burger willy-nilly in the future.

We shared a side of onion rings ($9) which came with their own home-made ketchup that looked a lot like sambal olek but tasted like ripened tomatoes on a sugar trip. I’ve never had onion rings this good and this crispy… yum!

We were both extremely happy with our meal. While Adam declared it the best burger he’s ever had, I was reluctant to say the same as I feel that there ARE better burgers in Melbourne. On its own, I probably would not have bulked at paying $22 for the burger (and I WAS quite full afterwards) but given that I promised Adam that I’d shout lunch, the grand total was a whopping $98 which was then hiked up to effing $107.80 because of the stupid “Sunday surcharge.” Quite an expensive meal when you think about it, really. And although I know that I’m paying extra money for quality and exclusivity, I think I would be just as happy eating a $5 burger with the lot from my local takeaway store. Having said that though, I would not hesitate to return to Rockpool again to try their a la carte menu … once I get over the fact that a steak would set me back $110…

Kouzina

Shop 2001, Westfield Doncaster Shoppingtown
619 Doncaster Road (Cnr Williamsons Rd)
Doncaster Vic 3108
+61 3 9840 6055
http://www.kouzina.com.au/

Sunday afternoon was spent watching “Up!” and that’s where we decided to have lunch prior to the movie. Kouzina, a Greek restaurant chain, is what I liken to La Porchetta which is a very successful Italian restaurant chain in Australia serving fairly mediocre Aussie-Italian fare. The founding restaurant is in Southgate and two more restaurants have been established in two areas with large Greek populations, Doncaster and Taylors Lakes. Like La Porchetta, Kouzina doesn’t attempt to shock nor does it really put much effort into the quality of their food. So when a lady from work recommended it to me, I was skeptical to say the least. I did, however, end up following her recommendation, and because she IS Greek I figured that she knew what she was talking about.

So we rocked up at 11am which is ridiculously early for even a Sunday lunch but the restaurant was already open so we went straight to it. In addition to an extensive a la carte menu, Kouzina‘s lunch menu consists of what I would call Greek-Aussie fare such as lamb burgers with tzatziki and souvlaki’s. There was also a $25 p/h lunch banquet which sounded like a good deal so we ended up ordering that. Upon seeing two 20-something Asians at the table, the waiter asked us if we had ever had Greek food before. I wasn’t sure what to think when he asked us that … I mean, it was probably an honest question but did he assume that Asians generally know nothing about Greek food and was there to patronise us? I told him that we’ve had Greek food many times and for some reason, he looked surprised and I guess that was that…

When the waiter asked us what we would like to drink, we said ‘just water, please.’ He didn’t ask whether we wanted mineral, still or tap but in a normal restaurant, the waiter would normally give you tap water just to be on the safe side.

He ended up bringing over Greek bottled water from the fridge . I loved how he tried to make it “fancy” by pouring it into these glasses and putting ice and lemon slices in it. We got charged $2.50 for the privilege too, heh. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it though, at least not THIS early in the meal.

Homemade dips and pita bread. From L-R: transalamata, marinated olives, tzatziki, char-grilled capsicum, carrot dip, feta cheese and eggplant dip. The usual suspects and nothing too extraordinary. +1 for the warm pieces of pita bread that was gently drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and rosemary, though.

Dolmades - they were pretty bland, to be honest.

Foreground: kalamaraki (calamari, duh). They were lightly fried and sprinkled with salt and pepper and served with ouzo aioli which, to me, just tasted like thickened cream. The calamari, although  bit soggy, weren’t TOO bad though.
Background: spanakopita. I’m used to having spanakopita in its traditional form – cheese and spinach pie, cut into slices. I did like Kouzina’s interpretation of it – cheese and spinach in a filo pastry spring roll.

Lamb and chicken souvlaki and lamb keftedes (Greek meatballs). I will give props for the meats being cooked perfectly – the lamb was beautifully grilled almost-but-not-quite medium rare and the keftedes were tender. Sadly, they were  not the best souvlaki’s I’ve ever had and would choose ones cooked at my local fish and chip shop for $7 over these ones any day.

Loukanika (Greek pork sausages). I’m not sure if they were homemade or not but either way, they were pretty nice. Slightly spicy and tender, they were too good not to leave unfinished on the plate even though I was extremely full at this stage.

Greek salad and oregano fries. The salad was identical to the 10 billion I’ve had at other places and the chips were just ‘meh.’ We didn’t finish either of these because we were too full, to be honest.

The bill came to $52.50 but with the Entertainment Book discount, it was $39.75. While the food wasn’t all THAT fantastic but we were beyond full so you could definitely say that it was great value. I’m not sure what my work colleague meant when she said that Kouzina was “good”, maybe the Southgate one is better than the Doncaster one or perhaps she ordered off the a la carte. Either way, it’ll probably be a long time before I come back again.

Society

23-29 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9639 2544
http://www.societyrestaurant.com

Jersey Boys is currently playing in Melbourne and because I’m a huge fan of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons, there was no way in the world that I would miss this spectacular documentary-style production. After being unsuccessful with trying to secure weekend tickets a few months ago, I ended up buying tickets for a Tuesday evening performance which Adam and I attended last night and boy, it was so FANTASTIC that it literally put the J in ‘Joi-say.’ First things first though, let’s get the food talk out of the way .

I booked dinner for 5:30pm at Societyon the top of Bourke Street Hill as it was around the corner from the Princess Theatre. Because the show was to start at 7pm, I needed to find a restaurant that opened for dinner earlier than 6pm and this was one of the few within walking distance. We arrived early at 5:15pm which was no problem for both the restaurant and us – heck, I only ate water crackers and fruit during the day because I stupidly forgot to make lunch and was too tight to buy it so you can imagine how famished I was. We were promptly seated by the window before being presented a wine list to share.


Being one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Melbourne, Society has been around for over 80 years and has gone through as many changes as Madonna. Its most recent change was in 2007 when football legend Paul Dimittina acquired this restaurant to add to his growing collection of Italian restaurants. Being in the dimly-lit and intimate restaurant definitely made me feel like I was transported to the 1920s with its old-fashioned surroundings and murals, though the hum of a modern espresso machine and the group of wogs talking about MYER shares at a nearby table did bring me back to 2009.


We started off with some drinks – a Moretti La Rossa beer for Adam ($9) and a glass of Corte Giara Pinot Grigio ($9) for myself. My wine was ‘meh’ but I really liked the sweet incense-y and slightly bitter aftertaste that Adam’s double bock beer provided. Oh, and thumbs down to the waitress who managed to spill water all over our table while pouring, and leaving it there for a good five minutes.


Complimentary ciabatta, olive oil infused with balsamic vinegar and chilli-tomato olives (which seemed to have been cured in 10 billion tonnes of salt). Thumbs down to how tight they were with the bread (one measly slice each!), the not-so-good olive oil (it was weak and the balsamic vinegar didn’t do much) and the overly salty olives that not even us two sodium fiends could stomach.


Adam’s entree: gigli con salsiccia e piselli (organic durum wheat pasta tossed with a pea and pork ragu, $19). As our entrees were being served, I realised that there were no salt and pepper shakers at our table which I thought was really weird. The waitress did come around asking if we wanted cracked pepper and while she didn’t offer any salt, this dish was fine without it. The parmesan wafer was also a nice touch too. I really liked how simple, yet bold this dish was. And so full of flavour too. A successful entree.


My entree: carpaccio di Cervo (venison carpaccio $21). Society‘s menu generally plays it safe with Italian classics but this one was one of the very few creative dishes on the menu so I decided to give it a go. Again, another successful entree. I received a plate of thinly-sliced cured venison which was given only the slightest sprinkle of white truffle salt and roasted almonds. On top of the arrangement sat a sphere of capsicum and chilli ice cream which tasted just as WTF as it sounded. It seems that since Jacques Reymond has started experimenting with unconventional ice cream flavours to use on entrees and mains, other restaurants have followed suit. Unfortunately, Society didn’t do quite so well with this one as the ice cream was too strong and too sweet, though I can understand that the reason behind the ice cream was to introduce a contrasting element to the salty, gamey and spicy taste of the cured venison.


Adam’s main: suprema di pollo al taleggio (baked chicken breast topped with eggplants and taleggio cheese, served with soft farro polenta $34). Unfortunately, Adam’s main didn’t quite live up to expectations. While it certainly wasn’t disgusting, it was definitely a let-down and not worth $34. Not only was it smaller than expected, it was bland in comparison to his pasta. And while the combination of eggplant and taleggio would have gone down nicely in other circumstances, they were too subtle to cut through the firmness of the chicken breast fillet.


My main: pappardelle porcini e fave (pappardelle with porcini mushrooms and broad beans, $27). When I first saw this, I thought ‘What the?! It’s the same size as Adam’s entree.’ Sadly, it didn’t taste quite as nice. There was nothing wrong with the pasta (cooked al dente, etc etc etc) but the whole thing just tasted weird. The porcini mushrooms felt like they were soaked for too long as they were limp and the broad beans weren’t cooked thoroughly enough as they were still hard. It is times like these where I realise that I should no longer take salt and pepper shakers provided on tables for granted.

We decided to omit dessert as it was almost time for us to go, not that we were missing out on much anyway – the dessert menu was pretty ordinary. The total bill was $119 but with the Entertainment Book discount, we brought it down to $89.25. Society is certainly not the best Italian restaurant in the city and indeed, with places like Grossi Florentino and Bottega across the road, it’s obvious which ones I would go to first before even thinking about setting foot at Society again if I feel like Italian on Bourke Street. While our entrees were good, it would really take a lot for us to return there again. Having said that though, the restaurant remains popular with diners and I could definitely see this restaurant still being relevant in another 80 year’s time.

—-
Jersey Boys. Wow. Just WOW.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show after seeing their contrived performance at the Grand Final but as soon as  the curtains opened to reveal a rapper and his crew singing the first few notes of ‘Ces Soirées-Là’ (a French cover of ‘December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’ which was a big hit in France in 2000), I knew that I was in for a great night. I loved that the production focused on not just Frankie Valli, but also Bob Gaudio, Tommy De Vito and Nick Massi in equal portions.I loved how the show focused on more storyline and music rather than bells and whistles like Wicked did (also a fantastic production, but you can’t really compare apples to oranges). I loved how each dude managed to dance around stage without a single strand of hair going astray. I loved their explosive rendition of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, complete with horns and all. I didn’t love their skanky arrangement of ‘December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’ that was performed at the end of Act 1, but their encore of the same song completely made up for it at the end.

Adam may have been a reluctant tag-along-er and the guys at work may have made a few gay jokes when I told them that I was seeing the show but afterwards Adam told me that he LOVED it. I was amused, though, when he told me that he had actually heard of many of the songs in the show, but didn’t know that they were ALL by the same group. Heh.

Tired, but happy little rag dolls.

Wabi Sabi Salon

94 Smith St
Collingwood VIC 3065
+61 3 9417 6119
http://www.wabisabi.net.au/

The heavy rain this morning made me not want to leave the house. I would have been happy just sleeping all day on my “uni day” had it not for the fact that my mum is currently pissing me off as of late. Because I did not want to be stuck in the same house with her, I decided to brave the rain and head into East Melbourne to meet up with Adam just as he was finishing work for the day. Thankfully, the rain stopped just as the bus exited the freeway and by the time we walked across Victoria Pde and into Smith Street, it was warm and sunny. Ahhh, that’s Melbourne for you.

We walked into a Japanese cafe called Wabi Sabi Salon which looks nothing like your average Japanese eatery, but did not look exactly out of place in Collingwood. To quote last year’s Cheap Eats Guide, the restaurant is “Collingwood meets Osaka” and indeed the eccentric and colourful trinkets from Japan combined with patrons that could only be adequately described by Christian Lander. Taking its name from the traditional Japanese concept of wabi sabi as described by Leonard Koren, the restaurant epitomises all things that are “imperfect, impermanent, unconventional and incomplete.” Here, your chopsticks rest on mismatched chopsticks holders and standard cafe tables stand amongst communal tables and traditional Japanese tatami mats. The food also reflects this, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

So, Wabi Sabi offers a selection of a la carte items during lunch and dinner, but bento boxes and sushi rolls are also offered during lunch while dinner patrons have the privilege of also being offered some “dinner only” items. There are three types of bento boxes to choose from, a fish one ($13), a meat one ($12) and a vegie one ($11). Every day, the contents of the bento box change according to what the chef happens to cook on the day. For example, today’s meat bento consisted of chicken karaage and the fish was whiting katsu which Adam and I ordered respectively.

Diners who order the bento box receive a bowl of miso soup. The weird thing about our soups was that mine contained seaweed while Adam’s didn’t. We both had tofu cubes but mine also had the addition of several pieces of chopped fried puffy tofu. Perhaps I’m just special. Taste-wise, it was pretty average for a miso soup and perhaps there was a bit too much MSG. Ugh.
My “fish bento” ($13) made up for the mediocre miso soup though. Getting back to the wabi sabi concept that I mentioned earlier on, this was not your typical Japanese bento box. While the food was Japanese, it was puntuated by subtle elements from the West. There were four pieces of sliced whiting, a fish that I’ve never seen used in a Japanese eatery, coated in panko breadcrumbs and then fried. It was covered in a sauce that one who is accustomed to eating okonomiyaki would be familiar with. The salad on top consisted of a mix of Western salad greens – spinach leaves, rocket leaves, capsicum and lettuce doused in a lovely tangy sesame dressing and was offset by a little salad of baby beans in the centre dressed in only the slightest amount of salty sesame. The orange mush you see on the left is a sweet pumpkin curry which tasted a lot like a tame version of laksa and was probably the only thing in the box I didn’t like.
Adam’s “meat bento” ($12) was identical to mine, but with chicken karaage instead of whiting katsu. Unlike other versions I’ve tried, this one was tender and delicate with the soy, ginger and garlic marinade being heightened by a sprinkling of sesame.

We both agreed that Wabi Sabi Salon made a very competent bento and that we would both return again. One more interesting thing to note though – I was full after my meal but Adam was still hungry. Hmmmmmm.

Little Creatures Dining Hall

222 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 3 9417 5500
http://www.littlecreatures.com.au/

Adam and I stumbled upon Little Creatures Dining Hall yesterday afternoon while on a stroll around Brunswick St, looking for clothes. Modeling itself on its Fremantle predecessor, LCDH Fitzroy can be described as a cross between a cafeteria and barn house with its enormous cavernous interior and communal tables which seemed to be full even at 2:30pm. Stepping into the beer hall, one may understandably be all “what the heck do I do?!” as they survey the former warehouse space, wondering whether they’re supposed to order at the bar or whether a waitress was supposed to seat them.

Without wanting to stand around like idiots, we decided to walk up to the bar and order our drinks while asking where we should order the food. Apparently the protocol is to find an empty table and wait for someone to come around with menus – something that would have been helpful to us to know earlier on. Since we were at the bar already, we ordered our drinks (a Pipsqueak cider for me ($4.50) and a Rogers ale for Adam ($4.30)). On this note, I should mention that in addition to a selection of wines, LCDH stock their house brands on tap (Pipsqueak Cider, Pale Ale, Pilsener, Bright Ale, to name a few) which you can get in three different sizes (both of us got the medium-sized one which was the size of a pot).

LCDH’s menu consists of well, food that goes well with beer: pizzas, mussels, pies and burgers. In addition, there are a few nibbles and desserts in the mix if you want a proper meal. Adam and I ordered a main each, as well as a bowl of chips to share. In hindsight, we probably could have done without the chips – and besides, my meal already came with chips – but Adam was keen on the chips so on the bill it went.
Our food took a long time to arrive. I would guestimate 25-30 minutes which isn’t really good for pub-slash-beer hall standards. Although the place was packed, most of the people there were just about finishing their meals and were just content on sipping pots of beer rather than eating so I don’t know why our meal took that long to arrive from the kitchen. Even something so simple like chips, which should only take 10 minutes TOPS, should have appeared on our table even before our meals did. I was just about to contemplate a walkout when FINALLY, our waitress arrived with both our meals and our chips.

Our hot chips ($7.00). They were thicker than your average shoestring fries, home-cut with their skins still on which meant that they were crispy. They also tasted like they were basked in the lightest sprinkling of rosemary. They would have been perfect, too, if they were taken out of the fryer a minute earlier as some of them err on the burnt side. As for the “mayonnaise”? It tasted more like a heavy creme fraiche and didn’t go down too well with the chips. A little tomato sauce would have probably been better.

Adam’s salami, mushroom, tomato and fior di latte pizza ($18.00). This was definitely a surprise package. A crispy thin crust held together a wonderful mixture of fresh mushrooms, spicy salami and a delicately salty fior di latte (mozzarella made from cow’s milk) which would put a lot of restaurant that serve so-called “artisan pizza” to shame. My only minor gripe would be the use of parsley rather than basil on top which didn’t really do much for taste.

My beef burger with chips ($17.00). I haven’t had a “toffy” burger from Rockpool or Cafe Vue so my next statement should be treated with a grain of salt. Methinks this burger sits on the burger continuum between a fish and chips shop burger and a connoisseur David Blackmore wagyu burger from Rockpool Bar and Grill (which I’m going to try next weekend, wooo!). It is not terribly big but it has a helluva lot of taste and is definitely very filling. The beef pattie, while tender, may have been a little too sweet for my liking (too much Worcestershire sauce) but was offset by the nuttiness of the melted gruyere cheese and the creme fraiche-slash-mayonnaise that came with the chips. Amongst the usual salad trimmings, there was a sweet onion relish which would have been a great addition had the meat been not as sweet. Still, it was better than your average pub burger.

Our bills were placed in one of those old skool “Golden Book” childrens’ story books. How cute is that?

Heeeeeh.

This place is definitely a place where one could enjoy a beer and snacks on a lazy Sunday afternoon, particularly in the warmer Summer months. The food, while more decent than not, was slightly more expensive than what it was worth and that combined with the slow service makes me reluctant to have a proper weekend lunch there again … especially since there are so many other cheaper options on Brunswick St. Having said that though, I’ll definitely choose Little Creatures Dining Hall over local pub fare any day!

Takumi

32 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9650 7020
http://www.takumi.com.au/

To celebrate my pay rise, I took Adam out for dinner last night. A little stroll up Bourke Street Hill ended a few strides before Spring Street and into what was an unassuming Japanese restaurant on the outside, but full of warmth and elegance on the inside. The name of the place – Takumi (Japanese for “connoisseur”) - hasn’t been around for that long but it is apparently so-hot-right now. While they offer cheap bento boxes for lunches ($14, if I recall correctly), the main reason why it’s so popular with punters is because they specialise in cuts of David Blackmore wagyu which you then cook yourself on a smokeless tabletop charcoal grill which is embedded onto every table (below). I’m not a fan of restaurants where you have to actually work (i.e. cook) for your food but I was curious to see what the fuss was about…

“Lib, do you think there are turtles underneath?”

We ordered three different entrees to start off, each of them came one after the other instead of all together which annoyed me because I like my dishes to come at once so that I can sample each of them at the same time.

First off, the salmon carpaccio ($10.80) which consisted of about 10 slices of raw salmon, marinated in a tangy carrot, onion, soy and mustard dressing. The style and the taste of this dish suspiciously reminded me of Nobu’s cooking style (as did some of the offerings on the menu such as the scallop sashimi which was “infused in sizzling oil and citrus soy sauce” … hmmmm). The fish wasn’t as fresh as I would have liked and perhaps a bit fattier than most, but I was grateful for the acidic dressing which helped counterbalance some of the richness of the flesh.


Takumi’s special ($18.80). Triangles of sliced wagyu eye fillet were only given a smidgen of time on the grill before being served with a dressing of diced caramelised onions and citrus fruits. A simple yet beautiful dish.

Yukke ($10.80). The Japanese equivalent of a steak tartare, I always order this one when I’m dining at Izakaya Chuji. Takumi’s version used a marinade made with red and green apple sauce, topped with a raw free-range egg. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really taste any apple notes in this dish (the beef and the egg had more flavour) so I guess I won’t be ordering this one again next time.

There was a bit of a wait in between our entrees and our mains. We sipped on our drinks (my Asahi was only $5 as we happened to arrive during Happy Hour [5-7pm] and Adam’s Calpis soda was $3) while we watched more people arrive, including a bunch of Bulldogs supporters who were surprisingly well-behaved (haha, yeah, I’m generalising here… apologies).

Finally, our meats arrived along with our bowls of steamed rice ($2 each), a tong each and a sauce holder each.
We ordered:
-Two baby green lip abalones ($6.80 each)
-A serving of scallops (six small pieces for $12.80)
-A serving of mushrooms (six for $3.80)
-A serving of “Jo-Hire” – premium eye fillet 100g ($24.80)
-A serving of Harami – “tender meat” 100g ($11.80)

Okay, so you can’t really differentiate between the sauces in this photo but that is what we got.


Cooking our food (our abalones were inside the foils).

The smaller slices of marbled beef on the top were what the waitress said was “harami” while the eye fillets are the thinner and flatter slices on the bottom. I found it ironic that they described the harami as “tender” as the eye fillets were much more tender than the harami. The reason why we ordered the harami was to taste the difference between a cheaper cut of wagyu which had less fat in it and one that had more marbling (the eye fillet). Obviously, the eye fillet was much richer and oh so seamless thanks to its high-fat content but those who prefer their beef to taste “more normal”, for lack of better wording, then the harami would be the way to go.

Some dot points:

-Because the meats were thin, they did not take a long time to cook so we spent much of our dinner frantically turning over the meats before they got overdone (about 80% of them, heh). The ones that we managed to cook perfectly though, were awesome.

-Having the grill so close to our faces made eating there so uncomfortably hot and had us sweating like pigs. Ew.

-I hate places where you have to cook your own stuff. Still, hot pot restaurants and Korean BBQs compensate the fact that patrons, rather than cooks, cook for themselves by charging them less than what a normal restaurant would charge. Not in Takumi‘s case. For the amount of food we ate, we were charged $119.20 which we both thought was expensive for a place that lets their patrons do most of the cooking. Okay, so David Blackmore, being the best supplier of wagyu, would charge a premium for their products and that’s fair enough but I just felt that if the restaurant cooked it for me, instead of me cooking it myself, I would have tasted better results and be happy with paying almost $120.

-We did, however, order three entrees to see what the restaurant’s skills were like. While they blatantly copied Nobu‘s style of cooking and while the entrees weren’t all THAT great, they were strangely more successful than their Nobu equivalent. And I did like dining at Takumi more than I did at Nobu - perhaps it’s because it was less pretentious?

-It goes without saying that we were both still hungry after this. Adam devoured a plate of dumplings when he got home while I ate my way through a packet of Grain Waves. Oops.

-I guess I would be curious enough to go back to Takumi again, if only to try their lunchtime bento boxes. Not sure about going back there for dinner though.

Can’t talk. Eating.

Dancing Goat Cafe

4/280 King St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9670 4002
http://www.dancinggoat.com.au/

I’ve finally found a place near my work that actually serves semi-decent food. As you know, I work in the Flagstaff precinct of the city, an area that is notorious for its piss-poor food eateries (apart from Don Too on Lt Lonsdale St). Thus, it is no wonder why I bring my lunch from home most of the time. That was until I found out about Dancing Goat Cafe, a seemingly weird name for a coffee shop but if you actually know the story behind the origin of coffee, you would immediately get the reference. Word on the street is that their barista, Jesse Hyde, won the Grand Barista competition and so people have been flocking to his store to sample his coffee. What’s even better is that this cafe is actually not far from my work so I decided to get a coffee and pick up lunch from there before work this morning.

There was a bit of a wait for my coffee but that was understandable given that there were only two people manning the counter and a large group of legal eagles lining up for their morning brew. My small skinny latte ($3) was thick, rich and rounded off with a beautiful caramel aftertaste. It was the first “proper” (i.e. non-instant) coffee I had in ages so I buzzed around the office all day like a, well, dancing goat. Oh, and although their focus is on coffee, that doesn’t mean that their limited food offerings ain’t worth trying – I ordered a chorizo, spinach, boccacini and tomato relish focaccia which, although not completely filling, was delicious ($8.50, below):

Okay, so I told the chick that I didn’t want mine toasted – there was no point seeing that I would be consuming it for lunch anyway. It was only when I picked up my coffee and asked where my focaccia was, however, did I realise that bitchface didn’t listen to my request as she was too busy fishing it out of the toaster. And they must have forgotten to set the lever on the toaster up because my lunch was as flat as an Asian girl’s chest. Sigh. Oh well, at least it tasted good.

In other news:

1. R.I.P Patrick Swayze. I ate slices of watermelon all day at work today. No, I really did.

2. Never was a fan of Kanye West but after that stunt he pulled, he has slid down even further on my disproval rating. Okay fair enough, not everyone would have been pleased that Taylor Swift won that award but while she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, she nevertheless did NOT deserve to be treated like that. Kanye, you arsehat.

3. Gossip Girl season three has just been released. How excitement. I just got home and immediately downloaded the torrent. My internet is a little slow tonight so I won’t be able to watch it until way past my usual bedtime. Let’s hope that this season doesn’t suck as much as season two…

4. Adam tried Grain Waves for the first time the other day. He declared them “too healthy-tasting” and said that he’d rather have potato chips. Actually, so do I but he’s not the one going on the potato chip ban . I also tried to get my workmate RS into them too. He asked me what they were made of and I began by saying “Corn, gra-” before he wrinkled his nose and said “Ewwww, too healthy.” Sigh. Boys.

5. I wish I wasn’t so unco. Body Jam classes would be so much more easier.

6. I didn’t sleep until 3am last night. But I was studying and hence, doing something productive. So there.

Bistro Guillaume

Crown Casino
8 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC 3006
+61 3 9693 3888
http://www.bistroguillaume.com.au/

Adam decided to take me to Bistro Guillaume last night, a two-hatted restaurant at Crown that I had been looking forward to visiting ever since it opened in 2008. A highly successful chef, with a much-praised restaurant, Guillaume at Bennelong in Sydney, and with dozens of awards to his name, Guillaume Brahimi’s Melbourne restaurant is widely known for its unpretentious, bistro-style cooking not dissimilar to that of Bistro Vue‘s and Philippe Mouchel’s Brasserie a few doors down. A booking was made a few weeks ago for 6pm. But ever since that booking was made, I had heard not-so-unsavoury things about that place such as the widely-held view that they were strict on food photography (according to Dave) and that only a week or two ago, they were denounced to one hat status when the Good Food Guide was released. We both knew that we were in for an interesting night.

So, we ended up being about half an hour late no thanks to Adam’s aunty wanting us to bloody install real player on his dad’s laptop just so they can watch some stupid Chinese series, and THEN not realising that the city circle would waste about 15 minutes going up and down the Docklands. We did ring up the restaurant to inform them that we were late and they seemed okay with that.

Occupying the space that was previously owned by Prada, Bistro Guillaume attracted $10 million just for its furnishings. Its interior was a mix of old world charm and a hint of the new with its pretty pantaloon-like lamps that hung over the tables and its funky lounge area where the bathrooms were situated. It was a romantic setting (i.e. dim lights, effing…), perfect for those on a date but also appropriate enough to take clients and families to. We were seated by the window, which overlooked the Yarra – obviously not as good enough a view as the Sydney restaurant would offer and the fact that we had to deal with stupid footy bogans outside yelling out “CARN THE CROWS!” and “GO PIES!” every so often spoilt it for us.

After ordering our food, my glass of Te Mata Gamay ($14) was poured in front of me, a light yet acidic red wine from New Zealand that would go well with the steak that I would later consume. We also got a slice of wonderful sourdough bread from Noisette bakery along with an unsalted butter pad.

Moments later, our amuse bouche arrived. We each got a fish croquette each, which was dipped in a light lemon tartare-like sauce. I probably would have enjoyed it better if it had actually been served hot.

Almost immediately, our freshly shucked oysters arrived with a shallot and red wine vinegar sauce ($3.75 each). I requested half of them to be Sydney Rock oysters, and the other half Coffin Bay. These oysters were probably the smallest of their kind I’ve seen served at a restaurant but they were probably one of the freshest. While the sauce was nice enough, I felt that it was too strong for the oysters and I was happier just eating them au natural with only the slightest hint of lemon juice.

There was a bit of a wait for our entrees during which we discussed which bars we should hit to watch the Collingwood vs Adelaide game. I couldn’t really give a crap about the game but because Adam’s an avid Collingwood supporter, he HAD to watch it and I suppose I had no choice but to tag along (I mean, he WAS my ride home, heh).

Adam’s steak tartare ($24) was a football-shaped mixture of finely chopped raw eye fillet combined with Cognac, capers, pickles, Worcestershire sauce, eggs and probably 10 billion more herbs and spices. It was served with a handful of lattice potato chips and a small herb salad to offset the density of the steak tartare. It was big enough to render Adam almost half full but we both felt that while the marinade was delicious, it was a tad overpowering.

My seared scallops ($18) were definitely the highlight of the meal. Three large, juicy scallops, seared in burnt butter, sat proudly amidst a sea of velvety Jerusalem artichoke veloute, baby spinach and a delicate chicken jus. Each element was so silky, so smooth and so orgasmically wonderful that if I could only muster up one single word to describe it, it would be perfect.

After all that hype, I was disappointed to say that our mains were a bit of a let-down. They took a good half an hour to arrive, which was not good especially since the restaurant was not even a third full at this time. Finally, when our mains did come, both of us managed a small gasp when we saw Adam’s main…

Introducing the $45 fish and chips, a Bistro Guillaume signature dish and one that other punters often wax lyrical about. Indeed, the presentation was amazing. A whole whiting, painstakingly deboned, was crumbed and then fried whole before being presented on a bed of Jenga-like pommes Pont-Nouf (potato blocks) and accompanied with a disk of garlic butter. You’d think that something that looked this amazing would taste just as good, right? Sadly, this wasn’t the case. We both found the fish too dry and stringy, and it didn’t really taste any better than a $5 whiting fillet, crumbed and then grilled at your local fish and chip shop. In fact, the best bit of the dish were the pommes Pont-Nouf which were amazingly crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside.

My steak frites ($39). I requested my sirloin steak (100% angus beef) to be cooked medium rare and served with bearnaise sauce. Although I was given a special steak knife to eat with, I found cutting the steak to be extremely difficult as it was as hard as a rock. Upon cutting the steak, however, the meat was cooked exactly how I liked it so it wasn’t like it was overcooked or anything…

Hmmm.

My steak was alright but like Adam’s fish and chips, nothing to sing about. So underwhelming were our mains that we didn’t bother staying for dessert (none of the offerings sounded appetising either). The bill was $166 which I guess was fair given the restaurant’s reputation and given that we were both full. Upon leaving the place, however, we both agreed that apart from the scallops, there was nothing on the menu that would make us return again. We both know that bistro food isn’t meant to be creative … but we both know that it isn’t meant to be boring either. We have been to French restaurants that serve bistro classics that not only been executed perfectly but were also adventurous, Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel to name just one. The mains at Bistro Guillaume, on the other hand, just felt like they were something that a pub would serve. Okay, so maybe your local pub wouldn’t present a piece of whiting like that but taste-wise, they would produce something almost identical. I don’t often agree with what the reviewers in the Good Food Guide say, but I have to wholeheartedly agree with them when they decided to take away one of Bistro Guillaume’s hats this years. The restaurant might try to fool us with their pantaloon boudoir lamps and their one grand padded chairs, but unless they start being a bit more creative with their mains like they did with the scallops, then we are not very likely to come back.

PS: They were actually okay with us taking photos, what are you talking about Dave?!

Later on:

-Went to The Pub @ Crown to watch the footy. Unfortunately, we were stopped by the bouncer and asked to produce ID cards. I told him that I forgot to bring mine but after he asked me how old I was, he let me in. For some reason, the pub’s TV screens constantly had stupid messages flashing on top of the footy coverage (eg “CARD XX, YOUR TABLE IS READY”) which annoyed us to no end so we went to Sportsbar (?), only a hop, skip and jump away.

-At Sportsbar (or whatever the place is called). I got asked for ID but I was again let through. The place was a mix of young men in jeans and fluro t-shirts, young girls in cheap Supre short dresses and middle-aged women from Queensland. We left at half time to go to Fed Square.

-Fed Square. We watched a solid quarter of football on the big screen before the coverage was rudely interrupted by promotion ads talking about how awesome Fed Square is. It was hilarious seeing Adam getting hysterical about not being able to watch the crucial quarter of the match… and having to wait in line for about two whole minutes to get into Transport was a nightmare for him (though funny for me, haha!). Eventually, we got in and finally got to watch the rest of the game with a bunch of other non-bogany Collingwood supporters while a DJ spun some 70s funk music. A great way to end the night (even if I had to see another Collingwood win, ugh).

Pacific BBQ Cafe (revisited)

213 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9663 9288

My workmates Brent and Rob turned 39 and 29 respectively so we had drinkies with them at 3 Degrees, QV. After we had enough James Squire brew to last us a while, Adam and I finished off the night with a quick dinner at the nearby Pacific BBQ Cafe on Lonsdale St. The first time I went there, I was very disappointed and have not been back ever since. Apparently though, I should have tried their duck the first time and apparently, it’s a lot better now that they’ve sorted out their teething issues so we decided to give them another chance. Now, this place always seems to be packed even at odd hours so it wasn’t a surprise when we had to wait about 5 minutes for a table to open up. We settled in a booth and got down to work. I knew that I was going to go for the roast duck on rice ($9.50) so I didn’t bother studying the menu but just by looking at it, there were some significant changes since our last visit. More “proper” Cantonese dishes and less of the spaghetti and spam bullsht.

My duck arrived in literally 30 seconds. It wasn’t as good as I had expected, to be honest. The skin wasn’t terribly crispy and the meat-to-fat ratio was something like 10-90. Ugh. Okay, so I was only halfway through this mediocre meal when WHOA, the waiter plonked the bill on our table. While I understand that the restaurant were keen to maintain a high turnover to get as many people through as possible, I just thought he was beyond rude for doing that. Nevertheless, I took my dear time eating … but that didn’t stop the waiter from then taking away all the empty bowls on the table without even asking us if it was okay to do so. In the end, I ended up losing my appetite, made Adam eat the rest of my duck (haha) and said that I was off. Rude bastards. Never again.

Pho 888

552 Station Street
Box Hill 3128
+61 3 9890 1390

Thanks to Dave, I had a craving for pho on Sunday morning so Adam and I made our way to Station Street, Box Hill to eat at Pho 888. A simple-looking restaurant with a simple menu to boot, Pho 888 is exactly the type of non-descript pho restaurant one would find on Victoria Street, Richmond or Hopkins Street, Footscray. Whether the food tasted just as good as the stuff the better restaurants on said streets offered, however, would be a different story. After ordering drinks (three colour for Adam ($3) and a lemon soda for me ($3), our food arrived very quickly.

Vietnamese spring rolls … literally the size of a cigarette (10 for $7). Seriously, we had never seen spring rolls so skinny in our lives. Our eyes literally boggled when the plate was placed in front of us. Tastewise, they were pretty bland too. And they were also tight-arsey on the lettuce leaves too. Rather than receiving a generous handful of lettuce, we received exactly ten playing card sized pieces which I was none too pleased about as I do like to wrap my spring rolls in at least three pieces of lettuce. Not recommended.

Adam’s “special broken rice with combination” ($8.50) didn’t exactly fair much better. Not only was it a much blander version of its Footscray cousins, the sauce was way too sweet for my liking and the elements such as the pork chop and the egg just seemed a little… flat. At least the rice wasn’t as gluggy as the one we had at the nearby Indochine.

With two strikes against Pho 888, I was somewhat relieved to find that my sliced rare beef pho (small, $7.50) was actually alright. Although it wasn’t necessarily any better or worse than 95% of all the phos I’ve tried in my lifetime, I was satisfied. I guess the drawing card for me here would be that Pho 888 has a sizing system which enabled not-so-hungry people like me to go small for $7.50 while the iron stomachs could have a shot at the large bowl for $9.50 (medium bowls are $8.50). Oh, and while my bowl may have been the smallest, I was positively stuffed in the end.

In short, I would probably only go back for the pho if I happen to be in Box Hill and either only wanted a small bowl of pho or Tien Dat (the only semi-decent Vietnamese place in Box Hill, in my opinion) was absolutely full.

In other news:

-I finally tried my first pilates class this evening on the recommendation of Chao. I had just finished off a shocking Body Jam session so it was a good wind-down class which enabled me to stretch all various muscles that I never knew I had. Although I had a few problems with breathing correctly (or even breathing at all during various exercises), I know this will improve with time.

-Speaking of Body Jam, tonight’s class was only my second class and I swear, I was more unco in this class than the last. The bad thing about going to Jam is having to move and groove around people who move like they’ve been living in clubs all their lives. I think I’ve mentioned this before but seriously, my “dancing” style is best described as having two left feet in concrete shoes. Not a pretty sight .

-Those of you on my facebook list may have noticed that my status update yesterday mentioned that I had successfully cured my very first batch of olives. Two months ago, Adam presented to me a basket of olives from his olive tree which I then had to cure in brine for two months before they were ready for consumption (as you know, olives straight from the tree are extremely bitter). Unfortunately, I didn’t think about documenting the process in photos but that’s something that I’ll do next harvest. If anyone has any good recipes for olives, then please send them my way .

-A dismal round in footy tipping. I’m down to fifth place now (from third). One more round to go. Can I do well enough to place? I’m only one game point behind the top three tippers and the person in fourth place is ahead of me only in margin. The big question is: Essendon or Hawthorn? *furrows*