133 Hopkins St
Footscray VIC 3011
+61 3 9689 4392
Adam and I took his parents for breakfast-slash-lunch in Footscray today. Keen to try some supposedly awesome bun bo hue (awesome, according to both Adam and Martin), we decided to go to Dong Ba on Hopkins Street. It’s a nondescript restaurant that doesn’t have an extensive menu but if there is one thing that sends people over there in droves, it’s their bun bo hue. Because I had not had anything to eat prior to coming into Footscray, I didn’t want to upset my stomach by slurping on all that chilli and spices so I requested my broth to be a little bit mild while the others went for the standard fiery soup (not Adam, he decided to be weird by ordering Hainanese chicken – wtf?!).
This is Dong Ba’s medium sized BBH at $8.50 (they have small ones at $7.50 and large ones at $9.50. I would suggest going the small because I had a hard time finishing off my medium one!). Well, what can I say? This BBH ROCKED! Everything was right with this tasty bowl of soup and slippery thick vermicelli noodles – the easy partnership the lemongrass had with each of the little but not unimportant players such as the fish sauce, the chilli oil, the shrimp paste, the pork knuckle and all the fresh herbs that mingled with the sliced beef brisket and tendons, chicken pieces and sliced pork ham (and in case you’re wondering, yes, there was a chunk of pig’s blood but I refuse to eat that stuff so I gave it to Adam’s mum, haha!). Dare I say that it was just as good, if not even better than the one at Nam Giao (sorry Jen!). And while it was a bit of a challenge finishing off everything, I did manage to drain everything out of my bowl right down to the last drop. Mmm. Satisfaction.
Crown Casino Complex
8 Whiteman St
Southbank Melbourne VIC 3006
+61 3 9292 6885
I’m sure that everyone here has been to a restaurant with rather high expectations, only to walk out extremely unhappy. I, myself, may have been to a lot of restaurants but you’d be stupid to think that I’ve loved every single one of them. I’ve suffered through overcooked dishes, snotty waiters, slow service, unclean water glasses, stale bread and hairs in my soup … and I’m talking about only one restaurant here. While I do document each restaurant experience and write the good bits as well as the bad bits, I will very rarely discourage anyone to go to a place that I disliked. In fact, I’m more likely to tell people how my experience went and then tell them to “go see for themselves” before reporting back to me. I mean, just because I had a shocking time at Scusami, it doesn’t mean that everyone else will. And just because I enjoyed Ezard, it doesn’t mean that it will become everyone’s favourite restaurant.
This time, though, I am about to write about my lunch at Sho Noodle Bar. I will write it how it was. But instead of writing my personal account and leaving it up to you guys to decide whether to take my word for it or ignore me, I am going to bluntly tell no, URGE you all to do yourself a favour and DON’T EVER SET FOOT IN THAT PLACE. Because it is probably the most overrated restaurant since Nobu in that their food was sheissenhausen and their service was slow. That’s all you need to know. If, however, you are keen on hearing the details then read on…
Okay, so Adam and I did the whole Easter Sunday church thing in the morning before taking the train into the city to meet up with Martin who was here for the weekend. Both of us were actually tired and would have preferred having a cruisy lunch in Glen Waverley or Box Hill but had to trek out to the city because of MARTIN. We had planned to meet at Crown at 2pm to try “that new 6 million dollar noodle bar” that has only been there for 6 months or so. But at 2:10pm, he still wasn’t there so I decided to call Martin who picked up and told me that he was still in Melton (??!?!). “Why the eff are you still in Melton? You’re supposed to be HERE!” I screeched at him. He then said something about going to Sarah’s Mormon Easter celebrations at her church and not being able to get out of there because she wouldn’t lend him her car or something like that. Something which would have been useful for me to know like, oh I dunno, about an hour ago?! I mean, c’mon man, you can’t go into the city? fine. Just have the courtesy to let us know beforehand so that we could rearrange lunch or something! What a waste of time going into the city and Adam wasted money buying a metcard *grumble grumble*
Since we were already outside Sho, we decided to have lunch there ourselves anyway. After all, we had come all this way. Right inside the main gaming floor (yes, you have to actually walk into the casino and be checked for ID – I actually like it when I get asked, I don’t feel as old – heeee!), Sho is an architectural masterpiece that makes you go WOW the minute you step into it. It’s like walking into a Shanghainese nightclub fused with an Iron Chef studio at the same time, with little decorative touches such as room dividers that resemble an abacus set. Apparently, the reason for setting up this place is simply a ploy by the big boys at Crown to prevent people from actually leaving the gaming rooms when they are hungry by eating at the food court as they might potentially decide to go home. By having this restaurant in the gaming room, however, they are keeping punters surrounded by pokie machines and hence, are less likely to leave. It’s sad, sad, sad but I have to admit, clever, from a marketing perspective.
We were seated in a den by the corner with a decent view into the open kitchen on one side while the bright lights of poker machines blinded us on the other. From looking at the colourful menus offering simple but not too extravagant offerings to the wooden tea menu that was this long, we were dully impressed.
Then the the service started to slack off and all the waiters started to disappear. We must’ve spent about 15 minutes looking at the sad, sad folk wasting their savings away on the blackjack tables before I finally caught the eye of a passing waiter who then spent another 5 minutes looking for a pen before taking our order.
(Oh and before I go on, let me apologise for the really bad photos. It was bad enough that the place was so dark that I could barely read my menu, but I would also like to blame myself for playing around with my white balance settings on my camera last night and forgetting how to put it back on to their original setting. Sadly, no amount of photo-shopping could make my photos pretty … sigh).
My 35 pu-erh tea ($9.50). I remembered having first tried this tea when I was working at an accounting business. The boss may have been a bitch but she had nice friends clients who have her nice things including cakes of pu-erh tea from China. I had no appreciation of tea at that time you can imagine how horrified my boss was when I told her that the tea was just “meh” (“But Libby, that tea cake was $1000!!”). Of course, I’ve grown a bit now and certainly, I could appreciate how awesome this tea was – so smooth and clean like no other tea. The black tea leaves continued to fuse as we ate our meal, creating a stronger earthier taste but nevertheless remained as clean as a glass of Asahi.
Our basket of “assorted dumplings” ($14.80). They were nothing that a below-average yum cha restaurant couldn’t make. The fillings weren’t tasty at all and the translucent skins on the scallop dumpling and the har gow were too gluggy, like Clag glue. Ugh.
A small serving of egg noodle soup with yong tau foo ($10.90). Now, apparently Sho makes all their noodles by hand so I was anticipating this soup to be something special. Imagine my disappointment, however, when I got a bowl (though I admit, a funky-looking bowl) of something that could have come out of Crown‘s foodcourt. The chicken broth was laced with more MSG than a packet of Twisties, the noodles nothing short of the packet kind from an Asian grocery store, and the “yong tau foo” pieces no bigger than a piece of Lego, each of them with fillings that were tasteless. Awfulness.
Never mind, we thought, we’ve got the lobster tails coming up! Now, originally we were going to go the wok-fried crayfish with honey chilli and spring onions ($39.50) but we were told that they were out of season. They did, however, offered us lobster tails in place of the crayfish for an extra $5 or so. That sounded good to us so off they went. At $44 or so, we were expecting something decent to fill us up for the rest of the afternoon but after our first two dishes, we realised that we should not have set our expectations so high.
That is what we got. It’s a bad photo, I know, and you’re not getting the whole picture… but please trust me when I say that this dish was extremely bad. Firstly, it was small. All that red would have been about as big as a pancake. And no, there weren’t any noodles beneath the mass of red. And no, those flat-looking pieces of red in the middle are carrots, not lobster. I will admit that the lobster tails were succulent and juicy but that is the only good thing I will say about this dish. The sauce was terrible, ruining the entire dish. It was too sweet, too artificial, thus marring the natural sweetness of the lobster meat. What a waste of $44.
We didn’t bother with dessert because we knew that it was going to be crap. Because no waiters were milling around our area, we had to get up to pay at the counter (we weren’t going to waste more time sitting around for the bill) where we were told that our meal was $92.10. $92.10?!?!?! I cried out, in my mind. For THAT crap?!?! While I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap, I wasn’t expecting a very substandard lunch to be almost hundred bucks! The chick at the counter didn’t even bother asking us how our meal was – I guess our faces told her enough. We were still hungry but we weren’t going to spend another cent at Sho so off we went for some dumplings once we were back at Box Hill (David and Camy, yo!)
For only $15, we got a plate of greasy fried pork dumplings and a bowl of rather bland chilli oil dumplings which clearly aren’t best in the world but mygoodness, nothing has ever tasted so good!
Sho Noodle Bar: Where ONLY the tea is somewhat decent. Everything else SUCKED.
$92.10 for foodcourt standard food? No thanks!
The decor may be pretty enough to suck people in, between pokie rounds, but their food sucked enough for me to not go back there. Ever. In fact, it sucked enough for me to run away from the gaming room rather than keep me in, so perhaps the boys at Crown need to rethink their marketing strategy. Introduce another GAS or a Rockpool inside the gaming room and perhaps that would keep me in!
247 Springvale Rd
Glen Waverley VIC 3150
+61 3 9886 7755
When I ask people where one should go for good sushi, the majority of them would say “Shira Nui” (though those who enjoy slow service and can’t be bothered going to Glen Waverley would say “Shoya”). When I tell them that I have, in fact, been to Shira Nui and said that it was “great but not super-dooper-fantastic”, they usually look at me in horror and exclaim, “No, you haven’t really tried Shira Nui until you have sat on the counter and ordered the chef’s omakase!” With this in mind, I rang the place up on Wednesday afternoon and asked them if they could squeeze Adam and I in at 6pm the next evening (last night) and thankfully, a spot at the end of the counter was available on the condition that we would leave by 8pm. No problemo, we thought, we had to go to church down the road at 7:30pm for their special Easter presentation anyway. The reason for such a special dinner? No reason. I just wanted to treat Adam to some good food and c’mon, as if Ms Libby really needs a proper reason to go eating . And hey, I am following Aussie Easter traditions in that I’m scoffing myself with fish after all.
We walked into the very tiny and unassuming restaurant on Springvale Road just before 6pm and already, several diners were comfortably seated. Cries of “IRASSHAIMASE!” went up all around the dining room, from the waitresses to the sushi chefs, to say “Welcome! I’m just as sick of saying it as much as you are of hearing it but let’s just get on with this charade, okay?” Our bums on our counter stools, we were given menus but without looking at them, we simply told the waitress that we wanted the “omakase” which is where we let the sushi chefs decide what we should eat.
It’s a bit of a gamble, not knowing exactly what we would get but on the other hand, omakase customers usually get the better quality stuff over the a la carte customers. Prior to starting, they did ask us if there was anything that we wouldn’t eat though so it’s not like you would be presented with something you vehemently hate. The beauty about Shira Nui’s omakase setting is that we can sit there for as long as we want until we decide that enough is enough and you get charged accordingly. The waitress told us that people usually pay between $75-80 per person (which was what we paid) but apparently some iron stomachs have been known to spend closer to $100.
We received an amouse bouche prior to the show. Two tiny pieces of fried fish and some pickled vegetables which you could eat all at once on the spot, or in little bites throughout the course of your meal (I did the latter). We watched as the two chefs, grand master Hiro Nishikura and his two assistants danced behind the counter with knives, raw fish fillets, rice and blowtorches.
Watching them prepare fresh sushi in front of your eyes was an amazing experience, a bit like Iron Chef but without the awful dubbing. No sooner than taking the first bite of my fried fish, our sushi arrived. We were also instructed by the chefs when it was okay to dip or sushi into soy sauce or otherwise (that bit becomes important later).
Each of us received a plate with two pieces of sushi and the first one was a nigirizushi of raw King Dory fillets (which look a bit like you-know-what if you think really hard). A gruff instruction of “no soy” was also given by Hiro-san as the two of us tucked into our soft-textured fish that was only flavoured by a squeeze of lemon juice to bring out the fish’s natural sweetness. Sublime. Adam, on the other hand, didn’t hear the “no soy” instructions and proceeded to dunk his fish into a bowl of soy sauce. Looking in horror, I told him that the chef told us NOT to have it with soy to which he asked me (while darting nervously to and from the sushi chefs welding their filleting knives like they were samurai swords), “What are they going to do to me now?” “Get angry at you” I replied, just so I could see the look of alarm in his eyes (haha, yeah I’m mean).
Shira Nui’s much-loved pan-grilled salmon sushi. I loved it when I had it last year but it definitely tasted better this time around (see? omakase = better food!). I was glad to witness the making of this perfectly-executed sushi, from the moment the salmon left the other kitchen (where all the hot food was being served) to the grabbing of little bundles of sweet vinegared rice thrown on the bench that was smeared with a hint of wasabi (enough to give it a kick but not too much so that my tongue would burn – because I hate wasabi, you see) to the way each piece of salmon was lovingly placed on each bundle of rice before being dusted with what looked like the Japanese seven-spice blend, shichimi. After a little squeeze of lemon juice, both pairs of sushi were signed, sealed and delivered with a neat bow of nori. Talk about a flavour explosion! It was smokey and sweet and spicy and tangy all at the same time, and yet the natural flavour of the salmon still poked through all of the layers of flavour. Too good!
Raw mackerel sushi. Mackerel is one of those fish that can’t keep fresh for very long so it is usually salt-cured when it comes to serving them in sushi form. I was initially reluctant at the thought of eating such an oily and salty fish raw, even if it was sprinkled with shichimi but matching it with a covering of kombu (a type of thick seaweed) that has been soaked in a sweet mirin reduction was nothing short of genius. Delicious!
Now this one got Adam excited (he loves his beef). A grilled wagyu beef fillet, having only spent a whisker of a second on the grill leaving it half-raw, was topped with a smidgen of onion jam and spring onions. It was so soft that it literally melted in my mouth. I know that phrase is so tired and cliched but really, it DID.
This was something new to us. When Hiro-san introduced it to us, we initially thought he said “ox tail” but upon nibbling on the chewy and almost rubbery piece of orange flesh, I realised that he was saying “ark shell.” It’s a mollusc that isn’t too disssimlar to an ordinary clam and on its own, it is pretty tasteless which was why we were instructed to dip it in soy sauce. I got a bit naughty though and decided to boldly try one without sauce and dammit, he was right. While you could taste the sea in the flesh, it isn’t very nice on its own. I think the point of Hiro-san making us try the ark shell was to convey its interesting texture which is a bit like a calamari with millions of little grooves imprinted in the flesh.
Seared tuna steak. Another beautiful one. The tuna fillet was seared on the grill for only the briefest of moments, leaving the outside crust crispy and the inside beautifully rare. It was then cut up into little slices, sprinkled with shichimi and placed on a small mound of warm rice. Then came the onion jam. And the spring onions. And the strip of nori. Bewdddiful.
So far I’ve been saying good things about the omakase, so it is with reluctance when I tell you that this next sushi didn’t really do it for me. It was a piece of okra stuffed with a minced fish and crab mix which was then lightly friend and served in tempura form. It was then wrapped with nori and dotted with a plum jam. Eaten with soy sauce, I thought that while it wasn’t a bad dish, it was simply different to what we had been experiencing so far on the night. At another random Japanese restaurant, this would have been the norm and I wouldn’t have whinged about it but omakase at Shira Nui? It would forever be known as “the thing that didn’t belong.”
Ooohboy, the raw king fish was probably my favourite one. This very firm fish was marinated only the simplest of ingredients, soy and mirin but boy, was it big on taste. Coupled with the marinade and the fact that the kingfish is a very strong-tasting fish, it was obvious that no soy was needed for this sushi. It was sweet, sublime and oh-so-wonderful. More please!
By this stage, we were almost stuffed and about to admit defeat. The thrill of the omakase was to see what surprise would land on our plates each time and we really didn’t want the fun to stop. We figured, however, that eight dishes was already a pretty fine effort and it was always time for us to make a move on and head to church anyway. But then the chef walked past us on the way to the other kitchen and told us that the oysters were coming up so we thought, “Okay, one more!”
This photo is shocking so you will have to trust me when I say that the oyster sushi was excellent. Watching the chefs construct the sushi was just as exciting as watching Big Love (it really IS an exciting show!). There were four bundles of rice in total, then came the sheets of nori being wovened vertically around each rice bundle to make a “bowl” where the rice was the bottom of that bowl. Then comes the baked oysters hot from the oven. They are carefully spooned out of their shells with a spoon and placed in each “sushi bowl” before being squirted with Japanese mayonaise and glazed with a blowtorched. By golly, it was delicious! It was so rich, so creamy, so briny, so indulgent. One bite and I was KO-ed. Mmmmmmm.
We were done with sushi for the night but I wasn’t about to leave until I sampled the green tea creme brulee that Kelly loves so much. It was $11.50 a serving and we decided to share it between the two of us. As we were waiting for our dessert, Adam and I started talking about how impressive we were with the whole show. Nine intricate dishes, and each of them arriving quickly after the other. The staff at Shira Nui clearly knew what they were doing and there was not even a minor hiccup in their production line which resembled the Just-In-Time assembly line system that quality management theorists often rave on about. The mainlanders at those bloody dumpling place that take 20 minutes to deliver a greasy plate of dumplings and then manage to stuff up the second dish could sure learn a huge deal just by sitting at Shira Nui‘s counter.
Our green tea creme brulee was served in a small espresso shot-mug which, when the tough crusty lid was cracked, revealed a light oozy green custard that was rich and delicious. I remember squealing with glee as I made 10 billion cracks on the burnt toffee top while Adam sat there rolling his eyes. I now know why Amelie gets excited over creme brulee. Accompanying the creme brulee was a black cup of vanilla ice cream cubes and fruits to refresh the palette. And to our left is a shot glass of kiwi sorbet that was given to us “compliments of the chef” which made us feel special.
All up, it $180 for the two of us including drinks and dessert. The result: two very happy campers. In spite of such a great dinner, I’m still reluctant to declare this the best sushi restaurant in Melbourne. Yes, everything was delicious. Yes, the service was warm and friendly. Yes, some of the best sushi dishes were tasted last night. But I’ve tasted nothing as fresh and sublime as Shoya‘s sushi bowl. Having said that though, Shira Nui is definitely one of those places worth driving to from the other side of town so I definitely recommend this place. Just make sure you go for the omakase though. And tell them that you are allergic to okra.
123 Hardware Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9600 0695
I sat for another test today, this time for Intro to Legal Reasoning. Fortunately, I could honestly say that this test was much kinder to my brain than last week’s disaster of a test. Once my test was done and dusted, I went all the way back into the city to run some errands before deciding to buy some lunch for myself and Adam. After a quick consultation of this year’s Cheap Eats Guide, I ended up walking up Lt Lonsdale St and turning left into Hardware Street (note: Not Lane) at a cafe called Beetroot. A small hole that is dotted with photos and postcard and filled with cheerful staff, I felt like I had stepped into someone’s home. Having arrived just after 1pm, every single table was full in the tiny cafe was full and so I had to stand awkwardly to the side as my tattooed server was warming up my meals which were sitting in a sunny glass cabinet. Though most of the goodies on offer were $10 meals (you get a hot dish plus a small serving of salad), there are also sandwiches for $6-9. After a 5 minute wait, I received a bag which contained my hot dishes and two small containers of salad. And off I went to meet up with Adam for lunch.
Some notes, before I go on about the food:
1. I had originally thought that Adam’s lunch break was at 1:30pm so I timed my visit to Beetroot to ensure that I would arrive at Adam’s work by 1:25pm (I did). It was only later on did I find out that he wasn’t due for lunch until 2pm no thanks to Jase’s rostering skillz. Boo hiss, Jason sucks! Hence, the food sat in plastic containers for another half an hour which made it not exactly optimal to eat.
2. The lights at Adam’s work suck, so my food doesn’t look as pretty as it would have been under natural lighting at Beetroot. And had it been served on a plate too.
3. Extending on point 2, I was actually tempted to sit on a table when I was at Beetroot and enjoy some solo time on one of their wooden tables. But I love Adam too much to NOT bring him lunch. Sigh.
4. I am cool.
Adam’s chorizo and spinach burrito ($10) which came with a dollop* of sour cream. It was definitely quite filling and tasty – sorta like a midler version of chilli corn carne. I did feel that the tomatoe-y sauce was a bit too overpowering and because of that, I couldn’t really taste the chorizo. Hell, they could have put standard pork sausages in there and I wouldn’t know.*Okay fine, it was more than a mere “dollop.” You will be glad to know, though, that much of the sour cream remained untouched…
My lamb burek (also $10) which was originally about half a metre long, but was cut up into three pieces and covered in a little spicy tomato and cumin sauce. I liked this one better (though Adam disagreed – he liked the first one). While not as tasty as the bureks you can get further up north (and certainly not as cheap), it did it for me. Even though the pastry had been sitting in a stuffy plastic container for half an hour, it somehow retained its crispiness.
Our green salads which consisted of fresh rocket leaves, red lettuce, red onions and capsicums. All served with a little bit of ranch dressing. I need to also point out that between me and Adam, only one tub of salad was consumed (yes, we were that full).
With meals topping only $10, I believe that this place is definitely a steal. While Beetroot are certainly not going to rock the world, I certainly expected much less for what I paid. They also do some nice-looking pies which are almost as big as Sherrin footballs (aptly named the “Hunter pie”) as well as a risotto rice cake in the shape of a small bowl which are good reasons for me to come back. Additionally, they supposedly make excellent coffee and do a mean bircher muesli so I might be back here for breakfast very soon! Turns out that they are no longer open for business *sniff* but fear not, the owners are supposedly opening another cafe soon!
623 Warrigal Rd
Chadstone VIC 3148
+61 3 9569 9183
I think I have an issue with Korean cuisine. For some reason, it does not rate highly on my list of favourite things to eat.
This could be attributed to either Melbourne not really having any decent Korean restaurants or simply me and Korean food being as compatible as Collingwood FC and people with class. The first time I had Korean food was back in 1999 (or 2000). It was my cousin Jess’ birthday and she decided to shout the family and her friends dinner at Seoul House on Russell St. I remember being excited to be cooking our own meat on a BBQ placed on our table, a foreign concept to me back then. Excitement, however, turned to disappointment when all I could taste for the rest of the night was god-awful sweetness thanks to whatever they put in the marinade. It was like they had poured an entire 2 litre bottle of coke in the mix or something.
Because of that experience, my stance towards Korean food has been somewhat negative. While I have not actively sought out Korean restaurants as a dinner destinations, I would nevertheless follow a mate there should they wish to have Korean. No matter where I went, the food at every single place never did anything for me. And every time I walked out of a Korean place, I would often smell like 1) smoke, 2) pickled cabbage, 3) garlic or 4) all of the above. So when my mum insisted on having lunch at this Korean restaurant in Chadstone yesterday, I was a bit apprehensive. Adam and I had really wanted to try that dumplings place in Glen Waverley that Dave recommended. But mum was persistent, “No, this place is GREAT!” she assured us. In the end, tightarseness prevailed (she was paying) and so off we went down Warrigal Road to a place called Let’s Bab.
It really is a weird name for a restaurant. Kinda like David Bowie eating a bowl of rice or bibimbab in Seoul (“bab” either refers to the Korean word for rice or “bibimbab”, a Korean dish). The place was rather full when we arrived but luckily, a table for four me, mum, Kenneth and Adam was available for me, mum, Kenneth and Adam. Looking at the menu, I found that half the items were Japanese which meant that there were also takoyaki and udons amongst bulgogis. The prices were also quite reasonable, bento boxes were $8 and mains averaged $9. It took me some time to choose my meal but in the end, I decided to play it safe by going for the Japanese seafood ramen (though the menu claimed that it was “authentic Korean” – ??!).
We shared a plate of korokke (deep fried potato croquettes, $6). The menu advertised 4 pieces but we ended up with 3 whole pieces, cut up to make 6 individual pieces. A sukiyaki-tasting dipping sauce accompanied the croquettes which weren’t anything special.
My seafood ramen ($8.50). Now, where shall I begin? Firstly, the noodles were nothing more than maggi noodles. Secondly, all the “seafood” that was in my soup was one large prawn, two or three smaller shrimps, one small pippi and one piece of seafood extender. The rest of the contents was made up of sliced cabbage and carrots. Finally, the soup. It was way too spicy for me which masked any attempts (or lack of) at flavour. Even Adam, who loves spicy things, found it way too spicy. I struggled to finish the whole thing because it was that horrible. Ugh. And I didn’t eat the kim chi that was provided either.
My mum’s “special” dish of creamy garlic prawns with kim chi fried rice ($15). This item was featured on the specials board and for some reason, mum didn’t see the word “creamy” in it. So when this flouro-toxic waste pile appeared in front of her, she was rather shocked. I managed to have a nibble at the sauce which tasted a lot like a bad batch of carbonara. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever had at an Asian restaurant. Ew. I didn’t bother with the kim chi fried rice because I just knew that I wasn’t going to like it. My mum also left this dish unfinished.
The other two wisely chose rice dishes which were set out the same as the bento boxes (rice+whatever meat you decide to have, fried tofu with okonomiyaki sauce and mayo, kim chi, salad) but a bit more expensive. Kenneth’s bulgogi was $11 while Adam’s unagi on rice was $9.50. I took photos of both their dishes but sadly, they turned out pretty bad so I’ve decided to omit those photos here. I didn’t mange to have a taste of Kenneth’s beef (but it illicited no complaints from the big man) whereas a bite of Adam’s unagi immediately caused a gag reflex as it was way too sweet. Nevertheless, I did eat his tofu (pictured on the bottom right hand corner in the above photo) which, at least, filled me up until we got to Box Hill. And it didn’t suck either.
Our meal at Let’s Bab
has reinforced the hypothesis that Ms Libby and Korean food just don’t work well together. It could be that Let’s Bab
was just another sucky restaurant, yet it seems to be popular, particularly with the local Korean population so it can’t suck that much right? Or, it could be that I just came on a bad day – after all, my mum said that her last visit was much better. With this in mind, I want to ask my readers where I could actually find some Korean food that would make me vomit. Linda
(??) in Box Hill which, in hindsight, would have probably been a better idea on the day (we were going to go to Box Hill anyway). Other people have also suggested Oriental Spoon
on La Trobe St.
What about YOU?
Where do you go for Korean food in Melbourne?
Outside GPO Building
Cnr Elizabeth St and Little Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9663 0066
Despite the fact that it isn’t an architectural masterpiece (oh I wish that Melbourne Uni still offered the LLB) and despite the fact that it often smells of mildew, it’s a pretty good law library. The problem, however, is that Clayton is a bitch to get to if you don’t have a car. The travel time on weekdays is long enough (an hour and a half on a GOOD run) but the fact that buses come less frequently on Saturdays mean that it would take me much much longer to go to campus. And given that I’ve promised myself NOT to buy textbooks for university and instead, rely on the books in the library, this presented a bit of a problem for me. Especially come test time.
My solution was to apply for a CAVAL card at another university. Those of you who are students at most of the big universities in Victoria may be aware of this cardboard card that you can apply for at your home university which lets you borrow books from other universities free of charge. Of course, there are limited privileges in that you can’t borrow from the reserve section of some libraries and that you are only allowed to borrow a certain amount of items at any given time, for instance, but for the most part it’s definitely a useful tool. Given that I spend most of my days in the city, I figured that going to either the Melbourne Uni Law Library or the RMIT Business Library to study would be a much better idea that spending most of my day commuting to Clayton (and besides, what the eff is there to eat at Clayton anyway?!).
Last week I was at Melbourne Uni, which boasts an awesome modern-looking law library but the problem there is that it’s too bloody quiet and every little scuffle could be heard by everyone on the floor. Plus, most of the books I want are in the reserve section which only Melbourne Uni students can borrow from so everyone else is stuck with all the dribs and drabs such as editions from the 1980s. This morning, though, I decided to go to RMIT Business Library where they also have a decent collection of law books for masters students (which Adam reckons that no one would use because no one does Masters in Law at RMIT anyway, so I have a better chance of grabbing the books I want). The first few hour of studying went quite well but after a while, all these effing fobs started coming in and before long, the whole floor was full of “er er er er shi shi shi” chit-chatter. I didn’t have my iPod to drown out their talking so I ended up borrowing a few books and leaving. Upon arriving home, I saw that there were a few loose papers in between the pages of one of the books. The first page had a list of legal terms in English and the corresponding Korean translation next to the word. The next sheet of paper, though, had a list of terms that had nothing to do with law but of wtf things:
It’s not clear in the photo but the first English phrase says “Blow her up.” Hmmm, methinks that this student doesn’t mind a bit of freakeh seks…
So yes, I want to now use this opportunity to apologise to my home law library for two-timing it, for abandoning it for its much spunkier mates, the Melb Uni and the RMIT library. But really, it’s not my fault that Clayton is so dull and out of the way!
Okay, back to the food bit! (ramble, much?)
Lunch at Concorde Creperie
Of course I had to eat sometime during the day so Adam and I ended up on the corner of Lt Bourke and Elizabeth Street where a small cart was selling crepes (right next to the Ben Sherman store at the GPO). I’ve noticed that a lot of creperies are mushrooming their way around Melbourne… AIX Creperie on Flinders La (I went there last year but never got around to writing a review and because it was so long ago, I couldn’t remember anything about it except that it didn’t suck. I promise to go there again sometime and write a proper review!), Le Triskel on Hardware Lane and even those Asian ones all over town. Concorde Creperie has probably been around longer than Le Triskel has but it was the first time I’ve paid any attention to it.
Adam’s proscuitto, grilled asparagus, parmesan, rocket leaf and lemon crepe ($9.50).
My Swiss brown mushroom, thyme, spinach and 3 cheese crepe (also $9.50). The 3 cheeses (yes, three!) I could taste were jarlsberg, ricotta and mozzarella. Obviously a big no-no for someone who is trying hard* to get “fitter” and “leaner” but it was oooh so bloody good!
*but not hard enough, I guess
Both our crepes were delicious and filling, which was perfect for a mid-Autumn afternoon. They are certainly very different to what Le Triskel offers in that the crepes here are more like the soft pancakes that we all know and love rather than those crispy galettes, there is more variety and they are a fraction cheaper. Remember what I said about not being able to remember what AIX Creperie’s crepes taste like? Well, as I was chewing on my mushrooms, I had this feeling that I had eaten a crepe that tasted strangely similar to what I was eating. Which was impossible because I had never eaten here before. After doing a bit of research though, I found out that Concorde Creperie was the product of the same dude who set up AIX Creperie. No wonder. Because the crepes were so delicious, Adam and I decided that we could easily come here again because it’s so close to his work. I also have the option of grabbing a crepe with free range eggs for breakfast (prices start at $7.90 for the breakfast ones) or go for one of the sweet ones when I want a sugar hit (prices are between $5.90 to $8.50). The most important question, however, remains: Will their peking duck crepe ($12.90) give Flower Drum’s or even Old Kingdom’s a run for their money?
235 Victoria St
Abbotsford VIC 3121
+61 3 9419 1225
I am usually detailed with my restaurant reviews, particularly places that I’ve never been to before. But tonight I am not going to bother putting so much effort. Not that the food was bad – far from it – I’m just sitting here with the biggest tummy ache, and I have about 10 billion hours of lectures to listen to in time for a test on Tuesday so I better get to it tonight before I even attempt to open up some cases at the library tomorrow. Fancy spending Saturday afternoons at the library. What on earth was I thinking when I signed up for this course?! Anyways, I digress.
Mum, my cousin Jess, my aunty Emi (Jess’ mum) and myself ended up having dinner at Ying Thai in Abbotsford tonight. Yes, the girls of the family… minus Janice who told mum that she was “meeting friends”. I had originally planned to go home after work tonight in anticipation of a long weekend of cramming for the aforementioned test. But then mum rang me to say that she and Aunt Emi were in the city and was wondering if I could “hang out” with them when I finished work so that I could “keep them company” while waiting for Jess who was occupied with her friends. Apparently they were all planning to go to dinner at 7:30pm. Although I was tired, the thought of eating out for dinner made me muster up the energy to follow two Indonesian women around the city for 2 whole hours before eating crepes at Le Triskel and then spending yet another hour chit-chatting with the owner of that Laguna store in QV *dies* (my mum knows him very well).
Anyway, the reason why Jess wanted go to to Ying Thai is because it’s her favourite Melbourne restaurant. This, I find quite strange because all of my family have expressed distaste towards the franchise after having a lacklustre experience at Ying Thai 2 in Carlton (I wasn’t there). Secondly, my friend Vicky who makes David Fishman seem soft in comparison has more often than once warned me about the “bad food” at the Carlton restaurant. Thus, I’ve never went. So when Jess suggested going there, I was a bit hesistant but in the end, I decided to shrug it off and try the food for myself. We arrived at the overly bright and colourful restaurant on Victoria Street where the main dining room was packed to the seams so we ended up in a table in the not-as-pretty room upstairs. We ordered about five dishes to share between the four of us, each costing between $10-20 (I wouldn’t know because I barely glanced at the menu and Jess was the one who paid anyway). Here’s what we had:
The obligatory serving of pad thai. For something that is usually so “bleh” at suburban Thai restaurants, I was surprised at how tasty this one was. The tamarind juices, the fish sauce, the chillies, and the huge prawns.. oooohhhh. It was intensely sweet and sour and wonderful. And hella huge too, enough to feed two big eaters.
The “Crispy Pork Salad” consisted of fried pork cracklings and cuttelfish (?!!), and doused in a really heavy tangy peanut sauce. While it was extremely tasty, I did feel as if it was too heavy for a salad and yearned for the simple, light flavours of Charm‘s salads. I don’t particularly like pork crackling so I only nibbled on two or three pieces of cuttlefish. And those measly pieces held enough chilli and spices to make me break into a sweat too. Too, too hot…
These are some “fried thingies on a skewer” that Jess ordered. Each skewer (there were three of them) came with three fish balls and one tofu piece. And it was all fried in batter. It sounded like something you could ask your fish and chipperie worker to fry for you and definitely not something that sounds “authentically Thai” (though someone might be able to correct me here) but hey, Jess loved it. As did her mum. And as did my mum.
Okay, the bowl in the foreground is a bowl of Thai green chicken curry which was much better than what most Thai places can offer. Yes, it was creamy and yes, it was rich… but it wasn’t as heavy as most. The little claypot in the background is a bowl of Tom Klong soup with crispy fish fillets and mushrooms. For those of you who haven’t yet tried tom klong (I hadn’t until tonight), it’s a bit like tom yum – hot and sour – but more intense. It’s largely due to the fact that the herbs in the soup are roasted, giving it a really nice smokey flavour which intensifies the sharpness of the lime and chilli flavours. It was beautiful but like the pork salad, it was perhaps a bit too spicy for me and at this point, I was struggling to sit up. I thought I was being a wuss but Jess also said that the food was too spicy for her – and this is coming from someone who calls herself a “true” Indonesia. Boooo! While I was downing cup after cup of cold water, the ladies were enjoying their meal while laughing at my “piss weak white person stomach.” *sniff*
Despite my initial reluctance to eat at Ying Thai, the food was surprisingly better than I thought. It was tastier than the food at Charm, but I did feel a bit bogged down eating half the dishes and often yearned for something “cleaner” and more simple. The service, while slow at times, was made up for in friendliness (then again, I’ve never met a grumpy Thai except for maybe Tanl… hahaha) and the prices were pretty reasonable (sneaking a peak at the bill, it was $91 for the four of us). I would definitely come here again one day but perhaps tell them to go easy on the chilli!
Yes, I know, a shocking review. I hope that by being so blah about this review, the King of Thailand won’t ask for my head (I sorta feel like I’m insulting Thai cuisine here by not giving it the same attention as I did with my last few reviews). After all, I don’t want to end up like Harry Nicolaides .
*crawls back to bed to soothe my stomach*
27-29 Crossley St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9662 4200
I’m a fan of Teage Ezard’s Gingerboy. And when I heard that he was to open a bar directly above his restaurant, I got excited. Even though it’s been open since last year, I haven’t had much of a chance to suss it out until earlier this week. Adam and I had nothing to do prior to meeting up with Jen and Luke for dinner on Monday so we decided to have drinks at the bar. Aptly called Gingerboy Upstairs (), it’s pretty much similar to the style of the area downstairs but with cushions and ottomans instead of tables and chairs. Still very old school Shanghai-meets-New York.
Upon arrival, we were presented with a complimentary tea which the barmaid told us consisted of “mint, ginger and lemongrass.” What she manage to omit, however, was probably 10 billion spoons of sugar because it was so bloody SWEET. Almost like drinking prediluted cordial… ick… Oh well, at least it was free…
My cocktail: “It takes 2 to julep” ($17) which is really an attempt to “Asianise” the standard mint julep (though I admit, it did taste quite nice). Fresh mint, pink grapefruit, honey water and pisco (South American liquor distilled from grapes). Yum yum.
We shared a serving of grilled wagyu la-lot (3 pieces for $13.50). I had expected the bar to have a different menu to the restaurant but they were identical. Seriously, I would’ve preferred the salt and pepper cuttlefish or the son in law eggs if I had to choose from the restaurant menu but Adam was keen to try something different. The la-lot won over the papaya salad but word of advice: this dish is the biggest waste of money. It wasn’t that it was terrible – it was fine actually – but I just thought this it was a waste of perfectly good wagyu. And I didn’t like how they put so much chilli in one little morsel either. The sour vinegar dipping sauce, flecked with chilli, didn’t make the dish any better either. Meanwhile, Adam loved it so much that he asked me if he could have the remaining piece of la-lot. No need for a fight – I gladly gave it to him. A word of advice: If you’re going to order food at Gingerboy Upstairs, go the bowl of fried corncakes for $8. Or better still, go elsewhere for food or just find a table downstairs and have a proper meal!
Now, is it just me or is the sight of a man and his little boy at a BAR kinda weird?!
80 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9662 1811
Jen and Luke are flying back to the states tomorrow after a very, very short Melbourne visit so Adam and I decided to take them out for dinner last night. After eating out with the rest of Adam’s family at Chinese restaurants (their parents refuse to eat anything but Chinese), we decided to venture towards the other end of the Silk Road by having Italian food this time around. Someone had told me that Grossi Florentino – The Grill (not the poshy one upstairs) offered $30 pre-theatre dinner menus where you get two courses plus a glass of wine and coffee if you arrived early and left before 7:30pm. Yes, that would mean that you would expect to rock up at around 6pm, which is totally unheard of for most people, but I usually have dinner pretty early anyway so it wasn’t such a biggie for us. The deal sounded good to Adam and I, and besides, we were keen on giving the middle-tiered Grossi restaurant a try before venturing up to Grossi Florentino proper for Adam’s birthday next month. We went to Grossi Florentino – The Cellar Bar sometime last year and thought that was great so we were really excited on going one up. Thus, I decided to ring the place up yesterday morning to inquire about the pre-theatre offer. I was more than confident that we would get a table because it’s Monday night. The phone conversation, however, did not go well. This what was happened:
L = Me
S = Snot-nosed male Grossi staff member who sounded just like the Italian version of Michel from Gilmore Girls
S = Buongiorno, Grossi Florentino, how may I help you?
L = Hi, I was just wondering whether The Grill still doe -
S = (abruptly, without letting me finish my sentence) Yes, yes they do
L = ( How the eff did he know? And why the heck did he cut me off?! How rude!). And how much-
S = $35
L = () Okay, may I please make a booking for tonight if there are any tables available?
S = One second (he then puts me on hold and I’m left to listen to a pre-recorded message about Mirka at Tolarno in St Kilda which happens to be managed by Guy Grossi’s son, Carlo). Not long after…
S = Are you there?
L = Yes.
S = How many people?
L = There are four of us.
S = What is your surname?
L = MATTHEW (obviously not my real surname)
S = I SAID your surname (in an obviously condescending tone)
L = MATTHEW is my surname (sigh, I understand that there are problems associated with having surnames that also happen to be legitimate first names but there is no reason why I should cop unnecessary flack and problems for this)
S = *sniff* Very well then.
He then asks for the usual stuff, contact number and what time we’ll be there. Then he hangs up without so much as a goodbye. Jeeeez. Someone sure had a pissy weekend. I’m glad to say, though, that things DID get much better when we rocked up and the good news was that Mr Snot-Nose was nowhere near our table. A lovely female waitress greeted us before sitting us on a huge table by the window. Although the food they serve at The Grill is “simple and rustic”, the settings in which such food was served was exactly the opposite. Think white linen, Underbelly characters and Glen Iris mums. And service as impeccable as that of Flower Drum’s i.e. wait staff discreetly replenishing your water glass and the ladies (i.e. me and Jen) getting our meals before the gents. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was still relaxed enough for mere mortals like us to be comfortable.
Menus were given before she asked us if we would like sparkling water. After I requested still water, she cheekily asked us if we would like “San Pellegrino or Melbourne water?” No prizes in guessing which one I chose. I could market a bottle of Melbourne water as “Sewerage Waste” and would still buy it over the San Pellegrino, heh. The menu comprised of entrees, mains and desserts, each containing three options. As Mr Snot-Nose said, you could choose 2 courses for $35 but if you wanted to do three, then it was an extra $10. The dessert list didn’t particularly sound exciting (gelato, pecorino cheese and creme caramel) so all of us went for an entree and a main each. We all went for different options so that we could sample a whole range of stuff, though Luke ordered exactly the same stuff as I did. On top of our meals, we ordered two sides at $8 each, a bowl of hand-cut chips and sauteed spinach. Once we were done with ordering, we were given our wines and the usual bread and butter-slash-olive oil (+1 for Grossi using awesomely intense Mt Zero extra virgin olive oil!). I was also pleasantly surprised to see the addition of olives and grissini (thin breadsticks).
Luke’s and my Penne con Carciofi e Olive. A dish like this shows that you don’t need to bog your pasta down with such heavy creams (this is a *hint hint* to all the “chefs” who put numerous cups of thickened cream in their carbonaras). The pasta, cooked perfectly al dente, and the artichokes were doused in a simple extra virgin olive oil sauce and fresh Italian herbs. The olives were meant to add intensity to the dish but I found that there were too many of them which made the dish a bit too overbearing for me. I think perhaps two or three sliced olives (rather than whole ones) would have made for a more subtle flavour and hence, a better dish.
Adam’s Carabaccia soup. Without knowing what was in the soup, Adam simply ordered this dish because it had the word “soup” in it. Oh sure, the words “onion” and “almond” was printed on the menu but he assumed that what he would get would be some sort of creamy white soup not unlike soups made with cannellini beans. On that basis, he figured the that soup would be hearty and filling. What he DIDN’T count on, however, was that it would also come with a weird taste. The carabaccia, apparently, is a sweet Tuscan soup. And when I say sweet, I mean REALLY sweet. The red onions and the wine that dominate this dish gave it a really acidic taste that I couldn’t get used to. I’m sure a lot of people love it but it just didn’t do it for me.
Finally, Jen’s Salmone Stagionato. I have no idea what “stagionato” means in terms of things-not-related-to-cheese but if I’m on the right track, Jen’s fish (Atlantic salmon) was cured in such as way it is soaked in brine before being air-dried to give it a smooth and somewhat natural texture (but please don’t quote me on that one). Jen may have only had four slices of salmon on her hand but she kindly gave us all a piece to sample. I loved the silky texure of the fish and although it wasn’t full of spices or anything, but in many cases such as this one simplicity is often the winner.
Luke’s and my Costole di Vitello (or in plain English, veal spare ribs). I was tossing over the veal or the fish but in the end, the veal prevailed simply because it came with polenta (yeah, wtf right?). Anyway, the spare ribs (there were about four of them, I think) came braised with a slightly sweet vegetable and wine sauce with strong hints of tomato flavouring. The whole thing was then plonked on a bed of polenta which, to me, was too runny. While I loved the fact that the veal was so so succulently tender (the meat peeled off easily with my fork) and the sauce so delicious, I finished the meal off wanting well, more… There was something missing in it and I couldn’t figure out what. I just felt that the veal was too ordinary to be served at a place like this and that I could easily get better elsewhere.
Adam’s Lombata di Manzo (or simply, “steak”) suffered a similar fate. Yes, the piece of sirloin steak was char-grilled to med-rare perfection. Yes, the balsamic marinade in which the beef was cooked in married well with the succulent meat. The peperonata (basically, stewed pepper salad) also proved to be a worthy accompaniment to the steak. Again, though, this left me a bit delated. Again, I felt that steak that was cooked at a place that specialises in “grilled thingimibobs” should have been a little bit better. It was decent, yes, and cooked the way me and Adam like it…. but it just wasn’t WOW. Adam, on the other hand, was less forgiving. It said that it was “just blahhhhh.”
Jen’s Pesce del Giorno (Or “Fish of The Day”). I can honestly say that Jen’s fish fared much better than the other two mains. At this stage, I was kicking myself over ordering the “wrong” thing. Jen’s hapuka was coated in an egg batter and lightly fried before being dusted with sea salt and rosemary. The white-fleshed fish was accompanied by a bed of braised peas and what looked like bacon bits (?! I wasn’t sure because I didn’t bother tasting her vegies, heh). I loved the slightly buttery taste of the fish fillet which went well with the herby-batter. Delicious.
Now, it was just after 7pm and the menu told us that we had to be out by then (and not 7:30pm). Nevertheless, we were okay to take our time finishing off our meals and even order coffees (which both Adam and Luke did). We spent more time chatting until 7:30pm-ish and still, the restaurant didn’t kick us out even though it was starting to get reasonably busy even for a Monday night. Finally, we decided to leave because I had a test the next day. We all agreed that dinner was pretty good though Jen and Luke seemed to like it more than Adam and I did – then again, they HAVE been living in North Carolina so anything that’s made in Melbourne is heaven to their tastebuds, in which case I guess I could forgive them for that
! To me, the food was surprisingly on-par with what Cellar Bar
offered yet The Grill
charged almost double. I reckon that they could have, at least, made the food a little bit more “special” to match the posh fit-out, otherwise what is the point? Thus, I could honestly say that the food was definitely worth the two courses for $35 per head price-tag but I would not be happy if I were to pay $35 for one single dish and subsequently spend $100 a head (including wine and entree) for the same food in terms of offering and quality. I only hope that Grossi Florentino
(proper) would blow me away when I go there next month. After all, you would not expect any less if you are paying $50 for a main!
362 Little Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9642 0440
While walking along Lt Bourke Street with Aaron last weekend, I came across the sexiest coffee machine I’d ever seen in my life…
Check out the very sexy Victoria Arduino espresso machine, which brews special cups of coffees by the Romcaffe brand. Upon further investigation, I discovered that this site was, in fact, home to Melbourne CBD’s newest proper pizzeria … and we’re not talking about “fake” pizza a la Pizza Hut, Dominos, or even La Porchetta. Nosiree, we’re talking about those flat yeast-based pizzas from Naples. Think Bimbo Deluxe but more “real”, for lack of better adjective. The place I’m referring to is known as +39, which some trivia buffs would know as the international dialing code of Italy. While I’m unsure whether to call it “Plus thirty-nine” or even “Thirty-nine”, I know that this will be the place I will reply to people who ask me if there is a half-decent pizza place in the city. Now, I’m not saying that +39 serves the best pizza in the world (it doesn’t) nor am I saying that everything about it is perfect (it’s not), I’m saying that Melbourne CBD simply does not boast a good handful of decent pizza restaurants. Even Italian powerhouses such as Bottega and Grossi Florentino would not have pizza on their menu as it’s traditionally known in Italy as “street food.” One would probably have to head out of the city for something that qualifies as “pizza”, even past Lygon Street which, while used to serve good pizza, now serve predominantly tacky renditions of Anglo-Italian fare such as “Aussie Pizzas” with ham, cheese, pineapple and egg (WTF!?! ). Ugh.
So yes, when I saw that we finally had something that did not look like a Pizza Hut or a La Porchetta, I thought ‘Great!’ Which is why Adam and I ended up at +39 at 5:30pm this evening. Yes, I know, an early dinner but 1) I was hungry and 2) I had studying to do later tonight so why not? Anyway, the place was almost empty when we arrived but it was still early and besides, the modern concrete bunker-like dining room would be too noisy for a proper conversation when it starts to fill up later on. We chose a table by the window overlooking Lt Bourke St as we browsed the menu and asked for some water. Now, +39 calls itself a “Pizzeria and Degustation Bar” but the fact that there were only four choices available for the “Degustazione” option (with the fifth one being crossed out by a thick, black marker) made me wonder why they bothered with the “Degustation Bar” suffix. Furthermore, the fact that all the “Degustazione” options consisted of charcuterie such as freshly cut prosciutto, salami and speck which made me wonder why they didn’t just add the four options in the entree column which was named “Riscaldamento” (Warm Up). Shrugging, I went ahead with ordering my choices.
While one pizza and a focaccia to share was a given, it was much harder to chose between the four degustazione platters. Should I go the one with cheese and honey truffle? Or would the seven cheeses and fruit mustards satisfy me better? Oh, but I do want to try some of the cured meats! After doing an eeny-meeny-miny-mo, my finger landed on the “Degustazione Di Salumi e Pecorino”, the cured meats and cheese combo which we requested to arrive before the foccacia and the pizza. After settling down with a glass of red (which they didn’t pour enough of, the cheap bastards) and having asked for water about five times, we settled down with the newspaper (provided along with magazines at the counter) before our food came.
This is the “Degustazione Di Salumi e Pecorino” ($24.50). As you can see, I have labeled each element to make it a lot easier for me and you. We each got two pieces of pecorino cheese which, as some of you know, is a firm sheep’s milk cheese that has a sharp, salty flavour. It’s a cheese that I keep a wedge of at home and grate it over my richer, meatier pasta dishes instead of the more delicate parmesan which I use for simpler pasta dishes. The pecorino romano (which is more commonly available in Australian restaurants and markets) provided a strong and biting taste in comparison to the richer and more “relaxed” flavour of the sardo. Three varieties of salumi complemented the cheeses, the thin and waxy prosciutto slices (Adam’s favourite), the round, garlicky slices of sopressa salami and my favourite, the spicy air-dried and salted cured beef known as the bresoala. I thought the meats were yummy as expected but I wasn’t sure whether pecorino was the right cheese to use in conjunction with the meats. I felt that they were too rigid and too sharp for the already salty meats. I would have preferred something a little milder and softer like stracchino but hey, that’s just me .
It took a while for the two other dishes to arrive (I can’t remember exactly HOW long, but I did manage to finish most of my paper so that gives you an indication…) but when they did, we were duly impressed.
Our Focaccia Caprese ($7, from memory) was +39′s take on the Caprese salad. It came with slabs of fior di latte mozzarella, which was much more subtle than the mozzarella that other restaurants use in their pizza (mainly because fior di latte is made with fresh cow’s milk whereas the “generic” mozzarella is made with skim milk). Its texture was not dissimilar to that of haloumi but much less salty, a bit like tofu. Fresh basil leaves and cherry tomatoes dotted the cracker-like yeast base, both of which added pleasantly sweet nuances to the dish. Having said that though, I felt that the focaccia could have done with a bit of salt (none was provided on any of the tables) but a sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil steered the foccacia off the “bland” territory. Another thing I have to point out was that the menu said that the focaccia would come with “roma tomatoes” and clearly roma tomatoes they ain’t!
Our Tirolese pizza ($20) may have been less colourful but it was definitely not less tasty. Again, the base was a flat yeasty one but instead of being dry like the focaccia, it had much more chewy-ness to it. Creamy mascarpone cheese was spread all over the dough which was then sprinkled with chopped caramelised leek and thinly-sliced speck, a type of prosciutto which I found to have a more subtle yet sweeter taste than other varieties. I really liked that they used a less salty cheese for the pizza (a saltier one would have overpowered the speck) but I couldn’t help but think that this pizza could have been helped with one more ingredient as it seemed a little lacking. Nevertheless, still a great pizza and something that I would definitely order again.
I was still only halfway through my pizzas when Adam finished (!!) so he decided to order a short mac. While he wouldn’t rate the coffee as his favourite, he did not label it as horrible (“It’s better than Hudsons Coffee”). He didn’t particularly like the way that the coffee tasted “almost burnt” but apparently that’s how Italians like their coffee (??) and without roasting it until it’s burnt, the barista would not have been able to produce a crema like that. I managed to have one tiny sip myself and could best describe it as “rich and earthy.” Indeed it didn’t suck but then again, I’m more of a latte girl so it’s hard for me to be objective on this one.
The bill was $56.50 which I happily paid off without checking the docket (it sounded about right at the time). Later on, as I was writing this up, I realised that we weren’t charged for the coffee either because they forgot to add it to our bill or because they decided to be nice but hey, $3-4 off isn’t something to complain about! (Granted, we did give them a little tip for being nice so that offsetted it, I suppose) I can safely say that, based upon our visit, +39 offers something that no other pizza place in the CBD can offer – friendly service (even if they’re slow at times), a menu offering interesting pizzas made with fresh ingredients as well as a cozy atmosphere. The pizzas, while miles ahead of other CBD pizza places, do need some fine-tuning to make them super-fantastic but I believe that with time, +39 can do great things. After all, they’ve only been open for a short while so I’m sure they’re still working on many things… such as learning how to be a little bit quicker with their service for one thing!