Kobe Jones

119/427 Docklands Dr
Docklands VIC 3008
+61 3 9329 9173

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is currently in town for the rest of the week, hooray!

Adam and I were really keen to suss out the $30 p/p express lunch deals that a few of Melbourne’s finest restaurants are offering during the festival. After ringing around to book a table for places such as Grossi Florentino and Bistro Vue, we were sadly turned away because these restaurants (and most of the city ones) were booked for the entire festival. Damn. We then decided to suss out some non-CBD restaurants before finally securing a spot at Kobe Jones, this fusion Japanese restaurant at Waterfront City, Docklands. Having heard alright reviews from a few fob friends of mine from uni and hearing that KJ has a few restaurants including one in Sydney and one in London, I assumed that it would be a decent place.

Not.


As you can see from the above photos, this is all class (if you ignore Adam – haha kidding!).

But like most Docklands restaurants, unfortunately all they offer is pretty decor but very lacking in substance. We were seated right by the window where the view was amazing. I remembered grinning, thinking that this was a sign of great things to come… but obvious foreshadowing in this post thus far meant that the meal would not be all that great. From then on, things went downhill.

So the deal was that we’d get two courses plus a beer/wine/sake for $30. And you get a bowl of rice and miso soup with your meal too. If you wanted some green tea, you got that too. Brilliant! we thought. But as our afternoon went by, me and Adam started to think that our visit was a complete waste of time and I was even thinking that our money could’ve been spent at the Indian restaurant a few doors down that offered banquets for $35 per person…We waited about 10 minutes for the waiter to bring out our menus after we were being seated. Now, there may have been 10 billion things to do (i.e. serve the other 5 or so patrons or fold napkins), but at least give us some water to drink so that we’d have something to do once we’ve chosen our dishes! So anyway, we finally get the attention of the French (!!) waiter who writes down our orders before returning to the table with our entrees after not even 10 minutes. Wonderful! Things can finally progress!


From L-R: Tempura-fried zucchini leaf stuffed with crab meat and Japanese mayonaise, oven-baked crumbed scallops with tangy salad dressing + vegie sushi (cucumber, asparagus)While I had no opinion regarding the sushi, I thought the other two dishes were quite nice.So after we’d gobbled up everything, Adam and I spent a while talking about how good our entrees were. This went on for quite a while before we realised that our mains were taking quite a while to come out.

I seriously counted 40 minutes.

Now, I understand that the kitchen might be understaffed but I’d be a little more patient if the wait staff had told me about it or offered something to compensate. Or just told me to come back another day when I made the initial phone booking. But I guess they only did the rostering the night before or something. Either that or they really did not give a stuff about customer retention or whatever.


This was my main. As you can tell, it looked a bit sloppy as if the chef was about to finish off his shift but had to come back to make one more of these. And so he threw something in a hurry and this was the result. It was a seared pepper salmon which was accompanied by a tomato relish and garnished with daikon crackers on top. It would’ve looked amazing if it had been done properly. Tastewise, it was alright. But nothing remarkable about it and nothing that anyone cannot replicate. Heck, it didn’t even resemble anything Japanese. Sure, this was meant to be a fushion restaurant but surely there must’ve been some Japanese undertones or something?

My question was why the feck did it take 40 minutes for my main to come? FISH DOES NOT TAKE THAT LONG TO COOK. NOT EVEN AN ALPHA FISH SUCH AS ATLANTIC SALMON.

And I know because I used to cook in a fish and chip shop back in my awkward teen years. So there.


Adam had the chicken teriyaki only because there were three mains to choose from – I had dibs on the fish and the only other option was some tofu vegetarian dish so the chicken won hands down. Now, this looked a lot nicer than my dish. Perhaps the chef fancied 6 foot plus Asian men or something. Anyway, while the dish might’ve looked prettier than mine, it also tasted rather ordinary – something that any Chinese-run Japanese restaurant could whip up.

After we’d finished our mains, we realised that they had NOT GIVEN US OUR RICE AND MISO. By then, I was thinking of just leaving but Adam, being the tight arse, insisted on staying for the miso so we had to wait another 5 minutes or so for the miso to come. Had to admit though, it was good miso but heck, miso isn’t that hard to make either. All in all, not a very good experience. The only thing that I enjoyed about Kobe was their entree plates but apart from that, everything else received a thumbs down. The waiter also noticed this and kept apologising constantly. He was nice and all – it wasn’t his fault that the kitchen staff were so slow – and even offered us some drinks on the house but we just wanted out. I guess you are paying a discounted price for lunch and therefore, you shouldn’t be expecting the best food and the best service but for most restaurants (especially the newer ones), shouldn’t the promotion be used as a retention tool to get people to sample your menu and thus put more effort into making sure that their first experience is a plesant one? Pleasant enough so that they might, look I don’t know, return again?Ugh.

Even though I didn’t have a fantastic time there, I won’t rule out another return visit. Not in the immediate future though but I definitely want to suss out their “signature dishes” (volcano sushi, for example) which was, sadly, not on the express menu. That’s if they DON’T close down the joint in the next year or so!

Our next stop was the Celebrate the Bean (coffee) festival. Only because Adam works in the coffee industry and goes crazy over coffee and coffee machines. Ugh. To me, coffee is just coffee. As long as it wakes me up and doesn’t taste revolting, I am happy. But not Adam, it’s all about the grind and the crema and all that mumbo-jumbo that coffee snobs like to talk about. Heh. While there were instances where I yawned and got distracted by seagulls and boats, I actually had a great time there. We managed to try all sorts of shots from different brands of coffee machines – they DO make a difference. The Breville‘s machine made alright coffee while the brand that’s endorsed by Roger Federer churned out that awful milky coffee that Starbucks makes.


A row of stalls. The entire festival basically looked like that photo above. Times that by about a kilometre or so.


Adam would rather have one of these than a fully sick hotted up car…
Yeah, he’s crazy!Actually, he might have a point. I can see how an initial investment of a $1000 coffee machine might save you from buying $3 coffees every day in the long run. And that you might turn into a coffe snob which might do wonders for your image and make you look sophisticated and cool. And it’ll mean that you won’t have to drink that Nescafe sht at home anymore. Hehhh!
Free coffee and free tubs of Connoissuer ice cream (I took two!) – can’t go wrong!

Sails On The Bay

15 Elwood Foreshore
Elwood VIC 3184
+61 3 9525 6933

Josh, who is considerably my oldest friend (I’ve known him since the 80s!), finally turned 21 last week. To celebrate this important occasion, he invited 40 of his favourite people Sails On The Bay, a beach side restaurant on the Elwood foreshore.


My dad and Ps Victor make some shady deals under the table talk about Indonesian old men stuff like, I don’t know, the good old days in Bandung, superannuation and Suharto

 


The mum’s side of the family + my family. Heh, I didn’t realise how tall I was (and I’m wearing flats). Well, either that or these Indos are ridiculously short.


My parents.
10 points to anyone who can correctly identify which one I look like the most .
My dad + Josh’s dad


The Gossip Queens of Melbourne’s Indo community: Josh’s mum and my mum.
I don’t know why the heck the waitress decided to stick her head in there while Adam was taking that photo.

Pfft you’re not cool, Ms Waitress .

Okay, onwards to the most important thing: What we ate!


Entree: I had the yellowfin tuna tartare which was placed on a brioche and accompanied with horse raddish cream and apple jus (not juice!). The tuna tartare was supposed to have been marinated in some sauce (the name of it escapes me) but I could not taste the sauce at all. At least the fish was nice and fresh so I enjoyed this dish alright even if they tried a bit too hard to play Robin Wickens a la Interlude with the culmination of weird-but-wonderful flavour combinations.
Main: Teriyaki-baked ocean trout, vegetables with ginger and citrus butter sauce and grilled scallops.
It was an alright dish. I had no problems with the quality of the fish and the scallops but the flavours were a bit too unimpressive for my liking. Heck, I even forgotten I was eating teriyaki because I could NOT taste the teriyaki at all. It was like they baked it with olive oil and soy sauce or something. And while the scallops in their tangy dressing were yummy, they did feel out of place on the plate. Heck, all the elements did. It was like they were forced together and were sitting there thinking, ‘What the heck am I doing here?’

Not disastrous but I wouldn’t give the chef an A for his ability to make the dish “work.”

Yeah, so I had fish for both my entree and main. So shoot me.

But yeah, Sails isn’t that bad a place. The staff are friendly, the views are usually good during the day but not so much during the night – but then again, it could be just me because I find the ocean much scarier in the dark. And although having a private room just metres away from the sand sounds like a good idea, you have to deal with joggers and passerby’s looking into the window and checking out your party the entire night. Very annoying. Like I said, I had no problems with the food but they also did not impress me. I would not drive to Elwood just to have the food at Sails when I’m sure I can find something similar in the city.

Cafe Vue (red box February 2008 edition) & Kenzan @ GPO

Cafe Vue
340 Little Collins St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9691 3899
Kenzan @ GPO
350 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9963 7767
One of my life goals is to go to Melbourne’s ‘it’ French restaurant, Vue de Monde. Unfortunately me being jobless does not allow it and hell, all assets currently held under my name will not even let me buy a side dish at Vue. Therefore, I figured the next best thing to experiencing Shannon Bennett’s geniusness (is that even a word?) was to go to one of Vue de Monde‘s sister establishments, Cafe Vue which serves cafe fare. Obviously.Anyway, Cafe Vue is located just next to Vue proper in the legal district of Melbourne – sorta like the whole Grossi Florentino + sister restaurants set-up: the main one being only restricted to people with heaps of money to burn and the smaller one offering food for mere mortals like myself. I had heard good things about Cafe Vue‘s red lunchboxes so I decided to pick up one for myself and Adam at 11:00am because apparently they sell out pretty quickly. I had to wait 5 minutes for them to prepare the lunch boxes but that was okay – it gave me the opportunity to suss out the really funky decor and people-watch. The staff there were quite friendly and not snobby which was a good sign. Plus, when they informed me that the dessert component of the lunchbox, the chocolate cake, was still in the oven and that there was going to be a 10 minute wait, they offered me some alternatives and gave me a free pistachio macaroon for the inconvenience. Heh, just as well – I probably would’ve preferred the pistachio desserts to the chocolate cake anyway. Two thumbs up.


For $15, you get this pretty red box with all sorts of goodies in it. The menu changes every month in conjuction with what’s “cool” within the restaurant scene (no molecular bullsht in these boxes though, thank God) and what’s in season etc.


February’s menu consisted of potato salad (in the little cup on the left), a smoked salmon brioche, a chicken + vegetable terrine and a chocolate cake (which I swapped for a pistachio cupcake while Adam had a caramel slice)

Heh, the cupcake looks like a boob covered in green body paint…

 

Verdict: The potato salad was the best I’ve ever tasted – very creamy and tangy with the right amount of red onions and capers to balance things out. The salmon brioche with rocket leaves was also amazing. It was kept moist and chewy by a generous serving of caper mayo. As for the chicken and vegie terrine? It was okay, but nothing spectular. Then again, I was never a fan of terrine in the first place. In fact, whenever I order banh mi (Vietnamese pork rolls – the cold meat kind), I always request them to hold the pork terrine because I can’t stand it. Adam, on the other hand, loved the terrine.
After all that, I was positively stuffed. I did not even have enough room in my stomach to eat my cupcake. It was weird because it didn’t look like there was that much food but I swear, I felt like I’d just come out of a yum cha meal. At first I thought that my slow eating pace coupled with the rich latte I had added to me feeling full but Adam also said that he was stuffed and he ate like a horse AND only had a measly espresso…. *scratches head* In the end, we both decided saved our desserts for supper … but not before I snuck a bite of Adam’s caramel slice which was, by far, the best caramel slice I’ve ever had. Yum! Can’t wait to have April’s menu! 

—- 

Our food adventure did not end there. We spent the afternoon looking for a present for Josh’s 21st birthday (this coming Saturday) before Adam decided to spoil me by buying me a simple but really hot aqua dress from Kookai for no apparent reason. Because he’s just so lovely . At around 4pmish, we decided that we were hungry again (remember, we had that lunchbox at 11:30am, a good 5.5 hours ago). Adam felt like sushi so we decided to go to Kenzan @ GPO because Jenny keeps raving on about their sushi and because Kelly’s blog about her Kenzan experience not too long ago made me even more eager to suss out the place. Although we’d passed this place heaps of times, we’ve never actually been in it because it’s always PACKED.
But at 4pm in the afternoon, the place was dead quiet – perfect! I wanted to try a Bento lunchbox but they’d stop doing that (it WAS 4pm, after all) so we opted for a few sushi rolls and a beef teriyaki dish to share.


Sushi rolls are a few cents more expensive than your standard sushi store (about $2.90 if you’re taking away) and if you eat in, you have to pay another 20 cents. A bit stupid if you ask me but I suppose rent at the GPO can’t be all that cheap and restaurants need to make their money somehow . And besides, the sushi here is so good that you actually don’t mind paying that little bit extra for it.

You get your sushi wrapped in plastic and although they don’t look it, they actually require some assembly on your part. The seaweed wrapping is actually in a seperate little pouch (to keep the seaweed from getting soggy, I guess) to the rice so you have to wrap it yourself. I freaked out at first thinking that my sushi was going to be a mess but it was actually piss easy – just roll tightly and seal with some water.


The beef teriyaki dish. From memory, I think it was $13-15. Pretty good but perhaps a bit too sweet for me to call it excellent.


My smoked salmon + prawn sushi. They were YUM! Adam’s lobster and potato (yeah wtf!) was even more amazing. It was so good that I decided to buy one to take home with me.

Interlude (CLOSED)

211  Brunswick St
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 3 9415 7300
It was quite cold this morning when I met up with my cous Jess but pretty soon, the temperature reached 22 degrees and there was not a cloud in the sky. Perfect for a stroll in Brunswick Street with Adam. We went to Interlude, this French-inspired restaurant in the heart of Brunswick. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we felt that it looked a little out of place in such a left-of-centre district. Hell, the patrons already seated inside looked like your typical Mosman or Toorak housewives who would blanche at the mere sight of a “grungy” Brunswick Street cafe. Ironically, the meal that we were to consume also consisted of a variety of mismatches too as you will see.

Inside the restaurant, we were greeted with friendly and attentive service. At Interlude, they only have set menus so it makes it easy for people like me who find it very hard to choose a dish. For two courses at lunchtime plus a glass of wine, you pay $30 per head which is quite reasonable. The only thing that annoyed me slightly was when Adam declined the glass of wine because he was driving and still on his Ps. I was expecting them to offer him something else like a juice or something but they didn’t. Not a big deal but still

Anyway, onwards to the food! (PS: I had accidentally left my camera at home so I had to make do with my shoddy 2 megapixel cameraphone but hey, they don’t look TOO bad anyway)


For the entree, Adam had the duck live pate (left) with accompaniments I love the cute little duck-shaped brioches on the top – they were so cute that I was reluctant to eat them when Adam offered me a bite. The pate was nice but after a few bites, I got sick of it – it would’ve been better served as a starter rather than an entree meal.
I had the Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle cream. It was very creamy and very flavoursome. It might be a bit salty for some but I love my sodium so it didn’t really bother me at all. Yum!


Adam chose the pork belly for his main. It was served on a bed of dijon mustard potato mash and sauerkraut. Unfortunately, Adam gobbled the entire pork belly up before I could even have a bite but I managed to have a few spoonfuls of mash, which I quite liked. But according to Adam, he reckons that he can get much better suckling pig at Footscray for a fraction of the price, hehhh!


Isn’t this a pretty sight? I had the sea bream for my main. It was served with some sort of tomato/mango salsa (leaning towards the sour rather than the sweet on the flavour spectrum) and the two streaks you see on the left are vanilla custard. If you have a forkful of fish with just the vanilla or just the salsa, it tastes kinda weird but if you have it with both of them, the result is an explosion in your mouth. Kudos to British chef Robin Wickens who managed to pull off a wtf-sounding dish with brilliant results!

Verdict: Weird and different. I know that the whole Interlude mission statement (or whatever) is to give diners a chance to try unique combinations of food that they’d never think of coming up with but frankly, the food was a bit of a hit and miss. There were some bits which I really liked and others that could’ve been done a bit better. I give credit to chef Wickens though, the weird arse combinations (tomato and vanilla, anyone?) that normally sound awful on paper were amazing – just one bite of my main caused my eyes to light up and go, Mmmm! Service was great – professional without the toffiness and snotty-ness. And although the servings might look small, I was surprisingly satisfied when I walked out of the restaurant. We were planning to head down to San Churro for dessert but we realised that we did not even need it. According to one of my old workmates, the servings at French restaurants might actually look tiny but they are filling because of the sauces. Or something like that. Shrugs. Finally, while there is some room for improvement when it comes to food taste, I’d definitely go again though- maybe for the dinner degustation where I can sample more of what Interlude has to offer.

EDIT (Oct 6 2009): Unfortunately, Interlude has since shut down.

Grossi Florentino – Cellar Bar

80 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9662 1811

Okay, so I lied.

Well, actually, I wasn’t technically lying.

We did go to Grossi, but not the Grossi Florentino. Unfortunately, if you’re povo like me, the lunch budget doesn’t always stretch to Florentino’s where standard mains are 45-50 bucks but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on some of the Guy Grossi magic. Right next door from the acclaimed restaurant on Bourke St hill is its little sister, the Cellar Bar (which is where we went). And in between is the middle sister, the Grill. Same establishment, same uber-cool atmosphere, just different prices and different menu offerings.

Sure, we all want to dine at Grossi proper for lunch – apparently they serve the best Italian food in Melbourne – but we can’t all be like Lila Fowler when it comes to eating out (hehh, another Sweet Valley reference!) so if you want to sample some of Grossi’s cuisine, you’d have to go to either The Grill or The Cellar Bar where the prices are relatively cheaper. Not that there is anything wrong with going to either of them. Besides, I think it’s pretty cool (if not slightly pretentious) to meet up with a mate after dining at The Cellar Bar and tell them oh-so-casually, “Adam and I just ate at Grossi.”

Okay, so how was our experience?


We were given complimentary bread with olive oil (I think it was infused with sun-dried tomatoes or something) minutes after I sat down. Heh, for some reason Adam thought that this was the bruschetta that we ordered and got a bit miffed as to why anyone would pay $12 for four measly pieces of plain bread + oil (granted, it was good bread and good oil)
Ahhh, the real bruschetta! It came with porcini mushrooms and pecorino (Italian cheese made out of sheep’s milk that tastes quite similar to parmesan only richer). This was the highlight of the lunch according to Adam and I totally agree. I love how something simple can have so much flavour and intensity. The woodsy and fragrant mushrooms, the drizzle of fruity olive oil, the crispy warm bread. I think this was about $12, which to me, is a bargain.


Adam ordered the cotoletta alla valdostana which translates to crumbed veal topped with fontina cheese. It was served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes – $22. Very delicious and hearty.


I ordered the pesce spada al limone e capperi (Swordfish steak, lemon, capers and peas – it sounds much sexier in Italian, heh). Also $22. While I preferred Adam’s dish over mine, I also thought that the chef did a wonderful job with my fish. Although swordfish is a pretty dense and muscular fish, it was surprisingly tender enough for the lemon juices to run through the meat.

The food was quite good given how (relatively) cheap the meal was – we paid $60 for the entire meal (yeah, we got charged for water … but this place doesn’t seem like that type that’d just give their patrons tap water, no matter how much we Melburnians believe that our tap water is the tops) and we left the joint feeling very full but not in that awful bloated sense that you’d get from eating out at Foodstar or any place that serves MSG-laden/greasy stuff. Rubbernecking revealed the other Italian classics on the menu such as lasagne ($14), osso buco ($18) and rabbit risotto ($16) looked just as satisfying and definitely enough of a reason to return.


Adam sits in front of the dessert cabinet

At 2:30pm on a Thursday, the Cellar Bar still attracted a constant stream of suits looking for a table – but they didn’t hassle the multitude of well-groomed waiters who clearly had the job down pat almost as well as they did their Italian accents.

Our next stop on Bourke Street hill was to good ol’ Pellegrini‘s Espresso Bar, another much-loved Melbourne institution. Even though I have not been that happy with my coffee the last few times I’ve been to this joint, I still love it if only for the atmosphere.


My latte and Adam’s short mac.

According to rumour, the Pellegrini staff charge customers according to how much they like them. For example, if you are nice/hot-looking, they will charge you less than if you were an ugly bastard/bitchy or just plain annoying. The last time I had a latte there, I got charged $3.50 (Bitch probably didn’t like Asians or thought I was fugly. I certainly was nice that day!) but this time around, I got charged $2.70. Score!


“My short macc was awful… it tasted burnt… I can make a better short macc than that dude!”
Adam is ever the coffee snob.

Izakaya Chuji

165 Lonsdale St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9663 8118

After cooking up a storm in the kitchen last night and churning out chocolate eclairs, I decided to take a break from the kitchen and reward myself with yet another new restaurant adventure. Adam and I wanted to try Movida, supposedly the best Spanish restaurant in Melbourne but it’s booked for the next few weeks (we have to wait until March 15th to go there). After ringing around a few other places with no luck, we decided to suss out Izakaya Chuji, this Japanese restaurant on Lonsdale Street (just off Russell Street) as it has featured in the Cheap Eats Guide quite a lot . Anyway, we ordered a few entrees, a sushi/sashimi platter and a main to share between us:


Yukke – raw beef marinated in some kind of sauce + half-poached egg + shredded cucumber. It was delicious.
Takoyaki – octopus balls. These are one of my fave Japanese snacks and I usually order them whenever I can at Japanese places. The ones I had tonight, however, didn’t quite do it for me. Too much floury-dough and not enough octopus, if you ask me!


Deep fried squid with mayonaise. They are similar to the ones that you’d find at Chinese yum cha restaurants – only better.


Sushi/Sashimi platter. We went for the one that was $20-something.


Tempura combination with rice (main dish) – in hindsight, we should’ve gone without the main and just ordered one or two more entrees in place of it.

Overall, it was a pretty reasonably priced dinner – $64 for the two of us. The only thing that pissed me off was that the sashimi platter took more than it should’ve to arrive at the table. And the table next to us had a bunch of loud, drunken yobs who annoyed the heck out of me. But apart from that, I was content.

Taco Bill (Russell Street, CBD)

142 Russell St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9654 3369

Adam and I had dinner at Taco Bill (Russell Street restaurant) after he finished work for the week on Saturday evening. Apart from those Ol Del Paso taco kits that you buy from supermarkets and those nachos you make while studying, this was actually the first time that I’ve been to a Mexican place. I inserted those inverted commas only because I don’t really consider Taco Bill to be representative of authentic Mexican food but then again, you can’t really find real Mexican food in Melbourne anyway. Not that Taco Bill patrons would really give a damn anyway – most of them only go there to drink magharitas.

We were quite hungry so we decided to go for one of the banquet menus they had on offer – $25 per person


Clockwise from top-left: Complementary tortilla chips and salsa dip, nachos supremo, chicken and beef flautas (which is like a spring roll thing), my beef burrito. 


Flan de queso (a really really really rich creme caramel)

I apologise for the dodgy photos – the lighting was pretty dim in the place and I didn’t really want to draw attention by using the flash. The food wasn’t bad or anything but it was too .. simple. I bet even someone like my mate, Matt (who can’t even make Mi Goreng Instan) can whip up something like that. In fact, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the chefs out the back (half of whom were Asian) used the Ol Del Paso kits to produce the entire menu. While I find Mexican food alright, I wouldn’t be going there if I was given a choice. Hell, when the South Melbourne Taco Bill restaurant got voted Melbourne’s Fave Restaurant sometime last year, I wondered what the heck Melburnians were thinking. Then again, I shouldn’t be too surprised. If you’re doing a survey and asking any random Tom, Dick or Harry to participate, I guess you’d have a lot of people in the sample size who’ve grown up thinking that meat pies are a delicacy. Or something.

On the other hand, I suppose it’s a good place for a drink or two with your mates after the footy or something. Good atmosphere and hey, good for picking up I guess (we witnessed a funny show between a table full of Canadian males and some chicks).

Nam Loong 2

223 Russell St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9663 4089
To all the rodents out there: Have a great year! After all, your special year only comes every 12 years but don’t worry, my turn will be coming up – hail to all the mad cows out there (and an even special hello to all the 85ers, we rock !).Tonight, Adam’s mum invited me to her family dinner on the eve of the Lunar New Year. Now because all my relatives etc are up in Indonesia, our family do not really celebrate Chinese New Year which used to annoy me when I was a kid only because mum used that as an excuse not to give us red envelopes but as the years went by, I eventually got over it.
Still, it was nice of the Hoangs to invite me to dinner – there was no way I was going to stay at home or worse still, go with my parents to some snoozy Indonesian-Chinese gathering that one of mum’s friends was having all the way in Dandenong. Dinner was at Nam Loong 2 (more formally known as Nam Loong Seafood Restaurant) which is one of the restaurants owned by the dude who owns Nam Loong 1 – you might remember it being on the news three years ago for their dodgy food practices but since then, they’ve cleaned up their act.
Following the Lion as it made its way down Russell Street, we watched in mild awe as we observed some establishments in the city pay $500 just for the lion to come to their store and give them good luck for the year. Even the big banks such as NAB, CBA, ANZ etc are starting to jump on the bandwagon too. Frankly, I think it’s $500 gone to waste but *shrugs* whatever… At the restaurant, we had the special CNY banquet that most other tables were having which was enough to feed (surprise surprise) eight people. I can’t remember how many dishes we had – I didn’t take photos of every single thing – but it was highly likely that there were… say it with me… EIGHT.(Edit: I just did a count of the dishes from the photos I had and I counted eight. I also remembered an oyster dish we had that I did not take a photo of so there was more than eight dishes after all.) 


Shark Fin Soup. I’m not sure if Nam Loong uses fake or real shark fin but who cares, it was yum!


Ginger and spring onion lobster with noodles. Lobster’s lovely and all but my favourite crustacean for this dish is mud crab. Shame that mud crabs aren’t in season though. 


Ad Lib + Adam’s parents


Aunty Vivienne, Luke and Jenny


Spicy prawns


So, everyone’s happily eating their prawns and discarding the prawn heads because they’re not really nice to eat. Then comes Adam who tries to show off by taking a prawn head and eating it. That was before I told him what was actually inside a prawn head. 

I think I’ve got him to swear off prawns for the rest of his life.

Heeeeh! That’ll show him not to be a hero!


A hella weird dish. It was a huge plate with 8 individual portions, each consisting of scallops+pork+vegetables+other-unidentified-objects resting on a pancake base and encased with egg white. The little nipples round things you see are some sort of plum. 

Yeah, like I said… weird.


Jen helps herself to another weird dish – this time it’s steamed chicken pieces in congee broth.

I don’t want to comment on Luke’s weird facial expression…


Fake abalone (mushroom) with all sorts of other vegies


Fried rice. Normally I don’t really like fried rice (it stems from years and years of eating nasi goreng which I absolutely can’t stand) but this one was yum. It had litle pieces of salted duck egg yolks. Yum!


Cantonese steamed fish. Presumably barramundi because every time I go to Nam Loong, we always end up having barramundi. Yet, this fish didn’t really taste muddy like barramundi usually does and it was a good third bigger than the barramundis we had so chances are that it’s something else…


They brought out the red bean soups the same time they brought out the fish. Idiots. Can’t you see that the desserts will go COLD once we’re done with the fish?!


We left behind a trail of mass destruction…

Yeah, eight guests. Who would’ve thought?!

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR FOLKS!

La Sangria Bar

46 Johnston Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 3 9419 8503
Adam’s boss, Aaron (aka Fake Hugh Grant) and his partner, Shandell, invited Adam and I to dinner last night at La Sangria Bar, a tapas bar on Johnston Street (Melbourne’s Spanish quarters). Who knows why he wanted to invite us but hey, free food, can’t complain! Although La Sangria is better known as a drinking hole that gets hella crowded on weekends with people dancing on tabletops to Ricky Martin (?!?!), the place is open for tapas dining during the week. Believe it or not, this was the first time I’ve ate at a Spanish restaurant and while the menu was rather limited, I know that I’ll definitely be back for more. If you haven’t been to a tapas restaurant, the concept is pretty much the same as yum cha – you order as many little plates of dishes as you like and that’s your meal. The only difference is the food (no sht) and tapas being a tad more expensive than your usual yum cha dish. I think we only ordered about 6-8 tiny plates of food (which is way less than one would order at yum cha for four people), but we were all stuffed at the end.

Clockwise L-R: Calamari, sardines, chorizo (beef sausages) 


Paella!


Aaron and Shandell 


Shandell, me and Adam

Me and Ads now want to see if there are any good tapas places in the city in case we feel like it after work one night and when we can’t be bothered going to Johnston Street. Apparently Movida (just off Flinders Street) is a favourite but I heard that it gets busy. Hmmmmm.

Shoya

25 Market Lane

Melbourne VIC 3000

+61 3 9650 0848

http://www.shoya.com.au

New Years Eve ~ Melbourne 2007. Yeah, it was apparently 40 degrees on the day. Or was it 41? 42? I can’t remember. It’s been hot every friggin’ day for the past week so all the days are kinda blurry in my mind. Anyway. Original plan was to have dinner at Shoya (otherwise known as that-Japanese-place-next-door-to-Flower-Drum) with Adam, my sister Janice and her boyfriend John. Bookings were made a few weeks in advance because it was NYE and all. But 3 hours before dinnertime, John rings me up and tells me that he and Janice “can’t make it to dinner.” Something about having to keep his best friend company while he (the best friend) goes on a date with a girl. Or something like that. Kids. I’m glad that Shoya didn’t charge a pay-in-advance-non-refundable-deposit fee like many Melbourne restaurants did for NYE but if they did, I would not have been happy.

Unitama(Scrambled egg with sea-urchin topped with salmon caviar). It was the first time I had sea urchin and although I initially retched at the very thought of eating something so vile and weird, it wasn’t too bad. The slightly buttery-almost-crayfish-like taste of the sea urchin coral meat was heightened by the tangy bubbles of salmon caviar that burst as I sunk my teeth into them. It tasted quite rich, like I was eating part of the ocean and all of Triton’s treasures. Mmm! Conversely, Adam just thought this dish was weird. You decide.

Broiled Duck Shoya Style (Thinly sliced and delicately cooked duck with tangy home made sauce). I loved this one! That’s all.

Wagyu Tartar (Fresh wagyu beef marinated with sweet soya sauce topped with egg plant and miso paste). A unique interpretation of the peking duck. I loved the sweet and spicy sauce, as well as the crispy pancake cone that housed the succulent slices of wagyu…


Sashimi – This one was my favourite. The sashimi was FRESH FRESH FRESH. From what I could recall, there were kingfish, salmon, tuna and a bunch of other fishies that I couldn’t remember the name of. It was so good that no soy sauce was required to enjoy the little fishy morsels.  Probably the best sashimi I’ve had in Melbourne so far (but if anyone can prove me wrong…) Also, check this out: the entire bowl was made out of ice!

Crab & Hotate Fillo Age (Tempura style crab meat & scallops served with abalone sauce). Nice enough.

Seven lucky God Sachet – whatever THAT meant. On Shoya’s website, it says “deep fried variety of 7 ingredients named after Japanese festive season’s 7 lucky gods.” All I remember was that I had a soup which contained all sorts of stuff in it, including a small lobster, enoki mushroom, beancurds amongst other goodies. To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether I liked this one…

Poached giant scallop with salmon, turnip and salmon caviar. I didn’t like how the bitter and pungent turnip contrasted sharply with the sweet succulent scallop and the fleshy salmon. It was just … a mess. The dish would’ve tasted better without the turnip, fo shizzle.


Miso Soup + mixed rice (had chicken, carrots and mushroom in it) + Amiyaki Karubi

(Grilled Wagyu beef rib with grated white radish and sliced onions + Japanese vinegar sauce)
Not bad, not bad at all. The miso and mixed rice were obviously the same sort of stuff that you’d expect to find at a normal Japanese cafe and while the wagyu was nice enough, I felt that the white radish was too big a distraction…

Close up of the Amiyaki Karubi

Dessert – some sort of layered green tea + red bean + chocolate pudding with strawberries between each layer. Once again, okay but not fantastic.
Verdict: The Age Good Food Guide 08 gave it 15.5/20 and one chef’s hat. I’d probably give it the same rating. The food was amazing and I’d definitely go again if only to ooh and ahhh over the superb presentation of the dishes and the warm hosts. I was, however, annoyed at how slow the service was (the other tables also felt the same way but they were more vocal about it than us). Sure, it’s NYE and sure, you may be short-staffed but at least let your patrons know about this so that they know what to expect. Or better still, offer them some compensation for the slow service. Otherwise, just get rid of a few tables so that there would be fewer people to look after. Heh. Let’s hope that they are quicker with their bringing-out-the-food next time…