Melbourne

Wabi Sabi (Collingwood)

June 23, 2015

“The Japanese view of life embraced a simple aesthetic
that grew stronger as inessentials were eliminated
and trimmed away.”

-Tadao Ando
As you enter Wabi-Sabi, the indoor wooden hut slates make you feel as if you just walked into a small Japanese garden. The sake is warm, the food cooked and plated with that delicate Japanese care that is so rarely found in dining experiences. When such care is experienced, dismantling the meal feels almost wicked. Almost.
Wabi Sabi offers an array of Japanese food and during the day, a sushi counter serves interesting and fresh rolls, including sweet potato for those with a preference to live without meat.

We stopped by for a quick meal after work, and to add a layer of sake to protect against the chill-bone winds that howled outside.
To start;

Jpegtwo sweet, thick, succulent slabs of pork belly, wedged between a soft bao, with hints of pickle and juicy chilli mayo. I could eat these forever.

To follow;

JpegAgadashi tofu; This sweet, concoction of lightly fried tofu and softly caramelised eggplant went down nicely and offset the large fall-off-the-bone slow cooked lamb in plum sauce.

Jpeg
The slow cooked lamb was a daily special etched onto the blackboard and being a bit of a sucker for slow cooked meat, it definitely did not disappoint. A slight lift of the protruding bone caused the tender flesh to seductively fall away. The plum sauce penetrated the lamb and we gleefully soaked up the jus with brown rice.
Wabi Sabi has an extensive drinks list and is ideal for a shared meal or for celebrating those special occasions. The service is pleasant yet professional, with the waiter keenly recommending the right sake to warm our bellies.
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Melbourne

Cibi (Collingwood)

June 21, 2015

Cibi, located on a narrow offshoot street in Collingwood, offers fresh, Japanese dishes for those seeking a flavourful escape. Set in a wonderfully large, airy warehouse – the owners pay homage to architecture that creates clean lines and minimalistic chic. Here you can also shop for artfully crafted homewares such as bags, porcelain, stationary and glass.

meatballs cibi
Lamb meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce. These went particularly well with the soft brown rice as it absorbed the excess sauce dripping from the flavourful morsels of lamb mince containing herbs and pinenuts.

CIBI fish
The fish was delicately coated in spice (perhaps turmeric – but I cannot say for certain). Lightly steamed and served on a bed of salad, this was a perfectly light lunch option. Eaten in between sips of the miso, offered a perfectly salty note.

The served salads consisted of a Japanese potato salad – far more depth of flavour can be found here compared to your run of the mill potato salad. Green beans, brushed with sesame oil perfectly offset the meatiness of the lamb meatballs.

Cibi is open for lunches daily and their menu is quite diverse whilst still offering café staples. Protip: I have only heard good words to describe their take on a Japanese soba salad.

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Melbourne

ChangGo (CBD)

June 21, 2015

ChangGo is located on Little LaTrobe st, tucked behind RMIT’s glass panelled behemoth building. ChangGo is a place that executes Korean BBQ with effortless style. Large copper exhausts dangle over the sizzling hot plates on each table. Whilst normally it requires some preplanning in order to nab one of the tables, we managed to meander in on a late Saturday night and be seated immediately.

ChangGo offers the Korean BBQ take on a degustation; Palsaik. 8 assorted flavours of pork belly with kimchi, rice and a steamy hot hotpot – all for roughly $55, recommended for 2-3 people.

ChangGo Palsaik2

The eight flavours of pork belly were wine, original, ginseng, garlic, herb, curry, miso paste and hot, in order of placement.

ChangGo PalsaikFirst to sizzle on the hot plate laid before us was a collection of beansprouts, spicy kimchi and vegetables.

winepork

ChangGo Korean BBQ

At first we kept up with which pork was sizzling on the hot plate, but soon we lost count as staff members would flitter by, expertly lay some pork onto the plate and cut it up into bite size pieces with finesse. The wine and garlic had the most robust flavours penetrate the pork, however, every succulent pork belly slice was perfect and soon we had lost logistics of which pork piece was which.

ChangGo Hotpot

The seafood and tofu stew arrived steaming and brimming with hints of various flavours; seafood, tomato, hot pepper. The addition of mussels and humungous king prawns was definitely a bonus.

ChangGo Sogu

Although this was the first time we had actually Korean BBQ’d together,  the Palsaik at ChangGo definitely sparked the beginnings of a dining addition. Despite the menu claiming it serves 2-3 people, we left rolling out the door due to the copiuous pork and shochu consumption –  a fine way to mark the mid of the weekend.

ChangGo1

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Melbourne

Meatball and Wine Bar (Collingwood)

May 24, 2015

Meatball and Wine Bar in Collingwood is one of three of the brand that has popped up all around Melbourne. Lately, I have been a sucker for a good meal deal and on Wednesdays, the Smith St branch offers spaghetti, beef meatballs and garlic bread all for a measly $12.  Meatballs and Wine bar is dimly lit, lively and the music verges on ‘blaring’. The space also contains an impressively long bar where diners were seated sipping on wines from their extensive wine list .

Meatball and spaghetti special

The service is friendly and easy-going. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything of the pretentious kind here. The meatballs were dense, moreish and oh so filling. The sauce was light, sweet and muddled with hints of basil – scooped into the buttery, crusty garlic bread it was the perfect cure to a cold Melbourne evening. Being quite a big eater, even this was quite satisfying.

Meatball and wine co

I find the idea of pasta without a paring of a good wine to be alien. Luckily, Meatballs has a superb wine list. After downing 2 glasses of red during our meal, we opted for wine for dessert as well. The red wine goes down dangerously easily here. We were offered Whoopie Macs for dessert which is your choice of icecream sandwiched between your choice of cookie – but being so full of wine and balls, I’ll definitely be venturing back to sample what sounds like the ultimate ice cream sanga.

Meatball and Wine Bar is comfortable and perfect for escaping the winter chills with a paring of balls and of course, copious glasses of wine.
Meatball & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Melbourne

Green Park (Carlton North)

May 2, 2015

Green Park opened up where St Ali North had it’s short debut and it had been on my to-do list for quite some time. I really wanted to fall in love with Green Park with it’s fantastic space, bike friendly location and interesting menu.  I really did.

coffee sign park st

A constant ebb and flow of cyclists grabbing a quick caffeine boost affirms you are indeed in Carlton North, where the coffee is bold and soy is always an option. We ordered the usual; skinny flat white and a chai latte.

Coffee and chai

Rarely in this pocket between Carlton, Brunswick East and Fitzroy, you’ll get a coffee that isn’t top notch. Between overly bitter sips of coffee, slightly dulled by the velvety milk,  I realised that this was an OK coffee – but not great. And the chai? Weak and unexciting. There’s plenty of better options around to get your caffeine fix.

Filled Bagel with Avocado, egg, dill, herbed cream cheese, rocket (v)($12)

Filled Bagel with Avocado, egg, dill, herbed cream cheese, rocket (v)($12)

The filled bagel was served with delightfully crunchy, salty sweet potato chips. The bagel itself was a tad too hard and gnawing on it gave my jaw a good workout. The filling was a simple mix of egg, avocado and rocket and was actually pretty tasty once I managed clamp down on the bagel.

Green Park Bagel

Green Park Big Breakfast

Green Park Breakfast – 63 degree eggs, thick cut bacon, sausage, beans, hash brown & toast ($21)

I watched as the 63 degree egg was penetrated with the fork, revealing a gooey yolk which was quickly absorbed by the bread. Impressive. The smokey bacon was thick with a rind of fat and was the highlight of the breakfast. The sausage, whilst it looked amazing, it lacked any sort of herb or flavour infusion. Asked what he thought about his hash brown, the answer was “Nope”.

green park review

The service was attentive and friendly, and couldn’t be faulted at all. It’s just a shame that the food didn’t match the level of service.

Green Park on Urbanspoon

Melbourne

Sun Moth Canteen & Bar (CBD)

May 1, 2015

Sun Moth Canteen & Bar is a sleek little unit offering interesting takes on breakfast and other old favourites, tucked into Niagara Lane in the heart of the city.

Sun-Moth-Room2

We paid a visit early one Tuesday night, eager to sample the menu in an elegant space that could easily have doubled as an art gallery - with clean lines and a projector spitting out shimmering light like something out of a Nicolas Refn movie.

Sun-Moth-Room

The team here know their wine, and graciously topped up our glasses of Domaine Lucci after giving us a comprehensive background on its journey here from the soils of South Australia.

I have a great deal of respect for people who are passionate enough about wine to understand the in-depth craft behind it, but sometimes my lack of knowledge resigns me to just nodding enthusiastically instead of actually contributing to the conversation. Wine wine wine, delicious wine.

Sun-Moth-Wine

Fried bread with olives, garlic, chilli, lemon and pecorino.

Fried bread with olives, garlic, chilli, lemon and pecorino.

I’m a sucker for any recipe that turns something nondescript into something amazing. The fried bread starter is no exception – I could eat this on a daily basis.

Duck liver parfait, pear, salted figs and walnuts.

Duck liver parfait, pear, salted figs and walnuts.

Barley risotto with mushrrom.

Barley risotto with mushroom.

Sweet corn and chicken soup with buttermilk dumplings.

Sweet corn and chicken soup with buttermilk dumplings.

Capping off a set of dishes perfect for the chilly evening outside was the sweet corn and chicken soup, a warming concoction of flavours and textures. Next time I feel a headcold coming on, I’m heading straight to this bowl of comforting famililar tastes.

Sweet corn and chicken soup with buttermilk dumplings.

Moneyshot!

Sun-Moth-Outside

Much respect to the team at Sun Moth for putting together such an interesting menu in an enigmatic space in the middle of the city, and many thanks to the rad guys at Zomato for turning us onto it!

Sun Moth Canteen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Melbourne

Little Ramen Bar (CBD)

April 29, 2015

Ramen solves everything. Even though ramen sprung from China, it was quickly adopted as Japans soul food and is now largely recognised as a Japanese dish on the same level of sushi. Little Ramen Bar has surged in popularity among the ramen slurping community, and for good reason. It’s tiny 30-seater Tshop constantly has a small line of patrons and smells of 12 hour pork bone broth waft out the door.

Little Ramen Bar’s menu is simple and pays tribute to traditional ramen flavours with choice between shio, shoyu and miso varieties for most broths. On top of their ramen offerings you can opt for extras such as a ‘garlic bomb’ to ward off those vampires or extra BBQ pork slices and chilli.

Chashu Tamago

The Chashu Tamago ramen is Little Ramen Bar’s ‘most popular’ and includes all the essential ramen toppings – gooey eggs, 3 slices of bbq pork, bamboo, nori and spring onion. Morsels of fat emulsified in the slow-cooked pork broth and made for a hearty bowl of ramen. The broths consistency was reminiscent of ramen I had in Akihabara, Tokyo and was a very traditional take on tonkotsu. I am aware that the visible fat and richness of the broth can be off-putting to some (especially those punishing themselves on diets) , but it truly is a fantastic rich porky broth and leaves you feeling just fuller than content. The pork was succulent, rimmed with a lovely layer of fat and broke apart when pronged with the chopsticks.  The soft boiled egg wasn’t as “goopey” as I would have liked but still had that pleasant softness to the yolk.

Little ramen bar review

A ramens worth can be measured in two parts – the broth and the noodles. Little Ramen Bar manages to cook the homemade noodles to the perfect point. The springy yellow noodles remained delightfully chewy the entire time I gulped down my bowl of ramen. This is quite the scientific feat – to ensure the noodles keep their firmness whilst swimming in the hot broth.

Garlic Shio Ramen

Across from me was a large bowl of Garlic Shio Ramen. Similar to the Chashu Tamago in broth, the only difference I could pick up was the poignant  garlic injection. I actually preferred the broth of the Garlic Shio Ramen but only because I am a bit of a garlic addict. This Garlic Shio Ramen would be the perfect remedy to ward off a winters cold.

Little Ramen Bar hits the spot pretty well and I’m pretty keen on revisiting for their “Garlic Bomb” to accompany their decadently fatty tonkotsu broth.

Little Ramen Bar on Urbanspoon

Melbourne

The HOF Downtown (Docklands)

April 27, 2015

Being half German meant that my childhood was riddled with sauerkraut, red cabbage and pork. For my mothers birthday, we decided to visit the Hof Downtown, the Hofbrauhaus’ little sister located in windy Docklands. High ceilings, long tables lined with beer filled steins and a large chandelier adorned with gingerbread hearts transports you into a Bavarian wonderland filled with copious bier and waiters serving you in traditional garb.

downtownhof kitchen

 

cheers

My parents look so German sometimes…

The HOF downtown has a pretty extensive beer list and it’s highly recommended you gulp down a stein with your meal. We were a party of six and shared 3 meat platters for “two”. What arrived was actually both frightening and exciting – a large board of sauerkraut, red cabbage, cheese kransky, crispy pork belly, potato dumpling, pickles, mash potato, a huge chicken schnitzel, a potato croquette and the star of the show, a large crispy pork knuckle .

joe

Joe was quite happy about the size of the platter

 

hof2

and so was I

hof downtown platterPork knuckle hof

The Pork Knuckle gave a audible crunch when penetrated with the knife, revealing soft succulent pork. Paired with the sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), it was delicious. The crackling was perfectly thin without too much of that pesky fat layer which usually detracts from the crackling experience. Doused in some mustard, the 3 sausages (I’m not entirely sure which was which), had that satisfying resistance.

Pork Belly

The Pork Belly was served on a bed of red cabbage – one of my childhood favourites. The sweetness of the red cabbage paired with the decadently fatty pork belly was a mouth-party. Whilst it was certainly a meat-fest, the pickles, cabbage and other condiments meant that each bite was interesting.

Dessert platter

We also shared a dessert platter between two – even though we were pretty much trying to hold our sides together at this point. The friendly waitress asked us when we would like our dessert platter, so it allowed us some time between meals. The dessert platter contained Käsekuchen (cheesecake) , Apfelstrudel  (apple strudel) and a thick dollop of  Schokoladenmousse (chocolate mouse). I only managed to sample some of each but they were all so delicious – especially the cheesecake which was on the cheesier side. The pastry of the apfelstrudel was light, flakey and revealed a dense sweet apple filling.

Hof Downtown Streudel

The HOF Downtown is a great destination for those hungering for a meat hangover.  The atmosphere is fun, with most patrons gulping down from giant steins. The meat platter was so huge that we ended up not being able to conquer it all – even though we apparently have bottomless pits as stomachs as some of our blog readers have pointed out. Luckily they let us take some of it home for a cheeky midnight snack.

tl;dr: SO MUCH DELICIOUS MEAT.
The HOF Downtown on Urbanspoon

Melbourne

Cure Bar and Eatery (Carlton)

April 20, 2015

I think if I had to choose anywhere in Melbourne to live, I’d pick somewhere in or around Carlton. I’m a sucker for all that abundant greenery, the amazing food and its inherent calm and peace despite being so close to the city.

I was struck by a strange convergence of these feelings as we rolled up to Cure Bar and Eatery last weekend. A sense of place. A sense of feeling like this is somewhere I want to stay and never leave, augmented by an internal monologue loudly pointing out that there’s a whole freakin’ fridge full of delicious charcuterie and cheese just behind the bar next to the Fleetwood Mac vinyl.

cure bar melbourne

I really dig what Cure Bar has to offer, and I almost feel bad for writing a review of a place that I’d rather stay secret – because it’s so damn good and I don’t want to share. There’s a complete lack of pretension that is quite refreshing for a place that does what it does so well.

Speaking of doing things well, how about a nine course degustation menu for $39? I thought so. Let’s get into it.

Olives-Cure-Bar

Mixed olives.

Curebar cured meat

Cured meat with shavings of sharp cheese.

Cure Bar’s food has a focus on tapas-style dishes, but broadens the scope of flavours to incorporate much of what western Europe has to offer. You’ll see the favourites, like the meaty and fragrant olives pictured above as well as some surprising and creative dishes.

Cure-Bar-mozzarella-tomato

Mozzarelle with smoked tomato relish.

Then you get cheeky little creations like the bites of mozzarella with basil and smoked tomato relish, drizzled with olio and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It just shows that you don’t need espuma and all that fancy crap to make something interesting and memorable. Seriously, if I had the time and means I would just hire someone full time to just follow me around with a plate of these bad boys.

Cure-Bar-Battered-Whiting

Beer battered whiting.

So, by this point of the meal you’ve settled in and the mix of whiskey and wine is waking up your palate to the savoury delights pouring steadily out of the kitchen. The difficulty, however, lies in trying to restrain yourself from getting all over those battered pieces of whiting while you wait for them to cool down. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

Fritters

Zucchini fritters with cumin and coriander seed with yoghurt and sumac.

The zucchini fritters bring another perspective on crispy funtimes to the table, this time with a punch of cumin to make it interesting. The powerful pop of the hard aromatics bring an interesting flavour profile to the zucchini fritters,which I liked.

gnocchi

Crispy gnocchi with sage butter

Cure-Bar-Croquettes

Cauliflower croquettes.

Look, honestly I have no idea what order the dishes came out in from this point on. All I knew was I was having a great time by the time the gnocchi and the croquettes came out. The former – crispy, fluffy little pillows doused in butter and sage. The latter – I will never turn down a croquette and it was interesting to see cauliflower championed for a change.

Patatas bravas with octopus and chimichurri.

Patatas bravas with octopus and chimichurri.

Lamb shoulder with peas.

Lamb shoulder with peas.

Beyond that, the evening rolled on in that very European fashion of comfortable and indulgent dining. Elegant tapas bites gave way to more hearty and warming dishes as we found ourselves sinking deeper into our seats and deeper into conversation (mostly about the food).

Beef brisket with slaw.

Beef brisket with slaw.

To punctuate the feast, a slab of beef brisket. The kind you don’t need a knife for, if you catch my drift. Do you ever feel guilty about eating something that tastes really amazing? No, I don’t either. Because perfect, succulent meat will always be a winner and there’s nothing shameful about winning.

I’m astonished that you can get this much food at such a high quality for such a low price in Melbourne. I was really charmed by Cure Bar and I don’t understand how it’s gotten away with being such a dark horse for so long.

Maybe that’s what makes it so great.

Cure Bar and Eatery on Urbanspoon

Melbourne

Lux Foundry (Brunswick)

April 19, 2015

lux foundry brunswick

Lux Foundry is situated right next to Brunswick station and boasts a large repurposed factory interior and a large outdoor eating space. One of my dearest friends recently adopted a puppy so our brunch date had to be in a dog friendly cafe. Lux Foundry is super dog friendly, with the waitress’ gushing over the puppy and adjacent diners hopping over to our table for a pet. We were surrounded by tail-wagging dogs of all sizes, accompanying their owners for brunch.

They see him rollin'

They see him rollin’

Hot Chocolate

The hot chocolate arrived in a massive vessel, containing thick chocolate sludge that had accumulated at the bottom. Perfectly decadent to accompany an Autumn brunch session.

Flat White

My flat white was creamy, thick and contained the well respected Proud Mary coffee.

Smoked Salmon and Cauliflower Fritters + poached egg.

Smoked Salmon and Cauliflower Fritters + poached egg.

The cauliflower fritters were so crispy – I suspect they may have gone through some deep-frying magic.  The salmon was fresh and was riddled with capers. The egg (pictured at the back) wept a bright yellow yolk once pierced which mixed quite nicely with the creme fraiche, chives and the squeezes of lemon. Lux Foundry really delivers a wonderfully light but satisfying breakfast in their take on fritters.

Eggs and bacon

Free Range Eggs + Sourdough Toast + Bacon

A cafe is only as good as it can serve up it’s eggs. The silky scrambled eggs and a good slab of bacon is simple but a well-earned breakfast favourite. And Lux Foundry knows their eggs. Lux Foundry is a great place to stop by for an extended brunch with friendly service, ample seating and a good selection of interesting brunch meals in addition to the classics.

Lux Foundry on Urbanspoon