Melbourne

Bar Idda (Brunswick East)

May 26, 2016

“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi

Frilly, embroidered tablecloths, thick orange glassware, wine served in tumblers and Sicilian food makes Bar Idda a rare find among the ordinary Italian food offerings and akin to a special feast at nonnas.

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For mother’s day, Bar Idda offered a 5-course meal for $50 per person. To begin, we sampled some Antipasti which included plump, preserved green olives with herbs. The Arancino had a beautifully crisp, light shell which exposed a creamy fontina cheese risotta with mixed seasonal mushrooms. I could have devoured a million of these crunchy suckers. On the side, thin slices of hand cut cacciatore salami, sliced capocollo and Sicilian salami were cured to perfection and certainly salivation inducers.

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In between, I sipped a fizzy limoncello spritz. I can’t seem to avoid ordering a limoncello every time I patronise Bar Idda – it’s just so damn rare to find a decent drop of limoncello in Melbourne and Idda surely delivers.  My mum enjoyed a Sicilian House Red, served in a short tumbler like Italian wine should be!

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As for Primi, we were invited to choose from 3 dishes. We decided on the Mulinciani and Spaghetti Trapaense. The mulinciani consisted of delicate, melty layers of eggplant intermingled with tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil and sharp pecorino cheese. If heaven had a mouthfeel, it would be this.

For Secondi we opted to try all 3 offerings. The Pesce spada, perfectly barbecued swordfish with maccu (a traditional meshing of dried and crushed fava beans and fennel) and black olive.

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The ricotta gnocchi served with mushrooms were like popping small, delicate clouds into my mouth, with a kick of lemon.

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Agnello all’Eoliana arrived in the form of a 4 hour roasted lamb shoulder Aeolian style. The rich lamb meat fell apart at the hint of my fork and even though I was oh so full at this point, I managed to eat every last piece of this succulent dish.

 

While the greens were left somewhat untouched due to the sheer volume of the other offerings, each had such a wonderfully interesting flavour combination;

bar_idda_beansFagiolini – Anchovies, garlic and mint braised green beans

‘Nzalata di casa – House salad of chicory, celery, sultana, dijon & lemon vinaigrette (not pictured)

Capunata – Sweet and sour fried eggplant, zucchini, celery, capers, green olives

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After a pause to rub our stomachs and to sip a coffee, dessert arrived. Torta di Noci – Walnut cake, poached rhubarb and homemade yoghurt and thick, bouncy slabs of quince delight served on the side. Since I am profusely allergic to nuts, the staff were happy to cater to my allergies and offered a light dessert of poached pear, rhubarb and yoghurt.

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Bar Idda is the perfect place for a special occasion dinner and offers a charming setting. If the weather is decent, the small courtyard at the back is well worth whiling the summer months away, limoncello in hand.

Bar Idda Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne

Vincent the Dog (Carlton)

April 26, 2016

“The world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome, dubious eggs, called possibilities.” – George Eliot

A quaint courtyard hides behind Drummond Street’s Vincent the Dog, architects of robust coffees and scrumptious brunch-like meals. Vincent The Dog’s menu is honest, like really honest. A small note about cold drip not being offered because it is, and I agree, a  ‘disappointing liquid’.

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I decided on the more traditional “Who doesn’t like poached eggs” which was served with a generous portion of “bloody good” salmon, feta and avocado, atop sourdough bread.  The avocado was fresh and aplenty – there is so much avocado that I wish I had more of the deliciously spongey sourdough. The poached eggs were poached to perfection, with the yolk tantalisingly trickling out when gently prodded with my knife (psst, check out that egg-drool).  This breakfast is one which all the harmonising components muddled up in each, blissful mouthful.

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The ever-so sweet toothed creature across from me decided upon the waffles with berry compote and a smothering of thick, creamy mascarpone. Once the waffles had seeped up the berry juices, it was a sugary treat of a dish. The only inconsequential gripe was that there were a few dry spots that could have been avoided with more topping.

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My flat white was strong, creamy and the impeccable cure for a Sunday morning.

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The service at Vincent and The Dog is swift, approachable and attentive. Our food arrived impressively soon after our coffees. The small, intimate courtyard is the perfect setting to spend a morning sipping on well-brewed coffees and agonising over what to pick on the menu– they all sounded so equally interesting and it was challenging to decide on just one. I’m already eyeing off their Chinese donut with pork floss…

Vincent the Dog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen (CBD)

April 16, 2016

“Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” -Mark Twain

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen is a recent, and very welcome, addition to Melbourne’s blossoming Japanese ramen scene. Post Old Fashions and Sazeracs at the wonderful 1806, we ventured down the stairs in search of the black garlic ramen.

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Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen enlists an interactive ordering system, requiring patrons to select their broth, whether they would like the free extra noodles (hard or soft), a choice of pork belly or chashu sliced pork, and any extra trimmings they desire. This large A3 sheet is quickly swooped up by the friendly waitress and the ramenfication begins. We also opted for shochu because a long weekend was on the horizon and the sake list was too good to pass-up.

A large window pane separated our bench from the guy expertly straining the noodles and preparing delicious bowels of ramen. I quickly become hypnotised by an open kitchen in ramen restaurant – it is a wonderfully harmonious process which is delivered in careful strokes. Here, I could tell from the measured steps, was a place that was well-versed in their broth preparation.

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I was not wrong. The tonkotsu broth was deep, creamy and the noodles were perfectly hard. The pork belly was pleasingly fatty. My egg was perfectly prepared with the yolky centre maintaining its form. At about $16 for a bowl with an egg, this is on the more expensive side of the Melbourne ramen scale. It is, however, completely worth it, and the ability to customise one’s bowl is a huge plus for me.

I opted for the extra noodles to be included in my dish and I was struggling to slurp my way to the bottom.

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Black garlic ramen is not something I am familiar with, despite my adoration for all things ramen. I only had my first experience with Hokkaido style corn broth a couple of weeks ago. The more adventurous of our duo opted for the black garlic so that I could steal a glug – oh my goodness this was incredible. I have had garlic-laden ramen before but the roasted black garlic gave a smokiness to the tonkotsu broth that was unmatched. The old adage “Once you go black, you never go back” could be fittingly applied here.

Ikkoryu Fukuoka has really friendly service and our bowls arrived swiftly. It was quiet when we dined here but it was also quite late on a Thursday evening so your mileage may vary. I would return, if only for the black garlic ramen.

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne

MoVida Bar De Tapas

March 20, 2016

“Any reasonable, sentient person who looks to Spain, comes to Spain, eats in Spain, drinks in Spain, they’re gonna fall in love. Otherwise, there’s something deeply wrong with you.” – Anthony Bourdain

Oh Movida, you have been on my to-nom list for years and years now. And all it took was a stroll through the NGV to heighten my hunger – and thirst, for me to visit your Next Door outlet.

We stopped by on a quiet Sunday afternoon for a snack. What surprises me is Melbourne’s apparent lack of small, portable, savoury titbits to satisfy ones hunger between meals. Hankering for a simple bite of cheese and cured meat led me to finally satiate my Movida craving.

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Due to the time of the day, only bar seats were being utilised which suited us just fine. We ordered a smooth tempranillo to accompany the small dishes about to arrive.

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Soon thereafter, the beetroot croquette, so pleasantly pink in appearance arrived. Sweet, tangy and the perfect bite-sized balance between savoury and sweet playfully tantalised the tongue.

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Today’s special croquette of blue cheese and mushroom was too difficult to refuse. It’s promise of potent fermented flavour delivered and the crunchy exterior gave way to a gooey, cheesy centre. A sip of the smooth tempranillo following this intoxicating sharp flavour was a tribute to this wonderful pairing.

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The queso with quince paste was a good mid-point.

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The cigarillo was my highlight of the tapa. Braised lamb wrapped tightly into a crisp chillindron was reminiscent of a spring roll. Melty, slow cooked lamb was secured into a crisp shell. Swirled into the accompanying “red mojo” added a most-welcome kick.

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A strong contender for the favourite was the tostada. Pressed pork between two crunchy wafer biscuits, with house made tomato jam and fried quail egg atop. The qual egg glistened in the light and the yolk was ever-so runny. This was such an interesting dish and the pressed pork flavours were subtle.

The service at Movida is professional, conversant and swift. Despite indicating that we were only seeking wine and a few tapa, we were well looked after and found it comforting that we could also order as we went. This aligns with my preferred style of dining where I prefer to wade through dishes in waves, ascertaining my hunger levels as I explore the menu.

Rounding off the meal with a sweet, thick moscato, our visit to Movida had already transgressed into a “must-visit” again. Movida, we will be returning with a more ravenous hunger so that next time we can graduate to the raciones , I chiefly have my eye on the beef cheek that was plonked down on the bar next to us.

MoVida Bar De Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne

South Of Johnston (Collingwood)

January 29, 2016

“…the avocado is a food without rival among the fruits, the veritable fruit of paradise” — David Fairchild

South of Johnston, or “Sojo” is you’re a frequent reveller in this establishment, is tucked away off Oxford St in Collingwood. The high ceilings, the share-house-esque couches surrounding small tables – ideal for informal meetings, ooze a laid back vibe that makes one feel instantly at home when dining at South of Johnston.

The menu here is fresh and wide-ranging. Menu options range from decadent pancakes, to Vietnamese inspired chicken salads all the way through to juicy burgers. The coffees here are deeply smooth and rich and South of Johnston uses Supreme Coffee to churn out patrons coffee fixes.

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Something as basic as smashed avocado on toast arrives as a massif of velvety avocado peppered with sharp feta, and leafy greens. I opted for a generous side of smoked salmon to accompany my avocado-fest, which complimented the flavour profile perfectly. The only qualm I really had with this superb dish was my inability to pry the grainy bread apart with my dull butter knife due to the sturdiness of the bread.  Slightly hungover from the previous night’s festivities, a freshly squeezed nectar laden mango juice was the perfect accompaniment to my meal (and last night’s wine induced seediness).

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The chicken salad I enjoyed on my previous visit made for a perfect light, but flavourful lunch. Crispy chicken, serviced with a wombok and carrot slaw, with scatterings of Vietnamese mint, coriander, shallots and chilli. A zesty lime dressing created a salad collaboration that, in my opinion, is unmatched.

The service at South of Johnston is friendly and knowledgeable, though food can take some time to reach the table on occasion. This is completely understandable given the popularity and the girth of offerings.  For this reason, Sojo has established itself as one of my go-to cafes for lunch when in Collingwood. The upside to this being there are so many dishes I want to try which would warrant at least another 20 visits to get through them alone.

South of Johnston Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne

Palsaik Korean BBQ (CBD)

January 29, 2016

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Palsaik Korean BBQ is the sister restaurant of ChangGo. Despite the popularity of ChangGo nearby on Little LaTrobe Street whereby hopeful patrons snake out the door and down the road every evening, Palsaik is surprisingly untouched by the fanaticism. Thinking that it would be ridiculously crowded on a Saturday evening, we opted for an earlier dinner just before 6pm.

Palsaiks interior is modern; high ceilings with steampunk-esque copper exhaust fans hovering over each tables grill, a minimalist layout with black walls and floors complementing the copper titivation. Upon arrival there was only 1 other table occupied, however, soon hungry patrons filed in and every table was filled.

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We were seated in the back corner on a large booth which contained two BBQ grills. My only qualm with the tabletop set-up was that the hot plate was very temperamental and I suspect it may have electric – Sacrilege when it comes to BBQ’ing meat.

The Palsaik option for $58 is similar, if not exactly the same, as ChangGo and offers 8 flavours of pork belly, pickled sides, kimchi and a seafood stew.

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Soon our 8-piece pork belly set had arrived, alongside pickled vegetables and a spicy mystery sauce. The small pickled vegetables were perfect to cleanse the palate in preparation of the next pork flavour.  The employees expertly unravelled the rolled pork belly onto the hot plate, only to swiftly reappear again once it was time to cut the long strip into bite size chunks. After the first slice, we didn’t need much assistance and happily continues flipping pork, drinking the sweetly potent soju and devouring at our leisure.

Though the palsaik set is said to feed 2-3 we managed to wade through the pork and the seafood hot pot with finesse. The meat was marinaded to perfection, though due to the large wooden serving board being slightly worn, the types of pork were illegible. This made for a fun game whereby we discussed what flavour we were currently tasting and soon into the cutting and tossing of the pork belly, we had completely lost track of which was which. Nonetheless, each sizzled morsel was perfectly juicy and uniquely flavoured.

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The kimchi, lightly grilled in the pork fat seeping from the first placed long slab of marinated pork was no less than amazing.  The starchy vegetables that accompanies the meat managed to acquire a nice char by the end of the 5th pork belly wave.

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The seafood hotpot was robust in tomato and rich seafood flavour. It acted as the mid-centre between the different rolls of pork belly. The generous inclusion of crab legs, mussels and cabbage offered balance for the meat heavy palsaik set.

What I love about Korean BBQ is the pacing of the entire meal. Slowly, a total 8 waves of delicious pork belly was consumed. Korean BBQ is certainly best for social occasions where you have a couple of hours to drink, sample various meats and to revel in the sounds and smells of meat sizzling at every table. Both ChanGo and Palsaik deliver the goods when it comes to Korean BBQ. However, you’re more likely to score a seat at the quieter Palsaik in the CBD.

Palsaik BBQ Korean Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne

N Lee Bakery (Collingwood)

January 9, 2016

“I would have crawled naked across broken glass to get here.” – Anthony Bourdain 

N Lee is unmatched in providing delicious banh mi, also known as Vietnamese pork rolls. I know this because I have held regular banh mi-tings over the past year, trialing Vietnamese bakeries on their ability to deliver a juicy, buttery, pork roll.

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A crispy shelled baguette slathered in melty butter and pate is the first big tick here. I have actually ventured out of my way to N Lee specifically to buy unfilled baguettes for their fluffy white interior which balances out the thin crisped shell. This harmony of crispy and chewy could only be produced by sheer wizardry.

The slices of pink-rimmed bbq pork, crunchy carrot, crisp cucumber, fiery chilli and coriander medley is one that you find in most Vietnamese food. N Lee packs each $5.80 rolls to the brim of flavourful goodness, always asking whether or not the customer desires chilli. An enthusiastic yes usually yields in obtaining a perfectly bitey roll.

There’s a reason as to why at lunchtime, you’ll spot hordes of nearby workers lining up down Smith St, leading to N Lee. Don’t let the line deter you from grasping a piece of pork roll heaven, it moves quickly and each banh mi is expertly assembled. Watching the staff inside harmonise in stuffing the various fillings into each crusty rolls is a spectacle.

For a quick, delicious lunch, one should look no further than N Lee.

N. Lee Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne

Belle’s Hot Chicken (Fitzroy)

January 6, 2016

A good spicy challenge strikes a balance between flavour and fear. – Alan Richman

Belle’s Hot Chicken is a testimony to Southern Fried Chicken done dead-on. Situated on the increasingly gentrified Gertrude St, Belle’s does one thing and it does it right – hot chicken.  The interior is diner-esque, with large booths by the window and stools by the bar. Large red neon lights behind the bar read “Wine”, one of my favourite words.

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Belle’s is serious about their chicken and has 6 levels of spiciness to choose from for those daring enough, though we treated our first visit with trepidation and opted for Hot. Other options include, in least to most ring-of-fire inducing; Southern, Medium, Hot, Really Hot and F**king Hot. The hot was surprisingly hot and my dining partner and I am tempted to revisit to sadistically attempt the F**king Hot which I am told may have dire consequences.

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The chicken wings are reminiscent of those stripped from primordial birds – colossal. The crusty, fiery coating reveals a succulent white meat that pleasantly balances out the hot crumbing. This is a meal where you have to be devote your hands and mouth to the gnawing, sucking act to reduce the large wings to a pile of cleanly licked bones. I opted for a side of pickles, which included pickled cauliflower, tomato, jalapenos and chillies. The vinegar acidity of the pickles cleansed the mouth between the 4 large chicken wings.

The service at Belle’s is superb. Quick to be seated, despite being a very busy weekday lunch. Our chicken wings were plonked down promptly after ordering and service was continuously attentive. Belle’s is liquor licensed and the crispy wings, selection of sides definitely lends itself to being prime drinking accompaniment.  I had a lovely Tempranillo and my dining companions opted for crisp cider and a pale ale.

The price may seem sort of steep at $16 for 4 wings, however, we couldn’t finish our meals, despite being vivacious eaters. Belle’s pushes the best wings around and you’ll leave feeling brim-filled of fire and the most delicious chicken.

Belle's Hot Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Melbourne

Pho Bo Ga Mekong Vietnam (CBD)

January 1, 2016

Mekong is where I had my first ever bowl of steamy pho ga. A friend had swiftly taken me by the hand and led me to the no-frills restaurant back in 2008. For this reason, Mekong will always have a place in my heart, having since ventured off to slurp the pho in Vietnam and most of Melbourne.

Unfortunately, the quality at Mekong is turbulent. One day I may experience the best pho and the next, it will be a seemingly flavourless MSG laden bowl. Having been both pleasantly surprised and disappointed over the course of the years, Mekong dropped off my pho radar.

What led us to revisit Mekong was a late night conference, Festival21, which left us hungry and stranded in Melbourne’s CBD.  Fast approaching the closing hour of most pho restaurants, we were like gypsies in the night in search of a big bowl of comforting rice noodles. Mekong is open later than the others so our search led us back to the brightly lit, stripped back décor of Mekong.

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We both opted for a large bowl of beef and chicken. Soon thereafter, a huge bowl of pho was plonked in front of us with the obligatory thai basil, bean sprouts, chilli and lemon. Despite our trepidation, this was a very decent bowl of herby pho. The meat was so generous and of really good quality. The thinly sliced rare beef was melt-in-the-mouth good and the thick chicken slices were of surprisingly high quality.

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Mekong is kind of like the Russian roulette of pho restaurants. When it’s good, it’s hellishly good and when it’s bad, you’ll leave thirsty with a stirring MSG headache. If it were a little more consistent, I would add Mekong to my trusted pho restaurants but unfortunately this has not yet been my experience.

Pho Bo Ga Mekong Vietnam Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne

Meatmaiden (CBD)

January 1, 2016

“You had me at meat tornado.” – Ron Swanson

Meatmaiden produces some of Melbourne’s smokiest meats. Dimly lit, underground (hence the terrible photo quality), moody and contemporary, the interior of Meatmaiden is a far cry from the Texan smoked meat menu. This juxtaposition works perfectly well as it is very rare for me to feel classy when devouring pink-rimmed meat off a bone the size of my forearm.

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To begin; A smoky Old Fashioned. The smokiness of the Old Fashioned was punctuated by the zesty hint of orange rind. This cocktail is the perfect accomplice to the smoked meat that was about to arrive.

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The lemon crusted lamb ribs were perhaps the lowlight of the evening, with there being quite a hunk of fat adjacent to the slither of smoked lamb meat falling off the bone. The lamb ribs were very inconsistent with some having a decent amount of meat and others being entirely compromised of crunchy, hot fat. I am no opponent to a healthy slathering of fat in my meals, but eating only fat is a bit too rich.

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The 20 hours smoked Rangers Valley beef brisket clung for its dear life on the large bone, giving very little resistance to the knife that was used to portion. The addition of the pepper rub gave the melty meat a wicked and welcome kick.

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The star of the meat-fest was easily the Gippsland pasture-fed beef rib. The bright pink rimmed meat simply melted on the tongue.

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Meatmaiden is a fine place to head for smoky meats and smoky cocktails.

Meatmaiden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato