Thursday, 23 June 2011

Cafe Review: N.Lee Bakery

Address: 62 Little collins street, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9419 9732
Overall Impression: 7/10

After being recommended by a colleague to try the Vietnamese pork rolls at N. Lee Bakery, P and I headed down Collins Street to give it a go. My lovely P recently got engaged over the weekend! So after some serious ring shopping/hunting, we grabbed a quick lunch here. The Vietnamese pork roll was very nice. It came with home made mayonnaise, pate and sauces and was filled with a fresh salad that included corriander and chilli. It had a great flavour to it and was very enjoyable to eat. It's nothing spectacular or revolutionary but it is basic, nice food.
And for the price you pay, its worth every dollar.
Great place for a casual lunch/take-away!
N lee bakery on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Gold Class Cinema Doncaster (catered by Pearl Restaurant)

Overall impression of dining experience: 4/10
Pearl Cafe
Phone: (03) 9427 1307
Address: 599 Church St, Richmond, 3121
The Gold Class cinema experience has been marketed as quite an upmarket product. I have seen ads depicting women in cocktail dresses sipping on champagne and enjoying a fine dining experience in a comfortably large reclining seat alongside exclusive cinema patrons.
I have had my "Gold Class experience" a few times but it is never remotely close to the sensationalist marketing that we see on the telly. Last night, my bosom buddy, G, surprised me by taking me for dinner and Super 8 at Gold Class Village Cinema Doncaster. As I had heard that the catering is now being done by Pearl Restaurant, I was quite excited to see what the menu would be like and how it would fare in the scheme of things. Unfortunately, the food was at best, run of the mill café fare. To be fair, I should be more specific - Decent café standard.

It was unfortunate that it bore no resemblance to the food that I had had at Pearl. No, not even the more casual Pearl café. The prices were however, slightly steeper than the average café.

We started the night off with lobby drinks. I've made my mistake ordering wine/coffee from the cinema before so I decided to order a chai latte and it was very nice.
Soon it was time for the movie!

entree: chorizo arancini $14
risotto balls, chorizo

The arancini balls were perfectly seasoned, crusty without being overly greasy on the outside and chewy in the middle. The only problem was the fact that the chorizo as described was notably absent.
 Main: roast pumpkin pizza $21
roasted butternut pumpkin, feta, spanish onion, mozarella, fresh rocket
main: Chicken ceaser panini $22
poached chicken breast, crisp bacon, caeser dressing, baby cos lettuce
turkish bread, shoestring fries

The chicken breast was pleasantly moist. But the bacon was slightly 'soggy'. I suspect the juices from the poached chicken breast may have caused it so an error in assembling the pannini is probably to blame. The turkish bread tasted slightly parched but was very much in good (as oppose to in mint) condition.
dessert: sticky date pudding: warm rich butterscotch sauce, gippsland dairy double cream $15

The sticky date pudding was a winner for me. Unlike the usually dense and indulgent sticky date puddings, this one was light and fluffy but still very moist. Every morsel was moreish and the butterscotch sauce was applied generously across the plate, making it a very hearty dessert inspite of the lightness of the pudding itself.
dessert: baked cheesecake $15
classic new york style cheesecake , berry coulis, gippsland double cream
And we left the cinema replete, after what turned out to be a large meal for the both of us.
All in all, when it came to the dining experience, it was a disappointing one. Not that the food was unpleasant it just lacked the finesse one would have expected from Pearl. I guess in the same way, the dining experience at one of Neil Perry's restaurants do not translate to the food you get on board a Qantas flight, the dining experience at Pearl does not translate to the food you will be served with at Gold Class.

I do not take offence to cafe-style offerings. It is merely the manner in which the dining experience is held out that I find fault in.

Nevertheless, it was still an enjoyable experience as a whole. And I thought Super 8 was a very enjoyable film, although G and I both agreed that the ending was somewhat ridiculous.

Thanks my bb for a wonderful night out!
Pearl Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Restaurant Review: European Bier Cafe

Location: 120 Exhibition St, Melbourne
Cuisine: Australian pub fare [traditional favourites] and many dishes with a strong European twist.
Char-grilled Kangaroo Loin Fillet cooked medium rare with honey roasted sweet potato, Spanish onion and capsicum coulis

The kangaroo was cooked to perfection. Beautifully tender. I have had bad experiences with Kangaroo so I weary of the fact that there may be a prominent gamey taste but fortunately, it did not. It was lovely and the meat was obviously fesh to have avoided the haut goût taste. I personally, really liked the way it had been cooked. Unfortunately, due to the clear lack of seasoning using basic salt, the kangaroo's flavours were not allowed ro shine to its full extent. Overall, it was still a pleasant dish that I would not hesitate ordering again.

Spanish Pub Paella, saffron and paprika infused rice with chorizo roast chicken, capsicums and prawns baked then served

There was a great amount of flavour in the dish as a whole but it was nevertheless rather disappointing. I had expected the dish to be served in a paellera (paella pan). And as it was served on a plate, it didn't have the beautifully crusty/slightly burnt bottom and it didn't have the infused aromas of being cooked over an open fire. It tasted like a nice risotto. Pleasant but like I said, disappointing . In hindside, I should have read the descriptions on the menu properly because the chef really did deliver what he/she had promised. In any event, it was still better than my paella experience at Simply Spanish.

Overall Impression: 5.5/10
Nice, relaxed ambience, good food.
European Bier Cafe on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Yarra Valley Country Club

Location: 9-15 Templestowe Road, Bulleen
Cuisine: Australian pub

From the 'Specials' board: Grilled fish fillet served with crispy golden chips and salad
Simple dish.

From the main menu: Char-grilled Porterhouse with Mushroom Sauce served with crispy golden chips and salad
Cooked to our liking.

Overall Impression: 4/10
The staff were extremely friendly and the service was prompt. The food was however, passable at best.

Restaurant Review: Teppansan

Location: 179 Russell St, Melbourne
Cuisine: Japanese

Entree: Miso Soup

Main: Zaru Soba
A cold noodle dish served with sauce and thinly sliced cooked beef

This dish was served with soba tsuyu, which is a dipping sauce. The tsuyu had very strong kaeshi flavours (a sweeter version of the chinese soy sauce) and a hint of mirin. The way to eat this dish is to take some of the soba using chopsticks and dip it in tsuyu before eating it. It is also a good idea to mix wasabi into the sauce for added spice! I love cold soba on a hot day. Its incredibly refreshing and you can really taste the texture of the soba when it is chilled (the texture is quite different when you cook soba in soup because the noodle absorbs the soup). Teppansan does this dish quite well.
Main: Beef in Wafu sauce served with rice and vegetables

Overall Impression: 5.5/10
Casual dining. Friendly and quick service, very good value. Oh, and they make a delicious Okonomiyaki!

"The prices here make you think the restaurant has made a bill error in your favour."- Matt Preston, 5 February 5 2007
Teppansan Japanese Café on Urbanspoon

Monday, 20 June 2011

Restaurant Review: Ramen Ya

Location: Shop 25G Melbourne GPO 350 Bourke St, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9654 5838 
Cuisine: Japanese
Overall Impression: 5/10
There are good friends. And then there are good friends. Well, V is a good friend. She's always had my back and shared in all my highs and lows. As her birthday fell on a working day, we decided to grab a quick lunch together before her party (of sorts) over the weekend. We had planned on having lunch at Kenzan GPO but as usual it was packed filled with patrons and we did not feel like getting take-away so we settled on the Japanese restaurant next door, Ramen Ya.  
I had bought her a present and a nice card to go along with it but stupidly left it at home and in a brief moment of panic, decided to make her, what turned out to be the ugliest card at work so she would forgive me…
We were both very happy with the ramen with had. Nothing  special but it was not bad and for about $10.00 it was fair. There is something so different about ramen in Tokyo though. I went to one right next to the Tokyo Dome Stadium and it was delicious. The soup was itself was thick and tasty and tasted "real". SO thick that every strand of ramen was coated with the beautifully flavoured soup. Every mouthful was heaven.The ramen at Ramen Ya does not hold a candle to the ramen stores in Japan but it still does the job. All in all, it was an enjoyable meal - nice ramen, prompt service and great company.

Ramen Ya on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Cafe Review: Earl Canteen

Location: 500 Bourke Street (enter via Lt Bourke), Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9600 1995 

Cuisine: Gourmet sandwiches
Overall Impression: 7/10

After hearing the hype surrounding EARL Canteen, I was extremely skeptical. I mean, a sandwich is a sandwich. Let's not get *too* excited. Nevertheless, as the saying goes 'don't knock it til you've tried it', J decided to "surprise" me by taking me for a quick lunch there. I had been adamant about not wanting to try it as a protest against over-hyped sandwiches (in hindsight, I'm not sure what my problem was) but J pretended that he just wanted me to accompany him so he could get a take away but instead suddenly ordered 2 sandwiches, hence the "surprise".
The place was bustling with patrons. We arrived at 12.15pm, what most would consider a considerably early lunch time, but the place was packed. There was already a substantial queue. So we decided to join it while J decided what he would get for the two of us (unbeknownst to me).
Everything looked delicious. True to the philosophy behind EARL canteen, the menu certainly reflected 'restaurant quality' sandwiches. At this stage, I was still doubtful as to whether or not it would come through in the tasting.
 We got the following sandwiches to share:

Mushroom & Goats’ Curd $11.5
Roast field mushrooms, goats’ curd, pesto, chestnuts, rocket, ciabatta

There was a generous amount of goats' curd and its creamyness was a delicious match for the salty, nutty pesto. The mushrooms were roasted beautifully and perfectly seasoned.
Duck Confit $16
Confit duck, caramelised figs, walnuts, onion jam, radicchio, watercress, ciabatta

The duck was so tender and the caramelised figs brought a nice sweetness to the whole sandwich. The walnuts gave it a beautiful textural element. The only downside was.. *dramatic music* there was a huge duck bone. In fact, if you zoom into the picture above, you can see it very clearly. But as it was obvious enough that I saw and immediately removed it, such that it did not detract from my enjoyment of the sandwich, I'll let that slide.

All in all, the quality of the offerings were outstanding. The bread itself was delicious and for good reason too as they are sourced from what is known to be the best bakery in Melbourne, Dench Bakers in Fitzroy North.

These were excellent sandwiches. Overrated? Yes. But still easily the best sandwiches I have ever had. So, yes, I'm glad J convinced me to eat before I speak.

EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Restaurant Review: Brunelli Bar Restaurant Cafe

Location: 87 High St, Doncaster
Cuisine: Italian, cafe
Overall Impression: 5/10

For our more recent review of Brunelli, please click here!

Long weekends are great. That is, unless you have to study for an exam. I always thought I would leave the world of dreaded exams the moment I finished university and embarked into working life. Evidently this has sadly not been the case. Years later, I find myself cramming amongst salty crispy snacks and piles of legislation at my desk with my third cup of instant coffee wondering how I'll remember anything. I decided I needed to just get out of the house, at least for a little bit.
My best friend, Grace was lovely enough to keep me company.
my Cuppucino
It was 5pm when we arrived at Brunelli. All we wanted was some coffee but from the moment we arrived (although the place was empty), we got the sense they thought that we were there for dinner. Consequently it was awkward when we were presented with the dinner menu. We thought we might just order something to nibble on whilst sipping our coffees because we felt bad that we were not planning to stay for dinner.
Garlic Wood-fired foccacia
extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic & oregano

And it was very good foccacia. So good, I decided to have dinner there the next day and it was a simple but enjoyable meal.  We shared a few pizzas and they were all very nice. This place is casual and cosy. The service was prompt and friendly.
Brunelli Bar Restaurant Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, 6 June 2011

Restaurant Review: Sarti

Location: 6 Russell Pl, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9639 7822

Cuisine: Italian
Overall Impression: 8/10

Having heard about Sarti from different reliable sources, we were excited that we finally had the opportunity to dine there. It was J's birthday a week ago so this was part of his birthday celebrations (the week after I baked him the giant red velvet cupcake) with me as his date. We made a booking for 8.30pm as we both weren't sure if we would be able to get out of work early that Friday night. I had only rung the day before for a booking. The restaurant was fully booked apart from after 8.30pm (just as well, as we could not have made any other time!).
The whole place was bustling. There were people having Friday night drinks at the bar and the restaurant area was filled with patrons. It's nice going out on a Friday night. The atmosphere is always so much more lively. We were promptly seated at our table by a very friendly waiter that took very good care of us the rest of the night.
We decided to spoil ourselves with the degustation option and it turned out to be an excellent decision.
Bread served with extra virgin olive oil 
We knew we needed to get a bottle as this was one of the few occasions J was not driving. [Don't worry, I wasn't driving either.] So, J decided to get a bottle of Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz which turned out to be a great choice - it was a very nice bottle of wine! Good job, hun! J wasn't sure about getting this particular bottle of wine because he has a theory that big wine companies that are particularly famous for their top of the range wines try and flog off drags with their cheaper range because they know it will still sell due to brand recognition. Fortunately, on this occassion, his theory did not apply.
First course: Wild duck and ‘provolone polpette’, pistacchio, aniseed myrtle
 Second course: Calabrian chilli crab, ‘n’duja’ crumble, ‘neo nati fritti’
Third course: Marsala glazed homemade sausages, whipped white polenta
Fourth course: Camel ‘carpaccio’, native pepper soil, toasted macadamia nut, bush tomato

And every dish was delectable. The entrees were hearty and rustic. The Camel was the only entrée that had more of a modern twist. I couldn't say Camel is now my favourite but it was definitely an enjoyable experience and if anyone could pull off serving raw camel, Sarti surely could and did.  Everything was seasoned perfectly, and had a lot of familiar flavours and struck a good balance on the plate.
My favourite entrée was the soft shell crab. It had just the right amount of spice for that little kick without overpowering the subtle flavours of the sweet crab flesh.
Fifth course: ‘Gnocchi al forno’, black leek, scallops, mussel, ‘cavolini di bruxell’

The gnocchi was simply amazing! The mussels were delicious. They were beautifully fresh and juicy and so were the scallops. Perfectly seared and perfectly cooked. And back to the gnocchi. Al dente, creamy and yet with a bit of bite. The gnocchi itself was perfectly seasoned (I could have eaten it by itself). And together with all the other elements of the dish, it was presented beautifully, maintaining an air of refinement on the palate and yet still tasted hearty and comforting.
 Sixth course: Braised veal cheeks, purple cauliflower cous cous, prociutto consommé, black rice

The flavours of this course came as a bit of a surprise to me. When I read it on the menu, I had imagined something with quite intense flavours, much like the Ox tongue and cheek I had at Maze. Instead, the Braised veal cheeks had very subtle flavours. The prosciutto consomme really brought the whole dish together, but it too, was crisp and clean. Everything had very subtle flavours but together, it was a marriage made in heaven.
Side dishes:
‘Patate mille erbe’and Mixed salad, ‘aceto della casa’
Soon it was time for dessert, we were excited to see what our desserts would be as we had told the waiter to surprise us. (That's another great thing about Sarti. Unlike a traditional degustation, if you are extremely picky, they let you decide every course! And ofcourse you can leave all the decisions in the capable hands of the chef if you prefer.
Seventh course: ‘Pistacchio panna cotta’, caramel salted popcorn

This was delectable. I savoured every moreish morsel. The perfect melt-in-your-mouth panna cotta with a lovely pistachio scent and flavour contrasted beautifully with the saltiness and crunch of the popcorn. It was such a beautifully balanced dessert and it had the perfect level of sweetness so every element of the dish was clearly present with every mouthful.
Eighth course: ‘Amarena gelato’, frozen liquid biscuit, cherry gel & hazelnuts

This was also a beautiful dessert. It was sweeter than the panna cotta and was much more indulgent. The biscuit was so short and quickly crumbled and melted in my mouth. And the gelato was smacked with cherry infused flavours. It was a great end to an excellent meal.
Sarti offers one of the better value degustations in Melbourne. At $90 a head, it delivers on all fronts - excellent service, food and great ambience. I cannot wait to go back.
Sarti on Urbanspoon