Monday, 30 April 2012

Restaurant Review: Mail Exchange Hotel

Location: 688 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9903 6880
Cuisine: Modern Australian
Overall Impression: 5.5/10
Linguini - prawns with chilli, rocket and extra virgin olive oil
The pasta was simple and enjoyable.
Baked Salmon - Atlantic salmon fillet topped with miso paste and served with Asian greens and bad boy chips
I asked for more vegetables instead of chips and the restaurant kindly obliged. My salmon was perfectly cooked and the vegetables were flavoursome.

It's a little rough around the edges but Mail Exchange Hotel certainly meets expectations. The ambience is enjoyably relaxed and the food arrives promptly. The food itself is pleasant and they are certainly accomodating and adaptable with patrons making slight changes to what is on the menu.

Mail Exchange Hotel on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Restaurant Review: Chef Lagenda

Location: 16 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington
Phone: 03 9376 2668
Cuisine: Malaysian Hawker
Overall Impression: 6.5/10
When it comes to restaurants competing, it doesn't get any more aggressive. Abiding by the saying, 'keep you friends close and your enemies closer', Chef Lagenda has placed itself competitively next to its rival Laksa King. Rumour has it that the original chef from Laksa King is the owner of Chef Lagenda. Whilst I cannot verify this rumour (and am probably further perpetuating a rumour that may be completely false), I love a little cat fight between restauranteurs.
So, "whose cuisine reigns supreme?"
J, R and I venture down for an eating adventure at Chef Lagenda to see how it would compare to Laksa King. We decided to base the winner on their curry laksa. Afterall, that is what Laksa King is ultimately famous for.
After a couple of good and authentic tasting entrees, our 3 bowls of curry laksa arrived.
Upon initial inspection, it was clear how generous they were in terms sizing. There were a lot of noodles, meat, seafood, yongtofu and plenty of broth to go with it. To the restaurant's credit, every protein in that bowl was cooked well. The prawns tasted juicy and sweet and the chicken was beautifully tender. The broth itself, however, lacked heat. There was also a lot more coconut cream in this laksa which meant that the spicyness of the laksa broth was further masked. That said, the broth had a lovely flavour. It was a pity that it was not spicy enough.

In terms of how it compares to Laksa King, we all agreed that the Laksa King broth itself had more depth of flavour and its chilli content, was far more on the money. However, in terms of the toppings that went inside the curry laksa, Chef Lagenda's was far more generous and also cooked their toppings very well. 

Here is what Malaysian food expert, guest blogger, R had to say:

"In terms of authenticity, I  would give Chef Lagenda a 5/10 (with a score of 10/10 being eating in a good hawker stall in Malaysia). Firstly, there was mint and eggplant in the curry laksa. The mint, in particular should either have been omitted or been present in a far more subtle manner. The satay sauce we had was too smooth and it was not served with the traditional ketupat."
The desserts were lovely. I highly recommend their sago dessert (pictured below).
If you prefer a milder curry and want value for money, I would highly recommend Chef Lagenda. However, if you like your curry laksa with a bit more kick, the laksa broth at Laksa King will do the trick. As much as we enjoyed dining at Chef Lagenda, we all agreed that when it came down to the laksa broth itself, Laksa King is still, well, the Laksa King.

Read Gastrology's Laksa King review here!

Chef Lagenda on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Restaurant Review: Pho Bo Ga Mekong Vietnam

Location: 241 Swanston St, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9663 3288
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Overall Impression: 4.5/10
Popular among tourists and locals, Mekong is a Melbourne institution. The popularity is evident. We were here at 11.30am on a Sunday and the place was absolutely packed.
Whilst the food served is of a reasonable quality. It is difficult to ignore the poor levels of service. The restaurant is perpetually understaffed and for the staff on duty, there is no system of "first come, first serve". You can very easily end up sitting at your table, waiting for your order to be taken and watch as other patrons that arrive much later be served ahead of you. I used to love Mekong but that was 10 years ago. As this restaurant steadily increases in popularity, it appears its charm is quickly fading at the same rate.

Pho Bo Ga Mekong Vietnam on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Bar Review: Red Spice Road

Location: 27 McKillop Street, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9603 1601
Cuisine: South East Asian influenced, Fusion
Overall Impression: 7/10
So, we know Red Spice Road serves delicious food (read my review of the restaurant here), but how does the bar compare?
Of late, Red Spice Road has been gaining quite a reputation for its cocktails. The cocktail section of the menu is impressive, with a range of cocktails to suit most.
R, J and I were delighted to have the opportunity to find out if they would live up to the hype surrounding them.
It was great being able to wind down with these cocktails after dinner. They were amply sweet and had beautiful subtle flavours. We ordered one of their latest post-dinner cocktails and were very impressed by how sophisticated it tasted. To our delight, they were also very generous with that volatile substance we love. A good cocktail should always have a decent Alcohol By Volume (ABV) reading and these did not disappoint.
The bar is certainly an intoxicating experience.

Red Spice Road on Urbanspoon

Monday, 9 April 2012

Restaurant Review: Dainty Sichuan

Location: 176 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
Phone: 03 9078 1686
Cuisine: Chinese
Overall Impression: 7/10
Dainty Sichuan is not for the faint-hearted. Serving up authentic chilli, pepper and garlic laden Chinese cuisine from the Sichuan province, the food is delightfully complex and flavoursome. To celebrate the start of the long weekend, R, J and I after a lot of drinking at Campari House on Hardware Lane decided to head down for a "heated" affair at Dainty Sichuan. We were thankful that we had made a booking as the queues were frightening. 
We feared our levels of intoxication might slum to dangerously low levels, so we immediately ordered our beers before looking through the menu.
Fish flavoured Eggplant $19.80

The fish flavoured eggplant was certainly the dish of the night. Pristinely deep-fried and covered in a gooey caramelised chilli sauce, it was brilliant! The spice was perfect. There were hints of sourness, sweetness and ample amount of saltiness. The flavours had depth and complexity and were all well-balanced. It was delicious.
Fried Pork Slices $27.80

Our second course was also deliciously deep fried. (One thing you should expect from Sichuan cuisine is plenty of oil and chilli). This dish is probably good for those that cannot take too much spice. It was very tame compared to the other dishes we had. Again, there were a copious amount of flavours.
Spicy Ribbon Fish $18.80

The Spicy Ribbon Fish was our least favourite dish of the night. Although the flavours were pleasant and interesting, every bite of the preserved and salty fish fillets was filled with mini, utterly annoying fish bones. As such, the dish was left mostly untouched.
Chongqing Chilli Chicken $27.80

The infamous Congqing Chilli Chicken caught me by surprise. It was by far the spiciest dish of anything that I have ever encountered. And trust me, I eat and can take a lot of spice. It was delicious although something about it tasted potent. I could feel my lips and tongue swell with every mouthful but there was something addictive about this dish as well. The main flaw of the dish is the fact that the chicken pieces weren't exactly slices of chicken. They were all little bits of chicken ribs. Every little morsel was filled with bones. There was hardly any meat. We had to work very hard for the delicious spicy chicken bits.
I'm not sure if it was the beer or the ridiculous amount of chilli we had just devoured, but our dinner at Dainty Sichuan ended with R challenging J to two spoonfuls of pure chilli from the Chongqing chicken dish for a $100. It was a challenge J could not resist and suffered greatly for over the next 24 hours. R on the other hand, thought it was the best $100 he had ever spent and kept replaying his footage of J eating the chilli and his facial expression as he quickly came to the realisation that he had made a big mistake.
All in all, Dainty Sichuan is a fiery experience that I would highly recommend.
Dainty Sichuan on Urbanspoon

Friday, 6 April 2012

Restaurant Review: Melbourne Vietnam Noodle House

Location: 251 Swanston St, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9639 4911
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Overall Impression: 5.5/10
When you just aren’t in the mood to travel to Vietnamese food hot spots like Richmond and Springvale, a great CBD alternative is Melbourne Vietnam Noodle House.
There is a brilliant array of dishes that are sure to please.
Located conveniently on Swanston Street, this place has a nice and relaxed space. The menu is well priced with all items around the $10 mark. The only downside is the service (or more accurately, lack thereof).

Melbourne Vietnam Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Monday, 2 April 2012

Restaurant Review: The Blue Room Restaurant Bar Cafe

Location: 279 Clarendon St, South Melbourne
Phone: 03 9699 4036
Cuisine: Modern Australian
Overall Impression: 5.5/10
The last time I was at The Blue Room was for a work Christmas dinner and drinks at least 4 years ago. I recall having a good impression about the place so I was keen to re-visit it.
Decor-wise, it didn't look like much had changed.
Claypot Saffron Chicken, chicken fillets cooked in a saffron Napoli sauce, roasted peppers,olives and soft polenta
Blueroom premium leg ham, field mushrooms, mild salami, oven dried roma tomatoes,
wood fired red peppers & kalamata olives

Wood-fired pizza - clarendon hot calabrese salami, tiger prawns, artichoke hearts, oregano & chilli flakes

The restaurant appears to pride itself in the pizzas it serves. There is a clear mention on their website of having won "1st Place in the traditional pizza category of the “Best of the Best Pizza Challenge” at the
2010 Good Food & Wine Show" and the pizzas fall under a bold heading on the menu titled "our famous wood fired pizzas".

Whilst the pizzas were pleasant, they were quite ordinary and were the least impressive course we had.
linguini marinara market fresh black mussels, tiger prawns, roe on scallops, calamari, chilli & garlic tossed with herbs, white wine & virgin olive oil

The linguini marinara was lovely. The seafood was cooked well and the pasta was al dente. The beautifully strong garlic and herb flavours permeated the dish.
Eaton Mess

sticky date pudding with a rich butterscotch sauce & vanilla ice-cream

The highlight of our dinner was definitely the sticky date pudding. It was light, fluffy and absorbed the indulgent butterscotch sauce. Although the menu stipulated that the pudding would be served with cream, we asked for ice cream instead and the waiter kindly obliged. It was a great way to end our meal.
Although we were not impressed by the pizza we ordered, overall, it was a good dining experience. The service was friendly and prompt and we liked the casual and relaxed ambience Blue Room has.

The Blue Room Restaurant Bar Cafe on Urbanspoon