Thursday, 31 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Zara

Location: 168 Sydney Rd, Coburg
Phone: 03 9384 1415
Cuisine: Turkish
Overall Impression: 5.5/10
In terms of ambience the restaurant is unnerving at first instance. The carpets are worn out and the tables and chairs look like they have not been replaced since the 1980s. Perhaps our experience would be different if we were here on a weekend when belly dancers would grace the very wide dining space. But on that weeknight, the restaurant appeared quite lifeless.
To balance the awkward mass of space between diners is a charming older gentleman who served us throughout the night. We suspect he is also the owner of Zara. He talks to us like we are guests in his home and immediately we feel a lot more comfortable.
We opted for the King’s Banquet ($30 per person) which was described as follows:

“For people who want to try a bit of everything. This menu includes unlimited soft drinks , two different types of Turkish Pizza , Rice & Salad , A Large Variety of Dips , Doner Kebab ,Chicken & Lamb Skewers , Lamb cutlets.”
Turkish Pizza
Doner Kebab
Chicken and Lamb Skewers
Lamb Cutlets
Turkish Delights and Baklavas
Turkish Coffee
Ultimately, it is the warm and friendly service that truly makes Zara tick. The food itself while pleasant to eat doesn’t go too far beyond ordinary. That said, for $30 a head, it is certainly a value for money proposition. We found the food homely and hearty with authentic Turkish flavours.
The banquet was appropriately generous and we all left with our appetites satiated. Zara is a good introduction to Turkish food and as far as banquets go, this is one that certainly won’t break the bank.

Zara on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Product Talk: Heinz Squeeze & Stir

A package filled with goodies from Heinz arrived in the mail for me - It's time for another Product Talk by Nuffnang...
It's not your ordinary powdered cup soup, these babies come in individual sachets filled with a rich concentrated paste that you simply add boiling water to. Really handy to stash away in your office desk. I've just had the  Ripe Tomato & Vegetable soup, whilst obviously not as delicious and hearty as mum's but for a quick and convenient soup, I found the flavour and taste to be much more natural and real than the powder soup alternative. It's made from fresh ripe tomatoes, low in fat, no artificial colours, flavours and has no preservatives - looks pretty good to me.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Dench Bakers

Location: 109 Scotchmer St, Fitzroy North
Phone: 03 9403 5333
Cuisine: Bakery, Brunch
Overall Impression: 7/10
Dench Bakers is one of the most highly regarded bakeries in Melbourne. A premium stockist for bread, Dench Bakers is a supplier to well known Melbourne establishments such as Richmond Hill Café & Larder, Earl Canteen and Market Lane Coffee.  
The coffee is great and the food is delicious. Simple, to the point and well executed. Our focaccia (salami, pesto, asiago & rocket) and sandwich (pulled pork, rocket & apple sauce) were both delicious.

sandwich - pulled pork, rocket & apple sauce
focaccia - salami, pesto, asiago & rocket
flourless orange cake

The desserts were equally as impressive.
We couldn’t go home empty handed so we bought a lovely olive and rosemary loaf and a traditional baguette, both of which were beautiful. 

This little eatery is the perfect place for a Sunday brunch. If the good coffee and food doesn’t win you over, the lovely cost ambience and friendly staff just might.

Dench Bakers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Yong Green Food

Location: 421 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9417 3338
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Korean, Asian, Vegan
Overall Impression: 6/10
Boasting animal-free goodies, Yong Green Food is proudly Vegan in its offerings. Tucked away on lively Brunswick Street, this humble eatery has gained considerable popularity over the years. Run by two lovely Korean sisters with a passion for food, the restaurant has a sense of warmth and cosiness. 
The highlight of our meal was the Rawsagna – their take on what a lasagne would be in a vegan world. It was absolutely delicious. The decadent cashew sauce paired with the delicately sliced zucchini and marinated eggplants made for a delectable combination of flavours. It would have been the perfect summer dish.
Tuna served with brown rice and steamed vegetables
Korean Stir-fry "beef"

The other dishes we ordered were far more simple and unfortunately, lacked seasoning.
Blueberry Cheesecake
Pecan Pie
Chocolate Brownies

We were excited when it came to dessert time and at the risk of appearing greedy, decided to order three desserts to share between the two of us. Considering the desserts had to omit common ingredients like eggs or dairy products (think cheesecake without cheese) we were curious to see what they would taste like. We were pleasantly surprised by how good the desserts tasted. They were very different to their “original” counterparts but were unique and delicious in their very own way.

All in all, Yong Green Food delivers all that it promises to both Vegans and non-Vegans. I know I will certainly be back for their Rawsagna (especially when the weather is warmer).

Yong Green Food on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Restaurant Review: The Bond Store

Location: 1 Riverside Quay Southbank
Phone: 03 9686 9007
Cuisine: Brunch, Coffee
Overall Impression: 5/10
Bond Store serves reasonably good food at fair prices and the coffee is of a good standard.
In terms of cafes around the Southbank area, it is certainly one that is worth a visit.
The Bond Store on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Comme Kitchen

Location: 7 Alfred Pl, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9631 4000 CBD
Cuisine: French, European
Overall Impression: 4.5/10
An ex-Michelin star restaurant sous chef and now Orthopedic surgeon (and dear friend) that G and L met during their 2 years in Europe was visiting. We all decided to take him to a French restaurant to see his views on the Melbourne take on French cuisine.
Being a born and bred French man himself, he was very sceptical about how authentic the execution of the French cuisine would be but was also excited to see what French cuisine in Melbourne had to offer. I had read that Comme Kitchen was a brilliant French restaurant and had consistently earned a chef hat for several years now in The Age Good Food Guide so we thought it would be a fair reflection of a reasonably good Melbourne French restaurant. Neither, J, G, L or I had ever visited Comme Kitchen prior to this occasion. Unfortunately, neither of us will ever be coming back.
The place is unconventionally set out but aesthetically, it works. There is a relaxed elegance about the place and based on first impressions, it was certainly a place we liked instantly. 
We commenced our night with cocktails at the bar while waiting for our table. When we were finally seated, our French guest ordered a few beautiful bottles of wine. We had been drinking for a while and were becoming incredibly hungry. Our orders had been placed an hour ago and we all wondered whether the kitchen had forgotten our orders. It was perplexing given the restaurant was far from full.
Our five entrees finally arrived. All five, minuscule in size. We thought, given these were entrees, it might be a good way to work up an appetite for the mains.
Our mains arrived in half an hour after our entrees. To our disappointment, they were the size of a normal entree (i.e. although bigger than a Comme Kitchen entree, trifling for what would be expected of a normal sized main). It was clear that the restaurant was suffering from a serious case of 'big plate syndrome' - tiny portions on a giant plate. A phenomenon common in the ancient past that was indicative of  restaurants with "class". Something fine dining establishments in the twenty first century (bar a few) have realised does not induce patronage.
To the restaurant's credit, ignoring the portions, in terms of the food itself, our dishes met our expectations. They were reasonably well executed as a whole and had good flavours that were well balanced and pleasing to eat. My highlight of the evening was my entree of 'Escargot Bourguignon, button mushrooms, lardons & parsley cream'. Although, the flavours of the dish were quite strong and slightly overwhelmed the subtle flavours of the snail, that did little to detract from the fact that the snails were tender and melted in my mouth. 
The desserts were the most adequately sized of all the courses.
They were a sweet end to the meal.
As a whole, it was an incredibly underwhelming dining experience. The unreasonable wait for the food to arrive and the ridiculous portions were the main downfall. The main waitress that served us was lovely and accomodating but every other staff member we encountered during the night was defensive and rude. The food itself is of quite a good standard but for a hatted establishment and the high end price tags, we would have expected much more.
Comme Kitchen on Urbanspoon