Saturday, January 17, 2009

Suzuki Night Market

Location: Queen Victoria Market
Cuisine: various
Company: everyone!

Apart from the annual Chinese New Year festivals, I've rarely been to any night markets in Melbourne. Melbourne has a fairly disappointing night life compared to most other countries, so when Jenn decided to organise a group outing to the Suzuki Night Market, I jumped at the opportunity.

We got there early in order to get seating, and luckily there were almost 20 of us, as it meant we had enough people for half to guard seating while the other half got food. Mel and I shared a Mauritian dish of 'hot plate bread' with potato curry, a burrito, Spanish seafood rice [thanks Shu for getting it for us!!] and a nutella and ice cream crepe. The Mauritius dish was fantastic, and tasted twice as good as it looked. I'm feeling hungry now thinking about it!! The burrito was somewhat disappointing. The rice was soggy and unflavoured, and the filling not mixed very well. The chicken and the beans weren't too bad, but not enough to entice us for more. The Spanish rice was good, but I was a little disappointed as I had expected it to be fantastic - given the line of some 50 people waiting outside the stall. The crepe at the end...was beautiful!! Loads of nutella, two scoops of ice cream, and soft, light crepe... I also tried the traditional lemonade, which I thought was pretty good, despite Stace preferring her soft-drink version! There was also heaps of other food, including pasta, pizza, corn in a cup, tacos, nachos, noodles, dutch pancakes, curries and the list goes on.

top: hot dog
bottom: hot-plate bread with potato curry

Atmosphere wise, it just couldn't quite compare to the night markets I have been to before. Perhaps because the food was still slightly expensive, and the crowds just weren't quite the same - most were newbies at night markets and didn't understand the concept of navigating through crowds, and found themselves causing roadblocks everywhere! At least the number of friends there made up for the atmosphere, and it was particular fun seeing what food other people came back with.

Pricewise, it was still pretty expensive. Crepes were $5 - $8. The Spanish rice was about $13 and the Mauritian dish and burrito cost almost $20 together.

Will I return? Maybe sometime before the summer ends and the market stops running. But like this time, will have to wait for a bit of a crowd to maximise the experience!

Oriental Spoon

Location: 254 Latrobe Street
Cuisine: Korean
Company: various

I've been to this place multiple times, each time is a slightly different experience. I remember Mel took us to this restaurant the first time and we ordered a casserole [Korean casseroles are very soupy, but full of flavour] and a few other dishes between four people. Have been back a couple of other times for lunch of simple rice dishes, but it was the last that was the most memorable.

I met Jie after work one Saturday night and headed to Oriental Spoon for dinner. We ordered a beef cassarole and a pancake to share. We underestimated the size of the pancake and ordered a main size, rather than an entree sized, and had half of it leftover. The pancake itself was quite nice, and full of seafood, but could have had a stronger flavour, or a sauce that would cling to the pancake better. The casserole on the other hand, was bursting with flavour, especially by the end. It worked pretty much like hotpot, except that the broth itself was highly flavoured, before the waitress added the raw ingredients to a small camping stove at our table. The waitress would return at intervals to mix the soup and contents up a bit more, and we ate the beef and vegies with rice.

Beef casserole

Like most Korean restaurants, the meal also came with a number of complimentary sides, which were mostly quite tasty.

Pricewise, the meal cost us about $30 each, including drinks. A fairly decent price given we walked out of there overly full! We now know that one entree sized will be sufficient for two people!
Oriental Spoon on Urbanspoon

Ten Ren Tea Time

Location: 146 Swanston Street [between Little Collins and Bourke Streets]
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Company: Mel

After our unsatisfying meal at Equinox, Mel took me to a little Taiwanese place called Ten Ren for their 'crispy fried chicken'. At first I thought, crispy fried chicken? I might as well go to KFC, but then Mel explained to me that it was the famous Taiwanese fried chicken [盐酥鸡] and not typical KFC food so we ordered it [on the menu it's called 'spicy pepper chicken' even though it's not spicy at all].

The chicken was well flavoured, the batter itself appeared to have a very slight sweetness hidden in amongst the salt, pepper and other spices. The chicken itself was moist and full of flavour too. The chicken pieces were about the same size as KFC popcorn chicken, and we used toothpicks to eat it. For $4.80, we got more for our money than we had at Equinox!!

My second trip to Ten Ren was almost just as good. Having spotted oyster noodles and oyster omelette on the menu from the previous time, Mel and I went back to Ten Ren for lunch on day. I ordered the oyster noodles, which turned out reasonably decently, although cannot compete with the real stuff in Taiwan. It came with a free drink [ice/hot green/red/oolong tea]. Mel ordered a fried pork chop with rice, which also came with salad and fruit [a couple of pieces of watermelon] and for $1 extra, she got a pearl milk tea. The meals themselves were $8.80 each, which was ridiculously cheap for the amount of food Mel got! Lunchtime deals are very useful money savers!

I've still got a third trip planned to try the oyster omelette, and no doubt will be going back for the chicken again!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cafe Vue

Location: 430 Little Collins Street
Cuisine: French, Modern Australian
Company: Jie, Jenn, Helen

After listening to Jie and Helen harp on about how fantastic and cheap the infamous Cafe Vue burger was, Jenn and I finally got a chance to try it out. With very high expectations, we all ordered the burger.

And the result? A fairly disappointed lunch.

The bun was sweeter than I would have imagined for any beef burger, which is surprising since apparently McDonald's burger buns have loads of sugar, and put me off the burger. According to Helen, the lettuce tasted different to all the other times she had been there. The best part of the burger was definitely the wagyu beef, but I have a feeling that it was because it was wagyu rather than because they did it well.

The fries on the other hand, were quite good, and I finished them off happily.

Overall Impression: 6.5/10

The Emerald Hotel

Location: 415 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne
Cuisine: Modern Australian
Company: BD Tax team

Located within walking distance from Albert Park, the Emerald Hotel very much had your usual pub-like atmosphere. We were seated in the courtyard, where they had set up two long tables for us. Being a cold rainy day, I would have much appreciated being seated indoors, but what can you do with Melbourne weather?

We had our own set menu:

For entree, I chose the calamari:

Which was rather crisp, and the salad was fresh. Unfortunately, there was not enough flavouring in the calamari. Had they added a decent amount of salt & pepper, the dish would have been better off as salt & pepper calamari.

Since it was a Christmas function, I opted for the turkey breast as main course:

After tasting it, I regretted not choosing the fish. The dish was pretty much a game of stacks-on, with some turkey breast, a piece of honey ham and stuffing, with the roasted vegetables scattered around the mound of food. The vegies themselves were quite sweet and tender, and the cranberry sauce was strong and sweet. The turkey breast was the let down. There wasn't enough sauce to flavour the turkey, which was dry and a little tough. I've had better tasting turkey breast from the deli section at Safeway!

Still hungry as I didn't finish eating the turkey, I ordered the chocolate torte for dessert.

Beautiful and very very rich indeed! The ice-cream balanced the richness of the torte and ganache very well, and the freshness of berry coulis added just a slight fruity taste too.

Overall Impression: 6/10

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Location: Melbourne Central [corner of Elizabeth and Little Lonsdale Streets]
Cuisine: Modern Australian
Company: Stace, Mel, Jane

Equinox is a bar and restaurant located near Chillipadi at Melbourne Central. It has two floors, with an upstairs function area and bar, and a integrated downstairs cafe and dining area. The drinks were reasonably priced - $3 each. Stace and I ordered a latte and hot chocolate, and occupied the table and comfortable couches for two hours before we were joined by the others for dinner.

The food was very cheap indeed. The mains were priced $8 to $15 each, with an average of $6 desserts. However, the food was completely reflective of the price. My steak was the worst I have ever eaten: dry, stringy and almost odd tasting. The salad wasn't very fresh either. The only things I found edible were the chips and the mushroom sauce. Stace's marinara pasta came with a surprise spiciness. Mel's grilled pacific dory was given an 'okay' but the serving size was tiny. Only Jane's burger was considered 'good'. You get what you pay for I guess.

Rump steak with chips and salad

Pasta marinara

Beef burger

Grilled pacific dory with steamed vegetables

On the other hand, the place itself is quite nice. The music was very agreeable to us, and they had a balcony where the breeze was allowed in. Very casual, relaxing and probably a good place to hang if you're after a drink, but I would not recommend this place for dinner.

Overall impression: 5/10