Thursday, April 16, 2009


Location: Menzies Alley, Melbourne Central
Cuisine: Crepes, Waffles

There is this amazing waffle place hidden away in Menzies Alley at Melbourne Central. Decently priced and very very addictive!

Belgian waffles with fresh fruit and ice-cream

A normal serving of this usually has more pieces of waffles - but they ran out of waffle mixture and gave us extra crepes instead (see below). The waffles are delicious! Crispy and just sweet enough. There is a slighly biscuitty crunch and soft doughy insides. The berry sauce poured over the top was sweet and light, and went well with both the waffles and the ice cream. The fruit seemed a little out of place, but was nice to balance the dish out with.

Crepes with fresh strawberries and melted Lindt dipping sauce

My favourite is usually this set but with waffles instead of crepes. The crepes just weren't quite what I had expected, although it was still done quite nicely. The strawberries were awesome, and the Lindt chocolate sauce....heaven!!

Overall Impression: 8/10 (due to lack of waffle mixture)

Gordon's (Revisited)

Location: Causeway Lane, Shop 4, 306 Little Collins Street
Cuisine: Café, Modern Australian

After such amazing food, and forgiving them for their ridiculously slow service the last time we visited, we headed back to Gordon's for some more Easter feasting.

Meat lovers pizza

Asian tasting platter

This is always a favourite. There are two dipping sauces, one is like a mango chutney salsa, the other sweet chilli and lime. The platter includes chicken skewers, grilled prawns and calamari and probably some other things I have forgotten to include.

BBQ calamari and salmon risotto

Thai beef salad

Service this time around was quite an improvement from last time, but it was still a little on the slow side. We know to only go when we have plenty of time!

Overall Impression: 7.5/10

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sushi Monger

Location: Shop 17, 309 Bourke Street [down the Causeway Arcade)
Cuisine: Japanese, Quick Meals

In short, this has got to be the cheapest sushi place in Melbourne. Two sushi rolls and a miso soup for $5. Hungry? Add another sushi roll and it's still only $6.80. Feel like the more traditional Japanese fare? All the various dishes (teriyaki chicken, gyudon, katsudon and so forth are also on offer.

The place itself is quite small and most people opt for the take-away option - cut up and places in a plastic container with your choice of soy, wasabi and ginger. Miso comes in a very handy take-away coffee cup.

One thing we've noticed about this place is that they use extremely fresh ingredient. You can even watch the background preparation if you have the time, because everything is done in the open. If you don't have the time, you can still taste the freshness of the ingredients when you bite into your food.

A word of warning, this place gets extremely busy during the lunchtime peak hour, so if you get a chance, try to get in before the rush, otherwise you won't be left with much to choose from!!

Overall rating: 10/10

Happy & Lucky Family Chinese Restaurant

Location: 23-25 Anderson Creek Road, Doncaster East
Cuisine: Chinese, Yum Cha

Originally just a restaurant specialising in Beijing cuisine, Happy & Lucky Family decided to hop onto the Doncaster yum cha bandwagon. Having tried the Beijing cuisine originally and finding the food different, but rather bland, we decided to give the place a second chance and headed there for a yum cha lunch.

I have mixed feelings about the place. The food itself was good. The chef got all the textures and flavours right, and the prawn dishes were especially well done. It was a pity there wasn't a huge range of dishes to try, and most were the just the typical yum cha dishes. I had expected there to be a few more Beijing style dishes to distinguish itself from the all the surrounding yum cha places. (If you don't already know, Doncaster is renowned for yum cha, with at least 6 places that do it off the top of my head.) The other problem with the food was that was not quite hot enough - it bordered on warm. Understandably, the trolleys had to pass through the bulk of the restaurant before getting to our table, but at the same time, one would assume that at least the inside of the food remained reasonably hot (the trolleys are supposed to be insulated), which was not the case.

The service was very gruff and not particularly pleasant. Our crockery was pretty much dropped in front of us. The tea took forever to come out, and when we asked for chilli sauce, we ended up with tomato sauce. The only exception was the guy who refilled the teapots, who would come past and apologise for us waiting for our tea to be filled despite us not having waited all that long.

The layout of the restaurant (including long rectangular tables instead of round tables) also made it quite difficult for the trolleys of food to past through the place, and particularly annoying to spread food out on the table.

All in all, I did not end up very full, but there wasn't much else I wanted to eat (it was all repeats) so we left. Prices were reasonably cheap for yum cha - $3.50 small, $4.50 medium, $5.50 large - but we suspect it is only because the place has just started providing yum cha, once it settles down a little, no doubt we will see those prices jump!!

My own recommendation for yum cha remains the same - go to Taipan.

Overall rating: 6.5 / 10

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Shabu Shabu

Location: 380 Lonsdale Street
Cuisine: Japanese, Hotpot

Another all-you-can-eat for $25 place! This time, it's Japanese hotpot. For those who don't know, hotpot involves starting with a pot of boiling stock with a choice of soup bases (here it is chicken or miso) and a choice of dipping sauces (soy, sesame or suki). The food comes around on a conveyor belt, you take what you want off the conveyor belt and add it to your pot.

[chicken broth soup base]

[sesame dipping sauce]

As the servings on the belt are quite small (to prevent wastage), a waiter literally stands at the end of the belt and reloads it continuously. The selection is quite extensive ranging from meats (chicken, beef, lamb and pork), through to seafood (prawns, scallops, mussels, octopus, calamari and fish), and plenty of tofu, fish balls and vegies.

[the conveyor belt of food - hint: if you see prawns or scallops, take them immediately, or you will never get any!!!]

The only negative point was that because we hadn't booked, we were told that we had a 1.5 hour time limit. That did not impress us at all, as we had wanted to make the most of our $25! However, that time limit drove us to consuming excessive amounts of mostly seafood in an attempt to break even with our expenditure! I have a feeling we succeeded!

[just a fraction of the plates we accumulated over the 1.5 hours]

But for the time limitation, the service was quite fast. Empty plates were cleared away quite often, although I would have liked a photo of all the empty plates we had!

Overall rating: 9.5/10

Cho Gao

Location: Level 3, Melbourne Central
Cuisine: Thai, Vietnamese, Asian, Fusion

Walk in and you are surrounded by old South East Asian furniture and decorations. A [what the website calls] 20 metre bar stretches from the doorway through to the other end of the restaurant / bar. The furniture ranges from high tables and chairs to normal tables and stools, as well as armchairs for a relaxing drink.

We were seated at one of the high, long and narrow tables, which whilst very creative, was highly impractical for eating on. A group of us decided to share a few of the tapas, and ended up ordering:
  • Gado Gado;
  • Eggplant box;
  • Crispy pork belly;
  • Flat head tempura; and
  • Pad Thai.
The gado gado was simple and fresh, with a very light peanut sauce, and there was plenty of it. The eggplant box and flat head tempura were also quite nice. The crispy pork belly on the other hand, was extremely oily... Now I'm used to pork belly being somewhat fatty, but this was as though they had soaked the meat in excess fat overnight and then forgot to drain the meat after cooking it! The pad thai finished the meal off wonderfully, with fresh tamarind sauce and pieces of chicken, egg, tofu and peanuts. Mmmmm...

And the bonus of the night was that because we had spent over $50, we were shouted a free dessert platter (worth $29!) that came with chocolate mousse, creamed rice, jelly and banana fritter with coconut ice-cream.

Apparently Cho Gao regularly has specials like the dessert special on during weeknights, at the time of writing, they are offering two-for-one meals (except Thurs to Sat nights after 5pm). Check the website for updates.

Overall rating: 8/10

Portland Lane Cafe

Location: Corner of Little Collins and Russell Streets
Cuisine: Modern Australian

A very classy looking restaurant with relatively cheap food, there aren't a whole lot of these around! We found Portland Lane through the Entertainment Book [$30 off the bill!] and it turned out we chose well. The menu was rather extensive, ranging from pastas, classic dishes like burgers and fish and chips to the fancier cuts of steak and lamb fillets. YMG and I shared the Fisherman's catch, a giant platter of calamari, prawns, fish, scallops and chips, served with salad and tartare sauce. It was just filling enough (enough for fried food anyway), and the salad of cucumber, tomatoes, onions and rocket was quite good (minus the rocket as I don't like it). The fish tasted a tad oily, but the rest of the seafood tasted quite fresh. The rest of the table ordered fish of the day, fish and chips, parmagiana while Jane and Anna ordered dessert only.

[The Fisherman’s catch: a selection of fresh seafood, beer battered fish goujons, crispy paprika squid and chilli mussels & prawns with garden salad, thick cut chips and tartar sauce]

[Baileys & scorched almond ice cream: served with a shot of hot chocolate fudge and crisp wafer biscuits]

I'm hoping to get the photos off Stace soon so I can put them up, but from all I know, there were no complaints about the night. The service was pretty quick, and the waitresses were friendly enough. Seating was comfortable (anywhere with couch seating always scores bonus points with me).

Pricewise, mains were anywhere between $16-$20 (salads, pastas and classic dishes), through to $32 for steak and $36 for shared platters. Given the servings were fairly large and the food tasted fresh, it was worth the price.

The other thing to note is that the Portland is not just a cafe/restaurant. There is an attached bar in the next room, and from the crowd that were there last night (a Wednesday night), it must be a pretty popular bar!

Overall rating: 9/10

Guai Wei He [怪味合]

Location: 951 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill
Cuisine: Taiwanese

Tonight we decided to try out a new restaurant in Box Hill. No English name, 怪味合 (Guai Wei He) in Chinese. Literally translated as 'strange taste box'. Why so named? Because one of their signature dishes is the famous 怪味鸡 (chicken) that you get when you're in Taiwan.

The place operated a little like hotpot and Korean BBQ places. You choose a type of base pot (beef, prawn, crab, pork, lamb, mushroom, bean curd etc) and a type of sauce (seafood, special soy, curry, sweet and sour) and the waitress cooks it in front of you. Not quite Korean BBQ (not barbecued at all) and not like hotpot either (no soup base). More like a pressure cooker - the meat and vegies soak up the sauce. You can either eat this with rice, cold noodles or on its own. We ordered a half-lamb half mushroom pot with special soy sauce and half a signature chicken. The pot came with a few small kimchi like dishes.

The chicken was amazing - full of flavour and smelt and tasted a little smokey, like it had been cooked over a coal fire. The sauce it came with was quite tasty too, fairly salty, but smokey and sweet at the same time.

[signature 'strange tasting' chicken]

The pot itself came with a mix of carrots, onions and bean sprouts at the base, which were completely soaked with the sauce by the time the pot finished cooking. The lamb was tender, and there were plenty of different types of mushroom. Exciting stuff!

[mushroom and lamb pot]

Pricewise, it was rather cheap. The pot was a 4-person pot for $27 ($26 for lamb, $28 for mushroom), the half-chicken only $10. Along with two bowls of rice, our bill came to $39.

Creative, tasty and cheap!!

Overall rating: 9/10