Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kam Fook: Dinner

Location: Level 2, Westfield Shoppingtown, Doncaster
Cuisine: Chinese, Yum Cha

Having loved the yum cha at this place, we decided to give it a shot for dinner. And it was so worth it!

Table setting

Sliced pork and jellyfish

A very simple classic dish, the sliced pork was well marinated and cooked just right. The meaty part was salty and the rind was chewy but not tough, more like a stiff jelly. The jellyfish had a slightly weird taste that showed it hadn't been marinated enough. The sauce was nice and tangy, with a bit of a kick from the chilli. I really liked the presentation - they managed to make a simple dish look pretty interesting!

San Dong Chicken - chicken with shredded nori and crushed cashews

Strange things happened with this dish. The menu stated it as "shredded chicken [in some sauce] with cucumber and crushed cashuts (sic - they meant cashews)" but when it arrived, the chicken wasn't shredded, instead it was de-boned and portioned. And then, instead of cucumber, it was covered in shredded nori flakes. The cashews were there though, and the meat was definitely chicken. When we asked for the menu again to double check, there was no other dish that matched the description of ours! The waiter later confirmed for us that it was the correct dish and that it has always been done in this way. TRANSLATION FAIL!

In any case, the dish was delicious. The chicken was well-marinated and tender, with a nice crispy skin. It could have been left to crisp just a little bit longer, but it still tasted excellent. The nori flakes was something I've never had on chicken and it gave it quite an interesting flavour. The cashews were just cashews, partially c

Deep fried mushrooms stuffed with prawn mince with a salty egg yolk and fish roe sauce

Hands down the best dish of the night! There was so much work put into these tiny mushrooms. When reading the menu, I envisaged a pile of giant mushrooms, stuffed then rolled in egg yolk batter and then deep fried, and certainly not what it turned out to be! Firstly the mushrooms were soft and aromatic. The prawn mince inside wasn't exactly fresh prawn, more like prawn and flour mixed together, but was quite tasty and matched the texture of the mushrooms well. There were some tasty bits of salty egg yolk mixed with fish roe clinging to the mushooms, and floating around in the sauce. Personally, I would have liked to see more of the egg yolk/fish roe combination, as weird as it sounds. And even the brocolli was nice, and I'm not a fan of brocolli!
Fortune cookies!

An interesting way to end the meal - we're used to some sort of sweet soup and a plate of fruit from most other places.

Atmosphere: spacious and classy - table cloths and fancy table settings

Service: absolutely perfect - the waiters and waitresses were incredibly polite and friendly (especially for a Chinese restaurant inside a shopping centre) and the food came out in a rather timely fashion

Price: pretty decent value for money. We paid $76 for the meal, which included rice and tea for 4 people. That's not even $20 a person!

Overall Impression: 9.5/10

Kam Fook on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shanghai Village

Location: 112 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Cuisine: Chinese, Dumplings

Who wants cheap dumplings? Me!!

After initially planning to try out the Post-Deng Cafe and finding out that a vast majority of the food was spicy (it was a warm day and my two companions are not fans of spice), we wandered by Shanghai Village and decided that it was going to be dumpling day.

Fried pork dumplings

Nice and crispy, and very juicy on the inside. These dumplings were an instant hit for me. There was quite a fair bit of meat inside and the oil from frying had been drained off quite well. Nothing is worse than oily drippy dumplings.

Steamed pork dumplings

These were equally as good (although my two companies loved this one more). The filling was the same, but the pastry was much more noticeable on these ones. Nice and even thickness, not too thick but strong enough to hold the meat and soup inside.

Szechuan mince sauce noodles

This was a disappointment.The mince and sauce lacked flavour and was quite bland, which along with some fresh cucumber and plain noodles, did not make a very appealing dish. We didn't even finish this one.

Xiao long bao!

These were pretty good, but not as good as HuTong. The meat and soup inside were nice and tasty, but the pastry was just too thick and not quite sealed. Soup would escape out of the top 'spiral' if you took your first bite elsewhere.

All in all, go here for the dumplings. From previous visits, they have some nice noodle soup dishes as well. Don't expect much service - they'll take your order and bring you the food, you get everything else yourself, which is fine by me given the prices are relatively cheap.

Overall Impression: 7.5/10

Shanghai Village Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Groove Train

Location: Level 3, Melbourne Central
Cuisine: Modern Australian

Fried Calamari - lightly floured & fried, garnished with salad, tartare sauce, served with chips

Pollo Pizza - chicken, napoli sauce, mozzarella cheese, capsicum, semi sun-dried tomatoes & avocado

Grilled Calamari & Octopus Salad - on mesclun lettuce with snow pea sprouts & a Thai inspired dressing

Grilled Chicken - grilled chicken, mushrooms, semi-dried tomatoes, cheese & avocado

Food: decent
Service: the same as usual, minimal but friendly, and food came out at a reasonable speed
Price: mains average $16 - $20

Overall Impression: 8/10

Groove Train on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Universal Restaurant - Quick Lunch

Location: 141 Lygon Street
Cuisine: Italian

Needing a quick lunch one day, we headed to Lygon Street for some good old Italian. We decided to order a pizza and a pasta to share...

Universal Pizza

The pizza came up surprisingly quickly and loaded with topping. The base was thin and crispy and the toppings (cheese, ham, mushrooms, olives and capsicum) very tasty. Like all good pizzas, the cheese was nice and stretchy when pulling the slices apart.

Pollo tortellini

Having previously had a bad experience with the tortellini at this place with the tortellini being too dry, we asked for extra sauce this time (which the waitress dubbed 'extra cream') and hoped that we would not end up with pieces of tortellini swimming in cream. The result was a perfect balance - just enough sauce to accompany the tortellini. The sauce wasn't too overly creamy either, and the chicken and bacon pieces weren't overcooked and worked well in the sauce. The tortellini itself was nice and al dente, and the filling inside was quite tasty.

Food: excellent
Service: minimal but reasonably friendly
Atmosphere: more casual that the general Italian restaurant
Price: pasta and pizza dishes (small) average around $10

Overall Impression: 9/10

Sunday, October 25, 2009

European Bier Cafe

Location: 120 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Cuisine: Modern Australian

A very large bar and restaurant. Extensive range of alcohols and a fairly decent sized menu. The live band makes the place rather noisy and hard to carry on conversations. The place itself looked pretty nice and comfortable, good for a casual dinner or after work drinks.

In addition, it is one of those 'order at the bar' places without table service, although the waiters do bring the food out to the tables for you. Service was relatively slow, especially with the entrees, but the mains rolled out with a small wait but roughly at the same time.

Seasoned Wedges served with sweet chilli and sour cream and cheese and bacon

Perfect wedges loaded with lots of melted cheese and bacon bits!

Duo of Housemade Greek Dips (beetroot and tzatziki) with toasted Turkish bread and marinated olives

Bruschetta with roasted garlic, slow roasted tomatoes, Spanish onion, basil and a balsamic reduction

Pesto Marinated Pan Fried Chicken Breast served on char-grilled vegetables, mushroom risotto and Napoli sauce

Chicken was a little on the dry side at times, but very nicely marinated with the pesto. The mushroom risotto was just beautiful - light and fluffy, and plenty of mushrooms! The Napoli sauce added a slight tangy flavour to the dish.

Chicken Parmigiana, a succulent chicken schnitzel topped with ham, Napoli sauce and molten mozzarella served with fries and a fresh garden salad

Char-Grilled Sirloin Steak topped with mushroom sauce served on mash and julienne of vegetables

Pan fried Fish of the Day Meunierre, fresh fillet cooked in nut brown butter, served on mash and a vegetable mélange

Salt and Pepper Dusted Calamari on mesculin salad leaves with fresh coriander, snow peas, cashews, bean shoots and our own coriander and basil dressing

Open Lamb Souvlaki, marinated lamb served atop toasted pita bread with a Greek salad and tzatziki

Seared Spiced Barramundi on mash and sautéed Asian vegetables with hollandaise sauce

Chicken Breast Schnitzel served with fries, salad and mushroom sauce

Overall Impression: 8/10

European Bier Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 23, 2009

Vialetto Ristorante: $30 Two Course Deal

Location: 75 Hardware Lane, Melbourne
Cuisine: Italian

I've been to this place a few times now, so there isn't much point in re-iterating the wonderful atmosphere and generally quite good service. Straight onto the food!!

Vialetto's currently have a deal on for dinner - $30 will buy you two courses (entree and main or main and dessert). And they do have free drinks - the tip is to appear hesitant about going in until they offer you a complimentary drink on them. The only thing is that if you book in advance, or appear to have already made up your mind to go in, they won't be offering you that drink.

Italian style dips - olive tapenade, smoked salmon & chive and sun dried tomato dips served with toasted bread and salad garnish

This was a bit of a let-down after the work girls raved a bit about how good it was. This time they mushed up the three dips in the one dish instead of giving us three individual dishes. My favourite was the smoked salmon - light but creamy and had a very nice, almost pate-like, taste. The sun-dried tomato dip was sweet, probably too sweet, and the olive tapenade was just a little too oversalted. More bread (maybe warmed turkish bread) would have solved most of the problems with this dish.

Chicken medallions - marinated chicken medallions, pan seared, served with seeded mustard mash, green beans, garnished with a rocket and semi dried tomato salad

Veal saltimbocca - pan cooked baby veal scallopine with Virginia ham and fresh sage, served atop confit potato, sauteed onion, wilted spinach and chive beurre blanc

The veal was a little undercooked which was disappointing, but the sauce was perfect. Creamy but not too heavy, and I could taste the lemon or lime juice through it. The potatoes were soft and creamy in texture. The onions were tasty but I would have preferred them caramelised rather than just sauteed. The spinach was soft and helped break up the meat and cream.

Bigne con cioccolata - profitteroles filled with crema pasticcera and served with warm chocolate sauce & vanilla bean ice-cream.

This was amazing. The profitteroles were filled with thick cold cream and the pastry outer shell was hardened but a little crunchy. The chocolate sauce and ice-cream matched it well. My only complaint is that there should have been more strawberries!

Service: excellent, albeit a little slow
Food: average
Value for money: excellent, especially with a free drink (includes basic alcohols)
Atmosphere: excellent

Overall Impression: 8.5/10

Vialetto Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sichuan Restaurant: Hotpot

Location: 65-67 Carrington Road, Box Hill
Cuisine: Chinese, Hotpot

There are quite a few hotpot places in Box Hill, Sichuan Restaurant is one I frequent the least, but ventured there for all-you-can-eat hotpot for a birthday.

For $25, you have pretty much unlimited amounts of food - you just keep ordering and the waiters will bring in the dishes (raw of course). There are also a couple of cooked dishes that count as part of it, including some type of jelly noodle, wontons and other somewhat strange dishes.

We ordered a double flavoured pot for nine of us (one side normal broth, one side loaded with fat red chillies). Service was a little below par when compared with other similar places but we pretty much got what we asked for so there were no dramas there.

They did try to charge us for an extra bottle of beer when we had kept tabs on how many had been ordered. After some negotiation they were more than happy to take the amount off the bill. It was disappointing that tea, a staple at most Chinese restaurants, cost $1.50 per person.

I think I have a preference for Beijing Hotpot and Dumpling Cafe or Little Lamb when it comes to hotpot. I should probably go back to them at some point and get some photos!

Overall Impression: 7.5/10
Sichuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Northland Shopping Centre: Manhattan Diner

Location: Food Court, Northland Shopping Centre, 50 Murray Road, East Preston
Cuisine: Takeaway

Clearly one of the best hotdogs I have ever had. Sausage, barbecue sauce, caramelised onions and cheese on top of a soft bread roll...beautiful!! There may possibly have been too much cheese, as towards the end I found myself taking off some of the cheese, but the overall taste sensation was awesome. And the chips were pretty good too - a bit like Maccas chips without all the oil.

Hotdog with barbecue sauce, caramelised onions and cheese with fries

For $9.50, I got a hotdog, chips and a drink (had to pay extra for the onions - which I think are essential to any hotdog!)

Overall Impression: 9/10

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cafe Era

Location: Menzies Alley, Melbourne Central
Cuisine: Greek, Modern Australian

Seafood and corn chowder

Loved this dish - sweet corn and nice thickened chowder with lots and lots of seafood. There were plenty of clams, mussels, fish, prawns and scallops and then some nice Ciabatta bread to dip in.

Smoked salmon linguine

Chicken focaccia

Overall Impression: 9/10 (chowder!)

Cafe Era on Urbanspoon

Chiangmai Thai Cuisine

Location: 121 Lygon Street, Carlton
Cuisine: Thai

Thai food is not something that immediately springs to mind when one thinks of Lygon Street. But there are a surprising number of Thai places that are hidden in amongst the Italian eaters. Chiangmai was one of these hidden gems to which I will be returning to.

Mixed entrée - chicken spring rolls, chicken satay skewers, fish cakes, chicken curry puffs

I quite enjoyed everything on this dish. The spring rolls were very tasty, slightly different to Vietnamese and Chinese spring rolls - I think it was less meaty - but tasted great with the sweet chilli dipping sauce. The fish cakes were surprisingly tasty and did not taste too processed as I had expected it to be. The curry puffs were also surprisingly good - the filling was tasty, light and a little airy on the inside, crispy on the outside. Perfectly good deal for $12.

Chicken Pad Thai - stir fried rice noodle with crushed peanuts, egg, bean shoots and spring onion

I don't think I have managed to find any place that can beat Tasty Thai when it comes to pad thai. The rice noodles in this dish were too soft and sticky, when the rice noodles should have been al dente (a bit like pasta). The flavour was very light and tangy, with plenty of peanuts and bean shoots for crunch.

Pork Gang Keow Wan - green curry with vegetables, coconut milk and bamboo shoots

One of the best green curries I have had in a long time! The meat was soft and tender, and the curry was smooth and very coconut-ty. The bamboo shoots were crunchy and the other vegies were softened and juicy.

Service: somewhat lacking but quite patient and friendly
Atmosphere: a classier Thai restaurant compared to the typical Swanston Street eatery. Quite small looking but there is more seating upstairs
Food: pretty amazing
Value for money: a little on the pricey side, but well worth it

Overall Impression: 9/10
Chiangmai Thai Cuisine‎ on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Animal Orchestra

Location: 163 Grattan Street Carlton
Cuisine: Café, Modern Australian

Where to go on a cold winters day when you're at uni and hungry? Animal Orchestra!

Moroccan lamb soup with lentils

This was a very chunky style soup with cubes of vegies and pieces of lamb. All the ingredients were quite tender and soft, and the flavour of the soup was quite strong. A change to many places who just give cold sliced bread, Animal Orchestra had sliced ciabatta bread toasted and served with butter.

Baked eggs with chorizo

Baked eggs with bacon

Overall Impression: 8.5/10
Animal Orchestra on Urbanspoon