Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cumulus Inc

Location: 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9650 1445
Link: www.cumulusinc.com.au
Cuisine: Bar, Coffee, Shared

As part of my July trip back to Melbourne, V suggested we head to Cumulus for lunch and I couldn't say no. Not only had I wanted to try out one of Andrew McConnell's restaurants for a while (Cutler & Co is still on my list), the place itself had some significant meaning for me. 

Cumulus Inc
Whilst this was my first dining experience at Cumulus, I had been taken there for coffee by my supervisor during a clerkship experience a few years back. Ironically, or perhaps suitably, the building in the background of the photo above, is where my career really began.

Enough reminiscing and onto the review.

Cumulus Inc is a hidden gem. Tucked away in a laneway off Flinders Lane, it's pretty hard to find unless you either know what you're looking for, or look up in time to see the sign and turn the corner.

Once inside, the atmosphere is relaxed and casual. By 12pm, the coffee drinking crowd have had their caffeine hit, and the place transforms from coffee shop to a foodie's heaven.

We were seated at the bar overlooking the kitchen, which gave us a clear view of the open kitchen and the chefs at work.

open kitchen
Our waitress was pleasant, polite and very helpful. She guided us through the menu choices and gave us an indication of the number and sizes of dishes that would suit us.

complimentary bread and butter
As with all good restaurants, we were served complimentary bread and butter as we waited for our dishes to arrive. The bread was pretty standard for me (but then again, I'm no bread expert) - V, on the other hand, really enjoyed the bread.

Slow cooked octopus with aioli, dehydrated olive
First up, the octopus. The octopus was tender and juicy, slow cooking had definitely allowed it to soak up the flavours and break down. The aioli was creamy and flavourful. Perhaps I misunderstood the dish, but I found the pool of olive oil a little overbearing.

Wagyu bresaola with pickled onions and horseradish cream
Hands down one of the best bresaola I have ever tasted. The meat was nicely cured, and the pickled onions provided a nice sweet, caramelised contrast to the salted meat. Whilst not the biggest fan of horseradish cream, the small dollops of cream worked brilliantly when combined with the bresaola and the onions.

Prosciutto di Parma
Another serve of nicely cured meat. Very thinly sliced and full of flavour, this was a hit, although it would have been nice to have had it served with something to cut the saltiness.

Mustard crumbled pig's tail, celeriac remoulade & caperberries
The menu description of this item caught our interest, and I love eating with V because she's willing to be adventurous too. I can think of many people who would turn their noses up at the sound of pig's tail.

The tail was well cooked, the fat inside had been rendered, and the crumble around the meat was delicate in texture but full of flavour. I wasn't completely certain about the combination of elements on the dish, but the tail definitely needed something to cut the richness, and the remoulade and caperberries did the job.

Roast new potatoes & celeriac, confit garlic and rosemary
As a side, we ordered the roast potatoes. An example of simple ingredients given a 'wow factor'. The confit garlic was delicious paired with the rosemary potatoes.

Finally, dessert time. V insisted that we could not leave Cumulus without trying their infamous madeleines.

Madeleine, filled with lemon curd
And was she correct? It was well worth the wait.  The madeleines were served warm, straight from the oven, and had a similar crumbly texture to shortbread, but softer. The filling inside was sweet and sticky, with the tart acidity of the lemon, that cut through the pastry and the icing sugar sprinkled on top.

The service was great, and they even asked what time we needed to leave so that they could time the dishes to suit our schedule (good for business lunches). A very enjoyable lunch, and I'll be back one day to try the rest of the dishes on the menu!

Overall Impression: 9.5/10 
Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spice Temple

Location: Crown Complex, Southbank, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 8679 1888
Link: www.spicetemplemelbourne.com
Cuisine: Asian, Sichuan

It's become a bit of a rule that each time I make it back to Melbourne for a weekend, I have to go out to some 'fancy' restaurant. Possibly because of the lack thereof in Canberra.

I have a harddrive full of photos, but with dinner time fast approaching and craving some good old Sichuan food, I thought I might start with Neil Perry's Spice Temple at Crown, from my August trip.

Located in the Crown Complex, Spice Temple is the newest addition to Neil Perry's growing collection of restaurants. The restaurant was dimly lit and spacious, with dark polished wooden furniture and hints of oriental design.

First up, a nice refreshing mocktail.

Green Apple & Jasmine House Made Soda
This was no apple juice, the freshness and sweetness of the apple was balanced with clean flavours from the jasmine tea, and topped off with some crunchy slivers of pickled cucumber.

Just as well we had the drinks, because shortly after, things started spicing up. We selected two dishes from the small plates and one from the large, along with some rice.

Fried squid with whole five spice and dark chilli paste
The first of our small dishes, the fried squid was crispy and packed full of five-spice goodness. And if that wasn't enough, the chilli paste on the side added an even hotter, but slightly acidic kick. A brilliant dish.

Fried salt and pepper silken tofu with spicy coriander salad
This was the highlight of the meal for me. The golden fried silken tofu was crispy and well seasoned on the outside, soft and smooth on the inside. They managed to keep their shape throughout the cooking process, and was served on a bed of coriander salad, which was doused in a numbing chilli sauce. A big plate of this and a large bowl of rice, and I'd be a very happy person.

Cabbage and radish pickles
As a palate cleanser, we opted for some cabbage and radish pickles, which provided a nice break from the fiery heat of the other dishes. The pickles themselves were slightly spicy too, but not quite the numbing sensation that were the other dishes.

Hot, sweet, sour and numbing pork chilli, sugar, black vinegar and Sichuan peppercorn
Our 'large dish' selection turned out not to be as large relative to the small dishes that arrived earlier. But the flavours were just as big. The pork itself was crunchy (think KFC popcorn chicken when done properly) and the chilli, sugar, vinegar and peppercorn created an explosion of spicy, sweet and sour flavours that numbed the mouth. Heaven on a plate.

Caramel chocolate and peanut parfait
And who could pass up dessert to cool the palate and finish on a sweet note? Not us. Despite looking somewhat boring, the caramel chocolate and peanut parfait was sweet, sticky, goody and crunchy on the outside. A perfect end to a perfect meal.

Service was pleasant, food arrived in a fairly timely manner, and the menu is just bursting with flavours. If you enjoy spicy food, give this place a shot. You won't regret it.

Overall Impression: 9.5/10
Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Abell's Kopi Tiam

Location: 7 Furneaux Street,Manuka, 2603
Phone: (02) 6239 4199
Cuisine: Malaysian

It's been a while since I last posted, and it's not because I haven't been eating out. At some point in the (hopefully) near future, I'll go back and dig out the photos and post something up.

Abell's Kopi Tiam is located in the 'restaurant precinct' of Manuka (although I must say, there isn't much else in Manuka) and doesn't look very fancy. The decor and set up is simple, albeit a little on the cramped side. But we can't really fault them for wanting to accommodate more customers.

It was a Friday night after a long week at work, so M and I decided to go all out and order three courses.

chicken satays
First up were the chicken satays. Expecting just a pile of skewers smothered in sauce, we were rather surprised and pleased to find that the plate itself could almost have been a complete dish. Four fairly generous skewers of tender barbecued chicken was served alongside a mini serve of fragrant coconut rice, a fresh pineapple and cucumber salad and a dish of a sweet and tangy satay sauce.

Our entree was followed very closely by our mains, something I found peculiar and slightly annoying. But the food more than made up for it.

Bali chicken in a creamy coconut and tamarind curry
The Bali chicken was amazing and unlike any curry I have ever tasted. The chicken was tender (and there was plenty of it), the eggplant and beans carried the flavours well and the sauce was creamy and packed full of flavour.

spring onion roti
There was only one kind of roti on the menu, which was a bit of a disappointment after Mamak. However, this roti lived up to its rival. Light and fluffy but not overly flaky, the roti tasted great on its own, and went fantastically when paired with the Bali chicken.

aubergine and tofu in sambal sauce
The irony was the location of this dish under the vegetarian section of the menu, given that sambal is made from dried shrimp. The tofu and eggplant had both been deep fried, then smothered in a slightly sweet sticky sauce and coated in sambal. A beautiful combination of flavours.

Who can pass up a Malaysian dessert? Not us! Despite being extremely full, we opted to share a sago pudding.

sago pudding with coconut milk and palm sugar
The soft jelly like sago balls drizzled with palm sugar syrup then drowned in coconut milk was the perfect way to end the meal.

All up, the food was great, albeit a little on the pricey side. Service was pleasant and there was no rushing customers out the door. Next up, to try the new Mamak Roti House that has recently opened up in Civic.

Overall Impression: 8.5/10

Abell's Kopi Tiam on Urbanspoon