Tuesday, July 31, 2012

PappaRich Doncaster

Location: 540 Doncaster Road, Doncaster 3108
Phone: (03 9848 1572
Link: www.papparich.net.au
Cuisine: Malaysian

So the Pavilion closed down and in its place up popped Pappa Rich, a relatively casual and family friendly restaurant chain that has only recently come to my attention.

We're there on a Thursday evening without a booking and, despite the place been packed out, we're seated almost immediately. We soon find out why - the tables are tiny and all crammed together. Typical Asian restaurant.

The food soon demonstrates why the place is already so popular. We order an assortment of dishes to share and somehow manage to juggle these on the small surface area of the table.

roti canai with curry chicken
First up is a roti canai with curry chicken. The roti is crisp and flaky on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. It soaks up the curry and various dips brilliantly.  As an added bonus, the chicken is 'fall-off-the-bone' tender and full of flavour.

crispy fried chicken skin
This is a bit of an odd dish, and ordering it turns out to be a bit of a mistake. We had somehow envisaged crispy and juicy pieces of chicken skin much like that found on grilled chicken wings, but alas these are dry and overcooked. The redeeming feature is the sweet chilli dipping sauce, which adds a nice fresh hit of spice and moisture to the dish.

Ipoh horfun with chicken and shrimp
Another Malaysian classic, Ipoh horfun is a rice noodle in soup dish, accompanied by various proteins and vegetables. This one comes with pieces of juicy prawns and slices of chicken. Simple ingredients with a flavoursome soup base.

Pappa char kway teow with cockles
When we saw cockles on the menu, we had in mind cockles still in their shells. Despite the dish coming out very much shell-less, the char kway teow is everything a char kway teow should be. A mix of soft rice noodles that have been slightly charred in the wok, crunchy fresh bean sprouts, chewy cockles and a range of other vegetables, all brought together with a wonderful wok smokiness.

nasi lemak with fried chicken
Nasi lemak is traditionally served with a curry base. But given we'd already had curry chicken with our roti, we went with the fried chicken.

Not your typical KFC chicken, but the skin is crispy and the meat inside still tender. The coconut rice is deliciously sweet and aromatic, and the sambal, ikan bilis and peanuts round out the flavours and textures in the dish.

In terms of ambience, this is not the place to go for a nice quiet dinner. The place is loud and abuzz with the chatter of patrons and waiters racing around taking orders and delivering meals. A great vibe for a casual dinner.

Overall Impression: 8.5/10
PappaRich Doncaster on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Circa, the Prince

Location: 2 Acland Street, St Kilda, VIC 3182
Phone: (03) 9536 1122
Link: www.circa.com.au
Cuisine: Modern Australian, French, European

I've started trawling through my photos from restaurants for which I still have reviews outstanding. Don't ask how many there are.

My first and only experience at Circa was actually dinner at my first professional conference last year. So the meal was served function-style, and no doubt a real a la carte experience would be much much better. It's also been a while since I was there, so some of the details are a little hazy,

Entrée is either a Thai Wagyu beef salad or a salmon gravalax, served alternatively. 

Thai style Wagyu beef salad, toasted rice
I'm served the beef, which consists of thinly sliced grilled Wagyu, doused in a zingy Thai dressing and topped with crunchy bits of toasted rice.

sugar cured salmon gravalax, warm dill pancakes and finger lime dressing
The salmon looks impressive, and I hear good reviews.

For main course, it's a choice between slow cooked lamb or harpuka. A bit of a sucker for slow cooked meats, I order the lamb.

slow cooked lamb crusted in tomato, caramelized onion and red peppers
The serving is generous, the lamb is soft and tender and cooked just right. The caramelized onion and peppers add a nice sweet contrast to the meatiness of the lamb. The only thing I'm missing is some zing, perhaps some fresh herbs or a wedge of lemon to help cut through the richness of the dish. But for a function this size, the dish is far better than expected.

harpuka, crushed kipfler potato with green olives, oven dried tomato, basil and artichoke

nougat praline semi freddo, strawberries, warm doughnuts
I didn't grow up a sweet tooth, but I've developed a real appreciation of desserts over the years. In particular, desserts that don't feature chocolate. Don't get me wrong, among the best desserts I've tasted are a chocolate pudding and a chocolate pudding, but I have a huge respect for any restaurant that can make a star dessert without chocolate.

The semi freddo was light and airy and topped with a fresh strawberry sorbet. The praline was crunchy and very much toffee goodness. The doughnut was nothing special, and did kind of confuse the dish a little.

chocolate pave with coconut ice-cream
The other dessert was the talk of the night. Chocolate, of course.

petit fours
And to finish off, tea or coffee, accompanied by little bite-sized snacks. Simple, tasty and a nice way to end the evening (along with the drinking of course).

Overall Impression: 8/10
Circa, the Prince on Urbanspoon

Aspro Ble

Location: 389 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9602 4444
Cuisine: Greek

For a while, Aspro Ble was a little-known Greek restaurant hidden away in a corner of the CBD not generally known for food. Following some foodie rumours, we decided to test it out on one of my Melbourne trips some time ago.

The layout is more cafe-style than fine dining. Decor is minimal and follows a light blue and white theme that almost gives it a nautical feel. The limited tables are arranged around a bar and open kitchen.

We're waiting for a friend to get out of work, so we grab a drink and some bread and dips to tide us over.

blood orange tiro
Turkish bread with trio of dips
There's two types of bread - chargrilled pieces of crisp flatbread, and thicker slices of fluffy Turkish bread. Both go impeccably well with the trio of dips (caviar, tzatziki and hommus).

slow roasted lamb with garlic yogurt dressing, lemon and tarragon gravy
If you're hungry, the slow roasted lamb is the dish for you. The plate is brought out with what looks like a dainty mound of shredded roast lamb, a garlic yoghurt, a jug of gravy and a wedge of lemon.

Dainty? Think again. The serve of lamb is very generous and the slow roasting has done it justice. There is a smoky aroma which is drawn out more by the zingy freshness of the garlic yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon. The tarragon gravy is smooth and silky, and as much as I love the flavours in the gravy, it does leave me wondering what role it had to play in the dish.

crispy chat potatoes with olive oil, lemon and oregano
Who doesn't love potatoes. Crispy on the outside, light and fluffy inside. A simple but tasty side, although given the amount of lamb there was, a side salad might have been a better choice.

Oh well, there is always next time!

Overall Impression: 8/10
Aspro Ble on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grandma's Little Bakery

Location: 5796 Federal Highway, Collector NSW 2581
Phone: (02) 4848 0240
Link: www.grandmasbakery.com.au
Cuisine: Italian, Greek

Grandma's Little Bakery is a snug little cafe located at the Fedra Olive Grove, along the Federal Highway on the way to Sydney.

We haven't booked, and it turns out that they have a full house. We're given two options - get take away, or sit outside. The sun is shining, so we opt for sitting outdoors.

As luck would have it, it starts raining but the wonderful waiter finds us a table inside. Seated inside the cosy dining area, our dishes are brought out.

Wow. Out come two platters larger than we had imagined.

Grandma's gourmet lamb 'basket pie' served with side salad

So it turns out that the 'basket pie' is literally a 'basket' of crispy flaky pastry filled with a generous serve of braised lamb and beans. An assortment of sides are nestled against the side of the pie. A pesto, a tomato salsa and a fresh garden salad. 

slow cooked osobouko & Grandma's tomato marinade served with wild rice
Soft and tender pieces of slow cooked beef that literally falls off the bone with a light prod of the fork sits surrounded by a rich tomato gravy. The wild rice is textural, aromatic and soaks up the gravy beautifully. On the side are a slice of freshly baked bread and a minty pesto to add a refreshing contrast to the richness of the rest of the dish.

Overall Impression: 8.5/10
Grandma’s Little Bakery on Urbanspoon


Location: 297 Exhibition Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9077 1097
Link: www.misschu.com.au
Cuisine: Vietnamese

After quick and simple Vietnamese food in the CBD? MissChu is the place to go. It has a tiny shopfront so if you're not looking for it, it's pretty easy to miss.

 'sashimi tuna' and 'satay chicken & coconut young' rice paper rolls
Rice paper rolls are what MissChu is known for and these certainly impressed. We ordered one with sashimi tuna, and another with satay chicken and coconut. Both were delicious. The sashimi was fresh and delicate. The chicken one was packed with flavour and sweet pieces of coconut. And the dipping sauce was sweet and savoury, a little spicy and totally to die for.

coconut juice
There was a little disappointment at seeing the coconut juice arrive in the form of packaged coconut juice. Given everything else on the menu seemed to be made on site, I had been hoping for some fresh coconut juice. That said, it was sweet and fresh and went great with the rest of the meal.

Peking duck pancakes
These peking duck pancakes were tasty. The pancakes were light and delicate, the duck was tender and the skin was a little crispy. However, it lacked

traditional pork Hanoi spring rolls
This is nothing like the typical boring spring rolls you get from the take away store, which are usually filled with a bunch of shredded vegetables and little to no meat. The traditional Vietnamese spring roll is filled with a fragrant mince mixture with a range of different textured vegies. These were the most authentic I've had in the Melbourne CBD - crispy on the outside, fragrant juicy meat filling on the inside.

The only complaint I'd make is that for $6, I'd have expected more.  In Springvale or Footscray, one would get a good 6-8 of these crunchy treats.

Overall Impression: 9/10
MissChu on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Digress Restaurant & Lounge

Location: 11 Akuna Street, Canberra
Phone: (02) 6248 6952
Link: www.digress.com.au
Cuisine: Italian and Indian fusion

Indian and Italian fusion? Sounds kind of weird, and not exactly something one comes across very often. In fact, Digress claims to be the first restaurant to combine both cuisines not only on the same menu, but in the same dish.

Located next to Transit Bar, Digress is both a bar and a restaurant. The stairs from the entrance take you straight into the lounge.

There's a special on most nights, and Friday's happy hour is 5-7pm, with $5 basic spirits, beer and house wine as well as a live band. There is also a swing social on later in the evening that a couple of friends want to attend, so we're there for drinks and dinner.

The restaurant is located on the same floor, separated by a wall and some curtains. Decor is simple and elegant.

We order a naan basket various pizzas and a pasta.

naan basket - sundried tomato, fetta, garlic
The naan basket is a brilliant starter. Soft fluffy naan bread is stuffed with a variety of ingredients. I end up with a slice of fetta and one of garlic. The garlic one is simple and subtle, the fetta much more vibrant and exciting, the saltiness of the fetta contrasts well with the buttery fluffiness of the bread without being too overpowering.

volcano pizza - salami, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes,
red capsicum & jalapeños seasoned with garlic and oregano

red devil vindaloo pizza - hot salami, red capsicum,
olives & onions garnished with a lemon twist

pizza bolognese - Bolognese sauce with mushrooms, Spanish
onion & capsicum seasoned with Italian herbs and
Indian spices then topped with cheese
The pizza bolognese was the only non-fusion dish of the night, and tasted simply like a spag bol served on pizza (as expected). The slivers of mushroom scattered over the top provided a nice contrast and added flavour.

tandoori chicken penne - charcoaled tandoori chicken stripped and
cooked with red capsicum & shallots finished in a creamy sauce
Unlike the others, I opted for a pasta - I was curious about how the combination of tandoori chicken and Italian penne would taste. Sure enough I was not disappointed. Smoky pieces of tandoori chicken was tossed through penne and a tomato cream sauce. It was almost like a basic Italian tomato cream sauce, but with added smokiness and aromatic Indian spices. 

The service was pleasant, and with an entertainment card, the meal was extremely good value for money.

Overall Impression: 7.5/10
Digress Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon