Friday, December 6, 2013

Lunch with Karen Martini | Win a Dining Experience @ Mr Wolf

Location: 9–15 Inkerman Street, St Kilda 3182
Phone: (03) 9534 0255
Cuisine: Italian

I don't usually venture out beyond the CBD much, but when Gastrology asked me to join her at a special lunch with celebrity chef Karen Martini, it had to be done.

What a treat! Now I could try to describe the experience, but nothing says it better than this nifty clip put together by The Age.

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All you have to do is Re-tweet The Age's Tweet to the video and hashtag #forevercurious to go in the running to win a dining experience at Mr Wolf or a copy of Karen Martini’s latest cookbook Everyday:

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#forevercurious readers

Let's take a closer look at the wonderful dishes prepared by Karen and introduced to us as we ate.

First up, the appetisers - fresh little bursts of intense flavour.

marinated olives | pickled vegetables

Something warm..., 

calamari fritto | stuffed peppers w/ goats cheese, walnuts and cumin
The calamari was tender on the inside and the batter was light and crispy. This was contrasted with the warmth from the stuffed peppers with a creamy cheesy stuffing interspersed with crunchy walnuts.

prosciutto w/ smashed broad beans, rocket, mint, ricotta
My favourite dish of the day. Salty cured prosciutto draped across a platter of smashed broad beans, rocket, mint and creamy ricotta cheese. Such an amazing combination of flavours and textures!

Next course: Mr Wolf's famous pizza!

Thin and crispy base, fresh toppings, perfectly balanced flavours. Some of the best pizza in town.

Just when we thought the meal was over, out came the main event - slow cooked lamb with horta.

slow cooked lamb shoulder w/ garlic yoghurt | horta

Just look at that lamb! You could smell the smokey aromas as Karen carved up meat and served the table. Slow cooked for hours, the lamb was tender and juicy that just fell apart with a slight touch of the fork. The garlic yoghurt it was served with really hit the spot with a strong bite and creamy texture. This was accompanied by a side called 'horta' - blanched greens, dressed in olive oil, mixed with barley and topped off with barley and toasted almonds. Packed full of flavour and refreshingly cleansing.

And then everyone's favourite course - dessert!

zabaglione w/ blood orange, candied orange
After all that food, I was glad the dessert was fresh and fruity. The zabaglione looked rich, but it was actually light and airy. Beautifully smooth and not too sweet, which was perfect when topped with a sweet and sticky syrup and fresh orange segments. The candied slice of orange had just that perfect mix of 'snap' and chewiness.

Overall, it was a very pleasant (and filling) dining experience. All hosted downstairs in Mr Wolf's private dining room. A perfect place for small functions and special occasions.

Mr Wolf on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Grain Store

Location: 517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9972 6993
Cuisine: Breakfast, Coffee, Modern Australian

I rarely go to the same place twice, let alone three times in one fortnight. But then I discovered a breakfast / coffee place that's got a menu that is different enough that I still want to go back and try more.

The Grain Store sounds like it might be just another cafe. When you walk past, it certainly doesn't look any different. Inside is kind of mod-Aus. It has that casual ambiance but reminds a little of Cumulus Inc.

But it's the menu that catches my attention.

On my first visit, I order the orange cured salmon with fried poached egg and truffle creme fraiche. It's a mouthful to say but it certainly hits the spot.

Slices of citrusy salmon is curled up and nestled in amongst a bed of green leaves. A cracker thin slice of toast is propped up between a gorgeous golden fried poached egg and a quinelle of that truffle creme fraiche.

Yes, you read right. Fried poached egg. Soft runny poached egg with a crunchy coating. I poke a hole in into it and the yolk is still gooey and runny as eggs should be.

The dish is a wonderful balance of flavours and textures. I would only suggest cutting back on the salad. It's a breakfast dish and the greens seem to clutter it a bit.

On my second visit, I go for the portobello mushrooms with potato rosti and poached egg.

No fried poached egg this time. But the egg is again gooey and runny. The mushrooms has an intense earthy aroma with an,almost sweet undertone. The rosti is potato-cake-y and not too heavy.

Third time around its just coffee but the mocha is good each time. I need to remember to stir it first, because I keep getting to the bottom and finding lots of excess melted chocolate - a sign of a good mocha.

The service is a little slow at times, and the food and coffee tends to come out at different times for the same table. The waiters are generally pleasant and friendly although in the middle of the peak morning buzz, there seems to be a crowd of people at the counter waiting for takeaway which causes confusion when trying to get the bill.

Overall Impression: 9/10

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cumulus Up

Location: 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9650 1445
Cuisine: Wine Bar, European

Cumulus Up is a wine bar upstairs at Cumulus Inc. Like its downstairs counterpart, the place is cosy and classy, and packed. But unlike Cumulus Inc, it's much easier to get a table at Cumulus Up.

The menu is smaller, but the food is just as good. We were served by a very polite and friendly waiter who was more than happy to run us though the menu and outline the specials for the evening. 

First up, complimentary sourdough and butter.

black ham, gherkin, pickled watermelon rind
Charcuterie has always been a big favourite of mine, so I was a little disappointed to find an obvious lack of it on the Cumulus Up menu (particularly given the downstair's menu has a good selection of it). The one that caught my eye was the shaved black ham. Whilst the ham was pretty ordinary - nicely cured but lacking the complexity of flavour found in, say, prosciutto - the ham with the gherkin and pickled watermelon rind made for a delightful combination.

braised lamb ribs
One of the specials for the night. The lamb ribs were fall-off-the-bone-tender, smothered in a creamy, slightly tangy sauce. The ribs were well seasoned with spices and had a warm smokey aroma.  

confit duck waffle with foie gras and prune paste
Hands down our dish of the night. A fluffy waffle with a slightly crispy base with pieces of confit duck suspended in the batter, creamy rich fois gras and a sweet prune paste. A perfect combination of flavours and textures.

quail with walnut cream
Tender juicy quail with crispy skin sitting on a bed of walnut cream and a slightly bitter leaves. The quail was nicely cooked, and the walnut cream was smooth, creamy, and as expected, had a nice nutty flavour.

profiteroles, ice cream, dark chocolate sauce
For dessert, we opted for the profiteroles. The choux pastry was a little crispier than expected, but it worked really well with the giant scoop of ice-cream sandwiched inside. Topped off with the dark chocolate sauce that was poured over them at the table, and in which we coated every last piece of profiterole and ice-cream, the dessert was a nice sweet finish to the meal.

Overall Impression: 8.5/10
Cumulus Up on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Luna 1878 Winter Night Market

Location: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Cuisine: Night Market

Every Wednesday night throughout July and August, the Queen Vic Market has been hosting a winter night market. Much like the Suzuki Night Markets of summer, the market is set up with food stalls and the occasional goods stand.

Compared to summer, there are less stalls, but less is more when the food hits a whole new standard.

Clockwise from top left: boy pinoy skewers, meatballs on fries,
bigne, steak sandwich, bread bread and more bread, cocktails, wings

Highlights were the fried chicken wings in honey soy sauce and the pork belly skewer from boy pinoy. The wings tasted especially good with the ranch dressing although the chips it came with were pretty ordinary. The skewers were perfect and well worth the extremely long wait in a smoky queue. Tender, flavoursome and as expected, very very smoky. 

Another highlight was the meatballs on fries. Juicy beef meatballs sitting atop a bed of fries which were well seasoned with spices. The balls were coated in a rich tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. A perfect winter warmer.

The only real let down was the steak sandwich. Pretty ordinary, and the most expensive of all the dishes at $11 each. 

For dessert, we opted for the bigne from the Italian dessert stand - nice profiteroles filled with cream and then topped with a chocolate sauce. A nice sweet finish to the night, although it was a very rich dessert.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Orient East - Chef's Table Brekkie Smackdown

Location: 348 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9685 2900
Cuisine: Malaya, breakfast

Back in Melbourne and a good return to the foodie scene. H managed to secure us a table at Orient East's Chef's table 'brekkie smackdown'. Essentially, this involved the restaurant serving us a series of breakfast dishes and the people's favourite dish would make it onto the permanent menu.

The setup is clean and modern, with bold colours and little decorations that remind you of Asia.

The theme seemed to be taking a famous or traditional dish from various Asian countries, and modernising them into breakfast dishes. And so that made up our seven course breakfast.

Jian Bing crepe, eggs, pork floss, crunchy Chinese donut, hoisin sauce
First up is the jian bing. The waitress tells us that this dish is already on their menu, but they wanted us to try it. And it was definitely a hit. A nice modern play on the traditional Chinese crepe which is usually rolled up and filled with meat floss. The flavours balanced nicely, with the dry semi salty semi sweet meat floss, sweet hoisin, smooth creamy egg and fresh coriander on top of a thin crepe. Torn up Chinese donut completed the dish with a nice crunch.

roti telur rolled with egg, lup cheong, chilli and spring onion
Course #2 was a Malaysian dish. Thin roti filled with egg, Chinese sausage, chilli and spring onion and rolled up like a crepe. A good balance of sweet and savoury, and the roti was nice and springy. The only thing it was missing was some sauce to go with it, perhaps a sweet chilli or a sambal.

banh cuon pourover - pork, shrimp, mushroom, cucumber rice roll
Probably our least favourite dish. This was a play on a Vietnamese rice noodle roll. The filling was mostly mince, which was a little bland. The general idea was good, but it just lacked seasoning. 

62 degree egg Samapan Congee, Schnapper cheeks, Chinese doughnut, ginger, spring onion, seasoned crispy flakes
This next course was a Cantonese classic - sampan congee. A dish often found in Hong Kong cafes and 'cha chan tangs'. A generous bowl of congee with slices of snapper, ginger and spring onion and topped with a 62 degree egg. Served alongside the congee was a bowl of Chinese doughnut (you tiao) and what we nicknamed 'cereal' (mostly because it tasted a little like corn flakes). We found the congee a little bland so we asked for some soy sauce. The much needed soy really lifted the dish. A perfect winter breakfast.

Mod Nasi Lemak - cocnut rice, sardine sambal, crunchy sardine frame ikan bilis, achar and fried egg
Another play on a traditional Malaysian dish that worked really well. The coconut rice was sweet and aromatic. The sardines were surprisingly crunchy that you could eat the whole thing head to tail. The achar added a nice sour tang to the dish. By this point I was starting to get a little sick of the egg, but looking at this dish in isolation, the egg added a nice creamy texture to the dish. The one thing this lacked was a sambal sauce that could be served on the side.  

super-phat chunky pandan Kaya Toast with coddled eggs
Another hit with the table, and apparently with the other diners too, as later that afternoon, Orient East announced that this was the dish that made it to the permanent menu. And why not? Two thick slices of toast were smothered in creamy sweet kaya butter and grilled, then topped with (another) egg.

$15 a head for seven courses of delicious breakfast - well worth waking up early for!

Overall Impression: 9/10
Orient East on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 6, 2013


Location: 11 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston ACT (next to the Old Bus Depot Markets)
Phone: 0424 635 824
Cuisine: Burgers

I will probably be flame-grilled by local Canberrans for this post.

For most, Brodburger is the burger joint of Canberra. It's a tourist must-see, a late night craving satisfy-er and apparently the best burgers in town.


Don't get me wrong, the burgers do taste pretty good and are jam-packed with delicious fillings. But to be frank, the burgers are expensive, overrated and after all that, you still have to wait at least 30 minutes (on a good day) for your food. (By which time, anything would taste good!)

The first time I went, Brodburger was still a van in a park. The burger was delicious, but that was relative to the hour wait in the cold and dark.

My more recent visit was well after they had moved into the old glassworks building at the OBDM. You'd expect that perhaps now having a proper functioning kitchen, they would make the burgers faster. Wrong. The burgers still took almost an hour to come out.

Brodchicken - succulent butterflied Chicken breast, flame grilled.
Topped with bacon, avocado, fresh lettuce, tomatoes &
Spanish onions. Includes homemade aioli & tomato relish
A Brodchicken costs $14.50. Add another $2.50 for chips and with a drink you're looking at close to $20. The burgers are good, but when you compare them to the London, Grill'd and the newly opened Shorty's, the burgers at Brodburger just aren't worth the price or the wait.

Overall Impression: 5.5/10
Brodburger - Flame Grilled Burgers on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pok Pok

Location: 801-803 Bourke Street, Docklands VIC 3008
Phone: (03) 9620 4580
Cuisine: Thai

Pok Pok isn't the kind of restaurant you'd expect to find in the Docklands. It's nothing like the restaurants over on the New Quay side, and more like something you'd find nestled down in Flinders Lane in the CBD. It's got the vibe of Chin Chin, Mamasita and Cumulus Inc rolled into one.

The menu is extensive, ranging from curries to noodle and rice dishes to more traditional street food. Lots of dishes jump out at me, but fellow bloggers have raved about the lamb curry, so my decision was pretty easy. 

massaman lamb curry with crisp roti bread - massaman curry of slow cooked
lamb shank, waxy potatoes, onion, fried shallots and crunchy cashew nuts
served with freshly cooked roti bread
Unlike your typical curry, this was a slow cooked curried lamb shank. The meat was tender and flavoursome, and the meat almost fell off the bone - it possibly could have done with just that little bit more cooking. The massaman itself was mild and creamy, the chunks of potatoes were cooked perfectly and the fried shallots and cashews added a nice texture to the dish. 

The roti looked pretty good, although I was skeptical as to why it was served rolled up. It lacked the crispiness (explains how it was roll-able) and smokiness I had hoped for - not the best I've had.

That said, for a meal that costs less than $15, I have no complaints. If you happen to be out Docklands-way and after a quick cheap lunch deal, Pok Pok is the place to go. And there's plenty more things on the menu I still need to try.

Overall Impression: 7.5/10
Pok Pok on Urbanspoon

Sanur's Balinese Restaurant

Location: 1/114 Emu Bank, Belconnen, Canberra 2617
Phone: (02) 6162 1688
Cuisine: Balinese

Finally made the trek out to Belco last night to try out Sanur's Balinese Restaurant. It's been on the list for some time now, but it was worth the wait. 

We're seated and menus are brought out. As usual, I've had a sneak peak of their online menu which contains a list of 'signature dishes' (not easily identifiable on the actual menu). We order a platter of skewers, the beef rendang and the bebek betutu (the latter two are on the 'signature dishes' list).

coconut juice
First up, some refreshing coconut juice. The drinks menu sported two coconut juices - the fresh one costs $6 while the other $4. We ordered the latter, but I'm not sure there would have been much difference as it tasted much the same as a fresh one.

The first dish to hit the table was a mixed platter of satays - a perfect solution to our inability to decide on which meats to get.

sate Sanur's - platter of chicken, beef and prawn skewers
with rice cake, satay sauce, pickled cucumber and sambal
While I initially thought that the chicken and beef  looked a little dry, they were beautifully chargrilled and still tender and juicy on the inside. The prawns were succulent and smokey. The satay sauce was sweet and savoury and peanutty, and topped off with some fried shallots for an extra crunch - a strong hit of flavour that went brilliantly well with the skewers and the   rice cake. The pickled cucumber with sambal was an interesting addition, I'm not 100% sure it was a necessary component of the dish, but the sambal had a good hit of chilli which was cooled down with the cucumber.

beef rendang - slow cooked beef in rich coconut sauce with Indonesian Traditional herbs and spices
Next up was a rich aromatic beef rendang. The beef was fall-apart-tender and could easily be pulled apart with a fork and spoon. The gravy was sweet, slightly spicy and soaked up the rice well. A great winter warmer.

After a slight wait, our duck arrived! The menu warns that the dish will take about 30 minutes to prepare, which suits us fine since we ordered an entree anyway.

bebek betutu - roast duck in Balinese secret spices covered in banana leaves
The duck arrives wrapped in banana leaves as promised. The duck has been rendered and roasted and the meat is falling off the bone. There's an Asian-ish salsa of sorts scattered on top to add some freshness. The duck is soft and tender, the skin is slightly smokey from the roasting and the banana leaves. My only issues with the dish is that the bones are easily tangled up in the flesh which made it a little difficult to eat, and not quite enough salsa to give the contrasting crunch and freshness.

You'd think that all that food would have been enough, but we couldn't pass up dessert.

pisang goreng - deep fried banana in special battered with mandarin infused palm sugar syrup
Not your typical banana fritter! These little bananas are deep fried to crunchy but then smothered in a sweet sticky syrup that just screams of South East Asia. Delicious and a perfect winter dessert.

coconut delusion - coconut pancake filled with unti (shredded coconut)
with pandan anglaise, ice cream & toasted almonds
I still haven't quite worked out why the Malaysians and Indonesians like to call these things 'pancakes'., because I keep envisaging a stack of flat pancakes. These are more like pandan crepes rolled up into cigars or spring rolls. The crepes are thin and the shredded coconut filling is sweet but not too overpowering. The toasted almonds add the crunch element. The anglaise didn't quite have enough pandan flavour, but overall, the dish was a treat.

In addition to the delicious food, I have to commend the service. Our waitress was attentive and pleasant, the food was served promptly (even the duck). It'll definitely be worth trekking back up that way to try out some of the other dishes on the menu.

Overall Impression: 8.5/10
Sanur's Balinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon