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