Saturday, January 11, 2014

Where to eat on Friday Night in Melbourne CBD?

TGIF!! But where to eat on a Friday Night (that does not require you to make an advance booking since like four weeks before or make you wait till 9PM to be seated) ?
I believe it is definitely one of the hardest tasks (I know my sister would comment and say “First World Problems”). 

Now to discuss the adventure we had in deciding where to eat...

A few weeks before the dinner date with the girls, we kick started this adventure with “Let’s do Korean” it’s easy, delicious and there’s an abundance of them (in no particular order Shinssi Hwaro, Oriental Spoon, Guhng, G2, Joo Mak, Cafe de Kikaku, Mook Ji Bar, the list could go on forever) – but this was short lived, we didn’t want to smell like BBQ after the meal – even if we didn’t eat BBQ.

Mamasita, Chin Chin, Meat Balls and Wine, Cumulus, Movida – in and around Flinders Lane – always gets a mentioned, but then reality comes and spoils the fun… “Are we really going to get a table?” or “Do we want to wait 2hrs to get a table?” I told them about my sister’s story; she got to Mamasita at 5.45pm on a Tuesday that week and still had to wait 30mins to get a table. There is hope though!! Yak Bar – this is always the fall back option, not a bad fall back option at all, it is one of the best pasta places in Melbourne and they’re so friendly.

We then set our minds on Movida Aqui, thinking it should be ok since it is on the quieter side of town. We were planning to make a booking (at some stage), but we totally forgot about it till the afternoon of the day and to our disappointment there was nothing for 6 till 8.30pm.

Then there are the New Kids on the Block – Sezar, Burma Lane, Gazi, Grain Store (not new new, but new for dinner) - if you go like right NOW, there is still a possibility you can get a table, but we've recently been, so our adventure continues…

*Time lapsed*

It ended up that we didn't actually have 6 people dinning, only 3 and hence managed to get a bar table at Movida Aqui. But as it turned out, we asked nicely to be seated at a proper table and they let us. A win for us. Here are some photos of the food we had.

In no particular order, here are some places to try out on a Friday if you ever get stuck (apologies in advance for those who don’t get a table at these places in the future, I would strongly advise giving them a call before you head there):
  • Movida Aqui - Lvl 1, 500 Bourke St, NAB building, (via Lt Bourke St), Melbourne
  • ShanDong Mama - this was a hidden gem, now there is slowly a crowd of regulars (like me) - Mid City Arcade, Shop 7, 200 Bourke St , Melbourne
  • Sezar - newest Armenian restaurant in town - 6 Melbourne place , Melbourne
  • Burma Lane - from Red Spice Road to Burma Lane, get it while its still not that hot - 118 Little Collins St, Melbourne
  • Chick-In - another hidden gem and maybe the reason why you should be able to get a table! - G23/620 Collins Street (Laneway off Collins & Francis St), Melbourne
  • Gami - there is a quieter store, find it
  • Yak Bar - always my fav - 150 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
  • Merrywell (downstairs) - Crown Towers/Clarendon St (Spencer Street end), Southbank
  • Ramen Ya - the new-ish Bourke street store - Shop 9 The Paramount, 108 Bourke St, Melbourne
  • Kokoro Ramen - 157 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
  • Gazi - 2 Exhibition St, Melbourne - strongly recommend you give them a call
- jkl

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

MoVida Bar de Tapas

Being on leave when everyone else is back at work has its benefits. It means I'm actually available for an early dinner. Which makes walk-in restaurants an actual possibility. 

So a random Friday craving for Spanish food brings H and I to MoVida where we are lucky enough to secure two seats at the bar. Finally!

Barossa apple cider
Drink in hand, we tackle the menu. A couple of dished jump off the page. The smoked mackerel from the tapa side, and the quail from the list of raciones. For inspiration, we ask our waiter for recommendations and he kindly runs us through the signature dishes and the specials.

As we're trying to decide on our dishes, our waiter places what we assumed to be complimentary bread on our table. What we find out upon getting the bill is that the bread comes at an opt-out $1 charge. The $1 goes to a good cause (Bread for Change) so we're happy to leave it be, but it would have been nicer to know upfront. 

anchoa - hand-filleted Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy on crouton with smoked tomato sorbet
One of MoVida's signature dishes, and it certainly lives up to it. The 'crouton' is more like a lavosh cracker - thin and crispy, but robust enough to hold the anchovy and the delightful smoked tomato sorbet. Icy and refreshing with a subtle sweetness and acidity to counteract the saltiness of the anchovy.

croqueta - chorizo and egg croquettes
One of the specials on the tapas menu for the night is the chorizo and egg croquette. This is different to the morcilla one on the standard menu. The outer casing is crunchy as a croquette should be, the filling is soft and gooey, resembling a thick bechamel. There's a hint of smokey chorizo but it was difficult to identify any actual chorizo pieces.

caballa ahumado - house cold smoked Spanish mackerel with pine nut gazpacho sorbet 
Our dish of the night. The little stone dishes are placed in front of us with their lids on but you can see wisps of smoke coming from the inside. Lift the lids, and what I think is trapped liquid nitrogen escapes in a plume of smoke. I'm loving the theatre that accentuates the fact that the mackerel is smoked. Excitement aside, the mackerel is beautifully smoked, with delicate flavours and the fish itself has a cured/sashimi texture. The pine nuts and the sorbet just really lift the dish up on so many levels.

Onto the raciones...

cordoniz con kikos - pan seared quail breast w/ quail sausage, jamon and toasted corn
The first of our larger dishes is the quail..The breast is perfectly cooked with a nice pink colour. I find the sausage a little odd and a little dry, not what I had expected at all. The dish is topped with a lonely slice of jamon and sprinkled with toasted corn (also not what I had expected). The corn is literally toasted corn - crunchy dried corn kernels - which is a bit of a disappointment as I had hoped for more of a grilled corn effect.

cecina - air-dried Wagyu with poached organic egg and truffle foam

Another signature dish and another hit for us. Thin slices of wagyu cover the plate in a circular fashion. On top is a perfectly poached egg sitting atop a bed of truffle foam. The waiter then breaks the egg and very swiftly cuts up the egg into the foam, mixing up all the eggy gooeyness with the rich white foam. He then methodically wraps the slices of waygy up and around the gooey centre. The salty dried meat works in perfect harmony with the rich truffle foam and runny egg yolk. A very clever (and rich) dish.

The waiters are patient and friendly and eager to engage with the customers and it's not hard to see why MoVida is ranked as one of Melbourne's best. For us, it was a nice dining experience, but in terms of menu choices, I think I have a preference for the sister restaurant, MoVida Aqui.

Overall Impression: 8.5/10

MoVida Bar de Tapas on Urbanspoon

Coconut House

Editor's note: So I'm going to try something a little different this year and simplify things, in the hopes of actually posting more regularly. So you'll find all the need-to-knows like the address and phone number in the nifty little Urbanspoon widget at the bottom of each post. 

A quick mid-week dinner brought us to Coconut House, located on Elizabeth Street just north of the CBD. To make things more confusing, there are two Coconut Houses located a few stores apart. We went to the one furthest from the CBD.

iced teh terik
Since my KL trip about a year ago, I've picked up an addiction for teh tarik. Traditional Malaysian 'pulled' tea. While nothing in Australia can match the superiority of the $1MYR a cup of teh tarik, this one did the job of satisfying my craving despite being a little too sweet (which was fine once the melting ice diluted it).. 

I ordered the chicken rice. I mean, who could say no to a good Hainanese chicken rice? 

Hainanese chicken rice w/ ginger garnish and pork ball soup
Let's start with the rice. Plump with aromatic chicken-y goodness, I could eat just the rice on it's own. The chicken was tender and juicy but lacking a little in seasoning. The ginger garnish on top of the chicken made up for the under-seasoning - crisp and fresh with a nice gingery hit. The chilli sauce was average, a good spice level but not much substance.

My friend had the chicken curry and tom yum soup. No complaints.

chicken curry w/ rice
tom yum soup
Prices are very good (around $10 for a main). Service is fast and efficient. Order and pay at the counter, the food arrives within minutes of ordering. Nothing fancy, just a good hearty meal on a relatively cool evening (and this is meant to be summer!)

Overall Impression: 8/10