Month: August 2013

Made in France with Flair : A La Bouffe

Melbourne – a city that offers great many wondrous cuisine with authenticity.  One of them that I’m referring to is a restaurant located on the busy street of Toorak/Chapel with a frontage that is so normal that you would not even have noticed.  In fact, what lies behind the plain frontage is A La Bouffe, a French eatery that is all French. Walking into the restaurant gave me a very French-y vibe of an intimate French bistro in Paris.  The ground level translates to relaxed casual space with cherry maroon cushion, art deco mirrors adorned by black old fashioned wood and clean white tablecloth.  The upper level presents a more formal celebrated dining area sparkled by grand crystal chandeliers.  The service was also undoubtedly friendly and unpretentious. Kir royal cocktail of creme de cassis and sparkling cremant / L’Asiette de Degustation $20 p.p A La Bouffe offers two types of lunch menu – first menu provides French bistro-like dishes with two courses plus wine and coffee at $35 (what a steal!) while the second, lean …

Rebirth and Rebranded : Cucina de Esposito

Formerly known as Esposito at Toofey’s, this corner restaurant located in Carlton was rebranded as Cucina de Esposito. It’s owned by chef Maurice Esposito (also the owner and chef at CBD restaurant, St Peter’s) whose career spans over 20 years across continents and has worked with famed names in the kitchen. We came with a 3 course plus sparkling wine promotion valued at $186 for two.  Prior to my visit, I have seen mixed reviews about Esposito in urbanspoon, so I came here with an open mind.  We were 15 mins late due to the difficulty of finding a parking. The restaurant was small and cosy, well-lit with a huge chandelier above the dining room – perfect for a romantic evening. At the end of the dining room, a narrow staircase lead up towards a private dining area. We started with two entrees – Roasted pork belly, though a little overcooked, the flavours were well blended and Calamari was seasoned nicely with good enough crunch. Roasted pork belly with caponata and a raisin puree Calamari dusted …

That Melting Moment : Takumi

Takumi (means connoisseur) is a Japanese restaurant like no other.  Their specialty is in wagyu (literally translated as ‘japanese cow’, famous for its quality and intense marbling) and claims to be Melbourne’s only wagyu beef specialist. Having obtained the stamp of approval from Matt Preston, this place is definitely worth a try if you’re craving for wagyu. Takumi’s method of appreciating wagyu is through cook-it-yourself smokeless sumibi yakiniku which means smokeless grille and wagyu. To put it simply – that’s table top cooking over charcoal that will not leave you smelling like smoke or cooked food 🙂  As a wagyu beef specialist, Takumi uses Blackmore wagyu which is one of the highest grade Australian wagyu. The menu that we’re having today is Japanese Smokeless Grille Degustation menu ($166 for two).  Upon arrival, we were served with a bottle of New Zealand Angel Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2012 and warm boiled edamame to warm our stomach before the ‘real thing’ comes 🙂 Takumi’s Special – Wagyu eye fillet with onion and citrus dressing We continued our meal with a few …

Cheap & Fast Eats : Wonderbao, Mr Burger & Grill’d

Melbourne is a city that will not leave a person hungry.  The variety of food choices from cheap eats to fine dining and the various type of cuisine available is hugely impressive.  Anyway, overwhelmed by insanely rich food, I sometimes like to enjoy simple, cheap and fast eats.  Here are some of my favourites. STEAMINGLY COMFORTING : WONDERBAO Located just out of the RMIT square, away from main street and through a lane way lies a small eatery that serves bao. Traditionally known as ‘bao’ or ‘pau’ – it’s a type of steamed, filled bun or bread-like dough that has been existed through many centuries as street-side snack in China.  Back in Malaysia, when I get peckish at night, I would snack with bao and it’s so comforting.  My favourites are ‘Char Siew Bao’ (Steamed pork bun), ‘Tau Sar Bao’ (Red bean steamed bun) and ‘Dai Bao’ (Big bun). Wonderbao serves two types of bao – steamed bao and gua bao.  The difference is steamed bao has the filling inside while the gua bao has open …

Cooking with Soul : Saint Crispin

Let me start by stealing a line from the movie, Zoolander – “Smith Street, so hot right now”.  Sizzling with hotness x10 – thanks to the many new eateries that has opened its doors this winter on Smith Street and one of them is Saint Crispin. A partnership between talented chefs, Scott Picket (ex-The Point, current one-hatted Estelle) and Joe Grbac (ex-The Press Club), you can imagine the kind of soulful Modern Australian that can be experienced through a degustation style menu. I had waited for 3 weeks to get my reservation through.  We went for the 6pm early seating and easily half hour later, the dining room was full.  The service was friendly and oldies rock was pumping in the room.  Looking around, diners were enjoying themselves and the vibe was casually relax and lively. After we’re seated, we were each given starter snacks – Hibiscus marsmallow and Black olive macaron which is d-vine and bread slices with house-made caramelised onion cream cheese.  Love that little touch which differentiates them from other eateries I’ve been …

A View to Dine For : Taxi Dining Room

What was supposed to be a quick lunch date in the city turned out to be a wonderful day outing with my family. Beautiful clear blue skies and gentle breeze prompted me to go on a clicking frenzy with my camera around the city. Ooh la la…Melbourne is beautiful!  Sharing with you some of the beautiful scenery of Melbourne – they don’t need much introduction … I’m sure you know which architecture they come from 🙂  Now, i’ll stop the rambling and get on with what i’m supposed to talk about today. I brought my hubby to celebrate an early Father’s Day lunch at Taxi Dining Room.  Centrally located at Federation Square, it’s THE place to dine and social before heading out for other entertainment in the city. Awarded The Age Good Food Guide ‘Wine List of the Year’ and an impressive Two Chefs Hats in 2010, Executive chef, Tony Twitchett’s exciting fusion menu combines Asian and Australian cuisine.    Contemporary fittings took over Taxi’s fine interior with orb-like chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows giving us …

Old School Glam : Fog

Over the last 2 days, Melbourne’s winter has been experiencing spring-like sunny cheerful weather – so in this rare occasion, we took a nice drive down to Prahran/Chapel to window shop and stopped for lunch at FOG Bar & Restaurant. It’s located at the quiet upper end of Chapel Street – Greville Street, currently bustling with small boutique cafes. FOG’s interior captured the essence of old-school lux and glam with high ceiling, tall dark pillars and red carpet leading towards the split level dining area and into a lovely courtyard.  I felt like I just stepped into “The Great Gatsby”.  The dining room is brightly litted with big windows which can be opened up to allow natural sun light into the restaurant. Stretching far and long is an impressive bar that mixes a variety of cocktails – a dream come true for alcohol loving peeps. Porcini Laganelle Pasta $27 Wagyu Beef Bolognese $27 250g Porterhouse Steak (part of Sat set lunch) $35 The brunch/lunch menu is simple with some of the dishes leaning more towards the …

Mad about Macarons : La Belle Miette, Cacao & LuxBite

How can one small dome shaped sandwich cookie caused so much fascination and following?  To add on, it is also interesting to know that even the pronunciation of Macaron (Mah-kah-rohn) is often confused with Macaroon (Mak-e-roon) – obviously the MasterChef judges should know better, right? While we haven’t have the privilege of Sydney-based Adriano Zumbo’s famous Zumbarons arriving at the shores of Melbourne (we heard that it’s coming real soon!), the macaron phenomenon has since grown with the emergence of many patisseries in Melbourne like La Belle Miette, Cacao and LuxBite. BEAUTIFUL CRUMBS : LA BELLE MIETTE Please excuse the cracked macaron – due to my mishandling when photographing 😦  Spotting La Belle‘s quaint French patisserie is easy as it is the only shop that screams Parisian at Hardware Lane. Described in French as ‘beautiful little crumbs’ and established in 2011, this macaron speciality store has been a smash, offering up to 20 flavours ranging from classic to mod-new flavours. My favourites are the Salted caramel, ‘Bastille’ Moet et Chandon and Blackcurrant, Cherry Blossom & …

Move over Bach, we have a new Symphony in Town : Brooks of Melbourne

Ever since I read about Brooks, I’ve been dying to taste the menu that Chef Nic Poelaert (famed for signature dishes Meli of Vegetables & Forest Floor in Embrasse) has created.  Not even a year old yet, Brooks is already a hit with many Melbournians and have won Time Out’s New Restaurant Award 2013.  So with my visiting guests from Malaysia, I quickly secured a dinner reservation. Located at the basement of heritage-listed Austral House, Brooks’ heavy fitting oak door entrance gave way to a flight of staircase down and opens up to a semi fine-casual dining space and an open kitchen.  Service was warm and friendly not just from the dining room but from the kitchen too 🙂 Complimentary bread / Vinero ‘South Gisborne’ Pinot Noir, 2011 (150ml) $18 per glass Nic’s souvenir of Laguiole: Meli of Vegetables $23 Moreton Bay bug, pickled oyster, mussel custard, shiso oil $22 Brooks houses an extensive range of wine and cocktail while their dinner menu spells simplicity. Firstly, signature dish – the Meli of Vegetables uses the freshest seasonal ingredients …

When East meets West : Kobe Jones

What do you get when you cross East with West in Japanese – you get a name that is half Japanese and half Western, LOL.  That’s Kobe Jones to you 🙂  Kobe Jones blend the simple cooking of Japanese techniques and meld with the flavours of the West. (Top Middle) Kobe Shooters / (Bottom Middle) No1 Special / (Right) Wagyu Tenderloin Tataki This is not my first time here.   Therefore I’m very familiar with their menu.  Today we tasted the 9-course Koyo (Autumn) Japanese banquet which is priced at $149 p.p.  Thankfully, we got this through a voucher so the banquet was half the published price. We kickstarted the meal with a medley of dishes – No1 Special, Kobe Shooters and Wagyu Tenderloin Tataki.  No1 Special was as good as ever (see my other post on this).  Kobe Shooters comes in 4 shooter glasses with fresh oysters served in cold sake with different salsa dressing – a menu list my hubby favorited the most.  Following that, the Wagyu Tenderloin Tataki was an absolute delight. …

Bring on the Kerabu and Assam : Little Nyonya

‘Nyonya’ is used to describe an ethnic Chinese woman who married a local Malay man since the late 15th and 16th century in Malaysia/Singapore.  Through this bond, a cultural legacy is left behind in its unique culinary fare, fashion and language.  Nyonya cooking blends Chinese ingredients with spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay community. The flavours are similarly tangy, aromatic, spicy, fragrantful and herbal. I remembered when I was young, I would wait for Auntie ‘M’ who would go from door to door, selling her delicious home-made Nyonya ‘kueh’ and cookies.  With a fifty cent coin in my hand, I was ever so ready to pounce on her delicious kueh.  Those tiny and pretty looking kueh tasted so sweet and delightful.  Ultimately as I grew older, I began to appreciate much of what Nyonya cuisine has to offer because of the rich and bold play with flavours. Little Nyonya was three-quarter empty when we arrived.  Despite that, the waitresses seem to be in topsy turvy and do not know what they need to …