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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Top 5 Modern Asian restaurants in Melbourne

There seems to be an influx of new Modern Asian / Asian Fusion restaurants sprouting out in Melbourne today – a common theme being the ability to surprise & delight. With all these options, the Melbourne foodie is spoilt for choice but I’ve sieved out my top picks – some household names already while others hidden gems. Enjoy!

1.     Supernormal
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 03 9650 8688

There’s nothing normal about the food in this Asian-inspired restaurant which seems an irony given its name. The menu is simple but the tastes are anything but. Featuring a smorgasboard of Asian tapas for sharing, sizeable fresh meat and fish mains and delectable desserts, it is easy to get carried away and order too much (which we did) and suffer from the ‘ol food coma after. Our starter, the fresh cobia sashimi, served with pickled fennel, piquant yuzu and a touch of chilli fanned our appetite for more as we were served the juicy pan-fried pot sticker dumplings accompanied by a light dipping sauce. My absolute fave – the new England lobster roll with its soft buttery brioche wrapping slithers of lobster in an Asian-infused mayo was packed with flavor. The slow-cooked Szechuan lamb to share with spring onion pancake and coriander paste felt like a “man vs food” challenge but in this instance man won. Whilst there, make sure you order an Asian-inspired cocktail too with the likes of umeshu spritz or tequila lychee bird, there will normally be one that tickles your fancy.

2.      Rice Paper Scissors
19 Liverpool Street, Melbourne 03 9663 9890

Coming a close second is the quaint Rice Paper Scissors tucked away on Liverpool St in the city. Tiny but hot, not unlike a chilli padi, this venue packs up a punch with their eclectic range of Asian flavours. Again, make sure you come on an empty stomach as the urge to over-order is a common boo-boo here. (Thank God for our waiter who warned us) We ordered a variety of dishes to share – the fresh betel leaf, crying tiger tender chargrilled beef with spicy citrus dipping sauce, melt-in-your-mouth BBQ lamb ribs, tart thai cerviche, crispy tempura prawn and crispy soft shell crab banh mi. My only grouse is the uncomfortable high chairs but you can always stand to burn off the calories you’ve consumed.

3.      Pabu
190 Smith Street, Collingwood (03) 9419 6141

Pabu meaning pub in Japanese – offers a “modern take on a traditional Japanese Pub or Izakaya”. A wide spectrum of tasting dishes means you get a taste of BBQ skewers, freshly-cut sashimi, deep-fried crunchy soft shell crab, freshly-made salmon sushi rolls and the oh so perfectly light deep-fried oysters served on a cloud of cos lettuce drizzled with spicy mayo. What I liked about Pabu was the casual atmosphere and attentive service from the friendly staff. Oh and the close proximity to Gelato Messina across the road for dessert after (only if you saved room for it).

4.      Benjamin’s Kitchen
758 Heidelberg Rd Alphington 03 9499 3743 
It’s certainly worth a trip to this new Modern Asian restaurant located in Alphington. Already a local favourite, some of the crowd pleasers include the soft shell crab bun, twice cooked tender pork belly, sticky lamb ribs and my all-time fave – breakfast squid in a unique crispy spiced cereal coating packed with crunch and punch in every bite. And the best thing is you won’t have to burn a hole in your pocket – prices range from $9 to $19.

5.     Kong
599 Church Street, Cremorne (03) 9427 1307

This sister restaurant to Chin Chin, Kong, dishes out exciting Korean classics with a twist – the likes of the chicken roti roll with BBQ chicken, lemon, gochujang & spicy kimchi, soft shell crab with salted duck egg relish and coriander, hot wings in gochujang & chipotle,  BBQ corn in chilli salt and miso butter & kalbi short beef ribs with pinenuts and kimchi. One word. Yum. Only grouse  (just like chin chin)– no bookings allowed - so here's a word of advice – rock up early to score a table.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Top 5 burgers in Melbourne

Hi fellow foodies! This entry is dedicated to all burger fanatics out there who will travel far and wide for that epic burger. My friend Gian is one of those guys so he has kindly agreed to write this guest post for me and help you burger fanatics out there find burger nirvana. Enjoy! :)

Once upon a moon, choosing a good burger in Melbourne was a question of Andrew's or Danny's. Now it's harder to avoid a self pronounced burger expert (ahem) than it is to find that perfect combination of beef, cheese and bun. Here's a list of Melbourne's top 5 burgers you should definitely get off your butt and try!

Rockpool Bar and Grill
Crown Casino, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 8648 1900

Love or hate Neil Perry and his sometimes elitist fare, he's put his technique and beefy expertise into practice in this behemoth of a burger. Not for the small stomached, the Shawn Blackmore patty comes in at over 200g, the remainder of the components (mostly pickled goodies) are of the highest possible quality. Some might flinch at the price tag ($24) though this here is your special occasion burger.

Le Bon Ton
Le Bon Ton. 51 Gipps Street, Collingwood 3066 03 9416 4341

This is the new kid in the block and while I'm quick to dismiss newcomers, I'm betting my house that this is going to be in top 10 burger lists around town. Simple in execution and delivery, the ingredients are simple, the patty a modest size and charry on the outside, the bun is as soft as a cloud. Despite its substantial size, you'll be contemplating ordering another.

275 Exhibition St, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9663 7994

The Trunk Diner has gone quietly and confidently about their Wagyu burger for over 3 years now. Highly customisable and double-able upon request, this has to be one of our towns most reliable and tasty. The basic comes with nothing more than meat and a bun. Various salad items adorn the wooden prison cafeteria tray so you can put it all together yourself. Additions of note are the sauteed mushrooms and caramelised onions.

Crown Towers/Cnr Clarendon Street & Whiteman St, Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9292 7468

I don't like Crown. I don't even like Merrywell. I do love the Merrywell burger though. Probably the only time I've ever seen damper used as a bun (flashbacks to Grade 4 camp), there are no other surprises in this package, other than a large patty cooked to absolute perfection. You're in for a real mess with burger and burger related juices pouring out of this thing with excitement. You're in for a hell of a ride if you've ordered the double.

Rockwell and Sons
288 Smith St, Collingwood VIC 3066
(03) 8415 0700

All's well that end's well. The Rockwell Double Patty Smash is an oozy, greasy, stick-it-in-your-beaky burger. Nothing fancy on offer in this burger, other than an impeccably executed man sandwich. With 2 patties pressed to their limit, 2 slices of Kraft's finest and a "special" sauce, this is Collingwood's favourite son.

About the guest post author:

Gianfranco Stella is a self-professed burger fanatic. He has deemed it his job to hunt for the best burgers in Melbourne, come rain, hail or shine. Literally - as we did our last hunt together in torrential rain. This man is indeed dedicated to the humble cause.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Top 5 value for money Malaysian Sensations

These Malaysian Sensations are a selection of my favorite haunts that never fail to satisfy that craving for a hearty meal at great value for money.

1. Papparich

Level 2, shop 11,QV Square,QV Building, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9654 2682


Featuring traditional Malaysian food with the likes of roti canai, nasi lemak, laksa and my all time fave Ipoh Kway Teow, this bustling restaurant has become so popular it has sprouted up in several neighborhoods from the original Melb city QV to busy Chaddy, Doncaster, Glen Waverley, Northland and Nunawading. The long queues move fast as they don't muck around with their highly efficient ticket and self-ordering system. Spicy chicken curries, saucy noodles and satays are churned out quickly but tastefully by the busy chefs who can be seen flipping the rotis over the open kitchen counter. You can savour a hearty meal for between $12-$15 or $20 with sides. Highly recommended for the discerning foodie who loves a cheap and cheerful Malaysian feed.


2. Penang Rd
177 Clarendon St South Melbourne, VIC 3205 
03 9690 0536

I first discovered this gem a few months ago and have become a loyal follower. The meal portions are generous, the flavors original and true to Malaysian cuisine; but the prices affordable at less than $10 a pop! A true classic is the chicken rice that comes in either hainanese or roast chicken options. Both come with a generous serve of succulent saucy chicken, chicken-infused rice and a chicken broth with meat balls. Another crowd pleaser is the nasi lemak that comes in a few options as well with fried chicken drumstick, fried chicken ribs or sambal prawns. Each plate is topped with a signature fried egg, crispy anchovies, roasted peanuts and cucumber. Remember to ask for a side of sambal chilli to complete the meal. Service is friendly, quick and fuss-free. Great value for the ravenous on a mission for some seriously good 'ol Malaysian food!


3. Mdm Kwong's
1025 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill VIC 3128
(03) 9898 8108

Located in bustling Box Hill, it's always worth a trip to Mdm Kwong's for traditional Malaysian food including Malaysian spring rolls aka popiah with a crunchy salad centre in a delicate wrap dipped in a sweet sauce or the prawn noodles in a flavorsome sweet prawn broth cooked for hours for the intense sweetness. Those with an acquired taste, can try the creamy frozen durian fruit flown direct from prime Malaysian or Thai durian farms. Durians could be deemed a treasure or trash for some depending on their individual tastes. Choose from a variety of Malaysian dishes for no doubt a fail proof experience at excellent value.


4. Straits Cafe 
Studfield Shopping Centre, 241 Stud Road, Wantirna South, VIC 3152  
(03) 9800 2001

Hailing from Malaysia Truly Asia, are the lovely owners of the Straits Cafe in Wantirna, where they make a darn-good chicken rice, often contested as the National dish of both Singapore and Malaysia. Throngs of Singaporean students and Malaysians alike flock to this restaurant for a cheap and quick but satisfying meal. Other asian delights include laksa, char kway teow, nasi lemak and rojak. The succulent hainanese chicken pieces cooked to perfection accompanied by soy sesame sauces, garlic chilli condiments and flavorful rice ($10.90) make for a good value for money no-brainer meal.

5. Omah's
338/342 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn VIC 3122
(03) 9818 7777

The best value meal here is the crab banquet that occurs every Monday night as a special. A 3-course crab banquet is offered at $45 starting with a crab omelette served with garlic chili sauce to whet your appetite followed by the star of the show- a whole mud crab cooked to your choice of flavor (choose from salt and pepper, chili, garlic and spring onion, etc) and closed by a sweet pandan sago pudding laced with gula Melaka (a brown palm sugar). This place never fails to hit the spot for me when you're after a value for money crab feast!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Top 5 Fish Tacos

I didn’t realize how hard it was to find fish tacos in Melbourne until I started my search this year. To add to it, these restaurants all don’t take reservations so getting in there is in itself a challenge! Yes, it has been that long but I have finally completed my “research”. This list takes us on a journey to find the best fish tacos in Melbourne that is of top quality and of authentic Mexican influence (not Tex-Mex).
1/11 Collins Street  Melbourne VIC 3001
(03) 9650 3821

I was first introduced to Mamasita by my friend Brad who swore by this fancy Mexican restaurant in the city. At first, I was puzzled by all the hype and why people would queue up for hours to get into this joint. And then I found out why. An hour of queuing later, we got into this casual but contemporary Mexican Mecca, and were blown away by the delightful flavors and variety of traditional Mexican treats made modern. From the likes of their classic grilled corn with cheese, cayenne pepper and fresh lime, to their signature fish tacos with spicy tomatillo salsa and slaw and crispy chicken quesadilla topped with creamy guacamole. Definitely worth the wait, make sure you make time for the sangria or margarita  in a carafe to share amongst friend's. Truly an experience like no other.
Photo by AVLXYZ

233 Lonsdale Street  Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9663 0811

I finally made it to this new Mexican kid on the block after several failed attempts due to private events and queues. My initial thoughts - great ambience, funky, vibrant, colorful atmosphere, and friendly staff. All the makings for a top Mexican joint! This place features casual shared dining with long rustic wooden high tables and chairs. You can also dine by the bar for easy access to a myriad of cocktails and of course tequila!
You will find interesting usage of disposable cutlery and recycled materials for the menu. My next thoughts – this is an accessible Mamasita. Affordable Mexican at $6-$7 a taco with a wide variety to choose from. We chose the crispy duck leg special that came with margarita for 2 and of course, the legendary battered fish tacos. Followed by grilled corn and seafood ceviche. Not forgetting the blood orange Madagascar cocktail. Wow.

The cerviche was generously filled with mussels, prawns, salsa and guacomole. It was sour but flavorsome and the tortilla chips crunchy and a great accompaniment to the cerviche. The fish tacos were juicy, crispy and packed with flavor with the mayo and salsa oozing out as you sunk your teeth into it. The grilled corn was flooded with flavor of mayo, peppers and cheese. Simply beautiful. The special crispy duck leg was as described. Crisp, delicious and luscious. The guacomole and sauces were devine. All up, a perfect Mexican dining experience and a close second to Mamasita.
Fish Taco


Level 1, 500 Bourke St (up the stairs from Little Bourke St)
(03) 9663 3038
Located off Little Bourke St, between William and Queen St, Paco’s Tacos sits right next to Movida Aqui and is owned and managed by Movida. It is, however, a more accessible and affordable joint than Movida, offering exciting and colourful Mexican food at its best. All tacos are a cheap and cheerful $6 and come in colourful red baskets. We tried the Pescado – marinated fish, chipotle and radish which was savoury, crispy and juicy – drenched with the hot chipotle sauce. We also savoured the camarones – filled with prawns, pepita sauce and salsa verde – it was spicy, peppery and flooded with green creamy salsa verde sauce. Between the 2, the pescado was the winner. Another winner was the BBQ corn nicely char-grilled with chipotle pepper sauce, and generous portions of grated cheese on the top. A great dish to share is the crispy nachos  with toasted tortilla chips, salsa verde, pico de gallo, guacamole, and queso fresco. Absolutely delish. Order the jug of sangria to share at $32 a pop enough for 3 and a bit. Note: this venue is sheltered but in an open outdoor area with heaters to keep you warm but make sure you rug up for winter!

Fish Taco
Expect the unexpected with the taco truck as it changes its location every week (mostly in the Brunswick area) to cater to the throngs of taco lovers eager to sink their teeth into each exquisite taco creation. The thrill is in finding the truck and then of course the experience of dining like no other.  My friends and I decided to go on an adventure last week by “chasing” the truck. We found out the location via the taco truck’s facebook page and then off we went to find the truck.
We were beside ourselves as we pulled up past the truck and spotted the bright coloured “TACO TRUCK” sign amidst a queue of hungry taco hunters. Jackpot! I ordered the fish taco plate which was a reasonable $12 for 2 fish tacos and tortilla chips. “A 20 min wait, but its worth the wait”, said the friendly lady in the truck. And, true to her word, it surely was worth the wait as it wasn’t long before we savoured the delightful crispy fish tacos and crunchy tortilla chips oozing with flavours. Tip: Add a dash of the habenaro hot sauce over the tacos and chips for an extra kick! Unexpected to say the least – who would’ve thought good food could come out of a truck? Taco truck has certainly found a new fan.

Fish Taco Plate

248 Swan Street  Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9429 0085

We ordered takeaway from Fonda thinking it might be a bit of a wait. To our surprise, 15 min was all it took for us to pick up our much-awaited orders! If you have a little more time, dine in at the casual Casa de Mexicana as you watch their friendly staff hustle about in the busy kitchen. The tortillas are made to order using dough presses so you are guaranteed freshness.  (Their dough is prepared daily at the Abbotsford Convent bakery.) Choose from a variety of meat, market fresh fish or even vegetarian 6” tacos or 12” burritos.
Again, this joint is set to give mamasita a run for its money. Reasonably priced tacos at $6 a pop with sides from $3.50 for the charred corn and $6 for the tortilla crisps with spicy salsa and guacamole as well as the Mexican pork scratchings (Chicharons with gaucamole) at $5 - our total bill for 2 came up to $30! Unreal by Melb standards. The crunchiness of the slaw against the flavorsome grilled fish and guac make for a real treat. Yet again another accessible Mamasita!
A Mexican Feast


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Top 5 Fave South Melbourne Haunts

(Rear of) 285-287 Coventry St South Melbourne (03) 9690 2688
Tucked in an alley off Coventry St South Melbourne is a cosy french-themed patisserie – Chez Dre.  Open daily from 7.30am to 4.30pm, make sure you get in early to relish both savoury and sweet treats freshly baked by the busy but meticulous chefs.  Some of their generously-portioned popular dishes from their all day breakkie menu include their Moroccan baked eggs with spicy herb lamb sausages, minted yoghurt and baguette and Mexican-inspired corn and jalepeno brioche with black-eyed beans, tomato salsa, and guacamole topped with a fried egg. Or how about a more “french-inspired” croque madame with thick crust toast, smoked ham, melted gruyere cheese, rich béchamel sauce and a crispy fried egg on top! It’s easy to spend a few hours here as you will find the aroma of freshly roasted coffee and delicately baked cakes collaborating to tantalize your senses, undoubtedly teasing you for more. Indulge in the variety of flavoured macaroons from pistachio to strawberry or dig into their opulent chocolate tart sprinkled with gold leaves. 
35 Market St  South Melbourne VIC 3205 (03) 9686 2255

I fell in love with this unpretentious, welcoming joint the moment we were seated overlooking their intimate fresh outdoor setting with high chairs on a bar top bench peeking into the tranquil market st neighborhood. We ordered their infamous coffee and real spicy chai latte – where you could still see the cloves, cinnamon and spices atop the frothy goodness. Their wholesome and mouthwatering selection of weekend all day breakkie includes the creamy avocado on toast and star attractions like the juicy pork belly sanga and crispy potato rosti. The avocado on toast was a real winner with depths of flavour from a surprising crunch of pistachio amidst creamy avocado, citrusy fetta, followed by a burst of orange and then the freshness of herby basil. With its exceptional food, great service with constant water refills, it’s easy to see why this is one of my favourite South Melbourne haunts.

3. St Ali
12-18 Yarra Place  South Melbourne VIC 3205 (03)9686 2990
Voted by many a coffee afficianado as one of Melbourne’s best coffee joints, St Ali brings a quirky but likeable personality into the South Melbourne neighbourhood. Featuring interesting menu items such as “My Mexican Cousin” – a “secret recipe of corn fritters, fresh baby spinach, haloumi, kasundi with poached or fried eggs” and  “magic mushroom” – a flat omelette of field mushrooms, cherry tomato, oregano and pine nuts, occasionally you might get lucky and be served shots of new coffee flavours of the day to go along with your breakkie. 

4. Cafe Sweethearts
263 Coventry St South Melbourne (03) 9690 6752
If none of the above cafes will accommodate you, Café Sweethearts will. With its massive breakfast portions, it will surely hit a spot for you. My personal fave? The lumberjack – with a triple stack pancake, doused with maple syrup, topped with salty bacon and a soft-centred fried egg. The mix of salty and sweet seem odd at the get-go but the ingenious combo actually works. For a true protein kick, make sure you try the Spanish eggs with whole egg whites beaten and scrambled with tomatoes, onions, corn, and jalepeno on sourdough toast served with a side of tomato relish. Once you’ve looked after the tummy rumbles, sit back and watch the busy South Melbournites go about their Sunday shopping as you sip on your coffee or selection of teas.


5. G.A.S.
253 Coventry St South Melbourne (03) 9690 0217
G.a.s. (short for gastronomy) is a truly a celebration of top-notch gourmet cookery.  The casual dining atmosphere with the bustling crowds sitting side by side on high chairs by long tables brings you back to a market feel whilst the serves of food on heavy wooden chopping blocks add a touch of classic food styling. Make sure you try the scrumptious, saucy Middle Eastern Eggs “served in an iron pan with spiced stewed tomato sauce, grilled haloumi cheese and paprika accompanied with toasted Turkish bread”.  Or be tempted by the vast array of  grazing platters including the crispy savoury gozleme (Turkish filled pizzas), lamb kofta balls and their version of spicy jalepeno cheese fritters. Or be wowed by their simple yet effective filler of a breakkie – Croque Monsieur with ham, cheese and béchamel sauce.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Louisa's Top 5 Favourite Recipes

Hi everyone, here's my first guest entry by Louisa Peterson. Louisa works for Delivery Hero, a Sydney-based internet start-up, that makes it easier for Aussies to order home delivery online. Louisa is passionate about food and sunshine, and is a regular contributor to Delivery Hero’s blog


When Lorraine from ‘Passionate about Life’ asked me to write a guest post on my 5 favourite recipes, I thought, easy! But when I started thinking about it I realised it's actually kind of tricky to narrow it down! There are SOO many good recipes out there! Here are some of my favourite recipes, categorised, like a proper geek. Don’t get me wrong I love indulgent, rich meal ideas, but at the same time I love simple, tasty meals that have fresh ingredients and depths of flavour.

No.1 Recipe Favourite - Roast Lamb and Two Veg
Lamb cutlets, mint, rosemary, 2 garlic cloves, red wine, sweet potato, vine ripened tomatoes, fresh steamed green beans and asparagus.
Method: Marinate lamb cutlets in a mixture of mint, rosemary, garlic, olive oil, red wine and tomatoes overnight. Roast the sweet potato with tomatoes first at 200 degrees C for 30 mins. Sear the lamb in a frying pan, then squeeze them in amongst the roast veggies and cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Steam green beans and asparagas. Serve together with a drizzle of the cooked marinade.

No.2 Recipe Favourite – Veggie Salad
Broccoli, beetroot, sweet potato, red onion, rocket, pumpkin seeds, feta, balsamic vinegar
Method: steam broccoli and rinse in cold water to cool. Roast baby beets and small chunks of sweet potato with thick slices of red onion in olive oil for 40 mins (or until tender) at 180 degrees C. Once cooled, cut the baby beets in half.  Dry fry (without oil) a handful of pumpkin seeds in a pan until they pop. Toss broccoli, roasted veggies, pumpkin seeds, rocket and feta together. Serve with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

No.3 Recipe Favourite – Nanna’s Apple Shortcake
100 g butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 egg, 2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
, 7 medium apples stewed, cinnamon or nutmeg to taste.

Slice apples and stew in a pan with 50g sugar and half a cup of water. Set aside. Soften butter and beat with sugar till well mixed. Add whole egg and beat again.
 Add sieved flour and baking powder in stages until it starts looking like pastry. Use your hands for the final stages. Add a dash of extra flour or milk if necessary, but don't over mix.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Divide the pastry in half and roll out to the size of the baking dish. You'll need to experiment with thickness depending on the size of the baking tin or dish. Bake for 10 mins, then spread with cooked apples, sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg to taste. Cover with the remaining pastry, pressing down around the edges. Bake for 40 mins or until brown.

No.4 Recipe Favourite – Moscow Mule
Vodka, cucumber, ginger ale, ice
Method: Put a few ice cubes in a glass with two thumbs of vodka, ginger ale, and slices of skinned cucumber. Sit back and relax.

No.5 Recipe Favourite – Homemade Pita Bread Pizzas

Pita bread, tomato pasta sauce, onions, salami, ham, feta, cheese, rocket and avocado, oregano, basil or other herbs to taste
Method: Fry chopped onions till clear. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Spread tomato pasta sauce of choice as a base, sprinkle onions, ham, salami, feta and cheese on pita. Add herbs to taste. Bake for 12 minutes or until crispy. Generously sprinkle with rocket and slices of avocado. Super easy, super fast. But if the cupboard looks a little empty or you’re just too busy, takeaway in Melbourne is always a good option.

Image by jeffreyw.