Monday, April 27, 2009

Amnesty III: Restaurants

I think I might have missed out on Jackie's Amnesty fortnight... but better late than never! Today's post is on restaurants! These were visited in a period from November last year up until the present...

Della Nonna's Bruschetta

Della Nonna
844 Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn Vic 3122
(03) 9819-6444

We visited Della Nonna in November 08 for a Sunday lunch... as it was so long ago I can't remember the exact prices or menu details, sorry! It was a little pricey for a casual Sunday lunch, but I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it!

Wagyu carpaccio... or was it bresoala? I can't remember... but I remember it tasted great and came with rocket, salty olives and fresh anchovies. Such a great combo!

Sausage Pizza
Della Nonna on Urbanspoon

Koliba Czech and Slovak Restaurant
11 Johnston St
Collingwood Vic 3066
(03) 9417-3797

Duck kiev with 2 red cabbage, sweet & sour cabbage and potato dumplings - $22.50

Another visit to our favourite Czech and Slovak restaurant. (Well, it's the only one we know of, but we really like it!) Special of the day was duck with 2 types of cabbage. (Just like in Prague!) Ooooh yeah. Service is super-friendly, and has gotten a lot smoother since the first time we went. Lovely!
Koliba Czech&Slovak restaurant on Urbanspoon

295 Drummond Street
Carlton Vic 3053
(03) 9347-2998
Buffalo mozzarella with speck - $24

We love D.O.C. The pizze, the mozzarella!!!! My cousin Barry (quite the wine buff) was intrigued by my Facebook status: "I'm looking forward to the pizza and prosecco at D.O.C!", and asked if they went well together. Please, everything goes well with prosecco. In addition to the speck e mozzarella, we had porcini pizza, Napolitana pizza (mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, anchovies) and pimped-up margherita (i.e. with luxurious buffalo mozzarella). Delicioso.
D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon

JJ's Bar and Grill
Level 1
Crown Towers
(03) 9292-6891

We had a stunning meal at JJ's for my brother's birthday this year. (Previous visit in '06 blogged here). The highlights included:

Grilled Scampi and Scallop Risotto - $19.50 (entree)

Yellowtail king fish with pine nut salsa and citrus reduction - $36.50
JJ's Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

St. Ali
12-18 Yarra Place
South Melbourne Vic 3205
(03) 9686-2990

Zucchini fritters with baby spinach, a fried egg, grilled halloumi and beetroot relish

I came here the first time for a coffee tasting event (blogged in detail by Claire), and knew from the funky set-up and insane focus on coffee quality that my bro would love it. We came a couple of weeks later, and were suitably impressed. My bro's gf ordered the zucchini fritters with baby spinach, a fried egg, grilled halloumi and beetroot relish. The combination was great, and the halloumi just put it over the top. I've just moved offices to South Melbourne, so I envisage that I'll be visiting St. Ali much more often. Yay! (I should add, that the next time I visited, I ordered the fritters for myself, and they were still raw on the inside... Eek! But a trip to St. Ali is worth it, just for the coffee alone).
St Ali on Urbanspoon

Belgian Beer Cafe
557 St Kilda Road
Melbourne Vic 3004
(03) 9529 2899

Beef Pie with peas and mashed potatoes

We always have fun at the Belgian Beer Garden. (Way better than the similar, but crappier Little Creatures Dining Hall). This visit was on a cold day, so we went inside the cafe itself for hot food rather than standing around outside with beers. I seem to recall we all had an intense craving for waffles... but had to get through some frites, a pie, a croque monsieur, some escargot and some beers first, hehe. That was shared between 4 of us! Previous visit blogged here.
Belgium Beer Café Bluestone on Urbanspoon

Ambrosia Mediterranean Cuisine
221 Camberwell Road
Hawthorn East VIC 3122
(03) 9882-3422

Ambrosia is a friendly yet professional family-run restaurant. Servings are generous and the food is super-fresh. Very nice!
Fresh Sardines - price forgotten (approx $20??)

Jel (the owner) gets up at the crack of dawn every morning to bake his own bread. Yummm.

Ambrosia on Urbanspoon

400 Bridge Rd
Richmond Vic 3121
(03) 9428-3918

Quail's eggs wrapped in bacon

I like going to Maedaya when I start to miss smoky Japanese izakaya and kushi-katsu bars. Or just when I want a good feed and good sake at even better prices. I like to sit upstairs so I can order some yakitori (like the incredibly delicious quail egg and bacon you see above), and then get stuck into grilling my own meats over a smoky little brazier.
Hot Tip: don't wash your hair before you visit. And the free sauces kick ass.

Maedaya on Urbanspoon

I *heart* Melbourne!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quick Update: The Gastronomer's Bookshelf

My latest book review is up at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, of Sudi Pigott's How to be a Better Foodie.

If you've just gotten a new-release cookbook and would like to share your opinion, why not contribute a review?

Dinner at Thanh's

We went for dinner at Thanh's house last week. As per usual in the preceding week there were a flurry of back and forth emails deciding what to cook, when to have it, how we'd get there etc... (sorry Duncan!). In the end Thanh decided on a chicken recipe followed by chocolate puddings for dessert from his Movida cookbook.

We got there around 2, and Thanh swiftly put us to work making the chocolate puddings. The pudding seemed to be a typical molten chocolate pudding recipe, but you had to put the mixture back in the fridge twice (before spooning it into the ramekins, and once it's in the ramekins) before you bake it.
That's Thanh's concentrating face. :o)

Then we started making the chicken. The recipe seemed to be a lot more work than Thanh thought it would be. It wasn't too hard, just long and fiddly. You have to chop up masses of capsicums and tomatoes and onions and garlic, and sautee them all one after the other... then brown chicken pieces, pour the sauce over, then bake.

We also made roast potatoes, using the Nigella method and chicken fat. Yum. Thanh wanted to make a beetroot salad, but he couldn't be stuffed after all the cooking, hehe. We did a pared-down version with just spinach leaves, fetta, toasted pine nuts and dressing.

A couple of Thanh's friends also brought oysters and lemon. (Score! Especially considering 50% of the people at the table didn't eat oysters...)

Roast potatoes. Crispy!

The chicken was frikkin amazing! It was so tender, with heaps of great flavour from the capsicums. I loved it, and would love to make it again for my family or a dinner party.

After we ate, Thanh put the puddings into the oven. They only took about 15 minutes (?) to bake.

I thought we were gonna eat the puddings straight out of the ramekins, but apparently the idea was to turn them out on plates. They were a bit difficult to get out (Thanh blamed my crappy flouring, I blamed Duncan's crappy buttering, Duncan blamed Thanh's lack of instructions... heheh)... but they were still totally delicious. I love molten chocolate puddings with their crackly tops and soft rich centres.

Mmm... fattening.

That Movida cookbook is great. I'd totally have stolen it from Thanh if it didn't represent 20% of his total cookbook collection. Thanks for a great dinner Thanh!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Amnesty II

More backlog...

11/3/2008 - Roast Pork and Dumplings
This dinner was made quite speedily with store-bought ingredients.

Small pork roast: Otway Pork, shrinkwrapped in plastic from Safeway. Got good crackling from it.
Semmelknoedel, from box. You drop them im Kochbeutel! into a pan of boiling water until the little grains in there become one big dumpling.

Dessert was grilled plums topped with brown sugar and almonds, and frozen yoghurt (Greek yoghurt + icing sugar, churned in an ice-cream machine). Refreshing.

25/04/2008 - Hainan Chicken Rice

My Aunty Ding (not my real aunty, my parents' friend) makes the best Hainan chicken rice. Please note the rice - brown from being cooked in chicken stock and with chicken fat - and the garlic chilli sauce - made with lots of garlic and chicken stock. MMMM Yum.

25/06/2008 - Courgette Pie

One of the first Nigella recipes I ever made, I still love it. You start by cooking cubes of zucchini with cumin, coriander and turmeric. Once it's softened, you add basmati rice and stock, scoop-by-scoop. This risotto-y mixture is poured into a filo-lined springform, topped with more filo and baked. Fabulous.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Monsieur Truffe

Milka is one of my 3 favourite milk chocolates.

The current edition (April 09) of Gourmet Traveller is really good. There's a feature on tempering chocolate by the lovely Lindt-man Thomas Schnetzler, an article about The Commoner, spectacular-looking sandwich recipes by Thomas Keller, and a spread of cute cupcakes (well, apart from the "tiny chocolate fudge cakes" which have an unfortunate chocolate swirl for the icing... which we all know looks like dog-poop). There's also a "best of the best 2009" feature, which reminded me that I really should be checking out Monsieur Truffe.

Monsieur Truffe
90 Smith St
Collingwood VIC
(03) 9416-3101

I used to see Monsieur Truffe's stall a lot, back when I used to spend an unhealthy amount of time at the Prahran Market, but never actually stopped in to buy anything. Now he's moved to more permanent digs on Smith St, and according to that Gourmet Traveller article, in addition to all the truffles, he makes great croissants and pastries. I was sold!

The cafe itself is small and warm, with a pleasingly eclectic mix of furniture. Most excitingly, it smells like a mixture of butter and chocolate when you walk in. As you can see from the above picture, the walls are lined with different chocolate bars and bags of couverture (including Valrhona and Felchlin - mostly dark, with some milk and white).

We started with some coffee (a fab latte)...

... and a couple of sweets from the counter.

Sandra got a flourless chocolate cake (super-dense, with a slight marzipanny taste from the addition of ground almonds). And I had a pain au chocolat. Check out how amazingly flaky it is!
Miam Miam!

I was so impressed that I bought an extra croissant and pain au chocolat to share with the parentals. They, in turn, were so impressed that they went there with Sandra a week later and spent about $60 on pastries (and chocolate for me, hehe). Monsieur Truffe is super-nice (the person and the shop), and I'll totally be coming back again.

Monsieur Truffe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amnesty I

Inspired by Jackie's Amnesty post, I have decided to finally, properly clear up this backlog of food photos that I've been accumulating since I came back from Germany. Let's start at the oldest and work our way forwards, shall we?

Incidentally, Jackie blames Twitter for her reduction in blogpost frequency. I don't even tweet, and I still have a massive backlog! I guess I just eat and cook and bake and take photos much faster than I blog.

Let's go.

20/2/2008 - Puffed Apple Pancake

Made this from Bill Granger's Holiday (Celebrate! It would be so nice!) over a year ago (oh dear). I thought it would be great, a light batter poured over apple slices and baked in a hot oven, just like Nigella's sweet Yorkshire pudding. Sadly not that nice. It was quite bland and doughy.

24/02/2008 - Chocolate and Almond Pudding

Again, from Bill's Holiday (Celebrate! It would be so nice! - no, that joke doesn't get old), these puddings contain almond meal and are cooked in muffin tins. More cakey than a classic molten chocolate pudding, with a pleasant texture from the ground almonds. They weren't standouts though, so I haven't made them since. (You can imagine how many molten chocolate pudding recipes I still have to try, from cookbooks, magazines, blogs etc....)

16/3/2008 - Carrot and Almond Cake

From Neil Perry's Good Food, (Good Food is a Good Book!), this cake is a little unusual. I love a good old American-style carrot cake, with thick cream-cheese icing, but this was something altogether different. Not that it's any less delicious.
Vibrant colours!

It looks quite classy, and is rather flat and torte-like, with the texture of a moist flourless cake. It does contain flour, however, in the form of rougly chopped savoiardi biscuits. It also contains ground almonds, roasted walnuts and grated carrot. It is incredibly moist, and totally delicious. Even people who don't like carrot cake and were "suspicious of this carrot cake you've made, Sarah", thought it was fantastic and came back for seconds. Hurrah!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Hu Tong. I have been craving dumplings like crazy lately, and after reading glowing reviews on Tummy Rumbles and I Eat Therefore I Am, I was really keen to go. We were meeting up with some uni friends in Chinatown on Thursday night, so I suggested we try it. It ended up being pretty bad. To my uni friends - I'm really, really sorry.

14-16 Market Lane
Melbourne 3000
Ph: (03) 9650 8128

We rocked up at about 7:50pm, and without a reservation, we were told by the captain we'd have to wait until about 8:30. As we weren't super-starving, and were still waiting for more of our friends, I didn't think this would be a problem. We put our names and my mobile phone number down and started waiting. Of course, we already had waited 10 minutes just to get the captain's attention. He seemed to spend lots of time running up and down the stairs with a clipboard, and generally avoiding eye contact with the growing crowds in the little foyer.

By 8:30, our whole group of 6 had arrived, and when we managed to get the captain's attention to ask how much longer it would be, he said "4 minutes - I've got to push 2 tables together for you", and ran off. 4 minutes later and still nothing. He was still running up and down and not even looking at us. (Obviously it's not his fault if the previous table is taking their time, but an update, or some small acknowledgement that he was aware of our presence would have been nice).

At this point we decided to give up and go across the street to reliable ol' Shanghai Village. As we were walking down Market Lane, I got a rather peeved-sounding call on my mobile from the captain - "Hey! Where are you? Your table is ready!" So we came straight back, only to find that our table still wasn't ready!! We headed upstairs and saw 2 people still sitting at our table, finishing up their meals. We just stood awkwardly in the corner and waited some more. To their credit, as soon as the previous customers left, it took the waiters 3 nanoseconds to clear the table and set it for us.

Anyhoo, by about 8:45 we were seated, and then ordered. For 6 of us, we ordered 2 serves of dumplings, some veggo spring rolls (for the 2 vegetarians), a few dishes, a plate of vegetarian fried rice, and some steamed rice.

The first thing that came out was that massive bowl of red soupy meaty goodness that you see at the top of the post. I can't remember exactly what it was called, but it was full of different types of offal, including tripe and (I think) liver, and coagulated pigs blood. There were also peanuts and many other herbs and spices. Not exactly the type of thing I would order myself, but I was happy to try some!

Boiled pork dumplings. Tasty. Not earth-shattering, but still very good. The filling had a nice flavour, and the skin wasn't too thick or doughy.

Spring Rolls - we asked for vegetarian, but meat ones were brought out. I don't blame the waiters though; it was incredibly loud in there. Big crowds and wooden floors = headache-inducing cacophony. We just took them and asked for vego ones as well, which came out in a reasonable amount of time.

Then the noodles topped with lobster. I think it was $18.80, which was decent value. The noodles had a pleasant sauce, but again, the dish wasn't anything to write home about.

String beans with minced pork. This one was very garlicky (which I liked!) and had great flavour, but they came out at room temperature. You could tell they'd been sitting around for a while before being brought out to us.

Seafood hotpot. Or as we referred to it, "MSG hot pot". It was ridiculously salty. Our friend Sam said it was as if someone tried to shake a bit of MSG in there, but the lid fell off and flooded the dish with MSG. Very unpleasant.

Finally out came the Xiao Long Bao. I really enjoyed them. The skin was great, the meat had a good texture, and the soup inside was gingery and delicious.

We also got a plate of stir-fried vegetables (for the vegetarians), but I didn't manage to get a picture of it. Our poor vego friends were so starving by this time that they descended on the veggies with gay abandon. And they never got their fried rice.

All the dishes came out at random times, some weren't hot, and the waiters seemed to forget totally about our rice. We'd ordered 3 bowls of steamed rice, and a serve of vegetarian fried rice, neither of which ever came out. Eventually, we asked for the steamed rices, and they brought 2 bowls of dry, lukewarm, obviously microwaved rice. When we asked about the fried rice, our waiter said he'd go check.... and never came back. However, by this stage, the rest of the food had been eaten, so we just asked for the bill, and our vegos decided to go to a fastfood joint for chips. When we got the bill, we noticed they'd actually charged us for the vego fried rice and the 3 steamed rices! Cheeky. We got them to remove the fried rice and 1 x steamed rice from our bill.

Whilst the dumplings were pretty good, the rest of the food was average at best, and there really is no excuse for such shoddy service and feral rice. (No seriously, how can a Chinese restaurant mess up steamed rice????) The atmosphere was really noisy and unpleasant. Definitely won't be coming back here.

***EDIT: Forgot to mention that on the night we went there, the pan-fried pork dumplings were also unavailable. From blog comments and other friends I've spoken too, the unavailability of certain dumpling types seems to be a common problem. Pah!***

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon