Archive | April, 2011

Bob’s Steak & Chop

30 Apr

April is a busy time for us every year – in no small part due to a number of birthdays, in particular that of JP’s who insists on a full ‘week’ of birthday specialness every year. This year Bob’s Steak & Chop – freshly imported from Dallas, Texas – opened just in time to ring in JP’s birthday.  Located in the Docklands, presumably because there is plenty of space for a large American steak house, Bob’s is not necessarily what you would picture a Texan steak house to be.  There is no mechanical bull, no tacky ranch interiors and certainly no half dressed cowgirl behind the bar.  Its the total opposite with its high ceilings, wood panelled interiors, floor to ceiling glass, and an impressive glass cellar which spans the two floors in the centre of the dining room.  Waiters, dressed in pristine white with black ties, certainly look the part – whether they know what’s going on is another matter, as we find throughout the night.

Seated at our rather large table – presumably to make enough room for the large American sized meals – we are served promptly by our waiter who also doubles as sommelier.  Lucky for us JP knows a thing or two about wines, and with the wine list featuring a number of good Australian wines, we don’t need to rely on the waiter/sommelier (who by the way is nice enough, and probably the only one there who knows what is going on).

The menu, as one would expect, is focused on steak, with a few chops (veal, lamb, pork) and a smattering of seafood options.  The steaks come with a choice of fries, baked or skillet potatoes.  There is also a good selection of sides – we tried them all – including creamed corn, creamed spinach and onion rings.  So far so good.

Crab Cake

Prawn Platter

However with the arrival of entrees, the newness of the joint shows – the waiters serving the entrees not only do not know who ordered what, but they also don’t seem to really know what they are serving.  After a little kerfuffle we finally sort out what is what and plates are served to the rightful owners.  JP ordered the crab cake – which was nice enough, not very exciting.  A couple of us tried the prawns – done 3 ways.  Again, nothing to write home about.  At this point, I must say I am disappointed with the portions which are not exactly Texan sized.

The Porterhouse

Next come the steaks – and unfortunately with it comes the confused kerfuffle that came with the entrees – except this time, it was much more difficult to distinguish the different steaks from each other.

Scotch Fillet

After much to-ing and fro-ing we finally identify the different cuts of steak and their rightful owners and can finally dig in – and we were not disappointed.  You can tell a good piece of steak from the first cut into the juicy meat – and the meat at Bob’s is fantastic.  Cooked to perfection it is served simply on a white plate, no other embellishment needed.  I chose the porterhouse which was succulent and juicy, with just the right amount of marbling through the meat so that is wasn’t sinewy and chewy, and the skillet potatoes came with a rich gravy – very hearty and warming.  Judging by all the clean plates, everyone enjoyed their steak.

Key Lime Pie

Marble Cheesecake

Moving onto desserts, we were looking forward to volcanic ice cream sundaes and mountainous cheesecake.  But alas, no oversized desserts here.  Rather, there is some very plain looking key lime pie and marbled cheesecake.  A nice touch was the slice of chocolate cake for the birthday boy, complete with sparklers.

So, whilst there were more than a few hiccups with the service (to be expected with a new establishment), the quality of the steak will bring us back to Bob’s at least once more, and hopefully by then the hiccups are gone.

Bob’s Steak & Chop

737 Bourke Street

Melbourne

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My Laksa-less visit to Laksa King

27 Apr

Oh Laksa King!  We’ve all heard about the famous Laksa King and it’s success story, starting from it’s humble beginnings in a small Flemington arcade to evolve into it’s new bigger, better shinier new home and even bigger ego.  Tonight marks the final night of the super long Easter weekend, and my (non foodie) partner in crime, Jo Duck had organised a get together with our favourite shooting crew Grace, Darcy and George.  Her invitation read:  “Hi all.  Don’t you think it’s time we all had a big bowl of laksa?  I do!”.  How does one decline such a convincing offer!!

So as I’m sure we’re all aware, Laksa King is as famous for it’s thick, fragrant Laksa as it is for it’s big crowds, reputation and lines.  The ever organised Ms Duck had booked us a table (which is great, because I’m not the best company when made to wait…) so we got to bypass the foyer of Laksa hopefuls awaiting their tables.

I’ve been here a bunch of times now, and being the creature of habit that I am, have ordered the fiery red, smooth hug-in-a-bowl that is the Combination Laksa every time.  But given my excessive culinary weekend, the thought of that rich coconut-ty curry broth was all too much, so I opted for the Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Hainanese Chicken Rice $9.20

There is something about the fragrant chicken rice, all ginger and lemon grass infused that makes it good enough to bottle in a perfume.  The chicken was served deboned, and had sat in a small pool of sweetened soy (as is tradition).  Sadly I found the chicken to be a little lacklustre (could have been hugely due to the fact that Mumsy had made Hainanese chicken rice at home the night before… and nothing beats a home cooked Mumsy Meal…) the chicken seemed a touch on the bland side, and I found the chicken meat a little limp (unlike Mumsy’s plump, meaty version).  The chilli sauce however, was delicious.  Perfectly chilli, mellowed by a touch of sweet, sour and ginger flavouring.

Jo and Grace both ordered the Chicken Laksa, which looked as it always does.  If anything Laksa King is good at, its consistency.

Chicken Curry Laksa $9.20

There’s a mix of hokkien and vermicelli noodles and a healthy amount of shredded chicken, fried tofu squares, fishcake, and the amazing squidgy piece of eggplant all soaked in a bath of fiery red, lightly spicy curry broth that won’t blow your face off!

Vegetarian Curry Laksa $9.20

George went with the Vegetarian version of the classic, which I’d (obviously…) never really acknowledged even being on the menu ( … Laksa…anything sans meat… interesting concept ?)  But from what I saw, there were bountiful amounts of tofu, mushrooms, broccoli, bok choy and the redeeming factor, THAT eggplant!

Last but not least, Darcy got the Prawn dumpling noodle soup which I actually considered myself.    The dumplings, or what looked more like wontons looked fresh and sufficiently filled (nothing worse than a malnutritioned,  sad looking wonton)!

Prawn dumpling Noodle soup $10.20

After tonight’s experience, I have learned that sometimes, it is okay to be a creature of habit.  Having had the chicken rice at Raffle’s Place not so long ago (and it was very good), and then my Mother’s version just last night, I feel like Laksa King kind of failed me tonight!  So why mess with a good thing?  Laksa King will and forever will be from now on, nothing but business and Curry Laksa all the way!

Laksa King

6/10-12 Pin Oak Crescent

Flemington – (03) 9372 6383

Road trip to Mr Carsisi’s

26 Apr

It’s finally reached that time of the year again, where for one glorious week, eating chocolate for breakfast is mandatory and we get to enjoy a food filled 4 day weekend (…well this year 5 day… AMAZING!)    Fellow foodie, Z and I had already successfully put on Good Friday Seafood Lunch, (with the exception of a little chorizo… that was my fault, i totally forgot the whole point was a no meat thing… Oooops!) where we created a feast of Red Wine Mussels, prawns with guacamole & ‘fancy sauce’ (a la Step Brothers) – also known as Thousand Island Sauce – a few salads and green beans with fennel, fresh oysters and crumbed sword fish.

Good Friday Seafood Lunch

It was an excessively delightful lunch, but my proudest moment was making Apricot Hot Cross Buns that looked the part and actually tasted pretty great!  Go ME!!

Homemade Apricot Hot Cross Buns

It was basically a day of dining, wining, snacking, wining and more dining!! And even though we eventually carried our full bellies home to nurse the food coma, it didn’t take long for Z and I to start cooking up our next Easter Culinary Adventure.

Feeling a little heavy headed, and a lot heavy bellied, we looked into some options for short road trip destinations with ‘DINING’ being our main prerequisite … Oh, and being able to get out of town, see endless rolling fields and not be ruled by traffic lights.

Our final choice:  Piper Street Kyneton!  Being only a little over an hour out of Melbourne, Piper Street in Kyneton leaves any foodie spoilt for choice.  It was hard deciding where to choose given the over whelming offering of resturants/bistro’s/cafes, but we decided to go with the Turkish inspired, Mr Carsisi.  (It may or may not have been in big part due to their Dessert platter for 2 that I’d come across while looking up fellow food blog sites…)

Mr Carsisi’s shed like spacious interior, is the home for owner Matt Fegan’s (formally of award winning Royal George Hotel) Turkish inspired dishes.  We’d made a booking so were seated promptly upon arrival.  The service is relaxed, friendly and efficient.  Within 10 minutes of arriving, we were watered and had been served our wine from their extensive internationally sourced wine list.  At this point I was feeling pretty confident with our Piper Street selection!  As mentioned, I’d seen a lot of photos showing the dessert platter, so choosing the savory part of this meal was pretty trying.  The menu offers a mezze section, as well as mains, sides, and a daily specials list.  Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about it!  Spot a Steak or Lamb on the menu (in this case, slow roasted lamb shoulder with persian red lentils, grilled lamb cutlet, pomegranate & walnut sauce) and its a done deal.  But having lusted over this dessert platter, I (with a great amount of difficulty) fought my instinctual cannibalism …

We decided to get a bunch of Mezze to share (to make sure we left room for dessert) starting with a special of the day, Saganaki with Figs and Sauteed Prawns in a Spiced tomato and corriander sauce.

Sauteed prawns, spiced tomato & coriander sauce $11.50 (left) Saganaki with Figs $11.50

The Prawns were fresh and fragrant with the spiced tomato sauce.  The spice added a really nice complexity, although I found it a little too overpowering for the prawns.  I DID however, enjoy dipping the sauce on the Pide and Battered eggplant dishes (you’ll see them below shortly!)  The biggest let down was probably the Saganaki.  Which makes me pretty sad! It was cold and therefore stiff as a board by the time it arrived to our table… speaking of board, it kind of lacked taste as well.  So essentially, I felt like I was eating cardboard, with some fancy fig jam.  The Jam was lovely… (?)

Fried chickpea battered eggplant, zaatar, garlic & dill yoghurt 9.00

Thankfully, the rest of the dishes arrived relatively quickly so my disappointments were quickly distracted.  Next came the Chickpea battered eggplant and the Sucuk sausage pide.

The Chickpea battered eggplant doesn’t photograph the best, but it was a lovely combination of flavour and textures.  The chickpea batter created a crunchy casing, housing a silken zaatar laced eggplant slice.

And the Sucuk sausage (Turkish dry, spicy sausage) Pide below, was freshly baked, although I found it a little on the dry side.  But that was easily amended by dipping the bready bits into the sauce from the prawns!

Sucuk sausage, Turkish sweet chilli paste, tomato & shanklish pide, coriander yoghurt 10.50

The last two of our share plates were green beans with tahini lemon dressing (it was a side, but the Z is having a ‘green beans’ phase at the moment…) and the lamb pistachio kebabs.

Green beans, crispy shallots, tahini lemon dressing, walnut oil 8.00 (right)

Personally, I thought the beans were a little lazy.  They were well blanched, but the dressing was a bit lack luster and didn’t live up to it’s colourful sounding description.  So far, two dishes to add to the ‘disappointed’ list!  At this stage, we are both feeling a touch on the disappointed side.  Given the lively nature of turkish ingredients (spices, aromatics, sesame etc), it seems to be a little difficult to find an establishment that draws on Turkish flavours well and uses them to their full advantage.

And then… the saving grace!  Our final dish arrives and yes! It is MEAT!  Glorious MEAT!!

Antep lamb pistachio kebabs, flatbread, tomato & parsley salad 11.50

The Lamb was cooked just right, all tender and juicy but not so tender that it crumbled off its skewer.  The tomato’s were fresh, and combined with some flatbread, parsley and crumbly pistachio-ed lamb, lightly sprinkled with zaatar, this was a mouthful of FLAVOUR NATION!  Turkish nation!!

And just as I’d devoured the last mouthfuls of that Turkish Flavour High, I swallowed with great anticipation!  It was DESSERT time!  Two Turkish coffees and a Dessert Platter for 2 please…

Tasting Plate for two $28

The Tasting plate for two was a platter of nicely sized Turkish sweet HEAVEN!  It involved (from left to right):

Pistachio baklava, Talumba (sugar coated donut) with Turkish delight & rose syrup, Pistachio halva ice cream, Chocolate ganache, Salep – wild orchid & orange blossom custard, Lokma (cinnamon sugar donuts), Turkish delight semifredo and Semolina & cinnamon halva, pistachio & vanilla fairy floss.

Tasting dessert plate for two (close up of semolina Halva with fairy floss-left. Turkish delight semi fredo-right)

As you can see, this platter is NOT for the faint hearted!  My favourite was definitely the Turkish Delight semifredo (thats the one on the right with the pistachio top sandwiching the pink), which combined my 3 favourite textures:  baklava, turkish delight and ice cream!

Also fantastic in flavour was the Pistachio Halva ice cream (which is the little white ball, glistening from behind the shot glass of white custard).  Z tried to explain to me that it reminded her of a Lebanese dessert her uncle used to make… for me it was like eating condensed milk on toast.  But cold!  And better coz its Ice Cream!!

We were advised to dip the Lokma; cinnamon coated donuts (not to be mistaken for the Talumba, which are dipped in icing sugar and cinnamon) in the Salep – wild orchid & orange blossom custard in the shot glass or the chocolate ganache.  The Talumba seen at the back, was to be dipped into the turkish delight and rose syrup sauce which was housed in the  Cezve (coffee pot) it was perched atop.  Both the Lokma and the Talumba look the same to me!  Churros! YUM!  Both the dipping sauces however, weren’t the most appetizing, in texture or taste.  The turkish delight and rose syrup was far too gelatinous and resembled snot… Rose scented snot.  Thankfully the chocolate ganache made for a trusted and delightful pairing.   Last but not least there was the baklava and the Halva with Pistachio & Vanilla fairy floss which were nicely washed down with the help of our Turkish coffees.

So 6 dishes, 2 and a half hours and a plate of fragrant diabetes-on-a-platter later, we take our full satisfied bellies back to the car and make our way back to the bright, traffic lighted streets of Melbourne.  Although there were some flavour lows at Mr Carsisi, I don’t know a single human in the world that wouldn’t go from their lowest low to their highest sugar high just looking at that Dessert Platter.  So Thank You Mr Carsisi, for keeping my confection-filled Easter-High alive!  You won’t find me rushing back in a hurry, but if I found myself  in the area again, I wouldn’t rule out revisiting the Desserts… any time of the year!!

Mr Carsisi

7 Piper Street Kyneton 3444

(03) 5422 3769

Matsu Hashi Sushi Boat

22 Apr

You know when you’re a little kid, and everything you own has, in one form or another, a novelty element attached to it? It’s almost as if having an object function in its own right isn’t enough to capture ones attention, like a curly straw or a those stupid sneakers with hidden wheels in them, or a bed that isn’t a bed unless it’s in the shape of a car,boat or castle.

Well I can safely say… not much has changed.  I still like to surround myself with things and experiences that have some sort of humor! A humor that I’d feared had LONG been lost (oh… now i’m talking meal time humor) since the changing hands of our favourite Japanese resturant Aya. Some of my fondest memories involve running amuck around that place, while the parents sat in the tatami rooms enjoying their food.  Taka San used to teach me origami and  let me help behind the sushi bar until of course… the piece de resistence… the sushi & sashimi boat platter was presented!  This was my favourite part of the night (besides dessert time of course)!

So Aya has long since changed hands, and it wasn’t until about 2 years ago, I thought the sushi & sashimi boat platter had sunk forever.  Until N moved to Northcote and after trying practically every eatery on High Street, they were forced to venture to the next suburb – and stumbled across Matsu Hashi.

Bean shoot appetizer

The thing we’ve come to love about this place – besides obviously this boat of seafood – is that it’s just good Japanese food, we can always get a table and the sushi/sashimi is always fresh.  There’s a wide sushi and sashimi offering, as well as your hot/cold entrees, main dishes, noodles/rice and hot pot (as in sukiyaki, shabu shabu and the like).  Oh and they are BYO, and don’t charge cake-age.  (Apparently charging anywhere between $4-$15 to cut and serve …nothing else… is becoming acceptable in many Melbourne establishments).  So YES!  Tonight’s impromptu sushi boat dinner was a WIN!

We arrived and were quickly presented our token appetizer.  This one is mostly beanshoots with a few – very few – shreds of capsicum, in a sweet vinaigrette.  It’s not the BEST appetizer i’ve had, but i’m not here for beanshoots!  So lets get to the good stuff.

Miso Soup

As we know why we are here, we get to ordering that first. One Deluxe House special for 2 people!   We also got some Miso Soup and entrees to nibble on before the main event sailed on up…

First to arrive was the miso.  Which funnily enough, came with sliced brown mushrooms and spinach, as opposed to the traditional Shitake Mushroom and Seaweed.  Bit of a surprise – not really authentic Japanese.

But it doesn’t taste bad, so i’m putting the ingredient substitution down to ‘humor’ of tonight’s chef. Next to arrive  is the Soft Shell Crab with Spicy Mayonaise.

The Crab is nice and meaty, and encased in a light batter that is freshly fried.  It’s crunchy, without overpowering the naturally sweet/fresh crab taste and the spicy mayonnaise is very subtle so it doesn’t swamp the fresh soft shell crab in creamy sogginess.  The spritz of fresh lemon is also an important touch.  Keeps the dish lively and cuts through the fat a little.

Soft Shell Crab $9.80

Very shortly after the Crab, came our other entree.  Being creatures of habit, whenever N and Mumsy eat here, there is always a vegetable element… and it is ALWAYS the Horenzo (spinach with sesame sauce).  Now, don’t get me wrong!  It doesn’t taste BAD… But seriously,it’s a pretty blande vegetable to have to get EVERY time!  Thankfully we went for Agedashi Tofu instead (for a change).

Agedashi Tofu $7.80

Not only is this the perfect vegetable substitute because a) it’s fried and Crispy skinned, and b) who doesn’t LOVE a pile of bonito flakes dancing gloriously before you devour it, but oh triple thread! The sauce to tofu ratio is just right.  Nothing worse then getting soggy fried tofu in too much sauce!  Not even dancing Bonito Flakes can save such soggy messes!

OK.  Entrees done, finally onto the real reason we are here!  We clear the table to make room for the wonderfully constructed boat of sushi & sashimi.

Deluxe House Special for 2

As you can see, it’s quite a lot fish.  As we ordered the 2 person serving, most of the sashimi pieces come in servings of 2, with sushi coming in 3.  So obviously besides the fact that this MASSIVE platter of raw fish arrives before us on a wooden ship, the quality of the sushi & sashimi is also fantastic.  (Each ‘Fish on Boat’ filling craving is satisfied by a slightly different offering of fish each time, chosen according to what is fresh on the day.)

It doesn’t seem like that much food for 3 people, but even I am surprisingly full and it was a bit of a struggle to finish the Boat.  Struggled, but Succeeded!!   So all that’s left is dessert – we are full, but dessert reserve is a separate stomach!  I normally like to order the Daifuku (Japanese Rice Cake with red bean filling) but give into peer pressure.

Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Bean paste $7.80

We all decide to go with a tried and tested classic, Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Bean Paste.  Eating this at the end of a meal is like eating a refresher towel!  It’s that perfect balance of that cold, bitter sweet green tea flavour with the texture of the red bean that sits so comfortably while helping with digestion in the belly… (aside from Origami, Taka San also informed me of the worlds best diet secret!  Green Tea Ice Cream aids digestion!!  Probably cannot be proven… but I don’t need much convincing.)

So all in all mission accomplished!  I got my dancing bonito flakes, a sushi platter served on a Boat, and the guiltless pleasure of Ice Cream to end our night of fine dining and humor!   Its nothing too fancy, but its consistent and familiar food.  I guess for some,  the child in us lives forever whether it be a distant memory, repressed or ever present. Lucky for me though, I can still rely on Matsu Hashi to get my novelty Giant Boat of Sushi… may the kid in us live forever!

Matsuhashi

388/390 Queens Parade

Fitzroy North

VIC 3068

Raffle’s Place…to the rescue.

16 Apr

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  On this Friday evening, Melbourne CBD was Hell and I was the woman scorned!  You see it all started with the most pleasant of cocktails at Maha in the lower end of town.  I had a mean

Pomegranate sour (front) Kekka Club (back)

craving for dirty dumplings, so given the cheap and cheerful meal ahead of us, I figured we should treat ourselves to a proper drink.  Maha has long been one of my favourite establishments.  Set in a basement on Bond St, this middle Eastern Utopia (part of the Columbaris group) offers share plates with flavours to write home about and delicious cocktails to make it a beverage destination in its own right.

We arrived at a relatively peaceful Maha and were quickly seated at the bar.  The service, as you’d expect, is that perfect mix of friendly and knowledgeable. I decided to go with a pomegranate   Sour (anything with pomegranate has me at Hello!) whilst N went for the Kekka Club (she’s taken to drinking Gin based concoctions… I don’t get why?).  It was the perfect surrounds, with a low level hum of noise & chatter that did not leave me feeling like I should have brought my microphone and hearing aid.

So far so good.  The night is off to an above average start!! We decide to get the bill and make our way to fulfilling my dumpling craving.  Time check,  7:30pm!  I’d wanted to take N to China Red, for a while now.  Yes.  It’s ‘that place’ with the computer screens for waiters.  And yes,  it’s a bit of a gimmick.  But after going there a few times, I’d really enjoyed the food (the dumplings are made fresh and all the dishes offered taste as they should) and the service – or lack thereof – the cutting out the human makes for zero human errors in order taking/language barriers…kind of a God send!

We leave Maha and make it to China Red in good time.  But what’s this I see…?  Before my dumpling crazed filled eyes is a 10 meter line of hopefuls waiting for a table.  DAMMIT! I HATE LINES! So apparently I missed the “everyone wants dumplings tonight” memo, as we walked around for another 45 minutes going from dumpling place to dumpling place… each one offering me nothing but a line of people and a 35 minute wait!

Needless to say, the high of the Cocktail had well and truly worn off and all I can think about is eating dumplings.  We finally decided to leave the city and hope for the best!  Then, as we drive out of the Dumpling Crazed City, N has a brain fart!

Old Raffles Place

RAFFLES!  This Singaporean eatery has been satisfying DDO’s belly since  way back when.  Whether you catch Mr Han on bad day or a worse day, there’s something instantly elating about being seated in his pink walled eatery.

Now, coming here strays from my previous craving.  But honestly, I’m just happy to be able to walk into a restaurant, be seated immediately and not have to fear culinary suicide (…there was a point where we got SO desperate in the city we considered Mai Tai – enough said!)

Every time I come here I have to have the stir fried Turnip cake.  Although as an appetizer it is pretty filling, with it’s large cubed turnip cake pieces stir fried in ABC soy with a silky scrambling of egg and topped with fresh spring onions.   Not many places manage to do this without turning the turnip cake into a plated pile of moosh.  I did however find it a little on the sweet side on this occasion, to which Mr Han informed me that next time I should ask for it with fried shallots instead… Thanks Mr Han… advice with what could subjectively be described as a rare smile…(?)

Chai Tow Kwai (stir fried turnip cake with egg)

I decided to order the Hainanese Chicken Rice Set which is consistently perfect every time I have it here.  (A lot of other places leave me gasping for water shortly after eating it due to all the MSG).  Chicken really isn’t usually my thing – I find it uninspiring and dry- unless I’m at an asian restaurant.  As the chicken is cooked whole, with the skin, in chicken and pork stock, the flavour remains and the meat is succulent and tender.

Hainanese Chicken Rice Set

The rice here is fragrant and the perfect dampness (not overcooked, and definitely not dry), so when you get your mouthful of rice and chicken with a spoon of that hot ginger sauce, it’s like a harmonious flavour symphony!  I can’t fault this dish!

N decided to go for another Singaporean classic, Char Kway Teow.  I requested, as we’re gonna do sharesies, to opt for the Racecourse version which as well as yellow Hokkien noodles AND flat rice noodles, also contained prawns, fish cakes, pak choy, tons of bean shoots and Chinese sausage.  Coz ain’t no point in a WHOLE plate of carbs with no supplements…

Racecourse Char Kwai Teow

Again, a little on the sweet side and a little too saucy.  A perfect Kwai Teow should have no juice sitting in the dish, with each piece of noodle being lightly grease coated to prevent sticking, but without being soggy.  Yep.  mission VERY DIFFICULT!  But props to Han for delivering a well made Char Kwai Teow – it is quite the accomplishment to master cooking this dish without it being too oily or too dry as the flat rice noodles have a tendency to stick together.  Given our trying culinary night out, all that was left of this dish was the pool of sauce.

I’d say the only fault of Raffle’s Place was the sweetness of some dishes.  But in saying that, perhaps it was Mr Han’s way of sweetening my scorn towards my initially unsuccessful Friday Night Food Adventure.  Raffle’s Place, our saving Grace in turning Hell to Heaven.

The Old Raffles Place

70 Johnston Street

Collingwood

Bread and Jam for Frances

11 Apr
 Sandwich and Juice offering

If I was writing this post this time last year, you would by now be sick of reading about the 11th day of my ‘eating as many different Hot Cross Buns (… a day… ) Challenge.’  But with Easter only weeks away, I am still yet to sink my teeth into a fragrant, fruit filled, sweet, over buttered, cross covered bun!

You see, after years of delighting in eating Hot Cross Buns (rather excessively) over the recently extended Easter period (… YEP.  Its New Years Day.  And they are already selling Hot Cross Buns at Woolies) my indulging has caught up with me.   Last year I realised I was allergic to them – maybe it was the over consumption.  But lesson learned everyone;  everything in moderation – or suffer the consequences!

After a morning at the Farmers Market amongst all the fresh produce and fresh bread on offer, DDO decided to keep it local for brunch this week.  Since the Dench Bakery crew opened Bread and Jam for Frances in Hawthorn and N moved (momentarily) back to the burb’s, this place has been a GODSEND when we need a decent coffee, sweet treats and artisan style bread locally.

Freshly Made Hot Crossed Buns

Fresh made Hot Crossed Buns

As soon as I walk in all I can think about is ordering a Hot Cross Bun!  The sheer memory of them makes me salivate –  the bun itself, all soft and fluffy with that perfectly spiced fruit and a hint of zest… If you are so lucky to be able to enjoy a hot Cross bun this season, make sure you try at least one made by Dench.  They are AMAZING!!

In addition to bread and buns, BAJFF also offers daily specials, and a selection of tempting brunch options that cover sweet and savory, as well as, of course, a changing selection of freshly made pastries and cakes for those  sweet cravings.  N decided to go with the soup (soup of the day was Thai Pumpkin soup) 1/2 and 1/2 – which is a half serve of soup with half a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.  I got to have a taste, and as simple as this sounds, the soup was rich in pumpkin flavour and a really nice creamy consistency.  The toasted sandwich was made with Fresh Dench bread.  I’m not sure what cheese was used, but it tasted AMAZING! Really punchy flavour and nice and stringy!  The makings of a perfect toastie!

Soup of the Day: Thai Pumpkin soup

I was feeling rather defeated by my cursed food allergy, so I went with the Breakfast Trifle.  (I’m actually really surprised the word Hot Cross Bun didn’t spill out of my mouth like verbal diorrhea when it came to order time).  I rarely go the sweet option for brunch, but this sounded like it would look pretty and I figured that would distract me from temptation.

Breakfast Trifle; bircher, poached pears & apple with yoghurt and berries

As soon as mine arrived I couldn’t help but do the obligatory “ooohhh”-ing and “ahhh”-ing you’d expect any person to when presented with such a painterly assortment of food in a tumbler.  The fruit was not over cooked, and although you had to dig a little deeper to get to it, pushing the bircher  helped amalgamate all the juices.  The slithered almonds on top were a welcome garnish to mix up the textures, so I didn’t feel like I was eating baby food (or anything too healthy…)

Coffees

As we sipped our well made coffees at the end of our meals, I couldn’t help but feel like I was cheating myself.  There was nothing to fault about Bread and Jam for Frances, with it’s friendly staff and tidy interior.  And if it were any other time I would not question leaving 100% satisfied.  But I couldn’t help but consider suffering the consequences; dealing with the wrath of the dreaded delicious HCB and giving into temptation…

I may or may not have left with one to take home!  Lets just say, that later, in the comfort of suffering in my own home, I was finally satisfied!

Bread and Jam for Frances

1/701 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, 3122

Tel 9819 2122

www.breadandjamforfrances.com.au

Monday Malaymas

8 Apr

Monday nights are at times a tricky night to dine out.  A lot of chefs like to close Mondays, which means I’ll often choose an Asian establishment… because lets face it… Asians practically NEVER close … with the exception of maybe Chinese New Year – and even then that’s a MAYBE!

So when DDO decided to have our ritual sisters catch up with Little L and E (and honarary sister Z), Raffle’s Place was our chosen venue.  Good hearty food (I cannot get enough Laksa or roti into me at moment), close to home and  BYO.  We arrive to find Raffle’s Place windows dark and doors locked, with no sign of the usual shouting from the infamous Mr Han.  Lesson learned: Asians take breaks too!!

Despite this little hurdle, L was quick with a solution:  “We could go to Malaymas.”  Now, having caught up with Little L every Friday night for the past 3 weeks that suggestion has been thrown out there everytime without fail.  Turns out Little L – bless her cotton socks – has become somewhat OBSESSED with Malaymas ever since being introduced to it a couple of months ago, making weekly (sometimes daily) trips to get her chicken rice fix.  Being set on Laksa and happy to finally try this place, she so endearingly refers to as My-Lame-Ass, we settled in quickly upon arrival.

Roti Chanai

There’s a pretty extensive menu with everything from satays and chicken wings, rice dishes, noodles and rendang as well as a pretty AMAZING drinks list (3 colour, rose ice tea, milk tea).  We decided to go sharesys on a Roti Canai and got a dish each.  The Roti was the perfect pre taste bud tease, being cooked to crisp perfection.  The garish bright plastic plates, I think, also add to the authenticity of the cuisine and establishment.  These owners wasted no time on colour, decor and ambience.  It’s all about the food.

Hainanese Style Chicken

Shortly after, L’s much anticipated Hainanese Chicken fix arrived.  (sorry about the really bad photo).  Served with fragrant rice all perfectly bowl shaped, with the soup, and what looked like succulently cooked chicken, I can see why she frequents here more regularly then her own kitchen.

Fried Kueh Teow with XO Sauce

E got the Kuay Teow with XO sauce, which glistened beautifully atop an alternatively garish coloured plate.  This is a hard dish to do well, as the rice noodles can either stick together with not enough oil or become a complete slodgy mess due to too much oil.  This looked perfect and smelled even better.   XO sauce on ANYTHING pretty much guarantees a party in mouth.

Seafood Curry Laksa

The presentation and appearance of Z’s Seafood Laksa looked amazing.  Whole fresh pieces of prawns, squid, mussels and fishcake mixed with tofu and eggplant.

Curry Laksa

Mine kind of paled in comparison looks-wise, but flavour wise I was very satisfied! Although I didn’t really vibe on the pissy bits of shredded chicken, (girl likes her chunk-a-meat thanks!)  the heat and flavour of the soup well and truly made up for it.

Mee Rebus

Out of everyone’s choices, I think N’s gave me the most food envy.  Its not all that much to look at, but this little bowl of noodles was like eating a pot of gold.  Perfect noodle to veg/meat ratio  and the soup.  Oh that soup!  It was kind of brothy, kind of stocky-tasting, with heat and a little gravy-like… without the gross!  A generous mouthful of slippery thick egg noodles, accompanied by the fresh cucumber slithers and chicken in a small pool of that soup, and then the occasional mouthful with a slice of green pepper.  Mee Rebus – kickin’ goals!!

Malaymas turned out to be our Monday night saving grace!  With it’s simple satisfying offering of Malaysian cuisine and laid back surrounds I can see how it has become such a hit with the locals…not to mention L’s permanent dining room.  Not so My-Lame-Ass at all.  Thanks for sharing the obsession Little L.

Malaymas

320 St Georges Road

Fitzroy North

Hardware Societe

3 Apr

People that know me will doubt what I am about to admit.  But as of today, I am in love!  They say the best way to a Man’s heart is through his stomach… turns out, I am a man and Hardware Societe has won my heart.

Hardware Societe has been on my ‘brunch must try list’ for a quite some time now and arriving on this brisk Saturday morning to find a cluster of hopefuls waiting for a table , I must admit made my stomach turn.  I hate a line.  I live to be waited on, not to wait!  But thankfully, the extremely efficient and super friendly staff were quick to take our name, and assure us it was only a 5-10 minute wait.  And sure enough the DDO duo (N and I) were seated within 10 minutes in a cosy bench seat overlooking the open kitchen.  Tick and Tick!

view from the bench

As soon as we were seated water was brought to us, our coffee orders were taken and a menu was offered.  This place is busy.   But they run a tight ship.  Tick number 3!

It was a pretty hard decision choosing from the wide and tempting offerings, with Noisette breads, a range of eggs and of course the lighter cold offerings (one being the continental, which included an extremely tempting mix of fruits, crumble, fresh Bio yoghurt which I can’t recall exactly but it sounded delicious) as well as an AMAZING looking fried brioche.  I wanted to eat EVERYTHING on the menu, but decided to go with the Fried Eggs with Jamon, pesto and snow pea shoots.   They also have daily specials, which on this day was Pork belly served on a bean ragu with poached eggs.

Plating up.  Pork Belly to the front, Croque Monsieur to the back. 

I’m actually really glad we were seated where we were.  It gave N and I the opportunity to have a cheeky perve on how the dishes looked when plated up.  Given my indecisiveness on choosing a dish (if only I had the 4 stomachs of a cow…) seeing the finished product helped me decide on something.  N decided on the Mushrooms served on Brioche with eggs en cocotte.

Coffee’s come served with mini cinnamon donuts

Our dishes arrived just as I finished the last sip of my coffee and everything perfect.  I can’t actually remember the last time I went out for a brunch and (despite the crowds) was genuinely excited and happy to be amongst it!! My fried egg’s were cooked to perfection.  Still a little runny in the yolk, but beautifully crisp edges of egg white stacked atop 2 thinly toasted slices of whole grain Noisette bread. This is the perfect example of good quality produce, cooked and served to its full advantage.

Fried Eggs with Jamon, snow pea shoots, pesto and grated cheese ($13)

Of course N and I have a mutual understanding of the sharesy situation, so we got half of each.  And i’m glad, because I definitely would have got food envy if we hadn’t.

Mushrooms on toasted brioche and olive tapenade with eggs in a pan ($15)

The mushrooms were earthy and meaty (oh yeh, vegetarian options too…) atop a tapenade covered, thick cut brioche finished with cheese in the grill.  And then paired with some runny egg yolk… Flavour nation!!  These guys sure know how to impress a girl!!  Having grown up hearing the phrase, “there is no such thing as perfect” you do leave Hardware Societe questioning that very suggestion.  And if their only fault was how (understandably) in demand they are causing a 5 minute wait, I’d say the service, food and that sweet little donut that comes with my coffee is enough for me forgive and forget. Love is a many splendid thing.  And Hardware Societe, you are Love!!

Hardware Societe  20 Hardware Street Melbourne VIC 3000

(03) 9078 5992