Archive | May, 2011

Shira Nui Saturday

31 May

Shira Nui

It’s a rare feat to get the DDO clan together for a lunch on a saturday. So this saturday called for something special. Thankfully Mumsy was on the case!! Within 2 minutes of hearing I had the Saturday off she’d managed to book us into the ever popular Shira Nui for lunch … even though she’d just eaten there the week before … And YES! I basically got DAILY reminders on how amazing, delicious and value for money the lunch specials were there! As much as I love Shira Nui, and do constantly dream about revisiting that Omakase Party in Pants experience that Shira Nui provided me on my first visit, having to drive all the way to the burbs and tackle the hoards of people that seem to constantly inhabit that shopping area, is kind of enough to make me put visiting the ever dashing Hiro Nishikura san in the too hard basket! But given that Mum managed to get us a table (can be at times a testing task getting a table at either lunch or dinner), I wasn’t about to resist the opportunity to have some of Melbourne’s best Japanese food… ESPECIALLY when cooked by the Dream Boat that is Hiro San (he’s like a Japanese Lone-Wolf cross Elvis… BABE. TOWN!)
We arrive at the bustling restaurant to the friendly chime of the staff “irasshaimase” as we are aptly seated, menu’s at the ready.

Having heard a whole weeks worth of raving from Mumsy about her favourite, Charashi Zushi Lunch (sashimi served on a bowl of sushi rice) I couldn’t resist ordering some Sashimi to try for myself. Plus, LOVES ME A MEAL DEAL! Aside from a wide range of sushi and sashimi lunch specials, there is also a whole page of warm offerings, ranging from tempura rice, fish head on rice to Hamburger with salad. The service here is quick and efficient (they are obviously all well versed in getting as many bums on seats in one day) without being pushy. Within 5 minutes of sitting down, and ordering some green tea our lunch orders are taken. There’s a lot riding on this Lunch thanks to the hype not only my Mother managed to create in 1 week, but also given it’s constant popularity (even for lunch). Shortly after we all order (something different for each of us… of course…) my belly awaits with excitement as our little assortment of appetizers begin to fill our table.

Clockwise (starting Top L) Pickles, Chuwan Mushi, Spaghetti & Mountain Yam cake

The Chuwan Mushi is ABSOLUTELY amazing! Perfectly silky, smooth but with just amount of hold to it, this is some steamed egg cooked to perfection. Don’t try this at home kids! Leave it to the experts. As we slowly munched through this little assortment of morsel delights and drank our miso (each meal comes with a miso, appertizers and rice & salad) Dadsy’s meal was the first to arrive shortly after.

Tempura Don Lunch ($18)

My Father is a man of pretty simple tastes. But offer Tempura or Pizza (…better still, Tempura Pizza) on a menu, and it’s a done deal! He will 100% order either of those every time! His Mixed Tempura was a nice mix of vegetables and 2 big prawns, nestled atop a serve of sushi rice and lightly drizzled with a tempura sauce. I kind of love that eating each piece of vegetable is like a deep fried Kinder Surprise… in that you kind of don’t always know what vegetable your going to be crunching on… in this case, I chose what I thought to be Purple sweet potato (which is VERY rare in Australia)…. turned out to be Taro! Oh well. It wasn’t enough to disappoint!! The delicately crispy outside, housed a fresh inside! Yummo! I thought I had food envy… until my Mum’s arrived.

Chirashi Zushi Lunch Special ($20)

OK! Finally get it! I didn’t even need to start eating this (…coz, well technically it wasn’t mine to eat… but I got to try some) and I’d already begun losing my shit!! There is something about that ‘so fresh it look fake’ quality of the sashimi, together with the picturesque presentation and seaweed seasoned sushi rice… Well RAVED MUMSY! This cold bowl of freshness more then lived up to it’s Hype! Not only was each slice of fish, vegetable and garnish of upmost freshness, but being a visual person, just seeing it all strategically placed to picturesque perfection put a GIANT smile on my dial!

Sashimi Lunch Special ($18)

Good thing mine came shortly after (as in good thing for Mum, for I would have inhaled her lunch…!) It doesn’t look like that much. But in addition to the extremely fresh sashimi, there were also chunks of sashimi in the salad (Thank GOD!). Again, freshness is the key to this dish’s success… that, and lots of wasabi (which had a wonderfully grainy texture to go with that punch in the nose feeling you get when eating it), and lots of ginger!

Last but not least, N’s meal arrived. She’d ordered the Hamburger from the warm offerings, which despite not making me gasp from it visual glory as the other dishes, it did instead due to it’s portion size! Certainly NOT your average sized Hamburger… But then again, Shira Nui is almost incapable of offering anything less then above average… (Oh my god! I’ve already become my Raving Mother…)

Hamburger ($17)

I only had half a slice, but the hamburger was lightly crumbed and pan fried without being too dry on the inside. Served along side the sesame dressed salad, a bowl of rice and all the appetizers for $17 – and yes… generally speaking $17 for what could possibly be a combination of minced ANYTHING and mushed into a patty would seem excessive – this could easily send your average sized human into Food Coma!

What began as a dreaded 23 minute drive to the burbs and a struggle to find a park, ended in 4 very satisfied set of tastebuds and even more satisfied bellies! Despite all my bitching and moaning about the travel/entering suburbia/listening to Mumsy’s constant raving and ranting, Shira Nui (and it’s Dream Boat of a Captain Chef Hiro Nishikura) is worth every mile travelled!

Practicing Pizza Religion (round 2)

22 May

People that know me well are well aware of my habit to make too many plans, provide too many options and tendency to have commitment issues.  But on this occasion, it seemed it was my usually solid DDO counterpart that had pulled the cheat.  I, with much envy and resentment had to forego the first DDO visit to Pizza Religion – I’d pretty much heard about the new pizza haven at the same time as N, and we’d discussed when our visit would be, only to find she’d decided on an impromptu visit one night before soccer to which I had 2 hours notice and of course had already made plans! That night we’d reconvened at soccer, and I resentfully listened to her describe what they ate.  Thanks guys.  Way to live my Pizza Dream without me!!

So naturally, I had to go!  N made a booking for 7.30pm a week later, and I could barely contain my excitement!  We walked into a bustling little pizza shop full to the brim of Pizza hopefuls.  My heart almost sank seeing the place so full, as we were 15 minutes late.  The long bench at the front of the shop was already occupied, with 3 empty seats at the end.  Thank GOD!  Despite being RAGINGLY busy, our table was kept, we were seated with a smile and 3 wine glasses were brought to us for our BYO (amazing!)

The menu is very simple, and the focus is on the pizzas.  Although they do also offer 3 entrees, 3 salads, a pizza special and dessert.  We decided to go with an entree, and a pizza each (so that we could all do swapsies).  Semolina crusted calamari came first served on a bed of rocket and fennel salad.

Semolina Crusted Calamari w Rocket & Fennel Salad $10

The Semolina crust made for a wonderfully light, crisp coating to a fresh calamari.  My only gripe was that the calamari rings were a touch on the petite side… but thinking back, they are kind of perfectly sized so that you don’t fill up too much before the main event!

After a little discussion we decided we HAD to try the special (which we were informed later is changed fortnightly … oh WAIT until you read about the next special) this week was asparagus, walnut, goats cheese and truffle infused poached egg.  YEP! Asian’s LOVE anything with an egg.  Even Pizza!

Asparagus, walnut, goats cheese egg & truffle oil pizza

This arrived with our other 2 pizza’s, but despite it’s pale looking toppings (and being sans meat) we all had to try this one first.  Can I just say.  This was hands down, the most pleasantly surprising slice of Flavour nation!  With each bite you get the perfectly crisp base, touches of bitey goats cheese with that silky egg and then occasionally punches of crunch with the roasted walnuts!  I’m in HEAVEN!

To follow was the Pork Sausage Pizza.  (Ah YES the meat section of the meal begins!).  Whole chunks of pork sausage are scattered around the pizza, with slices of fennel, apple and cabbage cutting through the salty goodness of the sausage.

Pork sausage, chilli, fennel, apple and cabbage salad $18

Last but not least, the Pepperoni Pizza.  This looked amazing.  Generous layers of sicilian salami atop a layer of goats cheese and that refreshing garnish of fresh mint.  Although I did find myself having to sprinkle severe amounts of dry chilli onto each slice… but thats me!   Excess is the key to success!!

Sicilian Salami, Tomato, Goats Cheese, Fresh Mint $17

So after an entree, a pizza each and some friendly banter with the owner, I find myself rather reluctant to leave despite my bulging belly!  The owner has just informed us of the next special on the cards and I instantly have food envy, even though I just ABSOLUTELY LOVED tonights special – but who am I kidding?  I say love, but how much could I really commit to loving anything that is essentially of the vegetarian variety!!  (And yes, the new Pizza Special is Braised Beef cheek – a la Movida styles!! Actually salivating as I type this!!)

So in a lame attempt to continue consuming despite my food coma, I force the others to share a Chocolate pudding with me while I also finish my meal with a long Mac.

Flourless Chocolate Pudding

This warm pot of chocolate indulgence (… flourless though… practically guilt free.  Right?!)  was actually rather delicious.  It was just the right size to be shared, and you crack through the slightly firm top to reveal a silky, warm runny chocolate-lava center.  Perfect cake to sauce ratio, not too sweet, but definitely a little… well… a LOT excessive after the glorious CARB-fest that had just happened!

It is true what they say, that patience is a virtue.  And even though it took me (a whole) extra week of patience to fulfil my Pizza Dream, it didn’t even take until the end of the meal for me to plan my next visit.  I never thought it would happen, but it seems I’ve finally found something to commit to.  I’m no Longer an Atheist.  I’m officially a Practicing Pizza Religion.

Pizza Religion

13 May

The recent Italian style pizza craze has spawned a number of pizzerias – some good (DOC, +39, Supermaxi), and some just downright bad (if Pizza Hut can do it, anyone can right? WRONG!).  So when I spied Pizza Religion on the way to work one morning – in a rather unassuming position in a part of Hawthorn East devoid of any retail presence – I was at once excited and suspicious (more the latter).  However when I then saw a review of the place in The Age my excitement elevated just a little.  So it was on a cold and wintry night that we arrived at Pizza Religion to get our carb fix and see if the pizza made the cut.  Verdict? Absolutely – I am now a true disciple of Pizza Religion!

Now don’t get me wrong, the night was not without its hiccups and waiting 45 minutes for a pizza is generally not acceptable by anyone’s standards, let alone on a freezing night and the 3 of us being placed right next to the door that leads out to the toilet, meaning Miss E had to stand up everytime someone wanted to go.  But the personalised service – not to mention that pizza – more than made up for those shortcomings. In any case, we are told that the large courtyard will be ready just in time for winter (which has clearly arrived early this year) and will be well equipped with rain protection and heating, making space for more pizza disciples (which I am not entirely sure that I am happy about).

Pizza Religion Menu

We got off to a good start with the Arancini of the day – today it was a tomato based arancini, perfectly crisp on the outside and nice and gooey inside – the perfect antidote to the winter blues and a sign of more good things to come. At this point its full marks with 3 gold stars!  Flagging down someone to take a pizza order proved difficult – even though there is probably seating capacity for not much more than 20 people in the space (including one table outside on the pavement), the place is clearly a local favourite with a steady stream of takeaway orders – so at this point its lost 1 gold star.

Pizzas ordered (one each – Mushroom, Lamb, Chorizo) we settle in to chat about the day, take bets on which pizza will come first (the table will accommodate only one pizza at a time), watch helplessly as JP has a sneezing fit and learn that if you can’t sneeze, look at a light and the sneeze will come (thanks Miss E for the random fact of the day).  30 minutes later, we have finished our rather large bottle of mineral water, JP is ready to eat the table and/or storm out, Miss E has RSI from standing up every 5 minutes (probably an exaggeration but its what it feels like) and I am beginning to think that this was the biggest mistake (there goes another gold star) and the pizza could never be good enough to make up for this terrible experience.  Oh how wrong was I.

Mushroom Pizza

The first to arrive (as we all predicted) was the mushroom pizza.  On its little wooden board, it’s nothing to look at really – lots of mushrooms, just enough cheese, on a thin crust – but once you take that first bite, you will be converted!  The crust is the perfect thickness, perfectly cooked with just the right amount of give in the dough so that you don’t feel like you’re eating paper – its at once crispy and soft in all the right places. The velvety mushrooms and gooey cheese melt seamlessly in the mouth into a river of flavour.  1 gold star reinstated!

Next comes the lamb – and boy there is a lot of lamb on that pizza, accompanied by a sprinkling of fetta on a base smeared with olive tapenade.  The lamb is thinly sliced and quite mild in taste, balancing out the saltiness of the fetta and olive.

Lamb Pizza

At this point, JP has forgotten about the wait, devouring his share and talking about which ones we’ll try next time and plotting the best strategy to get in and out quickly (order early and pick it up on the way home is what we’ve landed on).

Last but certainly not least is the Chorizo.  Hearty chunks of Chorizo, jalapeno and prawns on a tomato base, this really is a party in the mouth – and a fiery one at that. If you don’t like spicy food this one won’t be for you – my mouth was set on fire temporarily – but for people like us who like it hot, then this might just become a firm favourite.

Chorizo, Prawn & Jalapeno Pizza

The spice of the chorizo, the heat from the jalapenos and the sweetness of the prawns meld together perfectly, and again on that crisp in all the right places base, I have found my (Pizza) religion again!

All gold stars reinstated and a few more thrown in for the service – throughout those excruciating minutes waiting for our feed, not only is our suffering acknowledged, but the staff are extremely apologetic, gifting us a second bottle of mineral water and almost refusing the tip at the end!  I can’t wait till the next feed!

Pizza Religion

493 Tooronga Road

Hawthorn East

(03) 9882 2555

An evening at Gerald’s

13 May

After a Cold Wintery Day in Willamstown on location for work and with a car FULL of clothing – my car looked like a $2 sale day at SAVERS – I’d made it back into the city in good time for what would normally be knock offs (drinks) time.  Feeling more then slightly unhinged after a day in the cold on nothing but 2 coffees, Z’s suggestion for some wining and dining at Gerald’s Bar was as soothing as a hot water bottle on a freezing cold night.

We’d been meaning to try Gerald’s Bar for some time now – with it’s glorious reviews and award winning reputation.  Walking into Gerald’s with it’s exposed brick walls and long booze filled bar could be likened to feeling like a kid in a candy store.  You are instantly greeted by Gerald himself, who you can tell, has a wealth of experience and knowledge on how to make one tired, hungry and slightly on edge human feel instantly at ease in his cosy bar… “What will I be pouring you this evening?  Red or white?”.  Like music to my popsicled ears!!!

Luckily it was still rather early (we walked in at about 6.30-7pm) so we had no trouble getting a table in the middle of the homely bar.  Gerald’s offers a mix of Old and New World wines that are reasonably priced, as well as an amazing selection of quality booze and a range of antipasti meats/cheeses and share plates that are all cooked by Mr Gerald Diffey himself.

Wines by the glass

Shortly after our wines are served to us (I went for a mid range Le Grain whilst Z went for the Shiraz) we were presented with a menu, unpretentiously hand written onto butchers paper and hung behind the bar.  Everything sounded DELICIOUS from the Antipasti meats – freshly shaven proscuitto, salami, sopressa, chorizo, pancetta, salmon, wagyu bresaola ($10 each or $25 for a selection), to the cheese selection (changes seasonally).  Choosing was tough!  And I was ABSOLUTELY at the risk of over ordering – what with my famished stomach, and no grasp on quantity control…

Luckily though, Mr Diffey dispelled all indecisiveness and gave us a platter of mixed meats, accompanied by a cheese platter.  The mixed meat platter was a generous platter of freshly shaven slices of meat, like soft ribbons of salty bliss piled high on the large square plate.

It looked monstrous next to the petite little cheese platter, which had a brie, a blue and some sort of semi hard cheese served with some red seedless grapes.  But as the saying goes, ‘good things come in small packages’… or in this case, good cheese comes on small platters!! The portions were just enough, with anything more being a waste.

Mixed meat plate and cheese platter

The Meats were a mix of Salami, Pancetta, and Wagyu Bresaola and were served with think crusty bread.

Crusty bread and meats

To be honest with you, this alone had more than satisfied my appetite and considering I’d already gotten up to my second wine shortly after this was served, that famished belly was now but a distant memory… I was filling up fast!

The thing that’s also great about this unpretentious bar is the exceptional service.  At no point, despite the place filling with more winers and diners with every sip of my fast draining wine, are you left with an empty glass!! Diffey’s ability to juggle a room full of boozey people is second to none.  As the place continues to rapidly fill, so does my emptying wine glass!! The second I finished my wine, he was there, ready to pour me another!

As we plowed through the starters (i don’t think we managed to finish it all…) and our wines, it was time to clear space for our slightly bigger share plates.

Next off the menu was the pork sausage and braised ox tail!  (should probably have just titled this Saturday Meat Fest…)  The pork sausages were served on a small oval plate, and sliced (oh yes.. and the additional meat is what we were yet to finish from the Meat Platter…)

Pork Sausage

This sausage had a nice mild flavour to it.  Its subtle hints of chilli and pork, after eating so much cream and salt, was kind a nice break from all the salt overload.  The Ox Tail on the other hand, was a different story!

Braised Ox Tail

This slow cooked, meat-falling-off-the-bone was PACKED with flavour!  Being cooked with potatoes and carrots added a natural sweetness to the thick sauce… FORGET what I said about being full… This just re-inspired my appetite!  This was pretty much the peak of my culinary evening!  So much so, that the combination of too much wine (despite me saying I had to drive after my third refill) and a food baby developing in the belly, by the time we actually also ordered dessert – rum baba and bread and butter pudding – I was too useless to take photos (by the way apologies on the extremely poor quality.  Flashless 2nd generation iPhone is not the greatest!)

So a few hours later, we stumble out of Gerald’s Bar, full bellied, rather boozy and more than satisfied.  For $80 each, I left feeling like Christmas came early; good company, eating, drinking and being Merry!

Gerald’s Bar

386 Rathdowne St

Carlton North

(03) 9349 4748

Post Soccer Ju Dumpling House Time

10 May

It’s kind of awkward timing to be playing soccer at 8:00pm, in Hawthorn, with a painfully famished belly!  Unless you have worked up THAT much of an appetite after the match (personally I use the term playing VERY lightly… I tend to use more energy thinking of where to eat at such ‘supper’ hours being in the burbs…) and have the stomach and the weekly budget to fork out at least $30 bucks at the crappy local pub (I DON’T!  Especially not with the sub par menu and even worse service!), finding a place to dine afterwards becomes a sport in itself.

This week, after a successful win, DDO decided to forgo the usual ‘pizza’ option and try our luck with the local dumpling house.  It was actually the brain fart of our team mates E and JP, who had dined there the week before …also in a fit of desperation for ‘dumpling action’ locally.  Because, let’s be honest (in the wise words of Ms E), how could anyone deny a cheap and cheerful dumpling dinner!!

So Ju Dumpling House (formally the Sichuan Dining Room in all it’s gaudy, gold gilded glory) is much like any Camy’s or Shanghai Dumpling Village you’d find in the CBD.  It’s Cheap.  It’s fast.  It’s B.Y.O, and you get your dumpling fix!  In addition to dumplings, Ju Dumpling House also offers the usual Shanghai cuisine suspects like Ma Po Tofu, noodles, and your token chilli covered animals from land and sea.

We decided to share a few plates of dumplings and a bowl of noodles… well JP (God bless his over active thyroid) wanted a few plates of everything, from every category… 3 against 1!  Bless him and his over active appetite, he had even brought along a bottle of red for us to properly enjoy our after soccer dumpling craving!! First to arrive was our (very traditional) Zha Jiang noodles.

Zha Jiang Noodles

This is a staple in Shanghai dining, as a quick snack or dinner.  The thick, usually fresh made noodles are cooked just right so they are still bouncy and light and topped with minced pork cooked in dark soy and garlic, and freshly grated cucumber.

Zha Jian Noodles served!

Before serving, it should be mixed up so when you serve it up you get a nice mix of everything.  I’m not usually a noodle fan, but this looked too good to pass up.  The mince was perfectly salty and saucey and wrapped around each noodle to give it all flavour.  Cucumber is used very commonly to balance out the over powering salty/chilli flavour.

Naturally, each table comes with it’s token soy, vinegar and chilli condiments.  At the risk of sounding like the easiest person to please, you could add chinese vinegar or chilli to dry pasta and i would rave about it!  So well done Ju! You first had me at B.Y.O.  and now you have me at condiments!!  So far so good!  Unlike many of the other Dumpling places in and around town, the service is also pretty good here.  I haven’t had to order off a machine, our waiter is not only friendly (enough) but is also capable of taking our order without any mis-haps or surprise dishes being brought to our table … Triple WIN!

It didn’t take us long to devour those delicious noodles, and we’re ready for our main event… DUMPLINGS!!  We decided to order the Xiao Long Bao (the soupy ones),  a plate of pan fried pork dumplings and a plate of steamed chicken and prawn (just to live on the edge and stray from the traditional).  First to arrive was the Xiao Long Bao, which having the luxury of consuming copious amounts of in Shanghai, can be very hit and miss in Melbourne.

Xiao Long Bao

Since experiencing more bad than good of these little soupy delights, my standards have been appropriately adjusted (because yes, despite the rave reviews, even Hu Tong has it’s bad batches!)  But these were pretty good.  Could have been the wine talking, or the fact that I’d ACTUALLY participated in more than 3 minutes of physical excercise, but these little dumplings were light skinned with a fragrant soupy center.  And the skin wasn’t so light that merely looking at them caused spontaneous (and extremely ANNOYING) combustion!  Next to follow were the pan fried pork dumplings.

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

The skin was nice and fried rather well, but a little on the thicker side.  There was not a hint of dryness which is often the case… nothing worse then an over fried, kind of stale, pale looking dumpling…  But everything about these little fried pork bombs was delicious.  And actually tasted fresh.  Can’t complain about a pork dumpling that ACTUALLY tastes like pork!

Last but not least was the steamed chicken and prawn dumplings.  Pretty ‘zany’ selection on our part (we’re pretty traditional asian when it comes to the serious stuff… and yes,  dumplings are pretty serious in our books!) but we thought 3 pork dumplings was a wee bit excessive and beef is NEVER an option in a dumpling… plus we figured prawn could act as our ‘non meat’ part of the meal.

Steamed Chicken and Prawn Dumplings

So aside from ‘Har Gow’ which is a proper prawn dumpling and is eaten at Yum Cha (breakfast or lunch), we don’t really eat it in a dumpling… with chicken!  But this tasted surprisingly okay.  Again, skin was light, with vinegar and chilli, it was okay. …. and that’s all i’m going to say about this very Oz-asian culinary adventure.

Considering we didn’t have to a) line up, b) pay for parking in town or c) have to be ‘served’ by a computer and actually got a decent dumpling feed I left Ju Dumpling House more than satisfied.  For a little over $10 per head (thanks JP for the wine) I don’t see how anyone could say no to an invitation to post soccer dumplings, which (unlike my sporting performance) KICKS ARSE in comparison to eating at the local overpriced, badly staffed- pub!  May not have kicked a goal at soccer, but dining at Ju Dumpling House = kicking dinner goals!

Ju Dumpling House

723 Glenferrie Road Hawthorn VIC 3122

(03) 9819 0038

Red Hot Wok!

6 May

It’s not often I can convince Mumsy to for-go her weeknight TVBJ schedule… especially during prime time and mid week, when most of the drama unfolds just enough before leaving you (or at least my Mum and Dad) in a state of suspense before the weekend.  So when Mumsy approached me with an invitation to get some dinner (she’s recently discovered Teevo ) on Wednesday night, I accepted in a heart beat.

Dinner with Mum after work means going to one of two places.  Being the creature of habit she is, and a BIG lover of familiarity and her daily Canto-chat generally means dining at either Pacific House, or Red Hot Wok in South Yarra… Mumsy let me choose!

Red Hot Wok

Red Hot Wok

So it’s getting pretty cold out, and my body’s yearning for heat increased as the day turned to night.  That plus the fact that Tony (the owner) always gives us free Red Bean pancake for dessert… and service with a smile!!  Red Hot Wok is our go-to for a quick tasty meal with that Malaysian/Chinese flavour – Tony is famous for making fresh silken tofu which is the star of a dish called Fairy Tofu (doesn’t work quite as well in english):”Sun Sin Tofu”.  And YES! It’s THAT ridiculously silky smooth and light!

Red Hot Wok also offers traditional laska, curries and noodles and rice dishes for lunch as well as seafood and dishes for dinner which vary in spice level, but are ALL super satisfying, especially with the onset of the winter chills.

At the risk of sounding like a steak-n-laksa junkie, I’d pretty much had my heart set on a curry laksa.  But after looking over the menu and with mum having tried pretty much EVERYTHING – and every possible version of ANYTHING – she highly recommended a chef’s special dish of Ridged Gourge (like a long cucumber but with a spongier flesh) with silken tofu.

Ridged Gourge and Tofu

This was perfectly light, probably in large part due to that heavenly, freshly made Tofu, and the ridged gourge was cooked without fault.  Usually at home, we leave a little of the slightly thicker skin on the gourge and cook it to avoid the flesh becoming too soggy.  (It’s easy to over cook the gourge which isn’t great.  It’s basically a sponge, so timing is crucial to its taste outcome)!

It was nice to have a cleaner dish, to counter balance the flavour OVER LOAD from our entree (didn’t completely neglect my curry craving) which was just a simple Roti with curry dipping sauce.

Roti with Curry sauce

I rarely leave RHW without having this in my belly!! Carbs and Curry!  My favourite winter accessory!  So as mentioned before, after picking at some super cripsy on the outside, fluffy on the inside fried Roti dipped in fiery curry sauce, our ridged gourge and tofu arrived with our other main, Basil Fried Golden Prawns.

Basil fried Golden Prawns

This dish was phenomenal!  The genius of this dish is all in balance and timing.  The prawns are lightly battered and fried at the highest heat so they still have that naturally sweet taste that fresh prawns have.  Then they are wok-tossed with fragrant mix of basil, garlic, onion and chilli before being served on fresh lettuce.  The crispy outer, encrusted with the garlicy chilli basil mix, when put in the mouth is enough to cause hot flushes… of the best kind!  Of the Flavour-Texture-Bliss kind!! Good recommendations Mum!  It’s good to reap the benefits of these daily Canto-Chats you hold so high on your daily tasks…

Red bean pancake

And just as I retire my chopsticks and cradle my hot full belly in satisfaction Mrs Tony (his lovely wife, which Mum refers to as Mrs Boss ‘Lo Ban Lerng’) presents dessert –  ‘On the house la!’

I never go out of my way to order this Asian dessert.  But there’s something about habit and coming to Red Hot Wok that means we are not done, until Tony or ‘Mrs Boss’ brings us our Red Bean Pancake – deep fried roti- like dough stuffed with red bean paste and deep fried – with that wide friendly smile.

At the risk of sounding like an absolute cliche, Mumsy will always know best!  And although I may not share the same interest in her TVBJ programming schedule, or her charismatic Cantonese speaking flair, I’m  certainly enjoying reaping the benefits of her charming habits.  Especially if it means good meals and free dessert!!

Red Hot Wok

313 Toorak Road

South Yarra

(03) 9826 8163

Andrew’s Hamburgers

2 May

It all started with a Words With Friends bet with my friend Sean, resulting in an epic victory on my part.  The stakes being: winner gets shouted a burger by the loser (…did you really expect the prize to be anything but food related?).   Now, this absolute thrashing had taken place quite some time ago, but it took me a while to choose a venue for this said Burger Prize to be claimed.  I’d been spending most of my waking moments stalking fellow bloggers The Burger Adventure  as they traipse around the world in their quest for Burger Nirvana, and had been inspired to follow their findings myself…

The most appealing to me was the much touted burger at Rockpool (already my favourite go to for steaks and cocktails), and The New Market Hotel is also high on my list, but given that I’d already raped poor S of his ego and dignity, I felt I should give the guy a break and maybe go easy on his wallet (Yep it’s true. Contrary to popular belief, I can show signs of compassion).  So after much debate, we finally decided on trying the much hyped Andrew’s Hamburgers in Albert Park.

Andrews frontage

Having been reviewed by pretty much anyone with a heartbeat, (with RAVING reviews I might mention), there was more then just my big ego riding  on this feed.  And arriving at the small fish n’ chip take away style shop proved  it’s popularity.  The tiny interior was full of hungry hopefuls all waiting for  their  burgers with people spilling out onto the pavement.

The menu offers, obviously, BURGERS!  Steak, Chicken, vegetarian, all with  classic extras (including pineapple, beetroot, cheese, egg, bacon, even an extra  pattie for an extra $2.50) as well as souvalaki’s & sides of potato cakes, dim  sims and  fries.  To make it easy (and coz I’m kind of a pig) we got 2 burgers  ‘with the lot’ and a small hot chips to share.

When we ordered, the place was PACKED!! But as everyone is clearly local, they all got ‘to go’, so we squeezed ourselves onto the super skinny bar bench along the side of the store… and waited  … and waited! …  Ok!   This was getting a bit ridiculous! S and I sat, waiting as the whole store cleared out (about 20 minutes)  until they finally called our name.

Stamped and bagged! Burgers

Small Hot Chips. SO. Crispy $3.50

They say ‘good things come to those that wait’… well we had waited!  So this better be GOOD!  As I pulled out my little logo stamped burger filled paper bag, my heart became a flutter.  So this burger with the lot entails the following:  a classic beef pattie topped with melted swiss cheese, tomato, onion, fried bacon, a fried egg & finely shredded lettuce and cabbage.

That is a hell of a lot to fit into 2 lightly toasted burger buns, but as I unravel the wrapper, I’m delighted to see it is stacked high, to reveal a nice, thick crispy edged looking pattie.

So everything about the ingredients in this burger is pretty big.  Thick cut tomato slices, thick pattie, lots of bacon and LOTS of sauce.  It’s so thick I struggle to fit it all in my mouth at the same time… (must be working on my Burger technique…)

Burger with the Lot $10

So does it live up to all that hype?  Well, as a burger, it is pretty good!  The Pattie is meaty, the bacon adds a nice saltiness, that is slightly mellowed by the lashings of sauce that would validate eating with a bib!  There’s also that fresh finely sliced cabbage and lettuce which makes it feel slightly less sinful as you devour that mountain of meat and carbs!  That is until of course you tuck into the hot chips, which are super crispy, and definitely worth ordering even though you know shouldn’t.

Would I come here again?  Probably not in a hurry.  Yes, the meal was satisfying…albeit not quite as satisfying as the victory that earned it!  But after some discussion, S and I both agree that although this classic burger was well made, we’d probably not go to the bother of travelling across the river for something we could get locally… until perhaps my next victory – watch this space…!

Andrew’s Hamburger’s

144 Bridport Street Albert Park

9690 2126