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Gazi: Greek Funtimes

16 Aug
Terracotta pot lined ceiling

Terracotta pot lined ceiling

IMG_1895[1]Its been a while since DDO posted – not necessarily a reflection of suddenly becoming hermits, but more of the fact that our little one has sucked up any spare time (and energy) that we previously had for blogging…but I digress.

So to celebrate our (N&J’s) recent wedding anniversary (4 years!), we paid a visit to Gazi – the latest slightly schizophrenic, neon clad addition to George. C’s already bursting culinary empire.  Whilst it was probably the complete opposite to the romantic venue we had hoped for (a la Jacques Reymond, which by the way is closed on a Sunday) it wasn’t a poor choice food-wise, and given J’s selective auditory issues (i.e. I usually have to repeat everything I say at least once) shouting across the table was no divergence from the norm (although I do blame the noise for ordering a cocktail with ouzo in it – either that or the waiter omitted this ingredient).  But if you do value your space, the place will probably induce claustrophobia, with tables so close that even the wait staff have difficulties passing through – the terracotta pot lined ceiling, whilst visually impressive, don’t really help to create the illusion of space either (to quote J: ‘I don’t get the pots – it’s a health and safety hazard’).

So noise and space aside, the food (self described Greek street food), whilst being good, is probably very far from being authentic, and is certainly not priced as street food.  There is also a slightly over-priced wine list, which is certainly a little adventurous with its Greek offerings (we went for a Bordeaux red, which J said tasted fine, but to my ouzo inflicted tastebuds, was a little bit too spicy?).

Saganaki

Saganaki

Taromasalata and Prawns

Taromasalata and Prawns

To start we ordered the Taramosalata dip – which comes dotted with broken prawn crackers and a small serving of fluffy flat bread. YUM.

We also ordered some Ethnika Vromika (Hellenic Dirty Food) Saganaki and prawns which wasn’t really ‘dirty’ at all, and unfortunately not much to write home about – I much prefer the basic (and ‘dirtier’) versions served at tavernas like Jims.

Lamb Cutlets

Lamb Cutlets

From the ‘Wood Fired Grill’ we ordered some lamb cutlets (priced per cutlet) – which were tasty but a little bit too fatty for my liking, and J had half a corn cob, which came glistening with butter (or perhaps olive oil) and topped with cheese, and by all accounts was delicious.  At the same time our side – a big fat plate of thick chips – was served up, golden and crisp.

At this point I am slightly dreading the sight of our Souvlakakias (I was suffering some abdominal discomfort from a mild case of gastroenteritis passed on from the little one – the lunch we had earlier at Matteo’s was a struggle…) which arrive momentarily – lucky they are small compared to the traditional souvo bar offering.  J had the beef brisket and I the chicken.  Both were wrapped in fresh fluffy flat bread and came stuffed with shoe string fries (turns out we really didn’t need those aforementioned chips! – although no one told us that).  The meat inside both were delicious and quite succulent, although I probably preferred the beef brisket.  There are less traditional souvlaki options such as duck and crab for the more adventurous that we didn’t get to sample this time around.

IMG_1893[1]

Fat Chips

IMG_1892[1]

Soulakakias

 

No dessert for us – as both J and I are well and truly stuffed – but the menu is certainly varied with modern takes on traditional favourites such as rice pudding (Risogalo Jar which comes in a smoking glass pot) and Loukomathes (cocoa nibs, honey as described on the menu).  For those wanting a smaller sweet snack, there are ION chocolate bars and blocks from the Periptero (Greek Milk Bar) on offer.

If you’re after a fun night with a bit of a gimmicky menu, then Gazi is your place – vibey, good food in a good location.  Personally, if I want good Greek food or a stinky souvo, I am pretty happy with my favourite tavern / souvo bar.

Gazi

2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

http://gazirestaurant.com.au

+61 (3) 9207 7444

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Late night at St Katherine’s

1 Jun

Mr Colombaris.   I’m sure we’ve all cringed at the sight of him ‘tasting’ on Master Chef (the man takes to a fork like a 3 year old toddler with a shovel..) but the man knows a thing or two about creating a dining experience.  He is responsible for 3 of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne (Maha, Little Press and Hellenic Republic) and his latest offering, St Katherine’s, in my locale certainly did not disappoint.

Pre meal palette cleanser

Despite it being a Tuesday night, the earliest we could get a table for 5 (DDO plus regular foodie companions Z, JP and Ev’s) was 8.45pm.  Needless to say we all arrived rather famished and ready for our feed.  Before we get into the wine list and menu, we are welcomed with a little pre palette cleanser of Jelly of Cardamon & Coffee.  The jelly itself is a touch on the sweet side for my liking, but given my excruciatingly empty stomach, it is devoured before I can even question starting a meal in reverse (sweets first… how cheeky!)

The menu is designed with dishes to be shared, and trust me, you are reminded of this on every surface that can take some printed text!! With dishes categorized under Stuff, Wood Fire Oven and Turkish Grill, then Sweet Stuff, Stuff to Drink… there is a lot of STUFF!!

After a little deliberation and ABSOLUTELY no question that we order the KFC, we decided on a plethora of “Stuff” which we were assured was more than plenty!  First to arrive was the Coca-Cola Lamb Ribs, which was the first thing to catch my eye on the menu.  Meat and sugar!  I’m livin’ the dream!!

Coca-Cola Lamb ribs with Candied coconut (half tray) $13.50

These lamb ribs were the perfect start to the meal, cooked to tender perfection.  The lamb was soft and tender, and the coca-cola added a sweet, toffee glisten.

KFC “Katherine’s fried chicken” BBQ sauce & Mayonnaise (half bucket) $13.50

Next to arrive, was the much touted KFC; Katherine’s fried chicken which comes as a half bucket (5 pieces) or a full bucket.  Presentation and condiments were better then the actual chicken, which tasted very dry!  SAD!! Especially since most articles had given this dish such hype.  Thankfully though the BBQ sauce, which had a subtle kick of heat, and mayo was the saving grace… (you could pretty much douse dry pasta in that sauce combination and I would happily devour it…)

Lahem Arjine ($22)

So far, each dish had come one after the other!  Which, I don’t really vibe on.  Especially when the servings are generally 4 per serve, which meant 2 people had to be the sacrificial eaters and only get half of at least 1 dish.  Next to arrive was (our only carb fix of the night) the Lahem Arjine which was like a thin crust pizza topped with lamb, aleppo pepper, parsley and lemon.  This was pretty delicious and the base was lovely, crisp and thin so as to not fill us up too much.  At this point we are 3 dishes in, and have only another 3 to arrive…well, 4 dishes with 1 being our ‘greens’ component.  (So 3!)  Let’s just say, thank god 2 out of the 5 of us chose not to take part in this carb fix… leaving more for me!  Coz those 2 previous morsels of meat had about the same affect as a stick of carefree gum!! Thankfully the last  3 dishes arrived simultaneously and it was meat time!

Rotisserie Chicken ($28)

We decided on something from “Off the Rotisserie” which offer 2 daily specials.  Tonight was either lamb or chicken, to which despite our better judgment of NEVER ordering chicken, we did anyway.  Needless to say the chicken was uninspired, and a little bland with the only flavour coming from the squeeze of lemon that was drizzled before serving.  I read an article by Anthony Bourdain, highlighting that chicken “…bores the hell out of chefs” and that it “…occupies it’s ubiquitous place on menus as an option for customers who can’t decide what they want to eat”.  Unfortunately after tasting the 2 chicken dishes here, I’d fail to prove him wrong.

Angus Beef Rump Skewers ($28)

Lamb chops with Green chilli, spring onion & sesame ($32)

Thankfully, the other 2 meats arrived at the same time, so I didn’t have to waste time on the lack lustre chicken.  Between the Angus Rump skewers and the Lamb Chops, the Lamb was the clear standout!   I carved my chop in half (4 chops, 5 people… awkward!) to share with N, to reveal a soft, perfectly pink center.  The very slight hint of chilli and spring onion worked brilliantly in harmony with the sesame sauce to balance out the bitey flavours.  The Angus Rump on the other hand, was overcooked, dry and the only thing I enjoyed about it was the tahini, soy and walnut garnish.  Amongst all the meat we also ordered a green – Charred Zuchini with candied garlic and feta.  I think I would have enjoyed that eaten with maybe the coca-cola ribs… or maybe some bread…

 

The zucchini had a nice freshness to it, and was a good addition to the meat heavy meal.  Although I would have enjoyed it with some bread to soak up those glorious garlic-y/herby oil juices that was left in the plate.  So with our bottle of Shiraz done, we find ourselves still enjoying each others company despite it being late and ‘a school night’.  JP and I decide to order another glass each and after a little contemplation, decide we could do with a little more food.  Let’s be honest… we were never going to leave satisfied on 4 small bites of meat (2 of which I had to share…) and some zucchini!!

Charred Zucchini with candied garlic and feta, herbs ($12.90)

We go straight to the “Turkish Grill” section (we’ve had enough “stuff”.  Time for substance) and order the Sticky Pork Belly with saffron, orange, honey blossom and almond skordalia.

Sticky Pork Belly ($28)

Perhaps it was the wine talking, but boy did we save the BEST for last!  This was phenomenal!  Pork Belly!  Enough said right?!  This was a beautiful cut of meat, perfectly layered proportions of meat to fat and so well paired with the mellow sweet tartness of the orange and honey blossom juice.  And when you thought you’d reached layer upon layer of flavour/fat Nation, the almond puree sauce!! Smooth.  Creamy.  Party  in Mouth!!

Maltese Pork sausage with pickled beetroot, almonds ($18.90)

And finally, the pork sausage!  Cooked well, these sausages were tender, with a slightly crisp outer so when eaten with the pomegranate spiked pickled beetroot and dusting of sesame seeds on top, made for a heavenly mouthful of textures and flavours.  Again, would have loved some bread, to soak up those amazing juices… but maybe that’s their way of doing me a favour, so I can save what little room I have left for dessert!

There’s quite an intriguing offering of icecreams “Mr Whippee” style, as well as watermelon salad, donuts and their “Disgusting Dessert”.  I was sold and intrigued by the name… disgusting and dessert in the same title?  (Doesn’t involve chicken does it… ?? HA! I jest!)  We had to try!

Disgusting Dessert ($26.90 for 2 to share)

This funny sounding dessert was served (funnily…? Disgustingly…) in a glass pyrex container and had a mix of reinterpretations of St Katherine’s “favourite chocolate bars”.  So the chocolate bar inspired recreations included a violet crumble, rice bubble chocolate fudge, marshmallow, salted caramel, coconut ice cream and a cherry foam.  Really great idea, and the zany presentation added to the shits and giggles part of the whole concept!  My favourite was definitely the salted caramel (ALWAYS) and the coconut ice cream.  I’d come back for this, just to see what their next lot of favourite chocolate bars will be!

Looking back now, and even as we fixed the bill (about $60 p/head), we consumed a hell of a lot of food!!  And although I suspect there are a few staff teething problems (there was no recommendations of portions or notification of daily rotisserie specials, and N caught a lamb chop bone in her lap and a pile of sauce next to her feet… all to an unaware waitress) But despite all the negatives, which came hand in hand with many positives, I can at least leave knowing i can thankfully continue eating at my Mr Colombaris favourites, without me having to watch him do any of the eating.

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

Little Press. Big feed.

12 Feb

My good friend (M) had come home for Chinese New Year from London and missed being spoilt by Melbourne’s culinary offerings.  This time he wanted to catch up for lunch over Greek food, so i jumped at the opportunity to finally eat at Little Press & Cellar.  (Out of George Calombaris’s Greek restaurants I’d only tried Hellenic Republic).

We decided to go with selection of share plates so we could try as many of the different flavours as possible.  And with our bottle of wine ordered, it was safe to assume, this was about to be a long, gloriously boozy lunch.  All my Greek dining experiences had been Tavern style, where everything is quite rustic and (usually involving bountiful piles of meat and the freshest seafood available that day) brought out on big plates.  But this is one of the main reasons The Press Club and Little Press had been on my list of ‘must try’s’.  Greek fine dining.  I don’t get it or neccessarily agree with it, but willing to be convinced otherwise.

Fresh Oysters with lemon & olive oil dressing

We started with Fresh Oysters with dressing of the day – lemon and olive oil.  They were a little small, but fresh and tasty enough.  Besides, apparently good things come in small packages.  We ordered 2 each, but I offered my second to my dining companion (M)… and glad I did.  For the next 2 dishes included the piece de resistance of all Greek dining… Taramasalata!!! It’s one of my favourite condiments/dips when we have greek food.  It’s made of salmon roe and is the perfect combination of salty salmon-y goodness.  And if that wasn’t enough, its served with the crispiest, home cut potato fries!  AMAZE-BALLS!

Taramasalata with chips

Of course, what’s some amazing chips without some sort of beef!! The Wagyu burger is pretty much the first thing (M) and I agreed on immediately.  Now don’t be fooled by its seemingly small size.  This tiny little bun encases a succulent Wagyu beef patty, soft and juicy, it melts in your mouth as you bite into the soft brioche casing.  The melted Haloumi oozes out and the patzari (roasted beetroot with cumin & yoghurt) is just the right ingredient to balance the smooth warm textures.

Wagyu with Mikro bifteki, patzari & haloumi

So it’s official.  Good things do indeed come in small packages.  If I’d had the chance for a do-over I would probably just order 6 of these little TASTE-bombs and some chips and leave one very satisfied customer… But alas, the menu had too many other temptations.  So the dining continued:

Pork Hock with fresh pita and grilled zucchini

The Pork Hock was actually quite delicious (as if i’m EVER going to not enjoy some pig).  The meat was really tender and salty and perfectly matched with the coolness of the yoghurt and grilled zucchini.  Probably could have left the fresh pita, which had cooled by the time we got to eat it and so was a little awkward and crunchy.  Then again, serve me some of that AMAZING Pork on anything, and I will more than happily eat it.

At this point, I think we were both at the stage where you probably know you’re full.  But you’ve enjoyed consuming all those flavours thus far, you kind of don’t want it to end! (plus we still had more wine … so we decided to order more).

Now M wanted to have another Wagyu burger, and I was tempted to as well.  But we both managed to fight the Beef temptation (until next visit)  and ordered 2 other dishes.

Kingfish - Marinated with pomegranate & zucchini

The Kingfish and the prosciutto pretty much arrived at the same time.  By which stage, I actually realised I was pretty full.  The Kingfish was a little lack lustre.  It probably didn’t help that the last flavour in my mouth was that of the Pork Hock, in all its salty glory.  Thank god for the burst of pomegranate!

Prosciutto with pickled white peach & endive

So 4 hours, 6 dishes and a bottle of wine later, we kindly asked our friendly waitress for the bill and spent the rest of the afternoon nursing our extremely satisfied bellies.  I thoroughly enjoyed my (semi) fine dining Greek inspired experience (although I will always be a Greek Tavern girl at heart), and it wasn’t just the exceptional company, or the booze talking.  Good quality food, friendly knowledgeable staff, and THAT WAGYU BURGER.   You can’t really go wrong…

Little Press & Cellar

72 Flinders Street, Melbourne 3000  Tel + 613 9677 9677

http://www.thepressclub.com.au/menu.html