Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Dinner at Goshen

189 Smith Street, Fitzroy (map)
9419 6750


A few weeks ago, on our way to the Westgarth cinema, I went with K and B to Goshen, on Smith Street. Goshen is my favourite Korean restaurant in Melbourne! I love the cute interior (the grassy green-painted walls are dotted with little stenciled purple butterflies flitting about), the staff are sweet, the prices are very reasonable and the food has a nice fiery kick to it. The spicy dishes can mostly be ordered mild - but be warned, spicy really does mean spicy at this establishment...

Apologies for the dark photos of the food!

Dumplings at Goshen

The three of us shared two entrees and three mains. We started with the meat dumplings (above), which were slightly gingery and contained veggies as well. We also had the entree that K and I really love at Goshen, the fried tofu (below), which is always deliciously crispy on the outside and silky soft on the inside, served with a light sweetish soy sauce.

Fried tofu at Goshen

The seafood pancake arrived served on a hot stone plate. There was a good range of seafood on the pancake - I say 'on' because the relative thinness of the pancake and chunkiness of the seafood makes it more like a pizza than a pancake. This was the least spicy of the mains.

Seafood pancake at Goshen

Next came the job chea, which was for me the most unusual of the dishes - beef, mushrooms, mixed vegetables and soy sauce served over sweet potato noodles. The translucent sweet potato noodles had a really interesting texture and tasted sweeter (well, duh!) than other cellophane noodles I've had. This dish is delicious but pretty fiery - maybe next time we'll ask for it mild...

Sweet potato noodles at Goshen

We ended with the chicken bibimbap (spelled bi-bim-bob in their menu). When I visited San Francisco in January I found that bibimbap seems to be an enormously popular dish over there, much more common than it is here. I love the marinade on the meat, and the way that towards the end of the dish you can scrape up the half-burnt bits of rice that have stuck to the stone hot plate. Crunchy goodness!

Bi bim bap at Goshen

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Cheesy/yoghurty lunch at Rumi

132 Lygon Street, Brunswick East (map)
9388 8255

I'd heard and read quite a lot of buzz about Rumi, the trendy restaurant doing a modern spin on traditional Lebanese food, which opened in Brunswick East a while back. Reviews in the Epicure by Dani Valent and Mr Lethlean were both positively glowing, and in the blogging world (ugh, I refuse to use the word 'blogosphere' - there's a reason it was voted one of the most annoying web-related words!), Mellie, Mel and Ange have all praised Rumi dinners. I knew that a dinner booking still requires a fair bit of booking, so when K suggested a few weekends ago that we go there for lunch and sample the alternate daytime menu, I jumped at the chance.

Rumi interior

The interior (Arabic scripture on white-washed walls, beautiful water bottles, crisp green aprons on the wait staff) was easy on the eye and made one feel tranquil and happy. We ordered some really delicious apple tea and perused the lunch menu. My knowledge of Lebanese food is shamefully limited, but there was no way I wasn't going to try something as unusual-sounding as hot yoghurt soup with dried mint! It was great - very nourishing with a nice sharp sourness underscoring the minty taste. Try it!

Hot yoghurt soup at Rumi

Apart from the hot yoghurt soup, which was a must-have, we decided to share two gozleme (can someone correct me on whether the plural for gozleme is gozleme?), despite being sorely tempted to try a bunch of items on the breakfast half of the brunch menu. The first gozleme (filo pastries filled with goodies and then pan-fried) we tried was filled with minced lamb and slivered almonds, and served with a side-serve of yummy yummy labne. It came out nice and hot and tasted great - not too oily and bursting with flavour.

Lamb golzeme at Rumi

We also had a vegetarian gozleme, with haloumi and pine nuts. Again, delicious - while in this one the haloumi was quite salty, the fresh tomato in the salad was a nice counterbalance taste-wise. We really enjoyed Rumi - thumbs up to the lunch menu - and look forward to returning soon to try the breakfast and dinner menus...

Vegetarian golzeme at Rumi

Birthday dinner at Longrain followed by ice cream from Fritz Gelato

44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne (map)
9671 3151

Fritz Gelato
334 Bridge Road, Richmond (map)
9427 9898

Longrain interior

Dad and sister Birdie share the same birthday. We went to celebrate it last Tuesday night at Longrain, the mod-Thai restaurant from Sin City whose Melbourne incarnation I've been wanting to try out for ages. Despite some initial teething problems (when I rang two weeks earlier to make a booking for five people a hostess rather frostily informed me that you have to have a minimum of six people to make a booking... so I asked for a booking for six and oh gosh damn, one of our party was sick on the night so there was just five of us... if you ask me, a minimum of six is just SILLY!), we had a superb night.

Cucumber and elderflower martini at LongrainRed Dragon cocktail at Longrain

Having two cocktails each before we sat down to eat (yes, a tad excessive for a Tuesday night, but hey) probably helped. I had a cucumber and elderflower martini (pictured left) - nice, but I still think Philippe at Gin Palace makes the best cucumber martinis in town - and a Red Dragon (pictured right), a brilliant and outrageous mix of (from memory) chilli vodka, coriander, cranberry juice and strawberries.

Our round table had a marble inner circle that revolved yum cha style, so we ordered five dishes and shared them all. And drank a crispy riesling and a lip-smacking pinot noir.

Eggnet at Longrain

Foodwise, first up was the eggnet filled with pork, prawns peanuts and sweet vinegar. This cold salad was beautifully presented in a 'net' of omelette and was very tasty. It was also the mildest dish of the five, so our palates appreciated getting it first.

Wagyu beef jugle curry at Longrain

The peanut curry of braised Wagyu beef with chilli and Thai basil was next - the meat was wonderfully tender as you'd expect, medium-spiced and with a nice zing at the end.

Salt and pepper barramundi at Longrain

Next was the salt and pepper baby barramundi with sweet soy and lemon. I think the barra was my favourite of the five dishes - the pieces had been fried in the salt and pepper batter but were still light and crispy, with the freshness of the fish readily apparent. The two side sauces, I believe, were mirin-based and chillied plum sauce respectively. And the presentation of the pieces of fish tucked inside the curved fried spine of the fish was awesome!

Steamed flounder at Longrain

Less photogenic is the steamed whole flounder with green chilli peanut nahm jim. It was still really tasty - very nutty and spicy. A pity Birdie pinched most of the sauce! :)

Duck salad at Longrain

Last up was the duck and longan salad, with Chinese celery, coriander and cucumber, with a black vinegar/soy/sugar sauce. Also very nice - the sweet n sour sauce went really well with the duck - but we were getting pretty full by this stage, so weren't able to give this dish the attention it deserved, alas!

Icecream at Fritz Gelato

The family generously offered to drive me home to Cremorne. My brother Buster put in a request to stop on the way for an ice cream at the Bridge Road branch of Fritz Gelato, then persuaded me to get a scoop of their award-winning Pistachio Heaven. I'd never tried pistachio ice cream before, not being a particular fan of pistachios... but WOW, what an amazing taste sensation! Where has pistachio ice cream been all my life?!? The Pistachio Heaven chez Fritz is creamy and honeyed and yet it has this... I don't know... OILINESS that I hadn't tasted in an ice cream before, but it was just delicious!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Egyptian eggs at Power Pantry

Power Pantry
267 Glenferrie Rd, Malvern (map)
9576 3222

Was shopping in Glenferrie Road, Malvern, on Saturday morning - not my usual 'hood, but I was waiting for friend A to wake up after his big night out. I was feeling pretty tender myself, in need of healthy goodness to compensate for the moderate trashiness of the night before. Walked past a nice looking cafe called Power Pantry whose sign had a subtitle that caught my eye: "Low fat, low GI, high flavour power foods". Healthy AND flavoursome? Excellent!

Egyptian eggs at Power Pantry

I got the interesting-sounding Egyptian eggs: Grampians eggs dry fried with dukkah and served in toasted Turkish bread with PP's own tomato and mustard relish, and Yarra Valley wilted spinach. And sure enough, as well as being pretty healthy, they were really tasty - I even ended up buying a jar of the relish!

On a little postcard extolling the virtues of Power Pantry was the following quote from Pierce Cody, Executive Chairman of Macro Wholefoods Market: "Macro initially considered Power Pantry a competitor. Not only did that prove to be correct, but they are so good they ended up being a supplier. There can be no greater compliment." :-)

Monday, 22 October 2007

King / Bourke Quest Part 9: Sakura Don at Sakura Sushi Express

Sakura Sushi Express
Shop C 389 Lonsdale St, Melbourne (map)
9670 1709

Sakura Don at Sakura Sushi Express

How sensational does this look?! On Thursday we were in Hardware Lane and chose to grab a quick bite at Sakura Sushi Express, a great little Japanese place on the corner of Hardware Lane and Lonsdale Street. It's next door to Golden Monkey, one of my favourite bars in the city. It was a warm sunny afternoon with a north wind blowing pollen all over the place, so I didn't feel like anything too hot 'n heavy. I chose the Sakura Don, which consists of fresh raw salmon and tuna with tamago, seaweed and Japanese sweet vegetables. It was served on a bed of steamed rice with a side serve of special sauce containing mango juice and shichimi.

It tasted as fresh and delicious as it looks!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Pre-opening dinner at Cho Gao

Cho Gao
311 Level 3 Melbourne Central, Melbourne (map)
9529 2999

Cho Gao interior

My lovely friend E (but let's call her Gumby-chan) sent me an email early this week asking whether I'd like to come along to a free pre-opening dinner at a mod-Asian bar/restaurant opening soon in the city. Would I??? :)

Cho Gao

Cho Gao, marketing itself as a both an "Asian beer cafe" and an "Asian food experience", is the latest addition to level 3 of Melbourne Central. I believe its official opening will be next week.

[sidenote: Next door is the 100 Mile Cafe, the interesting new venture by Paul Mathis (whose ill-fated SOS was in the same premises) where almost all of the food and drink is sourced within a 100 mile radius of Melbourne (thereby supporting local produce and "reducing food miles", as the Epicure puts it). My folks went to the 100 Mile Cafe on Monday night and were blown away by the food - I'm planning on going there soon. Let's hope that snobbish fine diners aren't put off by the shopping centre location!]

Anyway, back to Cho Gao. The night we went it was staff training night, so there were a few service-related hiccups, as can be expected. The head waiter, however, was great - when our bottle of water didn't arrive for over half an hour he brought us all coffees straight away, and showed us the draft tea menu (lots of different Asian teas) he'd been working on that afternoon.

Pad thai at Cho GaoGinger beef at Cho GaoVeggie-intensive pad thai at Cho GaoChicken and lychee red curry

The food menu was a pan-Asian greatest hits that generally erred on the side of caution: san choi bao, Thai red and green curries, Vietnamese chicken salad, pad thai, hawker noodles, etc. Gumby-chan and K1 had the meat and the all-vegetarian variants of pad thai (the two pictured on the left) which were perfectly nice, if a little unexciting. K2 had the Ginger Beef (top right), which was again nice if a little on the bland side. Not particularly gingery. My dish, the red chicken curry with string beans and lychees (bottom right) sounded and tasted the most interesting of the lot - nice contrasting textures.

I may be sounding a little underwhelmed, but that was probably due to the fact that the night before I'd been wowed by the food at Longrain (will blog about it soon). The truth is that although the food wasn't that fancy, Cho Gao's prices are a fraction of those at somewhere like Longrain (although we didn't have to pay that night at Cho Gao, looking at the menu I think the most expensive dish was $15.50), so it wouldn't be fair to expect the same quality.

View of State Library from Cho Gao balconyCho Gao balcony

One thing I really liked about Cho Gao was the use of the space. It has a very long (20 metre) bar running down the right hand side of the venue, but clever use of Chinese screens and partitions means that up to four corners can be made into private function rooms. There's lots of raw, untreated wood which contrasts nicely with the more modern decorating touches. The venue also has a lovely deep balcony looking across Swanston St to the State Library - as it's equally both a drinking and a dining venue, that balcony will be a great spot from which to sample their wide variety of imported beers on a hot summer evening...

Cho Gao interiorChina shadow box at Cho Gao

Update (1/11/07): I got mentioned in the paper! Many thanks to Ed Charles for the shout out - it's a first for me! :)

Sunday, 14 October 2007

King / Bourke Quest Part 8: breakfast at Cafe Vue

Cafe Vue
430 Little Collins St, Melbourne (map)
9691 3888


Less than two months until I get to experience the menu gourmand at Vue de Monde! Until that happy day, the closest I've been to that much-hyped Mt Everest of Melbourne fine dining has been Cafe Vue, VdM's more affordable offspring. Cafe Vue does great cafe/bistro fare during the day. Its crisp modern interior is dominated by the magnificent, monstrous, shiny fire-engine-red coffee machine which is lovingly wiped down by the barrista after each coffee is brewed.

I'm a big fan of the posh lunchboxes at Cafe Vue (particularly ones with gazpacho in espresso glasses, and salad dressing in test tubes) but will write about breakfast instead, as the lunchboxes have been extensively reviewed by food bloggers such as mellie and cherrie.

Went to Cafe Vue the other week with my colleague T for a coffee and Quizmaster/Age Superquiz session. T's coffee (above) was immaculately presented and tasted perfect.

I decided to get the fruit salad, which at Cafe Vue takes a little while to arrive because the fruit is chopped up only once you've placed your order. As a result, it's wonderfully fresh and generally delicious.

I also decided to order a hot chocolate. At Cafe Vue you can choose between a 'normal' hot chocolate for $3 or a French hot chocolate for $6. I strongly strongly urge you to swallow any initial outrage you may feel at the thought of $6 for a hot chocolate, and go ahead and order the latter option. You WON'T regret it!


I'm afraid the above picture does no justice to the magnificence of this hot chocolate. It tastes rich and creamy and sweet but not too heavy - I'd happily forgo normal hot chocolates forever as long as I could have one of these babies occasionally. Of the hot chocolates I've written about on this blog, the Fräus hot chocolate at Little Peninsula gets the bronze medal for best hot chocolate in the CBD and the milk hot chocolate with Persian fairy floss at Beetroot gets the silver medal... but this one easily gets the gold!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Foodcult Wiki for Melbourne

My friend K sent me a link to Foodcult Wiki. According to the frontpage, the concept goes a little something like this:

Foodcult is an experiment in collaborating with foodies to determine where to eat, shop & cook in Melbourne, why we have particular preferences and how our interactions with food shape our identities (national, cultural, gendered, etc). Lists and criteria will be wide and varied (and editable as well as edible!) but I'm going to start with:

Generally the best
Best Overall
Cheapest Good Eats
Cheapest Dumplings In Melbourne
Best Service
Most Interesting Service
Best Toilets
Intrepid Steaks
Best Pizza
Best Breakfasts
Best Coffee
MESP-723 Biker Brekkies

Nationally-specific restaurant reviews
[lists lots of different cuisines]

Other Food Favourites
Favourite Markets
Favourite Grocery Stores

Favourite Recipes
Quick and delicious
Ye old standards
Serious labour of love
Untested Recipes

Places To Try (untested)

What Were They Thinking?!!
Don't Go There

Like everything else here, you may want to change some things on the list or add others. I have learned to relinquish control of editorial and let democracy rule! Vive la gastronomie!

The wiki is still in its infancy and I haven't had a chance to look through it properly yet, but the "Best Toilets" category raised a smile: when my sister was a little kid, she always used to judge restaurants based on how nice the toilets were, giving them a score out of 10. Even now that she's grown up, family members will still enquire "Score out of 10?" when she's returning from the loos at a restaurant... :)

There are already tons of Melbourne food blogs and groups on sites like facebook (eg "top melbourne restaurants", which I mentioned in a recent post)... so what do you think of the concept of a collaborative wiki related to Melbourne food?

ps For those who may not have heard of it yet, Ed from the widely-read blog Tomato is trying to organise a meet up dinner for Melbourne bloggers. Here's hoping they end up having it on a Tuesday instead of a Monday!

Friday, 5 October 2007

King / Bourke Quest Part 7 : Teriyaki Don at Don Too

Don Too
6/340 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (map)
9679 7113


During my student days one of the most reliable dirt cheap meals I loved to buy, if it was lunchtime and I was in the CBD heading up to uni, was the teriyaki don at Don Don (321 Swanston St). At Don Don, I loved the Japanese kids who worked in the minuscule open kitchen at lightning speed, I loved the incongruous flamenco and mambo music, I loved that the teriyaki don came with lots of fluoro pickled ginger and a sprig of broccoli. Most of all I loved the fact that the filling dish cost a mere $5.80!

Joy of joys: Don Don has spawned Don Too, in Lt Lonsdale St up near Horse Bazaar. Although this sequel restaurant has slightly posher furnishings (ie shabby-chic battered antique tables) than Don Don and its clientele consists more of suits than students, Don Too retains the menu and ludicrously cheap prices of the original.

It's a bit of a walk from King and Bourke Streets to qualify for the King/Bourke Quest, but my lovely colleagues L, K & C and I love going there so much that I'll make an exception in this case. Here is the yummy teriyaki don, with a bit of cabbage instead of broccoli.


L also has a signature dish at Don Too: the tofu curry don. As you can see, it's one of those lovely thick gravy-like Japanese curry sauces.


Last time we visited, I decided to branch out and try something different. A girl sitting at the next table was tucking in to the sashimi don which looked so gorgeous I knew I had to order it! The generously thick slices of raw salmon were tucked in the shape of a huge rosette, surrounded by veggie goodies and served on a big bed of steamed rice. From memory all this still costs less than $8 - soooo much nicer than the miserly sashimi box for $9.80 in the Bourke Place food court!


Our Don Too lunch is traditionally capped off by getting milk hot chocolates with Persian fairy floss at Beetroot (I've already blogged about these decadent beauties here).


I don't like to whinge, but the last time we went on a Don Too/Beetroot excursion we arrived at Beetroot at 1:45 and although all the tables (bar one) were occupied inside, the communal table outside had several spare places. When we sat at the outside table and asked the woman who runs the place whether we could order hot chocolates, she curtly informed us that "you're not allowed" to order just drinks between the hours of 12 and 2pm - you have to order food too. We were outraged - we'd visited before several times at late lunchtime and ordered hot chocolates without a hitch, plus by 1:45 the lunch crowd was petering out and there appeared to be no great demand for the outside communal table on such a windy day. It's a real shame, because I've always really loved Beetroot (see my previous gushing review) and I really WANT to keep loving Beetroot, but this new "rule" left a bad taste in my mouth. I've have it on good authority that the couple who run Beetroot are selling up - here's hoping the new owners will keep the Persian fairy floss but won't be quite so greedy to squeeze extra dollars out of customers, and will keep customers' loyalty!