Given how hectic the last fortnight has been, I'm doing another "bitsa" post (bitsa this, bitsa that) to clear some of the blog backlog and write up a few places I've visited recently.
Cafe Latte - Cucina Pugliese
521 Malvern Rd, Toorak (map)
Met up with Mum down at Malvern Road the other Sunday because we'd heard Cranfields was closing down and I wanted to see whether they'd heavily reduced the price of the hand-stitched leather hippo I'd fallen in love with in their shop several years ago. Alas, he was still obscenely, prohibitively expensive. We decided to brunch at Cafe Latte ("Milk" cafe, not "caffe latte"), which is a place my Aussie grandmother used to take us to years ago. The layout of the place is unusual (the island bar/coffee machine is slap bang in the centre of the room, with tables circling it) and the menu proclaims a Pugliese influence.
It was 11:30am and Mum ordered nice but rather uninteresting spinach and mushies on toast. I was going to have something breakfasty too... but then I cast my eye over the lunch menu and saw zucchini flowers stuffed with goats cheese on a bed of salad. I honestly think that if I ever had to plan the menu for my final meal on earth, zucchini flowers stuffed with goat's cheese would be the entree, so I'm not a weirdo for ordering this dish before noon, right? Right?
470 Bridge Rd, Richmond (map)
That Sunday evening, I was meeting M for dinner in Richmond and was really excited about visiting Momotaro Ramen (after my tasty Ramen experience in Sydney, stickyfingers had suggested I try Momotaro). But hell's bells, it turned out to be closed on a Sunday and I hadn't ascertained this in advance - rookie mistake, I know. While casting about for a alternative (Djakarta, my favourite restaurant on Bridge Rd, was likewise closed), M suggested we try newish gastropub Bouzy Rouge, formerly the Dover Castle.
Bouzy Rouge opened late last year and is run by Sandra and Jose De Oliveira, who have steered at the helm of many popular pubs. Tony Leonard of 3AW gave the pub a slavishly favourable review and named it 3AW 2007 Pub of the Year. Unlike Tony (whose constant AFL name-dropping I find really annoying, btw), I really wasn't down with the decor of the place - I mean, zebra-skin chairs, stag heads and crossed swords on the walls?! I felt like I should have entered wearing a tweed jacket AND a kilt, followed by "natives" carrying the gazelle I shot that afternoon...
Okay, maybe I'm overreacting. Despite my interior design qualms, I liked the tapas dishes well enough. We had grilled sardines with capsicum, sherry vinegar and chilli relish ($11), fried soft shell crab with coriander and lime salad ($8.50), roast capsicum with goats cheese, basil and sticky balsamic ($8) and steak tartare (eye fillet, Dijon, capers and parsley) with fries ($16).
Monk & Me
9 Evans Pl, Hawthorn East (map)
It may be called Monk & Me, but I always think of it as Monk & Mee, because I love their Indian Mee Goreng so damn much. Monk & Me is an extended relative of the Chinta Ria family of Malaysian restaurants, originally started some 20 years ago by Simon Goh, the "Chinta Godfather". There's Chinta Ria Jazz opposite the Prahran market, Chinta Ria Soul in Acland Street St Kilda, Chinta Blues up the other end of Acland St near Fitzroy St (and there used to be a Chinta Ria R 'n B, playing old rhythm and blues music up in North Melbourne or Carlton, I forget which), then Chinta Ria Temple of Love at Cockle Bay Wharf in Sydney. As a kid, Chinta Ria introduced me to the delights of two things I love, Malaysian food and jazz (I always coveted Simon Goh's recipe book Hot Food, Cool Jazz - with accompanying jazz cd!), so I'll always have a soft spot for these restaurants... :)
Monk & Me has the same basic menu as the Chinta Ria restaurants and a similar slick and simple aesthetic. It's a great pre-movie-at-the-Rivoli option (read a lovely feature on the Rivoli Cinema architectural refurbishment here). I went there last Saturday with CJ before we saw There Will Be Blood and we shared the excellent Mee Goreng Indian Style ($13.50) and the not-as-good-but-not-bad Daging Pedas: slices of beef fillets wok tossed in a blend of spices, fresh ginger root, carrot slices, snow peas and dried chilli ($20.50).
D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar
295 Drummond Street, Carlton (map)
And speaking of pre-cinema dining venues, the other Monday I went with best-friend-K and Schatzi to D.O.C. for pizze prior to going to the Nova to see Margot at the Wedding (which was GOD-AWFUL, by the way - nobody should have to watch botoxed alien Nicole Kidman masturbate unhappily and mope about her character's upper middle class ego-centricism for what seems an eternity). But moving on to more pleasant subject matter, it was great to revisit D.O.C. and to enjoy it as much as I did the first time.
This time, we wanted to try pizze rosse instead of bianche, so we ordered the Capricciosa with ham, artichokes, olives and mushrooms, and the Soppressa with tomato, mozzarella, salame, provolone, pesto di casa & olives. Again, the pizze were delicious: as b-f-K remarked, the crust itself is so good that even devoid of toppings, it's a pleasure to munch on! :)