Saturday, 31 May 2008

Barrel o' ramen at Momotaro Rahmen

Momotaro Rahmen
392 Bridge Road, Richmond (map)
9421 1661

Momotaro Rahmen

Earlier this year I had a sensational bowl of ramen at Ramen Kan in Sydney. Strangely enough, there don't seem to be many eateries in Melbourne dedicated to ramen. Stickyfingers suggested that I try Momotaro Rahmen which is located, conveniently enough, just around the corner from me on Bridge Road. As I commented to Sticky, I'd walked past it a million times (and smiled at its cute angry mascot* with his tiny, tiny genitals) but had never tried it, so I decided to check it out sometime soon.

As it happens, I only just got around to trying it last week when I popped in there on a cold night with my sister Birdie.

Gyoza at Momotaro

We shared some gyoza ($6) to start off. They were quite crispy, but very juicy and tasty.

Ramen at Momotaro

I went for ramen. There are several different varieties of soup to choose from - I was in the mood for something a little spicy, so I selected the negi-miso rahmen ($11) which features leeks with hot chilli and roast pork in a soy bean soup.

The serving was monstrously large (more like a barrel or a vat than a bowl!) and I was unable to finish it. The ramen tasted fresh and the broth was full of flavour, but even though I enjoyed it somehow my dish lacked the 'wow' factor of the ramen I tasted up in Sydney (maybe my expectations were too high?).

Chicken teriyaki at Momotaro

Birdie, who doesn't like soups much, went for the teriyaki chicken ($13), which was also an extremely generous serving. I had a taste: the chicken was lovely and tender, and the salad on the side had a really yummy dressing. Bird loved it.

Momotaro Rahmen is a great little cafe - if only it were open on Sunday nights!

* For a quick overview of the story of Momotaro, the peach boy, read Sarah's post. :)

Monday, 26 May 2008

Pizze at Ladro on a dark and stormy night

Just looked back over the blog and realised that three days ago was Melbourne Gastronome's 1st birthday - and I completely overlooked it! Ah well. I've very much enjoyed my first year of blogging, thanks for reading and an extra special thanks to those who leave comments! :)

Ladro (Gertrude)
224 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (map)
9415 7575

Ladro interior

Prior to her move to Melbourne from Adelaide, G came over to stay with me for a few days so that she could go along to sharehouse housemate interviews. One cold and blustery Tuesday night we were meeting up for dinner and as she'd just been to an interview in Fitzroy, I decided to take her to Ladro.

Even though it was after 8:30pm on a Tuesday we STILL had to wait for a table, so we spent a rather unexciting 20 minutes shivering in front of the heat lamp out in the back courtyard.

Pizza alla puttanesca

Things definitely picked up once we'd moved back inside and the pizze had arrived. This is the Puttanesca ($17.50), topped with tomato, mozzarella, parmigiano, cherry tomatoes, anchovies, proper juicy black olives, fresh chilli, capers and basil. I always love the salty spiciness of Puttanesca, whether it's on pasta or on a pizza (damn, just thinking about it now makes me want to make a Pappardelle alla Puttanesca tomorrow night, so much for those salmon fillets!) - and the Ladro version is a particularly fine one.

Pizza alla boscaiola

The other pizza we shared was the Boscaiola ($18), topped with mozzarella (no tomato), porcini mushrooms, field mushrooms and thyme - another favourite. My one gripe would be that I don't think the plates our pizze were served on had been pre-heated: by the time we got down to the last slice of this one the pizza was cold.

We'd started the meal off with lofty ambitions of ordering a calzoncino or other sweet for dessert, but our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and there was no way we could fit in any more food. We did, however, make an exception for the hot chocolates ($4.50), if only to fortify us before once again facing the winter night. G had the regular, I had the white chocolate, and both were made with ganache (reminding me of the French style hot chocs at Cafe Vue). They were mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Ladro ganache hot chocolates

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Auction Rooms - love the venue, love the food

Auction Rooms (website)
103-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne (map)
Open Tues - Sun, 7am (8am weekends) - 4pm
9326 7749

Auction Rooms interior

Disclaimer: One of the owners of Auction Rooms, Andrew Kelly, is an acquaintance of mine met through mutual friends. The fact that I know Andrew in no way influenced my conclusion that Auction Rooms is an awesome venue that everyone should frequent!

It was a dreary and overcast day and I was meeting G, new to Melbourne after moving from Adelaide, for lunch. Our venue of choice was Auction Rooms, a cafe which opened in North Melbourne just six weeks ago.

Auction Rooms exterior

Frequenters of Errol Street may recognise the building (as the name suggests, for years it was an actual auction house). As you can see just from the facade, a lot of love and hard work has gone into transforming the site, starting with opening it up to allow tons of natural light in. Looking forward to visiting again on a dazzlingly sunny day... :)

Auction Rooms interior

An entire wall has been replaced by glass panes, which look out onto a little back courtyard with artfully distressed brickwork. I just love the light fittings and the high ceilings - despite the swooping proportions of the interior, it retains a very cosy and friendly atmosphere.

Auction Rooms interior

The sprinkles of Art Nouveau-like leadlighting throughout the place (see the strip along the front window) put me in mind of Six Degrees-designed Melbourne bars like Three Below and Public House... so I asked Andrew whether or not this leadlighting was Six Degrees' signature leadlighting - it was! :)

Andrew and the coffee machine

Andrew taking a quick break from manning the coffee machine (more gorgeous leadlighting visible in the background).

Auction Rooms coffee roaster

Andrew has worked in the coffee industry for years, so it's no surprise that the cafe will be doubling as a roastery! The coffee roaster gets its own write-up in the menu: In the coming weeks this beauty of a machine (a 1950s/60s 'burner into drum' model made in Bologna) will again be fired up after its journey down from Italy. Stay tuned for specialty coffee beans roasted sympathetically to origin and served to you fresh.

Auction Rooms yummy mummies

Okay, so being the design junkie that I am, I was already sold on the aesthetics front alone. But the food - THE FOOD!

In addition to the breakfasty-brunchy items on the menu, there are a couple of savoury dishes with a distinctly Japanese bent (miso, eggplant salad, Japanese beef stew). A few of the breakfast dishes have cute names that draw attention to the name of the place (Opening Bid, Counter Bid etc).

Counter bid

G and I shared two dishes. This is the Counter Bid, the vegetarian cooked breakfast ($13). Toasted (Dench Bakers) sourdough topped with blended beetroot and ricotta, baby spinach and poached organic free range eggs - finished with dukkah and marinated artichoke on the side. SO delicious - the eggs were still gloriously golden and gooey on the inside, and together with the beetroot and dukkah... inspired.

Chorizo open sanga

The other dish was the Chorizo Open Sanga ($13) - pan-fried chorizo with roasted red capsicum, mushroom paste and apple sauce on toasted sourdough with fresh rocket salad. Again, a really interesting combination of flavours - the earthy mushroom paste and chorizo were beautifully balanced by the slight tang/sweetness of the apple and capsicum. The vinaigrette on the rocket had a lovely subtle lemony flavour.

Flourless orange cake and brownie

We then shared a slice of flourless orange cake and a brownie. The cake was the moistest orange cake I've ever tasted, and brownie was rich but light, if that makes any sense. The coffees were of course excellent, and it may interest you to know that a wide range of Larsen & Thompson teas are on offer.

I popped in to Auction Rooms again this morning, cos I wanted to show it to best-friend-K. At 11:45am the place was going gangbusters, with Manu Chao only faintly audible over the hubbub. B-f-K went for the Counter Bid, and I went for Auction Rooms' signature dish, the Sweet and Savoury ($14). My God!

Sweet and savoury

French toast using house made brioche accompanied by pan-fried banana, bacon and berries. This is my new favourite breakfast - the banana, bacon and berries combination tastes AMAZING together with the soft sweet brioche. You gotta try it!

Auction Rooms interiorAuction Rooms interior

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Vino (and okay, maybe just a FEW dishes) at Bar Lourinha

Bar Lourinhã
37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (map)
9663 7890

It had been a bitch of a day and I couldn't help but think "My God, WHITHER the daily office grind... I require a glass of red wine posthaste ERE I DIE". Luckily, best-friend-K was feeling exactly the same way so we decided to meet up after work for a snifter 'o wine.

Bar Lourinha

She was up at the Parliament end of the city so we selected Bar Lourinhã as our venue. For a Wednesday night the joint was jumping, but we managed to find a place on the sofa at the front. I selected a glass of Portuguese Meandro Do Vale Meão Tinta Roriz, whereas b-f-K went Italian with a Sangiovese by La Spinetta. Just a glass of wine, we told ourselves - we ought to head home straight away afterwards to cook our respective dinners.

But quelle surprise, with every sip that tapas menu was looking increasingly alluring. Surely just having a bit of tapas doesn't REALLY count cos it can double as a mere entrée (in the non-American sense of the word) to our home-cooked meals, right?

Yellow tail kingfish pancetta & lemon oil

We shared the famous yellow tail kingfish pancetta and lemon oil. It was $15 and tasted freaking lovely - the generous drizzle of lemon oil over the fresh fish, lemon thyme and spanish onion was the magic ingredient. We then shared a dish of roasted morcilla, red pepper and free range egg, just because it sounded so interesting. Also $15, the morcilla had a fantastic texture - juicy, soft but not crumbly - and tasted great with the eggy roasted pepper. It took all of our self control to stop at two dishes! :)

Roasted morcilla, red pepper and free range egg

Monday, 19 May 2008

Cherry Tree Hotel: no muss, no fuss dinner at my local

Cherry Tree Hotel
53 Balmain Street, Cremorne (map)
9428 5743

I just LOVE living in Cremorne, Melbourne. "Cremorne, Melbourne? But isn't Cremorne in Sydney?", I hear some of you say. Since DJ and I moved in together last year, we've had to explain the location of our suburb many a time. DJ (bless his pedantic legal cotton socks!) even penned a tongue-in-cheek facebook note on the subject, entitled "A response to my interlocutors re Cremorne":

Cremorne was indeed excised from Richmond on 21 May 1998 (kudos to you, A!) by the Place Names Committee on the recommendation of the City of Yarra (see Government Gazette G20, page 1139, where Cremorne is referred to as a "suburb").

I do acknowledge that Cremorne shares the same postcode as Richmond (as do the Burnley and Burnley North delivery areas). However, I do not believe that this is determinative of the question. Australia Post's Policy on the Assignment of Postcodes reads: "The decision as to whether a new postcode or an existing postcode is to be allocated to a locality is based on operational efficiency." Indeed, it would have been particularly inefficient for Cremorne to be given a new postcode upon its excision as (a) its population is, admittedly, tiny (1396 residents: see ABS Census 2006), and (b) the Australia Post Richmond Delivery Centre actually falls within Cremorne's boundaries, and significant inconvenience/confusion would undoubtedly have been caused if an entire delivery centre had to be allocated a new postcode.

Anyway, anyone who refers to it as Richmond South doesn't get an invite to my housewarming.

So yes, pedantic poseurs that we are, we do love our Cremorne address. And yes, we LOVE having The Cherry Tree as our local.

Cherry Tree Hotel

Take the other night, for example. I'd been working late in the office and returned home tired and cranky at 9:20pm, only to open my fridge and pantry and find to my dismay that they contained nothing even vaguely appetising - I couldn't stomach the idea of pasta with tomato and tinned tuna (that old standby from student days) and the only other alternative was going to be a Thai red curry containing spring onions, tinned pineapple and a sad-looking capsicum. DJ had already eaten, I didn't fancy trekking back up to Swan St, and neither of us had cash on hand for a pizza delivery.

But then DJ had the brilliant idea of phoning up the Cherry Tree to see if their kitchen was still open - it was just about to close, but they happily took my order (100 day grain fed Angus minute steak with salad and fries, $12.50) over the phone. After a bit of coaxing, DJ agreed to join me for a glass of red and we trotted down to the pub, where my minute steak was promptly served before me! How can you NOT love a local that does that for you?! :)

Cherry Tree minute steak

The minute steak at the Cherry Tree is perfectly respectable pub grub, and the other fare I've tried there has always been reliably good. DJ and I tend to eat from the front bar menu, but there's also a slightly fancier bistro out the back. The pub always has a great selection of beers on tap from microbreweries (eg Matilda Bay, Coldstream Brewery and local favourite Mountain Goat). And on quiet weeknights, there's always some great old movie playing silently on the TV screen - I've seen both Rear Window and To Catch a Thief playing there, and the other night Sunset Blvd. was screening. Awesome.

Cherry Tree bar

My ONE gripe with the Cherry Tree is that they stubbornly insist on being closed on Sundays, the day of the week I am MOST likely to be NOT running around like a headless chook, and both able and keen to while away the afternoon somewhere cosy with a glass or two of vino or a few cheeky pints...

Cherry Tree interior

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

King / Bourke Quest Part 18: Sette Bello

Sette Bello
Corner Hardware Lane and Lt Bourke Street, Melbourne (map)
no phone yet!

Sette Bello exterior

My fabulous housemate DJ emailed to alert me to a new candidate in my Quest to find great lunch spots within an easy walking distance of the King and Bourke Street intersection: Settebello"A King/Bourke lunchtime recommendation for you: Sette Bello on the north-eastern corner of Little Bourke and Hardware. Kind of like a more homely Brunetti in the CBD. Yummy pizza by the slice, cute pastries for dessert, very good coffee, delightfully kitsch decor, lots of natural light."

Sette Bello! What a great name for an Italian cafe. The settebello (pictured right) is the ultimate trump card in Scopa, my favourite Italian card game. In addition to the card's other strategic advantages, you automatically get a bonus point for playing the settebello (and, if you're playing with my brother and me, you also get a bonus point for playing the Fante di Spade card (the Jack of Swords) purely on the strength of his awesome "I have come to clean ze pool" moustache - sadly the internet is unable to provide me with a picture of the Jack of Porn for your viewing pleasure)...

Sette Bello interior

But I digress. Sette Bello has only been open for a week; it doesn't yet have outside signage, business cards or a phone. The fitout and decor is pleasingly retro-futuristic: gleaming black wall tiles, marble tabletops and opulent light fittings sit alongside wicker chairs and a wood veneer communal table that reminds me of my Nonna and Nonno's 1970s kitchen prior to the 1990s renovations.

Sette Bello pastries
Sette Bello counter

Just the other day I'd been lamenting that there was nowhere in my neck of the woods doing decent pizza al taglio (unless you count Ortigia, but they only do two kinds per day and I'm not wild about them), and then lo and behold Sette Bello arrived on the scene! As you can see, in addition to a variety of pizze there are focacce, soup, arancini and a range of yummy Italian pastries on offer.

Sette Bello pizza al taglio

I went there for lunch yesterday with C and A. Both C and I went for a piece of the Pancetta Pizza ($7.90 - other slices were cheaper), which included olives, ricotta and spinach. Very good - my only quibble being that the spinach looked and tasted suspiciously like frozen spinach.. if so, I hope they switch to sauteeing up fresh spinach in the future (but as they've only just opened I'll give them the benefit of the doubt).

Sette Bello soup of the day

A had the soup of the day ($7.90) - potato and leek, served with slices of toasted focaccia - and gave it the thumbs up. I rounded off the meal with an Italian-style brioche with crema and slices of apple, which was excellent. I'd already had my daily coffee, but C had a coffee and reported back that it was strong and tasted authentically Italian. I predict great things for Sette Bello! :)

Sette Bello apple and crema brioche

Monday, 12 May 2008

Multiple wagyugasms at Jamon Sushi

Jamon Sushi
3 Murphy St, South Yarra (map)

Eye fillet sashimi

The other week I went along to the bloggers' dinner organised by Ed from the blog Tomato at Jamon Sushi in South Yarra. The dinner was a 5 hour no-holds-barred wagyupalooza, which has already been well-documented by Neil at the blog At My Table, so like Cin I'll take the short cut and just post my "food porn" photos with a few descriptions. Needless to say, the dinner was absolutely SENSATIONAL and I really really want to go back to Jamon Sushi soon to try Charles' fishy menu, which changes each day depending on what fish is available - if you're interested in dining there (and I highly recommend that you do) you can check in advance what's fresh and will be on the menu by clicking here.

Jamon Wagyu wine list

Charles organised a great little wine list for our dinner - we opened all of the bottles on the list and shared them between us.

Oyster mushrooms

Beautiful clump of oyster mushrooms (looking a little like something from outer space)...

Preparing wagyu rollsSlicin' up wagyu
Slicin' up wagyuSlicin' up wagyu
Scotch fillet rollsScotch fillet rolls

The wagyu beef in question was Sher Wagyu and was rated 9+. The restaurant is a sashimi bar, and I was perched on a stool watching Charles prepare the entire meal directly in front of me. We watched him trim and slice raw scotch fillet to make up sushi rolls and wagyu sashimi, which was outrageously soft and melt-in-the-mouth.

Charles at Jamon Sushi

Charles Greenfield, our maestro of the evening. Read what Ed wrote about him in The Australian here. Charles certainly doesn't brook nonsense when it comes to impertinent questions from bloggers, but when you got him talking about why he cooks, his face lights up and his eyes shine with his passion for sharing good food with others.

Scotch fillet sashimi

The scotch fillet sashimi. Charles took care to show us different cuts of meat prepared in similar ways, so that we could aprpeciate the differences between them. The scotch fillet sashimi was followed by eye fillet sashimi (photo at the top of this post) which tasted a little more 'butch' and was partnered with asparagus and sansho pepper from the slopes of Mt Fuji. Charles makes his own marvellous sweet soy sauce.

Seared wagyuSeared wagyu

As Thanh observed, the wagyu was seared in a turbo-charged version of the humble sandwich press, at 300 degrees celcius. I loved the sliced zucchini and eringi mushrooms mixed with the juices from the meat.

Dashi broth

I'm not usually that big a fan of broths, but this shabu shabu - made I believe with a pickled enoki mushroom dashi base - just blew me away. Mellie and I both asked for seconds of the broth on its own!

200g wagyu steak

200 gram wagyu steak wrapped in kitchen paper (note the extensive marbling of the fat) which Charles passed around for us to smell and weigh in our hands.

Slicing off squid wingsSquid
Preparing a wagyu rollJapan by way of Spain
Squid wrapped wagyu roll

One of the quirkier dishes - Japanese by way of Spain - consisted of Charles stuffing a wagyu rice roll into a tube of squid for a memorable (and eye-catching)world first.

Shredded squid salad

The leftover wings of the squid were shredded and made into a spicy salad featuring my old favourite: glistening, iridescent, burst-on-your-tongue roe. Two varieties.

Jamon Sushi with anime projected on wallJamon Sushi

Anime was projected on the wall facing the sashimi bar throughout the night.

Seared wagyu

This cut was porterhouse, seared and served with brussel sprouts (which I actually enjoyed, for once!) and daikon.

Soba noodle saladSpinach soba noodle salad
Spinach soba noodle salad

The final dish was a salad of spinach soba noodles with more awesome pickled enoki mushrooms and pickled ginger, kelp and of course a tender heart of wagyu fillet. To finish off the meal and aid the digestion, we munched on some slices of nashi pear drizzled with lime juice. Perfection!

Jamon Sushi