Friday, 17 April 2009

Amnesty Fortnight: Part Two

This is part two of the twenty random places I wanted to initially cover during Amnesty Fortnight, my slapdash attempt to largely empty my drafts folder (part one is here). Like Jackie says, "do whatever it takes, just get the bloody things up so you/we can all move on".

Supper Inn
15 Celestial Avenue, Melbourne (map)
9663 4759

Supper Inn

One drunken and debauched night out with a big group of mates a few years ago, someone had the bright idea of taking us all to the Supper Club, but ended up leading us to the Supper Inn by mistake. Best Mistake Ever.

A Melbourne institution, the Supper Inn continues to dish up great Chinese food. When O brought me here, she insisted we try the steamed oysters with ginger and spring onion, and pork with chilli and sesame. The oysters in particular were sublime!

Steamed oysters with ginger and spring onionPork with chilli and sesame

Chocolate Buddha
Federation Square, Melbourne (map)
9654 5688

Chocolate Buddha

I was less enamoured on a recent visit to Chocolate Buddha one sticky February night with best-friend-K. In years past, Choc Buddha has always been a fairly safe reliable bet for grabbing a pre-theatre bite to eat, but lately the quality of the food seems to have taken a slide (what's with the fillet-o-fish tartare sauce served with the $23.50 Okonomi Barramundi Katsu?), and the service was downright lousy. Has anyone else been to Choc Buddha lately?

Okonomi barramundi katsu

398 Bridge Road, Richmond (map)
9428 2779


Orion is an unassuming little restaurant on Bridge Road that Mum and Dad reckon is their best local Indian. We took Buster there when he was last home from Italy, and he really relished tucking into the hottest vindaloo he could get his hands on. I hadn't really had mushrooms cooked Indian-style before, but those chilli mushrooms on their entree menu are a definite highlight.

Chilli mushroomsOrion interior

Tea House on Burke
911 Burke Road, Hawthorn East (map)
9882 9088

Tea House on Burke

I went to Tea House on Burke with the family in December - we were celebrating Birdie's VCE results. Tea House on Burke is another pricey but classy Chinese restaurant in the inner burbs which we are quite fond of.

Won ton soupStuffed garfish

Mum had the won ton soup because she was recovering from having her wisdom teeth out. The rest of us lurrrved the sinful stuffed garfish, the claypot prawns and the eye fillet in Szechuan sauce.

Claypot prawnsEye fillet beef in Szechuan sauce

Minh Minh
94 Victoria Street, Richmond (map)
9421 3802

Minh Minh

Minh Minh is housemate DJ's pick of the Victoria Street Vietnamese restaurants, but its menu also includes a great selection of Thai and Laotian dishes. Last time I went there I yummed up the Lab Nua, a spicy grilled beef salad cooked Lao style. Highly recommended.

Spring rollsLab Nua

Bistro Vue
430 Little Collins, Melbourne (map)
9691 3838

Bread and condimentsTarte a la tomate

I visited Bistro Vue for the first time a few weeks ago, for the $35 Espresso lunch during the Food and Wine Festival. I was pretty excited - I really love the lunchboxes and cocktail nights at Cafe Vue, and I continue to long for the day when some kindly soul will bestow a meal at Vue de Monde upon me - but I'm sorry to report that the Espresso lunch was a frost (sorry Miss T!).

Unlike previous Espresso lunches I've been to at other restaurants, there was only one entree, one main and one dessert to choose from. The tarte a la tomate was delicious (walking past the kitchen on the way in and seeing hundreds of them being mass-prepared kind of killed the romance, but that's the price you pay when you go for an Espresso lunch I guess). However, the Coq au Riesling was really disappointing: bland, dry and garnished with a few sad and watery button mushrooms and peeled cherry tomatoes, like the ones served in an in-flight cooked breakfast. The Bavarois a la vanille was rubbery and unexciting.

I'd like to give Bistro Vue another try, but I don't think I'm going to bother going along to any more Espresso lunches in the future - you just don't seem to get much value for money. I'm sure the food I had that day is in no way indicative of the kind of food I'd be served if I dined from their regular menu!

Coq au RieslingBavarois a la vanille

The Grand
333 Burnley Street, Richmond (map)
9429 2530

This little piggy...

I'd already dined in the fancy restaurant part of The Grand, but the other weekend I went to try out the pub menu with DJ, ex-office-buddy J, Miss C and J's mates. All of the boys were ravenous, having just completed the Run for the Kids.

The Grand

What was supposed to be a veal schnitzel with roasted capsicum and eggplant salad ($24) came out as grilled veal with a green salad. It was nice though. Miss C and DJ enjoyed the pan-fried Blue Eye served with roast potatoes and green beans ($24.50), and the other boys polished off the fish and chips ($18) and the beef and vegetable stew with creamy mash ($21). Nice pub food with a cosy atmosphere.

"Veal Schnitzel with roasted capsicum and eggplant salad"Pan-fried blue eye
Fish n chipsBeef and vegetable stew

Red Silks
1st floor, 200 Bourke Street, Melbourne (map)
9663 9922

Red Silks

I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: on a Friday night, there are few better places to drink with mates than out on the balcony at Red Silks. My colleague for the last two years and friend for the last ten years L just loves this place, and often entreats us to come along with him after work. The balcony, overlooking Bourke Street just opposite the Carlton Club, is HUGE, with retractable awnings to protect from rain and heaters for cold nights. We've whiled away many an hour here, drinking big silver cans of Sapporo beer ("silver bullets", we call them - not to be confused with the Coors Lite beer of the same name) served up by the fabulous over-the-top Jason. When we go there CD always drinks an alcoholic fizzy drink called Tsunami, which she swears tastes like those Nerds lollies.

Haianese ChickenSalt and pepper squid

Oh, and the food is cheap as chips. We often get their Haianese chicken rice, and the crispy tender salt and pepper squid.

Red Silks

Hu Tong
16 Market Lane, Melbourne (map)
9650 8128

Hu Tong

Dear Hu Tong,

Your $10.50 Xiao Long Bao are amazing, but why do you insist on making it so hard for me to love you?

Shao-long Bao

I've been to Hu Tong twice, on a Tuesday for lunch and on a Wednesday for dinner. Both times the place was busy but not full. On both occasions we had to wait for inordinate lengths of time for stuff we'd ordered: when we went for dinner, my eggplant hotpot came out 45 minutes after all the mains my friends had ordered had arrived, even though we'd all ordered at the same time...

Sauteed snow pea shoot in garlicEggplant in claypot with Szechuan sauce

...and when I went with O for lunch they brought out our (utterly delicious) wontons in chilli and XLBs very promptly, but never brought out the pan-fried dumplings we'd ordered (given that they looked so fabulous on mellie's blog). After waiting over 30 minutes for a plate of dumplings we asked our waitress. She was completely nonplussed, telling us without a hint of apology that they hadn't started making them yet, and that we could leave without having them if we'd prefer. I don't want to sound bitchy or petty, but the fact that this happened to us twice (and also to Sarah, from the sounds of her Hu Tong review) makes me reluctant to sing their praises.

Wontons in chilliNoodles with shredded pork and Shanghai pickles in soup

But who knows, perhaps you'll have better luck than I did with the service. And provided they actually make it to your table, the XLBs, sauteed snow pea shoots in garlic, eggplant in claypot, wontons in chilli and noodles with shredded pork and Shanghai pickles in soup are all delicious.

Hu TongHu Tong

The Press Club
72 Flinders Street, Melbourne (map)
9677 9677

Press Club BarPress Club Bar

Finally, had a sensational meal at the Press Club bar with S and his wonderful friend Q, who wrote me perhaps the funniest Melbourne Gastronome email I have ever received - I would dearly love to reprint it here but I promised her I wouldn't as the email includes vital details that her love interest would be able to identify her from, so we need to keep her subterfuge sub.

BBQ Haloumi, Peppered FigsFried Feta Filled Olives

Anyway, the dishes on the Press Club bar menu are every bit as wonderful as those served in the Press Club restaurant. We particularly enjoyed the BBQ haloumi with peppered figs ($9), the fried feta filled olives ($9), the grilled half shell scallops served with garlic skordalia ($12) and the Press Club open souvlaki in all its deconstructed deliciousness ($17.90).

Open Souvlaki

...and that makes 20 places! Sigh. More Amnesty Fortnight posts will follow over the weekend, but I promise they won't be this long... :)


Alexa said...

Mmmmm I love Minh minh and Super Inn (I'm a poor student lol, so haven't been to the other places)

I love super inn's congee with duck and the chinese goood! mind you, i've really only had it at 2am after a night out :)

I went to Chocolate Buddha a few years ago, it wasn't too bad...but if it's worse than that it's definitely not worth it.

Red silks sounds great, I might try it tonight!

bunchesmcginty said...

Oh, a dirty Asian food post.
Love it.
And choc-b...yes, serious downhill. Sadness, really.
Although, I find supper inn strange, the staff are so rude...mainly because I understand what they're saying when they're not smiling at you in engrish.

Barbarella said...

I went to Chocolate Buddah, also not impressed. I asked if I could have extra greens in my soup (it didnt have any apparently). One small piece of broccolli was charged on the bill as $4. Lesson learned - you get what you get or you pay!

claire said...

Hi Alexa! I *love* that you called Supper Inn 'Super Inn' ;-)
Did you try Red Silks tonight? If you didn't make sure you do there soon. If you like Chinese donuts I had a great stirfry there last week with beef, water chestnuts and donuts in a xo type sauce.

Yes, there was a lot of dirty Asian food in this post. I eat it often, but write it up rarely... glad to redress the balance.
I have a similar linguistic advantage with some dodgy fishmongers at Camberwell Market, only they didn't know I spoke Italian. I sure gave them a stern reprimand for the nasty things they'd been saying!

Hi Barbarella - ouch. $4 for a piece of broccoli is highway robbery!

Johanna GGG said...

an impressive clean out you are doing - my backlog is getting a little long too! wish I could spend some time at these eateries but not really going out much lately

re chocolate buddah - I have only been once years ago but never got over being served a 'tofu' soup with a great slab of chicken in it - everyone makes mistakes but the attitude with which they did it was what put me off returning

Rabbittrick said...

I rather like this one =)
Asian themed and then some.
More, more!

Jackie Middleton said...

oh I am so embarrassed by your gallant effort with Amnesty Week...Fortnight!

What an amazing back log of posts.

Haalo said...

The Espresso Lunches are just not worth it. I've noticed that in some places, this "special deal" is more expensive than the normal lunch time deal you can find. The normal food at Bistro Vue is definitely better than what you've experienced.

Barbarella said...

I'm with you on the Express Lunch - it feels like catering versions of normal menus - everything is very 'little'.. delicious, but worth it Im not sure!

claire said...

Hi Johanna! If you've got quite a backlog and haven't been eating out lately, maybe you should make a rule that you're not allowed to eat another meal out until after you've written x number of posts :)

Thanks, Rabbittrick! I've been on a bit of a roll, hope to write up Attica and a post on five Richmond venues while I sill have momentum...

Thanks Jack - there's no shame in making it Amnesty Fortnight rather than Amnesty Week... work commitments are entirely understandable!

Hi Haalo and Barbarella. Agreed with you both on the Espresso Lunches. While I've had the odd positive experience in the past, they do tend to be unrepresentative of what you'd normally be getting.

Johanna GGG said...

I have only one post on eating out - it is all the recipes I need to post in my backlog that are building up - I could make a rule that I only eat what I have made and posted before but it just isn't the way I cook!

@melbournefoodie said...

I had a similar experience with the service at Hu Tong. Pity, as the food was yummy.

estelle said...

Oh my God. I have been to HuTong just once -- amazing food -- but I ordered the XLB and they didn't come until after we had eaten everything else, os I asked her to cancel the order -- and she said 'sorry, they already started making them'. Right, when we were the last three people in the whole restaurant!!

J C said...

When I first started writing my review on HuTong I was worried that I was just being an overly sensitive foodbitch but after reading a lot of reviews it seems that I'm not that far off the mark.

HuTong is the kind of place where I would walk in, smell some nice food, feel my stomach rumbling with the anticipation of a decent meal (xiao long bao..mmm) and...upon meeting the wait staff there, feel like they have somehow managed to use their service to turn any food you might try into cardboard.

The waiters/waitresses there are rude and don't seem to care about the customers at all (from the pimply skinny dude, to the slightly chubbier fellow who seems to be the manager). Now this wouldn't be too bad normally, I mean you get bad wait staff everywhere BUT HuTong seems to have managed to singlehandedly train all their staff in what NOT to do in customer service, so much so that I have boycotted the place just because of this. Bad service = Bad Environment = Bad Food. (Bad taste in mouth without even eating is a bad start to a meal...)

Shame...maybe if enough of us protest they might get the idea...