Wednesday 23 May 2012

Fortnightly round-up (23 May): Melbourne Gastronome 5th birthday edition

Former milk bar detail

I'm afraid to report that life (and a trip to Sydney) got in the way over the past few weeks, so I decided to skip the previous scheduled fortnightly round-up and pick things up again this week. Today is the day Melbourne Gastronome turns five years old! I've jotted some fifth anniversary reflections at the end of this post.

Post-it note art mural

Who needs meat on the BBQ when the mushrooms taste so freaking good? Every Saturday, from about 9:30am until they sell out (generally around 2pm), Market Lane Prahran sells a mushroom burger to end all mushroom burgers. It was created by "Mr Barbecue" Bob Hart, costs $8 and comes with chipotle mayonnaise, Parmigiano-Reggiano 18, finely sliced salad onions, herb butter and a Damian Pike-sourced portobello mushroom in a Dench bun.

MushroooomMushroom burger

Speaking of delicious mushrooms, at a family dinner the other week we had a sensational wild mushroom ragu with wet polenta, mascarpone and thyme (adapted from an old Karen Martini recipe).

Wild mushroom ragu w wet polenta and mascarpone

Although L'atelier de Monsieur Truffe is best known for the chocolatier's sweet skills, it does a great sideline in savoury too. One of the brunch specials the other week was truffled eggs, potatoes and chives served in a jar (about $14, methinks). Dipping the toasted corners of bread into that gooey richness was a real treat.


And even more obscenely decadent is Truffe's tartine au chocolat ($7): slices of brioche topped with house-made chocolate chips and toasted so that the chips go all melty. Chocolate-wise, it's your choice between milk 38%, dark 52% or dark 70%, and of course it tastes best with a lil' pinch of the sea salt served alongside. If eating more than one piece defeats you (as it did me), ask one of the many attractive men who work there to box up the rest of it, then scoff it at home at 2am after a night of LuWow dancing.


Since my trip to Japan in January I've embarked on a (mostly fruitless) search for great ramen in Melbourne. It's a curious blind spot in Melbourne's otherwise shining culinary landscape, it grieves me to say (Sydney claims to do much better ramen - of course they do - and I've been meaning to check out Gumshara Ramen up there for ages). Ramen Ya, Menya and Ajisen have been variously recommended to me as dishing up Melbourne's best, but I find them all to be wildly inconsistent - usually falling short in the broth department. The most consistent place I've found in Melbourne is newcomer Kokoro Ramen and at $9, their lunch special is also cheaper than most. The noodles are handmade, the ajitama (flavoured soft boiled eggs) are delicious and you get to choose from four different stocks, all of which are MSG-free (but none of which are vegetarian): tonkotsu shio, tonkotsu shoyu, tonkotsu miso and Tokyo (pure chicken and seafood). After trying all four on four consecutive visits, using pork as a control substance, shio is my preferred stock.

Kokoro Ramen

But the Japanese cafe that's really swept me off my feet this month is Purple Peanuts, right down at the Southern Cross end of Collins Street. I seem to be the last food blogger in Melbourne to have heard about this spunky little cafe, but everything about it is just perfect. Dishes I've tried and loved so far are the tsuke don (sashimi marinated in sake, sesame and soy and served with a salad on vinegared rice, $10.90) and the char-grilled chicken kare don ($9.20, or pay an extra dollar and get it with brown rice).

Purple Peanuts
Tsuke donMiso
Bat-manga!Chicken kare don

And finally if it's high end Japanese you're wanting, I can strongly recommend the recently opened Akachochin, one of the suite of restaurants in the beautifully restored heritage cargo sheds at South Wharf Promenade, hugging the Yarra just past Jeff's Shed and the Polly Woodside. I attended as a guest, part of a journos and bloggers progressive dinner thing, and I'm going to head back there soon under my own steam so that I can properly explore the interesting menu by Head Chef Kengo Hiromatsu (previously Head Sushi Chef at Nobu). But even on this initial visit, the sashimi, hiramasa namerou (Japanese tartare with delicate rice crackers), stuffed chicken wing dumplings and seared wagyu with mushrooms all impressed.

Seared sashimiHiramasa Namerou
Chicken wing dumplingsSeared wagyu, king oyster mushroom

Links of Note:

- Last year I was one of the guest judges in the Sommeliers Australia 'Best Sommelier of Australia' grand final (noted in a previous fortnightly round-up). Last week Sydney's Franck Moreau from the Merivale Group and Melbourne's Mark Protheroe, head sommelier of the Grossi Group, travelled to South Korea for the Best Sommelier of Asia-Oceania Competition: read Somms Australia president Ben Edwards' write up of how they fared on The Wine Guide.

- Lauren from the Footscray Food Blog has found the best breakfast in Footscray (hint: it doesn't involve smashed avocado, poached eggs, pulled pork or ricotta hotcakes).

- From French for Foodies, a list of the best places in Paris for coffee and cheese.

- From yellowtrace: a cookbook you can read, bake AND eat as lasagne!

- A great list of Michelin starred restaurants in the UK, ordered by affordability of their set lunch menus.

- In the US, FTC guidelines on endorsements are getting more specific: the FTC can fine both the blogger and the company for not disclosing an arrangement where the company compensates the blogger for a review, positive mention, or sponsored post.

- It seems like old news now, but Stephanie Wood's article gave a neat summary of the Matt Moran "cash for tweet" brouhaha.

- Excellent article in the NYT on Craig Claiborne and the birth of modern restaurant criticism.

- The Big Fat Undertaking: one blogger's attempt to cook all the recipes in Heston Blumental's The Big Fat Duck Cookbook.


Poppy's 6th birthday

As the fifth anniversary of writing Melbourne Gastronome has rolled around, I've been thinking a lot about the evolving food blog landscape. Both of the food blogs I wrote about in my first post in 2007 and wished to emulate have long since stopped writing. Recent well-intentioned emails from fledgling food bloggers in their early 20s telling me that they've been reading Melbourne Gastronome since they were in high school make me feel ancient (even though I know some other blogs have been around even longer). When I started blogging in my corner of the internet half a decade ago, nobody had heard of Twitter, nobody used Facebook beyond their immediate friendship group, and no PR agency would ever DREAM of emailing a food blogger. Life events coupled with the inevitable ebb and flow of writing means that at times over the years my motivation to keep blogging has waned, but for now I'm keen to continue. There's just so much to write about in this great city of ours!

Anyway, to those of you still reading... I just wanted to say thank you for reading.


Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

That's so exciting to hear about a good ramen place in Melbourne. It is as you say a strange and gaping hole in the food situation there. I am a Sydney-sider and I enjoy the ramen here immensely - though not quite as much as Japan! Like you, on returning from a trip there, I had to hunt down the best ramen in Sydney. I think Ryo's noodles at Crow's Nest is the best... followed by Gumshara and Ichi-ban Boshi, and then Menya. Just so you know for next time!

Sneh | Cook Republic said...

And thank you for writing :-) Great work and to many more anniversaries!

shu shu said...

Congratulations! I've been reading your blog since moving to Melbourne 4 years ago and it has always been very helpful. Cheers!

p.s. I had that cake for my 4th birthday. Unfortunately my mother isn't quite the cake cooker and no one but the dog ate it.

gagwood said...

Ohh Kokoro ! I have been dying to try it and was momentarily put off by a bad review, but I'll have to hit it up soon. Your blog has been the source of so much foodspiration over the years both for me, and my boyfriend when he wants to take me out for my birthday. My most memorable birthday was when he booked into Tempura Hajime in the last week of Daisuke Miyamoto's reign. I couldn't believe how well researched he was.. until he let slip he looked up your blog because he knew it was my favourite.

Happy Anniversary :)

Blue Apocalypse said...

Happy 5th Birthday :)

Your blog is a great guide to eating in Melbourne and was a valuable resource for planning my recent trip to Melbourne. I am really enjoying your fortnightly round ups and links of note too.

I tried the ramen at Ramen Ya and Kokoro when I was in Melbourne and I liked the ramen noodles and broth at Ramen Ya more. But I found that the condiments - pork pieces and soft boiled egg better at Kokoro.


OohLookBel said...

Congratulations on 5 years of blogging. You are THE authority on Melbourne eats.

KittyMeow said...

Congrats on the five years! I started blogging around the same time and how things change!

I'm still reading and loving your blog. So many good recommendations have come from you and I trust your discerning taste in dining ;-)
So despite the current infrequency of your posts, its still a nice little corner of the internet to be in :-)

Hannah said...

Congratulations on 5 years, Claire! Yours was the first food blog I started reading regularly, and since then it has become my number one source for planning birthday dinners, figuring out where to go for weekend breakfasts and trying to decide where to eat dinner when wandering aimlessly through the city. Thanks for helping all of us navigate our fine city's culinary delights and being so generous and entertaining along the way x

Unknown said...

Such a great achievement Claire - congratulations on five fabulous years. I am a year behind you and yet feel ancient in the blogging world sometimes so I can only marvel at five years!

Paul said...

Congratulations on 5 years Claire. It's a huge achievement for a blog that is a hobby and requires a level of dedication that most can't sustain. A good chunk of what I know about the melbourne food scene can be traced back to here so thank you!

Johanna GGG said...

happy blogiversary - the blogging landscape does seem to have changed over the last 5 years but glad you are still going

becschep said...

Happy blog birthday, Claire! I always enjoy your insightful comments and the random information/history/background that often accompany your posts, somewhat in a similar style to Nigella Lawson's Feast book, which I love! Keep up the great work!

PS - I LOVE LOVE LOVE Purple Peanuts. I eat here whenever I am in that part of the city, and have been known to schedule meetings nearby at the lunching hour :)

CuriouslyCreating said...

Happy happy blogobirthday...I really really appreciate what you do, Melbourne is a blessed to have your writing :) Do you have any NYC restaurant tips or take guest posts?

Anonymous said...

Happy Blogging Anniversary! Please don't stop!
I was introduced to your blog a few years ago by my dear friend BurgerMary and even after moving to Mexico 2 years ago, I still enjoy your blog!
I am unable to taste the dishes from Melbourne's many new restaurants that have opened since I left nearly 3 years ago, but reading your descriptions of the flavours and drooling over the succulent pictures makes me feel like I'm back home.
I can't get many of the flavours you write about, but reading your blog makes me dream of tasting them!
I hope to be reading your blog in years to come, and coming home to Melbourne to try a lot of wonderful restaurants!