Wednesday 13 November 2013

From Red Spice Road to Burma Lane

Burma Lane
118 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (map)
9615 8500
Open Monday-Friday 12-3pm and 6pm-late, Saturday 6pm-late
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Urbanspoon

Burma Lane, Melbourne

With the just-opened Burma Lane, the Apples and Pears Entertainment Group promised a modern, Australian take on the best of Burmese cuisine, and it looks like they've delivered. Unlike the Group's other Red Spice Road restaurants, where the emphasis is on sharing large plates, here the menu is structured more in the Chin Chin mould, with several small bites, a few noodles, a few salads, and half a dozen bigger bites in which curries feature prominently. The drinks list includes a selection of lassis, and any cocktail list that includes a 'Margaret Pomeranz' (Tromba Blanco tequila, pomegranate liqueur and lemon juice, in case you were wondering) gets a thumbs up from me.

I wandered in for lunch yesterday and started with a hard-to-go-wrong kun sar thi ($4.50) betel leaf with shredded chicken, shallot, green mango and Sichuan pepper. And as it's virtually impossible at this time of year to not order broad beans when they're on a menu, I ordered a tasty little broad bean fritter with crunchy broad beans and spinach relish ($4.50).

Kun Sar Thi
Broad bean fritter

For the Kachin beef salad ($16), the beef is slow-cooked and then pounded in a mortar and pestle with the spices and herbs, which include sawtooth coriander, chilli and Sichuan pepper (the northernmost province of Burma, Kachin, shares a border with China). The pounding that the beef takes gives it a wonderfully tender texture, and the fresh herbs, onion and belachan gave it a big flavour punch. Highly recommended.

Kachin beef salad

The Little Collins St space that was Mahjong Black was a bit of a tricky site, at once shiny and gloomy. The new owners have lightened the place up, and will continue to tweak the interior over the next year. The main focal points are the Shepard Fairey street arty portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi that watches over the restaurant from above the stairs, and the bird cage chandeliers. The floor staff are skilled at explaining some of the more unfamiliar elements of chef Adam Trengrove's Burmese menu, and the restaurant seems to have all the elements in place that have made its Red Spice Road siblings successful.

Burma Lane, Melbourne

Thursday 7 November 2013

New openings this week, some special events and an article I wrote for The Guardian

Just because I haven't published a blog post for a while doesn't mean I haven't been beavering away behind the scenes here at Melbourne Gastronome. I've finally brought my New Melbourne Venues and Melbourne Venues Opening Soon pages up to date, after the distractions of a five week trip to the US and moving house and being without home internet (HURRY UP, iiNet/Telstra). I've written little snippets about all the places I know of that have opened in Melbourne since 1 July 2013, or are going to open soon. Which ones have I missed?

This week alone the newbies include Andy Bedford's Charlie's Restaurant that opened yesterday in the site that was Marmalade and Soul, and the Van Haandel's Trocadero reborn as Fatto Bar & Cantina, opening tonight. Next week it's South Side Huxtaburger and Gelato Messina - expect huge crowds at both. And I was interested to learn that Dylan Roberts (former sous at Cutler, last seen running the Claremont Tonic kitchen) is consulting on a restaurant soon to open a few doors down from Hanoi Hannah. For more details see here and here, and keep checking back for updates.

Pelmeni Kitchen
Marina at Pelmeni Kitchen
Uncle fish
Grilled snapper at Uncle
State of Grace, Melbourne
Rene Rezdepi at The Wheeler Centre Melbourne
René Redzepi talking 'bout brains at The Wheeler Centre

One page that I haven't got around to updating yet is the Melbourne pop-ups page, but I'll hopefully do so soon. In the meantime, here are some events worth noting:

- Good Food Month has kicked off - I attended the launch party last week and was impressed with Special Guest Star René Redzepi's candour in his speech about the meltdown he experienced over the pressures of going "from zero to hero" with Noma. He gave a great presentation the following night at The Wheeler Centre too. Browse the Good Food Month website for details of particular events: it runs until the end of November and there are over 300 events to choose from.

- As a fervent fan of the film CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman at their most smoking), I'm really looking forward to the Culinary Cinema movie matched dinner my gal BurgerMary is organising next week on the 14th with The Baron Said. If you're more of a Tarantino fan, they're doing a DEATH PROOF matched dinner on the 30th of November. Click for details.

- StreetSmart's DineSmart event runs from 11 November to 31 December 2013. I've been a fan of this initiative for years. Diners at participating restaurants are asked to make a small donation to StreetSmart on their bill ($2 or more), 100% of which goes to local grassroots charities supporting homelessness.

13956 SSA Dinesmart Blog Banner - Leaderboard

And for those of you who didn't already see me spruik it via social media, I wrote an article a few weeks ago for The Guardian on the Top 10 budget restaurants and cafes in Melbourne. What do you think of my list? I steered away from the obvious usual favourites like A1 Bakery, but the brief was to write about budget places in areas that are easily accessible by tourists. I decided budget meant all menu items are roughly <$20, and I tried to ensure the list had a mix of cuisines and old and new (though looking back on it now I wish the south side was better represented). Oh and to the guy who left a sarcastic comment about Thai slaw - it WAS som tam, you twonk.

Guardian article