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A food hub for practically all dishes Vietnamese (among other cuisines), Footscray is in no shortage of restaurants that are renowned for their phos, com tams and/or banh mis (Vietnamese noodle soup, broken rice and bread rolls). Competition is fierce but there is a handful of restaurants that stand out as clear winners in the war for customers. In the banh mi category, it’s Nhu Lan that steals the spotlight, with their banh mis bringing all the customers to their yard! Be sure to mind the feisty Asian mamas with their shopping trolleys, particularly around lunch time!
The super cosy bakery not only prepares made-to-order banh mi baguette rolls but also sells various plain bread rolls, an assortment of Western baked goods (including croissants, jam tarts and cookies) as well as Asian ones such as durian/red bean cakes, banh baos (steamed buns) and cream-filled chiffon sponges.
Moving on to the banh mis.
Selection of banh mi fillings. There is also a heated bain-marie section with grilled/BBQ fillings.
As with most other Asian bakeries, there is no sitting room and all orders are take-away.
The mixed ham roll is a classic combination that comprises a selection of sliced cold meats. The remainder of the filling is no different to other bread rolls (unless you specifically ask for the exclusion of particular items from your order) and includes a piece of cucumber, pickled carrots+turnips, coriander, chilli, and a spread of pâté +mayo. For those of you who are big fans of this devilishly tasty spread, you can order a bread roll with ONLY the pâté and mayo! As for the bread: expect much crunch and a mess of crumbs. Vietnamese bread rolls are by far the crunchiest breads I have encountered (when done right) and the rolls at Nhu Lan are no exception.
BBQ chicken roll.
The fried shallots and the gentle sweetness from the glaze on the grilled tender pieces of chicken results in a flavour boost that can make the cold meat combo seem ordinary.
Great news for vegetarians: there’s a tofu option available. But meat lovers will also enjoy this flavoursome tofu roll. Well I do anyway! Taking cues from susper and her vegetarian ways, I decided to try the tofu option one day and have since continued to order it. The creamy mayo works perfectly with the tofu sauce and results in an intense flavour pairing that actually trumps all the other bread rolls I have tried to date.
If you’re looking for a super cheap ($4 per roll) and super fast meal that doesn’t skimp on taste, be sure to check out the banh mis at Nhu Lan. And if you’re not in the mood for a roll, their flaky pork puffs are also quite tasty.
116 Hopkins St,
Footscray, Victoria, 3011.
(03) 9689 7296
For close to what may have been a year, mentions of one day visiting Breakfast Thieves, located in one of Melbourne’s more popular brunch hotspots, were frequently made by thehouseofem. A Saturday morning tutoring cancellation coinciding with a free spot in thehouseofem’s schedule meant that we were finally able to pay the Collingwood eatery a visit.
As I walked towards the factory-like facade, my mind immediately went to images of various converted warehouse and the ‘oh so Melbourne’ look. Not surprisingly, the real deal wasn’t far off from what I had expected. Converted warehouse interior, tick. Low hanging lightbulbs, tick. Neutral and wooden tones, natural lighting, fresh plants etc etc, tick, tick, tick.
Green tea and latte.
The Leprechaun - Crisp sweet corn & basil spiced fritters, on homemade baked beans, and served with a side of smashed avocado toast & poached eggs.
*Note. The Leprechaun dish that is on their current menu is slightly different.
Corn fritters are popping up on breakfast menus all around town and the Breakfast Thieves dish up a version that I would confidently count as one of the best I’ve tasted so far. The batter was perfectly thin and crisp, and did not come across as overwhelmingly heavy. In fact, the overall dish was surprisingly light for something that possessed a fried element. While the corn fritters were tasty on their own, the lemony avocado and sweet relish proved to be the perfect companion for the juicy bursts of sweetness from the corn kernels.
The Legend - spicy baked eggs with Spanish chorizo, roasted mushroom, green peas, spiced tomato ragout and goats’ feta, served with herbed garlic toast.
With chorizo sausages, spices, olives AND feta included in the ingredients list, I knew that baked eggs were going to be jam-packed with flavour. What I didn’t expect was the large serving size and what appeared to be too little bread. However, there was no need to call the bread police as the dish had the correct balance of flavours after all. The eggs helped counter the strong and aromatic tomato-based stew, as did the occasional encounters with the contrasting and salty feta.
The butter, herbs and subtle hint of garlic added great flavour to the bread, although these were lost as soon as the bread made contact the baked eggs. Tough to cut into (I soon gave up on using a knife and fork), the bread provided a delightful crunch (once you managed to sink your teeth into it) to round off a very enjoyable dish.
“One should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast.”
As you have probably gathered, we visited Breakfast Thieves late last year before the forecasted doom and gloom set for the 23rd of December. Had the world actually ended, we would have indeed gone out with not just a good breakfast but a killer tasty one. And hey, among the many pluses that come from getting past Dooms Day is the opportunity to return to Breakfast Thieves again!
420 Gore St
Fitzroy, Victoria, 3065.
(03) 9416 4884
Fans of the very popular and often filled to capacity modern Asian restaurant Red Spice Road were in for a treat when plans to open a second venue were announced. The addition to the original McKillop St location opened at QV late last year and a visit took place soon after during Laiwah’s return to Melbourne. A table for four for dinner (woah, that was a mouthful) on a Friday evening was surprisingly easy to book on a Friday afternoon. Having said that, make a booking early to avoid disappointments!
*Note: we dined at the restaurant a while ago and some of the dishes we had ordered may no longer be available.
Not all that surprising to see, Red Spice Road junior also featured a trendy and sleek interior design. One key distinguishing feature between the two venues was the abundance of natural lighting in the QV branch thanks to the floor-to-ceiling glass window panels.
Green Asian - Freshly muddled kiwi fruit, shaken with apple juice and a hint of coconut.
Pear ciders for laiwah, thehouseofem and boontog. I had enjoyed the Green Asian mocktail during my previous visit to the McKillop St venue and decided to order it again. It was just as refreshing and tasty the second time around.
We ordered four mains and rice to share between the four of us.
Pork belly - with apple slaw, chilli caramel & black vinegar.
The pork belly was another familiar dish and essentially tasted just as it had during our first visit. The mint presence in the apple slaw was stronger than what I had remembered but I enjoyed the added freshness, which also helped to counter the sweet flavours from the pork belly.
Boontog: “The pork was belly good.”
Beef cheeks - with mushrooms, crunchy bean shoot salad, and spicy broth.
Boontog: “Hannibal Lector says the cheek of any animal is the best part.” To which the others responded with “if anyone knows their meat, it’s Hannibal Lector!” (Gotta love the hilarious quotes from Boontog!)
The beef cheeks proved to be an excellent cut of meat indeed: super tender and while the beefiness was quite rich, it was not too overpowering. The beef was spicy but it was the sauce that packed the real wallop. The accompanying mint, coriander and bean shoot salad provided little relief and I relied on spoonfuls of rice to alleviate some of the spiciness.
Crispy chicken - with snow peas and corn.
When they say the word ‘crispy’, they truly mean it. Sporting tender flesh and a crispy flaky skin, the chicken was undoubtably the star of the dish amongst a bed of standard-tasting ingredients. Encounters with coriander and spring onion provided aromatic bursts of flavour that complemented the chicken and the light soy-based sauce. A drizzle of the sauce spruced up the rice, adding great flavour.
Crispy fried tofu - with mushrooms, bamboo, wombok and green onion, in a masterstock.
Much like the Japanese agedashi tofu dish, Red Spice Road’s crispy fried tofu similarly possessed a thin and delicate layer of batter that melted away as soon as it made contact with the mouth. The interior was quite smooth and soft but not as silky as I had anticipated. The mushroom flavour paired well with the tofu and its earthy flavour was noticeable in the sour+umami sauce.
While there may have been a change in the venue and its location, our dining experience at QV has clearly demonstrated that the quality, value for money (portion sizes remained generous) and tastiness of the Red Spice Road spread has not been compromised.
Red Spice Road, QV
31-37 Artemis Lane,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 8660 6300
So little time and too many restaurants to visit. Such was the first world problem faced during Laiwah’s brief two week return to Melbourne. Among her long list of restaurants to eat at were a few brunch restaurants located on the other side of town (relative to our homes in the western and northern suburbs) but due to timing, we could only fit in a visit to one of these restaurants.
We decided to head to Armadale one morning and tick off Coin Laundry from the list.
The interior is a familiar sight that typically graces the breakfast/brunch scene in Melbourne: an exposed bricked wall, low-hanging globes and the abundance of creamy, neutral tones enhanced by natural lighting. Coin Laundry brings their own quirky touch to the standard formula with the addition of elements such a linen-covered ceiling and miniature cut outs of hung washing that tie in with a laundry setting.
Green tea and chai latte.
French omelette - with fresh herbs, onion, roasted pepper, spinach and tasty cheese, served on brioche.
Already feeling hungry well before we had even stepped foot into the restaurant, my eyes feasted appreciatively on the glorious sight of this beastly omelette as it was set down on our table. Cooked perfectly, the exterior sported a crispy fried texture while the non-fried side remained soft and fluffy. The omelette ingredients provided much oomph in flavour: blended in throughout the omelette were herbed feta pieces. The flavour combinations were kicked up a notch further when encounters with capsicum and onion provided a biting sweetness. In contrast to what I would say was one of the tastiest omelettes I have tried to date, the noticeably dry texture from the brioche was disappointing (although the top half was passable thanks to condensation from the warm omelette).
Sweet corn fritters - with avocado puree, feta and chicory dressed with creme fraiche.
Laiwah’s pick was equally as tasty as the omelette but being the lighter dish out of the two options we had ordered, the corn fritters could be enjoyed for a longer period. There’s only so much egg you can eat! Juicy bursts of sweetness in the corn kernels that made up the lightly panfried fritters were combined with subtle peppery and cumin-like spice. The lightness from the dish came from the fresh ingredients served with the fritters: zesty lemon juice, aromatic coriander and a mix of salty feta balanced out with avocado.
While I have visited more than my fair share of Melbourne’s great brunch restaurants, Coin Laundry easily stands out as one of my favourites. Great company aside, the tasty omelette and tastier corn fritters were definitely worth the 40 minute drive to the East side.
61 Armadale St,
Armadale, Victoria, 3143.
(03) 9500 1888
In close proximity to the area and feeling peckish after our steamed egg custard buns and pandan chiffon cake baking efforts, we decided to head to Springvale for their annual Lunar New Year celebrations. Thoughts of nem nuong instantly came to mind and had me salivating.
However after spending a good 10 minutes looking for a parking spot and another 15 weaving through and being pushed by what felt like the entire Asian population of Melbourne, we decided to throw in the towel and dine at a nearby restaurant instead. Choosing to do so before others had caught on, we managed to secure a table for four at Pho Hoang. We had arrived at a good time because the restaurant was completely full within 20 minutes.
The interior looked very similar to other Vietnamese restaurants I have previously visited and had I not known where we were, I could’ve sworn up and down that we were in Footscray or Richmond…
Aside from the occasional picture depicting some sort of landscape or scenery, the interior was quite basic. Minus the frills, we had high hopes for the food.
It’s safe to assume that when the word ‘pho’ features in the name of the restaurant, the Vietnamese rice noodle dish is a must-order. And that we did, with the other three ladies ordering variations of the pho dish. Going by the nonexistent complaints and the satisfaction of pho cravings, they were happy with their dishes.
Egg noodles with wontons.
And me? I’m not the biggest pho fan to begin with, so I decided to go in a different direction (but not really) and order the wonton noodles. The MSG-laden soup was quite sweet and salty, and while the familiar taste was pleasant at first, it soon became too much for my taste buds.
Like the serving portions at this restaurant, the wontons themselves were also quite generously-sized. The silky and soft wonton skins were a plus but the mince and mushroom filling tasted too ‘sweet’ for my liking. Together with the soup, the dish was one big MSG overdose. After flicking off much of the soup, the egg noodles, lettuce and bean shoots were fortunately alright to eat.
While this encounter has not deterred me from ordering wonton noodles again if I were to revisit this restaurant in future, I may just opt for the pho option to be safe.
36 Buckingham Ave,
Springvale, Victoria, 3171.
(03) 9558 4064
And just like that, the half way mark of March has passed, bringing with it the end of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Among the abundance of events held during the 17 day-long festival was the super popular Crawl ‘n’ Bite event. In the time span of just 2 hours, this event provides you with a taste from three of Melbourne’s top restaurants, and is always one of the first events to sell out. This year, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on three tickets to the Bar Lourinhã-Longrain-San Telmo 8.30-10.30pm Crawl ‘n’ Bite session. We only called a few hours after ticket sales had commenced and already, the entire earlier 6.00-8.00pm session had sold out!
First stop: Bar Lourinhã.
Joined by Dr. V and Mr. Mechatronics, we had promptly arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes before the start of the session. A few others had already arrived so we didn’t look too much like eager beavers. The remaining participants slowly started to trickle in and a group of over 20 or 30 people soon formed. Only then did the extent of the event’s popularity dawn on us.
We were soon lead to the upstairs dining area of Bar Lourinhã, which looked quite spacious given the openness of the room. I originally thought that we would be seated, but this way made more sense, allowing the otherwise cosy restaurant to accommodate for such a large group of people.
We were immediately served a fruity and minty Rosette cocktail. The sour tanginess of the cocktail hit quite close to preserved citrus fruits but the overall flavour tasted somewhat dilute. The drink’s red colouring came from the presence of watermelon and we found some chilled scoops of watermelon at the bottom of the glasses. The alcohol taste was much more pronounced in the watermelon pieces and together with the chilled texture, the balls reminded me of a watermelon+vodka slurpee. It was a refreshing start to the night and if the drink was any indication to go by, the food served at Bar Lourinhã was going to be one heck of a tasty treat.
Coffin Bay oysters with a chardonnay vinaigrette.
The oysters were perhaps on the teeny side but its creamy texture was spot on. I wasn’t able to detect the chardonnay component of the vinaigrette but thought the sweet pickled onions provided a pleasant contrast that complemented the freshness and creaminess of the oyster.
Yellow tail kingfish pancetta & lemon oil.
I must confess that octopus scares my palate more so than fish does but I decided to give the skewer a try anyway. The octopus was quite chewy and the strong but out-of-place sour and spicy flavours from the pickled gherkins and chilli did nothing to improve the dish.
The perfectly-salted kingfish pancetta (cured and sliced like pancetta but with kingfish instead of pork) was served on top of a crunchy and thin piece of crouton toast. To my surprise and delight, there was absolutely no fishy taste. The drizzle of lemon sauce and aioli added a sweet tang that paired well with the kingfish.
Smoked cod croquetta, with garlic aioli.
The texture of the exterior was not as crumbed or crisp like the typical croquette and was instead similar to say, the exterior of potato wedges. The salted cod filling was very airy and fluffy. One fish bone was encountered. The sparing use of aioli did not overwhelm the croquetta.
We thoroughly enjoyed many of Bar Lourinhã’s tastings and were surprised but pleased by the generous number of ‘dishes’ we had tasted. It was an excellent start to the evening and had definitely set the bar quite high for the remaining restaurants.
37 Little Collins St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9663 7890
Next stop: Longrain
We encountered one of the other C’n’B groups whilst en route to Longrain and this again highlighted the popularity of the event. Never had I seen so many people in an alleyway before…
Having experienced the Thai delights on offer at Longrain during a previous restaurant visit, I was looking forward to a dose of chilli to spice up the night!
We were each provided with a tasting plate that was comprised of three bite-sized samples.
Betel leaf, Chiang Mai sausage, roasted pepper relish & banana blossom.
The pork sausage was very tender and possessed a sweetness that balanced out with a fiery dose of spice. The crispy fried eschalots provided a crunch while the distinct betel leaf flavour helped to further break up the spiciness of the dish. You could say that the ingredients were working in perfect harmony with one another (yep, I’ve been watching way too much MKR).
Chargrilled beef, roasted eschalots & Thai basil.
If I thought the composition of the pork sausage was tender, then the word ‘tender’ was redefined when I tasted the perfectly-cooked and succulent piece of beef. The glaze and the relish gave the dish much sweetness and came across equally as potent as the lemongrass but underneath all of that was subtle, yet detectable, chargrilled flavour.
Crisp pork belly, seared scallop & XO sauce.
Unexpectedly, we also received an additional morsel - coconut sorbet ice cream. I don’t usually love coconut but the super creamy texture of the coconut sorbet was very enjoyable and something that I would happily order again. The flavours from the sorbet were further enhanced by the salty savouriness of the crispy and thin sesame wafer cone.
No different to (and perhaps beyond) what I had expected, Longrain certainly delivered when it came down to taste (and spice!), meeting that bar set by Bar Lourinhã. Given the delicious and authentic Thai flavours we had sampled, one bite was simply not enough. The samples teased our palates and left us with cravings that can only be cured by a proper visit to Longrain!
44 Little Bourke St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9671 3151
Final stop: San Telmo.
In the presence of good food and company, time seemed to pass by quicker than usual and before we knew it, the time to visit San Telmo, the final restaurant for the night, had come.
The wine was certainly plentiful…
We had noticed a meaty, BBQ aroma wafting through the restaurant as soon as we stepped foot into the restaurant. While it smelt sensational, I was personally hoping for some dessert. However, the meaty aroma continued to get stronger and stronger until finally… we noticed that there was a waitress standing right behind our table carrying a tray of our meaty sample dishes. Drats!
Their Argentinian-inspired menu prides itself on the charcoal-grilled meat selections and we were therefore served an assortment of meats that probably represented some of the best on offer at San Telmo:
Chorizo - pork and paprika sausage.
While the textures and flavours of each meat was quite distinct, the drizzle of oil and parsley that covered the selections added a common flavour that worked well with each meat. There was, however, perhaps a little too much oil on my tasting plate. Covered in oil and with the strong salty flavour permeating throughout the chorizo sausage, my arteries felt a little distressed after even the tiniest bite.
Morcilla - spiced black sausage.
Possibly thanks to the oil and herb that paired well with the slight spiciness from the black sausage, the iron taste was virtually non-existent. Aside from knowing what it was based on its dark colour, the slight springy texture of the black sausage would have given it away.
Mellejas - Lamb sweetbreads.
Unknowingly biting into the sweetbreads, Dr. V. and I thought they were pieces of super soft and fatty chicken. I found this texture to be quite odd, so I decided to check in with a waitress and asked her what it was. Only then did we find out… I’m glad I found out afterwards because had I known what it was, I would have had a tough time convincing myself to eat it. After trying it though, I’m not sure if sweetbreads would be something that I would order again at any restaurant in future.
While Mr. Mechatronics didn’t mind the meat tasting plate, it wasn’t Dr. V’s or my cup of tea. The three of us did however agree that the smaller serving size of the tasting plate, especially compared to what we had been served at the other restaurants, was disappointing and ended our night on a slightly lower note. Having said that, a brief look through San Telmo’s menu has revealed that there is actually quite a selection of dishes that I would like to try, and a return visit has been penned into my to-do list.
14 Meyers Place,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9650 5525
Once upon a lab lunch when fellow lab members and I paid Trunk Diner a visit, we had noticed quite a crowd gathered outside Miss Chu waiting for a table. My curiosity piqued, the restaurant was placed on my growing to-visit list. It sat on this list for a while but Susper and I finally managed to squeeze in a visit.
We arrived at around 6.30pm and to our relief, there were a few tables that were still vacant. This was not the case 30 minutes later and the restaurant just seemed to get busier as the night progressed.
The cosy space possessed a lively atmosphere, and funky decor items were plentiful. Their glowing SHUTTLECOCK lights outside the restaurant were noticeable from afar and lured in dining patrons like moths to a light. The funkiness did not stop at the restaurant’s exterior, with items like crate seats and hanging teapots being some of the key components that added to the creative styling of the interior.
Very convenient for both take-away and dine-in options. It also means you can take your time with the menu and not feel pressured by a waiter/waitress who would otherwise keep checking up on you.
Free range egg omelette, avocado & balsamic caramelised onion rice paper roll.
The egg and avocado combination was not something that either of us had heard of before and its uniqueness caught our attention, compelling us to order it. The egg flavour was very subtle and the soft fluffiness of the omelette blended in with the butter-like texture of the avocado. The mint came across quite strong but worked well with the equally strong flavours from the sweet hoisin+sweet chilli sauce. These stronger elements provided much taste to boost the milder flavours from the egg+avocado.
Tiger prawn & green mango rice paper roll.
As with the egg+avo rice paper roll, the key players in the roll were also the mint and sauce. Unlike the other roll however, the prawn and mango flavours were more prominent; the light batter on the prawns provided a gentle crunch while the lingering sourness of the green mango complemented the punchy mint.
Asian vegetables with garlic chives steamed dumplings.
The chewy and gelatinous texture of the translucent dumpling skins was quite distinct but the dumpling filling was otherwise standard. I enjoyed the spiciness but not so much the sourness of the accompanying thick sauce.
Prawn & crab net spring rolls.
Referred to as the ‘Queen of Rice Paper Rolls’, Miss Chu is renown for her… you guessed it, rice paper rolls! But perhaps her title should be changed to ‘Queen of the Spring Rolls’. While the flavours and ingredients of the rice paper rolls were enjoyable, it was the spring rolls that stole the show. The filling was comprised of tender shreds of crab and prawn. Freshly cooked, the net-like batter was crispy and delicate, and its taste reminded me of crumbled prawn crackers. Served like traditional Vietnamese spring rolls, the lettuce added a refreshing ingredient to the balance out with the fried-ness while the sauce tied the two elements together.
Peking duck pancake.
As we had discovered on this occasion: the one thing that makes Peking duck even better is a lightly-fried and crispy pancake!
Vegan sautéed shitake, enoki & shimeji mushrooms salad.
The rice vermicelli salad was quite light and just the thing to order on a warmer day or if you’re someone who was looking for a lighter meal (provided that you don’t go overboard like us and order an additional 5 dishes!). Fans of mushrooms will be pleased with the assortment of tender mushrooms in this dish. The light flavours were spruced up by the dried shallots and light soy sauce in the noodles.
Dessert of the Day - Tapioca pudding with mango.
We almost skipped out on dessert given how full we were feeling at this point but decided to share a ‘Dessert of the Day’. Fortunately for both our stomaches and our taste buds, this mysterious dessert turned out to be a fairly light coconut-y tapioca suspension that was rich with mango flavour throughout. Since it was served in a wine glass, the dessert could probably have been drank straight from the glass!
After just one encounter with the rice paper rolls and spring rolls served at Miss Chu, it wasn’t hard to see why the restaurant commands such a crowd. Although charging an arm and a foot more than the prices you would typically pay for the equivalent back in areas like Springvale or Footscray, they can get away with it thanks to Miss Chu’s modern and tasty take on traditional Vietnamese dishes, the quality of the ingredients used and the wonderful dining ambience supplied by restaurant environment.
297 Exhibition St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9077 1097
The SHROOM burger VS. the Raph burger.
After first trying the Raph burger, a 170g hunk of flavoursome beef patty wedged between two soft burger buns and the freshest of veggie ingredients, a return visit to Beatbox Kitchen for their apparently-tastier Shroom burger has been in the books for quite some time.
With an available slot in our schedules one Monday night, Susper and I hightailed it over to Victoria St in Brunswick. The popular Shroom burger had sold out the last time we had visited and we were determined to get our hands/mouths on the burger this time around. As we approached the truck, our eyes were fixated on the side of the truck keeping an eye out for that ‘sold out’ sign… To our relief and joy, there was no sign!
We immediately placed our order for two Shroom burgers and waited 10 minutes for our food. The truck was located right next to the park and we were able to take advantage of the great location and sunshiny weather by eating outdoors at the park instead of Susper’s car. A shorter walk to the park compared to the mini trek to Susper’s car also meant that we could eat much sooner!
What’s in the bag, in the bag? What’s in the bag today?
Shroom burgers, that’s what! And fries.
Fries and tango mayo.
I had waited a long time for this moment, picturing the taste and that first bite pan out in so many different ways. The risk of disappointment was certainly there given the hype and consequently, my great expectations but from first bite to last, the Shroom burger was far from disappointing. Similar to the Raph burger, the ingredients oozed of freshness and quality. The bite from the red onions and the sweetness of the tomato, nestled amongst the crisp lettuce, melded well with the earthy and rich flavours of the portobello mushroom. The mushroom was super juicy and tender, and resulted in a soggy mess at the bottom of the foil packaging. Chances are you’ll be eating fast anyway given the tastiness of the burger but minimising the sogginess of the bun is another reason to do so.
As for whether the Shroom burger beats the Raph burger in this battle showdown for top burger bragging rights? It’s hard to say… It’s been too long since my last (and first) Raph burger to make a definite conclusion. Oh well, I suppose this calls for yet another visit to Beatbox Kitchen!
(03) 8060 6664
The food truck culture seems to be expanding quite a bit in Melbourne, with some new trucks hitting the scene in recent times. My food truck encounters so far have taken me to the inner-northern and inner-southern areas but never the western suburbs. That is until White Guy Cooks Thai came along. Meow meow, who is also a fellow west-sider (that’s my queue to do that funny W sign with my fingers), first mentioned driving by the truck in the Footscray area a few months earlier and it has since been put on my to-visit list.
Its location in Seddon one Friday night provided J and I with the opportune moment to pay the truck a visit.
While we weren’t surprised by the long queues (you get them with all the other food trucks, ESPECIALLY on a fine day), our rumbling tummies weren’t too happy.
Parked right next to the park at this particular location, most customers were happy to take their orders here for an impromptu picnic. The thought had crossed our minds, but J was more tempted by the Korean movie he had waiting for him at home.
After a 25-minute wait for the food, which I thought was actually quite quick compared to some of the waits I had previously endured, we headed back to J’s place. There were a few near-misses but the food made it back to J’s place without any mishaps
and I avoided a scolding that would have transpired had there been a spillage.
The food looked sensational. One look sent my stomach into a rumbling mess but photos first!
Chicken and water chestnut gyoza - with soy and lime dipping sauce.
The good news here is that the gyozas tasted every bit as crunchy as they had looked. Crunchhhhhhhhh. A deep-fried perfection, the dish featured thin gyoza skins that possessed an airy sort of crispiness. The well-minced chicken filling was quite sweet and a pleasant contrast to the skin in regards to both taste and texture. A spicier kick to the accompanying sweet soy dipping sauce wouldn’t have gone amiss but otherwise, no complaints.
Crispy prawn banh mi slider & Pork belly banh mi slider.
I’m a sucker for most things mini and will always order a banh mi slider whenever encountered on a menu. Unable to choose between the pork and the prawn, we decided to order both.
The batter on the prawns was quite sparse and thin, and consequently did not taste too heavy. The batter was slightly salted but its flavour was immediately lost in the presence of the other ingredients in the banh mi. The creamy mayo (CREAMIER than what you normally encounter in Vietnamese bread rolls) and the freshness of the coleslaw stood out as the stars of the show.
The potent sweet and spicy flavours in the pork belly more than made up for the blandness of the prawns. They worked very well with the creamy mayo. The pork belly was sliced up quite thinly and the thinness made the pork even more crispier. An additional crispy element came in the form of the Asian coleslaw salad. The pork belly easily trumped the prawn and I now know which option I will be going with next time around!
Crunchy sweet corn fritters - with avocado cucumber relish and chilli jam, served with rice and Asian coleslaw.
The aroma that wafted from the fritters was sensational and I had high hopes even before I had sunk my teeth into them. The real deal fell a little short. The curry-like spice used in the fritter was quite distinct and tasted somewhat bitter, but the sweeter corn kernels and relish helped to restore some balance between the flavours. The zest and what I thought was a lemongrass taste in the avocado cucumber salad added oomph and a refreshing zing to the overall dish. They weren’t the best corn fritters I have tried to date but they definitely weren’t bad, especially after taking into account the fact that they had been whipped up in a food truck!
Garlic and black pepper soft shell crab - served with green papaya salad and Asian coleslaw.
Given how tasty the entrees were, it was slightly disappointing to encounter yet another so-so main dish. The garlic and pepper combination revealed a different but still equally-as-tasty side to soft shell crab. The batter itself wasn’t as delicate or textured as it should have been and consequently brought down the dish.
As you have probably gathered by now, these white guys (yep, they were white!) cook more than just Thai food, serving up a variety of dishes from a number of Asian countries. But I suppose ‘White Guy Cooks Asian’ doesn’t have quite the same ring. With our dinner providing us with some hits and minor misses, a menu that changes quite frequently and close proximity to our end of town, we will be seeing the White Guy again some day soon.
White Guy Cooks Thai
0423 214 290
During the last week of February, I had noticed quite a few photos of people’s sushi train-eating efforts crop up frequently on my facebook newsfeed. These photos were always accompanied by the location tag ‘Sushi Hotaru’. Further investigation revealed that the popular Sydney restaurant had recently opened in Melbourne and as part of a special grand opening deal, the majority of plates were going for… TWO DOLLARS. Sorry folks, the deal ended on Feb 28th. BUT the plates are normally THREE DOLLARS anyway, which is still quite cheap.
Given my busy schedule that lessened to some extent on the 27th Feb with my last oral presentation, the only time I could fit in a visit was on the 28th. Being the last day for which the $2 deal was still valid, it was possibly the WORST day to pay a visit. I had rushed over after work and arriving at approximately 5.45pm, I was greeted with a huge crowd outside the restaurant. They had instigated a system where they assigned diners with a number. Getting a number itself involved a queue and another 5 minutes had passed before I actually got my hands on a number. I was soon joined by thehouseofem and Fred.
Unlucky number 3 (yellow). We had at least another 90 groups before us. Based on previous reviews, I was under the impression that we’d be waiting for two hours top. Call it wishful thinking or call it stupidity (I’m personally going with the latter), we stuck around for two hours… and longer.
This mini lolly bag was our saviour!
At 8pm, we should have thrown in the towel but thought surely not much longer. By 9pm, we were slumped against the wall and perhaps a little delirious from hunger. Aside from when a staff member walked out to call out numbers, in which case our ears would perk up, our minds were tuning out everything else. We had serious thoughts of leaving but there wasn’t much point since we had already come so far. And finally, after FOUR hours of waiting, we found ourselves seated, with 40 minutes to eat before closing time. EVERYTHING looked sensational and it wasn’t too long before our table area ended up covered in plates.
Like most other sushi train restaurants, there was a circulating ‘conveyer belt’. But we were surprised and delighted to see that there was also a touchscreen order system. Technology!
Onto the food… (prepare for an onslaught of photos)
Teriyaki chicken roll.
Standard but since it was the first thing we ate, it tasted AMAZING.
Tuna and corn salad.
Again, nothing special. A rich creamy mayo mixed through some cooked tuna, with a few corn kernels on top.
Salmon avocado roll.
Given my recent jump onto the salmon bandwagon, I enjoyed the freshness of the salmon.
Tuna and spicy tuna.
While my taste buds enjoy the taste of salmon, the same can’t be said about tuna yet. Personally, I preferred the spicy tuna since the subtle kick from the creamy spicy mayo helped to mask the taste of the tuna.
Dishes served on a gold coloured plate were the only exception to the $2 plate rule. Given the freshness and quality of the sashimi, forking out $7.90 for these dishes was well-worth it.
Prepared using a… BLOW TOUCH!
The pastry seemed more airy and light compared to other deep fried wontons I have encountered but the filling was spot on.
Soft shell crab handroll.
We dug into our hand rolls at the same time and a simultaneous mmmmm could be heard almost immediately. The batter was tender and delicate, and the perfect ratio to the crab meat ensured that that batter did not overpower the crab itself. The mayo provided a subtle spicy kick that complimented the slightly salty flavour and fried texture of the crab. What made this dish even more perfect was the generous serving of crab. A must-order dish.
Jellyfish and vermicelli noodles.
I’ve had jellyfish before but only just realised what it was since mum had always said it was a type of seaweed. The soft crunchy texture and the slight spicy flavour of the jelly fish blended through with the thin vermicelli noodles worked very well in sushi form.
Wagyu beef tataki.
Going by the tastiness that oozes out of the above photos, a description is probably not necessary. But I’m gonna do it anyway. The texture of the beef was extremely soft and tender. While I probably would have preferred a sweet sauce, the toppings that replace the sweet sauce still worked well in Sushi Hotaru’s version. The red and spring onions provided a sharp kick that brought out the natural sweet flavours from the beef.
Agedashi tofu, with soft shell crab.
More soft shell crab = win! The agedashi tofu was soft on the inside and soggy-crisp on the outside. Despite being good tofu, the soft shell crab ended up stealing the show.
Sweet chilli chicken.
All sweet and no spice. The addition of mayo further added to the strong sweet presence in this dish.
Served freshly cooked and piping hot, the crumbed texture on the prawn was by far the most crunchiest I have encountered yet.
Green tea ice cream.
Our efforts. I thought we’d end up eating more given how hungry the three of us had felt…
A stark contrast to the earlier crowds, it was odd to see the corridor so empty at the conclusion of the meal.
It could have been due to our ridiculously high level of hunger, although not likely given the raving reviews, but the food was amongst the best I have encountered in any sushi train restaurant and Japanese restaurant to date. And dare I say it, the soft shell crab alone may have even made the entire four hour wait worth it. Not that I would want to wait four hours again but I will definitely be returning to Sushi Hotaru for that crab and more!
Midcity Arcade, Shop 118
200 Bourke St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9663 7538
Presented by Spanish Donuts
Saturday 16th February, 4-5pm
First there was the Shanghai Shu Mai masterclass. Next came the Sour Orange Curry & Crisp Spiced Rice Salad masterclass. This was next followed by a 45-minute shopping spree to kill time before I found myself back for the final masterclass of the day: Churros and Tempting Toppings.
I would like to thank Chadstone - The Fashion Capital once again for the wonderful opportunity to attend the following masterclass.
It was quite a kids-friendly class: no cooking, minimal hands-on preparations (filling, dipping and decorating churros etc.) and plenty of churros to chow down on. Being the last class of the day, it was a perfect and laid-back way to end the day.
Originating from Spain, the churro is essentially Spain’s version of a donut: a deep-fried, elongated pastry that is normally paired with a chocolate dipping sauce. Plenty of churro franchises have cropped up around Melbourne in recent years and has seen an assortment of new toppings+pairings emerge. Of course, the traditional churro+chocolate combo still works a treat. As the name of the class suggests, we spent the class experimenting with different churro toppings.
The Icing & Cinnamon.
Basic glaze: Combine icing sugar with water and then cover the churro in the glaze.
Next sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar and put the churros in the fridge for at least 5 minutes before eating.
Chocolate covered churros.
The first few individuals dunked half of their churros. Then along came one daring individual who decided to dunk their entire churro… and from that point, everyone else wisely decided to follow suit.
An assortment of churro decorations.
The Apple Cinnamon and The Custard.
Fat churros, made big by the hollowed centre.
The centres were filled with either a warm apple cinnamon sauce or creamy custard sauce.
The Creme Brulee.
The best was saved for last: salted caramel cream smeared onto a churro half, cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top, one hot flame and viola… the creme brulee in churro form!
My attempt at the creme brulee churro.
While you could spend the whole class eating churros, the task was quite a difficult feat for someone who can’t stomach that much sweet in one sitting. Fortunately, there was a take-home option. Unfortunate for me, they disappeared almost soon after thanks to some sneaky siblings (sharing is caring I guess). So while I had no churros to eat other than the two I had eaten during the class, I didn’t end up completely empty-handed. The class left me with some great ideas and one big urge to make some churros at home.
Featuring a diverse range of classes, the Chadstone Masterclass series provide a fantastic opportunity to learn the ins and outs of particular dishes from some of the best experts in the food industry. So be sure to keep an eye out for the next series; I know I will be!
Most pubs I have encountered in Melbourne will serve up a decent pot and parma but if there’s one place that can probably be relied on to do it time and time again, it’s Mrs Parma’s. The chefs are well versed in what they describe as ‘The Art of Parmology’, dishing up several variations of the chicken schnitzel+napoli sauce+cheese combo. And since their motto is ‘hand crafted beers for hand crafted parmas’, it’s probably safe to assume that Mrs Parma also knows the art of Beerology…
Quite fittingly, the interior of the venue is decked out in wooden tones and furniture that make it look just like a pub. The carpeted area and seating upholstery reminded me of a motel or old hotel setting. Dr M and I arrived at about 12.30pm for lunch and so it was quite odd to see so much natural lighting and so little noise.
Caution to those with smaller appetites/great news for those who love to eat: THEIR PORTIONS ARE HUGE! 230g chicken schnitzel…
Unaware of this, Dr M and I ordered a parma each and struggled to finish our meals.
Mushroom parma - with baked field mushrooms with oregano.
It was from my first bite that I realised the whole Art of Parmology thing was NOT A JOKE. Toppings aside, the chicken breast was tender and coated in a crispy crumbed shell. The ratio of meat to crumb was perfect and to my taste bud’s surprised delight, the parma was by the far the least dry I had encountered yet.
The oregano flavour was potent throughout the cheesy topping and the familiar earthy flavours of the firm+juicy mushrooms, though foreign in this setting (I had never before encountered them in a parma) were a welcome variation.
Mexican parma - with tomato salsa, sour cream, guacamole and jalapenos.
Think nachos. Take out the soggy nacho chips and throw in a schnitzel base instead. While we did get the same ‘messy’ appearance we get with nachos as we ate our way through the dish, our fingers were saved from getting dirty at least. You can use a knife and fork on a parma, but it’s quite tricky to do with a shared plate of nachos!
Accompaniments for two: a crisp salad with tangy dressing and quality chips.
While the serving sizes for the parmas were HUGE, I thought the sides were quite puny. At first anyway. Turns out they were perfectly sized. Perhaps even too big. Given the ginormous parma, Dr M and I didn’t even come close to finishing our chips. The chips were quite good (crunchy crisp on the outside, soft and tender inside) but didn’t leave any lasting memories. We were able to finish a little more of the salad, since we needed some freshness to help balance out with all the fried and cheesy goodness from the parma and chips.
One of the best ‘keep calm and…’ signs I’ve seen…
To all parma fans out there or if you’re harbouring a hankering for some chicken parma, the great taste, not to mention the assortment of topping that provides the Mrs Parma touch to each schnitzel, will not disappoint. And though I walked away all parma’d out and with absolutely no thoughts of touching a parma any time soon, I will return to Mrs Parma once those cravings for a parma come back…
25 Little Bourke St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9639 2269
Presented by Martin Boetz (Longrain)
Saturday 16th February, 2-3pm
Following on from my previous post detailing the Shanghai Shu Mai masterclass held as part of the ‘Masterclasses at the Capital’ series, this post recaps what is arguably the most anticipated class from the three-day schedule. Opening first in Sydney and then Melbourne, Longrain is well known amongst Melburnians and Sydney-siders who possess a penchant for fine dining and Thai cuisine. The flavours in the sour orange curry taught in this class are typical of the dishes served at Longrain, providing a taste of Southern Thailand.
I would like to thank Chadstone - The Fashion Capital once again for the wonderful opportunity to attend the following masterclass.
Executive chef Martin Boetz and sous chef Ben Wallace.
With years of experience, Martin Boetz has emerged as one of the top chefs in the restaurant industry. The dishes I had tried at Longrain, Melbourne on a previous occasion reflected his understanding of Thai flavours - true, authentic Thai flavours, dished up using the best of Australian ingredients and with a Boetz twist.
Snippets from the one-hour class.
1 cup eschalots
1/3 cup garlic
1/2 cup dried shrimp
1 cup dried chillies
3/4 cup tamarind
8 - 10 prawns
2 snake beans
6 pieces of baby corn, sliced length way
4 betel leaves, shredded
500mL fish or chicken stock
50mL fish sauce
3 tablespoon curry paste (prepared in this recipe)
6 lime leaves
1/2 stalk lemongrass, bruised
The Curry Paste
1. In two separate bowls, soak the dried red chillies and shrimp in warm water for 20 minutes. Remove the water.
2. Blend the garlic, eschalots and dried shrimp until a smooth paste is formed.
3. Add the chilli and tamarind, and continue to blend until a smooth consistency is attained.
4. Bring the stock to the boil and then add the curry paste. Allow the contents to simmer for 2-3 minutes.
*Note. Instead of discarding the heads of the prawns, they can be broken open and the juice can then be used to add more flavour to the curry.
5. Add the lime leaves and lemongrass.
6. Season with fish sauce, sugar and tamarind.
*Note. It should taste sour, salty and sweet.
7. Continue simmering and add the prawns, shredded betel leaves and vegetables.
8. After the vegetables have been added, place a lid on the pot and allow the curry to simmer for a further 3 minutes. Remove the lid, taste the curry and re-season if required.
9. Spoon the curry into a serving bowl and serve with rice.
The curries were also served with a crisp spiced rice salad with pork, peanuts, ginger and mint but due to time constraints, the salad was prepped as a demonstration and the recipe for this salad can be accessed here.
(Prepped by Martin Boetz, Longrain)
1.5kg cooked rice, cold
290g red curry paste
20g lime leaf, julienned
2L cooking oil
300g minced pork
60g crushed peanuts
50g ginger, julienned
10g mint leaves
5g coriander leaves
5g green shallot rounds
100mL fresh lime juice
20mL fish sauce
10g palm sugar
The Rice Cakes.
1. Thoroughly combine the cold cooked rice, eggs, red curry paste and lime leaf.
2. Roll the mixture into balls (approximate size shown above) and refridgerate for at least 2 hours.
3. Heat the cooking oil to a temperature between 160 and 180 C, using a cooking thermometer to check the temperature.
4. Fry the rice cakes until golden and crisp (approximately 6-8 minutes). Set aside on a paper towel to allow the excess oil to absorb.
5. Using a frying pan, stir fry the pork mince with a little oil. Set the mince aside and allow it to cool.
6. In a bowl, combine crushed peanuts, ginger, mint, coriander leaves and green shallow rounds. Once cooled, at the minced pork to the salad.
7. In a separate bowl, mix the lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar to prepare the salad dressing. Add the dressing to the salad and toss to combine.
8. To serve: Break the rice cakes into smaller pieces and add these to the bottom of the serving plate. Add the salad on top.
*This salad was prepared as a demonstration by Martin Boetz as part of his Masterclass that took place at Chadstone on February 16th 2013, and was paired with a sour orange curry of prawns & shredded betel leaves (recipe accessible here).
Presented by David Zhou (Oriental Teahouse/David’s)
Saturday 16th February, 12-1pm
Every so often, the fashion capital of Victoria (otherwise more widely known as Chadstone Shopping Centre) temporarily takes on the title of fashion AND food capital when it hosts a series of hands-on cooking demonstrations. Taught by experts and renown chefs in the food industry, these classes teach you how to whip up a variety of dishes: from soft shell crab po’boys to shu mai dumplings. The cost of each class ranges from $10 to $20, with all proceeds supporting a wonderful charity called Streat.
Hailing from the westside and with my go-to major shopping centre being Highpoint, I was not aware of the masterclasses held at Chadstone until I received a email invite from the lovely folks at Chadstone. I would like to thank Chadstone - The Fashion Capital for the wonderful opportunity to observe and partake in a few of the masterclasses.
The following post sums up the Shanghai Shu Mai masterclass and also includes a recipe for the dumplings.
The Masterclass arena, situated outside Zara and Diana Ferrari on the lower level.
Several classes were held over a period of three days.
A heads up for the next Masterclass series: be sure to make a booking early to avoid disappointment because these classes sell out fast!
I haven’t met many chefs, but David is definitely one of the most charismatic and friendly chefs I have had the privilege to meet yet! When I hear the words ‘Asian chef’, my mind conjures up an image of a cranky and always-in-a-rush chef who barks orders around the kitchen. But David was nothing like that… not even close! His smiley and humorous nature was infectious and his passion for dumplings and Asian cuisine clearly showed. He spent a good 2 minutes talking about rice and even managed to squeeze in a small lecture on the medicinal properties of ginger. We learnt more than just cooking!
(Makes 60 dumplings)
4 to 6 dried shiitake/black mushrooms
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
500g minced pork
3 chinese sausage
2 cups cooked glutinous rice (at room temperature)
100g small dried shrimps
1 pack siu mai wrappers
1/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed and with no shell
Optional: cabbage leaves to place under the shu mai
1. Cook the rice according to the instructions given on the packet.
2. Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl filled with warm water, ensuring that the mushrooms are completely covered. Soak for approximately 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft. Drain the water.
3. Remove the mushroom stems and chop the mushrooms finely.
4. Do the same for the chinese sausages, dicing them into small pieces.
5. Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add the oil and swirl around to coat the sides of the wok.
6. Add the minced pork, chinese sausage, dry shrimp and mushroom. Stir fry the ingredients until the pork is crumbly and cooked through (approximately 2 minutes).
7. Add the rice, soy sauces, sesame oil and sugar. Stir to combine and cook until heated through (approximately 1 minute). Remove the wok from the heat and set aside to cool.
*When preparing the dumplings, ensure that the dumpling wrappers are covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
8. Take a wrapper and place one tablespoon of the dumpling filling onto the centre of the wrapper.
9. Gather up the sides that surround the filling, squeeze the sides at the half way point, and gently twist to form a ‘waist’, leaving the dumpling open at the top.
10. Place an edamame bean onto the top of the dumpling.
*Note. keep the prepared dumplings covered with a damp cloth while preparing the remaining dumplings.
Steam the dumplings:
11. Add water to a wok, reaching a depth of approximately 2 inches, and bring to the boil.
12. Line the inside of a bamboo steamer with cabbage leaves or parchment paper. Place the dumplings into the steamer and then set this over the water (steamer should not touch water). For optimal results, leave enough space between the dumplings so that adjacent dumplings do not touch.
*A piece of wood can be used to prop the steamer up and away from the water.
13. Steam the dumplings until the wrapper is cooked and tender (approximately 3-4 minutes).
14. Serve with chilli paste and soy sauce to taste.
David Zhou with his finished product. He picked it up almost soon after it had come off the steamer, which next resulted in an “OUCH! HOT!”
I was quite surprised to find that the textures from the rice and mince combined together seamlessly. The blend of the aromatic and well-flavoured mince+rice (I was already salivating whilst the filling was being cooked on the wok) was given a further flavour boost by the chinese sausage, mushrooms and crunchy pieces of shrimp, making each bite (or mouthful if you can fit in a whole dumpling in one go) an explosion of the tasty Asian flavours. David’s version of the Shanghai Shu Mai takes the typical shu mai dumpling to the next level!