Saturday, December 18, 2010

Izakaya Den

Ok, I need to forewarn you that this blog is riddled with vague descriptions because I really can't remember the complicated names and stuff of what we ate. But I will try.

Oh and this experience had an INCIDENT. That's right boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, we had an INCIDENT at Izakaya Den.I shouldn't be this excited about writing about an "incident", but I am - shame shame shame!

Anyway, there were many many dishes so I will just list them out and talk about some of them briefly:

Firstly, the space is a fairly "open" style bar, much like the many many food bars around these days. It doesn't really feel super japanese, but what does that matter. It is a pretty cool space. We started with crumbed pork which comrpised of two pieces of pork and an onion. Pretty good, but nothing phenomenal - but I note that we were told the mustard when asked, was "japanese mustard".....yes, whatever the hell that means.

Next was seared tuna and karage. The karage was nice, and omg, the mayonnaise. Yes, the mayonnaise. Fat always tastes good - whereever you go.

Corn cakes and daikon salad. Corn didn't have the "oyster" as the name would suggest (so I was told) and was really...fried corn...with batter. It was doughy, sweet but with a clear savoury purpose - I wouldn't order it again. I's fried corn - would YOU order fried CORN again?! The daikon salad was just that - daikon salad..oh with sesame oil - and a lot of it.

THIS salad, my friends - we had an incident with. I am FORCING myself to not blog about it as it is really pretty bad, bad bad bad.. I am not that Lets just say we get it removed from the menu and got desserts for free. It really didn't stop us from finishing it off though....yes thats how much we care about our health and safety.

Dish of potato which had some sort of filling. Generally good, but again, quite pedestrian in terms of execution. The skewered duck on the other hand was more what I would expect from Izakaya Den, nice pieces of duck cooked the way I like it, fast and juicy.

Sakata prawns were bland. I know, sakata is meant to be bland. But shit, how come the prawn had no taste as well? The wagyu was also incredibly chewy. Really chewy. I had to swallow it just to stop myself from chewing it until tomorrow.

Head of a kingfish - freaky isn't it? Very strong salty layer but the meat was quite moist. an interesting dish and again, in the same vein as what I would expect from a place like Izakaya Den. The special fried "black rice". Well, I think the only thing special was because it was black (because it was just rice and egg). I mean, black rice is indeed special (given it is one of the superfoods with the amount of antioxidants and stuff) - so I'll give them that, but thats it - cause I doubt if the egg was free range (true free range that is, for all you ethical diners). Cynical much?

Dessert was a fondue with rice flour balls, or something "mochi". Chocolate...was good. Ginger brulee (on the right) and tofu mousse (on the right, back). Strident ginger flavour in the brulee, verging on being spicy. I didn't mind it, but only in small doses. The tofu mousse was pretty good, different to what you'd expect and quite difficult to describe. Would definitely recommend the mousse, and also the brulee if you're going to share.

Overall, Izakaya Den didn't hit the high notes you'd expect given all the hype that it has been able to generate. The space is indeed impressive, and so are the waiting times to get in. I would go once, but if you're looking for a major dose of good japanese, there are many many places in Melbourne that can deliver the same experience, less the "surprises", and Mamasita-like wait times.

Izakaya Den, Basement 114 Russel St, Melbourne

Izakaya Den on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cumulus Inc

Well, Cumulus Inc, another one of those restaurant, bar, sharefood type of places. The space is relatively open, with varying heights of seating. Interestingly, the open space is flooded with natural light, and given we're in Summer allows it to slowly dim with the setting sun. After a bit of a wait in the corner, with a drink, (maybe 30mins) we were given seats at the bar right next to the kitchen - which is my favourite type of seat!

It amazed (and still amazes) me how such a small space can pump out so much food and how mechanically exact a professional kitchen needs to run to keep up with the restaurant.

The food of course was excellent, with some dishes just making me wonder, WHY did I wait so long to eat this?

We started off with some smoked eel skewers. There was definitely no mistaking that it was smoked, as the small morsel screamed loud and clear in terms of intensity of flavour.


The dish of the night would definitely have to have been the soft shell crab. DAMN it was good. The mayo and chilli made it so much better. It was really THAT good. I'm salivating thinking about it right now. If you love soft shell crab, this has to be the place to have it. I have not had better soft shell crab - anywhere.

The dishes that were more substantial were perhaps not as exhilarating. Not to say they had 'faults' but they were nothing spectacular to write home about. We ummed and arred over whether or not to go for the WHOLE leg of lamb, but thought it was a bit much as it was massive, trust me, it was MASSIVE. Instead we opted for two smaller dishes. Starting with a whole flounder, which was nicely cooked but lacked the strong flavours of the last two smaller dishes.

Similarly, there was little to fault on the roasted veal rack, but it could have had more guts to it. Given how much I LOVE cauliflower and how I continually look for ways to prepare it , I was pleasantly surprised at the side. It was strong and packed a punch - just how it should be.

 The dessert menu wasn't extensive or intriguing, so we opted for the coconut custard with tropical fruits and a rum baba with aged rum. The coconut custard was very familiar to me, with what we used to make at home, but perhaps where something spectacular happened was when we started eating the rum baba and coconut custard at the same time. For a moment, we could've been in Cuba drinking cuban rum (given they gave us free reign over the rum.......we sort of...soaked the cake with it, yeh too much of a good thing...). The two desserts when eaten in tandem, matched so well together that I think Cumulus should change their dessert menu and make that one dish (albeit, a massive dish) simply because  I said so.

Cumulus Inc, 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grossi Florentino

I am so so lazy, so so lazy. I went to Grossi about 2 weeks ago and left pretty annoyed, but I've waited this long to rant. Perhaps for good reason as the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got, but I'm passed that crazy phase and now I can write with absolute clarity.

Indeed, the restaurant oozes opulence of a time gone by and the food, at times, reaches stratospheric highs. The ingredients speak for themselves, angel hair pasta with a generous serving of white truffle from Alba anyone?

But what was the biggest disappointment of the night was definitely the service. Lack lustre, on the cusp on arrogant. Yes arrogant. It was incredibly disappointing that as I was about to enter the restaurant I was greeted by a doorman who asked "Cellar Bar? This way this way". Before I even had a chance to understand what he was saying, and when I replied "No, I have reservations at the restaurant" I received a response of "Well I asked you if it was Cellar Bar!". I mean seriously - I had a shit day at work, so you really just pissed me off some more and maybe you should stop ushering me towards the Cellar Bar and SLOW THE HELL DOWN. More on the service later!

We ended up ordering the 5 course set menu was a good way to sample the food and my good friend was going to leave all civilised culture behind in a few weeks (yes Debbie, I went there).

Anyway, I digress - we started with the stock standard "gift from Guy", a potato soup. Thanks Guy. It was nice.

The first of our degustation was zucchini flowers with olives and some other rif raf (it's really hard to remember 2 weeks later!). However, the texture was fantastic, nice crunchy exterior with silky soft filling and flowers.

Next was the black rice risotto with moreton bay bugs, with a parmesan sabayon. I love black rice, I love risotto, I love bugs, and I love parmesan - so I knew we would be onto a winner. The risotto was perfectly textured, with a nice touch of the bugs being fried. The deep saltiness of the parmesan sabayon added a nice depth to the dish.

The dish of the night, the hero of the night, and perhaps one of the top dishes for me for the year, would have to be the "white truffle from Alba" dish. We had it with angel hair pasta and it was so SO worth it. This was not on the set menu and was a supplement which I repeat,  worth it.

Now back to the service, before I talk about the dish, given this was a $110 supplement, it was intensely disappointing that I firstly thought the truffle would be shaved onto an existing dish (like many many places do), instead it was a separate dish - which is fine too. However, I indicated I would like it on "the risotto". The waiter who was taking our order, which I note, must be one of the "special-i-only-take-orders waiters", neglected to explain this to us. For some, and reason (perhaps he asked when we wanted the dish - er when the risotto comes out?), I realised that we would be eating two risottos one after another and so modified our order to the angel hair pasta instead - why we want to eat 2 risotto dishes in quick succession, especially a degustation meal? Then to be prompted with an arrogant "one, two? one or two?" This just annoyed me - at $110 for this dish alone, I expect far better and more intuitive service. This wouldn't happen at Jacques Reymond! Yes, I know, I am being a little precious but f***, service just really annoys me!

Anyway, thats my rant so onto the positive. If you've ever had black truffles before, you will know that the aroma and intensity instantly fills the room. White however, explodes with its perfume and flavour. The simplicity of the dish showcased what a phenomenal ingredient it is - and despite the sad service, this was a truly memorable dish to be savoured.

With a dish like the white truffle, the following dishes had a tough task to really standing up to the highs of the pasta dish. The next one was a pigeon dish with a ravioli of the leg meat. The ravioli, was slightly tough, perhaps could have been cooked a little more and I was definitely not friends with the giant cous cous - they were mini bullets, tough, flavourless and added nothing to the dish other than a rather annoying textural component.

The beef was nice, but unmemorable. Hence, I can't quite remember what it tasted like. It was definitely not as sophisticated as some other beef dishes that I've had this year.

The dessert had decadence stamped all over it. Chocolate sauce and soft soft souffle. Ultra sweet, ultra indulgent, with the final bites resulting in a sugar tingle in your mouth. Good to start, not so good to finish.

The food at Grossi was generally good. The white truffle dish was phenomenal. But the service, the attitude, the feel of the place lacked sincerity or regard for the customer. I am not King, but I'm paying, so don't give me attitude. If I'm ordering a $110 dish, tell me what I'm ordering and don't act like we're causing you emotional grief.

Good to try (if you must), but for the price point which it is positioned, there are a myriad of restaurants in Melbourne that are better for the food, and most definitely for the service.

Grossi Florentino, the Restaurant, 80 Bourke Street, Melbourne

Grossi Florentino on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Melbourne, unfortunately, is not home to any of the S. Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants of the World. Melbourne, however, does have Attica, ranked #73.

I am not sure what compelled me to decide to try Attica, because frankly, its a damn long drive. But I am glad I did. I have to come out and say it though, Attica won't be for everyone. The food is not classical, it is not familiar and it definitely pushes the boundaries of what we Melbournians are used to.

To begin, like all restaurants, bread and butter or oil. But Attica does it slightly differently. Emulsified, and whipped olive oil (that spreads like butter - I know what the !!! was brilliant. Even house made butter, I can't believe I'm raving about butter but it was really good butter).

Amuse bouche, of raw white asparagus (from koo wee rup, so I would assume it is organic), and walnut with a walnut sauce and some microleaf which I was not sure what it was - maybe sunflower?). I didn't realise you could eat asparagus raw...but the next day I didn't have time to cook my lunch so I also used raw asparagus for my salad. The stuff you get from supermarkets just doesn't taste the same :(.

Snow crab with horseradish powder. Very very interesting and to some degree quite challenging to eat. Ultra light powder (which I assume would be horseradish that was freeze dried), was extremely light that would "dissolve". But don't breathe whilst you're eating it because it's like blowing powder everywhere.

Marron Tail, Leek, Egg Yolk and Onion Weed Bulb, was the dish of the night for me. Superb marron. That is all.

"A simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown," is apparently a potato that is cooked for a long time, in the soil it was grown (I'm not quite sure how you can cook potato in soil...but sometimes, you just don't ask questions. Just don't ASK questions). Interesting flavour of potato, nothing like I've ever tasted before.

Snapper with crust of quinoa, shitake broth and broccolini florets. Extremely well cooked fish, nice toasty quinoa, and "green" broccolini florets. Florets was a little harsh and in my opinion did not add to the dish, but may have actually taken away from its overall success.

"Pork Tail, Pickled Onion, Red Melon, Dune Spinach" Pork was extremely fatty, but luckily only a small serving so much much more tolerable. Great texture and flavour. Watermelon did add a fresh element to break the fattyness.

"Beef, Sea Lettuce, White Cabbage" had fermented black sesame and potato cooked in squid ink (I think). The potato chips (2), cooked in squid ink was extremely salty. Far to salty for me (and I love love love salt). Could only be tolerated by eating it simultaneously with the meat.

Terroir, crumbs, dried fruit, sorrel sorbet, and yoghurt centre. Very sharp sharp flavours. Texturally sophisticated, but quite a lot to eat given how strong the flavours were. Could have been smaller to balance the set menu out.

Apple, Olive, Warm Shredded Wheat aka in my opinion "apple crumble" was excellent. Acidic apples with cinnamon crumbs. Just how apple crumble should taste!!

Complimentary white chocolate eggs with caramel. Frighteningly real.

Overall, Attica provides a great dinner. It doesn't "feel" like an occasion restaurant because perhaps it is noisier than most "occasion" restaurants. Service however, was impeccable. I think the word is genuine. Genuinely nice, sophisticated, and experienced service. Not too stuffy, but not too casual.

74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea

Attica on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 12, 2010

S is for Stuff...but S is also for Sydney.

Sydney has, perhaps, some of the most iconic landmarks of Australia, but being from Melbourne, I find it hard to really love Sydney.  I find myself thinking about the comparisons between Melbourne and Sydney, but to avoid a post becoming a Melbourne vs Sydney post, I will just stick to what I did in Sydney...which wasn't much.

Paddington Street Alimentari
I remember seeing this on Getaway and thought it seemed pretty cool. But it really wasn't anything special, just a corner store cafe, with people and their poodles and shit like that. Coffee was watery, weak and not worth the effort. Nice location, nothing to write home about.

Bourke Street Bakery
Brilliant location. Tiny bakery, but packed packed packed. Even with construction on the road (which I note was excruciatingly noisy), people were still "dining in", and even people just standing outside munching on their sandwiches/rolls.

Praline pastry and strawberry brulee on left and roast beef sandwich on right. Damn I  love roast beef sandwiches.

Guylian Chocolate Cafe
Seriously, don't bother. Don't even bother. Goto Maccas and get a chocolate shake. You rarely see me say on this blog, don't bother. But seriously, DON'T BOTHER. Dissinterested and rude service mediocre cakes and chocolate. Just fly back to Melbourne and goto Lindt.

Sydney Cove Oyster Bar
Fantastic view, and can only imagine it being even better in Summer. Generally good food, but I have to say this about the sand whiting - SERIOUSLY? Why would a restaurant serve this whole? It had so so many pin bones, that the next day I thought I had a pin bone lodged in my  throat cause eating it had obviously irritated something. It was definitely not a safe dish to eat. In all fairness however, it tasted fantastic, if I could ignore fact that I feared for my life the whole time eating it! Yes, I'm being dramatic, but you would be too.

Sydney, Paddington St, Sydney Harbour, Bourke St (in Surrey Hills)...

Bourke Street Bakery on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 15, 2010


It has been such a long time where I've been so impressed with dinner. Recently, my dinner excursions have been good, but very casual. But sometimes it's nice to just go somewhere a bit more refined.

The restaurant itself, looks incredible. A basement space with crystal lighting features on the ceiling creating a sense of occasion. The attention to detail is impressive - from the entrance in the lift where the lighting is immediately dimmed with just artifacts glowing - I believe this is because the restaurant is dark so the dimming of lights is in anticipation of your arrival, to allow your eyes to adjust.

The space itself, the seating, the tableware all impressive. The seats were incredibly comfortable and we easily and casually ate our way through four hours (unknowingly, but then again, I'm fantastic company, really I am).

We opted for the Arabesque set menu, which allowed us to choose 2 entrees, 2 mains, 2 sides and the full selection of desserts which would be plated separately at the table. What a fantastic choice.We started with some raw vegetables and oil/molasses with some spice rub. Nice, but raw vegetables are...raw vegetables.

For entrees, we opted for the spiced calamari and the special of chicken wing and liver terrine.I could not fault either of these dishes at all. The spiced calamari was amazing. It is difficult to describe, but the complexity of flavours is the first thing that hits you, texturally superb with the fritters and crunchy calamari giving it the crispness of the dish.The terrine was equally impressive but out of the entrees, the spiced calamari was the hero.

For mains, we selected a duck pastry and loin of lamb. Unfortuneately, I was so into my food I forgot to take a photo of the lamb dish. The pastry had a light dusting of icing sugar which added another layer of sweetness to the dish. The lamb was incredibly yielding but so well seasoned and balanced with the giant cous cous. Often, with "degustation" or "set menus", there is one or two dishes that don't hit the highs as some of the others. There was not one dish I would not happily eat again and again.

Dessert was interesting, in a good way. A green apple and turkish delight souffle, Pinenut icecream with blood orange jelly and saffron meringue with persian fairy floss (that was green!), and an incredibly rich bittersweet chocolate tart. Of course, there was also a plate of fresh fruit and sorbet. The blood orange was unbelievable, and for a moment, we were more interested in the fruit than the rest of the dessert!!

The impressive component of Momo is how the dishes are composed. The souffle for example, when eaten by itself, without the turkish delight at the bottom tasted more like egg, but when you get a mouthful of the turkish delight the dish is transformed into something far more complex. The meringue, pinenut icecream and blood orange jelly was interesting. The flavours were quite confronting, for me, it was the saffron meringue. Pinenuts are often associated with savoury dishes, but in this instance it was used in the ice cream. Again, tricks on the palate!

Rich chocolate tarts are always rich chocolate tarts. Quite difficult to finish, but still satisfying. The fruits were interesting with blood orange that was one of the sweetest blood oranges I've had for a while and the darkness of the fruit was fantastic. I can't seem to find blood oranges that dark at the markets.

We finished with some coffees and of course petit fours, and being a middle eastern restaurant, you really can't expect anything less than impressive turkish delight (those cigar things were great too).

Overall, love it.


MoMo, 123 Collins St (Grand Hyatt Hotel), Melbourne

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