Friday, January 29, 2010

Bar Lourinhä and MoVida

Well, it was about time I talked about these places as they are amongst my most favourite casual places to eat in Melbourne, but I really had to wait until I went back otherwise I would be blogging retrospectively on everything!

Where do I start? If gluttony was a sin, I would be pretty bad...I think it actually is a sin, but whatever. Bar Lourinhä is the type of place that you go to after work and think this is what I work for. It is the type of place, where booze, food, and rants mesh and it is the type of place where you sit, talk, eat and think this is pretty damn good. The food is heavily Spanish with things such as fried piquillo peppers with salt, where some random spicy varieties are thrown in for good measure, beautiful tortillas and pork skewers (shame they didn't have the king prawn skewers this time)  all of which are destined to be shared amongst good company.

The menu obviously changes, and changes quite substantially as the last time I was there things such as lamb, paella and rabbit were on the menu. All the more reason to go everyday! So all I need now is a job nearby and I'm set!!

The no reservations policy casualises the place, with massive bar seating, some tables and couches, all adding to the charm. Bar Lourinhä is an effortless tapas bar that for today at least, nourished my sanity. Unfortunately, I really didn't think it was appropriate to take photos...when I say "appropriate" I really mean embarrassed...who does that!

Anyway, even after the inexorbitant amount of food consumed, my dear friend Debbie and I thought dessert was essential so we tried our luck at MoVida (the original) but weren't allowed to have dessert unless we actually ate food. In retrospect, to save our trip to MoVida Aqui, we could've maybe just lied and said, yes we'll eat dinner, but then once we get our seats say "oh I hate everything on your menu, we only want dessert". I mean, what are they going to do ? Kick us out?

I know I'm digressing, but we nevertheless ventured to MoVida Aqui (the third in the series), and finally got seats. As you may have read how much I rave about their flan? OMFG, IT IS STILL AS FREAKEN GOOD AS IT EVER WAS.For good measure I poured some Moritz beer on it, believe me, it wasn't an accident at all...

To this day, I have yet to have a dessert that surpasses MoVida's creme caramel. Instantly, my problems go away. The beer helps too. I think I have two favourite beers now, Moritz and Birra Moretti. I'm sure they can equally make my problems go to find a stockist....

Bar Lourinhä, 37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
MoVida Aqui, 500 Bourke Street, Melbourne
PS, I know this post probably makes no sense, so when I'm not so freaken tired, I'll actually read what I'm writing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Dirty Word.

I didn't think I would ever say this dirty word, but to keep an air of transparency I will say it - buffet. Yes today, I went to a buffet. Stop heckling me, and just listen/read.

I think the name "China Bar" is something we are all very familiar with. Well, I went to "China Bar Signature" which is basically what they call their buffet. For around $50, don't expect wagyu, don't expect crayfish, but do expect some decent quality food, and a lot of it (to the point where I think I was about to munt in the car)

Sushi/Sashimi, Cook-to-Order noodles, Peking duck etc, and all your suspect Chinese dishes featured. If you really wanted to eat it, you could even eat Haianese Chicken Rice. There were lots lots more, but it is nothing to write home about, but if you feel like a massive feed, try it out.

Surprisingly, the floor staff were super efficient, and it was very very clean. Some of you may know my paranoia on this front, but it was far more civilised than I expected.

China Bar Signature won't break the bank, but also won't deliver gastronomy. For those days that gastronomy is not required, and you want food and lots of it, this place will feed you, and it will feed you well.


China Bar Signature, 380 Burwood Hwy, Burwood East

P.S I'm so over food right now. I've eaten far too much over the last two weeks, I might just blog about water and vitamins tomorrow.

China Bar Signature (Asian Buffet) on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 22, 2010


First thing's first. Do you like beef? Do you like good beef? Do you like really really good beef? If you answered yes to all questions then proceed If you answered No, you need not read further.

At Takumi, it is all about the beef, as it is the hero. Here, it is not simply a grass fed angus that features, but the cuts are the same as those used by the most luxurious restaurants in Melbourne - Blackmore's Wagyu. David Blackmore (note the same first name as me), produces some amazing wagyu beef that until you actually try it, you wouldn't know what I'm talking about. The beef, the marbelling, the succulence, simply enables beef to become an experience - as it really does melt-in-your mouth.

At Takumi, charcoals fire a grill that you, the diner, cook your thin slices of meat, vegetables and seafood on. Glazed with lard, food amazing does not stick on the grill (funny how fat can do that).. But be warned, if you are a vegetarian, or on a diet, don't come to this restaurant. Several varieties of cuts from the cow are available. Blade, rump, whatever, I don't know. But all I know is that there were quite a few, with prices ranging from anywhere between $16 to $35 per 100-120g.

The pricing is amazing value given the quality of cuts, as other restaurants have wagyu at around $100 for around 200g. The charcoal cooking method, and the marbeling, enables the beef to crisp up without going dry.

Honorable mentions goto the other things we bbq'd, but frankly, you don't goto Takumi for the seafood, or 'vegetables', you go for Wagyu. And you go for lots of Wagyu. Of course, with all this meat there had to be a token salad. No revelations with the salad, typical japanese style dressed salad.

The only downside of Takumi is that cooking your own food could get old...pretty quickly. Some could argue that this is part of the charm...Nevertheless, don't let this deter you from experiencing Takumi, as I suspect when people start to discover this place, getting in won't be so easy.


Takumi, 32 Bourke Street, Melbourne City

Takumi on Urbanspoon


Well, you may have heard about the craze that is the syphon if you are into coffee. With coffee places like the "sensory lab" opening up in David Jones, it makes sense that I have to talk about it.

Luckily for me (and you), Toby's Estate will brew a syphon for you, with the coffee of your choice, usually a single origin of some sort. It is my understanding that with a syphon, the subtlety of flavours are allowed to pronounce themselves which I suspect is due to the brew process involving "vacuum" conditions.

Water is heated in a glass chamber and once it reaches boiling point, rises through the tube brewing with the coffee. For about forty seconds, magic happens. So if you say abracadabra alekazaaam you may see smoke! Once the heat is removed, the infusion returns to the bottom chamber through a filter, ensuring the liquor is devoid of coffee grounds.

The result? A true expression of origin. I can't say  I have deep knowledge of how a coffee pronounces itself, but it is definitely different to an espresso-based coffee. Much more delicate, but you know there is caffeine - and a lot of it too. I found that the more I drank, the more I liked. For $5 a pop, it is good value - Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. I think it is worth the money just for the song and dance of brewing a syphon!


Toby's Estate, Weston Street, Brunswick

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Minor Place

No...the place is really called "A Minor Place", located in the backstreets of Brunswick, the place will leave you feeling just a little scared. You are in no doubt that you are in Brunswick, and you are in no doubt that you are in the backstreets of Brunswick.

I was tempted not to get out of my car and just drive back given it was full of alternative types (very alternative, and I'm not exaggerating) and I was on my lunch break - I really needed to look dirtier and have scruffier hair. However, I mustered enough courage to check the place out and get out of my car. Once inside, I was a put at ease that the congregation outside was not reflective of EVERYONE that frequents this place. Trust me, the look, and the fact that they were sitting on milk crates was not something I look for in a coffee joint.

Overall, good coffee, good sandwiches and decent service (albeit, scary). It was sort of like discovering degraves espresso bar back in the days when I was young and naive, but 10 fold more hardcore. I had to wait far too long for my food, but having said that, even Seven Seeds has made me wait 20mins for takeaway once. So I think i'm getting used to the fact that in Brunswick, you just have to wait.

A bit of a hike from work, so I probably wouldn't be visiting this place too frequently, whilst Toby's Estate and Seven Seeds still delivers my fix.


A Minor Place, 103 Albion St, Brunswick

A Minor Place on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Golden Dragon Palace

I think Melbourne has its fair share of suburban Chinese restaurants. In fact, I think Melbourne has a RIDICULOUS number of Chinese restaurants that barely pass for mediocre. But, there are gems to be found if you look hard enough. Living so far from the city center, we've had to adopt another suburb's wares as our local.

Naturally, like everyone else, we've decided that the Doncaster/Box Hill area is where we would go for all things asian - which includes groceries, even though Box Hill is a freaken 30 minute drive - I once had to drive all the way there to get glutinous rice flour because these so called "supermarkets" are not quite the market they claim, and they are most definitely not super!

Anyway, I digress with my random ranting. Last night we went to the Golden Dragon Palace in Lower Templestowe. From the outside, its location is very understated and what lies beneath the facade would surprise many. Nestled amongst a McDonalds and Red Rooster, from the outside the restaurant has all the hallmarks of a really bad suburban restaurant that you would take the relatives you would like to spite.

Golden Dragon Palace is not that type of place. You would not take your relatives to spite them, this is one of those restaurants that you take to make sure you don't get cut off from the family - the asian way which is absolutely riddled with passive aggression.
Once entered, the decor gives the place the feel of an occasion restaurant. Parquetry floorboards, wood carvings, chinese vases dimmed lighting, and even a pianist to really echoe their intent. For ambience, it is probably one of the nicer chinese restuarants I have been to. However, after visiting this place half a dozen times, it does lose some of its sheen, and like all shiny things, you need to remember how shiny it first seemed.

The food and service better than suburban restaurants, but the service could be a bit more schmick to match the decor which would in my opinion move it towards what it is obviously trying to achieve. We were told they didn't have baby abalone so we were offered oysters, which they apparently didn't have either. However, the banquet was pleasant, with features of peking duck, crayfish, steamed fish (barramundi, however, if you have not had steamed fish with soy and ginger, I would recommend Coral Trout as the meat is far superior than barramundi), salted egg yolk coated prawns, scallops two ways, chicken (drunken), hot pot, greens (snow pea shoots), very much standard fare. No revelations to be found here.

I was SO disappointed that I forgot to order sweet and sour anything. Because, yes I will admit it, I am one of those people that eats sweet and sour. I am NOT ashamed of it even though everyone else thinks I should hide this secret obsession. Along with Peking duck, are perhaps the only reason I really go out to chinese so much.

Like almost all Chinese restaurants, you finish with fresh fruit and a sweet soup and red bean pancakes. More effort definitely went into the fresh fruit platter than other places (+1 point), and the red bean pancake was pretty good (+1 point).

Overall, Golden Dragon Palace is your better than average Chinese restaurant with accents of decent service, ambience and food. A real pianist plays in the background giving the place a better feel than most.Golden Dragon Palace is a good interlude if you get sick of your own cooking.


Golden Dragon Palace, 363 Manningham Road, Lower Templestowe

Where Else?
Tai Pan, , Doncaster
Canton Lake, Station Street, Box Hill (This restaurant looks like you are visiting the slums of China...but it is probably one of the few places where I WANT to go because the food is that good).

Golden Dragon Palace on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jacques Reymond

I really don't know how to blog about a place like Jacques Reymond. I am not articulate enough to convey to you what a degustation dinner at Jacques Reymond is really like, but I will try because I need to tell someone...

It is the best restaurant that I have ever dined in.

Jacques Reymond is a restaurant which so many restaurants aspire to become but never achieve. The building itself is an amazing mansion on Williams Road, Prahran and there is an air of opulence as you walk into the restaurant. Greeted by the staff and maitre'd, we are made to feel instantly welcome. I don't know how much I can stress, but service, for me, was flawless. There was not one instance where we felt we needed additional attention. Everything was done so seamlessly, meticulously and effortlessly with the fine balance between being attentive without being intrusive easily achieved.

It made me think about Ezard and how it was my benchmark for phenomenal service (as it was phenomenal) - Jacques has surpassed all my expectations of flawless service. Within minutes, drinks, menu and questions were asked. It is how a restaurant should run and how guests should be made to feel welcome.

We opted for the degustation menu which was perhaps one of the best and well constructed degustation menus I have ever experienced. Starting with a rock lobster dumpling, the texture was smooth and soft with the flavours evoking a sense of familiarity with a touch of uniqueness. It was a brilliant light dish to start our degustation dinner.
Progressing to the hiramasa kingfish sashimi style dish, it achieved perfect harmony between the acidic ponzu and natural sweetness of seared scallop. So many restaurants do not succeed at transforming simple sashimi into something superb. This dish, was superb - and I really like sashimi..

  Next was the snapper with four peppers. The snapper was just barely cooked, showcasing the freshness of ingredients (my last experience with snapper sashimi style, wasn't one that I was eager to repeat but this was excellent).  The foam was interesting and fun to eat...or at least tried to eat!

The star of the degustation was a succulent quail breast , tempura style with whipped fetta and organic black rice. It was comforting, delicate and complex. It marked a transition into the meatier dishes and was a dish that is not just eaten, but a dish that is savoured and remembered.

The first of the 'meatier' courses was Flinders Island Wallaby. It was a dish that I must admit, was a bit worrying. Eating a wallaby was not high on my priorities. To be fair, it was like beef, although lighter and more delicate in flavour. It was an interesting dish, serving as the perfect introduction to "meat".

The final savoury dish was the wagyu. I usually don't have beef this rare, but the succulence of wagyu coupled with the precision in cooking technique, ensured that it was bearable for someone like me. The mix of icecream with savoury flavours provided a sensory experience which I had not, until today, experienced. It was deceptive, and executed so well.

We finished with two desserts. The first was a martini of bittersweet chocolate mousse, chocolate sauce & granita with chantilly cream laced with caramelised rice bubbles. I totally forgot I wanted to blog about it and started demolishing it as soon as it arrived - so no photo. However, the final masterpiece was a pear and caramel with a mousse like filling encased in a tuille cylinder with earl grey and orange ice cream - phenomenal. This finished off a meal, that I dare say, is one of the best dinners that I have ever had.

The service throughout the evening was what you would expect from a restaurant of this calibre. Every detail was spot on. As we finished each course, our tables were cleared, glasses remained full and the timing of each course - perfect. It's only when I dined at Jacques that I understood why it has received so many accolades. A dinner which went on for over 3 hours, was so seamlessly constructed and delivered, it seemed much quicker. Petit fours were presented at the very end with a chat to Jacques himself, resonating the restaurant's commitment to meticulous detail and service focus.

Doors were opened, thanks yous exchanged we left feeling content, with all my unreasonably high expectations met. Not to mention (as those of you that know me, know how much of a personal hygeine freak I am), Molton Brown featured. I think thats how I will end this post - a restaurant that delivers on innovative food, flawless service and has Molton Brown is a restaurnat that ticks all the boxes.

This restaurant is truly, a destination restaurant.


Jacques Reymond, 78 Williams Road, Prahran

Jacques Reymond on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 11, 2010

Coffee. No 2

Good intentions always start off well. I was intending to make the most of the lighter traffic during this time of year, and perhaps get to Parkville around 45 minutes earlier so I could visit Seven Seeds, chill and enjoy my coffee and let the day slowly begin. Seven Seeds is until today, a place which I had yet to try, and I could not believe I had waited so long - I obviously have flaws (only this one though).

Almost always they remain good intentions, and do not come to fruition (the get to work early part). Don't for a minute, think that I actually gave up my morning coffee! I figured my productivity would increase FIVE fold post coffee consumption, as I figured rather than have mediocre staff working, why not have staff that are FIVE fold more productive. That is my justification from the company's perspective anyway. I think one of these days, I'm going to fired for strolling in late with coffee in hand...

But anyway, I detoured, and went hunting for Seven Seeds as it isn't the easiest place to find. All I have to say is that it was so worth it. And I imagine, it will always be so worth it.  Seven Seeds, on Berkely St in Carlton was unbelievably good, and my expectations were already stratospherically high (as there are many good establishments like Toby's nearby). When the extraction is this good,  life is worth living - so to be consistent with my previous post, if you have problems, have a coffee at Seven Seeds to make your problems go away. Yes, it is a big call, but if you don't believe me, try it for yourself.

If it weren't for the ridiculous 43°C weather in Melbourne, I would've done my usual lunch time run to get a coffee, guilt free since Toby's Estate is closed on Mondays. Next time.


Seven Seeds, 114 Berekley St, Carlton

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Yes, I WILL harangue you about coffee. Yes you are a bad person for drinking Starbucks.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I can start ranting. Or was that ranting too? Anyway...

Firstly, make no mistake that coffee will solve your problems, it will solve all your problems - and those of you that don't have regular doses of coffee will have many many problems. I can almost guarantee it (almost). If you haven't figured it out yet, I take my coffee seriously (see my sexy picture above - taken a while ago)

Seriously though, one of the positives of being busy all the time is the appreciation of the times when you do stop and just watch the day go by. One of the greatest joys in life, in my opinion, is sitting around and sipping on a perfectly extracted coffee. The texture, taste and warmth that coffee delivers makes me instantly feel better when I've had, or preparing for, a long day.

One of my favourite places to have a coffee would be Toby's Estate (given its proximity to work, 3 mins drive, it is a refuge from the chaos that I sometimes have to deal with!!). Located on Weston St in Brunswick, it is tucked away in a warehouse come cafe. Brilliant.

Some of you may already be aware of the name, Toby's Estate, as a lot of excellent cafes use their beans (as they are roasters and retailers) - Degraves Espresso Bar to name one, and Degraves itself, is an institution. I used to visit that place so often it was verging on ridiculous.

They were the good old days.

Anyway, I digress - Coffee at Toby's is always consistent, extracted with care, and always the comforting drink you'd expect. I must admit, I've made my fair share of lunch time dashes for a bit of sanity. But perhaps one of my most favourite things is to actually wake up early (I know... WTF?), drive into work (and not be late...), detour to Toby's Estate and sit by the window and just watch a perfect day begin, and THEN be late. That is how a morning should start. That is my pura vida. Trust me, you should visit. If I wake up early just to make it know you'll be onto a winner.


Toby's Estate, Weston St, Brunswick

Where else?

Degraves Espresso Bar, Degraves St, City
Brother Baba Budan, Little Bourke St, City
The Maling Room, Maling Road, Canterbury

Monday, January 4, 2010

El Bulli, Spain (Here's hoping!)

You know how I've become super impulsive and started booking flights without checking whether or not I can actually go (only domestic, I'm not retarded)? OK, maybe you don't. But anyway, I'm hoping to be even more impulsive and travel over 18,000 kilometers to dine at El Bulli.

Some of you may know El Bulli. Some of you may go way back with El Bulli, but I don't go way back. I don't even know if I'll be allowed near the place.

The restaurant, is known to be the world's best restaurant with a strong focus on what appears to be molecular gastronomy - things that go BANG (no just kidding). You know, stuff like crushing olives to extract their essence, then reconstituting them in spherification processes, freeze drying processes etc. Stuff you'd do at home - that's if your home was actually a lab and the lab was super impressive. Unlikely.

To give you some indication of why I want to dine at this place so much, they are open for 6 months of the year which equates to only 8000 seats. And annually, they get in excess of 2 million reservation requests (note i didn't use a lot of zero's, because make no mistake, thats MILLION - or at least that's what it says in "A day at El Bulli" by Ferran Adria). Naturally, knowing these statistics, I have to try and beat the odds and eat there. Don't YOU want to do the same?

I have it all planned, upon confirmation, I will book my flights (with little regard for everything else that is happening around me), put in a hire car request, and in the meantime start driving on the wrong side of the road - I'll consider it training. It will be just like a pilgrimage for an important cause. I will also resume my spanish lessons, because we all know how good I am in

Well, I've now emailed off my request for reservations. So, here's hoping that I get my reservations confirmed!! Fingers cross amigos!


El Bulli
, Roses, Spain.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Rockpool, Melbourne

Well, tonight, I so wanted to be reminded of why I used to love Rockpool. But that wasn't the case. It has almost become tradition that during the Christmas/New Year break, my family goes to a restaurant which we don't usually go to during the year. Last year, we went to the Taxi Dining Room and had a phenomenal degustation dinner, so this year I thought we'd go back to Rockpool. To be fair, our previous experiences at Rockpool were excellent, service was sufficiently attentive without being intrusive and the food was exceptional.

This time, our visit was slightly disappointing. Dinner was by no means bad, but just disappointing.

We shared a few entrees, which included a sashimi style dish, wagyu bolognese, grilled king prawns, sauteed asparagus with shitake in burnt butter. Most of which was excellent, except the "crudo" of a variety of fish which was not spectacular. Highlight would have to be the Grilled King Prawns - it was a definite winner.

For mains, we had lamb, steak, duck and swordfish. I think where there was disappointment was that the food was fine, but it was just that - fine.

It wasn't memorable like our previous experiences. My Dad wondered why his steak didn't come with any condiments (even though we saw them being offered to the table next to us). I suppose we should've asked, but we shouldn't need to ask for something as rudimentary as that.

Trifle, Macroon, and Orange Creme Caramel featured in our desserts selection, and were all good. But having said that, I've come to the conclusion that there is no better creme caramel than MoVida's. For those of you who have not tried MoVida's creme caramel - you're missing out...BIG TIME.

Visually, the food was not stunning, but I don't think Rockpool was ever about the nit picking detail of presentation. I think it is more about the quality produce they source and use. That they continue to succeed, and succeed very well. There is no doubt about the quality, but the way it was executed was perhaps not what I was have been recently used to. Perhaps my expectations and standards have now changed.

Service was painstakingly slow. I must admit, we were a little bit annoyed this time as the service was intermittent, and almost only on a necessity basis. I think service is tantamount to whether or not a restaurant lives up to expectations. If service had been a notch lower, it would've been unacceptable.


Rockpool Bar and Grill - Melbourne, Crown Complex

Rockpool Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon