Thursday, 30 August 2007


L: No cheers, only jeers for this Japanese establishment on the designer end of Chapel Street. Perhaps the name should be changed to “Yung sing” or “Gom bui”, considering how strangely Chinese it all tastes.

Flavours, a purely hypothetical chance encounter with a chef in the john and see them walk out without washing their hands, not quite right they were. Speaking of toilets, putting down the seat in a lady’s household, the veggies of peas, carrots and broccoli in the oyako-don, a considerate, token gesture but did not distract from the fact that it a very un-Japanese sauce blend that was too heavy on the soy. Maybe this excess spilled over, as it was perplexing why the rice in the unagi-don was seasoned unnecessarily with soy, perhaps to hide the eel’s lack of usual sweet kabayaki and smokey goodness. Bleached white and crumbed tonkotsu halted the procession of mediocrity, though not exactly tender but at least they got right bottled tonkotsu sauce.

However, price correctness didn’t exist as you certainly don’t get what you paid for. Had these meals been half what we paid, least that cash saved could’ve been spent over a few quiet beers at Bridie’s to kanpai something more deserved.

1 / 5 yums!

W: Stepping into the smoky surrounds of Chapel St's Kanpai, the soft greeting from a friendly maitre'd hints you might be being prepared for a ride. Our noses are delighted by the smell of barbequed teriyaki flavors with the familiar hint of soy, mirin, sake and sugar. Peering over the benches, we can barely catch a glimpse of a man dressed as the Itamae (sushi chef) layering sliced prawns onto small shapes of vinegared rice. Squeezed onto an izakaya size table, the comforting menu had the reliable favorites -dons, -ramens, -udons, -sobas. Could this be a hidden secret?

A suspicious sense things were not right were hinted when I placed my first order. "Oyakodon" - tender chicken pieces fried into a wet egg on rice. The waitress stares blankly back at me. After a few trades of finger jabs at the menu and more blank stares, my order.

This house of cards collapsed around the first bite. I couldn't help but remark Phillip J Fry's words when he remarked "This is the saltiest thing I've ever tasted, and one time I ate a bowl of salt". Searching to quench from a glass of water, I catch the inattentive wait staff busily uninterested and chatting... in Cantonese. Looking back down, I lifted the egg to reveal a chicken giblet mess of peas? carrots? snowpeas? While Zhang Zi Yi may have been successfully casted as Sayuri in Memoirs of a Geisha, this Pan-Pacific mash-up has only one possible verdict. Failure.

We sure were taken for a ride and show a hidden secret that night. This place gets 1 out of 5.

A: In T's regrettable words - "Lets go to Kanpai, the waiter looks hot" - on closer inspection she really wasn't..

That same sequence of events best describes the food at Kanpai.

Good from afar, but far from good.


Where? 569 Chapel St, South Yarra, VIC

What? Average Main $15

Left to Right : Tonkotsu, Oyako-Don, Unagi-Don

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Sue’z Delights

The Malaysian parents you never had. Homely in the true sense of the word, Pappa Vic and Mamma Sue welcome you into their tiny takeaway diner that’s tucked away on busy Princes Highway, Clayton. An impassioned coach Vic is speaking about the food in between politely barking orders to the back where Sue is waving that magic wand to conjure up those dishes. A new menu daily like a Hugh Hefner harem, the hottie staples of Penang and Singaporean Char Kway Teow and Hokkien Mee along with Roti and Gorengs are available most days. It’s on the weekends where it gets more interesting, and when I’ll return next for Mee Rebus and Siam on Saturday.

Red or black roulette, even more limited on Sundays with two changing choices, the Nasi Goreng Chincalok, fried chicken rib and thigh pieces topped with kecap manis with battered prawns, diced pineapple chilli salad, sliced omelette egg topping shrimp flavoured fried rice. Spike it up with Vic’s homemade sambal. No need to add anything to the Penang Hokkien Mee, a reasonably fiery and flavoursome prawn broth together with egg noodles and vermicelli, prawn and slow cooked pork on the bone. Wash it down with a yummy sugar syrup grass jelly drink, or condensed milk sweetened tea or kopi tarik. All this without losing too many chips.

Come for the fare, and your ear chewed off (in a good way), the food delights aren't the only thing you'll find.

2.5 / 5 yums!


Where? 1915 Dandenong Road, Clayton, VIC

What? Average Main $8

Left to Right : Nasi Goreng Chincalok, Penang Hokkien Mee, Grass Jelly, Teh Tarik, Kopi Tarik

Tuesday, 28 August 2007


An enchanting experience at the heart of Smith Street’s eclectic culture, it’s Korean in a fairy-ful forest that transcends the art of casual dining in Melbourne. Strong, bold dark wood tables take little of the mood lighting, the creamy lime of the walls evident when flash photography is used. The nature theme continues with stencils of flora and fauna framed by symmetrically Asian timber, a constant throughout the beautiful space that are as cute as your 3 month old cousin.

If the satin bound menus were meant to break any tension with humour, they serve their purpose. Trawl over the Advertisements (entrees), Forest Gump (vegetarian) or Titanic (soups) but it was the sizzling pots and plates that took the breath away, Top Gun style. The kimchi pancake would have made a reasonable wood fire pizza. Flavours Wimbledon streaker bold and Schwarzenegger strong, both the non-spicy versions of the beef bibimbab with its usual ingredients pre stir fried and the octopus and pork sizzling pot in a thick, sweet syrup. Plenty of onion, garlic and sugar, feeling a bit naked without PK to freshen the mouth odour. Desserts would have been a good closer, the chocolate dumplings worth a try but when you think you’ve seen Tinkerbelle sprinkling fairy dust, pushing that sugar high might not be a good idea.

2.5 / 5 yums!


Where? 189 Smith St, Fitzroy, VIC

What? Average Main $18

Left to Right : KimChi Pancake, Beef BiBimBab, Pork and Octopus Pot

Taste of Africa

Calling all single ladies out there, your search for a decent bloke is over. He’s over six foot tall, strongly built, deep commanding voice and handsome. Maitre d’, waiter, master chef of Sudanese cuisine, owner/manager of Taste of Africa in Dandenong. He’s probably a bit of a handy man too. Plumbing, anything you name it.

Welcomed to this private personal dining area, plenty of pride and care is taken with the food as you watch the preparation and listen to the sizzles that waft from the kitchen. Going on his recommendations the shiah is pan fried lamb with garlic, black pepper, onion with a lemon citrus tang. Unfortunately it’s cooked well-done, the meat navy seal tough but a pleasant, simple flavour. Better is the kofta, tender meatballs of mince, onion, garlic, black pepper, green cumin and coriander. Very homely and again simple, clean flavours that could make the Azzurri jealous. Spruiking both up like a spiked punch at a party is the green peanut sauce mixed with green chilli, onion, yoghurt, salt and pepper. Eggplant and zucchini are stewed down til soft and mushy, then mixed with another peanut sauce containing lemon, green chilli, onion, garlic and pepper in one of the salads. If veggies were prepared like this I reckon a lot more kiddies would get into them. Want to find out if he’s interested in raising a family? Ladies, take a number and get in line.

2.5 / 5 yums!


Where? 34 Walker St, Dandenong, VIC

What? Average $10

Left to Right : Kofta, Shish, Eggplant and Zucchini Salad, Chilli Peanut Sauce

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Pa Wan

What do you get when you put a Porsche engine into a Mini? A flying piece of sheet metal. Pump drugs into a Chinese female swimmer? A gold medal at the Olympics and some peculiar “that’s NQR” stares. What do these have in common with Pa Wan? They are all turbo charged by something beneath their unassuming exteriors. Situated in “little Thailand” Springvale, it’s a modest shop front but demands something grander to match the magic coming out of the kitchen.

Attempting to keep it Ali G real, it’s shown through the minimalist use of white powder. Refreshing as a Powerade after a hard workout, the green papaya salad with peanut has a mild sour tang with chilli hints. Add some crispy fish skin, lightly seasoned, coated and deep fried makes another salad of Yum Nhn Plar Grob. Sai Oung, a northern Thai style curried sausage consisting of pork, coriander and lime has a dry, almost flaky meat texture which doesn’t set my world on fire. Respite from the burning of the chillis, the Pad Thai is a welcomed selection. Done differently, an egg chiffon covers the stir fried rice noodles, bean shoots and beef, the usual garnishing of peanuts on the side and is remarkably light tasting unlike many of its more Westernised versions. It’s good, very good. Getting me to the Earth’s ozone layer, a simply stir fried chilli and Thai basil pork while blasting the rest of the way to the moon by Gang Kee Lek, an interesting lumpy red curry, almost rendang in texture, made slightly bitter by cassia flower.

Most items here will be a major diversion from the normal Thai you’re used to. Your sense of adventure will be rewarded, not with extra muscles or definition to your biceps, but a broadened sense of appreciation of what Thailand has to offer.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? Shop 4, 1-3 St Johns Avenue, Springvale

What? Average $10

Left to Right : Som Tom Thai (green papaya salad with peanut), Sai Oung, Yum Nhun Plar Grob (Crispy skin fish salad), Grapow Rard Khoa (Stired Fried Pork with chilli and Thai basil), Gang Kee Lek (red curry with cassia flower), Pad Thai (fried noodles with peanut)

Gold Leaf

Transforming the old Shark Fin Inn into an imperial palace fit for his emperor and empress, an impressive venue for classic Chinese and Cantonese food. Already immensely popular with locals, the plush interior designs inside this Chinese restaurant would make those German Ford engineers scream who’s your daddy.

You get your usual suspects of lobster, stewed in garlic and spring onion and whole steamed barramundi. Commandingly salty were the spicy salt chicken ribs, deep fried til golden and crispy, though its partner in crime squid was strangely battered, with either the yolk not thoroughly cooked or flour improperly whisked in leaving it with a powdery exterior. Double happiness found in the sliced oyster mushrooms that could have been passed as abalone and the tender slices of fried beef canton style.

With speedy, efficient yet polite service that tries hard to please, you’d think you were amongst royalty.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 155 Burwood Highway, Burwood East, VIC

What? Average Main $17

Left to Right : Fried Oyster, Oyster XO, Lobster, Barramundi, Spicy Salt Chicken Ribs, Fried Squid, Beef Canton Style, Oyster Mushrooms, Taro Sweet

David and Camy Noodle Restaurant

Box Hill’s favourite super duo, David and Camy churn out Shanghai food that gives “cheap and nasty” the good name it deserves. Plenty of soups, noodles and rice dishes to choose from but most come for their prized dumplings. This is starting to sound a bit like Bob’s Kitchen, whose menu seems strangely similar and probably use the same printer.

Anyway, the 8 chicken and prawn dumplings don’t represent value compared to the 15 pork for the same price, but much are tastier. The bottoms pan fried to a Violet Crumble crunch whilst retaining the sweet juices inside. No lies about the ginger and shallot pork noodles, with plenty of that spice used to ensure its pungent taste is present. Cricket cream whites of the sliced glutinous sticky rice cake is a wet saucey stir fried dish with shreds of pork, carrot and choy sum. Nian Gao is one of my favourite Chinese dishes for it’s silicon bouncy, chewy texture.

David and Camy, using their powers for good instead of evil, bringing comfort food and saving your hip pocket too.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 605 Station St, Box Hill, VIC

What? Average Main $7.50

Left to Right : Nian Gao, Ginger and Shallot Pork Noodles, Chicken and Prawn Dumplings

South Melbourne Market Dim Sims

There’s a rustling in old shanty South Melbourne markets. An eerie calm before the storm. A customary hay bale pushed along the deserted footpaths by a whistling wind. The two duellers emerge, dim sims and spring rolls in holsters. On one side, the South Melbourne Market Dim Sims (SMMDS), the elder statesman in the business and town favourite. The challenger Mama Tran, also offering typical food court Chinese, hoping to muscle in on SMMDS’s territory. They stare intensely into each other’s eyes waiting for the clock to tick over to 11:30. The crowd collectively gasps as the fists of meat and deep fried rolls hurtle in opposite directions. Taste the fame, the SMMDS’s dimmers are more flavoursome, their mince made tastier by packing it with more spring onion and chives. Preferring the steamed over the deep fried’s crispy golden encasing that has that pizza crust chewiness, which is typical and what you’d normally expect. Though Mama Tran’s beef mince spring rolls, with a much thinner pastry, are infinitely better than SMMDS’s chiko roll that has too much veggies. The winner after the dust has settled? It’s too close to call, make up your own ending.


Where? South Melbourne Markets, Corner Cecil and Coventry Streets, South Melbourne, VIC

What? Average Dim Sim - $1.30, Spring Roll, $2.30

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