Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Hellenic Republic, Brunswick East

Masterchef George is so hot right now and will soon give the people of Kew the Calomabis tan. I’ll freely admit that I’m a gusher, so it’s embarrassing that I’ve never been to his second child, until now. And it’s every bit as good as his first, albeit in a different way. There’s none of the typically stodgy and bloating meat fest of an old school Greek Tavern, Hellenic Republic rejoices in the simplicity of the cuisine. Sharing is Mr Calombaris’ philosophy, and we’re glad that he does. But you’d want the mildly salted white cod roe dip and plenty of warm triangles of pita all to yourself. Don’t feel guilty though, for selfishness is a common emotion for most of the dishes.

Peppered figs are beautifully caramelised, their delicate sweetness the perfect foil on top of the pan fried grilled cheese. You’ll get a combination of beautifully charred and tender garlicy lamb from the spit, a squeeze of lemon all that’s required. Parsley and lemon slices stuffed in grilled whole baby snapper the perfect way to enjoy fresh catch. Had to pass on the cured meats, salads, Thalassino Youvetsi (braised seafood “casserole”) and the Yia Yia’s Moussaka to save room for the velvety olive oil white chocolate and lavender mousse and sweet preserved cherries that read as a standout on the menu and duly delivers.

Hot food at a hot place. Slip, slop, slap to avoid the sunburn at Hellenic Republic.

4 / 5 yums!
Where? 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East, VIC
What? Smalls $8-19, Grills and Mains $20-32, Desserts $13

Left to Right: Taramosalata, Pita Bread, Saganaki, Lamb Spit, Baby Snapper and accompanying lemon sauce on ice, White Chocolate Mousse

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Little Cupcakes, Melbourne

It was hard to avoid the curiosity surrounding the arrival those mini cakes that are supposedly the size of a cup and made fashionable by a fictional New York quartet when they arrived in Sydney. I’m not sure how it was in Melbourne, but there’s still plenty of gloss at this boutique shop that fits perfectly in the cafĂ© friendly Degraves Street. If the missus is angry with ya, the road to redemption could start with a cute Red Velvet, Belgian chocolate, orange jaffa, raspberry white chocolate or cookies and cream. Or all of them if she’s really mad.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 7 Degraves St, Melbourne, VIC

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

New Wind, Windsor

It’s not surprising that Vietnam’s Smith gets mispronounced. Nugent, Nugget, Nee-Goo-Yen. But say the words of this cleverly named Windsor cheap eat fast and you’ll get pretty close. The sanitised menu of a typical Springvale or Richmond joint that combines Western Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes including bun (vermicelli), pho and rice is a bit hit and miss. Broken rice not so broken looking like normal long grain, but the pork chop fine. Tomato rice good, however let down by the well done grilled beef. The chef suggestions don’t disappoint: a South Vietnamese clay pot is a bubbling stew of pork, garlic, brown sugar and fish sauce and be seduced by the headline crispy duck stuffed with prawn sizzling plate. A final thought, won’t find too many Trans here on a Saturday night, but plenty of Smiths, so get in early.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 120 Chapel St, Windsor, VIC
What? Dishes around $10

Left to Right: Spring Rolls, Banh Xeo, Broken Rice, Diced Beef Tomato Rice, Pad Thai, South Vietnamese Clay Pot, Duck stuffed Prawn

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Ripples, Bentleigh

So clean is this Bentleigh Chinese restaurant I’m sure they’d be no objections from the medical board to perform open heart surgery on one of the lazy susans. Which makes this yum cha experience so strange. Despite the absence of mould and general wear and tear that typically mark a suburban joint, there’s no quality loss from the Malvern original. The only downer was the lack of soup in the xiao long bao, but otherwise enjoy fine examples of the all the yum cha staples in surrounds designed to fit 1.5 Asians per chair.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 453 Centre Rd, Bentleigh, VIC
What? Yum cha around $20 per person

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Top 5 - Malaysian Hawker eats

Here is my list on the top 5 Malaysian eats in Melbourne; Tell me what you think!

5. Petaling Street - above average across the board, you'll find it hard to go wrong, but you'll find it hard to be wowed! The Assam laksa is your best bet.
111 Kingsway, Glen Waverley 3150

4. Straits Cafe - taste the char from the wok on the kuay teow, traditional nasi lamek and the slippery, barely cooked egg sauce over the hor fun.
694 Doncaster Rd, Doncaster 3108

3. Rich Maha - with an Indian Malaysian slant, this eatery serves up consistently good curries, a mean new goreng, and I think pioneered freshly made roti in Melbourne.
Shop 3, 499 Burwood Hwy, Vermont South 3133 or Equitable Place off Little Collins St Melbourne 3000

2. Laksa King - they could serve nothing else but their selection of deliciously addicitive laksa and still make this list.
320 Racecourse Road, Flemington 3031

1. Penang Coffee House - all round delicious hawker dishes, kuai teow laced with wok hei, depth in the laksa and fun and friendly service gives PCH a well deserved number 1.
549 Burwood Rd. Hawthorn 3122

Satay Bar, Melbourne

For a business that basically does char grilled sticks of stuff with a sauce you could have by the bath tub, it’s doing pretty well for itself. And if they ran out of those skewers of beef, chicken, prawn, lamb and even tofu or veggies, there’d probably be little complaint in having that deliciously crunchy yet gentle on the chilli peanut sauce with rice and sides of achar and krupuk (crunch veggie crackers). A brainless lunchtime meal for the Steinbrenner routiner in all of us.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? Flinders La (Cnr Custom House La), Melbourne, VIC
What? Large Meal Pack $10.60, Small $8.40

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Hampton Fish & Chippers, Hampton

They have well drained, crispy battered fish. They have equally good chips. But strangely sold separately. Family packages on a glance appear most economical, but the singles aren’t given the usual combo discount. Poor loners… like me ☹

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 493 Hampton St, Hampton, VIC
What? Fish and Chips under $10

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Royal Mail Hotel

Is driving 3 hours for a meal considered crazy? Potentially... but that doesn't mean that it wasn't worth it. So finally the day I've been looking forward to for 2 months rolls around - dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel.

At the base of the Grampians, in the middle of Dunkeld (a town with surprisingly little to do) lies the unassuming, unimpressive building - but as they say you can't read a book by it's cover.

There are 2 food options - vegetarian or omnivore; and about a million wine options to choose from the famed RMH cellar. We decide for the non vego option; and the wine list was a bit overwhelming so we decide to go with with matching wines - one village (a selection of Australian wines) and one vintage (a selection of International wines).

So as we wait in anticipation for the procession of 9 dishes, we are given warm freshly baked bread and an unusual smoked butter laden with a delicious subtle bacon flavour. YUM! So before our first dish comes we are given the first wine of the night - a pink Champagne; I manage to down it before our food comes - but when our impossibly sweet tomato with basil, interesting "sardine on toast" and melt in your mouth pork sandwich came they topped it up my glass again! (I soon found out this happened through all courses and as a result I soon was very tipsy).

Two vegetarian dishes follow, the first was sugar snap peas bursting with sweetness paired with sashimi made from watermelon - intriguingly and genius. The next was a play on tartare, made from oats, legumes and yeast; mixing in the yolk created a smooth gravy that coated the crunchy earthy base.

Three quite different seafood dishes follow; starting with an understated rock lobster that let the freshness of the ingredients play the star, following was a glowingly fresh and perfectly cooked piece of tuna, topped with an intense onion stock; and finally my favourite dish of the night - a Japanese inspired piece of eel with beef tendon. It was sweet sticky and the textures of all the elements on the dish worked perfectly.

Our main was lamb, eggplant and chlorophyll (not to be mistaken for chloroform), like all of the preceding dishes, the colour, texture and flavour combinations were perfect.

Three desserts followed - first an apple pie infused with chamomile, topped with crunchy almonds on a thin crispy base, followed by summer berries with an unusual but successful beetroot ice-cream. Our final dessert and dish was simply titled pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate. It ended up in front of us as a delicious mess of textures and flavours.

The matching wines, the tastes, the presentation and the service, all hit the right notes; is this the best meal I've had? Probably...

5 / 5 yums!
Where? 98 Parker Street, Dunkeld, VIC 3294
What? Degustation $135 (wines $115 or $195)
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