Friday 28 September 2007

Sushi Bar Aka Tombo

The boutique clothing stores and throng of scantily clad ladies are MIA on Greville Street at 7:30 on a Thursday night, but that doesn't mean there's no reason to visit Greville. In an unassuming shop front near the Chapel Street end is a tiny but welcoming Japanese Restaurant - Sushi Aka Tombo.

There are a handful of two seater tables, whilst the rest of the diners behind the sushi bar. In the corner is the source of the hot dishes, a 4 burner stove. There is one sushi chef, a chef manning the stoves and two waitresses - as mentioned previously - it's tiny.

We decide to start with two sashimi plates, a red and white. We order "Toro" from the specials menus (the belly meat from a blue fin tuna - very rare in Australia), and a kingfish sashimi. Both come out decorated beautifully with a garnish of Okra/Carrot/Radish. The kingfish was great, very fresh and exactly what I expected from this highly regarded place - no mind blower. On the other hand with my first bite of Tuna, I felt that magical feeling you received when you know you've just eaten something very special. The fattiness of the mighty fish added an extra depth to the flavour, whilst there was a texture that could only be described as a "melt in your mouth" feeling - the deft knife work helped. An expensive but invaluable experience.

We followed the sashimi with two hot dishes, a mixed Tempura & Sukiyaki. The tempura arrived first, mixed fresh vegetables and some seafood battered in a oil-less crispy batter. Very good tempura, and the flavour and freshness of the seafood and vegetables were maintained. Next came the Sukiyaki, in a ceramic pot - fresh from the stove. Wagyu beef was used - and immediately noticed. Each tender bite was delivered with an excellent sticky sweet sukiyaki sauce and vermicelli. This dish is a must have when coming here - the best sukiyaki I’ve had - period.

The only let down of the night - a common thread in Asian restaurants came from the Desert. We ordered the tasting plate - that had Green Tea Ice Cream, Brown Sugar Ice Cream, Coconut Jelly, Creme Brule and a Fruit Compote. Although not horrible, it certainly was the weakest link of the night - and should be improved - or at least voted off.

Although the place is small, the food, experience and service are far from it. This place is certainly fighting above its weight - and winning. Some may find it hard to equate $$$ to quantity - but there is no doubting the quality.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 205 Greville St, Prahran, VIC
What? Japanese
Cost? $16-$20 a dish

Tuesday 25 September 2007


The combination of a dark deserted road and the sentence "I'm going to take you on the best mandate of your life" would usually be met with slight reservedness and a fair amount of fear. However the sight of lights draped across leafless trees immediately alleviates fears of man-love and is replaced with the excitement of a Michael Lambie inspired meal.

Approaching the building we enter the door on the right which leads us into the bar dining area (the left door led to the restaurant - which for today has been booked out for a function). We had arrived without a booking however the friendly staff were more than accommodating and found us a table. For a "bar" the décor and furniture was of a very high quality, as we parked ourselves on comfortable steel framed chairs in front of a stone table laden with heavy steel cutlery & crystal wine glasses.

After perusing the menu we decided two mains and a side of fries to have along with a bottle of smooth Victorian pinot. My man-date for the evening could not forego Lamaro's signature dish - The Sichuan Spiced Duck, served with a Salad of Papaya, Flavoured Salt and a Wedge of Lime (a meal I have had the pleasure of eating on a previous visit). First impressions were the slightly charred crispy skin that married well with the juicy flesh. However what made this meal unforgettable was the perfect balancing of textures and Thai flavours (Sweet, Salty and Sour). The crunchy sweetness of the papaya salad complemented the citrus-y moistness of the duck to create a tantalising treat for the tastebuds. John Lethlan did not lie - this is a dish I could eat over and over again.

I decided to try something different and settled on the Crispy Fried Pork Hock served with fruit and caramel as accompaniments. The idea of the dish was intruiging - where the crunchy fried exterior was to be used to offset a tender moist flesh hiding inside. However the meat inside was slightly stringy and chewy - the dish was far from perfect but was also far from disappointing - Although I probably would not order it again.

I am usually not one to have deserts - however to stick true to the essence of a true mandate I decided to break this rule and ordered the Banana Pudding with Caramel Sauce. In roughly 15 minutes a warm banana pudding served with caramel & icecream arrived. On the side of was the cutest tiniest segment of banana topped with a crisp toffee - showing the level of care and detail involved with this dish. I am going to make the claim - that this was the best desert I have ever tasted. Every time my spoon came near my mouth - everyone of my tastebuds was fighting it's way to the front to ensure it secured a piece of this pudding.

The other desert we ordered was the rubarb crumble which was good in it's own right - however did not hold a candle to the pudding.

All in all - after a night out at Rockpool Bar & Grill we were going to be harsh critics. However not only did we find Lamaro's better value - but quite frankly it was better food. For First Timers - an order of the Duck and Banana pudding will ensure you have a great night. As for the man-date, fortunately it did not also end in a "great night".

4 / 5 yums!
Where? 273 Cecil St, South Melbourne, VIC
What? Contempary - Asian Influenced
Prices? Dinner Menu - $18/$30/$12

Friday 14 September 2007

Andrew’s Burgers

Get Toyota to Albert Park. Already a highly efficient and respected organisation, they could learn a thing or two at the burger factory that is Andrew’s Burgers.

A place that would absolutely rake it in, they retain a modest shopfront. It looks and feels like a takeaway shop from the 60s and it’s great to see that the fame hasn’t translated to upgrades involving gold chains for staff and blinged up features.

Because the stock turnover is faster than Speedy Gonzalez on crack, you’ll get only the freshest ingredients in your burger. Straight from the ground iceberg lettuce and cabbage, slices of red ripe tomatoes, a rasher of ultra crispy bacon with all of its heart stopping goodness, oozing cheese and sauce tomate on the finest beef patty going round all in between toasted buns that’ll put Brad Pitt’s to shame.

Toyota manufacture decent cars, Andrew’s make great burgers. Hell if people cross the West Gate for the gloriously tasty “The Lot”, then what’s a little eight hour flight for a couple of Japanese engineers who probably need of some vitamin D and fresh air from the Nagoya headquarters for a fact finding mission and a feed?

3.5 / 5 yums!


Where? 144 Bridport Street, Albert Park, VIC

What? The Lot - $8

Sahar Take Away

Generally, how can one determine if the club is going to be at least alright? Say you haven’t seen any promos or spoken to anyone. If you had x-ray vision, check out the crowd inside and if you don’t have this supernatural ability, assess the line outside.

The dilemma. It was after the peak hour lunch period and searching for a feed in Dandenong. Not wanting to go back to any of the places recently visited, we skipped from place to place along an ethnically vibrant eating strip that is Thomas Street. Sizing up Sahar, a matchbox takeaway shop, busy enough such that people had share tables to dine in. Must be alright.

A simple menu of 10 choices, it’s a charcoal meat affair but also offers maantu (Afghan dumplings) and other traditional dishes. The chicken kebab, generous and tender pieces of thigh rolled in a delectable combination spices, hit the hunger spot better than a CT head shotting a T with a Colt. Those same spices are massaged into a whole chicken and cooked over white stones, eaten with a quick grilled Turkish kind of chewy white bread. This should be the next cult takeaway shop in town.

The nightclub theory hasn’t proved me wrong yet. If you can’t sit in this place, least there’s pass outs.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 256 Thomas Street, Dandenong, VIC

What? Average Price $10

Left to Right : Chicken Kebab, Whole Chicken


They are a sneaky bunch, these Longrain proprietors. Going to the cocktail bar certainly is a lot like buying something from late night TV shopping, you end up getting a lot more than what you bargained for.

From the outside, this converted warehouse gives off a dark and intimate aura, however step to the bar area and you’ll find a DJ spinning groovy lounge tracks and glittering green fish scales framing the kitchen wall, providing a half club feel as you nestle into in some very comfy couch seats. The stock is great as you inspect the cocktail list, with plenty of yummy alcoholic options to choose from. But it’s the enticement of the extras, demanding to be purchased to feel like you’ve got the entire package, which send the senses racing. Purposefully placed and advertised, they hit you aurally from the clinks of ladles hitting the woks in tandem with intoxicating scents of fragrant Thai. It’s not fair I’m telling you. Fine… if you can’t beat them, eat them.

A construction of seaweed textured betel leaves topped with smoked trout with chilli, garlic, galangal and trout roe imparting their flavours that requires a Kleenex ending as the juices run amok all over the hands. As the Colonel would say, it’s finger lickin good, so lap it up. Caramelised pork hock is meat candy, enough said. But WAIT, there’s more! Sexy as the six packs that advertise the ab roller but delivering more than just aesthetically pleasing pieces of meat is the “get it before it sells out” Barossa chicken in an addictively sticky spiced plum sauce. Rich and thick, but slightly sweet, it’s deliciously good that could seriously hamper your aspirations your own washboard stomach.

Hmmmmm, umm….. I shouldn’t… but maybe one more betel leaf for the road. What can I say, unlike those Danoz Direct products, least you get what you paid for.

4 / 5 yums! (based on this limited experience, lunch in Sydney gets 4)


Where? 44 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC

What? Bar Menu - $5 - $16, Dinner Menu - $20-40

Left to Right : Betel Leaves, Caramelised Pork Hock, Barossa Chicken


Fellas, you know the dream I’m talking about, the one where you’ve just won the Australian Grand Prix, after accepting the winner’s trophy on the podium and you smooch the smoking hot blonde grid girl with the legs that don’t quit, then proceed to give that oversized bottle of Mumm a good shake to spray the dignitaries, fellow competitors and the smoking hot brunette promo chick. Ladies… I don’t know… just think of that overwhelming sense of joy and adulation.

Obtaining a prized seat at the winner of 2007 Cheap Eat Guide restaurant of the year, certainly warranted popping some bubbly. Having been declined from this place more times as I’ve been turned down by members of the opposite sex (and that’s a lot of times), it doesn’t hurt half as much as being denied the Horoki menu for so long.

Go with a small group of friends and it becomes a degustation at KFC prices. Crispy shreds of daikon dominate the salad providing a stark contrast to the soft slices of raw fish drizzled in a sesame soy dressing and pellets of roe. Describing the crispy chicken yuzu (tart like a grapefruit) flavour as a weather forecast, I’d say it was very pleasant 25 degrees, sunny and not a cloud in the sky. Daikon gets around as it makes an appearance on top of the swordfish tataki while something more special is the tenderly roasted pork slices that sit in a pool of almost teriyaki like soy reduction, sprinkled with a little red of a Japanese pepper. With a sense of theatre, they leave the best til last with the much talked about tuna carpaccio, a marriage of Lamborghini and Lexus flavours in parmesan and a light soy which leaves the eater gasping for encores.

Five dishes between four people, it’s not much and probably won’t satisfy if you’re hungry. Come to savour the opportunity at Horoki and order up big time. Leave feeling like you’ve wrestled rye bread from a granny and gotten away with it (no I'm not an asshole, Seinfeld fans will understand), for surely this place is a steal.

3.5 / 5 yums!


Where? 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne, VIC

What? Average Dish – $3

Left to Right : Daikon Salad with Sashimi, Crispy Chicken Yuzu, Swordfish Tataki, Tuna Carpaccio, Roast Pork

Thursday 13 September 2007


Homer Simpson to the “No Homers Club”. As the third wheel with your friends who’ve coupled up, sitting across the table as they look at each other lovingly in the eyes. That feeling that you don’t belong. Chapel has always felt like foreign ground. The South Yarra side, not my cup of tea.

Luckily refuge is only a tram ride away. Escape the glitz and glamour for a place with more character than Novac Djovokic in Windsor. Tusk doesn’t stick out like a long projected tooth as its name would suggest or try to impersonate anyplace else. With decent coffee, a good selection of desserts, cakes and muffins and a outdoor area right in the thick of the action on the streets providing a summery bohemian feel, one pauses for a moment to think of something suitable to describe it. It’s pretty good.


Where? 133 Chapel St, Windsor, VIC

Wall Two 80

Think of a time when you’ve cruised down a street. Get a little bored, so decide to check out the scenery. From afar, the eyes go googly… SHAZAM! That person is alright… definitely has a cracking body. Approaching the same point from opposite directions, a closer inspection is made. Squint a little, to better focus on the subject. However, as if by reflex, the head turns sharply away to avoid eye contact and being caught out for having a perv. Unfortunately who was thought to be a potential hottie turned out a butterface (or prawn, depending on your sexual orientation). Harsh assessment? Maybe they have a great personality, thereby giving them more substance than just a person with good looks, the type of person that makes you feel all mushy inside.

Which brings me to Wall Two 80. First impressions may leave one scrambling for the safety of a main road eatery. After all, the sight of grudgey yet skilled graffitied wall doesn’t necessarily scream out good food and coffee available here. Give it a chance, and you’ll be rewarded. Enjoy lovingly made gourmet pides filled with nutritious and tasty ingredients such as smoked chicken and Dijon mustard, a Genovese caffeine hit or three, and tarts, fruity muffins and other delights to satisfy the sweet tooth. Warning, it does get crowded, so you might have to sit on stool cushioned milk crates instead of a more “civilised” dining setting inside. But look on the bright side, maybe these “tough” experiences could bring two people together.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? rear 280 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, VIC

What? Average Main – $9

Thursday 6 September 2007

Replete Providore

You're entering the vicinity of an area adjacent to a location, the kind of place where there might be food abundantly supplied or some kind of weird purveyor. These are just examples. It could also be something much worse. Prepare to enter... The Red Door.

Can’t really call this a diamond in the rough, given that Hawthorn is one of Melbourne’s most leafy and prosperous suburbs but it certainly is a gem. A little corner shop (remaining true to its roots, can still pick up small items and frozen takeaway meals for the time poor) on the quieter Barkers Road, it’s apparently more popular than a trip to the toilets at halftime of a footy match and seating is limited during peak times. It’s got much better food than the Telstra Dome kiosks serving a wide variety of sandwiches, pides and slow food. A popular choice, the hot sandwich of a rustic homemade beef patty strewn with basil, rasher of bacon wedged between thickly toasted white bread with a mound of hand cut chips and a gourmet salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. On the changing portion of the menu, an interesting tagine of tenderly stewed melt-in-the-mouth chunks of lamb, zucchini and carrot in a braising liquid of garlic, cumin and other yummy spices. With a mountain of sweets and cakes to conquer that tease from behind the glass and jars, a return trip is an order.

You are exiting the realm which is casual. Maybe it's cold and windy or contains some kind of warm atmosphere. The second one. Prepare to exit... The Red Door.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 302 Barkers Rd, Hawthorn, VIC

What? Average Main – $16

Left to Right : Hot Sandwich, Lamb Tagine

Wednesday 5 September 2007

Mr Wolf

Everyone: What’s the time, Mr Wolf?
Mr Wolf:
Six o’clock
Everyone: [taking large steps] One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Six
Everyone: What’s the time, Mr Wolf?
Mr Wolf: All the better to eat you with my dear… I mean DINNER TIME!
Everyone: [SCREAMING hysterically back to the safety line as Mr Wolf chases]

Actually this is one occasion I don’t mind getting tagged and caught by Mr Wolf. In fact I’d embrace them with open arms, but squeezing too hard and inappropriate levels of salivation and movements at hip level could lead to a sexual assault charge. Criminal records are something to avoid.

A self restraining order may be required though after a visit to this stylishly funky pizzeria in St Kilda. A forest mural and cartoon creatures adorn the wall, dimly lit by futuristic cone shades creating a cool mood that would put Dean Martin to shame. Upmarket this place and food maybe but the prices won’t put an enormous dent on your credit card. However, multiple visits within the same week and a shopaholic girlfriend will.

The crux of potential indiscipline lies in the simplicity of the menu and the combinations on a perfect pizza base that’s thin, crustily baked on the outside rim yet springy chewy without sogginess in the middle. Papa Giuseppe, you’ve been schooled.

Prawn, buffalo mozzarella, garlic, peas, cherry tomato, chilli make up an excellent Sicilian, with sliced lemon giving it a Listerine freshness. Discs of tenderly roasted pumpkin and pillowy white soft ricotta on the Zucca performs a graceful waltz in the mouth while the Funghi’s strong, bold, meaty yet creamy porcini and other mushrooms is racy like a salsa nightclub. Had there been a genie in a bottle handy, first wish would be for more succulent roast pork and crackling topping that pizza, an infinite supply of the most scrumptious lasagne of veal and pork ragu, basil and mozzarella and thirdly more of that delightful nutty crumble atop the dessert special of apple and rhubarb pizza. Charlie Bucket would have a tough time choosing between the factory and this pannacotta, loaded with cinnamon and slices of gently poached quince for a pear textured contrast.

Too bad Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo are stuck the sewers of Manhattan, but lucky for them, Mr Wolf can now deliver cowabunga good pizza times.

4 / 5 yums!


Where? 9-15 Inkerman Street, St Kilda, VIC

What? Average Pizza – $20, Average Dessert - $12

Left to Right : Sicilian, Pancetta, Roast Pork Pizza, Zucca, Funghi, Lasagne, Cinnamon Pannacotta, Apple and Rhubarb Crumble Pizza

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Let’s Bab

Curiosity for the other Korean joint in the Warrigal Road waters takes hold. Dangerous liaisons it is, as Kim Chi Friends is perilously close. I thought I could stay true. I’ve never been unfaithful but know how it feels to fall victim. Yes. Kim Chi Friends is probably feeling very hurt right now. “Take the knives out of my back,” it screams, “for I’m not The Ex knife holder (” Yes, an emotionally painful experience.

Those guilty thoughts are pushed aside as the thinly sliced pieces of Bul Go Gi arrive on a sizzling hot plate. The distinct aroma of the soy and onion marinade floods the nose, unfortunately the quality of the meat is average and textured of slightly overcooked. Better is Chilli Karage of chicken pieces battered and deep fried, smothered in a sweet chilli sauce that’s cooked till caramelised and hardened to a toffee. Whilst generous in proportion, the candy-esque sugary crunch didn’t provide much pleasure. Mix the hot Stonepot Bi Bim Bab with the fear of being caught had all the usual of carrot, cucumber, onion, radish, bean shoots, shredded beef with typical sesame oil for flavour and chilli sauce to taste. Something that has more backbone than a person who isn’t willing to tell the truth and a hell of a lot more likeable, the gutsy appetiser of Cheese Tok Bokki, draft stopper tubes of springy textured rice cake, sautéed in a lively subtly sweet chilli sauce topped with melted tasty and sesame.

The phone rings, I could get busted… Leaving as quickly and inconspicuously as possible, was the secret rendezvous worth it? Not bad, maybe I can have both at the same time…

2.5 / 5 yums!


Where? 623 Warrigal Hwy, Chadstone, VIC

What? Average Entrees – $6, Average Main - $9

Left to Right : Cheese Tok Bokki, Beef Bul Go Gi, Chilli Karage, Hot Pot Bi Bim Bab

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