Monday, 23 July 2007

Kim Chi Grandma

Going to Grandma’s is a weekly Sunday night ritual. Visiting the wisest lady in the family, sitting around that round table, enjoying home cooking tasting of a culmination of a lifetime’s worth of experience. There is another grandma around, with homes at Box Hill, Carnegie and the city. Nothing special about the typically furnished restaurant in that classic Korean style of forest in various stains. How she does please her grandchildren is by intimately knowing exactly what the favourite dishes are and doing them well.

Japchae, those wet, slippery, fine strands of translucent glass noodles and equally thin slices of carrot, onion, spring onion, beef all stir fried with sesame oil and soy is a sweet example of this. Bibimbap was not what I expected, with a sunny side egg and pre stir fried contents. The hotpot was a bystander than actually charring the rice, meat and vegies and it more or less had that same sweet soy flavour as the Japchae until you added the chilli sauce. Unusual, lacking its simplicity and freshness, perhaps this more “exciting” version appeals more the wider community. Red pepper is more than apparent both visually and on the palate when that capsaicin hits your tongue from the chicken bulgogi. Spicy, yes, but not overly so that you need slam down five Cass, Hite or OBs to remove the chilliness or make you forget about it.

Go any day of the week, Kim Chi Grandma’s waiting for you.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 125 Koornang Road, Carnegie; 970-972 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill; 145 Bourke Street, Melbourne

What? Average Main - $15

Left to Right : Kim Chi, Japchae, Chicken Bulgogi, Bi Bim Bab


Bring gourmet and ooh la la hoity toity under your roof with these home delivered pizzas. Amazing what quality produce and ingredients does to the humble Italian staple, transforming it from a Fiat to a Maserati. Do away with the traditional toppings, this isn’t your standard Pizza Hut stuff. Garlic tiger prawns neatly arranged atop a thin crusty base has your mouth watering, flavour further enhanced by sundried tomato, shallots, roasted capsicum, bocconcini and fresh herbs. The satay shaved chicken breast dried out a little bit too much in the oven, but that’s soon forgotten by the quantity of topping you get. Finishing touches include coriander and crushed nuts. One to be remembered, marinara meatball pasta sauce on the flat wood-fired baked bread with fresh basil, capsicum, Spanish onion, bacon and cheese to garnish. Yum. Have your finest crockery and chandelier out when the doorbell rings.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 85 Bay St, Port Melbourne

What? Average Pizza - $17

Left to Right : Garlic Prawn, Satay, Meatball

Don Don

Cooked meals at less than the price of an import beer at a swanky CBD bar, where you may or may not get denied entry for your decidedly casual attire whilst you see a swagger of the bouncer’s “mates” (read flirtatious women) in equally informal rags gain free path, all to the blaring tunes of Sinatra? I can hear Darryl Kerrigan yell out “TELL ‘EM HE’S DREAMIN” in that thick drawn out Aussie accent.

My friend, this place Don Don turns that dream into a reality. It’s Ferrari fast Japanese food at this bustling eatery, and whilst not quite up to the quality of the Italian stallion motoring company’s standards, it’s pretty good. Teriyaki chicken is standard with its Toyota reliable soy, mirin and sake blend topping cubed chicken thigh fillet pieces. The mild and peppery curry deserves credit. Whilst it could be better, it’s better than the majority of stuff that gets passed as Japanese curry for far more dosh in this city. Add an extra dollar for extra meat if you’re hungry. Walk away with a full belly and minimal damage to the hip pocket, you’re set to start saving for your own castle. Or just get piss drunk that night.

2.5 / 5 yums!


Where? 330 Lt Lonsdale St, Melbourne & Bank St, South Melbourne

What? Average Main - $7

Left to Right : Teriyaki Don, Curry Don, Dashi Don

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Figjam Café

Two thoughts come to mind. Either it’s a very pretentious acronym or more obviously a sweet fruity spread named café. No figs insight and hardly a shopfront which says “yeah, I rate myself, so get your ass in here”, it’s a cozy little place that’s fits perfectly into the diversity of Carnegie’s shopping strip. Unassuming and modest with its sharp modern appliances, warm orange shades, splashes of green and blue pillows on the chocolate brown cushions and large rustic wooden tables for larger groups, this smartly designed venue is a great casual meeting point for the middle-aged and young mum brigade that frequent.

No show pony fancy food either, it’s standard café fare here. Cappuccino is smooth and sweet, a well made coffee. Chai latte, heavy on the cinnamon and honey, was a little too sweet for my liking but a nice blend of spices in the full cream milk. Honey mustard mayo, avocado, green leaves and grilled chicken breast lie nestled between slices of toasted focaccia. The freshness of the ingredients is evident in this timeless and reliable combination.

A sauceless burger is like a person a third nipple, anatomically not normal. In the Figjam burger, a grilled patty of beef mince and specks of coriander form the base of the filling with caramelised onions, fried egg, crisp rasher of bacon, cheddar cheese and fresh salad on top lies in between toasted Turkish bread. Despite the lack of a liquid condiment, it’s good, the saltiness from the pig with the sweet onions and herbs providing an appealing team flavours that is sure to please. An army of cakes and fudges should cure any sweet tooth still peckish.

Nathan Buckley might not go out of his way visit, but locals should be very happy with this addition to the landscape.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 128 Koornang Rd, Carnegie

What? Average Main - $12

Left to Right : Cappuccino, Chai Latte, Chicken Avocado Focaccia, Figjam Burger

Friday, 20 July 2007


A second encounter with a shoebox this week, Samurai lures me to Hawthorn. No bigger than a janitor’s office, it’s a tight fit. Red paint splashed on the walls, kabuki frames and fusuma decorate to remind you this place is Japanese.

A menu targeting students and cost conscious diners, it’s has Don Bradman shot variety. Order sushi, yakitori, udon, ramen and dons, also a special lunch box available for $6 Monday to Friday. Everything is absolutely amped up in flavour here. Subtlety is not in Samurai’s vocabulary. The eggplant is pan fried til the flesh has slightly softened and the skin tender is drenched with a sweet miso paste. It’s welcoming but the paste is overbearing. The yakitori was unexpected, but at $3.50, I’m not complaining. Usually in the form of skewers, mirin soy marinaded and crumbed slices of chicken arrived on a plate instead. Easy to see how they trundle out meals so quickly, those same pieces of crumbed chicken come with the katsu curry and katsu don. Again the sauce topping the katsu-don and oyako-don raised eyebrows. Usually a thin, translucent liquid of soy, mirin, sake with onion and whisked eggs stirred through, out came a flood of opaque brown gravy. Hold back on the soy and sugar please, so rich that it caused thickenings of the throat. The curry here is excellent, best I’ve had since Sydney, it lingers with enough peppery bite at the end whilst having a full curry flavour. Heart warming at those prices and I’ll be going back for more.

The search for a quality curry in Melbourne has taken one step forward, but like those $15 hookers to Chazz Michael Michaels, I’m never satisfied.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 804 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn

What? Average Entrée - $4, Main - $7

Left to Right : Negu Dengoku, Marinaded chicken yakitori, crumbed chicken yakitori, Katsu Curry, Katsu-don, Oyako-don

Wabi Sabi Salon

Like Smith Street, where Wabi Sabi Salon lives, it’s a little bit funky and eclectic. With a variety of eating enclosures, you are allowed a sense of privacy. It’ll be a different experience every time you wonder in, either sitting on the benches or comfy lounge chairs, cushions on the floor to dining in the backyard garden. It’s all fun and games. No short of details here, best summed up by its tag line: “If Collingwood and Tokyo had a love child…” a bit of fusion between the predominantly old Japan and urban art grunge fill the spaces. A bit discerning is the traditional folk music that accompanies you in the toilet, that’s a little eerie for me. The food, like the place is not traditional. You won’t find teriyaki or Californian rolls here. I had the crumbed fried salmon with sour plum sauce, which was indeed as suggested and tart in flavour. The vibrant red sauce was visually appetising but I would have preferred a sweeter sauce. Not bound by the norms, Wabi Sabi Salon an alternative hideaway for those wanting something different.

2.5 / 5 yums!


Where? 94 Smith St, Collingwood

What? Average Main - $13

Left to Right : Fried Salmon with Sour Plum Sauce

Borsch Vodka Tears

Bohemian grudge is what you’ll find at this Czech/Polish watering hole. It’s aged, worn features and fittings make you feel like you’re in one of those European country side drinking taverns that’s been there for donkey’s years. There’s a distinct yellow tinge to everything, caused by the antique light shades, creating a warped feel that doesn’t help by what you’ll consume.

Boasting over 100 varieties of vodka and a fine selection of beers from Eastern Europe, this is the place to go for an alternative night of drunkenness. Eating is cheating, but the food is inspired by the same region must be tried. It’s a solid nourishing affair, with the beef goulash, a stew of coriander and peppercorn, the Schabowy, chunky pork schnitzel with purple cabbage sauerkraut and the Pierogi, Polish dumplings of spiced beef and paprika. Dessert then takes on a three powerhouse countries, the Gundel crepe, my favourite, velvety thin pancake encasing warm dark chocolate, a Russian crepe of apple, strawberry with a raspberry vodka coulis and a poppyseed strudel.

With a lined stomach, but the potential of a rainbow coloured expulsion, the brutality can begin. A mind-bottling list of cocktails showcases many of the vodkas but even better, have the multitude of differently infused vodkas straight. Fruits, chocolates, gold, there’s plenty to get through, though not recommended in one night. The 80% alcohol content, dubbed “Rocket Fuel”, is appropriately named. It’s a burning sensation from start to end that sends you to the moon and back. Give yourself five minutes and this place start to look funkier. Enjoy!

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 173 Chapel Street, Windsor

What? Average Main, 20, dessert – 10, vodkas $8

Left to Right : Goulash, Pierogi, Schabowy, Soup, Gundel, Russian Crepe, Poppyseed Strudel


Had it not been for a young man’s childish act, that is to throw a rock at another boy’s face, I may never have come across this classic French bakery in the heart of Balmain. A bakehouse of love it is, everything is made with TLC. Also stocking a fine selection of cheeses and other gourmet tidbits, it’s Victoire’s display at the front window that stops people in their tracks. I think more drainage outside the shop is needed to direct the drool away. The tart is a not so naughty combination of sweet from the apple and grains of sugar scattered on top and rhubarb tartness. Soft slices of pear are encased in a rich, buttery, crusty pastry excite and warm up the palate for the main attraction. It’s a crème brulee that’s a must have. Only 20 odd made a day, the quality custard is soft, rich, and creamy, with an exquisite vanilla essence, topped with a layer of hard caramel. Boys will be boys, and thank goodness.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 285 Darling Street, Balmain

What? Average item $5

Left to Right : Apple and Rhubarb Tart, Crème Brulee, Pear cake

Thanh Dat

Neck and neck, they are flying home, Hoa Tran closes in but Thanh Dat wins out by a chocolate chip at the line in the Vietnamese Cuisine Stakes at Springvale. The prize for the winner, my custom and hard earned in exchange for some easy on the jaw grilled beef cube tomato rice that’s comforting and tasty. Sliced rare beef pho is standard and doesn’t tread on anyone’s toes, the soup giving off a sweet savoury aroma. Healthy chucks of skewered beef that’s been marinaded with fish sauce, spring onion and soy is grilled to take on a smoky char flavour. White strings of vermicelli lies underneath. Three colour drink, a sweet drink which is more akin to an icy soup dessert has plenty of red bean, cendol, mung bean and coconut. Two horse race for Vietnamese food in Springvale. Toss a coin to split them.

3 / 5 yums!


Where? 22/268 Springvale Rd, Springvale

What? Average Price $10

Left to Right : Beef Cube Tomato Rice, Three Colour Drink, Beef and Vermicelli

Thai on Swanston

I can’t remember the name of this place, nor do I care. Hung over, tired as all hell and desperate for food this place was open and had seats. It was mostly green inside and just before Lonsdale. I think it had Thai in the name somewhere. Seemed like a Honkie/Malay run place which had a variety of South East Asian cuisines. A limited assessment: it was being bland and average. No point in offering many but mastering none. Fast food at student prices, fine for a quick fix.

0.5 / 5 yums!


Where? Somewhere on Swanston

What? Average $10

Left to Right : Beef cube tomato rice, Satay sticks, Thai Green Curry, Char Koay Teow, Pho Beef Soup Noodles, Pineapple Rice

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