Friday, 31 July 2009


Kekeke. I couldn’t stop thinking about the cheesiness… while I was eating at Da D’Sylva’s Coda.

One of the most anticipated openings of the year. Adam D’Sylva branching out on a his first solo venture. The Age’s 2008 young chef of the year. Of Longrain and Pearl pedigree. A spell at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. A floor team from some of Melbourne’s finest. Oh yeah, excitement plus.

Which is kind of a bit odd when you see more people milling around the stylishly hip, dark and moody designed bar area that’s so Melbourne laneway basement, drinking biers, wines and cocktails rather than downing the food in the separated sit down area.

Fair enough too when the Asian, Euro inspired menu is designed so that those who want an unstructured night out can still have a quality bite, and those die hard foodies can create their own degustations with the smaller dishes and bigger sharing plates.

So what are those boozing and snoozing and missing out on? First up a creation that comes straight out of the Longrain recipe book, a beetle leaf is the green platform for shredded spanner crab, galangal, roasted chilli adds mild heat, a squeeze of lime provides refreshing acidity. Scallops are roasted to perfection, served in its shell in a pool of creamy pearl tapioca, salty pops from the orange balls of salmon caviar. Sweet potato shreds are deep fried with school prawns to form a fritter, the roasted chilli dip an amazing balance of heat and flavour to complement. These three very nice in their own right though taking a little something from three other Melbourne heavyweights is a little bit dangerous.

Unfortunately the next couple aren’t as impressive. Nuoc cham Vietnamese style dipping sauce is fine but the Hanoi style deep fried rice paper rolls aren’t, the inner sheets slightly gooey and undercooked and masking the flavour of the filling. It’s salt on salt, the ponzu soy’s weak acidity does little to balance out the saltiness of a seven spiced fried battered cuttlefish.

There is redemption in a never fail “meat and meat” combo of roasted chicken wing stuffed with pork, the hero of the night being the sizzling plate of prawns, soft, gelatinous kingbrown mushrooms lathered in a flavour bursting brown sauce of chilli, fresh green peppercorns and plenty of sweet thai basil that you’d be happy drinking straight.

And all is forgiven by the time you finish dessert. A taste plate of baked lemon tart with a yuzu marshmellow so spongy soft you’d want dive head first into leaves you wondering where’s the rest, the second part is one that makes you curious but exhilarated. A small vase holds a creamy Valrhona chocolate custard, dotted with hazelnut brittle for crunch, a pumpkin foam works beautifully. Souffle of the night was banana served in a cute mini copper pot, drizzle on sherry to taste, the honey and date ice cream complements and ties everything together.

This review has gotten too long. Much like a Dan Brown book. There will be sceptics, but most should enjoy this Code-Da like I did.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC
What? Smaller dishes $5 – 15, Bigger $29 – 35, Desserts $10 - 18

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Pondok Buyung

Have you been a good, healthy lad this week? Done 1000 crunches and at least 40 kms on the tready? Are the arteries cruisin’ for a fat bruisin’? It’s substance, and sustenance over style at this Indonesian eatery that’s pretty ghetto. Might not look like much, but the choose your own adventure curries and other Indo goodies with rice and you’ll be seeing the place in a new light. Flavours are big and rich, and that’s where your gut will be heading if you eat here too frequently.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 124 Anzac Parade, Kensington, NSW
What? Under $10

PJ O’Brien’s

Being at an Irish pub, I set out to order the most Irish thing on the menu. Guinness Pie. Imagine the death stares usually reserved for guys who drink milk out of the carton from the Irish on our team lunch. Of course I was pushing their buttons but they loved it. Imagine the Guinness they wanted to drown me in when I remarked that the pub had an old man English feel. Probably crossed the line.

Though drowning in Guinness would have been a better option than eating that Guinness Pie. It was more like a Shepard’s Pie, except with a cheap mince lacking flavour covered with a mash and all baked in a mini casserole dish. Not sure about the soup either, the burger with grilled cheese and BBQ sauce looked to be a questionable better option.

As Ron Burgundy noted, milk was a bad choice. So is PJ O’Brien’s for a meal. I should have followed my fellow leprechaun friends and ordered the only truly Irish thing on the menu. The cheese and tomato toasty.

1 / 5 yums!
Where? 57 King Street, Sydney, NSW

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Pie in the Sky

Olinda!?!? Great pies!??! Sounds like goobeddygod hogwash! A sceptic might proclaim. They might even add that’s pie in the sky. Funnily, they would have hit the nail right on the head. Not just a local crowd, in fact the country style weatherboard establishment, filled with country nostalgia bric-a-brac seems to be filled with city slickers looking for a slice of the award winning.

I’m no pie connoisseur but I can usually spot a Four-N-Twenty when I’m sober. And these pastry puppies are no conveyor belt meat package. The house floater is the house signature of cow pie with a puff of spud mash treading in a pool of pea and ham soup. The puke green sludge isn’t the stuff you’ll find in a bistro but the quality beef in a nicely spiced gravy more than compensates. Beef variants include standards mushroom, bacon & onion, curry, burgundy, or Guinness, korma, tandoori, Thai Chicken for the more adventurous.

Now if you told me there was a beef rendang pie as well, I’d definitely say that’s pie in the sky. Funnily enough…

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 43 Olinda-Monbulk Road, Olinda, VIC
What? Around $5 for take away, $15 for eat in

Pie Face

Imagine the jingle Pie Face could have with Lady Gaga. Catchy, sexy, something about disco sticks perhaps. Not that they need another gimmick to drive their business. As the name suggests, little faces are squiggled onto the lids of the pastry pies, different expressions for different flavours. Chunky steak, chicken mushroom, thai chicken curry, classic mince amongst the choices. There’s a “Stack” that combines a pie, mash and gravy that’s a decent substitute if you can’t get to Harry’s. Pies are alright, you won’t go gaga over them but least you won’t need a car to get one after the late night disco.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? Bondi Junction, Kings Cross, Pitt Street and others, NSW
What? Pies around $5

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Pho An

When it comes to Vietnamese, the dodgier the better. However, when you’re this popular and making a squillion dong selling the humble national beef noodle soup, you’ve got every right to embellish a little. Squeaky clean, modern, well lit, but it’s the wireless PDAs that with a touch a stylus begins the half minute kitchen to table journey of your bowl.

And what a bowl of broth it is for which I reckon multiple bovines have been sacrificed. Smokey, a perfect balance of spices, distinctly savoury yet there’s a touch of sweetness. Hoisin and chilli absolutely unnecessary for extra flavouring, just consume the springy rice noodles and sliced rare cow as is.

A warning, when you buy D&G you pay D&G prices. The best pho in Sydney doesn’t come Vietnamese cheap so don’t expect large bowls for under $10. But well worth the price and a walk I’d make to Bankstown with apple bottom jeans and boots to eat the pho.

4.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 29 Greenfield Pd, Bankstown, NSW
What? Around $12

Peas Please, Alexandria

I can’t quite connect the green pods to this quirky little café set in a refurbished terrace that’s an eccentric mix of old English country, faded Chinese “propaganda” art and a neat collection figurines you might find in the back window of a young gen-X Asian car.

Despite the conflicts, the menu is typical café with a few breakfast and hot lunch options. A special of spaghetti meatballs respectable, a generous sweet tomato sauce with plenty of onions and a hint of chilli.

It’s a place that would sit very comfortably in Newtown or Glebe. What they don’t have, Alexandria gains.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 11 Mitchell Rd, Alexandria, NSW
What? Under $15

Monday, 27 July 2009

Pearl Cafe

Fine diners have taken to the casual eating place like AFL teams have embraced the small forward that applies pressure or the rolling zone. First it was Guy Grossi and Cellar Bar. Then it was Shannon Bennett and Café Vue. Justin North, Plan B. Neil Perry and Rockpool Bar. Press Club Bar. Movida Next Door.

As with all these spin offs, the renowned chefs bring customary class. Pearl Café is no different, from the pearly white lab bench that’s the communal table in the middle, a massive suspended shelf that houses wines and coffees above the counter displaying refrigerated goodies, snow flake light pendants dangle from the ceiling, the cute cartoony Imperial male and female salt and pepper shakers and the serving dishes a charcoal black. Nice touches.

This continues with the food with simple tweets made to relatively standard café dishes. Breakfast includes muesli with biodynamic yoghurt, fruit salad that’s marinated in fresh ginger and spearmint. Organic eggs come with different choices that made me wish they could do a mini degustation to try them all. A green chicken curry not typically creamy coconut type, a much more refined version. Macaroni cheese with double smoked bacon, leeks and Gruyere looks like a bit of a pasta bake but Mr Perry’s edges this one. Wagyu steak and veal kidney pot pie with puff pasty lid absolutely brilliant, the tomato relish adds another dimension to the already potent meat mix. All it needs is a side of fries.

For something sweet and both served in stemless wine glasses, citrus trifle with vanilla custard and mandarin jelly good but also reminded me why I don’t like trifle in general (soggy sponge doesn’t do it for me), the passionfruit pavlova celebrates the classic Aussie dessert.

Looks like the latest tactics in the AFL are here to stay, part of a successful formula. Likewise in the eating world, this trend of offshoots is something that can continue on for our benefit.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 599 Church St, Richmond, VIC
What? Around $15


I smell cheddar, or is it camembert? Blue? Whatever it is, there’s a definite cheesiness to the name. But there’s no cheese in sight at this “upmarket” Asian dessert parlour that fuses premium Asian ice creams and toppings with traditional Western flavours and fruity sorbets. Find plenty of tasty combinations of jackfruit, durian, taro, black sesame, coconut, stick rice with grass jelly, evaporated milk, orange compote, banana, mango, strawberries via a food pr0n glossy menu that sexes everything up.

In “Double Happiness”, you get two scoops of green tea and red bean ice creams, topped with a red bean paste then stacked with glutinous balls. It’s actually very sweet stuff but surprisingly the flavours are reasonably true.

Although there is no cheese, they do charge gourmet cheese prices which is unusual for Asian in Haymarket. Novelty and uniqueness comes at a cost, but you’ll get your just desserts.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? Capitol Square, 730-742 George St, Sydney, NSW
What? Sundaes $10 - 14

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Parra Road Kebabs

I can’t remember the name of this kebab shop on Parramatta Road in Camperdown. What I can recall is the place provides two fantastic late night booze soakers. Kebab might not have the best quality meat but of course nothing a bit of garlic and chilli sauce can’t mask. A recipe for the double breasted chicken burger undoubtedly an attempt at Ogalo and a more than passable effort.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? Parramatta Road, Camperdown, NSW

Panama Dining Room

Axle Whitehead and that infamous MTV incident. Will Farrell’s explicit tea bagging of the drums in Step Brothers. Panama Dining Room’s dining room, just one step too far.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having a drink in the warehouse loft space with massive arched windows, plenty of retro guts that’s so arty hip Smith Street, free pool and table tennis before busier times. I wanted to love the food but perhaps misplaced faith blinded me.

It started off nicely, two deep fried zucchini flowers at $17 fine but rather expensive. For similar prices, more interest in the generous amount of clams in a manzanilla broth, “grains” of orzo (like barley) and broad beans and a tuna rolled in sesame seeds seared with an accompanying avocado puree and a basil seed vinaigrette.

Rolled rabbit loin, with roasted leg demonstrated skill in cooking the meat to perfection and retaining moisture, spelt, green olives and balsamic onions with a healthy amount of carrot puree definitely a better choice over the baked slab of lamb, the earthy flavour of the meat not masked at all and rather over powering. A fetta and spinach crumble and chickpea chips good but accompaniments for both mains better matched with something else.

Chocolate éclairs, cream filled sinister for the health but not for tastes, fresh strawberries and jelly with a mascarpone sorbet with walnut mini meringues a fresh and lovely marriage of fruity and dairy textures.

If the food matched the heights of the bar, the place probably would be more packed than it currently is. Maybe a good thing it doesn’t reach the standards, otherwise getting into Panama might need you calling upon your connections at Prestige Worldwide just for entry.

2 / 5 yums!
Where? Level 3, 231 Smith St, Fitzroy, VIC
What? Entrees $17, Mains $29, Desserts $12

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