Friday, 30 October 2009

Burger Monster

RAAARRAARARRARARRR!!!!! WARARRRARRRRAHHHH!!!!! That’s growl of the burger monster wailing out to tell you it’s lunchtime in the city.

In one of the holes in the wall of the Equitable Place laneway that runs perpendicular to Collins and the Little Collins and between Queen and Elizabeth, there lies a monster of a burger. Now if you’re having trouble finding it, just head along Little Collins and there’ll be a dedicated lady in an oversized burger costume pointing the way.

Get past the gimmick, the burgers are quality. You can go the small cheeseburger but hungry people will have the double. That’s two very juicy patties that have been grilled with a nice char, melted cheese clings to the meat, shredded lettuce, a slice of fresh tomato, lightly BBQed onions and a squeeze of a special monster sauce. The real potato chips are like eating batons of a tenderly roasted spud. Think commercial frozen thick cut chips… then the opposite.

Nom nom nom nom nom, if your stomach is craving burger, give it a monster one.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 353 Little Collins Street, Melbourne 3000 (Update: Has since moved to Docklands)
What? Around $10

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Social Roasting Company

Think you’re leading the moral count for the day just because you drink organic black stuff? Don’t ya? DON’T YA?!?!

Well the Social Roasting Company just has to take it one step further. Not only do their 3 locations source only ethical beans, but also do their bit for Melbourne’s less fortunate by providing an opportunity to learn all facets of the coffee trade. Just to rub it in they transport wholesale coffee packs via modified two wheelers.

Not feeling too good now are ya? Should be disgusted with yourself. Time to change baristas.

Where? 5 McKillop Street, Melbourne, VIC
What? Under $5

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Red Spice Road

Mammaries. Jugs. Knockers. Melons. Fun Bags. Big Asian ones.

You can be excused, you little perv, if you took more than a momentary glance at the massive cartoon drawings of three Asian beauties up on the back wall of Red Spice Road, a funky hip Asian themed restaurant slash bar. It is out there. And if you were thinking this place was anything but Oriental, I’m sure the massive red lantern hanging over the two crescents communal tables and antique looking Chinese benches will change your mind.

Unfortunately the shock value ends with those three racks at the back as the menu inspired by more or less the South-East region doesn’t quite hit the mark. A sharing banquet starts with a betel leaf of chopped chicken, lemongrass, chilli & kaffir lime which looks pretty but stacking it against the likes of Longrain and Coda would be unfair. A mock larb gai rehashed as bang bang chicken is basically a clump of steamed mince and vermicelli but lacks the expected chilli lime hit. Same could be said about the Mapo Tofu, which is tastes more like a dying kindling than Sichuan fire.

Much better is the nicely spiced red beef brisket curry that’s just creamy enough. Let me be your Confucius and say, if you could request all dishes to be the very crispy five spiced pork belly, you would. The meat is caramelised on all sides, smothered by a very naughty sticky gravy of caramel hinted with chilli, apple slaw perfect for the protein you’d come back for.

It’s not all food pr0n at the Red Spice Road, but it’ll be better than a Hooters experience at least.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 27 McKillop Street, Melbourne, VIC
What? Lunch banquet $25 + rice $1.50

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Rice ‘n’ Roll

Do you like to be on top? Need to have exactly 356 ml of Rev milk with 153 grams of Special K along with 8.5 sultanas for breakfast? Must have that staple in the top left corner 22mm from the edge at a 39 degree angle? Are your friends worried about your obsession with control?

Rice ‘n’ Roll is an Asian food bar that offers typical Thai combinations of curries and stir-fries or user re-mixed choices of rice and noodle, flavour and meat. Chicken Pad Thai is a very western version that can be livened up with chilli to the requested level. Going out on a limb with my own invention, red Penang curry is fried up with rice, stingy on the beef but an interesting and satisfying result considering the non-standard nature of the dish. Rock up and roll out with your own combo.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 33 Degraves St Melbourne, VIC
What? Under $10

Monday, 26 October 2009

Huff Bagelry

Bagels, also known as the king of breads (okay i made that up) - but is there really anything better for brunch on a weekend? Able to choose from a range of around 13 different fillings & 8 different bagels - the combinations are countless (or 104). We decided to try two lunch type bagels + a home made vegetarian sausage roll for good measure.

Biting through the pastry of the sauage roll revealed a chickpea + vegetable fliling, similar to a pastie - the tomato sauce added much needed seasoning. The first bagel we sampled was a onion & poppy seed bagel and it came with a tuna patty, nicely textured beetroot dip & rocket. The flavours were fresh and textures of the fillings worked together nicely with the bagel. The other was a more standard, chicken schitzel, avocado and rocket on a seasame bagel - not as exciting but still satisfying.

The bagels at huff are a good alternative to the big 2, the fillings are not designed to pack a flavour punch and I think deliberately underseasoned. It's forgivable as the ingredients are of high quality & fresh - definitely worth a revisit to try the other 100+ different bagel combinations.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 112 Koornang Road, Carnegie 3163
What? Bagels 90c-$1, Filled Bagels $7-$10

Korean Seoul Restaurant

There should be plenty more suits in here from the surrounding offices, but admittedly this Korean restaurant isn’t exactly the kind of place to be seen if you’re a wannabe high flyer or impress that important client.

But who really cares when $10.50 of your hard earned runs to Seoul and back with possibly the best value proposition lunch in town. For that price, you get a bento style box with your choice of beef bulgogi, spicy pork or chicken to name a few, a salad with a pleasant vinegar-sesame-soy dressing, a couple of takoyaki fried octopus balls, fried mandoo dumpling, a crumbed prawn, rice, miso soup, a drink and a seat without having to rub shoulders with a stranger. So the beef bulgogi is poor, the meat gritty and tough but easily excused when the other options are awesome.

Maybe this is the place for that corporate lunch. Might show you have the nose for value add.

3 / 5 yums!

Where? 369 Lt Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC
What? Lunch around $10

Friday, 23 October 2009

Ibuki’s Japanese Cuisine

I haven’t felt this excited or naughty since prep when I “borrowed” toy cars from school to play with at home.

So my olds invited me to a Japanese dinner with their mates. I was about to decline politely when it was mentioned it was going to be held at someone’s house. Intriguing… So with much anticipation and suspense, I wondered what this dinner would deliver.

On the night, arriving at the address and walking onto the premises, I crossed my fingers hoping the cops wouldn’t turn up to arrest me for trespassing. Moving up the driveway of the modest one story house and cautiously towards the lights at the back, fears of a hoax evaporate as a feast awaits in the converted garage. There’s not much room to manoeuvre, a round table as you enter, a long rectangular one in front of a plasma that plays NHK, a mini bar on the side and makeshift kitchen behind. Bamboo and Japanese screens do their bit of an authentic atmosphere.

And what better way to welcome incoming guests by having them sit in front of a gigantic wooden boat carrying a bountiful amount of sashimi including abalone, lobster, scallops, tuna, salmon and kingfish. Either side to this is a smaller selection of nigirizushi and a stand that holds up a lovely beef tataki garnished with spring onion, a light soy and Japanese mayo. Underneath, there’s an interesting fresh oyster, a thin slice of salmon, finely chopped radish, spring onion and a powerful salty miso paste that won’t agree with everyone. For something warmer, there’s a silken eggy custard chawanmushi, the dashi good with shiitake mushrooms at the bottom of the fine china. Did I mention this is just pre-entrée?

If there’s still room, next up is the interesting scallop “mornay”, the large mollusc flesh is baked underneath a creamy potato puree, a nice parmesan cheese melt, toasted chilli threads add a kick and with a whole caper for decoration. Tempura is a bit of a let down, sweet potato slices, asparagus, fish and prawn are covered in a batter that’s a little too thick but without that nice crunch due to the excess oil. Served in a beautiful, large earthen pot is a vegetarian Chankonabe, a stew containing a salty dashi broth filled with udon, bok choy and plenty of sliced fish cake kamaboko.

Unfortunately the savouries are far better than the sweets, the red bean pancake hits my soft spot but the quartered crepe pocket filled with cream and strawberry not worth the extra inches to go along the others you’ve already been given.

The ending doesn’t put a dampener on an unforgettable experience. It was an absolute honour, as it turns out, to have eaten at the house of a chef that was at the peak of his powers around the time when I was committing grand theft auto at school. Doesn’t seem much has changed and imagining what could be done in a full-scale commercial kitchen.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? East Bentleigh, now Ibuki’s Japanese Cuisine at 566 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Laksa King

In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times. Indeed, the name of this place is a massive call. If anything, the place is packaged more like a caravan getaway in Bears Lagoon than a 5 star spa and massage treatment on the Greek Islands. But I can tell you, that you’ll probably be screaming out “Yes, your majesty!” when you get asked if you liked getting nailed, I mean laksa-ed by the King.

Malaysian Chinese of course is the cuisine, and all the classics are there including roti, rendang, char kuay teow, mee goreng and nasi lemak. Lor Bak makes a good entrée before the main event, mince wrapped in bean curd sheets that’s deep fried that comes with a sweet chilli sauce. Har Mee is an extremely scrimpy broth but the laksa is the thing that all and sundry come here for. The reason why restaurants nearby don’t have a bum on a seat. It is very good, there is a good level of coconut cream but it’s the blend of spice which has plenty of depth sets it apart from pretenders, coating and flavouring the strands of vermicelli and yellow egg noodles, fried tofu and generous amounts of lean chicken pieces. Fried eggplant might not be a common garnish but just adds to the luxury.

Get your laksa fix here. It’ll be exactly what you need. The royal treatment, so to speak.

4 / 5 yums!
Where? Shop 3, 320 Racecourse Road, Kensington, VIC
What? Under $10

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Brother Baba Budan

Strange. No shortage of chairs, yet you cannot find a seat.

Those behind the great St Ali have brought their dark art into the city much to the delight of caffeine fiends out there, who no longer have to make the pilgrimage to the back streets of South Melbourne for a cup of the sacred brew. The place with the tongue twister name is basically St Ali Lite, a pocket sized version with a similar workshop/factory grunge vibe. It might be smaller but expect nothing less than perfection in a cup.

What torments me now is that I won’t be able to have coffee anywhere else. And I’d feel foolish to do so. Like I did when I tried to sit on the ceiling.

4.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 359 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC
What? Coffee $3.30

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

CJ Lunchbox

It’s hard to walk through Hardware Lane and not get distracted by the glitz between Bourke and Lonsdale. But go a bit further, towards Little Lonsdale, you’ll find a warm little Korean joint that does a cracking cooked lunch for under $9. K style bentos with your choice of bulgogi (pig, chook, cow), the pork lathered in a thickish, fiery red marinade that is more harmless than it looks, with a nice chilli hit balanced out by sweetness. For those who don’t like eating out of a segmented box, most of the Korean café favourites are there cooked to order. Value if you can make it all the way down.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 127 Hardware St, Melbourne, VIC
What? Under $10

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