Friday 30 July 2010

Three Bags Full, Abbotsford

It’s basically Liar Liar plocked into a quiet street of Abbotsford. Which means the folk of the inner north east don’t have to travel so far to get a quality start to the day. That designer warehouse feel is perfect for the area, and doubles up as an art gallery if you feel so inclined to splash out some extra coin. The start of the menu of this addition reads like any other, eggs scrambled, in the big brekky, poached but while there’s an option with parmesan and truffle oil, it’s a bit of a fizzer on the taste to price ratio. So I curse my need for protein over actually getting something exciting, such as the ricotta hot-cakes that come with poached fruit and honey and orange infused ricotta, the sticky black gingerbread or cauliflower fritters. I did make up for my meat deficiency with a cheese kransky on the side. But next time I’ll know better.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? Corner Nicholson & Mollison streets, Abbotsford, VIC
What? Around $15

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Shoya, Melbourne

I’m raging. My entire body is against me. Blood is boiling. Tastebuds jostling and fist bumping to hurt. Blurred vision. Waistline expanding. Diagnosis: symptoms of Shoya withdrawl. Having suffered from a lack of eating fitness at JR recently, it was back to fine form to consume a smashing omakase.

Shoya is a multi level Japanese eating haven, with one area dedicated for the finer things. Wood and moody down lights provide an intimate warm arena, spot lighting a commanding bar area where the expert chefs prepare amazing deliciousness respectfully using basic Japanese flavours, ingredients and techniques, mashing in a few Western things, with a few visual theatrics that will have your eyes wanting to grow multiple mouths.

Salmon Carpaccio: wasabi in mousse form takes the edge off the heat, a garnish of earthy shaved truffles always welcomed.

Tempura Lobster: cream cheese and spiced miso concoction makes anything look good but on top of a bit of luxurious crustacean goes very nicely.

Hatching Ocean Egg: silken egg custard littered with scampi tail and spinach puree at home in its hollowed shell.

Assortment of Sashimi: Yep, that’s an ice ball. A ball of ice.

Beef spinach roll: Grissom would have had difficulty finding evidence of the spongy spinach soufflé surrounding stewed to submission tender ox tongue drizzled with a sticky sweet yet savoury soy beef jus. Except in my stomach.

Crab Tempura: Battered Snow Crab leg was heavy handed with the salt.

Umeshu and sake sorbet: palette cleansing.

Tai Somen: grilled snapper and wheat noodles overcooking in the bonito konbu dashi that overall is a ramen-lite.

Wagyu, black truffle, enoki, shiitake miso sauce: steak and mushroom sauce garnished with shaved $100 bills… keep your whoop whoop inside.

Mixed rice: chicken, veggies and mushrooms

Chef’s Desserts: Come back to normality with the chocolate slice after the strange, densely creamy, slightly savoury sea urchin cheesecake.

Shoya serves up the micro plates of goodness that has puts your body on a very high peak. What a crash when it comes to an end.

4.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 25 Market Lane, Melbourne, VIC
What? Omakase $120, higher for more extreme versions

Monday 26 July 2010

Mart 130, Middle Park

Kaka, Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ellyse Perry certainly didn’t rely on their stunning good looks to get into their national team squads. Because if they were just pretty faces, they wouldn’t be selected.

So just because Mart 130 is housed prettily (and cleverly) in a disused tram cottage on route 96, the gimmick needs to be backed up by a quality food product. But it’ll be an epic wait that you could be faced with to get a seat inside the very quaint country styled café with an outdoor porch out the back to get a taste. And what’s not to love about the menu of mainly breakfast classics. Putting chorizo in the omelette is sure to spark interest though if completely unimaginative, but these pan fried mixed eggs are fine. Corn fritters stack sandwiching bacon slices on the other hand will cause a stir, however let down by the sweet chutney that strayed off side. That said, grabbing a coffee and smoothie would be worth the price of admission to check out one of Melbourne’s more unique locations which has superstar status.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 107A Canterbury Road, Middle Park, VIC
What? $10-15

Friday 23 July 2010

Oasis Bakery, Murrumbeena

This humble middle eastern joint that’s one part super food store, one part café/bakery sits on a quiet part of North Road as a culinary beacon.

It is the one stop shop for all your middle eastern needs packing in over 3,000 grocery items. You’re gonna get hungry sifting through all that stuff, so be glad there’s a source to fuel the hunger. Retaining a warehouse edge, it could be the St Ali of the outer south east. Come for goodies such as shawarma (marinated and roasted shaved lamb or chicken) in a wrap or plate, kebbeh (wheat dumplings and spices), or pastries including the lovely baked zaatar topped with herbs and sumac, cheese triangles and a filling lamb and feta pizza. No bakery would be complete without sweets, so try the ricotta and jam cigars, Lebanese doughnuts and baklava. To be enjoyed with a great brew of coffee.

Oasis Bakery… the Dutch aren’t the only ones that make orange very cool.

4 / 5 yums!
Where? 9/993 North Road, Murrumbeena, VIC
What? Around $10

Left to Right : Zaatar, Lamb and Feta Pizza, shawarma plate, shawarma wrap, sweets, coffee

Wednesday 21 July 2010


There's always that bit of fear that expectations won't be realised when there's a year or two between visits of a place you loved. But fear not Cicciolinas is not only as busy as ever (the back bar packed to the rafters) it's still delivering on the delicious food that made it so famous.

The blue swimmer crab souffle was smooth & light but jam packed with chunks of sweet crab all sitting in a seafood bisque that's been spiked with a little cream and soft herbs. A definite must try.

A delicate spinach/basil sauce was smeared over the top of a large portion of perfectly cooked grass fed eye fillet. It sat on top of a tender confit potato on a plate of sauce made from a redwine reduction. A classic steak dish done to perfection.

Recommended dessert was a textbook sticky date pudding; moist sweet & textured - but unless you're desperately craving a sticky date pudding go for one of the other sweets.

This proven institution isn't resting on it's laurels and is still delivering good food, wine and service - i won't be waiting another year till I re-visit next time.

4 / 5 yums!
Where? 130 Acland St, St Kilda, VIC
What? $17 Entrees, $36 Mains, $15 Desserts

Hu Tong Dumpling Bar, Prahran

So your relationship with the local Chinese joint for yum cha is probably suffering from a bit of a speed bump. Sure you’ve been together for a long time, but geez it’s really let itself go. You thought that once you exchanged vows, things would change, but it still sadly its stuck in the late 80s. And while this partner gives you reliable, it getting tiring.

Time for a fling at Hu Tong. Glammed up with a sharp sense of style, there’s a real sense of Chinese sensibility fit for the big named suburb it’s located in. So the seats are filled by more gweilo than those from the motherland, and the trolleys roll the usual dishes such as cha sui bao, sui mai, har gao, dan tart, spring rolls etc etc, there’s definitely a few things worth going for. Won tons in chilli oil are superb, the outer casing springy and el dente, with just enough mild burn from the sauce. Order two serves. But save room for the famed xiao long bao, those delightful mini dumplings mysteriously filled with a rich broth. Order two of them as well.

Go on, give into the guilty pleasure and do what’s right for you. What you local Chinese don’t know won’t hurt them.

4 / 5 yums!
Where? 162 Commercial Rd, Prahran, VIC
What? Around $30 for a good feed

Monday 19 July 2010

Ibuki Japanese Restaurant, Melbourne

It’s heartening to see a once mighty heavyweight rise from the shadows for one last hurrah. However, this comeback is more Evander Holyfield and it’s probably seen better days.

Ibuki had been holding private parties in a quiet south-eastern residential but has returned to the CBD to spread the love. The very homely feel of that garage has been transferred to the Lonsdale Street address with the bamboo, lanterns, Japanese tidbits, exposed bricks and floorboards. So too the menu, so if you’ve been before, there’s not really much new.

And that’s part of the problem. The game has changed because back in the day, that banquet was absolutely value. Sushi and sashimi, tempura, chawanmushi, the scallop mornay and tempura are all still quality but at an increased cost to cover the overheads. Maybe it was missing the novelty of eating at a stranger’s place, or just having it a second time around. Or without that car covering, you can see the big haymakers coming and it’s just like any other stock standard Japanese restaurant. It’s fine for what it is.

3 / 5 yums!
Where? 556 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, VIC
What? Dishes $15-25

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