Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nuevo Latino Los Rodriguez, West Footscray

553 Barkly Street
West Footscray
Vic 3012

We'd walked past Nuevo Latino (facebook) a few weeks ago, and after checking out Kenny's review decided we had to pay a visit. The large windows give  a good view inside, but there isn't much to mark the name.

The fit out inside mixes a polished concrete floor and eclectic furniture with many homely and south American touches. Even with only a few diners present when we arrived at around 7:30 on a Saturday there was a nice atmosphere, and as it filled up and the band kicked off it built up quite a buzz.

We were given a warm welcome by Jose Rodriguez, part of the family behind the venue as well as a couple of other members of the team. While checking out the menu we grabbed a couple of beers, an Estrella from Spain and my first Quilmes from Argentina which showed it's Germanic origins.

We started by ordering a few of the smaller dishes, the first of which to arrive were two croquettes moros y cristianos, the crispy coating filled with a rice and bean mix which provided a satisfying earthy flavour and was nicely complimented by the mint and yoghurt dressing.

Next up were the photogenic garlic king prawns with Aiguaste. The grilled crustaceans were fantastic and the 'Pepitas Pesto' a Salvadoran cuisine made from ground (pumpkin seeds) was a great addition which we mopped up with the bread that arrived at just the right time.

We hit the menu again and we tried the Yuka chips (a first for us) which had a flavour somewhere between parsnip and potato and produced perfect fries, with a crunchy skin and soft interior and were served with a moreish spicy salsa.

We'd tried to order the grilled corn kernels the first time around, and made sure we got some the second time around. The better half is a corn connoisseur and loved the dish, high praise indeed!

We planned to have a main each, but they came separately, so we shared both. 'My' main was the tamale, steamed stuffed corn leaves, made to Mum's own recipe by her in the kitchen. The origins of the dish go back over five hundred years to pre-columbian times in south america, and are made with a corn dough similar to polenta with added chilli, spices nuts and chicken in this case. These were another new dish for us and we both enjoyed with the accompanying salsa and picked coleslaw.

Last up was the other main plate, pupusaw a Salvadorian speciality of corn tortilla filled with quesillo soft cheese which was happily lighter than I expected and came with great re-fried beans, salsa and pickled veggies.

All evening the service and team were friendly, Jose and the waiters chatted to us and everyone in the room. The band played creating a great atmosphere without overriding the dining experience. There are live acts every Saturday. The bill including five beers came in at $98, which given the amount we ate seemed like good value. We really enjoyed our evening at Nuevo Latino, and can't wait to head back to West Footscray to try out more of the menu!

 The menu doesn't seem to be online so here is my snap of it.

Nuevo Latino on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Shophouse Kitchen - Asian Eating House - QV

Shop 29 QV Square
210 Lonsdale Street
VIC 3000

I hadn't noticed Shophouse Kitchen in the central square of QV despite it having been open for about 18 months, offering the opportunity to "discover the taste of Asia’s Eating House favourites". It was pretty busy on the December Monday lunchtime I visited with colleagues from work.

Inside the fit out is clean and modern, with plenty of east Asian references, including mahjong tiles along the sides of some tables as well as steamers, papers and bottles on the walls.

The menu is extensive, with specials followed by about 10 pages of other options. There a few beers on offer to, as well soft drinks including the "Sunset Beach" a colourful mix of watermelon and lychee juice.

Both the vegetarians went for the hot and spicy “Ma Po” tofu (without minced pork) with rice, which lived up to it's name with quite a kick and went down well.

The double pork option also found two takers, with both roast and bbq'd meat served with veggies rice, which seemed to go down well.

Jake spiced up the pork belly with noodles and greens.

I had the "Chiu Chow" fish balls and fish cake in a rice noodle soup. The Shophouse fish balls weren't quite as 'deliciously crunchy' as claimed, but were flavoursome as expected. The broth itself was mild, with greens and bean shoots topped with some crisp deep fried shallots .

The steamed Shao Mai, filled with ground pork and shrimp looked good.

I shared some of the pan-fried vegetable and mushroom dumplings which came conjoined on the serving plate, but were easily separated.

The skin was thin, crisp on the charred base and soft up top, the content was moist and flavoursome.

The dishes were all reasonably priced coming just over the $10 mark. Despite being busy the service was pretty swift, given the number of diners, our group of eight and slight disorganisation. I'd happily return to checkout some of the other dishes on the menu.

Shophouse Kitchen 大食家 on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Barney Allen's, St Kilda

14 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda
VIC 3182

We were off to a gig at the Palais in St Kilda and decided to have dinner at Barney Allen's, which is on the slightly quieter northern side of Fitzroy Street. It is owned by Iain 'Huey' Hewitson, his former wife, Ruth Allen and her brother, Barney Allen who were all formerly involved in the Tolarno Bar and Bistro just up the road.

The front section which opens into the bar area was busy when we arrived around 6:30 on a Friday evening.

A large central bar dominates the main room, which has a fairly laid back modern fit out, with maroon walls and ceiling.

We grabbed one of the tables which run along the wall. We were quickly provided with menus and then offered drinks by our friendly waitress. The menu isn't huge, with burgers and a few other pub classics as well as some more interesting alternatives, with a range of large and mid-sized dishes.

The Panko and Parmesan crumbed fresh salmon fillet came on a salad of green peas, feta, mint and shredded cos with an anchovy dressing. It was one of the medium sized dishes, but still a decent meal. The crunchy coating tempered the salmon flavours and the salad combination hit the spot. The better half asked for extra dressing as she is a big fan of the little salty fish, she got her wish and still managed to nearly finish it, despite the punch it packed!

I went for the chickpea, sweet potato and spinach curry which came with raita, naan bread and rice. The curry nicely flavoured without being super spicy and combination of ingredients worked well. The naan was one of the better ones I've had outside an Indian restaurant.

With a few drinks the bill came to $55, which is pretty reasonable given the location. The relaxed and friendly atmosphere and quality of the food means we'd be happy to head back when we are over that side of town again.

Barney Allen's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A La Folie Patisserie

589 Chapel Street
South Yarra
VIC 3141

We were invited to visit the A la Folie patisserie, so we got on our bikes on a Saturday afternoon and made our way over to Chapel Street in South Yarra. The shop front isn't wide, but the brightly coloured display certainly grabs your attention.

The interior is bright and clean with a few French touches. The counter is filled with more offerings and as it was a Saturday their creator Mercede Coubard was in the store.

The rows of petits choux under the counter, they are made from choux pastry, similar to profiteroles and are available with about ten different flavours of filling.

Croissants are also now available.

The lime red fruit tarts grabbed my attention, bringing back memories of my Mum's favourite French patisserie treat of tarte aux fraise.

We sat at one of small row of tables outside, which brought back memories of Parisian cafess.

Our invitation included a tea or coffee, both the skinny flat white and my long black were good, I love the contrast of a slightly bitter black with something sweet!

We shared out two petits choux, the p125 chocolate was contained a rich dark chocolate filling, beautiful and one bite was perfect for me, the better half was happier to have an extra share though! The salted caramel had the perfect amount of saltiness to balance the sweetness, it felt like I could go on on eating this one...

We also halved the macarons, the pistachio was initially sweeter than I'd expected but the nuttiness really came through in the aftertaste.

The passion fruit macaron had the perfect crunch on the outer shell, but the interior was softer and packed with flavour!

We aren't normally afternoon snackers, but the ride had helped work up an appetite which was perfectly sated by the fantastically flavoured sweets. Mercede was a great hostess, friendly and happy to chat amidst the steady stream of customers. We will certainly know where to take friends with a sweet tooth next time we are south of the river. We really enjoyed the mix of punchy flavour and reminders of time spent in France.

A La Folie Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Brent Owens Dig In Book Launch at Mon Bijou

Penthouse, Level 10 and 11
187 Flinders Lane
VIC 3000

A few months ago I won a membership of the Cooked website, part of Hardie Grant publishing. I hadn't made much use of it until an email came through with an invite to Mon Bijou for the winner of Masterchef 2014, Brent Owens, book launch for Dig In! The following Monday evening we headed down the laneway besides the Adelphi Hotel on Flinders lane to be whisked up to the tenth floor.

We hadn't visited the venue before and the better half had been keen to check it out. It exceeded my expectations, luxuriously decorated and split over two levels.

The views across the city including St Paul's Cathedral and Eureka tower were great and the open air top floor was welcome on the warm evening. We chatted to a few of the team from Cooked and Hardie Grant while Brent signed books and the venue filled, with a mix of guests.

Next up were the speeches, while Sandy Grant the CEO the publisher was talking, Gary Mehigan arrived and after a video message from Laura Cassai the other MasterChef 2014 finalist Gary spoke.

Brent was up last and included plenty of thank yous, before the photo's began.

There were a few platters of food circulating around the venue, the first bite I got to try was a mushroom and parmesan arancini, with an added pipette. Eventually I worked out that a small squirt followed by going for the slightly smaller than standard arancini in one go was the only way of avoiding a mess... The crisp exterior held a soft and tasty interior which made the effort worthwhile!

I grabbed one of the oysters which came with a lime, palm sugar and coriander dressing which complimented the oyster sliding down my throat.

The mini beef burgers with caramelized onion were the most numerous of the snacks on offer, with tray after tray emerging. I got through quite a few...

...they were pretty rare inside but packed in plenty of flavour, and again the pipettes only need a small squeeze to avoid a collapsing burger!

So thanks again to Cooked, Hardie Grant, Mon Bijou and Owen for the invite, as the venue is open for functions and events only, I'm not sure if or when we'll be back, but it was certainly an enjoyable and tasty evening!

Mon Bijou on Urbanspoon