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

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Shop 201 and 301
Midcity Arcade
200 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

We were invited to eat at dinner at Wagaya by a group working to "support Japanese food culture in Australia by
reaching out to the non-Japanese Australian public" as long as I wrote about the experience.

The restaurant is situated over 2 floors at the Little Bourke Street end of the MidCity arcade in Chinatown, the basic mall fittings  give way to a big space with a fantastic fit out once you emerge into the third floor.

We explored a little at the end of the meal, finding the pass downstairs on the second floor.

There is also a nicely furnished balcony/roof top area....

...with views overlooking Chinatown.

We chose to be seated in a booth which were set for 4 or 6 people, with dark wooden tables and banquettes along with screening to give a strong sense of privacy.

We were given copies of the menu, but soon figured out how to work the touch screen ordering system, navigate through the pages and begin ordering!

We kicked off with a nice sized bowl of edamame, always a good way to start a feast.

Next to arrive was the yakitori, with plenty of pieces of varied cuts of chicken on the skewer with a glaze of tare (sweetened soy) sauce.

The teriyaki tofu were coated with a great sweet sticky sauce and inside the tender skin were meltingly soft. It was a challenge for our chopstick skills, but certainly worth the effort.

The homemade gyoza looked great with their golden markings on the thin skin. The better half rated them as some of the best she had tried.

The prawn tempura were huge, inside the light crispy batter the crustacean was perfectly cooked.

We paused and then made a few more orders at this stage, it was great being able to use the flat screen to order at our own pace!

The first part of round two were the three spider sushi rolls, the soft shell crab looked like it was trying to emerge from the rice. These were another challenge to our dexterity, but well worth the effort, with the avocado complimenting the crab perfectly.

The chicken meatballs were firm yet moist and the spicy cod roe and mayo worked surprisingly well with them.

Our final dish was the scallops and garlic fried rice, the bursts of flavour from the pieces of shellfish light up the simple but well executed offering which was presented in a sizzling hot bowl.

We never had to wait long for our dishes to be presented and the staff were friendly. Our bill including a draught Asahi came to around $70 which was covered for us. We were impressed and would come back again, maybe at the weekend when the lowere level is also opened up, and we might get to spend some time outside too!

I've also been requested to include a link to this youtube video about the restaurant group.

Wagaya Japanese Restaurant Melbourne on Urbanspoon