Monday, December 19, 2011

Shanghai Street Dumpling

342 Little Bourke Street,
Melbourne, VIC 3000

2011 seems to have been my year of the dumpling, so a visit to Shanghai Street Dumpling dumplings for lunch with Phil seemed like a good way to round it off.

We arrived on a Monday at 12:15 and joined the queue behind a couple of groups. We waited for about 15 minutes before we pounced on the first table that became available once we were at the front. There were still people lined up when we left around 1pm. Inside and out the space is modern and a contrast to some of the China Town dumpling spots. Once we had a seat we ordered immediately as we'd had plenty of time to decide using the menu in the window and then grabbed some tea.

Phil went for the speciality of Xiao Long Bao filled with pork with ginger. They arrived still steaming, and sat happily in their bamboo container pregnant with soup. They aren't easy to eat gracefully, but were worth the effort!

I went for the vegetabe Xiao Long Bao, which were filled with spinach or a similar leafy green along with some mushroom, but without the broth of their meaty counterparts.

The veggies the were finely chopped, which made them easier to consume!

We also shared some vegetable buns, which had the same filling veggie XLB's, the slightly sweet dough was an interesting contrast to the savoury contents. They also ensured that we were full after our meal.

So is Shanghai Street Dumpling worth the wait? Probably, the dumplings are good, the setting is modern and the prices are competitive, our combined bill coming to $22.50. It's not a place to dwell over a long dinner, but the staff are efficient and pleasant, if a little rushed! On a return visit, it would be best to arrive a little earlier...

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Oriental Teahouse - Melbourne

378 Little Collins St,
VIC 3000

Oriental Teahouse has an easily spotable sign hanging outside, but you could mistake it for a tea retailer when looking in from the street.

Inside behind the selection of teas and paraphernalia are plenty of tables. It was reasonably busy when we arrived on a warm Friday. The blue stone walls remain, the rest of the design features combine modern and oriental themes.

We tried a wide range of dishes between 4 of us, from the menu which included an array of interesting dumplings  and other Chinese dishes. The Peking Duck rolls were a little light on the duck and sauce.

The seafood san choi bow nicely combined the chopped veggies and seafood.

The salt and spicy soy bean tofu were certainly salty on the outside, with a crunchy casing and soft tofu inside, they were like a savoury profiterole!

The sizzling pork dumplings, enclosed minced pork and chives in a crispy casing and were reminiscent of gyoza.

The specials on offer included a steamed snow fish dumpling contained tender pieces of the fish apparently also known (according to the 'net) as sablefish or black cod, wrapped in a skin infused with coriander and topped with fish roe. These looked and tasted great.

The mushroom rolls contained finely sliced shimeji and oyster mushrooms and mint fried in a flower based skin and provided a good contrast to the dumplings.

The baby pea leaf dumplings also contained prawn which worked beautifully together.

The vegetable dumplings were spherical, had an overly thick skin, and didn't live up to the high bar of Shanghai Village Dumpling.

The king prawn dumplings looked spectacular with the open topped minced filling topped with the king prawn, the main flavour really came through, no mixing with pork here!

The service was friendly and efficient, it was even suggested we could get four of serves of 4 dumplings rather than the usual 3 with each dish, fantastic for sharing with our group. It is certainly a more relaxed dining experience than the somewhat frenetic service at the budget end of the market, and more suited to catching up or celebrating with friends rather than a quick bite. There was also a greater range of flavours and options to pick from. The price also reflects this, the food bill for 4 of us came to around $110. I'd go back for more if the occasion arose.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Laksa Bar - Melbourne

108 Little Lonsdale St
Vic 3000

Laksa Bar isn't far from the office, and I'd noticed the fit out work going on as I wandered past, eventually the sign appeared.

There are floor to ceiling windows to the street and also through to the chef's working in the kitchen with big pots of I'm assuming stock or soup.

Based on a had a quick scan of the launch menu and some favourable noises, it seemed like a good idea to go along and introduce a friend to the joys of laksa.

The interior is modern with a mix of tables for 2-4 people and tall stools at long benches. The services are exposed, walls are bare and the floor is polished concrete.

We were shown to a table and given the short 'launch' menu's, ordered at the counter, grabbed cutlery and bibs and returned to the table with our unlucky table number.

I tried to be healthy with the skinny laksa, made with light coconut cream/milk with vegetables mushrooms two types of tofu, tomatoes, beans, onion, vermiceli and thicker noodles. I asked for a medium level of spiciness and added some of the extra chili sauce/paste provided. The soup was a little less rich than sometimes as I'd expected, but still flavoursome, and it was certainly packed with ingredients.

Brendan went for the traditional curry laksa with chicken, which also contained eggplant, tomato and tofu. The soup looked a little richer and may have been more filling as he didn't quite manage to finish the bowl!

The service was very friendly and efficient, the place feels lively and the laksas are good, although probably not quite up there with laksa king, but it's only a block from the office! At the moment prices are $12 for a veggie or chicken laksa, $14 for fish and $16 for seafood. I'm sure I'll pop in again at some stage, there are a few more laksa's to try!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Le Chien, Seddon

5 Gamon Street,
VIC, 3011

We'd never made it to Le Chien before, it's probably the furthest of the cafes in the Charles St precinct from home so given the good reviews it was high time we gave it a go.

It is opposite Sabroso right at the top end of Gammon St. It has a few outside spots, and although it was just about warm enough to be outside the road work signage detracted from what is normally a nice spot. We arrived before 7 on a Friday and there just a couple of other tables taken, it gradually filled up as we ate.

We shared the sardines with rocket tomatoes and olives as an entree. The combination of of the sardine and olive flavours worked surprisingly well!

The pasta of the day was risoni with chicken and merguez with peas and olives which was well prepared but lacked the bite that may have come with say chorizo or another more spicy sausage.

I had the snapper on mash with broad beans asparagus and peas. This looked wonderful and tasted as good. The fish was tender and the combination of vegetables worked really well.

The bill came to $100 including a few glasses of wine and a long neck of coopers. The service was good, in fact from my seat where I looked over towards the bar with wait staff in attendance almost a little bit too present. I'd be interested to try the breakfast which has had good reports from friends.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Waterside Hotel, Melbourne

508 Flinders Street,
VIC, 3000

The Waterside Hotel is situated on the busy junction of Flinders and King Streets, however inside on a weekday evening it was relatively quiet. It's a good spot to watch the world and trains go by.

It manages to retain the character of a pub and some historic touches including stained class, whilst still being quite modern, and avoiding any seedy King street characteristics. The menu featured plenty of Aussie pub classics and several different specials offers running from Monday to Thursday. As well as the main pub, there is a dining room offering a different dishes. Upstairs there is also an outdoor area.

Despite my good intentions I couldn't go past the midweek offer of the 'long parma', a Melbourne bitter long neck and parmigiana for $18. The parma was huge, almost dwarfing the 750ml beer bottle! The crumbed chicken was well cooked, not too dry as it can end up some times, the bread crumbs crunchy, and the toppings of ham, tomato and cheese in good proportions.

The roasted veggie lasagna with pesto herb bread was a slight variation to the hotel standard. It contained plenty of vegetables in a rich sauce, with maybe just a few too many herbs, as the flavour was dominated by basil.A salad or something else on the plate might make it look a bit more enticing!

If you are in this part of town and fancy a classic pub meal in a relaxed environment, this is a good option.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Standard Hotel - Fitzroy

293 Fitzroy Street,
VIC 3065

The Standard, tucked away on a backstreet in Fitzroy, still feels like the old school pub it did 10 years ago when I first visited. Out the back there is a courtyard/beer garden area which is unexpectedly large and warren like.


We were sat inside and a largish group of us pretty much had a side room to ourselves. We ordered at the bar as each of us arrived and made our selections, so a procession of meals arrived over the course of an hour, which suited us.

I had the veggie burger from the specials menu, which had a sweet potato and pumpkin 'patty', eggplant, salad, tomato and cheese in an impressively tall white bun, and was served with chips. Unfortunately the burger didn't match up to Jerry's quality, it was dry even with added tomato sauce and not particularly flavoursome.

A few people went for another special, the cold lamb salad with grilled saganaki some after a recommendation from the bar staff and it won universal praise!

The steak sandwich looked good and seemed to go down well.

The service was friendly and pretty efficient given our random ordering process. It's a great venue, just a shame the choice from the special board wasn't the best...

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Garamerica - South Melbourne

230 Dorcas Street,
South Melbourne,
VIC, 3205

We were in South Melbourne to do some shopping and then grab lunch before heading out of town for the night. We picked Garamerica as it seemed one of the few Asian options that were open for lunch at on Saturday. Just off Clarendon St on Dorcas St, despite the sign Garamerica would be easy to miss.

Inside it was pretty cosy, and relatively busy when we arrived at around 2, it emptied while we were there. The welcome was warm and we were offered help with the menu and suggestions!

Bali is the only part of Indonesia we've visited, and although we got around the island, I'm sure it only represents part of the national cuisine. I did remember a few dishes on the menu.

I had most of the Ayam Bakar, the marinated chicken grilled with garamerica's 'authentic sauce', was beautifully cooked, crispy spicy on the outside and tender inside. It came with rice, shrimp paste, chilli and a few veggies, along with some hot and sour soup.

The Mie Ayam had egg noodles blended with spices topped with minced chicken and mushrooms cooked in a "special sauce", was a new one to me and nicely flavoured.

We shared the Siomai which the menu listed as steamed Indonesian fish dumplings with home made peanut sauce. It came with with tofu and boiled egg as well as the dumplings, which were more gelatinous than we expected. The sauce was quite sweet and reminded me of those that I'd had on gado-gado in the past. It was certainly a different dish, and I'm still not quite sure if I'm a fan. The waitress mentioned that her favourite was the fried version, which maybe worth a try on another occasion.

The dishes were good value at around $10 each, we would have been fine with just one each... The service was very friendly, and I'd certainly pop in again if was in the area.

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