Monday, March 30, 2015

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen

27 Russell Street
VIC 3000

We were invited to the soft launch of Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen which will be opening soon downstairs near the corner of Russell Street and Flinders Lane. On our arrival at the foot of the stairs, we were welcomed with shouts from all the staff, before being given a menu and shown to a table.

One side of the space is dominated by an impressive bar.

Along another side of the space is the open kitchen. There were a few other diners in when we arrived, and more of the 200 expected guests arrived as we were there.

The menu has smaller Izakaya dishes as well as the customisable noodle soup, plus some advice on how to enjoy ones bowl! It took us a few minutes to work through the options before placing our orders.

We were presented with some yakimeshi or Japanese fried rice while we waited, which was a nice mini entrée.

A tray of drinks headed our way and we both went for the Saké and apple juice which was refreshing with just a little kick. 

We were also served a gyoza to try, mine had lovely crisp charred base with a tasty pork filling.

When our turn came we were invited to move up to the bench directly in front of the kitchen, with only the glass separating us from the preparation of the food.

There were a couple of sesame dispensing devices, the oil bottle had a fancy self opening and closing lid, whilst the seed grinder took a bit more working out, but with the cover off and turned upside down, a few turns produced a pungent cascade of crushed seeds.

 The spicy Tobabjan Tonkotsu had yellowy orange colour almost heading into laksa like territory, and had hints of similar flavour according to the better half. It went down well along with the bonus noodles, turning it into a substantial meal.

I opted for the green Yuzu Tonkotsu, flavoured with yuzukosyu spices from the Kyushu region of Japan. I enjoyed the rich combination of flavours and textures with each component having been prepared perfectly. Again with the extra ramen it really filled me up in a satisfying manner.

With our meal complete we didn't loiter, especially with the number of guests expected. Although we were warmly welcomed and treated well, there was still a touch of first night nerves around. The food however spoke for itself and the ramen was some of the best I've had, and it's definitely worth a try.

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ba'get Argus building for Vietnamese Tapas and Tales

Shop 3
284-294 La Trobe Street
VIC 3000

I was grateful to receive an invite from Duy the CEO of Ba'get to come to a Vietnamese 'Tapas and Tales' evening at the Argus Building Branch on the corner of La Trobe and Elizabeth streets. The smaller dishes are a new move for the Ba'get restaurants, aiming to diversify from their current offerings which attract more of a lunchtime crowd. We were going to get the opportunity to try all of the new offerings which are all prepared and cooked by the team.

We kicked off with a 'Mekong Breeze' cocktail which adds mint, lime, ginger and ice to a rum base, giving it a flavour kick to go along with spirit. Duy told us a little of the origins of the family business which stretch back to the Mekong river delta in Vietnam where his father and grandmother started selling bánh mì to support a large family after his grandfather had passed away. Later after arriving in Australia as refugees the family had run bakeries and restaurants in Footscray and beyond, before moving into the city and setting up two branches of Ba'get with more to follow now in Werribee and Watergardens.

The first dish to arrive was the salt and pepper whitebait, which packed in lots of fishy flavour into the crispy coating with a hint of spice.

Next up we were challenged to make our own rice paper rolls, with the ingredients coming out first... 

...along with the cleverly designed combined rice paper holder and dipping device, the water is in the reservoirs on either side of the central paper holder. One of the tricks is only to wet the rice paper briefly all over, before removing while still firm. It will then continue softening as it sits on the plate being assembled. 

Next we added the lettuce, herbs, vermicelli picked carrot and pork and were ready to roll...

... I don't think I did too badly for a first attempt. The freshness was obvious upon biting into it, and everyone around the table enjoyed the process and result.

It's obvious why Mama's chicken wings have made it onto the menu, with a fantastic crisp coating and succulent white meat inside.

The salt and pepper calamari was another popular dish and board was soon empty. There was added kick in the chilli mayo dip which complimented the tender and rings and tentacles.

The pomme frites came with mayo, and were well executed. By now I was accompanying my meal with a 333 Vietnamese beer, bring back memories of time spent there.

The pork and taro spring rolls were a creamy and mellow twist on the classic dish.

The Vietnamese coleslaw with chicken, was served with prawn crackers to eat it in and turned out to be another table favourite.

The spicy prawn twists were filled with decent chunks of crustacean wrapped in a handy way to eat.

The sweet potato fries were super soft inside with enough crunch and subtle five spice flavours on the outside to make them very moreish! We also got to try the gin and lychee based Peaceful Dragon cocktail with lemon grass and chilli to heat things up despite the ice.

The final dish was the grilled meat balls which were nicely caramelised and the last few were finished, despite what had been a generously sized shared feast!

We finished of with a traditional iced coffee, not something I've really been a fan of in the past, but this converted me! 

The decor has a modern and funky twist on the Vietnamese theme.

The evening was an tasty and enjoyable intro to the new tapas dishes being introduced at Ba'get and I think I'll be heading back with the better half! The beer and cocktails complimented the fresh flavours, I'll be unsurprised if the new menu is a success. Our host and the fellow diners from a variety of backgrounds, both bloggers and regulars/friends added to the occasion.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Mozzarella Bar, Seddon

103 Victoria Street
Vic 3011

The first word of mouth feedback we got about the Mozzarella Bar on Victoria Street in Seddon was positive, but the first couple of evenings we'd been past it had been rammed so we hadn't tried. After reading some mixed on reviews on Urbanspoon we were still keen to check it out, as it still seemed popular. On a Friday in late summer we easily got a table outside...

...although we may have struggled inside as it was as busy as usual. We perused the menu, and were offered drinks and served by a variety of the team, but everything ran smoothly.

We eschewed other options and made a bee-line for the pizzas which arrived pretty promptly given the full house. The Napoli topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte, anchovies, olives and fresh chill packed a spicy punch. With seed filled fellas removed went down well, so much so that I didn't get to trade a slice to try! 

I went for the Campagna which featured roasted eggplant and pesto on a traditional skinny wood fired base. There seems to be a mixed reaction to the style of pizza, but it reminded me of some of the best traditional offerings I've had both here in Melbourne and Italy. Yes there is a wide crust and the more heavily topped centre can get a little soft, but that's just how I remember it!

We also had a side of the green beans with pine nuts which also had a massive garlic hit!

With a few drinks the bill came to $79, so not cheap, but the quality of the food made it seem fair. The service was good all evening and the manager or owner was keen to mention at the end that they would be offering special deal cards during the forthcoming Seddon festival (7/3/15). We also like Casa di Tutti across the road and Seddon is lucky to have two great options (and competition) for pizza!

Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon