Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Emerald Elephant - Port Melbourne

179 Bay Street
Port Melbourne
Vic 3207

After an afternoon trip to the beach we'd planned to head to Hunky Dory for some fish and possibly chips, but on getting within a few yards it became obvious that a good chunk of Port Melbourne had had the same idea. The big queues to order and lack of table space put us off, not the ideal way to end a relaxing Sunday! The Emerald Elephant Thai restaurant was next door and we decided after a look at the menu and a couple of reviews to give it a bash.

The cool interior was welcome on the warm day, the place felt clean and tidy if not particularly cutting edge. We were told we could sit anywhere and then had our menu's were delivered by a seven(ish?) year old girl, I'm assuming a relative of the owners or staff! She seemed quite blasé about the fact that she was 'working' there which made it seem a bit more odd. There were a few other tables occupied and several people came in to pick up takeaway while we were there, but it was an oasis of calm compared to next door!

The menu contained plenty of well known Thai dishes amongst a good range. We went for the classic fish cakes. These were well executed with the texture not being too rubbery and delicately flavoured. They came with a mild sweet chilli sauce topped with broken peanuts and cucumber cubes which worked well.

I'd selected the veggie massaman curry, which is a favourite of mine I don't get to cook that often. This version had a little less of the peanut flavours with the spiciness and sweetness coming through more strongly, and had a general lightness and was packed with plenty of fresh vegetables and tofu.

The flavours in the fish Pad Kee Mao certainly seemed authentic for a Thai stir fry, and more bitter flavours contrasted with the massaman. The fish was lightly battered and nicely cooked and the whole chillies certainly packed a punch.

The roti, was quite light in a good way.

Overall the meal felt healthier than some Thai meals I've had. Our orders were taken and dishes were served by friendly (and adult) waitress, although when it came time to pay the young girl was in charge of the EFTPOS machine, all up the food came to $42.30. I think we would give it another try if we were looking for Thai in the area.

The Emerald Elephant Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

View Foodscrazy restaurant map in a larger map

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kokoro Ramen

157 Lonsdale Street 
VIC 3000

Phil suggested trying Kokoro Ramen after spotting a story about it, so at a second attempt we met there for lunch.

It has only started opening at lunch recently and there were plenty of tables to choose from when we arrived around 12:15, and it gradually filled up while we were there. It's a fairly big space and feels a little cavernous with several rows of tables leading back towards the counter where orders are placed. Menu's are provided at the table offering a range of standard soups based on the the 3 or 4 types of stock, as well as the option to build your own soup by choosing the stock and selecting some of the ten or so toppings.

I selected number 6, actually the first of the standard options which which had veggie toppings including corn, spring onion, egg and mushrooms on the cloudy and very flavoursome chicken and seafood broth. It certainly raised the bar in terms of texture, taste and richness compared to previous bowls of ramen I'd tried!

Phil went for number 7 on the menu, in the same stock with decent slices of pork. He also enjoyed and highly rated his generous serve of soup and apparently house made noodles.

The service was efficient and pretty friendly, bursts of shouting occurred at various points from the kitchen livened the atmosphere. Kokoro certainly now rates fairly highly amongst the ramen spots I've tried in Melbourne, but I certainly haven't tried them all...

Kokoro Ramen on Urbanspoon

View Foodscrazy restaurant map in a larger map

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

El Burro

209 Nelson Place,
VIC 3016

We'd read a bit about El Burro, and it seemed like time to try it out on a hot evening after a visit to Williamstown beach. It sits on Nelson Place in the 'historic heart' of Williamstown, not somewhere we'd eaten out before.

We visited on a Monday and found the restaurant pretty packed out at around 8:30, with the crowds perhaps drawn by the current offer of 8 tapas dishes at $8 each, which they had tweeted and facebooked about.There were a few tables outside but those were all taken so we went for one of the recently added two seater tables right by the bar. There are several Spanish touches to the decor including the tile styled pattern on the front window, the artwork and some of the chairs, which together with warm evening reminded us of trips to Madrid and Barcelona.

We ended up trying 4 of the 8 dishes on special, the first to arrive being the bravas potatoes which were a little less greasy than sometimes, which we appreciated, and came in a spicy tomato sauce, which lifted them to a new level.

Next came the arancini, beautifully presented in their mini frying pan, perfectly spherical, and golden. Breaking through the crisp coating the rice was tender and lightly pesto flavoured, rather than gluggy and too cheesy like I've sometimes come across before.

The calamari was possibly the most tender I can remember having and as with the other dishes the aioli and rocket were great and grilled lime balanced the flavours out nicely.

We are both mushroom lovers, and their flavours came through strongly in the 'Champinones' well complemented by the crumbled feta, rocket, garlic and thyme, with a white wine based sauce.

The service was fantastic, friendly, chatty with the waiters seeming to love their jobs, all this while apparently being a little overwhelmed by the extra tables which had recently been added and were mostly in use! Maybe we'd have like our first potatas more quickly, but the anticipation just made them taste better... I'm sure we will be back again!

El Burro on Urbanspoon

View Foodscrazy restaurant map in a larger map

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wok Noodle

92 Charles Street
3011 Vic

We had been past Wok Noodle a few time since it opened almost a year ago, but hadn't ventured in, perhaps because it seemed a bit too cafe or takeaway like rather than a place to enjoy your food. Being inspired by 'the street kitchen, hawker food from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia', a casual vibe is about right! On arrival the friendliness of the staff was immediately obvious, and they continued to chat to us throughout the meal in a genuine way. We'd ended up here because a few of the other local dining spots were closed for most of January, but we weren't disappointed to have had to walk just a little bit further from home.

We shared a couple of dishes, the five spice fish with vegetables, featured pan fried battered fish with stir fried cabbage, broccoli and greens in oyster sauce with some garlic flavours in there too. The dish was good and certainly brought some memories back, the sauce did start to feel a little gloopy towards the end.

The Malaya village style sambal fish contained pieces of filleted fish, again lightly battered with egg plants, tomatoes, capsicums and spring onions in a thick dark sauce. This came with a side dish of house made Malaysian sambal sauce/paste topped with sliced raw chillies, the paste is house made from chillies, dried shrimps and lime. The dish again reminded me of eating in South East Asia and the sliced chillies were strong in that lovely buzz inducing way!

We also had rice and some roti which was nice and not quite as buttery as I remember from visits to Malaysia, but felt healthier which is good! The meal came to just over $50 including a beer Chang and a couple of glasses of wine. There are many other items on the menu to try, including Laksa, and stir fried noodles and rice in a few styles! I'm positive we will be back to have a go with a few more!

Update: 5/2/12

We've been back and sat outside on a warm evening and tried a few more dishes, the mee goreng, indonesian style wok fried noodles had the familiar and distinct almost burnt flavour. The tofu, chicken and prawns tucked within noodles were all good.

The eggplant sambal contained huge tender pieces of aubergine coated in the thick sweet and spicy sauce, although it wasn't quite as hot as on the previous visit.

The gado-gado salad had plenty of shredded cabbage with potatoes covered in a peanut sauce not quite as intense as the ones I remember from Bali, but I think I almost preferred this rendition.

Again the service was friendly and except for the waiter on his first day, smooth. We didn't have quite so many chats with the owners, perhaps because we were away from the heart of the action inside, or maybe just because it was busy again...

Wok Noodle on Urbanspoon

View Foodscrazy in a larger map

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Ironbark Tavern, Chiltern

41 Conness St,
VIC 3683

We stopped in Chiltern on the return leg of our holiday road trip due to a distant family connection. Wandering around the town it feels like stepping back in time with numerous buildings from the historic gold rush era.

The Ironbark Tavern doesn't quite date from then but both the buildings exterior and interior seem to be from a while ago, with the interior in particular blending a range of era's.

The traditional chicken parma was pretty standard, with the slice of orange on the salad the only hat-tip to the eighties, maybe this just shows how traditional the parma is in Victoria! Anway it went down well.

I hadn't seen a tuna bake on a menu for a long while, and as it was on special for $10 I went for it, along with veggies.The mostly roast veg were slightly sad looking, I guess they may have been prepared at lunch time. The pasta tuns bake also could have been prepared earlier, and wont have me rushing to find it again.

The service was friendly, when the Carlton taps weren't working we were offered tinnies for the same price as a pot ($3 I think!) and the food was keenly priced. Not too much to complain about, but not too much to get excited about either, unless you fancy a trip back to the 80's, whether that's the 1980's or 1880's I'm not sure.

The Ironbark Tavern on Urbanspoon

View Foodscrazy in a larger map

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Perfect Break Vegetarian Cafe

115 Fern St
NSW 2534

The Perfect Break Vegetarian Cafe is part of the Natural Necessity Surf Shop on the main street of Gerringong, up stairs boards and surf wear surround you as you dine or sip. You can't see the ocean from the cafe but you certainly know you are near the coast!

 The all vegetarian menu, including dairy but no eggs fish or meat has breakfast and dessert options, as well as main dishes.

Down stairs on the boards there were a range smoothies and juices as well as coffees and teas on offer. I went for a mango based option and it was fresh, zesty and great. I don't often plump for smoothies these days, having worked for innocent drinks while in the UK

After some consideration I went for the veggie lentil and rice burger, the turkish bread was certainly packed with the patty which had broken up a bit, salad, hummus and the satay sauce. It all went well together and was very enjoyable, almost up there with our favourite from Jerry's.

 The bean quesadilla with guacamole and sour cream looked to be both tasty and healthy too and was completely devoured.

We enjoyed our lunch and would certainly make a bee-line for Perfect Break if we are back near Gerringong again.

Perfect Break Vegetarian Cafe on Urbanspoon

View Foodscrazy in a larger map

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Berry Hotel

120 Queen Street
NSW, 2535

The Berry Hotel is a historic pub in the quaint southern NSW highlands town of Berry. Inside the bar has the feel of an English pub.

We visited for dinner and we seated outside in the small front covered area, perfect for a mild summer evening.

After grabbing drinks and perusing the menu featuring a range of modern australian dishes and takes on some pub classics as well as a few pizza's we ordered food in the busy inside dining area.

The entrée sized 'crisp cider braised pork belly' with a roast pear, rocket and walnut salad was pretty generously sized and looked good.

The main dish of salt and pepper squid with a Thai salad and dipping sauce was even bigger. The squid was tender and the salad and sauce packed with south east Asian flavours, in fact towards the end of the dish it was almost too strong. Perhaps the dish works best as an entrée!

I caved in to temptation and had the beer battered barramundi and chips. Apparently the batter was made with James Squire golden ale, but I couldn't quite tell, it was certainly crisp. The barra fillets were great and went and house made tartare sauce, the chips were good and the salad made me feel slightly less guilty.It was washed down with a Longboard Pale Ale, which I hadn't tried before, and enjoyed.

The meals were around $25, the service was very friendly. I'd be happy to go back again if visiting the very pretty part of the world.

The Berry Hotel on Urbanspoon

View Foodscrazy in a larger map

Stone Wall Cafe, Kiama

8 Manning St 
NSW 2533

We arrived in Kiama looking for a late lunch and stumbled upon the Stone Wall cafe which seemed to have more quick and healthy options on the menu than the nearby dining spots. It's probably named for the local dry stone walls not General "Stonewall" Jackson or the Stonewall Inn...

The newly opened courtyard was a tranquil place to wait for our order, we'd arrived just after a table of six and our wraps took about 15 minutes to arrive.

Fortunately the delay was worth it, I had to open the wrap to check we'd got the right ones. It was filled with falafel, hummus, salad and sweet chilli sauce, and was fresh and tasty. It was no problem when we each asked for one ingredient to be left out, I passed on the sour cream.

The service was friendly if not super speedy, the wraps were $9 each after a dollar was knocked off. We'd certainly pop in again if we were in the area.

Stone Wall Cafe on Urbanspoon

View Foodscrazy in a larger map

Merimbula RSL

52-54 Main St,
NSW, 2548

We've enjoyed a couple of previous visits to the Merimbula RSL so decided to head back. Inside it is a standard cavernous NSW style club, however the view from the window tables stretching out to the ocean is pretty special. The menu is extensive and features plenty of seafood as well as pizza's, steaks, pasta and chinese dishes.

We shared the crusted calamari and coconut scallops as an entrée. The squid was tender with a crispy coating, the scallops also well cooked, although I didn't notice the coconut, the asian style salad worked well.

The special of Paella unfortunately didn't live up to expectations. It was dominated by a strong tomato flavour and although there were plenty of prawns and chicken it wasn't particularly authentic.

I had the fish of the day, Barramundi with prawns and a hollandaise sauce with potatoes and veggies. The dish worked, the seafood was well cooked although there was probably a little too much sauce.

It seems like sticking to the seafood options might be best, a few years ago we'd enjoyed the seafood platter which no longer seems to be on the menu. The service was friendly and swift and the food and drink good value.

Merimbula RSL Club on Urbanspoon

View Foodscrazy in a larger map