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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


656 Little Bourke Street
VIC 3000

On the corner of Spencer Street and Little Bourke Street, opposite Southern Cross Station Pho24 is tucked in at the base of a new high rise.

I'd been invited with other food bloggers to try a range of dishes, meet the owners and hear the story behind the venue.

Andrew one of the two co-owners greeted us along with Libby from Two Birds Talking.

Our table, as I was riding my bike and as the roads were wet, I had to steer clear of the wine on offer!

Pho24 started in Vietnam 10 years ago and has already spread to five other asian countries, Craig the other co-founder of the Australian business came across the chain several years ago and was convinced it was a great fit for Australia, with a focus here on suiting and educating the local palate, great quick service and healthy dishes. The target market is much broader than Footscray residents who already have a love of Vietnamese food!

The first plate offered samples of chicken, pork and smoked barramundi rice paper rolls, the latter being the stand out for me, bringing a really different spin to a couple of favourites of mine.

The chilli baby octopus salad was up next, eaten san-choy-bow style in a lettuce leaf... The sauce packed a big kick and worked well with the octopus.

The open steamed pork bun with chilli sauce is a local adaption and is certainly packed with oodles of flavour.

The prawn spring rolls were well executed and perhaps the dish most similar to those I get regularly close to home.

The smoked paprika pork Banh mi was also stuffed with pâté, mayonnaise, cucumber, coriander, mint, pickled carrots and radish, fried shallots, chilli and dressing. The rich smoky and meaty flavours shone through well matched with the salad and herbs.

Next it was up to the counter to experience the newly patented, rapid pho assembly line, first after ordering the noodles which have already been weighed out are heated and added to the bowl.

The protein and veggies came next... followed by the stock from the large tanks.

I opted for the smoked barramundi pho, keen to try a different spin on the dish.  It had a very different feel to my normal favourite of a chicken based pho. I balanced the smokiness with a couple of squeezed lemon wedges and all the components worked well together, and I got through the regular sized bowl in no time. It has to be said that the sizes are a bit smaller than in Footscray, with the large here about the same size as a medium elsewhere.

We ended our meal with a moist and gooey taro pudding, which although new to me, felt like comfort food.

Craig then took us on a tour of the open kitchen.  Here he is showing the banh mi and pho production zone.

All the meat is cooked sous vide retaining moisture and flavour, which also assists with maintaining the consistency their processes strive for.

Their pâté is also vaccuum sealed and slow cooked resulting in a rich flavour and super smooth texture.

The stock vessels, with their beer style taps at the bottom.

The spice storage zone above the kitchen.

It was a fascinating evening hearing about the launch of an international restaurant brand into the local market. It has already been quite a journey to get where they are today, including adapting the original broth recipe made by the executive chefs brought over from Vietnam for the opening. This isn't an old school Vietnamese Australian pho joint you find in Footscray or Richmond, but if you are after something a bit different, with a fusion of flavours and techniques Pho24 is worth a visit. It's also a good place to introduce newcomers to a range of Vietnamese dishes in a modern, friendly environment. The speed a bowl of pho is put together is impressive in itself!

Pho24 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Red Spice QV

37 Artemis Lane
VIC 3000

I'd known of Red Spice Road in QV for a while but hadn't eaten there until a recent visit with some colleagues from work.

Inside and out the look is clean and modern with a few Asian influenced touches. It is glazed on three sides, allowing plenty of light in and views out across the city.

We shared the five dish express lunch menu, which comes in at $36 a head. A couple of us went with the veggie option, which meat we got a slightly different selection.

Our entree was a spicy broad bean fritter which was softer than expected but given loads of kick by the chilli jam.

The other appetiser was betel leaf topped with shredded pork, chilli, lemongrass and coriander, which looked elegant and light.

The first two of the main dishes to arrive were the hot and sour Szechuan noodle salad including Shanghai noodles with cucumber, shredded cabbage, green onion and pickled ginger and the shredded chicken, pennywort, herb, peanut and coconut salad. I tried the noodle salad which was packed with flavours.

The tea leaf salad was another of the veggie dishes, I've since found out that it is a speciality of Burma and flavour of the fermented or pickled leaves is distinctive and unlike almost anything with perhaps a hint of blue cheese about it!

 The pork belly with chilli caramel, herb salad and black vinegar was a big hit with the carnivores...

The stir fried noodles with tofu had a great pad Thai vibe to them.

The corn fritters were firmer and crunchier than the entree.

I tried a little of the southern Thai fish curry with sweet potato which was nice enough, with plenty of mellow turmeric and coconut milk, but lacked a bit chilli punch.

I also had some of the Char kway teow, and the fat rice noodles with prawns, lup cheong, soy, chilli, egg and bean sprouts were good.

The service throughout the meal was well paced, friendly and accommodating of our group of around ten. The dishes were all good with a few standouts, in fact they probably tempted most of us to overindulge leaving us feeling full all afternoon. Next time I'll stick with the 3 dish banquet option!

Red Spice QV on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Grain Store

517 Flinders Lane
VIC 3000

Danny was visiting and was after some "modern Australian" cuisine; a bit of research led us to the Grain Store on Flinders Lane. Outside it was wet, so not a great time for finding the perfect angle, as it is the restaurant is in a large multi story building, with minimal branding outside. 

Inside the look was smart with plenty of light wood and would suit the brunches that get great write ups.

At the back the kitchen is open.

The menu isn't long, but it still took us a while to choose our meals.

Danny ended up selecting the pan seared scallops with smoked eggplant, a butternut boudin noir (black pudding) sandwich, ricotta lemon curd and crisp leeks which he enjoyed.

I went for the octopus which came with calabrese peppers, saffron potatoes, chorizo aioli and a smoked paprika chimichurri. The tender cephalopod was well complimented by the strong flavours..

Despite his well laid plans, Danny ended up opting for steak again. He asked for the 300g Romsey range NY cut grain fed sirloin rare, but it came out a little over that, but it still went down well. It came with a potato galette, sauce béarnaise and caramelized red onion jus.

My choice for main was the ocean trout, which came on this evening with cauliflower purée and fried school prawns. The skin was crisp, the flesh tender, moist and flavoursome. The crunchy crustaceans, veggies and sauce were perfectly cooked and worked well together.

We had the side of triple cooked hand cut French fries which came with chipotle aioli, the tomato sauce came out on special request!

The service was great, friendly, efficient and happy to accommodate our tardy ordering. The bill came to just over $150, including a few schooners of the True South Pilsner and a glass of wine. I'd be happy to eat at the Grain Store again, either at dinner or to try their lauded brunch.

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon