Saturday, March 31, 2007

Don Vincenzo

Don Vincenzo is a cafe located on Brunswick Street. I stopped by there for a quick dinner with my friend Justin. I had just finished a training course which was held in Brunswick Street and Justin dropped by after his volunteer work at the FINA Swimming Championships.

The cafe was a bit dim for my liking, but otherwise it had a nice easy feel to it. The guy sitting right in the corner near the toilets staring out at everyone with this hawk like gaze made me feel a little uneasy. But once we settled in and started talking, I forgot about him.

We got Salmon Bruschetta for entrees, which were tasty with the usual smoked salmon, capers and olive oil. The bread was a bit overdone.

I ordered the Chorizo Pasta. The tomato based sauce was ok, and the Chorizo's weren't the best I'd tasted, but overall it was quite good.

Justin's Seafood Risotto was a better dish I thought. It had lots of flavour and the risotto was done quite well.

The service from the extremely bubbly waitress was good, and overall it was a nice relaxing place for a quick meal.

Overall Rating: 10/20, Food was ok and fairly priced, especially for that area. I would probably go there again for a lunch rather than dinner.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cacao Chocolates

After a very tough two days of Project Management training while having quite a bad cold, I decided to reward myself with a walk down the street from the training centre to Cacao, purveyours of fine chocolates from what I've read.

I came by Cacao a while back when a friend told me about it but it was closed the last time I was there, so didn't get to go in. This time, I made sure I went straight from training while it was still open.

Regular readers might know that I love desserts and chocolates so I couldn't wait to try these famous chocolates. They certainly look great, tiny works of art each piece is. The chocolates that I have tried so far from the selection I got are good, much in the same fashion as Koko Black Chocolates, but I find that they are still not as good as the Patchi Chocolates. I find these chocolates and the ones from Koko too "gimmicky". They look great with all the patterns and colours and have a million different centres, but they're not true chocolates for me. In going for design and lots of different flavours, not all the flavours work and they lose the true essence of chocolate in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I still love eating them, but if I had to choose where to spend my money for very expensive chocolates (Cacao $19.95 for 12, Koko $48 for 36, Patchi $110/kg), I choose Patchi everytime. Patchi's chocolates are just that, chocolates. You can choose from various types of solid chocolates, or also with fillings, but the classical fillings of gianduja, pralines and croquants of nuts. The chocolates with fillings are still mainly chocolates, with the shells much thicker and the filling blending with the shell to make the smoothest texture in your mouth.

By all means, go and buy these chocolates as they are still really nice and you may love them. But whereas the chocolates from Patchi make me say "mmmmmmmmm, wow" everytime, those from Koko and now Cacao make me say "that was good" without closing my eyes and savouring the beautiful taste and texture.

Cacao Fine Chocolates & Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Comfort Foods When You're Sick

The past few days I haven't been feeling too well. And when you are sick, you tend to lose a bit of your appetite as well. The first day when I was feeling the worse, I couldn't stomach any rice at all, so instead ate my favourite comfort food when I'm sick, congee.

I usually have plain congee with an assortment of condiments. Some of my favourite condiments to go with congee are

*fermented tofu that you buy in jars
*dried prawns soaked in soy sauce
*pickled cucumber with chilli
*shredded dried pork
*canned dried fish
*thousand year old egg
*Chinese sausage
*Chinese donuts

Or sometimes if none of those things are available, just a plain bowl of congee with soy sauce tastes so good when you're sick.

I was discussing comfort foods when you are sick with my friend Emmanuel. He is of European background and he said his comfort foods were chicken soup and porridge. I guess porridge is a similar equivalent to congee, but you can have so many more condiments with congee. I also love soup when I'm sick, its so easy to eat when the thought of eating something solid makes you want to throw up sometimes.

What are your comfort foods when you are sick, anything particularly weird?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

Today, Jo, Kin and I went to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's Wicked Sunday event. This year's Wicked Sunday was all things Chocolate and Coffee, mmmmmm.

The weather was beautiful, a perfect 20 degrees getting slightly warmer throughout the day. The crowds came out to enjoy the food and festivities.

There was cooking demonstrations and presentation on many stages scattered throughout the area.

However, I was most interested in the food. We started off with a nice coffee and then ate our way through the stalls. Every thing that caught our eyes and noses we wanted to sample. We tried hot cross buns, cherry bread, brownies, biscuits and chocolates.

These babycakes looked so delicious, but I just couldn't get myself to part with $3 for a cake the size of my thumb (I'm not kidding, they weren't called babycakes for no reason).

Having ate our way to the end towards Birrarung Marr, we stopped to watch some acrobatics do a synchronised swimming show atop these 5 metres poles. They were very entertaining and funny.

Then it was a short walk back to Federation Square and the Atrium to sample chocolates. There was a mad crush of people all trying to get a look at the stalls.

One of my favourite chocolate stores Patchi, had a stall there. I have previously written about Patchi and how good their chocolates are. They're very pricey, so I try to restrain myself to not eat them too much. These beautiful individually boxed chocolates were by Patchi. Jo couldn't resist so bought one.

The Patchi Chocolate "cakes" were spectacular, I really wanted to take one home. But these "cakes" must have been made up of a few kilos of chocolate and would have cost most of my week's wage.

Other chocolate stores such also had beautiful displays of chocolate art such as these chocolate roses.

I had to muster all my strength to refrain from buying and eating everything. The festival was a lot of fun but the day was still early, so we walked over to Lonsdale street to absorb some more festivity at the Greek Festival.

There weren't as many people there as I expected, considering Melbourne has the largest population of Greeks outside of Greece. The festival iteslf was also a bit of a fizzer. I was expecting lots of cultural stalls, food stalls everywhere, dancing and singing and just a general buzz. Instead there were very few stalls and hardly anything cultural at all. The rides were sort of pathetic, with no one on them.

Even the food stalls were almost non existent. The few souvlaki stalls were so crowded that the queue snaked quite a few metres. Souvlaki is so abundant in Melbourne and I was so hungry that I wasn't prepared to wait an hour for one. Stalactites was bursting at the seams with people trying to buy their famous souvlaki.

The Greek festival was a major disappointment, with hardly any atmosphere, activities or FOOD. I was expecting all types of Greek food, but instead ended up eating Japanese Ramen for a late afternoon lunch. The day was still fun overall, enjoying the various atmospheres and beautiful Melbourne weather. There a still a few acitivities left in this year's Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, so get out there and enjoy it.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Horiki - Part 2

I had recently gone to Horoki and liked it so much that I decided to go back and try again to see if it was really as good as my first impressions.

Here's mum and I in the restaurant. Do we look alike? Most people say I look more like my mum than my dad, but I don't really see the resemblance.

For entrees, this time we tried the Korean style pancake. It was quite good, comparable to the one at Oriental Spoon, a good Korean restaurant. This one has a lighter flavour than the one at Oriental Spoon, and went well with the soy sauce with sesame seed.

Again, like last time, I wanted to try the Daikon Salad with Sashimi. Again, like last time, it was totally unbelievable. It seems so simple, but the mixture of daikon, sashimi, crunchy noodles, crab roe, green salad and this tangy sauce was perfection. So simple but yet done so well. Again, this was my favourite dish of the night.

The Beef Tartar was also another favourite again, running a very close second to the Daikon Salad. I don't know what part the quail egg, but this Beef Tartar just tasted so different and wonderful. I must try a raw quail egg just by itself next time to see what flavour it imparted on the whole dish.

The Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Sourcream Mayo was not as nice this time as last. It was still good, but was oilier this time. Also I guess its dependent on the crab the most, and the crab this time didn't have any of that wonderful roe cream that made last time's taste so good.

The Crispy Chicken Yuzu was a surprise packet. I didn't expect it to be any good and just your average fried chicken. It looked kind of plain, but turned out to be another one of the night's best dishes. Yuzu is apparently a citrus fruit, and it gave the dish this nice tang. The chicken was fried in a very light batter and then served with a simple sauce of wasabi and mayonnaise. It sat on a bed of daikon and salad. Again, simple yet the flavours all seemed to work wonderfully.

The Horoki Style Braised Hamburg Steak was a beef patty barbequed and served with vegetables, mash potatoes and a tomato sauce. It was ok, but probably not something I would order again at Horoki, considering how much more I liked some of the other dishes.

The Horoki Special Fried Rice again finshed the meal off. After much careful taste testing, I've concluded that the special fried rice has a sweet soy base, with a hint of pepper, some chilli and the ingredient of difference, roast duck. That's my guess anyway, there's probably quite a few other ingredients. Whatever is in it, it tastes great and definitely worth another try.

The night finished off with the dessert of almond pannacotta. The servings are small, but the two mouthful is enough to leave you with a nice feeling inside, both physically and psychologically give the dessert is free.

Overall Rating: 16/20, I'm again giving Horoki a great score of 16. The repeat tasting was equally fascinating with some new dishes again intriguing me. The mixture of flavours here is so strange but usually works so well. The service was again good and I always love the cosy atmosphere in there.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dandenong Markets

Dandenong Markets is located right in the hub of Dandenong. At the markets, you can pick up your fruit and veg at extremely cheap prices. It's always full of activity and is a centre for multi-cultral people. You can see all types of people here, all with a common aim of buying some fresh produce at good prices.

The stalls are packed with produce, with some stalls selling things by the box load. People here do not buy one or two items, they buy it in boxes. I remember when I used to work at Coles Online during uni, I would occasionally work in the produce department. Seeing how those people bought produce always made me laugh. They would buy one onion, two bananas, three lemons, two apples etc. Sometimes orders of one garlic head, or worse still one chilli, wouldn't even register on the scale and we just gave that for free.

Coming from an Asian family, we always bought everything in bulk. If apples were cheap, you bought the whole box and ate apples that week. If peaches were cheap, you buy three bags of it and ate it. We eat whatever is in season and a lot of it. We don't buy mangoes by paying for each one, you buy a whole box, or two even. Especially if you are buying from the market, buying a whole box of mangoes for example might only cost you as much as buying 5 from the supermarkets. Here the freshness of the produce is also what you get. The apples are sweet, because they are tree ripened rather than warehouse ripened. They may not look as shiny and have more blemishes, but it tastes 100 times better.

The market also sells other things besides produce. You can pick up some dried fruit and nuts, and an assortment of clothing, electronics and many other things. Parking is very cheap at only $0.20 per hour and the parking is right next to the market so you can wheel your mini trolley easily inside.

Nonya Hut

Nonya Hut is located on Blackburn Road just before High Street Road. It made it into The Age Cheap Eats guide many years ago but has since slowly declined. I say this only from personal observation. Even a year and a half ago, it used to be so full on Friday at lunch time and we had to get there early to get a table. Last Friday's lunch, we got there and were the first people there. As the meal went by, a few other tables were filled but it was still quite empty.

So Tin (pictured below), Jeffrey, John and I went there for a cheap easy lunch. Nonya Hut serve Nonya style food (duh, why else would it be called Nonya Hut haha). Nonya is a cuisine style from Malaysia which is a blend of a few types of styels.

The lunch menu at Nonya Hut is quite small, so we usually come here when we want a particular type of food. I always go for the Nasi Lemak, Mee Goreng or this Roti Chicken. The roti was crispy and not too sweet, which I like. The curry chicken is ok, with the chicken tender but the curry part had some flavour in it that I can't identify which was a bit too overpowering. Jeffrey reckons that the Curry Laksa is the best he has tried, although I tend to disagree. The Curry Laksa tastes like what my mum makes, but not as good hahaha.

So after the meal, we ate the complimentary colourful jelly cakes, which seemed to have also dropped in quality of late. I don't know if they have changed management or my tastes have become fussier, but everything doesn't taste as good anymore. Anyway, the four of us guys sat around to let the food settle and talked about other work colleagues, espeically management. When guys talk like this, its called networking, when girls do it, its gossiping. You decide what we were doing. Lets just say that I learnt from the guys some very interesting things about some other work colleagues of a more personal nature. Ok, I confess, we were gossiping. But it wasn't anything bad, just people's work styles that all, I swear. :-)

Nonya Hut is a good place to come for lunch. I wouldn't probably go for dinner as the range is quite limited, unless you particularly liked the dishes that they make.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Grand Tofu

Grand Tofu is located in Kingsway in Glen Waverley, near the Glen Waverley train staton. Their specialty is noodle soups where you get to pick what toppings you want to have. They also serve other Chinese dishes off the big menu they have displayed. You pay for your meal and then go get a table yourself and wait for it. You have to get your own chopsticks, serviettes, tea and sauces. It's all very self serve there.

The kitchen is open and you can see your meal being cooked. You can definitely smell the food being cooked as it wafts around the restaurant.

Kin had the Hainan Chicken Rice, served with a free soup. Good value for money.

I picked a few toppings such as fish balls, prawn dumplings, stuffed tofu, stuffed chilli and had it with a clear soup with rice noodle. It was nice, especially when I added the chilli sauce and spiced it up a bit.

The toilets are located outside. The sign in the toilets was very funny.

Grand Tofu is good for an easy quick meal. I reckon choosing the toppings and getting a soup noodle is the way to go.

The Death of the Local Pub?

Kin rang me on Sunday and asked if there was anything to do. I dropped by his house and we browsed the Internet looking for activities to do. Some of them looked good but were so far and we couldn't be bothered. After much ummming and ahhhing, we decided to go to the nearest pub and watch the formula one race.

And what "pub" did we settle on, well, we settled on the Glen Waverley TAB, because it was close, it was clean, it had restaurants all around it so we could eat after, it had heaps of huge screens so we could watch every sport and it served lots of cheap alcohol.

This led me to think about what will happen to local pubs in the future. Just as large supermarkets opening till all hours has killed off the local milk bar, I think TABs opening all hours will kill off the local small pub. They are becoming fewer and fewer in the suburbs now. It's all being taken over by TABs, where you can gamble on the pokies, grab something to eat and drink, watch many huge TV screens, all in the comfort of a safe environment.

I know that I would rather go to a TAB than some pub I didn't know, especially if the clientele there were of a slightly unsavoury nature. In a TAB, its a much more controlled environment where there tends to be less drunk people and you can just enjoy yourself.

The multi-national TABs can undercut local pubs in terms of alcohol prices since they buy in bulk, so the only reason for people to go to a local pub is if they like to meet the other regular people there. Pubs also don't generally have the budget to have huge 2 metre TV screens and 10 other plasma screens all over the place to show every sport imagineable. Hence, if you want to watch some obscure sport, a TAB is the best bet (boom boom, get it, bet, TAB....ok for a comedian I make a good engineer). Would the local pub serve you a Pret a Porter (cranberry, lime and vodka) cocktail. I doubt it very much, even if they did, you would probably cop flak from everyone there hahaha. Anyway, Kin wanted to drink a cocktail, so we did. I asked him jokingly "Are we desperate housewives now, drinking cocktails on a Sunday afternoon." The cocktail was actually quite good. We followed it up with a jug of beer which we slowly consumed whilst watching the formula one on one screen and the cricket world cup on another.

So are there any local pubs, and I mean local pubs, not pubs in the city because those are usually quite large, that you visit each week for a beer. Or do you go to TABs like me?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Chicken With A Difference!

Last night Philomena made me dinner. She always manages to do something special with her food but last night was probably the best food she has cooked for me in a long while (and that's saying something 'cos I love her cooking) . But this was restaurant standard in my opinion.

It was basically just two Chicken Breast fillets cooked in a tomato/bolognese sauce and covered with cheese and bacon bits with a side helping of organic cous cous. But I think it's the way you cook it that makes the difference (as Choo once said if you add a bit of love it adds something extra special to the food) .

It was a real surprise and I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful. I just thought I would tell everybody :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Eating Pungent Food With Cultery

Today my work mate Keiran and I went and got lamb souvlaki for lunch, mmmm, delicious. Here is a photo of it below.

There's something odd about it you ask. No, its not the meat or salad, but that its on a plate. And its not on the plate for the sake of a photo, it's because I like to eat souvlaki on a plate with a knife and fork if possible. Keiran was the same, which was a bit strange since I don't know many other people who eat it like this.

In fact, I like to eat pizza, meat pies, garlic bread, and anything else that is pungent on a plate with a knife and fork. Don't get me wrong, I'm no clean freak who has to wash his hands 50 times a day. It's just that I have a very good sense of smell and if I eat foods that are pungent(especially those with garlic or onion in them) with my hands, I can wash it many times but I can always still smell the garlic or onion. Hamburgers are the same. If the burger is fairly dry like those from McDonalds, its ok if I just hold the wrapping. But burgers from your local take away tend to be full of oil and dripping oil, mayo and tomato sauce. I always hate it when all those sauces drip onto my hands and then they smell all day. So if possible, I will put it on a plate and eat it with a knife and fork. Even today when I used my knife and fork for the souvlake, I still managed to get some of the garlic sauce on my hands and they still smell of garlic now.

Another thing that I don't like to eat with my hands is durian. For those of you who have ever eaten or smelt durian, you will know how pungent it is. I love eating durian and the smell, but I don't like the smell on my hands all day. So instead of using my hands to hold the invidiual pieces, I always get a bowl and eat them with chopsticks.

Are there any food items you don't like to use your hands to eat, despite most other people eating it with their hands? Or am I just strange with not wanting to get these smells on my hands? I don't know how Indian people can eat curries with their hands. I would hate to have the smell of curries on my hands all day. I would really need to wash my hands 50 times a day if I were to eat curries with them at every meal.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bob's Kitchen

If you went to Bob's Kitchen, what type of food would you expect, Australian, maybe American burgers. Wrong! You get Shanghai food, mainly dumplings. Bob's Kitchen is located in Kingsway in Glen Waverley near the Novotel cinemas. I must have been to Bob's Kitchen over 10 times, but always forget to take photos and do a review.

Bob's Kitchen is ultra ultra popular. On weekends during lunch and dinner, forget about getting a table unless you're really early, have booked (they won't hold the booking for longer than 15 minutes because its so busy) or are prepared to wait 30 minutes. So why is it so popular you ask, are the dumplings out of this world. Well, not really. I don't even know if they make the dumplings or just buy them. Regardless, the dumplings are ok, but its popularity is due to it being so CHEAP, that's right cheap in capitals.

My friend Justin and I stopped by for a 3pm lunch after tennis and the place was still full. We got the Fried Pork Dumpling ($7 for 15 large dumplings), which was ok.

The Fried Prawn Dumpling ($7 for 10 large dumplings), which looks the same as the pork ones from the exterior, taste better, albeit a little too salty this time.

We also got the very popular Fried Shanghai Noodles, only because they were out of the Wine Chicken and the Pork Jelly (a shame since those two dishes are nice).

So as usual, we ordered way more than we could eat. Despite stuffing ourselves, we still have more than half a plate of dumplings left, so took that away. For $10, we ate until we couldn't more.

Bob's Kitchen is definitely a good place for a quick cheap meal. The shop itself is quite nice and spacious and service is good for such cheap prices. My only question is why they don't put bottles of soy sauce on the table, rather than having to ask for some everytime. The food is definitely not for the health conscious. There was so much oil oozing out of my dumplings that I always inevitably burn my tongue on the hot oil as I bite into it and it squirts on my tongue and all over my shirt. This time I managed to break the dumplings first and pour out the oil, filling up the plate with a lot of oil.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food is good and cheap, great for a quick meal.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Trampoline is one of the numerous gelato stores popping up all over Melbourne. There was a review recently in The Age newspaper Epicure section of some of the popular gelato shops in Melbourne. Trampoline fared very well and was the overall winner if my memory serves me correctly.

What I want to know is, what is the difference between gelato and ice cream. Is gelato just the Italian word for ice cream. I always though gelato didn't have milk in it, but a Google search seems to differ in views amongst different sites. Anyway, with or without milk, gelato is still nice and creamy and full of so many flavours.

All the flavours looked so tempting and I wanted to try everything. In the end, I wanted to try the vanilla which the newspaper article said was very good. I also was seduced by the chocolate nougat, combining two of my favourite sweet things. The vanilla turned out to have a very good authentic vanilla flavour. The chocolate nougat was chocolatety (is that a word) and nougaty (again, a word I made up). There was a huge chunk of yummy nougat (with nuts) in my ice cream, which I enjoyed. At $4.40 for two scoops in a waffle cone, it's not exactly cheap, but you shouldn't eat it everyday anyway. So its to be enjoyed occasionally for full enjoyment for your stomach and your wallet.

Oriental Spoon

After reading Mellie's review on Tummy Rumbles about Oriental Spoon and how good it was, I decided to go and try it out. It did turn out to be good Korean food and I would definitely go back there.

The night started off with a walk from the car park to Oriental Spoon on Latrobe Street. We saw this passsing tram all decked out in lights, and it was playing Bollywood music and people were all dressed up and dancing inside. This must be the Indian version of those party buses.

Firstly, apologies again for the bad photos. I remembered to bring my camera this time, only to leave it in the car. Since I couldn't be bothered to walk back, I had to make do with my mobile camera again. For better photos, see Mellie's review. Anyway, the restaurant is very spacious and the surrounding are very nice. Despite the large room, the noise was damped quite well so it didn't echo all over the place.

We ordered the Tuna Pancakes for entrees. It arrived on a very nice wooden board. The pancakes were served with a light soy type sauce and some coleslaw. The little kimchi dish things also arrived with the entree. The kimchi dishes here are very good. Firstly, their kimchi is probably one of the best I have ever tried. The cucumber salad one had a nice tangy dressing. The fish cake one was good too. Even the bean shoots one was good, and I hate bean shoots. I didn't really like the baby bok choy one, lacked flavour. We asked for more of these little dishes things FOUR times. Rowena was ultra brave and asked three times, while Jo tried unsuccessfully and I asked for it once. Kin just kept eating through his two bowls of rice the whole time. Yes, we have no shame. They were so nice.

Mains was Potato Noodles (left), Pork Kimchi (left dish in right photo) and Beef Bulgogi. The Potato Noodles were good without being too sweet. The Pork Kimchi soup thing was delicous. The Kimchi in the soup really gave it a nice kick. Beef Bulgogi also had good flavours.

The Seafood Casserole had pippies, mussels, squid and prawns. It had a spicy base soup with lots of vegetables. The casserole was served on a hot plate, which kept it warm the whole time. This dish looked spectacular but wasn't as good as the others. The flavours weren't as good.

Service here was very good. The waiters were easily identifiable in their bright polo tops (I hate it when waiters are in casual clothing without an identifiable uniform as you can't get spot them and get their attention) and were very willing to help us, as Mellie said. The service was prompt, with only one waitress forgetting to bring us water when asked the first time. Otherwise, the male waiter who brought us all those little kimchi dishes was very nice about it and told us to enjoy with a smile.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food tasted good and priced competitively. Service is good and the atmosphere enjoyable. Definitely a good place to eat some Korean food.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.