Monday, February 16, 2009

Melbourne Food Bloggers Eat and Greet Sat 7th March

After extreme weather forced the cancellation of the previous
Melbourne Food Blogger BBQ, Duncan, Sarah and myself decided that the show must go on.

This time, the event will be held at The Commoner, who emailed us and offered use of their courtyard. How could we refuse. A lovely courtyard, use of a wood fired oven, shelter and heating if needed.

So to recap

What: Melbourne Food Blogger Eat and Greet
When: Sat 7th March 2pm
Where: The Commoner, 122 Johnston Street Fitzroy Ph: 9415 6876
What: Please bring along some food to share. It would be preferable if drinks were bought from the restuarant.

Please go to the post over at Duncan's blog to leave a comment if you are coming and what you plan to bring so we can get a mix of sweet and savoury food.

Hope to meet many new faces and talk about food.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

St Jude's Cellar

389-391 Brunswick St
Fitzroy 3065 VIC
Phone: (03) 9419 7411

So a friend was coming from Hong Kong and we were all deciding where to go. After a lot of discussions, the decision was left to me as usual. So I made my pick, St Jude's Cellar. Going on reviews and the menu, it read really good.

It definitely looked good once we stepped into the building too. Light, airy, open, bustling.

Here's we are, one big happy full group......NOT. For once, I have to agree with the group and say that St Jude's is probably not the best value for money. I'm all for good food and will take quality over quantity any day. But at St Jude's, which markets itself as more a casual dining experience, the price is more like a fine dining experience because of the serving sizes.

Let me profess that there are a heap of herbs which I don't have a clue what they are. But on the whole, no dish was bad. Some very extremely interesting, and some really really worked and were very good. I'll list the dishes below and then give a short summary on some dishes.

Terrine with Sourdough and Prosciutto with fresh figs.

Salt cod, raw and cooked vegetables.

Smoke eel, eel pate, rye bread and beetroot relish.

Cured Kingfish, celery, red radish and bottarga.

Squid, prawn, tomato, lemon and oregano.

Spanner crab, preserved lemon, basil, bread and French butter.

Mulloway, baby fennel, sorrel adn purslane.

Poached veal fillet, chopped egg, shallot, parsley and almonds.

Poached chicken breast, confit leg, potato, bacon and lovage.

Slow roasted pork shoulder, caramelised baby turnips.

Dry aged grass fed beef, salsa verde.

Lamb sausage, chickpeas, parsley and coriander.

Let's start with the Cured and Preserved dishes. The Terrine was really good and had all these complex flavours. The Prosciutto however, was like any you can get from a deli, and to charge $16 for those few slices and figs, well that's a bit over the top.

With the Seafood dishes, I was really suprised by how good the Mulloway tasted with teh fennel and herbs. They worked a treat and was the clear highlight for me. The Spanner crab dish was good too, from the tiny morsel I tasted. You can tell how small it is by comparing it to the small half knob of butter.

The Meat dishes were a bit larger in serving, but still extremely small, suitable for Supermodels only. Of the meat dishes, the Poached Veal with the crispy almonds really worked. The complex flavours went round my mouth and I was trying to taste each part. My favourite dish of the night was the Lamb Sausage with the chickpeas. What a fantastic dish with again, a variety of flavours that blended well together.

I've been harping on about the serving sizes because St Jude's are being marketed as a casual type place so I expect the prices to match. I know the food is good quality and on the whole, taste good, but you still need to be full. With the meal costing nearly $50 each (we got two servings of all the meat dishes), not one single person was even half way full. To be full, we would have needed to eat double as much as we did, which then opens up many more options once you start looking at the $100 price range.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food is good but serving sizes way too small for the cost.

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.

St Jude's Cellars on Urbanspoon

Terra Rossa

87 Flinders La
Melbourne 3000 VIC
Phone: (03) 9650 0900

After reading glorious review after glorious review, I really wanted to go to Cumulus Inc. But you see, there's a slight problem. They don't take reservations. I have already waxed lyrical about the no reservation policy in this post which discusses the pros and cons, after my visit to Giuseppe Arnaldo and Sons which doesn't take reservations. Fellow food blogger Jackie has also written a post the topic, which includes an article bashing the no reservation policy in the Sydney Morning Herald and a reply but none other than Neil Perry himself. Very interesting reading, go have a look.

Well back to my dinner. With the no reservation policy, what happens is that when you get there a little late, you have to wait two hours at a popular place like Cumulus Inc. So what's a man to do when he's already starving, walk the streets and look for an alternative. Even the alternatives were all booked out ironically, so we end up at Terra Rossa. Sometimes, things you find by accident turn out to be the best things, unfortunately, Terra Rossa isn't one of them.

The interior actually looks very nice and has a nice charming feel to it. I really like the chandeliers and the massive bar, which I thought was very elegant.

The staff were quite good, and you could tell they were really trying with the food, but it just didn't work. The serving sizes were extremely generous but the chef just tried to do too much with every single dish. It's like watching an episode of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares where he keeps telling the chefs to simplify things and just let the ingredients speak for themselves. The ingredients at Terra Rossa were good too, but just killed off by overdoing everything.

For starters, the tapas plate looked the deal but wasn't. The calamari were cooked to be too tough. The meatballs lacked flavour, the pork was nice and the mushrooms had a weird combination of flavours.

Of all the mains, not one was good. Everything was so overdone with flavours that didn't blend. My Roast Lamb would have tasted beautiful with just the sauce and mashed potatoes for instance. Instead, there was a hundred ingredients sitting underneath that did not blend well together. The Roast Chicken had so many flavours I couldn't tell what was what. The caramelised onions accompanying the Grilled Steak was fantastic, but the steak was grilled until it was one of the chewiest steak I've ever eaten. The Steak Burger was ok, but ruined by the soggy flavourless chips that went with it.

Steak Burger

Roast Lamb

Veal Scallopini

Roast Chicken

Grilled Steak

Desserts ran the same way. All these weird flavours going into normal desserts. The Tiramisu had some other weird alcohol put into it and tasted bad. The Chocolate Cake had some weird sauce that ruined a perfectly fine cake. The Panna Cotta would have worked well just served with fruit, but instead had another weird ultra sour sauce that ruined it.

Overall, the food here was just not good. Elements of it were good, but if only they could strip it back a lot and keep it simplier. It might work then.

Overall Rating: 10/20, All the dishes were too complicated and did not taste good as a whole.

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.

Terra Rossa Restaurant Bar on Urbanspoon

J's Surf and Turf

133 Were St
Brighton, VIC 3186
Tel: 03 9592 6500

I first read about J's Surf and Turf from Jfox on Flagrant Food Fawning. I was fawning all right, over the unlimited oysters you can have. I know that other buffets have all you can eat oysters, but to combine that with sushi and sashimi as well, I'm in heaven.

Finally, after months of organising, I went there with my work mates. The restaurant is this weird little shop in the middle of a bunch of tiny shops along a housing road. Their reputation must spread far and wide though because the place was packed out for three sittings that night. Wow. I didn't think they could do it, but I was sorely wrong, with the service faster than McDonalds drive through.

The instant that we sat down, we quickly ordered knowing the clock was ticking. We ordered lots of Sashimi and Sushi, which arrived so quickly that they must have been pre-made. The Sushi and Sashimi were ok, not the worse, but not exactly great.

We then asked for our oysters, 6 dozen between 7 (although 3 didn't want to eat any hehehe, you do the maths). So I had slurped down my two dozen oysters, which were fairly good but again, not fantastic.

We ordered most of the dishes off the menu. The Beef and Asparagus salad was very good, the sesame sauce being the highlight.

The Tempura Prawns and Vegetables again were quite good. The prawns were large and fairly juicy.

The Takoyaki was a bit disappointing, the batter being ultra gluggy.

Other dishes like Smoked Eel, Teriyaki Chicken, Yakitori, Fried Chicken and Gyoza weren't quite so successful. Overall, it didn't really live up to my expectations. The oysters were the big drawcard for me but having said that, I probably wouldn't go back. I actually prefer Yamagata, which is also all you can eat Japanese. Service at Yamagata is atrocious, but the food there is better and has more variety. It doesn't have the oysters though.

There isn't much of an ambience there, just a large white room with lots of packed together tables and people. Service is ultra efficient and helpful. I would say it's probably value for money if you scoff two dozen oysters like I did. But having said that, I wouldn't go back just for the oysters.

Overall Rating: 11/20, The oysters are a drawcard but most of the food is not that good.

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.

J's Surf & Turf on Urbanspoon

HuTong Dumpling Bar

14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne
Phone 03 9650 8128

I'm so glad that there is quite a small but enthusiastic food blogging community in Melbourne. I have been to so many great restaurants that have been recommended by fellow food bloggers, places that probably just won't get reviewed by the major publications.

I first read about HuTong Dumpling Bar in Market Lane over at Tummy Rumbles. Mellie from Tummy Rumbles claimed that HuTong had the best xiao long baos (XLBs for those in the know) in Melbourne. *Gasp*. I absolutely love XLBs and have been on a quest eating as many in dumpling bars throughout Melbourne as I can to find that elusive one that matched the ones I tasted in Hong Kong and China. Well, I think we have come the damn closest so far at HuTong. Their XLBs really are delicious. More on that later.

From the exterior, HuTong Dumpling Bar isn't much to look at. Even when you step inside, the huge glass window with the chefs making the dumplings right in front of your eyes is alluring, but the place looks so tiny that you wouldn't think you can get a table. But then you get led upstairs and it's so much more comfortable and beautiful.

My friend and I were only there for a quick meal before the concert we were going to. But the menu sounded so enticing that we ordered way too much food, but thoroughly enjoyed it all. We were there primarily for the XLBs, so that was a must order. They came out very quickly and were steaming still. We made sure not to burn ourselves when sucking the glorious soup out of them mixed with a bit of vinegar. The soup was full of so much flavour. The ultra thin skin of the XLBs were a welcome change from the usual elephant skinned XLBs. It was a fantastic dish and one I will go back many times for. And at $10 I think for the dish, an utter bargain.

Next up were the Pork Dumplings. Again these didn't look like the massive oily rocks that you get at other places. These were delicate, and laid on a beautiful pan sticker. I was intrigued what they were after Mellie said she wasn't sure and asked the waiter. They are just flour and water. My friend and I guessed that maybe they are used as an indication of when the dumplings are ready? Anyway, these dumplings were not excessively oily and tasted of wonderful pork flavours without that yucky after taste of smelly pork when you use bad cuts of pork. Again, at $8 I think, these are a must have.

We knew we were too greedy when we were nearly full from the dumplings alone. But out came the Pepper Steak. This pepper steak was not ridiculously peppery but instead the pepper enhanced the meat, a nice dish.

Although the XLBs were my primary reason for going to HuTong, I would definitely also go back for the Scallop and Eggplant Claypot. What an amazing dish at a fantastic value for $26 I think. There were so many plump fresh scallops in the dish intermingled with the soft flesh of the eggplant, all mixed with a spicy sauce. Mmmm, mmmm. What can I say, the fact that it's making me salivate just writing about it now speaks for itself. Do yourself a favour and order this dish.

After the concert, I took a snap of beautiful Southbank at night. Just wanted to throw in this photo even though it doesn't really related to the restaurant.

The ambience there was very good upstairs. I don't know how relaxed I would have felt sitting in the cramped downstairs area. The tables are a tad small and it was a balancing act to fit everything on it, but the staff were very eager to please and came and removed empty dishes immediately. They helped explained things and were very efficient with any request.

The value for money at this restaurant is amazing. Sitting opposite the ultra expensive Flower Drum, I guess they are aiming for another type of clientel. HuTong has now spoilt my expectations for xiao long baos and dumplings in general. All the other dumplings at the other restaurants througout Melbourne are just rubbish now. Their smelly pork dumplings filled with enough oil to cause a minor slick for a penguin is just not acceptable anymore. Now how am I to get my dumpling fix each week in the 'burbs knowing that I can pay the same price for 10 times better in the city? Who else lives in the 'burbs and works in the city? Can you get take away for me? A big shout out to Mellie and Dan for finding this gem!

Overall Rating: 16/20, Fantastic dumplings at excellent value and good service.

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.

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon


Time really does fly by when you're busy. Thanks to the fellow bloggers who enquired but I am doing fine. I haven't lost my blogging mojo or fallen ill. I've just been really busy with life and hence have fallen a bit behind with my posts.

Well let me start with this post, which was actually from about a month or so ago, or whenever Wagamama first opened in Chadstone. When Wagamama opened in Chadstone, I was jumping for joy. I'm constantly cursing about the lack of good food inside the shopping centre. One can only eat at Nudle (opposite the cinema) so many times and each time complain about it.

One lunch time, a work mate and I went to Wagamama to see what it was all about. I like the airy open feel of the place and the fitout looks nice as well. We were seated at a table and the restaurant was still very empty at this early stage.

Here I am laughing away trying to suck in my fat gut as much as possible in my Yoda Says "Blogging This I Am" t-shirt which I wore just for the occasion. From that point on, I knew the meal wasn't going to go smoothly when the waitress gave us the disclaimer "Because all our meals are freshly made on the premises, your dishes might not come out at exactly the same time". What the? This isn't McDonalds, which in fact make their burgers freshly nowadays too. Which restaurant exactly doesn't make their meals freshly on the premises. I don't see other places having a problem brining out dishes at the same time, especially when you have five chefs in the kitchen.

The waitress came and asked for our drinks orders. We wanted to order sake (ok we shouldn't be drinking during lunch hour but it was a Friday). They didn't have a liquor license yet. We said they should put that temporarily on the menu so people don't have to waste time thinking of a drink only to be told it's not available. So we browse the drinks menu again and get their fruity juice mixture thing.

The actual ordering part was excruciating. Despite having a zillion devices attached to their belt, when we ordered, they kept insisting on scribbling the numbers on the paper place mat. This meant we both had to move our drinks and menus off the table about 3 times. How stupid is this idea. What is the point of writing it on the place mat when they have to punch it into the PDA anyway. I'm sure they could remember how the tables are numbered right.

So we get our meals. My work mate ordered the Teriyaki Beef. It was good, but by no means so mind blowingly good that it cost double as much as our local Japanese shop down the road from work.

I was ultra exciting about my Chilli Beef Ramen as I was expecting something fantastic. I had been reading so much about ramen from Dan and Mellie at Tummy Rumbles that I had been craving ramen for so long. The ramen came and it looked the part. When I started eating though, I wasn't blown away. The soup was not a rich soup made from pork stock and full of flavour. It was instead more like Tom Yum soup and quite light and sour. The beef was very nice, but as a whole thing, it was a bit lacking. Also, they were really tight on the ramen and put in so little. I was really hungry after still and was searching through the bowl for the last pieces of ramen. Again, my noodle was really expensive at about $18. I don't think it was worth that price.

Now for the most excruciating part of the meal, getting the bill. To even ask for the bill too forever. There were so many staff but they just all mulled around at the bar talking to each other. I tried to wave them down so many times. Finally, I literally stuck my hand up and waved furiously at one of the waitress at the bar. Upon requesting the bill, it took, and I timed it, 20 minutes to get it. Lucky we weren't in a rush, but we asked two more waitresses about our bill, and each time they told us it was coming. Finally, when we got it, I gave them my credit card, to which the waitress told me to go pay at the counter. Don't they bring you back the receipt anymore to your table to sign? If she had told me I could pay at the counter earlier, I wouldn't have to sit there for 20 minutes waving.

So overall, there were so teething problems when I first went there. It may be sorted out now, I'm sure. But putting all the staff issues aside, I still wont, and haven't gone back to Wagamama. The price is just too expensive to justify food that isn't that great. It's not worth the price for a quick lunch.

Wagamama on Urbanspoon