Sunday, November 29, 2009


159 Camberwell Rd
Hawthorn East 3123 Vic
Ph: (03) 9813 1623

Before watching the movie Moon (an excellent sci-fi film), John and I decided to have a quick meal at Okra. I thought Okra was supposed to be a Thai restaurant, but it seemed more like a Malaysian restaurant than a Thai one.

We ordered the Loh Bak entree, Massaman Beef Curry, Beef Rendang and Roti to share. The Loh Bak is something I've eaten a lot of, as Vietnamese cuisine has a similar thing. It's basically a pork spring roll where the skin is beancurd skin rather than pastry. It's very nice and served with a sweet sauce and some fried beancurd. The Beef Rendang is spicy and not too bad. The Massaman Beef Curry was lacking a bit in flavour.

The rest of the menu looked like a strang mish-mash of various cuisines. It seems to inhabit both Chinese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai food. The other dishes on the menu didn't look too appealing to me, although my work mate Joe says that he goes there a lot and that it's good. From what we ate that night, which wasn't too much, it was ok, but nothing special. And for the prices that they are charging, I would expect more. They're aiming for a fine dining type atmosphere but I don't think the food really works.

The service was very good, seeing as we were the only customers at the time. The restaurant filled up throughout the night but service was still good. The restaurant itself is a bit strange as it's a long space that makes it feel a bit closed in. However, we got the best table (in my opinion) right next to the window and got a good view of the whole restaurant.

I probably wouldn't go back as I've had similar food for cheaper, and reading the menu didn't really get me excited.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food was ok but a bit too expensive for what it was, simple 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.

Okra on Urbanspoon

Ajisen Ramen

130 Bourke St, Melbourne
Ph: (03) 9662 1100

Enthusiasm is very contagious. So when I read Dan from Tummy Rumbles articles about how good ramen is, especially the ones in Japan, and his constant pursuit for the best ramen in Melbourne, it got me really interested in ramen too. I order ramen at any Japanese restaurant that has them. But usually, those aren't even proper ramen, more like instant noodles. One recommendation from Dan that does authentic ramen is Ramen Ya. I really love the ramen there, so rich in flavour. So when Dan recommended Ajisen Ramen, I just had to go and try it.

The Australian branch of Ajisen Ramen doesn't have a website, but the Ajisen Ramen Singaporean website seems to offer a similar menu with a few extra dishes.

The restaurant looks like your typical Asian cafe with low undressed tables and stools. At the time that we went, it was fairly full, with most of the diners young student types of Asian descent (it's so PC now that you can't call people Asian on Crime Stoppers, but they're of Asian descent, so funny).

We pulled up a table and got some Japanese beer whilst perusing the menu. There is indeed a lot of options, and I wanted to try everything. In the end, Dennis and I both decided to try the Ajisen ramen (which is basically a charshu ramen) and Kevin went for the Tonkatsu ramen. We also got some Takoyaki and Tataki to share.

The takoyaki and tataki were actually both very good. My ramen was very good. It had a nice rich full flavour, the pork was soft and tender and the noodles were just right. I would definitely come back for the food. It's all tasty and at a good price. I actually prefer the Ramen Ya ramen, but these are also good and different in flavour.

However, as Dan had noted, there is indeed a smell wafting through the restaurant. We were seated near the toilets and the smell hit me immediately. I have an ultra strong sense of smell and it really assaulted me. Kevin also smelt it but Dennis didn't seem to. The smell is definitely that of pipes. It's not about the toilets but the pipes. I could also smell the toilet spray that they used to try and mask the pipes. It sort of works at times but then at other times I could smell the stink. Once the food arrived, I didn't smell it as much, but it was always there in the background.

Apart from the smell, the place has quite a nice feel and the service was fairly prompt. The prices are very good and I would come back to eat, albeit possibly sitting further from the toilets.

Overall Rating: 13/20, Good ramen at good prices. The stink from the water pipes may annoy you.

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.

Ajisen Ramen on Urbanspoon

Pig And Whistle - Geocaching Pit Stop

365 Purves Road, Main Ridge
Cape Schanck
Ph: (03) 5989 6130

My work mate Steve is a dedicated Geocacher. Geocaching is the activity of using a GPS to find hidden geocaches (usually a small box with a few items to swap and a logbook). I asked him to take me on one of his adventures as I was intrigued about it and also wanted to visit some new places, which is the ultimate goal of geoacaching. We decided to go to Cape Schanck, with our other work mate John and Steve's son Tim also coming along.

We went to a few places, such as the Two Bays track and the Cape Schanck Lighthouse. The views were glorious, and the caches weren't too hard to find. The first one took a bit of finding, but after a while we got the hang of where to look.

It was quite exciting to find a cache. Even though it's only a small lunch box with useless things, it was a sense of finding it that was the thrill. I kept one of the little toys inside as a momento.

Look how excited I was at finding a cache.

Of course, geocaching makes one very hungry, so we had to stop for lunch. We stopped at the Pig and Whistle, a small tavern style place. The tavern is decorated in the traditional English style with beer paraphenalia hung all over the room.

I had the Crumbed Lamb Cutlet, which was nothing special. It tasted like what you could get at a million different pubs, but when you're hungry, it tastes really good.

The Sticky Date Pudding was good as well, albeit a bit sweet.

So, if you feel like exploring some unknown beautiful areas in Victoria, why don't you give geocaching a go. And when you've worked up your appetite, stop somewhere nice for a delicious meal.

Pig & Whistle Tavern on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 22, 2009


74 Glen Eira Road
Ripponlea 3185 Victoria
Ph: (03) 9530 0111

For a work dinner, I suggested that we go to Attica. Much has been said and written about Attica of late. I guess when you're doing such innovative and delicious food such as what Ben Shewry is doing, word will get around. Before going to the dinner, I did my research. Firstly, I read the article in The Age. That had me salivating already and my expectations were extremely high. Obviously, I looked up blogs as well to get some more views. You can read about Attica at Melbourne Foodie, Eating Melbourne, Melbourne Gastronome, Taste Buds Galore, Tomato and Doublecooked just to name a few.

Since we had a booking of more than 8, we had to do the degustation or a parred down menu with fewer options. I don't like being forced to do the degustation or a reduced menu for a large group booking but I guess it's fair enough since it is extremely hard to coordinate so many dishes all at once. We chose to go with the reduced menu, which had three options in each category as opposed to six. Thankfully, all the dishes I wanted to try were in the reduced menu.

Not wanting to be late, we left work promptly and got there a bit early. So we walked the street to waste a bit of time and stood around waiting. Jordan, Hien and Esther happened to be standing around and I snapped a photo of them. All dressed in black, they looked like a three piece blues band posing for an album cover.

Here is the work team mid dinner, waiting for dessert.

The amuse bouche consisted of spring garlic that the staff had picked themselves from somewhere around the restaurant. The appetisers consisted of olives, organic almonds, salsa and house made butter. Seriously, I think this is the best butter I've tasted at any restaurant around Melbourne.

Jordan and I agreed to share our dishes so that we could taste more of the food. The first entree was "Snow crab". I didn't try this, but was told it was very nice.

Jordan got the "A simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown". The whole menu is written in such simple terms, a change from the usual complex menus that are seen around other top Melbourne restaurants. The wait staff do explain the dish when it arrives, such is the modern fashion that one must know every single ingredient in a dish and how it was cooked. This dish consisted of a potato that was cooked for 8 hours. I thought the potato did taste good, and did indeed have an earthy flavour. The texture too was very nice, with the accompaniments enhancing it. However, unlike The Age article, I wasn't totally rapturous. It tasted like a well boiled potato at the end of the day.

I got the "Smoked trout broth, crackling, basil seeds, fresh smoke". Indeed there was smoke, which was displayed at the table by the waitress. Then, the broth was poured over the dish, and you got a visual, aural and olfactory sensation, all preparing the brain for the oral sensation to come. And it was a sensation to behold. I can see why this was named dish of the year. The broth was so clear in flavour and just infused the trout. The pork crackling really works in the dish as well.

For mains, there was "Kingfish, squid, almond". The dish looks so simple, and according to the others, it tasted really good.

The "Pork loin, morcilla, wild fennel pollen" was a lovely dish. I really liked the way the pork was cooked. Usually I'm not a fan of pork, but this was moist and tender. The black pudding was quite strong in flavour but I liked it. The apple sauce helped cut the flavours.

I got the "Lamb, spice, date, walnut". The lamb was done two ways, a roast medallion of lamb, which was good, and a confit of lamb with Morroccan spices, which was excellent. The date sauce again helped cut the spiciness of the spices.

So far, the meal had been good. But you all know I love desserts, and was awaiting the Terroir that I had read so much about. A quarter of the table went for the "Aged buffalo milk cheese, distilled red wine, walnut", which they thought was quite strange.

Another quarter went for the special, which was a Peach dessert. My memory fails me so I don't know what else was in it.

Half the table though, went for the "Terroir", which was mind blowingly good. The mixture of sweet and savoury and the texture combos really get your mind searching to try and pinpoint the flavours. There was beetroot, limes, berries sitting above some creme fraiche. I liked the chewy bits of fruit mixed with crunchy bits of something and the occasional savoury tones. I like to echo others by saying that this should have won The Good Food Guide dish of the year.

Service was what you would expect at a top restaurant, excellent. The service staff were efficient and also relaxed. They were slightly less attentive than the Vue de Monde staff, who I still rank as number one in Melbourne.

The ambience in the restaurant is very good. Surprisingly, it was a lot noiser than I thought it would be. The decor is very relaxing and the room is divided up nicely so that you don't feel like you have no space, but neither do you feel like you're isolated.

OVerall, the food was excellent, but lacked that extra little wow factor on some dishes that would make this a perfect dining experience. However, it is still right up there in regards to dining locations in Melbourne.

Overall Rating: 18/20, Excellent food and service. The Terroir is a must try.

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.

Attica on Urbanspoon

Aya Japanese Restaurant

1193 High Street
Armadale 3143 Victoria
Ph: (03)9822 9571

I love Japanese food, so am constantly on the search for good Japanese restaurants. A flick through the Entertainment Book came up with Aya Japanese Restaurant.

Aya is located inconspicuously on High Street in Armadale. Upon entering the restaurant, it feels slightly and disjointed. The high booth seating creates physical and mental barriers between diners. It's good if you like some privacy, bad since it detracts from the ambience of the restaurant.

We are seated in the very corner area just inside the glass shop front. It's was a cramped spot, but the restaurant is small and I didn't mind that. The little touches of art made it all a very nice space. The only annoying part was a small water fountain that buzzed the whole night due to the pump.

For entrees, we decide on Agedashi Tofu, Tofu Salad, Gyu Tataki and Nasu Dengaku. The Agedashi Tofu was very good, with the tofu crisp and with a good sweet soy sauce. The Tofu Salad was not bad too, with the vegetables providing nice crunch. But regular readers know tofu isn't my thing, so I was looking forward to the Gyu Tataki. Besides sashimi, tataki is my next favourite thing at Japanese restaurants. This tataki was presented really beautifully, but strangely, it wasn't very good. With tataki, obviously the beef is key, and this was nice beef, but the sauce plays a really big part too. This sauce was just sour, and didn't have any hints of savoury and sweet. Finally, the Nasu Dengaku, looked a bit, ummmm, interesting. The roasted pieces of eggplants were actually quite tough and held together really stubbornly by the miso paste. It wasn't particularly to my liking as I would have preferred it to be softer.

The Sushi and Sashimi platters were really excellent. There was a large variety of fish, all very fresh. I would definitely come back just for the sushi and sashimi.

The mains were Tempura, Eye Fillet Beef and Teriyaki Chicken. Surpringsly, the Tempura prawns and vegetables were very good. The coating was nice and light and kept the flavours fresh. The eye fillet beef was tender with a good sauce. Finally, the teriyaki chicken was surprisingly good too. The chicken was grilled to give a nice flamed tasted, and the teriyaki sauce not overly sickeningly sweet.

The desserts consisted of a Plum Wine Jelly (not shown), Sticky Date Pudding and Blueberry Cheesecake. The plum wine jelly tasted exactly as you would think. The sticky date pudding (traditional Japanese?) was good but a tad too sweet. The blueberry cheesecake though, was insanely divine and had me going back for more and more.

Service was serviceable. All requests were fulfilled, but at times they were almost too polite and made us nervous.

Overall, I was quite impressed with the food. I was suprised at how good most things were. There was nothing innovative, but the regular Japanese dishes were done well. In terms of price, the food is not excessively expensive either. I think this will be another Japanese restaurant that I will frequent often.

Overall Rating: 15/20, The sushi and sashimi is very 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.

Aya on Urbanspoon