Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Frank Camorra's Chef Series Wines at Movida

One of the most popular restaurants in Melbourne for a number of years has definitely got to be Movida. I've loved the restaurant from my visits previously. I've cooked their Movida Steak Tartare and also held a Movida Dinner Party. I've bemoaned how hard it has been to obtain a booking at the restaurant. After many failures to get into the restaurant, I gave up trying as I was just never organised enough to book well in advance. So imagine my utter delight to receive an invitation from I-Hua to attend the restaurant, along with Agnes, to try out the new Wine Selectors Chef Series wines.

I dined courtesy of Wine Selectors.

The Wine Selectors Chef Series is a new range of wines that have been developed with 4 of Australia's most popular chefs. The wines have been designed to match with each chef's food and are exclusive to Wine Selectors or the respective restaurants. The chefs involved in this series are Frank Camorra (MoVida, Melbourne), Ian Parmenter (Winos, Perth), Ben O’Donoghue (South Bank Surf Club, Brisbane) and Alastair McLeod (Brett’s Wharf, Brisbane). Obviously, we would be trying out the two wines from Frank, a Tempranillo and a Rose.

We were seated at the corner table and asked for dietary requirements by the waiter. I-Hua was the only one with a requirement, in that she doesn't eat beef. The waiter took that down and said he will bring out a selection of food to match our wines. We decided to start with the Tempranillo. Yes, we were being wine n00bs and not starting with the lighter Rose, but I really felt like having a red first. The notes on the Tempranillo hinted at red and black fruits. After closing my eyes and swirling, sniffing and gargling forever, I couldn't grasp the fruits. Wine tasting fail. I did think the wine was nice, and after I tried it with food, I thought it was even better.

We started with a dish of Anchovy with Tomato Sorbet on a crispy bread. While the same dish I had at Movida Aqui was sensational, the dish I had that night was overpoweringly salty. I eat anchovies on everything but as anyone who eat anchovies knows, they are very strong and need to be knocked back on the salty scale with other things. The sorbet didn't reduce the saltiness of this particular anchovy at all.

Next up, the Salt Cod and Potato Croquette was nice but again really salty. This dish did match up with the wine really well though, enhancing the flavours of the wine. A Cold Smoked Mackerel also matched well with the wine but as you can guess, it was salty.

The next dish, the Cecina, was once named dish of the year by The Age a number of years ago. I fell in love with this dish the first time I had it. While it was still good, it wasn't half as good as I remember it. But you know what they say, memory is always distorted and it's always better in the past. However, in my food memory, which I think is quite reliable, the cured wagyu used to have a better flavour, the truffle foam was lighter and smoother, the egg gooier and had more flavour. It's small things but I felt it affected the overall flavour of what is essentially quite a simple dish.

We had some Iberico Jamon next, which was really nice. It was paired with a tomato toast, which I loved. The Snapper, Mussels and Calamari dish was good, with almonds and breadcrumb giving a good nutty flavour. The Pine Mushrooms from the Mornington Peninsula area was my standout dish of the night. It was so simple, but so good. Mushrooms cooked well in a white wine and garlic sauce. Note that all dishes were over salted for my liking again, but maybe it's to others taste.

A Braised Beef Shin was very tender and gelatinous. It was very nice for a cold night. The Pheasant with Brussel Sprouts and Chestnuts was a bit ho hum for me. I'm not a fan of brussel sprouts and while the glazed chestnuts did give the dish a nice flavour, the pheasant itself tasted just like chicken.

For desserts, we had the Churros and Flan with the Rose. Just as on my previous visits, I still feel the churros is too heavy and not light and fluffy for my liking. Maybe that's the way it's eaten in Spain but the churros were like dry pieces of overcooked dough. The chocolate sauce was really nice though. The Flan was to my liking, creamy smooth caramel goodness. I-Hua also had to idea to try the flan with the chocolate sauce and boy, that was a good combo too. I found that the Rose didn't really go with the desserts or was to my liking by itself. I've never quite understood Rose as it's caught between the clean taste of a white and the robust strong flavours of a red.

Overall, the meal was enjoyable but on the salty side in general for me. The Tempranillo matched well with most of the food, but I didn't really like the Rose. The service at Movida was friendly and efficient and our waiter was very funny. However, I didn't understand why he asked us about dietary requirements to only promptly forget about it. Maybe he assumed I-Hua could eat the other dishes besides the beef related items. Movida was once upon a time one of my favourite places but this recent meal didn't get me too excited. There were some elements that were good but in general was a but underwhelming.

MoVida Bar de Tapas on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Giveaway - 3 x Good Food and Wine Show Double Passes Melbourne

I've got some tickets, 3 lots of double passes to be exact, to give away to the Good Food Show in Melbourne for 2012. Last year I went to the show and got to meet Poh. You can read my post about the 2011 show.

If you don't know about the Good Food and Wine Show, it's a huge food festival across three days where you can browse through lots of food stalls, taste and buy food, meet people in the food industry, attend masterclasses and have lots of fun. This year, you can see some of the following things:

*Fisher and Paykel Celebrity Theatre - Maggie Beer, Matt Moran, Adriano Zumbo, Rick Stein, George Calombaris, Manu Feildel, John Torode.
*Lifestyel Food Chef's Table
*Dan Murphy's Wine of the World Master Classes
*Tuckeroo Cooking School
*Cheese Alley and Masterclass
*Healthy Living Zone
*Private Dining Room
*Reidel Wine Sessions
*Nespresso Masterclass
*Adoro Chocolate Masterclass
*Pamper Zone

WHEN: Melbourne June 1-3
WHERE: Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre
PRIZE: 3 x double passes to the show


Thank you all for your entries. Courtesy of, the three winners were Ana, Brenda and IHeartMBeer. I shall be sending out the tickets to you.
Just leave a comment below.

Due to how close the show is, please send me an email ( and tell me which comment is yours and postal address so that if you win, I can send you the tickets immediately.

Conditions of Entry
- One entry per person.
- Australian readers only.
- Winner randomly drawn.
- Competition closes Tuesday May 29th 9pm AEST. The winners will be announced on the same day and published on this same post.
- I will contact the winner directly to inform if you have won.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Phat Brats - Delicious Gourmet Hot Dogs and Cheesy Fries

Disclaimer: I dined courtesy of Phat Brats.

I have a massive soft spot, or is that oily spot, for sausages. I've always loved adding heaps of condiments to gourmet sausages. When I was in Chicago, I couldn't get enough of hot dogs with their wide variety of condiments and sausage choices. Finally, it seems that Melbourne is starting to get in on the gourmet hot dog style. Phat Brats is the latest shop to serve gourmet hot dogs. The boys, Matt and Damo, serve sausages which are just simple "honest" dogs, made from locally sourced wholesome ingredients. I went along with my hot dog eating posse, Agnes, I-Hua, April and Michele to sample some hot dogs and fries.

As we all love hot dogs, we decided to order a variety of them and some fries to share.

We tried the following:
*Beer smoked bratwurst: local beer smoked brat sausage with sauteed onions, sauerkraut, Bavarian mustard and green pickle relish
*Chili dog: wagyu beef sausage with spicy ground beef, house chili sauce, pb cheese sauce and spring onion
*Wagyu beef: wagyu beef sausage with house tomato sauce and mild mustard
*Lamb and rosemary: lamb and rosemary sausage with smashed minted peas, house gravy, raw slaw and crumbled feta
*Pork and sage: pork and sage sausage with braised apple and red cabbage, crisp shallots and horseradish cream
*Spicy chorizo: spicy Spanish pork sausage with pinto beans, shredded lettuce, sour cream, jalapenos and house tomato sauce
*Po’ boy: crispy battered fish, spicy shrimp, shredded lettuce and aioli ($8.90).
*Cheesy fries
*Chili fries

I exaggerate not to say that we literally inhaled the hot dogs and fries in under 10 minutes. We were like sharks circling the innocent cute white seals. I blame it on the cold weather rather than my gluttonous appetite to excuse the rate and amount of food that I ate. It was really delicious though.

I would say there wasn't a hot dog that I disliked, but not all hot dogs are created equally. For me, the highlights were the Beer Soaked Bratwurst, Chili Dog and Spicy Chorizo. The bratwurst was fantastic with the mix of sausage with onions, sauerkraut and pickle relish. Nearly all of my favourite hot dog ingredients in one thing. The Chili Dog contained my other favourite hot dog element, chili. I loved the chili mince and really enjoyed this hot dog. The Spicy Chorizo, again contained a beautiful pork sausage with jalapenos. I'm totally in love with jalapenos and ate that on everything for about 6 months.

With the fries, I was expecting to love the Chili Fries but found it was only quite good. I think the problem was the chili beans. If we had gone with the chili mince, I would have loved these fries, but since I-Hua doesn't eat beef, we went with the beans. However, the Cheesy Fries made up for the Chili Fries. We all couldn't get enough of the crispy fries covered in melting cheese goodness. They were truly sensational, a must order.

The restaurant is a small place with some simple wooden tables to sit down and enjoy your hot dog. You order and pay at the counter and receive your hot dogs in small plastic baskets. You can choose to get in there and eat with your hands, or like me, you can eat neatly with the plastic cutlery. At the moment, you can only order soft drinks and juices, but in a few weeks time when they get their liquor license, you can enjoy a refreshing beer with these wonderful hot dogs and fries.

Phat Brats on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Treehouse Lounge - Playground of Delicious Tapas and Cocktails

Tapas and cocktails. You have my attention immediately when you say those two words. However, there has been a saturation of restaurants doing tapas and most of them have been quite average, so it was with some trepidation that I accepted the invite to try out Treehouse Lounge. I'm extremely glad to report that Treehouse Lounge actually does really good tapas in a cosy environment. Owners Adrian and John have used their restaurant experience from past ventures to ensure that the food is of a high quality with the service to match.

Disclaimer: I dined courtesy of Treehouse Lounge.

The small space is separated into 3 semi distinct areas. Near the front bar are high tables for drinking your beers and cocktails, the main dining area comprising tables for groups of 2-4, and a partitioned back area for larger groups. The lighting is kept fairly low, one of my pet peeves about restaurants, but luckily I was near a light so it wasn't too bad for me.

The menu comprises lots of tapas and a range of pizzas. We decided to share numerous tapas with our cocktails. A Beef Carpaccio was really nice, with tender meat matched with capers and artichoke, giving it some zing. The Herb Crusted Lamb Cutlets are stunning and I asked for the recipe but was refused jokingly by Adrian. Seriously Adrian, I want that wonderful recipe of your mums. A Grilled Prawn Salad was good but no match for the lamb cutlets in my eyes. The Antipasto Platter was surprisingly good, with good quality cured meats. I guess you must know about cured meats if you're Italian. The Oysters Kilpatrick was a tad disappointing. While the flavours were great, the oysters didn't taste super fresh to me.

The Tapas Platter of items we selected were all really good, or great. Chorizo were simply fried and very nice. The Seared Scallops were excellent, plump, fresh and perfectly cooked. I liked the Grilled Prawns and Meatballs, both with nice flavours. The Salt and Pepper Calamari was really to my liking, having a nice thin crisp batter and good dipping sauce. Smoked Salmon was good, but it was the BBQ Ribs that stole the show. They were sticky, soft, sweet and salty. I couldn't stop licking my fingers. A must order.

We were extremely full so shared only one dessert. The Strawberry Mille Feuille was disappointing. While it looked great, the taste was only ok. The strawberries were really fresh and sweet, but the pastry let this simple dish down. Instead of beautiful crisp puff pastry, the layers were like papadums things. The lemon curd described in the menu turned out to be lemon syrup instead, which tasted ok with the strawberries but would have been so much better if it was lemon curd.

My service was excellent, but I was the invited guest. From what I could see, Adrian and John definitely worked the room really well and customers were all smiling and happy. The waiters did an efficient job. I liked the ambiance in the room and although the tables are quite close in the small space, the background music and noise from other diners meant there was still a level of privacy. I really liked the food and there were some excellent items. I would recommend trying out Treehouse Lounge and make sure to order yourself a cocktail off their extensive list as well.

Treehouse Lounge on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 14, 2012

Albert Street Food and Wine - Simple Food Executed Perfectly

Philippa Sibley may be referred to as the "Dessert Queen" due to her stint in Masterchef where she presented a number of drool worthy dessert challenges. But I think that is really diminishing all the food skills that she has to offer. Having had the opportunity to speak with Philippa personally, she actually enjoys eating savoury food far more than desserts. With Albert Street Food and Wine, where Philippa is Executive Chef, she has been able to show the full range of her repertoire in an environment where people are going for her food. I think her stint at il Fornaio was a mismatch for her, as the cafe/restaurant was torn between what it wanted to be and what the drawcard for people was. Was it a cafe serving coffee and sandwiches for early morning passing traffic? Was it a bakery selling good pastries? Was it a dessert bar? Was it a full on restaurant for casual dining? All this confusion meant Philippa's food got lost. Finally though, we get to taste her amazing food, both sweet and savoury at this wonderful new location.

Albert Street Food and Wine brings a level of casual elegance to the Sydney Road food scene. This is reflected in the beautiful fitout of what used to be an old bank I think. The beautifully polished light wooden floorboards are really inviting. Exposed ceiling beams and brick walls give the room an industrialised look that is all the rage. Very distinctive light fittings and coloured focus tables finish off the effect. A large space is bordered by an equally large bar, and neighbored by a wonderful food store. There are lots of gourmet food items worth checking out. I love the pickles and fig jam and have been back many times to keep buying them.

The menu is split into a number of categories, from starters to pizza, from the grill, pasta, mains and dessert are a few of them. The menu is mainly based around sharing and that's what Hien and I did. We started off with a Grilled Haloumi with Pickles. I cannot tell you how exciting this dish is. I've had grilled haloumi many times, but the addition of this zingy pickle made this dish super awesome.

Mackerel on Toast with nuts was again so good. It had an acidic kick from some vinegar and the varying textures of this dish was so lovely. A special of Grilled Wagyu Skewers with white anchovies again married so many flavours and I loved it.

Also from the grill section, we ordered a Grilled Quail with Grapes and Pedro Ximinez. I'm not a big fan of quail but this dish made me love it. Perfectly grilled quail were moist and tender and served with a fragrant sweet/tangy sauce. A mains of Pulled Lamb with Gnocchi, which initially I thought would be my favourite dish was actually my least favoured. The lamb was soft and tender, but lacked a bit of flavour compared to all the previous amazing dishes. The gnocchi was well made.

For dessert, we ordered a Pistachio Clafoutis and the famous "Snickers". The clafoutis was beautiful and served with a vanilla ice cream and some chocolate soil. However, how can I go past the Snickers. It is a stunning dessert. Smooth caramel parfait is layered with a biscuit base, thin crisp slices of chocolate, smooth chocolate mousse and salty peanuts in caramel. Each mouthful is pure bliss, at least for a massive sweet tooth like me. I warn you, it's sweet so don't order it and complain about how it's too sweet.

Service was very good, although we did go early and the room was quieter. Later on towards the night, obviously we didn't get as much attention but still got our requests dealt with in short time. I love the ambiance in this beautiful space. With the sunset coming through the large windows and a variety of different table heights and group sizes all chatting happily, I felt the vibe of the room while still feeling enough privacy to chat with my dining partner. I would highly recommend visiting Albert Street Food and Wine and sampling through the great menu. When you've finished eating, make sure you thoroughly browse the food store for some fantastic items to take home.

Overall Rating: 16/20, Loved the simple food with wonderful flavours. Ambiance was really enjoyable.

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.

Albert Street Food and Wine on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Touché Hombre - My Taco Is Better Than Your Taco

Mexican restaurants seem to be gaining in popularity in Melbourne, which is fantastic as it's another cuisine style that I like. I love the vibrant flavours of Mexican food and when done well, is extremely addictive. Another player entering the Mexican food scene is Touche Hombre, created by young entrepreneur Davis Yu. It was with much pleasure that I got to attend a bloggers dinner at the restaurant and meet Davis, who talked to us about his idea behind the restaurant.

Disclaimer: I dined courtesy of Touche Hombre at a blogger's dinner event.

Upon entering the restaurant, I thought, here's another funky new hipster restaurant. There was the stripped down industrialised fitout with exposed brick walls, distinctive lights, wooden fittings and a DJ playing music on his equipment. Thankfully, the restaurant is not all hipster like and pokes fun at itself. There's a neon "Who Ya Gonna Call" sign, “héroes de medio caparazón” (Google is your friend) tag on their menu and you only have to look at their website to see how much tongue in cheek fun they're having. Thank goodness because I think we have wayyyyyy too many hipster places in Melbourne already that make me wanna burn my 3/4 length unpleated organic fibre light blue chinos and matching cap. Instead, the restaurant has a funky fun vibe, which as Davis said, is definitely quite loud so be warned. Don't go and complain about the music. If you feel the need to complain about the music, this probably isn't your type of place.

We started, and continued, the night with many cocktails. I liked the some of the margaritas, while not liking some of the others which I felt had a very strange flavour. Give them a try and work out which ones you prefer yourself. For food starters, we tried Spiced Chicken Tostadas, Grilled Corn with Cheese, Ceviche and Lamb Ribs. I felt the Tostadas and Grilled Corn were pretty good, but could have had more flavour. The ceviche with the fish and mussels worked well with the spices and condiments. The lamb ribs were definitely my favourite with soft fatty meat literally falling off the bone.

Next up were a trio of tacos. We tried a Soft Shell Crab Taco, Breakfast Taco and Grilled Chicken Taco. I didn't much care for the soft shell crab taco. The batter on the crab was far too thick, doughy and oily and totally masked the taste of any crab. The peas and mint really didn't match in terms of flavour for me. The breakfast taco was my favourite and extremely exciting in terms of flavour. There was such a good mix of flavours and textures and packed full of zing. The grilled chicken taco was quite nice, but could have been amped up with more flavour, maybe a strong marinade for the chicken and more chimichurri sauce.

We tried all three desserts, Ice Cream Sangas (their fun names). The Chocolate and Chili Peanut Cookie was excellent, except for the chili haha. I know, I know, some of you love the chili in chocolate but I really dislike it. I think I've only tried it once where it worked for me. The Dulce de Leche sanga was definitely more to my liking, strawberry parfait mixed with pistachio and sandwiched in a dulce de leche outer. Lastly, the Rice Pudding and Cinnamon sanga was also good, with caramel parfait matched with rice pudding and cinnamon sugar.

Overall, I felt the food had some some good, some great, and some not so good. For me personally, the flavours can be increased in some of the items. The breakfast taco would be the standard to bring the other tacos up to. The desserts were all very good and refreshing. The ambiance in the restaurant is definitely fun, but can also get loud. It's great for a group of friends to go to rather than a romantic dinner for two. Wait staff sounded like they knew what they were talking about and had a sense of fun to them. Overall, I would recommend this restaurant as a stop for a light snack or a full on shared meal.

Here are some reviews from other bloggers who were also at the event.
Off The Spork
The Chronicles of Ms Ihua
Popcorn and Toast
Eat Play Shop

Touché Hombre on Urbanspoon