Tuesday, July 16, 2013

kokoro ramen

Remember the first time you went to Japan and realised you were in love with ramen? How could a bowl of egg noodles in hot broth make you so happy? The collective "irasshaimase" when you walk in from the crisp cold wonder of the neon world outside. The wooden tables and chairs with whimsical fabric seats. The delicious smells wafting out of giant cauldrons of bubbling soup. The fact that you were overseas with your boyfriend. I distinctly remember a fight in a Tokyo laundromat over whether we should split the load of washing into two (me) or whether we should just stuff it all into one machine and buy a bowl of ramen (1405).

Kokoro Ramen is yet another ramen place in Melbourne. It is on Lonsdale Street, a block from Melbourne Central train station. The place is warm and almost always full. Cheap and cheerful, it is also authentic in a way that some franchised chains could never be.

Sapporo miso ramen with corn, bean shoots, pork, egg, bamboo, seaweed and a block of butter.
 Despite the fact that there are no greens on the menu (I am a stickler for greens with every meal), you can get black fungus mushrooms in your ramen.

Tokyo shoyu ramen with egg, bamboo shoots, spring onion, seaweed and soft shell crab.

Hakata Tonkotsu ramen with spring onion, red ginger, black fungi, ajitama egg, roasted sesame seeds sweet-marinated pork belly.

This was the vegetarian option... with extra pork.
There is usually a line for tables on these winter nights but wait time for a table on a weeknight is like 10 minutes - everyone is in and out. Hugely filling, rich creamy pork bone broth. Perfect after work quick dinner.

Kokoro Ramen
157 Lonsdale Street
9650 1215

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Friday, June 14, 2013

stove monkey

You know those friends that you never see - sometimes due to the fact that they live in another continent, sometimes because you are a lazy ass (who doesn't deserve friends) - but when you do, it's like no time has passed? 

My friend C is like that. She was in London but she's back and we're right back where we left our last conversation. We go back to a time when girls hung clickety things from pink flip phones and she has stuck with me through all the fucking psycho phases of adolescence.

Stove Monkey feels like Aix in Centre Place, a hole-in-the-wall cafe C and I used to go to a lot during uni-times. SM has those comfortable seats, mismatched crockery, French music, and a feeling that the owners really care about making everyone eat well. SM do sandwiches and other lunchie items but their main thing is soup.

Pea and and ham soup.

Beetroot soup.

Winter happiness is a big bowl of tasty soup, a good friend and a warm window. Also, I heard a rumour that they do crumbed poached eggs...

Stove Monkey
191 Clarendon Street
South Melbourne

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Friday, March 1, 2013

wat da pho

So those of you that know me know that I love fish sauce and everything related to it. The only reason I haven't eaten my way through Vietnam yet is because this year I'm taking my sister on a trans-America trip which is just hemorrhaging money. A recent conversation between a most awesome friend and I over work email (talking about banh hoi which you can read about here):

me: that ban hoi place. OMG BAN HOI. FISH SAUCE.





True story.

Anyway, as luck would have it a new Vietnamese place called Wat Da Pho opened up around the corner from my work. They have MSG-free pho and other delicious ricey distractions. Cow and chicken Victoria Street pho it ain't. There is a TV in the corner that, instead of 80's karaoke clips, broadcasts Luke Nguyen's hyper-coloured culinary journey through Vietnam. The tables are not sticky and you don't need to wipe the chopsticks before using them. Decor is fresh, young and spot on the zeitgeist. Perfect for the South Melbourne yuppy (do we still use that word?) crowd. WDP are so cool that they serve the customary bean shoots and Vietnamese mint on a wooden chopping board.

And their beef pho.

Underneath this steaming pile of rice noodles is buried beef.

Y'all know how I feel about MSG free pho but this was surprisingly delicious. Fat rice noodles, fresh crispy beanshoots, very tasty broth. Without the MSG you don't get dry mouthed and sleepy 2 hours post consumption. There isn't much to complain about. 

WDP are acutely aware of their new Asian kid on the block status and as such have culturally sensitive names for the rest of the menu like "sticks on da chelli" (grilled skewers of meat on a bed of soft rice vermicelli noodles) and "ching rolls" (seriously).

Chicken sticks on da chelli.

Here you pour a small pitcher of fish sauce yourself. After this photo was taken my tertiary educated friend E spilled the fish sauce up her sleeve. She had a hard time explaining to people at work why she smelt like Bikram feet. JUST JOKES E I LOVE YOU!

Prawn ching rolls.
I have an inordinate amount of photos of food from this place on my phone. I go here at least once a week to bask in all the fish saucey goodness. WDP also serve very fresh rice paper rolls, $10 for any 3. They even have vegetarian options with a seriously yummy marinated tofu strip. My workmates are aware that I do rice paper roll runs, all the freaking time.

My afternoon tea.

South Melbourne sorely needed authentic Asian eateries and despite not being authentic in a Footscray kind of way, WDP ticks all the boxes. Watch out for the sometimes long wait at lunch, otherwise you can always get a table at dinner.

Wat Da Pho
212 Clarendon Street
South Melbourne
9696 5605

Wat Da Pho on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 22, 2013

brim cc

I love organic food and whimsy and Madeleine Peyroux. Brim CC is abundant in all these things. 

The (pictures slotted in a photo album with paper clips) menu is predominantly Japanese rice dishes with curry, salads and noodle (not ramen). This sounds like such standard fare that it surprises most people when BCC fans froth at the mouth with enthusiasm about the place. The ingredients are organic where possible and the small scale of the operation just feels like real food in an area of the city that craves authenticity.

I have only ever come here for dinner so I've known it to be quiet and cosy but I know the lunch crowds can be a bit hectic. For me, it's just a perfect location for after work dinner and unpretentious home-feel food.

My husband took me here before I had to travel interstate for work on Valentine's Day eve. We ordered too much (as usual).

Chicken curry on rice with tofu salad.

Tofu set.
In addition to the above we also ordered a Colourful Soba Set (called a C.S.S.) which was soba noodles with a board of tofu, vegetables and a salad. We really really liked it.

Before he ushered me into a taxi my husband poked a long stemmed red rose into the handle of my luggage. And that was the trip I felt like it was nice to be married.

BrimCC Organic Soup and Japanese Cafe
Shop 2, 601 Little Collins Street
9629 6794

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

meatball & wine

Melbourne has gone crazy over Meatball & Wine. I don't know what it is - the novelty of spherical food, the fact that there's wine involved, or that we love sexual innuendo?

There is almost always a line out the front of this eatery on Flinders Lane, it is of the tribe of those places that don't take bookings. Melbournians have a codependent relationship with these glamazon restaurants. At the same time as we roll our eyes and bitch about it, we line up, teeth chattering in the cold, for a coveted table. Then tell our friends about it the next day as if retelling a victory and enabling the process.

The get up is glamorous industrial with exposed brick and too-loud music, the patrons are all young professionals mulling over which job to jump into next and the fact that this food is paleo-friendly.

The concept is pretty simple. You choose from meat or vegetarian balls and "something to rest your balls on" (love it).  I didn't go for the vegetarian option but have been told by many people that the pumpkin one is really very good. The flavours are great and make this formerly humble staple cool in an ironic kind of way.

Pork balls with sage, fennel and orange on Italian beans.

Fish balls with dill and lemon on "something veg".
They have sliders too, consisting of balls in a small bun. V cute.

Beef sliders - mini brioche buns with balls and sauce.
Even the dessert is ball shaped. Chocolate and vanilla ice cream sandwiched between macaron shells. By this stage we soporifically stuffed so I really have to get back to you on how enjoyable they were, but as a concept they were perfect. 

MB&W is a place where diners don't just go for the food but the Melbourne experience of it all - the waiting, the wine, the feeling of good company and a vague reminder of New York.

Meatball & Wine
135 Flinders Lane
9654 7545

Meatball & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 25, 2013

yamato japanese

It's a blisteringly hot day. Then, one of those warm still nights in the city. Summer vibrated in the air as 1405 and I decide to go on an adventure in Chinatown. We walked past familiar places like Dae Jang Geum and Spicy Fish and opted to turn down a cobblestone street, past EuroTrash where one of our friends had his 21st. It feels like decades ago and we realize this is because we have since graduated from uni and become useful members of society. As much I love my work, there is an accompanying feeling of numbness and sameness to the days - if work life feels like stupor, uni life feels like a remembered dream.

At the end of the street is a teeny tiny restaurant flanked by the noisiest air conditioners this side of China. There are pieces of paper stuck on the inside of the window, it reminds me of preschoolers and their finger paintings, proud parents. We squeeze inside to find 40 people seated in a space for about 20. We fold ourselves into a side table. It is stiflingly hot and everyone has ordered bottles of beer, beaded with moisture. Despite everything the charm of this place is immediately apparent, cutesy paper hearts abound and there are mismatched mini-kites blu-tacked to the walls.

We try not to overdo it, but sometimes habit gets the better of us and we still end up eating like marathon runners on a day where really all one needs is a cold beverage and a lie down.

Sushi sashimi combination.
Yose Nabe - seafood, tofu and vegetables in a miso base.
Everything was yum and fresh, service was fantastic considering that in this weather all I would want to do is swat at people who constantly ask me for water. We will be back when the air con works properly and it's a little cooler.

Yamato Japanese
28 Corrs Lane
9663 1706

Yamato Japanese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 24, 2013

bohemian bar & restaurant

Many moons ago my beautiful girlfriends and I fancied ourselves as the SATC bunch (before the movies came out and made all the fans feel silly and has-been), languidly sipping cocktails and exchanging hilarious raunchy stories about men and their foibles. This was in the baby years of the 2000's, when we first started uni, barely over 20, no disposable income to speak of and still living at home. Back then, we thought everything was cool. We can only look back now and appreciate how naff our imitations were. The only thing that we had in common with those characters was a genuine care for each other and what we (I think rightly) deemed real friendship. Many moons later now I can appreciate the gravity of what I guess SATC and others of its ilk inspired in me, a kind of link between glamour and the secret lives of girlfriends. This is why, whenever I go out with my female friends, it always makes me feel more grown up in a different way to marriage.

Bohemian Bar and Restaurant was the setting for a girly catch-up with Q, a close friend with a full to bursting busy life. Located along South Wharf, we took a table outside where the air was cicada song warm and we could catch a breeze off the water.

The food was Spanish-inspired and fabulous with drinks and someone with a story.

Patatas bravas: potato cylinders, spiced tomato and aioli
I have a soft spot for potato and really liked these despite the fact that they are little over salted. We were tapping the salt off the sides. Other than that the little pocket at the top for tomato and aioli were perfect.

Gambas al ajillo: garlic prawns with paprika
These prawns were nicely cooked but a little plain. More chilli and garlic needed. I think prawns can be so much more exciting than this "boiled" look. Waiter said this was a most popular dish.

A green salad  with pomegranate and prettiness
We also had a seafood paella (no photo) which was yum but a little small for the two of us. I would recommend ordering one each if you're looking for restaurant portions.

Bunuelos de chocolate: chocolate filled doughnut balls, confit cumquat
Q's official Facebook account of the night was "Melbourne on summer nights. Best friends. Long stories of things you used to only read about. Home." I would whole heartedly agree.

Bohemian Bar and Restaurant
35 Dukes Walk
South Wharf
9682 0566

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