Thursday, October 22, 2015

kumo izakaya & sake bar

1405 and I work a lot. So, this is the reason we go to omakase experiences on a weeknight, during a heatwave, because we work a lot and we goddamn deserve it.

Kumo is a Japanese restaurant on Lygon Street, with lofty ceilings, a tasteful mix of artwork, industrial ironwork throughout and an original but modern Japanese essence. There is something old school about the izakaya experience - sake paired with clean flavours, in a setting which is sophisticated but never pretentious, accessible but otherwordly at the same time.

On this hot night, 1405 and I were not super hungry... So we decided on the 6-course omakase menu. Omakase is the original "feed me" menu. The chef selects those dishes that best represent his skills and seasonal produce, and you have no choice in the matter. This is a kind of liberation - simply choose your sake and let the magic happen before your eyes.

Wagyu beef tataki with ponzu

Assorted sashimi platter
This sashimi platter was just amazingly good. Fusion sauces with citrus and green chillies really hit the spot. Coriander on kingfish was perfect.

Garlic soy karaage chicken

Vegetable sharing plate: spinach, pumpkin, lotus root and pickled daikon
 Loved the lotus root, great crunchiness in the daikon too.

Fried eggplant dengaku with pinenut and walnut miso
Grilled salmon with citrus miso sauce and pink ginger shoots

Not pictured:
Edamame served with warm Murray River pink salt flakes
Crunchy chicken skin cracker dusted with shichimi salt

The food was immaculately presented, the flavours were on point and we couldn't fault the service.

Kumo Izakaya & Sake Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 4, 2015

estelle bistro

High Street is the shiz. Ever since we moved here I can't get over it. Without overstating the point that I am very happy to live here now, High Street Northcote has everything that our old neighbourhood didn't have, and everything here is cooler and better!

Take, for example, Estelle Bistro. Labour of love of Scott Pickett (who is family friends with 1405's family, awesome right?), developed from a dining room for 24 people into a beacon of fine dining good times in the north side. 

We ordered a la carte tonight, too much of a good thing... can give you gout. So we abstained, and had a go.
Jerusalem artichoke veloute, creme fraiche and saltbush
I freaking love Jerusalem artichoke right now. My parents said that the Empress Dowager Ci xi of the Qing dynasty ate Jerusalem artichoke every day and lived to 72 in a time when people died at 50 on average. Basically, good for you and full of that umami nutty taste. Nice texture blend with the crispy herbs.

Rabbit raviolo, morels and nettles
 I love the idea that these herbs are sourced locally and authentically eaten at the right time. Rabbit is a meat that is underrated, I think. It is more sustainable to eat rabbit than beef and it's leaner and tastier too.

Diamond Valley pork, carrot and raisin.
This was different parts of the pig, cooked in different ways, with a mesmerizing light but flavourful sauce. I had thought I was over pork belly, but this was really yummy.

Roasted cauliflower risotto.
 My favourite dish of the night. I love to dine out, but sometimes, you just want an honest dish that is a little bit peasant-y with really fancy seasoning.

Roasted pumpkin, goats cheese and pumpkin seeds.
You know it's pumpkin season when roasted pumpkin is so sweet it tastes like dessert.

Steamed chats, chicken butter and sage.
Potato steamed, not fried. But equally delicious with the crispy bits of sage. I will make a note to cook like this from now on.

We don't eat desserts anymore (legit health reasons) so we ordered a ported Cropwell Bishop Stilton, which was a ceramic pot of whipped Stilton blue cheese, overlaid with a clear quince jelly disc and served with raisin toast. This was so moreish, we both felt kind of drunk on food.

The modern interiors, textured walls and dark lighting make this restaurant an ideal date place where you can really impress the pants off someone. Or just to bring your partner or a small group, broody authentic food.

Estelle Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, August 22, 2015

the town mouse

We delight in celebrations. Birthdays are as relevant to us now as turning 8 and going to a McDonald's party with so much excitement that you think you're going to throw up. So, after only a little deliberation we chose The Town Mouse for 1405's 29th birthday. 

We had a big party of 11 including 2 littlelies and one teenager and chose to go with the banquet. The food proceeded with a few starters to share then the mains being meats, fish and sides.

We were seated in the courtyard in the back on a day that threatened to rain but ended up sunny. We were lucky. The service was amazing, considering we had children crowd our long table with colouring books and pencils, as well as my Chinese parents asking for hot water (yes, in place of cold tap water, it's a real thing).

Food came in quick succession, just the way we like it, and the ambience of courtyard was just right for conversation.

Cured meats of the day.
In the front: Goats cheese profiterole, caraway, thyme and honey.
In the back: Smoked duck liver parfait, pickled cucumber and crisp potato.
Tuna rillettes with crackers for the table.
Sea urchin on sourdough with dill.

Whole vadouvan roasted flathead.
Cos lettuce, soured cream, lemon verbena, pumpkin seed.
Fried chat potatoes, yuzu mayonnaise.
Not pictured, included in mains:

Black angus intercostals (500g), watercress & green chilli 
Albacore, spring peas, mussel, tarragon & wild rocket
Duck breast, jerusalem artichoke, porcini, horseradish & young kales 
Slow roast red cabbage, prune, parmesan & red apple
Roast cauliflower, almond & broad bean miso

You know how sometimes you eat a meal, and you think "yep, that's it, that's my favourite this year"? Well all the dishes we had in the banquet was like a parade of dishes like that. Nothing to fault in the food, except that one of our flatheads was undercooked. The waiters were very apologetic, did not succumb to my father-in-law's suggestion that they "microwave it", and brought another one to us quickly.

Upon reflection my favourite dish of this meal was the sea urchin - fresh, slightly sweet slighty salty sea urchin on grilled sourdough bread. The subtle herbs and lightness of this meant you could eat and feel happy. My mother's fav dish was the roast cauliflower, golden crispy with a wonderful tangy miso and crunchy almonds.

We spent a good few hours here, munching through the food in our courtyard space which felt invitingly private. Would return.

The Town Mouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Down the road from the Rose Street Artists' market on Sundays, sits gentle, imperturbable Grace. It's a cafe operating out of what used to be two Victorian terrace houses, bustling with happy mellow patrons, doling out good food, being like that one neighbour who quietly plays acoustic guitar when you need it the most.

Somewhere on Rose Street.
Great coffee, friendly service.

Chai tea like this, how can not like?!
 There are always seasonal specials made with care.
Pancakes with poached pear, rhubarb and quark.

Smoked salmon bagel.
 And a constantly changing little dessert table.

This cafe is incredibly charming, a contrast to doof doof music trendy new cafes opening like mushrooms around Melbourne. I have a feeling like this place had quietly always been here and been good, and it will continue to stand long after the trendy glitzy cafe trend has buckled.

Grace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, July 17, 2015

addict food & coffee

Another one! Another trendy cafe in the north side! This trend is not showing any signs of slowing down, and the northsiders (I will pretend to be one for now) are lining up for it.

Addict Food & Coffee sits on the quieter part of Johnston Street where the furniture stores are, before you hit Smith Street. Around it are a car wash (?), second hand shops and a bunch of independent galleries. We waited about 15 minutes for a table on a Saturday morning, there were lines before and after us. 

The concept is farm-to-table which is certainly welcome, decor is clean and sleek, and crowd is 18-35. I really do feel like everyone here is my age. It's like the nightclub crowd have grown up, gotten jobs, and exclusively see each other with vague nods of recognition at brunch places.

Potato hash and mushroom duxelle with roasted field mushroom, a poached egg and caramelised onion. 
Gorgeous mushroom flavours, not sure about the duxelle (texture of dirt?) but the sweet caramelised onion was delicious.

The special was a congee-like dish with smoked bacon broth (in the white bottle), seared fish and egg. It was divine, having salty congee for breakfast is genius.

On a lazy Sunday, perfect place to hang out, reflect on the fact that you have grown up somewhat, and spy on people whose faces are creepily familiar.

Addict Food & Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, June 11, 2015

the breakfast club

We are making a move to the north this winter and will take this opportunity to check out the cafes that everyone's been raving about!

The Breakfast Club sits along St Georges Road, which for the eastern suburbs noobs (I will willingly admit I was one until very recently) is kind of a nicer version of Burwood Highway - a major highway-like road which is home to a weird empty spaces, lots of residential and commercial properties, and a very beautiful piece of indigenous Australian reconciliation art, on the back of a billboard girding a sports oval.

It's a little cafe sitting behind a black and white striped canvas, where you will find the kind of comforts on display in the home of your artist friend who lives in Northcote. Small details like the salt and pepper shakers which are kitschy porcelain affairs in the shape of capsicums, tomatoes and cabbages. Dark wood tones, exposed brick - tick tick. Squishy seating - unfortunately a tick.

The menu is small, with handful of breakfast items and sandwiches. Their logo is very cute - a silhouette of the final fist pump moment from the iconic John Hughes movie we all watched in our 20s ironically with glee.

There is nothing kitschy about the food though - the items sound creatively yummy ("eggplant and cauliflower sambal, brown rice, cashew cream and vadouvan" and "kaagi corn fritters, miso aioli, green tea salt and pickled cabbage") and I witnessed some serious portions (y'all know how I feel about portions).

We were here in the late afternoon and I got the lamb wrap - juicy lamb with barley tabbouleh salad. Nicely seasoned, fresh ingredients.

As 1405 and I sipped our chai lattes (taste very natural and subtle, I liked it but 1405 thought it was bland) we did some people watching. Gone are the blonde stroller mums in 2XU leggings and down vests with their daughter clones abundant in our area. We saw a pair of shaved head lovers split a muffin (which looked delicious, by the way) and a cigarette. Another couple wore their matching outfits from the 1970s and gazed lovingly into each other's eyes when not furiously texting on their phones. Two teenage boys ate monster plates of eggs and bacon. We saw a man with a giant furry mastiff-like dog walk in and out nonchalantly, his giant bear dog trailing him, scaring the little jack russell that belonged to the shaved head couple, hiding under the table.

I think we are going to have an adventure here.

The Breakfast Club
206 St Georges Road
9489 0251

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Friday, May 29, 2015

grand trailer park

This damn burger obsession continues. A new burger joint has opened in the CBD and people are lining up around the corner.

It's the Grand Trailer Park Taverna, on Bourke Street where I distinctly remember singing karaoke at the former restaurant Happy Palace, after dinner and 13 years old with my family. The new occupants have decked the place out in booths like faux caravan trailers and strung multi-coloured fairy lights over the chandelier (a relic of the Chinese restaurant). It's twee and charming at the same time. 

There is always a wait but it's not for long. We sat inside the big caravan at the back and ordered the burger with the most hype - the Frank Underwood. Like Francis it is hugely ambitious and like most Netflix original series it is binge-worthy. In addition to the beef patty, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato there is also a chunky potato mac and cheese croquette - a meal in itself. 

We all agreed that this would be a great date venue and we did see many cool couples, hanging out in their trailers. 

The Grand Trailer Park Taverna
87 Bourke Street
9972 3699

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