Chez Dre, Melbourne 08-2016

Another trip to South Melbourne and another visit to Chez Dre (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/chez-dre-melbourne-03-2016). The menu has changed since last time, as has the waiting line from the courtyard to the front alleyway entrance (it would be nice to be consistent!). In any case the wait for an inside table wasn't too long albeit on a communal table.

After the exceptional cassoulet in Paris (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/chez-papa-paris-06-2016), the word sprang out at me like nothing else. How would this compare? Their version of white beans, ham hock, kaiserfleisch, bratwurst, coddled egg and exceptional baguette $19.5 was nice but didn't have as strong a pork flavour (although the gourmet 3 types of meats was good contrast) of the Parisian one and much less liquid to enjoy with the bread.

The bright sweet potato soup $13.5 was simple and nice for a cold day.

The Prana chai with soy came as a more inferior chai latte this time around. I didn't send it back this time but next time will ensure I get the pot with spices as ordered.

There's plenty popping up on my South Melbourne radar from discovering the market places to newer cafes (Crux & Co. sort of nearby) and Agathe's exceptional croissants and Bibelot's icecream.

Chez Dr Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

DC Dumpling, Melbourne 09-2016

Box Hill has always struck me as a place with many options and none particularly outstanding. Back in the day China Bar and La Porchetta were the two options before and after playing games at Virtual Arena with bubble tea. It has progressed a little since there with the range of cheap Chinese options expanding and also a few nicer looking places.

In terms of dumplings, DC seemed to have a good rating.

- Beef panfried dumpling $12.5 - chewy textured skin and only slightly crispy and holding the vinegar well;
- Mapo tofu $17 - salty and not overly spicy with some peas (different and welcome) and mince;
- Jellyfish $12.5 - nice crunchy jellyfish texture although seemed a little plain and expensive for the serving. Usually a bit extra sesame oil and some kind of herbs/salad would go well and beef it up.

The feed was decent basic Asian fare. Large serves of noodle or rice dishes seemed to be more the common order so looks like a great venue for a quick cheap meal alone or in silent company. 

DC Dumpling Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Between 2 Buns, Melbourne 09-2016

On a recent trip to see how neighbourhood and investment friendly Altona is, there was some admiration for the nearby beach and park. It doesn't seem like the Altona village has caught up to its neighbours in terms of food options yet, but the burger place seemed to be doing good trade with a bit of wafting smell down the road. And the location across the road from a park which was hosting some kind of children's fair made it nice for people-watching.

After reading the online reviews, the chicken patty substituted into a beef burger seemed to be what people preferred.

- The Spicy with a chicken patty replacing the beef (with cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, jalapeno, hot sauce + B2B sauce) $10.5 - tender chicken but the thin coating wasn't so crisp on this occasion. It had a more simple (and welcome) flavour than the extreme buttery 8bit version but less seasoned than some others. The jalapeno and hot sauce added a little heat;
- The Classic (with cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, mustard + B2B sauce) $9.5 - a nice simple burger with all the relevant bits. The patty was quite thin and cooked through;
- Chilli Cheese Fries $9 - well seasoned tasty chips softened under the heat of some mild chilli beef mince and topped with a hefty strong cheese sauce. A good rendition. I think the dirty version with bacon, B2B sauce + spring onion would have been too much, but jalapenos and onion might have been a nice addition.

The burgers and fries are good and I'd be happy if there in the area, although I don't think I'll travel down there just for them. Hard to know if I preferred the chicken or beef patty - both were good with neither outstanding. Next unhealthy visit I'd also want to try the dirty dog and a shake.

Between 2 Buns Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

First Taste, Melbourne 08-2016

One night a few of us couldn't decide where to eat in Footscray. Let's try something different. After much to-and-fro-ing, the 4 of us walked into First Taste. It was filled with Asians. After 10 mins of standing around being ignored, asking 4 different staff for a table (who all acknowledged then ignored us), we left. The food must be good there.

A week later, 2 of us ended up there on a quieter night. They advertise Singapore chilli crab and so that was ordered. The crab itself had some good meat and the noodles servings made the meal heartier (as usual). The sauce itself was odd though - it wasn't too chilli but was very sweet, which was unexpected. I definitely remember it in Singapore being more savoury and spicy.

Salted fish & chicken fried rice was a hefty serve and not too oily. There was occasional bits of salted fish but when you didn't get those, the rest of the rice and chicken was quite plain.

They seem to specialise in claypots, so maybe I'll try that next time.

First Taste Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Agathe Patisserie, Melbourne 08-2016

I'm sure before there was the obsession with Lune (which I haven't tried), there was Agathe and a few others around (Noisette is excellent too). I've never been one to visit South Melbourne but now that I pass by to/from work, Chez Dre and Bibelot are there and the market itself is unexpectedly cheap, I'm a fan of the area.

Agathe have a constant production of treats and a queue of people lining the shopfront. It is definitely worth the wait for a $5 croissant, crisp and warm, buttery and soft and served by staff with French accents. So delicate are these that you need to be careful you don't crush it whilst attempting to grip it to tear.

I've tried the matcha croissants (slightly green and much sweeter) and the black one (I thought they said squid ink and cumin - it seemed to be a bit more savoury but not any real unique flavour I could discern) but neither come close to the satisfaction of the plain. The apple turnover had a decent filling but I wasn't a fan of the pastry - I prefer it thicker and chewier rather than flaky. The pistachio and cherry small dessert cake was nice too but I would like more pistachio flavour.

In the end I'll just stick to the plain croissants. At home I lined it with prosciutto and vintage cheddar, heated in the oven at 180C for 3-5 minutes. Fantastic.

Agath Ptisserie Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Blue Chillies. Melbourne 09-2016

For a special occasion, Friday night was at the only modern Malaysian restaurant I like (and probably the only one I know). After recently reconnecting with this place in March (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/blue-chillies-melbourne-03-2016) it was time to share the joy around a bit more.

This occasion was certainly helped by the manager giving advice about dishes to order. The advice was to distinguish between some of the things on the menu that are aimed more toward the Western market (90% of their clientele), some toward the traditional Malaysian Chinese market, and some toward those with food preferences (eg. vegetarians). In the end that information will go a long way toward subsequent dinners there.

The menu has changed (or at least been given a facelift to a single sheet from a booklet). We asked if the dishes could be made spicier than usual but there was certainly nothing that packed much heat.

- Special of fried chicken wings marinated with pandan - a dish aimed for the Western market, these mildly seasoned chicken wings were adequate;
- Lohbak (spiced chicken wrapped in tofu skin) $8 - the manager served complimentary lohbak as he thought we would like this more. It's a far cry from the narrow chewy, oily versions that didn't enamour me during childhood. These were outstanding with thick meaty fillings and a crisp textured coating. Must easily be the best around and something I would not have ever expected myself to order and enjoy;
- Crispy rockling (with butter egg floss) $30 for main - the favourite of many at the table with tender fish and crisp salted batter. It was suggested salted egg would elevate this (flavourwise at least) but it doesn't suit the taste of the Westerners. Give it a try I say...;
- Thrice cooked duck (on a sauce of wild ginger flower, lemongrass, chillies and lime juice) $30 - still the best, still my favourite, I still can't work out how to make the sauce have such a perfect combination of sweetness, sourness and tanginess;
- Slow cooked duck rendang (with aromatic roasted spices & chillies) $30 - a dry curry which was nice but should have been much hotter for a rendang;
- Curry lamb (classic Malaysian curries slow cooked in traditional hometown spice) $25 - tender lamb in a lovely curry sauce. I probably preferred this to the duck rendang (which is unusual for me given dry curries and rendang are generally my favourite);
- Salt & pepper okra $19 - after the salt and pepper rockling, this was a much more plain option. It's marketed toward vegetarians. After seeing my comments from March, I wouldn't get this again;
- Gado gado $19 - a nice version with blocks of vegetables in peanut sauce. Probably could have used more seasoning. A nice break from the meats and heavy flavours but again would probably leave this for the vegetarians;
- Roti (x2) $8 - chewy, not particularly crisp. I preferred eating the dishes with rice.

The meal was fantastic overall and I managed to try several new things. I'd go back for the lohbak and thrice cooked duck. The other meat and fish dishes are good too and I'd opt for the spicy eggplant as my vegetable dish.

Blue Chillies Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Simply Spanish, Melbourne 09-2016

Melbourne seems to win a lot of "best in the world" awards recently. Simply Spanish was awarded the best paella outside Spain. I'm not sure what kind of accolade that is - I presume it's the Spanish judges protecting the sanctity of their dish internally. It was pleasing to see the winner was a classic rabbit and snails. It reminds me of my dream of Paco Gandia, the best in the world (within Spain) that I was so close to when I visited Alicante, but couldn't squeeze in the trip. Next time.

Although Simply Spanish hasn't yet adopted their winner for the local market, it is bound to happen soon now. In the meantime I visited the South Melbourne market one for a taste. Like those I've seen in markets before (eg. Borough and Covent Garden) there is a giant pan cooking continuously. I tend to find these nice enough however they also lack the crispy slightly burnt rice bottom that is a great part of paella. Subsequently I ordered a personalised one instead.

- Flame Grilled Calamari (served with fresh lemon & herb infused olive oil dressing) $15.5 - a deliciously tender calamari which was used to scoop up the potently seasoned oil dressing. I could swear there was minced salted anchovies in there such was the flavour of it. The smell and taste were excellent and strong;
- Smoked Pork & Mushroom paella (cooked with thyme & white wine) $21 - the paella was cooked through with a little bit of crisp base but could have been a bit more al dente. The flavour was remarkably mild, with the advertised smoked pork likely being shredded pork hock. I expected a stronger flavour - maybe it was overpowered by the calamari. It was nontheless nice and satisfying.

There's a lot of paella types to try including ones with chorizo, seafood or squid ink. Once they start the rabbit and snail I'll definitely try that. The atmosphere outside is also pleasant on market day to sit in the sun and join the people.

Simply Spanish Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Hem27, Melbourne 08-2016

Having lived in Abbotsford and now in Footscray, it is pretty rare I'll eat Vietnamese food when I'm away from my local. There generally is no point, as I won't find anything as good for the price elsewhere. I suppose occasionally there is a desire to try some more "modern" or slightly more upscale places just to see if the extra money buys some extra quality of ingredients.

I happened to find myself in this corner place near Flemington racecourse. After scouring some gourmet ingredients at the excellent Provata Urban Larder & Cafe, I settled for lunch. A family member used to work nearby and so recommended a hearty bowl of bun topped with meats.

I ordered Bun An Kem with grilled pork chop ($11.80), added spring rolls (+$1) and nem nuong pork sausage (+$2.80). The resulting bowl was a large serve of the above ingredients sitting on top of julienned carrot and cucumber, rice noodles and some herbs. I needed a second dish of nuoc mam to drown out my bowl in sauce. The sauce itself wasn't as strong in the fish sauce as I'm used to and had a slightly sweeter flavour - both of which was fine. I would have liked more herbs (I like excessive amount of herb flavour) but overall I can't complain. The meat was tender and flavoursome, the meal was satisfying.

I'm not sure if I'll ever be in the area again but I'd happily come back. There's many other staples on the menu to try also.

Hem27 Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Amok, Melbourne 08-2016

I like exploring Windsor. After a couple of meals at the new Belle's and House of Hoi An, I was keen to look around more. There's so many restaurants and bars in an atmosphere more relaxed than in the northern parts of frenetic Chapel Street.

After my first Cambodian restaurant (other than in Cambodia of course) at Bopha Devi in Yarraville, I was keen to try another. Comparatively Amok is designed to be cooler (fitting in with the surrounds), with a menu that seems more modern using such ingredients like truffle oil and pomegranate. The menu reads beautifully.

- Stuffed soft shell crab, steamed Cambodian vermicelli, pineapple anchovy salsa, fresh green tangy dip $16.9 - a little expensive for the amount of crab, but it was crisp and flavoursome. The salad was lovely;
- Cambodian duck curry $29.9 - much milder than the intense Thai versions. It was different but nice although I would have liked much more curry sauce;
- Watermelon, lotus root chips, pickle ginger, salted Cambodian dry fish salad $8.9 - an interesting salad with the occasional chewy salty fish. Not as intense as the Cantonese salted fish;
- Red rice ball, avocado ice cream, seasonal fruits, boba, toasted coconut $10.9 - strong avocado ice cream negated my need for Pidapipo down the road. The red rice ball was exceptional with a warm centre and a mildly crisp (roasted?) external texture.

I was very happy with my meal here. There's so many other dishes that move beyond the Thai and Vietnamese of which I am much more familiar. I'll be back to try the salmon amok, lamb ribs, beef ribs and salads.

Amok Restaurant Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Donco, Geelong 08-2016

I didn't expect to eat Korean in Geelong. It was only through the recommendation of a work colleague that I tried - what would they know about Korean food? Anyway on a Monday where most of Geelong's dining closes down, Donco was pumping and full of a variety of diners enjoying themselves. The smells of food filled the kitchen. I could see regulars or VIPs being looked after with a few complementary dishes from the chef. Maybe I'll get there one day.

Modern Korean tapas is something I've probably only tried at Bistro K and less so Chimac.

- Tofu Kimchi Ball (with mushroom, coriander, caramelised ginger sauce) $10 - crispy balls of tofu with a much less tangy and tart kimchi and more savoury. Unusual and nice;
- Silky Tofu in sweet soy broth (with shimeji mushrooms, crunch noodles, shichimi) $12 - a lovely warming bowl of flavoursome agedashi tofu filled with mushrooms and noodles. It was topped with angel hair chilli. I couldn't detect much shichimi but it didn't need it (and I didn't bother to ask for it);
- Chilli deep fried calamari (with pomegranate dressing on seasonal leaves & roast capsicum mayo) $13 - nice dish balancing sweet, salty and tangy;
- Grilled Barramundi (with roasted pumpkin, gochujang sauce & yuzu kimchi) $31 - a good slab of well cooked fish, served on soft soft pumpkin and a minimally spicy gochujang cream sauce.

The steamed rice was unfortunately terrible. Thick and congealed and gluggy. The staff and food was otherwise lovely so I didn't complain, but it certainly did merit one.

I'll happily return next time to try other dishes, such as bibimbap or bo ssam. The food, flavour and atmosphere were fantastic.

Donco Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato