Thai Angels, Melbourne 05-2016

I'm slowly branching out from Footscray's Vietnamese and African places. There seem to be a good number of curry houses and Thai places especially when you include West Footscray, Seddon and Yarraville.

Thai Angels was the first to be tried simply due to an ok Zomato score (3.4) and the Entertainment Book.

- Roti Chanai (crispy and soft bread served with peanut sauce) $5 - roti was thin and quite firm and not chewy nor flaky which is my preferred texture;
- Deep fried quails (with garlic and pepper served on a bed of sautéed vegetables) $23.9 - quite expensive for 2 quails but they were ok;
- Red curry duck (traditional Thai red curry cooked in coconut milk & vegetables) $19.9 - mild curry although very little duck meat unfortunately;
- Thai omelette with prawns (filled with herbs served with dipping sauces) $19.9 - for some reason I expected an omelette similar to Korean or something bound with flour. This was an omelette in the plainest sense of the word and seemed to not have much additional flavour.

Overall I was a bit disappointed by the flavour and quality of the dishes especially as the price point was quite high. I'll probably try somewhere different next time such as the extremely nearby and well reputed Aangan (for Indian food).

Thai Angels Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Sapa Hills, Melbourne 05-2015

I've never really had Vietnamese dishes out in Melbourne. My experience has largely been limited to noodles and banh xeo. Until Pho Phu Quoc in Canberra, I hadn't appreciated the homestyle flavours that probably fill my Luke Nguyen and Andrea Nguyen cookbooks. Now in Footscray I was looking for a good Vietnamese restaurant for dishes. The main contenders seem to be Thien An (a classic favourite apparently) and Sapa Hills (where two independent Vietnamese people who live/work locally have nominated).

3 colour drink was nice but a little too much ice and a bit too thick with the shavings.

- Fried squid with salted duck egg $18.5 - ever since Red Chilli Sichuan's prawns fried with salted duck egg I've been looking for an equally potent alternative. Although less flavoured here, still a decent offering and different to the typical salt & pepper & chilli versions;
- Mom's green papaya slaw with beef jerky $13 - a nice goi salad with the beef jerky adding a meaty flavour and chewy textural element. The halved peanuts do the same;
- Barramundi with soy bean & pepper in claypot $35 - opted for the family size in anticipation of takeaway. Nice soft fish, tofu and a dark savoury sauce. Not as good (and more expensive than) Pho Phu Quoc but still good and fine the next day for lunch.

I also tried the Pho here once which was very good - much less intense and a cleaner beef broth, perhaps reflecting the Northern style.

It's difficult to know whether to stick to the tried and true or venture out to the less popular other competing restaurants surrounding them. Who knows but it's safe to go back here.

Sapa Hills Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Tall Timber, Melbourne 04-2016

With my newfound work residence in Prahran, it's quite surprising I haven't explored much of the cafes in the area. This changed one brunch when my hipster-looking friend from Canberra visited and we came to Tall Timber - a close decent cafe to work and one that I had previously flagged as worth a visit.

- Sauteed cauliflower (kale, feta, pomegranate, beetroot and quinoa superfood salad with poached eggs, sweet potato hummus and tahini yoghurt) $17.5 - an unusual selection by me but an exceptional salad where the charred cauliflower was the star in flavour and well supported by a nice grain salad zested by lime juice and pomegranate. Impressed.

Ordinarily BBQ pork ribs should be an almost automatic choice but I suppose I can leave that for next time when I'm in a more meat-eating mood. I'd definitely be back - it'd be a waste of the area not to.

Tall Timber Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Shelly's Beach Pavilion, Melbourne 05-2016

After owning my first bike (in at least 25 years) I've been looking at trails from Footscray to take advantage of the quickly retreating weather and warmth. One Saturday a trip down south to Williamstown looked like something new. I think I may have been to Anchorage once over 10 years ago and have not otherwise set foot or tire in Williamstown. There were a few places on my list (garnered from the Entertainment Book) and after seeing the view of Shelly's with its outdoor area facing the ocean and semi-protected by the winds (but not the seagulls), a lunch venue was selected.

The service was great by an enthusiastic waiter.

- Smoked eggplant arancini (with house aioli) $15 - very nice crisp arancini but no detected eggplant nor smokiness about it;
- Gnocchi (with prawn ragu, fried vegetables, proscuitto & confit tomato) $29 - a very thick rich creamy cheese sauce with nice gnocchi and an incredibly number of prawns. The proscuitto was very salty (which is expected and fine) but the cheese sliced on top all melted and stuck together (maybe I should just stir faster and more aggressively). A very heavy dish but it was alright;
- Shelly's fish & chips (with tartar and mixed leaves) $26 - a price that reflects the setting as the fish batter was reasonable but the fish itself just seemed to lack some quality. The fillets were very thin and so didn't have the thick juicy flesh I expect, was a grey colour (rather than white) which may reflect a frozen rather than fresh source.

Upon paying the bill, the cashier (likely the owner or manager) looked perplexed at the Entertainment Card. Ah yes, there's one more week to use this, which the now-ex deputy manager had signed up for without informing anyone and thus been sacked because "clearly this is not for us". There was an awkward pause where I was wondering if it was hoped I would offer to forget about it, but not to be. In the end I received 20% instead of the 25%. Oh well I can't imagine going there particularly in the future anyway. The Strand and Sam's Boat Shed are Entertainment Book options left remaining.

Shellys Beach Pavillion Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Chin Chin, Melbourne 05-2016

After many years of hearing about the queues and a small visit to the basement once for a drink and dessert, I finally avoided my avoiding of Chin Chin. I'm not sure why - I think the thought of queues put me off as well as it being "the place to be seen" with only a moderate-to-good opinion of the food from some friends early on. As much as modern Asian has taken over Melbourne (and most of the white world), how much better could it be than the classics Longrain, Ezard, Coda, Gingerboy, Blue Chillies, Easy Tiger or the (relatively) newer Rice Papr Scrs and Spice Temple? Sure I accept there are different Asian styles to be modern over but still... in the end there seems to be a vast amount of crossover.

In any case I digress. A friend suggested meeting there for lunch one day which I had no qualms over. In fact I was excited to finally try it. After meeting at 11am on a weekday (yes, that early a lunch to get a spot) we were the 5th and 6th people inside to drink shared cocktails and try the food (the long list of mostly great sounding things made simpler by a chef selection option for $69pp). By around 12-1pm almost the whole dining room was full. It was impressive considering a Monday but what was less impressive was the tight squashing of tables together such that eaves-dropping neighbours became a little awkward at times.

But to the food... a nice plate of chilli selection was presented as a DIY heat. I like the concept. I much preferred the various paste versions although none were incredibly hot (which is fine by me).

- Kingfish sashimi (lime, chilli, coconut & Thai basil) - beautiful slices of fish in a balanced zesty dressing;
- Chin Chin pork rollups (red braised suckling pig, pancakes, slaw, Asian herbs) - soft meat, good herbs and strong binding sauce all quite good;
- Laab gai (stirfried spiced chicken mince, lime & roasted rice with lettuce cups) - I'd preferred larb with more herbs and lime from some Thai places. This was fine but nothing I felt was special;
- Twice cooked grass fed great southern pinnacle beef short rib (with coriander & prik nam pla) - beautifully tender beef that I happily swathed through the sweet (palm sugar?) sauce that it floated above;
- BBQ cuttlefish som tum (with green papaya, pickled tomato, burnt green chilli, peanuts & nam jim) - some of the softest cuttlefish I've had without a hint of rubber. Really excellent;
- Butter chicken curry (with yoghurt & green chilli) - by this stage our stomachs were struggling and even though this was nice and creamy, probably made it difficult to appreciate fully. In any case I'm usually more a fan of potent rather than mild flavoured curries;
- Coconut sago (with sweet corn icecream, praline & puffed wild rice) - sweet corn icrecream is new and went well with the coconut cream surrounding it.

I must admit that despite all my reservations given the sheer degree of hype and queuing, the food was very good. Better than Rice Papr Scrs? For quality I'd say yes and definitely quantity although at double the price for 2 people. Better than Longrain? I'm still likely bias toward Boetz but it'll be close. The flavours at Longrain are probably still more potent and other than the sharing tables at Longrain (which are a little too wide to speak to your date easily), the tables at Chin Chin seem mighty packed together for maximal occupancy and minimal privacy.

What can I say - you've impressed me with your food Chin Chin and I'll be back. There's so many dishes to have again.

Next time I would order a la carte. Not that there's anything wrong with the feed-me option but now I know what I like from it. I'd take the cuttlefish som tum and beef rib and could be convinced of the kingfish sashimi and rollups. Otherwise I'd probably skip the little dishes next time other than trying the chilli salt chicken wings. Duck red curry will always be my Thai curry default/favourite but (Wagyu) rendang touches my Malaysian bone. BBQ pork ribs and Issan chicken appeal to me. The sticky pork and roast duck are the alternative mains for the beef rib.

Chin Chin Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Bopha Devi, Melbourne 05-2016

Sun Theatre is fast becoming the local cinema favourite. Although older and less sophisticated looking than the previous Palace Electric, the Monday and Tuesday cheap tickets and lack of children in the crowds seem to suit my taste.

There's a few Yarraville food options on the list - Bopha Devi, Yim Yam and Hello Gelo in particular. Bopha Devi got the nod that night, Hello Gelo closes at 730pm, and Yim Yam can wait for the future. I don't have a lot of experience with Cambodian food and even the trip there in 2007 is difficult to recall (other than the fried tarantula). I do recall thinking it was similar to Thai but less intense in flavour.

Like all things Yarraville (other than the cinema tickets), the prices aren't cheap. But at least it's decent quality.

- Fried platter $10 - prawns skirts (nice juicy deep fried prawn in crispy pastry), crispy pumpkin wonton (a variation not tried before but good and tasted as expected), K'dom chicken & crab meat roll in crispy bread (very satisfying crispy solid roll with more chicken noted than crab);
- Poht char (crunchy corn kernels lightly fried in butter with fresh prawns, spring onion & ground Kampot black pepper) $13.9 - juicy flavoursome corn with 6 bouncy prawns with tails;
- Amok fish curry (traditional curry with coconut cream, lemongrass, turmeric, lime leaves served with cucumber & rice) $23.9 - really nice flavoured mild curry and excellently cooked soft fish pieces. Perhaps a little pricey but at least it is good;
- Char marek (Cambodian stirfry with fresh baby calamari, young Kampot green peppercorn & snow peas) $18.9 - tender calamari in a light savoury sauce.

Overall the cooking and ingredients are great. Food is served very quickly too perhaps reflecting a Tuesday evening and a small dining area. It is a bit on the expensive side but you'll enjoy the food.

Next time I would order an entree of K'dom or try Thlong Bompong (taro spring rolls). I'd happily order a soup to compare to my favourite Tom Kha and as much as I'd be happy trying another Amok, there's so many other worthy sounding dishes.

Bopha Devi Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Pidapipo, Melbourne 04-2016

The other night I found myself at Readings on Lygon Street, then braving the masses at Brunetti. As I walked out I was directed toward the more orderly queue of people across the road. This was the new gelato place started by a producer of Lavazza coffee who had apparently learnt gelato trade in Italy (as most seem to do these days). Unfortunately I was sweeted out for the evening and thought nothing more of it.

A few days later I was near the south end of Chapel Street and unexpectedly came across another Pidapipo. Far away from the crowds due to location and day of the week, the icecream in shiny metal containers (the way it is supposed to be kept for maximal quality as the expense of minimal wow/colour factor) beckoned.

Pistachio was a light shade of beautiful brown, with a good nutty flavour but a little too sweet for my preference. Kudos nonetheless. This was balanced with an excellent coconut dotted with flesh along the way.

Perhaps not my favourite place ever but an excellent quality one.

Pidapipo Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Akachochin, Melbourne 04-2016

After Dimmi arrived on the scene in an attempt to unify some restaurant bookings, I've been lucky enough to use 2 of their $50 vouchers. The first was at Soju Girl in Canberra and the second at Akachochin. There's only a few decent restaurants in each city that accept it and in Melbourne the pick to me seems to be this, Woodland House, The Roving Marrow, Circa and Newmarket Hotel.

After visiting Japan so many times in the past (and eventually just buying my own sashimi to cut at home from fishmongers), it has been a long time since I ate out at a non-Japan place for sushi/sashimi. There is the exception of one sushi train in Canberra on a whim, but otherwise the quality and price at restaurants doesn't seem worth it sometimes.

Nonetheless since my last Japan trip was early 2012, the sashimi cravings hit and so the booking to Akachochin was made. I haven't spent a lot of time (first real visit and second at all) along South Wharf so it was quite nice to explore somewhere new for me. It's a quiet area (on a Wednesday night) and I wonder if it exceeds to failed expectations of the Docklands as a nightlife area. I hope so.

Akachochin is misrepresented on Google Maps but it didn't take long to find. The outdoor covered area overlooking the moonlight and water is very pleasant and the overhead heaters look primed and ready to allow this during winter.

The mocktail of hot green tea with honey yuzu was a nice warming blend, heavy on the yuzu (which is good) and light on the tea.

- Hiramasa Namerou (signature Kingfish tartare with wasabi stem & moromi miso & served with rice crackers) $16 - thin crackers to place little chunks of fish flavoured with miso;
- Sashimi Moriawase $33 - 9 pieces of sashimi (3 salmon, 2 tuna, 2 kingfish, 2 snapper) served with crumbly and tempestuous wasabi and your choice on the table of tamari or standard soy. Overall I felt a bit disappointed by the price and expected perhaps toro (if lucky), more distinctive flavoured kingfish and crunchier textured snapper;
- Special of Calamari Tempura $15 - good quality seafood and tempura that had no salt in the batter. Dipping it in the dashi and then sweeping it along the salt crystals scattered around the plate made it delicious;
- Zucchini Mustard Yaki (deep-fried chunks of zucchini with seeded mustard & saikyo miso gratin) $12 - nice charred vegetable with a very strong mustard flavour with seeds for texture. The gratin looked like cheese but tasted/textured more like mayo;
- Akachochin Gourmet Chawan Mushi (steamed egg custard studded with prawn, scallops, fish, chicken, ginko nuts & kikuna) $22 - perhaps the word studded gave me visions of lots of ingredients, but there was only 1 of each. It is a largish bowl, the flavour is nice and texture is softer than the firmer versions I'm used to.

Overall the flavours of the dishes were good. I think the moriawase wasn't great value and I'd stick to their other specialties (which take more cooking/preparation). I do think I need to revisit the fish market and recreate my own chirashi.

Akachochin Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Brunetti, Melbourne 04-2016

When did Brunetti become so insanely busy? My last experience (several years ago admittedly) was around the corner off Lygon Street. Now it occupies a huge space in the Nova building and spilling out onto the street.

The cakes and desserts are all upon entry - this means the arduous task of navigating through the horde to pick a number ticket, then stand around trying to look at the casings before ordering eventually. They do ask you not to take a ticket until you know what to order, but on a busy day you'll have time to look.

I had the pistachio biscotti (lovely icecream and nuts with an average crumb) and a new light dessert essentially made from pear.

Further down the way is a pasta section, a coffee section, a bakery (which I bought a really excellent seeded rye loaf $6) and a pizza station.

Across the road happens to be Pidapipo gelato as an alternative more orderly queue.

Brunetti Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

The Gem Bar, Melbourne 04-2016

For my mother's birthday I wanted to pick something a cuisine she wouldn't usually go for. In fact the last time I took her to something similar was the incredible Pitt Cue Co in London ( Fast forward 3.5 years later and it was a good time to take her for more American-style BBQ. I read that there was live music that evening and I did have some reservations of loud music and the inability to hear each other. This was confirmed walking through the front door but abated when heading through to the more dedicated dining section at the back.

Unfortunately it seems the BBQ jackfruit on the online menu was not available anymore (or seasonal - that may mean they use fresh rather than canned fruit which is great?) so had to make do without it.

- Trio dips $10 - lovely tortilla chips with a tangy spicy salsa fresca, plain unadulterated guacamole & thick cheesy cerveza con queso;
- Texas Fries (chopped jalapenos, melted cheese, spring onion, chipotle aioli, pit chilli beans) $16 - heavy seasoned but delicious combination of fries and chilli. I'd usually expect some beef mince but this was fine without it;
- Southern Fish Stew (crispy skin barramundi, tiger prawns, local pipis & potatoes) $30 - a slightly lighter dish of excellent fish and a few seafood and other garnishes in nice thick sauce/broth;
- Sunday Roast (beer brine roast poussin, celeriac puree, braised Brussel sprouts, heritage carrots, Americana popover) $25 - a tender bird with some very fine caramelised Brussel sprouts. The popover (assuming that is the equivalent of an English Yorkshire pudding) was quite disappointing though being chewy and not that useful other than a vessel for some sauces;
- BBQ Beef Brisket $20 - exceptionally tender meat which went well alone or with the chilli sauce;
- BBQ Lamb Ribs $15 - the meat was good however the thick slabs of fat surrounding it meant picking for morsels;
- BBQ sides - chipotle coleslaw $4 (standard), German-style potato salad $4 (a bit plain), smoked mac & cheese with bacon crumb $5 (nice and slightly heavy).

Unfortunately the pulled lamb was sold out that evening, but I'd select that over the lamb ribs next time. I'm interested to try the pork ribs too as I think The Gem would handle them very well. Otherwise anything else they serve I'll be happy to eat.

Upon leaving the live band had started kicking off and some swing dancing was happening. A lovely scene.

The Gem Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato