Nora, Melbourne 07-2016

I hadn't heard of Nora until a friend linked their Facebook post being humbled to be listed as one of the best Melbourne restaurants by Timeout (https://www.timeout.com/melbourne/restaurants/the-best-restaurants-in-melbourne). To keep company with Attica, Brae and Dinner is a remarkable achievable. I read their story about Thai origins and their online menu which gives away absolutely nothing and so immediately made a booking for a few weeks later.

It's a cosy little place and the full glass windows meant I walked straight past it initially trying to look for it. Inside is reasonably heated for winter and there's the choice of private tables, the voyeuristic counter and a communal table where couples avoid looking at the other couples.

The menu is set and only differed to cater for food intolerances. What is interesting is that when each dish is serve, there is no effort to explain what it is. I'm not sure if that's intentional to make our palates discover for ourselves or just an error from the wait staff, but it's certainly different considering each dish's name is cryptic.

Luckily the wait staff are happy to answer questions when asked at the end of each dish and a menu is even emailed afterwards for sentimentality and reminiscing.

what goes up must come down
- a seafood flavoured little snack with great savoury flavour. I could eat these by the handful. Reminded me of either the Chinese prawn chips or the flavour of the grilled dried squid;

beneath the ground
sardine - dirt, root, coriander root, tasty powder
- under the green revealed the fossils of a sardine with bones crisp and chewy. The dirt was a remarkably flavoursome salted chewy bit that was wonderful. I could sprinkle that onto any dish;

tagliatelle of oyster not oyster
chicken heart - onion, shallot
sadao, pomelo, sweet fish sauce
- beautifully sat above non-edible oyster shells was a little non-oyster cupped in a crisp mini non-oyster shell. Simple chewy and nice;

silver lining
silver fish - blue mackerel broth, young coconut, lovage
- a lovely fish ceviche minced and housed within a leaf, followed by a fish broth that I thought lacked impact. Maybe I'm used to the much stronger Thai soups (tom yum/tom kha);

too many italians & only one asian
papaya - sator, cashew, fermented garlic, school prawn
- green papaya salad meets pesto. Interesting to see a new way of Vegeti-style-pasta concepts;

daft punk is playing in my mouth
blue mackerel - chewy watermelon
capsicum annuum, black sesame
- I'm not really sure where the Daft Punk reference comes from (I was going through a mental list of their songs trying to figure it out). Perhaps it is Around the World because the flavours and textures vary from a firm fish sashimi, a tangy watermelon, a chilli sour granita and a strong black sesame past;

childhood bread
freshly milled toasted red rice bread sourdough style
fermented shrimp butter
- how can the simplest homely bread be so good? A warm smoky mist exudes from the claypot and the delectable and unique bread lies within. There's a firm (not crisp) crust and soft medium density interior on which to spread the butter (some thought it was blue cheese spread at the time);

duck and hide
aged air dried roast duck on the bone
fermented lady finger banana & purple kauliflr
- my duck looked quite unimpressive. Others received a piece of much thicker meat. I think this inconsistency is a little rude. Luckily the duck has a crisp skin and nice warm flavour. The banana is very sweet (thought it might be a plantain) but the rice seemed a bit too firm and slightly undercooked;

crying tiger
fermented glutinous rice, red ant eggs
sawtooth coriander, olive oil
- this palate cleanser was odd. There was a shaved ice texture, a gummy half-al-dente rice texture and tasted tart (as cleansers should) but not in a clean way;

12am in the fridge
pumpkin - egg, shrimp, mushroom
- very mixed reactions to this strange slice of firm slightly sweet, slightly savoury pumpkin. Perhaps a more standard fruit with its natural sweetness would complement better?

thai cupcake wanting to become western
king edward potato - chive
- a baked potato disassembled and reassembled to look like a baked potato. The inside of a soft mash potato and chive (couldn't taste the chive) is housed in a delicious crisp potato skin;

the study of perspective
tripe - coconut, kaffir lime
- petit four of ox tripe sweetened and crispened to sweep up the coconut yoghurt dusted with lime (I hoped initially it might be green tea powder).

The food concept is interesting and they've done well to design unusual dishes. I think the experience was good but overall the flavours weren't what I was looking for, and fixed signature menu mean that I don't think I'll come back again (at least not for a while until the menu changes). Perhaps I have a certain concept of bold Thai/SE Asian flavours associated with the cuisine and that I thought these may be parcelled in prettier, skilful and more refined ways. Nora certainly has the pretty, the skill and refinement but not my desired flavour palate (other than that seafood snack and mackerel skeleton).

In any case it's worth trying for yourself especially if you like neo gastronomy.

The wall around the toilet door is a design board of food. I'm not sure the significance of it but I assume it is as cryptic as the menu. I washed my meal down with an elixir of housemade chrysanthenum, lemongrass, corella pear, seaweed. It was an odd tasting drink with all the flavours discernible but not necessary a harmony to me. Perhaps the seaweed added a bit too much salt to a drink I hoped was more sweet. The one with tamarind, star anise and coriander may be more my liking next time.

Nora Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Ovan's, Melbourne 07-2016

I'm pretty sure Ovan's is quite new. I don't know how but it just appeared one day with a distinctively more modern design than the rest of the Vietnamese restaurants in Footscray. The inside partially reminds me of the reputation of Hoi An - designed to look authentic but really just a front for tourists. Ovan's does however seem to be quite authentic inside - the patrons I saw were Vietnamese, the staff are Vietnamese (and may not speak much English), and there was another review claiming issues of hygiene (which I only just saw). How authentic to Asia can you get...

In any case at about 845pm on a Monday, they were still open and willing to serve even though they probably close around 9pm. I like how the menu on the wall is only in Vietnamese. I like how the waitress commended me on my pronunciation of bun thit nuong. It's these little things...

The waitress heard me being indecisive and suggested that day's special of bun bo hue and the xoi. I wasn't in the mood for rice and she thought the bun thit nuong was better than the bun cha.

- Bun bo hue $11 - a nice clean and flavoursome broth with a bit of spice but could have used more. The noodles were thin soft circular ones and not the thicker more chewy hole in the middle that are typical;
- Bun thit nuong $12 - interestingly the nuoc mam sauce was much more savoury than the tangy version I'm used to everywhere else. Perhaps they are Northern and it is different there? The pork was intensely flavoured and absolutely delicious. I would have liked more herbs to really diversify the flavour;
- Che Thai $6 - a nice dessert with durian (on top, which I don't like) and bits of jackfruit, palm seeds, jelly and coconut milk. Next time I'd ask for it without the durian.

I thought the food was overall very good and definitely not inferior to the other places around. I'm very keen to try the Xoi next time.

Ovans Authentic Vietnamese Street Food Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Rudimentary, Melbourne 07-2016

How lucky is it in this current economic and Melbourne property climate is it to have this large a block of land in the middle of hip and happening Footscray? The shipping container thing isn't new to me (ie. Shoreditch) but it's good to see it in Melbourne and doing well. The space of Rudimentary is possibly the finest feature with indoor and outdoor seating, in addition to a vast amount of clean space to sprawl in the sun and tie up the pets/kids.

The soy chai was mildly spiced and slightly weak but at least wasn't overburdened by cinnamon/honey/sugar. It isn't a bad one at all.

Unfortunately on this late lunch day, the most interesting Braised Beans and Poached Kingfish were sold out. The white pudding intrigued me also to see how it compares to one of my favourite breakfast items in black pudding so will have to leave that for next time (with eggs and potato hash).

- Barley porridge (with grilled octopus, pickled vegetables, soft egg, rice crisp) $18 - a savoury dish with Asian elements of octopus, pickled ginger, nori and enoki. It was overall quite nice;
- Pork fillet (smoked kipfler potato, apple puree, braised lentils, jus) $22 - the pork is cooked beautifully with a soft slightly pink core and good seasoning. The smoke is easily discerned in the potatoes and the rest fill the dish.

The cooking is skilful, dishes creative and quite tasty - although I'm not sure I liked them enough to specifically go back for them again. I did think the serves are a little small for the prices too.

Next time I would order Braised Beans with chorizo crumb or otherwise Poached free range eggs with white pudding & mushrooms or potato hash (that would be quite an expensive egg dish in Melbourne at $19 with no vegetables).

Rudimentary Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

I Love Dumplings, Melbourne 07-2016

It's been a long while since I've wandered along Racecourse Road in search of lunch. I've driven a few times and thought I Love Dumplings had closed down this branch (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/i-love-dumplings-melbourne-01-2014). In fact I was correct - that branch did close down and a new one sprung up bigger than before such that I didn't realise. The big writing in red should've redirected me but I suppose I wasn't looking in the same place.

Using my last entry as a guide, I didn't have a lot of difficulty in choosing dishes. Fried meat dumplings, lamb ribs and whatever else.

- Wonton noodle soup $9.8 - a typical mild flavoured clear broth with thin egg noodles and soft wontons;
- Pan fried lamb & beef dumplings $9.8 + Sichuan chilli sauce $1 - an excellent dumpling with chewy skin (base could have been that bit more fried and crisp), a deep soft mince meaty core and an outstanding savoury sauce with a bit of tang (black vinegar?) and not enough chilli. I wonder if the sauce has chicken/pork broth added to it?;
- Deepfried lamb ribs with homemade chilli sauce & cumin $24 - the serves seem to be smaller than they used to (my previous picture has at least 2-3 more ribs) and they now serve the cumin salt and cold tangy chilli sauce separately. Still delicious with delectable meat and crisp skin.

On the lunch menu they also offer a quickie of rice & lamb ribs for $10. I wonder how many ribs you'd get for that price and if it is better value for money?

Next time I would order the lamb ribs and more pan fried dumplings to eat with the Sichuan chilli sauce. I suppose for variety the mapo tofu and other Sichuan things may be worth a try.

I Love Dumplings Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Longrain, Melbourne 06-2016

It's been a long time since I was united with Longrain. There's nothing quite like the special birthday reminder to give me any excuse to revisit the beautiful drinks, the atmosphere and the pork hock. There are some visits where I feel the shared tables are too wide to comfortably have a conversation across it, but on this weekday late night, private tables were available.

Since my last Longrain post (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/longrain-melbourne-10-2012), I have been once for the pork hock but have also tried many modern Thai contenders, of which the most recent have been in Canberra (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/morks-restaurant-canberra-12-2015) and Melbourne (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/chin-chin-melbourne-05-2016).

- Caramelised pork hock with five spice & chilli vinegar $23.5 (entree) - as good as I remember. Outstanding mixed textures of meat, sweet thick coating and a little sprinkle of vinegar for contrast and added chilli hit;
- Jaew curry of snapper fillet with baby corn & betel leaf $36 - a much more thin liquid soup base than what I expected as a thicker curry. Nice fish, ingredients and a lighter flavour;
- Braised beef cheek, black vinegar, ginger, Chinese celery (special) - tender beef cheeks in a tangy black vinegar sauce.

The pork hock was still the best dish and flavour. I think partially as my cooking skills have improved, I realise I could possibly make the other two dishes with less difficulty (not to detract anything from the outstanding kitchen). I'd prefer the thicker curries and heavier flavours, as that has always been my association and affinity to Longrain.

Next time I would order the Pork Hock again (perhaps the large size and take the leftovers home). Of the current menu I'd add the Coconut-poached Chicken and Mussaman lamb curry or Red Curry Scotch Fillet (not that interested in scotch but I am in red curry), although I agree it's a heavy meat selection (albeit 4 different meats).

Longrain Melbourne Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Frying Colours, Melbourne 07-2016

It's been a while since my last fried chicken craving. In actual fact I was craving Belle's Hot Chicken but didn't want to travel so far to wait in line. A satisfactory alternative was KFC - the Korean one, not the Kentucky one. It's been a little while for that too, the last being Arisoo in Melbourne http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/arisoo-melbourne-12-2015) or B-One in Canberra (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/b-one-korean-restaurant-canberra-07-2015).

They serve original, sweet soy and spicy. Other KFC places tend to have a chilli and a particular spicy sauce also. It would be interesting to see if their spicy was a nice heat that I like or more fiery and too hot for me to handle (like Gami). The price is a good 15% more than the other places so hopefully that reflected quality rather than the reputation (Broadsheet's favourite is mentioned outside) or the neighbourhood.

- Bibimbap Beef $19 - a nice bowl with good ingredients and an excellent gochujang (had to ask for a second container to make it as wet and spicy as I like). I'd prefer there to be more of the crisp crunchy base and I did ensure not to disturb the bottom until toward the end;
- Spicy Fried Chicken $39 (whole) - a nice bird with quite tender meat and a thick coating of crisp hot batter. The chilli was just enough and definitely not too hot for me although left a little burn;
- Wasabislaw $6 - coleslaw with a bit of wasabi tang in the mayo (as an aside I wonder if they make it themselves or use the Kewpie?).

The food is good. The flavours are nice. Most of all it's close to me and more convenient than Chimac or Gami or whatever else is around. The price is a bit higher so I'll suppose I'll just have to wear it.

Other than the bibimbap and fried chicken (which I'd order again, but less likely the slaw), the mandoo dumplings, tteokbokki, seafood stews and lamb ribs all also appeal to me.

Frying Colours Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Roti Road, Melbourne 06-2016 & 07-2016

It's not often I frequent a Malaysian place, although each time I seem to remind myself why some of the flavours put me at ease. The most recent places have been C&R in London (before the months long renovations) and Roti House in Canberra, with a special mention to Chef Lagenda closeby. I do have a place in my stomach for PappaRich but that's mainly to do with the Entertainment Book and their sweet drinks (most of their product is premade and even precooked... apparently).

Nonetheless as close as Lagenda is, Roti Road is even closer and walkable. I've heard some mixed reviews but on the whole informed their laksa is a decent rendition in town.

- Deepfried Squid Tentacles $7.8 - not too bad, a bit chewy, quite heavily salty, could have used more chilli;
- Curry Laksa Seafood $13.5 - a real Malaysian curry mee with strong flavour and only a hint of coconut. Not the Singapore or Thai laksa style that most people might be used to with the salty/sweet/sour combination, but a good straight forward Malaysian type. A small amount of seafood (squid, prawns) and some eggplant rounded out the ingredients;
- Roti Chanai with Ayam Masak Merah $10.8 - a nice wispy roti with a bit of chew to it. The chicken reminded me of tandoori and I'd opt for the rendang beef next time (as I feel that should be the roti default, but not my choice this time...).

07-2016

I came back again a few weeks later to try a few other things (no photos):

- Roti Telur & Bawang $7.9 - a roti made thicker with egg and onion, although I felt didn't add much to it. I prefer the simple roti from the first time;
- Har Mee $12.9 - I've always had trouble choosing between this lesser eaten dish, Assam laksa (which isn't on the menu) and laksa at any Malaysian restaurant. On this occasion the har mee had a thin clear soup with mild prawn flavour. There were only a few small prawns and some chicken. I preferred the thicker laksa (maybe a reflection of my recent tastes changing);
- Ipoh Fried Noodle $12.8 - also generally known as Ipoh combination hor fun. This was a good sized serve with nice ingredients and a very strong egg sauce. Not bad at all;
- Fish Head Noodle $12.9 - I'm usually having this as a clear thin sour(ish) broth, but this was a milky consistency (not strongly coconut that I could tell) with a little bit of tang. There were a nice amount of fried fish swimming within. I was pleasantly happy with this.

Next time I would order the Curry Laksa Seafood with the backup options of Fish Head Noodle (if I'm feeling healthier) or Roti Chanai with Rendang Beef (if I want bread and curry). I still am interested in testing the standard breakfast of Nasi Lemak and some of the sweet drinks, if I get around to it.

Roti Road Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Cobb Lane, Melbourne 07-2016

One of Melbourne's great treasures is exploring the cafe culture. I don't mean that in a snobby, hipster, coffee-drinking way, but the cafe competition has risen so high that well-rated ones now have a solid standard to live up to. From my old area, the memories of Three Bags Full, Proud Mary, De Clieu and recently Archie's also extended toward Top Paddock and up further to Hammer & Tong. In this new region, I'm closer to Auction Room, Fandango and Twenty & Six which were all once a little too far to go. However I am yet to really explore that much in my immediate area - I haven't been to Milking Station (other than for a drink), Happy River Cafe or Rudimentary. I like the Seddon area a bit more (and they don't have the cheap Asian alternative of Footscray) and enjoyed Seddon Deadly Sins and Common Galaxia. It only seemed natural to move further south to what is possibly one of Melbourne's nicest suburbs to live in - Yarraville.

There's a few places in the village that I'll eventually get around to - the very busy and unexciting name of Cornershop, the smoothies and veg fare of Healthy Self Co, and even a trip to distant Yarraville to Butcher 128.

For the sake of convenient location, rating and first impressions, Cobb Lane was my first neighbourhood entry. Although the heart of winter, it was a sunny and semi-warm day (although there was a 1min spatter of rain in true Melbourne style).

The soy chai was quite nice, with a decent amount of spice and not too much sweetness or cinnamon. It was a tough call between the British Breakfast (a nod to a previous life, my lust of black pudding, the lack of it around Australian cafes) and the Pork Jowl.

- British Breakfast $19.5 - a rounded scotch egg with some nice mince, an excellent house-made black pudding that was flavoursome and very creamy in texture without too much fat cubes, thick cut bacon that was really thick sliced fried pork belly, Welsh rarebit with a strong (vintage?) cheese and some HP sauce for a bit of tangy balance. The best "British" breakfast I've had, including in the UK;
- Duck Hash (duck leg hash brown, fried duck egg, aioli & rhubarb, cress & celery salad) $20 - a nice dish on paper although I didn't enjoy the final product as much as expected. The hash brown seemed like a duck potato salad and could have used more char and seasoning I felt.

I was very impressed with the British Breakfast and the soy chai and would easily come back for those. There is a bread trolley of which I purchased an $8 seeded 100% rye loaf (vollkornbrot) with a slightly tangy dense texture for my home cooked breakfasts. There is also a nice looking selection of cakes that I'm sure will lift your spirits (and your blood sugar levels).

Cobb Lane Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Doughnut Time, Melbourne 07-2016

I didn't realise Melbourne had become so donut/doughnut obsessed. It isn't surprising since I haven't particularly kept up to date and sweets aren't so much my thing. After a nice dinner at the old haunt of Vegie Bar, our table had a direct window view to the queue outside Doughnut Time. $6 for a donut? Really?? It's a marked increase from the 80c delicious warm jam-filled cinnamon little puffs at Footscray Station.

The donuts are photo worthy. In fact they are so Instagram-focussed, they advertise it in the shop window. It's the one thing I probably have noticed with sweets - it isn't about the quality so much (eg. freakshakes) as the decadence that appears in the photo.

I tried the Stallone - a donut with Rocky Road on top. The Rocky Road bits are standard - milk chocolate with small cubes of marshmellow. It was fine but I certainly still always prefer dark chocolate. The donut itself was cold (since it isn't freshly made to order) and the texture is quite firm with a very sweet glazing, both features identical to Krispy Kreme (which I'm also not a great fan of). I'd rather a soft, chewy and fluffed piece of mild sweetness.

Overall quite disappointing for me considering I can get a better one for 13% of the price.

Doughnut Time Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Ramen Bankara, Melbourne 05-2016

Bankara seems to have a remarkably low rating. I think it is because of the high price point likely due to the central location on what I imagine is a high-rent Swanston Street. Luckily it features in the 2016/2017 Entertainment Book meaning $19.8 for two bowls of noodles (and a little extra for a second serve of noodles) makes it a bargain.

My choice of the Hakata Tonkotsu was a good one with flavoursome broth (a little thin), decent noodles, quality soft meat without too much fat to remove and nice supporting ingredients. The Pork Broth & Shoyu was a slightly more salty version I sampled, but I would always go for my own simple tonkotsu given the choice.

I'd happily eat here again, with or without the discount.

Ramen Bankara Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato