Firebird, Melbourne 01-2022

For the first modern Asian dining experience since returning to Melbourne, and also for the new year of 2022, a special occasion of a friend visiting from London and for a 40th birthday, meant I got to tick off one of my new list to try. Other than Firebird, there's also Anchovy and a few Indian/Sri Lankan ones on my list.

It was a quiet drive (considering peak hour although maybe everyone is away) down Church and Chapel Street. The area was quite dead (again maybe because of similar reasons) or that the cases around town are rising. Nonetheless it was exciting to walk in to the industrial fit out with it's thick concrete walls, and once unmasked at the table smell the smokiness in the air, and see a large wood (pizza) oven and a grill where all the magic happens.

Cockailts had a bit of Asian flair to them and for $20 each were ok. I expected some would have smoked ingredients in them, but our waitress said unfortunately none did.

- Grilled squid (with green papaya, hot mint, peanut) $25 - thick tender pieces of squid cut into 1cm slivers, charred to golden (maybe from a fish sauce marinade?) with a much milder flavour than I expected. Served with a green papaya salad and well balanced fish sauce glaze. Probably wasn't as much hot mint as I would like, but nice overall;
- Hot & sour broken rice claypot (mushroom, asparagus, eggplant) $26 - a nice dish with very strongly flavoured (aka salty) dark sauce, grilled vegetables and the broken rich had excellent crunchy base. The flavour got a bit too strong with the soaked liquid end parts and nicer once diluted with some normal rice;
- Extra rich grilled lamb rib curry (pickled baby cucumber) $30 - they say curry but it was really more like an excellent satay, with super soft lamb pulling from a bone and with a bit of pickle, chilli and coconut to add some different flavour/texture. Lovely;
- Fire tossed pipis "canh chua" reduction (charred tomato, pork oil, herbs & grilled chinese donuts) $34 - not quite the strong sour tamarind broth of a canh chua (although it is in "" and is a reduction) with more savoury fish sauce with a lighter citrus tang, that I was sipping spoonfuls of. The pipi meat was a little small for my liking and the Chinese donut didn't have that deepfried flavour of the normal ones;
- Duck l'orange (very slow roasted duck, grilled citrus, Firebird excellent sauce, pickled ginger) $41 for half duck - a beautifully presented dish served with what I think they described as a thick oyster sauce. The duck was good although the flesh didn't have the delicate juiciness that is important in duck. The layer of fat under the skin of the breast also hadn't been fully rendered and so it wasn't that crisp. But the skin on the leg and wing was dessicated and crisp although it meant the meat underneath was drier too. The citrus squeeze didn't seem to add much flavour but it diluted the heavy oyster sauce nicely;
- Wood roasted duck fat & potato gratin, caramelised nuoc mam $15 - a layered potato cube with crispy firm shell with a strong sweet fish sauce to soak in. Very good.

Overall a delicious meal and too much food for 3 of us. The desserts didn't sound too interesting or Asian and we passed on them. It was a meal for a special occasion and I'd go back again to have the lamb rib curry and gratin, could be persuaded for the duck, and also the other missed items of charred cabbage, charcoal chicken, or pork neck with kumquat relish.

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

Malaya Cuisine, Melbourne 12-2021

Victoria Street has never really been one to have any Malaysian food. It was refreshing to see that although sadly some classic restaurants had closed, that it had brought a little bit of new Malaysian blood to the area. Google named one called D'Lemongrass with excellent ratings, but it looks like that closed not long after opening sadly. Malaya is the other highly rated one (4.9 from 10 ratings currently) further toward Church Street.

Our first time there, the two of us ordered 2 dishes - seems quite normal. The Malaya curry fish head noodle soup $15 was delicious, and full of fish (not just bones) and huge serve. Malaya curry laksa $15 was also very good with a rich coconut broth and both vermicelli and thick egg noodles (a tick for that). It was too big to finish and we ended up leaving behind some noodles and broth.

I then brought my (discerning Malaysian-cuisine) parents here on Christmas day lunch. Luckily they were open and it was easy to get seated. They agreed about how generous the curry fish head noodle soup was, and much better than the offerings they get in the Asian east area around Doncaster. Golden egg yolk king prawns $31 were served with fried wonton skins and an item I've enjoyed since an excellent one in a Sichuan restaurant in Canberra, but have so often since been disappointed by either a lack of crispness or a lack of that rich feel and salty seasoning. This one was a huge flavour hit though and lit up all the taste buds simultaneously. Mee goreng $15 was also nice and a more Malay style.

Seals of approval all around and we'll all be back.

La Chanh, Melbourne 12-2021

Coming back to Victoria Street after a long absence, there's a noticeable reduction in Vietnamese restaurants. Some of the old ones have turned over, some are vacant and advertising for new owners, and of course some are still there with variable numbers of patrons. The long stayers have tended to be around the Nicholson Street area, maybe because it's the most frequented by foot traffic and closer to the main tramstops, train station and shopping complex. However the shops toward Church Street have (in my mind at least) always seemed a little bit nicer and newer? Additionally the central ones between Nicholson Street and the train station are (for better or worse) more full with non-Vietnamese people, whatever that implies.

Up toward Church are some new Vietnamese places. On this random December Tuesday, there were a few places open. Co Thu Quan which is supposedly Vietnamese street food was doing a good trade and a table for us would be about 20-30mins away. So we wandered onto the next one, which was the fancier named La Chanh (for some reason it sounded a bit more French to me).

Inside is a pretty standard restaurant, and the host lady was single-handedly managing the entire floor. It was unexpectedly busy for her so she apologised for the food taking a little while. But it was worth the wait.

The beef of bo luc lac with tomato rice $17.5 was sweeter than I'm used to but my favourite version so far. The meat was tender and lovely. Mekong prawn noodle soup $15 was also good and a more unusual dish to find. It had a clean soup boosted by the hot mint. Unfortunately the interesting sounding pho satay is no longer on the menu. 3 colour drink is also an exceptional version with high quality ingredients and ice shaved well rather than chunky bits.

We went again a couple of weeks later. Due to an unexpected busy day time, they had run out of pho and che. The bun thit nuong cha gio had delicious grilled pork and the nuoc mam was well balanced. Fish sauce chicken wings were expertly fried and coated in a sweet savoury sauce.

My favourite (granted the only one I've tried recently other than bun bo hue at Co Do) Vietnamese restaurant around.

La Chanh Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Sunda, Melbourne 12-2019

Another modern Asian restaurant in Melbourne showing it still is the city leading the charge. For my brief stopover to Melbourne I had actually wanted to go to Longrain. However this was chosen as a close nearby place which happened to still be open to cooking for us at 10.30pm. Mind you we had to order within a few minutes, but the short menu made that easy.

- Rock oyster, coconut curry vinaigrette, shallot, Tasmanian pepper leaf $6 ea.
- Wagyu rendang pie, pickled radish, fermented sambal $10;
- Otak otak spanner crab curry, finger lime, rice crisps $29;
- Fremantle octopus, bush tomato, lemongrass sambal, onion;
- Rangers valley wagyu, strawberry gum, carrot, sunrise lime satay $50.

The modern take is using lesser known Australian ingredients into Malaysian/Indonesian fusion. It's beautiful, expensive and pretty good overall. I can't say I would rush to go back though.

Sunda Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Karlaylisi Restaurant Uyghur Cuisine, Melbourne 12-2019

Uyghur food has been hard to come by generally but with 2 places in London and 1 in West Melbourne, I'm starting to get a feel for the food.

- Pilaf;
- Lagman;
- Qong tahsilik tohu gosh kormisi - spicy chicken pieces with vegetables and homemade noodles;
- Tripe skewers;
- Lamb kidney skewers - not a favourite for most people but I don't mind at all the chewy texture and unique taste.

I want to go back again and try the nan, manta and samsas.

Karlaylisi Restaurant - Uyghur Cuisine Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Fox in the Corn, Melbourne 12-2016

The diversity of Footscray food (beyond Ethiopian and Vietnamese) is still growing. Eventually there will be one restaurant for each cuisine. At the moment, there's a few pizza places but only really one pasta one (that I know of at least) and that's Fox in the Corn.

It's reputed for serving fresh pasta from a place in Williamstown. Given the recent fresh pasta eaten in Argentina ( and recently purchased from Prahran market (with exceedingly better results for home cooking than dried supermarket stuff), it was worth a try.

- Spaghetti with slow cooked beef ragu (with napoli & spring onion) $19.5 - the sauce was a bit of a letdown by being surprisingly very sweet. Perhaps too much sugar was added but it wasn't to my taste;
- 10" Chorizo pizza (with garlic base, petit picante, mozzarella & parsley) $17 - now this was delicious! Tasty pizza ingredients on top of a heavily garlic seasoned pizza base that is better than nearly any garlic bread of focaccia I've had in any Italian place. Wow what a flavour overload and I liked every mouthful of it;
- Buffalo mozzarella salad (with cherry tomatoes & rocket) $11.

The pasta may not have wowed me on this occasion but that pizza has certainly left an imprint in my memory.

Fox In The Corn Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Jimmy Grants, Melbourne 12-2016

During one lonely night of weak craving, I crossed town on a Friday night to the comfort food of Collingwood/Fitzroy. I partially wanted to try Biggie Smalls kebabs but in the end the familiar safety of Jimmy Grants dragged me further down Smith Street.

The Mr. Papadopoulos was as expected - tender lamb, chips and mustard in still some of the softest bread wrap I've had. The chips with lemon, oregano and feta were salty and sour and divine. The grain salad was ok but seems to always not be as good as Hellenic.

If you are reading this George (and other JG people), please add pomegranate to the grain salad!

Otherwise keep up the great work.

Jimmy Grants Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

The Kettle Black, Melbourne 12-2016

There's two South Melbourne cafes away from the typical market area. On New Year's Eve after a night shift, I needed breakfast to get me ready for the night ahead. Of the two options here, Crux & Co. was clearly my preference for the famed lobster bisque eggs benedict with prawns and squid ink toast. Unfortunately they were closed. Shame.

So across the road I went to the other option in The Kettle Black. Thanks for being open.

- Tataki ocean trout (with raw kale & pickled vegetable salad, seaweed, almonds & poached eggs) $21 - a stunningly presented and colourful dish of flowers and salty seaweed sitting on a crisp skin (torched I assume) slab of delicious ocean trout to slice yourself. Like sashimi where you dictate the thickness yourself.

It didn't have lobster, prawns or squid ink, but this was one fantastic savoury breakfast dish. Perhaps all it missed was a little carbohydrate for the egg yolks, to balance the saltiness of seaweed and fill the belly more.

The Kettle Black Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Amok, Melbourne 01-2017

It seemed like groundhog day walking along the Windsor part of Chapel Street at 930pm on a Friday night. After a long work shift, dinner was calling. However just like the last time I tried this ( all the places that were first choice had 45-120min waits attached - Mr. Miyagi, Hawker Hall etc.

That meant a return to Amok and not that I was complaining in the end, because this place does excellent food. Although I did want to try another place in the area, it just wasn't to be.

The lightning was particularly dark on our table that evening.

An amok-tale (mint, green mango, pineapple, pomegranate) $10 was refreshing albeit expensive for a mocktail.

- Fresh shucked oyster, mango boba, Kampot black pepper, truffle oil $3.50 each - really excellent and I savoured every textural and flavour contrast. One of the best (and cheapest) I've had;
- Zucchini flower, toasted peanuts, pomelo, pomegranate, honey yoghurt $7.9 - a little expensive for one flower albeit on top a blob of very good accompaniments;
- Crispy school prawn salad, nim flower, green mango, grilled pork belly, Cambodian dry fish $18.9;
- Fish amok (Tasmanian salmon) $28.9 - a wonderfully cooked piece of salmon in a curry sauce that was much more spiced and less sweet than many modern Asian version. I really liked it.

I was so tempted to order more oysters at the end, but had to save some room for Pidapipo. Next time.

Amok Restaurant Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Twenty & Six, Melbourne 01-2017

It's been a good few years since I'd been to a North Melbourne cafe as I'd had satisfying enough ones in Canberra and Footscray/Seddon/Yarraville. But with a temporary home in Travancore, North Melbourne was closer and more appealing than ever. There's a short couple of blocks where a good 4 or 5 cafes are all well rated and located. This was the first of a spate of 3 that week.

The food was washed with a nice matcha latte (wasn't too sweet but should have asked for the honey to be on the side as personal taste) and coffee.

- Tempura cauliflower (with tahini yoghurt, fennel & mint salad & roasted dukkah) $17 - really nice spiced and crisp cauli with the accompaniments;
- Smoked salmon (with potato rosti, dill aioli, kale chips, poached egg & horseradish dressed salmon on toasted rye) $21 - medium thickness slices of mild salmon with delicious seasoned baked kale and good quality rye. The potato rosti were balls rather than the standard flats, which I would probably have preferred due to the higher crisp surface area.

Overall a satisfying meal to enjoy the very minimal warm of this Melbourne's summer. The backyard is definitely the nicest and more pleasant ones of the cafes around.

Twenty  Six Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato