Sweet Evelyn Cafe

We were invited by Sweet Evelyn Cafe to dine as guests, and it turned out to be the perfect start to our weekend! They are a cute little cafe located in the hipster suburb of Brunswick. I loved the semi rustic feel of the cafe with the tin roof and huge planter boxes located just before you walk in. This feeling carried flowed through to the inside with the worn wooden floorboards, and vintage style lights. I never got the sense that they’re trying to be something they’re not, instead I got a strong message from them that says ‘this is what we are, and we welcome you’.

We generally have a quick look at the menu the a few days before to see what types of food are available. I quickly detoured from my original food choice due to a heavy night of drinking the previous night, and I didn’t feel like anything too heavy. I opted for the Acai bowl but I had a bit of trouble ordering it because I realised I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this whole time! I’ve always pronounced it ‘AK-KAI’ but it turns out that it’s ‘AH-SAI-EE’. Now how the hell was I supposed to know that? How embarrassing… all the other places must have not bothered to correct me.

Helen could never turn down baked eggs when it’s available on the menu, so she opted for the Shakshuka Baked Eggs which is a Middle Eastern style baked eggs with peppers, tomato and goats cheese served with sour dough bread. I was lucky enough to be offered a few spoonfuls by her and it was soooooo good! The balance of the tomato and peppers sauce was perfect, it wasn’t too sweet or sour. The eggs were still runny and the goats cheese rounded up the dish beautifully. Helen mopped up all the sauce with the sour dough bread, a valiant effort from her!

My Acai bowl was exactly what the doctor ordered. It was a giant bowl of fibre and nutrients, which was everything my body was craving for. It was also Instagram worthy, all the ingredients were separated and displayed artistically. I didn’t know how to tackle it because I didn’t want to ruin the presentation. This concern lasted for about 5 seconds before I just went for it! For a fruit lover such as myself, this was divine. The house baked granola provided a textual and temperature contrast to this dish, something I don’t get in other Acai bowls. I couldn’t fault it at all and loved it from start to finish.

We had a great experience overall and would highly recommend Sweet Evelyn Cafe to anyone looking for some daytime indulgence! Just a stone’s throw away on Fallon Street, there’s a great place called Very Edible Gardens. We walked past them, and they were happy to show us their veggie patches and chook pens. There’s something about watching food grow that makes it so comforting. Check these guys out too if you happen to visit Sweet Evelyn Cafe!

Sweet Evelyn Cafe
Approx $25 AUD per person
Address: 128 Union St, Brunswick VIC 3056
Phone: +61 3 9078 3734
Website: sweetevelyn.com.au

Sweet Evelyn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hinoki Japanese Pantry

Hinoki Japanese Pantry had been on our ‘to try’ list for a while now. We generally go out of our way and make an effort to travel to these places on our list, but fortunately on this occasion we bumped into this place while walking along Smith Street, Fitzroy! I guess some things are meant to be, and we did not hesitate to rush in.

There’s a gradual transition from exposed bricks to the white walls which lead to the Japanese grocery area. Bright colours from the food products to the sushi menu lit up the whole place just like in Japan, this place never looked dull and boring. As much as we were tempted to browse the isle to buy some seaweed or Furikake (rice seasoning), the fact was we were hungry and needed food ASAP!

We got some takeaway packs – a mixed sushi/maki pack, and a mixed maki pack. First thing I noticed, was that these packs looked way better than your run in the mill shopping centre sushi packs. The ingredients actually protruded past the height of the rice on the maki! This was not only more visually appealing, but it also benefits my belly.

I guess the big question is how does it taste? The answer to that is… absolutely amazing! The fish was exceptionally fresh with great texture. I couldn’t fault the salmon, king fish or the tuna. Even though these packs came from the cold display, the rice wasn’t hard and separated, an indication that they wouldn’t have been in the cold display for that long.

The mayo in the maki was very tasty and provided a light creamy mouthfeel, while the spring onion reinforced a freshness to the roll. I loved how all the ingredients worked together. Even the soy sauce was awesome, I normally don’t use too much soy sauce but I did get a little carried away on this particular occasion! I had never seen this brand before, but it was in a shiny silver packet, which already looked quality.

In summary, Helen and I had a great experience at Hinoko Japanese pantry. We came, we conquered and we bounced. We totally forgot about buying some things for home before we left! Without a doubt we’ll be returning here to eat some great sushi, and to do some grocery shopping next time.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry
Approx $15 AUD per person
Address: 279 Smith Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Phone: +61 3 9417 4531
Website: hinoki.com.au

Hinoki Japanese Pantry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Good Times Milk Bar

If this is not the most feel good name ever, then I don’t know what is! I used to live right near a milk bar and the happiness I felt buying lollies and ice cream from them was indescribable. It’s a shame to see them slowly close down one by one, but Good Times Milk Bar reminds me that they were indeed good times back then! I was deeply attracted to the name of this cafe, and with the help of a sneaky Zomato rating look up, Helen and I made the lovely trek to Bentleigh to pay them a visit.

They’ve done a fantastic job with the interior of this place! There’s a cool modern vintage theme happening. I loved the polka dots against the pink background on the front of the benchtops. Even the tables had an interesting shade of blue, a food photographers dream. They even had merchandise which you can purchase such as T-shirts and tote bags, now that’s thinking outside the box! The whole place just had a real positive and uplifting vibe to it, not a bad feeling to have before the food comes out.

It was a warm day so Helen and I started with some iced coffees to cool our precious little bodies down… the coffee was smooth, delicate and the bitterness was balanced. I think the vanilla ice cream went really well with it, coffee snobs would probably roll their eyes but I thoroughly enjoyed every last drop.

Helen ordered the famous ‘Dippy Eggs’ while I couldn’t resist the sardines dish. Such an underappreciated fish needs support sometimes, and eating sardines since I was young certainly helps with giving it the support it needs. I was disappointed to find out that they had now taken the sardines off the menu, and have replaced it with a smoked trout omelette. The poor humble sardine goes back to being neglected! I can understand that this was probably a business decision, I guess if it’s not selling well then it’s gotta go.

The Dippy Eggs felt like a tailor made dish for Helen as she likes picking at different foods. It came with rustic sourdough bread with Italian Pecorino cheese grated over it, 2 runny eggs with shell intact, avo-cream, relish, and hemp seed dukka. We opted for the optional bacon crumbs which turned out to be a great decision. The eggs were cooked perfectly with runny yolks. There were no rules on how to eat this dish, anything goes! I like how it’s served with the shell, to see an egg in its pure form at a cafe is very special indeed. Everything went really well together, and along with the contrast in textures made it extremely appetising.

My sardine dish featured sardines from Port Phillip Bay on a piece of toast. The sardines were very tasty and had wonderful sea flavours. The toast itself was a bit hard, and I really struggled to cut through it. I think they were expecting the tomato and basil puree to soften it, but that wasn’t the case. I found the puree very strong and overpowering, and would have preferred a more mellow version. The peperonata was very nice, the sweetness of the peppers really shined through!

I enjoyed my time at Good Times Milk Bar, I felt very happy being here! The service was excellent, and it’s just a great place to come and chill. I also love the fact that the menu is so varied and I can get dishes here which are unavailable at other cafes! Here’s the thing… they can either make the same dishes as all the other places, or they can throw a sardine dish on the menu. It may have not paid off for them, but I applaud them for doing something different. We will definitely be returning to try some of their other dishes!

Good Times Milk Bar
Approx $25 AUD per person
Address: 83 Tucker Road, Bentleigh VIC 3204
Phone: +61 3 9557 4868
Website: goodtimesmilkbar.com.au

Good Times Milk Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tokosan

First and foremost we would like to thank Tokosan for inviting us to dine at their restaurant. When we arrived at their doorstep, there was a strong sense of familiarity especially the steps which lead into their main dining room. We had a suspicion that we may have been here before, but it felt a little foreign at the same time! The location felt familiar but the décor and atmosphere felt different. After spending way too much time trying to figure out this mystery, we dug through our photos and realised that they used to be called Toko! It turns out that Toko is relocating to the CBD and this place had been revamped to Tokosan. Another mystery solved, we were finally back on track, and ready to see what Tokosan brings to the table.

The transformation from Toko had been dramatic, we remembered Toko to be a fine dining Japanese restaurant. Tokosan has a massive wall of street art as you walk in on the left, and it sure creates a strong impact! There’s a bar area on the right with an assortment of alcoholic beverages and they even have a karaoke room. Past the bar and through the glass doors, there’s an outdoor area to kick back and enjoy some drinks. This also doubles as a function area, so for anyone looking to host an event, this option is available. We were offered to sit outside – no way Jose! There’s no way I’m putting my body through this heat… I’ve been struggling enough lately with Melbourne’s crazy temperature fluctuations. We wisely opted to sit inside in a comfortable booth. I suspect that they don’t have air con because the cold air didn’t feel refrigerated. I felt a little sticky which tells me that it may be evaporative cooling. Not a big deal at all,l as cooling is all personal preference!

The waiter ran us through the specials of the day which included a $5 sparkling wine (Fleur De Lys) and $5 Gyoza dumplings. For anyone wondering why the waiter needed to run us through the specials, our meal was subsidised to a certain amount, anything over would be out of our own pocket. We couldn’t turn down the specials, and we also ordered a bowl of chicken ramen, wagyu beef bao, and a pork ribbies (highly recommended by bearabbit).

The wagyu beef in the bao came in a patty style. It had great beef flavour and was cooked a perfect medium to medium rare, the best doneness to showcase the beef. It tasted great and all the ingredients held together nicely in the bao without going everywhere. I was surprised to find the prawn dumplings deep fried! I’m used to them being pan fried, and I’m generally not a huge fan of deep fried. In saying so, I could taste the separation of prawn pieces in the gyoza itself and it had a great crunch. Fans of deep fried would enjoy this style of dumpling. I have to say that I was a little shocked at the price though, a serve of 5 prawn gyozas are normally $16! This feels a bit steep for gyozas and the price would have put me off ordering them. $5 specials are enticing but I wouldn’t be paying full price. The pork gyoza was my favourite out of the two, the filling was packed full of flavour and pan fried to a classic crisp on one side. I loved it but couldn’t justify the RRP of $13 though. Could something be really tasty and overpriced? I don’t normally think this way because I can usually justify the price as long as the quality is good, but I may have to make an exception in this instance…

I was really looking forward to my ramen as I hadn’t had ramen in a while! The bowl came out, and it looked great. It strangely didn’t have the strong aromas I was expecting from a quality bowl of ramen. I took a sip of the soup… BLAND. It taste diluted, with zero richness and no pork flavour. It was truly underwhelming indeed, but little did I know that I was going to be hit with a double whammy. The ramen noodles were bloated and overcooked with no elasticity and mouth feel. (FYI – I snapped a picture of the ramen in record breaking time, as I’m fully aware of what leaving the noodles drowned in soup would do to it. The noodles already came in this state straight out of the kitchen). The two most important aspects in a bowl of ramen failed miserably, and as a result made me feel a little miserable also. The chicken and broccolini was nice, but it was too little too late.

The pork ribbies on the other hand were amazing. Tender, fall off the bone with a delicious teriyaki sauce. The sour cream worked surprisingly well with the pork ribs and I found myself looking forward to each dip. The pork ribbies and the pork gyozas were my favourite dishes at Tokosan.

With the exception of the ramen, I enjoyed all our dishes of the night. Tokosan has a lot going for it with the bar, good food, outdoor function area, karaoke, hell they even got a pool table. They’ve got the perfect recipe for a great night out and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back again!

Tokosan.
Approx $40 AUD per person
Address: 142 Greville St, Prahran VIC 3181
Phone: +61 3 9521 3155
Website: tokosan-melbourne.com

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

Cucina & Co

Following on from my previous review of Cucina Bar & Restaurant, we ventured across the road to continue eating at Cucina & Co. This place had a great industrial feel to it and we were quickly seated on the black communal table.

We started with the pumpkin focaccia and I instantly fell in love with this dish! The pumpkin base was delightfully appetising, along with the prosciutto and fresh tomatoes it combined to make a cracker of a starter. I use the term starter lightly because this was so filling that we were a bit worried of what was to come.

The Pizza Royal and Pappardelle Giuseppina were our other favourites. The buffalo mozzarella was of high quality, and I could taste the milky/creaminess in the cheese. The base was thin and crispy, yet it had a slightly chewy texture. These are the pizza bases which set the standard and it’s worth coming here just for this experience! I don’t get to eat Pappardelle much, but I can really see the appeal with this pasta. The large flat shape really soaks up the ragu sauce and holds onto it. The lamb and pork ragu was tender, succulent and flavoured beautifully.

Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of the nutella desserts. The fried pizza dough drizzled with nutella was way too dense and doughy for my liking. The nutella calzone was just an explosion of nutella! As much as I love nutella I was seriously overwhelmed with the quantity of it, and add to the fact that I was so stuffed from all the food, it did not go down too well.

Luckily we finished off with a limoncello which helped ease the digestive system a bit! This one was really tasty and I cannot wait to open a bottle which an Italian friend gave us last month. It seems like an alcohol which I can get used to!

We’d like to thank Enzo and his team for the invite and hospitality. We enjoyed the food here and will revisit in the future.

Cucina & Co.
Approx $40 AUD per person
Address: 325 New Street, Brighton VIC 3186
Phone: +61 3 9530 5324
Website: www.cucinaandco.com.au

Cucina & Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cucina Bar

We were invited to dine at Cucina Bar and Cucina & Co, and as a bonus we got to dine with @bearabbit & the mischievous +1! They were already at Cucina Bar when we arrived, I don’t think there’s ever been a time which they’ve been late. We were seated by the window ledge looking out to New St in the beautiful coastal suburb of Brighton.

After a quick and warm welcome from Enzo, we were on our way to sampling some great food! To say that the portions were decent was an understatement. We initially thought that we were going to be sharing all the dishes between us 4, until we realised that we were getting our own portions. We started off with the Sardine Beccafino. I’m a huge fan of restaurants using underappreciated fishes, and this dish is a reminder of how great sardines are. As I bit into it, I could hear a crunch followed by an explosion of flavours in my mouth! There was the sea flavour from the sardine, rounded up by the sweetness of the sultanas and orange. It was fantastic, I couldn’t fault it.

Having eaten rice my whole life, you wouldn’t think that rice could excite me anymore. Oh it can, it definitely can! These Arancini balls were some of the best I’ve ever had. Crispy on the outside and the rice inside was not dense at all. The cheese coated each grain of rice beautifully, I was in rice heaven! This is the carb I need in my life, I wouldn’t mind waking up to this every day.

 

When the platters of Tagliere Salumi (cured meats) and Tagliere Formaggi (Italian cheeses) came out, I started to get worried because we were supposed to go across the road to eat at Cucina & Co. Never ones to back down from a challenge we persevered. The best way to tell if an Italian cheese platter is good is to cut into the buffalo mozzarella! If the texture is smooth and creamy then you’d know you’re onto something good. This mozzarella ticked all the boxes and it had a prominent milky taste. The other hard cheeses were equally as good. I also enjoyed the cured meat platter especially the salami. The fat to meat ratio was perfect, if I was to consume saturated fat, this would be my go to meat!

We came, we conquered, and then we were ushered across the road to eat some more. It was a great start to our night at Cucina Bar.

Cucina Bar
Approx $45 AUD per person
Address: 312 New St, Brighton VIC 3186
Phone: +61 3 9592 1592
Website: cucinabar.com.au

Cucina Bar & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bensons on Martin

Tapas is the best cure for indecisive people, which was the category that Helen and I fell into on a weeknight. It’s hard to keep the budget down on weeknights without opting for Asian food, but ya gotta splurge sometimes! We were interested to find that Brighton had a tapas restaurant called Bensons on Martin with some decent reviews. Brighton is not the first suburb I think of when it comes to a tapas restaurant, but this was the exact reason why we decided to try these guys out.

First thing I noticed walking in was that it didn’t have the buzz of a tapas restaurant. I’m used to a packed house, people chattering, music playing, etc. This was not the case here ,as we even got to pick where to sit. I’m not complaining but it just felt unusual. This was a weeknight after all, so maybe they get busier on Fridays/weekends. We decided to sit by the window to give these guys some free advertising.

The decision was made to get an assortment of tapas and then reassess our fullness. We were off to a flyer with the mussels with white wine broth! Plump and juicy mussels, the broth had heaps of flavour and character. I could also taste the onion and herbs coming through as well, this was a delicious dish. There just wasn’t enough though as I could have done with 6 more, such a tease! The other two dishes I really enjoyed were the scallops wrapped in bacon and lamb cutlets.

Some of the other dishes we had here were a bit hit and miss. It’s interesting because I’m not referring to the whole dishes as a miss, but specific components within the dishes which did not hit the mark. For example, the caramalised onions were overwhelming the stuffed mushrooms, it felt like I was eating caramalised onions on a small plate as I couldn’t taste the mushroom at all. The crispy pulled pork was good for the first two bites before it go so sickeningly sweet that we couldn’t finish it, and the smoked salmon in the carpaccio tasted like it was from a packet at the supermarket. It’s not that I don’t like packaged smoked salmon from the supermarket, but it’s just that for the price we’re paying, we kinda expected a bit more.

The tapas didn’t fill us up fully so we decided to get a roasted duck breast risotto to finish off. The risotto itself was amazing, but once again the inconsistencies shined through as the roasted duck breast was extremely tough. If I had dentures, I’m sure this duck would have ripped it out of my mouth!

Bensons on Martin does some dishes really well but they also a healthy amount of not very enjoyable dishes. The ratio is too high to warrant a return from us unfortunately. If these certain components in the dishes could be improved, then the customers would be in for a stellar experience! We hope that they take some of the feedback on board and continue to improve, and we wish them all the best.

Bensons on Martin
Approx $45 AUD per person
Address: 146-148 Martin Street, Brighton VIC 3186
Phone: +61 3 9596 0443
Website: www.bensonsonmartin.com

Bensons on Martin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rice Workshop (Chadstone)

There’s quite a number of Rice Workshop franchises in Melbourne, we’ve been to two of them and the quality had been consistent for both locations. This particular one at Chadstone is in the new food court area and boy does it get hectic here! Chadstone has become so busy and overwhelming that it’s become a get in, get out place for us, because there’s just so many people! Oh well that’s a rant for another day…

Rice Workshop is one of the faster places to get your food even when there’s a queue. Their kitchen works at a quick pace and is great for when you’re starving. Sushi packs would be quicker but the quality here is generally better. My personal favourite here is the salmon don. The salmon is seriously fresh and fatty, taking in some healthy fats is never a bad thing! It’s very scoffable, and I’m always done in less than 10 minutes! There’s way too much rice in the bowl that even I can’t finish it. I think for the quantity of rice, they probably need double the amount of salmon to balance it out. The packet lettuce is nothing to brag about but the corn is a nice touch.

Helen tried their limited edition Michelin chef created roast wagyu beef with truffle aioli sauce. I think if anyone wants a Michelin experience that they should go to a Michelin starred restaurant, at the location which they obtained the star. It Sounds a bit snobbish, but unfortunately that’s the deal, not going to sugar coat it. The waygu beef had lost the texture and taste of wagyu beef, and what little taste it had left was overtaken by the truffle aioli sauce. They literally smothered the whole bowl with it! The egg was cooked well though, still runny inside. I’ve got to give them credit for trying, but this dish missed the mark.

This is a good place to come for a quick bite before moving on at Chadstone. It’s one of my go to places at food courts. Last time I had some of their fried chicken at the Westfield Knox franchise, and that was decent too. I saw someone order a bento box from here and it looked pretty awesome, I’ll check that out next time!

Rice Workshop
Approx $20 AUD per person
Address: Chadstone Shopping Centre, Lower Ground
Phone: +61 3 8609 8221
Website: riceworkshop.com.au

Rice Workshop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Cricketer’s Neighbourhood Eatery

When we were invited to The Cricketer’s Neighbourhood Eatery, we had one big question on our minds – are these guys a pub? The name hints it’s a pub, and numerous sources online also describe these guys as a pub. Now you’re probably wondering… “why the hell does it matter whether these guys are a pub or not!?!?”. Allow me to borrow a verse from Wham! – Last Christmas, ‘Once bitten and twice shy’. We had experienced some less than ideal meals from pubs in the past, so we were a bit doubtful to say the least. Well let me tell you, it has never felt so good to be so wrong. We had a fabulous experience here at The Cricketer’s!

The menu looked amazing, there were so many foods on there which we wanted. We realised that this could be something special, so we ordered some fancy shmancy drinks in anticipation, an Old Fashioned and a Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut. We kick started the night with some char-grilled corn cobs. These cobs were sweet and juicy, and the combination of brown butter, feta cheese and lime mayo was just what the doctor ordered. They must have used a really high quality feta cheese because it was delicate and not salty at all, very enjoyable!

Helen and I decided to share a barramundi fillet and a hanger steak. We also got a serve of organic sautéed greens and a baked Mac ‘n’ cheese to go with it. The barramundi fillet was absolutely divine! Crispy skin, perfect doneness inside, and the Beurre blanc sauce was so good we couldn’t stop sipping on it! This was one of the best barramundis I’ve ever had and it tasted like it belonged in a fine dining restaurant. The hanger steak was also cooked perfect medium rare, the chimichurri sauce had a great herb flavour and the chips and salad were both equally high quality. The steak itself was a tad chewy, it could be the cut itself, I’m not too sure as I don’t have hanger steaks often.

The sautéed greens turned out to be broccolini, my favourite! I cook broccolini all the type at home, so I know a great broccolini when I eat one. This one they served had great texture and a garlic and sundried chilli sauce to die for! It was at this moment where we noted that all the sauces here were spectacular, certainly one of their strong points. We felt the Mac ‘n’ cheese didn’t have enough cheese flavour, but the crispy crumb was done beautifully. We finished off the night with a sticky date pudding and what a great choice that ended up to be! It was soft, moist and the caramel sauce wasn’t overbearing like a lot of other ones we’ve had.

A great night overall, the food more than exceeded our expectations and we wouldn’t hesitate to come back. The atmosphere here was lively but wasn’t so loud that we couldn’t have a conversation. Parking was also relatively easy to find which was a huge bonus! We were greeted by a friendly Maine Coon cat on our way back to the car, the cherry on top to go with our dining experience!

The Cricketer’s Neighbourhood Eatery
Approx $40 AUD per person
Address: 69 Cruikshank St, Port Melbourne VIC 3207
Phone: +61 3 9676 2004
Website: thecricketersport.com.au

The Cricketers Neighbourhood Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Macelleria

Helen and I have not been eating steaks out that much lately. There are two main reasons for this… [1] my cholesterol has been high so I’m keeping my red meat intake to just once a week [2] since we’ve bought our sous vide machine, we’ve been making better steaks at home. It’s crazy isn’t it.. we used to mock our parents all the time for saying they cook better at home, now look what we’ve become! You wouldn’t think that I would be saying all this to undermine Macelleria would you? That would just be cruel. The truth is Macelleria is one of the places which we’re still visiting to eat quality steaks. Their combination of meat quality, preparation and price makes it worth the drive to Richmond!

You can call up and make a booking here but I’m not sure how well this system works because every time I’ve made a booking, it still feels like I’m queuing with the rest of the people when we arrive. Luckily there’s a massive display cabinet to keep me occupied, it displays the steaks/sausages/lamb cutlets/skewers available for the day. Funny enough I’ve noticed that the steaks which they cook don’t come from this cabinet, they come from inside the kitchen.

There’s two main choices to make here. If you’re after a steak with a higher fat content, and that distinctive ‘wagyu taste’ go for the Tajima Wagyu. On the other hand, if you’re after a steak that’s clean tasting with natural beef flavours, then go for the Cape Grim Angus. I personally enjoy the Wagyu more, but we do like to throw a Cape Grim in the mix for maximum palate variance. Raised on green pastures with some of the world’s cleanest air, hormone/antibiotic/GMO free, 100% grass fed, Cape Grim cattles live a life many of us can only dream of!

 

Every time I’ve asked for medium rare, I’ve got medium rare at Macelleria. I understand that they don’t have 2hrs to sous vide a steak like I do at home, but I do appreciate the consistency they’re able to achieve using their hot plate grill. I don’t normally like to put any sauces on my steak, but the mushroom sauce here is decent. The rustic fries here are a must try here, way better than their mashed potatoes. The thickness of the fries and the seasoning is just perfect. Make sure you get the large serving because you’ll end up saving money in the long run. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve got a small serving and realised I needed more! The seasonal greens are cooked well with a nice crunch, but it’s quite pricey for what you get, the salads are better value.

Well there you go… my steak place recommendation away from home. Not only are the steaks top notch, but the price is also ridiculously good. Under $30 for a Wagyu is just crazy value! They can get busy but the wait is never too bad. Do yourself a favour and pay these guys a visit, you’ll be rewarded with some beefy goodness!

Macelleria
Approx $35 AUD per person
Address: 87/89 Swan Street, Richmond VIC 3121
Phone: +61 3 9425 9393
Website: macelleria.com.au

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

Kowloon Cafe

There’s just something about Hong Kong cafes which brings a smile to my face! I think it’s the fact that their dishes are so quirky, which takes me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I’ll go in with a rough idea of what I feel like, but I always end up ordering something totally different! Food authenticity had never meant much to me, but if it’s important to you, then you’d probably appreciate Kowloon Cafe. These guys are located amongst a strip of shops on Canterbury Road in Box Hill. Parking is available on the side streets, but I find it easier to just park in the ALDI car park and enter the cafe from the back entrance.

Word of warning – this place gets BUSY! The whole Chinese community unites at this cafe, and it’s quite common to queue for a table. If you’re unlucky, you may find yourself seated at the table right near the door. This is where a sea of people will be looking over your shoulder, and drool over your food. Not the best seat in the house, but in a dog eat dog world, you take what you can get!

For only $12, I have ordered Set Menu A several times. It comes with an egg and ham omelette, satay beef instant noodles and a drink of your choice. I generally pick the HK style milk tea because you’d be a fool to get any other drink. The best I’ve had in Melbourne, no joke. It’s a lot cheaper to get it in a set menu than to order it separately. The omelette comes out looking fairly oily, and the egg part can be a bit plain. However once you hit the ham pieces it gets pretty damn good! The ham is not too salty and goes well with the egg.

The satay beef instant noodles is very tasty indeed. Useless fact – when I was young I had dreams of opening up my own instant noodles restaurant! I literally lived off this stuff growing up, and became quite skilled with the culinary art of cooking instant noodles. The noodles here were not overcooked and the beef was tender, not bad for Chinese takeaway style beef. If I had it my way, I wouldn’t mind a nice runny yolk egg and some Chinese cabbage to go with it, but I guess they gotta work within their budget. Speaking of which, this set menu for $12 is exceptional value, and makes for a feel good lunch. It’s a shame they don’t open for dinner!

This is not a place you’d wanna catch up with a long lost friend and talk about the meaning of life. It’s purely a ‘get in, get out’ type of place, no time to be holding up tables here! To ease your anxiety, they do play some nice Chinese songs here as you’re eating. There’s nothing more relaxing than listening to the king of Cantopop – Eason Chan in the background, while enjoying a cold HK style milk tea… bliss. If I haven’t lost you by now, then it’s probably time you come and pay Kowloon Cafe a visit!

Kowloon Cafe
Approx $12.50 AUD per person
Address: 866 Canterbury Road, Box Hill South VIC 3128

Kowloon Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Izakaya Kuuraku

Izakaya Kuuraku extended us a warm invite to try, and provide feedback on their new Omakase menu for November. Omakase in Japanese means ‘I’ll leave it up to you’, empowering the chef to choose what dishes they choose to serve. I really liked this idea as I’m trusting the chef, while they are trusting us for our honest feedback. Trust is very important when you’re dining out, because without it, well… you should just eat at home!

We arrived and was politely escorted into a private dining area. We were seated down as part of a group in front of a sushi preparation area, and a Yakitori grill station. I could tell that they were using a Japanese charcoal called Binchōta. Binchōta is known for its clean burning properties, and its ability to imbed amazing aromas and flavours to the food. This grilling section was enclosed with glass and they also had huge ventilation fans on top.

They provided us with one sushi and one Yakitori tasting menu. I was foolishly looking for the soy sauce to dip my first piece of sushi, then I realised that the sushi chef had already brushed it on the piece for me. This was exactly how they did it in ‘Jiro Sushi of Dreams’! If you haven’t watched this yet, it’s available on NetFlix – great documentary based a 3 Michelin star sushi chef. I remembered in the documentary that they present the sushi to you at the perfect rice temperature, and that it was important to eat it straight away. As soon as the sushi was placed down, I was in a frantic rush to snap a quick photo, then plomped it straight into my mouth!

It was a truly special experience as each piece of sushi was of the highest quality. We were served an assortment of sushi pieces including kingfish, salmon, flathead, tuna, and one was even seared with a little truffle oil. The fish was fresh, with the texture and flavour of the rice reminding me of the quality we got in Japan. Izakaya Kuuraku had a goal to bring true Japanese dishes to Australia, and I’d say they succeeded with this. My favourites were the flathead and kingfish sushi, but I think this was just a matter of personal preference. I learnt something new from the sushi chef when I commented on how fresh the fish was. He told me that all the top restaurants get their fish from the same supplier, but the preparation of the fish can change the texture and mouthfeel. He further explained that the thickness, the sharpness of the knife, and the way the fish is cut plays a huge part in this. I was absolutely gobsmacked as I did not know this, and had always given full credits to the fish! There’s so much learning to do in the world of food.

The Yakitori menu was equally satisfying. I loved the sauces which accompanied the skewers. It added a different dimension, yet doesn’t take away the grilled taste. My favourites were the wagyu beef and mushroom skewers. The wagyu was just soooooo tender, and flavourful. The charcoal accentuated the mushroom taste, almost like a flavour booster. The Yakitori menu was more filling because they finish it off with a beef curry on rice, whereas you don’t get that with the sushi menu.

Overall Izakaya Kuuraku was faultless, and the Japanese food here was next level! I thoroughly enjoyed my experience here and would not hesitate to come back. If you guys are keen, you should ring ahead to see if the Omakase menu is available. It really doesn’t get much better than this, two thumbs up from me!

Izakaya Kuuraku
Approx $65 AUD per person
Address: 131-135 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9939 1516
Website: kuuraku.com.au

Izakaya Kuuraku Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kalamaki

We were invited to dine at Kalamaki, a newly opened Greek street food restaurant located on High Street, Windsor. We looked at their menu beforehand, and the different styles of Greek skewers really piqued our interest! We’re huge fans of smaller menus because it allows the chef to really focus on the limited menu items, and because the turn around time is less, this can also result in fresher produce. It was only a matter of time before we would visit Kalamaki, we’re just happy it was sooner rather than later!

We were greeted by Dino – part owner of Kalamaki. I generally don’t mention too much on the staff when we’re invited to a restaurant, however I feel it’s important to make a mention of Dino’s persona. He had worked at a few reputable restaurants in the past, and his passion and confidence really shines through when he talks. Not to be mistaken for arrogance, I felt a strong assurance that the food was going to be great before we even started. I understand that he have to play multiple roles at Kalamaki, but I feel as though they would really benefit with him being front of house.

Having no allergies or special food requirement has it’s perks, as we left it in their hands to showcase what they had to offer. We started off with the Haloumi soldiers and a Mediterranean slaw with kala sauce. The Haloumi was not too salty at all, but the drizzle of honey does help to balance out the whole dish. All the ingredients in the Mediterranean slaw were really fresh, the red cabbage had a perfect crunch! The dressing tied everything together and it was by far the best slaw I’ve ever had. The appetising and refreshing nature of the slaw makes it a perfect compliment with the skewers.

The stars of the show were the skewers. They tasted really clean and weren’t heavy at all, which contradicts how we perceive skewers to be. They didn’t overdo it with the seasoning which in turn allows the meat flavours to shine through. The skewers were cooked perfectly, still juicy and tender on the inside. It needed to be because they used chicken breast for the chicken skewers, and we all know how unforgiving chicken breasts can be! My personal favourite were the lamb skewers.

We also got a serve of lemon and feta fries. They used a herb seasoning in the fries with feta on top. These were very tasty and highly addictive! A high quality feta was used and it was scattered sparingly over the fries. It’s hard to imagine going back to plain fries after this experience. These fries are a must try, and i’m not just saying this because I have a chip addiction!

As we wrapped up, Helen and I reflected on our meal and we both came to the conclusion that all the food was flawless, and we couldn’t fault anything. Kalamaki has all the attributes to be highly successful. Great location, tasty foods, decently priced, and a part owner who is capable and passionate. Check these guys out if you haven’t, we promise you won’t be disappointed. We would wish them good luck, but something tells me they don’t really need it!


Kalamaki
Approx $25 AUD per person
Address: 162-164 High Street, Windsor VIC 3181
Phone: +61 3 9510 4409
Website: kala-maki.com.au

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

Nong Tang Noodle House

Nong Tang Noodle House is located on Bourke Street inside the Midcity arcade. I have to admit that I have not been inside this arcade much ever since Dessert House closed down, so it was a nice trip down memory lane. We were invited to attend their 1 year anniversary event and it certainly didn’t disappoint! They had rolled out the red carpet, and the entry felt like we were entering a club on a guest list. We sat down to a menu, and a red envelope. Nope… no money in there, but there was a rabbit lolly inside. We used to eat these all the time as kids so the nostalgia was strong!

After a quick intro by the organisers, we were on our way. We really appreciated David Yang (owner) explaining all the dishes to us along, with their Shanghai origins. The menus heading is a 10 course sampling menu, but let me tell you, there was no sampling. These dishes were full blown, and we ended up being more full than a wedding reception banquet! I won’t go through all the dishes one by one, but my favourites were the Xiao Long Bao, Shanghai braised pork meatballs in soy sauce, and the stir fried beef with Chinese broccoli.

I just laughed as I looked around, and seeing everyone squirting soup everywhere as they bit into the Xiao Long Bao. It was a tasty soup and the pork inside was flavoured really well. The skin also had great elasticity and bouncy texture, a must try dish. The Shanghai pork meatball was a dish I had never tried before. It had all the characteristics of quality Italian meatballs, and in a way I was expecting a tomato based sauce. However I was very impressed by the amount of soy sauce flavour they were able to infuse into the meatball.

I’m personally a huge fan of Chinese broccoli, and I always get told off by friends and family for ordering it! Their reasoning is that it’s a lot cheaper to make at home, so there should be no reason why I should ordering it when I’m out. DON’T CARE. I love it too much… and the Chinese broccoli at Nong Tang was the best I’ve ever had! Perfect crunch, extremely fresh, and only the best bits of the broccoli was used in this stir fried beef dish. I made a mention of the Chinese broccoli to David as I left, and he said he paid top dollar for it, I had no reason to doubt him.

The only dish which wasn’t as good as the rest, was the pork and prawn wonton in chilli oil. I felt as though they they may have toned down the spiciness for this event, and the wontons were overcooked. The wonton skin disintegrated as I picked up the wonton and all the filling came out. It was only one dish from the 10 course menu, so overall it was a highly successful event!

We’re fully aware that for an event like this, we would be eating the highest quality versions of each dish. I truly hope that the quality of these dishes carries through to other customers when it’s business as usual. They do have a relatively high score on Zomato prior to us coming, so we’re confident they’ll provide a great dining experience to everyone. We wish Nong Tang Noodle House all the best for years to come!

Nong Tang Noodle House
Approx $30 AUD per person
Address: Midcity Arcade, Shop 16/200 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9639 9258

Nong Tang Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Clec

Insert [fancy French name] and watch them roll through the doors! Don’t all eateries wish it was that easy, the fact and the matter is these guys work their butts off to get where they are. This was exactly what crossed our minds when we saw the high ratings for Le Clec, and we were eager to see whether these ratings was justified.

We rolled up and got positive vibes right off the bat. The place was bright, warm from the wooden setting, and they even had Scandinavian style chairs, everybody loves Scandi chairs right? We were escorted to the enclosed back area which had plenty of natural light, without the bothersome bees. I seem to be a bee magnet, they always find me when I’m sitting outside!

There were 4 things which I loved about this menu, normally I don’t have 4 things to love about any menu.

1) They list their kitchen closing time (2:45PM). YES YES YES! Everyone could learn from this, especially the brunch cafes. Most cafes don’t serve food till their closing time, so let’s be transparent and put it on the menu.
2) There’s a ‘must try’ logo on their signature dishes. This is advertising the dishes they do best, takes the guesswork out.
3) Creative dishes – plenty of ways to skin a cat, all their dishes have their own special twist to it and it looked very promising indeed.
4) Reasonable prices! All the dishes on the menu were priced very well. To give you an example, my crispy salmon was $22 and a glass of wine to go with it was $6. A salmon and wine for under $30 presents exceptional value.

Well anyway, enough with the menu admiration, let’s move onto the food! My crispy salmon was out of this world! The skin was as promised – CRISPY, but the highlight was without a doubt the lemongrass, chilli broth. The broth complimented the perfectly cooked salmon beautifully. It was sour with a little chilli kick, very appetising! I was not expecting to be getting flavours like this for my first meal of the day, but I certainly wasn’t complaining. Being a huge mushroom fan, to get King Oyster mushrooms with this dish was just the cherry on top.

I looked across the table at Helen to get a glimpse of her reaction with her truffle scrambled eggs. I asked her how the eggs were, she responded with “It’s salty”. At this point sweat is building up on my forehead and I could feel my body shivering. She eats so much saltier than me, and for Helen to say something is salty, it must be pretty bad! I tried some of the scrambled eggs and my jaw just dropped, gasping for water. This was way over my salt tolerance threshold, and in this case Helen’s as well. She didn’t end up finishing it, and when the waiter come around we told him about it. To our surprise, his response was along the lines of ‘I’m sorry about that, however next time you should ask the chef to put less salt if you prefer to eat more plain’, suggesting that Helen was being particular. I just looked at him as if to say ‘Are you serious dude? Did you just apologise, but not apologise?’ I know for a fact that Helen eats really salty, and for him to just make this assumption without tasting the food was completely absurd! I didn’t feel like he was being intentionally rude, but he just sounded a little condescending. I never knew it was our responsibility to control the salt levels from their kitchen, otherwise it would work like bubble tea right? (No salt, 25% salt, 50% salt, etc.)

Credit where it’s due, the salmon was amazing but the truffled eggs + waiter, was not good at all. The saltiness could be a one off, and others may have had a different experience, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here. They offered us a discount voucher as we were paying the bill, but whether that would entice us back is a different story. All in all, I wouldn’t rule out Le Clec as one of my recommendations to other people, it just may not be a place we’ll be returning to in the foreseeable future.

Le Clec
Approx $25 AUD per person
Address: 727 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn VIC 3122
Phone: +61 3 9818 8969
Website: leclec.com.au

Le Clec Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

That Greek Tavern

I have been feeling under the weather lately, and been coughing like crazy! I’m still amazed by how much mucus my body can produce. If there’s one advice I can give you guys, it’s don’t exercise when you’re not feeling well! Early last week, I met up with a friend to play table tennis. I got an amazing cardio workout that night, but boy have I paid for it since. My friend is a pretty ‘careful with his money’ type of guy, so he’s always looking for bang for buck places to eat. Surprisingly his track record with food recommendations hasn’t been too bad! Thankfully on this particular night I was introduced by him to That Greek Tavern, and I thoroughly enjoyed this meal.

It’s hard to miss this place, they’ve got a giant guy striking a dance pose painted on the side of their restaurant. I’ve driven past this place plenty of times, and had always said that I wanted to give them a go. It was really comfortable inside, the restaurant looked bright and clean. The tablecloths give it an upmarket feel, but the paper on top tells me they don’t want to be washing tablecloths all day. The paper was all clipped onto the table neatly (Chinese yum cha places could learn a thing or two from these guys).

We opted for the $35 set menu special which consisted of Saganaki and continental sausage for entree, and Greek salad, lamb gyros, chicken gyros for mains. The dips were magnificent, it was really fresh and tasted what it claimed to be. The feta cheese dip is a must try for any cheese loving fan. The continental sausage pieces were some of the best sausages I’ve ever had! They were tasty, but ‘light’ in a way. It’s hard to describe, but I didn’t get that stuffed/overwhelming feeling. This was my favourite dish of the night. The Saganaki was spot on, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It wasn’t too salty as well… the entrees as a whole were ultra impressive!

I’m personally a huge chicken gyros fan, and would always pick it over lamb. The chicken gyros here was some of the best I’ve ever had! It was so moist, juicy and tender. Seasoned perfectly, it was another standout dish! When I moved onto the lamb, it was a strong reminder why I had always preferred the chicken. The lamb was inconsistent, some bits were not bad, and some bits were tough and very chewy. The flavour was good though, I guess it’s the nature of the meat, lamb is just so unforgiving sometimes! However in saying so, I’ve had some killer lamb gyros before, it’s just few and far between.

The set menu was very filling indeed. It was deceiving because when I saw the meat come out, I just looked at my friend confidently and said “I’ve got this.” When the dust settled, I was the one who got smashed! For $35, you will not leave this place hungry, I can guarantee you that. I highly recommend this restaurant to fulfil your Greek food cravings. I’ve already told my partner in crime about this place, and she’s keen to eat here too….I guess we might see you guys around?

That Greek Ravern
Approx $40 AUD per person
Address: 1438 Malvern Rd, Glen Iris VIC 3146
Phone: +61 3 9822 3233

That Greek Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato