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

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

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

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

Tao’s Restaurant

Tao’s Restaurant is an Asian fusion restaurant located at Bulleen. A great suburb, but I mainly come to Bulleen when I need to fix Helen’s watch. I got her a vintage Omega many years ago, and it’s been nothing but trouble! An Omega watchmaker works from Bulleen, so you could say I know my way around the area by now. Well anyway back to Tao’s Restaurant, these guys were one of the original pioneers of Asian fusion. They were doing Asian fusion before it was cool. Unfortunately time may have caught up with them and it feels as though they’ve been left behind. Over the years, the quality of their food has been on a slow and steady decline…

Helen and I used to love coming to Tao’s on special occasions because they represented a great value to quality ratio. To this day, I still don’t think their prices are too bad, if only they had kept the same quality as the good old days. We came on a weekday which was $48pp for a set menu. It came with a starter, entree, main and even a glass of wine. Normally the price is $78 and you’d get a soup and dessert too, minus the wine. Our last experience wasn’t the best, but we thought we’d give them another chance.

The starter had always been an opportunity for Tao’s to show off their delicacies. On this occasion we got an oyster shot, an oyster in the shell with scallop trims and some Edamame beans. The oyster shot was nice, it was refreshing and a great palate cleanser. The oyster in the shell wasn’t as enjoyable. For whatever reason, there was a lot of onion in there, and that overpowered the oyster. Instead of tasting the sweetness of the oyster, I was tasting the sweetness of the onion! And the Edamame beans… what the hell happened there!?! Was this a classic case of cost cutting? I found it comical that this was presented as one of the starters!

For the entree I got the sashimi, whilst Helen got the pork belly Shabu Shabu. The sashimi was high quality, clean and fresh. The inclusion of the abalone was a pleasant surprise, I guess this made up for the pitiful Edamame beans in the starter. Helen’s pork belly on the other hand was overcooked and tough, total opposite of what you’d expect pork belly to be. My main was probably the most uninspiring of all the courses. My porterhouse came out on a hot stone, which was on a bed of rocks. Presentation was on point, but that was the only positive. I had enough sauce for two steaks, but even then the steak was extremely bland. It tasted like sauce from a packet which had been poured over an unseasoned steak. To add insult to injury, it was also very chewy, and hard to swallow.

Like a Chinese wedding banquet, they always finish off with a fried rice. This fried rice had always been consistent in the past, so I was eager to finish on a high note! To my disappointment even the fried rice was a let down this time. That full flavour, dry scallop punch was missing, hell even the salt was missing! It was closer to the end of plain rice as opposed to fried rice.

I know I’ve been a bit critical in this review, but it’s only because I know what Tao’s Restaurant was capable of in the past. It’s disappointing to them relegated to our mediocre/will not visit again category. I think there’s other similarly priced Asian fusion restaurants these days that offer better quality food, and for this reason, I am unable to pass on my recommendation.

Tao’s Restaurant
Approx $80 AUD per person
Address: 201 Bulleen Rd, Bulleen VIC 3105
Phone: +61 3 9852 0777
Website: http://silk2.org/taos/

Tao's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato