Monday, June 22, 2015

Eating Around Melbourne - The Savoury Edition


For those of you who read my last post thinking "damn she drinks alot of coffee"...well there was savoury (and sweet) food too here and there. Here's another recap of a few places I've popped by during my brief Melbourne weekend trip

CONE HEADS, MELBOURNE CBD


Chips and Gravy (R: $6.50, L: $7.90)

I arrived in Melbourne very late on Friday and the other girls wanted to get an early rest for the following day. Sadly, Huxtaburger CBD was closed and it was too cold to walk around so we stumbled upon a few fast food eateries close to our hotel and eventually settled on Cone Heads (not to be confused with that 90's comedy movie) because it's halal friendly. Sure it may not be the first thing that will pop up into your mind when you are in Melbourne but it actually has a few franchises including one that has just opened in Pakistan! It's the type of food that we can see ourselves eating after an epic night out clubbing. Despite the many layers of thick country style gravy coating the chips, it actually didn't get soggy. Was still quite crispy after we ate more of these chips back at the hotel. If you are a big fan of poutine, this is also available at Cone Heads. Perfect for a dirty, late night feed.

Cone Heads
Shop 6, 2-26 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
http://coneheadschips.com/
Sun-Thurs: 9:00am - 1:00am
Fri-Sat: 9:00am - 3:00am
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BELLE'S HOT CHICKEN

A few week ago, I've had the pleasure of tasting Belle's Hot Chicken at Harpoon Harry's. Even though the wait a the pop up was agonising, it was worth it in the end. It was actually my second time tasting the Nashville-style hot chicken since I have also made a visit to the Fitzroy restaurant at the recent trip. The restaurant vibe had a similar noisy, pub-like vibe with a Melbourne hipster edge judging from the crowd and the atmosphere of the venue.


Bourbon Iced Tea

There were heaps of choices on the beverage menu - particularly wine. However, I was intrigued by their uniquely combined Bourbon Iced Tea. While there's that alcoholic taste from the bourbon liquor, the sweet ice tea makes it drinkable like a normal ice tea if straight bourbon isn't your strength. This is perfect to wash down after devouring the fried chicken pieces.


Belle's Hot Chicken Tenders with Mixed Pickles ($16.00)

For Belle's famous chicken, you get a choice of tenders, wings or dark meat (drumstick and thigh). At $16.00, the meat menu comes with a choice of 1 side for no extra cost. Feeling a little guilty about the food I've consumed all day, I opted for mixed pickles as my side dish. While it was called "mixed pickles", it was actually a variety of veggies with a sour taste that helps with the fatty flavour from the chicken. You also get to choose the level of spice for your chicken. FYI, I tried the hot level at Harpoon Harry and my tongue was already burning from that level let alone their hottest "Really f@$*in hot" flavour. At medium, I was already getting quick a kick from the spices though I thoroughly enjoyed its crumbled skin and tender chicken meat. Definitely one of my fave eats in Melbourne for this trip.

Belle's Hot Chicken
150 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9077 0788
http://www.belleshotchicken.com/
Mon-Sun: 12:00pm - 10:00pm
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KOKORO RAMEN





This review was mostly through the perspective of my friends T and AC who were still hungry after our visit to Supernormal. On the other hand, I was too full but went along to check it out with them. I did have a small tasting of each of the bowls and from what I can tell, they were completely satisfied with the ramen at this joint. 


Miso Ramen with Soft Shell Crab ($18.00) with extra Ajitama egg (additional $2.00)

The menu at Kokoro is 12 pages worth of food including many different types of ramen from various regions of Japan. It even gives you a bit of background history behind the origin of the ramen, which is pretty cool. There is even a ramen burger! GG. The miso ramen that T tried was based in the Sapporo region. It has a thick, tonkotsu pork broth with an additional miso paste for that tangy, slow-cooked flavour. This was served with an Ajitama egg (though T wanted more so he ordered an extra one!), bamboo shoot, spring onion, black fungi, sesame seeds and a thin, straight and firm egg noodle. Loved the colourful look of the broth and it seemed to be more flavoursome than some of the other miso ramens I've had in the past from what I've sampled. T gave this two thumbs up. 



Shio Ramen - small ($7.80) with Soft Shell Crab ($8.00)

AC got a smaller bowl of the lighter, salt-based Shio Ramen. This type of ramen was based in the Nagahama region in the southern island of Japan. The broth was clearer and not as flavoursome as the miso ramen but AC seemed to enjoy this as well. Both bowls had that irresistably gooey egg and the guys have also opted for the soft shell version, which was highly recommended at Kokoro ramen. It was crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside and seemed to stood out so well in both bowls. The pork that came with the shio ramen was on the thick side and seemed quite tender from what I've tasted. It's a shame that I was quite full to get a proper experience at Kokoro Ramen but it was good to see the mates feeling so satisfied from their time here. 

Kokoro Ramen
157 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 1215
http://kokororamen.com/
Mon-Fri: 11:30am - 3:00pm, 5:00pm - 10:30pm
Sat: 11:30am - 10:30pm
Sun: 11:30am - 9:00pm
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Stay tuned for the final Melbourne recap on The Random Foodie (for now) where I explore lots and lots of sweet stores in Melbourne CBD and South Yarra.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Eating Around Melbourne - The Coffee Edition and Queen Victoria Market


For those who followed me on Instagram or know me personally, yes this Melbourne trip happened back in April. Yes, it's harder for me to remember how everything tasted back then. But I still want to share these moments to the rest of you...even though my recollection may not be as strong. And yes my backlog is bad right now thanks to full time work, gym, various social outings, tiredness after work, and a horrible addiction to endless episodes of 'If You Are the One'...



Sadly for myself, I had to arrive late on Friday due to work so I didn't end up going to as many as I hoped especially when other plans were in the works and some had to return to Sydney very early on Sunday. While everyone was planning to go on a trip outside of Melbourne, I decided to stay and continue my foodie journey on my own.And you know what? It is actually not as bad as you may think! So this post will be basically a collection of mini reviews (or should I say adventures?) that I've had in roaming around solo in Melbourne CBD, South Yarra and Fitzroy. Heck it's better than a $65 banquet at a single fine dining restaurant and you're still hungry (sorry guys :p). This post will be about my many coffee adventures in two days as well as a trip to the markets to clear my head in the morning.

QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET




One of the sights that I regret missing out on last year's Melbourne trip was a visit to the famous Queen Victoria Market. Thankfully this was the first thing on my agenda for this trip. While there were aisles of second hand clothing, flowers, and of course groceries; the section that caught my eye the most was the deli and cheese. Since it is one of Melbourne's main attractions, it was no surprise how chaotic it really was when I was trying to walk around (sorry about the pics). 




So much meat and cheese on display. There's also a few stalls dedicated to fresh and dried Italian pastas, sweets and a few popular takeaway delicacies such as "borek" and "bum burner" (I believe this was extremely spicy sausage...looks like it. The only thing that saddened me a bit was that there wasn't many stalls doing cheese tastings...though I guess you could ask the people selling it. Otherwise, you could easily spend many hours walking around the whole market. You can even grab a doughnut at the American Doughnuts van parked at the markets.






BROTHER BABA BUDAN





Not long after this, I was already in need of a caffeine hit. Brother Baba Budan is one of those really tiny cafes where you can get a quick coffee or a sweet snack whether it's for a quick take away or a sit down to chill...if you can get a table. Despite the little space, there were hoards of people crowded inside but that was part of the vibe of BBB. It's signature clutter of chairs stuck to the ceiling was an eye catching moment.




Skim Latte ($4.00)

It was actually thanks to this coffee spot that I discovered how much I really lie lattes. While they use their own house made coffee beans, they also source coffee from their equally renowned sister cafe, Seven Seeds. The latte itself had a smooth and light texture with a fruity aroma. It also still had enough intensity for that caffeine hit without that strong, bitter flavour. It's a busy yet lovely hangout which has that unique, funky atmosphere that makes it look so...Melbourne! (*facepalm*).



Brother Baba Budan
359 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9606 0449
Mon-Fri: 7:00am - 6:00pm
Sat: 7:00am - 5:00pm
Sun: 8:00am - 5:00pm
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MANCHESTER PRESS




Literally just around the corner from Brother Baba Budan in a hidden laneway was Manchester Press. I was slowly getting hungry but since it was just me roaming around the city (while everyone was off to the hot springs at the Peninsuila), I sadly knew I had to be a tad selective. Operator25 was on my mind and around the area so...I got ANOTHER COFFEE. Plus the queues were quite busy. If you love your bagels, this place is certainly worth the wait with its varied selection of toppings to choose from. Interestingly, by the time I've finish ordering my coffee, the queues have moved quickly but alas, too late. As for the mocha, it was not too sweet with a good amount of bitterness. I believe they use the coffee beans from Coffee Cartel Roasters so there was a more roasted flavour. Oh yeah, that was my third coffee of the day. Booyah.


Skim Mocha ($3.80)

Manchester Press
8 Rankins Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9600 4054 http://www.facebook.com/manchesterpress/
Mon-Fri: 7:00am - 5:00pm
Sat-Sun: 9:00am - 5:00pm
Click to add a blog post for Manchester Press on Zomato 


OPERATOR25


Skim Mocha 

At the time of my visit, Operator25 has been one of the hottest cafes with countless fellow Sydney bloggers and instagrammers also making visits there this year so I knew I had to make a visit while I'm in this part of Melbourne. Interestingly, instagram was flooded with pictures of the food here from fellow Melbourne foodies. Turns out that they only just released their Autumn/Winter seasonal menu on that same weekend. Got yet another mocha, which was also decent quality. Coincidentally, they also use Cartel just like Manchester Press but the mocha had a smoother texture at Operator25. Didn't want to drink the coffee at first because of the look of that coffee art.


Balinese Pulled Pork Burger with sweet potato wedges ($20.00)

One of the dishes I tried was the Balinese Pulled Pork Burger. Looking back, I'm not sure why I chose that dish especially when checking the menu again and spotting a few other dishes that I would have ordered instead. Probably due to my usual indecisiveness and asking the staff for recommendations. The pulled pork had an overly strong flavour possibly from the various seasoning in the meat combined chilli mayo, cabbage and carrot slaw in the filling. The saving grace was the gooeyness from the fried egg as well as the crispy and not-too-salty sweet potato wedges. I'm guessing this wasn't the right dish for me but I'm still keen to make a return to try one of their other dishes depending on the schedule.


Operator25
25 Wills Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
http://www.operator25.com.au/
(03) 9670 3278
Mon-Fri: 7:00am - 4:00pm
Sat-Sun: 9:00am - 4:00pm
Click to add a blog post for Operator25 on Zomato 


BOWERY TO WILLIAMSBURG



On our last day in Melbourne, AC and T wanted to go to Passionflower while I was keen to try one more eatery. Unfortunately my original plan for a takeaway at Huxtaburger on Collins Street was way too far from where my friends were. So I settled on a quick and final coffee fix at the very hidden and hard to find Bowery to Williamsburg on Oliver Lane. The interior has a more American - New York metro style from the decor as well as some of the items on the menu such as the Reuben Sandwich, Philly cheese sandwich, bagels and melts. They also have a salad bar if you're are up for clean eating. 


Skim Mocha ($4.50)

The coffee at Bowery to Williamsburg was made with Padre coffee beans from Brunswick and served with a complimentary Hershey's Kisses chocolate! The flavour had a stronger, bitter flavour with its texture leaning on the more robust, grainy and rustic side compared to the other mochas. Whih is good sine it gave me enough energy to last for the rest of the day without any extra caffeine hits.



 Bowery to Williamsburg
16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9077 0162
Mon-Sat: 7:30am - 3:00pm
Sun: 8:30am - 3:00pm
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Stay tuned for more Melbourne recaps coming up soon on The Random Foodie including more savoury and even more sweet eats!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Supernormal, Melbourne CBD


This modern Japanese restaurant is another venture opened by Melbourne's Andrew McConnell alongside Cumulus Inc and Cutler and Co. It has already popped up in Sydney earlier this year which has first caught my attention. Sadly I wasn't able to make it to the pop up but a trip to Melbourne has helped in redeeming that loss without the severe queues. OK, there are still queues at peak times but probably not as bad as a one-off pop up in another state would be.


Our visit to Supernormal ended up being a plan B since CC and Fifi were in a rush to go back to the airport for their separate flight and we were too late for Chin Chin and their epic waiting times. The decor had that same neutral, industrial appeal that Cumulus Inc and even Cho Cho San back in Sydney has. Since it was early on a Sunday, the vibe was a bit more quiet but it did get slightly busier when we left.


Supernormal has an incredible range of beverages (the drinks menu is 14 pages long!), which makes it an ideal spot to catch up for dinner and drinks on the weekend. CC tried this fruity beverage (I forgot the name arghhh) which was quite sweet with only a slight tinge of liquor inside. 

Complimentary Pumpkin Seeds 

We were all given complimentary pumpkin seeds to nibble on. They reminded me of the ones that dad has back at home. The crisp texture and the lightly salty flavour made these seeds quite addictive compared to the ones back at home. 

Prawn and Chilli Dumplings with Chilli and Vinegar Sauce ($14.00 for 6pc) 

The dumplings were succulent, plump and also pretty spicy. It was plated in a pool of chilli and vinegar sauce which gave it an even bigger kick to the taste buds along with a sweet and sour taste through the combination of those ingredients. 

 Sauteed Greens with Black bean sauce($10.00)

CC needed her greens so we got a side of sauteed greens to share. They reminded us of similar veggies with its soy flavour, plating and selection of vegetables on this plate. CC seemed to enjoy this dish though.

 New England Lobster Roll ($16.00)

Finally the dish that I was looking forward to trying at this restaurant! At $16, the serving size was rather small even with two pieces. Despite that price tag, there was a good amount of pickled lobster to enjoy in this soft and buttery brioche bun. You can even get these as part of their takeaway menu which they have displayed on a sign at the entrance if you don't wanna deal with the queues at peak hour. 

 Ox Tongue, Pickled Chilli and Pig Ears

I don't think this dish is on the menu anymore from looking at the one on the website. Thought it was another highlight for me with its tenderness and spicy hit. Wish there were more pig ears though because they were as crispy as the ones I loved back at District Dining back in the day. 

 Pork Bao in Tamarind Sauce ($6.00)

I wasn't planning on ordering anymore because I wanted to go for a quick bite at Huxtaburger (which sadly didn't happen...again!). But I cannot resist the look of this pork bao especially when coated in panko(?) crumbs. The serving was also quite small but the crunchiness of the pork patty with the sweet sauce and the soft pillowy bun was satisfying enough for me. Would order this again and again.

Pan Fried Pot Sticker Dumplings ($14.00 for 5pc)

AC and T opted for this dish to share before they head out for an epic ramen feast (more on that on a later post). I tried a bit and really liked the crunchy texture however it wasn't as flavour-some as we hoped.


While there were some dishes that I liked, there were a few other dishes that we thought were average and pricey especially with the cheaper options you can get elsewhere. At the end we didn't get dessert because I was too full, CC and Fifi were hurrying back to the airport for their flight while AC and T were saving their (still hungry) stomachs for ramen. While a couple of my friends were less keen due to its prices and serving sizes, I've heard that the desserts were highly recommended so I wouldn't mind returning back when I'm in Melbourne next time depending on the schedule. Especially for their lobster rolls and pork buns. 


Supernormal
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 8688
http://www.supernormal.net.au/
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cumulus Inc., Melbourne CBD


Cumulus Inc is one of Melbourne's well-renowned cafes, which also operates as a dining restaurant at night along with its bar counterpart, Cumulus Up, in their upstairs space. It is located on the further end of Flinders Lane that also houses countless restaurants and cafes such as Chin Chin, Meatball and Wine Room, Fonda Mexican, The Grain Store, Supernormal, Dukes Coffee Roasters (phew...) as well as a few hidden bars here and there. The girls and I were lucky to stay at a hotel close to these foodie joints so it wasn't too hard when we picked a cafe to go for breakfast before going our separate ways. Plus Cumulus Inc was one of the many many many cafes on my Melbourne wishlist from my last trip.



While the cafe was further than what I expected from the map, the service was actually very quick for a Saturday morning, which is good for the girls who were on a tight schedule. Cumulus Inc is one of the many eateries owned by chef and restaurateur, Andrew McConnell. His name that may not be too familiar to the casual Sydney diner but he is an icon in Melbourne with countless restaurants under his helm. This includes Supernormal, Cutler and Co, Golden Fields, and The Builder's Arms to name a few. From visiting two of his venues during my Melbourne trip, it appears that the fitout has a signature minimalist appeal with grey, black, white and brown being the prominent colours at the venue.


Skim Mocha ($3.80)

I knew I was going to have a long, adventurous and unplanned day ahead so a coffee was needed to wake me up. This cafe uses organic fair trade Single Origin Coffee house blend for their coffees. While the mocha had an aromatic flavour, it was on the sweeter side compared to some mochas I've had in the past.


Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice ($7.50)

The grapefruit juice was not too fizzy actually. Refreshing to have once the weather gets warmer again. Not too sweet either.

Mortadella, cheddar and braised black cabbage toasted sandwich ($16.00)

I found myself drooling over CC's toastie. Cannot resist the perfectly grilled look on that toast. While it was on the expensive side compared to other toasted sandwiches I've seen around town, CC got very full and satisfied on this dish so I guess it was more filling than it appeared. 


Smoked ocean trout, rye toast, baby zucchini and slow cooked eggs ($17.00) 

AC was pleased with her healthy-looking dish of smoked ocean trout blanketing over two hidden slow cooked eggs. I tried a bit of this dish and really liked how the ocean trout melts in your mouth as you taste it. Also the eggs were soft and oozy, which was always a winner. 


Sardine on toast, red onion and cream cheese ($17.00)

F loves her food salty so she opted for the sardine on toast with red onion and cream cheese. While the rest of us thought it was too salty, she thought it needed a tad more salt. This did look like a dish with an interesting combination of flavours and textures. Not a huge fan of cream cheese personally but F seemed to enjoy this dish.


Shakshouka - baked eggs with roasted pepper and shanklish ($17.00)

Long time readers and close friends will not be surprised on what I ended up ordering. Yup, it's their signature shakshouka with roasted pepper and shanklish (a type of Middle Eastern cow's/sheep's milk cheese). I love my baked eggs and Cumulus Inc's version has definitely made it into one of my favourites. It was rich, flavoursome and slightly spicy but the tomato-based sauce wasn't overly strong and much less watery compared to a few baked eggs I've had in the past (a major plus!). This pleased CC who is generally not a fan of baked eggs. The yolk had that soft, gooey texture and the shanklish cheese wasn't as strong as I initially expected. It may be a mess but it was perfect comfort food to have on a cool morning. 


Canele ($4.00)

After paying the bill, I couldn't help to order a canele as well to take away. It was crisp and buttery on the outside, while the inside was soft, bubbly and not too sweet. 



The service seemed attentive when we were there even though it got busy. Surprised that a table for 5 people was available almost immediately after we arrived since it was around 9am on a Saturday. The prices were standard in comparison to other Melbourne cafes (not too expensive but not cheap either) though I personally thought that a toasted sandwich for $16 is still a bit too much. If I lived in Melbourne, I wouldn't mind returning again for the shakshouka and trying the other dishes on the brunch and dinner menus as well as checking out their wine bar upstairs. 

Cumulus Inc
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 1445
http://cumulusinc.com.au/
Mon-Fri: 7:00am - 11:00pm
Sat-Sun: 8:00am - 11:00pm
Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon