WELCOME!

Welcome to Melbourne Foodie. The blogspace of a young foodie with a passion for cooking, fine dining and quality food and produce. Melbourne Foodie, along with the other sources I write for is my way of casually expressing and recording some of the experiences I have had for others to enjoy. I always welcome any feedback, comments or restaurant suggestions you may have and would love to hear from you soon.

MUST VISIT SOON: Livingroom, Hare & Grace

MOST RECENT FEASTINGS: Pei Modern, Sarti, PM24, Vue de Monde

BLOG OF THE MOMENT: I Eat Therefore I Am

Happy eating,
Jon!




Monday, October 29, 2007
Bar Lourinha (City)
On Saturday night Nick, Lana, Robert, Kat and myself had dinner at Bar Lourinha, located at the top end of Little Collins Street. It was a great choice by Nick, who found it in a deck of cards of Melbourne's restaurants secrets, as I have been wanting to try this place for a while. After my recent enjoyment at MoVida a few nights earlier I was certainly in the mood for more Spanish, even though Bar Lourinha is actually a Portuguese restaurant, I have now found out.

Having read mixed blog reviews including those by Thanh (neutral) & Serenity (positive) I was not completely sure what to expect but had generally high expectations. I must say though that I feel both reviews were accurate in their own ways. I generally do not tend to compare the dishes at one restaurant directly to another, but it is hard not to here after having such amazing dishes at MoVida which make some of the dishes here seem quite underwhelming. ***These two places are very different beasts though, with different food styles and different aims, hence they really should not be compared in this way and my comments will basically reflect my enjoyment of the food in a restaurant context, rather than the bar that Bar Lourinha is.

In my opinion the food at Bar Lourinha was good, but just that, not excpetional and not the sort of stuff that I would be rushing back for, especially when I can have a superior meal at MoVida for the same price. Anyhow, I am not in any way bagging Bar Lourinha, as my score will reflect. It is a good place to eat (if uncomfortable) that serves tasty food in a cosy little space, with astute and informed service to match. The seating in my opinion though is not the best - the bar stools on the communal tables are hard and uncomfortable, but that could just reflect my state at the time, looking for a better way to relax after a long day at work.

Bar Lourinha is a small establishment that is not fussed about with in its design or otherwise. There is a small lounge area at the front, long bar along the back and a couple of large communal tables; all with a view into the kitchen. A cosy place with a good feel about it, but it is so noisy that having a conversation with the person next to you can be a real challenge.

***I have now done some more research on Bar Lourinha, and must thank Stickyfingers for her comments and should report that Bar Lourinha is really that, a tapas bar, rather than a formal restaurant and hence the experience is suppose to feel this way. Its suppose to be a way to begin the evening, rather than a formal night out. In my opinion though this is not how the place is used with most guests seeming to make a night of it at Bar Lourinha.

Anyhow it is the food that you want to hear about so I will cut to the chase. We tried 10 different dishes of varying success and value. Some were reasonably good value, whilst others could be seen as a complete rip off such as the special of "lamb skewers" which at $13 each were chewy and not worth half the price.

Heres a summary of our dishes. I did enjoy most of them, the same cannot be said for all my dining companions though, but you can't please everyone.

Yellow tail kingfish 'pancetta' & lemon oil ($14) - Fresh pieces of kingfish very thinly sliced, seasoned and finished with a light lemon scented oil. A good dish but no great range of flavours. Still succeful nonetheless.


Salted cod croquette ($15) - A special - Hot, crunchy croquettes with a well seasoned, soft cod centre. Finished simply with some herbs and a tartare sauce. I enjoyed this item. We are served five pieces instead of the usual four.


Jamon ($15) - A small plate containing a few thin slices of this air dried Spanish ham, drizzled with a little olive oil. Good flavour, particulalrly the fatty bits which were gelatinous and excited the tongue, as it is not something you get to try everyday.


Lamb skewers ($26 for two) - Probably the most dissapointing dish of the night, especially given the price. The lamb was chewy and had very little flavour apart from a little olive oil and corainder. $13 per stick was not justified at all.


Grilled piri piri chicken winglets ($14) - Once again good but not great. They are basically just little wings with a spicy basting, chargrilled and finished with coriander and mint. Similar to the wings at Nandos really, but much smaller.


Twice cooked octopus and pickled cucumber ($16) - I enjoyed this. Tender pieces of octopus sat atop some slices of fresh cucumber with an acidic dressing (sorry you cannot call that pickled). This dish is once again finished simply with some corainder, and the combination of the cucumber, bitter dressing and salty octopus went together very well.


Wagyu 'carne cruda' & shaved horse radish ($15) - This is more or less a spanish interpretation of beef tartare. The difference being that it lacks all of those wonderful things added to the beef that make tartare so enjoyable. This is more or less a ball of finely chopped beef (lacked the sweetness and marbling generally associated with wagyu), with some horseradish shaved over the top, served alongside a simple salad. The meat was of a decent quality but the dish lacked additional flavour, a little bland as it was not seasoned and could thus not be enjoyed at its best. I still liked it though, which is more than could be said for the rest of the table.


Roasted mushrooms and garlic cream ($13) - Yum! I really liked these mushrooms, which were cooked perfectly, and the garlic cream sauce was absorbed by the mushrooms and tasted really good. Sorry, we dug in before the picture.


House made chorizo and apple cider ($15) - A reasonable dish but nothing exciting or special. The sausages were well made and cooked, but did not do a lot for me, nor did the sauce made from apple cider, paprika and a few cubes of apple.


To finish - Churros with a caramel sauce ($8) - A great way to end the meal. Crunchy, soft centred Spanish style doughnut sticks rolled in a cinamon sugar with a sweet caramel sauce. Really good, and priced appropriately as well. Sorry, we didn't get a picture of this one.

Bar Lourihma received a score of 14.5 out of 20 in the Age Good Food Guide. I think that is being a bit too generous here.

MY SCORE: 13.5/20 - Recommended
Overall good food: 7/10 Knowledgable service 3.5/5 Ambience 3/5 - Noisy, uncomfortable stools and paper napkins are all turn offs. This is a tapas bar though, to be expected I guess.


Thanks to stickyfingers for your comments and helping me to see Bar Lourinha in a different way. Stopping by for a glass of sherry and a couple of tapas plates before a formal dinner could be a great way to enjoy this little gem :-)


www.barlourinha.com.au

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Sunday, October 28, 2007
Bhoj Indian Restaurant (Docklands)
On Friday night myself, along with friends Robert & Kat had dinner at Bhoj restaurant, located along the New Quay strip at Docklands. Bhoj is a really good Indian restaurant, in a great location with stunning views, good service and a nice feel to the place.

After pondering the menu we opt to go for one of the banquet menus, which appears to be good value at $40 per head for a selection of entrees, mains, sides and dessert. It turns out that it is even better value than we had originally bargained for - we left so full - more on this later.

Overall it is a great Indian restaurant that is fitted out nicely and is very well priced, especially in the banquets. The quality that you get in most dishes is a cut above what you will find at most other Indian places so Bhoj is definately worth a visit. PS. Sorry about the food pictures - the camera flash was way too bright :-(


Here is a summary of the dishes we enjoyed in our banquet:

After the customary begining of papadums and raita, our entrees are presented. Each of us receive a mixed plate with four different starters including: excellent samosas - a particulalry large, vegetable variety that is done very well here. Chicken and lamb tikka - again very good: tender pieces of meat that are covered in a lighter style tandoori coating, very thoughtful of the chefs to start this way so your tastebuds are not overwhelmed before the curries arrive. The last offering on this plate is Vegetable Bhajia - an excellent crunchy fried, unstructured croquette, that is soft in the centre. A great combination of flavours overall, and the accompanying sweet sauce on the plate helps to add an additional element to the croquette item.


Shortly after our entrees the mains are presented: 2 meat curries, 2 vegetable dishes, saffron rice (made with real basmati), as well as garlic and plain naan breads.

Chicken butter cream: A very good version is served here. Tender pieces of chicken breast are presented in a mild, thin, creamy sauce. Yes, it is just another version of butter chicken - but a good one.


Beef Vindaloo - Another classic dish. We get a large pot of this. Large chunks of slow cooked, tender beef in a spicy gravy style sauce with a real kick. A very moorish offering, and quite a spicy one.


Palak Paneer - One of the vegetable dishes: Presented is a nice bowl full of ricotta cheese cubes in a thin sauce made from pureed spinach. I enjoyed this, although a little more seasoning (salt) would have improved it, perhaps a personal preference thing.


Mixed vegetable Korma - I really liked this dish - A range of vegetables including potatoes, peas, carrots and corn cooked in a creamy sauce with mild spices, coconut and yoghurt. Unfortunately there is an overwhelming amount of sauce in all the dishes which make it difficult to see a lot in the photos.


Saffron rice: Steamed Basmati rice with flecks of saffron infused rice mixed through, finished with some cumin seed and spices.


Naan bread (garlic and plain) - A really good version (most fresh naan is), heated before serving in the tandoor oven, and you can taste the difference, it is authentic bread.


There is so much food here, but about half way through is when we figure out the value for money here is even better than we had bargained for. We were running low on rice, and decided to order another serving. After this is brought out the waiter asks what else he can get us, explaining that the banquet includes unlimited rice, naan and curries. Oh my goodness - we end up getting an extra butter chicken as this dish was the only one we could finish and ultimately ate so much food that walking back to the car, which was parked a few minutes away was a real effort.

After mains we receive some light desserts - nothing particularly exciting or different in these offerings. A dumpling dish served with ice-cream is OK, as is a good version of mango ice-cream.


Final words for a good wine list that is well structured and reasonably priced with a good selection of wines by the glass.

We ultimately pay the bill ($40 each), plus wine and leave with big smiles raving about the value for money we have received.

With such a large spread of dishes on offer there are bound to be plenty of dishes to suit everyones tastes, and as mentioned the value for money is excellent, especially for an establishment that has been proclaimed as Melbourne's best Indian many times.

Bhoj received a score of 13.5 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide.

MY SCORE: 14/20 - Recommended
Good Food 6.5/10, Service 3.5/5, Ambience: Comfortable, informal, great views, not too noisy - nice 4/5

Recommended - great value for money - you will leave satisified. Just make sure you skip lunch and have plenty of room so you can fully enjoy all the dishes.

www.bhoj.com.au/docklands/

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Thursday, October 25, 2007
MoVida Restaurant (City)
Tonight I finally got to visit MoVida - Bar de Tapas Y Vino - Spanish restaurant, a restaurant that I have been meaning to try out for quite some time now. After hearing a lot of good things about MoVida in the press and throughout the blogosphere I was anxious to try out this establishment for myself, and see whether the food lives up to recent hypes. The ultimate verdict: yes, it certainly does.

After initially making plans on having dinner at nearby Ezard, I received a phone call from MoVida in the afternoon offering me a reserved table in their bar area. This was an offer to good to refuse and I immediately said yes, excited to finally be eating here. Upon arrival you notice that MoVida is divided into two halves: a more formal restaurant area; and a casual bar area, with seating around the main bar station as well as tall, narrow tables behind this area, which do not look overly comfortable. I am seated at the bar and consequently have a comfortable seat with a good view to the kitchen and bar. This seems to be a great spot to eat and everything feels very right, and comfortable here, which is not always the case in such establishments. A very good start.


After briefly pondering the menu, which is divided into two parts: tapa (small dishes) and racion (larger dishes – equivalent to a generous entrée size) I decide that I will leave it to my waiter to order for me. As I am fairly hungry he suggests two tapa and two racion, which along with dessert make for a fairly substantial, great value dinner. The menu is quite diverse and has a plethora of dishes to suit everyone’s taste and budget. Better still it is much more affordable than many high-class restaurants and it is possible to eat an excellent quality, fulfilling meal for about $40-$60 per person (not inclusive of drinks), even less for those who are not big eaters.

Here is a summary of all of the excellent courses I enjoyed on the night:

“Ortiz” $4.50 – A Cantabrian artisan anchovy sitting atop a crunchy sour dough crouton finished with a refreshing quenelle of smoked tomato sorbet, green capers and a light drizzle of olive oil. This was an amazing way to start and the combination of ingredients worked together so well. The crunchiness of the crouton along with the saltiness of the anchovy and the sweetness and earthiness of the sorbet. It all just came together perfectly and worked well in getting the palette ready for the nights’ offerings.


“Caballa Ahumado” $18 – The dish of the night and one of the best things I have eaten this year. What you receive is a generous plate of thinly sliced, smoked mackerel (carpaccio style). This is topped with pine nuts and micro herbs and is finished with a creamy dressing and a quenelle of gazpacho sorbet. The fish is so soft and has a wonderful smoky flavour. The dressing is sweet and creamy and the sorbet just adds a whole other element to the dish, as do the herbs and pine nuts. This really is an amazing dish and I highly recommend everyone trying it.


“Costilla” $5.80 – An excellent lamb cutlet, slow cooked and finished in a sweet paprika crusting. This is cooked through, a little more than my usual liking, but is so tender that it almost falls off the bone and tastes amazing. The cutlet is served with a nob of green coloured paste, which adds an extra dimension of colour and flavour to the dish.


“Carillera de buey” $16 - Another exceptional, rich and generous dish. What you get is a wonderful piece of beef cheek, slow braised in a pedro ximenez sherry reduction and served on a celeriac mache with the intense sherry jus. This was so good. The meat was unbelievably tender and gelatinous, the jus sweet and sticky and the mache was a perfect accompaniment to the dish. Another “WOW” dish and great value. The waiter certainly did an excellent job ordering for me.


Dessert – “Ganache caliente con turron” $12.50 – An excellent way to finish the evening. What you get here is a nice sized rich, hot, chocolate pudding filled with a chocolate ganache centre finished with a drizzling of custard anglaise, sliced nougat pieces and a spoonful of house made vanilla bean ice-cream. An excellent dessert, and a great, richer way to end the meal. Many lighter dessert options are also available for those who are inclined that way.


To drink: Marquez Tempranillo ($16/ glass) – A lovely medium bodied Spanish red that goes well with the food and is easy to drink.

With dessert: Piedra Luenga ‘Organic’ Pedro Ximenez ($9/ glass) – An organic sherry that is not your typical style. Very sweet, light and mallow – goes well with the rich chocolate dessert.

Overall the dishes which I received were all of an exceptionally good standard, the ambience of the restaurant was nice, though perhaps a little fast paced and service was friendly and efficient, albeit unusual, being served by waiters directly from the bar. The value was also excellent: all up my meal was under $100 + a generous tip ($41 of this being for liquor).

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To the young lady and gentleman sitting next to me at the bar, if you are reading this please feel free to post your comments on MoVida and let my readers and I know of your favourite dishes.
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MoVida was awarded One Chefs Hat and received a score of 15.5 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide. If they continue to raise the bar and keep up the excellent standards I am confident that a second hat is not too far away.

My rating for MoVida is: 16.5/20
Excellent Food (8.5/10), Good atmosphere, informal comfortable feel (4/5), Very Good Service (4/5) – The waitstaff deserve bonus points for doing such a great job in choosing such a perfect and diverse spread of dishes for me. Excellent restaurant – Very highly recommended!

www.movida.com.au

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  posted at 2:01 AM  
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Ashscotts Restaurant (Berwick) 2
Last night my family and I had a lovely dinner at our local favourite, Ashscotts in Berwick. It was my shout as we were celebrating my dads’ birthday, and as always it was a great night. The waiters were exceptionally friendly and attentive and the food was great. In a break to our usual traditions (ordering schnitzels or parmas) we decide to try some different things. Most of the family instead opt for salads, except for my little brother who had a parmie, and my dad who ordered the calamari fritti – his favourite dish.

Here is a summary of our meals:

To start off with we order some wedges ($7) and garlic bread ($5) as usual (to share). The wedges are really good. Seemingly home made with a Cajun spice coating, topped with sour cream, sweet chilli and spring onion. Very tasty.


My dish: Lamb salad with walnuts ($22) – One of the best salads I have ever eaten – A huge bowl of garden salad (mixed lettuce, cucumber, tomato, red onion) finished with some lovely pieces of medium rare lamb fillet (so sweet and tender), crushed walnuts, julienne capsicum and the most amazing sweet, spicy Thai flavoured dressing. Not cheap for a salad but its huge and really is a generous meal in itself.


The calamari fritti ($19.90): Lovely fresh calamari rings fried in a light lemon pepper flavoured batter with shoestring fries, garden salad and an excellent tartare sauce. I have had this dish before and it is a great version of calamari.


Crispy chicken salad ($17.90): Another huge salad done much the same way as the lamb salad, but finished with crispy coated pieces of chicken breast, without the walnuts. We also ordered one version of this with grilled chicken.


My little brother had the chicken parma, which is a great version with a good red sauce, ham and generous coating of cheese. I have not photographed this as it has been reviewed in the past.

We skip dessert as we are very full and have a cake waiting at home for the birthday boy.

Ashscotts receives a score of 14/20. It is a great value local restaurant and I always enjoy returning for their fine bistro style meals and hospitality. Highly Recommended!
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I have recently returned to Ashscotts and must report that things have gone down hill. Food quality has dropped. Poor quality pre-crumbed schnitzels being used, less care in presentation and smaller portions. Service isn't as slick either. Now probably warrants about 11/20 making it pretty average.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Ling Wah (Hampton Park) 2
This evening myself, along with Robert and Kat again visited the wonderful Ling Wah Chinese restaurant in Hampton Park.

We decided tonight to dine on the "Banquet A" menu which again represented excellent value at $28 per head for a feast including: soup, entrees, three set main courses, fried rice and a choice of dessert plus tea and coffee. The good news is that we took a real camera with us as well so we can post some decent quality pictures of the food.

As I have mentioned in a previous entry the quality of service at Ling Wah is exceptionally good:- friendly, prompt and proffessional, with waiters appearing to have a genuine interest in their jobs, and the success of the restaurant in general. This is something which is often not apparent in many of todays establishments.


The food at Ling Wah though is ultimately the reason one returns: simple, well executed, delicious dishes which represent great value for money.

Here is a summary of the courses we enjoyed in tonights banquet:

Chicken and sweet corn soup: traditional Chinese starter. A good version, with chunks of fresh chicken in a thick, flavoursome broth.


Entrees: Chicken wings and homemade spring rolls with a sweet sauce: Both were very good:- the wings cooked perfeclty with a nice flavour throughout, as were the spring rolls which were accompanied perfectly by a light smothering of sauce. I particularly enjoyed these.


Mixed seafood and vegetables in birds nest: A wonderful dish which looked amazing and tasted great: You get a pretty basket made of julienne potato housing a combination of: fish, crab meat, prawns and scallops along with fresh seasonal vegetables in a clear sauce. A succesful dish.


Blackbean beef: An excellent version of a classic dish. The beef is so soft and tender and just melts in the mouth - the way good beef should be. Pictured is one divided portion.


Honey Chicken (we substitued lemon chicken for this, an extra $1 per head): This is probably Robert's favourite dish and he says it is the best honey chicken he has ever eaten. I am personally not such a fan of really sweet dishes, but this was excellent and I would have to agree with Robert - it is amazing for honey chicken. Perfectly crunchy, tender pieces of chicken finished with a good drizzling of warm honey, cashews and sesame seeds. A simple but really good dish.


The fried rice was also excellent again, as you can see in this photo.


Desserts: The offerings available here are all the classics, done very well. We go for fried ice-cream and banana fritters. The fried ice-cream is served beutifully with a little sugar cube on top served alight. Unfortunately this cannot be seen in the photos. Both were done fairly well, but nothing particularly exciting.



To finish we each order coffee or hot chocolate which is fairly good, and also recieve the usual offerings of small glasses of port and dinner mints. A lovely (complimentary) way to end an evening of good food.


Ling Wah is located on the corner of Hallam and Fordholm Roads, Hampton Park. The friendly staff have also advised us that restaurant will be re-decorated from 1st November, with a huge range of Christmas decorations going up, coming in directly from China. We are told that we can expect a range of decorations never before seen in this country - just another good reason to return soon!

Ling Wah receives an exceptional score of: 15/20. For a more detailed analysis please refer to my previous Ling Wah post.
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20/03/08 - I should mention that we have returned to Ling Wah at least 5 or 6 times since this review, including a special Chinese new Year banquet which was excellent. The food and service remain of a very high quality, though some dishes are clearly better than others.

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  posted at 11:55 PM  
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Super Parma Recipe
Last night I finally got to make the much awaited super parma for me and my mate Robert. We cooked 3 servings (1 for Kat to eat the next day) and I must say that they turned out very well. Only thing, I would probably use regular mozzerella next time. The added expense of the buffalo milk mozzerella didn't add that much to the meal, but it was good to try nonetheless.

INGREDIENTS - PARMA:
3 organic free range chicken breasts (one per serving - small to medium size is adequate)
1/2 cup of plain flour, 1/4 cup corn flour
2 fresh eggs
splash of milk/ cream
2 ciabata rolls
100g grana padano cheese (or regianno, but I find it a little strong for this dish)
Tablespoon of Vegeta "powdered gourmet stock"
3 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil
1 jar of Simon Johnson Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce
200g Shaw river buffalo milk mozzerella (regular mozzerella would be fine) ($50kg)

Rosemary & Garlic potatoes
1kg of baby potatoes, or a clean skinned variety
3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary
1 large head of garlic (I used a huge Argentian variety)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

All up using excellent quality ingredients, and not taking into account basics like olive oil, eggs etc. this will cost you about $50 for 3-4 serves, which is really not that bad, as this is will give you a good meal and is not exactly your typical pub parmie.

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METHOD: PARMA
Crumbs:
In a food processor/ blender add in your chopped up ciabatta rolls and pulse until fairly fine, but not a powder-like consistency like the shop crumbs. When done, add in a spoon of Vegeta (optional, but adds flavour) and about 100g of very finely grated grana padano - mix through well and the crumbs are ready:

Chicken:
Take each breast fillet and make sure you have completely removed all skin, fat and imperfections. Then beat out to a fairly thin large piece. I recommend doing this by covering the fillet with cling wrap and either gently beating it out with a mallet or rolling pin, or by rolling it out to the desired thickness. The cling wrap will ensure it does not fall apart, unless you go crazy at it.

You can then coat the chicken in flour - I opt to use a blend of 1/3 corn flour and 2/3 plain flour (just plain flour would be fine). Then dip into an egg wash (consisting of 2 well beaten eggs and a splash of milk), and finally coat generously with the wonderful crumbs.

You can now cook the schnitzels. Use a fry pan on medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook until they are golden brown like this:


Topping:
The Simon Johnson sauce is so good that you do not need to do anything to it. Simply heat and spoon over the schnitzels. It has such a wonderful, genuine tomato taste - just like a homemade sauce that I would spend half the day making, and is thus good value, even at $11.50 for a jar. This sauce would go great with fresh pasta or ravioli.


Now simply top with cheese and grill until the cheese is melted like this (or golden and bubbly if you are using regular mozzerella):

METHOD: POTATOES
These potatoes are so easy to make, and if cooked properly taste fantastic. To start wash your potatoes and cut away any imperfections. You can peel them if you really want to, but I think the clean skin adds a nice crunch. I then chop them into thick rounds and boil them slightly, until they are just very slightly soft - we don't want them falling apart and turning into mashed potatoes.

When done drain well and add into a baking dish with a good coating of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and stripped rosemary sprigs. Break apart a head of garlic into cloves as well (skin on) and mix through. Bake in a moderate to high oven for about an hour or until golden brown.


Too easy! Plate up and serve. Very tasty!!

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THE VERDICT: A very good parma. The chicken was so soft and tasted wonderfully fresh. The crumbs on the schnitzel were great - so crunchy and golden. Unfortunately though, when the parma sauce was added you lost most of the delightful crunchiness. It ruined my hard work on the crust, but the sauce did taste great. The buffalo milk mozzarella finished the parma nicely (for something different), but unless it is for a special occasion or to impress it is probably not worth the extra expense as you are looking at about $5 per serve just for the cheese.


I would also recommend serving a fresh garden salad with this. I would have liked a lemon oil dressed rocket, but Robert is not a big fan of this so we went without. I would also really recommend just trying the schnitzel with the homemade crumbs, and maybe a slice of lemon. It was really crunchy and you could taste the flavour of the grano padano so nicely without the parma topping.

I will definitely be making this again, but we will stick to the regular mozzerella.

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  posted at 4:32 PM  
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Monday, October 15, 2007
Skinny Dog Hotel (Kew)
Last night myself, and friends Robert & Kat visited the Skinny Dog Hotel in Kew. I had never been here before and was looking forward to it. Robert has been telling me about their huge chicken parma for quite a while, and I was finally going to get to taste it.

As you enter, you notice that the Skinny Dog seems to be divided into two areas – a more formal dining room (where we ate), and a casual lounge type dining room at the front of the establishment; either area would have been fine. The whole place is quite modern and funky and the area we dined in has a long bar along the back wall, an open fireplace, and a nice relaxed feel to the place, particularly for a bistro style eatery. It wasn’t too noisy either, possibly because it was a Sunday night.

The service at Skinny Dog was also friendly and efficient with drinks being brought over incredibly quickly and staff being polite and accommodating throughout the night.

When it came to ordering there wasn’t a lot to think about. We were here for one reason – “The famous Skinny Dog Chicken Parma”. It should be noted however that the menu had a number of other dishes, which also looked and sounded very good. We do however opt to begin with some Wedges ($8, to share) – for this you get a huge bowl along with sour cream and a homemade sweet chilli sauce which was very nice; and one bowl was more than enough for the three of us to share.


Shortly after, the much-awaited parma ($19.90) arrives. You get a huge parma (plate sized – definitely the biggest I have ever seen) sitting atop a good serving of “fat chips” and sided by a simple garden salad. For those who cannot manage such a serving, the parma is available, split between two, for $4 extra.


The parma tastes pretty good. It is real chicken (of a decent thickness), crumbed properly with a fairly thin layer of crumbing, and topped with a decent, but not excessive amount of red sauce and mozzarella cheese. As I mentioned the meat is fairly good (not organic, or anything over the norm), but the sauce is not really to my liking. It would appear that they use a cheap pre-made variety, which is a bit of a shame, but overall the parma still tasted pretty good. It should be noted though, that sauce is one of those personal preference things. Robert and Kat quite liked the sauce, so maybe I am just a bit too fussy, but I have to be honest. The chips were also pretty good, as was the salad.

After completing our parmas (a triumphant effort) we are offered dessert, and as good as some of the options sound there is no way we are going to fit in another mouthful of anything at this stage. As far as value for money is concerned you definitely get a good deal here – I challenge anyone to try and find a bigger parma.

I recommend the Skinny Dog Hotel for a good, casual dining experience and for the biggest parma you are ever likely to see.

I must also mention the food store across the road – Leo’s – an excellent shop with a huge range of gourmet food items (expensive) but definitely a place I could easily get lost in for hours and spend far too much money in – will definitely be going back here. As Robert said, I was like a kid in a candy store. This store is open until 10 P.M. daily.

My score for Skinny Dog: 12/20 - Recommended
Food: 6/10 – A good parma. The biggest I have eaten, and fairly good. (Bonus 1 point for generosity & consequent value).
Ambience: 3/5 – Modern, relaxed feel (heating was a little excessive)
Service: 3/5 – Friendly and efficient
Again it should be noted that this is not a fine dining restaurant and thus whilst the score seems only modest, the experience was good and I definitely recommend it.

www.skinnydoghotel.com.au

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***I also plan on making a super parma, when I get the chance, using organic chicken breasts, homemade bread crumbs, extra virgin olive oil, an Italian tomato and basil sauce from Simon Johnson and fresh mozzerella cheese. I will endeavour to post the results of this for all to see.***

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  posted at 9:02 AM  
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Thursday, October 11, 2007
Nobu Melbourne Restaurant (Southbank)
Last night I finally had the opportunity to eat at Nobu, an experience I have been looking forward to for quite some time. I arrived fairly late, just before 8:30 P.M. and the place was still a buzz with plenty of new guests arriving and settling in. Slight grumble: They have only been open two months and have already increased prices on some of the popular dishes.

I was very excited – a restaurant that looked and felt wonderful. Upon arrival, I did not have a booking as the staff on the phone had told me that since I was dining alone that I should just come in and wait for a seat at the sushi bar. I am immediately escorted to the lounge area upstairs and am told that someone would be with me in just a moment. This is where disappointment begins – I was wanting to eat downstairs, but if I had to eat here it was no big deal – the ambience was still great, albeit noisy, and the full menu would be available.

For some reason however I was totally neglected by all staff members. After about 25 minutes of watching numerous tables be seated, receive drinks, order and be escorted down stairs I had yet to even receive a menu or be acknowledged. Eventually I attracted the attention of a waiter and explained the situation. She basically said oh sorry I did not see you there – please – she must have walked past me 10 times and its not like they had a shortage of waiters – they were everywhere – dozens of them, and I gave them subtle looks to try and attract attention but nothing worked.

When finally attended to I asked if it was possible to eat downstairs and am told that it is heavily booked and that I would need to speak again with the reception staff at the entry. I am sure the waiter could have done this, as was seemingly being done for other guests, but I just got up and walked up to the front desk. I explained the whole situation and they were very apologetic. I asked if I could get a table downstairs – I am again told it is heavily booked but they will see what they can do – after a phone call – it is now nearing 9:00 P.M. – I am told that something has just cleared up. I walk down the stairs and am seated at the sushi bar, where to my surprise there are about six unoccupied positions. Things are good now, and in fairness other guests all seem to be getting prompt, friendly service – I may have just been an oversight.


After arriving downstairs I promptly receive menus and am offered a drink – I opt to begin with green tea – and after a quick explanation I am left to ponder the menu, being told that I can order any sushi or sashimi pieces directly from the bar, and other items from the a la carte menu through the waiter, who would be happy to explain anything to me. The service from hereon was good, and the seating arrangement I now had was a unique one – sitting directly in front of the numerous Japanese sushi chefs preparing guests' sushi and sashimi offerings for the evening. They were very friendly and did their job well – I am happy to be seated here with a great view of watching these men perform their art as well as a partial view into the kitchen proper where the hot dishes are being prepared. It felt right, but perhaps didn’t quite have the “wow factor” I may have expected. The service however, now that I had been seated, was very efficient, perhaps too efficient. Turn over was very quick and new dishes were being presented whilst I was still eating the last. The food that I received was all of an excellent standard. Many dishes represented good value for money, others barely so.

To start with I am presented with a complimentary bowl of Edamame (soy bean pods). These are warm, slightly salted and (surprisingly), quite delicious.

I soon proceed to order and choose a number of the signature dishes, based on recommendations and reviews I have read about the restaurant. In many respects the menu appears to be well priced, but it is somewhat deceiving as you will need a number of courses to fill you up, which can become quite expensive. Good for sharing. Here is a summary of my seemingly big meal, just enough really – six courses.

Scallop Tiradito ($13) – At first sight this is good value but you don’t get a lot here. Six slices (maybe 2 scallops) of very thin sliced scallop sitting atop some thin slices of cucumber topped with a baby coriander (cilantro) leaf and a tiny dot of rocoto – a South American chilli paste. The dish is finished with a bathing of acidity coming from a powerful citrus/ yuzu dressing. Overall this was a very successful dish, with a broad range of flavours.


New style salmon sashimi ($10) – This is a dish where you really do get good value. You receive a plate containing about 9 slices of salmon sashimi, topped with some chives, a deep fried cherry tomato and some sesame seeds, dressed with a warm mix of sesame and olive oils and finished with a light soy based dressing. Another successful dish.


Fillet of beef tataki ($18) – Once again this is a very impressive dish with great flavour. Here you get a moorish dish: 10 slices of rare beef fillet doused in a dark acidic dressing and topped with some finely diced ponzu and onion finished with crunchy garlic chips. It was an excellent combination of flavours and good value for money. I would have perhaps preferred just a little less dressing as it is a strong flavour and in some ways takes the focus off the sweetness of the meat – common in most of the dressed dishes here: the dressing is vitally important but dishes need not be drowned in it.


Black Cod with Miso ($35) – It is very rare that you will get a chance to try cod on an Australian menu, so there is almost no excuse not to try this “signature” dish. It is not cheap but definitely worth trying. The fillet of fish has been marinated in a miso paste and sake based marinade for 2-3 days and is roasted quickly before serving. The texture of the fish is akin to no other – it has a flaky like consistency, which easily falls apart into chunks. Even the skin is delightful – soft, gelatinous and full of subtle flavour. This was an excellent course, perfectly cooked, and presented simply with a wedge of lemon, some dots of miso sauce in the corners of the plate and a stick of hajikami (pickled ginger shoot) to be sucked on at the end to refresh the palette. It is also a decent serving size: not large, but not too small, in keeping with the ideas of trying many different dishes throughout the evening. It would perhaps have been nice if a small dish of rice was offered with this course.


Corn Kaki Age Tempura ($6) – Good value and fairly generous. A mix of fresh corn kernels and some other vegetable shards, in a crunchy tempura batter. This was served with an interesting warm miso based dipping sauce. A decent dish, but nothing above the norm. Fresh ingredients, but I don’t think the oil it was cooked in was completely fresh as the tempura was masked by some seemingly inconsistent flavours.


That brings me to the end of my savoury courses and I opt to order dessert. I go for the popular chocolate bento box ($16). What you are presented with is a nice little box containing the light chocolate fondant sided by a scoop of green tea ice cream. It was a very tasty pudding, not overly rich, and oozing with warm chocolate when broken into. Paradoxically this is not particularly creative though and is poor value at $16. You can get some of Melbourne’s best desserts for this sought of price, and whilst it tasted good, the cost was not merited. And yes, the presentation box is dirty inside, so marks off for presentation as well.


Whilst I am a dessert fan, based on what I have seen here and read, you are probably better off skipping dessert and indulging in an extra savoury course instead. I knew I should have ordered one of those sushi rolls. Definitely next time.

Overall Nobu was a good experience. I cannot rate service very highly, after the bad start and overly fast pacing – six courses over in well under 90 minutes. Also as I was leaving I actually said goodbye to the girl at the reception desk, rather than the other way around, who just looked over – she appeared to be more interested in the computer screen, browsing through eBay auctions (honestly). Not acceptable. But the food was good, and the atmosphere nice. I will return in the future – I just hope to receive more consistent service, which most other diners did seem to get.

Cost/ Value: About $100 just for food, and that was being selective, and skipping some desired items like the crispy oysters at $9.50 each. Not too bad, but that being said I can also easily get three courses and a side dish at one of Melbourne’s best restaurants for near or less than this amount, and leave just as full and possibly more satisfied. The wine list is also marked up very heavily.

Whilst the food quality is of a different level, I left just as satisfied from Ling Wah a couple of nights earlier, and the bill for the table of five was similar to my solo bill here. Only the service at Nobu was not nearly as good.

My Score: 13.5/20
Consistently very good, creative food 7.5/10
Messy service (good when I got it) 2.5/5
Nice ambience and surroundings 3.5/5 (0.5 point deduction for the use of disposable break-apart chopsticks – Why?).

This could have easily been a 15+/20 experience if not for the service mishaps and pacing. Recommended.

www.noburestaurants.com/melbourne/index.html

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  posted at 2:11 PM  
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