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
Bistro Vue has been trading for some twelve months, but until now I have always managed to neglect it, in favour of its big brother. The Bistro however proves itself to be a fantastic alternative, at a price that makes it much more accessible than Vue de monde, not to mention the fact that getting a booking is a lot more achievable as well. Service at this establishment remains exceptionally strong, and the restaurant has a great feel to it with a focus on old French bistro styling including raw wooden tables, red velvet covered chairs and banquettes, antique cutlery, floral plates and shabby-chic elements coming through in the restaurants’ decor and use of crockery, such as the mismatched tea cups and saucers. There has been a lot of attention to detail in the planning here, and everything appears to have been done in very good taste. Informal, yet elegant at the same time.
The menu also reads quite simply and is written in the old French style with hors d’oeuvres as entrees and entrees as mains, consequently broken up into poissons (fish) and viandes (meat). There is not a lot of room here for vegetarians though, with a largely meat inspired menu. The wine list is included in the same document as the menu, and is a concise, but well chosen list of three pages comprising exclusively of Australian and French options, with a limited by-the-glass selection. I choose to start with a glass of Lilet Blanc ($7) – a French regional wine-based aperitif, which is unfortunately not easily accessible, with limited restaurants offering it. I consequently order: the terrine as my starter and a steak for my main.
After ordering, bread is brought over to the table, in a cloth bag and hung on a hook at the side of the table. How interesting! Inside the bag is a crusty baguette. House-baked of course. Excellent French packaged butter also sits at the table.
Hors D’oeuvre: “Chicken & foie gras terrine” $22 – This is not your typical terrine offering, but rather the sort of thing that one would expect to be served at Vue de Monde. Presented on a wooden board is a lovely rich offering, made up of five layers. My waiter drops off the dish and tells me to try each layer, proclaiming that he will return shortly to test me on them :). My performance was rather average. From the top the layers are: pistachio cream, followed by chicken, jamon, foie gras and ultimately confit carrot. The layers have been heavily pressed though so the flavours have blended somewhat. That’s my excuse for not guessing two of them correctly anyway. The terrine is served along with some toasted croutons, and the five flavours work together to create a wonderful taste experience. A very enjoyable, and pretty, way to start the meal.
Entrée: “Chargrilled 250gm grain fed Wagyu rump cap” $34 – This is one of the two steaks on offer, the other being a fillet of grass fed beef. On the plate you are presented with a thick piece of steak cooked to your liking. I order it medium rare and the steak arrives perfectly rested and pink throughout. It is so often the case that steaks are overcooked, or not rested. This one had neither problem and was perfect. Accompaniments include your choice of sauce: pepper, diane or béarnaise, a plump roasted garlic head, a few salad leaves and a cone of wonderful pommes frites, cooked in goose fat. These chips bare no resemblance to the frozen things, which probably come with the steak at your local. My choice of sauce, the béarnaise was also excellent, so much so that I smeared a little of the residual on a slice of bread. Overall it is a rather substantial meal, which represents great value for money for the quality on offer. It was nearly as good as the amazing steaks at Rockpool, which are close to double the price.
To drink: 2004 Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage Cuvee Gaby (Rhone Valley) - $19.50/glass. An excellent French wine to go with an excellent French meal.
Dessert: “Soufflé au chocolat” ($12): This is a dessert that certainly attracted a lot of attention. The smell that drifted across the restaurant was amazing and there were guests swooning all over the place. After a 20 minute wait, the time taken to prepare the dessert, the masterpiece arrives. On a board sits the chocolate soufflé in a cast iron pot. In a separate dish sits a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and in a jug to the side is the wonderful chocolate sauce. As the dessert is placed in front of you the waiter creates a hole in the middle of the soufflé and pours in the chocolate sauce. The traditional idea of a soufflé being more of a pudding is embraced here, and the end result certainly does not disappoint. This is one of the lightest and most indulgent soufflés I have eaten, and at $12 it certainly beats most other desserts around the city on taste, value and ultimate satisfaction. A lot of people in the restaurant were ordering this, and many of those who had not couldn’t help but glance over with big eyes and comment on how wonderful the dessert looked and smelled, trying to convince their partners that they should order one (next time).
The coffee of choice is Illy – only the best of course, and some lovely petit fours are presented for one’s enjoyment.
Overall Bistro Vue was a very satisfying dining experience. The food really was excellent. Service was exceptional from the moment I arrived to the moment I left. I was even presented with a complimentary box of hand-made Vue chocolates, which I would have thought were reserved for Vue de monde guests. Upon leaving they also had my coat ready for me, and the doors opened as I was departing. That is real hospitality. I will have to make sure I return very soon, especially seeing that the menu will be changing this week with a number of new creations to be expected, including a modern take on duck a l’orange.
For those seeking a bargain Bistro Vue also offers a plat du jour (main course, salad and a glass of wine) for only $32. A great deal!
In its early days Bistro Vue was criticised to some extent in the media as simply being another way of Shannon Bennett cashing in on the suceess of the Vue de monde name. This is certainly not the case now and the restaurant is a fantastic success in its own right.
Bistro Vue received a score of 14 out of 20 in the 2008 Good Food Guide.
My score: 17/20 - Food 8.25/10 Service 4.75/5 Ambience 4/5
An excellent restaurant for all occasions. Highly Recommended.
For dinner I wanted to try something new. Choosing a new restaurant is always a hard decision, especially when you are searching for something last minute. It is often the case that when you finally make a decision the restaurant is "fully booked". This was nearly the case for me, but luckily I managed to snag a prime-time booking at Tutto Bene, recommended along with others by Vida, and a place that I have wanted to try for a while now, but have always put it off. For the record the restaurant was full after I arrived, hence I really was lucky to get the booking.
Tutto Bene is described as a risotteria. Most people come here for one thing - risotto, and not just any old risotto, but the best risotto, created by master risotto chef Simon Humble, who has trained extensively in the art of risotto in Italy. I must confess that I am somewhat obsessed with risotto and cook it every week, often for my colleagues at work, some of whom tell me it is the best risotto they have eaten. So I do consider myself somewhat of an expert on the dish, and must say that unlike the stuff served at many other establishments the risotto at Tutto Bene is the real deal and compares favourably to any others that I have tried before.
With a selection of 15 on offer choosing just one risotto is a difficult task. So difficult that I opt to order two. One as an entrée, and the other as a main. That’s fair enough isn’t it? Before I go on to review the signature offerings though, I will give you a bit of commentary on the restaurant.
Tutto Bene is located on the mid level of the Southgate complex, just opposite Flinders Street Station, beautifully overlooking the restaurant. It is a fair sized establishment seating about 40 diners inside, plus more on the outdoor deck. I am seated inside along the window. The views should be fantastic, but are somewhat obscured as a result of the dirty blinds that are pulled down. The restaurant has a real buzz to the place though and is jovial, albeit rather noisy, in a good way. It has a traditional feel with unclothed wooden tables and chairs, and a genuine rustic charm to the place.
After a few moments bread arrives along with the signature Tutto Bene olive oil, which is so good that I almost bought a bottle. I had to resist though, as I already have some great oils at home.
To start with I am offered some olives ($5.50). These are an excellent way to begin the meal here. Tagglasche olives served warm, mixed through with rosemary and roasted almonds. There is enough in one dish for the table, and they are so tasty that you will continue to munch on them until the food arrives.
After a short wait the first risotto course arrives. It should be noted that Tutto Bene does serve many other dishes, which sound and look fantastic but it is largely the risotto that the punters are attracted to, myself included. To start with I have one of the chef's specialties.
"Al Presidente - a unique combination of 2 year old parmigiano and balsamic vinegar, produced from a 1912 mother must, created by our chef for the Italian President visiting Australia" ($19):
This is an excellent combination and not the sort of thing you are going to try everyday. Surprisingly the parmigiano is not at all overpowering, but rather mild and stringy with a slight richness to it. The rice is, as expected, cooked perfectly. The dish is finished with a swirl of balsamic reduction, which adds an extra dimension to the plate and provides a suggestion of sweetness and fullness to an already good dish. Unfortunately the serving plates were not wiped properly before serving, a little slack on the kitchens part. The texture and preparation of the risotto itself is perfect though.
To drink: Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay
Second Risotto: “Anatra, funghi e salvia – braised duck, porcini mushroom and sage” ($21):
This is more like the kind of risotto that I cook, and it was really good. A creamy, smooth risotto, with a nice, pungent flavour. The aroma of the porcini mushroom was very appealing, as was that of the sage, which was perfectly infused into the sauce. The plate is finished with a drizzling of olive oil and is served steaming hot, unlike the former, which was merely warm. Excellent, classic style risotto cooked perfectly.
To drink: Darling Park Pinot Noir
Shortly after finishing this dish the dessert menu is presented. I am rather contempt already, but have heard many good things about the house made gelato and decide that I must try it. The menu lists a selection (three scoops) for $13.50. I ask for a reduced serving ($4.50/ scoop), and the waiter happily obliges presenting a lovely scoop of limoncello, which is sweet and tart at the same time, with a perfect gelato texture. After a good espresso it is a refreshing way to end the meal.
Tutto Bene is a pleasant, informal style restaurant with friendly service, a nice atmosphere and very good food. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a really good bowl of risotto at a reasonable price. Some may like to know that water is priced at the upper end of the scale at $9.50 for a 750ml bottle, but tap is always an option.
Tutto Bene received a score of 14 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide.
My Score: 14.5/20 - A really enjoyable dining experience.
Food 7/10 (Very good) Service 4/5 (Friendly, efficient) Ambience 3.5/5 (Relaxed, traditional)
And guess what, tomorrow is lazy Wednesday so the adventures must continue. I’m thinking a leisurely lunch in the city would be a perfect way to enjoy the afternoon. Where? I guess I will decide tommorow!
The Brasserie is located along the Yarra River in Southbank and is part of the Crown entertainment complex. Don’t let that put you off though. Crown is becoming Melbourne’s premier dining precinct, and this restaurant is one of the best in that precinct. The Brasserie is a modern French restaurant, headed by famous chef Philippe Mouchel, who has trained and worked at many famous restaurants across the world with notable examples in France, Hong Kong and Australia. His resume includes names such as the Michelin starred Hotel Frantel in Bordeaux and restaurant Roger Verge in Mougins. He has also opened restaurants for the legendary Paul Bocuse across the globe, as well as opening Restaurant Paul Bocuse in Melbourne and working at a number of famous restaurants across the nation before settling at Crown in 2004. The Brasserie is a slightly less formal establishment and ultimately aims to serve a diverse range of simplified, perfectly cooked dishes, which will satisfy even the most discerning of diners.
The restaurant looks great as well. A modern fit out with the dining room split into two lower floor sections, as well as an outside terrace, and a mezzanine level, used primarily for private functions. Tables are draped in thick white linen and the cutlery, glassware and serving ware are all of a very high quality, as you would expect from such an establishment. The views from the restaurant are great as well. Looking directly onto the Yarra, and during the evening you get the added spectacle of the hourly flame shows put on by Crown.
The meal starts with good bread, Jindi olive oil and a house made dukkah. Soon after your selections arrive. The menu is diverse and divided into sections: Entrees, plats de résistance, piece de boeuf, poisons, garnitures etc. Dishes are written in English and also have a French translation, which is nice to see. On this occasion I order a couple of dishes, which I know will be good. I start with the salmon gravlax as and entrée and decide on the duck as a main.
Tasmanian cured salmon, spelt blini, crème fraîche and condiments ($19.00)
Gravlax de saumon de Tasmanie, blini d'épeautre, crème fraîche et condiments:
This is an excellent starter and the presentation of the dish is immaculate. Covering the plate is the thinly sliced cured salmon. It has a really fresh taste to it and just a hint of saltiness. The salmon is then drizzled with a house-made parsley infused oil, which I am told is made with truffle oil and infused parsley to create a wonderful aromatic dressing for the fish. Rimming the salmon is a wonderful combination of flavours including diced egg, capers, shallots, parsley and dill and in the middle of the plate is a quenelle of thick crème fraîche, which adds an extra dimension to the dish, and a soft blini, which has the texture of a fluffy omelette. A sensational starter. Quite generous and very satisfying. I could eat this every day.
Wine Pairing: 2007 Carlei Green Vineyards Pinot Gris ($12) - A sensational white that matched with this dish perfectly.
Duet of roasted duck breast and braised leg, figs, spiced jus ($38.50)
Salmis de canard en bigarade jus aux épices:
Another stunningly presented plate of food. On one side of the plate is the sliced duck breast and on the other is a round of slowly braised leg meat. The accompaniments include slow roasted fig, and onion compote. The dish is then finished with a sweet jus and the dish is topped with some crispy potato chips. The duck breast is cooked perfectly. It is slightly pink on the inside, with perfectly rendered crispy skin on the outside. It saddened me to see a nearby diner cutting away and discarding all the skin from their duck – what a waste of amazing flavour :(. The leg meat was also well cooked and seasoned, and the fig served as a nice accompaniment. This was again an excellent dish that I really enjoyed.
Wine Pairing: 2005 Louis Jadot Pinot Noir, Burgundy ($16.50) - Any excuse for a French red will do. This one was fairly good.
Side dish: Potato and leek gratin ($6.50)
Gratin de pomme de terre et poireaux:
Simple, creamy and well made. Soft potato discs and leek with a cheesy top. It is not as good as the gratin at Rockpool, but is acceptable enough for me to finish most of it :).
After a short break I decide that I should order dessert and being the chocolate fan that I am there is a dish that immediately stands out.
Kennedy & Wilson chocolate degustation – chocolate fondant, spicy ganache, ice cream ($17.00)
Assiette de chocolat tart, ganache épicée, crème glace:
This dish was chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate – literally. The dessert comprised of three different chocolate items: a rich chocolate tart, with a perfect short crust, topped with gold leaf. A chocolate ganache sauce spiked with what seemed to be cinnamon and clove; and a creamy, rich chocolate ice cream that was unfortunately quite melted by the time it reached the table. This was good, but possibly a chocolate overload. What am I talking about – there’s no such thing as too much chocolate. Is there?
The Brasserie is a great overall dining experience with excellent service, well prepared food and a nice modern fit out. They also have a fantastic lunch special, as does neighbouring restaurant, Number 8, another favourite of mine. At lunchtime you can choose any two courses plus a side dish for only $37.90, or three courses for $43.90, about half what you will pay to eat here at dinner. The fantastic thing about this special is that you can choose just about anything from the menu, except for a few premium items such as lobster or Wagyu so what are you waiting for? Head on up to Southbank and enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of Melbourne’s best French restaurants at a price that will make you want to come back.
(I believe they have just this week raised the lunch price to $42.90 - 2 courses, $48.90 - 3 courses, which is still good value.)
The Brasserie receives a score of 15 out of 20 and was awarded one chefs hat in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide.
My score: 16.5/20 - Food: 8.5/10 Service: 4/5 Ambience: 4/5
Happy eating, Jon!
Vegout is located just opposite Luna Park and is a communal garden patch with a fantastic covered area up the back including a large wood fired oven, barbecue, tables and kitchen area. A perfect spot to meet up, cook and relax for a few hours. It was a great opportunity for myself to put faces to names, and also meet a few new bloggers and learn about culinary sites I have yet to explore.
Anyhow this is just a quick entry, with photos of some of the food that was prepared for the night. Thanks to Ed for arranging the gathering and to everyone who attended for their excellent food and company. It was an enjoyable experience on all accounts. If I had to award a dish of the night it would go to Stickyfingers. Her roasted barramundi was incredibly tender and sensational, as was the perfect porcini risotto and those wonderful roasted tomatoes that accompanied it. My chocolate truffles weren’t too bad either.
It was a great evening overall and it was delightful to see how friendly and down to earth everyone was. Can't wait until the next gathering.
Here are a some photos of the food. For more photos see the album that has been created on Flickr:
Above: The woodfire oven @ Vegout
Above: Delicious selection of bread and dips.
Above: Delightful little parcels of haloumi cheese and roasted capsicum baked in the woodfired oven (by Vida).
Above: Amazing spicy barbecue prawns (by Neil - At My Table).
Above: Perfectly grilled vegies:- including pumpkin, asparagus, eggplant and capsicum.
Above: "Mac & Cheese" - with mushrooms - creative and delicious (by Cindy - where's the beef), who also made some lovely little cashew-ginger chocolate drops which I didn't get a picture of.
Above: One of the many pizzas from the woodfired oven.
Above: My humble little offering of pork dumplings/ wontons and some chevapi bites.
Above: The amazing Barramundi by Stickyfingers, sitting on top of a bed of porcini risotto, surrounded by perfectly roasted tomatoes all cooked in the woodfired oven.
Above: Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and finished with goats cheese, and vine ripened tomatoes stuffed with a green olive, garlic and roast capsicum pesto (by goddess). Yum!!
Above: Fresh garden salad.
Above: Strawberries, with a cream and balsamic glaze by Goddess.
Above: A lovely, moist chocolate cake made by Vida.
Above: My Chocolate ganache truffles, dusted in cocoa.
Happy eating all.
Labels: Foodie Events
Getting straight to the point here I must proclaim that Fenix is simply incredible. The food, the location, the views, the ambience, the impeccable service, the Riedel stemware, the Villery and Boch cutlery, the stylish servingware and the general commitment to excellence make this restaurant close to perfect in every possible way. Watch out Vue de monde, you may have some real competition here. Fenix seems to be continually evolving and I have a feeling the best may yet to have arrived.
From the outside Fenix is an architectural delight. A stunning, raised building overlooking gardens and the Yarra river. On the inside it is comfortable, modern and stylish after recently undergoing an expensive facelift, that make this one of Melbourne’s most comfortable dining rooms, with large, well spaced tables and uber comfy lounges as seating. It is not just about style here, but absolute comfort, and taking the extra little measures in ensuring guests feel special for the couple of hours they are likely to spend here.
From the moment you step foot into Fenix you are in another world. You are escorted to your table, coats taken, drinks and the menu are offered and a little discussion about the menu concepts begins. Your waiter will explain the preparation of the dishes to you and make you feel completely comfortable before the food arrives. Genuine, professional service with the extra refinement that most of its peers lack.
A customary beginning of bread is as good as anywhere else in Melbourne. Freshly baked ciabatta or multigrain slices, hot from the oven, crunchy outside and soft inside. Really good bread.
Amuse: It is incredible how the meal begins here at Fenix. In front of you the waiters walk out with a bowl full of dry ice and a cylinder containing a sweet, refreshing fruit/ citrus mousse. A small amount is sprayed into the bowl of dry ice and worked with by the waiters who meld it into a round shape. The dry ice helps to work as a setting agent and leads to the creation of this delightful little marshmallow. A wonderful way to activate the palette and get you ready for an amazing meal to follow.
First Course: "Spring/Summer - Cucumber, Yoghurt Mozzerella"
This was a simple, fantastic way to begin the meal. Three large pieces of mozzerella, house made with natural yoghurt sit atop a cucumber gazpacho sauce with some finely diced pieces of cucumber and an assortment of delicate herbs. This is a wonderful range of flavours with a delightful lightness to the dish. The mozzerella is ever so creamy and the cucumber sauce and herbs provide a refreshing backdrop to the centre of the dish. The wine pairing for this dish was a crisp Riesling which went very well, as did my aperitif, Gin and Tonic, surprisingly. The cucumber in the dish matched well with the aromatics of the gin and the fizziness of the tonic water. Who would have thought.
Wine pairing: Riesling - Crisp, citrus, refreshing. Pairs well.
Second Course: "Pork Belly - Coconut noodles, fish coral, laksa"
Another sublime dish. There was so much happening on the plate, but all in good balance. The star of the show is a piece of slow roasted pork belly. Incredibly tender and gelatinous with a perfectly crisp crackling. This sits opposite a mound of 'coconut noodles' - silky white strands of white, coconut scented "noodle" topped with a range of fresh herbs, alongside a sweet, tomato jelly. To finish the plate are three rounds of mousse, atop of which sit some crunchy sea coral pieces. I am told that this is made with some sort of seafood puree which is shaped and fried. The attention to detail in such a dish is impeccable.
Wine pairing: Chardonnay - Great with this dish. Light woodyness without too much sweetness - good choice with the soft pork.
Pallete cleanser: "Lime Pith"
A nice refreshing break after such an incredible dish. This is a simple salad of moist lettuce leaves and shaved radish, sitting atop some warm broad beans and finished with a light drizzling of lime, olive oil and what appear to be some nasturium flowers.
Third course: "Blue eye - Chorizo, re-hydrated potato, citrus pith"
Another sensational dish. On one side of the plate sits a fillet of perfectly cooked fish - completely moist with a nice crispy skin and a slightly sweet jus. On the other side are the elements that make this dish so creative. There are two re-hydrated potatoes: perfectly textured potato spheres that are solid, but as soft as mashed potato, only much more intriguing. Also on the plate is a chorizo sausage dust, a petite grapefruit jelly and a sweet date paste. All these elements work well with the fish and ensure that your palette remains excited throughout the whole course. The plate is finished with some fresh Summer herbs and the interesting elements just work together so well to create an amazing and memorable dish.
Wine pairing: Pinot noir - light and mellow, without overpowering. Good match.
Fourth Course: "Lamb Rump"
The best dish of the night, and with the competition on offer that is not a light statement to make. Sitting on the plate is a perfectly cooked tender piece of lamb, but this barely the beginning of the dish. The lamb sits on top of a mouselline and is sided by some fantastic morsels. Crispy fried sweet breads that are simply yum, some perfect roasted potato wedges, sauteed spring onions, a crumbly black sand for colour and texture finished with a light jus. I just closed my eyes, gazing as I was eating this, being transported to another world. An absolute triumph!!
Wine Pairing: 2001 Shiraz - Smooth, soft tannins that made it easy to drink without being overwhelming. Worked well with the lamb.
Dessert: "Violet Crumble - Chocolate, honeycomb, almond, bubbles"
Here's an interesting dessert if you ever did see one. Fenix' interpretation of the classic violet crumble. Underneath the collection of toffee bubbles sits a creamy slice of chocolate mousse sitting in a sweet, sherry sauce. A very sweet dessert that suits a sweet tooth like myself perfectly. The wine matching with this dish proved to be a little bit of an overload. On its own the sherry was fantatstic but with dessert I think there was just too much sweetness, with the flavours in the sweet sherry sauce and the Pedro Ximenez being so profoundly similar.
Wine pairing: Pedro Ximenez Sherry
Petit Fours: An excellent selection that I have only seen rivalled by Vue de monde and Rockpool (Sydney). The plate contains some pineapple popsicles, a raspberry jelly, salt and vinegar chocolate sticks and a delightful caramel filled, chocolate truffle. Along with a really good Espresso they are the perfect way to end a fine meal.
To top things off I enjoyed this meal at a bargain price. Normally a very fair $100 for 5 courses or $145 with matching wines (other options available), I scored the latter option for just $85. Understanding that fine dining can be too expensive for everyone to enjoy, Raymond Capaldi and the team at Fenix are offering blog readers the 5 course chefs' menu with wines for only $85. Simply mention the "blog offer" and dine between Monday to Thursday throughout November to take advantage of this special. Thanks to Esurientes for posting about this.
Fenix received a score of 15.5 out of 20 and was awarded one chefs hat in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide. A classic case of the Age writers not fully appreciating the amazing talent of the chefs and wait staff here, all of whom are professionals of the highest calibre in their fields.
My score: 18/20 - Near perfect in all accounts.
Food: 9/10 - Creative, interesting, sublime! Raymond Capaldi and Stuart McVeigh's delvings into molecular gastronomy have paid off big time.
Service: 4.5/5 - Polite, professional, informed and not at all pretentious. Near perfect.
Ambience: 4.5/5 - Soft music, comfortable setting, great views inside and out.
Special thanks to Christian for a wonderful evening and for your brilliant service and approach.
Unfortunately, Fenix has recently closed its restaurant to concentrate on its events and conferncing business (ie. not enough punters). A sad loss to the Melbourne dining scene. I hope that they will re-open some time in the near future.
Upon entering the appearance of Laksa Me is one of a partially renovated warehouse space with concrete floors, an open ceiling and a fresh, funky feel to the place. It does appear to be unfinished though - money may well have been an issue. But at the prices they are charging one need not worry too much about such things. Luxury is not what the restaurant is trying to achieve here. Rather their ambitions seem to be to provide good quality, authentic cuisine at prices that will keep the punters regularly coming back for more.
The whole place has an informal feel to it. Waiters do not wear uniforms, but are attired in jeans and casual tops. Tables are not dressed. You don't get napkins and the menu is a laminated A3 sheet, with a small drinks list including a number of beers on the back. It should be noted that I am not offered a wine list, and do not ask as I have previously read that they do not sell wine and that BYO ($10 corkage) is the only wine option. This is not true. Toward the conclusion of my meal some gentleman at a nearby table request and are offered a wine list, containing a small number of selections available by the glass or the bottle. If only I had known this earlier. Never mind - The excellent Jasmine tea and mineral water were sufficient.
So that’s my introduction, but it is the food that you come here for and taking value for money into consideration it would be difficult to be disappointed with the offerings. I opt to order a starter (available by the piece), entree, main and dessert. This by the way is far too much food. I left behind half my main and dessert. I loved the dishes but portion size was over the top, and that says a lot coming from a big eater like myself.
To start with I order the Grilled Thai Sausage ($3.50), described as "a Northern Thai origin with a hint of Spanish twists". What you receive is a beautiful little parcel containing minced pork and jasmine rice, accentuated by the addition of garlic and a tiny hint of chilli, wrapped up in a cornhusk, grilled, and presented like a sausage. The little parcel is finished with finely diced cucumber pieces, crushed peanuts and a tangy plum sauce. The dish has all of the elements of South East Asian cuisine, all perfectly balanced to provide a sensation that truly appeases the palette. An excellent way to start the meal.
Next up comes the entree of Grilled Calamari, Jellyfish and Cucumber noodles ($8): This is an excellent and very generous starter. I cannot believe they can serve a dish like this for just $8. For this princely sum you are presented with a large bowl full of thin cucumber strips (the noodles), strips of fresh calamari, and some small slivers of raw jellyfish all finished with coriander, shallots, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds, a hint of chilli and a light dressing which combined all of the Thai elements: sweet, sour, salty and hot in one. On their own each ingredient in this dish tastes very good, but eaten together the ingredients and flavours meld to create an exceptional dish and a true taste sensation. WOW!
For the main course it was a tough decision whether to order a noodle/ laksa dish or a main meal. I ultimately decide to go for the laksa. It is, after all, what the establishment is named after, and is their signature dish. It should also be noted that mainstream reviewers tend to neglect the laksa offerings so I decided that I should definitely try one. There are three different laksa dishes on offer as well as a number of other noodle courses. I go for the Laksa Lemak ($10), a seafood based laksa with fine rice vermicelli noodles and an assortment of items including: fish dumplings, a prawn, half a hard boiled egg, fried tofu puffs, shredded cucumber, and coriander in a fragrant, creamy laksa stock. It is really quite good and the balance of flavours is just right. This is not sweet or adjusted to suit Western tastes but is the real deal laksa. A huge bowl full of delicious broth, noodles and seafood. It has just the right balance of chilli as well. Hot enough to give the dish a great level of power and flavour (not for the chilli shy), but not so hot as to leave your mouth burning for an hour afterwards. I really liked this, though I would probably recommend trying the "My Mum's laksa" which has thicker noodles and a greater combination of ingredients.
The other mains also look great with offerings such as: Pork Ribs, Red Duck Curry and Three Flavour Fish (average main: $22) as well as classical offerings such as Phad Thai or Curry Noodles.
For dessert I ask the waiter to choose me a great dessert. He says he will bring me something the chef really likes. Dessert time comes and a bowl is placed in front of me along with, "here you go". Asking for a description of the dish I am told its black sticky rice pudding with a coconut cream sauce. The orange pieces on top - "I dont know what that is today, pumpkin maybe". Interesting, I think it was, definitely was not papaya tonight as Mr Lethlean and others' reviews proclaim. The dessert is fairly good: sweet, creamy and moorish. One bowl of this is probably enough for two to share. Desserts are $8.
Laksa Me received a score of 13.5 out of 20 in the 2008 Age good Food Guide.
My Score: 13/20 - Definitely worth a visit for the great food & excellent value for money.
Really good, creative food with some standout dishes 7/10
Service is friendly enough, but needs refinement 3/5
Ambience- informal but nice with soft background music and comfortable seating 3/5
After dinner it was off to the Regent Theatre to see Priscilla - a great show - Amazing costumes and music, and a lot of good humour. I definitely recommend seeing it if you get the chance.