Saturday, August 27, 2011

Birdman Eating Café - (Melbourne)

  Gertrude Street and nearby Smith Street has evolved during the last 1 or 2 years I’ve been absent from town.  There’s always been in existence a pretty decent French Creperie,  an institutional Spanish tapas joint Anada, and a so-called Artisanal pizza place Ladro plus a few more of the Enoteca wine bars on this stretch.    But a sudden influx of new restaurants invading the suburb or did they recruit a spinmeister to pull off these tricks has definitely reshaped the whole vibe surrounding this once seclusive environment.  You’ll still manage to spot a few druggy junkies zigzag-walking into your path and murmuring with their frothing mouth in broad daylight,  and there’s been a growing gang of aborigines watching over your every movement like human satellites!   And today we followed a weirdo Anglo-Saxon Melburnian fully adorned with a silvery blinging cape role-playing his Mr Chancellor act from an episode of Star Treks when they’re about to visit the Planet of the Apes!   Now, there’s some crazy shxx happening around this corner!  And perhaps crazy people,  equally need stimulatingly crazy food…   There’s Cutler & Co at the front of the street,   a pretty decent Veggan Mex Trippy Taco, Café RosamondMonsieur TruffleGigibaba, HuxtableJosie Bones, a couple of Japanese izakaya’s, De Clieu Cafe and Proud Mary, plus the odd Peking Duck or Thai restaurant thrown into the mix.    


Meet my doggie friend – Hunter
He’s a Welsh Terrier.   We want to feed him some crazily decent food today!


Birdman Eating -
What is birdman? 
Like Japan’s Yattaman?


Birdman Eating,  Specialises in Eggs -
They serve Baked Eggs in a variety of forms,  and occasionally you’ll notice they offer W.A. Black Truffle to go with some of their scrambled eggs dishes.   All at a premium price, of course..


Hepburn Spring Sparkling Mineral Water -
This is actually of very high quality.  With the subtlest of bubbles and a good minerality to it,
it was almost like a ‘mousse’  ~  9/10



Zucchini & Feta Fritters -  AUD $9.50
A little spiked up with Mediterranean style spices,  this was done really well.


with Finely julienned Zucchini with a whipped Feta cheese cream ~



Baked Eggs,  Hoffman’s Cabbage, Heirloom Carrots and Keiser – AUD $14
The heirloom carrots were my favourite as they were super packed with sweetness,  the eggs were baked to a runny state.  The cabbage with what seemed like ham or guanciale pieces were served with decent bread and butter to eat with it together.   This is the type of food you would want to eat on a daily basis…    ~  8/10



Smoked Pulled Pork,  with Shredded Lettuce and Mint Open Sandwich,
with quenelle of Roasted Pineapple Sorbet  – AUD $16
This is just a run down café that I’ve never even heard about,  and look at how much thoughtfulness has been put into the recipe?  Served on toasted Brioche nanterre slices,  we loved the smokiness of the shredded pork, and the roasted pineapple sorbet was a match in heaven.  ~  9/10



Ploughman’s Lunch:  Marble Score ‘6’ Corned Beef,  Welsh Rarebit & Sweet Mustard Pickle – $16
The stout beer taste in the Welsh Rarebit wasn’t apparent enough for my liking, but this dish fitted well with the theme today as remember,  we’re eating with our Hunter-the-Welsh-Terrier!   The well marbled and house corned Wagyu Beef was excellent,  working exceptionally well with the mustard pickles.  Simple food fare,  done with a lot of thought into the formulae.   ~  8.5/10



Green Tea -
Love that 2 layered tea pot,
served with loose tea leaves..



Hunter,  our VIP Guest of Today -
We hope ‘Hunter’ had enjoyed his time dining out in the café with us…
He loves hugging our legs whenever the owners leave the house,  he simply doesn’t want us to leave him behind.   So we guess we’ll just have to bring him along to our future dining adventures.  He doesn’t know the word please ‘let go’ of my leg!!  : )




Price: AUD $20 per person
Food:  ♕♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours -
Mon - Fri: 7am - late.  (Around 6pm, but they’re starting to serve Dinners).
Sat - Sun: 8am - late

Address: 238 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria 3065
Ph: (03) 9416 4747

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sicilian Orange - (Melbourne, Australia)

  I never realised how much my diet can change, depending on the city that I’m living in.   Italian fare is like a staple food for all families within Australia,  we eat it every week over here and it has a deep impact on how we go about enjoying our nights out!   The untold truth about Australian cuisine however,  is that many of the Italian food here will be cooked by the 2nd or 3rd generation Italian immigrants.  It is still pretty good mind you,  but to the discernible foodie’s palate,  one can still really tell this has now transformed slightly into an Aust adopted Italian style of cuisine.   Much of the same can be said about New York style Italian food,  which either goes the way of being Modernised Italian in philosophical approach rather than based on traditional Italian recipes and ingredients,  or else trying to cherry pick the few of the selective and often sensationalised authentic recipes and then aiming to find a combination of a few winners within!   Sicilian Orange is an Aust-Italian owned restaurant.  The locals certainly love it, and here they even insist on serving purely, imported Italian wines..   What can I learn from my visit tonight?



Love this sitting-to-be-too-close Dining Room -
It’s what Italian food is about, 
even when outside of Italy



San Pellegrino Mineral Sparkling Water -  AUD $8
Not cheap,  but nowhere as ridiculously priced as the one I had at Maison Boulud a Pekin in Beijing!  


Very Decent Bread -
This carried a sourdough traditional baguette taste, 
which is what real bread really is about.   Served cold,  as it is fresh bread. 
This isn’t Hong Kong afterall…!   ~  8/10



Salumi Misti -
Prosciutto,  Mortadella, Peppered Salame.   Pretty ordinary fare,  not bad but not exceptional.
~  6.5/10


Sarde Fritte -
Light fried sardine on rucola,  pretty decent starter and perfectly executed. 
I don’t think this place is about surprises,  it’s more about comfort food  ~  7/10



Spaghetti Messina –  AUD $18
This is the dish-of-the night!   Thin long pasta is tossed with white anchovies, fresh tomatoes, chili and olive oil.   This was cooked perfectly in both balance and pasta texture.    The anchovies and a hint of heat really made it very lovable by nature.   A very good rendition of a simple pasta dish.   ~  9/10



Penne Con Pesce Spada – AUD $19
Short tubed pasta with sword fish pieces, zucchini and EVOO.  This is a very simple dish,  with a hint of balsamic vinegar input.  Nothing to be faulted but fairly generic.  I could eat this all day but at this price,  it had better be good!    ~  7.5/10



Spezzatino -  $25
A traditional stew.  I guess there isn’t any issue of this being either an authentic Italian or Australian-Italian recipe,  as everybody does their own version somehow.  This was done really well and is a wintery dish deserving of praise.   I like how the veggies and the meat were all cooked separately to their desired doneness and perfectly synchronized in timing.  If not just a little too pricey, vs the missing of flavouring complexity  ~  7/10



Fagiolini -  AUD $9
French String beans are cooked with olive oil and parsley.  Decently cooked but a bit generic, may be,  that’s what vegetables are about?  Keep intact as much as possible of its original chlorophyll taste.  Cooked spot on nevertheless,  but slightly too dry    ~  6.5/10



Sicilian Trifle -  $10
Never really heard of a Sicilian Trifle before,  but this was filled with half chocolate mousse and half Marashino filled sponge.  It’s almost like like hybrid between a frozen cassata and a tiramisu,  lined with savoiardi fingers.  Very enjoyable in terms of taste rather than pure authenticity in recipe   ~  8/10


Cannolo di Ricotta -  AUD $5
Cannolo skin with Ricotta Cream cheese filling and a bit of orange zest.  The filling was really great,  but the pastry was too hard compared to the one served here:   Antica Gelateria di Roma .   The one here was good but a bit too crunchy to my liking.   ~  6.5/10




A decent local joint… 
There are some better Italian food to be found in town,
but on the other hand,  you’ll be hard pressed to find anything less than decent. 
Everyone goes out eating,  with high expectations in their minds these days!




Price: AUD $30-40 per person
Food:  ♕♕♕ 1/2

Opening Hours -
7 Days a week     -    Breakfast / Lunch
Tuesday to Sun   -     Dinner

Address: 115 Greville Street, Prahran, Victoria
Ph: (03) 9510 1051

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Croft Institute - (Melbourne)

  Hidden bars tucked away in the tiny back alleys, away from the daily stresses of life and mundane complacency.  The reality is simple, you’re always looking out for something else extra, that can give you a daily dosage of stimulus and excitement!   Where will you find that everybody’s hero?   The Croft Institute is something you couldn’t possibly expect to find in a lot of cities.   You will need to navigate your way through a multiple series of labyrinth maze and paths,  and oddly enough,  it is plucked right in the middle of a side street off Melbourne’s Chinatown.  Except half the population wouldn’t even know it even exists.   We often make a joke amongst ourselves,   that as long as there are a long line of rubbish bins and a pathway too narrow to drive your car through it,  you’re bound to find that popular bar in Melbourne!   Can you really see this irony too?    


Bins,  Graffiti -
Ok,  I think there might just be a bar nearby ?  :3 

Yo man,  what you staring at …  ? 

The Croft ? -
Wonder what it is insinuating and pointing at,  and that arrow too…


The Croft Institute -
Not many tourists come by here, 
only because it is right in the middle of a touristy must-visit spot,
yet no one even knew it exists in this back alley along Chinatown. 


Laboratory Apparatus -
It’s like Dr Frankenstein’s experimentation room here. 



Jamaican Jewel -  AUD $18
Made of Appleton V/X Jamaican Rum,  Green Chartreuse, and Rosso Antico Bitters.  This was one mighty drink of a cocktail.   It was medicinal and almost like an elixir potion.  It’s the perfect drink for a sorcerer or a Merlin’s!   ~   9/10



The Best Kept Secret -
Half the population probably wouldn’t even know this existed,
right behind Little Bourke Street.  And the Mixologists here are hardcore..


Graffiti and Spray Painting -
Not as much as a ghetto or the Bronx area as one might think,
people just love spraying their art and manifest themselves.



Get ready for your Syringe from your Nurse -
It’s mental,  and it is definitely an Institute well worth a visit.

You’ll need to be smart,  in order to decipher this -
Or just get really drunk from your magic potions : D



Price: AUD $18
Drink:  ♕♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours -
Mon to Thurs -        5pm - late
Fri -                         5pm - 3am
Sat -                        8pm - 3am
Sun -                       Closed

Address:  21 Croft Alley, Melbourne, 3000  (hidden behind Chinatown in a hidden alleyway)
Ph: (03) 9671 4399

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trippy Taco - (Melbourne, Australia)

  Found on one of my famous street corners in Melbourne alongside Gertrude and Smith Street, within an ever evolving stretch inside Collingwood,  this area is as much about ethnic food,  top notch cafes,  Japanese eateries, desserteries, bakeries or the up and coming future stars in representational Australian cuisine in its rustic yet modern guise.   Trippy Taco in the meanwhile is more of a casual joint and a purely vegetarian Mexican Joint.   It is most definitely not going to fall into the category of what I would consider either a Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex or Mex-Mex cuisine,  as there are subtle differences between each of the varieties on offer.  This shop to me is what I would consider to be more of an Aust-Mex style combined with essentially some of the more traditional Mex-Mex offerings.   It is pretty decent for a vegetarian restaurant.



A very popular local joint -


Dos Equis -
A Mexican beer which is more wheaty in profile,
compared to the lemony beers I’d come to associate with.



Dining Hall -
A fairly cozy little joint,  with less than 20 seats at most.


How would you like it done?

The Green Habanero sauce is refreshingly addictive -
The Tapatio Salsa Picante is more generic in offering,  as one could almost guarantee to find it in some other shops in town elsewhere. 

Original Trippy Tacos -  AUD $10 for 2 servings
Home made Corn Tortillas are topped with cheese, black beans, salad, tomato salsa, avocado.  As far as vegetarian Mexican fare goes minus any of my beloved essential meat input,  this is fairly sophisticated in terms of taste for a vegetarian dish  ~   9/10

Fresh Lime -
Mexican cuisine has always been associated with lime,  similar to Thai or Vietnamese cuisine.  There are many shops which substitutes lime with lemon wedges,  but it just simply isn’t the same in the end result!   Glad to see here practicing the authentic recipe. 




A Dessert,
is in order tonight..



Sweet Corn Tamale -
Mexico has always made a sticky corn dessert,  which is almost exactly the same as our  Chinese Sticky Rice Dumpling (粽).   Said to have originated from similar ancestries,  this was slightly seasoned with cinnamon, maple syrup, sugar caramelised banana pieces and vanilla ice cream.  This is as good a dessert Tamale as I can remember.  I will wholeheartedly miss this addictive dessert.   ~  10/10




Price: AUD $10 to $30 per person
Food:  ♕♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours -
Mon-Tues      -    11.30am-4pm
Sun, Wed-Fri -    11.30am-9pm
Sat                -    10am-9pm.

Address:  48 Smith Street, Collingwood, Melbourne VIC.
Ph:  (03) 9415 7711

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sensory Lab - (Melbourne, Australia)

  Sensory Lab is a revolutionary café concept and a pioneer.    Far from re-creating the seen it and done it before average communal and warm coziness customers are accustomed to  when visiting their local cafes,  it ventured off in the opposite direction and is set up to become a Coffee Laboratory.   It’s almost like the polar opposite of its other sister shop, a locally famous back street and hole-in-the-wall  St Ali.  And this week, these local coffee gurus have opened another new café inside Melbourne Central.    In Sensory Lab, customers are subconsciously persuaded to explore and become educated about coffee,  its possibilities and representations.   This approach does alienate a few customers who are only needing a place to sit back and let the mind re-cure itself to prepare for the rest of the day,  much like people go to Starbucks for their sofas after a few hours of shopping in a department store,  which Sensory Lab is found inside one right in the centre of Melbourne.

Found on the Ground Floor of City’s David Jones -

A Slayer -
A method of making coffee,  which makes coffee good enough for feeding Vampires!
That’s unfortunately not to be found in Hong Kong for the time being.  No one has a machine as yet!


Plenty of Beans available for Purchasing and Exploring in the office, or back at home -
These are all high quality coffee lots,  in fact,  this reminds me of Monmouth Coffee in London but with fairly different bean lots on offer.



The Coffee Sensory Kit -
To train your nose to pick up certain coffee traits,
whether good or faulty.  Now I need one of these !


“The Slayer” -
One of the most customisable and expensive,  also very exclusive Espresso Machines in the world.   The cups coming out from The Slayer are a unique experience, indeed..

Cold Drip -
Fairly good lots of Single Origins are also offered on the Cold Drips. 
To me personally, it’s a bit wasted as full natural flavour profiles aren’t always manifested. 


Water -
Also served in Laboratory looking bottles !  Cool..

Raw Sugar -  looking rather like gun powder!

Syphon -
It seems like different Cafes in Melbourne promote their own preferred ways of making black coffee. Sensory Lab in particular pushes for Syphon/Siphoning. Whereas some cafes have everything from a V60 to a Chemex to a Clover available.



Syphoned ‘Panama Don Pachi’ Geisha Bean -  $8
From the farm of the owners who 1st brought in the Geisha bean variety into Panama – these are one of the most sought after and pricy beans in the world, and has always been one of my favourites.  There are some dud Panama’s or different region’s Geisha beans you drink once in a while,  but this cup today was honestly one of the most fragrant Geisha’s I remembered having.  I’ve experimented with a few Geisha’s in HK and none of those were even 25% out of 100% as powerfully encapsulating as this.  It was like Geisha on steroids and one could smell it from 5 metres away!   With a Strawberry and Cream undertone and a super aromatic,  Floral & Bee Pollen fragrance,  this is probably stronger than most fruit herbal teas out there!   Amazing stuff and couldn’t rave about it, albeit a bit too powerful for daily drinking. Slightly too exaggerated in taste and aroma profile,  it also showcases how good a Panama Geisha can get!  ~     9.5/10


Cappuccino – $4
This is using one of the house S1–Champion blend, made of 3 types of mostly South American beans.  It is a fail safe approach to suit the Shoppers in David Jones I suppose.  To me this was too weak and whatever cutting through the milk, was over-powered by the latter.  It really needs to be ordered as Strong or Double Shot,  in order to try it out properly.  ~   6/10



Rwanda Buf Café Espresso (Slayer pulled)-
This is like a fairly syrupy juice coming out from the Pressure Profiling enabled Slayer,  which means during the whole extraction process -  the coffee grind can be fine tuned in a non-linear way to suit each of its extraction stage.    It is a heavy bodied shot minus the crema bubbles,  carrying a plum and shiraz grape note with a tinge of white pepper and chocolate.  Interesting and very addictive.  Not the most out-of-this-universe Slayer-pulled shot I’ve ever experience but compared to other normal espressi shots,  this cup carried it’s own small universe and story to be told.   Hard to guess whether this is achievable due to the Red Bourbon Bean lots or the Slayer Machine itself, before doing side-by-side comparisons.  ~  9/10




Price: AUD $4 to $12 per person
Coffee:  ♕♕♕♕♕  (Order strong versions in Milk based Coffees)

Opening Hours -
Mon to Wed 7:30 am - 7 pm
Thurs to Fri 7:30 am - 9 pm
Sat 8:00 am - 7 pm
Sun 8:30 am - 7 pm

Address: David Jones 297 Little Collins Street Melbourne VIC
Ph: (03) 9643 2222


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