Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mart 103 - Melbourne

If Bills is to Sydney, then Mart 103 is to Melbourne.

I read something like that on someone's blog and naturally, I wanted to go and check out the Bills of Melbourne.

I waited in anticipation as my partner and I drove down to Middle Park. One side of Canterbury Rd was a train/tram track. The other side was shops.
And so I counted - 105, 106, 107, 108...
Where's 107a ???
We parked, we walked... and OMGosh! the Bills of Melbourne turned into a dry-cleaning place!!!

and hence we settled for second-rate breakfast at Cafe Domain...

My partner must have sensed my disappointment and so, the very next morning, he CALLed the place - and someone picked up! AND, he heard that the place was very buzzy. Very good signs. Apparently, it was opposite the pub - but we looked there yesterday!!!

Nonetheless, we drove down to Middlepark again. And we walked around again.

And we couldn't find it...again.

Just as we were about to give up, I looked up at the tram tracks. That white station-looking building can't possibly be a cafe... or can it???

People were camping outside this "station-looking" building - and looked as if they were waiting for a tram/train until... someone started bringing chairs out...

My partner could not believe it until we were practically on the front steps!

Tram station look-a-like. No wonder we missed it the first time! Who would have thought?

Mart 103

After 10-15 minutes, we were escorted inside and surrounded by a mix of coffee aroma and delicious smelling... somethings

The cappuccino was my partner's (but when they placed it on our table, they named it a "latte" - which confused us both). No matter, it looked and tasted very cappy.


And my mocha was all so very mmm and rich and smooth and creamy and very very mmm.


After what seems like hours (and probably literally was), our much anticipated breakfast came (and yes, again, it was lunch time by now).

My partner was wowed by his corn fritters with grilled bacon and homemade relish ($15.90).
And I agree - it was quite awesomely yummy. But I guess my partner gets wowed out by most things bacon :)

Corn Fritters - $15.90

And mine. My eggs benedict ($15.90). Look at it! It looks miles above my eggs benedict yesterday. For one, it came with smoked salmon rather than ham. It came with two generous pieces of toast, not just one small one. And, it came with a large pile of spinach (not just two leaves). And, the hollandaise sauce itself was better. It was less thick and glunky tasting, but still creamy and rich.

Eggs benedict - $15.90

Well in all, the food was good.
The coffee was good.
The place was vibey.
But the service... somewhat lacking. Nonetheless, the waiters were always smiling during the little contact we had with the waiters. So the lack of service is probably because they were so incredibly busy.

Food: 9/10
Service: 7/10
Ambiance: 9/10
Value for money: 7/10
Overall: 32/40

Mart 103
107a Canterbury Rd,
Middle Park
Tel: (03) 9690 8831

Aria - Melbourne

I've always wanted to high-tea with one of those traditional three-tiered stands. But I've never been able to set my eyes past the chocolates and cakes offered by some less traditional high-tea places. So when my partner came across the high-tea/chocolate bar weekend offer at Aria in Langham Hotel, I was all there.

I was very excited as we got seated. A nice friendly waiter told us the ins and outs of the package - we get bottomless tea/coffee/hot chocolate, a three-tiered stand of "savoury" treats, and unlimited Chocolate Bar rounds.

I ordered the 'white rose' tea, whilst my partner started on the 'apple tea' (which was really quite apple-y). He later swapped it for an un-interesting Earl-grey tea.

Classy plate and serviette

The stand came with sandwiches - two of each kind. There was the smoked salmon sandwich, cucumber ribbon sandwich, egg mayo and cress sandwich, and the cream cheese and chives sandwich. Apart from the smoked salmon, the others were quite subtle and delicate in taste.

There were also scones. I'm not a big fan of scones. But these... quite impeccable. It was nice and warm and just sooooo light and soooo fluffy and just sooooo... wow!

Our three-tiered stand

Close up of the sandwiches

But speaking of Wow - the chocolate bar is Wow WOW~
Words can not describe how Wowness the display looked in real life, nor can it describe the wowness of my table being right next to this fantastic display.

Fantastic Chocolate Display

According the the waitress, the chocolate used to create these lovely little tasty bites are imported from all over the world - Switzerland, Tanzania, Belgium, Mexico, etc.

White chocolate mousse cake with white peach and kiwi mirror

Dark chocolate and strawberry chocolate mousse

Lime and green tea mousse

Tanzanie chocolate cream pot with golgi berry

My first choice of tasty tidbits - words cannot even start to describe how wonderfully awesome these are~ there's the nut cluster, pistachio biscotti, super sweet strawberry, and the green tea and lime mousse.

Then there's the dark chocolate and strawberry chocolate mousse, and dark chocolate ganache cake thing (I forgot the name - sorry!). And more strawberries ~ ahh... balanced diet.

My partner's choice - Tanzanie chocolate cream pot with golgi berry - taste a bit like chocolate, egg custard and sago (mmm... not bad). Then theres the other two things... one's a blueberry lemon custardy thing, and... I'm not sure what the orange bub thing is, but it wasn't bad tasting.

We also got a complimentary chocolate chip souffle - nice and hot and fluffy and airy. My partner was quite amazed by this - and if he had the stomach, I'm sure he would have stolen mine too!

Overall, this definitely satisfied both my high tea and chocolate craving!
It's absolutely fantastically amazing!
But it's so rich and so high in calories - probably can't be eaten every weekend.
Also, did I mention that it was $55 per person? Doesn't cost an arm or a leg but definitely will start chopping off toes if it is on your weekly agenda!

Food - 9.5/10
Service - 9/10
Ambiance - 10/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 35.5/40

Aria - Langham Hotel
1 Southgate Ave
Southbank, Melbourne
Victoria, 3000
Tel: (03) 8696 8888

Cafe Domain - Melbourne

Waking up on a lazy Saturday morning (yes, everything in Melbourne is lazy compared to Sydney - for me anyway), I was looking forward to a nice relaxing brunch with my partner (yes!!! it's weekend, no more looking like a loner strolling the streets of Melbourne).

We searched up breakfast places and nice cafes in Melbourne and decided on Mart 103 (supposedly the 'Bills of Melbourne'). So, how did we end up at Cafe Domain???
Ahh, long story.

First, we failed to find Mart 103 (the reason for this will be covered in a subsequent post), then we decided on going to Cafe Botanical (but by now, it was past noon and everyone in store seemed to be lunching it up), and hence, we opted for next door - ie. Cafe Domain - as it was filled with breakfast-eating people and seemed to give off a good vibe.

Cafe Domain

We were told to sit, and browse the menu. Orders are made at the counter, and we just need to quote our table number.

So I guess that service was close to invisible, apart from them bringing us food, and taking our plates away.

To me, it was still breakfast. And hence, my favourite Eggs Benedict ($14.90) were ordered along with my partner's choice of 2 fried eggs + toast + bacon (around $12-13 all up).

So how did these turn out?
mmm... not exactly disappointing (as it has to be quite horrible if hollandaise sauce or poached eggs were to go wrong), but... the looks of this dish???

Well, my two poached eggs and semi-dried ham was squashed onto a tiny tiny piece of bread. And accompanying it were two stray spinach leaves (which, according to my partner, is merely "decoration" and not meant to be eaten).

Eggs Benedict - $14.90

And my partner's dish? Not much better either. Again, two eggs squashed onto a small piece of toast and a little bunch of bacon on the side. And of course, there was the two lone spinach leaves.

My partner's breakfast mix - 2 fried eggs, bacon, toast - $12-13

Close-up of the peppered eggs

In all, probably a bad choice of cafe on my behalf. The eggs benedict were good - as it can't really go wrong. But for the price, I'm sure I could do better. Same for my partner's dish - I think I could have dished it out better.

Food - 5/10
Service - 3/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 21/40

Cafe Domain
171 Domain Road
Tel: (03) 9866 3120

Koko Black - Melbourne

Chocolate and Melbourne go hand in hand.

My past few lazy stroll days up and down Melbourne streets and alleyways enabled me to bump into quite a many Max Brenners, San Churros, Haighs, and Chocolate Box. But much anticipated was Koko Black, a chocolate cafe highly recommended by a friend.

I ordered the lite hot chocolate (skim milk + dark chocolate) - just the way I like it ($5.75). And look at the lovely piece of art (although blemished by my phone camera). Quite a materpiece, both taste and looks-wise. Nice and frothy on top, not too sweet, but nice and chocolatey.

Lite hot chocolate - $5.75

And then there was the Belgian Spoil ($12). Starting from the left-hand side, there's the chocolate icecream (mmm... quite perfect), the chocolate mousse (can't complain), two Belgian chocolates (which I wasn't allowed to choose - so, a bit dissappointing), short-bread (not bad), and chocolate cake (quite delicious when combined with the icecream).

Belgian Spoil - $12

Close-up of the chocolate ice-cream

Close up (somewhat fuzzy) chocolate mousse

Close-up of the rest

We did go on a Thursday night, so it was quite busy (my excuse for the relative lack of service). And the ambiance? Buzzy and nice.

So, overall?
It's a refreshing difference compared to Max Brenner (probably due to a familiarity effect). But that aside, the chocolate is probably better at certain Max Brenners in Sydney (but not the Parra store), but the chocolate icecream here, comparable to Lindt cafe... which really, is mmm yum.

Food - 8/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 29/40

Koko Black
167 Lygon St
Carton, Victoria 3053
Tel: (03) 9349 2775

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Comme Kitchen - Melbourne

I was quite decently excited when my partner said that we were going to a one-hat restaurant with his flatmate and his girlfriend. And that they seemed to swear by the quality of the food at the place.

As we walked into Comme Kitchen, a laid back yet sophisticated ambiance seemed to resonate throughout. However, the ambiance also meant bad quality photos for me and my phone-camera.

Comme Kitchen

My company remembered the restaurant as being a traditional, entree-main-dessert type restaurant and were pleasantly surprised when the waiter recommended ordering dishes to share, probably around 3 tapaz-style dishes per person. Unable to convince my company to order more than 1-2 dishes each, below is the selection my partner and I shared.

The first to come was a small appetiser - air dried tuna with shaved fennel ($7). It was presented so nicely and somewhat delicately, the strong and almost overpowering taste caught us unaware. I think that the lemon-flavoured dressing is meant to detract the overpoweringness of the dish, but fails to do more than add a zesty flavour to it (which isn't a bad thing I suppose).

Air-dried tuna, shaved fennel, preserved lemon dressing - $7

Then came our vegetables - asparagus, potato, bacon and egg ($15). I quite enjoy asparagus and potato, and egg. And my partner quite enjoys bacon. So together, it wasn't a bad combination. However, the dish did, as my partner noteably pointed out by dipping the content in the Bourride sauce (coming up), lack a bit a taste. At least it was no where near as overpowering as the last dish!

Saute of asparagus, pink fur apple potatoes, house cured bacon, pullet egg - $15

Then came my wonderful choice of dory fish with Bourride sauce ($17) which subsequently became the highlight of my partner's evening. The fish was cooked well (not excellently, not badly) and the sauce? To die for. "I'll eat this sauce with anything" were the words which came out from my partner's mouth. And it was a nice sauce - light yet creamy, tasty yet not overpowering, and in general, is just a delicious sauce which really probably will go with just about anything!

John dory fillet, white asparagus, pancetta, sauce Bourride - $17

After such a delectable dish, I was expecting many good things from our last order - rare Wagyu blade in bone-marrow, parmesan, garlic and lemon sauce ($21). I can't say I was disappointed, but I was far from being blown away by the dish. Given the amount of time it took for this dish to come after receiving the fish and vegetables, I did expect more. But, it was simply average, or a little bit better than average. Being rare, it wasn't the 'melt in your mouth' texture, but the sauce (again it's the sauce) did seem to bring a nice touch.

Rare roast Wagyu blade (500 day grain fed), bone marrow, Parmesan, garlic, lemon - $21

In all, the Dory fillet (or rather, the Bourride sauce) seemed to make it for this restaurant. According to my company (who were never once disappointed with this restaurant), this new tapaz-style dining was a disappointment. There used to be a 'to die for' lamb dish which is a standard the new tapaz-style lamb dish is miles from achieving. Well, my company refuses to return to the restaurant until they change back to the traditional type of dining. But I guess for those those who enjoy a chillaxing evening sharing lots of food, this is the restaurant to be. As for whether or not it deserves to be a one-hat restaurant... well, the service could be better, the timing of the dishes coming out can definately be improved... but other than that, the Bourride sauce (to die for) probably pushes into the one-hat zone. However, this is a one-off experience for me being a Sydney-sider. It will be interesting to see whether the quality of the sauce can be kept (or whether it'll just slide into the averageness of the other dishes).

Food - 8/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 29/40

Comme Kitchen
7 Alfred Place
Melbourne, 3000
Tel: (03) 9631 4000

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Via Veneto - Melbourne

After a not so pleasant day at uni, I trekked down to Melbourne.
Funnily enough, the time it takes to go from Sydney to Melbourne is around the same (if not shorter) than my trip from uni to home.

After getting off the plane, food was on the agenda. As we head down Lygon street, a street filled with restaurants, the question of 'where to eat' did pop in our heads. But not for long.

Not because we chose where to eat.
But because we were dragged into a restaurant by an enthusiastic restaurant worker (apparently that's how they do it in Italy too).

Nonetheless, to me (a stranger to the city), one restaurant looked as good to me as another. So Via Veneto it was.
Via Veneto

(I apologise for the quality of the photos as my parents took my beloved camera overseas)

The restaurant offered free entree and drinks.
However, of the dishes, the "entree" was the last to arrive.

Chinotto - complimentary

Garlic bread - complementary
We decided on a pizza and a pasta.

The large Pescatora pizza ($25) was topped with prawns, scallops and calamari (and of course, lots of tasty cheese!). Wasn't the best pizza in the world, also not the worst. I also appreciated how it was nice and easy to cut with a knife and fork (you know how annoying it is when you try and be civilised but the pizza crust just won't give way).

Pescatora pizza - $25

We also chose the Tagliatelle Romanesca ($22.90). This was tagliatelle pasta with chicken, mushrooms, and avocado, all in a cream sauce (and for me, topped with lots and lots of parmesan). My partner commented on how it is rare for avacado to be cooked. And it is rare, probably for good reasons. I much prefer avacado non-cooked, but I guess it wasn't too bad, a little mushy and soft, but still, adds some nice flavour and texture to the meal. And as I just love cream sauce, I would consider any type of pasta in cream sauce to be a nice pasta.

Tagliatelle Romanesca - $22.90

So overall, it wasn't the best italian food I have ever eaten, but it definitely wasn't bad. We were both indefinitely full by the end of the meal, so much so that dessert failed to entice me.

Food - 5/10
Service - 5/10
Ambiance - 6/10
Value for money - 5/10
Overall - 21/40

Via Veneto
234 Lygon St
Carlton, 3053
Tel: (03) 9663 3151

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Le Montage - Lilyfield

Ah, wedding food at a nice function center in Lilyfield, namely, Le Montage.
Le Montage

The location is pretty, and the decor relaxing yet brings along a sense of elegance. And the bride? Beautiful! :P The bread got us all wondering what the food would be like. Rock solid on the outside, if you were lucky enough to rip it open and examine the insides of the roll, it was nice and soft. However, eating the roll together (the outside and the inside) was... um... tough?
Bread rolls - rock hard outside, soft on the inside

The first entree came exceeding everyone's expectations. A smoked salmon tower filled with creamy kipfler potato, avocado and cucumber salad, all resting on fresh rocket and surrounded by a cherry tomato and citrus dressing, and finished with a touch of salmon caviar. I just to happened to be a fan of smoked salmon, and of potato salad and thus, I just so happened to enjoy this dish. The only downfall was the rocket which was drenched in the citrus dressing and slightly too oily and citrusy tasting for my liking. The dish was also really really filling - and if this was the only dish served for the night, I still would have been satisfied.
Salmon Tower

Dissection of the salmon tower

Then came entree number two - homemade Fussili pasta topped with Arrabiata sauce. It was tomato-y and slightly chilli which was nicely complemented by the strong taste of parmesan cheese. Again, a filling dish.
Fussili pasta

And now for mains. There was a "choice" of two - either chicken or scotch fillet (too bad for the vegetarians!). From a quick glance at the menu, I had wanted to try the scotch fillet which rested on roasted kipfler potato, watercress and Spanish onion and finished with a red currant jus. However, for better or worse, the oven baked half baby chicken was placed in front of me. It was served with baby mushrooms, onions and roasted potatoes, and finished with rosemary jus. Which was better? Well, I truelly enjoyed my chicken which was moist and tender and flavoursome. The scotch fillet, on the other hand, received mixed reviews. One friend thought it was quite nice, another (quite a few) thought it to be very tough and chewy.
Scotch Fillet

Dissection of the steak

nice juicy tender chicken

Lastly, dessert! Vanilla bean creme brulee served with biscotti. The creme brulee lacked in burnt sugar toffee but the biscotti was nice.
Creme Brulee

Well, congrats to the bride and groom, and hope they can live happily together forever!

Food - 7/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - /10
Overall - 22+?/40

Le Montage

38 Frazer Street
Leichhardt, NSW, 2040

Tel: (02) 9555 6099