Thursday, March 26, 2015

Code Black Roasters - North Melbourne

One of the many things that Melbourne does better than Sydney is their coffee. For whatever reason - Melbourne coffee is mostly smooth and creamy and delicious, whereas in Sydney, getting one of these creamy rich coffees is like winning the lotto. So it was a no-brainer that we would be hitting a lot of cafes whilst we were in this wonderful city.
We visited Code Black Roasters which is a few blocks away which is a few blocks away from the Queen Victoria Markets. The place was hipster - you could tell by the bearded employees and the crowd that's here (mac-books galore). As predicted - coffee was AWESOME. Rich, aromatic, creamy, hits the spot.
Foodwise, I ordered the hot smoked salmon and hubby ordered a 'T-rone' steak sandwich. The toasted sourdough sandwich had thin porterhouse steaks cooked medium (or a bit more medium-well) with thin haloumi slices, iceberg lettuce, a jalapeƱo mustard and tomato sauce. It was tastier than I thought. The steak slices were more tender than expected and the haloumi and mustard complemented the meat well.
My hot smoked salmon was cooked through and a bit tough and rubbery. I would have much preferred it loads more pink. Likewise, my poached egg was overdone and un-runny which was a let down. I liked the crispy herb potato hash and of course, the avocado (which you can't really get wrong). The hollandaise sauce was also OK. All up - it was OK... just not great.
So I guess that the coffee was amazing but the food may need to be refined a bit.

Food - 6.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6.5/10
Overall - 26/40

Code Black Roasters
119 Howard Street
North Melbourne
Tel: (03) 9381 2330

Monday, March 23, 2015

Grand Trailer Park Taverna - Melbourne

A couple of my friends in Melbourne seem to love burgers as they go to Grill'd on a regular basis. Just for a change, I thought I'd lure them to try another burger joint - Grand Trailer Park Taverna. Stepping in their upstairs venue, it gave off a retro style vibe - disco balls, fairy lights, trailer type seats. Kinda fun and casual feeling.
My friends ordered a spiked milkshake each. One was the peanut butter and jelly, and the other, the kinder surprise. Does it surprise you that there's an actual Kinder Surprise sitting atop the frangelico/baileys milk concoction? It was kinda tasty and quite sweet. I liked it more than the PB and Jello which tasted a bit more like cough syrup with the Captain Morgans Rum in it.
Burgerwise, hubby ordered the KSA, which is pretty much the original burger with beef, cheese, tomato, lettuce and sauce on a brioche bun. The bun was a bit dense and proved to be a bit too much by the end of the burger. The balance of their 'special sauce' and mustard was pretty tasty with the juicy meat patty. Not a bad burger. I just wanted a different bun.
I couldn't resist but get a deep-fried mac and cheese croquette in my burger. Deep fried mac and cheese IN my burger!!! It made my burger massive and even more massive than need be. Loads and loads of carb. Yum in the first bite. After that - a little too dense. The rest of the burger was pretty delicious though :)
Chips were also quite tasty. Crispy enough on the outside and soft and fluffy on the insides. A must get accompaniment to burgers I think :)

Food - 7/10
Service - 6.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6.5/10
Overall - 27/40

Grand Trailer Park Taverna
87 Bourke Street
VIC, 3000
Tel: (03) 99723699

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hakata Gensuke - Melbourne

There's lots of lines for eating places in Melbourne. We lined up at HEAPS of them this trip. Luckily for us, Hakata Gensuke was one long line we managed to side step as we came here a little later than the normal lunch crowd.
The ramen portion here is not big, but the soup is thick enough that the package as a whole is filling enough (for lunch anyway). The three of us ordered slightly different soup bases. I ordered their signature Tonkotsu with an addition of a runny (super delicious) egg. The pork broth was super flavoursome. Thick. Collagen-rich. A tender pork cha-cha slice, black fungus and spring onions came with thin noodles. I got my noodles cooked normal - you could also request them hard or softer than normal. I loved it - hit the spot for my ramen craving.
Hubby go the black Tonkotsu. Lots of garlicy flavour in this. And super super black. The soup was slightly less thick than my signature tonkotsu but was heaps yum anyway. Again, it came with pork, black fungus and spring onions. Hubby got the noodles with goey egg and seaweed (the sides are NOT cheap).
Our friend ordered the 'God Fire'. As the name suggests - it was spicy! You could request the level of spice. My friend (being Korean) ordered a spice level of 3 of 4. It was a huge hit of chilliness. He seemed to quite enjoy the noodles, so I guess it was tasty enough :).
I would come back. But I love ramen - so I'm possibly biased. However, the amount of lines that we see as we go past this place suggests that other people like this place too.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6.5/10
Overall - 29/40

Hakata Gensuke
168 Russell Street
VIC, 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 6342

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

400 Gradi - Brunswick (Melbourne)

World's best pizza and I don't have to fly half way around the world for it? That's right! The amazing pizza maker at 400 Gradi recently won the title of 'world's best pizza' for their Margherita pizza. As we were in Melbourne for the F1, we thought that we'd take the opportunity to check out just how good this pizza is. Situated on Lygon Street (and also another branch at the Crown), I was a little worried about the potential for it being a tourist trap type place. Luckily, the restaurant was far far away from the tourist bit of Lygon.

We had to order the Margherita - but we added anchovies to it. The pizza base was pretty amazing. It was thin and soft on the middle of the pizza, doughy and chewy on the edges and just that tiny bit of crispiness. The tomato base was rich and the cheese was really tasty and stretchy. When you eat it the traditional way (ie. you roll it all up), it was the perfect bite every time. The anchovies gave the whole pizza an extra dimension.
We also got a pasta - the tagliatelle con prosciutto crudo croccante. In English, it means pasta with crispy prosciutto, rocket and shaved parmesan. What's not to love about it? The pasta was cooked al-dente. There was a ton of salty prosciutto to it, and we got extra cheese to add to it if we wanted. It was pretty tasty. I wish we got a bit more rocket though~
We couldn't look past dessert. We ordered the tiramisu and the chocolate fondant. The tiramisu was really smooth and creamy. Good amount of coffee flavour in it. Quite liked it. The chocolate fondant came with vanilla bean ice-cream and a sprinkle of white chocolate shavings. The fondant was oozy on the inside... but not oozy enough for my liking. It was nice and chocolately and dense, and the ice-cream was yum. I was expecting a bit more from this dish but I guess it was OK.
So all up, pretty delicious pizza. Tasty pasta. Good desserts. Be sure to book if you are planning to come here - just in case!

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

400 Gradi 
99 Lygon Street
VIC, 3055
Tel: (03) 9380 2320

Thursday, March 5, 2015

LuMi Bar & Dining- Pyrmont

One of my friends who is very well eaten raved on about how amazingly awesome her lunch was at LuMi the other day (4 course - $45) and so, I was sorely tempted to try. As, unlike my friend, hubby and I work Mon-Fri, we opted to try their 8 course dinner option instead ($95). I tried my best to lower my expectations before walking into the restaurant but it proved a difficult task due to my friend's exceptional experience here, and because of the head chef's pedigree (we are talking a chef with training at Ryugin, Ormeggio, Noma and Attica). Yes - I was ready for an awesome feast!

Stepping into the glass box on the wharf, we were greeted with the view of boats and expensive apartments. What's not to like about that? Quiet and serene was the outside - also quiet and calm was the open kitchen.
With much anticipation, the plethora of amuse bouches placed a huge grin on my face. Super thin rice wafers with salt and vinegar flavouring - my favourite! We've had it at several other places, it tastes roughly the same at each place, but I would always want more of this thin, crispy, moorish snack. There was also churros served with this brilliant french onion savoury dip. The churros were perfected - super crunchy yet not too oily on the outside, and soft and fluffy donuty feel on the inside. Its the first time I've had savoury churros and I have to say - it was amazing!!! This onion dip thing was to die for! It took a lot of self control to stop myself from licking this smooth and creamy dip clean.
Other starters included a potato and rosemary foccacia, a small tartlet with creamed corn and a pile of cheese, a pistachio, horseradish 'sanchobao' (cos lettuce), and a chawanmushi with basil, chilli and tomato water. The focaccia took me back to my uni days where I would have a toasted foccacia for lunch every second day. It was fluffy and soft, and the crusted potato/rosemary top was pretty tasty. The tartlet pastry was a tad too thick - but the creamed corn and cheese was a good combo. The 'sanchobao' had a really distinct creamy pistachio flavour to it, quite interesting. And the steamed egg custard was super super smooth with just the right flavour combinations. YUM. I have to say - by now, I was actually already satisfied - the meal could have ended here and I would have been happy.
The first real course was a plate full of discs of white cucumber, white radish and an apple sour dressing. Globs of sour cream rounded off this dish nicely. It gave off a very fresh vibe and tasted really clean. Edible flowers for decoration - but I don't really like edible flowers.
Next was the veal tartare. This came on a MASSIVE plate - tons of negative space. The veal tartare was smooth and soft, the chargrilled capsicum gave it this pleasurable smokey flavour. It sat on a thick, flavourful tarragon emulsion. I tasted the emulsion on its own and was slightly repulsed - but when you eat it as a package (i.e. with the veal, and the popped crunchy buckwheat), it was pretty damn tasty.
The spelt ravioli was my hubby's favourite dish of the night. Four perfectly shaped raviolis filled plumply with this super smooth pumpkin mixture, swimming in a pool of absolutely delicious burnt butter sauce with really tasty roasted pumpkin seeds and a greenery of chopped chives... O. M. G. Soooooo good. The caviar on top made it more impressive to look at, but I felt like it didn't add much to the taste or texture. Instead, if they really wanted some black stuff on top, truffle shavings might have added another element and depth to the dish. Not that I'm complaining about the dish .... it was pretty deliciousness already, even for me (a person who would not go out of her way for pumpkin).
I really liked the next pasta dish, but my hubby was less amazed by it. Squid ink pasta with a small pile of scampi, a creamy orange guerre blanc sauce, and bottarga powder. I rate it! I loved it! I could eat it all day because I love creamy sauced pasta, especially when it's squid ink pasta, especially  when there's a pile of super sweet raw scampi meat on top.
We got upsold into getting an extra dish. The waitress described their snapper dish as something to die for. She said that it was going to be perfectly cooked with a super delicious potato consomme and all these fancy onions. So we ordered one to share ($15) and the chef nicely spit the dish onto two plates for us. Yes the consomme was super clear, tons of flavour, and pretty delicious, but the hero of the dish - the snapper, was kind of average. Nothing too exciting.
The beef cheeks was my favourite of the night. I wish it was more photogenic as it tasted so so so so sooooo much better than it looks on my photo. I am talking, super melt-in-your-mouth beef cheeks that's crazily packed full of flavour. A splash of bonito and anchovy gravy on top and I am in beef cheek heaven. And - I love cauliflower. This fried cauliflower with its mix of different spices... YUM. Top that off with a spinach and lettuce puree that is just absolutely gorgeous? Yup - dish of the day. We can go home now. My stomach is fully satisfied.
The pre-dessert cleansed out palates quite well. The waiter named it the 'evergreen'. It was very very green. The sorbet, the frozen crumbs, leaves on top, and these beautifully done little mint meringues left wonderfully clean flavours of sorrel, lemon basil, mint and parsley dancing in your mouth. The meatiness of the previous course is forgotten and cleansed, all ready for the real dessert.
I expected myself to not like this dessert. I'm not a fan of white chocolate. I don't really like passion fruit. Ginger is not my top pick of an ice-cream flavour. And I dislike yoghurt. So how can I possibly like a ginger ice-cream with white chocolate and passionfruit sauce and yoghurt crumble? I have no idea - but somehow, I loved it!!! LuMi has done the unimaginable and made me eat yoghurt that is not in the form of yakault. I was seriously this close to licking the plate.
So can you tell that I loved this restaurant? I loved the food - the presentation and flavour combinations. The staff were friendly enough. The views were tranquil and serene. And $95 for a 8 course meal sounds pretty reasonable. I suspect that hats are coming this way real soon... so I suggest that you try out this place before the price hikes to become less reasonable.

Food - 9.5/10
Service - 7.5/10
Ambiance - 8.5/10
Value for money - 8.5/10
Overall - 34/40

LuMi Bar & Dining
56 Pirrama Road 
Pyrmont, NSW 2009
Tel: (02) 9571 1999