Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bowery to Williamsburg

So it's been roughly a lifetime since I last posted, but the itch to blog about some of the food I consumed last time I was in Melbourne has caught up with me. Most of the pictures from my dining adventures turned out fairly blurry, so this might be a limited series.

First up though, a post on an American-inspired cafe in the CBD: Bowery to Williamsburg.

As a side note, living in America, I find the new wave of American-inspired restaurants in Melbourne amusing although somewhat strange (because I haven't found American food on the whole to be all that appealing). Regardless, I came for the company and the coffee and wasn't disappointed.

Long Black
Serving Padre coffee, there's definitely something to be admired about the silky smoothness of Melbourne coffee. My taste-buds may have been burnt by my time overseas, but this was a wonderful cup of coffee, with the sweet taste of being home. 

I was unfortunately less enamored with the food. I ordered the Lox & Potato Latkes consisting of mezcal & cucumber cured lox salmon, zucchini and potato latkes, horseradish, picked fennel, asparagus and poached eggs.

Lox & Potato Latkes
While the eggs were perfectly poached, and the salmon tender, I was sad to find the potatoes weren't crispy, and overall that the dish rather lacking in flavour. Which is surprising given the ingredients should have combined wonderfully.

My dining companions ordered the vegetarian version of the Shakshouka baked eggs:

Shakshouka Baked Eggs with Zatar Pita
The vegetarian version included sweet potato, silverbeet, feta and pinenuts. I didn't taste it, but the dish got both their stamp of approval, and their kiddo's (who ate most of the eggs). Their better informed view of the food in general is that "their burgers really are the star, but their brunch options are varied and fun". 

Being a bit behind on the Melbourne food scene these days, I feel like Bowery to Williamsburg is a pretty standard foodie cafe: good coffee, interesting (although not necessarily the tastiest in Melbourne) dishes, efficient service, and a bustling atmosphere with a line pretty much any time of day.

Bowery to Williamsburg
16 Oliver Lane, CBD, Melbourne
Mon-Sat 730am-3pm, Sun 830am-3pm

Bowery to Williamsburg Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, July 3, 2015

Exploring Ottolenghi

It's certainly been more than a few months since I posted on this blog, which certainly isn't to say I haven't been cooking plenty and eating out, because I have. I just haven't had the inclination to necessarily share. 

Over the last week or so, I've been feeling an itch though, so I thought I'd share some of my recent culinary adventures. One of these has been cooking from Ottolenghi The Cookbook that was the subject of much praise when it came out a few years ago. 

There are plenty of vegetable dishes, with delightfully unexpected twists in flavours. My first two dives into this book resulted in a dish of Grilled Broccoli with Chile and Garlic  and another of Mixed Mushrooms with Cinnamon and Lemon.  

Grilled Broccoli with Chile and Garlic
The broccoli dish was surprisingly easy and with a refreshingly interesting flavour. A short period of blanching, followed by a bit more grilling, with a finish of hot, flavoured oil and the dish was done. 

The mushroom dish was a little curious-er. And it featured more than a handful of mushrooms.   

Mixed Mushrooms with Cinnamon and Lemon
At one point, I thought I was going to burn the mushrooms at the bottom of the pan to crisp (you're warned quite sternly to leave the mushroom alone for 5 minutes over high heat). Sure, the garlic burnt but the mushrooms themselves were more than fine. 

For all the worry they caused, in less than 15 minutes I had a fragrantly steaming bowl of mixed mushrooms, with subtle variations in flavours and textures of the mushrooms, and the lift from a few squeezes of lemon rendering the dish anything but boring.

Mixed Mushrooms with Cinnamon and Lemon
So my first experiences with Ottolenghi was a smashing success. Onwards and upwards with trying more recipes; the Harira soup looks interesting, as does the Fried Scallops with Saffron Potatoes, Asparagus, and Samphire. And maybe one day experiencing the original dining experience in London myself. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Box Hill Tour & Cooking Demo (Sneak Peek)

There are times where I really wish I'm back in Melbourne more frequently. These waves of home-sickness happen more often when I'm craving Melbourne's take on Asian cuisine - the US just doesn't do things the same way.

Box Hill really is a concentration of all things Chinese and Malaysian, from markets that are a source of Asian produce that's hard-to-find elsewhere, and restaurants that are frequently visited at all times of the day or night. I do have a soft-spot for their Mid-Autumn Festival, having performed there a few times myself - check it out if you get the chance. 

Box Hill Markets Bounty
Don't those vegetables look delicious? Dan will have the full scoop on a recent market tour and cooking demonstration with James Tan and Spencer Wong hosted by Box Hill Central so keep an eye out for that in the next week!

Box Hill Central
1 Main St, Box Hill 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


How is it almost February already? Did January really disappear so quickly?

Reminiscing about the past isn't something I do outside of life as a food blogger, but there are times that I'm really, really glad that I reminisce about the meals I had because they were just damn awesome. And my credit card statement really does force me to think about some of them, like this one.

Due to quite a bit of coincidence, M and I managed to score a NYE reservation at the tiny, tiny restaurant Maude in Beverly Hills, LA. With a new menu every month focusing on a single star seasonal ingredient and headed up by Curtis Stone, this was a must try as soon as  we discovered its existence. 

The NYE menu was always going to be extra special (with an extra special/expensive price tag of $250 per head excluding tax and tips to match of course), and there was no better way to start than a glass of Krug. 

When I say Maude is tiny, I mean it's really tiny. At a maximum it seats 25 people and there's a clear view into the kitchen area.

This creates a comfortable sense of intimacy. The mellow lighting and vintage silverware and crockery also adds to this (although contributes to some less than perfect photos so you'll have to excuse me).

Being a fine dining restaurant, the menu started off with some amuse-bouche.

Pumpkin Packet
Straight up we were incredibly impressed by how much flavour and texture each of these small dishes had, and the obvious care that had gone into crafting them. How can you not have fun with packets that burst with liquid flavour (the pumpkin packets) or foam (accenting oyster).

From there we moved onto pancakes.

Traditional Caviar
Yep, tiny fluffy pancakes (blini?). I prefer to think pancakes are the star of the show here because they're just too darn cute, but of course they're overshadowed by the indulgently delicious generous heaping of salty cavier. In keeping with a winter theme, there was some pumpkin puree to lend a touch of sweetness to the dish. 

Next up was a squash salad. 

Squash salad with farro, watercress and pumpkin
The presentation of these dishes really are beautiful. The composition is beautiful to look at and the colours were so much more vibrant in person (curse that yellow lighting). The textures also played nicely in this dish with the crunch of the farro contrasting nicely with the lightness of the squash foam and the crispness of the watercress.

Course 4 (if you count the amuse-bouche as a single course) was a Hiramasa Crudo.

Hiramasa Crudo with Bottarga, Pumpkin Cured Salmon Roe and Dashi Gel
The hiramasa, otherwise known as yellowtail kingfish, was delicately soft and a deceptively large serve. Accented with two types of roe, it was a great reflection of fresh seafood. The dashi gel is always great fun, although in this instance I'll admit it didn't have much of a flavour. 

More seafood for the next course:

Striped Bass with Little Gem, Anchovy and Chicken
Take a lightly seared fillet of bass with some little gem lettuce and chicken skin and you have another good tasting dish. I probably liked the other dishes more than this one, but it's not like this was skimping on taste or presentation in any sense.  

Lobster, Carrot, Buttermilk and Curry
How could I not like this next dish? Sweet, tender lobster, with slightly crisp/crunchy carrots and a slightly tangy sauce. I've only just started cooking with lobster myself, and am now determined to get my hands on some incredibly fresh lobster. Pity it's the wrong season though.  

When they brought the next dish out, I had flashbacks to Chemistry courses in university. 

Isn't that coffee siphon? Indeed it was, but the creative minds at Maude had appropriated it to make a consomme.

A ramen-style broth (without any pork) heated heated through a combination of herbs including fennel and beech was entertaining to watch (and isn't fine dining about classy entertainment?). 

It was then poured over a combination of dried mushrooms (enoki & oyster) and squid to create a moorish Japanese-inspired broth. 

Consomme with Squid, Mushrooms, Fennel and Beech
I will take a detour and say that this was 'wine-matched' with sake. Different but somehow it worked!

The next dish was simply glorious. 

Truffle Ravioli with White Alba Truffle
Look at that ridiculous amount of white truffle! It was shaved at the table and the scent was overwhelmingly indulgent. M was in positive ecstasy, but then again he loves truffles more than the average person. 

The dish was comforting, and indulgent and made us incredibly happy. It had the side effect of making us incredibly full as it was unsurprisingly filling, not that we really cared.

We did have to soldier on through three other courses, not including dessert!

Pheasant with Kabocha Squash, Parsley Root and Pearl Onion
The next dish really couldn't hit the lofty heights of the truffle dish, but that was to be expected. It was nevertheless well balanced with pheasant cooked two ways, another riff on the squash theme and a slight tang from pickled onions.  Can we also just take another moment to appreciate the beauty of vintage silverware? Time to hit up some markets myself I think.

Wagyu Cheek with Nori, Radish and Turnip 
Whilst the puffy white thing is reminiscent of pork crackling, it's not. It was in fact beef tendon. Just let that sink in a bit. Beef tendon? How did they manage to do that to something that's meant to be tough and inedible until it's stewed to death? It worked incredibly well with the Australian Wagyu and so we had another great dish. 

Wrapping up a meal, it's almost expected that there'll be a cheese dish and indeed there was.

Vacherin with Pumpkin 'Caviar'
I'll admit that this was the only dish that I couldn't finish. After all, there's only so much rich dairy that I can take. The cheese was reminiscent of Camembert, but with a stronger flavour and was paired beautifully with the slightly sweet pumpkin 'caviar'. Once again, I have no idea what magic they used to turn pumpkin into tiny little balls of flavour, but it was gleefully impressive.  

Then it was on to dessert.

Pomegranate Sorbet
As a foreshadowing of the January menu, the first dessert was a refreshing pomegranate sorbet. Slightly bitter, it was nevertheless interesting and delicious.

The second dessert was significantly heavier. 

Kuri Squash Beignet with Rice Sorbet, Carmel & Cinnamon
A rich, rich dessert that had plenty of sweetness, it was perfectly accompanied by a bitter coffee.

After all, this grandma needs some caffeine if staying up till midnight was required. 

Petit Fours
As a final bookend to our meal, we were served petit fours (or should it be petit threes?). The macarons could have rivaled any good bakery, and the gellies were a perfect sweet ending.

All that was left after this was a midnight champagne toast to celebrate the new year with other diners and the hardworking staff.   

We had a great time at Maude: it was our first fine dining NYE experience, first degustation experience in the USA and it did not disappoint. While expensive, it was a worthy investment for a night of culinary alchemy/magic, the best service you could hope for, and of course, great tasting food with plenty of indulgences sprinkled throughout. This is by no means a typical menu (because really, NYE is special) but looking at the menu for 2015, there's plenty to look forward to - truffles in November and December anyone? 

Maude Restaurant
212 South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA
Tue-Sat 530pm-10pm (reservations required)

Maude on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Top Paddock

One critical item on any itinerary when in Melbourne is to enjoy brunch with some friends. Indeed, what better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon than catching up with friends over a Melbourne coffee and good food.

Top Paddock was a central location and given we were after a late lunch, seemed a good option to for delicious grub and (hopefully) not to long of a wait. Getting there at 2pm meant we snagged a table without effort as their rush hours seem to coincide with more traditional brunch times.

First order of the day was to get some caffeine into me (long black, no sugar) - living in the US, you really appreciate how wonderful Melbourne coffee is. Don't you lucky Melbourne residents take this for granted, ok?

The coffee is Five Senses, and much of the produce is locally sourced (from paddock to table, get it?). The menu itself is typical brunch fare;  almost all the dishes featured some kind of egg but there were still enough variety, and an interesting Spanish spin, that deciding what to eat was still a difficult choice.

I ended up with this:

Roasted kipfler potato & leek omelette with padron peppers & taleggio on toast
Not particularly pretty but very patriotic with the green and gold. Since my last trip to Spain, I've had a craving for padron peppers. This didn't really satisfy the cravings given they were really for the roasted peppers, smothered in salt, with the occasional hot one to spice things up. 

I digress however, and this omelette was rich and filling, and the flavours worked together quite well, although I wish I had added a sprinkle of salt over the top. Really, that was my fault given I had ordered it without the taleggio (and got teasingly reprimanded by the waiter for that). I can appreciate how the addition of the cheese would have completed the dish. 

My dining companion were happy with there orders too, and in the process, taught me quite a lot about all the different types of cheese on offer.

Grilled broccolini & sugar snaps with avocado, toasted almonds, poached eggs & heidi racelette on toast
White anchovies & Jamon serrano with fried eggs, padron peppers & manchego on toast
Eggs benedict: poached eggs with hamhock & béarnaise on toast
Did I mention that I really, really miss Melbourne brunches?

Overall, it's understandable why Top Paddock is so popular. The coffee is great, the produce is fresh and mostly local, the dishes are interesting and the waitstaff are friendly and efficient. The space is airy and on a beautiful day, the patio is wonderful to relax on. What's not to love about Top Paddock,  except for the almost guaranteed wait for a table that is. 

Top Paddock
658 Church Street, Richmond
Mon-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Top Paddock on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 5, 2015


There are places that open up in Melbourne you hear the buzz about even while overseas. Supernormal is one of the those places, popping up in newspapers, Broadsheet, blogs and a million-and-one Instagram posts.

When a friend suggested we catch up there for lunch, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and so quickly agreed. Even with a fairly pared down menu of Asian inspired foods which only bear some resemblance to the dishes that inspired them, and all with a fairly steep price-tag, it was difficult to decide what to order because everything sounded interesting and a ‘must-try’ once you got over the cost shock.

In the end, we decided to forgo the seafood-heavy raw bar section, and the meat and fish section and settled on a variety of dumplings, bao and plate/vegetable dishes.

The dumplings we ordered were, well, not my traditional idea of dumplings.

Prawn & chicken dumplings, chilli & vinegar sauce
But of course I’m just being pedantic, they’re wontons with their thin egg shells and the way they are wrapped, but ‘dumplings’ after all is a fairly generic term so I’ll let this one slide (mostly). The wrappers were delightfully thin, the meat was balanced and packed the little pockets well, and the chilli and vinegar sauce cut through the rich texture for a morish dish. Pity there were so few dumplings for quite a bit of cash, but there are times were you settle for quality over quantity.

The bao that we ordered were once again not my traditional definition of bao (where the meat is completely enclosed in a dough filling) but instead the Melbourne style of bao à la Wonderbao.

Pork bao, tamarind sauce
I was also surprised at the form the pork took – I was expecting a chunk of fairly unprocessed meat and was instead greeted by a heavily breaded and internally shredded meat cube. Strange, but delicious nevertheless. The dough was slightly sweet, and fairly light and springy and the tamarind added a distinctly Asian but definitely non-expected flair to the dish.

Whereas we unanimously decided that the dumplings and bao were tasty, the next dish divided our group. Some of us liked it, some of us were just plain confused by it.

White cut chicken, cold noodles, black sesame and cucumber
The chicken I get, the cold noodles I get, the cucumber I get (standard ingredients) but the black sesame sauce just threw me. Slightly floury, slightly tasteless, I just didn’t understand the appeal. Why couldn’t a simple broth do? But hey, that’s why I’m not a chef – I just don’t understand the art of experimentation like they do. This dish works for some, but definitely not for others. 

Thankfully the last two dishes were rich, delicious, and kept my tastebuds very happy.

Sauteed mushrooms, rice cake & sweet soy
We’ve once again got the Asian influences of rice and soy but this dish was purely just a wonderful highlight of mushrooms. Meaty mushrooms, with different varieties lending different flavours and textures, offset by the crunch of the rice cake. Probably my favourite dish of the meal.

Silken tofu, marinated eggplant & coriander
The silken tofu dish came a close second, but likely only because of my affection for eggplant. The eggplant was silky, as was the tofu (which you may have gotten from the name) and were good foils for each other in terms of heavy and light flavours being balanced with the coriander was adding a refreshing highlight.

The whole experience is enjoyable if you just go with the fact that the dishes are very different to typical Asian food. Having never been to another Andrew McConnell restaurant, I don’t know if this is just what his style is like. Trying something new is always fun and worth a shot. The price tag is something you’d better be prepared for because that certainly doesn’t resemble the price tags you may be accustomed to seeing in most Asian restaurants. 

180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Sun-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-12am

Supernormal on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 15, 2014


After all this time, I've only just got around to eating at Mamak. I remember the hype surrounding the restaurant when it first opened, and the corresponding lines, and I shudder just thinking about it. The experience was much more pleasant now that it's no longer the darling of the Melbourne dining scene (especially with the massive expansion of Pappa Rich everywhere).

I arrived there for an early 6pm dinner with a friend and were promptly seated. The restaurant was relatively empty and fairly spacious, although the tables were smaller than I was entirely comfortable with (I need space to make a mess after all!) but not a-typical of an inner city restaurant. The menu is very Malaysian and very manageable - just what I wanted.

On to the food. I couldn't dine at a Malaysian restaurant and not order some Roti.

Roti Canai
The Roti was perfectly flaky and I had great fun feeling the layers off the roti ball. The curries were pretty uninteresting being both thin in texture and flavour, but luckily I'd ordered some additional curry in anticipation.

Kari Kambing
The lamb curry was rich and tender, with the faintest hint of spice (rather than what I'd call 'spicy'). I miss Australian lamb (the lamb in the USA isn't as flavoursome, tender or as abundant) and was incredibly happy with my order. In hindsight, I should have ordered more roti to soak up the juices.

My friend ordered the Rojak, a Malaysian-style salad with prawn and coconut fritters, fried tofu, hard-boiled eggs, yambean (jicama) and cucumbers and the requisite peanut sauce. I've never been particularly fond of Malaysian-style salads, but my friend demolished it in record time, which suggests that they liked it a lot.

The food was delicious (especially the roti), prices were reasonable and the service was fast. The nly blip was the confusion of whether iced black coffee should or shouldn't contain milk (some things just get lost in translation). I can understand the attention Mamak garnered when it opened was mostly worth it, but I think the lack of lines certainly makes for a more enjoyable dining experience.

366 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
Sun-Thu 1130am-230pm, 530-10pm
Fri-Sat 1130am-230pm, 530pm-12am

Mamak on Urbanspoon