Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Cornershop

9 Ballarat St 
Yarraville, VIC 3013

We went out for dinner on Friday night at The Cornershop, recommended to me by a co-worker whose boyfriend works there.

Rustic and lazy, this cosy little brunch spot converts to a popular dinner destination by night. We didn’t have a reservation but managed to get a place for two at the communal table.

Aromatic Braised Goat ($19)
Aromatic Braised Goat ($19)

The menu looked simply divine, taking its influences from all over the world. After consulting the waitress, we chose the Aromatic Braised Goat ($19), its warmly spiced tomato broth taking its cue from Moroccan cuisine. The fork-tender chunks of goat went beautifully with the handful of bright and tangy cucumber-coriander salad. The accompanying grilled flatbread was crisp, carrying with it a hint of garlic.

Sticky Beef Ribs with Moroccan Slaw ($18)

If we thought the goat was tender, then the Sticky Beef Ribs with Moroccan Slaw ($18) completely redefined the word. Covered in a sticky, sweet glaze, the unctuous ribs simply melted in the mouth. And for someone who hates slaw as a general rule, I found this one to be a revelation. Crunchy and peppery, it was the ideal pairing to the ribs.

Hand-Cut Desiree Potato Chips ($8.5)

After days of debating with my better judgement, we ended up ordering the Hand-Cut Desiree Potato Chips ($8.5) anyway. And this just goes to prove that my better judgement isn’t always better. Fluffy in the middle and golden along the edges, the slices of potato were infused with subtle shades of rosemary and coated with salt flakes. The aioli was bursting with lemon and garlic. 

Creme Brulee with Date and Kahlua ($15)

As soon as I saw the Creme Brulee with Date and Kahlua ($15) on the menu, I knew we had to save – nay, make – room for it. And it was a spot-on dessert, the sugar crust brittle and caramelised, the custard thick and flecked with vanilla. But what sealed the deal was the treasure trove of pureed date at the bottom, adding its mellow sweetness to the rich, creamy dessert.

Though nothing fancy, The Cornershop has the comforting home-cooked food down pat. It’s unfortunately a bit out of the way for me, but the locals love this place. It buzzed the entire night.

Rating: 14/20 – such tender.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.

The Cornershop on Urbanspoon

Monday, 21 April 2014

Rockwell and Sons

288 Smith St 
Fitzroy, VIC 

Sometimes it takes me way too long to visit a restaurant on my ‘must eat’ list, even if it’s a place that I’m super keen about. And most of the time it’s my own fault – I decide what I want to eat 4 days in advance, so big surprise when that day comes around and I don’t feel like whatever it was I had decided on anymore. Even though I would probably feel like it once I have the menu in front of me. This has been a constant source of frustration for Chris, poor bloke. 

That’s how things went with Rockwell and Sons, but finally, finally, we’re there on a Friday night to celebrate my newly obtained driver’s license. Being an American restaurant that was also part-bar, the guy to gal ratio was skewed far towards the Y chromosome. Still, once you get a bit further into the minimally furnished restaurant, it turns out that it’s just as good for a family dinner or a date. Just not the first date; not unless you’re ok with the other person seeing you with grease dripping down your chin. 

Smoked Lamb Ribs ($14)

I had a good idea of what I wanted to order, but our waiter rattled off a few specials, gave us a couple suggestions, and what he came up with sounded like a much better way to go. Our first share dish of Smoked Lamb Ribs ($14) were hot and smoky like they had been taken off a campfire, transitioning faster than I believed possible from crisp exterior to succulent centre. The buttery, unctuous meat was kept just on the right side of cloying with a sharp, sweet Kentucky BBQ sauce. 

Tomato Salad ($12)

It’s usually a bad thing when the salad is the highlight of the meal, but not in this case. Our waiter recommended the Tomato Salad ($12) as the best he’s ever had, and it was indeed so delicious it made my knees weak. The ripe segments of heirloom tomato swam in a light and tangy buttermilk dressing, and were then lavishly decorated with the caramelised aroma of black garlic oil and crunchy fried shallots. I swear an angel was born every time I took a bite.

Fried Chicken ($12, 2pcs)

After the lamb ribs, the Fried Chicken ($12, 2pcs) was almost light. Tender and enrobed with spindly buttermilk batter, it was very tasty (albeit unremarkable) dipped into the tart buttermilk dressing and a slick of chilli oil.  

Double Patty Smash Burger ($11)

And of course, the dish everyone gets – the Double Patty Smash Burger ($11). Not that I’ve had McDonalds for over half a decade, but this is essentially a gourmet Big Mac. Minus the salad. Picking it up, I thought the sweet buttered brioche bun was going to disintegrate between my fingers, but it held up remarkably well, sandwiching each mouthful of medium-rare beef, creamy Kraft cheese, and the pickle-infused special sauce. If there’s a burger out there that could possibly be more decadent than the Huxtaburger, I have found it. I’m definitely lovin’ it.

There was only one dessert on the menu and it was ice cream, so we decided to cross the road and get our sweet fix at Gelato Messina instead. And that is but one of the many reasons that will lure me back to Rockwell and Sons. Our dinner was about as affordable and indulgent as a meal could get, and the service was top notch to boot. I can’t wait to come back for the crispy duck wings and chicken liver parfait.

Rating: 16/20 – rock well and rock on.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Rockwell and Sons on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Colonel Tan's

229 Chapel St 
Prahran, VIC 3181

Sometimes I wonder how non-Melbournians see my beloved city. There are so many things – the rattling trams, the tiny coffee shops, the street performers in drag – that I barely even notice; then I see the tourists stopping and staring with their cameras out, and I realise – Melbourne is one hell of a unique city. 

Until you see the menu, Colonel Tan’s could be anything. Walking up the steep stairs, the velvet curtains could easily be pulled apart to reveal a burlesque house. Then you reach the top and see the local band setting up for their gig in the fenced-off band room, and the place suddenly becomes more like an abandoned factory where the kids go to strum their guitars. Finally, you turn the corner and reach the actual restaurant, a lounge filled with a chimerical clutter of pinball machines, a dozen chandeliers, and broken (or not) children’s rides. Not a single piece of the furniture matched, and the squashy couches weren’t even of the op-shop variety; more salvage pieces from the curb. Yep, we’re in Melbourne. 

Colonel Tan’s is run by the brains behind Cookie, and the similarities are plain to see – the same modernised Thai menu, intimidating drinks list, and patrons lining up out the door once dinnertime hit. The vibe at Colonel Tan’s is a more casual one though; instead of being a wine bar that targeted the after-work cocktail crowd, this is more of a hip young person sort of place, where the live music starts before night falls. And according to Chris, provides information in the bathroom on what to do in the event that you buy fake LSD. Gnarly. 

Service is casual, but errs just on the right side of inattentive. But so long as they keep filling up my glass with delicious fruit-infused water, I don’t care what they do, provided they don’t poison my food.

Deep Fried Chilli Squid and Sweet Chilli Sauce ($12.5)

Chris liked the Deep Fried Chilli Squid and Sweet Chilli Sauce ($12.5), but I didn’t so much. I thought that it tasted incredibly bland, and though it was deep fried as promised, there was no crunch, and the batter left a film of grease in the mouth. The squid was decently fresh though, and Chris enjoyed the subtle taste. 

Green Chicken Curry with Rice and Salted Egg Salad ($16.5)

The Green Chicken Curry with Rice and Salted Egg Salad ($16.5) was much better received by both of us. Though subtle, the curry sauce was fragrant and creamy, its aroma translating well to the generous chunks of chicken. Better still was the wickedly sour relish with chunks of salted egg, contrasting magnificently with the mild sweetness of the curry.

Bangkok Bolognaise ($16.5)

But the star of the night was the Bangkok Bolognaise ($16.5), which as another blogger wittily pointed out, sounds more like an exotic STI. Moving away from that repulsive fact, this is a cracker of a fusion dish. Taking the most famous noodles recipes from Italy and Thailand respectively, we were served up a plate of flat rice noodles like you would find in Pad Thai, buried under a spicy Bolognaise-like mince that was then tossed through with chilli and holy basil. There was generous amount of smoke from the wok, as well as a tingle from the spices that built on the palate. And you’ll never catch me saying this again but, the slight sweetness of the noodles topped it all off.

I think I may have judged Melbourne too early, and too harshly. Though definitely westernised, Colonel Tan’s nosh is more than Thai enough to keep me happy. The food is also great value – there was heaps of chicken in our curry, and the bolognaise was more beef than noodle. I’m eager to see if their fat duck noodles are as delectable as the one at Cookie. 

And did I mention? Our bill came with these awesome dinosaurs, and they were even kind enough to let me take one home! I named him Jasper.

Rating: 14.5/20 – gnarly thai.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Colonel Tan's on Urbanspoon

Monday, 14 April 2014

TGI Fridays

3rd Floor, 313 Melbourne Central
Melbourne, VIC 3000

I’m not one for big nights out. The last time I attempted to have a night on the town ended up with my buttocks freezing off in a skimpy dress, feeling revolting the next morning despite not having eaten or drank very much, and 80 dollars gone goodness knows where. But when TGI Fridays sent me an email wanting to inject some Friday into my Monday, I was happy to accept. 

I admit TGI Fridays was a lot nicer than I had imagined. I was expecting a tacky diner, trying to capitalise on the American theme, but it turned out to be modern and snazzy family-styled diner with a bar for a centrepiece, complete with bottle-juggling mixologists.  The third floor corner view over the state library and Swanston Street was gorgeous. And we were here to undertake the arduous task of tasting a range of premium burgers with the added incentive of cocktails on the side. It’s a tough life. 

Philly Cheese Steak/New York Deli/Twisted Southwest

We were lucky enough to try out the Premium Stacked Burger range right before launch day, and whilst we were still debating over which of the burgers to try, we were served up scaled down versions of all 5 burgers. I could hear my waistband crying.

Philly Cheese Steak

Each of these burgers has a distinct American influence, and the Philly Cheese Steak burger was beefed up with the addition of smoky beef steak and peppers, giving a street-food twist to the diner staple. 

New York Deli/Twisted Southwest

I had been looking forward to the Twisted Southwest, but aside from the crisp curly fries on top, this tasted just like your average cheeseburger. Luckily it was only a handful of jalapenos away from achieving the tex-mex identity it was going for.

The New York Deli was my favourite for the day. Topped with flavoursome sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, deli corned beef, and a whole pickle, it’s like having a Reuben sandwich and a burger at the same time.

French Onion/Mushroom Chicken Mushroom

Conversely, the Mushroom Chicken Mushroom was my least favourite for the day. Whilst the chicken and mushroom soaked in onion balsamic worked well together, it was too dry to be very enjoyable.

The burgers finished strong with the French Onion, a timeless combination of cheese and caramelised onions. It was a rich, satisfying end to our burger tasting adventure. 


And what are burgers without Chips? Our first cup of fries was served with a smoky and spicy ketchup, as well as an addictive horseradish mayo that underscored its creaminess with a pungent heat. But then they brought out some more sauces, and we couldn’t say no to a second serve of chips to go with a sweet honey mustard that Chris adored, and a sticky, smoky, and spicy Jack Daniel’s sauce, flown all the way from America.  

Pink Punk Cosmo/Electric Lemonade

June Bug

Hawaiian Volcano

The jolly bunch at TGI Fridays also did a marvellous job of trying to get us drunk with not only drink vouchers, but also a selection of cocktail samples. Throughout the night, we managed to try (not finish!) the Pink Punk Cosmo, Electric Lemonade, June Bug, and Hawaiian Volcano. Whilst they weren’t the pinnacle of complex and imaginative cocktails, they were all invariably delicious, especially... all of them. I had to get the waiter to take them away after a bit so I didn't guzzle them down and fall off my stool.

TGI Fridays has their target audience worked out, and it’s easy to see why they’ve been around for 18 years.  By combining an indulgent American menu, affordable cocktails, and a vibe that makes Monday feel like Friday, it is entirely understandable why everyone would want to be coming here after a long day at work.

Rating: 13/20 – fatty Friday.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of TGI Fridays.

TGI Fridays on Urbanspoon