Monday, 22 December 2014

North East China Family

302 Flinders Ln 
Melbourne, VIC 


Chris and I had a simple dinner at North East China Family. A real simple dinner. Because sometimes you’re just so tired and hungry you just want something comforting sitting solidly in your tummy.


The menu boggled a little, being a mix of Northern Chinese, Southern Chinese, and Aussie Chinese. Nevertheless, there is bound to be something that pleases everyone. 


Pork and Cabbage Dumplings ($9, 15pcs)

Pork and Cabbage Dumplings ($9, 15pcs) were a must-order. These plump parcels were reassuringly irregular, filled with a mince and vegetable mix, and the overall effect was one of hearty stodginess. The jar of chilli oil was a disappointing flavourless burn, but a dash of vinegar made things better. 


Spice Salt Squid ($18)

The Spice Salt Squid ($18) was battered with powdery rice flour, and fried into large golden florets. Though the squid leant towards mushiness, the batter was light and peppery with just the right amount of salt. Despite having a light texture however, the batter was rather too liberal in places, and ended up being a bit cloying towards the end.

I told you it was a simple dinner.

Rating: 11.5/20 – K.I.S.S.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 


North East China Family on Urbanspoon


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Grand Trailer Park Taverna

87 Bourke St 
Melbourne, VIC 3000



So it looks like the burger craze ain’t goin’ nowhere. Try as we might, Melbourne just can’t seem to buck the trend, and the burgers have now been joined by milkshakes, hot dogs, and the like. I’d be lying if I said that I’m not thrilled with the plethora of good burgers springing up whichever way I turn, but I’m not sure my arteries feel the same. Luckily I’ve been good about going to the gym recently.




Grand Trailer Park Taverna takes the all-American trend one step further. In this case, the name really says it all – despite being indoors, it felt very much like a trailer park campground, set up for a night of drinking and revelling. The rough wooden picnic tables still smelt of freshly logged wood. 

Sangria

Alcoholic Ginger Ale

Spiked Salted Caramel Milkshake

The bar was open from the get go, and the alcohol flowed all night. Served up were three of the restaurant’s signature drinks – Sangria, Alcoholic Ginger Ale, and the Spiked Salted Caramel Milkshake. Everyone gravitated towards the milkshake, and its sinful combination of sugar and alcohol mixed into the fluffy milk and ice cream mixture. The alcoholic ginger ale was nice too, but I chose not to indulge in sangria after an awful experience with a truly delicious sangria that nevertheless left me feeling extremely sick. 


McDowell

Soon roving platters of scaled-down burgers started appearing out of the kitchen, and I for one am glad to be small enough to squeeze by, grab a slider, and disappear before anyone even noticed me. The first one I tried of the night was the McDowell, and no, that name is not a coincidence. It tasted like a (very good) Big Mac, right down to the melted Kraft cheese and special sauce with bits of pickles in it.


Cynthia Benson

The Cynthia Benson won’t convince anyone that it’s a bona fide beef burger, on account of the moist yet crumbly texture of the mushroom patty. When you look beyond that however, what you get is a surprisingly satisfying sandwich that’s full in flavour and doused in sauce. 


Chips

I managed to nab a serve of Chips, and they were thick, hand-cut with the skin still left on, and more than satisfactory. What I didn’t like so much was the tomato sauce, which had an oddly sweet taste to it. Maybe this is how tomato sauce in America tastes?


The Chunk

This time it was Chris who drew my attention to the similarities between The Chunk and another well-known fast food cheeseburger. And whilst I certainly agree to a certain extent, this was no mere cheeseburger. Not only was the familiar trio of bun-beef-cheese given a makeover with smoky onions and BBQ sauce, there were whole slices of jalapenos hidden beneath the patty that gave this burger a real kick.


Francis Underwood

Francis Underwood

We couldn’t leave without trying the Francis Underwood, the classic burger topped with an entire potato mac and cheese croquette. It may have been an imposing-looking slider, but unfortunately no one won in the end. The flavours of the burger were smothered by the sheer volume of the croquette, which added nothing but crunch and guilt.

Like I said, the burger craze is still going strong, but admittedly, I wouldn’t lump Grand Trailer Park Taverna as someone who’s jumping on the bandwagon. The impression I got was that it’s less food-centric, with its focus being providing a good time overall, rather than the best burgers known to mankind. So next time the workplace suggests drinks at another ho-hum bar, give this place a go instead.

Rating: 13/20 – party time, c’mon grab your friends.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Grand Trailer Park Taverna.

Grand Trailer Park Taverna on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 December 2014

Mugen Ramen and Bar

11 Bligh Pl 
Melbourne, VIC 
http://www.mensousaimugen.com/



If I had to use one word to describe Melbourne, that word would be ‘cool’. Inside every crevice, tucked away in her hidden pockets, are new surprises waiting to be discovered.  And if Robot Bar, hidden away in a laneway off a laneway, isn’t cool enough for you, there’s always the option to step across the lane to Mugen Ramen and Bar, its sister restaurant.



A steep metal staircase wound down to a dark, tiny basement, its rough-hewn concrete walls simultaneously chic yet peaceful – very modern Japanese. The menu consists of a mixture of ramen, a small batch of lunch specials, and a longer list of Japanese fusion tapas, aka japas. 


Curry Tsukemen ($13, small)

Though tonkotsu is the flavour of the month and everybody’s favourite ramen, there’s something to be said about the novelty of Curry Tsukemen ($13, small). Instead of being in a soup, the noodles were served cold on the side with a slice of seaweed and a slice of charshu pork. I couldn’t resist adding a Soft Boiled Egg ($2).


Curry Tsukemen ($13, small)

I have to say, the texture of these ramen noodles were the best I’ve had to date. The thick curry sauce clung to the chewy strands, and each mouthful was simply made for slurping. 


Wafu Ramen ($13, small)

The Wafu Ramen ($13, small), however traditional, was nothing to be scoffed at. Though touted as a simple soy and dashi broth, the flavour profile was surprisingly complex. 


Wafu Ramen ($13, small)

Having been braised for a full 48 hours, the delicate umami of the bonito has long since enriched into something deep and fragrant. The slice of charshu was half-melted from slow cooking, its succulent texture soaking up the aroma of the broth.

Having been so fixated on the perfect tonkotsu, I failed to notice the other types of ramen around Melbourne quietly raising their exquisite heads. I was enormously impressed with the texture of the noodles at Mugen, and almost just as impressed with how elegantly executed the classic Japanese flavours were. It’s definitely one worth keeping an eye on.

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

Mugen Ramen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Dinknesh (Lucy) Restaurant and Bar

227 Barkly St 

I don’t give the Western suburbs enough credit. When I think west, I think Footscray. When I think Footscray, I think Vietnamese. And why on earth should I go out that far for Vietnamese when I’m a 20 minute straight-line drive from Springvale? What I’m always forgetting is that, aside from an abundance of Asian food, Footscray also specialises in a colourful cuisine rarely seen elsewhere in Melbourne (and definitely not in Springvale) – African cuisine.


Dinknesh (Lucy) Restaurant and Bar is a little bit away from the central hub of Footscray. It’s very bare bones, the space simply furnished and sparely decorated, though the air carries a strong smell of spices. We were the only customers on a dreary Monday evening.


Injera

All meals came with the African staple dish of Injera. Large as plates, even larger than platters, the rounds of fermented bread were rolled up like soft, warm towels, ready to soak up any sauce that comes its way. The intensity of the injera always surprises me. It carries a sharp, fermented tanginess that belies its mellow appearance. I find it too strong to eat on its own, but it’s absolutely perfect when dipped into rich sauces.


Lucy Meat Combination ($17)

We ordered the Lucy Meat Combination ($17), a platter of stewed meats and vegetables. We ate with our hands, revelling in the way the sauces soaked into the injera. The bozena shiro – chickpeas and beef stewed in clarified butter – was mild and aromatic, the addition of tomato and onion bringing to mind hearty Italian ragus. The ybeg wot (spicy beef stew) however was sharp and pungent with spices, a real contrast to the mild creaminess of the ybeg alicha (braised lamb).


Lucy Meat Combination ($17)

On the side were vegetable dishes; potatoes and carrots in turmeric, cooked cabbage, and – my favourite – potatoes sweetly braised in beetroot. 


Lucy Vegetable Combination ($15)

As opposed to trying to choose one other dish, we had the Lucy Vegetable Combination ($15). Instead of meats, this platter was a variety of richly spiced mashed pulses and grains, and a pinch of wilted silver beet. It is every bit as filling as its carnivorous counterpart and a joy to eat, bringing to mind an unfamiliar variation of pita and hommus.

I thought Dinknesh was enjoyable, but I thought it could’ve been a lot better given different circumstances. I imagine it would’ve been a better experience overall had we visited on a busier evening. Plus, then we may have gotten food that was freshly cooked, instead of re-heated in the microwave as so many other people complained of – the uneven heating of the different dishes were telltale. I like the spirit of Dinknesh, but I don’t know about coming out this far, especially not with Little Africa so much closer by.

Rating: 12/20 – if you’re in the area.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Dinknesh (Lucy) Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon