Thursday, 28 August 2014

Warra Warra

Tivoli Arcade Shop 19 & 20
235-251 Bourke St Melbourne, VIC

Warra Warra is a neat little Korean restaurant located in a small strip of eateries not many know about, tucked away in the pockets of the city. Enter Tivoli Arcade from Bourke St, go to the end, make a sharp right, and there you’ll find the laid-back little place, quietly bustling in its steady popularity.

Sunflower Seeds

Instead of the side dishes, a.k.a. banchan, you would normally expect to see at any Korean restaurant, we were treated to a dish of roasted and salted sunflower seeds upon sitting down.

Beef Topokki ($17.5)

I don’t always get enough to eat when I’m at work, and today was one of those days, so the starchy goodness of the Beef Topokki ($17.5) appealed massively. The tubes of sticky rice cake soaked up all the sweet and slightly spicy soy, and were tossed through with crunchy veggies, fish cakes, and sliced beef. It’s a flavoursome and fun dish to eat, generous in portion size, and as Chris put it, has a good deal of everything in it. It makes an easy one bowl meal on its own, but is equally good with rice and complimentary sides of kimchi and pickled onions.

Kimchi Stew ($14.7)

I noticed that we always end up ordering the same few dishes at Korean restaurants – a bulgogi-styled dish for Chris, and a spicy stew for me. So the Kimchi Stew ($14.7) should come as no surprise as it sputtered our way to our table with a side of rice.

Kimchi Stew ($14.7)

Though the pot appeared to be quite small, it was chock full with kimchi, tofu, and a satisfying amount of pork. The stew was hearty and spicy, and the ideal way to warm up from the inside out.

The mildness of Warra Warra makes for a relaxing change from the brusque bustle you’ll find at most Korean restaurants. And the smiling, helpful staff are definitely a step (or ten) up as well. Though I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly does it, Warra Warra gives off a faintly quirky vibe that sets it apart from the crowd. This is definitely one restaurant where there’s more to it than what meets the eye.

Rating: 14/20 – now hungry at 11:38pm.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Warra Warra on Urbanspoon

Monday, 25 August 2014

Ricy Boat

183 Coleman Parade 
Glen Waverley, VIC 

Cross Bridge Rice Noodles ($12)

Cross Bridge Rice Noodles ($12)

Cross Bridge Rice Noodles ($12)

Clay Pot Rice Noodle Soup ($12)

Clay Pot Rice Noodle Soup ($12)

Ricy-boat 过桥米线 on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Hakata Gensuke Ramen

168 Russell St 
Melbourne, VIC

Not that it’s anything to be proud of, but I would openly admit to not thinking very much of the restaurants along the main strip of Lonsdale and Russell Streets. To me, everything there screams pedestrian pedestrian, thriving only from its optimum location. But then Hakata Genuske Ramen turned up almost overnight, and being forever optimistic when it comes to ramen, I faced the jovial cries of ‘irrashaimase’ with high hopes. 

With a shiny downstairs and an upstairs section devoted to tsukemen – Japanese dipping noodles – to come, Hakata Gensuke dripped with potential, from the Japanese speaking staff to the menu devoted entirely to ramen. The noodles are fully customisable, from the toppings and quantity, right down to the texture of the noodles and the spice level. JUST LIKE JAPAN. On each table sat a buffet of house-made sauces, pickles, fresh garlic, and grind-your-own sesame seeds. JUST LIKE JAPAN. Even the ordering is done on nostalgic little tick sheets. JUST LIKE JAPAN!

Hakata Gyoza ($4.5, 5pcs)

Chris had passed his driving test earlier in the day, and then had proceeded to eat a celebratory cheese pie a couple hours before dinner. So we didn’t so much as order the Hakata Gyoza ($4.5, 5pcs) as we were coerced into it, but it didn’t turn out to be a bad idea. Bite-sized and wrapped in a delicately smooth skin, these pan-fried morsels were a dainty little appetiser that was twee in size, but yo ho ho in flavour. 

Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($13)

The owner had my interest sniffing the air hopefully, when he said that his goal was to bring the real taste of Japanese ramen to Melbourne. And the Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($13)? It was perfect. Thick and gelatinous, the soup clung to the noodle with a coat of porky, umami goodness. The slices of charshu were a little lean for Japanese, but the flavour of the soup absolutely blew me away, all the way back to Tokyo. 

Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($13)

And though I prefer my noodles curly and bouncing all the way into my stomach, these Hakata-styled noodles were a gem, chewy and resilient with just the right amount of bite. 

Black Tonkotsu ($14)

The Black Tonkotsu ($14) is something a little different. Whilst it retained the similarly sticky pork broth, the soup is emulsified with a dark slick of ground black sesame and garlic oil, resulting in an intensely rich and nutty experience. Though less porky than the signature tonkotsu, it is nevertheless packed with flavour, albeit along a very different vein.

I was fortunate enough to be treated to a quick tour backstage after we slurped up the dregs of our ramen, and here’s where the whole production really shines. Not only did the Hakata Gensuke group originate in Japan, but they also imported their noodle making machine, noodle master, and head chef from Japan too. The prices may be a bit steep, and the portions may be a bit small, but there is nowhere else I would rather go. That is, if I can get in – when my work friend (hi Amelia!) tried to visit on opening night, she found the line long enough to rival Chin Chin’s; so much for getting in before the word gets out!

Rating: 16/20 – JUST LIKE JAPAN!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Hakata Gensuke Ramen.

Hakata Gensuke Ramen on Urbanspoon

Monday, 18 August 2014

Curry Vault Indian Restaurant and Bar

20 Bank Pl 
Melbourne, VIC 

I’m all about the weird and wonderful. Usually when I go out to restaurants, I always pick the most unusual and unique dishes on the menu, hoping for a new way to tingle my tastebuds. But when I go to an Indian restaurant, I regress to a state similar to a family from a small country town, trying Mexican food for the first time. I try, I really do, but somehow I always end up choosing a curry with medium levels of spice and an inoffensive mix of sauteed tomatoes and onions. 

I do love Indian food though, and it makes a lot of sense. Though the flavour palate is entirely different to Southern Chinese food (aka what I grew up on), you get the similar concept of spices and more spices, and bold flavours that linger on for hours. Forsaking the cheap and cheerful, Ethan and I decided to have our dinner at Curry Vault, a slightly more upmarket Indian restaurant carved into the masonry on the broad and beautiful Bank Place. It really does feel a little bit like a vault, in the best way possible. 


Just moments after we sat down, a cold pitcher of water was set on the table, along with a complimentary pair of airy Papadums for us to snack on, dipped into a cool and minty Raita

Aloo Gobi ($15.5)

Under the excuse of getting something with vegetables in it, I chose the Aloo Gobi ($15.5), a dry Punjabi-styled curry. Though filled with spices and the heat of ginger, this dish of fluffy potatoes and cauliflower was comforting and mild, and exactly what I had been looking for. 

Chicken Madras ($20.5)

The aloo gobi was good, but the Chicken Madras ($20.5) was better. Though I usually tend to avoid coconut-based curries, finding them either too sweet or too cloying, this one was heavenly. The chicken was slow-cooked tender, and the sauce rich, creamy, and flavoured with pungent mustard seeds and curry leaves. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I finished up my entire serve of Basmati Rice ($3.9pp) scooping up the dregs of the sauce.

Aloo Gobi ($15.5)/Chicken Madras ($20.5)

The food at Curry Vault was very pricy for what it was, coming to almost $25pp for a meal that was on the smaller side. But our meal was delicious, so I saw no reason to complain. I may not know all that much about curry, but I know a good one when I taste it.

Rating: 13.5/20 – vault 713
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Curry Vault Indian Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon