Monday, 15 September 2014

Chef Lagenda

After asking my Singaporean friends for their recommendation in regards to a good place to eat Singaporean cuisine, Chef Lagenda popped up. Of course Melbourne has no claim to ever be close to the beauty of hawker-style food (and the price is about four times more expensive), but Chef Lagenda will do as we all wait for cheap flights to South-East Asia.

Nothing tests a place like the good ol’ staple, Char Kway Teow. A traditional fried flat rice noodle dish, the key indicators are (according to traditionalists) the smoked semi-charred taste and the use of cockles and/or fried pork fat and lard, which gives rise to the massive taste of the dish. Chef Lagenda's Fried Koay Teow (fried rice noodle, shrimp, fishcake, chinese sausage & chilli; $10.2) also came with the promise of cockles for $2.0 extra, which isn't commonly seen in Australia, however our waitress informed us that cockles were now banned. I couldn't find any evidence substantiating this, but nevertheless this dish did have both the smoked taste and added lard which was done well. The request for “quite spicy” was answered accordingly, which always brings out nice flavours of the fish cake, chinese sausage and fried egg. This Kway Teow was on the slightly sweet side and was quite dark in colour, due to the sweet soy sauce used.

Their Seafood Curry Laksa (mixed noodle w/ king prawn, calamari, fish fillet & scallop; $11.9) was good; much better than next door’s and on par with Grand Tofu – the ingredients were plentiful and the soup was good enough to drink on its own.

Next was the Har Mee (hokkien noodle w/ prawn, fish cake, egg & prawn soup; $10.2); a very strong tasting prawn soup noodle dish which when perfected, tastes great. Chef Lagenda’s definitely has the prawn taste in the broth, though it felt like the dish had no depth of flavour and was still quite dilute. There wasn’t enough vermicelli noodle to balance the yellow thicker noodle, and no bean sprouts either! This dish wasn’t the best.

The Fried Noodle w/ Egg Sauce (aka. Waat Taan Hor Fun, flat rice noodle, shrimp, fishcake, calamari, pork, green vegies w/ egg gravy; $10.2) I ordered came presented on a massive dish, which was great as it was so satisfyingly filling. You could taste the pan fried smokiness in the flat noodles (much like the Kway Teow) and the eggy-sauce was tasty, a little too tasty, if you catch my drift. They again didn’t skimp on the ingredients and there was heaps of fish cake, prawn, vegetables and chicken meat.

Chef Lagenda was a good recommendation by my friend, definitely one of the better Curry Laksas in Melbourne and an accessible shop just on the outskirts of town. If you live on the east side though, I would still try Danny’s Kopitiam – tell me which you feel deserves the title.

TL;DR Fair representation of Singaporean cuisine in Melbourne.
Chef Lagenda on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Merchants Guild

When I drove past Merchants Guild randomly I got so excited there was a potentially great brunch place on that side of town, which I could call on when needed. I waited in line whilst the café buzzed with customers eating their delicious food and wished they would all hurry up so I could similarly stuff face. I hoped that Merchants Guild would meet my expectations, but instead they impressed like crazy.

The décor inside is comfortable and bright, and despite the storage shelves being in full view, you don’t feel like you’re eating in a grimy warehouse. Personally I feel it’s the greenery that helps lift the atmosphere up.

This actually isn’t the first time I have eaten at Merchants Guild, I think I am up to sitting number three or four and I’m still returning with fervour. That being said, don’t attend during peak time when you’re insanely hungry, their service is quite slow but their friendly, helpful staff definitely balance that out.

I opted for my tried and true Roast potato bubble and squeak, hot smoked trout, horseradish cream, pickled shallots and two poached eggs ($18.0) and the wait was worth it. Served piping hot the perfectly cooked potatoes combines so well with the tasty trout and cream (which isn’t spicy at all, so don’t worry). They nailed the poached eggs, breaking open deliciously when poked. Sexy.

The Chorizo Hot Pot topped with poached eggs and parmesan cream ($20.0) was a lovely warming winter dish but served with a fork instead of a spoon, and not enough bread to mop up the delicious sauce. The overlying taste was rich tomato, though the smoked chorizo and other hearty veg also filled the dish out. On its own, the chorizo became a bit tasteless after a few bites and thus it was a nice dish, but nothing special.

Just FYI, these guys have THE BEST chocolate milkshakes ($6.0) in town. Utilising Mörk chocolate, they are creamy, the perfect amount of chocolatey without being too bitter or sickeningly sweet. Plus the cup they are served in is pretty darn generous.

To finish it off we ordered the Doughnut French toast with vanilla marscapone, peaches, berries and pistachios ($16.5). The soft thick-ass piece of heavily sugared French toast was not as dense as a donut, so I’m not sure why it is called so. I guess it was sweet bread but… I feel the dish definitely needed the marscapone otherwise the toast ended up too dry and plain. The blueberries and peaches were nice and sweet, but a hint of syrup would not have gone astray. The addition of pistachios didn’t do much for me, but were a necessity for the much desired ‘texture’ of a dish these days. I wanted this dish to blow my mind like Top Paddock’s but it didn’t even come close.

TL;DR A great south-side eatery with no competition for miles around. A few hit and miss dishes but overall, brunch fare at a highly satisfactory level.
Merchants Guild on Urbanspoon

Monday, 8 September 2014

Crazy Wings

As you walk down Russell Street in Melbourne city and approach this native Chinese store, you can smell the distinct burn of chilli that you will forever associate with that time you couldn't stop crying from the pain of Crazy Wings, despite drinking a half litre carton of milk.

This review isn't about that time, because once is enough for me, but I do encourage you to undertake another of these ‘passage of rites’ and put yourself through what literally feels like your tastebuds on fire. Experience it with a friend, bonus points if you film it. It’s painful, you cry, you laugh, you cry some more and try to gather yourself after it’s all over. Much like most other things in life…

Crazy Wings also have a nice daily deal where you can get two skewers (which rotate) for the price of one. Today was the garlic wings deal ($2.0 per skewer of two wings) so we bought a handful for half the price it would usually cost. They were a lot easier to eat than the Crazy Wings, and thus more satisfying. They have a very distinct BBQ’d flavour and in terms of size, well, steroids may have been involved.

The tofu cube skewer ($2.0) was nothing really special; quite dry with just a sprinkle of chilli powder on it.

Overall it's quite a cheap place to have a quick snack or meal. Don't expect stellar service, you write down what you want on a sheet and then have difficulty getting service thereafter. But it's not really about that, y'know?

TL;DR Remember to bring a camera to Crazy Wings and film you and a friend consuming the fire. 
Crazy Wings on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmer’s Market

The back of the Convent

Walking into the grounds of Abbotsford Convent was like stepping into a medieval market, with stalls lining most of the pathways on the grounds, selling locally grown produce and wares. I was here for Dr Marty’s crumpets but got so much more out of it in the end. The market was busy but not rudely so; everyone was strolling and browsing and tasting to their hearts content, which was lovely to see. Definitely a nice break away from the city bustle.

I never knew crumpets could be any different to the supermarket bought, mass produced kind, but boy did Dr Marty’s Crumpets change my mind forever. Selling at six for $8.50, it’s definitely more expensive than what I’m used to paying, but it is so worth it. They taste so different, more wholesome and delicious – you can taste the LACK of preservatives and weird things that alter the taste. These taste like pure floury awesomeness. To this day I have been stalking their facebook page to see which market they will be at next. Luckily they stock in certain food outlets too, just email them to find the nearest one!

Not bought from the Farmer’s Market, but a decidedly excellent combination to my new crumpets was the epic French churned butter – Le Conquérant Beurre de Baratte D’Isigny demi-sel (semi salted). In a way, it’s kind of depressing; after eating this butter you will be spoiled and all other butters will taste oily and cheap. This butter is perfectly salted and so delicious, albeit light, which makes you want to eat the butter… by the stick… on its own… Anyway, the combination of Le Conquérant butter with my Dr Marty’s crumpets pretty much made my mornings, for the three days that they lasted in the house before getting consumed. At this stage, Le Conquérant is proving more difficult to find, but the Calendar Cheese Company are pushing fans to ask/beg their local providores to stock these blocks of gold.

Next spontaneous buy was the Locheilan Triple cheese ($8.0) from a lovely cheese stall I forgot the name of – but I will hunt them down because this cheese blew my mind. I hope I can find cheese like this easily in Paris ‘cos WOW. IT was so liquidy and creamy and tasty I had to stop myself from eating the whole wheel that night. My best buy of the day.

These assorted dips (3 for $20.0) from Verde Provedores were so fresh and quite a different style of flavours. The Spinach and Almond Pesto was a deliciously ‘green’ tasting dip with a lovely bitey aftertaste. The Almond Skordalla is much like an aioli, but nuttier and more liquid in texture. It went very well with stronger meatier flavours like smoked salmon and ham. The Cauliflower and Fetta was a chunky dip, with cauliflower dominating the taste. I think this was my least favourite of the three as it was quite dry and could’ve suited a roast a lot better than cheese and crackers.

Onsite at the Abbotsford Convent Bakery, I bought a big ass muffin ($5.0) and decided to explore the area with my newly bought snack. The apple on top was crispy, the custard underneath was sweet and creamy; I was sad there wasn’t more through the muffin. The muffin top was baked to a crisp and I enjoyed breaking it off and enjoying it like a semi-cookie. The walnuts were a surprise and even though I don’t usually like nuts in my pastries I found it worked really well. This is one of the best muffins I’ve had, coming second only behind The Stables of Como.

When you visit Abbotsford Market make sure you wander down to the surrounding gardens and Collingwood Children’s Farm, which has fellas like this being a boss and eating grass through a fence.

The area is tranquil and a nice way to spend a weekend morning wandering, running or cycling.

TL;DR I think I’ll start visiting more Farmer’s Markets to discover cool new foods, you should too /wink
Abbotsford Convent Bakery on Urbanspoon

Monday, 1 September 2014

Tan Lac Vien

Going against my rule, we paid $29 for this Scoopon deal for two at Tan Lac Vien but I was pleasantly surprised. The restaurant was largely empty though it was dinner on a Wednesday night, but we didn’t let that deter us. There were a fair few different dishes we could choose on the menu, and it wasn’t restricted which was nice.

The entrée we chose was the Pi-Pi in XO Sauce (usually $14.0) which was delicious. The sauce was where the action was at, but I was so surprised at how many pipis were in the dish! They didn’t skimp at all and it was a very filling dish – nice and spicy and full of flavour. I enjoyed eating the pipis in sauce with the extra rice I ordered ($2.0)

I wanted to try the Vermicelli with Grilled Pork ($10.5) and I was rewarded with a really fresh, lovely dish. The Grilled pork was perfectly done; the outer had lots of flavour and was well marinated and cooked. The vermicelli was plentiful and the sweet and spicy salad dressing brought the flavours to the front.  

I loved the look of the Vietnamese Mud Crab Noodle Soup (price is seasonal) so this made our second main. The soup had a very strong crab flavour, much like the Singaporean Har Mee (prawn soup), yet I couldn’t find much crab meat present. There was a large omelette type block in the middle which had some crab meat in it, but otherwise it was mostly supplemented by lots of other meat – luncheon meat, pork slices which tasted a bit old and too fatty, fish cake and coagulated blood! I loved the contrast between the two noodle dishes we chose, one was light and crispy with the fresh vegies giving it a crunch, whilst the other was a deeper, heavier noodle dish.

Lastly, we finished the meal with one of my favourite Asian desserts – BANANA FRITTERS WITH ICE-CREAM!!! Tan Lac Vien does this very well, deep frying the batter to perfection and though the ice-cream was not the highest quality, it was sufficient. I feel the cheap chocolate flavoured sauce was unnecessary and I left most of it on the plate.

Overall I was very pleased with this Scoopon and Tan Lac Vien, it was very much worth the price we paid. Though prices are higher than most restaurants in the Springvale area, they also offer very well cooked Vietnamese/Chinese cuisine, which is a nice option if you're willing to take the chance.

TL;DR A nice alternative to the usual Springvale pho fare.
Tan Lac Vien on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tivoli Road Bakery

Tucked away on a nice road, Tivoli Road in fact, this bakery is a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Chapel and Toorak. They stuff their sandwiches full of gourmet fillings and offer all sorts of tempting pastries. Despite getting rid of their delectable cronuts a while ago, Tivoli Rd still manage to tempt and impress with their regular donuts filled with changing flavours like salted caramel, sticky toffee and crème brûlée.

Today I was lucky enough to grab the choc mint donut ($4.5, and the lemon curd went to That Girl). I have tried their hot cross bun, salted caramel, lemon curd and chocolate fillings and I have to say this choc mint was the best of them all – smooth, not too heavily minted and left me wanting more.

Their caramel banana & coconut muffin ($4.5) was very nice as well, though the desiccated coconut was more evident than the actual muffin and the caramel was quite subtle. Otherwise, the muffin was moist and I enjoyed the banana taste without having to eat chunks of un-mashed banana.

TL;DR Go for the Doughnuts.
Tivoli Road Bakery on Urbanspoon

Monday, 25 August 2014

Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier

When I heard Zumbo was opening a store in Melbourne town I was a keen bean, I would buy all the macarons I thought, I would buy all their cakes, chocolate and ice-cream I thought. It hasn’t really been that way, but that isn’t a reflection on Zumbo – I’m still a fan. I go there when I want to be punched in the face by sweet, or try his crazy-cool macaron flavours like peking duck or the Pie + Sauce (beef pie flavoured filling and zesty tomato sauce gel inside a pastry-like macaron shell. Yeah, that tasted really weirdbad). No-one really does experimental left-of-centre flavours like Zumbo and he will always hold the title of boundary-pusher in my mind.

On this occasion I picked up two cakes:

Pars the Strawberry Gran - Strawberry & white chocolate mousse, frangipane, parsley jelly and granola.

The Par's ($9.0) beautiful light cake base was great accompanied with the strawberry mousse. The parsley gel was definitely made of parsley and had a distinct ‘green’ flavour but together the combination worked. The granola was added for crunch but seemed to have absorbed some of the cake’s moisture and thus was a little chewy.

Aussie Kids - White chocolate cremeaux, flourless chocolate sponge, banana jelly, blackberry marshmallow, brownie, weet-bix crunch & a blackberry sphere.

I didn’t enjoy Aussie Kids ($9.0) as much as the Pars. The flourless chocolate base was quite bitter and not sweet enough, whilst the blackcurrent mousse didn’t lift the cake up as much as I hoped. There was a crunchy weet-bix chocolate texture which worked well, but on the other hand the banana jelly didn’t come through enough. This cake felt like a shambles, but the one redeeming factor was the Blackberry Sphere; IT POPPED JUICE AND THE JELLY SHELL WAS SO NICE. Amazing. See, it’s the little things.

TL;DR Check out Zumbo for the novelty.
Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier on Urbanspoon