Monday, 28 July 2014

Cupcake Central

Cupcakes were all the rage a few years back (before the epic wave known as the Macaron took over) and plenty of cupcake shops can still been seen trying to take back the town. One of my more respected cupcakeries is Cupcake Central, a relatively new now-chain who change their innovative flavours with the seasons and release an inspired limited cupcake for their #SurpriseFlavourFriday (it's times like these I could get free every Friday). 

My favourite friday flavour has so far been their 'Lucky Charm' with bubblegum frosting and marshmallow base, decorated with Lucky Charm cereal. A more recent flavour I missed was their 'Freshy & Fruity Peach Cobbler' with a peach and raspberry base with fresh raspberry compote, topped with a light peach and raspberry buttercream frosting. Check their facebook page for their weekly surprises, or website for the seasonal list. 

Cupcake Central also release special event cupcakes, and I was lucky enough to catch their Pink Champagne Mimosa for Mother's Day.

Cupcake Central's cupcakes are always lovely and moist which is the key to an enjoyable cake. It was a very light strawberry velvet flavour and the creamy buttery icing was very sweet but incredibly tasty which was where the champagne flavour was most strong. The marmalade and pink shattered toffee made for a beautiful and tasty decoration atop the cupcake. I was devastated this was a once off but I did manage to snap up the last two for the day.

Not only do they make brilliant cupcakes, but Cupcake Central support good causes as well, donating 1000 Vanilla Bean cupcakes to the RSPCA Million Paw's walk. I managed to snag one and, though too plain for me (I always go for the wilder flavours), it was a satisfying snack to end a great day of facepainting dogs onto children's faces!

TL;DR My go-to cupcake place.

Cupcake Central on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Carlisle Wine Bar

This unassuming small-fronted restaurant on Carlisle Street has the mood lighting turned up, without feeling too sleazy and dark. Furnished almost entirely in wood, it definitely resembled a British pub where you could drink your life away. Luckily they served food.

Their Bloody Mary ($15) was not too bad, a thinner version with not as much spice as I’m used to.

Free bread is always great, dense and soft, as was the butter.

On first taste the Vialone Nano Risotto, white wine & saffron braised pork, peas & tomato & basil salsa ($28)  wasn’t as nice as I had expected, though when you continued to eat it the subtle flavours were brought out and it was quite an enjoyable dish. The risotto was perfectly done, not too sticky or gluggy but not too tough and crunchy either. The pork was mixed in well and not in thick cuts which made the dish easier to eat. Throughout the dish there was a slight almond flavour which gave an almost sweet aftertaste.

The Roast duck breast, Du Puy lentils, roast cherry tomatoes & grilled fig ($29.5) was perfectly cooked, not bleeding but medium rare juicy and tender. The lentils had a very neutral taste but a good filler option compared to rice or spaghetti. The tomatoes were fresh and plump, bringing colour to plate.

TL;DR A nice discovery on Carlisle Street.

Carlisle Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Stables of Como

This beautiful reinvented stable building at the back of the Como gardens is an incredibly tranquil and calming area to eat brunch or settle down for a scone post garden-wander. Upon entering, you are greeted by a display of cakes and sweets stretching the length of the room, it’s pretty difficult to not want to buy one of everything, so I’d suggest averting your eyes as you wait to be seated.

There are old school musk sticks and rocky road, along with French pastries, macarons and friands.
The staff at The Stables are friendly and on the ball, allowing us to start outside under garden umbrellas then move indoors once a table freed up.

I started off with my hot chocolate ($5.0) staple. It was massively chocolatey, even more so than a chocolate specialty café. The whole bottom section of the glass was essentially chocolate, and even when I mixed it, it became only a tad lighter in shade. The drink will be enjoyed by hardcore chocolate drinkers.

I ordered Aggie’s Lemonade scones, bonne Maman jam, chantilly cream ($5.0 half serve) just because their reputation precedes them and who am I to not try them. As expected, they were fluffy and warm, with a great outer which gave it a shell-like crunch. The scone wasn’t too sweet so it was balanced well, and I would rate it just a smudge better than our homemade variety. Even though the serve of jam and cream looked small, it was ample for the one scone.

The Rumbled Eggs with chives, truffled pecorino + pancetta on griffled crumpets ($16.9) caught my eye right away and I was rewarded by my choice. The crumpet was amazing, floury and way better than the supermarket bought crumpets – I could almost tasted the homemade deliciousness. Due to the crumpet anatomy, it absorbed the butter and egg flavours well and became moist and flavoursome. The rumbled eggs were light and fluffy and garnished with just the right amount of chives and parmesan to make the dish adequately salty. I could eat both aspects of the dish alone due to the expert preparation. The pancetta was the only part of the dish that I wouldn’t miss – crispy but so fatty and salty, which I suppose was used to balance out the more subtle eggs, which it did well in the end.

‘The Gardeners’ breakfast – Poached free range eggs, crispy bacon, tomato salsa, fresh avocado + sautéed mushrooms on toasted sourdough ($19.9) was done well, but again, nothing special and is in line with my policy of never ordering ‘big breakfast’ style dishes.

The Red Velvet cake ($4.9) was beautiful and moist, with a more subtle chocolate flavour than Beatrix’s, but due to the added strawberry jam layer it was much sweeter which was a nice change. The cream cheese icing was again, quite subtle but enough to give it that distinct red velvet taste.

The Pistachio + Raspberry teacake, white chocolate + cream cheese icing ($4.9) was very nice, if not a bit strong to eat in one go. It was incredibly moist (even when I ate it three days later lol). It had a strong pistachio taste and the simple icing went well with the cake.

The Apple cinnamon white chocolate muffin ($4.9) was amazing, I would go back all the time for that. Soft but perfectly done on the outside so it had a harder biscuit texture (have you noticed my approval for this style baking?) The muffin wasn’t too sweet but definitely not tasteless, and the chocolate bits were huge but high quality chocolate so they melted in your mouth without that weird waxy taste.

TL;DR I am so excited to return and try the Banana Hotcake and more of the delectable cakes. 
The Stables of Como on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Beatbox Kitchen

Fond memories surround my first encounter with Food Trucks, the anticipation during the drive out to whatever northern street housed the van and the satisfaction of seeing the decorated van at the end of your journey. 

Beatbox will always hold a special place in my heart due to this reason, but their burgers hold a special place in my stomach too. During this particular trip out to Blyth x Lygon we arrived just as Beatbox was opening, first ftw.

The fries were still amazing, thin shoestring fried to perfection with the Stereo Sauce (a ‘special’ aioli) though this time the sauce felt burnt or like too much salt was added – not as tasty as I had hoped.

The burger itself looked incredible; fat patty and fresh lettuce, tomato and onion makes for a sexy beast. However on first bite, the burger was quite dry; the taste was good, meaty juicy beef and a semi-sweet bun, but I think due to our burger being first off the rank, it hadn’t had time to soak up the greasy goodness of the frier. There also wasn’t enough Stereo Sauce added, which was remedied when we got home, and this improved the burger tenfold.

A Beatbox burger from better times...

I must say, I was quite disappointed, my memories of Beatbox stand steadfast in my mind as deserving of the number one spot, but the time may have come to start searching for my new go-to.

TL;DR Give this burger a go, hopefully this was a one off lapse of concentration by Beatbox.

Beatbox Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, 14 July 2014

Miss Chu

After trawling the interwebs for Nahji Chu’s famed story (you know, the one which could be turned into a movie, or used to inspire a generation of Asian-Australian girls searching for greatness and motivation) I am even more impressed at her development of her restaurant chain business. Miss Nahji Chu’s story is one too familiar to a lot of ‘boat people’ arriving as a refugee to Australia. She however, rose above the prejudice and stigma and created a name for herself through traditional Vietnamese cuisine tailored to an Australian audience. Her life is not without barriers, but she moulds her dreams and future herself; that of being an actress and director are realised in smaller ways through her stores and charity work, or by taking Asian stereotypes and subtle racist slurs and using them to her advantage in her marketing and promotion. Her dream to pursue her ambition of building awareness for Vietnamese refugees is slowly being realised through her strong extrovert personality and business success. If that is not the recipe for success, I don’t know what is.

Walking in through the cosy shop front, I feel I been lifted into a Hanoi sidestreet. The décor is very traditional old school Asian, right down to the wooden benches and elbow-to-elbow eating room. I loved the little ordering script pads for the food and drink and so of course I utilised the fun out of it.

Excited to see Har Gao (Prawn dumplings, 3 per serve $7.0) on the menu I ticked the box and waited with greedy hands. Despite (or due to) my anticipation, I felt this dumpling was not as good as other Yum Cha places; the skin was very thick and relied a lot on the dumpling sauce that came with the dish. The prawn was tasty and fresh, though I will reserve my cravings for other places.

The Prawn & Crab Net Spring Roll Salad ($13.0) was incredible. A crunchy fried roll filled with seafood balanced with healthy vermicelli and fresh salad with Vietnamese sweet sauce dressing. So succulent and tasty – I will order this every time I return.

The BBQ pork char sui buns ($2.50 each) were beautiful and fluffy, and I am incredibly partial to the dough part, which made these great. The insides were warm and typical of your standard Asian bao. It tasted similar in that it was good quality, but nothing special, and as you can get the same for cheaper, I will save my monies and buy this elsewhere next time.

The Traditional Beef Phở ($14.0) was tasty. It was a heavier flavoured broth with a strong star anise base. The noodles were similar to other Phở noodles but not as soft. The wagyu beef however wasn’t as fresh or served raw to cook in the piping hot broth. The ox tail addition was a good way to mix things ups, however, for double the ‘usual’ price I don’t feel it was worth it. Usually I’d be happy to eat the noodles with just the soup, however with Miss Chu’s I felt like I needed more meat and sauce to make it tasty.

The Sashimi tuna rice paper rolls (2 per serve, $13.0) had good flavours with a nice twist being filled with seaweed instead of noodles. It was a refreshing roll especially with the hidden wasabi and no heavy sauces or meats; however it was difficult to chew through and ended up tasting overwhelmingly like seaweed rather than tuna.

The Lychee Stoli Crush ($13.0) of frozen young coconut juice, blended with lychees and mint was ok but the coconut overpowered the lychee too much. The slushie texture was a nice change to a cocktail, and the smooth vodka and cucumber went well with the flavour combination very well.

TL;DR Writing this makes me crave the spring rolls all over again… I think I’ll go get some this weekend.

Miss Chu on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Trunk Diner

On a decidedly gluttonous (glorious) whim, a choice was made to pop into Trunk Diner for a pre-dinner dinner… a cosy greenhouse style building tucked near the top of Little Bourke housing American style food, which welcomed our stomachs with fat (friendly) open arms.

I snapped up the opportunity to order the Gaytime Shake ($8.0), which was initially quite sweet but as you chugged along your tastebuds re-oriented itself and it turned itself into a passable creamy caramel shake. That being said, I don't think I would re-order this drink if I return.

The chilli cheese fries ($9.0) were drowned under copious amounts of melted cheese and great big chunks of meatballs, a la spaghetti meatballs. The chilli could have had a bit more kick to bring the dish through, but the Mexican spicy sauce thoughtfully provided by Trunk solved that issue quite easily. The fries seemed almost overwhelmed by the toppings, but I can’t quite see the problem in that.

The guacamole & salsa fresca with corn chips ($8.0) were fresh and crunchy. The tomato vinegar relish was great combined with the traditional sour cream. The guacamole however, was the best part – tasty, with lemon zest and chunky enough to know you were eating avocado.

The “Breaking Bad” ($12.0) bacon wrapped hotdog, mustard, ketchup, fresh tomato salsa & jalapenos hot dog was probably my favourite part of my snack-meal; thick sausage, great jalapeño, onion and tomatoes cubed up and adding a lighter flavour to the dish. The bread was delicious and sweet but was nowhere near a brioche bun.

TL;DR A good late night snack place, though once it’s crossed off your list there’s no real reason to return.
Trunk Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, 7 July 2014


So to celebrate the ‘official’ opening of Pho24, a renowned chain straight from Vietnam, a decision to tempt the masses with free Pho or Banh Mi for a day was made! Despite being open for several months, I wasn’t complaining and let my Asian focus on free-things senses guide me. Now, there was a lot of hating going on about Pho24, the comments ran something like, “tastes like dirty dish water mixed with MSG” and “not worth the free”, but I wasn’t going to let people rain on my free parade. Plus, the benefit of the doubt is always nice to give establishments second chances.

The line was considerably shorter than I expected, but I soon realised this was due to the subway-style chain line production system they had going on. It was incredibly effective and made a quick lunch even faster. The staff handling the money (not this time) dispense a ticket and you move down the line sliding your aluminium trays (a la American high school lunch line) watching them create your Pho or Banh Mi from scratch. I assume this means you can choose your fillings as you go, but as this was free day they were pre-made, beef weighed and the standard everything chucked in without question. Then the soup is dispensed from massive vats and handed out at the end of the counter where there are tubs of fresh cut chilli (very spicy!) and lemon.

The coolest part of this whole process is the potted herbs around the seating area, these are there for you to garnish your meal with something a little extra and they even provide the scissors to cut the plants too! The uncool part was they served the pho in disposable bowls, again, may have just been due to free day, but that was a lot of environmental waste. Uncool!

The Pho itself was quite non-descript, the soup didn’t have a lot of depth of flavour and tasted quite weak and thin, despite simultaneously tasting like it had been reboiled over and over, instead of having a fresh and clean taste like other shops. The noodles were a lot softer than standard fare and I don’t think the beef was served raw to be cooked in the steaming hot broth. Despite that, they were very generous with the apparent southern beef porterhouse slices. The normal price sits at $8 for regular and $11 for large, which in my opinion, isn’t worth the price for something that is subpar to what I can get for a cheaper price. 

The smoked paprika pork Banh Mi was also available, which was acceptable although the meat they used tasted cheap and stringy with a lot of chewy tendons through it. The bread was crispy though smaller sized than the Springvale variety and IT WAS MISSING THE PATE! As such, it didn’t taste anything like what I am used to, and despite the claim on Vietnamese roots, it tasted white. The overall flavour was slightly sweet due to the relish added and only had one slice of meat, rather than the three varieties stuffed into the roll. For $7.50 it was very much capitalising on the CBD location, as Springvale Banh Mi are sold for $3.50 and they are much heavier.To their credit however, they did allow me to take another Banh Mi to my friend who couldn't get out of work.

TL;DR Unless they pick up their game, I’d spend my monies somewhere else. 

Pho24 on Urbanspoon