Chin-Chin is a win-win!

Entrezmenu

My first review of Melbourne’s rich dining scene and boy what a start to this calender year of eating out in this vibrant city!

My enthusiastic Melbournian, self-professed foodie mate raved about this place and suggested we go there to catch up on Sunday evening. I took another newbie along to find out what all the excitement was about. Everyone I sounded out about Chin-Chin spoke highly of the food but bemoaned how busy the place always was and how hard it is to get in. There are no bookings (unless you have 10-12 folk) and you have to take your chances as it really is hectic and waits of two or more hours are the norm at peak dining times. We planned to go at 5:30pm on a Sunday for just that reason! I know of folk who have turned up at 7pm on a Tuesday night and told that they would be waiting till 10:30! Fortunately there is the Go-Go bar downstairs for those who want to indulge in a pre-dinner cocktail whilst waiting. If you do have 10 handy mates to go with you, then its a sweet deal of pretty much all you can eat for under $66!

Chin Chin is a fusion of the freshness of Vietnamese cuisine and the flavour assault of Thai cooking. Succulent meats in tangy, sweet and savoury sauces all perfectly balanced and equally spicy cocktails to wash everything down with. There is an option of letting the waiter choose your menu for you whilst you sit back and sip on the exotic drinks (just say ‘Feed me”!), but we decided to go our own way with my mate helping to navigate the extensive menu.

Cocktail heaven

A good start to the evening :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The feasting began with the namesake pork “roll-ups” which were a delight to put together and share, the pork just easily melting into the crispy salad and tangy sauce, all encased in tender translucent pancakes.

do it yourself rollup pancakes

tender, fresh and tasty

The crispy Barra and caramelised pork combo also raising eyebrows with the sophistication that this unlikely duo brought to the table, again beautifully foiled with crisp sweet green apple, tangy lemongrass and glorious chilli. The portions were good and the food kept coming with a Massaman coconut braised beef curry that I loved and was clearly my favourite of the savoury dishes accompanied by hot flaky roti and the smashed green papaya salad. The heady Thai explosion of hot, sweet-sour all ensuring our taste-buds were stunned into submission and ready to receive the much anticipated desserts.

mains being decimated

Hot, sour and sweet

My local-guide was keen to share with us the wonders of the palm sugar sundae, but being so full from the feeding frenzy of the mains, we decided on the rather unusual Coconut sago dessert which was served with creamed corn icecream and puffed wild rice.

textural heaven

Gooey, sweet and crunchy

It was pure heaven in a bowl, especially given my penchant for textural variety. The creamed corn ice-cream was a pleasant treat and the puffed wild rice, a nice twist. Hidden in the soft gooey mess were sparkling shards of caramel brittle which added a final dimension. We were so enamoured by the sweets that we felt cheated having only one between the three of us and so ordered the Palm sugar sundae after all.  Again lovely, but no match for the gooey crunch of the coconut sago dish. Although we didn’t get a chance to try it on this night, I have since had the banana-roti dessert which is also divine and much recommended.

Go, try it and enjoy a great introduction to Melbourne. I loved the freshness coupled with the intense contrasting flavours and I’m glad my friend has booked her birthday party there in a couple of weeks. Chin-chin to more feasting I say!

 

 

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

The Imp

This tiny but trendy cafe on the burgeoning Victoria Park strip has a reputation for good coffee and tasty brekkies and cakes. I had been here a few times for coffee and cake, and once for breakfast and the food was good, so we decided to try this out again for brekkie.

The Imp was customarily busy on this Sunday morning and folk were packed into the tightly crammed tables, while others queued for to pay, order and for takeaway coffees. It seems every time I pass by this place there is an ambulance sitting outside, not because the diners need to be stretchered away, but more because the paramedics seem to love the coffee here!

We were lucky to get a table within, though there were a few spare barstools at the shopfront window counter too. The latter, we had found on a previous visit, is not a bad place to while away time, munching, sipping coffee, checking out the weekend astrology stars in the proffered newspapers and generally watching the world go past. Within, the tables really are a cosy few inches away from each other and whilst adding to the charm when with mates, may not be the best place to bring a first date where you are cosier with the table next door than to your date!

It was going to be the Breakfast BLT with poached egg, crispy pancetta, rocket, roast tomato, parmesan & balsamic with a flat white for my friend and the Fried butterbeans, feta, spinach, tomato and sumac for me. The beans did come with an option of chorizo added into the melange, but I opted for extra eggs (poached) on the side.

Feta and bean cassoulet

The food duly arrived a little tardy, but forgiveably so, given the general hub-bub. Interestingly my bean dish, more a casserole turned up sans bread! No, it wasn’t advertised with bread, toast or anything, so strictly speaking I got what I ordered, but who serves a cassoulet type dish without something to mop, dip or absorb the full saucy goodness – especially as there was no spoon presented in the cutlery set. Anyway, the dish was good, a little lacking in seasoning (possibly due to the fact that it came with feta which was meant to provide some saltiness, and is often served with chorizo for the meatlovers, for the same purpose). I had to order extra bread – which took ages to come and quite surprisingly cost $6 for two slices of multigrain with a pat of butter!! I know Perth is pricey & I don’t mind paying good money for quality goods and services, but seriously this was a little unreasonable.

On the bright side, my companion had a very nice breakfast with the pancetta done to a crispy turn as promised and everthing else, including and especially the coffee being applauded.

All in, not a bad way to start a weekend morning, though given the cosiness may look for other more roomy brunch venues to stretch my legs and chill out in….after all I am in Western Australia where space is not usually an issue!

The Imp on Urbanspoon

Petite Mort – living up to the french slang!

There’s nothing like sneaking in a little gourmet lunch into an otherwise hectic Friday. As mentioned on previous post comments, I have been dying (excuse the pun) to try out this cute little place tucked away on one end of the Onslow Road strip. One of my favourite foodie girlfriends happened to have the day off, so we booked to have lunch here.

I encountered a few challenges just getting to the place – first – parking, though this was not too horrendous and I actually found a “God spot” a few metres from their inviting black and white frontage. Getting into the converted house posed the next little dilemma. Again not insurmountable, I stopped trying to walk into their front window (think this was the old door, now converted) and found the little gate beside that led to a mini-courtyard and then the entrance. They may benefit by making the actual entrance a tad clearer in some understated way.

The final challenge came after being seated to wait for my mate. I decided to use the restroom, only to encounter a rather unusual lock. Easy enough to lock, but I came unstuck trying to get out again. A few moments of panic and then I worked out that what  looks like a twizzly-turny lock, is actually a push-in/pull-out contraption. Easy mistake – beware unsuspecting nose-powdering guests.

Back in the comfort of the understated interior, I had time to take in the surrounds. Microsuede covered seating with matching wall panels, and wooden floorboards, all added to the air of quiet sophistication. Leaving one brick wall unrendered was a nice arty touch and the large glass bay window enhanced the brightness of the otherwise dark interior on this sunny day.

Finally joined by my friend, we decided on some sparkling water and turned our attention to the menu. Petite Mort only does one-size dishes which are only slightly bigger than entree size, similar to what you get on a degustation menu, and not really for sharing like tapas or mezze. Indeed, they do actually have a degustation menu made up of combinations from their main menu, and also a lunch special which we thought was excellent value at $49 for three courses, two savoury dishes and one sweet, plus a glass of any wine served by the glass.

As soon as we had ordered we were presented with a complimentary warm freshly baked mini-brioche each and a small cube of home-made butter.

Stunning presentation

We started with the goats cheese salad with butternut pumpkin, beetroot and broccolini for me and the porcini gnocchi with poached egg and asparagus for my companion. Both were exquisitely presented and tasted divine. A nice surprise followed – a ginger cordial and sparkling beetroot palate cleanser which looked and tasted like something from another dimension. Gorgeous. We both wanted the duck for the next course, but would have liked to have had the lamb dish had they not have run out of the accompanying veal sweatbreads, which were then replaced with the less exotic pigs ear.  Again, the confit duck leg, served with Cepe and chantarelle mushrooms, was cooked to perfection and came out beautifully dressed with a rather showy foam. To finish, the Death by Chocolate for me and the Chestnut custurd, chocolate bonbon and peanut butter for my friend. The former was nice but did not send me to the heavenly end as I had hoped for and was promised - there were five elements on the slate, of which the truffle and the mousse were the most successfully pleasurable. The chestnut custurd dish was equally pleasant but no standouts here either. In fact I could have done with another of those excellent ginger and beetroot palate cleansers instead! A final touch, and supposedly to accompany any supposed coffee orders, were a selection of unsolicited petit-fours. Whilst a nice idea, the actual selection was mediocre at best, and the included madeleines were overcooked. This did not however spoil our overall impression of the place which was excellent and not at all bad value, considering our generous serves of wine accounted for a third of the price of the lunch deal. We are planning a return trip for dinner, for sure.

Divine!

Of note, at the end of the menu, I did notice a cigar section with a select range of good quality cigars. Presumably the rather pleasant outdoor area is reserved for those who indulge in such dark pleasures. It’s the first time I have seen this at a fine restaurant in Perth, though I remember a rather wonderful evening at Peter Gilmore’s The Quay Restaurant in Sydney that was substantially enhanced by a finale of a sensual Pedro Ximenez and the seductive aroma of a Cuban cigar whilst taking in the stunning Harbour Bridge and Opera house. Sigh.

Petite Mort on Urbanspoon

Matsuri – Japanese Restaurant – Perth city

Touted as fine dining Japanese, Matsuri Japanese Restaurant in the West end of the city is more a fairly upmarket Japanese Diner. Perfectly placed for business lunches and shopping frenzied punters, this two tiered chrome and stainless steel set up does quite nicely for a casual dinner venue.

Never one to turn down a free meal, I was very happy to join family friends here to celebrate their son’s birthday.Once seated and preliminary birthday greetings espoused, we turned our attention to choice starters. These included the Japanese fried chicken (Tori Karaage), Pork Belly (Kakuni) and Sashimi.

Crispy crunchy tasty chicken bits

Apparently the warm sake was a good companion to the appetisers, and even the birthday boy got a wee taste. Sadly I missed out this time – damn those work committments!

melt-in-your-mouth pork belly in divine sauce

The Kakuni, was most impressive – chunks of slowly stewed pork belly steeped in sweet soy and mustard sauce – it just melted in the mouth with all the textural fun that one expects from such a dish.

A selection of “sets” were ordered for mains – which means that all came with the standard Miso soup, rice bowl, salad and pickled beansprouts. Amongst the selection were the chicken and pork Katsu Don – both dishes were done well and enjoyed thoroughly. The Pork Katsu Don being a particularly generous serving.

The other standout was the Tekka Don – raw tuna pieces over sushi rice. Visually stunning and I understand fresh and tasty too. The Ginger Pork Set also got a commendation.

I ordered the Teriyaki Pork, as I don’t think I have ever ordered this off a menu before but have had various home-cooked and fast food versions. The offering here was generous too, but not, I’m reliably told, very authentic. The sauce was nice but tasted quite Western, almost like a buttery Diane steak sauce without the brandy. It lacked the stickiness and lustre of the usual teriyaki glaze. The pork atleast was well cooked and tender and all the “Set” accompaniments were fine.

The surrounds were quite noisy due to the distinct lack of soft furnishings in the modern minimalist interior, and the bright lights would scare off any prospective love-birds…this is not a place for lingering deep conversation and cosying up. All in though, it was a rather nice meal. The service was efficient and the food good and I can’t complain as I left with an overfilled tummy and didn’t pay a cent!

Matsuri Japanese on Urbanspoon

The Partisan – East Perth

Great view of Claisebrook inlet

We were looking for a coffee place in East Perth, and Toast was closed, so decided to try the Partisan just next door which enjoys the same Claisebrook inlet views, and chose to sit outside – that is after we managed to get someone’s attention to let us know if we could just take a seat wherever.

The place was quite full, especially the alfresco area, but we did manage to get seats at the wooden bar/bench cleverly wrapped around a pretty Poinciana tree and facing the water. Once seated it took a few moments for us to get our coffee order in (only one- I was on the diet coke), and not needing many excuses to eat, also asked for the menus. Unfortunately, following this, it took over 20 minutes to get anyone’s attention to order snacks and we only managed to order when the coffee eventually arrived. For the record the coffee was good, but nothing to write home about.

The Mediterranean menu was pleasing to me, being quite the Francophile and noticing the Croque Monsieur and Madame, croissants and the incorrectly spelt “Moules Marinare” (Mariniere). There was also Jerez Eggs (eggs in a roasted tomato and cumin sauce with chorizo and chilli-jam) - sounded like a zingier twist on Huevos con chorizo, though I doubt there is any Sherry actually used in the dish or that they do this version in Jerez to justify the name. Sadly I only noticed this after we had ordered, so didn’t get to try it. We ended up ordering a Croque Monsieur and a Chocolate croissant to share.

The food, when it did turned up, was presented well enough, though I was a little surprised to see the Pain au chocolat somewhat larger than usual (no complaints) but served with thickened cream! A novel take. The Croque Monsieur was simple but effective with the herby swiss cheese lending heaps of flavour and the toastie being crisp and light. The chocolate croissant was unusually served warm, and I did try dunking bits in the cream for a decadent variation which was quite pleasant despite the guilt over the extra calories.

Served warm and with cream - interesting!

We had more trouble trying to get someone’s attention for the bill, so we dragged ourselves from the view to pay inside. The decor inside was quite trendy and reminiscent of a Parisian bistro, and it did make me want to come back and try dinner there sometime. Pleasant food and great vista, just the lengthy waits for ordering and eating a bit of a let down. I certainly won’t hold that against them this time, but will be back to try those Spanish eggs for breakfast or even dinner with their tasty-looking Mediterannean influenced night menu.

The Partisan on Urbanspoon

Harvest Cafe – Newrybar Village – NSW

Only 15 minutes drive away from Byron Bay, this country fine dining establishment definitely delivers on its advertised “soulful country ambience”. Ofcourse, we chatted the whole way, got lost and ended up taking nearly 40minutes from Byron to get there, but were compensated by stunning scenery along one of the world’s most picturesque driving routes – The old Pacific Highway.

Once there in the quaint tiny village of Newrybar, we were greeted with a smile at Harvest and promptly shown to our table. Don’t be fooled by the country surrounds though, this place serves fine dining quality food and service.

Lunch ordered, we settled in with a nice glass of red and some sparkling water to take in the environs. A lot of the produce on the menu comes from the extensive kitchen garden surrounding the restaurant periphery – various salad leaves,  beetroot, silverbeet, kale and numerous herbs were evident.

Shamefully the tasty starter of scallops on a dollop of tangy baba-ghanoush was scoffed too quickly, before any pics could be taken. This was tempered with some warm turkish bread with EVOO and balsamic vinegar.

Appetite somewhat sated, we were able to take our time to savour the mains of Yellowfin Tuna on a bed of chargrilled eggplant, preserved lemon and pomegranate molasses (for me) and Byron Bay pork belly, five spice caramel served with steamed jasmine rice and asian salad. The Tuna was cooked, seasoned and presented perfectly – uniformly seared all around without cooking the middle. The pork belly was a joy to eat with its sticky sweet coating steeped in exotic spices.

I did have my beady eyes on the gluten free macadamia chocolate brownie to finish, but really was too stuffed after the first two courses to succumb….next time…and there certainly will be a next time!

Following lunch we went to the Harvest store next door, also surrounded by kitchen garden beds, to buy gifts from the small but exclusive range of local and imported cured meats, chocolates and preserves. I couldn’t resist the Spanish drinking chocolate powder, the handmade Byron chocolates and local macadamias covered in white, milk or dark chocolate.

Harvest Cafe on Urbanspoon

Moo Moo Restaurant – Gold Coast

Was taken out here for my friend and her partner’s 10th anniversary. We were there on a Thursday night, but it was still pretty busy – mainly catering to business-men entertaining clients and hungry carnivores (lots of men only tables). Not surprising given the restaurant’s locale- full of serviced apartments and five minutes away from the Gold Coast Convention centre.

The decor was quite trendy with arty ceiling lights and a glass fronted panel of global knives engraved with the names of famous diners at the entrance. My only quibble being the rather out of character loud music – which we supposed was to create some sort of auditory screen from our neighbouring tables. Service was good, we had a dedicated waiter who was very attentive, though did lapse a little when it got busy later in the evening. Mainly a steakhouse, they do quite a range of non-steak carnivorous alternatives, but even the brave vegetarians would likely starve.

House special is a roast rubbed with special spices and served with veggies. Well worth the 55 minute wait – perfect time-gap to enjoy some champers and entrees – for us mixed selection of oysters and charcuterie plate. Tempura oysters were done well and the Kilpatrick oysters (which I’m not usually fussed on) were surprisingly good and not overwhelmed by the worcestershire sauce. There was a choice of meats for the charcuterie plate and was particularly looking forward to the “Jamon Iberico de bellota” – but was a little disappointed in the thick shave and lack of moistness. Still the rest of the charcuterie plate was substantial and the little pork meatballs (tasted like moist chorizo balls) were exceptional.

The roast when it appeared was nice and rare and carved at the table for us. Plenty of meat to go around, but beware that takeaways of the excess meat is not permitted (apparently they do not have a take-away licence). Good choice of veggies – baby carrots in cumin and honey, brocollini, gorgeously crispy thick cut chips and brussel sprouts. All simple but done well. Another warning for any vegetarians crazy enough to venture to this place - the brussel sprouts had strips of pancetta or someother porky thing that wasn’t mentioned on the menu!

Needless to say, we were all pretty stuffed to even consider dessert and must admit one of the rare times that I didn’t even check the sweet menu!!

Enjoyable evening, easy on the soul, not so easy on the wallet. If you like plenty of good quality meat done to perfection with a large selection of unfussy but tasty accompaniments, then this is a great dinner venue.

Moo Moo The Wine Bar + Grill on Urbanspoon