Sunday, 22 July 2012

Bohemia Cabaret Club - Melbourne - 226 Conventry Street, South Melbourne

I have the same new year's resolution every year - to enjoy more of the arts and underground of Melbourne.

But the freedom of University days in my mind and in my time have well escaped me and I seem to always revert to dinner.

Sure eating out is great but there is truly so much of this city and the people that we don't know about.

We tried burlesque cabaret as part of the Cabaret Festival this week at the Bohemia Cabaret Club.

It looks like a brothel from the outside and inside very Moulin Rouge with wooden tables and chairs that you can lap dance on, sparkling drapes, women in corseted red dresses and men in lounge suits looking rather dapper.

The show was very entertaining, a lot of appreciation for the female form, frame and flesh.

On top of that the food was actually very good and clever.  Not your usual live theatre fair of bad arse Campbell's soup and fat trimmed with chewy meat. We shared a bunch of dishes, including snapper with oyster, champagne and chive sauce; quinoa with smoked eggplant, zucchini and egg and crabcakes with green beans and lemon mayonnaise. The desserts like chestnut flan with poached quince, honeycomb and ginger ice cream were just right.

I was stoked.

But better than that, the cabaret finished and then a whole crowd of theatre people of yesteryear (in sequenced dresses) and actor wanna-bes of today (in gangster get-up) entered the room to listen to the piano man. He plays songs upon request collecting money in a glass bowl just like New York. And you know every song and everyone in the room sings along and even though you can't you do it anyway because no one cares, least of all you.

It felt like we were tapped into the lives of others for a night and discovered an absolute gem.

Bohemia Cabaret Club on Urbanspoon

 7.5/10 for the food

10/10 for the entertainment.


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Ma Brown - Melbourne - 190 Belmore Road, Balwyn

A bit of a suburban dive - I love it already.

Patrons not too anglo - I love it even more.

The waiters do not understand a word of English, including the word menu - this place is for me.

Already Ma Brown was starting to feel like my trip last week in Shanghai. Although the menu is quite mixed, there is Chinese, Malaysian and Thai.

This is the place to eat quail basted in chilli, garlic, soy sauce, ginger and red pepper. Tasty, crunchy moist and finger lickin good. There is something that the Greeks (our table) and Asians (all remaining tables) have in common - we wolf our food down with our fingers and eat pretty much all the bones as well.

I think my uncle was just about to lick his plate (remaining garlic, sauce and all) which I am sure would have been most acceptable but my aunty reminded him "you don't have to eat everything."

Next on the menu was eggplant cooked in a claypot. I am not usually a big fan of eggplant that is not fried but this was sensational. Listed as a vegetarian dish but with flecks of pork - love it.

Next was fried barramundi. Tasted good but I do prefer it steamed. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of a bad night for my aunty who swallowed a big fish bone and later ended up in hospital under a general anaesthetic.

Not the restaurant's fault mind you.

In the meantime she continued eating and drinking until she knew there was a problem later at home - at least she got to finish the meal.

Next were the Singapore noodles - a dish I am often disappointed with especially in Singapore where it can be too oily.  Here they were just perfect. I think I dreamt about them last night.

The others also ate fried tofu with vegies which I hate but to others it was great.

My dad asked us all "are you going to have dessert, I wouldn't".  Yes, I wouldn't touch the dessert here, unless either canned lychees and ice cream take your fancy. No thanks.

Be sure to order your food before you get there, maybe a few days before so they can serve everything on the menu. In fact, there were meals being served around for special people that were not even on the menu, such as chilli crab.

But the centre stage of the night was the company and the conversation.

My dad on his way down to drinkingdom, speaking with a Chinese accent, chatted to the owner for a while asking if she could open the place for him and his mates for lunch, even though they don't open for lunch.

It progressed to that "bit of the night" when dad goes a bit downhill and borderline uncomfortable in your seat offensive. Thank god it was just family.

The service here is not good but you know what, that makes it so good. It is BYO but the waiters don't care to come along with glasses until you ask a couple of times.  You ask for napkins and they plonk them on the table. You can only ask for one thing at a time as they are gone in a flash after you ask.

A place to keep coming back to.

Mabrown on Urbanspoon



Tearooms at Yarck - Yarra Valley - 6585 Maroondah Highway, Yarck

I seriously think the Yarra Valley in Winter is spectacular. 

Why? The hills are green, the leafless vineyards are haunting and the sun breaking through the clouds remains fixed to your brain.

We went to a couple of wineries. I think you should avoid the big ones like Yering Station and Fergusons. Try the less commercial ones like Allinda which has no people and the best riesling and chardonnay in the region.

Once again I was lucky enough to choose the place of lunch - funny that, I always seem to land that role.  So I chose Tea Rooms at Yarck, the same owners as my favourite restaurant Da Noi. 

It is a bit of a drive from Yarra Glen but the scenery is so fantastic, it really doesn't matter.

Yarck is a small town which is now made famous by this little house-like restaurant near the corner store and the local bottle-e-o. Well famous by the food lovers of Melbourne (I hate the word foodie, hate being called a foodie, hate hearing the word foodie and hate saying the word foodie - enough said).

We went for the chef's menu which for $89 per person is not cheap. Alternatively you can eat a la carte or some pizza and vino, I hear they even do take away. There is also apparently a nice place to stay for a romantic getaway should you so choose (I also cringe at the word romantic - but that's another story).

We started with a taster of scallops, with some fine green beans and some lemon and black garlic which was just heaven.

Next came the stream of mezzedes - pork meatballs, eggplant parmigiano, cuttlefish in a red wine sauce and marinated vegetables. All very good.

The best however was the house-made pasta filled with mascarpone and topped with a delicate porcini mushroom sauce. We all felt that this could be out last dying dish.

Main was a simple pork wrapped in prosciutto on top of barley and crispy bacon in a sweet red sauce. All sorts of textures, although my pork was very tender another on the table said theres was a bit dry.

We also got an additional main of duck which we think was a bit of a leftover. It was topped with pistachio crumbs.  Very tender but not a taste sensation.

Desserts started with goat's yoghurt on a base of rhubarb and topped with sugared pistachio - almost as good as Da Noi's panna cotta which is pretty bloody good.

Next course of dessert included a chocolate brownie/mousse/I'm not sure with some aerated chocolate crumbs and a side of pear sorbet. And next to that coffee parfait topped with a cinnamon macaroon. All pretty mind blowing.

Cost was about $100 each.  Only two of us had a glass of wine each. So not cheap but for me worth every penny.


Tea Rooms of Yarck on Urbanspoon


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Church St Enoteca - Melbourne, 527 Church Street, Richmond

Enoteca feels like it has been around for years.

It is a big restaurant which caters for large groups well.  Perfect for a 40th or 50th birthday party where you can have your own function room or a private dining room for about 12-14.

There is an ornateness and class to this place that is taken away at times by the intimidating service.  We were reprimanded for having a couple of extra people join our table.

I have had some fantastic meals her before. I think sharing entrees is the way to go - a bit of calamari, some pancetta wrapped prawns with farro and fregola, citrus cured trout and heierloom vegetables.  It is all well cooked and flavoursome.

But more recently we tried more of the mains menu.  The moretan bay bug risotto sounded good in concept but the sauce was too overpowering and not delicate enough. The spaghettini del mare (with seafood) was simple but really did not wow me.

This place does not cater well for vegetarians.

Around $100 per person including cocktails and wine.

Church Street Enoteca on Urbanspoon



Araliya - Melbourne - 629 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn

My best friend is Sri Lankan and I have had the best of this cuisine home cooked at birthday parties, engagements and many family occasions but I have never been to a Sri Lankan restaurant in my life.

It is about time and Araliya is a good start.

The decor and atmosphere is a bit 90s but kinda suits the cuisine. Service is calm, punctual and friendly and the food is really very good.

To "whet your appetite" as they say, we started with Sri Lankan short eats which is a mixture of tasty savoury parcels.

The "main attractions" included deviled prawns - seriously juicy and fresh prawns with chilli, ginger and lemon juice. Also in there was fish roasted in banana leaf which was good but not excellent; perhaps try the lamb or beef instead.

The vegetable and rice dishes are very well cooked.

Not as good as I get back at my friends' home but still enjoyable.

Note sure of the overall cost but mains are around $35 and entrees around $22.

Araliya on Urbanspoon



Cafe Bedda - Melbourne - 242 High Street, Northcote

Cafe Bedda is probably my favourite local restaurant - as I have said before Clifton Hill has nothing of note but Northcote is close enough.

As soon as you walk in, your heart fills with Italian warmth.  Even ordering take away pizzas (which are up there with the best in Melbourne by the way) you feel like you are chatting to your cousin over the fence in Calabria.

All the entrees are simply outstanding.

Grilled quail is juicy with some simple sauce of some sort which I cannot describe but I don't have to - you just gotta eat it. Ricotta gnocchi will have the best tomato suace you will ever taste and a lovely zest of lemon.

A whole artichoke simply fried and then chewed leaf by leaf is like eating from your grandmother's kitchen.

The sicilian anchovies are exactly what you eat in Sicily and the eggplant fritters with tomato sugo leave me speechless.

I can go on and on and on.

The pasta is house made and mains like rabbit and spatchcock become those dishes that you continue to crave a few weeks after until the next time you come.

Good wine and really some of the best Italian (food and men) in town.

Cost is around $90 for two including a glass of wine each.

Café Bedda on Urbanspoon



Commoner - Melbourne - 122 Johnston Street, Fitzroy

The Commoner is true Fitzroy of the 90s - not so common and quietly understated.

You can eat a roast on Sunday or otherwise there is a good range of home-feel food which you could never cook at home.

Rabbit prune and pinot pie or pine mushrooms or grilled snapper with braised fennel and mussels. Whatever you order here you can't go wrong - that is what makes this such a great place.

Everything is cooked to perfection and the atmosphere is cosy and made for winter with some good red wine.

The wait staff are quirky and honest. For example, we were told that the trifle is really not the best around town but the brown ale pudding is to die for - good advice.

Cost is around $80 for two for a casual meal but can go up to $100 or more.

The Commoner on Urbanspoon



Red Spice Road - Melbourne - 27 McKillop Street, Melbourne

It is like I have just discovered the happening place in Melbourne.

I had heard about Red Spice Road but for this to be my first visit, I felt like I was a bit behind the times.

In terms of decor and atmosphere, this is up there with the likes of New York.

The main room has a massive (I mean "50 people on the inside and outside" massive) round table with an enormous red lantern in the centre.

There is a fantastic bar to the side full of super hip people; although with dark moody lighting I find that everyone looks a bit more hip.

The menu is expansive, on the Thai side of Asian.

We started with eel mixed with chilli, coriander and lime in betel leaf - the eel was smoky and succulent and overall super tasty.

Next was ocean trout tartare with lime, chilli and herbs which was as fresh as anything and great eaten on top of prawn crackers.

Twice cooked coconut lamb ribs with chilli jam were crunchy and moist; if you are not in fatty foods then avoid, but if you are me then enjoy.

Finally, pork belly with apple slaw and chilli which my friend says is the best in town.

Overall a great vibe and a place to keep coming back to try tasty bits of this and that and everything else.

Great variety of wines too.

Cost is around $75 per head including a bottle of good wine.

Red Spice Road on Urbanspoon