Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spice Temple, Southbank

Stir fried Spanner with whole garlic, chilli and coriander -- $55

Handmade yellow noodles with Wagyu braised brisket, chilli and Sichuan pepper -- $24

Stir fried corn with smoked pork and chives -- $14

Stir fried quail and peanuts with steamed egg custard spicy, crunchy, creamy -- $38

Hot, sweet, sour and numbing pork with chilli, sugar, black vinegar and Sichuan peppercorn -- $38

Three milk cake with pomegranate and pistachio -- $18

Caramel, chocolate and peanut parfait -- $18

I was so excited about coming to Spice Temple after hearing so many people rave about it. It was a place I resisted for a long time because the price was incredibly expensive to me, especially for Asian food. I'm the same with true blue Italians who hardly ever pay for an expensive Italian meal at a restaurant for so many reasons I'd rather not say. That said, I finally decided to give it a go when my good uni mate who's moved back overseas was here in Melbourne that week for a short trip.

In short, I found Spice Temple to be very, very overpriced. Taste of the food was really underwhelming. We only enjoyed 2 out of 7 of the dishes we ordered, especially disappointing when we paid $75 per person for the meal (without drinks). It is so damn rare that I spend that much on a meal, but if it's a rare occasion (like my friend visiting from overseas) and the food is good, I'd say it's value for money. But in this case, it wasn't.

The spanner crab was clean, fresh and beautiful. But it was $50 for a tiny plate. Fair enough, as they shelled the crabs for you as well. Noodles was beautiful. Slippery and flavourful, but there was barely any meat/Wagyu in there. Corn was way too salty from the smoked pork and though the egg custard was smooth, I make egg custard like that at home almost every month. 

The famous numbing pork was the most disappointing of all as I feel like they didn't even get the basics right. Sauce was good, but the pork was so tough, dry and overcooked. Plus, the batter didn't stick to the pork at all and was completely separated from the meat. I'm sure it was just our experience that night as I believe other people when they tell me it was good when they came. In terms of dessert, the milk cake was ridiculously sweet and nothing else. I was looking forward to the parfait but was hoping it had more crunch, which I found it lacked.

Again, we struggled to enjoy 5 out of 7 of the dishes. Very shocking for a 2 Hatted restaurant. I really wanted to say that I enjoyed the food here as I think it's good to have a Modern Asian restaurant with a setting as nice as this in Crown but I didn't. Anyway, hope that this experience was a one time thing and others have better luck with it than me. Doubt I'll come back.

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Opening of The Grain Store and Hero Sub

The Grain Store

A couple of months ago, I was invited to the opening of The Grain Store -- a new cafe that just opened in the Western end of the CBD. Opened by the same masterminds behind The Reading Room (another cafe which I LOVE), Michael and Eleena, I knew that it was going to be a hit. 

The place was buzzing when I arrived. The hosts were generous enough to let me bring my 3 mates along, which made for a good way to spend our Friday night -- woohoo!

They served an array of canapes that night. There wasn't much food to be had as I got there late after work but the mouthfuls that I had were DELICIOUS. 

Me alongside the wonderful team behind The Grain Store as well as my awesome #ttvn buddies Ashley and Adrian

Thanks for the great night, guys!

Soy Piccolo Latte -- $4

A few weeks ago, I finally went over to The Grain Store for brunch. This time, with the fantastic company of Daisy, Ricky and Jo.

Chilli & Fennel Sausage, Vanilla Parsnip -- $ 17
with poached egg, savoy cabbage, pear and cumquat chutney

Grilled Asparagus & House Smoked Salmon -- $19
with poached egg, goats curd, blood orange, crispy quinoa

Portobello Mushroom & Raclette Potato Rosti -- $18
with poached eggs, hazelnut hollandaise

Bacon Steak & Smoked Jalapeno Cheese Croquette -- $19
with egg sunny side up, pea salsa, whipped goat's feta, apple balsamic

Rosemary Polenta Chips -- $8

Lavender & Buttermilk Panna Cotta -- $12
with poached pear, earl grey, salted pepitas, sugar bubbles

The Grain Store really had become the talk of the town ever since they opened. From what I hear, it is CONSTANTLY packed out no matter when you go. What I appreciated about this place most is that it is finally giving the CBD what it has been severely lacking: which is another brunch option. At the same time, I think it's great that they have a nice, big, comfortable venue that allows you to take bookings, which is so rare for brunch places.

Overall, I think the menu is interesting in a sense that you are getting more than you realise on the plate. Not in terms of quantity, but the number of components and complexity that went into producing each element. 

In terms of taste, I don't think I was too blown away. It was good, but the overall dish didn't really hit home for me, unlike the brunch menu at The Reading Room. There was creativity involved, but some pairings were a little odd for my liking. The panna cotta unfortunately left us with a bit of a mixed and confused sensation in our mouths. My bacon steak was nice and salty on its own but together with the salted savoy cabbage on my plate, it was a little bit much. Although, my bacon steak as well as the dessert were the only 2 dishes that I found to be a bit off. Daisy, Ricky and Jo had much better luck as I found all their dishes to be quite delicious. 

At the end of the day, I'm just happy that they take bookings and it's a decent option if people are looking to grab brunch in the CBD. Oh, and they serve good coffee too.

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Hero Sub

Not too long after the opening of The Grain Store (which has been thriving ever since), the same visionaries behind that establishment had invited my friends and I over to the opening of their latest venture: Hero Sub!

All photos taken with my iPhone as I was too much of a nuff nuff to remember to bring my camera. Although, do check out their website because the photos of their food seriously AMAZING!

1. #Catcher
Panko crumbed shrimp tossed in hero secret seasoning, slaw, finished with housemade thousand island dressing

2. #Throwback
Veal, pork, orange and fennel meatballs simmered in Nonna's homemade sauce with baby spinach & shaved grana padano

3. #KidRoyale
Smoked hickory rub, slow roasted beef with onion jam, honey dijon, baby spinach, finished with crispy onioin rings

4. #Brklyn
10 hour pulled lamb, shredded pickle beetroot, baby spinach & herb-whipped feta

Located just behind the new RMIT building on Swanston St, I LOVED the concept and vibe as soon as I saw it from the outside. Inspired by the streets of Brooklyn in NYC, Hero Sub serves up a mean selection of cool, grungy subs with a hip hop beat (literally). The staff were all decked out in their cap, sweaters and kicks with a bit of bling around their neck while they played old school hip hop in the background. It was way cool, I loved it.

I am happy to say that every single one of the subs we had was insanely delicious! No two subs were anywhere alike and they all had so much flavour and attitude. It was seriously good. Although, my favourite that day has got to be the #KidRoyale. The hickory smoked meat with the ultra crisp onion rings against the sweet onion jam was too good to be true! My mates and I deemed this our favourite of the day.

Overall, Hero Sub really is on to something here. It's a quick and affordable bite to eat in the CBD, perfect for people who want a quick lunch on the go. The subs are memorable, as you will find when you taste one for yourself. 

There really is no stopping Michael and Eleena as everything that they touch just turns to gold. Look at how well The Reading Room and The Grain Store are doing right now. They not only are so seasoned in the industry, but are also great people to be around and I'm very happy for their continuous success. Thank you again for inviting my friends and I over to try your delicious food, I'm sure that Hero Sub is going to be another sure fire hit!

Hero on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: Winston and friends dined as guests at The Grain Store and Hero Sub. All opinions are honest and based on own personal experience at the time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Eat Now Website and Kass Kass Restaurant Review

A number of weeks ago, I was contacted by Eat Now to ask if I would be interested in reviewing their food delivery website. I am all about businesses that are always open to constructive criticism to improve themselves so I was happy to participate.

Also, I thought that ordering in and just chilling would be a great way to spend the weekend with your mates. 

I must first start off by stating that this experience was based solely on only. I haven't used other online food delivery websites so I can't be sure how this compares to the rest.

First thought was that there were more participating outlets in the list than I expected when I typed in my postcode. Also,  I found the entire layout to be very simple, clear and straightforward (which I liked). There was nothing more that I needed to see, and nothing less. It made the entire shopping/browsing experience much more comfortable.

Favourite feature is definitely the sidebar with the order summary. It's good that it doesn't move as you're scrolling down the menu on the left. Keeps things clear and in check. Last thing you want is to be happily clicking away and not realise how much you've spent only until you checkout.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed at the end that I needed to sign up an account to checkout. Fortunately, the sign up process was quite quick as it was only a one page process and had very little things for me to fill out. The entire process from start to finish was short and straightforward.

Other features that I liked was the option to pay by cash. Not everyone likes using the credit card. Also, the SMS confirmation as soon as we placed the order was reassuring. Our food came in exactly 45 minutes, as specified.

Overall, I found Eat Now to be not bad. Quick, clean and definitely easy to use. Although to be honest, I'm not too sure if I am one to use this online service often. It's not that it's not good, but just because I tend to cook more at home than order in or eat out. But, I do remember a time when I was in uni and used to host study groups at my place all the time and would order takeout for dinner sometimes too. This would've definitely been handy then.

So, for people who order takeout often or are looking to try, this website is for you. 

If you're keen, you can also checkout my friend Julie's review of Eat Now: here

To test out Eat Now's service, we decided to order from Kass Kass, a newly opened Korean restaurant that seems to be famous for its Korean Fried Chicken (as recommended by my friend Daisy)

Spicy Beef Ribs Stew -- $22

Spicy Pork with Kimchi and Tofu -- $22

Half Half Chicken -- $28
(with Sweet Spicy and Original)

There seemed to have been a lot of talk that Kass Kass was better than the famous Gami for their Korean Fried Chicken (KFC). Personally, I found them to be different. The chicken from Kass Kass were smaller and a little bit overcooked. Although, I see how some people may find the sauce at Gami to be too runny. Although in terms of the KFC, I still find Gami to be better. The chicken is always so succulent and incredibly crunchy. 

You can also checkout my previous post on Gami and why it's still one of my favourite places to eat with friends: here

Even though I may not prefer the KFC at Kass Kass, I still like their other offerings in the menu. My initial concern upon looking at the menu was the price. A little bit steeper than usual but the portions that night were quite big. They offered a lot more dishes compared to Gami (as Gami tends to be more of a drinking spot/watering hole than sit down meal).

The Spicy Beef Ribs Stew was delicious. Incredibly tender and flavourful stock. Also really enjoyed the grilled pork with kimchi and tofu. Thought the tofu was nice and refreshing against the rich meat. Overall, don't mind Kass Kass at all. If I want to just go for Korean Fried Chicken, I'm sticking to Gami. If I want to eat a bit more than just KFC, I'd head over to Kass Kass.

KassKass Restaurant & Korean Pub on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are honest and based on own personal experience at the time.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A night out in Fitzroy: Vegie Bar & N2 Extreme Gelato

Vegie Bar:

Despite being such an iconic Melbourne establishment, I've actually never heard of Vegie Bar until my colleague first mentioned it to me. Being a vegetarian himself, I was curious to know what places he likes to go to because vegetarian eating is so unfamiliar to me. Everything sounded sensational when he was telling me about it and I knew I had to make a trip down to try. Even though majority of Asians are meat eaters through and through, I knew that there was something about Vegie Bar that would make us come around... And it did. Not permanently, but we really, really enjoyed it. 

In other words, Vegie Bar to me is vegetarian eating -- redefined. 

Photo taken from my Instagram: @winceeee

Green Juice -- $7.00
Blended spinach, cucumber, avocado and kale sweetened with apple

Samosa -- $2.90
Filled with a mild vegetable curry, served with both tzatziki and our mystical fresh chilli sauce

Stuffed Mushrooms -- $8.50
Piping hot mushrooms filled with tofu and herbed fetta, served with our special chutney sauce

Tagine -- $15.00
A rich tomato and vegetable tagine, slow cooked with apricots, saffron, cloves and cinnamon. Served on almond and currant couscous, finished with spicy harissa, yoghurt and dukkha

Sambal Noodles (Hot) -- $15.50
Mixed vegetables, asian greend and imitation duck, wok tossed with hokkien noodles, sambal chilli and hoisin sauce

Thai Green Curry -- $15.00
Thai green curry with potato, zucchini, capsicum and cauliflower

Broccoli and Blues Pizza (Large) -- $12.50
Gorgonzola, broccoli, roast capsicum, caramelised onion and mozzarella on a Napoli base

Cauliflower and Pecorino Ravioli -- $15.50
Delicate pasta parcels in a reach and creamy pumpkin, mushroom and white wine sauce

Faux Chicken Wrap -- $9.50
Mock chicken, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, mango, sweet chilli and our own special mayo

Raw Living Stack -- $13.50
Layers of thinly sliced tomato, zucchini and squash, grated carrot, baby spinach, avocado, basil pesto and cashew ricotta. All stacked on a marinated mushroom and smothered in a zesty tomato and beetroot puree. Finished with dehydrated herbed tomato, raw parmesan and kale chips

My God... By the end of the night my friends and I were so damn happy and impressed with all the food that we ate. Now, we get why the place is so packed out and famous for all these years.

Everything tasted seriously fantastic. Every dish had such bold flavours and was executed really well. They all tasted so different and we got a taste of everything from East to West, North to South. All in one meal. Not to mention, how cheap and huge the portions were. They were insane. The samosa was the size of my fist. The sambal noodles was honestly like a mountain. That $9.50 burrito wrap was at least the size of that anywhere else.

What I loved about our meal was that each of us had our own favourite dishes of the night. We all LOVED the food and put us in such a good mood the entire night. Whether it was the fantastic pizza with the amazingly crisp base and blue cheese/broccoli combo; or the super crispy and tasty faux chicken (in the wrap) that we couldn't get enough of; delicious tagine with fluffy and flavourful couscous; moorish green curry with the fragrant rice; or even the refreshing stack of cold vegetables that was so cleansing to have as part of the meal.

It seemed like there was something for everyone. So affordable too. Huge tick in terms of value for money. Cannot wait to come back here again with other friends and also my family when they visit -- I'm sure they'll all love this place too.

Vegie Bar on Urbanspoon

N2 Extreme Gelato:

After a fantastical meal at Vegie Bar, we decided to head straight over to N2 to try their famous liquid nitrogen ice cream since it was only a few doors down. Suffice to say, there was already a massive queue before we even arrived.

Was also a great surprise to bump into my dear friend Winnie of Eat Play Shop there with her hubby and friends that night too!

1. Deconstructed Chocolate Lava 
(with sour cream chocolate gelato and warm chocolate ganache syringe)
2. French Earl Grey
3. Pretzella (Queen of the Dessert)
(Nutella based gelato with pretzels)
4. Pandan (no-) Egg Tart 
5. Lemon Lime and Bitters Sorbet
6. Buttered Popcorn

Pash Pavlova Flavour (with meringue, passionfruit and strawberries)
Taken from my Instagram @winceeee

Overall, did I enjoy N2 Gelato? Yes.

In terms of the flavours, I LOVED the French Earl Grey as well as the Pretzella Gelato. I thought they were my favourites until I went back a second time and had the Pavlova flavoured one, which was SO good. Chocolate was good as well. Buttered popcorn was and Lemon Lime Bitters was a little on the underwhelming side but that's okay, you win some/you lose some. I also found that N2 was quite good at getting the right level of sweetness for its gelato. 

If you ask me, I find that the main difference that I found with these liquid nitrogen gelato (as opposed to your conventional freezer made) ones is the texture. It was really smooth and still had a slight bite/resistance to it. What I liked as well about these gelato over the normal ones is its temperature. It wasn't too cold and you could enjoy big spoonfuls of them at once.

Most of you may know that I am very rarely keen on the latest food trends in Melbourne but I must say that after 2 visits, I am definitely on board with the N2 Gelato train =)

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon