Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Clearing Out My Backlog - Part 1

Starting a new mini series called "Clearing Out My Backlog" which was prompted by the fact that I have reached the storage limit for my laptop, iPhone and iPad (basically every device I own). I've been hoarding these photos for way too long and it's about time I make room for the new. 

I haven't gotten around to blogging about these places because, as you can see, I didn't really enjoy my experience at most of these restaurants. And most people know that I tend to only like to talk about places I do enjoy only (more fun to talk about). 

So for people who say that I only know how to gush about my food, that's not true... I am actually pretty damn picky about what I like to eat. It's just that I don't say it at the dinner table as I find it rude and unnecessary for me to rain on other people's parade if they enjoyed the meal and I didn't. But because I have a blog, I'm starting to think that talking about negative experiences isn't really a bad thing. They're just honest and hopefully restaurants can take it constructively? And yup, my life is pretty much all about the "catchups".

 Bistro Vue, CBD

Foie Gras Baked Brioche - $38

Garlic Snails with Parsley Crust - $30

Sous Vide Beef Special

Rump Cap 8 - 9 Score 250g - $39

Lamb Rump, Piperade, Pomme Fondant - $38

Rangers Valley Wagyu 400 days Grain Fed - $ 49

Tarte Tatin - $17

Souffle su Chocolat - $15

Raspberry Mille Feuille

Bistro Vue is one of those restaurants in the CBD that most people forget about yet constantly packed at the same time. I have been here a total of 3 times now and my experience for each visit seem to be varied. It was great the first time I went in 2008. Then went downhill upon my second return (even though I had ordered mostly the same dishes) but picked up again on my third visit (maybe because I knew what to order now).

They serve reasonably decent but pricey French affair (if you know what to order). My picks would be the escargot, foie gras, sous vide beef and rangers valley wagyu. Other dishes have been such a hit and miss. That aside, Bistro Vue is an alright place to visit if you're not too sure where to go for a nice catchup with friends in the CBD on a Friday night (as most places would be too full for you to get a table). Not bad, if you're willing to spend a little more than usual (each visit normally about $80/person) and just stick to the dishes above. 

Bistro Vue on Urbanspoon

Byblos, South Wharf 

I came here one evening with my Mum, Dad and sister when they happened to be in Melbourne for a visit. We don't eat out often as we still prefer to cook at home. That evening, we decided to head to South Wharf as the weather was beautiful and wanted to try something new.

We've never had Lebanese food until we went to Byblos that time. I heard about this place from my former colleague who was Lebanese (good start). We had an array of meat pastries to start, followed by some sides (the hummus, snails and stuffed cucumber), grilled meats (of course) and a Fatoush salad with haloumi as well.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal. We got to try a large variety of dishes between the 4 of us. The pastries were great. Absolutely loved the stuffed vegetable and grilled meats (you could smell it in the air). Fatoush was pleasant but the snails were a little salty that evening. That said, I would come back because the food was fair in price and taste, ambience was nice and it was pleasant to eat by the river.

Byblos on Urbanspoon

Chinese Spicy & Barbie Kitchen, Kensington

Fried Beans with Mince

Sichuan Boiled Fish

Crispy Fried Eggplant (or fish smell eggplant)

Pork Dumplings

Fried Pork Intestines

Fried Lamb Spareribs in Homemade Sauce

This place was first introduced to us by Agnes, who organised a dinner with the group of us so we could try. The place is packed but still very unassuming as most people have never heard of this place until she told us about it. And we're glad she did because the food here is GOOD. Better than expected, too.

I've been here a total of 4 times now and my experience has been very consistent each time. Great tasting food with affordable prices. This place is also good for people who enjoy Sichuan food but cannot take it when it is too spicy (perfect for me).

Highlights include the lamb ribs (so tender and succulent), eggplant, Sichuan boiled fish and surprisingly the pork dumplings. All taste good but I recommend the dumplings especially as they're so slippery on the outside, juicy/tasty on the inside.

The age old question that everyone asks when they're here is: "Is this place better than Dainty Sichuan in South Yarra?"

Well, it's different. Tastewise to me, they're equally very good. This place is good for the non spicy eaters. Dainty is good for big groups. And I would be happy to eat at either place any day. This place is definitely a good alternative to Dainty but I wouldn't say it's better.

I Love Dumplings on Urbanspoon

First Taste, Box Hill

Claypot Rice with Chinese Sausage

Prawn Dumplings with Verimicilli

Claypot Rice with Pork Loaf and Salted Fish

My cousins introduced me to First Taste when I first moved to Melbourne in 2008 and it quickly became one of my favourite places to eat till this day. I think I must've been here at least 15 times in the past few years. Always a classic fave with friends and family.

I enjoy this place because you often come and get a very complete, wholesome and delicious meal. To start we would always get their herbal soups -- which are very tasty and healthy at the same time. For mains, we ALWAYS get the same 3 dishes: Chinese Sausage/Pork Loaf with Salted Fish Rice, Prawn Dumplings. 

These 3 dishes are utterly delicious and the best thing about eating here is the homemade soy sauce, chilli dipping sauce. Their soy sauce is not salty at all! In fact, has a sweet and winey overtone whilst being very light and addictive. We normally finish at least half of the soy sauce bottle on the table especially when eating with the pork loaf rice. It is crazy good. Besides that, the prawn dumplings are always so chunky and flavourful, delicious with the slippery vermicilli and their thick and tasty chillli dipping sauce. I can never get enough of these 3 dishes. 

To finish, I recommend that you get the Black Sesame Dessert Soup or Durian Dessert Soup. They're not always available but if you're in luck, I do suggest you give it a go. Nice, chilly and not too sweet as well. Perfect ending to the meal. Writing this now is making me crave this place again.

First Taste on Urbanspoon

Mediterraneo, Port Melbourne

Mediterraneo was a place a first came with my Mum back in 2009. We left with a very fond impression as the steaks were great. I still remember how the steaks were perfectly tender, juicy and succulent. The ambience was quiet and inviting. The owner was there that night coming over to our table from time to time to personally check if everything was okay and stopping for a quick chat. It was pleasant.

Fast forward several years later I returned with my group of uni mates. I was still holding on to that pleasant memory in my mind of Mediterraneo and decided to give it a go again. However, my experience second time around was so different. Steaks tasted nowhere like it used to (was a tad bland and dry) and food in general wasn't fantastic that evening. Most of the food we had was quite forgettable. It was just okay. Perhaps everyone's expectations might've changed over the years. That said, it was still an alright place to have dinner at a nice, quiet part of Port Melbourne. But I wouldn't be rushing to come back again, I don't think.

Mediterraneo Charcoal Grill on Urbanspoon

Station Hotel, Footscray

Note: I apologise for the words to be all in "caps" I have no idea what's wrong with the formatting can't seem to change in back to normal. Hope you don't mind

Much like my experience at Mediterraneo, Station Hotel wasn't as good as I remembered anymore and I'm not even sure as I'll be back again. Both these restaurants are known for their steaks. However, I kind of feel like the steaks I've been cooking at home tasted better. Maybe because of the fact that when I cook steak at home, I carefully choose the exact meat that I want from the market. Also, at home, I always make sure I get a nice crust on the outside of my steak whilst the inside remains perfectly juicy and succulent.

And yes, I guess because I've been cooking so much steak at home (especially last year) my expectations for steaks have soared through the roof. There's not a lot of steaks at restaurants that can give me the satisfaction that I get from my own ones at home. Sadly, this includes the famous Station Hotel. 

Besides that, people are always going on about their awesome Creme Brulee. Again, I kind of prefer the one I made at home. You can check out my recipe: hereIt's not to say that Station Hotel isn't good. But it's just come to a point where it's not necessarily making food that: a) I can't make at homeb) is much better than the one I cook

Please don't misconstrue what I'm trying to say and think I'm blowing my own horn. All I'm saying is that if you'll be surprised by how good your steaks and brulees will turn out if you make it yourself at home... Just sayin'

Station Hotel on Urbanspoon

Amigos, CBD


Sizzling Brownie

I came here with some friends after we had a pleasant catchup dinner at Hardware Lane. My friend Jade was the one who told me about the sizzling brownie at Amigos and told me I HAD to try it, which was the only reason why we came (as you can see).

I must say, those brownies were pretty darn good. Piping hot, topped with thick, gooey chocolate sauce but balanced with the vanilla ice cream. Everything worked and it was such a yummy treat to share with friends. I don't think the other stuff on the menu really caught my attention but I definitely wouldn't mind coming back for desserts or a catchup over that sizzling brownie again.

Amigos on Urbanspoon

San Telmo, CBD

Another new place I tried. Sad to say, another underwhelming experience overall. The only highlight that evening was the braised pork belly which melted in our mouths. But then again, there are SO many places that do melt in your mouth braised pork belly.

Steak was cooked well, but the meat itself was quite tough and rubbery still. We ordered a lot of grilled vegetables as our sides but they were pretty straightforward. Nothing good/bad to say about them. Desserts were quite the flop for me as they were too sweet. Caramel with sugar galore. But then again, that may be your thang but it wasn't mine.

We came here because I was looking for a place to host a catchup dinner with my relos in the CBD. You can prolly tell by now that I am ALWAYS looking for places to have catchups and location-wise people always tend to prefer the CBD on a Friday night so they can do some shopping before dinner.

The only thing I liked about San Telmo was the location and the decor which I found to be really cool. Everything else? I'll pass.

San Telmo on Urbanspoon

Authentic Thai Taste, Collingwood

Fried Whole Fish with Green Papaya Salad

Green Chicken Curry

Deep Fried Kangkong

Fried Pork Leg

Fried Soft Shell Crabs

Coconut Ice Cream

Mango with Sticky Rice

I caught up with some friends at Thai Taste because I had heard about it from 2 people from 2 separate groups of friend that told me so much about it. Apparently it was their "go to" place for Thai in Melbourne (which we all know is a rather scarce list to begin with).

First experience was flipping great. We loved everything from the uber crisp and light kangkung, to the crunchy and generous soft shell crabs, unctuous green curry and especially the desserts.

Then, something must've happened since then. I recommended my other friend to try it out as they happened to be in the area. She told me she found the food to be too sweet. Weird, as I didn't find that to be the case when I went. Shortly after, I brought my parents and sister here (who happened to be in town again) because we love Thai but still haven't really found one that we truly enjoyed. Our experience that evening was SHOCKING. Almost every dish was inedible. More than half the dishes we ordered were sickeningly sweet especially the tomyum and curry. Also, the fried kangkung was so soft and soggy when we ordered it again.

It's so weird how it started off as one of the best Thai food experiences I had to downright worst. Hands down. They must've changed the chef but that second experience definitely convinced me that I won't be coming back here again. Sad case, I must say...

Authentic Thai Taste on Urbanspoon

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