Back again with another episode of "Clearing Out My Backlog". I must say, I've rather enjoyed blogging this series more than I thought I would. It's a different kind of writing experience for me and I find writing these posts to be more natural, unadulterated and liberating than my usual posts, for some reason. Plus, it gives me the chance to speak about so many places that I've experienced (both the good AND bad as many of you know I rarely talk about the latter). If it weren't for this series, I don't think I'd ever get to them at all, which is kind of a shame as every restaurant is worth a mention IMO.
That said, I hope you don't mind the iPhone pics in this post =)
Andrew's Hamburger, Port Melbourne
I've had Andrew's hamburgers two times now. I know it's one of Melbourne's most famous burger establishments, but I still didn't think much of it even after having it twice. There wasn't anything particularly spectacular about the buns, patty, fillings, et al. It was just a normal burger to me. With soggy fries, as usual.
Not saying the burgers were bad, but they were very standard to me. Same as many other places I've been, but for some reason this place gets much more hype with people making specific trips to come and taste. Good for them. Personally, I don't think you can go too wrong as long as you use fresh patties and greens, which most places do anyway.
Beatrix, North Melbourne
Mum and I came here one Saturday morning after we rocked up at Twenty & Six Espresso, only to realise the lines were too long for us to wait as we had to be somewhere soon after that. After we hopped back in our car, we realised that the famous Beatrix was just down the road. Awesome. Luckily, we got a table there instead in a jiffy.
A lot of people have told me great things about the baked treats at Beatrix and after experiencing it for myself, I completely agree with every one of those opinions. Just the sight of such a huge variety of baked goods and each with such an interesting flavour combination and presentation left me feeling baffled for choice, but in a good way.
I commend the team for that because I know that it's so much work to put together those treats. They look so homey and can tell they were made with love. The passionfruit vanilla slice we shared was awesome and made me think why I haven't thought of that combination myself before. The poached peach with marsala and mascarporne was so fragrant from the wine and beautifully layered. Enjoyed that too. Definitely a go to place if you love desserts. Heck, I'm not a fan of zerts myself and even I want to come back.
Chef Lagenda, Deer Park
Not a lot of people know this but I'm actually in this part of town fairly often for work. On the rare occasions that I do forget to bring my lunch and feel crap about it, I seek solace in the form of The Lagenda Special (with Crispy Roast Pork, Roast Duck and Flat Rice Noodles in Chicken Soup) -- $10.50
I've had this here so many times the past year and a half and must say that this dish hits the spot and checks the boxes every single time. I completely dislike the Chef Lagenda in Flemington and think the Deer Park branch is much more superior.
The number of dishes I've tried here are not bad, but this Lagenda Special combo that I normally get is an absolute winner. I'll go even further to say they do one of the best crispy roast pork (Chinese style) in Melbourne. The meat is moist but the skin is incredibly crunchy and actually has the charcoal flavour (which you don't get almost everywhere else)! Duck is crispy as it can be and always goes so well with the slurpalicious rice noodle soup. I love this combination every time and absolutely cannot get enough of it.
Definitely going in the list of "Wince's Faves". Although, my view on the restaurant is solely based on this dish alone, I can't say much about what the other dishes is like nor what the food is like at night as I've never tried. But this dish definitely gets me every time.
China Red, CBD
I've been to China Red almost 10 times now over the years. Ever since they've opened, this has been my go to option for dumplings (besides Shandong Mama) in the CBD. Main reason is because I cannot stand the drab, filth and greasy sensation in the air from many dumpling restaurants in the CBD. I know people keep saying it's part of the experience but dirty environments like that really kill my appetite.
What I like about China Red is that it's clean, you can always get a seat, quick service, decent food and best of all, you can look into the kitchen as you walk in. Which is always spotless. For that reason, I would choose this China Red over places like Empress of China or Shanghai Dumplings any day.
The dumplings are fair. Has flavour, has texture, and cures the dumpling cravings. What I also found that I've enjoyed here was their Chicken with Salted Fish Fried Rice. Absolutely delicious.
City Grill Room, CBD
Again, another place that I've come to so many times the past 5 years. Whether it's for a random Saturday night catchup, birthday dinner, place to take friends visiting from interstate, etc etc. It's a place I always suggest if people are in the mood for ribs and don't want to travel too far out of the city.
City Grill Room has always been consistent for me throughout the years. It's easy to get a table and food is fair. I don't think I've ever encountered dry or overcooked ribs here and the crispy onion rings always gets people going. Only thing I'm not too much of a fan of are their salmon or steaks. I'd say to just stick to the ribs and you'll be fine.
Crystal Jade, CBD
I've been to Crystal Jade numerous times over the years. Sometimes for the yumcha, other times for the dinners. The only thing I've enjoyed about their yumcha is the spacious, clean setting with ample natural light. Foodwise, I still preferred my Wealth Garden in Doncaster by a mile.
A number of people I know are a fan of the dinner menu here. I must admit, there really is nothing wrong with the food. Dishes are quite tasty, in fact. But, my only tiny gripe is that it is quite expensive for what you're getting. Mainly because even though I do find the food to be good, the dishes are actually very, very standard and normal. Things you can get in the most average of places in Malaysia. BUT, you are honestly paying so much more for every day dishes like that.
I don't mind it, you probably won't too. But you are paying quite a hefty sum for what I feel to be just normal, everyday dishes. I should know because we had a family dinner here with my relos (and Aunt, Uncle and Mum who happened to be in town) and I decided to shout them all dinner here that night to say thanks to all my family who have always looked after me since I was young. It was a great meal together and I was happy to pay the big sum. Only because it was for my family. Any other occasions, I don't think I'd suggest anyone to come here.
Dainty Sichuan, South Yarra
Dainty Sichuan... Another place I've been at least 15 times over the years? It's many people go to place for Sichuan food (including myself). It's also a place I always take friends who are visiting from interstate as well. Mainly because the quality of Sichuan food we get in Melbourne really is impressive and not something you can really get in other states (at least, that's what I've been told my all my friends visiting). Plus, it's always a nice place to hang out, eat and drink over shared dishes.
Dainty Sichuan, too, is one of those places that has never slipped in quality IMO at all despite being constantly packed out over the years. They are really good at what they do. The dishes here really do get people excited. My only tip is that you ask for mild option for all your dishes. It's still spicy, but not mind numbingly painful and unbearable, so that means you can still enjoy your meal. Heed these words, young grass hopper. You have been warned.
Soda Rock Diner, South Yarra
Being conveniently located just down the road from Dainty Sichuan, Soda Rock is a place we come to straight after a dinner at Dainty EVERY TIME. It's such a cute little concept restaurant, with an old school American diner theme.
Good thing about coming here after a spicy meal at Dainty is that they do old school sundaes and banana splits. Nothing fancy. Just simple, straight forward, humble ice cream sundaes. Just the way I like it. It's always awesome to hangout here as my friends are always looking for somewhere else to go after dinner as we'd having so much fun and not want the night to end. Hence, Soda Rock is the answer. Plus, you can't go wrong with the smooth tunes of 50's jukebox music from the Mo Town era.... Just gets me every time.
David's Restaurant, Prahran
For some reason, I resisted coming to David's for the longest time. I know that they've completely revamped their restaurant and menu sometime in 2012, but I just wasn't too keen on going to eat at another Chinese restaurant in Melbourne as I was worried I might get disappointed.
How wrong I was that evening. Food turned out to be really delicious. I enjoyed the variety in the menu. Sure, I did find a number of the dishes to be rather salty (which I did tell the restaurant about). But, overall, every dish had great flavour. The restaurant was done up really nice but still maintained a humble and inviting vibe.
Highlight was definitely the school prawns dish and also their dessert. My gosh, I don't think I've ever enjoyed a Chinese inspired dessert as much as the one I had at David's. It was glutinous rice balls with white chocolate filling, peanut praline and vanilla ice cream. It was absolute GENIUS and I've thought about recreating that dish at home so many times as I do still think about that dessert till this day. Really have to make my way back there again soon.
The Grand Tofu, Flemington
There are only a few Malaysian restaurants that I genuinely enjoy in Melbourne (amidst the many, many, many which I don't). The Grand Tofu is definitely one of them. Despite what many people say about places like Papparich or Madam Kwong's serving the best Ipoh Hor Fun, my only comment to them is that they have to try the one at The Grand Tofu in Flemington.
Besides that, this restaurant is such a good place to come to to have genuinely authentic and delicious shared Malaysian dishes. I especially enjoy their Signature Egg Tofu (that comes in a big semi circle -- so cute) and also their Yam Ring with Kongpao Chicken. Could not fault these dishes at all, incredibly tasty and makes me feel like I'm back in Malaysia every time.
Killiney's Kopitiam, Lygon St
I've been to Killiney's 3 times since they've opened. I must say that I always try to come with very low expectations (same as I do with many Malaysian establishments around Melbourne) for fear of being disappointed. But, I couldn't. I really struggle. Mainly because I feel so passionately about Malaysian food and how it's being represented here in Melbourne.
At the same time, I've been deflated so many times that I'm never surprised that I didn't think much of my meals at these Malaysian or Singaporean restaurants anymore. For all these places, the food is never even close to being up to my standard, but it does the job. Barely. It scratches the itch you get from being away from Malaysia for too long and not getting access to Malaysian food. Doesn't really satisfy but keeps your mouth shut for a while before you start having those cravings again. Then, you go to mediocre Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants and you repeat the cycle of feelings once again.
Madam Kwong's, Box Hill
Madam Kwong's was a place that people have been asking me to try for the longest time, as many claim it to be one of the better Malaysian restaurants in Melbourne.
It's interesting, I'll give them that. Mainly because of the fact that it also acts as an Asian Grocer so you can sort of shop while you wait for your food. Food wise, was utterly unimpressed. Nasi Lemak lacked fragrance in the rice, heat in the sambal. Ipoh Hor Fun had so little ingredients there was barely anything to enjoy. Seriously, the prawns so tiny to begin with but still had to be sliced in half. The har mee or prawn noodles were too sweet and the popiah was not crunchy as it should be.
Overall, not worth the trip and wait in line, I don't think. Unless, you happen to be in Box Hill and are looking for Malaysian food to eat. If that's the case, you probably have no choice.
Magic on Ferrars, South Melbourne
I chanced upon this place one unexpected afternoon when I happened to be in the area on a weekday for a seminar I was attending and was scouring the area for food during my lunch break. This place caught my attention.
It was tiny but inviting. Both the staff and customers seemed to be in a happy and relaxed mood, which I found to be contagious as it worked on me too. The chicken caesar salad I had was unreal and I was completely thankful to the waiter for highly recommending it to me. It was chicken caesar salad that had quality and personal touch added to every single one of the ingredients. Perfectly grilled marinated chicken breast, croutons, with bacon, soft boiled egg and homemade mayo. Utterly delicious, could not get enough of it.
Pepper Lunch, CBD
I've always had mixed feelings about Pepper Lunch. I didn't really like it when I had it in Sydney. But rather enjoyed it when I had it in Singapore. And now in Melbourne, I thought it was okay. Although, a big part of it comes down to what you order.
For myself, I enjoy their basic and plain curry beef slice but with an extra egg on the side. It's simple and tasty. The curry powder mixed with the beef that's cooked to your liking on your plate is lively on the palate. Mixed with the sweet corn kernels and the crispy egg on the side, it was hard not to enjoy.
Although, I do think that if you do venture out to get the more adventurous items on the menu, you will find yourself being severely disappointed, as I have been. Let's just say, Pepper Lunch is a pleasant option if you're looking for something different to eat in the CBD for under $10. My advice is to just stick to this dish and ask for the extra egg on the side.