Monday, December 8, 2014

Clearing Out My Backlog 9

Pho Hung Vuong 2, Richmond

You know how sometimes you just need a food fix of some sort? Like, if your body goes without having a certain food for, say, a few weeks, it'll automatically tell you that it's been that long without you even checking. Anyway, I need my pho fix. Has to happen in 5 week periods.

Even though there are so many pho joints in Footscray or Richmond, Pho Hung Vuong tends to be the more popular option for some reason with an instantly recognisable shopfront. Not necessarily the best pho IMO but generally quite standard and almost reliable. That said, our experience that day was not to its usual quality. Both my pho broth and also the grilled pork vermicilli was on the sweet side. Too sweet for our liking. But, I did think that the ingredients in my pho was exceptionally fresh. Very naturally fragrant and did not have any smell in the meat, cooked till just tender. If only the sweetness didn't turn me off that much... 

Pho Hung Vuong 2 on Urbanspoon

Pho Nom, CBD

There are so many places that quickly become quite famous around town, thanks to the likes of social media, which is how I first heard about Pho Nom. Seems like it's "the" place to head to for pho in the CBD now.

In short, I think people will enjoy this place if they don't compare it to the pho restaurants (in, say, Footscray, Richmond, St Albans, etc) because it's not the same! It's not meant to be the same so don't expect it to be the same. Here's why: the concept is slightly more modern. Even though you get your classic choices of pho and rice paper rolls, Pho Nom also offers you a slightly more unique alternative like Wagyu Beef Pho (which was what I ordered) or same menu options but with a slightly more refined touch. 

As for my Wagyu Beef Pho, I liked how they intentionally place it in a separate bowl so you can dip each slice of beef into your hot bowl of soup so you can cook it individually to your liking. Avoids the delicate meat from being overcooked if it were to be placed all in a bowl. Also, I really liked the flavour of the broth. It was fragrant and had a strong beef body. 

Sure, Pho Nom wouldn't be as big of portions or cheap as the ones you get in those suburbs mentioned above but you need to remember that this is in the Emporium building and catered for the CBD market as it offers a more refined experience. That said, I think I generally have a slight preference over the food and experience of Footscray/Richmond for pho but if I can't venture out to those suburbs, Pho Nom is a great alternative in the CBD.

Phở Nom on Urbanspoon

Purple Peanuts Japanese Cafe, CBD

Purple Peanuts was also another place that I've heard so many people rave about on social media. I must be honest that I didn't enjoy my first experience with them 3 years ago when I ordered the Chicken Curry Don. Mainly because I couldn't help but find it to be not as juicy, delicious, cheap, or big of a portion as Don Don's Chicken Curry Don. Just no comparison there. Don Don trumps the Chicken Curry Don market. It is for this reason why I haven't been back again until recently.

I realise now that Purple Peanuts' signature dishes are the salmon sashimi rice or the fried onigiris, both of which I got to try on this occasion and must say it was DELICIOUS. Now, I see what all the fuss is about. The salmon dish was great because it had a subtle but flavourful marinade and had a fresh, crunchy bite. The rice was seasoned well to balance. It was a great dish to eat. Besides that, the fried onigiri was great too because it was super crunchy and tasted even better when dipped in the sesame sauce. 

Lesson learnt: Leave the Chicken Curry for Don Don and stick with the salmon rice dishes and fried tuna onigiri.

Purple Peanuts Japanese Cafe on Urbanspoon

Red Pepper, CBD

My friend Carmen visited from Perth a couple of months ago for a short trip (only 2 nights) and was really looking forward to squeeze in as many great restaurants as she could. I asked her what cuisine she wanted to eat and she said "Indian". Now, it's not that I'm not a fan of the cuisine, because trust me, I am. But, I was just a little taken aback because I've never had an overseas visitor specifically request for me to take them for Indian food. The usual requests normally include brunch places, Japanese restaurants or funky joints in the Fitzroy area. This was a new request for me.

I decided to take her and some friends to Red Pepper in the CBD because we happened to be in the area. I remember this place from 4 or 5 years ago so it was good to revisit a place that I haven't been to in a while. Overall, I thought the food was SMASHING. The butter chicken was definitely the best one I've ever had because you could not only taste the tandoori marinade but my goodness, you could taste the brilliant charred flavour in it too which lifted the dish to another level. The sauces for all the curries were spot on.

Although, the highlight of the day was definitely the samosa chaat. In fact, it was one of the most exciting things I had eaten in a long time and actually made me thank my friend for suggesting Indian because of it. It had the making of a standard samosa (fried Indian pastry), i.e. the crunch and filling. But, it was different because it was doused with a sweet but spicy chickpea sauce and balanced with fresh herbs and generous dollop of yoghurt. For me, it had INCREDIBLE flavours (spicy, sweet, refreshing) but lots of interesting textures from the soft chickpea to the crunchy samosa pastry too. The samosa chaat was too good and I highly recommend it to people too. Am definitely adding it to my faves.

Red Pepper on Urbanspoon

Rita's Cafeteria, Collingwood

I first came to Rita's for my friend Sarah's birthday a while ago. I've been to Rita's cafeteria a couple of times now and must say that I leave feeling very happy and satisfied each time. It's a quaint little Italian restaurant with a warm and casual setting but bustling with people enjoying a nice meal. The food is great in quality and execution but what I enjoy most about Rita's is that it's very authentic but you get to see lots of interesting dishes that you may not see at your standard or traditional Italian restaurants. Keeps things interesting.

For instance, I go weak in the knees for the crab and prawn risotto. It's got such an immensely strong but not overpowering body that honestly makes your heart sing. Despite that, you can still taste the sweetness of the crab and prawn flesh shine through. The dollop of creme fraiche just helps bind it all together too. Overall, I really enjoy the pizzas here but my favourite has got to be the blue cheese, kale and grape one. Like I said, not traditional but my gosh made to perfection. Everything just worked and I really enjoyed that very much. Most of the dishes here are generally good and there is definitely something for everyone in the menu here. Although, the only thing I would say is that the desserts weren't the best (doughy calzone and doughnuts) so just stick to entrees and mains. It's absolutely delicious and has become my number one place to recommend people for Italian food because it's something different.

Rita's Cafeteria on Urbanspoon

Skewer'd, Port Melbourne

I really love that my office has now moved to Port Melbourne. It's not only shortened my travel time immensely but it's great because it's close to Bay St where we have such a great selection of cafes and restaurants. Because I am now closer to where some of my friends live and work, I'm so happy I get to catch up with them over lunch from time to time. One of the places that we enjoy is Skewer'd.

I think that this place is right up there with Jimmy Grants. Except that this place is cheaper (under $10 for the gyros!) and really generous with filling. The meat is delicious and overall delicious to sink your teeth into, especially with the fries. I like Jimmy Grants but do find the portion to be too small and lacking in filling (you need at least 2 to fill you up, which means you end up paying almost double here) but do think that the pita bread is better at Jimmy's. The meat at Jimmy's has slightly better char and juiciness but the one here is pretty darn tasty too.

Overall, Skewer'd is definitely one place to look out for. We haven't been disappointed each time we're here and I think you'll feel the same about it if you try too. Yum.

Skewer'd on Urbanspoon

Super Bowl Pho, Richmond

Ahhh Super Bowl. Another pho place along the Victoria St strip in Richmond. In short, I think the pho is alright. Nothing fantastic, quite ordinary. Soup wasn't especially tasty; ingredients weren't especially fragrant but it's decent. It's okay. Although, the Bon Bo Hue (spicy verimicilli soup) pales in comparison to the one at Dong Ba in Footscray. It was just okay. What I did enjoy when I was here was the Hanoi Spring Rolls, which was basically rice paper rolls that had been deep fried. What's not to like? Yum.

Super Bowl Pho & Bun Bo Hue on Urbanspoon

The Atlantic, Crown Casino

"Let's catch up for lunch sometime at Crown. Just pick a place. Ask your sister along too, my shout."
"What? No need lah, why are you shouting?"
"That's okay, we haven't caught up in a while. I insist."

There are some friendships that you really appreciate, and this was one of them for me. I've known my mate Chris for the longest time and just one of the most genuine dudes I know. He's always being really nice to his friends just because he wants to and expects nothing back from people.

Anyway, we ended up going to The Atlantic for some seafood. It's the first time any of us has ever been and I must say that our meal that day was really good. The starters were light and clean on the palate. Although, the highlight for me was definitely my confit salmon. It was anything and everything that a confit salmon should taste like. Soft like butter and almost melts in your mouth, it was great.  Even though I can't fully remember what else was on the place but remember them being really tasty (sorry). The desserts were really good. I enjoyed the warm tart and the chilli chocolate dessert had a nice sugar and spice hit.

Overall, I actually really enjoyed my meal here. Even though most people said that it is quite a hit and miss but based on my experience at the time, I found the food to be good and so was the setting.

The Atlantic on Urbanspoon

Trotters, Carlton

A lot of my friends and I have lots of good memories here at Trotter's over the years. It's a place where my dear friends got engaged and also where my friends and I have had numerous catchup sessions over their sticky date pudding. Even though it's not my favourite place to have dinner as the food is a bit ordinary (pizza was a bit too spicy, calamari was too hard but wagyu burger was juicy and delicious), but I think it's more important to cherish restaurants for the good memories rather than the food. After all, food is just food and the company is always more important. I'd rather build a list of places I have fond memories with friends/family than a list of restaurant recommendations. Anyway, excuse me for being a bit sentimental. Go try their sticky date pudding.

Trotters on Urbanspoon

Truman Cafe, Albert Park

Ashley, Adrian and I (aka my #ttvn homies!!) caught up at Truman not too long ago for a lovely Sunday brunch. The weather was sunny and in the mid 20's (so perfect) so we decided to get a table outside. Ashley and I ordered the pea and quinoa fritters but I added a side of smoked salmon. I thought the dish was tasty, hearty and filling. The relish and chutney especially was perfect with the fritters. That said, we had total food envy over Adrian's sweet potato hash -- ugh!! It was crunchy and downright delicious. We ordered some green juices to go with our lunch too which was refreshing in the weather. Overall, Truman is a quaint little cafe near Albert Park which has a good standard of food and coffee. Do recommend it if you're looking for a place to brunch in the area without having to be stuck in the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of South Melbourne in the weekends.

Truman Cafe on Urbanspoon

Vincent The Dog, Carlton

I came here with a couple of friends for an afternoon wind down earlier this year (right after my birthday lunch at Koko, actually). We were looking for a place to grab a quick cuppa before catching a movie at Nova Cinemas nearby. First of all, I think my workplace has slowly turned me Italian in so many ways. For instance, my fondness and appreciation towards the cuisine has grown 10 folds and I now almost always have short blacks only. A number of Italians have told me that short blacks are normally served with a small glass of sparkling water in Italy. 

Out of all the cafes I've been to, only Twenty & Six Espresso (my favourite cafe in Melbourne!) and this place serves their short blacks with sparkling water! In fact, this place even goes one step further by having a board specially to serve their short black and sparkling water. I'm impressed! Any cafe that I see doing this immediately gets a big tick in my books. Anyway, coffee here was great. Hope to come back to try their food.

Vincent the Dog on Urbanspoon

Yami Yami, CBD

I'm sure most people have heard me say this but I do think the Melbourne CBD has got a repertoire for good Korean restaurants. In fact, the number of good Korean restaurants in the city surpasses Japanese restaurants, there's just so many to choose from and the standard is generally good. I tried out Yami Yami not too long ago and thought the food was nice too. Ginseng chicken soup was flavourful and not too strong in ginseng (bitter flavour). The fried chicken was GREAT. Nice, crunchy batter and moist chicken meat. I liked that they separated the sauce too. Finally, the spicy potato noodles with pork is a winner too. You can't tell from the photo but the portions were actually insanely massive, it was a friggin' big plate. So big that we had to takeaway whatever we couldn't finish. The sauce had a good balance of sweet, salty and spicy and the pork was flavourful and tender. Lots of nice fresh vegetables to give it a crunch too. Would definitely come back here, especially for those fried chicky wings. Yum.

Yami Yami CBD on Urbanspoon

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