A La Folie Patisserie, South Yarra
I first got an email from Margot of PR Matters saying that she's got a client who's running a specialist patisserie on Chapel Street and was wondering if I'd be keen to accept a secret sample. Obviously, I was very intrigued by this request and happily gave her my delivery address. To my surprise, it was two stunning boxes of desserts! One filled with assorted macarons; and another with a variety of petits choux. It looked STUNNING I was very surprised by this delivery and grateful too.
Turns out, this special package was from the lovely people at A La Folie Patisserie on Chapel Street. Now, I'll be honest, I've never heard of them until that day but let's just say that I am very glad I did. I was at the office at the time when they sent me this package and immediately opened it to share with everyone in the office.
The macarons were delicious. Everyone seemed to enjoy them and so did I. But, I must say that the BEST thing about this place is honestly their petits choux. MY GOODNESS. I knew I was in love/hooked from the very first bite. The silky smooth but ever delicious pastry cream just bursts into your mouth as soon as you bite into that crunchy and flaky choux pastry. It was sensational. My favourite was definitely the raspberry flavour. And all the flavours were done VERY well. It was very true and delicious.
My colleagues and I LOVED it so much that the very next day after I received this, I organised a massive group delivery (yes, they deliver!) and half the office placed an order it was crazy. Suffice to say that I got my sister hooked on them too so she's always picking up a big box of treats everytime she's in the area.
This was one of those times that I was very happy I get to do what I do. If it weren't for opportunities like these, I would never have heard about businesses like A La Folie, fallen in love with their products and get to tell others about them too. They're fantastic and I definitely recommend you check them out. Again, do give their petits choux a go. You won't regret it.
Dong Ba, Footscray
I first heard about Dong Ba from my Vietnamese friend at uni about 3 years ago. He said that it's one of his family's favourite restaurants to visit so I was glad to finally get the chance to try. Bon Bo Hue (or spicy Vietnamese beef noodle soup) is something I always enjoy eating but always struggled finding a place that does it well... Until now. The one at Dong Ba really is spectacular. Rich in broth, full body and with such an abundance of aromatics to counter the spiciness. Absolutely delicious. Another thing I noticed about Dong Ba was that the whole restaurant was packed and EVERY table seemed to have at least one bowl of Bon Bo Hue. That says a lot. Oh and the other dishes were tasty and I absolutely loved the grilled chicken skewers. Seriously delicious.
Just as we were about to pay and leave, I managed to grab a quick glimpse into the kitchen and was surprised to see that there was only one old lady and a young kitchen hand working in there! Just these two people cooking for a restaurant packed with people on a Saturday lunch rush. And putting up food that was impeccable in quality. I was genuinely impressed because I honestly feel like there's not many chefs out there who can pull it off the way they do too. Respect.
Fomo Thai, CBD
It is no secret that I LOVE Jinda Thai, especially since I profess my love for it on social media so often. That said, there's been a number of people who keep telling me that I should check out Fomo Thai on Bourke Street too. I don't think there's many Thai places that impress me but I must say that those people who kept nudging me about this place was absolutely right.
First, they are most famous for their roast pork belly. Everyone knows I love my roast pork and crackling and even though I enjoy making it at home now and then, it's sometimes nice to not have to go through all the hassle and order it when you're at a restaurant too. I must say that this dish was delicious. The meat was on the fatty side, which kept it thoroughly moist and yes, crackling was crunchy (thank goodness). Nice. Another thing I really enjoy is the spicy soft pork bone soup. It was really spicy but the broth was so full that it still shone through the heat and I liked that it was weirdly refreshed by all the aromatics too. Definitely recommend it.
Overall, every dish that we ordered was prepared really well. Downright delicious. Some of them VERY spicy, but still delicious (which is one thing that sets this place slightly apart from Jinda Thai which tends to be milder).The fried green papaya salad and grilled chicken were stunning too. In conclusion, is this place better than Jinda Thai? NO. It is just as good and a lot of people are surprised when I say this (because Jinda tends to be much more popular on Urbanspoon and everyone knows how much I love Jinda) but I really do like Fomo Thai just as much as Jinda Thai. The other good thing about Fomo is that it's good for grilled meats (whereas Jinda is more specialised in the noodle department) and is great for group bookings. We celebrated my sister's birthday here earlier this year with more than 10 of us and they were so accommodating.
Bomba Rooftop and Bomba Downstairs, CBD
Came here with my buddies Ash and Adrian one evening for a pre-musical drinks and dinner before we watched Les Miserables together (which was great btw). Anyway, we rocked up earlier in the evening to the rooftop for a mini drinkies sesh but little did we know that we had accidentally walked into (and crashed) an engagement party! There was a guy (who didn't look like a waiter) that greeted us at the door and asked if he could help us. We said no, we just wanted to grab a drink at the bar but later found out that it was actually HIS engagement party! What!
Feeling super embarrassed we were about to leave but he actually convinced us to stay and have drinks on him since he had an open bar anyway. Wow, such a nice dude. Definitely going in the books. So there we were, sitting at a table in a room surrounded by this guy's friends and family drinking away our free beer. The rooftop bar was fantastic. The setting was so comfortable and relaxing and done up really nice I wish I took a photo. It's now become a place I always recommend people everytime they're looking for a place to drink in the CBD. Do check it out.
Anyway, we headed downstairs after to grab our dinner. We started off with some seriously good oysters. Then, the croquettes were darn good too. The cheese inside was so creamy it was almost like bechamel. Next, we had the tuna tartare (which came with some seaweed crisps), which I must say was honestly one of the best I've had. Seasoned and flavoured to perfection it was so moorish. Onto the mains, we had the braised pork jowl and the seriously gorgeous Catalan stew. Wowsers these two dishes were such winners too!
Overall, I thought the food at Bomba was very good and must say that it is now my favourite Spanish tapas restaurant in Melbourne. I really do. Forget about Movida or whatever just come here next time and you won't be disappointed. Maybe grab drinks before that at the rooftop bar and see if you happen to crash an engagement party too =)
Burch & Purchese, South Yarra
Everyone knows Burch & Purchese. They're always on Masterchef and have been such a renowned establishment here in Melbourne ever since they opened a few years ago. That said, I actually have never been there until recently in September when I decided to go there to get a birthday cake for my sister.
I must say that I was utterly disappointed. In the afternoon, we had a choux pastry dessert which was quite bad. The pastry was so tough and dry and the pastry cream was not smooth. Nothing like the one we had from A La Folie. Besides that, we thought we were onto a winner when we bought the cake after seeing them feature it on Masterchef and everyone raving about it on the show. WRONG. It was so, so difficult to enjoy. The flavour combination was just so off. Imagine this: gingery flavour of cardamom, white chocolate, coffee and lemon curd. These were all the elements in the cake -- nothing worked together!! Couldn't stand it. Besides that, all the different layers were really mushy (prolly from being soaked in too much liquid) there was no distinction in texture at all. Did not like it. Won't be back. No. Sorry.
Don Don, CBD/South MelbourneDon Tojo, Carlton
Man... If you haven't been to Don Don, you're totally missing out. Don Don is the BEST! It is known for many things. First, good and tasty Japanese fast food. The food is known for coming out in less than 3 minutes or less from the time you pay and order. That said, the quality is great and very consistent. I have been coming here since my first year of being an international student in Melbourne 6 years ago and I like it as much today as I did the first time I had it. It's such an iconic Melbourne place to eat. Besides being quick and good, it is also a favourite amongst MANY people because of the price. Most of the food is only $6.90 and nothing is over $10 there -- absolutely great value for money!
My favourite thing to eat there is their curry chicken don and I must say that nobody does it like Don Don. It's almost ruined this dish for me everywhere else, they definitely take the cake. The best thing about the chicken dishes here is that they grill their chicken directly on a flame, which gives it that unbeatable chargrilled flavour. So tender and delicious. The only thing I will say is that sometimes I do find that they give too much sauce but I don't mind anyway. If I had to critique their food with a fine toothed comb, I'd say that the Carlton and South Melbourne branch is my favourite as they're a little bit more generous and can be quite accommodating if you want to customise your food (like ordering extra chicken or whatever). They don't allow people to do that at the Melbourne Central branch. LOVE Don Don.
Foxes Den, Port Melbourne
Foxes Den was a place I discovered earlier this year by chance and have now become a quick favourite of mine. Every person that I know has been here or that I recommend this place to always has the same opinion: food here is awesome!
First, they really embody the food philosophy of celebrating great, quality and delicious food whilst being healthy to eat. Ticks all the boxes. They are famous for their roast chicken and wide array of vibrant, fresh and absolutely DELICIOUS salads. Clean and tasty eating, I love it. I always order half a chicken and oh man it is massive and such great value for money! I definitely recommend the Morrocan chicken because the flavour in the spices is incredible and the skin is so darn crispy and delicious. I always like to pair it with either the roast pumpkin, currants and brown rice salad; or the wild rice and toasted almonds salad. I've eaten here about 6 times by now since the start of the year and yes, I am definitely shamelessly obsessed.
Gold Leaf, Docklands
Alright, I'll be honest, there actually isn't a place that I like to go to in the CBD for yumcha or dimsum. This includes famous yumcha restaurants like Shark Fin House, Shark Fin Inn and Crystal Jade. Even though many people enjoy the food here but I personally am not the biggest fan. The dishes are still not as good as my favourite yumcha restaurant, which is Wealth Garden in Doncaster so every time I eat at any of these places, I always feel slightly unsatisfied.
That said, the ambience of the yumcha restaurant is actually just as important as the food itself to Chinese people. In China and Hong Kong, yumcha restaurants can be very humble or extremely elaborate and high end. It is for this reason that everytime someone asks me where I'd go for yumcha in the CBD, I always tell them it's Gold Leaf in the CBD. Sure, the food isn't as good but I wouldn't say that it's worse than the other CBD ones mentioned above. About the same. It's okay. That said, the ambience here is much nicer. It's basking in natural light and beautifully renovated. Much more comfortable of a setting compared to the others. So, if I had to pick my battles, Gold Leaf in the CBD does it for me. If I had the chance, I'd still try and venture out to Wealth Garden in Doncaster but this would do.
Hunky Dory, Port Melbourne/South Melbourne
I must say that I was surprised by how much I liked Hunky Dory. Although, I can't speak for all the branches because I've only been to the one at Port Melbourne and South Melbourne. The fish and chips are always fresh and cooked well. Also, I think what sets them apart is that they do lovely salads too. My default is always the grilled fish with chips and if I have people in the table who are willing to share, the fried calamari is absolutely delicious too. Sure, they are slightly more expensive than your local fish and chip shop but I do think the quality is there and that the portions are quite fair as well. No complaints about the food and it is also a place I've been coming to at almost a monthly basis. They've really created a pretty good franchise here.
LuxBite, South Yarra
Okay so everyone probably knows the LuxBite Lolly Bag Cake from Masterchef. I decided to order it as well when my good friend Julian was celebrating his birthday earlier in August. Even though this cake has caused some mixed reactions from people, I must say that I was quite intrigued by the flavours and textures in this cake. Using some of Australia's favourite lollies, they were all very distinct in flavour and quite complementary to one another. Another thing I enjoyed about this compared to the cake from Burch & Purchese is that it really held its shape well and had a variation in textures too. Not bad, a rather interesting cake. A good idea if you want something different to try.
Miam Miam Restaurant, Chadstone
We came across Miam Miam when we were tired from walking around Chadstone one afternoon and was looking for somewhere to sit down and have a snack. Menu was interesting as it was Asian fusion food. We were quite full at the time so only wanted a small dessert to share between the 3 of us and opted for the souffle pancake with caramelised banana and blueberries. Not bad. I do enjoy warm desserts with ice cream so this was sort of my thing. Although I must say that souffle pancake sounded more interesting than it actually tastes. Just feels like a thick pancake more than anything. Oh well, I wasn't too fussed because, as I said, it was more of an afternoon snack or break from the shopping. Was I over the moon by this dessert? Not really. Did it do its job? Yes.
No35, Sofitel CBD
My cousin had booked out the function room at the back and the setting was impeccable. So romantic and I loved the view of the city at night from that height too, gorgeous. The food was really good. It had so many elements on each plate. Whether it's the beef tartare (AMAZING!) or the pork terrine with crackling for the starters; followed by the braised wagyu beef or barramundi dish for mains, they were all very good. Again, the thing I like most about the food is that even though each dish had a main component that was obviously the main hero on the plate, but it had so many tiny little complementary elements that worked really well and tasted delicious too. It was a splendid evening more than anything celebrating my cousin's nuptials and I must say the food was exceptional too. Not your typical wedding reception kind of food.
Old Kingdom, Fitzroy
When people talk about Peking Duck in Melbourne, people are always referring to either Old Kingdom in Fitzroy or Simon's Peking Duck in Box Hill South. Old Kingdom was everyone's favourite initially but after Simon's opened, many people started going to Simon's instead. I've been to both numerous times and most people would agree that the last few visits to Simon's have actually been quite disappointing (serving dry meat, which is a huge no no for Peking Duck). So, like many others, I've started going back to Old Kingdom again. Is it necessarily better?
Well, I do think that the duck here was more moist and tasty but must admit the pancake and sauce at Simon's was better. But then again, the duck obviously has to be the hero at a Peking Duck meal so I would opt to go to wherever the duck is better, which is Old Kingdom. Besides the first course, I am not necessarily a huge fan of the other food here. Although, what I do miss and enjoy about Simon's is the option to have fried vermicilli instead of fried bean sprouts for the second course. Sad to say that these days when it comes to choosing where to go for Peking Duck, it's not really a matter of which I actually enjoy but which I would prefer to avoid more, i.e. picking the lesser of two evils. I do hope these two places step up their game again as I believe they were great in their prime. Hopefully it's just a matter of finding their mojo again.
Pacinos Italian Family Restaurant, Flemington
My good friend Ivy and her husband Steve took me to one of their favourite restaurant, Pacinos, not too long ago and I have been quite hooked on the place since! I liked it so much that I went back again 2 weeks later. First, the best thing about this place is their chicken parma. I must say that it's been a loooong time since I've had a parma this good. The chicken was still so darn moist and succulent and the sauce/cheese on top was so delicious too. Oh and yummy chips. It definitely did not taste like many mass produced parmas where all you taste was the breadcrumsb, no. This one, the parma tasted like real juicy and delicious chicken it was GREAT. Not to mention how massive it is! It's about 1.5 times the size of my face.
As soon as the parma hit the table, I told my friends that there was NO way I could finish the parma. It was way too big! And the biggest parma I've ever been able to finish before then was only half of what was before me. That said, later into the evening, I was completely surprised when I suddenly looked down at my plate and realised I had almost finished the whole parma! What?! I had no idea and it was just a funny realisation more than anything. I was shocked at what just happened and suffice to say, I finished the rest of my parma no problem. SMASHED IT. It was just so moist and delicious yet crunchy on the outside and stayed that way throughout. Very easy to eat. I really, really love the parma here.
Besides that, we've had other stuff like the burger, which was tasty too. I really enjoyed the clam pasta or linguine vongole we ordered too. Surprisingly better than expected and would love to order it again. I guess the only dish which we felt a bit underwhelmed by was the ribs. Sure, it was moist but it lacked the charred flavour and found the meat wasn't marinated long enough. Just felt like plain, cooked meat with sauce lathered on top. Not to mention the sauce being too sweet for our liking we had to add tabasco sauce to it.
Overall, this place is a great family restaurant. You'll see people here of all ages and nationalities here enjoying BIG plates of food and having a great time. There's always a table celebrating a birthday at the restaurant. Food is generous and good value for money, which is why you'll see lots of gym junkies sitting next to big family tables. A place that everyone can enjoy. I do recommend sticking to the parma and give the ribs a miss. Although, I have heard that Monday nights are parma nights at Pacinos but doesn't taste as good as the usual nights but hey, it's $10 only so who's to complain. I want to come here for the parma night because all this talk about parma at midnight is making me crave parma and probably dream about it when I go to bed too. Parma parma parma.