Monday, 1 September 2014

Gazi

2 Exhibition St 
Melbourne, VIC 

So apparently I thought that we would just be able to waltz into Gazi on a Friday afternoon, without a booking, and get a table for two. In my defence, I keep forgetting that full time work means that we can no longer get to dinner at 5:30. And c’mon, George Calombaris isn’t THAT popular, is he?

Photo courtesy of http://www.australiandesignreview.com/interiors/34950-gazi-march-studio


If you’re familiar with two of Georgie’s other restaurants, you’ll soon realise that Gazi sits smack bang in the middle of Jimmy Grants and Hellenic Republic. Fancier than souvlakis but earthier than garlic-encrusted scallops, Gazi embraces the concept of Hellenic Dirty Food – messy, delicious street food made to share. This comfortable space is a much more laid-back replacement for The Press Club, and is undeniably stylish, even if it was excruciatingly loud at points. But hey, that just means everybody’s having a good time, right?


Pastitsio Kroketa ($3.5ea)

Pastitsio Kroketa ($3.5ea)

We’ve sampled a lot of croquettes in our days, from the korokke of Japan to the croqueta of Spain, and now, the Pastitsio Kroketa ($3.5ea) of Greece. Instead of being filled with mashed potato or béchamel sauce, the carb of choice inside these crispy little bundles is a much drier macaroni, mixed with a small amount of beef and pork mince. It would’ve been a bit on the bland and crusty side, if it weren’t for the generous flurry of goat’s cheese, and dollops of spicy, zesty mayo. (Luckily, the meal was all upwards from this point)


Miso Eggplant Dip ($9.5)

Tzatziki is all well and good, but ever since the amazing cod roe dip I sampled at Hellenic Republic, nothing else could compare. Still, I had heard some fantastic things about the Miso Eggplant Dip ($9.5), and a foodie’s curiosity is a very strong force indeed. Though unusual, this was a fusion of flavours that worked. Its flavour was a delicate culmination of pulpy eggplant, and a robust yet sweet miso paste. But nothing, I repeat, nothing can beat Georgie’s amazing pita bread and all its smoky, crisp fluffiness. 


Angus Eye Fillet ($13.5, 100g)

Angus Eye Fillet ($13.5, 100g)

The Angus Eye Fillet ($13.5, 100g) was a fine example of meat on a stick. The fat chunks of steak were charred on the outside, whilst leaving the innards pink and juicy. The walnut dressing drizzled over it was a crisp and nutty experience, bridging the flavours of the beef with the sweet, blood-red beetroot sauce. 


Yellofwin Tuna ($18.5, 180g)

Compared to the steak, the Yellowfin Tuna ($18.5, 180g) looked downright bland, the two pale fillets resting demurely alongside its simple garnishes. Then I took a bite, and the flavours absolutely blew me away. Seared on the grill, the quick burst of heat left the melt-in-mouth texture intact, but imparted a robust smokiness to the already buttery fish. 



Queensland Blue Pumpkin ($12.5)

Just when I thought things couldn’t get better, we were served our accompaniment of Queensland Blue Pumpkin ($12.5). This beautifully presented salad immediately became the side dish of my dreams. Starting with a hearty base of charred pumpkin wedges, their honey sweetness was then tempered with thick dollops of tangy goat’s curd, and a leek salad that harboured a crisp bite. Finished off with a tumble of syrupy currants and chestnuts, this salad was an amazing concoction of flavours and textures that absolutely blew my mind.

Not that I’m an expert on ethnic food, but I think that to retain the distinctly native flavours, the food should be allowed to remain simple and unpretentious. And that’s exactly what’s so great about Gazi – it’s no more, and no less than classic Greek food done well. Bravo, Georgie!

Rating: 15.5/20 – georgie porgie pudding and pie.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Gazi on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Warra Warra

Tivoli Arcade Shop 19 & 20
235-251 Bourke St Melbourne, VIC




Warra Warra is a neat little Korean restaurant located in a small strip of eateries not many know about, tucked away in the pockets of the city. Enter Tivoli Arcade from Bourke St, go to the end, make a sharp right, and there you’ll find the laid-back little place, quietly bustling in its steady popularity.


Sunflower Seeds

Instead of the side dishes, a.k.a. banchan, you would normally expect to see at any Korean restaurant, we were treated to a dish of roasted and salted sunflower seeds upon sitting down.


Beef Topokki ($17.5)

I don’t always get enough to eat when I’m at work, and today was one of those days, so the starchy goodness of the Beef Topokki ($17.5) appealed massively. The tubes of sticky rice cake soaked up all the sweet and slightly spicy soy, and were tossed through with crunchy veggies, fish cakes, and sliced beef. It’s a flavoursome and fun dish to eat, generous in portion size, and as Chris put it, has a good deal of everything in it. It makes an easy one bowl meal on its own, but is equally good with rice and complimentary sides of kimchi and pickled onions.


Kimchi Stew ($14.7)

I noticed that we always end up ordering the same few dishes at Korean restaurants – a bulgogi-styled dish for Chris, and a spicy stew for me. So the Kimchi Stew ($14.7) should come as no surprise as it sputtered our way to our table with a side of rice.


Kimchi Stew ($14.7)

Though the pot appeared to be quite small, it was chock full with kimchi, tofu, and a satisfying amount of pork. The stew was hearty and spicy, and the ideal way to warm up from the inside out.

The mildness of Warra Warra makes for a relaxing change from the brusque bustle you’ll find at most Korean restaurants. And the smiling, helpful staff are definitely a step (or ten) up as well. Though I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly does it, Warra Warra gives off a faintly quirky vibe that sets it apart from the crowd. This is definitely one restaurant where there’s more to it than what meets the eye.

Rating: 14/20 – now hungry at 11:38pm.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Warra Warra on Urbanspoon

Monday, 25 August 2014

Ricy Boat

183 Coleman Parade 
Glen Waverley, VIC 



Cross Bridge Rice Noodles ($12)



Cross Bridge Rice Noodles ($12)

Cross Bridge Rice Noodles ($12)



Clay Pot Rice Noodle Soup ($12)

Clay Pot Rice Noodle Soup ($12)




Ricy-boat 过桥米线 on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Hakata Gensuke Ramen

168 Russell St 
Melbourne, VIC 
http://www.gensuke.com.au/

Not that it’s anything to be proud of, but I would openly admit to not thinking very much of the restaurants along the main strip of Lonsdale and Russell Streets. To me, everything there screams pedestrian pedestrian, thriving only from its optimum location. But then Hakata Genuske Ramen turned up almost overnight, and being forever optimistic when it comes to ramen, I faced the jovial cries of ‘irrashaimase’ with high hopes. 


With a shiny downstairs and an upstairs section devoted to tsukemen – Japanese dipping noodles – to come, Hakata Gensuke dripped with potential, from the Japanese speaking staff to the menu devoted entirely to ramen. The noodles are fully customisable, from the toppings and quantity, right down to the texture of the noodles and the spice level. JUST LIKE JAPAN. On each table sat a buffet of house-made sauces, pickles, fresh garlic, and grind-your-own sesame seeds. JUST LIKE JAPAN. Even the ordering is done on nostalgic little tick sheets. JUST LIKE JAPAN!


Hakata Gyoza ($4.5, 5pcs)

Chris had passed his driving test earlier in the day, and then had proceeded to eat a celebratory cheese pie a couple hours before dinner. So we didn’t so much as order the Hakata Gyoza ($4.5, 5pcs) as we were coerced into it, but it didn’t turn out to be a bad idea. Bite-sized and wrapped in a delicately smooth skin, these pan-fried morsels were a dainty little appetiser that was twee in size, but yo ho ho in flavour. 


Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($13)

The owner had my interest sniffing the air hopefully, when he said that his goal was to bring the real taste of Japanese ramen to Melbourne. And the Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($13)? It was perfect. Thick and gelatinous, the soup clung to the noodle with a coat of porky, umami goodness. The slices of charshu were a little lean for Japanese, but the flavour of the soup absolutely blew me away, all the way back to Tokyo. 


Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($13)

And though I prefer my noodles curly and bouncing all the way into my stomach, these Hakata-styled noodles were a gem, chewy and resilient with just the right amount of bite. 


Black Tonkotsu ($14)

The Black Tonkotsu ($14) is something a little different. Whilst it retained the similarly sticky pork broth, the soup is emulsified with a dark slick of ground black sesame and garlic oil, resulting in an intensely rich and nutty experience. Though less porky than the signature tonkotsu, it is nevertheless packed with flavour, albeit along a very different vein.

I was fortunate enough to be treated to a quick tour backstage after we slurped up the dregs of our ramen, and here’s where the whole production really shines. Not only did the Hakata Gensuke group originate in Japan, but they also imported their noodle making machine, noodle master, and head chef from Japan too. The prices may be a bit steep, and the portions may be a bit small, but there is nowhere else I would rather go. That is, if I can get in – when my work friend (hi Amelia!) tried to visit on opening night, she found the line long enough to rival Chin Chin’s; so much for getting in before the word gets out!

Rating: 16/20 – JUST LIKE JAPAN!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Hakata Gensuke Ramen.

Hakata Gensuke Ramen on Urbanspoon