Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eat. @ Top Paddock

658 Church St, Richmond 3121 ph (03) 9429 4332

Top Paddock opened last year and has been a popular breakfast, lunch and coffee spot ever since.  I have visited many times and each time have been impressed with the quality of coffee, interesting combination of fresh ingredients, and the beautiful presentation of the food. 

The interior of the cafe is modern, spacious and stylish.  The different configurations of smaller tables, bigger share tables and quirky stools accommodate families and catch ups as well as single diners looking for a coffee break equally well. 

The mochas ($3.8) I have are consistently good, and comes with beautiful latte art of course.

I love the sense of relaxation I get with a beautiful mocha on a gorgeous autumn day in the sun.

Here's a round up of some of the dishes I've had here.  The  Gin and Lime cured Ocean Trout ($20) is a dish that I've ordered over and over.   The trout is beautifully done, with the gin and lime giving it a subtle tang, served with poached eggs, little potato galettes, leaves and goat curd.  The pickled beetroot gives it a sweet but sharp lift that compliments the heavier components of the dish.  It's quite a decent serve as well and usually keeps me full all day as a brunch.

It's such a pretty dish I can't help taking lots of photos of it every time I order it! 

And of course some #yolkporn to show you the perfectly poached eggy goodness.

Apart from that we've also tried the White Anchovies and Jamon Serrano with fried eggs, padron peppers & manchego on toast ($19).  Another interesting combination using more exotic components than your usually brekkie fried eggs dish.

We also had a beautiful drunken ginger bread ($18) served with a berry coulis as a special on one of our visits (not currently on menu) adorned with pretty flowers and fruit that is an excellent sweet dish.

The lines can be quite long on weekends and if you're in a hurry a take-away coffee and one of the yummy cakes or pastries from the counter can hit the spot.

Toilets - Yes

Top Paddock on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 14, 2014

Eat. @ Fukuryu Ramen & Shop Ramen

My kids love noodles and we're always looking for good ramen/udon places.  Here are 2 recent finds that have been quite good.

Fukuryu Ramen
Level 1, 22-26 Corrs Lane, Melbourne CBD 3000 ph (03) 9090 7149

Fukuryu Ramen (don't let your kids say this too quickly!) is literally a new kid on the block.  It opened recently in a first floor warehouse space.  There's quite a bit of seating and the red feature wall is adorned with a giant black dragon. (Fukuryu means lucky dragon)  You order at the counter and the food is delivered to your table.

From the small plates section we ordered tried the Nori Tofu ($4.9).  A relatively light tofu, with a side of kewpie mayo.  Personally I thought this could be better with a dash more salt.

The Pork Gyozas ($5.9) were pleasant enough.  Didn't knock my socks off but quite serviceable as a starter.

The Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($9.9) is what will bring me back though.  The soup base is meaty without being overly so, and not as salty as others around town.  The Ramen is pleasantly chewy and reflects the freshness of the noodles.

Hubby prefers Miso to Tonkotsu as a soup so he had the Miso Ramen ($9.9) and this was very nice, with a serve of buttery corn goodness.  The soft boiled egg was nicely done.

Lastly we tried the Shio Ramen ($9.9) which was a lighter salted broth.  It definitely is not as tasty as the Tonkotsu or Miso but did indeed feel a lot lighter.  This was served with a couple of dumplings and a slice of pork.

We were lucky enough to have gone when they still had their opening special with free green tea soft serve.  We had to wait for these as they had run out but they were worth the wait.  I'd be happy to pay for these next time we visit.

There was a queue intermittently for ordering but there was quite a rapid turnover of tables when we visited at 12:30pm on a Saturday.  By the time we left they had run out of the Tonkotsu Ramen!!  Upstairs location will mean you need help negotiating the stairs with a pram.  Verdict - good sized bowls of ramen with tasty broth at a reasonable price.  The ramen is the star and the soft serve a great palate cleansing after act.

Toilets - Yes
Highchairs - Yes

Shop Ramen
329 Smith St, Fitzroy 3065

Shop Ramen is the permanent incarnation of the successful pop-up Shophouse Ramen.  We stopped here for dinner on the weekend when the weather turned to autumn with a slight chill in the wind.  Yep,  Ramen weather!

The menu at a glance was ramen-shop-with-a-twist.  Offerings included ramen, buns, milkshake and pie!  

So of course we started with a Salted Caramel and Coconut Milkshake ($8).  It was quite pricey but delicious, and the 3 kids shared so as not to get too full.  

The waitress was super friendly, and she let us know that they offer kids sized ramen off-menu at $4 a bowl.  This was a great idea as both Bubs and Macaron Monster are fans of noodles but usually not so keen on the meat and seaweed.   Mini Me also had a bowl of noodles but added beef brisket extra ($4).   The size of the serving was quite good for the price.  All the kids were happy.

Hubby had the Shoyu Ramen ($14) which had pork belly, king oyster mushroom, spring onion, watercress, nori and organic shoyu.  The broth was quite tasty and the soft boiled egg is again excellent here.

I tried the Kimchi Miso Ramen ($14) featuring Cape Grim brisket, kimchi, peanuts, bean shoots, grilled spring onion and marinated egg (you can add Kraft Single Cheese slice for $1 - I think this is a Korean thing!)  An interesting twist to the traditional ramen that was quite delicious, although it might have traditionalists like my Hubby scratching his head a bit.  

The shop is not very big and became packed shortly after we arrived.  By the time we left there was a line.  We didn't get to stay for pie (next time!) as the kids wanted to go to Gelato Messina.  Verdict - good bowls of hearty noodles, a little bit pricey but decent broths with a few non-traditional twists and an interesting mix with milkshakes and pie - somehow it works, it is Fitzroy afterall!

Toilets - yes

Fukuryu Ramen on Urbanspoon
Shop Ramen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eat. @ Chin Chin

125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD 3000 ph (03) 8663 2000

Hubby and I finally made it to the infamous Double Chin for dinner a few weeks ago.  It was a week after Valentine's Day, which we always celebrate late as we tend to like to avoid the the pressure of eating out on those "celebrated" days.  I've wanted to eat at Chin Chin for ages but have always been a bit apprehensive of risking a massive queue on our ever so rare date nights.  This year we organised babysitting early and headed to the city ahead of the White Night event.  I'm happy to report that we got there at 5:10pm, didn't have a wait and were seated at the bar for drinks and din dins by 5:15pm!

Their menu is quite extensive and there were lots of dishes of different sizes to share.  I contemplated the choices whist sipping on my mocktail of pineapple and coconut.

We ordered lots of little dishes to share, starting with the School Prawns ($14) with nahm prik pla gapi, herbs and crudites.  This was a much bigger serving than we expected and by the end of our meal we still had some left! 

The Chin Chin Pork "Roll Ups" ($19) were next, with red braised suckling pig which you self-wrap in pancakes, slaw and asian herbs.  An interesting and tasty twist to the "wrap and eat" dish which again was quite a big serve for 2 considering the price.

Next up, the most beautiful Tom Kha ($15) I've had.  The coconut, galangal, mushrooms and tahail basil soup had a really fragrant chilli oil, I could not get enough of this soup!

Then we had the Wok Fried Salt and Pepper Squid ($14), mostly because the couple next to us were having it and it looked fabulous, and it did not disappoint!

The Son in Law Eggs ($8) here are quite famous, served with an addictive chilli jam.  There were 3 eggs which is quite a decent sized serve.  The slightly crunchy skin gave way to a still runny centre, and the chilli jam gives it the spicy zing to counter the heaviness of the twice-cooked eggs.

Not having that many date nights, we *ahem* quite possibly over ordered and under estimated the size of the dishes!   The last dish we had was the Caramelised Sticky Pork with sour herb salad and chilli vinegar ($26)  This was perfectly paired with some steamed jasmine rice ($3) and I wish I could've eaten more!  Alas as much as I wanted to order dessert I literally had to roll off my barstool by this stage.  Next time!

Our dinner at Chin Chin did not disappoint and we were happy that our meal lived up to the hype from this now famous Melbourne hot spot.  The service was efficient and friendly, and as busy as the place was, we weren't at any stage made to feel rushed or ignored.  As we were arriving we saw a few young families with young children leaving after an early dinner, and I look forward to bringing our bunch of kidlets for a meal now that Bubs is older and much easier to handle at meal times!

Toilets - yes, and pretty awesome for the background "music" in the form of an instructional tutorial on learning to speak ?Thai ?Vietnamese.  I'm not sure but it did give me a giggle as I thought about patrons learning a new language as they peed!

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eat. @ Ba'get

132 Russell Street, Melbourne CBD 3000 

I love the fantastic array of food that we get to experience living in Melbourne.   Po'boys, bibimbap, tonkatsu, quesadillas are nowadays as common place as dim sims and souvalaki's were in the 80's.  Kids nowadays have so many interesting choices and I'm always happy to see my kids try foods from different cultures and learn to appreciate the healthier options that are offered.  (Macaron Monster still impresses me when she chooses sushi over Maccas when given the choice!)  Banh Mi are surely one of the first "fusion foods", having been created as a street food during the time of French occupation of Vietnam, and have long been around thanks to Melbourne's thriving Vietnamese Community.

Banh Mi has been a favourite food of mine since my Mum bought one for us as an after school snack when I was in primary school.  I was a pretty picky eater, yet the combination of crispy baguette, sharp pickles, variety of hams and even pate (!) somehow just worked so well together, even to my less than discerning young taste buds!    

I was invited to a banh mi masterclass to experience the traditional banh mi that will be available in the newly established Ba'get this week, and was treated to a really interesting "guided tour" on how good banh mi are made.  It is obvious Duy and his family, the lovely people behind Ba'get, are passionate about traditional, fresh and healthy food.   Duy told us a bit about his family's background in the food industry.  They have stayed true to the recipe used in the Mekong region of Vietnam, with slight adaptations over the years to perfect the balance of ingredients in their Banh Mi.  

Next up Duy's brother taught us how the baguettes are made and boy, I will never, ever under estimate how much skill one needs to make these baguettes!  To be honest I had never paid much attention to these rolls that are sold at all Vietnamese bakeries.  I'm delighted by the fact that the baguettes here are baked on the premises, and the winning formula for me is that they are being baked EVERY HOUR!  

So we all had a go at making the baguettes.  Here's my less than impressive looking baguette , shaped by yours truly......

And the subsequent outcome.  

I tell you it's much easier to make macarons then to bake the perfect baguette!   Don't worry, the baguettes made by the staff at Ba'get all look great!

Duy then taught us how to make the traditional pickle that goes into the banh mi.  The freshest ingredients made for a refreshing and tart pickle that gives a good banh mi the perfect balance of crunch and sourness to complement the fresh bread and meat.

Then Duy's sister Jenny assembles the fresh ingredients including options for the classic hams, lemongrass pork or chicken, pulled chicken or meat balls.  There's even a vegetarian choice with tofu which I tried for the first time and was surprisingly delicious!

The others also experienced some exotic looking Vietnamese cocktails.  I didn't drink because I was driving, of course! 

Don't worry about my lack of hydration though.  I polished off 2 of these most excellent traditional Vietnamese coffees.  They were strong, not too sweet, and full of kick!  Just the way a good Vietnamese coffee should be!

I also got to try some of the delicious pork ball skewers.  There will also be pork puffs, sesame donuts and a selection of pastries available as part of the menu.  Banh Mi inspired vermicelli bowls will be offered as a gluten free alternative.

Overall I think the baked-on-the-hour fresh baguettes and the emphasis on fresh quality ingredients will distinguish Ba'get as a more than worthy lunch (and even dinner) option for discerning Melbourne city-goers.  Ba'get officially opens on Friday 28th March (that's tomorrow!) and they are offering free banh mi to their facebook likers, so get in quick to try it out!

Ba'get Russell Street on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer : I attended the Banh Mi masterclass at Ba'get courtesy of Ba'get and Hothouse Media.  Opinions are my own.