Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don Don

Melbourne’s busy CBD is packed to the rafters with cheap-eat options especially for quick duck-out lunches for the cities work crew. Don Don’s in South Bank offers incredible value along with great tasting food boasting quality ingredients. How can you tell the quality – taste it – the food is handed over to you pretty much as soon as the “change hits your hand” (to quote another reviewer) and comes in cute bento boxes that present oh-so-well and taste way better than a multitude of Japanese restaurant meals I have eaten in the past in Australia – and at that had to wait for over 20 minutes for! As for value: For under $10 you can eat like a king. The terrikaki box featuring thinly sliced beef flavoured with a ginger and spring onion broth, teriyaki glazed chicken cubes, rice, salad and cut fruit is a must try and will not disappoint I assure you. The food is undoubtedly great on all accounts, the hard part –wrangling a spot in the never-ending queue and finding a tiny space to relish your meal!

5 Bank St
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
Ph:Your browser may not support display of this image. Your browser may not support display of this image. 03 9696 6682Your browser may not support display of this image.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


If I had a dollar for every Melbournian in the recent past (1 ½ months) that has bagged Fitzroy for selling out to mainstream commercialism and complained bitterly about the yuppie takeover of the once-upon-a-time eclectic and vibrant precinct I would be fiddling with my brand new i-phone right about now. Yes, I have been told a fair few times about how the area was originally home to an overwhelmingly large ethnic wog (Italio-Greek) community, before the hippies came along adding to the eclectic charm of the area, boheminising it and adding further ‘depth and interest’ – thus the nods of disapproval.

Bimbo’s boasts a lot of goodies for a steal. Where do I begin? The enormous selection of $4 gourmet styled thin crust pizzas – salmon and gorgonzola, calabrese, lamb, rocket and pinenuts (there are heaps more to rack your brains over what to get) as well as delish dessert pizzas – apple crumble and mixed berries and hello – there are house infused signature flavoured vodkas – take your pick from lychee, watermelon, pomegranate, chilli, vanilla and a handful more priced at $7.

So it is apparent that the place leaves you spoilt for choice food and drink wise, and is easy on the pocket – and obviously this brings in a teaming crowd, mostly youngsters, uni students, young professionals looking at knocking off work and enjoying a few drinks while nibbling on something tasty – an interesting ambience always helps. The place is dark – barely illuminated giving it a nightclub feel, the music is funky and the atmosphere chilled out. With a terrace and outdoor seating on the floor above, there is heaps of room, but still you will be hard-pressed to find a place as evening sets.

376 Brunswick St
Fitzroy VIC 3065
Ph: +61 03 9419 8600Your browser may not support display of this image.

Friday, May 21, 2010

El Mirage

My take on this place is simple. It sports a retro-chic ambience and charm, the wait staff fit in with the surrounds – decked out in fashionably vintage styled ensembles. As soon as you walk in the place exudes a sense of eccentricity. Once you are seated in their light filled long room and scan the menu you understand why. The menu is fresh with exciting brekkie options that will have your mouth watering and it definitely hits the spot upon arrival – I am hanging to go back, and soon. Funnily enough though I always like to take a trawl of internet resto-review sites and my experience seems to align with only a few “lucky” dinners that have likewise expressed positive reviews, most were openly unhappy, dissatisfied with “unfriendly” service and intolerance to kids. The only point I can remark on with regard to the former negative aspect is that we were short-changed twice when we paid our bill and no apology passed the waitress or owners lips!

A sucker for great food and a point of difference – the menu alive with offbeat options – sour cherry toast with mascarpone, Slim Jim poached eggs with ricotta, fig chutney and avocado and the pancakes with lemon curd, mascarpone and maple syrup – fluffy and oh so sweet!

349 Lygon St
Brunswick East VIC 3057
Ph:+ 61 03 9388 0966

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Does my recent culinary experience define the epitome of globalisation? Highly probable, but why don’t you be the judge ... an Anglo-Indian enjoying Vietnamese tapas at a Melbourne restaurant cooked up by an ingenious Sri Lankan Chef ... does this qualify or what?

Chef Adam D’Sylva has undoubtedly found a niche platform – Vietnamese tapas – light, flavoursome cuisine paired with a stylish, simplistic ambience that oozes calculated carefree attitude and a sexy playfulness. The success of Coda definitely rests on the Chef’s precise ability to create winning concoctions – big and bold, yet balanced perfectly. One taste of D’Sylva’s menu and it’s not hard to understand the success story and what all the fuss is all about. In fact I guarantee after a meal here you will be puffing hot steam up all your mate’s skirts, raving about your experience again and again.

At first attempt to secure a booking for a table the very same evening I was told I had to wait for up to four weeks for a booking. Wowie I thought – a definite must try. Luckily somehow we were squeezed in and ended up seated at a gorgeously intimate table for two against the back wall in the corner. The incandescent lighting is alluring as it is offset by flimsy paper lanterns revealing exposed light bulbs that add a contemporary, minimalistic feel. Within minutes of being seated we were swooped down upon. Sommeliers, maitre’d as well as our respective waiter for the evening – it was like we were at the theatre and all the actors were bursting out to introduce themselves eagerly! While it may be somewhat of an exaggeration the first ten minutes felt as though I was plonked into a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds as the wait staff took turns swooping down to our table rambling incessantly.

“Would you like me to guide you with the wine selection?” a flustered and overly worked sommelier enquired in rushed tones hunched over at our table. “We’re good at the moment” was my reply without a thought. Before I could turn my gaze from the wine-spert, a little blonde thing smiling ear to ear had swooped in arranging and re-arranging napkins and candles, rambling about menu choices and how she would plan her meal should it be her that was eating. At this point I was rather tempted to remind her she was not eating – or paying for that matter – instead I politely said we had just been seated, hadn’t had a chance to look at either drinks or food menus and would like some time to let the place sink in. Before I could say Jack however, the next sparrow tweeted and squealed, but by this time I was turning pro and we rid our table of him too in no time.

While I perused the menu excited at the endless possibilities – the wine list is extensive with a great world selection as well as domestic wines I settled on an interesting Italian white – crisp with light fruit and slight acid. It was a variety I had never heard of and one I cannot remember, which reminds me next time when trying a new drop for the first time get the wait staff to note it down for you or save the label. Anyhow, we decided to pick several tapas items – one each since each come out as single portion serves – and then share a main and a dessert thus maximising our tasting journey and oh boy was this the way to go!

It was like taking an actual travelogue (or should I say foodlogue) through South East Asia with the characteristic vibrant notes of sticky sweetness intermingling with lip curling sour and dotted with piquant yet addictive heat. There was crispy prawn in a betel leaf – deep fried and damn good is all I will say.

There was sugar cane prawn with sweet chilli sauce that at face value sounds and seems to be oh-so-boring, but the crispy outer noodle texture yielding a minced delicate prawn meat mixture inside is a textural delight hard to convey its brilliance through words. Of course we had to partake in some soft rice paper rolls and so we did – ones stuffed with pork, prawn, perilla and chive bud.

The Hervey Bay scallop seared perfectly and served with a pearl tapioca was reminiscent of creamed corn and the finishing touch of the salmon caviar was beautiful. While delicious the blackened quail with daikon and shiso salad left me wanting more, the portion size did not allow for justification in terms of the full on flavour profile – I simply wanted and needed just a tad more to be satisfied. The last tapas item, far from Viet inspired was nonetheless possibly my favourite – the herb crumbed lamb chop was phenomenal – the ratio of fat to meat just spot on, the doneness of the meat perfecto – medium rare pink in the centre and the herb crust aptly seasoned with a robust crunchy bite.

For main course I could not resist the black pepper wok crab. And you know when you order crab Asian style you are in for trouble – you simply have to be prepared to get down and dirty – so we were forced to check our manners at the door enjoying it with our fingers fleshing out the sweet meat and rubbing it around in the fiery but oh-so-addictive peppery sauce, messing the steamed jasmine rice with the flavoursome goodness of the rich gravy.

Having licked our crabs clean we sneaked another peak at the menu and decided it was time to try the banana monkey fritters, salted peanut caramel and black sesame ice-cream – it was so different, cooling and not overwhelming sweet – the best way to wrap up an overly indulgent night.

Loved the place, loved the food and thoroughly lapped up being pampered by educated, well trained wait staff. Do wish the staff – passionate bunch that they are realise they need to allow clientele to ease into their evening before jumpstarting things and pulling out all the stops -there is a time and place for everything!

Basement 141 Flinders Lane (Cnr Oliver Lane)

Melbourne 3003
Telephone +613 9650 3155