Friday, September 4, 2015

Nabe One, Melbourne CBD by Benny

A 1pm appointment of uncertain duration demands an early lunch, and since it is already noon, the many options at Emporium beckon – we need quick, but we don’t want to compromise on quality. Despite this being a Sunday in the middle of the city, queues are already forming at some of the better known eateries, especially in the foodie enclave on the 3rd floor. So we wander in to Nabe One on level 2 – away from the hustle and bustle, but the food being served to the few diners already eating looks promising.

The menu reveals a fairly good, although largely standard selection of rice, udon and ramen dishes, a couple of bento options and some interesting sounding entrees. As speed is of the essence, we opt to share a serve of Gyoza to be followed by Tempura Udon (two tempura prawns and some tempura vegetables) and Kani Ramen (soft shell crab & marinated egg).

The food arrives in about 10 minutes, steaming hot, smelling and looking delicious – the Gyoza at the same time as the noodle dishes. The standout is easily the Kani Ramen: the soft shell crab is exactly as it should be – crispy tempura-like batter, brittle shell around soft flavourful flesh; the broth is peppery hot and full of complex meaty flavours, strong on the umami, which has delicately infused some sliced bamboo shoot; the egg is cooked just right – the yolk firm and moist, with the marinade complementing the flavour of the broth.

The broth for the Tempura Udon is also good, although not at all spicy in order to highlight the Tempura prawns and vegetables (pumpkin and sweet potato) The tempura batter on the vegetables was excellent, but unfortunately on the prawns it did not achieve the same high standards – a bit too thick, and a bit oily, suggesting they were cooked in oil that had not reached the ideal temperature. The tempura dipping sauce also lacked the expected intensity of flavour.

The Gyoza are quite good – meaty morsels wrapped in thin pastry, steamed then quickly shallow fried so that one side is browned and crispy. However, to score a perfect 10 the filling would have had to have a more intense meaty flavour and the pastry just a tad more delicate.

It is not much past 12:30 when we leave, with ample time to make our 1pm appointment, and Nabe One has filled up. No queue yet, but it might not be too much longer.

Verdict: we liked it a lot

Good food, fast and inexpensive. We would go back, especially for the soft shell crab

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Spring Flavour Exchange - 2 for 1 tickets!

The fantastic guys at the Spring Flavour Exchange are offering Eat and Be Merry Crew readers special 2 for 1 tickets for this Thursday and Friday (3-4 September 2015) at Federation Square.  That's a saving of just over $33!

Flavour Exchange is a seasonally run event that showcases the best beer, wine, food and produce from all around the state.  There are tastings a-plenty from artisan food makers, boutique, wineries, craft beer and cider breweries.

Book your tickets via Ticketek and make sure to enter the appropriate code below:

Password for Thursday, 3 September: TH241
Password for Friday, 4 September: FR241

Image source: Flavour Exchange

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fortnums, Sassafras by Bureaucrat

Up until about a year or two ago, I used to love going to Mt Dandenong to grab a pie from Pie in the Sky.  If we were hungry, we'd eat the pie in the restaurant; if I wasn't hungry just yet, I'd buy two pies (that's two pies per person... I'm not sharing!) and keep it in the car as we wandered around the village; and if I was really not hungry, I'd buy a few frozen pies to take home.  Sadly, in the last few times that I've been there the quality has been going downhill. It's a shame since those pies used to be really, really good.

So in search of a new place for eats, we figured we'd give Fortnums a try.  It's one of them twee restaurants that caters for the tourist crowd, the daytrippers and those getting married.  Bang on midday we turned up and was surprised to see the place fairly full - they were all senior citizens, big groups and small groups.

The place is decorated in a rather dated late-1990s vision of a mountainside reception hall should look like - the now faded pastel green walls, with white trims, kinda feels like a time warp... it's just missing some pink carnations and lots of baby's breath. The staff are super friendly and attentive but are very understaffed and rushed off their feet.

Placing our order and waiting for the food to arrive did take quite a bit of time, but we were luckily not in a rush.  The Lawyer's fisherman's basket was a big plate of golden crunchiness.  While everything was from frozen ingredients, it was nicely fried - light batter, golden colour and piping hot.

I had one of the specials, which were corn pancakes with smoked salmon.  Nice fluffy pancakes and a reasonable amount of smoked salmon.  It came with a simple fresh salad. Simple and tasty.

I also got a pot of tea.

Verdict: we liked it.

The food tastes nice but a touch on the expensive side for the what it is.  I don't know if we just happened to be there on a day when they were short-staffed.  I'd go back again but I'd make sure that we had time to linger for a long lunch.  Also, while you're there, check out the massive (and I mean, MASSIVE... they look like white prehistoric creatures) cockatoos that reside in the garden....SQUAWK!

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Chez Dre, South Melbourne by Bureaucrat

Ah, Chez Dre. One of the stalwarts in the Melbourne breakfast/brunch circuit.  It's known for its brunch stuff and its pastries.  I figured there'd never be the opportunity to see for myself what the hoopla is about given that I don't live near or tend to visit South Melbourne much nor am that enamoured with having eggs done my way to bother lining up for a table.

But it was the Lawyer's birthday and it called for a special meal.  With that in mind, we made plans to meet at Chez Dre on a Saturday morning to line up for a table.  The food had better be worth my time in lining up for an indeterminate period of time.  I know the reasons why places have a 'no booking' policy.  Frankly, I'd much rather pay a deposit to secure a table than to be told that I'd only have to wait "15 minutes or so", which in reality actually means a 30 minute wait, standing around like an idiot.  A question for our readers: has anyone ever turned up to a cafe with a 'no booking' policy, slipped the door b*tch/m'aitre d' a twenty and got a table immediately?

Anyhoo, congratulations if you've made it through my rant(!).  Once (finally) seated, we quickly placed our orders.

Mr Strong's smoked salmon and poached eggs on sourdough was delish.

The birthday boy got this pork dish.  It was an array of colours and textures and he thought it was absolutely scrumptious.  It had thick slices of slow-cooked pork, which was topped with crispy pancetta, kale and was served on a bed of pumpkin puree, sourdough and poached egg.  He licked the plate clean.

I had the smoked fish brandade served with poached eggs, sourdough and capsicum sauce.  I loved the smokey fish.

Mother Hen ordered the croque madame and asked for the fried egg to be served fully cooked.  She enjoyed the quality ham, bechamel sauce and the crispy pan fried bread.

For drinks, we got some pots of chair...


...and herbal tea.

Verdict: we loved it

Okay, the quality is second to none and I begrudgingly acknowledge that the food here is worth lining up for.  I can see what the fuss is about Chez Dre.

Service was a bit flakey.  At times we weren't sure if our waiter had understood our order.  All the food came out promptly but we had to follow up on the tea three times before it came out.

See also Big Fil's review back in 2013.

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