Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shizuku Ramen (by invitation), Abbotsford by Bureaucrat

While Victoria Street in Richmond is synonymous with Vietnamese cheap eats, Shizuku Ramen is leading a change with its impressive range of fusion Japanese share plates (lobster slider, Shoyu maple raw blue crab, grilled kingfish wings and wagyu beef king oyster mushroom, to name a few), killer ramen (including, a ramen burger) and craft beer. 

With a funked-up re-mixed Phil Collins in the background, sleek black décor and gold statement lights, Shizuku sets the scene for something that’s way more enjoyable and pleasant than the linoleum floors and plastic chairs get up of its neighbours.

A pot of green tea warmed our cold bones.  And to whet the appetite, we were provided with soy sauce seasoned popcorn, which is so much better than regular butter-salted popcorn as the soy sauce imparts that lovely umami flavour to the popped corn.

Guided by the friendly staff, we started our lunch with the cha shu souvlaki.  It’s filled with tender char-grilled pork belly, cucumber, leek, chilli mayo, sichimi wrapped in a thin pancake.  It came with a side of pickled root vegs.  Despite the presence of the chilli mayo and sichimi, it wasn’t too spicy – rather there’s a nice gentle kick.

As ramen is their speciality, we simply had to try it.  There’s about fourteen types of ramen to choose from.  I got the Shoyu ramen.  A generous bowl of piping hot ramen in the most delicious, flavoursome, soul-warming broth.  We were told that the broths are typically slow cooked for over 10 hours to get their rich, deep flavours.  The ramen itself is unlike any of that icky manufactured stuff that you buy in the shops.  This ramen was pleasantly chewy and had a nice texture to it.  It came with thinly sliced marinated cha shu pork belly, a perfectly soft-boiled egg (so golden and just a hint of gooeyness in the yolk), tender bamboo shoots, seaweed and spring onions.

As Beaker’s on a health mission to eat more fermented foods, she got the kimchi ramen.  Her broth was different in flavour to mine (more meaty in flavour), and her ramen came with kimchi, cha shu, chives and egg.  She quite liked her ramen.

Food - 8
Service – 8*
Ambience – 7.5
Price – 8*
* Scores are notional as we were guests of Shizuku Ramen.

Shizuku Ramen offers more variety for diners out for a meal on Victoria Street.  While I’ll be coming back to try more of the ramen, I have to say, the star of the bowl is the broth for me.  You just can’t get that depth of pure flavour anywhere. 

Of note is Shizuku’s excellent online booking process which is simple and gives you confidence – they send you a text and email confirmation and reminders for your booking.

Shizuku Ramen
309 Victoria Street
Abbotsford 3067
Telephone: 9995 8180

Shizuku Ramen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Giveaway - WIN a cookbook and sauces from The Spice Tailor

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to taste test The Spice Tailor’s range of curry sauces.  Created by British chef, Anjum Anand, these flavour-packed, easy-to-use sauces are fantastic as they sure beat any curry sauce/packet/jars that’s in the shops.  Best of all, there’s absolutely no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives in the sauces – everything is natural – just as it should be!

Thanks to The Spice Tailor we have two prizes to giveaway to our dear readers!

• First prize is a copy of Anjum’s latest book, Quick and Easy Indian (RRP $35), and two packets of The Spice Tailor sauces.

• Second prize is two packets of The Spice Tailor sauces.

How to win
Answer the following question by leaving a comment below:

“Who would you share your Spice Tailor meal with and why?”

The rules
1. Two winners will be drawn randomly and their names will be published on the blog on Wednesday, 30 July 2014.

2. Winners have until Friday, 1 August 2014 to email the Eat And Be Merry Crew (eatandbemerrycrew @ their names and postal addresses.  The winners’ details will be forwarded to The Spice Tailor for prize distribution.

3. Comments that are left anonymously will not be considered.

4. One entry per person.

5. Only Australian residents can participate in the competition.

Good luck!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cupcake Central, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

Mmm…cupcakes.  There’s just something about cupcakes.  They’re dainty, pretty and just irresistible.  Give me a perfect, glossy cupcake anytime – I much prefer them than macarons or a hand-made chocolate truffle…I even prefer them over my much-loved custard-filled doughnuts from Walkers.  I love the buttery, light-as-air texture of the cake itself; the soft, creamy, sugary icing (ideally buttercream, fresh cream or similar – no plain icing sugar mixed with water, please); the small delicate serving size that belies the calories and foodie bliss it can bring.
Make no mistake, I lurve cupcakes.  So it’s quite a feat that I haven’t blogged about cupcakes on the blog.  As much as I love them, they love my waistline a bit too much (and being gluten intolerant takes the fun out of it a bit).  So really, the fact that I’ve taken so long to blog about cupcakes is testament to my will power of not indulging in one every time I felt like one (with a strong cup of afternoon or earl grey tea – served with a dash of full cream milk and no sugar).
With a branch of Cupcake Central near my work, it was inevitable that I’d get cupcakes from there.  And so in the last few weeks, my resolve had crumbled.  Their siren song of cake + icing + pretty colours has claimed its victim.  I finally caved in and bought a cupcake one day… then a few days past… and I just had to buy another one… and another one… and another one…
One of CC’s best sellers is the red velvet cupcake cake.  A pretty dark shade red, the cake is quite moist and I loved the sour cream icing.  This is definitely one I’d have again… and again.
In an attempt to treat myself but be good at the same time, I got the gluten-free and vegan-friendly cookie dough cupcake.  For a GF cake, the flavor of the cake fairly resembled a cake made out of regular wheat flour but it was a bit denser in texture.  However, I didn’t care for the cookie dough filling – it tasted and had the texture of cookie dough but it’s just not my thing.
The salted caramel is one of my favourites.  It has a gooey inner of salted caramel, which isn’t too sweet.  It has a nice hint of saltiness.
While I’m not a fan of lemon cake, I got the lemon meringue cupcake because I love meringues.  A bit of gooey lemon curd in the middle, and the meringue was ever so slightly chewy.  This was a nice cupcake but it wasn’t anything special for me. 
I’ve never come across black velvet cake before, so I was intrigued with what it would taste like.  However, this the most disappointing one for me – it’s essentially a plain cake dyed black and flavoured with almond essence and flaked almonds.  I’m not a fan of almond essence so besides a few bites out of this cupcake, I left it.  I was expecting something more exciting than almonds for something that’s called black velvet cake.
Food – 7.5
Ambience – 7
Service – 7
Price – 7
I quite like the cupcakes at CC.  They have a pleasing cake to icing ratio, and the cakes are buttery, light and moist.  Each day, there’s a range of about eight cupcakes to choose from… so there’ll always be a flavor that you just need/want/must try.
Cupcake Central
Level 2, Dining Hall
Melbourne Central SC
Melbourne 3000
9077 4542

Cupcake Central on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Grain Store, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

The Grain Store felt like a hybrid, part café part mid-range restaurant, combining some of the best elements of both into what was a very nice breakfast experience. Located in a pretty obscure part of the city, down towards the Spencer Street end of Flinders Lane, it had taken quite a while for any of us to make it down here.

It wasn't because we hadn't heard much about it, after all late last year it was very much the it place of the Melbourne café scene.  It's not even if as if we hadn't tried to visit, with one previous unsuccessful attempt just before Christmas resulting in failure when they were closed for lunch that day for some reason I can no longer familiar.  It's just that there are so many fantastic places for brunch around Melbourne that you can't get to places as quickly as you'd like.

Anyway, despite a fairly ordinary exterior The Grain Store has one of the nicest fit outs I've seen.  With its white tables and light grey chairs, colour provided by the pumpkins and assorted sandwiches and cakes at the front, nothing feels overdone but that everything has its place in contributing to the whole.  Picture perfect in a minimalist sort of way.

The menu is impressive, offering an interesting range of slightly unusual dishes.  For example, a smoked salmon omelette and truffle crème fraiche with winter fennel, chipotle romesco salsa, rye crostini and crispy quinoa.  Picture perfect when it arrived at the table, what most impressed me about this dish was not all the accompaniments but the omelette itself.  Light and fluffy, its best feature was the delicately flavoured flaky salmon, a far cry from the normal thin strips provided in most locations.

The other dish tried was a bit out of the ordinary for me, a Portobello mushroom and gruyere potato rosti  with poached eggs, hazelnut hollandaise and sunchoke chips.  While I was a little disappointed in the rosti, which was less crisp than I prefer, the mushrooms themselves had a deliciously meaty texture and flavor, the eggs were perfectly poached (as is the norm in Melbourne) and the sauce rich without being overly heavy.  While it probably wouldn't be the first thing I'd order on a return, that’s more to do with my personal preferences as the dish itself was very nice.

The rage of post breakfast desserts isn't as impressive as some other cafes, but I was intrigued by the notion of a mandarin and mint muffin (Triple MMM).  It didn't look much at the counter but wow, one of the best muffins I've ever had.  Slight crunch on the outside, moist and soft on the inside, the interest combination of flavours complimented each other perfectly.

Very nice place to eat, great service from the staff and some of the best brunch options going around town, what's not to like.  Well, to be honest the serving sizes are not the largest, and the price is a bit higher than most brunch options.  However, if you are in the mood for somewhere just a little more upmarket, The Grain Store is your place.

Food - 9
Service - 8.5
Ambience 8.5
Price - 7

517 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9972 6993

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon
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