Monday, September 22, 2014

Dainty Sichuan Noodle Express, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

I’ve been a bit slow to try many of the places in Emporium but a couple have definitely caught my eye. 
One of these was Dainty Sichuan Noodles, the latest rendition of the growing Dainty Sichuan empire.  Similar to a lot of other eateries in Emporium, it’s kind of flash for a shopping centre eatery, and towards the back where we sat you could be excused for forgetting you were in a shopping centre at all.
In keeping with being somewhere you pop into while shopping and unlike the other Dainty Sichuans, which specialise in al le carte and hot pots, Dainty Sichuan is about smaller and quicker individual noodle and rice dishes.  Handed a menu as you take a spot in line, choose what you want and order and pay when you get to the front.  You’ll be handed a number after which you can search for a table. 
Snooze isn’t a fan of spicy food which obviously  narrowed her options in a Sichuan restaurant.  She fairly quickly settled on the pork mince with (chick) peas.  In an unusual turnaround she was a bit ambivalent about this, finding it had less flavour than expected.  While I don’t normally like chickpeas as much as Snooze does I did like the delicate savoury flavour that the pork and chick peas had.  Generous size serving as well which she was unable to finish.
I decided on the spicy stewed beef.  Not as spicy as expected, what really stood out was the extreme tenderness of the beef.  In fact this resulted in a minor case of splashed soup on shirt, with the beef falling apart under its own weight when lifted with chopsticks.  In addition to the moderate use of chilli there was just a hint of that wonderful tongue numbering Sichuan Pepper.  And the dish was nicely fragrant, something Snooze particularly commented on.
Good, solid quality noodles, very generous in size and at a reasonable price.  Fairly popular too, as while the line for ordering wasn’t long when we arrived most of the seating was already filled.  Service was a little brusque but better than many of the cheaper Chinese places around town, and quite fast.  All in all a pretty good option for noodles for lunch.
Food – 7.5
Ambience – 7.5
Service – 6.5
Price – 7
Emporium lower level
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Dainty Sichuan Noodle Express on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Rama Thai, Ashwood by Bureaucrat

Don’t you hate it when you’ve had dinner but you’re still feeling peckish a little while later?  Having found ourselves in this situation, my mind turned to getting some takeaway to fill the hungry void.  As we weren’t near home at the time, we couldn’t go to our usual reliable Danny’s Kopitiam for food. 
Instead, we tried potluck along the Ashwood shopping strip, which is near the intersection of Warrigal and High Street roads.  I had spotted Rama Thai as I had driven past it numerous times.  And I thought this would be the occasion for us to try it out.  It’s a small suburban eatery – there’s a few tables inside but it’s cramped and it seems like everything inside (the walls, tables, chairs, floors) have seen better days. 
The prawn pad Thai was so-so.  The first thing I noticed were the oddly shaped and off-white peanuts.  They hadn’t been properly toasted – the peanuts weren’t crunchy but were waxy in texture instead and with a burnt flavour to them.  They didn’t taste or look fresh so we scraped off as much of the peanuts and the rest of the noodles were okay.  A couple of medium sized prawns, a reasonable savoury gravy but I was missing the nice wedge of lemon to give the noodles a bit of life.
The Thai fried rice was also so-so.  Slivers of chicken tossed through with chunks of tomato with slices of cucumber down the side.  There was an okay amount of egg through it but the rice itself was lacking wok hei.
Food – 6
Ambiance – 5.5
Service – 7
Price – 6.5 
I don’t want to be mean but the food here isn’t too flash.  Perhaps we ordered wrong.  But given there are other Thai restaurants along the shopping strip, I’d be trying those places next time.
Rama Thai
531 Warrigal Road
Ashwood 3147
Telephone: 9885 9060
Rama Thai Restaurant Ashwood on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Two Little Pigs, Brunswick by Big Fil

You have to love a place that is willing to try something a little different, to go out on a bit of a limb.  Two Little Pigs breakfast menu certainly does that, and while a couple of things didn’t quite hit the bulls eye, it prompted some happy little squeals of delight from both Snooze and I.

Long and lean on the inside with a pleasant garden area out the back, Two Little Pigs definitely has that Melbourne Hipster vibe to it.

The tables are basic, the chairs fashionably uncomfortable (metal on a cold day) and the semi-mandatory communal table sits just behind the front window.

Even early on a Saturday most of the inside tables were full, the staff friendly and we were left open mouthed at some of the delicious looking breakfasts coming out of the kitchen.

The most unusual thing about the food here is that it is so meat focused, it’s definitely light on for options for the vegetarian inclined.  Snooze chose the Bubble and Squeak, chickpea fritters with braised beef, caramelised onion, truffle oil and corn kernels.  I suspect it was partially a nostalgia thing for Bubble and Squeak, and partly they had her at chickpeas.  Compared to the usual assortment of garden produce you find in this dish the flavour was quite savoury, complements of the beef and in particular the chickpeas.  By themselves I thought the fritters were a little plain but were very nicely complemented by the accompanying chutney.

The main reason I wanted to visit here was the Peas and Ham, crisp roasted pork belly, poached free range eggs, green pea veloute and sour dough toast.  Very colourful when delivered to the table, and something I really enjoyed.  Not because it was perfect, the skin of the pork belly being slightly chewy rather than crispy.  But the flavour of the pork was wonderful, well balanced between the meat and the fat, and extremely tender.  The green pea veloute soaked into the bread was delicious, although you had to be careful not to soak up too much or else it would go soggy.

For breakfast dessert we ordered the Hot Jam Dough Cakes, served with cinnamon sugar and caramelised bacon ice cream.  Snooze and I had a really mixed take on these.  She did not like these at all.  The main reason is that she didn’t like the texture of the dough cakes, finding them far too doughy and heavy. 

On the other hand I liked them a lot.  With two dough cakes in a serve it’s possible that the difference was in the cakes, but I suspect more likely it was just a matter of individual taste.  The jam was good but used with restraint, Snooze seemed to get most of the bacon/ice cream and found it interesting.  For me the sugar could have used more cinnamon, but then again for me there is no such thing as too much cinnamon in a dish.

Quality is good and I’m always willing to tip my hat to anyone who is willing to try something different.  Service from out hipster friends was warm and friendly, although it was a little chilly sitting on our cold metal chairs.  While we may have come across a few places recently where we thought the food was marginally better (and it is only marginal), this is the place that I enjoyed the food the most.

Food – 8.5
Ambience – 7 (get those heaters working please)
Service – 8
Price – 7.5

146 Sydney Road
Brunswick VIC 3056
Tel: (03) 9939 4042

Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Roti Road, Footscray by Big Fil

Located in Footscray Roti Road was somewhere I'd heard about through the bloggers grapevine and was keen to try.  After all, good roti is one of my favourite things and while Footscray isn't the first place that would come to mind when thinking of a Malaysian style meal, the sheer competition of all the other good eateries in the area would mean that it would have to be good to last.

Situated on Barkly Street maybe ten minutes from the train station, Roti Road is just that bit nicer place to eat than most of the Malaysian eateries around town.  Nicer than most neighbourhood places in Malaysia too, with its painted mural on the wall, dark wooden tables and industrial style lighting. 

On entering service is friendly but what is surprising is that for a place called Roti Road the selection of rotis was a bit restricted, the range of other styles of dishes wider than I'd expected.

First thing I always have to have in a Malaysian cafĂ© is the nasi lemak, ordered with the chicken berempah (fried chicken) and sambal sotong (spicy squid).  On the plus side the serve was generous, and the rice had some fragrance to it although I would have liked more.  I wasn't such a fan of the sambal though, which was more liquid and less punchy in flavour than I like.  The chicken, which initially looked overdone, was nicely moist and the squid tender, but the ikan bilis felt slightly stingy.  Fair enough to say that that it left me with mixed feelings.

Fortunately though all the rotis were better.  The roti chanai was nicely fluffy, the accompanying sauces flavoursome with the chilli packing an acceptable level of heat (I generally prefer it quite spicy). 

When the accompanying beef rending came out my initial thought was the serve was small, but the flavour was rich and good.

There are a few sweet dessert style rotis on the menu, including a roti pisang (banana) and a roti tissue.  The roti pisang looked very cute, served with a scoop of ice cream on the side and Roti Road spelt out in chocolate syrup.  Nicely sweet and crispy, I would have preferred a bit more banana but it's fairly common for this dish to be a bit light on here because of the cost.

I liked the look of the roti tissue when it hit the table, mainly because it reminded me of the sorting hat from Harry Potter!  Sweet and slightly sticky as I like, the reason it's called roti tissue is because the roti should be tissue paper thin.  This was a bit thick in places, not badly so just not quite what it should have been.  Tasty and with a snappy texture in some parts, but closer to regular roti in others.

Nice place to eat and if it's not as good or as cheap as your favourite mamak place in KL or Penang, it's perfectly fine for Melbourne. 

Food - 7
Service - 7
Ambience - 8
Price - 7

189-193 Barkly Street
Footscray VIC 3011
Tel: (03) 9078 8878

Roti Road on Urbanspoon
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