Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jinda Thai, Abbotsford by Big Fil

If you want to visit this popular place just off Victoria Street you'll need to book ahead.  Silly me, assuming that on a stormy Thursday Night with the rain pelting down we'd be able to grab a walk-in table for the two of us.  Well, it turned out we could, as long as we were out in 45 minutes so the table could be made ready for the pair who had wisely made a booking.  Even then we were lucky, with both the group of four who walked in just ahead of us and the couple behind us having to find an alternative venue for the evening.


Inside is fairly warehouse chic, a large open space with unpainted brick walls with a few pictures scattered around.  While it's a style of outfitting that you do commonly see around town I did think this was one of the warmest and most comfortable that I've seen, complemented by the warm and friendly (if occasionally a little disorganised) service.

Between myself and my companion for the evening (Ms Candide Ginger) we ordered 2 entrees and two mains to share.  First up, of which the photos unfortunately didn't come out at all, was the chicken wrapped in pandan leaves.  Pandan is sometimes referred to as the Asian vanilla, and it's flavour and aroma lightly permeates the chicken during the cooking.  The chicken was moist in the middle, slightly crispy on the outside and nicely fragrant.  While it was also a little greasy, it wasn't nearly as much so as some other versions of this dish I've had before.


Second entrée and something I always order were the son-in-law eggs.  These are slightly more than soft-boiled then quickly deep fried, to give them a crispy exterior covering a soft, velvety interior.  The accompanying sauce is sticky, with a lovely tangy flavour from the restrained use chilli and tamarind.  The version at Jinda could have used a more concentrated sauce and the eggs a little runnier, to my taste anyway, but was still good.


I must admit to being a bit of a sucker for beef massaman curry.  Soft and delicately flavoured, a good one is like a warm hug and an excellent one can have some nice underlying complexity from the underlying spices.  Jinda's was definitely in the softer flavoured variety, which was good in some ways because it managed to provide some balance in the dishes for Ms Ginger, who had quite a surprise on her face after her first bite of our accompanying salad.


Which was, of course, a som tom or green papaya salad.  This would have to be one of the spiciest salads you can find, and Jinda's is every bit as spicy as you'll find in Thailand.  The papaya and beans add crunch to the mix, the soft shell crab was meaty and very well cooked.  It is delicious but if your chilli tolerance is low I'd suggest you give it a wide birth.

Overall
A great addition to the low to mid-range Thai restaurant scene in Melbourne, somewhere which many have commented is one of Melbourne's weaker foodie areas.  As mentioned service could be a bit more organised - we knew we didn't have long and it took a little while to receive menus and the food came out spaced a bit strangely (5 minutes for one dish, 15 for the next, 2 minutes for the third).  It's all done with a smile though which makes a difference. 

Verdict
Food - 8
Service - 6.5
Ambience - 8
Price - 7.5

Address
1-7 Ferguson St
Abbotsford VIC 3067
Tel: (03) 9419 5899

Jinda Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rice, Paper, Scissors Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

It may not be the real deal as far as the purist is concerned, but Rice, Paper, Scissors brings a western touch to the flavours and textures of South East Asian street food. 

The atmosphere is convivial and complemented by the style of dishes, small in size so as not to impede the flow of conversation and designed for sharing.  Popular too, as yet again we seemed to be the last of the walk-ins to grab a table just after 12, and even then we had to be out by 1pm.

Staff are friendly and after querying whether we had visited before took the time to explain about the dishes on offer.  Not really necessary in our case but a nice touch anyway.  The inspiration for the dishes seems to be predominately but not exclusively Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, and included a few regular favourites of ours.  A good way to understand the food is to think of it as Asian themed tapas, and plan to order a few dishes accordingly.

Partly on the recommendation of our server we decided to share 5 dishes between us, which is pretty much right for a decent graze.  The son-in-law eggs were different to how I’d seen them before, just fried rather than boiled followed by a quick deep fry.  This meant that the yolks were still nicely soft and a little runny, but made them a little more difficult to eat.  Very tasty though, with Snooze commenting that the use of chilli in the dish was the first time she really felt that it complemented and enhanced the flavours of the other ingredients.

One of the daily specials that both Snooze and Ms Ruby Grapefruit were keen on was the barramundi in betel leaves.  Small parcels of barramundi which you fold the leaf around, resulting in bite sized packages of well cooked fish.

Something I really like is lamb ribs, the sweetest, tenderest, most flavoursome meat right next to the bone.  Complement it with a sweet and sticky sauce and you have a really yummy piece of meat which comes complete with its own handle.

The only dish which we really differed in opinion on was the mini soft-shell crab baguettes (bahn mi).  Specially recommended by our server, Ms Grapefruit really liked them, Snooze wasn’t as impressed without disliking them, and I was somewhere in the middle.  It wasn’t because of the crab, which was juicy and meaty with its tangy creamy sauce.  I suspect it was the bun, which I thought was slightly over-toasted, and which got lost a bit in the other flavours.

Finally we finished off with the mini-Vietnamese pancakes (bahn xeo).  Small crispy rice flavour packages, these were much crisper than normal (likely due to their smaller size) and had a distinctly satisfying crunch.  I did think they could have used  more filling, but that may not have been practical given their size.

Overall
Very good service, a congenial atmosphere and well prepared food, it’s hard not to like Rice, Paper, Scissors.  Only issue, if you’re looking for or expecting a Victoria Street sized feed it could end up getting a little pricey, but if you want something smaller but tastier you’ve found your place.

Verdict
Food – 8.5
Ambience – 8
Service – 8.5
Price – 7

Address
19 Liverpool Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 9890

Rice Paper Scissors on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hakata Gensuke Ramen (by invitation), Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

IRASSHAIMASE!!
 
It seems like overnight that an explosion of ramen shops have sprung up around town.  Possibly the newest ramen shop that has opened is Hataka Gensuke on Russell Street.  Big Fil and I were invited to try some ramen on its first day of its soft opening last week (it officially opened last Friday). 
 
Hakata is a district in the city of Fukuoka where tonkotsu (pork bone noodle soup) ramen was first invented in Japan.  This is the first time that Hakata ramen is available in Australia and Master Chef Kousuke Yoshimura is heading up his team to initiate Melbourne diners to this delicious soupy dish.
 
Upping the authenticity quotient, upon entering the restaurant, each diner is welcomed by a rousing IRASSHAIMASE! from all the staff.  I’ve never experienced this before and I love it – it’s so infectious!  You also get a rousing farewell when you leave.
 
We got to try chicken kaarage as our entrée.  These have to be the best kaarage that I’ve ever eaten.  The thinnest, crispiest crust which covered a trio of the juiciest chicken pieces.  So very morish.
 
I had to try the signature tonkotsu ramen.  For me, the quality of the ramen is in the soup.  Made from a master stock, the soup here is made with lots of pork bones.  It’s a very deep pork flavour and the soup has almost gelatinous texture to it due to the high amount of collagen in the bones (apart from the nutritional benefits this is great for those worried about avoiding wrinkles!)
 
Each table has a range of condiments, including do-it-yourself ground sesame seeds, minced garlic, dressings and pickled veg (shown above).
 
The noodles here are slightly chewier and flatter than your typical ramen noodles.  You also get to customise your dish by choosing how firm you want your noodles to be.  The tonkotsu comes with lots of spring onions, black fungus (wood ear) and a slice of pork. 
 
Another condiment - fresh, pickled ginger (my favourite).
 
You can also add extra toppings, including marinated egg, bamboo shoots, seaweed, cha siu, veggies and even extra noodles. While you can customise your bowl of ramen, adding the extra ingredients could potentially turn it into a more expensive bowl of noodles.
 
Big Fil ordered the shio tonkotsu.  I think ‘shio’ means ‘light’ and refers to the depth of flavour of the soup.  It came with bamboo shoots, spring onions and also a slice of pork.  While he admits that he isn't the biggest fan of ramen he did like the lighter, fresher, ‘cleaner’ taste of the broth. To him, the broth was definitely porky but without the somewhat ‘muddied’ flavours that he usually doesn't like.

Verdict
Food – 7.5*
Service – 7.5
Ambience - 7
Price – 7*
*Scores are notional as we were guests of Hakata Gensuke
 
Overall
Hakata Gensuke is a great addition to ramen scene in the city.  I really like the tonkotsu broth and there’s a great family vibe to the place.  I’m going go back to try their black tonkotsu (the soup and noodles look black!), the gyozas and to have them delicious chicken kaarage again.
 
Address
Hakata Gensuke Ramen
168 Russell St  
Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 9654 4040

Hakata Gensuke Ramen on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chuckle Deli, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

Chuckle Deli recently opened in the Hub Arcade, just around the corner from Chuckle Park Bar and Café, surprisingly replacing a small Vietnamese eatery that had always looked fairly popular. 
 
Walking past Chuckle Deli looked very attractive, with the small menu interesting.  It’s always fun to be amongst the first to try out new places so Snooze and I headed out one cold and wet day (pick a day, any day in the last two weeks) to see what it was all about.
 
Arriving around 12 I thought would guarantee us one of the three tables inside.  Wrong, and so we were relegated to one of the two outside tables.  Not a real problem though, as unlike some of the arcades and laneways around town Hub Arcade never seems to suffer from the wind tunnel effect and we were able to sit and enjoy our meals in comfort.
 
The menu is based on offering four salads and four rolls which are on rotation.  On this day we chose two of the rolls, and a salad to share.  All the salads sounded tempting but we (or rather I) settled on the lentil salad, served with smoked trout and pink grapefruit from memory.  The lentils gave the salad quite a strong flavour, the grapefruit a sour punch which when combined with the lentils I thought overpowered the fish a bit, although Snooze liked it a lot.  Different strokes for different folks I guess.
 
I thought the sandwiches were better, even if Snooze did beat me to my first choice of the Rueben.  Combine good bread, nice corned beef, a bit of sauerkraut and a real punch from the mustard and you have a quality, well flavoured sandwich. 
 
My Katsu roll on the other hand combined a well-cooked piece of crumbed, fried chicken meat with creaminess added by the accompanying mayonnaise.  If you’ve never had a katsu roll before just imagine a really good chicken schnitzel roll and you’ll get the idea.

Overall
Small but very cute, Chuckle Deli strikes me as both a good place to meet a (small) group of friends for lunch, or to grab a quick bite to take back to the office.  Service is friendly (although you’ll have to wait if you order the katsu roll – it’s cooked fresh) and they definitely seem keen about what they are doing.  The sort of place that there wasn’t much to criticise, all very good without anything really blowing our socks off.

Verdict
Food – 8
Ambience – 8
Service – 8
Price – 7

Address
Shop 5
318-322 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9650 4494

Chuckle Deli on Urbanspoon
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...