Tuesday, 16 January 2007

rounding up restaurants.

A summary of the restaurants I ate at in Melbourne over the last two weeks. My new year's diet begins tomorrow...

Tandoori Times Gertrude St, Fitzroy
A huge Indian banquet for around $25. Which was definitley good value, and included entrees, mains and desserts, but all in all way more food than we could eat. The curries were good, but nothing spectacular. Various beers available, including one (Emperor?) which I quite liked, but everyone else thought too nasty to drink. Fun bollywood film projected onto a screen - less irritating than usual in a restaurant, because the sound was turned down but it had subtitles, which made it easier to ignore or follow. The pistachio ice-cream was superb, a subtle blend of vanilla, honey and spices, with chunks of nuts. If i went again, I would skip the banquet and just order one dish (given that if you go with a couple of people you can share anyway), and have the ice-cream, which would probably halve the bill.

The Veggie Bar Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Y-U-M. At this stage, my favourite place to eat in Melbourne. Well, it's a tie really, with the Moroccan Soup Bar, which was conveniently closed for all of January. The Veggie Bar is big, with large, fresh and healthy servings. If I could eat this kind of food all the time, I would be a vegetarian. Who needs meat with flavours like these? On this occassion I had the Sienna Pizza, which was topped with haloumi, onion jam, grilled capsicum, rocket and lemon juice. Tom-ace had the burrito, and Molly had some kind of noodles. I also love the roast veggie platter with hommous, tzaziki and salad leaves. I've never had a problem with the service, but I've heard it can be dodgy at times, and the place is large and noisy. Nevertheless, if you're in the Melbuns, go. Just go.

Soul Mama St Kilda
I have mixed feelings about Soul Mama. The food was excellent, but I suspect I did not choose wisely. The view out over the beach was lovely, and the building itself offers a nice space for a pre-dessert dinner walk-off. The juice I had was terriffic, and it looks like they do great cocktails. I have reservations, however, about the organisation of the place. It's huge and has large numbers of wait-staff running around with stupid headsets on, meaning occassionally mid-order they'll start talking to their microphone instead of you. But then, when manage to order, you get a receipt which you take to the large counter and choose the foods you want from bain maries. But you still pay at the end. And they bugger up your account. Methinks the whole system could be simplified by just ordering and paying at the counter. But then you would just be paying for vegetables. Ripoff! Whatever. The food was good, and the view spectacular. A classier vegetarian joint than many, and wins hands down for location. For food though, I think the Veggie Bar still sneaks past the post.

Tom's Burke Rd, Camberwell
Best Coffee. Enough said? Well, just a little more. The best coffee I've had so far, in a little gourmet food shop on Burke Road. You can stop for a $3 coffee and sit down with a magazine or for a game of checkers. They also do yummy looking gourmet foccaccias etc., but I didn't try any. The coffee is enough. The one flaw was that when I ordered one to take away, the sugar was not stirred in properly. Well, just have it there.

Burger Edge Burke Rd, Camberwell
Trendy organic etc., burger joint. We got take-away so I didn't see the place, or the options. We had your basic Aussie burger with the lot, and a gourmet antipasto one. Good burgers, but not great for the price-point. Nasty nasty greasy fries. Not a patch on Organic Life on Rundle St.

Yu'u off Flinders Lane, City
I love Yu'u. By nightime, one of Melbourne's best Japanese restaurants (apparently), Yu'u offers a beatiful set lunch for $15. It's downstairs, through a door you need to know is there, and is like a little oasis of Japanese calm, with darkwood throughout and limited seating around the bar and two long benches. The set includes tea, miso soup, a bowl of noodles with dipping sauce, a piece of fish/meat (in our case salmon) on a bed of rice, and a piece of fruit. I think they organise the menu by month, so you could find out in advance what the meat is, but in any case you need to book to get in. I guess at $15 it's not the cheapest lunch around, but when you consider the quality of the food and the environment, it's still a bargain in my book.

Shuji Sushi Flinders Lane, City
Fast sushi for city-workers on the go. The sushi itself is good and fresh, with a good ratio of filling to rice. The pancake sized, large-enough-for-a-small-lunch okonomiyaki is a steal for $2.80, although I thought there was way too much teriyaki sauce and mayo. You could always ask for less, or do as I did, and just not eat it all. The takeaway line is huge, but if you're eating in you can sneak around the corner and order straight away.

La Barrista Market St, City
Another contender for best Melbourne coffee. A smart lunch cafe, their menu looks good and the place is always full. The cool Maori barrista takes obvious care with the coffee, and the sugar is always properly stirred in if you're taking-away. The staff are friendly and efficient, and La Barrista also sells an amazing bottled organic orange juice. You'd swear their was sugar in there, but if so, they're not saying it on the label.

Zoom Little Collins St, City
We returned here because I once had an amazing salad wrap with beetroot and hommous. Unfortunatly, they were all sold out - apparently they're made at their 'other' store on King St. Perhaps I will try there someday. Apart from that, this is a trendy organic lunch-on-the-go joint. The smoothie and soup I had were decent, but I get the impression that Zoom is aimed more at business-people on the go wanting food they can feel good about, than at genuinely making the healthiest, tastiest product. But maybe I'm just bitter because they didn't have my wrap.

Noodle Kingdom, Box Hill
See previous review...

Deco Camberwell Rd, Camberwell
Deco is Camberwell's version of Caffe Paesano I think. The food is good, but not amazing, the atmosphere is comfortable rather than classy, but the place is always full and, I would imagine, consistent. I had a pretty average pepperoni pizza, but Tom-ace's risotto was quite good. Where Deco really excells is the appetisers. The warm (homemade?) bread with oil and balsamic is completely excellent, a bargain at $3, and would be a good option as an easy afternoon tea or appetiser.

Rafi's Camberwell Rd, Camberwell
The new local gelato joint. It's amazing how many gelati places Melbourne seems to have. Rafi's is not part of a chain, and despite not having a huge range of flavours, those that we tried were good, and comparable to the better gourmet gelati around the place. Since there's no other gelati place in the area, they should do well this summer.

Butterfly off Burke Rd, next to the Camberwell train station
The other contender for best coffee. Butterfly seems to be run by a few guys who're also into hiphop culture, and it is one of the cooler coffee bars I've been in. Refreshingly independent, these guys seem to take great pride in their little haven, and it shows. The atmosphere is cool, but not pretentious, and the food is lovely. A large breakfast menu with all the old favourites, a few with little twists that show they're thinking.

Samurai Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn
Good Japanese food, at an amazing price. $13 gets you a bowl of miso or chicken noodle soup, an entree (I had eggplant with teriyaki sauce - can't remember its name), a main (I had vegetarian tempura on noodle soup), and a choice of a milkshake or dessert (I had a greentea milkshake). The food is decent, the atmosphere and the decoration is lovely (if cramped).

Ai Teahouse Chapel St, Prahran
Trendy, expensive Yum Cha. All the old favourites, done well, but with none of the surprises that make Yum Cha an adventure. This felt like Yum Cha for westerners who like the idea of Yum Cha, but are a bit tentative about the real thing. Beautiful setting though, and, being a teahouse, has an extensive range of teas to accompany your meal.

Zuffa Collins St, City
Another lunch place for busy city-workers. $8.50 gets you a plate of something (veggie lasagne in my case, or a kind of wrap-cum-pie thing in Tom's) plus two salads. Good food, nice atmosphere and view, and for a fast, good lunch in the city, you could do a lot worse. I had an excellent watermelon-berry-cranberry juice, and their 99% fat free (read 99% sugar) chocolate froghurt is a great pretend-healthy lunchtime treat.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Collins St, City
Well. A crazy end to a crazy week. I stood in a LONG line for 15 minutes to get my hands on one of these doughnuts. Most people were buying large boxes of the things, and on the Skybus to the airport, there were no less than 4 people carrying these. I felt a little silly only ordering one. But it was a good thing. They basically taste like Americanised royal show doughnuts - plus a little extra sugar. They are to me like the dessert equivalent of McDonalds - they taste good, but obviously at the expense of any natural ingredients. They're very airy too - ie., empty. Hmmm. Well, I'm glad I've tried one, but I'm also glad it was only one.


T said...

Glad to see you've had a productive day at work...

Nice wrap-up of the Melbourne Eateries - no wonder I am feeling poor and overweight...

sam said...

i can't believe you went to all these places. at least now i have ideas where to take a1.

Peter Christo said...

Love your work!

Peter Christo