Byblos, Melbourne CBD

Byblos originated in Brisbane and now has a sister restaurant located in WTC Wharf, right on the riverside with views of the Polly Woodside and MCEC. Named after a city on the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon, it features Lebanese food and an extensive bar menu.

We participated in their new spring Express Lunch menu, which consisted of various lunch platters for two. We went with the meat platter, but vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available. True to its moniker, the Express Lunch platters soon arrived laden with four different pastries (two each of rekakat, fatayer, lahim bil Ajeen and sambusek), tabouli, hommous and a generous amount of pita. There were also two skewers of lahim meshwi and two of shish tawook (lamb and chicken respectively). The lamb was particularly tasty and juicy and I loved the smooth garlic sauce.

Lahim Bil Ajeen, the lebanese pizza, had been folded up to make a square, which was a little different to what I’m used to seeing but no less tasty. My favourite of the pastries was the sambusek, not just because it brought me fond memories of curry puffs with its folded edges, but because I found the filling the most tasty of the four. The refreshing tabouleh and smooth, cream hommos were a nice addition, breaking up the abundance of proteins and dough.

There was so much food offered that we struggled to finish, but finish it we did. The platters are a particularly good option for people wanting to try many different things on the menu and, being part of the express lunch, will suit those constrained by their lunch hours.

Menu descriptions:
Lahim Meshwi: Char-grilled lamb fillets marinated simply in olive oil, salt and pepper.
Shish Tawook: Char-grilled chicken tenderloin marinated in olive oil with garlic, oregano and a mild pepper paste
Fatayer: Freshly baked homemade pastry filled with spinach, onion, walnuts, tomato and Lebanese spices.
Lahim Bil Ajeen: Homemade open pastry with marinated lamb, fresh tomato, onion and traditional spices. Baked until golden brown and served with natural yoghurt.
Rekakat: Lightly fried filo pastry filled with feta and mozzarella cheese, freshly chopped onion, and fresh herbs.
Sambusek: Homemade pastry filled with marinated lamb, pine nuts, onion and traditional spices. Sambusek is lightly fried

Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at Byblos as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by the restaurant in any way.

Byblos
World Trade Centre
18-32 Siddeley Street
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9614 6400
http://www.byblosbar.com.au/melbourne/
Byblos on Urbanspoon

Koba, Melbourne CBD

Mexican and Korean cuisine are hot trends in Melbourne at the moment. What could go wrong by doing both? Well, a lot actually. Fusion food isn’t exactly perfect all the time, especially when the cuisines seem so different. Fortunately Koba has successfully melded street-food from both countries to create a unique menu for us to enjoy. Koba underwent a renovation and revamping of the menu not too long ago. More traditional Korean items like tokpokki, bibimbap and fried chicken feature alongside not-so-Korean items like korritos, tacos and corn dogs. It’s a small, funky place with limited seating: maybe five counter seats and two small tables for two inside, and walls decorated with graphics cleverly playing on the themes of well-known retro video games.

My pork korrito was filled with kimchi rice, kimchi, melted cheese, tomato salsa, zucchini, cooked cabbage, coleslaw and some sort of spicy mayo. It was filling but didn’t leave me feeling uncomfortably heavy because of the fresh and healthy ingredients contained within. Now on to the…less healthy kimchi fries: the crispy fries were topped with cheese, kimchi sauce, onion relish, sour cream and seasoning. Although I’d heard many good things about these, they were still better than I expected – I couldn’t help finishing every last bit in the basket.

Hardware Street is full of popular eateries and being almost directly opposite the venerable Hardware Societe, Koba faces some stiff competition. Despite this, Koba offers something quite different to the food scene and I think it holds its own.

Koba
119 Hardware Street
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9973 8425
http://www.eatkoba.com/
KOBA on Urbanspoon

The South Melbourne Trader, South Melbourne

South Melbourne Trader’s Wagyu Burger has been highly regarded by many, but what really caught my eye on the menu today was The Euro: wagyu pattie, mushroom, rocket, tomato, pickled onion, horseradish cream all in a brioche bun. As well as the burger, my $15.70 also got me some hand-cut potato chips, which were tasty, crispy and not completely drenched in oil. One edge of the pattie was slightly overcooked, but thankfully not dry, but the rest was nice and juicy. There was a nice balance of acidity from the pickled onions, offset by the creamy mushrooms, that didn’t overpower the wagyu. It was an enjoyable burger that wasn’t overly complicated and pretentious.

The Euro - Wagyu Pattie, Mushroom, Rocket, Tomato, Pickled Onion, Horseradish Cream and Hand Cut Chips ($15.70)

The Euro – Wagyu Pattie, Mushroom, Rocket, Tomato, Pickled Onion, Horseradish Cream and Hand Cut Chips ($15.70)

The South Melbourne Trader
111 Cecil St South
Melbourne, VIC, 3205
(03) 9696 3938
http://www.tsmt.com.au/
The South Melbourne Trader on Urbanspoon

A La Folie: Macarons & Petits Choux

A la folie roughly translates to ‘madness’ (in the context of love) and it’s a name that reflects Mercédé Coubard’s passion for these wonderful macarons and petits choux. Mercédé was trained at the Alain Ducasse culinary school and has now introduced these small delights to Melbourne. A la folie also creates individual desserts, macaron cakes and macaron and petits choux towers. They even cater for special events!

It was hard to choose which macarons to try, but in the end we settled on the Pistachio and the ever-popular Salted Caramel  macaron. We were advised that for maximum enjoyment of the cream filling, the salted caramel macaron should be enjoyed at room temperature. If coming out of the fridge, 20-30 minutes should be enough for the macaron to be ready for eating…if you can restrain yourself for that long. The macarons were a delight to eat – the thin, crunchy crust giving way to a light and just a little chewy almond biscuit, before encountering soft and smooth filling.

The petits choux were filled with crème patissière and topped with fondant. From the selection of petits choux, we chose the special weekly flavour of lime and coconut cream topped with pineapple compote and the Mango Passion. The balance of choux pastry to filling was perfect and the smooth crème patissière was bursting with flavour.

Joyful and delicious, these little desserts are the perfect treat for any time of the day!

 

Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at A La Folie as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

A La Folie Patisserie
589 Chapel St
South Yarra, VIC, 3141
(03) 9827 3337
http://www.alafolie.com.au/
A La Folie Patisserie on Urbanspoon

MoVida Next Door, Melbourne CBD

After facing a ridiculously long wait at another no-bookings restaurant, we decided to change our dinner venue to MoVida Next Door, MoVida’s little bar companion. After a wait of just over an hour, we settled down to try out some of their tapas and raciones. The seafood is displayed at counters near the door and is cooked to order. Most of the seafood menu options were listed on the board above the bar, presumably because their offerings are dependent on market availability.

I’d heard good things about the lamb cutlets at MoVida. There wasn’t any lamb on the regular menu, for fortunately for me there was a lamb cutlet available as a tapas special. The meat was so succulent and tender; someone else had the proper serrated knife so I just used the regular table knife, and it still cut through with ease. The addition of the pear was interesting, but it wasn’t so sweet that it took all the attention away from the main star.

Not sure when I would be returning to dine here, I splurged on the most expensive seafood special. The perfectly grilled snapper fillet came with three fat clams and a saffron broth that really packed a punch. Well seasoned and citrusy, each bite was an explosion of flavour that helped allay my fears that I’d spent too much on this dish. It was pretty pricey, but I definitely enjoyed it while it lasted.

MoVida Next Door
164 Flinders St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9663 3038
http://movida.com.au/movida-next-door/
MoVida Next Door on Urbanspoon

Hinoki Japanese Pantry, Fitzroy

This sushi shop/Japanese grocery store has been on my wishlist for a long time and I finally made it today! They offer a range of sushi including hand rolls, nigiri, nosé maki, hoso maki and futomaki. If your sushi pack of choice isn’t already available at the counter the sushi chefs can prepare it fresh, leaving you free to peruse the store (or stare longingly at your order being made). There are also a few seats at the front of the shop for people to eat their sushi.

Today I picked the Nosé Maki Mix, which included Spicy Tuna, Salmon Aioli, Salmon Aburi, Hotate Hollandaise and Nasu Dengaku. Of particular note were the spicy tuna and salmon aburi. The spicy tuna had a lovely creamy spicy mayo that was more subtle than other spicy mayos I’ve had in the past. I did find the dengaku sauce on the eggplant a little too sweet for my liking. All the sushi had nicely packed rice and a good balance of sushi vinegar. I was curious to find out what was in the centre of these nosé maki because I hadn’t seen this type of sushi before – the centre of the rice rolls were filled with finely shredded carrot and/or cucumber, complementing the freshness of the seafood toppings. Having fresh seafood in the sushi was not surprising seeing as Hinoki also sells sashimi-grade fish.

Although places like Suzuran and Hinoki Japanese Pantry are more expensive than cheaper options like Sushi Sushi, the quality of the food is much better and I wouldn’t mind returning if I ever need a fix of good sushi.

Nosé Maki Mix - Spicy Tuna, Salmon Aioli, Salmon Aburi, Hotate Hollandaise, Nasu Dengaku ($13.50)

Nosé Maki Mix – Spicy Tuna, Salmon Aioli, Salmon Aburi, Hotate Hollandaise, Nasu Dengaku ($13.50)

Hinoki Japanese Pantry
279 Smith Street
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
(03) 9417 4531
Hinoki Japanese Pantry on Urbanspoon

Gemma Simply Italian, Carlton

Earlier this year, Cantina Napoletana became Gemma Simply Italian. In accordance with its namesake, owner Alessandro Bollino sought to serve simple, authentic and not too expensive Italian food. The pasta menu is straightforward, with a choice of either gnocchi or fettucini and the list of sauces listed underneath.

Today I had the Zucca e Striscie di Gambetto San Daniele with fettuccini (pumpkin, strips of Gambetto San Daniele prosciutto, baby spinach and pine nuts). I found it to be a bit too creamy from the pumpkin and the pasta itself appeared to be slightly cold and stuck together. I did have a taste of some other pasta dishes and they were much better, so mine was probably an anomaly. The pizza special for today was the Tartufo with topping including San Daniele prosciutto, mozzarella, truffle oil and rocket. This was particularly nice – can’t beat truffle oil!

Although my dish was not the best, going by the other dishes I tried, Gemma Simply Italian presents quality a big step up from the Italian fare typically found Lygon St and is worth a try.

Zucca e Striscie di Gambetto San Daniele w. Fettuccine- Pumpkin, Stripes of gambetto San Daniele, Baby Spinach, Pinenuts ($17.90)

Zucca e Striscie di Gambetto San Daniele w. Fettuccine- Pumpkin, Stripes of gambetto San Daniele, Baby Spinach, Pinenuts ($17.90)

Gemma Simply Italian
183 Elgin St
Carlton, VIC, 3053
(03) 9349 2835
http://gemmasimplyitalian.com.au/
Gemma Simply Italian on Urbanspoon

Addict Food and Coffee, Fitzroy

Addict opened a few months ago, adding to the burgeoning number of cafes in Fitzroy. Occupying a relatively quiet spot at the corner of Gore and Johnston St, Addict has a great light-filled space and outdoors tables for people to enjoy the nice weather.

The pulled pork sandwich appeared to be very popular, but I was suffering from pulled pork fatigue and decided to go down a different route. I ordered the quinoa and chickpeas instead. Being cooked in mushroom stock, the chickpeas and red quinoa were tasty in themselves. The quinoa was cooked nicely, being neither soggy nor hard, and the capsicum flavour from the mojo sauce, exciting crunchiness from the almonds and gooey moisture from the poached eggs made each bite a delight. The toasted sourdough appeared to have been drenched in a good olive oil, making a wonderful accompaniment to the rest of the dish.

Open 7 days from early morning to late afternoon, Addict is sure to be a hit!

Addict Food and Coffee
240 – 242 Johnston St
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
(03) 9415 6420
http://www.addictmelbourne.com/
Addict Food and Coffee on Urbanspoon

Table by S, North Melbourne

On a very cold and wet Melbourne day, mum and I ventured into Table by S to feast on Korean cuisine. It was a quiet restaurant that day – a result of both the early time of arrival and terrible weather. Table by S describes itself as a contemporary Korean restaurant with Latin American, Japanese and American influences and it has a cosy and inviting fit out with a decent amount of spacing between tables.

Our two tapas were the seasonal grilled scallops and simmered premium pork belly. The plump, grilled scallops were one example of a dish with Latin American influence and came with a great combination of sauces and mayo. This was one of our favourites from today. The serving for the simmered pork belly was surprisingly generous. Although it was classified under tapas it could have almost been sufficient as a meal in itself. The broth was beautifully delicate and aromatic, full of sweetness imparted by the pork.

I was really hoping to try the wagyu sal chi sal stone grill because I wasn’t sure what cut of beef it was. Unfortunately it was unavailable so we could only take the angus beef stone grill. The steak was cooked on the stone grill by the waiters, making a wonderful show with the butane torch and oil. Use of the torch allowed the beef to caramelise whilst keeping the inside tender and juicy. It also came with two sauces – a sweet soy and a beanpaste-based sauce (maybe gochujang?).

Next was the spicy braised beef ribs. It had a lot of dried chillis in it but wasn’t incredibly spicy. The meat was tasty and tender, falling off the bone, and the sauce was slightly sweet. It may have been a bit salty if we hadn’t ordered the rice to with it. Though it wasn’t mentioned in the menu description, the addition of the dangmyeon was nice. More crysanthemum leaves would also have helped break up the strong flavours of the braise, as toothsome as it was.

Table by S also has a takeaway menu featuring many of the same dishes offered in the regular dinner menu. Both of us were impressed with the quality of food and the friendliness and politeness of the staff here. It was also nice to see a good Korean restaurant located outside of the CBD!

Table by S
156 Peel Street
North Melbourne, VIC, 3051
(03) 9996 0052
http://www.tablebys.com/
Table by S on Urbanspoon

Original Chai Stall, Melbourne CBD

Having both grown up in India, Apoorv and Gauri sorely missed the comfort of good, unadulterated chai when they moved to Australia. Nostalgia soon gave birth to a passion to bring an authentic street-side chai experience to Melbourne. To help recreate the atmosphere of the chai stalls in India, the pair have even imported a cart all the way from India. They source their tea leaves from Assam and combine it with their spice mix, following their mothers’ recipe to create a wonderful cup of natural, wholesome chai, just like back at home.

Patrons can even buy a kullad to have their chai in instead of a regular paper cup. Gauri explained that in India these clay cups are unfired so that they can be smashed on the ground afterwards – no need for a recycling bin! I probably wouldn’t recommend doing that in a typical Melbourne street though; re-purposing these hand-made pieces might be a better idea.

Masala Chai

Masala Chai

To go with their chai, they also offer home-made treats such as laddu (made by Gauri herself), cumin cookies and roasted spiced chickpeas. Today’s laddu selection included amaranth & palm sugar, cardamom and coconut and date, almond & pistachio. The laddu were quite sweet, but a good energy booster, whilst the buttery cumin cookies were crumbly, slightly sweet, slightly salty and a great accompaniment to tea.

Today they also had live Sitar and Tabla music producing a wonderful ambience and a pleasant space in which to enjoy a nice cup of tea. There was some lovely warm weather today too (well, lovely apart from the blustering winds which were wreaking havoc on nearby stall displays) so they also had some iced chai on hand.

After running the stall by hiring temporary spaces all over the market, the Original Chai Stall now have a permanent home in the I shed together with the organic produce. As a further expression of their commitment to share a piece of India with us, Original Chai Stall also do catering. Packages of tea leaves and spice mix can be purchased if you wish to make it at home, though of course, you’d be missing out on the full experience. Apoorv and Gauri’s dedication to this project really shows – whether you just want to quickly pick up a good cup of chai, or sit and truly appreciate the flavours of the brew whilst being temporarily transported to India, Original Chai Stall have you covered!

Original Chai Stall
I Shed (Organics Shed)
Queen Victoria Market
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
https://www.facebook.com/OriginalChaiStall
http://www.qvm.com.au/shops-and-stalls/original-chai-stall/
Original Chai Stall on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: I was invited to visit Original Chai Stall as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

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