Jimbo & Rex, Southbank

Crown is currently holding a promotion around the theme of ‘the colours of Cuba’, involving Salsa dance lessons and Cuban-themed cocktails and food menus available at selected venues.

Jimbo & Rex was one of the restaurants offering the special menu and I ordered a Paella Cubana. I don’t really know how Cuban paella differs from the Spanish paella I’m used to eating. There wasn’t any socarrat in this one, but the ingredients, particularly the black beans and fried fatty bits, gave it some interesting flavours and made it something quite different from Spanish paella. I was also impressed by the fresh and well-cooked seafood, though it wasn’t until later that I realised my plate didn’t have any chicken or corn in it

Paella Cubana - Roasted Chicken, Spanish Chorizo, Prawns, Calamari and Mussels w. Saffron Rice, Sweetcorn and Black Beans ($18)

Paella Cubana – Roasted Chicken, Spanish Chorizo, Prawns, Calamari and Mussels w. Saffron Rice, Sweetcorn and Black Beans ($18)

Jimbo & Rex
Level 1 Precinct
Crown Casino
8 Whiteman St
Southbank, VIC, 3006
(03) 9292 5524
http://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/jimbo-and-rex
Jimbo & Rex on Urbanspoon

Lolo and Wren, Brunswick West

Placed in a quiet street, Lolo and Wren has been a local favourite for quite a while. Since I was in the area I thought I’d pop in to see how good it really was.

The Drunken Swine “Pork Bun” was highly recommended by the waitress and I put in an order for one after she allayed my concerns about it being overly sweet, as pork buns tend to be. This was sooo good. The shoulder had been broken up a bit but was still in nice tender and meaty chunks. The salad, which was tasty in itself, offered an interesting break from the pork bun and allowed me to freshen up my palate and savour the pork even more. I particularly liked the grated apple and the crunchy, toasted slivers of almond in the salad. The bun was certainly not going to fit straight into my mouth, being at least 10cm tall, so it required some deconstruction. Doing this allowed me to explore the ingredients a bit more closely anyway. There were other components in the bun like (what I think were) chutney and plump, juicy raisins, which complemented the pork very well and were indeed not too sweet.

Lolo and Wren is definitely one for a revisit at some stage. If only I lived closer!

 Lolo and Wren
484 Albion St
Brunswick West, VIC, 3055
(03) 9383 3712
Lolo and Wren on Urbanspoon

Beetroot-cured Salmon

We had some left over canned beetroot in the fridge so I decided to try curing some salmon with it. I diced the beetroot and mixed it with sugar and salt, pressed it all over the salmon and wrapped it in a few sheets of Glad Wrap. I was being lazy and couldn’t be bothered calculating the proper proportions of sugar and salt to weight of fish, so I fudged the quantities. After leaving it in the fridge for 2 days I thought I’d cook it two ways, since there was so much of it. I also didn’t know how fresh the salmon was and wasn’t game enough to eat it  raw (I did try a thin slice from the centre out of curiosity and it was pretty good).

Unfortunately I forgot about the pan sitting on the stove, so my salt crust turned into an ash crust and I ended up having to peel it off. I’d like to think it was also a bit black because of the beetroot. Some diced beetroot was fried in the pan, but that also got a bit burnt. I actually liked the charred/burnt flavour, which may have come about because of the sugar content of the beetroot, though I’m not sure how healthy it was to consume. Thankfully the salmon wasn’t overcooked. It was actually slightly under so I cooked it a further 1 minute on each size – next time I’d like to try cooking a fillet that size for 4 minutes on the skin side then 2 on the other. The same couldn’t quite be said for my baked version, which I cooked at 230C for 11 minutes. I was supposed to take it out at 8 minutes but I forgot about that too. It was OK when I took it out of the oven, but the residual heat pushed it over.

On the whole, the experiment turned out much, much better than expected, particularly the pan-fried one, which is probably one of the nicest things I’ve made so far.

Salon de Sushi, South Melbourne

Salon de Sushi is a small sushi shop but though the seating is limited, it’s cosy and cafe-like. Interestingly, Salon de Sushi also does delivery, claiming to be the first online sushi business in Melbourne.

There are some ready-made packs of sushi, salads, desserts and drinks in the chilled section. At the moment they have a lunch special for $16.90, which includes specific ready-made sushi packs (normally ~$15.90), salad and miso soup.

I decided to dine-in. I was tossing up between Salon de Crunch (prawn tempura, salmon, cucumber, avocado, tenkasu, wasabi mayonnaise) and Miso de Crunch (eggplant tempura, cucumber, sprouts, miso). In the end, Salon de Crunch won out. Soon after ordering, my made-to-order roll was brought to the table in some rather pretty packaging. Tenkasu are crunchy bits of deep fried flour-batter. These had been sprinkled over the sushi roll before it was cut and it gave additional crunch together with the tempura prawn. There was a lot of salmon in the roll and the whole thing was a lovely flavour experience with a balance of smooth and crunchy ingredients. I can see why it’s one of their most popular menu items!

Salon de Sushi
293 Clarendon St
South Melbourne, VIC, 3205
(03) 9939 3723
http://www.salondesushi.com.au/
Salon de Sushi on Urbanspoon

D.O.C. Pizza & Mozarella Bar, Carlton

D.O.C is well known for their pizzas. They source many of their ingredients from Italy to create simple but good quality pizza.

The pizzas I tried that night were the Pizza D.O.C (San Marzano Tomato, Fresh DOP Buffalo Mozzarella, Fresh Basil) and Pizza Speck – (Smoked Prosciutto, Fontina, Wild Mushroom & Thyme). The pizza base was definitely one of the better ones I’ve had and I really appreciated the simplicity of the toppings and how enjoyable the flavour combinations were.

[Note: DOP = Denominazione d' Origine Protetta, roughly translating to 'protected designation of origin'. These products are certified regulated in terms of their production, processing and preparation and must be made within that region to carry the label]

D.O.C. Pizza & Mozarella Bar
295 Drummond St
Carlton, VIC, 3053
(03) 9347 2998
http://www.docgroup.net/
DOC Pizza on Urbanspoon

Dish, Melbourne

Dish is part of the Royce Hotel, but it’s presentation and menu is a step up from typical hotel restaurants (including the fine-dining prices).

Dish

The button mushroom soup with white truffle oil was hearty, creamy and flavoursome. Also ordered was the spaghettini with tiger prawns, crab, garlic, chilli & olive oil.

I ordered the chargrilled spatchcock with truffled soft polenta, king oyster mushrooms and jus gras and had no complaints. The delicate spatchcock meat went well with the polenta and the jus gras complimented rather than competed with the truffle flavour in the polenta. The polenta also soaked up the jus gras, making every mouthful of food a tasty one.

Chargrilled Spatchcock, Truffled Soft Polenta, King Oyster Mushrooms & Jus Gras ($39

Chargrilled Spatchcock, Truffled Soft Polenta, King Oyster Mushrooms & Jus Gras ($39

Dish
379 St Kilda Rd
Melbourne, VIC, 3004
(03) 9677 9933
http://www.roycehotels.com.au/dish
Dish Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Barramundi w. Miso Enoki

This was my second day of attempting this dish. Yesterday I fried the fish and the mushrooms separately, but unfortunately my barramundi was undercooked so I had to put it back on the heat. For the mushrooms I used red miso paste, mirin, a dash of soy and chicken stock powder. I tried to get a crispy skin on the barramundi but I took it off the skin side too early (hence it being undercooked).

This time, before patting the skin dry with paper towel I used a butter knife to scrape off excess water. I also left it for longer before flipping it over. The skin was only half crispy, though still a better result than my previous attempt. I also think I should have added more salt. I heated up leftover enoki from yesterday over the stove and placed the half-cooked barramundi in it (without covering the skin) to sort of poach it, hoping some of the miso flavour would get in. I’m not sure how successful that was, but at least the fish was cooked almost perfectly unlike yesterday’s disaster.

Barramundi w. Miso, Soy Sauce and Mirin Enoki

Barramundi w. Miso, Soy Sauce and Mirin Enoki

Mr. Hendricks Cafe, Balwyn

I generally avoid going to brunch places on weekends because they’re so busy. Today when I visited at 1:45pm it was … busy. Mr Hendricks only opened a few months ago, but its weekend business is certainly booming. It’s situated slightly away from the shopping strip, making parking a bit less of a nightmare. After a short wait I was brought to a table in the middle of the building, next to the kitchen. As well as the tables at the front of the cafe there’s a nice courtyard area accessed around the side.

Mr. Hendricks has a French influenced menu, so there are some items different from the currently typical brunch offerings. By this time the crispy eggs had sold out; instead I tried the breakfast cassoulet, which comprised of confit duck, ham hock, persillade, mixed beans, fried eggs and buttered sourdough toast. Although it took a while to get my order taken, my chosen dish arrived pretty quickly. The piping hot dish was filled with two pieces of each protein and a lot of beans, most of which were hidden underneath the eggs. Bread crumbs were scattered on top and I thought this added a nice textural element. The tasty confit duck and the fall-apart, smokey ham hock were very enjoyable, as was the Toulouse pork sausage (I thought I could taste a bit of fennel in it, but I wasn’t sure). As the dish cooled, most of the sauce had been soaked up and the beans started to go a bit stodgy, but they were of course still tasty. It was a very substantial meal and I struggled to finish towards the end. I ended up leaving some beans behind, and let me tell you, that rarely ever happens.

Breakfast Cassoulet w. Confit Duck, Ham Hock, Toulouse Sausage, Persillade, Fried Eggs, Sourdough ($21)

Breakfast Cassoulet w. Confit Duck, Ham Hock, Toulouse Sausage, Persillade, Fried Eggs, Sourdough ($21)

Mr. Hendricks Cafe
469 Whitehorse Rd
Balwyn, VIC, 3103
(03) 9830 7579

Mr Hendricks Cafe on Urbanspoon

A1 Bakery, Brunswick

A1 Bakery is a very popular, yet unassuming Lebanese bakery/grocery store. It’s positioned in a rather convenient Sydney Road location with plenty of tables inside and outdoors, even having a fish tank to keep children amused.

I ordered a meat pizza and baklava to take away. Lamb mince with lemon and chilli was spread all over the crunchy pizza base, making for a tasty and rather filling lunch. The baklava was crispy but not overpoweringly sweet and didn’t bleed syrup every time I took a bite – one of my favourites so far.

A1 Bakery
643-645 Sydney Rd
Brunswick, VIC, 3056
(03) 9386 0440
A1 Bakery on Urbanspoon

Rockpool Bar & Grill, Southbank

Occupying a whole section of the Crown Entertainment Complex are all three of Neil Perry’s Melbourne restaurants, one of which is Rockpool Bar & Grill.

David Blackmore owns the only Mishima bull outside of Japan and a few times a year, Rockpool serves up some of this rare beef. I knew the mishima burger was available earlier this month but it seemed to have disappeared from the menu a week before I came. I planned to go and try the full-blood wagyu anyway, but to my joy, I found myself looking at the mishima burger listed on the menu – quite the opposite to what seems to happen to me normally, where what I want to try is no longer being served.

There’s a choice of table or bar seats, each having a different menu. Bar seats are not able to be booked and are allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis. I took a place at a bar seat, which to my surprise, was not really at the bar counter. Of course, there are a few counter seats, but I was directed to a small table near the bar instead. Separating the bar/table seats and the actual bar were the impressive, nearly full-ceiling wine cabinets. I was offered both the main menu and bar menu, though I’m not sure if this was because I came at 6pm, right when Rockpool opened for service.

The waiter recommended the patty be cooked to medium rare; soon afterwards a juicy burger arrived on the table. Compared to other burgers, this one seemed to have a coarser consistency and the Mishima wagyu had a very nice ‘beefy’ flavour. It lent itself well to the accompanying zucchini and onion pickles, but I did think there was a bit too much pickle – the sourness seemed to overpower the meat slightly.

It felt odd eating with my hands at such a nice venue so I tried eating the burger with a knife and fork. It eventually grew to be quite difficult and tiresome, so in the end I picked it up to finish it off. I thought it tasted juicier when I was biting into the burger directly, though I do have to say I felt quite self-conscious doing so.

The service here was very pleasant and professional and the fit-out was modern and classy. Maybe one day I’ll return to see how the mishima compares to the full-blood wagyu burger.

David Blackmore’s Mishima Wagyu Hamburger w. Bacon, Gruyere Cheese and Zuni Pickle ($22)

David Blackmore’s Mishima Wagyu Hamburger w. Bacon, Gruyere Cheese and Zuni Pickle ($22)

Rockpool Bar and Grill
Crown Casino
8 Whiteman St
Southbank, VIC, 3006
(03) 8648 1900
http://www.rockpool.com/rockpoolbarandgrillmelbourne
Rockpool Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

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