Suda, Melbourne CBD

Relatively young, Suda is a modern Korean restaurant tucked away inconspicuously into Healeys Lane. Suda also has a very simple and modest frontage, so the easiest way to identify it is to look for the large purple snail logo on its shop sign. It’s quite a small, cozy place so bookings are recommended, especially for large groups.

Suda’s menu combines tapas-style dishes alongside more substantial options such as pasta, rice and meat dishes and a fair variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. We were recommended the $25 banquet because there were so many of us and it would relieve the pressure of deciding on dishes to share. I was pretty happy because it meant I could try much of what was on offer! I didn’t actually know how many courses were included in said banquet, so once we got beyond 8 dishes I was pleasantly surprised each time a new one was brought to the table. All together we had seven tapas dishes and five mains. Many of the dishes, especially the mains, had a spicy kick. No dessert was included in this particular banquet, though there is an option that has dessert if so desired.

The brioche bun in the mini tteok-galbi burger was quite airy and crispy, reminding me of the small, round and puffy biscuit cookies I so often ate as a kid. The tteok-galbi was sweet and savoury at the same time and the fresh lettuce helped offset its strong flavour.

We received enough popcorn chicken for one plate between two or three people, which was more than the portion size for the other courses. The waitress’s rationale was ‘because it’s very popular’. Indeed, it was consumed rapidly because of its juicy, tasty goodness. The crispy seafood pancake was one of the other favourites from people around the table, the crispy breadcrumb topping making for something different and obviously crowd-pleasing. The tteok and haloumi was an interesting combination. We were instructed to eat the chewy yet crispy rice cakes and the grilled halmoumi at the same time.

Though quite a number of us were pretty full after our seven tapas, mains were also well received. Of note was the kimchi gratin with tteokgalbi, which was like a lovely hot, cheesy comfort food.

I’m no expert on Korean food, but all the dishes today were very good and everyone felt that the banquet presented great value, both because of the quality of the food and the quantity provided. Suda is certainly one to be earmarked for a return visit.

 

Dishes included in our 12-course banquet:
– Soft Tofu Salad – Silken Tofu, Sesame Dressing, Spring Onion, Chilli, Tomato
– Lotus Root Chips w. Spicy Mayo
– K+popcorn Chicken – Korean-style Crispy Chicken, Peanut, Spring Onion, Sweet Chili Sauce + Tteok & Halloumi – Crispy Rice Cake, Grilled Halloumi, Plum Honey, Seeds
– Tteok & Halloumi – Crispy Rice Cake, Grilled Halloumi, Plum Honey, Seeds
– Gorgonzola Garlic Pizza – Gorgonzola, Garlic, Plum Honey, Seeds
– Crumbed Seafood Pancake – Spring Onion, Seafood, Bread Crumb
– Mini Tteok-Galbi Burger w. Brioche, Mayo, Cos Lettuce
– Tteok-Galbi & Kimchi Gratin – Kinchi Pilaf, Cream Sauce, Mozzarella
– Bulgogi Pasta w. Shitake Mushrooms, Shredded Egg
– Bibimbap – w. Vegetables, Chili Paste, Egg, Bulgogi
– Kimchi Pork Belly Stew w. Potato, Tteok
– Spicy Tteokbokki – Rice Cake, Spicy Soup, Boiled Egg, Dumplings, Panko Prawn

Suda
Healey’s Laneway
550 Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9942 6422
Suda on Urbanspoon

Saint Crispin, Collingwood

Invited for a cocktail crafting workshop hosted by Grey Goose, I found myself at Saint Crispin with great anticipation of what was about to unfold. These Taste By Appointment workshops have been held all over the world, but this is the first time Grey Goose has run them in Australia. Staff at the Thomas Olive bar made up some Le Fizz, which also happened to be the cocktail paired with the amuse bouche. Containing original-flavour vodka, St. Germain liqueur, lime juice and soda water, it’s designed as an apertif and thus could be used in place of champagne. It gave a real sensation of light freshness on the tongue.

Our affable and knowledgeable host, Joe McCanta, gave us a brief walk through the five basic tastes and the development of this sense. Formerly a jazz pianist, Joe has since delved into the world of drinks, becoming a sommelier and mixologist and is now a Grey Goose Global Ambassador. Grey Goose vodka is produced in France from the finest wheat grown in the Picardy region. The wheat used is the superior, soft winter wheat used in bread and patisseries, and the water used in production is natural spring water sourced from underneath the factory in Cognac. Their fine manufacturing process results in a premium vodka that is rounded and smooth.

Our first foray into our adventure was the bread. The unsalted bread had been specially made in-house so that we could see the difference provided by the butter and different varieties of salt.

The amuse bouche consisted of three components representing sweet, sour and bitter. Chicken with sweet raisin jam, sour hapuka ceviche with lime and coriander, and ocean trout with endives, cucumber and blood orange for bitter. I surprised myself by discovering my favourite of the three was the chicken because I don’t usually enjoy things that are overly sweet. My second preference was bitter. The three components were indeed strong and distinct in flavour profile, making it easier to decide on our taste preferences.

Insights gleaned from our starter course informed our decisions as we constructed individualised cocktails. Starting off with a glass full of ice and as much vodka as we wished, equal amounts of sugar and lemon juice were added, then further amounts of either to suit our taste buds. Also at our disposal for our experiment were bitters, mint (which when clapped, releases more flavour, and interestingly can’t be tasted when the sense of smell has been lost), coarsely ground black pepper and lemon rind.

On to umami, my definite favourite of all the basic tastes! Umami ingredients were cleverly combined to create a dish that I found incredibly enjoyable. Two different cuts of wagyu – rump and cheek – were accompanied by tasty parmesan gel and soil, miso eggplant and mushroom fricassee. Explaining that there is an increasing popularity in pairing cocktails to food courses instead of wine, each cocktail was matched with the courses we were receiving…or rather, the dish created to match the cocktail – the event is centred around the vodka after all. The cocktail paired with the main was certainly interesting, and Joe did mention it was a bit of a polarising drink. The Martini a la Truffe Maison comprised of Noilly Prat dry vermouth, black truffle butter and plum vinegar. The addition of truffle butter added something quite different to it and really made the flavours of the cocktail linger on the palate.

Our final dish in our taste exploration was dessert. It was a parfait of hazelnuts, caramelised pear, crispy phyllo pastry and almond gel that was delicate and a not complete overload of sweetness. This was matched with Grey Goose’s La Poire (Anjou pear) vodka, which was quite crisp, strong and sweet. Alongside our dessert were three chocolate orbs made by Sisko. The construction of the chocolates, in a way, makes the consumer savour the chocolates and truly appreciate the flavours and textures contained within. To go with our chocolates was coffee, to which L’Orange Grey Goose was added.

After dessert it was back to Thomas Olive, where the bartenders whizzed up some fantastic cocktails according to the flavours we specified. The whole event was a wonderful experience that was both entertaining and informative. Joe’s extensive knowledge and cocktail-conjuring expertise combined with wonderful food from Saint Crispin made for an enjoyable lunch.

Disclaimer: I was invited to participate in this workshop at Saint Crispin courtesy of Grey Goose, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by Grey Goose or Saint Crispin in any way.

 

Saint Crispin
300 Smith St
Collingwood, VIC, 3066
(03) 9419 2202
http://www.saintcrispin.com.au/
Saint Crispin on Urbanspoon

D.O.C. Pizza & Mozarella Bar, Carlton Take 2

I managed to try different pizzas this time – the San Daniele and ai Porcini. The San Daniele had a very tomatoey flavour, but it was mellowed out by the mozzarella, and the truffle oil was wonderful with the mushrooms. I also quite liked the farro salad, which had great textures and a nice punchiness from the goats cheese.

Pizza San Daniele (Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella, Prosciutto $23,90) Pizza ai Porcini (Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Oil, Mozzarella in Bianco w. Grated Pecorino ($23,9) Farro, Spelt, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Rocket Salad ($16)

San Daniele (Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella, Prosciutto, $23.90) Pizza ai Porcini (Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Oil, Mozzarella in Bianco w. Grated Pecorino, $23.90); Farro, Spelt, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Rocket Salad ($16)

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

Maya Tequila Bar & Grill, South Yarra

Aiming to provide fresh and tasty Mexican food (and of course, tequila), Maya Tequila Bar & Grill has a menu mainly designed to share. It has a kitchen out the front of the restaurant, the bar at the back and plenty of tables around and in-between, allowing it to cater for functions. To try a variety of things, I ordered a Paloma, the Pollo Frito and a Pollo Mole Burrito. And yes. I did eat this all myself.

The Paloma was recommended by the bartender and it was wonderfully refreshing. The chicken ribs were incredibly juicy and the moist meat, crispy coating and tasty sauces made for a winning combination. Although the menu said there were frijoles in the burrito, I couldn’t spot it. I was starting to get full at this point, so my stomach was probably thanking me for the loss of the beans anyway. The tortilla was crunchy and its tasty contents made for a warm, comforting meal. This was the first time I’ve had a burrito with a tortilla this crunchy and I have to say I quite liked it.

Maya Tequila Bar & Grill
74 Toorak Rd
South Yarra, VIC, 3141
(03) 9866 8836
http://www.mayabar.com.au/
Maya Tequila Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

 

Hellenic Republic, Brunswick East

On Fridays and Saturdays, Hellenic Republic offers up a $12 takeaway lunch special, which is booked over the phone. At the moment the special is only being offered from its Brunswick store. This week’s lunch consisted of chicken souvlaki, grain salad and pasteli.

Despite the 25 minute drive home, the souvlaki held up relatively well. There was the comforting, char-grilled aroma of flame licked ingredients paired with flavoursome and juicy chicken, fresh tzatziki and fat potato chips. I was particularly impressed with the grain salad (which included pomegranate, almonds, lentils, parsley and linseed), which was full of a wonderful variety of textures and had a nice balance of fresh, sweet and savoury flavours. The pasteli, or sesame honey candy, was almost all toasted sesame seed with some chopped pistachio, slivers of almond and what seem to be a random chocolate chip, all soaked in honey and pressed into a slice.

I thought the meal was incredibly good value for $12. I would gladly return and will be keeping an eye on their Facebook page for the weekly menu!

$12 Takeaway Lunch - Chicken Souvlaki, Grain Salad, Pasteli

$12 Takeaway Lunch – Chicken Souvlaki, Grain Salad, Pasteli

Hellenic Republic
434 Lygon St
Brunswick East, VIC, 3057
(03) 9381 1222
http://www.hellenicrepublic.com.au/
Hellenic Republic Brunswick on Urbanspoon

Pepper Lunch, Hawthorn

I picked Pepper Lunch as the place to go as a sort of post-exam ‘celebration’. Also because I happened to get a $5-off coupon from the back of my grocery receipt. With an already wide expanse of stores overseas, Pepper Lunch arrived on Australian shores not too long ago. Ingredients for the order are assembled on hot plates, but the rest of the cooking is controlled by the customer. The DIY concept is an interesting one – customers can’t complain their food is under- or overdone!

Shortly after placing my order for the salmon pepper rice, a sizzling 270C hot plate came to the table. In an attempt to prevent my clothes from smelling like BBQ, I took a table at the back of the restaurant, away from the presence of the majority of hot plates. I’m not sure how successful that was. The rice is flavoured with butter, sweetcorn kernels and of course, pepper. There was also some garlic sauce, sweet sauce, salt, pepper and shichimi on the table for customers to complete their meal. Although it’s recommended to mix the ingredients straight away, instead I moved the salmon on top of the rice to stop it from cooking further, but left the rice sitting for a while so I could get it to crisp – just like the best part of claypot rice! The rice actually tasted a lot better than I’d imagined and I found my crunchy rice deeply satisfying.

There’s a number of meat combinations available on the menu, including non-rice and non-hot plate options. The orders come out pretty quickly, though it can’t be eaten equally as fast since you’d probably burn your tongue and ruin the enjoyment of the rest of your meal.

Pepper Lunch
644 Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn, VIC, 3122
(03) 9078 8980
http://www.pepperlunch.com.au/
Pepper Lunch on Urbanspoon

Shocolate, Fitzroy

Shocolate’s inconspicuous frontage is home to one of Melbourne’s premium chocolatiers. Although the range of chocolates and macarons on display is not as extensive as larger chocolatiers and patisseries, so many of their offerings sounded so enticing that it didn’t really matter. They also have a small cafe-style seating area for people to enjoy their sweet goodies and drinks.

I decided to treat myself and bought one of their award-winning Black & White macarons and a Crunchy hazelnut praline chocolate bite. The Black & White was a rather good-looking macaron with beautiful crunchy and smooth textures and a flavour that was not overly sweet. The hazelnut praline truffle was also a pleasure to consume.

Shocolate
Shop 3/296 Brunswick St
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
(03) 9415 6556

Shocolate on Urbanspoon

Stagger Lee’s, Fitzroy

From the people who brought us Proud Mary comes Stagger Lee’s, not far from Johnston St. During my visit it had a relaxed, casual vibe, perfect for anything from a catch-up to a place to grab a coffee while doing some work. It’s a vibe which I feel is missing from many cafes as they become busier and more popular.

Chris Hamburger’s menu is based around simple comfort food and coffee is single origin only. My pick from the Winter Menu was the roasted lamb. Priced at $16.50, I was worried there’d only be four pieces of lamb on the plate. Not to worry! There was plenty of meat to go around. I loved the colours in the dish; such a pretty plate! The ingredients all went really well together, from the comforting roast lamb to the smooth, tasty hummus and the fresh pop of the pomegranate seeds. The molasses brought a nice depth of flavour and tied the whole dish together.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly satisfied with my meal. I’m interested to see what their Spring menu brings forth in the near future!

Stagger Lee’s
276 Brunswick St
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
(03) 9419 5564
http://staggerlees.com.au/
Stagger Lee's on Urbanspoon

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