Crabapple Kitchen, Hawthorn

With a fortnightly rotating menu featuring a different cuisine each time, Crabapple Kitchen’s Friday Night Flights have been something I’ve been wanting to try for a looong time. Sadly, after I missed out on Valencia in March, which included both paella AND arroz negra, I’ve been waiting for another Spanish flight and there happened to be one scheduled (a few weeks) after my birthday! The multi-course dinner is $45 and the beverage package (a cocktail and two glasses of wine) can be added on for another $35. Their flight schedule all the way up to January is available on their website. Today’s journey consisted of five courses, with the first three coming out ‘tapas style’ as they were ready.

I was surprised at how much . The deceivingly small shop front is actually a facade for quite a long (and relatively narrow) dining area. Counter seats took up the front half of the cafe together with the coffee machine/wine bar and quirky framed photo display along the wall. Further in was the carpeted table seating area complete with paintings and a fireplace.

First to touchdown was the escalivada – smooth and smokey grilled vegetables on soft, charred bread. The vegetables on top were some of my favourites so this got a big tick from me.

The sardine escabeche and croquetas de gambas arrived together soon after. Unfortunately the flavours of the sardine didn’t quite stand out, particularly after eating the escalivada. Perhaps I should have eaten the sardines first. Crunchy and plump, the croquetas were a guilty pleasure, especially with the saffron aioli and a light sprinkle of pink salt.

The estofado de vaca a la Catalana was a hearty stew perfect for the weather, with a depth of flavour that was very satisfying indeed.

Saving the best till last, the fideua was scrumptious. Pasta, seafood, aioli and prawns were mixed together into mouthfuls of deliciousness that made a wonderful end to the meal.

Crabapple Kitchen offered 5 great courses for $45. I thought it was excellent value and am excited to see what destination menus will be on offer in the future!

 

Crabapple Kitchen
659 Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn, VIC, 3122
(03) 9078 5492
http://www.crabapplekitchen.com.au/
Crabapple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Rare Steakhouse, Melbourne CBD

I happened across a flash special on Dimmi for lunch and early dinner seatings – at 50% off, no holdung back! I had the 4-6 marble score wagyu eye fillet with baked potato and sour cream, adding on black pepper sauce (the sauce was extra). The steak was well seasoned and probably didn’t need the sauce. This was probably because of the Steakmate Baste  they use The sauce did go nicely with the potato though; it needed a bit more flavour. The grass-fed Mayura wagyu was flavoursome.

I was seated next to the window and the contrast between the yellow lighting from inside and the white street lamp from outside made it hard to tell exactly how the meat was cooked. I guessed by the texture and relative darkness of the beef that it was more like rare. The kitchen was happy to put it on the heat a bit longer. It was much better when I got it back (along with a new potato and re-seasoning). The wagyu was certainly more flavoursome than regular beef, but it wasn’t quite as amazing as I thought it’s be.

Despite the hiccup the staff were attentive and lovely.

250g Mayura Full-blood Wagyu Eye Fillet, Baked Potato w. Sour Cream & Chives, Black Pepper Sauce

250g Mayura Full-blood Wagyu Eye Fillet, Baked Potato w. Sour Cream & Chives, Black Pepper Sauce

 Rare Steakhouse
42-44 King Street
Melbourne, 3000
(03) 9620 9888
http://www.raresteakhouse.com.au/
Rare Steakhouse King St on Urbanspoon

Shizuku Ramen, Abbotsford

Still only a year old, Shizuku recently revamped its menu and has been rebranded by BTP Design to highlight its focus on ramen and craft beer. Shizuku is probably best known for being the first restaurant to introduce ramen burgers to Melbourne. One of the first things I noticed when I walked in was its rather funky set-up and intriguing light fixtures, which were designed and created by Earl Pinto in Collingwood. The menu has an extensive selection of dishes to share (zensai), which go well with their wide range of alcoholic beverages that include beer, cider, wine, sake, umeshu and shochu. Although Shizuku is known for ramen (and of course their famous ramen burger), there are also rice dishes available.

We started with a lobster slider (kewpie salad, pickled carrot & daikon) and tuna tartare (ground tuna in Shizuku dressing with deep-fried gyoza skin). I wasn’t expecting the lobster to be in semi-paste form, mixed with the kewpie mayo, but it was still delicious and the amount of filling had a good balance with the sweet, soft and fluffy bun. The gyoza skin that was to be eaten with the tartare could have been a bit more crunchy, but the refreshing tuna and its seasoning were very good.

Our choices of ramen today were the Hokkaido miso ramen and ebi shio ramen. The rich, hearty Hokkaido miso ramen had hints of ginger and the cha shu was some of the best I’ve had so far – tender, not overly fatty and not paper-thin. The egg was also nice and gooey. I haven’t had shio ramen before; the simple but well seasoned broth allowed the texture of the ramen to really shine. In fact, the stock contained three different types of salt to achieve its flavour: Hakata salt, Mongolian salt and Fleur de Sel. I also appreciated the fact that they weren’t stingy on the extra ingredients and neither did the ingredients overpower the main star – the lovely, springy house-made ramen.

We also tried out some dessert: espresso pudding and miso caramel ice cream. The miso caramel ice cream was actually vanilla ice cream that had been drizzled with the miso and banana toffee/caramel sauce. It was quite an interesting and strong-tasting flavour combination that was better when eaten with more ice cream.

There’s quite a variety of things to try at Shizuku, making it ideal for regular visits, celebrations and casual catch-ups. Due to improve their ramen recipe soon to make the texture of their noodles even better, it’s well worth a visit.

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

Shizuku Ramen
309 Victoria Street
Abbotsford, VIC, 3067
(03) 9995 8180
http://www.shizuku.com.au/
Shizuku Ramen on Urbanspoon

Jimmy Grants, Fitzroy + Chez Dré, South Melbourne

I was fortunate enough to be able to sample these sweet delights after our Nobu Apertivo Friday outing.

First to be consumed were the Greek doughnuts from Jimmy Grants. Still warm after the car trip home, they were chewy but surprisingly light, and very good with the walnuts and honey

The sweets from Chez Dré were also delicious, particularly the caramel-mandarin dome with the soft layers of cream, sponge, jelly and mousse pairing well with the crunchy chocolate.

Jimmy Grants
113 St David St
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
http://www.jimmygrants.com.au/
Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

Chez Dré
287 Coventry St
South Melbourne, VIC, http://www.chezdre.com.au/
Chez Dré on Urbanspoon

Nobu – Apertivo Fridays, Southbank

We came to try out Apertivo Fridays, which takes place every Friday from 5-7pm. After ordering a drink from the menu, a variety of ‘tapas’ are served while you enjoy your drink (hopefully with some company). Today’s offerings were white fish maki, kingfish sashimi, sweet and sour squid and vegetables, corn balls and miso black cod. Unsurprisingly, the black cod was the highlight of the five dishes being soft and wonderfully flavoured.

As my first experience of drinking sake, the Hokusetsu Junmai was quite good and I enjoyed it better than beer. The cocktail ordered tonight was the White Tsurai, consisting of TK40 Hokusetsu Sake, lychee, cranberry, a splash of chilli and Pimms. Most of what I tasted was the lychee, but it was refreshing nonetheless.

 Nobu
8 Whiteman St
Southbank, VIC, 3006
(03) 9292 7879
http://www.noburestaurants.com/melbourne/experience/ Nobu on Urbanspoon

Meatballs & Sons, Fitzroy

Using free-range, organic meats and local ingredients when possible, meatballs constructed at Meatballs & Sons are homemade. Their sauces, marinades, chutneys and preserves are also prepared in-house, with their menu changing with whatever seasonal produce is available. In order to sample as much of the menu as we could, A2 and I shared two types of meatballs, two sides and two desserts.

First up were the meatballs: slow-cooked lamb and Thai chilli chicken. There wasn’t any sauce to accompany the Thai meatballs, but they were moist enough to not dry out our mouths. Alone, I found them slightly bland but combining them with the crispy tempura eggplant and tasty onion jam made them very enjoyable indeed. I did initially find the texture a bit odd because it seemed quite mushy and paste-like but the tempura made up for it. The lamb meatballs had more texture than the chicken ones and were paired with the slightly sweet pinot noir sauce and shallots. Of the sides, my favourite was the tasty succotash, which comprised of tomato, corn, lima beans and spinach.

We were quite full at this point, but dessert was still to come. The pastry used in the apple pie was quite nice. We did wish there was a bit more apple flavour in it though. The dessert of the night, the brownie, was rich, fudgey and chocolatey goodness.

The space is casual, but neat and has both table and bar seating, making it quite a flexible setting for different sorts of gatherings. As a nice touch, Meatballs & Sons also partners with charitable organisations and donates with its daily takings.

Meatballs & Sons
266 Brunswick St
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
(03) 9416 3006
http://meatballsandsons.com/
Meatballs & Sons on Urbanspoon

Prix Fixe, Melbourne CBD

Phillippa Sibley’s new venture is a fixed price (hence the name), ticketed restaurant – apparently the first of its kind in Melbourne. Places are booked and paid for in advance online, though walk-ins are welcome if there’s space to accommodate. We visited for lunch, which is $49 for 2 courses and a glass of wine. Once at the restaurant, the meal can be upgraded to a 3-course lunch for $65.Their 4-course dinner for $79.Apart from the set menu, this month they were offering freshlyshucked oysters and an optional cheese course.

This month’s menu follows the theme of Vive La France and we squeezed in for the second last lunchtime that this menu is available.

Following on from the delicious bread, our entree of Oeufs Bourguignon was served. The gooey, translucent, red wine-poached egg was a delight to eat and the flavour combinations of the lardons, garlic, escargot, beurre rouge, nettle puree and champignons were amazing. All of this was particularly wonderful on top of the crusty bread. We did wish there was more bread to eat with it, though it may have disrupted the symmetry of the plate.

The main course of Canard A L’Orange consisted of confit duck leg wrapped in brik pastry, roasted duck breast, citrus and green peppercorn sauce, orange segments and caramelised witlof. It was also accompanied by beautifully creamy Paris mash to share. I was glad to find that the sauce wasn’t overly acidic or sweet and didn’t taste too strongly of citrus; it complemented the duck very well. I especially loved the crispy brik pastry and tasty confit contained within.

We did decide to upgrade one of our meals to try the dessert – Laissez-les Manger Gateau (meaning, ‘Let Them Eat Cake’). The simple exterior of the cake was cut open to reveal quite an interesting and exciting multi-layered interior. I forget what all the layers were, but they included ladyfingers, passionfruit and chocolate mousse. This was topped with a very light and refreshing almond milk sorbet then sprinkled with gold dust.

The set menu changes monthly so there’s always something new to try, which is just as well because with food of this standard, return visits would be a most pleasurable adventure.

Prix Fixe
Alfred Place
90 Collins St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
http://www.prixfixe.com.au/

Prix Fixe on Urbanspoon

Izakaya Hachibei, Melbourne CBD

With a wide range of dishes on offer, often sharing plates as a group is the best way to enjoy food at izakayas. Just as well Izakaya Hachibei has plenty of seating for groups! Our order today consisted of:
– Salmon skin roll ($14)
– Wakame salad ($7)
– Small sashimi platter ($17)
– Buta Syogayaki ($14.30) Slices of pork fried in ginger
– Yakitori ($2.80 each)
– Gyutan Shio ($8.2) Braised Ox Tongue

Of what we tried, my favourite was the salmon skin roll. It was tasty and wonderful with the crunchy salmon skin inside, though the roll was too large in diameter to eat neatly. My next favourite of the night was the gyutan shioyaki (thinly sliced beef tongue grilled with salt and pepper), which was well seasoned, smoky and tender. The seaweed salad wasn’t bad, though I was disappointed to see more than half the bowl was made up of lettuce leaves. In fact, the sizes of the servings were generally quite small. Apart from the yakitori (which I didn’t try), the other dishes were tasty thought not stand-out.

The quality of the food here seems to be pretty good, depending on what you pick, and there’s such a wide variety of dishes that there’s likely to to be something to please everyone.

Izakaya Hachibeh
143-145 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
http://www.hachibeh.com.au/
(03) 9078 9909
Izakaya Hachibeh on Urbanspoon

Shimbashi, Melbourne CBD Take 3

Being a cold winter’s day I wanted something to warm me up, but still wanted to enjoy Shimbashi’s wonderful soba. As a compromise, I had the Kamo Seiro Soba, which is cold soba served with a warm broth with duck slices ($19). This is different to Kamonan Soba, which is where soba is served in the warm broth with slices of duck. Also in the broth were some pieces of tofu and mushrooms. Like on my previous visits, the soba noodles were enjoyably nutty with a slightly chewy texture. I did take too long to eat them because I was engrossed in conversation so the soba started to stick together towards the end, but a quick swirl in the tasty broth rectified that.

Kamo Serio Soba ($19)

Kamo Serio Soba ($19)

Shimbashi
17 Liverpool St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9654 6727
http://www.shimbashisobamelbourne.net/#

 

Third Wave, Prahran

Third Wave has been on my list for a while. I was particularly interested in trying out their Russian menu as it’s not something I commonly see. Major facepalm moment when I realised that the Prahran branch doesn’t actually serve the Russian menu – it’s only available in Port Melbourne. I had the Spicy Ratatouille Baked Eggs, described as an ‘addictive’ and ‘slightly spicy mix of eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, tomatoes, Herbes de Provence and other tasty morsels baked with authentic Spanish chorizo and 2 free range eggs. Topped with Asiago cheese and served with toasted Ciabatta bread.’

It was good, though not as tasty (or quite as addictive) as I was expecting, but I do have to say I enjoyed it slightly more than Hardware Societe’s baked eggs and it was certainly a very filling and satisfying meal. Third Wave has an extensive menu and is also known for their American BBQ menu, which is something I’d love to try in the future.

Spicy Ratatouille Baked Eggs – Eggplant, Zucchini, Red Peppers, Tomatoes, Herbes de Provence, Authentic Spanish Chorizo, 2 Eggs, Asiago Cheese, Toasted Ciabatta ($19.90)

 

Third Wave
30 Cato St
Prahran, VIC, 3181
03 9510 2991
http://www.thirdwavecafe.com.au/
Third Wave on Urbanspoon

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