Friday, 31 August 2012

Yar - Yawn

To commemorate two months of blogging, this site went through a bit of a redesign. I can honestly say that it looks easier to read even after a few bottles of Hunter Valley red wine were consumed and still looks good the next day. That is a better result than most when they evaluate their score the morning after.

Yar Restaurant Freshwater Place
Yar, next to the Meat & Wine Co - Freshwater Place
Not to be confused with the Drobustky Yar, which is a ravine 10km southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine where the Nazi's disposed of bodies, Yar Restaurant in Freshwater Place is a Japanese-Korean infusion of sorts that to this day leaves me in a vexed state.

Nestled next to the Meat & Wine Co, the place intrigued me for a while as in the evening there would be nobody in the place whereas in the Meat & Wine Co every chair had a punter sitting and chewing cud. When I had a mate down from Sydney we ended up at Yar for both of his visits as he is enamoured by the sight of Korean women. Sometimes we are all guilty of using service, food, ambiance and price as selection criteria but this bloke just enjoys looking at Korean women, so thus the visit to Yar on both occasions.

Despite choosing the "buffet" on each visit which includes all-you-can-eat sashimi, which in essence is just a poor and bland salmon, I was never inspired to jump up and down or tell the world about this place. It was nice being able to walk into a restaurant on a Saturday night at 7:30 PM without a reservation and get a table, which isn't hard as there was nobody in the place to begin with, but I suspect the reason for this is because the food is just so ordinary. The entire time I was there I was regretting not going to Costco, purchasing some frozen goyza, a case of Asahi and sitting on my lounge watching whatever AFL game was on instead. It would have been a more inspired dining experience.

For those that like to gorge themselves, the all you can eat "buffet" option at $50/head is good value but then again, you are eating for the sake of eating. Besides being able to get a table on demand, I really see nothing too inspiring about this place and what annoys me is that my mate from Sydney defines the Melbourne food and beverage scene by this place alone mainly because he likes the beauty of Koreans.

Unless my mate returns from Sydney and insists on frequenting this place, I will not be back. This is the first post in two months that I have posted something so indifferent, I realise, but with the wealth of places that you can go to in Melbourne, don't waste your time. It is evident that nobody else does considering all of the tables are empty on a Saturday night.

Yar, Southbank

Yar Restaurant
Link to review
2 Queensbridge Street  Southbank VIC 3006
(03)9699 3556
My Rating: 11/20
Service: 2/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 2/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Comment: The $50 buffet is great value for money

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

It would seem that the majority of reviewers on Urbanspoon disagree with my sentiments though. 82% of the reviewers at the time of this post, like Yar.

YAR Japanese & Korean Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Naked for Satan - Worth Stripping Down For

It is a shame that Carlton will not make the finals series. I was looking forward to the mighty Magpies taking revenge on the hapless team before the Blues punted Brett Ratten. At least Brett has plenty of free time to attend a new release tasting.

The aforementioned wine tasting for Spinifex and Laughing Jack wines will be at The Prince Wine Shop in Port Melbourne this Saturday, 01 September 2012 from 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM. Further details can be found here.

One of the benefits of trying to blog around Victoria is that you get so many suggestions of places to try and things to do. I heeded one of the suggestions the other day and took the 112 tram to Brunswick Street in Fitzroy to get Naked for Satan.

Naked for Satan Fitzroy
Naked for Satan, Fitzroy
I really do not know what to expect with half of the random places that I turn up at. I do my best not to read reviews so that I am surprised and will remain objective which I think leads to a better experience and makes for potential musings on this blog more colourful.

When I walked in I thought the place was a bit "different" to say the least. A couple of counters at the bar were adorned with pintxos, which is Basque tapas, where you are left on the "honour system" to eat and pay later. I didn't know there was much honour in Fitzroy, but you learn something every day. I swaggered to the bar keeping an eye on the vodka still and ordered their single microbrew, the aptly named, Naked for Satan Ale. I enjoyed this belgian white ale in the corner whilst considering whether I had enough honour left in me to begin a journey through the pintxos on offer. There were twelve different varieties of pintxos at the bar and the kitchen was quickly replacing them as all of them seemed very popular with the punters. On occasion a member of staff would come around with a hot variety of pintxos and offer it to you cheerfully. It is always hard to say "no" where I just assumed that my gluttony could be addressed in the gym the next day. My favourite of the pinxtos was the Blueberry Cannoli.

I was also intrigued about their infused Absolute vodkas. With a second Blueberry Cannoli, I tried the "Naked B*tch Chilli and Cherry" straight up and it went down well and cleared my throat of nasty bacteria in the process. I couldn't stop with just one so I ordered a "Cherry Ripe" and vowed never again to waste my money buying the various infused vodkas off the shelf when I could simply go to this place. My dentist will be proud that I am substituting my midday brush with vodka no doubt.

As it was early afternoon, I stopped my drinking before I truly entered the clutches of Satan and retreated only to learn that they are renovating the rooftop area and will transform it into a rooftop bar and restaurant by the end of the year. Now that is something I am excited for, the aptly named Naked in the Sky.

Three elevated levels, a darker gritty feel and relaxing background music plays as you eat, drink, converse, or in my case check e-mails, read the news and watch what was happening on Twitter. I will certainly return and next time take some friends, go later in the afternoon and then really make an attempt to try all of the infused vodkas. I am sure a different sort of sordid tale will be able to be told after that especially since I am always keen to get naked for Satan, or anyone for that matter.

Naked For Satan, Fitzroy

Naked For Satan
Link to review
285 Brunswick Street  Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9416 2238
My Rating: 13/20
Service: 1/5 (self service, counter service)
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 5/5
Comment: Try the infused vodkas and $1 pinxtos

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

At the time of this post, 90% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Naked for Satan.

Naked For Satan on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Neil Perry's Waiting Room - Changing of the Menu

Last night was interesting. The 2013 Age Good Food Guide Winners were announced. The winners and hatted restaurants are listed here. Not many surprises however I was intrigued to see that Cutler & Co has only two hats yet Australian Gourmet Traveller ranks it as #4 in Australia, and #1 in Victoria.

Congratulations to Vue de monde for winning Restaurant of the Year.

Whilst the restaurant awards were being announced, Germaine Greer was bagging out Julia Gillard's appearance again on Q&A. Love her or hate her, she is still the Prime Minister of Australia and deserves to have the debate not include her jackets and arse. Too bad the Grocon protests on Lonsdale Street were not taking place yesterday morning as it would have been given cause for some more intelligent discussion however with Bill Shorten on the program next week, perhaps it is indeed timely.

I visited my "local" The Waiting Room last week. This is Neil Perry's lounge bar that is located in the lobby of the Crown Hotel at the Queensbridge Street entrance. I go in there rather often and I was a bit shocked to see all but one of the staff have turned over. I have always been under the assumption that The Waiting Room should be called "The Training Room" as the staff seem to make an exodus to the other Neil Perry restaurants (Spice Temple, Rockpool Bar & Grill and soon to be Rosetta) next door after putting in their time at this place.

The service is still very flash and professional. I crave the chicken adobo taco and pulled beef shoulder taco that is on the menu and frequently turn up to have them, along with conversation and either one of the unique imported beers in a bottle or the Lord Nelson Three Sheets (a tradition and my personal favourite from my days living in Sydney) on tap.

The new barman informed me that I should get my fill of the favourites that I dream about because the menu is changing soon. I was horrified. Although he could not tell me anything more as I do not think he had any more information to share, I believe it will be modified to begin to showcase some of the offerings at Rosetta, which is the Italian restaurant that is currently under construction next door. I suppose I should not fret since they are not taking the Lord Nelson off tap and I can always make my own chicken adobo tacos or go to Senoritas but it is still disappointing to hear.

Service will catch your wandering eye quickly and attend to your professional requests promptly and thoughtfully. I always do keep an eye out for the mysterious 10% surcharge that is supposedly added to the bill when you pay, which I am told is optional, which other people have complained about but to this day and probably fifteen visits later, I have never had this surcharge applied. Perhaps it is a "tourist" or "drunken idiot" surcharge since the bar is attached to the Crown after all and does attract a transient mob of guests at times. Just be wary.

My original review of The Waiting Room and the chicken adobo taco recipe can be found here.

The Waiting Room, Crown Casino

The Waiting Room
Link to review
Crown Entertainment Complex
(03) 8379 1800
My Rating: 14.5/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Lord Nelson Three Sheets on tap

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

At the time of post, 88% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like The Waiting Room.

The Waiting Room on Urbanspoon

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Age Good Food Guide Award Winners 2013 from the NGV

This is the complete list of hatted restaurants and individual winners from the 2013 Age Good Food Guide.

Links on this page will take you to my review of the restaurant.

Restaurant of the Year: Vue de monde

Melbourne Three Hat Winners

Vue de monde, Attica, Jacques Reymond

Victoria Regional Three Hat Winner

Royal Mail Hotel

Melbourne Two Hat Winners

Flower Drum, Cutler & Co, Stokehouse, Matteos, Cafe Di Stasio, Ezard, Movida, The Press Club, Rockpool Bar & Grill
  • Cutler & Co is rated #4 in Australia according to Gourmet Traveler
  • The Press Club is currently closed and will re-open as Gazi on 17 May 2013.
Victoria Regional Two Hat Winners

Loam, Ten Minutes By Tractor, Tea Rooms of Yarck, Stefano's, Lake House, Provenance
  • Ten Minutes By Tractor gained an additional hat this year
  • Loam will close permanently at the end of June 2013.
Melbourne One Hat Winners

Coda, Embrasse, The Point Albert Park, Gills Diner, Donovans, European, The Italian, PM24, The Grand, Kenzan, Sarti, Il Bacaro, Longrain, Circa, Bacash, Paladarr, Movida Aqui, Spice Temple, Yu-u, Town Hall Hotel, Albert Street Food and Wine, Cecconi's Cantina, Bistro Guillaume, Shoya, Koots Salle e Manger, Golden Fields, Bistro Vue, Grossi Florentino, Pei Modern, Moon Under Water, Estelle Bar and Kitchen, Church St Enoteca, Maha, Tempura Hajime, Cumulus Inc, Dandelion, Steer Bar and Grill, Mercer's and Becco.
  • Newly hatted: Albert Street Food and Wine, Easy Tiger, Pei Modern, Moon Under Water
  • Embrasse closed in October 2012
Victoria Regional One Hat Winners

A la Grecque, Chris’s Restaurant, La Petanque, Scorched, Neilsons, Eleonore’s, Villa Gusto, The Long Table, Teller, Annie Smithers’ Bistrot, Montalto, Bella Vedere, The River Grill, Gladioli, Sunnybrae and Terminus at Flinders Hotel.
  • Newly hatted: Terminus at Flinders Hotel
Plumm Wine Glasses Best New Restaurant: Pei Modern

Samsung Diners Choice Award: Ezard

Best New Regional Restaurant Award: Gladioli

Brown Brothers Wine List of the Year: Coda

Louis Roderer Sommelier of the Year: Travis Howe of Coda

Best Regional Wine List: Ten Minutes by Tractor

Citibank Chef of the Year Award 2013: Micheal Ryan of The Provenance

Young Chef of the Year: Mark Briggs of The Sharing House (closed)

The Citibank Best Short Wine List: Casa Ciuccio

The BYO Restaurant of the Year: Ladro Greville

The Epicure Sustainability Award: Colin McLaren from Villa Gusto

Thermomix Award for Innovation: Joost Bakker

Service Excellence Award: Ainslie Lubbock from Pei Modern

The Hardware Sociéte - Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover

What a bizarre weekend. I do not think that I drank enough wine or if you follow my Twitter feed (@epicurean3006) that I nearly drank enough XXXX Bitter. Tonight Q&A is being broadcast live from Federation Square and I am looking forward to attending. It will be like living in Sydney again and since it is politician free this evening, it should be very interesting with the likes of Germaine Greer in attendance.

I originally set out to dine at Manchester Press but found The Hardware Sociéte instead. I do not blame it on the fact that I did not know where I was going since I was armed not only with my trusty Samsung Galaxy S2 and Google Maps, but because I am a man and I never get lost. Perhaps I should ask Germaine Greer's opinion on that statement.

What I originally thought was going to turn out to be on the scale of The European, but just closer to Southbank, turned out to be quite an interesting café on Hardware Street. I was looking forward to something rich, French and bold, like Brigitte Bardot. However what I found was a laneway café with a queue and a highly visible sign that says that they only accept cash. Knowing that there was a wait, I played Marco Polo until I found an ATM. I never carry cash as I just spend it so this relationship was already starting on a sour note.

The Hardware Society, Hardware Street, Melbourne
The entrance to The Hardware Sociéte
I returned to The Hardware Sociéte and the hostess was shouting my name down the laneway. It was perfect timing as I was coming back with a fistful of sweaty bank notes and I was quite hungry. The table was ready.

We were seated at a communal table. I felt like poor little possessed Regan in The Exorcist when Father Karras first visited her. I really do not like waiting, not being able to pay with a credit card or communal tables for that matter. Trying to keep an open mind, I found the atmosphere to be very energetic as we were seated at a rather round classic French white table where there was enough room so you are not left to intrude into the lives of others, so it was not a big deal in the end.

There was no wine list per se, but a drinks list. I really, and I mean REALLY, wanted some wine, however settled for a Kronenbourg mainly because it was so inexpensive. The peppy server informed us of the two specials, being seared tuna on a bed of potato salad, beans and poached eggs and also a brioche. Having not eaten anything substantial for about a day, I decided to order both.

I was very impressed with the tuna special. The complimentary tastes, the slightly seared tuna, the colours and the presentation just really floored me as I was not expecting something so good. I really do not order many "desserts" since I am trying to keep my boyish figure from the bygone era of Hanson, but when I first saw and then tasted the brioche with strawberry jam and fresh cherries, my reaction was pure and utter blasphemy, just like how little Regan reacted to Father Karras. Unbelievably good and I was vocal about it. Stuff gluttony! I just wanted more and I don't mean just another cheap Kronenbourg.

The service was very attentive and articulate. The "vibe" was pretty good and it seems like a fair amount of locals dine here. Given that the food is excellent, I thought it was great value for money and I will certainly be returning with another sweaty hand full of cash. Despite the fact that they do not take credit cards and you will most likely have to queue, the rewards are worth the inconvenience.

The Hardware Societe, Melbourne

The Hardware Societe
Link to review
120 Hardware Street  Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9078 5992
My Rating: 13.5/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: They don't accept credit cards

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

When I posted this, 90% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also liked The Hardware Sociéte. I will never wonder why.

The Hardware Sociéte on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Local Taphouse - Crafting Experiences

So the Country Liberal Party kicked Labor out of government in the Northern Territory overnight. I found it amusing that the NT Times reported that there was a complaint that the Liberals defaced the photograph of a Labor candidate on an election poster. It proved to be a non-event when it was articulated to the complainant that the Labor candidate actually looked like that. So... did you hear that The Swans, Collingwood and Carlton lost? We also lost the Bledisloe Cup. No shock there.

I have been to The Local Taphouse in St Kilda East now three times in the last month. It is one of my favourite places that I have found and I am thankful for pursing this blog as it requires me to leave my comfort zone of the Melbourne CBD and surrounds.

After walking 10km the first time to get to the corner of Carlisle Street and Chapel Street in St Kilda East, as you can imagine, I was very thirsty so I was really motivated to get stuck into what they have on tap, which seemingly is always changing. Before ordering though, I had to step back for a minute and appreciate the ambiance of the boozer. Dark, classic old world furnishings, what looked to be comfortable lounges, a fireplace and stools near the window. I think I found my "local" even if it is a 10km walk away and not the direction that the crow flies.

I then explored the upstairs bar. The same beer was available on tap, even more varieties were available for purchase in the bottles. Both the downstairs and upstairs bartenders were very knowledgeable and were very keen to assist me in my trip around the world. The beer garden outside is a relaxing place with heaters and a fire raging and although the umbrellas do not provide good shelter form the climactic Melbourne weather, I do not know many that do especially when on occasion hail seemingly comes down horizontally.

The second time I ventured into the boozer, I had taken public transport and was motivated to continue tasting as fast as the beer came out of the taps. I was not disappointed. The fire roared, punters engaged upon pleasant conversation and everyone just seemed civilised. Who would have thought I was in St Kilda East!

My last experience, I met my learned friend who actually lives in St Kilda East but has never frequented this place. We started sampling the various beer available before moving on to wine. It was his decision to move to wine, not mine, as I never thought I would be in a bar that specialises in craft beer and be drinking wine. He did offer to pay for it so, who was I to argue. A condition was put on me that food needed to be ordered though to which I agreed.

I lamented in my review on Merrywell that the "chilli" that was served in a paper cup at that fine place tasted like bolognaise just without the spaghetti. I was desperate for a "proper" chilli at The Local Taphouse because the one that I ordered at The Local Taphouse was bizarre. It may have started out as an American chilli but somehow morphed into a mild curry and was served on a bed of dry rice. I wasn't impressed, but really, do you go to the Local Taphouse to be impressed by the food? My learned friend had the steak and commented that the cut was impressive in a snide remark since it was $30 however the salad should have had some sort of dressing and the chips were cold. In fairness, we were sitting outside in the beer garden at night in the 6C weather and given the amount this learned gentleman likes to talk and smoke, I believe that the food just cooled down naturally.

Regardless of whether or not I use my feet, the train or a cab, I look forward to returning to The Local Taphouse. The are constantly updating what they have on tap on their site so there was no point in describing what beers I drank as besides just saying "they were awesome" I do not know else to contain my glee. Go there for the beer, the ambiance, the professional knowledge, the beer garden and the convenience of public transport. It is that simple. See you there.

The Local Taphouse, St Kilda East

The Local Taphouse
Link to review
184 Carlisle Street  St Kilda East VIC 3183
(03) 9537 2633
My Rating: 14.5/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 4.5/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Check website for what is on tap

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

At the time of posting my thoughts on The Local Taphouse, 90% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon I have also found to have good taste and also like it.

The Local Taphouse on Urbanspoon