Saturday, 15 September 2012

Chin Chin - Feed Me! + Damages

I viewed the last episode of season 5 of Damages last night. After being disappointed with seasons 3 and 4, I was surprised to see the quality of season 5. I do not think of Ryan Phillipe as Julian Assange but his storyline seems to loosely follow the Wikileaks saga. Given that Julian Assange isn't really looked at very favourably in the good ol' US of A, it was interesting to see how the season played out. It is a pity that there will never be another episode of Damages again though.

I thought it was time to update a review that I posted two months ago for currency.

There is a fine restaurant on Flinders Lane in the Melbourne CBD that I not only think about frequently but also dine at on occasion called Chin Chin. Most people have heard of it. Usually half of Melbourne is waiting outside of the place, regardless of weather, in an awkward attempt to secure a table at all hours of the day. I have been there a few times and the experiences have always been both positive and fun so today I will provide my musings about this Thai-inspired temple to all things good.

Located not far away from the Church of Scientology, the baby-expelling Coda and the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, Chin Chin is seemingly open and serving to a packed house nightly. I mean packed to the rafters-packed. I first attended the restaurant a year ago and was bemused when my party was informed that we were number 100 on the waiting list for a table. Reservations are not accepted sadly. I informed my bemused friend that I am not a fan of waiting for anything and that we should retire to a bar - any bar - but he encouraged me to stay and claimed the wait would be worth it. After spending two hours proping up the Chin Chin bar, we decided to eat at said bar since we were so familiar with it as the full menu is on offer. There is an option where you announce to the restaurant to "feed me" and you in turn get a five course degustation of whatever the house feels is worthy at the time. My all-time favourite is the soft shell curry and fortunately it has been served a few times now and I certainly hope that it remains a fixture at this wonderful place. The sardines are also excellent and both have been made available after demanding that they "feed me" which was very timely.

I have been to the restaurant multiple times now and have recommended it to people that have travelled from interstate and who have then recommended it to others. I can understand why there is a queue out the door whilst it is raining and freezing in Melbourne on a Monday night because the food is just so bloody good and the place is just fun to be in. This was evident as I walked past a mob of finely dressed ladies standing outside waiting for a table after I finished viewing a movie at the local Palace Kino cinema the other week. One would think that such keenness would wane on a Monday night when the elements are in play, but obviously not for this restaurant. It remains just as popular even a year after the first time I set foot in its warm embrace.

The bar service is extremely efficient and do their job well. If there is a long waiting list, consider eating at the bar as the service, from what I found is better and you never are left wanting for alcohol, whether it be beer from the tap or their speciality cocktails, some of which match with the food very nicely and will keep you hydrated and prepare you for further adventures in the quality bars like Manchuria, Croft Institute or Gin Palace which are all in the area however if you are feeling lazy after consuming this great food, the Go Go Bar is under Chin Chin and can be accessed from a convenient staircase.

This place is highly recommended and is currently one of my favourite venues in Melbourne.

Chin Chin
Link to review
125 Flinders Lane  Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 8663 2000
My Rating: 15/20
Service: 3.5/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 4.5/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Comment: No bookings are taken, just say feed me

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

When this post was updated on 14/09/12, 82% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Chin Chin.

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Friday, 14 September 2012

Ludlow Bar & Dining Room - Bring Me Back

According to the Urban Dictionary, "Ludlow" is defined as "a small town in Massachusetts (USA) where pot heads roam the streets and all (that) people care about (are) soccer and Portugal." There are more definitions but this one is the most tame.

Fortunately for the majority of the readership of this blog, we have the pleasure of living in Australia and if you visit the Ludlow Bar & Dining in Southbank, you will find professionals, both those who work at the place and also most that frequent it roaming the restaurant where they care about providing excellent service and encouraging good times by providing quality food, drink and service. It is certainly a stark contrast from what is happening in the city of Ludlow, which I suppose is fortunate for all of us.

Of all of the restaurants on the Southbank Promenade between St Kilda Road and Freshwater Place, I was originally tempted to venture into Ludlow because I thought the fit-out was the most attractive. Like with the Izakaya Den, whenever I walk past it just appears clean which I attribute to the good use of dark colours and light. Everything is always in its proper place. When you combine the two, the place looks sleek and stands out.

My recent trip to Ludlow first took me into the entrance to the bar after deciding that it was far too busy at the Meat & Wine Co to be bothered with waiting for a table. We were looking for something more "cheap and cheerful" which is amusing when you think that we would choose either the Meat & Wine Co or even Ludlow, but given it was really cold outside, I wanted to retreat somewhere I knew was comfortable and calm. We were not disappointed after being escorted from the bar to our table in the dining room near the fireplace.

After having a few beers at the Prince of Wales Hotel earlier, I was keen to continue my appreciation of the ales so I ordered a Moo Brew. The server quickly came around with the alcoholic offerings and whilst I relieved my dehydration, she explained the specials. After polishing of the Moo Brew, I ordered another but before she departed, I asked the server's recommendations for food. This was obviously a night where the only choice that I wanted to make was when to retire home. She recommended both the duck liver parfait and the marinated octopus to start, so we followed her down the path of temptation.

Good duck liver parfait will get me terribly excited. What Ian Curley sends out at the European gives me goosebumps and excites me in the same way that say if The Cure announced they were touring Australia again. What Chef Marc Brown offers at Ludlow hits the spot also. Although the dish doesn't include shaved black truffles like what you will find currently at the European, it certainly is good and makes for a great starter. I started to regret disrespecting it with beer though, so I ate it quickly with the hopes that I could hide my guilt.

I tasted the marinated octopus. Normally I remain wary of octopus at restaurants because rarely it is cooked properly but again, the kitchen did not disappoint. It was not "chewy" in the slightest and the citrus marinade really enriched the creature.

After more Moo Brew was brought to the table, the cheerful server recommended the chicken breast that is cooked in clay, with a lyonnaise sauce and also the Western Plains lamb, which can be shared for mains. I choose the chicken wanting to continue to eat outside of my comfort zone. Like with the octopus, I rarely ever order chicken at a restaurant (unless it is at an Indian restaurant) since it is such a staple food and I feel like I can (and do) prepare it at home so often. What was presented was a pleasant surprise though. Between the lyonnaise sauce and the wild mushrooms, the tastes blended together and worked well. Perhaps it was because I was on my tenth Moo Brew by this time but the taste of the dish overwhelmed me and with the fire warming my back, I felt relaxed and satisfied.

I have been in both the restaurant and the bar a few times over the last few months and the service remains consistent on both sides of the wall that divides them. They seem to turn over a fair amount of punters since they are open not only early for breakfast but throughout the day for the other important meals and late for drinks. It is a small menu in comparison to other restaurants but everything that I have had was done well. In fact writing about this has made me hungry.

I am thinking of heading over to Ludlow for the "workers lunch" today, which is a choice of three bar meals and a pint for $20. I have found the service in the bar and outside areas not to be as professional as I have come to expect in the restaurant especially in busy times, but that is not saying that it should be demonised since it gets popular during the lunch rush. So for me it is either the Ludlow special or head over to the Prahan Markets for a salted beef and sauerkraut roll with polish sour plum dough at the new food stall. Perhaps I will just go hassle someone to go out for a drink and have a liquid lunch. The options are endless in this wonderful city and if you do choose to include Ludlow in your plans during the day, you will not be disappointed.

Ludlow Bar & Dining Room, Southbank
Ludlow Bar & Dining Room
Link to review
6 Riverside Quay  Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9699 1676
My Rating: 14.5/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Great fit-out, fireplace, river views

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

When I posted this review, only 67% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked this place. My thoughts are on the restaurant itself and do not reflect on the quality or service in the bar area, which I believe many of the reviewers are expressing concern over.

Ludlow Bar & Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Walter's Wine Bar - The Sands of Time

The rain has started pouring down so I am not going to venture far out today for lunch. In fact, I am going to take advantage of the free Subway 6" sub and drink and retreat back to the laptop and continue to do some work. You may have noticed that I created a "freebees" page on this blog. From time to time when I find a decent offer I will post it there. After I post this, I will also update the "Freebees" page to include the offer from the ACMI in Federation Square this Sunday morning to see Hotel Transylvania 3D for free at 10:30 AM. Not my thing, but no doubt there are some readers of this blog that have kids and would like the price.

I originally discovered Walter's Wine Bar in 2004 after it was recommended after the original site at Southgate burned down. Whilst I was younger and fitter, I would always include a quick stop at Walter's on a whirlwind afternoon either on Friday or Saturday to enjoy a bottle of wine and an entree just to get in the zone for all of the dining and drinking exploits planned during my periodic weekend trips. Since I have moved down to Melbourne I have been able to languish at Walter's with no set purpose or schedule for the most part and enjoy the food, wine, service and views on offer.

Walter's has a small but comfortable balcony on the top floor of the Southgate complex that overlooks the Yarra. I have spent unmeasurable hours out on it drinking and conversing whilst the professional service has attended to our needs, both great and small. Most recently, I spent five hours to the amusement of service, enjoying many bottles of both champagne and wine, but accompanied by not only the gravlax as a starter, with consisted of very tasty cured salmon and delicate quail that certainly matched well with the Pinot Noir from Central Otago that was on offer.

Ultimately we got around to ordering the spiced rack of lamb. The lamb was prepared a perfect medium rare and combined with the spices, matched extremely well with the Katnook Cabernet Sauvignon. Service was always very attentive. They seemed to hide in the shadows and appear just when you needed something which was appreciated. We reflected ultimately this would make for a good venue to enjoy New Years Eve celebrations considering its position on the river, excellent food and most importantly very detailed and huge wine list. I could see myself partying here well into the first day of 2013.

Walter's Wine Bar, Southgate, Southbank
Walter's Wine Bar
Link to review
3 Southgate Avenue  Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9690 9211
My Rating: 14.5/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Excellent wine list and balcony-river views

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

When I posted this review, 86% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like this restaurant and wine bar.

Walter's Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Left Bank - A Relaxed Blend of Everything

I have been drawn into Left Bank at Southbank, near the border of Freshwater Place multiple times now. Sometimes as a matter of convenience knowing that the food will not disappoint (and it never has) and once because I heard live music on a Sunday. What is better than live music, relaxing conversation, food, beverage, a river view and service whilst the sun shines?

After choosing a high chair at a high table outside, we were quickly greeted by a friendly server. She took the drink orders, explained the menu, shared a joke and was generally very affable. A gentleman was inside playing popular covers and nobody seemed to be stressed. Some people were reading the newspaper. Others were enjoying a cigarette and catching up on gossip. Some like my party enjoyed our politically charged conversation over the food and beverage that was promptly delivered. As the minutes turned into hours, we retired inside to the lounge where it was warmer. The lounge is a good hideout from the hustle and bustle of the Southbank promenade and it is a good place to drink and have a yarn.

Left Bank has since changed their menu around a bit since the relaxing Sunday I enjoyed a few weeks ago. When I returned last week, I had to try the Cantonese sticky smoked pork ribs. It is advertised to feed two however for two hungry blokes, we were left wanting more, not because the portion was not generous, but because they were so damn good that we just wanted to fall into a pork induced sleep after devouring them. The servers have always been happy to promptly refill empty glasses of ale and were cheerful about it.

There is always a lively atmosphere at Left Bank. Service has always been efficient. My expectations have always been met and I am pleased it is in the neighbourhood to provide a refuge for the hungry and thirsty patron.

Left Bank, Southbank Melbourne
Left Bank
Link to review
1 Southbank Boulevard  Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9682 4500
My Rating: 14/20
Service: 3.5/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Comment: Live music on Sunday, river views

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

When I posted this review, 56% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon which is surprising.

Left Bank Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Huxtaburger - The Cosby Show Kids + Grace Darling Hotel Collingwood

After a debauched Sunday, it was really hard to get motivated yesterday however knowing that Q&A was going to be on, I had something to look forward to.

I enjoyed a walk from Southbank to Smith Street in Collingwood on Sunday afternoon. My intention was to meet my Sydney mate for a relaxing afternoon of drinking and food, and that is what I got.

We met at the Grace Darling Hotel on Smith Street/Peel Street. There was a good mixture of people. Some hipsters in the corner, footy players eating at a table not far away and an emo or two milled about. I was immediately excited when I ventured in to this place because I noticed that they have both Orion Beer (a beer brand representing Okinawa) and also Coopers Red on tap. Normally I would just get excited about Coopers Red, so I was not in the mood to move for a while once I was given a 400ml glass of Orion. It was a relaxed venue with attentive and amusing staff. If it was a bit warmer, I would have enjoyed sitting outside and watching the various attractions but I suppose that hobby can be delayed until later this season. They have an interesting pub menu that I will want to return to try out also.

Given we spent about three hours drinking in the Grace Darling most of the time in front of the roaring fire, we decided to go to Huxtaburger which was only a few metres away for a very late lunch. The original plan was to visit Huxtable but because of the awkward timing after sitting around and telling lewd stories for three hours at the pub, we decided it was appropriate to get some comfort food.

Huxtaburger has five burgers on offer which are either directly or indirectly named after characters in The Cosby Show. We choose the "Theo" which is the Huxtaburger on steroids. Double beef pattie, double cheese, bbq sauce, mustard, mayo, tomato sauce, tomato, lettuce, pickles and bacon. The place also serves "cold" beer so I happily ordered a Lord Nelson Old Admiral Ale (6.1% alcohol) which is one of my favourite beers made in Sydney. The hamburgers were brought out looking stunning on a silver plate with crinkle chips.

The bun held everything together surprisingly and also complimented the taste. Normally you think of the bun as an aside, a matter of convenience so you can eat with your hands, but this one was quite special and given the large double cheeseburger was a mere $11, it was certainly worth it.

More beer was ordered and the ATM on-site was utilised since they only accept cash. Like at the Grace Darling Hotel, there was an interesting mix of people coming and going everyone looked relatively happy and sometimes even amused as they eavesdropped on our conversation about life. My life was certainly enriched a little finding both Huxtaburger and the Grace Darling Hotel.

Huxtaburger, Smith Street Collingwood
Link to review
106 Smith Street, Collingwood VIC 3066
(03) 9417 6328
My Rating: 14/20
Service: 3/5 (table service is included)
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Comment: Cash only, crinkle cut fries are great!

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

When I posted this review, 81% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked this place and I certainly agree with them.

Huxtaburger on Urbanspoon

Monday, 10 September 2012

Shed 5 - The Beautiful Smell of Sewerage

What a memorable weekend it was. A mate was down from Sydney and he was looking forward to experiencing all of the usual goodness that Melbourne has to offer. The last time he was down, we ended up having an exceptional long lunch at Cumulus, which remains one of my personal favourites since I started writing this blog. As I was not originally responsible for making a restaurant booking, although good intentions were had by others, it was ultimately delegated to me on Saturday morning to sort out. I in turn got into contact with the lovely Emma at South Wharf centre management and asked if there was anything she could do to help me with my plight. She was able to secure at table for four at Shed 5.

It is rather hard to impress a Sydneysider since they are used to relaxing harbour views, so I wasn't using the view from South Wharf as a draw card, but more as an aside as the precinct is a relaxing area that deserves exploring. Shed 5 had been on my list of places to try for a month now so I was happy that I was going to be able to surround myself with friends and be able to engage upon pleasant conversation. Like in the allegory telling of the journey that Dante made through Hell, I had to abandon all hope of talking about politics, life, sport and the weather because we were so distracted by the smell.

I did not notice the smell of raw sewerage when I first entered the restaurant which is fitted out in an old shed. However as the beer, wine, starters and ultimately entrees and the desserts were presented, the smell gradually took over. We were left to talk about it for a few hours amongst ourselves.

We started with plates of duck cigars and cyprian lamb and pork meatballs. I thought the duck cigars paired with pistachio and cherries was a great way to start the feast however the meatballs seemed a bit uninspiring. As we finished up with the starters and ordered more wine, another blast of the sewerage smell wafted past us. The server first blamed it on the Yarra River. Given that I live on the Yarra River and have traversed its banks more time than I care to count, I have never smelled sewerage so I excused myself and went outside to have a good sniff but the only thing that I got a wiff of was fresh air.

When the dishes of king green prawns, roasted lamb neck and the bannockburn half chicken turned up, the intensity of the sewerage smell also increased. I thought the pairing of the prawns with feta cheese was bold and adventurous but it worked. At one point I considered mashing feta into my nostrils though as I wanted to experience any smell beside the one of waste. We were all so distracted by this noisome odour that we all ended up finding the food to be secondary and it is probably why I do not consider it that special.

Later it was suggested that we be given financial relief when the bill came. Although we ended up with complimentary desserts, the experience just wasn't enjoyable. Besides having the smell blamed on the Yarra, it was later suggested that centre management was responsible and that the infrastructure is the culprit. I believe that the staff were just tired of people talking about the stink as it was distracting from the good work from the kitchen and the prompt and professional service. It was certainly a memorable evening and not one that I will forget any time soon, sadly for all the wrong reasons though.

Shed 5
Link to review
37 Dukes Walk, South Wharf VIC 3006
(03) 9686 1122
My Rating: 9/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 0/5
Quality: 3/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Distracted by the smell

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

When I posted this review, 95% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked this place however the sample is constrained to 43 votes currently.

Shed 5 on Urbanspoon