Friday, 7 December 2012

Paco's Tacos - Frank is probably at Mamasita

Original review published on 15/07/2012 and updated for currency and re-rated after two revisits on 07/12/2012.

Having visited Mexico multiple times and becoming accustomed to dirty street "authentic" food, I always visit new Mexican-inspired eateries with both trepidation and anxiety. When I learned that Movida was launching Paco's Tacos in the forecourt outside of their Movida Aqui restaurant I was hopeful that they would get it right and I would have a place where I could easily wander to from Southbank and enjoy comfort food in a relaxed outdoor area on demand.

When I first wrote a review about Paco's Tacos, I was indifferent to the experience but after revisiting it another two times over the last three months, my perception has changed. During the lunch time rush at 500 Bourke Street, the office workers inundate this place, smoke the dreaded cancer sticks and no doubt ponder their forthcoming urgent meetings whilst enjoying $6 tacos. I have come to enjoy the Carnitas (pulled pork with pineapple sauce) along with the Carne Asada (braised beef, chipotle and carne asada) however have taken a recent fancy to the Pescado (marinated fish, chipotle and radish) however at times I have found the fish to be very moist and the taco to be very messy so if you are wearing your best Armani suit, beware.

The biggest drawback to this place that I have found is that there never seems to be enough staff working behind the counter to meet the demand. In this brave new world where everyone pays with a plastic card and only one register can accommodate this payment method, every time I have frequented this place this shortcoming to their infrastructure has caused some massive bottlenecks and queues. The staff also must endure special requests to modify the $6 tacos (hold the salsa, hold the rice, hold the shell, etc) whilst organising beverages and dealing with the register. Once they streamline the service counter, this place will rock.

As we move from spring to summer, I am finding the forecourt where Paco's Tacos to be located (outside of MoVida Aqui) to be a very relaxed and convenient location. They do have a good selection of Mexican beer and not just the piss that is known as Corona and also sangria available however personally I do not like the recipe that they use.

Paco's Tacos Bourke Street Melbourne
Paco's Tacos
Link to review
1/500-512 Bourke Street  Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9663 3038
My Rating: 12.5/20
Service: 2.5/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 3/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Comment: All tacos are $6

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

At the time of this repost, 74% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Paco's Tacos.

Pacos Tacos on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Local (Port Melbourne) - Proper Pub and Grub

In yesterday's post on Jimbo & Rex I was carrying on that there is no longer a proper pub at the Crown Casino. Upon pondering it more, I haven't come across many actual pubs. Most have some silly theme, are trying to be something that they shouldn't and some shockingly do not even have LCD screens playing the sport.

Although it is a bit of a walk from me in Southbank, I stumbled across The Local on Bay Street in Port Melbourne not long ago. Televisions playing repeats of the EPL, Cricket and even AFL games which were contested six months ago adorned the walls. Even booths were retrofitted to have their own LCD screens playing the sport. How intimately cool is that?

The soiled green carpet and old wood panelling gives it some character however the true characters are those languishing at the bar enjoying their pints of Carlton Draught. These patrons looked like they had been there since the place started trading and it didn't look as if they were going to be dislodged any time soon.

The menu had all of the classics that you would find in a true pub. Steak, parma, pasta... but I opted for the Lamb Shank Pie: slow-cooked lamb shank in Guinness sauce with mashed potatoes and peas, topped with golden puff pastry for $23. As I knocked back my Carlton Draught, the pie was delivered to my table by the window. It was huge. I mean HUGE! I would soon find after exposing the lamb shank under the pastry that it was still on the bone which led to a serious amount of flavour absorbed by the ingredients in the innards. Another pint was ordered and I took to the challenge of consuming the beast. I lost in the end but the fight was well worth it.

Visit this place if you are looking for pub food and a relaxed atmosphere especially if you are keen to watch the sport. It is as simple as catching the tram from the CBD. Too easy.

The Local, Port Melbourne
The Local
Link to review
24 Bay Street
Port Melbourne VIC 3207
(03) 9646 0072
No Ratings Offered

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

When I made this post originally, 77% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked The Local however the sample was taken out of a very small 45 votes.

The Local on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Jimbo & Rex - Caterpillar to Chrysalis

About a month ago, I wandered to the "West End" of the Crown Casino with the hopes of enjoying a few quiet ales at the so-called "The Pub at Crown" which has been a convenient venue to frequent to catch up with mates and watch sport before hitting the tables with impunity. On this particular occasion I found the pub shut and the space being renovated, along with the site next door. Frankly, I was a bit pissed off as I enjoyed watching the sport at this pub and would later migrate to the Merrywell to placate this basic need.

Not long ago a mate wanted to catch up after work and it was his turn to nominate the location so he said that we should try Jimbo & Rex. "I know not of what you refer to kind sir" was the family friendly response that I will transpose on this blog but after sharing a few obscenities and making proclamations that we needed to get liquored up before taking on the tables at Crown, I finally realised that the old "The Pub at Crown" site had re-opened and is now Jimbo & Rex and was indeed not out in the Dandendong Ranges.

Upon entering the old pub that originally looked like a caterpillar I noticed that it had turned into a chrysalis. It was quite the metamorphosis. A long curving bar greets you and the rest of the space has been turned into a restaurant. We were most interested in the bar, so we pulled up stools and ordered Carlton Draught. As you would expect, pints are charged at $9/each however at the point in time we didn't care as we had planned to own the casino by the end of the night. The barman was efficient and friendly but then again we were the only ones at the bar so he didn't have to do much at the time. We noticed that there were $9.90 specials on the way in however we quickly learned after making a polite query that they were not available at the bar and instead there was a bar menu for food. I thought that was strange since if I fell off my stool, my head would hit one of the tables in the restaurant so I was surprised that you actually had to move a metre to enjoy the specials. So we laughed and mocked this policy amongst ourselves whilst we enjoyed more $9 pints.

After four pints each, we announced that we were going to shuffle a few metres over and order some food off the real menu. We were advised that the tab can not be transferred from the bar to the restaurant as the system does not allow it. So we endured the process and closed out the tab and started another one a metre away at the table. The full restaurant menu seemingly is not available at the bar.

I ordered the Roast Beef sandwich ($17) with ultimately came with a slaw and "Big Boy" chips. There was far too much bread and capsicum compared to beef which was chewy. The "Big Boy" chips were nice and matched well with my cellared six day old Carlton Draught. It was a while before I could try the slaw as I had to remind the server that I am not out in the Dandenong Ranges on a bushwalk so I would prefer to eat it with a utensil, which originally was not provided.  My mate had the 500g T-Bone Steak ($34) and after he kindly shared a bite with me, we lamented as to why we just didn't stop around at the bar at Rockpool Bar & Grill on the ground floor as there was nothing special about it. A mere $159 doesn't get you much these days it would seem.

The service was genuinely trying their damnedest to do their best and the service manager was actively out on the floor providing direction the staff constantly. It may be because the place is relatively new that they are experiencing some opening pains however when I think of this place compared to what you can get at say Merrywell, which is a mere 25m away and accessible from the same level of the casino, I would head there in a heartbeat next time. Without actually going into the casino, it is now rather difficult to get a quiet drink at Crown. As The Waiting Room changed hands and Jimbo & Rex not a proper boozer, I will have to continue to hunt for somewhere in the complex to satisfy my basic primal needs.

This would make a good venue to meet a group of mates on the weekend for some quick and cheerful food. I would never think of it as a primary destination for a night out but as a service stop so to speak before enjoying everything Crown has on offer. Just keep in mind that you will be hoping to realise your dreams of owning the casino after the bill is presented to you.

Jimbo & Rex, Crown Entertainment Complex, Southbank
Jimbo & Rex
Level 1, West End, Crown Casino
Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9690 2688
My Rating: 10.5/20
Service: 2.5/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 2.5/5
Value For Money: 2.5/5

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

When I made this post originally, 89% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked Jimbo & Rex however the sample was taken out of a very small 48 votes.

Jimbo & Rex on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Chez Dré - The Doctor Is In

In defiance of all of the usual healthy recommendations from Bupa and every other subject matter expert, I remain steadfast in not eating breakfast daily. I haven't since I was in Year 9 when I raged against the machine and although many would say that I am ridiculous, I do not feel as if my life has been adversely affected by this life choice. However there are rare occasions that I do fall into the morning food trap. These include social events as I do not want to appear to be a leper, before I go snowboarding (feed me carbs!) or if I am planning a huge day enjoying tasty alcoholic beverages whilst the cricket is being broadcast.

Although it seems like an epoch has passed now, it was only a week ago that I met a mate at a patisserie/boulangerie/café called Chez Dré in South Melbourne to socialise over breakfast but to also prepare our bodies for the impending torture it was going to experience at the pub watching the Cricket all afternoon. Normally I find breakfast a chore when I am tasked to enjoy it, with the only exception for the year being a visit to the Hardware Societe, but it surely wasn't this time - in fact it turned out to be a delightful experience.

Chez Dré was buzzing on this mild Sunday morning. There were couples reading the newspaper together, tourists, prams, hipsters waiting for coffee to takeaway, babies giggling and what it seemed to be a fair amount of locals languishing around nursing hangovers and catching up about debauchery experienced from the previous evening. At least that is what I overheard after we were seated in the outdoor eating area after about a three minute wait.

Provided the weather is accommodating, the patio is a great place to hang out. You are not cramped and you feel not only welcome but are immediately relaxed. Perhaps living in the CBD essentially I do not get the opportunity to dine under a tree that sheds pollen so it was a new experience for me which I found it idyllic. An oasis of sorts. Fortunately the pollen only ended up entangled in my hair and not in my breakfast or coffee which I would ultimately order.

After being escorted to our table, a coffee order was quickly made. After walking to South Melbourne from Southbank, I was fiending for coffee so I was hypersensitive to the wait. It seemed like ages until it arrived however with the amount of people enqueued for takeaway coffee and every other table seemingly ordering it, I could understand the delay. It was well worth the wait though and the large long black recharged me in no time.

After waiting for coffee, we ordered Le Grand Petit Déjeuner ($19.50) which is what we normally refer to as The Big Breakfast. The usual suspects were included when the food came out, about 20 minutes after ordering. The poached eggs were not only prepared perfectly, they looked great and I would discover that in the few seconds that it took me to devour them, they tasted great. The sausages were minted and pleasant for relaxing breakfast. The rosti was unique. It was not quite a hash brown but a lightly fried variant which was certainly giving me the foundations for the beer that I intended to consume later in the pub. Interesting enough, the highlight for me which brought all of the flavours together and actually gave me an idea for something that I can easily prepare at home that would not only entertain but intrigue is the "smashed avacado" with a feta cheese infusion. This was a new blend of sorts for me and I found it amazing. It brought together all of the elements in this big breakfast and made it very enjoyable.

As I was streaming the cricket broadcast to my phone, we were in no rush to leave so we ordered more coffee. Another 20 minute wait yielded another cup however they brought out a small cup this time instead of repeating my order for a large cup. I watched the queue for the restaurant form in the laneway and people get anxious about their wait. It seems we lucked out however the wait propagates throughout your experience at Chez Dré. If you are interested in quick service or being able to rock up and be seated quickly, this is probably not the place that you want to frequent but if you are instead more interested in the quality of food, enjoying the ancient art of socialising and actually taking advantage of spending time with others unencumbered by the stress of schedules, I would highly recommend Chez Dré.

Whilst waiting to pay (notice the overarching theme) I was able to enjoy free tastes of cheesecake that was on offer, temping you to order desserts and treats to takeaway from their extensive display cabinet. I thought the quality of the sample was divine and I look forward to sampling some other items from the cabinet next time around.

Chez Dré
285-287 Coventry Street
South Melbourne VIC 3205
(03) 9690 2688
My Rating: 12.5/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 3/5

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

When I made this post originally, 88% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked Chez Dré.

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon

Monday, 3 December 2012

Akachochin - Lanterns Made Of Red Papers Beckons

Akachochin, located at South Wharf had been on my list of places to try for quite some time. Having been intrigued after reading the positive press and having it highly recommended by the good folk at Henry and the Fox I made my way there with the hope of enjoying a relaxing Friday lunchtime experience.

To gain access to Akachochin, one must present themselves at The Sharing House next door and announce your intentions to dine. The friendly staff at The Sharing House will then escort you to Akachochin where you will then be greeted again. Without a booking, we were informed that spaces were available at the sushi bar and I happily accepted the invitation to sit there.

A sushi bar in a purported izakaya I found novel but almost necessary for the restaurant to differentiate itself in an area littered with choices and also those fortunate enough to work just over the pedestrian bridge in Docklands that would systematically go on the hunt daily for nutrients at lunch like the hounds of war, ravenous and frothing at the mouth. There was a good selection of fish on display and I did find it intriguing that despite it being stored in a cold enclosure that plastic wrap was still being used to protect it.

The very attentive server was happy to provide water without being asked and when the bottle of sake that I wanted to order was out of stock, he happily consulted with me and I found a suitable alternative - the Kamoshibito Kuhelji Kudan Yamada Junmai-Ginjo a dry sake with good acidity which I thought would be a good match with not only the delicate flavours exuded in the raw fish but also the deep fried dishes that I anticipated enjoying.

The first round of food ordered from the sushi bar included the Maguro Tataki (6 pieces at $18) and the Sushi Moriawase (12 pieces at $33) both I found outstanding. The Maguro Tataki is seared tuna, chives and chilli with a ponzu jelly and anchovy dressing. It matched extremely well with the sake and borders on being one of my favourite fish dishes that I have found (it would be high up on my list of tasty delights that I had at both Taxi Dining Room and Nobu recently) which was all very exciting.

Being pleasantly surprised by the sushi offerings, we continued to explore this part of the menu whilst enjoying the sake. Shiromi Uzsukuri (9 pieces at $15) and the Shake Aburi Sushi (4 pieces at $18) were then ordered to round out this sushi experience. The Skake Aburi Sushi, sweet soy marinated seared salmon with a very special onion salsa was the sandout. I could have ordered another six rounds of this however I didn't want to deprive myself from experiencing things off of the deep and simmer fried menus.

The Ebi and Pumpkin Harumaki ($13) was a very intriguing spring roll filled with prawn, blue cheese and pumpkin deep fried. I really enjoyed the texture and the pair of this dish with the sake. The blue cheese and pumpkin matched well but the tastes overwhelmed the prawn, however the dish in general was great. I tend to enjoy most dishes that exploit the flavour inherent in blue cheese well.

The Butterfish Nitsuke with Kinpira Gobo ($16) - simmered butterfish in ginger, soy sauce with pan-fried burdock followed. Having been spoiled by the delicate tastes of the sushi earlier and being out of sake didn't allow me to cleanse my palate before enjoying this dish so the blue cheese experienced earlier which lingered in my mouth overwhelmed the butterfish however the smell was absolutely delightful. Vacating the 720ml bottle of sake was indeed a shame however I did really enjoy this dish despite having a dirty palate to start.

A Black Sesame Pannacotta with Green Tea Ice Cream ($14) finished off this two hour tasting extravaganza. That certainly cleansed my palate - in a good way.

The service remained tight, efficient and friendly throughout this dining experience. Generally speaking the other patrons looked happy. Although when I arrived, most of the tables were occupied, I did not find the restaurant loud. The tables are spaced an acceptable distance apart so you would never feel as though you are minding someone else's business.

Overall I was impressed by Akachochin and I look forward to returning. The fish is fresh, the service was efficient and you felt like you could relax. After the stolid service and frozen fish that I enjoyed at Koko, I am very happy to have found a quality Japanese offering in South Wharf.

Akachochin South Wharf Melbourne
33 South Wharf Promenade
Federation Square, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9245 9900
My Rating: 14.5/20
Service: 3.5/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 4.0/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5

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

When I made this post originally, 90% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked Akachochin.

Akachochin on Urbanspoon