Thursday, 24 January 2013

Chingón Cantina y Taqueria Richmond - Torn

Another week and another Mexican restaurant. They seem to pop up in Melbourne faster than I can frequent them these days. OK, that is a bit of an exaggeration as Chingón Cantina y Taqueria on Swan Street in Richmond has been open for around six months now. I first inspected it on the same day that I ate a queer tasting kangaroo burrito at Fonda, which is in the same neighbourhood. I held out with a formal blog post on Chingón (loosely translated as using the "F" word emphatically, like Lleyton Hewitt would use the word after winning a hard fought set, but not in the same way that David Warner uses the word toward the match umpires)  as I was waiting for them to secure a liquor license. How can one turn up and have "authentic" Mexican street food and not be able to enjoy a bottle of beer or a shot of tequila? I will have to wait even longer for the pleasure it would seem as they still have not secured it.

My patience wore out and despite seeing the application for the liquor license affixed to their front window, we made ourselves known and took a seat at one of the tables. I took pause and looked around thinking that you could find this hole in the wall in Mexico with the erratic fit-out, faux exposed brick, exposed pipes and the smoke alarm on the ceiling that has no cover or battery, but also because I thought the place was dirty. The alligator clips that affixed the paper on top of the table cloth had some dried salsa on them (not just the table I was sitting at) and after looking at the long bench against the perimeter wall, I noticed food on it too. Still, fitting in with the whole Mexican theme it works, as that is what you find in Mexico.

As there is no list of tasty alcoholic beverages to choose from, water was served in branded paper cups. I can't say that I am the biggest environmentalist but in this day and age where everyone is carrying on about recycling, I would have thought that others would have demonised the restaurant long before me for serving water in paper cups. The taqueria also tries to deceive you as they do have a bar but it is stocked with empty bottles of liquor.

The menu is short. You have six tacos to choose from (4 tacos for $20) and three types of dips ($10 each) so I opted for the guacamole to start. When you order you are advised that they only accept cash so we dug in our pockets and found a total of $60 in reserve so decided to enjoy eight tacos and that single order of guacamole.

Despite being anxious and all signs up until then when the guacamole being served demonstrated that I was going to be disappointed and sullen, it turned out to be really nice. There was a fair amount of warm chips provided and the guacamole had a bit of a creamy zing.  The tacos later came out on a bastardised plate that was made out of bamboo and you are provided a small oblong piece of bamboo with some shredded cabbage to use as your personal drip plate to consume the tacos. First off, the tortillas were just awesome. Nothing like I have tasted before and obviously pressed on-site as they are so unique. Very light yet robust and they did not crack or fall apart when I manhandled any of my targets. The salsa that is provided in a bottle resembled what I make at home but was just less spicy, so when added the to first fish (pescado) taco, it went down my gob like a charm. My biggest irritant when it comes to Mexican food, especially tacos, is that the tortilla can not handle excessive amounts of ingredients, especially juices from meat and fish. Although the fish was a little dry, I would rather have that instead of juicy fish that would have dripped all over my hand and destroyed the taco. The remaining tacos, had a unique charcoal flavour which I can never achieve properly at home and frankly, haven't had the pleasure of coming across anywhere else in Melbourne. I really liked the pollo (chicken) taco especially because there was a hint of guacamole, the asada (beef) taco also was charcoaled well and once again did not destroy the tortilla and finally, my favourite, the tacos al carbon with the primary taste of pineapple was fantastic.

I am torn about this place. Sure, it does look like a place you would come across in Mexico, however some of the drawbacks are inherent with that style more indirectly. $50 for eight tacos and guacamole is a bit much but then again the quality was very good and I enjoyed everything that I ate. Sadly, I wasn't able to consume any alcohol and enjoy the experience at a heightened level but if I had, I would have wanted to pay with a credit card. They do BYO ($5 corkage) so perhaps next time around I will bring in a Rioja (spanish wine or even a six pack of Tecate) and appreciate it for what it is - good street food.

Chingon Cantina y Taqueria, Richmond, Melbourne

Chingón Cantina y Taqueria
413 Swan Street, Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9429 5695
My Rating: 12.25/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 2.75/5
Quality: 3.75/5
Value For Money: 2.75/5

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

At the time of this post, 70% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like 
Chingón Cantina y Taqueria.

Chingón Cantina y Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Aylesbury (Rooftop) + La Belle Miette = Cheap Monday

After a week of visiting hatted restaurants like Coda, Golden Fields and Spice Temple, it looks like I have opted for cheap options as of late. Perhaps it is just timing but in the last week I have found some pleasure in discovering quality inexpensive and cheerful venues around Melbourne.

After The Aylesbury announced that they were making a lunchtime menu available daily on their rooftop, it certainly did not take me long to get up there via their lift and enjoy the sun on a remarkably beautiful and warm day, listen to the chilled beats playing (not really my thing, but they were soothing) and of course visit the bar that is the focal point and really the motivation for any rooftop experience.

The actual rooftop space is really not that big. There are two tables where eight people could fit comfortably around each and stools border the perimeter which offers 270 degree views of office buildings and the Marriott on Exhibition Street.

After we found seats in the sun, menus and water were provided. The staff were very enthusiastic to explain the tapas menu and verify that you knew what you were about to experience. I would assume that some may have been put off after ordering a smoked eel croquette ($3.50) and probably were disappointed because it is just a single morsel, the size of a potato gem. I wasn't disappointed though as I expected this although it probably would cause some consternation for some it still provided great flavour and cleansed my palate.

The "bocadillos" or Spanish for sandwich has six entries on the menu. I opted for the braised beef cheek, oloroso and peppers ($10) and my dining companion ordered the crispy calamari, gem, alioli ($10) and we both agreed that we were satisfied with the ingredients where I thought the braised cheek was tender and fantasic, but the bread itself disappointed. It turned out to be a bocadillio that you really needed to use a fork and knife to cut up and fair amount of force for that matter to cut the bread. If you tried to eat it naturally, you would need to exert so much force using your teeth, that the pressure would expel the ingredients out of the bread and onto the plate. I really didn't mind using the fork and knife however I hope that in the future that they re-evaluate the bread that they serve.

An order of patatas bravas ($10) which are white potatoes cut up into smaller morsels and bathed in a tomato sauce was also ordered. This was the highlight for me probably because it was "easy eating" and the sauce had a mild spice that complimented the fresh fruit sangria ($9) which was not only quite potent where the white rum was noticeably provided in abundance (no complaints!) but a fair amount of fresh fruit was in the sangria glass which you are encouraged to eat after being provided a small fork. The restaurant treats this as a dessert but I found it perfect to have with the meal and it cooled me down as I dined in the direct sunlight. We would later move inside under the air conditioning and enjoy another sangria just because they were so good.

Given the price of the bocadillos and ensaladas (salads) do not exceed $10, you can have a cheap and cheerful lunch on this rooftop if you do not get excited and order additional things off the menu like what we did. Besides the bread, I found everything to be good. Food and drinks came out quickly so if you are slave to the clock, you will not be disappointed by the speed of service.

There is a completely different menu downstairs at The Aylesbury so I will reflect on that at a later time in a different post.

Perhaps it was because I had the taste of white rum on my palate, I felt the need to refresh it with some macarons. Given that I wasn't about to commute out to South Yarra and hit up my new favourite place for desserts, LuxBite, I called into La Belle Miette on Hardware Lane. This is a small shop that has a single case of macarons, but some of them are laced with alcohol. Personal favourites are the "Bastille" - 'Kir Royal' Moet et Chandon and Blackcurrant ($2.80) and the Pimm's & Pomegranate ($2.50) which certainly vanquished the taste of rum out of my mouth. Although I can't help but always order a Raspberry Chocolate - single origin Madagascar ($2.50) and the 72% Cocoa Chocolate - single origin Venezuela ($2.80) which although forced me into the gym after consuming these delectable delights, the pain and sweat was certainly worth it.

The Aylesbury Rooftop Bar, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
The Aylesbury (Rooftop)
Level 5,103 Lonsdale St., Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9077 0451
My Rating: n/a
Service: n/a
Ambiance: n/a
Quality: n/a
Value For Money: n/a

At the time of this post, 89% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like The Aylesbury.

The Aylesbury on Urbanspoon

La Belle Miette
30 Hardware Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9024 4528
My Rating: n/a
Service: n/a
Ambiance: n/a
Quality: n/a
Value For Money: n/a

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

At the time of this post, 94% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like La Belle Miette.

La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dukes Coffee Roasters + Brother Baba Budan - Walking in My Shoes

Following my stop at LuxBite in South Yarra we walked 2.2km through the heart of Prahran via Chapel Street and found the entrance to Dukes Coffee Roasters near High Street on the border of Windsor. Summer, Sunday mornings and televised cricket matches have encouraged me to eat a balanced breakfast mainly in order to prepare myself to scream and shout about Micheal Clarke's frivolities as he runs between wickets in the afternoon so this seemed to be a suitable stop.

I was rather hungry by the time I got to Windsor by foot. I knew that Dukes was a popular place and a bit of a haunt for the locals in the area however I was very pleased that people were not spilling out of the restaurant and onto the footpath and ecstatic that there were a few seats free. I was even happy to take up residence at one of the communal tables near the front of the place in order to keep an eye on the wayward souls that roam Chapel Street however the newspaper and the attentive service would ultimately thwart my nosiness.

Quietly happy that the morning had evolved into the afternoon and despite Dukes offering an all-day breakfast on the weekends (they close at 4:00 PM) I got stuck into the lunch menu. Secretly I was pleased that I did not have adhere to best practices for my body and instead ordered a Cuban pulled pork sandwich and some coffee.

The name of the business says it all. Besides selling food and drink, they also produce coffee and flog bags of beans. The wood and steel industrial ambiance with exposed ceilings and the benefit of air conditioning provides a working backdrop when you visit and the fresh flowers scattered on various tables is a nice touch.

Although the place remained consistently busy with a soundtrack playing that was barely audible over the buzz, the service operated like a well maintained BMW M3. You get the pleasure of making the acquaintance of multiple members of service as each one apparently serves a specific role. One fills water, one takes your order, one delivers beverages, one delivers food and a different one will bring the bill. The last time I saw so many people attend to our needs, which frankly were quite basic and banal, was at Jacques Reymond.

Everything fit into place and was good enough that I would stop around if I am in the area again to reacquaint myself with service and their coffee. Although Dukes has alcohol on offer, we decided to suppress our thirst and instead retreat to the Lucky Coq Bar, which is a few metres away instead.

On the topic of coffee, although it was not a destination on this epic wander around our great city, yesterday I found the most interesting place that sells the best coffee in the Melbourne CBD in quite some time. Although I am a fan of Toby's Estate and now Dukes Coffee Roasters for that matter, Seven Seeds are flogging their beans at Brother Baba Budan on Little Bourke Street near Exhibition Street. It is a small shop and not really suitable to having a meeting or doing any business but hipsters and students have found a way to hang out there. Chairs dangle from the ceiling and there is a steady flow of traffic ordering what is perhaps the most intriguing tasting coffee that I have experienced yet in a very indie setting. The person that I was with ordered an iced coffee and said that it is the best one that he had the opportunity to enjoy in Melbourne. Regardless, Brother Baba Budan is worth a visit if you are in the CBD and need a hit of caffeine. The details for this place are at the conclusion of this post.

Dukes Coffee Roasters, Chapel Street, Windsor
Dukes Coffee Roasters
169 Chapel Street  Windsor VIC 3181
(03) 9521 4884
My Rating: n/a
Service: n/a
Ambiance: n/a
Quality: n/a
Value For Money: n/a

At the time of this post, 92% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Dukes Coffee Roasters.

Dukes Coffee on Urbanspoon

Brother Baba Budan, Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Brother Baba Budan
359 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9606 0449
My Rating: n/a
Service: n/a
Ambiance: n/a
Quality: n/a
Value For Money: n/a

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

At the time of this post, 94% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Brother Baba Budan.

Brother Baba Budan on Urbanspoon

Monday, 21 January 2013

LuxBite - The Unexpected Journey

People have been telling me for years that in order to live, let alone survive, you need a sense of balance. Being a hedonist, the scales are heavily tipped to my right and I will both seek out fun and live for the moment whenever I can. This ultimately leads to far too many hangovers and for the most part excessive calorie consumption. In the past I have alluded to the fact that I do attempt to go on very long walks (and recently added the occasional sprint) in order to keep some sort of fitness and also to repress my stomach as I do not want to emulate the appearance of an Oompa Loompa at my ripe and randy young age. In an effort to have some sort of balance, I incorporated my occasional long and meandering 18km wander with a few stops along the way to placate my wayward ways. The first being at LuxBite in South Yarra.

Walking to South Yarra from Southbank really isn't a big deal and it is actually quite pleasant on a sunny and warm day. Following the river past the rowers on our beautiful (sic) Yarra River and avoiding cyclists is a breeze and once you follow Punt Road to Toorak Road you will find LuxBite.

I was impressed with the very modern, bright and clean fit-out. You are immediately drawn to the desserts that that on display in a glass case, perfectly symmetrical in appearance with mirrors on the perimeter to overwhelm your senses as you are forced to choose if you are that way inclined. It would be just as easy to settle with a tea set for two ($48) which includes two finger sandwiches, two desserts, four macarons and two beverages but I had some other stops planned on this unexpected journey so I wiped the froth from my mouth and the sweat from the back of my neck and opted for some of the tasty desserts; a very attractive raspberry based morsel encased in macarons along with a banana-chocolate-toffee slice. Fortunately I did not have to indulge upon this goodness by myself but it would have been very easy to and also negate the health benefits of the walk however sitting outside with pleasant conversation, a cup of Toby's Estate coffee and watching the world go by with these beautiful desserts in a very relaxed and calm part of South Yarra is quite an indolent way to spend a lazy and late Sunday morning. The journey was not even close to being completed yet either.

There is a brunch menu ($15/each) with the highlights being the "LuxBite Pork Bun" 2 Ways - bamboo charcoal brioche bun, pulled pork, kimchi, house-made pork jerky and Kewpie but also the heart-killing "Cheese Fondue" which takes about fifteen minutes to prepare. If you are able to avoid the desserts, which is probably an impossible feat, the cheery service will happily serve you an egg on toast ($7.50) and throw in a few extras like roasted tomato or bacon for an additional $2.50/each.

Stop around to browse, indulge or just have a good coffee and whittle your day away.

LuxBite, South Yarra, Melbourne
38 Toorak Road, South Yarra VIC 3141
(03) 9867 5888
My Rating: n/a
Service: n/a
Ambiance: n/a
Quality: n/a
Value For Money: n/a

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

At the time of this post, 82% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like LuxBite.

LuxBite on Urbanspoon