Saturday, 4 May 2013

Seddon Deadly Sins - Gluttony and Envy

On a recent trip out west, before attempting to experience a river cruise up the Maribyrnong River, I stopped at Seddon Deadly Sins in the proud suburb of Seddon (funny that) for the second time in my life.

Having previously enjoyed breakfast at this lively and quirky cafe, I thought it would be apt to call in for a quick lunch. Their breakfast offerings are named after the mortal sins as observed by Christians and although I really don't think that the breakfasts at this cafe will destroy the life of grace and charity within a person, the taste and indulgence of house-made flourless chilli corn loaf, served with crispy bacon (that is actually crispy), guacamole and spicy baked beans ($16.50) would lead to Sloth, which is the mortal sin this dish is named after. Like the green eggs and ham ($14.50) being named after Envy and the Spanish eggs, cooked in the house made salsa with olives, onions, parmesan, chorizo and sourdough toast ($15) named after Wrath, the cafe certainly plays on the theme well and also exercises the play on words that incorporates the suburb name into the fun.

Having experienced the Sloth breakfast offering previously which impressed me with its crispy bacon with service that exhibited absolutely no wrathful qualities, we decided on the blackboard lunch specials for the follow-up visit. I opted for the scotch filet on Turkish bread ($16.50) which was cooked fresh to order. The long black that was quickly delivered was the strongest cup of coffee that I have enjoyed in years. In fact it took about four hours to come down from the caffeine hit. I was buzzing. A damn good cup off coffee - and hot. The scotch steak was substantial and there was no fat. I was grateful that only piece of Turkish bread came with this deal as it proved to be a substantial dish.

What impressed me is how friendly service is. From the moment that you enter, you are greeted with a smile and a sense of welcoming. It wasn't fake and your mood changes after having a quick chat and deciding to eat inside, out in the courtyard or even on the street. The cafe is busy with people challenging them for takeaway beverages and even dessert however service remained consistent and I said it before and I will say it again, friendly.

I really like Seddon Deadly Sins and wish that it was more convenient for me to visit as I would return at a greater frequency if I could easily walk there. Fortunately for those in Seddon and Footscray, residents have this great cafe where I am just left to be envious.

Seddon Deadly Sins, Melbourne
Seddon Deadly Sins
148 Victoria St., Seddon VIC 3011
(03) 9689 3092
no web site
My Rating: n/a
Service: n/a
Ambiance: n/a
Quality: n/a
Value For Money: n/a

Open for breakfast and lunch Tues - Sun

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

At the time of this post, 89% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Seddon Deadly Sins.

    Seddon Deadly Sins on Urbanspoon

    Friday, 3 May 2013

    Las Chicas, Balaclava - Not Another Mexican Place (seriously...)

    Usually the only excuse that I have to visit Balaclava, which is on the Sandringham line, a suburb that borders St Kilda is to either visit my accountant, purchase kosher food, practice conversational Hebrew (I know five words at best) or exit the station and immediately walk to the Local Taphouse. In this instance it was suggested that we visit Las Chicas on Carlisle Street to which I exclaimed "oh come on, I have had so much Mexican fare in the last few weeks, I need a break from it!" which startled the other party. After I carried on like a pork chop about Mexican fare, the forthcoming Cinco de Mayo celebrations and where I would be spending that festive day, the bored party advised me that Las Chicas was not a Mexican restaurant per se and is more of a cafe that has a few breakfast dishes that have Mexican influences, but that is the extent of it.

    About the time that my face faded from red to white, we arrived at the cafe. Located near the train station, the front windows were wide open exposing the tables inside to the cool elements of the day. There are a few long tables out on the street which were being used fully by diners and coffee sippers. Prams were parked. The place was a hive of activity.

    We were greeted and seated. Coffee was ordered. Menus were reviewed. The cafe does indeed have an expansive breakfast list and I did see a breakfast burrito detailed, but there was nothing else which had a Mexican influence. I ordered a SLAB ($14) which is a bacon, lettuce and avacado sandwich which utilised some very large but thin pieces of turkish bread. My bemused companion ordered the roast beef sandwich ($15) and said that the highlight was the beetroot that complimented the tender beef. For me, a coriander-based salsa livened up my healthy choice and despite the bacon being very soft (I prefer it crispy which is hard to come by) the sandwich was great and filled me up. The long black ($3.50) was a bit weak and didn't do much for me sadly. Service was pleasant and chatty and made for a relaxing pit stop before conducting boring business elsewhere.

    Las Chicas, Carlisle Street, Balaclava

    Las Chicas
    203 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, VIC 3183
    (03) 9531 3699
    My Rating: n/a/20
    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 Las Chicas.

    Las Chicas on Urbanspoon

    Wednesday, 1 May 2013

    BangPop - Bangkok mmmbop

    Even though I did not see a 90's boyband performing, let alone Ed Sheeran propping up the lego-themed bar which remains as a curiousity from the eateries former incarnation, Sharing House, one could expect a pop identity serenading hungry patron's at South Wharf's newest incarnation, BangPop on the South Wharf Promenade.

    Tom Waterhouse likes to think he knows what punters want. The team behind BangPop actually know what we want which is evident by the menu that pushes your senses and reaffirms my belief that dining out is all about new experiences. A relaxed party-like atmosphere where the patron is taken care of with a playful amount of cheekiness and from what I noticed an empathetic floorstaff that realise that most people that dine at BangPop would not be able to comfortably be able to handle the spice and associated heat of the dishes and sauces. For me, I can never get enough fire and have previously dared the kitchen both here and at unrelated kitchens to "prepare it like you would in (insert hometown) and not how the white man wants to eat it!" which is usually far too tame and boring. Any chest hair that I have is the result of these bold proclamations after the kitchen delivers an authentic - tasty and very spicy dishes that in turn makes me pause, gulp large amounts of Singha beer ($7) knowing it will not placate the god of fire but the ancient art of edging, where the process of eating the street food mirrors an intimate act where you nearly orgasm but refrain, only to repeat the process over and over again until you can't take it any longer and request the bill. Fortunately serviettes are provided.

    My first adventure at BangPop was inside at a communal table. The restaurant had just announced a $15 lunch deal which included a "small plate" of either chicken or pork respectively (I tried both of these dishes and they were equally good) and a can of beer however not just being satisfied with this reasonable sample of foodstuff, we also ordered the Kor Moo Yang (pork neck - $11.90) and Sua Rang Hi (grilled beef - $12.90) to compliment the very reasonable and spicy specials. The kitchen had me hooked with the neck and an absolutely fiery and wonderful nam jim saap sauce with very pronounced flavours of coriander, chillies, garlic and a hint of sugar. The sauces and the associated condiments that are provided not only add flavour but add a sense of James Bond-esque intrigue to this self-proclaimed street food which should not be confused with cheap or being plebeian, but is full of flavour where it is just hard to stop gorging.

    On my enthusiastic return, it was a sunny and mild yet windy day in Melbourne so assuming it could be the last day where you are not required to wear a jumper for absolute comfort, we made the executive decision to sit outside and watch the Yarra river and rubbish flow past along with the confused tourists migrating from the DFO. Service remained attentive to our needs for seemingly unlimited amounts of Singha and after a repeat performance of the pork neck, we decided it was only proper to run the full gamut of the menu and enjoyed the Tod Mun Pla - Barramundi and red curry paste (fish)cakes with yet another bold sauce, this time a nam prik pla-grop, a chilli fish sauce of sorts that even had a few chilli seeds in it for good measure. This appealed to my desire to wake up with a case of ring of fire and tasted so good going down the old gullet after bathing the fish in this authentic pool of beauty.

    Kai Chae Mae Pla Tod (Chicken Ribs - $12.90) followed from the "small plates" menu and despite appearing to be a meager portion of dry meat found its natural match with the nam-jim talay accompaniment. A green chilli sauce that was both affronting to my nasal passage because of the pepper in a good way, and after eliciting a sneeze, I knew that I found what I could eat daily. The nose "knows' as they say. Of all the starters, the Sai Krok Issan (Pork Sausages - $10.90) were the most tame however the general populous would find the levels of chilli a bit confronting even though it is neutralised by the cabbage, which is a natural remedy to the tingling palate - a bit like a vampire is a to a werewolf, or so it goes supposedly.

    Not able to resist the "larger plates" we had to see what the Kang Daeng Phed (Duck Leg Red Curry - $22.90) would taste like. It is no secret that I like to prepare my own duck at home and evolving my personal recipe and appreciation is a bit of an unnatural and ridiculous hobby so I remain critical of how third parties treat the eponymous mallard. BangPop again delivers. The duck is moist and when combined with a handsome amount of chilli, but this time it is neutralised by roast coconut, yet another palate savior, is a winner.

    I made the mistake of having the duck (and more Singha) before tasting the Gaeng Lueng Tai - the poached "market fish" and in this instance was skirt, a fatty fish that happily absorbed the pla grop that had a pronounced taste of lime and sugar. It should have been consumed before the duck however the amount of Singha that I consumed affected my judgement and I only have myself to blame. Still this yellow curry was quite good and although not noticeably "hotter" compared to the red curry, still was very tasty.

    The service staff remained not only attentive but humourous throughout our ad-hoc experience where we hoped to gorge ourselves in the afternoon sun like snakes and enjoy as much "authentic" Thai street food that we could possibly muster. Service remained consistent and cheerful on both visits and the virtual isolation of eating outside did not impact service levels or the sense of enthusiasm. I found the communal dining inside to be fun and associated it with a positive and vibrant atmosphere. I like to think that I am a better man for experiencing BangPop and it isn't too often that I act like a fiend and require returning to a place so quickly just to get more bold tastes which teased not only my palate but my libido. If you are looking for a reason to visit the South Wharf precinct you now have an excuse despite being spoiled for options in general. BangPop is now my new favourite in the somewhat maligned area.

    BangPop, South Wharf, Melbourne
    35 South Wharf Prom., South Wharf VIC 3006
    (03) 9245 9800
    My Rating: 14.5/20
    Service: 3.5/5
    Ambiance: 3.5/5
    Quality: 3.75/5
    Value For Money: 3.75/5

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

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

    BangPop on Urbanspoon

    Bistro Vue - Return from Exile

    For me when I was just a lowly tourist and visiting Melbourne with some sort of frequency, it was my opinion that if I was going to dine at a Shannon Bennett property, it had to be Vue de Monde. It was as simple as that. On a few occasions in years gone past mainly because of lack of planning and the short notice that I gave to the restaurant, I ended up visiting Bistro Vue at Normanby Chambers on Little Collins Street, which is actually the old site for Vue de Monde before the restaurant moved to the top floor of the Rialto Tower.

    With a fit-out that resembles what you would expect to be suitable for the House of Bourbon where the only thing missing is the Sun King sitting at one of the many large chairs with soft red upholstery where it could be confused that the Grand Dauphin takes up residence in a circular corner booth looking out over the third estate, this bistro, for the lack of a better term, not only possesses a simple charm but transports you back to a bygone era on a back street of Paris where the only characters missing are the multiple Jacques drinking DeFarge wine at the long and impressive bar made out of zinc.

    When we called into the restaurant which tricks you by being named a bistro so that they can over-deliver and thoroughly impress as most diners would not hold a bistro up to the same standard as a restaurant - case in point: expectations would be higher should you dine at the contemporary Vue de Monde versus the traditional Bistro Vue. Fortunately the Grand Dauphin was holding court elsewhere and we were kindly offered the corner round table. Service was very accommodating and the professional yet chipper wine steward, Marcus, was able to offer us matching wine with the l'humeur du chef ($110/each) - chef's choice, or degustation menu, which proved to be exciting in its own right.

    Whilst enjoying a gin and tonic (sadly they did not have West Wins gin however the Bombay Sapphire flowed) the kitchen prepared a simple but fitting amuse bouche to start - rusty wire oysters, essentially the best oysters of the day ultimately paired with a non vintage Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin "Brut", Champagne. Although this generic vintage is highly available and I have a few bottles at home waiting to pop, it was a fitting match to enjoy the oysters and lemon with.

    A very apt and quick transition to the first proper course, citrus cured mackerel was amazing. The avocado and pickled onion that complemented the dish, not only had a Picasso-like presentation, the fish possessed so much flavour that the dish nearly overwhelmed the 2012 "The Story" Marsanne Roussanne Viognier from the Grampians in Victoria. This was an excellent way to start and one of the two highlights of this tasting menu. Strangely, I found subtle influences in this course with one that Andy Harmer prepares at Virginia Plain. Given Andy used to work in the Shannon Bennett empire, the correlation is not that queer though and it made me smile. The mackerel was cured perfectly and given that I prefer this particular fish cured, ultimately led to greater satisfaction.

    A simple ferron risotto with mushrooms followed however the shaved black truffles that accompanied it made this a course huge on flavour that had my nose nearly in the food allowing it to take in every possible whiff of the noisome black gold. Besides for my well documented love affair with spanner crab, I become sexually excited when I am in the midst of black truffles. Fortunately for those in the restaurant, white stinky fungus from Alba was not in season as the public should not have to bear witness to that level of excitement however as a whole, this dish was magnificent and I used the remaining bread to soak up every bit of evidence on this plate and gleefully returned the physical dish absolutely devoid of any food. The 2010 Basils Farm Pinot Noir from Swan Bay, Victoria, was an adventurous choice by the sommelier who accommodated our hedonistic whims by providing multiple tastes just to ensure that we appreciated this vintage properly.

    A blood orange sorbet acted as palate cleanser during the intermission where we moved to a more substantial offering, the David Blackmore bolar blade. Originally when it was announced that this was the next course, I felt a certain amount of consternation as for some strange reason a cut of beef, regardless if it has the David Blackmore name or not, has never really impressed me for some strange reason. I have frequently said that the degustation experience that I had earlier in the year at Vue de Monde would have been perfect (and suitably ended up with a different rating from me) if the David Blackmore steak was substituted for something a bit more adventurous however in the case of this bolar blade, I was in awe. The substantial marbling of the fat made it possible to cut the beef with your fork and along with the mackerel, made this dish a stand-out. Marcus found a 2010 Terrazas "de los Andes" Malbac which hails from the shadows of the Andes mountains in the Mendoza region of Argentina to match the sublime corner cut of the perfectly prepared flesh.

    An experience at a Bennett property tends to have at least one "WTF" moment and this took place with the last official course, a dessert being the Bistro Vue interpretation of a "Snickers" bar which was not only playful but delicious. I had not enjoyed a standard issue Snickers bar in over a decade so the kitchen's interpretation of it certainly restored not only memories but my ability to salivate as I consumed it without much grace or regard for manners. A 2010 Mas Amiel Grenache, Vin Doux Natural from Languedoc-Roussillon, France complemented this course and ultimately the dénouement of the kitchen's grand plan. There is always at least one dish that I muse over for days wondering how they went about preparing it and this was it.

    Petit Fours - canelé, pate des fruits and chocolate cigars were first matched with a 2008 Château le Pradey from Saint-Croix-du-Mont, Bordeaux, France. After multiple tastes we thought it would be fitting to celebrate this wonderful menu with a half bottle of non vintage Krug ($310, where the total amount of alcohol consumed considering cocktails and the wine matching came to $443) where we saw the masses ultimately matriculate from all the the tables and we were left in ultimate silence to ponder the evenings proceedings and wonder how five hours passed so quickly. I suppose when you are in a very comfortable environment where the food and wine encourages gentlemanly and pleasant conversation where the service was never intrusive and complemented the experience totally, the minutes can easily turn into hours and potentially days in this place. Not only do I look forward to returning, but I will be doing so often.

    Bistro Vue was awarded One Hat in the 2012/2013 The Age Good Food Guide however it really deserves two in my humble opinion. This was one of my "top" dining experiences of 2013 so far.

    Bistro Vue, Little Collins Street, Melbourne

    Bistro Vue
    430 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
    (03) 9691 3838
    My Rating: 17/20
    Service: 4.75/5
    Ambiance: 4.25/5
    Quality: 4.75/5
    Value For Money: 3.25/5

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

    At the time of this post, 85% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Bistro Vue.

    Bistro Vue on Urbanspoon

    Tuesday, 30 April 2013

    Innocent Bystander Winery - Best Pizza in Aeons

    Being somewhat tactical and knowing that the chances of being hassled for any sort of business requirements was very low on the Friday after Anzac Day, I convinced the epicurean emo to drive to the Yarra Valley to attend a few wineries since my immediate grape stash was getting a bit low at home, but also with the intention of enjoying a relaxing lunch which turned out to be at the Innocent Bystander Winery in Healesville.

    Located next to the White Rabbit brewery, this wine complex is massive and provides generous space for functions, parties and fortunately what we discovered, a lazy lunch on the deck that is covered not only by trees but you can relax under the heat lamps and with a pint of ale (or glass of wine) in your hand, you can gaze out to the green rolling hills in the Maroondah Reservoir Park to the north.

    My eyes led me to ordering both the rabbit and hazelnut terrine ($12) and the BBQ spiced quail ($12) from the Tapas menu as starters. The terrine was soft and easily spreadable on the bread that was provided and when complimented with the apple and celery remoulade, provided a vibrant taste and left me wanting more. Fortunately I was able to enjoy 50% of the BBQ quail, which was small but plump. Grilled to perfection and accompanied with pomegranate and walnut dressing, provided not only a bridge but a great excuse to order another pint of White Rabbit. The serene location with pleasant service was enabling me to chill out for a change and really enjoy the simple pleasures being afforded at the winery.

    Pizza has never really excited me. After having a decent one just the other week at +39 Pizzeria on Little Bourke Street there was a certain amount of expectation around what I consider good however the four cheese pizza on offer, made simply with asiago, teleggio, buffalo mozzarella, cravero parmesan and locally sourced roast garlic ($23) blew me away. This wood fired pizza had to be simply one of the best that I have ever had. I know that that is a bold statement but I will remain steadfast in defending this opinion until the day I die, or I find something better. The blend of the cheeses combined with the perfect base really energised me, resetting me so to speak so I could get my mind into the zone to undertake some serious wine tasting in the Yarra Valley moving on and a sense of bliss that I do not experience often.

    Innocent Bystander Winery, Healesville VIC
    Innocent Bystander
    336 Maroondah Hwy., Healesville VIC 3777
    (03) 5962 6111
    My Rating: 14.5/20
    Service: 3.5/5
    Ambiance: 3.5/5
    Quality: 4.5/5
    Value For Money: 3/5

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

    At the time of this post, 87% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Innocent Bystander Winery.

    Giant Steps / Innocent Bystander Winery on Urbanspoon

    Monday, 29 April 2013

    Two Birds One Stone, South Yarra - Sausage Days

    There were not many options for lunchtime dining on Anzac Day and not wanting to get stuck into the tasty lager too early in the afternoon, we decided to converge at Two Birds One Stone on Claremont Street in South Yarra with the hopes of becoming adequately full before taking on the pub and of course the impending Collingwood-Essendon footy match.

    As usual, Two Birds One Stone was filled to capacity. It didn't make a difference that it was a public holiday because this cafe always seems to be bursting at the seams with hungry punters waiting around on the street for their name to be called. Fortunately we live in a society that demands instantaneous gratification so from what I observed, a fair amount of people have their name added to the waiting list, only to skip out and be satisfied elsewhere. The wait for a table turned out to be a reasonable five minutes and we were shown inside to the high communal perch and provided menus. There is seating outside and interestingly enough some nearly-private booths along the perimeter of the eatery but we were not lucky enough to secure the prized real estate.

    A single source long black ($4) was ordered along with a roast chicken sandwich ($16.50) which for me was exploring new territory since I have only ever consumed breakfast-type foods here before. Previously I was satisfied with the eggs and toast so I was not only curious but anticipating a substantial lunch. The sandwich didin fact turn out to be quite large however it was one of the most bland concoctions that I have consumed in some time. Adding a fair amount of salt and pepper did not help to enrich the taste of the very tame flat sausage that provided a bed of sorts for the chicken and tasteless aioli and rocket. The positive is that this was a big sandwich however with the weight of the boring sausage, the bread had fallen apart before it was finished.

    The hiccup of the chicken sandwich is just that. I have always enjoyed the breakfasts as an aside. The Two birds ($22.50) is a substantial amount of food and comes with eggs on toast with mushrooms, spinach, heirloom tomatoes, haloumi, avacado, house made sausage and bacon and four dollars less if you forego the meat, which I do now. Although the same boring sausage is used in this all-day breakfast, it doesn't distract from the general taste provided whereas when it is used to compliment the chicken in the sandwich, it is an unnecessary annoyance.

    There is a good vibe at Two Birds One Stone. Despite the place being filled to capacity it was not loud. The high exposed ceilings assist with acoustics and there is enough personal space when sitting at the communal table so you don't feel that others are eavesdropping on your important conversation. Service is pretty much what you would expect in a busy cafe. Nothing extraordinary but then again we were not asking for anything besides food and beverage to be delivered so I could not fault them if I wanted to. I suppose the lesson learned in this exercise is to stick with the Two Birds all day breakfast and get to the pub earlier to watch the sport.

    Two Birds One Stone, Claremont Street, South Yarra, Melbourne
    Two Birds One Stone
    12 Claremont St., South Yarra VIC 3141
    (03) 9827 1228
    My Rating: 12/20
    Service: 3/5
    Ambiance: 3/5
    Quality: 3/5
    Value For Money: 3/5

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

    At the time of this post, 82% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Two Birds One Stone.

    Two Birds One Stone on Urbanspoon