Saturday, 1 June 2013

Seamstress - From Sweatshop to Unions

A few months ago, some mates met to dine at Seamstress on Lonsdale Street, and I was unable to attend. I was left a bit gutted as this adventure coincided with one of my frequent trips to Sydney however recently I was able to convince the epicurean emo to join me in a dining experience at this multi-level former textile factory and Buddhist monastery to resolve my inner turmoil of being excluded by chance.

With the kitchen wholly on the first floor and the dining room on the second floor, the adventure getting to the space which holds approximately fifty people is part of the fun. Warm greetings was received at the door and we were asked if the table being offered was suitable for our needs. This left me excited as from the point that I entered the restaurant I knew that service was going to be professional. I immediately ordered a Lord Nelson Three Sheets ($9) and started reading the wine list. Given that the restaurant is housed in an old textile factory there are gentle reminders of this bygone era with the decorations however they are smartly added and not just placed for the sake of having a theme. Fabric is rolled into the ceiling with wire hangers attached mischievously holding glass vases with plants. A Singer sewing machine was placed in the window next to our table. The decor is not over the top and set the stage for the menu.

A bottle of 2004 Delatite Reisling ($70) from Mansfield in the Victorian high country was ordered to accompany our first round of food from the aptly named Autumn Collection. With the desire to try as many dishes as possible in mind, we broke the food order up into ultimately two orders just so that we could reassess our choice for wine should it be required. The food menu is small but each item that is available comes in three sizes - small, medium and large and has a proportionally higher cost. As we wanted to taste as many dishes as possible, we opted for the small sizes where applicable. Four fried oysters ($13) with shiso, wasabi and yuzu dressing was the first dish to appear. Given this was a "small" dish, there was nothing small about these fried oysters. They were huge if not daunting although a tad bland. One thing I like about BangPop on South Wharf is that assorted condiments are supplied so that the patron can add various levels of spice, sweet or acid as they see fit to complement the dish however that is not the case at Seamstress. As a contrast though, the four betel leaves ($15) with confit duck leg and pickled mango were full of flavour and left a tingling sensation in my mouth. This was the sensation that I was expecting to have at Seamstress and this fresh and aromatic dish certainly delivered.

To conclude the first round of food orders, we were served both the maple seared scallops with smoked rainbow trout on an apple salad with crispy shallots topped witha Nan Jim dressing ($14) and a snake bean with golden sweet potato poached won ton topped with a green bean and coriander puree and tobiko roe and pea foam. Both dishes were visually appealing and I really liked the scallops which were cooked to perfection. The apple salad was a nice touch and complemented both the bivalve mollusk but also the wine. Like with the fried oysters though, I found the won tons a bit bland and would have enjoyed some spicy sauces on the side to add some fire and additional flavour but that is just a personal preference.

The next round of food included three dishes and a dessert. Although we wanted to attack more of the menu, the size of the "small" dishes remained consistently larger which although proved to be good value for money, limited us as gluttons however in the end, trying eight different menu items proved to not only be adventurous but also worth-while.

Who doesn't like soft shell crab? What Seamstress serves is the crab still intact on a apple and wombok slaw with sriracha mayonnaise ($13) which not only again was visually appealing considering the size of the crab, when matched with the slaw was a delight. I really liked not only looking at the dish but eating this one as well and made for an excellent match with the Reisling.

The spice-rubbed ocean trout with Thai pepper sauce, black rice, pineapple and Sambal salsa ($16) was along with the betel leaves were the highlights of the dining experience for me. The trout was full of flavour and the spices left an impression on my senses. Not only did this dish smell beautiful but tasted excellent and when matched with the remaining Reisling really impressed me.

Returning to Lord Nelson Three Sheets beer, we finished our savoury courses with the ballotine of tarmarind quail with a salted cashew, peanut and winter melon chutney, spicy pork sausage and a pomegranate glaze ($16). The texture of this dish was amazing and I am really happy that I transitioned to the ale to pair with the beautiful quail. The spicy pork sausage was a nice touch and provided the flavour and spice that my palate was begging for so it was satisfied.

This was a rare dining experience where I made the decision to have a dessert. Unless it is part of a degustation experience I tend to shy away from the sweets however I could not help ordering a sticky fig pudding with ginger caramel sauce and palm sugar ice cream ($16). Not only was this dessert sweet thanks to the combination of all of the elements naturally but the fig pudding was just awesome and did a good job at cleansing my palate at the same time.

Service was relaxed and consultative throughout the experience. A few laughs were enjoyed. A few jokes were told. The professionalism of the staff along with the attention to detail differentiated this experience from many others which I would segregate using a fine line between good and great. Although I thought a few dishes were bland, it is just my opinion and readers of this blog know that I am always up for any challenge when it comes to heat and spice so perhaps I just went in expecting the fire to be raging in all of the dishes. Given the portion sizes of some of the "small" dishes, I found it all to be great value for money and I would certainly return to Seamstress if I have the opportunity one again.

After we said our goodbyes, we walked up one flight of stairs to the cocktail bar. This is a great use of space which takes the textile theme one step further. An impressive amount of spirits are behind the bar and the two Singapore Slings that I ultimately drank gave me courage to step outside into the cold cruel world and brave the elements. On the weekend, the "Sweatshop" bar, located within the basement level of the building is also open so regardless of your intent should you visit the old monastery at 113 Lonsdale Street, you are in for a good time.

Seamstress was awarded one chefs hat in the 2012/2013 The Age Good Food Guide.

Seamstress Restaurant, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

113 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 5525
My Rating: 15.5/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 3.75/5
Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 4.25/5

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

At the time of this post, 83% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Seamstress.

Seamstress on Urbanspoon

Friday, 31 May 2013

San Telmo - La Parrilla

As Chile has issued a red alert for the Copahue volcano, which is on the border of Argentina that has become increasingly active, I thought it was appropriate to meet at San Telmo, a well renowned Argentine restaurant on Meyers Lane in the CBD, not to be confused with the oldest barrio in Buenos Aires.

This place always seems to be busy. If you walk in unexpectedly either by choice or by chance, there is a good probability you will end up being sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and the Parrilla, the Argentine charcoal grill. That is not a bad alternative considering the wonderful smell of meat wafting from the kitchen however despite anticipating being taken back to our most primal origins over this meal, we were seated like gentleman in the dining room.

It took an unusually long time for the server to come over and ultimately explain the menu and of course take our drink orders. No matter really as pleasant conversation was on offer however I was really thirsty for some strange reason on this occasion. It must have been because I had been walking around the CBD previously combined with the fact that I was lusting after the meat on the Parrilla, knowing what my destiny held.

A bastardised Long Island Ice Tea was served, however this was a Malvinas Island Iced Tea. It didn't appear to have many nips in it and at times I confused it with the mineral water that was ordered. Considering that the cocktail was $20, I could think of twenty other places in Melbourne that would do a better one and be also cheaper, but alas.

I was excited to try the Argentine fried pastry, the Empanada. Two different ones were available and I decided on the beguiling provolone, mozzarella, basil and capsicum ($6/each) offering. The pastry was ornate and contained gooey cheese goodness and was not overwhelmed by the capsicum. I really liked how the food was starting off using the Empanada as a baseline and was excited to have more.

Chorizo ($14) followed. How can you not visit an Argentine eatery and not get a pork and paprika sausage? As expected, and I had high expectations at the time, the chorizo was simply amazing. Full of flavour and engorged with goodness, this was unlike any chorizo that you are used to being served in Melbourne. Even with two people sharing it, there was a substantial amount of meat and everything which I would find that we ordered on the menu would prove to be great value for money.

Wanting desperately to get meat from the Parrilla, orders of Cuadril De Cordero ($30) -200g of pasture fed lamb rumb and a Entrana ($36) - 300g of O'Conner premium pasture fed hanger steak were ordered from the grill. The meat was delivered sliced and grilled to a perfect medium rare. Charred on the exterior but pink on the inside, I greedily tried both types of meat and we agreed that the lamb rump was the best. Not taking away from the hanger steak as it was good in its own right, we both preferred the taste of the lamb rump and went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that we both shared equal parts of the beast. Zanahorias ($13) - burnt carrots with thyme and goat's curd was ordered as a side. The carrots were lightly scorched on the outside and when matched with the goats curd and the sliced meats were absolutely amazing in their own right.

Between the open kitchen and the chefs working the Parrilla, the back bar which was lively, decor that would leave a vegan trembling and diners seemingly enjoying themselves, there was a good buzz in this restaurant. Although it can get rather loud at times, the volume suits San Telmo. Although I found to be disappointed at times by service, and lack thereof, even witnessing the table next to me having to chase down the server on foot to get the bill after waiting for a while, it was the only glitch to an otherwise great experience with Argentine fare.

San Telmo, Meyers Lane, Melbourne

San Telmo
14 Meyers Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 5525
My Rating: 14.25/20
Service: 2.5/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 4.25/5
Value For Money: 4/5

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

At the time of this post, 80% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like San Telmo.

San Telmo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Grossi Florentino - L'amour est un oiseau rebelle

This is one of the few times that I am almost lost for words. What can be said about Grossi Florentino and its magnificent premises on Bourke Street that hasn't already been written or blogged about already. With outdoor seating hosting happy eaters and drinkers from both the Grill and the Cellar Bar, the two Grossi ventures on the ground floor of 80 Bourke Street, my booking for two for an extended "lunch meeting" takes us inside and "Upstairs" to be greeted by the front of house at Florentino.

Upon entering the dining room, you will notice the murals on the southern wall along with ornate finishes to the architecture in this dining area. Not be confused with the renaissance wing at the NSW Art Gallery, this is so much more. A space designed with the dining public in mind that I found effectively encouraged conversation, both voluntary and involuntary. Normally visual stimulation is one of the senses least evoked during a dining experience. Some venues rely on a magnificent view. Others confuse your senses by giving you periphery glances of the inter-workings of the kitchen. Grossi gives you murals that depict 16th century Florence in the time of Michaelangelo as an introduction to the epicurean journey and this you realise before you even sit down.

After consulting with front of house, service and the sommelier, we decided to take a "Leap of Faith" and order a modified degustation menu with extra dishes ($195/each) only because the option was available to make substitutions and also additions from the a la carte menu on demand. Usually such flexibility is not on offer in restaurants and as it was explained, all of the elements are available in the kitchen for the a la carte menu, so it would technically be no problem just to introduce small serves of said dishes into a special degustation menu. Bring it on I exclaimed.

As the table closest to us fiddled with their phones and one customer actually brought out his laptop to do some no doubt important work, our conversation consisted of culture whilst we waited for the 2011 Clemens Busch Riesling Kabinett to be served with the Smoked Petuna Ocean Trout. This dry German Riesling did not seem to be ready to drink from the bottle and came across quite young. However the trout and especially the yuzu along with the sweet flavours of tapioca and apple including Yarra Valley cavier actually made the wine taste better. All my senses were firing at this particular moment, especially my hearing as I had the pleasure of listening to mobile phones ringing at the other table. It makes me sad that some people bring such bad manners into restuarants.

One of my favourite foods was included as part of the unmolested tasting menu. Ladro Ravioli, a simple amount of the beautiful and delicate spanner crab inside a translucent ravioli served with pumpkin and watercress. The 2012 Ar Fion Field Blend brought the wine back home to the Yarra Valley. There was no Riesling in this blend as it is mainly Chardonnay, however the citrus taste that lingers on the palate did this dish justice. Not only visually appealing but the pair matched well and I was left wanting more of not only the ravioli, but the wine, which service was happy to provide quickly and efficiently.

The first of our venison dishes would soon arrive. A beautiful carpaccio with dwarf peaches, broad beans, thyme, chestnut flower honey and a Gorgonzola piccante. The dwarf peaches would be as amusing and tasty as the thinly sliced venison which was cooked to perfection. The sommelier took a big risk with this dish and matched it with a Bridge Road Brewers Red Ale. Yes, a beer. At first this pairing confused me but it worked very well with the flesh from the deer. I have visited the Bridge Road Brewers a few times and had never enjoyed their Red Ale, so this was not only a pleasant surprise, but also a winning dish, really highlighted by the dwarf peaches.

From the cold deep waters of the southern ocean, the Toothfish was captured, steamed and presented with spiced salt, onion cream, chickpeas, roasted fig, nashi pear and purslane. The purslane, which is an herb, really accompanied this extremely delicate and buttery fish well. The roasted fig was a nice touch and when the flesh was removed and consumed with a taste of the 2011 Lo Stesso Fiano, from Heathcote, Victoria, made for another winning food and wine match. I had never had Toothfish before and I really enjoyed it and how the kitchen not only prepared it but presented it. The taste of residual fruit from the wine went well with all of the elements and certainly brought the taste of the fish to the forefront of my palate.

I was grateful to be offered a "Gap Wine" which was actually a Sake. An infamous Sake actually that was paired with Heston Blumenthal's "Sound of the Sea" dish at the 2011 Ultimate Dinner at Rockpool in Sydney. Addiction to the 1999 Nakano BC "Chokyu" Koshu would have been very easy and before I slipped into a dark place which would have required me to disrobe and dance on the table after ingesting a couple of litres of this beauty, my latest love child appeared.

Flinders Island Wallaby Fillet, cured and seared with orange, a cauliflower caponata, marsala and a toasted rolled spelt. The first time I had the pleasure of passing the wallaby over my tongue was at Attica last December and I have been in love ever sense. It is great to be able to experience how so many of the talented chefs in Melbourne interpret this beast and the wonderful product sourced from Flinders Island Meats in Tasmania. The sherry, or marsala, really brought out the flavours of the wallaby and the orange was a taste that challenged my palate and left me thinking, discussing, wondering, contrasting and comparing. I really like what Guy Grossi has done with this marsupial and when matched with a 2011 Cashburn Pinot Noir from Central Otago, the tannins and oak inherent with the wine really made the wallaby shine.

Duck and Porcini Tortellini with candied pears was the follow-on to the sublime wallaby. Finally moving into wines from Italy, this one being a 2008 Malvirà Nebbiolo Langhe from Piedmont. The taste of fruit was evident, especially cherry which pairs with the duck quite well. I am a huge fan of Nebbiolo and was hoping it made its appearance sooner however service was happy to refill my glass which allowed me to make up for lost time. The duck tortellini had a wonderful texture and I was left very satisfied even known there was still more to come.

If the wallaby and duck wasn't enough to placate my greed to eat everything in the zoo, the venison made its appearance again. This time however a beautiful roast loin was presented with juniper berries and a thyme crust. Matched with a 2009 Cavallotto Barbera d'Alba, which although is an entry level priced Barolo normally, did not disappoint so it proves that you can not judge a wine simply on price. This is a classic Barolo and certainly added to the rich succulent taste of the venison, which came highly recommended from the front of house. They did not disappoint.

A small cheese cart made its way past our table carefully, much like the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant would navigate the Melbourne CBD. The highlight of the offerings available on the cart for me was the classic cheddar and when paired with the 2007 Tamellini Recioto di Soave was a nice palate cleanser and made the forthcoming Valrhona Chocolate Souffle with malt ice cream even more explosive. Rich and powerful yet refreshing and sweet, this is the Lachlan Murdoch of desserts. The 1985 Bodegas Toro Albala Montilla-Moriles Don PX Gran Reserva from Spain was another great match. The sweet chocolate intense flavours of this dessert wine really went well with the gorgeous souffle and especially the ice cream.

Besides some delays in kicking the degustation into gear and at times running out of alcohol and having to ask for more, I found service very pleasant, engaging and willing to please. The sommelier took a big risk by injecting a beer into a wine degustation and it worked well. I love risk taking as long as it does not involve a moving tram so between the lonely beer and the wallaby served with orange, a very positive impression was left from my extending dining experience at Grossi's flagship. It had been a year since my previous visit and both times I saw Guy Grossi working in the restaurant. In this epoch of the celebrity chef, seeing them in their own habitat is as rare as spotting the black panther, so it was good to know that the man himself was at the helm.

Grossi Florentino was awarded one chef's hat in the 2012/2013 The Age Good Food Guide.

Grossi Florentino, Bourke Street, Melbourne
Grossi Florentino
80 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9662 1811
My Rating: 15.75/20
Service: 3.75/5
Ambiance: 4.25/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3.75/5

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

At the time of this post, 78% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Grossi Florentino.

Grossi Florentino on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant - Puttering Around Melbourne + Route Map and Statistics

Everyone has seen the old Colonial Tramcars rattling around Melbourne at some point in their life which are actually restaurants on wheels. Perhaps because of the novelty and because a mate advised that service are very liberal with their pours of alcohol, I took the challenge with one other and decided to become a tourist once again in my own city for the late tour which included a five course meal on The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.

The process to book via the reservations hotline is straight-forward. A credit card number reserves your seats and for the late service and you are requested to be at the pick-up point at 8:15 PM, which is located at an enclosed shelter on where Whiteman Street, Clarendon Street and Normanby Road all converge, across from the Crown Metropol in South Melbourne. On this occasion three separate tramcars turned up to collect the hungry and thirsty passengers and the good folk that work for the Tramcar juggernaut are available before the rattlers arrive to check you in and advise which one you will be assigned to. Once you enter your assigned tramcar, you are then advised which seats are yours. It is a very professional and efficient process to herd all of the punters into the rolling restaurants actually.

I was impressed that so many people could fit into cozy booths. One row of the tram accommodates tables of four and the other side of the carriage seats tables for two. There is a bathroom on board which I would later discover is about the size of what you would find on an aeroplane. Given there was approximately 36 diners seated on board, two service staff and someone in the kitchen, which is also the size of what is used on an aeroplane, I was impressed at the good use of space. I have heard tales of ABBA being played loudly through the speakers but fortunately that never happened and for the entire 2.5 hour journey, pleasant background music which is easy to tune out over the chatter of the diners provided a relaxing score.

When you first sit, your first course is waiting for you on the table. Chicken liver pate along with a roasted red capsicum dip with some water crackers to keep you amused until service provides drinks after a quick introduction by the crew, the explanation of the menu and of course when the putter around Melbourne begins. The dips and pate are supermarket grade. Nothing too special but I really don't think the tourists primarily on this amusing mode of transport were really looking for fresh chicken livers being mashed into a pate in the small kitchen as everyone was very interested in taking photographs and admiring the classic decor. A glass of sparkling wine, a curious Lone Fig Brut Cuvee which proved to be a cheap and cheerful way to start, matched with the dips.

You are given a choice for your second course, either barramundi or kangaroo. I was keen to learn the supplier of the kangaroo, just because of morbid curiosity, so I quizzed service. He responded that it is "locally" sourced. I explained that was nice, but I was keen to know who supplied the meat just out of interest. He then oddly told me that the kangaroo was sourced from South Australia. Not exactly "local" but I decided to abandon this quest for trivia. About 15 minutes later service would return to say that the kangaroo was sourced from Queensland. Not as local as South Australia from Victoria but I still ordered it along with a glass of Tahbilk Shiraz from Nagambie, Victoria. It amused me that the wine was in fact local and the kangaroo was not however the meat, although chewy and medium rare, was good enough considering where I was actually eating which was presented on a bed of sweet potato. Some sort of "Australian Bush Chutney" accompanied the kangaroo and honestly I never deduced what that really was and didn't use much of it as the meat had already been marinated in a honey sauce.

As you roll past Crown Casino and toward St Kilda is about the time you start to appreciate the very attentive drink service. Bourbon, whiskey, gin, rum and vodka are all available with assorted mixers along with Crown Lager, Cascade Light, Tahbilk Sauvignon Blanc and the aforementioned Tahbilk Shiraz and Lone Fig sparking wine. Of course there are non-alcoholic drinks available for those that are not lushes.

For the third and main course, you once again have a choice but this time between the grilled chicken breast and the Victorian farmed Eye Fillet of beef. I opted for the beef, which once again was presented medium rare and considering the small area that the chef has to work with, I was impressed that it was prepared so well. Served with a potato rosti, a red wine reduction, vegetables and an onion marmalade, it reminded me of something that you would be served on a business class flight. It was pleasant and made all the more tasty after the sixth gin & tonic was served.

When the tram pulls into Acland Street in St Kilda, it takes a bit of a rest and you are left with a view of the shops for a short time. At points during this wanton journey, the maximum grade is 8% and the minimum grade is -13% so the tram slows to a crawl so that items do not fall off tables. The same sort of careful conducting takes place during sharp turns. Besides vibrating utensils, it was interesting to experience how cleanly the tram moves itself around Melbourne but with the average speed being a mere 9.43 km/hr (5.9 mi/hr) it really didn't shock me that in the end no glasses were broken and nobody fell down whilst staggering to the toilet. The tram also stops near the Albert Park Aquatic Centre and the patrons are allowed to disembark to stretch their legs and take photos.

The cheese course is pretty simple. Cheese, crackers and a quince paste. Mainly to match with the increasing flow of spirits, it was not disappointing and again, not unlike what you would find served in business class of an aeroplane.

For the dessert course, you once again have a choice. Either the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta or the Sticky Date Pudding. I had the panna cotta and it was probably the highlight of the dining experience. Maybe because I was on my fifteenth gin & tonic by this point and I was in a splendid mood, but I just found it pleasantly sweet with a nice texture. Sure, it was imported en masse from some unknown source but it was good all the same.

The roughly 2.5 hour journey around the place that I call home went by very quickly despite being in the evening and not really being able to see too many sights. If you are visiting Melbourne you may find it more rewarding to take this epicurean journey during daylight hours however with the highlights of the trip being Southern Cross Station, the Queen Victoria Markets, Crown Casino, Acland Street, the Palais Theatre, Luna Park and the Aquatic Centre you are best left to explore via conventional tram or by foot. Drinks service did not disappoint and the other servers were quite enthusiastic especially when engaging with the tourists. Perhaps it was because we didn't want to get our photograph taken or because I asked where the kangaroo was from, we were not engaged in the same way that others were but that was fine. It is a quirky and amusing trip around this fine city and although I will not be rushing to do it again any time soon, I can see the appeal for tourists and those wanting to celebrate something special as it is memorable experience.

Route Map 

You are picked up at the pin on Clarendon Street, South Melbourne. The tram follows this route:

South Melbourne Point of Origin ->Southern Cross Station -> Queen Victoria Markets -> North Melbourne (pin) then returns the way it came -> Melbourne CBD -> Crown Casino Queens Bridge Southbank -> St Kilda Road -> Palais Theatre/Luna Park -> Acland Street -> Middle Park (tram stops) -> Albert Road -> Clarendon Street South Melbourne -> Southern Cross Station -> Bourke Street -> Spring Street -> La Trobe Street -> Southern Cross Station -> South Melbourne Point of Origin

Colonial Tramcar Melbourne Route Map

Route Statistics 

Total distance: 23.14 km (14.4 mi)
Total time: 2:27:13
Moving time: 1:47:03
Average speed: 9.43 km/h (5.9 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 12.97 km/h (8.1 mi/h)
Max speed: 27.68 km/h (17.2 mi/h)
Average pace: 6.36 min/km (10.2 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 4.63 min/km (7.4 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 2.17 min/km (3.5 min/mi)
Max elevation: 60 m (198 ft)
Min elevation: 6 m (18 ft)
Elevation gain: 205 m (672 ft)
Max grade: 8 %
Min grade: -13 %

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, Melbourne

The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant
Corner of Normanby Rd. and Clarendon St.
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
(03) 9696 4000
My Rating: 12.5/20
Service: 3.5/5
Ambiance: 3.25/5
Quality: 2.75/5
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 The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. Interestingly the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant is ranked as the #2 most popular restaurant on Tripadvisor in Melbourne.

The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Radio Mexico St Kilda - Just One More Drink

It wasn't planned to have a "big afternoon" at Radio Mexico in St Kilda. I even turned up to this Mexican taqueria on Carlisle Street, only a stones throw from Acland Street in shorts and trainers since I legged it in from the CBD. It didn't take long to settle in and when the service started bringing out the bottles of beer and later wine and cocktails, I should have known that our table of three was going to be making it a long and drawn out affair. In fact, we managed to eat and drink at this place for nearly five hours, which is how long I spent during my recent trips to both Grossi Florentino and Jacques Reymond so it proves that the power of pleasant conversation and of course decent food and alcohol can make the time fly.

Although there were a few facets to the menu, we focused on the tacos to maximise the variety and get a good understand of the tastes on offer from the kitchen. Starting with the guacamole ($9) it occupied us until the first round of tacos and the third round of drinks were delivered. There was a fair amount of avacado and a mild salsa provided. Although not spicy at all, it filled its role as a distraction. As usual in Mexican restaurants, my attention focuses on fish tacos, where all tacos regardless cost $6.50 each. Radio Mexico has two different types, a grilled fish and a beer-battered fish. I opted for the "Pescado de la Casa" or the fish of the house, grilled with black bean and corn salsa. I found this very bland and the fish dry and regretted not ordering an optional salsa to provide this taco with more flavour. The tortilla was great and I would learn quickly, when the "Cochinta Pibel" - slow cooked free range pork carnitas with beans, red onion, japapeno pickles and salsa arbol was delivered, that the tortillas are very robust. As the pork was very moist, combined with the salsa, made this a messy dish however the tortilla remained intact which I was impressed by. Despite the mess and the ingredients that ended up on the plate, I really liked the pork carnitas and how the ingredients paired together not only within the tortilla but also with my lager. The pork taco would turn out to be a favourite for us thirsty patrons.

The "Carne Asada" - BBQ hanger steak with cheese, home made cream, lettuce and salsa deviates from what you would expect if you were expecting a classic "street taco" but I thought it tasted pretty good and that is what was important in the end. The meat was tender and there was only a small amount of cheese, which I thought benefited the taco.

There are tables on the street and also a section near a fireplace outside on the terrace. Being inside, we were always in the line of sight of the attentive staff who were provided us with a never ending flow of alcohol and were patient as we ordered tacos throughout the long afternoon. Moody music was playing when we were seated however that turned into hip hop as the afternoon wound up. I had fun at Radio Mexico which was evident by the amount of time that was spent there and I would look forward to returning again just more appropriately dressed for the cold weather and conditions I suppose.

Radio Mexico, Carlisle Street, St Kilda
Radio Mexico
11-13 Carlisle St., St Kilda VIC 3182
(03) 9534 9990
My Rating: 13.25/20
Service: 3.25/5
Ambiance: 3.25/5
Quality: 3.25/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5

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

At the time of this post, 82% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Radio Mexico.

Radio Mexico on Urbanspoon