Sunday, 11 November 2012

Review - Decca Bar

Decca Bar
95 Queen St 

Mon, 5th Nov 2012
Fri, 9th Nov 2012

Cuisine: Modern Australian
Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10 

Decca Bar on Urbanspoon

Went to Decca Bar twice recently for lunch catchup with friends. Had the Black Angus Decca Burger both times - tasty lean Australian beef patty, fresh brioche bun, slightly melted cheese, easy to eat while talking, does not drip everywhere like some other burgers do. :)

I believe Decca is under a new owner - Greg is the guy. Makes everyone feel very welcome with his smile and friendly personality! Overall, a nice spot to meet up, basement venue under an Art Deco building, compact and cosy, small menu with food cooked by chef, reasonable prices, club at night. Enter at street level and walk down the stairs.
If anyone is interested in Melbourne history, here is a link to the building
National Trustees Executors Agency building

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review - Guk Bab

Thursday, 23rd Aug 2012

Guk Bab
Shop 1, 535 Little Lonsdale St

Cuisine: Korean
Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10

 Guk Bab on Urbanspoon

Guk Bab is located under a multi-level car park in Little Lonsdale Street. The interior is neat and quiet. It seems to be popular with Asian youngsters, as well as office professionals. I've been to Guk Bab for lunch a couple of times.  The second time, there were ten of us for lunch.

First some Korean terms! Bibimbap means 'mixed rice' - this dish consists of a bowl of white steamed rice with various toppings which are mixed in with the rice before eating. Dolsot means 'stone pot' - this pot is heated up such that food placed inside continues to cook for a little while.

I ordered Prawn Bulgogi Dol-sot Bibim-bap. The others ordered Beef Bulgogi (beef on hot plate), Spicy Chicken (stir-fried spicy chicken on hot plate), Gai-bi Jjim (Korean Beef Short-ribs Stew), 2 x Beef Bulgogi Dol-sot Bibim-bab, Spicy Pork Dol-sot Bibim-bab, 2 x Chicken Bulgogi Dol-sot Bibim-bab and Vegetable Dol-sot Bibim-bab. 

Everyone enjoyed their meals. Comments I gathered for feedback were:
  • Spicy Pork Dol-sot Bibim-bab  "Not as spicy as elsewhere".
  • Chicken Bulgogi Dol-sot Bibim-bab "Third time ordered this, not spicy, nice" commented friend who does not eat very spicy foods.
  • Vegetable Dol-sot Bibim-bab  "Nice, mild taste, good mix of flavours"
  • Korean Beef  Short-ribs Stew "Beef was tender but there was gristle. Has vegetables and enoki mushrooms. Spicy hot and temperature hot. Dish was boiling when served and continued boiling for about a minute."
I thought the short-ribs dish was the most interesting of the lot. The heat caused the enoki mushrooms to move gently, providing added interest.

The prawns in my Prawn Bulgogi Dol-sot Bibim-bap were average in taste. It was not a bad dish but I would try something else from the menu next time. 

There is a lunch menu which is worth looking at as the prices are slightly lower on this menu. E.g the Dol-sot Bibim-babs are $11.50 on the lunch menu but $15 on the regular a la cart menu.

The service was quick. The wait staff were very polite and helpful.

Overall, a good place to go if you want a quiet environment for lunch, with reasonable prices and food that caters for non-vegetarians and vegetarians.

Prawn Bulgogi Dol-sot Bibim-bap

Beef Bulgogi  on Hot Plate

Spicy Chicken on Hot Plate

Beef Bulgogi Dol-sot Bibim-bab

Chicken Bulgogi Dol-sot Bibim-bab

Vegetable Dol-sot Bibim-bab 

Korean Beef  Short-ribs Stew

Corn Tea

The Menu

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Review - Kitchen Inn

Fri, 19th Oct 2012 (visit #1)
Sat, 20th Oct 2012 (visit #2)

Kitchen Inn
469 Elizabeth St

Cuisine: Sarawak (Malaysian)
Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 8/10

Kitchen Inn on Urbanspoon

Kitchen Inn opened on 18th Oct 2012. The cuisine served here is particular to a state in East Malaysia called Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo. Sarawak has a colourful history, being ruled by the White Rajahs in its early years.  Sarawak has rainforest, orang utans, diverse ethnic groups as well as large Chinese and Malay populations. The Kitchen Inn menu has dishes popular in two Sarawakian cities, Kuching the capital of Sarawak, and Sibu. The owners of Kitchen Inn hail from Sibu; there is another Kitchen Inn in Perth, also run by the same family, I've been informed. 

So on to the food at Kitchen Inn. The focus is on dishes of Chinese origin. Kolo Mee and Sarawak Laksa are popular in Kuching, where Hokkien is a common Chinese dialect. Kampua Mee is popular in Sibu, where Foochow is a commonly spoken Chinese dialect. There is also Penang style Fried Kuey Teow, from an island state in West Malaysia.

Fri, 19th Oct 2012 (Visit #1) 

On a glorious Melbourne spring day, I went with two friends for lunch. It was the second day of trading. We were very fortunate as we only waited for about five minutes before a table became available, and we had it to ourselves. A queue formed shortly after and people were waiting for quite a while. There is indoor seating and footpath seating under awnings, and some tables are close enough that they are communal. 

Kitchen Inn

Outdoor Seating

Queue at Lunch time




We ordered Kolo Mee Special ($11), Sarawak Laksa ($10.90) and Penang Fried Kuey Teow ($8.90).  For the first three days of trading, select free drinks are included with the Kolo Mee and Sarawak Laksa - we had Iced Kopi and Iced Lemon Tea.

The Kolo Mee was good. I am relieved as this is the main reason I came to this restaurant. The noodles sat in a small amount of light sauce for you to mix in - this had the right amount of savouriness and slight sweetness, and was not as oily as would be the case in its country of origin which suits me just fine. What would have lifted the taste even more would be some cut chillies in a vinegar sauce - this is not available but there is a jar of sambal chilli on each table for adding to other dishes.  The noodle texture was good. If they can do a more skinny and curly noodle, this would be sublime! Sitting on top was a generous serve of minced pork which tasted great; the marinade is sweet so those who don't like sweet-tasting meats may not like this. There were also slices of lean char siu (BBQ pork). The Kolo Mee Special comes with 3 medium-sized prawns - this is the only point of difference with the regular Kolo Mee ($8.50). The prawns didn't particularly stand out in taste and it is debatable if the extra $2.50 is worth it. But this is detracting from my enjoyment of the Kolo Mee! If nothing else, I will go back for the Kolo Mee. And I like the traditional looking cockerel bowl that it is served in.

Kolo Mee Special

Cockerel Bowl

The Sarawak Laksa was another reason I came along to try this restaurant. The first impression was good. It had the right scent of Sarawak laksa. But on tucking in, I find the gravy was weaker than I would have liked. It was a generous serve with the gravy filling most of the large bowl. This dish could be tweaked by making the gravy less diluted thereby concentrating the savoury taste. If cost is an issue, there does not need to be so much gravy in the bowl - less is more, i.e., less amount but more concentrated. Interestingly, the gravy on the first visit had a heavier layer of oil on top than the one on the second visit. I always spoon aside the layer of oil in any soups. One thing that jumps out are these ingredients on top - half a hard boiled egg and three generous fried tofu pillows; these are not typical of Sarawak Laksa and are more typical of Curry Laksas such as those found in West Malaysia and Singapore. The noodles were vermicelli noodles.  Other ingredients are prawns and fish cake. Another surprise ingredient is char siu slices (BBQ pork) which are not normally found in Sarawak Laksa. Missing are strips of omelette and chicken which are typically found in this laksa, and a half Asian lime with a dash of sambal belachan. Overall, the taste could be stronger, the serve of noodles/toppings/gravy is generous, the price is reasonable.

Sarawak Laksa

Kolo Mee Special, Sarawak Laksa

Next is the Penang Fried Kuey Teow. There are various spellings for this dish, including Kuay Teow or Kway Teow. The friends I was with really liked this dish and though not from an Asian background, they have tried many Char Kuey Teows (CKTs) over the years. The rice noodle is skinnier than in the usual CKTs. There are good amounts of prawns, fish cake, egg and clams. The chilli heat seemed to be light on the first visit and about medium on the second visit. What I didn't really like is the taste of pork fat in the noodles. Pork lard or fried croutons of pork fat are found in authentic CKTs so the purists wouldn't complain but it is not for me. The Kolo Mee might have pork fat as well in the mixing oil, but I am prepared to ignore this one!

Penang Fried Kuey Teow

The gesture of complimentary iced drinks is appreciated. The Iced Kopi was not bad. But I didn't like the Iced Lemon Tea - it tasted too much like cordial. The Chinese tea is complimentary. Tea was commonly free in Chinese restaurants but in the last few years, many restaurants have started charging for them.

Iced Kopi, Iced Lemon Tea

Place is so new that tea cups still have barcodes on them!
As far as I know, Kitchen Inn is the first restaurant to serve Kolo Mee in Melbourne (happy to be corrected on this!). Looking around on both my visits there, many tables had ordered this dish. The other popular dishes were Sarawak Laksa and the Kampua Mee. There are variations of Sarawak Laksa in Melbourne but it is hard to get the same flavours as in its place of origin. For example, Laksa Bar in Melbourne has East Malaysian Laksa - while this is a great dish in its own right, it is not Sarawak Laksa.

The food and drink prices are reasonable. While the Perth prices seem to be cheaper, the Melbourne prices are still not bad. $8.50 for a Kolo Mee is great. The Sarawak Laksa is a large serve, for example. I hear that on being queried why the tofu in the Perth Sarawak Laksa is smaller than the Melbourne Sarawak laksa, the Kitchen Inn owner in Perth replied that the Melbourne people pay more so get bigger tofu. That is funny!

The staff seemed to be doing a good job on the whole, for a business in its first days of trading and coping with a hungry, curious crowd.  These are the dry stats on my first visit (as logged in the timestamps on my photos) which shows we had a good run with the service:
12.20pm  Arrive at Kitchen Inn
12.25pm  Table available
12.30pm  Ordered
12.32pm  Iced Kopi, Iced Lemon Tea served

12.43pm  Sarawak Laksa served
12.47pm  Kolo Mee served
1.02pm    Penang Kuey Teow served

Sat, 20th Oct 2012  (Visit #2)

I have written heaps now so will just give a quick description of visit #2. This time, there were four of us.  Again, we were fortunate to get a table immediately upon arrival at about 2.20pm, with a short queue forming later. People coming in even though it was late is a good sign for their business. We ordered 2 x Kolo Mee ($8.50), Sarawak Laksa ($10.90), Penang Fried Kuey Teow and Foochow Fried Hand made Noodle - Dry style($8.90). Five dishes for four of us, including two Kolo Mees. You can tell I like the Kolo Mee! This time I ordered the regular one without the prawns. Tastes just as nice as the one I had the day before. The Foochow noodle dish was not bad. Easy to eat, nice sauce, good ingredients. I can't speak for the authenticity but I will be happy to order this again. 

For drinks, we ordered Teh C Special but they were out of this. We also had complimentary Iced Milo and Iced Lemon Tea as part of the opening promotion mentioned earlier. I had the Iced Milo. They ran out of ice for the second Iced Milo but it was chilled so tasted okay.

Kolo Mee

 Sarawak Laksa - gravy has less oil today

Penang Fried Kuey Teow

Foochow Fried Hand made Noodles - Dry style

 The Menu

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Review - Chilli India

Thu, 1st Mar 2012
Fri, 20th April 2012  

Chilli India
(Next to Chillipadi)
Shop OE6 Menzies Alley Little Lonsdale St

Cuisine: Indian
Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10

Chilli India on Urbanspoon

Chilli India sits next door to Chillipadi in Menzies Alley, Melbourne Central. I believe they have the same owner. They also share the same website.  Chilli India  has a more casual atmosphere of the two. You order, pay and pick up your meal at the counter. Most of the meals are ready- cooked in the bain marie.

This is a very busy place at lunchtime. A large number of clientele are  from the Indian subcontinent and as can be expected, this speaks volumes for the authenticity of the food here.

Seating is in a laneway. This is covered overhead, with one end opening onto Little Lonsdale street. Bring a jacket in winter, especially if it is windy, as this can get chilly. Not too bad when the place is crowded. Or sit strategicallyand use your dining companions as a wind break. Or be non-eco friendly and sit near one of the heat lamps. You will manage. And the curries will warm you up.

On the first visit, we ordered two of the lunch specials. Rice and Roti with one vegetable curry (Chilli Chicken Curry) and one non-vegetable curry (Eggplant Curry). Two Rotis with one vegetable curry (Goat Masala) and one non-vegetable curry (Okra Vegetable). I found the Chilli Chicken Curry salty. Otherwise, the gravy flavour is good and very spicy hot,  with a nice red colour. The Eggplant Curry tasted OK but was rather oily. The Goat Masala was very tender and nice but a little bit too sweet. The Okra Vegetable is a dry dish with dessicated coconut and curry leaves. The rotis were good - crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and slightly sweet which I like but others may not prefer. All meals seem to come with a piece of papadum.
Laneway Seating

Chilli Chicken Curry, Eggplant Curry
with Rice and Roti

Goat Masala, Okra Vegetable with Two Rotis

Both Meals for comparison

On the second visit, we ordered three lunch time specials of Rice, Roti with one vegetable curry and one non-vegetable curry.  The curry combinations were Kerla Prawn Curry with Potato Curry, Curry Chicken with Chickpea Curry, Goat Curry with Dhall Curry. I had the prawns which were orange in colour. My potato curry was rather salty.  The curries were all spicy hot. We really needed the glasses of water, never mind that water is not the panacea for 'whoa, this curry is really spicy hot'. 

The place was packed when we arrive and we couldn't get a table. One of the Chilli India staff asked me to go ahead and order and he would take us over to Chillipadi when we were ready. All went well. There was a long queue - we queued up, ordered, paid, took our meals. Then we were escorted upstairs to Chillipadi and given a table on what I call 'the bridge', with a view down to the laneway. A couple of tables here were already occupied so I presume they were in the same situation as us.

Lunch Specials Board

Kerla Prawn Curry, Potato Curry
with Rice and Roti

Three Meals - see description above.

Looking onto Chilli India
from the Chillipadi 'bridge'

Hot .... need Water!

Overall, we like the curries at Chilli India. There is a good range of curries, most of which taste very nice and have a spicy kick. The lunch time specials are a good way to try the range of curries, and at a reasonable price. This is a good place to have in your list of places to go to for lunch.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Review - Chillipadi

Fri, 17th August 2012
and other visits   

Shop OE7 Menzies Alley
Little Lonsdale St

Cuisine: Malaysian, Indian, Asian
Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10

Chillipadi on Urbanspoon

I have been to ChilliPadi several times over the years, starting before Chilli India opened up next door to ChilliPadi. Both have the same owner I believe. In fact, when we were at Chilli India earlier this year and there were no tables available,  one of the guys working at Chilli India brought us over to ChilliPadi and gave us a table upstairs, on the "bridge" overlooking Menzies Alley.

In this latest visit to ChilliPadi, I was with a group of ten for lunch. Two persons and I decided to have one of the banquets, while the others opted for individual a la carte dishes.

The $19 per person banquet consisted of entree, three mains and steamed rice. For the entree we chose Seafood Gyozas and deep fried finger foods of Net Pastry Rolls, Mini Spring Rolls, Samosas and Wontons. For the mains, we chose Beef Rendang, Indian Fish Curry and Pad Thai Seafood. 

The seafood gyozas were quite tasty. So were the finger foods although these were not that different to frozen finger foods which you could buy and cook at home, if you could be bothered doing that. The beef rendang was nice with lean beef and a thick gravy with a kick of spiciness. The fish curry had average tasting fish, with a nice spicy gravy. The Pad Thai Seafood was very good with large prawns and this is a dish I would order again. The mains servings were reasonably large; we had enough left over to share with others.

Seafood Gyozas

- Net Pastry Roll, Samosa, Mini Spring Roll, Won Ton

Entree of Finger Foods

Seafood Pad Thai

Beef Rendang

Indian Fish Curry

Banquet for Sharing

The visit prior to this was in May 2012. There were three of us. We  ordered Pad Thai, Thai Roast Duck Curry and Hainanese Chicken Rice.

The Pad Thai with a tamarind sauce was delicious. The serve. however, was not large and the ingredients were somewhat limited. The presentation was great (see photo) with chopped nuts and chilli flakes scattered around the platter instead of mixed in with the noodles.  The bean sprouts were raw and would have been nicer with the 'tails' trimmed.  

The Thai Roast Duck Curry had three nice lean duck slices. Lychees in the curry provided interest. The gravy tasted OK and was chilli hot. Having also eaten curries at Chilli India next door, I find the curries there can give this curry serious competition.

The Hainanese Chicken was served as boneless rolled slices and tasted OK. The chicken rice was average. The soup was nice - it was peppery which is the way I like it.

Pad Thai - good presentation

Thai Roast Duck Curry

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Overall, the food here is reasonably nice. While it is not the most fantastic Malaysian food I have eaten,  to be fair, there is so much competition for Malaysian (and Indian food) in Melbourne that it is hard to stand out. But this is a place I would come back to again.