Food lately: July 2016

Food lately: July 2016

July was an overwhelmingly delicious month of food!

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Prawn Cracker, Chopped Prawn, Bottarga, Seaweed Mayonnaise (Honcho Noodle, CBD)

I mentioned this meal in my money diary. Without harping on too much again, Adam Liston is one of my favourite chefs, and this was our first visit to his new pop-up restaurant while the new permanent restaurant is built (after closing down Northern Light, one of my favourite restaurants). This bite size prawn cracker dish has undergone small changes but remained from the previous restaurant. I’ve ordered it every single time and I still love it! This is such a delicious and perfect bite size dish.

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Spanner Crab Udon, Smoked Crab Butter, Yuzu, Kizami Nori (Honcho Noodle, CBD)

I had to pick another dish! I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a more delicious noodle dish. The juicy and wonderfully chewy udon noodles had absorbed so much flavour from the smoked crab butter and yuzu, which were two incredible and unique flavours when together. The crab and yuzu flavours were just incredible.

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Lemon Meringue Doughnut (Tivoli Road Bakery, South Yarra)

That’s the doughnut at the top. I’m really into lemon curd and seem to be trying to get any lemon curd pastry I see (I should learn how to make it!). I loved the texture of this fluffy doughnut and the strong tang of the lemon curd.

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Soft Shell Crab Taco with Blue Corn Tortilla, Sriracha Mayo & Cabbage Slaw (The Black Toro, Glen Waverley)

On the menu, it sounded pretty standard, but I always think the tiny parcel of a taco is actually quite difficult to get perfect. You need the perfect combination of textures and flavours in the right proportions. These tacos were pretty much right there – the crispy and fluffy soft shell crab, the creamy mayo, the kick from the sriracha, the slight tanginess and crunch from the slaw. As soon as we put the taco in our mouths, T and I looked at each other with a “wow” expression.

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Tako Rice Crisps; House smoked octopus on puffed rice (Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya, Fitzroy)

I visited Ichi Ni Nana (the third in the “Ichi” family, which I’m a huge fan of) for the first time halfway through July and ended up returning at the end of July because I enjoyed it so much! One thing I ordered both times was this (I seem to love these kind of bite size dishes, huh). The octopus had a wonderful smokey flavour, which I loved.

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Tori Soboro; Charcoal grilled rice cake skewers with ground chicken and Teriyaki sauce (Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya, Fitzroy)

The other thing I ordered both times were these skewers. I had actually had them before at the first “Ichi” restaurant (Ichi Ni Izakaya) and adored it then, and was thus excited to see it on the menu here. I’m obsessed with rice cakes, and I love the sweet and spicy ground chicken concoction they pour over the top. It’s so addictive!

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Sweet Potato and Corn Fritters with tomato chutney, poached egg, goats curd, cucumber, herb oil, spring onion, tomato and corn salsa (Operator25, CBD)

Operator25 is one of my favourite brunch restaurants! This was one of the best corn fritter brunch dishes I’ve ever had. I love corn fritters for brunch but have become rather fussy because I used to order it from pretty much every second brunch restaurant (and many dishes are subpar). Every element on this plate was delicious and worked so well together, and it also has pretty much everything I love. The fritters were really tasty with the sweet potato and I especially loved the chutney and goats curd for the contrasting flavours, and the tomato and corn salsa because as a corn lover I can never have enough corn.

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Bastourma & Egg; Armenian air dried beef, quail egg, toasted brioche & garlic jam (Sezar, CBD)

Oh dear why do I love bite size dishes so much?! The brioche and egg were ridiculously soft and light and literally melted in your mouth. Delicious!

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New Style Baklava; Crispy filo, walnut toffee ice cream & salted caramel (Sezar, CBD)

I suppose it had the flavour profile of a baklava, but even without that resemblance this was a mouthwatering dessert. The walnut toffee and salted caramel flavours were done so well and the dessert was satisfying without being too sweet.

Melbourne Food: ESP Estelle by Scott Pickett

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In June, it was T’s birthday. He really wanted to visit Estelle the year before but it had closed for their revamping (only the new Estelle Bistro had opened at the time, but he didn’t want to go to that one) so we visited Saint Crispin instead, which Scott Pickett co-owns. Estelle has now become Estelle Bistro and Estelle by Scott Pickett and they are next door to one another. For T’s birthday, I took us all (with his parents) to ESP (finally)! For the record, we had wanted to go to the original Estelle so badly and were basically fans of Scott Pickett before even tasting his food (purely based on his menus reading like a charm), and definitely before he became something of a TV celebrity.

Dining at ESP involves a 7-course chef’s tasting menu. There will be extras you can add on throughout the courses – on our night there was the choice of an additional main and a dessert. I expect Scott makes some changes to the menu quite constantly to keep it seasonal. We tried a debut dish that night!

Writing a review felt so daunting and now almost two months later, I’m making myself just write up a casual post. Since it’s been so long I’m also struggling to remember details… whoops. Please excuse the dim lighting and iPhone photos.

esp estelle by scott pickett menu

(Click to enlarge)

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House-made onion and bacon bread & house-made pretzel (with house-churned butter). We could choose one or both. I should have taken both, as they were sooo yummy, but shared half and half with T because I wanted to save room for the food. The butter was super luxurious.

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Parsnip, Apple & Salmon Pearls; Spice Avocado, Salt & Vinegar Potato (really creative and tasty); Mussels, Leak & Wasabi. Also, we did actually ask the wait staff to confirm what was edible and what wasn’t – everything that you wouldn’t expect to eat is not edible, haha.

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Smoked Wallaby & Black Rice. I’ve never tasted wallaby before!

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Kangaroo, Egg Yolk, Saltbush. This was actually a really delicate consome and had amazing depth of flavour. T’s mum also found the wallaby and kangaroo lovely despite initial apprehension.

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Spanner Crab, Kombu & Smoked Eel. Featured in June’s Food Lately post, this was maybe my favourite dish of the evening. I love crab, and this had an amazing combination of flavours.

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John Dory, Macadamia, Guanciale. This dish was a bit salty for my liking.

At this point, Scott Pickett himself came to deliver the next dish, on its debut night: Mansfield Venison, Grains & Salsify. We were rather excited and had a quick chat with him… then we tucked in and NOBODY managed to get any photos! Haha. Unfortunately I wasn’t keen on the meat, which I found a bit tough and chewy for my liking. We all skipped on the additional main course which was a duck.

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Packham Pear, Woodside Goats Curd, Celery. Palate cleanser before desserts.

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Quince, Honey & Pineapple Sage.

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Jerusalem Artichoke, Chocolate, Malt. Yes, artichoke! Who would have thought!

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We weren’t tempted by the duck, but we were tempted by the banoffee toffee souffle with salted caramel ice cream! I was a definite yes. We ended up getting just the one to share since it was a pretty decent serving. Watching the wait staff drop the scoop of ice cream in the tall souffle was mesmorising.

Speaking of the staff, they were all so amazing. They were friendly and very down-to-earth despite the high-end atmosphere. They were attentive and very detail-driven. A chair appeared for me while I struggled to crouch slightly for photos. The bill came when I glanced and made eye contact with a staff member. It was the little things that really made a difference.

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Passionfruit, Lemon Verbena Sorbet. A to-die-for delicious end to the food.

At the end of the night, Scott Pickett even came out to take photos with us and ask us what we thought of everything and what our favourite dishes were. He’s such a friendly character and incredibly passionate about food. I really appreciate that despite being relatively famous, he appears to come in most days to the kitchen. Just like in our experience, many other reviews mention him chatting with diners and getting feedback from them. These days top chefs aren’t very hands on when it comes to the day-to-day running of their flagship restaurants and their presence isn’t really felt, which is why I’m not really a fan of the big and popular restaurant giants. I can really feel Scott’s dedication to ESP and how much it means having his name on the restaurant. I think it makes a huge difference, his presence in his own restaurant. We had a really wonderful evening, thanks to his lovely food but also the friendly and relaxing atmosphere provided by all the staff. At one point we were taking photos of the gorgeous (and huge) open kitchen, and his head chef posed for our photos. To be honest, our chef’s menu at ESP was heads and shoulders more creative, unique and intricate than at Saint Crispin, where we also had a 7-course degustation (and only cost marginally less). I was not overly full from ESP, but left so much happier than when I left really really full from Saint Crispin (having let T finish a lot of my food too). I think there’s no comparison between the two ventures. Scott Pickett’s flagship restaurant is the way to go. I would definitely return to ESP for a future special occasion.

ESP – Estelle by Scott Pickett
245 High Street, Northcote 3070
ESP - Estelle by Scott Pickett Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food lately: June 2016

It’s time for another round of iPhone photos featuring my favourite dishes from the past month!

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Spanner Crab, Konbu & Smoked Eel (Estelle by Scott Pickett, Northcote)

This was definitely not an ordinary meal! It was a very special occasion and I still plan on sharing the whole experience on the blog, but gosh I’m no food blogger and I don’t know what to write, so I’ve been procrastinating! Anyway, one of my favourite dishes from the night at ESP was this beauty. My goodness, the spanner crab was so delicate and flavoursome. There was incredible umami in this… big plate of little food (hehe), having the perfect marriage of three distinct seafood flavours that play really smoothly on each other.

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Nihon Nemesis – Delicate chocolate cake, raspberry kanten, matcha, raspberry sorbet, honeycomb (Sake, Southbank)

I don’t think I’m that easily impressed by dessert. But this adorable plate stole my heart! I thought this had everything I could want in a well-crafted dessert – sweetness, acidity, creaminess, crunch, even cooling sorbet! The balance of the main flavours (raspberry and chocolate) was spot on. Plus it looked spot on.

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Pad thai prawn (Sumalee, Bentleigh)

I’ve visited this little Thai place out in the ‘burbs a few times. I always get the pad thai here, because (apart from the fact that I always get pad thai from Thai restaurants) it’s super tasty, generous in ingredients and pretty darn good looking. Now that I’ve learnt that “not all pad thai is good pad thai” after tasting some subpar ones, I’m more appreciative of the really good ones.

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Zangi senbei – Crispy chicken cracker with spicy Kewpie mayo (Ponshu Kiroro, CBD)

Obviously I haven’t tried enough Hokkaido food because I was expecting something more like a senbei. What came out was much softer. It was definitely deep fried, but the inside was quite chewy, almost a halfway towards mochi. So it was like a chewy-crispy cracker… does that even make sense?! It was strangely addictive though, and I would absolutely order this again when I return. But it’s also quite heavy just to eat half of this…

Food: Eating in this long weekend

This long weekend, I decided on T’s and my behalf that we wouldn’t eat out. The previous week we had eaten out a lot for various special occasions and a few unexpected finances had crept up on me, so I was keen to save some money.

Our first genius idea was to buy some ingredients for hot pot. I didn’t even realise T owned some nifty hot pot devices. The sliced lamb and beef was delicious, but the expensive Korean pork neck we got was a fail. We also had the worst dukbokki… as soon as they touched water then broke apart! I’ve never seen such a thing! We ended up splitting everything across two nights of hot pot where we stuffed ourselves silly. It was a lot of food. But we still couldn’t finish the massive wombok! Even though some of what we purchased wasn’t amazing, it was still a super delicious and incredibly fun two meals, and perfect for winter.

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With some of the hot pot broth and a few of the ingredients, we also made a simple soup noodle for lunch. It was great use of the broth, which had amazing flavour.

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Even though we couldn’t have brunch, we made our own simple versions. T made an omelette. I made an easy avo smash with a generous amount of lemon (just how I like it), a tiny strip of bacon, and some scrambled eggs. I couldn’t resist some sriracha on the side… because, well, I always want sriracha.

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This was a light salad I made for myself, with freekeh, cucumber, beetroot and tuna. I did have a hunt for dessert later in the night.

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On the last lunch, we almost gave up but I threw the idea of an easy baked eggs, using canned tomato, some sausage and (of course) eggs. It worked a treat! I had made something like it before, and I think more ingredients do make it better, but even the simplest version makes a hearty brunch dish. I would also go with more toast but only had one slice of bread to share, haha. Frugal life.

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Food lately: May 2016

Time to highlight my favourite dishes while dining out in May!

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Brandade Doughnuts (Hell Of The North, Fitzroy)

While these aren’t meant to be restaurant reviews, I have to mention that Hell of the North is one of my absolute favourite restaurants in Melbourne. I didn’t know what brandade was (salted cod and olive oil, apparently) but ordered it since the much loved pulled pork and gruyere doughnut is apparently taking a break from the menu. This didn’t let me down one bit! Wonderfully crispy on the outside and smooth on the inside, it was more like a croquette rather than the previous doughnut. But the flavours were excellent, full bodied but not overly fishy. Loved it!

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Creme Brulee (Hell Of The North, Fitzroy)

It’s so hard to not pick all the dishes from my latest visit, but another stand out dish had to be their creme brulee. This isn’t the first time ordering it, and I knew I wanted it again. Maybe this is the perfect creme brulee of all creme brulees? The top has a wonderful hard caramel to poke through, and the custard beneath is just heavenly. It’s just creamy, rich and sweet enough without being too sweet and heavy. I cannot find a single fault in this!

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Eggs in hell – Grilled polenta, spicy chorizo ragu, two poached eggs, fior de latte & basil (Three Bags Full, Abbotsford)

This was an incredibly filling and hearty dish. The smooth polenta was so delicious. The rich, saucy goodness on top with spicy chorizo worked really well with the polenta (where one would usually expect bread). Topped off with perfectly poached eggs, this was a great brunch dish.

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(I forgot to note the name down, but from memory it was something like…) Scallops with pancetta and blue cheese sauce (?) (Eau de Vie, CBD)

(I’m aware this is the worst photo ever, but really the place couldn’t be any darker!) Eau de Vie may be known as a whiskey and cocktail bar, but their bar snacks absolutely hold their own. This little scallops dish (while too expensive), was divine. The scallops were cooked to silky perfection, melting in your mouth, and the creamy sauce and crispy pancetta were perfect with the scappots. Together it was one super tasty mouthful of food. This was a highly memorable dish, and I’m still salivating thinking about it…