Food Lately: October & November 2016

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Croquetas: Sweet Corn & Pickled Jalapeno & Chipotle Aioli (Pacos Tacos, Melbourne CBD)

These were perfectly fried, incredibly smooth and creamy on the inside with a great kick of of jalapenos, making it the perfect fried snack.

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Pad Thai: Thin rice noodles stir-fried with homemade Pad Thai sauce with vegetables (Chinese chives, dried shrimp, tofu and minced peanuts) and crispy pork (Nine Elephants, Docklands)

Apparently some people say this is one of the best Pad Thai in Melbourne. I can’t really argue with that. The sauce was so fragrant and balanced, but it also had body from the sweet, sour and (surprisingly) spice. I loved how well everything was coated. The crispy pork was a bit dry and felt like it had been re-fried.

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New Shanghai Xiao Long Bao/Steamed Pork Dumplings (New Shanghai, Melbourne CBD)

This is one of my favourite places for dumpling-style Chinese dishes. It helps that it’s not the hole-in-the-wall kind of place that is my other favourite dumpling place. Being Shanghai-nese, I’m proud of these xiao long bao. The thin, springy, almost-translucent skin houses piping hot meat soup (and meat). Delicious and perfect every time.

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Beef burger: Beef pattie, smoked bacon, beetroot relish, cheese, tomato, lettuce, American mustard, tomato sauce and aioli (The Beer and Burger Bar, Richmond)

I have a small list of my favourite burgers in Melbourne, and I didn’t expect to find this new contender. The size and construction was just right, the patty was delicious, and I loved the addition of the beetroot relish for some extra acidity and sweetness. Unfortunately the generous sauce was spilling everywhere around the halfway point of eating this thing and I was looking like a right mess. (The chips had great seasoning but were too fat for my liking).

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Dragon roll: Iside out roll with seared tuna, cucumber, avocado, tobiko, Japanese mayo, chilli sauce and spring onion (Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya, Fitzroy)

Yes I returned again! Three times in five months is literally unheard of for me as I rarely tend to revisit restaurants. This is one of my favourite rolls they make, especially because the chilli sauce packs a punch and it has all the right textural elements.

Food Lately: August & September 2016

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Takoyaki (Cafe Carpenter, Malvern East)

These takoyaki are the closest to authentic Japanese takoyaki that I’ve had in Melbourne – everywhere else in Melbourne has been a humongous disappointment. Like in Japan, they were soft and had a delightfully gooey consistency. Unlike Japan, there was very little octopus, but the batter itself and being cooked properly on the takoyaki grill already made it pretty darn scrumptious.

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Fish Fingers: White anchovies, tomato butter + parsley oil on toast fingers (Hercules Morse Kitchen + Bar, South Melbourne)

I have no idea why this restaurant is not more well known. It is incredible!!! On the most recent revisit, my favourite new dish was this little number. Since I hate anchovies, it is a huge testament that this ended up not only blowing my mind, but being my firm favourite! The salty and fishy taste was evident but subtle and beautifully balanced with the milder and smoother elements. A winner!

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Salted peanut brittle parfait with bruleed banana + butterscotch sauce (Hercules Morse Kitchen + Bar, South Melbourne)

I already mentioned this dessert last time, but I can’t help that it still stands tall and proud. I’ve proclaimed it is one of my favourite desserts of all time. The lovey (and extremely talented) husband and wife team behind this restaurant say people visit just to eat this. For good reason!

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Soft shell crab with Chimichurri sauce + red salsa (United Kitchen Dining and Tapas, St Kilda)

These were some of the largest and most fleshy soft shell crabs I’ve ever had! They were well fried and simply seasoned, so it was perfect to enjoy the flavour and meatiness of the crabs.

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Nori Taco with grilled salmon belly, sushi rice, spicy napa cabbage, Japanese mayo + chilli oil (Mr Miyagi, Windsor)

I loved this signature dish last time I visited and had been dying to gobble it again. There’s something about how over the top it is, and the combination of sushi elements, rich mayo, spice from the chilli oil, all stuffed into a (adorable) light and crispy seaweed taco, that is kind of irresistible.

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Churros (Mexico City, Bentleigh)

These churros were so crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and wonderful with the chocolate and caramel sauces. Yum!

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

Melbourne: Beautiful Eastland

Yesterday I visited Eastland Shopping Centre for the first time. It’s a fair distance out from the city and I only wanted to go because I had heard of their recent installation in The Beauty Garden, The Canopy by Rebecca Louise Law, featuring 150,000 preserved flowers hung from the ceiling. While it was unsuccessful in terms of shopping, I did discover that Eastland is pretty darn beautiful. Apart from The Canopy, there is still a lot of redevelopment going on, and many store fronts featured some gorgeous wall art while they were still being worked on. Can this be a thing, please?

Photos are taken from my instagram.

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