Saturday, May 29, 2010

Guava Bean Mini

As this blog probably has made obvious, I'm quite fond of my chai lattes. After all, I'm not a coffee drinker, hot chocolate tends to feel a bit too heavy to drink at regular coffee dates and whilst I love me a cup of tea, they're easy enough to do at home by myself.

So a chai latte becomes a little treat when I'm out.

And so, I am always on a lookout for a good takeaway chai latte in the city.

I hadn't found anything really around the Myer/Melbourne Central end of the city until recently.

I had walked by this tiny little coffee shop in Causeway Lane before, but hadn't had the time to stop. According to it's website, it's the smallest cafe in Melbourne. Hey I'd believe that. It's literally a bright green hole in the wall, with a coffee machine, and some fridge space for milk!

I love the little milk pitchers stuck onto the walls at the back!

Guava Coffee Mini opened up in about February this year, and is run by the ever so friendly Alistair. It's always nice on a cold winter day to be greeted with a bit of smile and cheer. I find it's really sometimes the people who will make you come back to a place.

And a little complimentary almond biscuit too.

Oh and my chai latte was excellent. It was the sort with the taste of the spices at the back of your throat yet still lovingly sweet, especially with the honey. Definitely somewhere I'll be frequenting as it gets colder and colder!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stellini Bar - A happy little find on Little Collins.

I don't think I've done a random saunter around the city to try and figure out what to have for lunch for a long time. David and I decided to meet up for lunch, but we hadn't pre-determined where, which is very strange for me.

But we decided we eventually wanted to end up at Ralph Lauren, so made our way down to the Collins St end of town and then decided to go to Little Collins since there always seem to be cute eating places around the area.

As we walked along, some large lovely windows came into view and in them, a perfectly adorable looking restaurant. The charm of the place just oozed out of the windows and struck right into my little Melbournian heart.

I decided for us.

We had found Stellini Bar.

The space was just quaint, cosy and intimate. It felt like somebody loved the place, and didn't just own it.

A lot of these cafes I'm loving at the moment I've suddenly just realised, all have this communal table thing going on. And it's always a beautiful thick, sturdy wooden table. Hmm. Maybe that's what's winning me over. Clearly. (or well I'm sure it factors in somewhat...) It just makes a place seem more approachable and friendly since strangers can sit together if tight on space...

Specials were scrawled onto the tiles behind the counter, with what I thought looked to be very reasonable prices!

Although of course we had to have a quick glance over the menu.

I can always appreciate a place that has short, but exceptional sounding menu items, I'd much rather go somewhere that can do 10 dishes excellently, than 30 dishes decently.

Both David and I went for a chai tea, not chai latte this time! Which was lovely and soothing.

Whilst a lot of things on the menu were tempting me, the special of black pork stew just appealed to me incredibly, especially since it's a bit of a gray, overcast and cool day in Melbourne. The stew fit that perfectly, it was comforting food, warm and hearty, but without feeling seedy and unhealthy. It was rich with vegetables, I absolutely loved the peas and the pork was just so tender and fell apart in my mouth easily.

David got the warm pearl cous cous salad with poached chicken. This was so fresh, in looks and taste. The pearl cous cous was something I hadn't really had and I really enjoyed the texture and the flavour, as David said it was like eating a pearl...but squishy. Hmm. Maybe not the best metaphor, but it's certainly interesting. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy and I'm not sure what the dressing was, but it was quite delightful as well.

I may be a wee bit of a faster eater than David is...

As we went up to pay, we couldn't help but ogle at the dessert selection and when I discovered the biscotti was gluten looked so good. And was apparently made fresh that morning. I couldn't resist. It had chocolate, pistachios and almonds (I think) in it, a nice light treat after a very heartening meal.

I think I may have potentially found another favourite and/or regular spot for lunch, and maybe even dinner! All of the lunch meals didn't really go over the $16 mark and as you can see, they're a fairly good decent size. I saw some gnocchi go by me while paying which looked absolutely amazing as well.

From the website, I'm getting a feeling that Stellini is owned/run/something by the same people at Mess Hall, since they are linked to them, which is another place I've had a very nice and honest meal at with David as well.

I'm almost half hoping not too many people notice this place, as even during the typical Friday lunch rush period, the place wasn't too busy and I'd love to always be able to get a seat....

Stellini Bar
198 Little Collins St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9654 5074
Stellini Bar on Urbanspoon


Although there are actually so many options down Glenferrie Rd in Hawthorn, it can sometimes be so difficult to decide where to go on a spontaneous note.

Which is the situation Brad and I found ourselves in last night.

But after sussing out the options, he said he had never tried Italian on Glenferrie, I had already been to Di Palma's and whilst I had been reading mixed reviews on Rococo, as I said to my mum before I left the house 'I'll never know myself unless I actually go'.

The last time I had been to Rococo, was when it was still known as Isa Brown, way back in high school. I really shouldn't be feeling old yet, but I kinda do at the moment. Hmm.

I do like the new toned down, mellow interior, it's dark yet warming and I suppose being fairly busy and bustling doesn't hurt it too much either. Whilst the place was quite noisy, I could still talk to Brad without the both of us shouting, which I personally find a bonus.

The staff were quick, efficient and courteous, which impressed me since the place was so big and it was a very busy night.

Being a cold night, and whilst I kind of wanted to cut back on the carbohydrates since that had been all I had been eating all day, I couldn't resist trying the arancini. Now I kind of wish I hadn't really, whilst I always say you can't go wrong with cheese, the arancini were quite soft and mushier than I like, there was no texture of the rice and were luke-warm instead of being piping hot as I usually like having them.

But as I said. I was hungry, it was cold, there was cheese, it was pretty tolerable.

I went for a salad with seared salmon and warm vegetables with a caper dressing. Whilst nice and hearty, especially with vegetables such as eggplant and pumpkin, it wasn't very exciting. Nor as warm as I was hoping it would be. Salmon was cooked well though, the insides of the salmon being nice and pink and tender.

As I said though, not very exciting.

For Brad it was the fettuccine with mushroom sauce. Again, nice, but not amazing. Pasta was cooked well, not too soft, aldente, sauce creamy and flavoursome.

We opted out of dessert to scuttle across the road to Cones to get a scoop of gelato instead.

Although our meal wasn't horrible by any means, and the service prompt and efficient, I felt the prices we paid (my salad was $25 and Brad's pasta was $19.50 I think), were a little overpriced for what they were.

Not somewhere I'd find myself back at too soon, but mainly because I feel there are better options to be had on Glenferrie Rd.

797 Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn VIC 3122
(03) 9818 8212

Rococo Hawthorn on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Omakase at Shira Nui

I really should start deciding if I want to just go with the restaurant name with my blog names or attempt to come up with something witty...


Last night as my birthday treat, Brad had booked a spot for us at Shira Nui for the Omakase. We had both read quite a number of reviews about the place and I had (maybe him too) had drooled over pictures in other blogger's posts. And hey, it was close to his place, so all the more incentive to go!

We had originally booked the 8:30 session, but then decided to change to the 6pm session, even if we would get kicked out at 8 for the next seating. 2 hours seemed like it would be long enough to gobble down sushi though!

The place is really in an obscure spot, and was a bit more spacious than I expected. There was the sushi bar that can fit about 12 people and a couple of tables for the strange people who didn't go for the omakase.

The longer I spent in Shira Nui (and maybe the more warm sake I had), the more I felt myself be transported back to Tokyo, the chef and the waitresses bantering back and forth to each other in Japanese, the professional yet warm nature of the chefs and just the way the place was done up, I didn't feel like I was in Melbourne for a little while.


He said his name was Jimmy/Jimi(?) but I highly doubt it. But I will call him Jimi-san anyway because I think it sounds cute. He served us our sushi all night. The way the omakase works (for those who haven't already had the chance to read on other blogs) is that they have the black plate up on the counter and you pretty much get seated and the chefs decide what you eat. They give you two of each sushi each time and tell you whether or whether not to have it with soy sauce.

Good to see Jimi-san practice good OHS with that blow torch...

I've read that it's at your own tastebud's peril if you disobey the chefs, so I opted to follow the rules.

We started with the King Dory, with lemon and salt, no soy and oh my! What a little wake up call this one was, the lemon was really very strong, but in a good way, it really woke up and cleansed out my palette. Funnily enough, having a bite and combining the lemon and wasabi used to adhere the fish to the rice, made for a great and interesting flavour combination as well. I found after this sushi, everything tasted so rich and wonderful, so whilst maybe a little too much lemon for my liking, as I didn't feel I could really get a taste for the fish, I think it was a great way to start the night.

Just lightly grilled/torched salmon. This again was eaten with no soy sauce and gosh, it really didn't need anything. It was simply amazing, only just cooked around the outside, with the inside still tender, raw and pink, it just melted in your mouth. Just amazing fatty salmon goodness. Oooh...the thought of it...

Mackerel with spring onion and sheet of sweet seaweed, devoured with soy sauce. I was absolutely thrilled when this was presented, mackerel is one (but not THE ONE) of my favourite sushi fish, which I find I can get quite often in Asia. I usually get it as a sashimi when in my favourite Japanese restaurant in the Philippines. However, in Australia it seems to be a completely different matter. Although it is quite a fishy fish (if you have the fish it makes sense), there's just this amazing sweetness to it, which is what I love.

Barbeque beef, or if you know Japanese, yakiniku. I'm going to start sounding like a broken record here, but again, amazingly soft and tender and oh so rich! The flavouring they used really brought out the taste of the beef.

Oops! Got a bit too excited and ate one before taking a picture! This was arc shell, also known as red clam, the only other sushi to be had with soy. A nice little breather after the richness of the beef, had the lovely slight crunchiness of shellfish, but otherwise yet another one that went down amazingly.

Lightly seared tuna steak. Like the salmon earlier, this was so rich in flavour and another amazing melt in your mouth texture protein. I really need to broaden my vocab.

Oh god. Oh god. Can I just say, even before this hit our plate, I was eyeing through the fish cabinet at what the chefs were torching out of curiosity...and when I saw it, I must have shivered with delight, gripped excitedly onto Brad's knee and gaped and 'oh-my-god-i-hope-that's-for-us'-ed until it was put on our plate.

This my dear friends, is Anago. In English, sea eel. Yes it is different to Unagi and yes, it is about 20 times more amazing. This is probably my absolute favourite sushi fish and again, is super hard to come across in Australia (I have never seen anywhere else that does it), heck anywhere other than Japan really! So you have to understand how excited I was. Whilst I have said the other sushi melted in your mouth, this was the epitome of it. When you took a bite, it literally just melts in your mouth like warm butter, BUTTER! It tastes rich like butter too. Well not quite, but you get the idea. This is sushi heaven.

Following the amazing, was the kingfish belly. It was after having this, that I realised how well planned out the omakase was. After all the richness of the beef, tuna steak and anago (OH MY GOSH THE ANAGO), the kingfish was delightfully, cool, crisp and refreshing. A perfect injection to let the palette rest before serving up...

The grilled oysters. I should've asked what sauce or toppings they had on it, warm sushi is something that seems odd, but sometimes it just works so well. Like this one. A totally rich, strong taste, yet, whilst melting in your mouth, it still had the slimy texture of the oyster which I personally love.

It was after that we decided to concede defeat, although I was a little jealous that some of the omakase customers could still squeeze in the torched sea perch.

I would've also loved to have gone for dessert, the green tea brulee and black sesame brulee certainly tickled my fancy, but for the life of me, I was just way too full.

We were instead complimented with a sorbet with fruits, Brad and I were trying to figure out the flavours in it. I personally thought it tasted a bit like plum wine...

For those curious, our meal, including a flask of sake came to approximately $180, which I thought was very reasonable, considering the quality of the produce we got.

Whilst Brad quietly ate and savoured his sushi next to me, as I made a bit of an idiot of myself, very vocally oohing and aahing and 'oh-my-god'-ing at everything I put in my mouth, we both came to the conclusion that omakase really is amazing and completely lived up to all the hype we had both read.

And although I would love to go back and have the anago every day of my life, I think I might keep it as a special occasion place, or maybe I might just go back to satisfy my sweet tooth and try out those brulees.

247 Springvale Rd
Glen Waverley VIC 3150
(03) 9886 7755

Shiranui on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two and Twenty...


It's always odd when you see the number you've changed to, I don't think I ever honestly feel older, or maybe I'm just getting into age denial early on in my life.

At any rate, Monday the 24th of May was my birthday!

Had a pretty quiet day and had a quiet gathering at home with mum, my brother, my aunt, a few of my favourite boys and some sushi, macarons, cake and Disney movies!

Whilst some macarons came out beautifully, there was a batch of shells that refused to seperate from the baking paper...

And thus broke and crumbled...

So we covered them with chocolate and devoured them before my friends could see how horrible they were!

Evan made a giant-mega-ultra sushi roll that included everything we had on the table...cured salmon, cucumber, carrot, unagi, mince pork and mushroom, satay chicken...yes I'm dead serious. Oddly enough it did work, it was this rather fascinating explosion of flavours in your mouth, although I don't think it's something I would have on a very regular basis...

My dear mother made her infamous flourless chocolate cake and decorated it with some Victorian strawberries. And of course we had the macarons on the side, with delicious chocolate ganache sandwiched inbetween each of them.

Making a wish....a secret one though. :]

The cake did not last long...

We found we had quite a bit of chocolate ganache left and discovered how adorable strawberry topped macarons were!

We topped our night off with a viewing of Monsters Inc. and Wall-E, both absolutely amazing movies. I forgot how much I loved Monsters Inc. and was exceptionally surprised at how well written it actually is.

A bigger bash is scheduled on Friday night which shall involve less food and more karaoke...should be interesting....