If I'm about to head off for a trip for a while, and Brad is not coming with me, I always use it as an excuse to go hit up more places and schedule in a few extra meals together…as I'm kind of saving him money since I won't be around…right?
Before this trip to Asia, I insisted he come meet me in the city after work one night to check out Nieuw Amsterdam.
I had popped into this New York inspired space, which had taken over an old Irish pub and given it a fresh and slick new face, on the day of it's opening for Christmas drinks with work, but didn't try the food.
What regret I had, as I started seeing the pictures of other people's meals there pop up through the social media channels, which more often than not left me drooling over my screens.
Spread out over two levels, we opted to sit upstairs, where the light was bright and inviting (and more suitable for food photos), with lots of art deco hints in the decor. The descent downstairs was very reminiscent to me of New York, where a lot of funky bars and interesting spaces were often below ground level.
As we deliberated the menu, which defines itself as 'New American', with it's roots in American culture and taking flavours and inspirations from the immigrant population, we nibbled on a small log of house made New York sourdough.
The sourdough is cooked in a combi oven, which introduces steam and humidity to the process, which results in a tanned and crunchy outside that contrasts nicely with how soft the inside is. There's a delightful butteriness in this dense bread, that leaves the fingers mildly oily.
The concept of chicken and waffles, ever popular in the states, continues to baffle me, and although I had wanted to try it on my trip last year, in the midst of eating everything else, I had forgotten! However, Nieuw Amsterdam's take on this classic is not to be missed, as it's updated with pate and terrine stacked on mini waffles, and finished off with a sliver of crispy chicken skin and a drop of orange caramel.
I've always been a sucker of chicken pate, and here Nieuw Amsterdam have taken that love to a new height with a play on texture and the richness in flavour. The real highlight for me, was the tiny bit of chicken skin at the top, that audibly crunched amongst the softness in the mouth, and the orange caramel, unexpected, but so delightful.
Grits fritters with a variety of sweetcorn and heirloom beetroots is pure comfort, the grits reminding me of gnocchi, with it's round shape and fluffy and light texture. The flavours on a whole made me think of Mexico, corn, bright flavours and all that cheese. Mmhmm!
On the side, I couldn't resist a serve of Dutch potato fries with spiced garlic mayo. I'm not entirely sure what makes these Dutch, but I know that these were delicious. I tend to usually be more of a fan of skinny and crunchy, but I was definitely wooed over with these generously cut, finger thick fries with a nice dark colour.
Our last savoury was the Southern style pork bely chops, completed with sauerkraut, apple sauce and crackling. Who can ever really dislike crackling now? Certainly not I, as I dived in and happily snap, crackle, crunched my way through the lot!
The sauerkraut had a variety of flavours going on, a bit of aniseed, and a nice chilli kick, all of which didn't overshadow the lovely sweetness that's always present. I found the pork to maybe be a touch dry, but lop on the apple sauce and chew on a bit of fat and it all balanced out quite nicely texturally and was full of flavour.
Even before our dishes were cleared, I put in my order for dessert, and quite promptly, I found the Nieuw chocolate bar, with banana and tonka bean ice-cream placed in front of me.
With the ice-cream just at the precipice between holding it's shape and melting, it was just perfect with the smooth chocolate bar that put up no resistance or tension against my spoon as I scooped some up. Rich, and dark, matched as well with the caramelised bananas? Mmhmm.
We're only just a little over two months into the new year, but I can't believe how impressed I've been with some of the newcomers onto the Melbourne dining scene. Nieuw Amsterdam fills in a nice little space where they're dishing up amazing food, with some of the friendliest service, at prices that really don't hurt the pocket much, that you might also be able to indulge in late into the night. One might expect the hospitality crowd to become regular patrons as the bar closes up around 3am Sunday through to Thursday and 5am for the early birds on Friday and Saturday.
So why are you still here? Hurry up and go get some (slightly schmancy) chicken and waffles in you!
106-112 Hardware Street