Thursday, January 29, 2015


Just the right amount of clamour and noise in the background, the addictive aromas of lemongrass and spices floating through, ice cold Singha on a very balmy 28 degree night, food that delights the senses, and company that keep you laughing all night. 

You’ve got to love when quality food and company and a great atmosphere all come together to make a killer of a Friday. 

I was so pleased when Sheena and Thomas from Chasing a Plate asked if I would like to grab a meal with them, as it had always been one of those situations where we bumped into each other at events, but always only had time for a ‘Hi!’ and ‘Bye!’ before running off somewhere or getting distracted by something else!

When Sheena asked if I was interested in going to Botherambo, I couldn’t respond fast enough or with enough enthusiasm, as the new Thai eatery had caught my eye on Swan Street and had been sitting on the back of my brain…however, silly me underestimated how busy it would be, and so when we rocked up at 7pm (I stupidly decided to fit in yoga beforehand), we were greeted with a one and a half hour wait. Hmmm.

Fortunately, Botherambo is kind of split into half, half dining, half bar, and so we moved straight out into the bar area, starting at a standing table and then very stealthily sneaking to a table with stools as it evacuated. The bar area is kind of like a covered courtyard, and here we got a couple of beers and a little nibble to keep us going, while we also waited for Brad (who as always lost track of time, and rocked up looking red as a lobster after an afternoon of soccer in the sun). 

The fried squid tenticles (yes spelt with an i on the menu) with siracha, kewpie mayo and lime was delightful, lightly battered, lovely and zesty, and maybe not quite as finger-food-y as I imagined. Picking it up with your fingers and tearing away isn’t such a sexy look! I could have gone with a little more siracha and mayo (but everyone could really now couldn’t they?)

It’s been a while since I’ve waited this long for a table, but you know what, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be! Suppose beer always helps. 

When we were seated, Botherambo was humming away happily, with a birthday party on a long table up the front by the window, cosy couples on the bar, and groups of good looking 20 and 30 somethings having a jolly ol’ time. Botherambo had just enough cool going on without being pretentious, dim lights that weren’t too dark, colourful walls contrast against grungy brick walls and  just enough background noise to fill the space but not induce shouting across the table. It was surprisingly comfortable, especially for a hip new space. 

The menu is distinctly Thai, I imagine chef Kam Mcmanamey (previously of Bangpop) wouldn’t have it any differently, with curries, plenty of lemongrass, and lots of Thai classics, with a couple of other south east Asian influences, such as the Hanoi hot pot. 

I had been perving earlier in the day on the chargrilled chicken ribs when perusing the menu, with turmeric, lemongrass, green chilli nam jim, pickled shallot and herbs. Lightly grilled, with a delightful char, these chicken ribs were meaty and bursting with flavour. The herbs and chilli making it quite vibrant. On another random note, I’m loving that chicken ribs are all over menus at the moment, my family has been eating them for years, and it’s surprising they haven’t been brought to menus earlier. Good on you Melbourne!

The crispy duck leg salad with kohlrabi, cucumber, lychee and chilli, was cooling, refreshing and bright, with a nice kick of heat of course. Fortunately (for me anyway) it was not quite as hot as the som tum salad that I remember having at Bangpop!

I’ve always got to have Thai fish cakes and at Botherambo they’re made with Cone Bay barramundi and served with green mango, cucumber, chilli and coriander. Again, well seasoned, lovely and zesty, a wee bit of chilli hit going on. 

We originally ordered green tofu curry, to try and get some vegetables into our meal, but when the red duck leg curry came out instead, we couldn’t be bothered correcting anyone, as it smelt and looked damn good (and who needs vegetables anyway...?). Served with sweet baby corn, wood ear mushrooms, snake beans, krachai and Thai basil, all I wanted to do was take the whole bowl of gravy, fill it up with some white rice to make it like a rice porridge and slurp it all up. Rich, without being heavy, savoury and sweet. Although I will always have to be more partial to Malaysian curries (or my dad will probably disown me), I absolutely love a good Thai curry gravy. The duck was delicious as well, very tender and falling off the bone.

With a serve of sticky rice? Oh yeah.

To wrap up the savouries (literally actually), we also got the DIY grilled lemongrass pork, served on skewers with lettuce cups, vermicelli, perilla, green onion, fried garlic and a sticky soy bean pork dressing. Wow, they did not hold back on the lemongrass and these were intensely aromatic and juicy. I do enjoy a DIY meal, as it just gets you involved, a little messy, which always means a bit of a laugh at each others expense. From crunchy and crisp lettuce to cool and springy noodles and finishing with sauce trickling down your arm to the elbow, it’s all good here. 

The girls continued the menu dominance when it came to sweets, and we settled on a serve of coconut sorbet with chocolate kaffir lime ice magic and peanut sesame salt, which for $4, is an absolute steal. The kaffir lime is surprisingly pungent, and refreshing, adding a zest to the cool sweetness of the coconut sorbet, the chocolate and peanut sesame salt adding a touch of indulgence. Beautifully balanced, and small enough that you could even perhaps consider two.

The only dish that left us feeling a bit underwhelmed for the night, was the steamed pandan pudding, with toddy palm, lychee, coriander and mango sorbet. Whilst it looked lovely and was quite light and fluffy the steamed pandan pudding was quite bland, lacking in sweetness, which I suppose the fruits and sorbet it’s served with is supposed to help, but I’d hope that as an element itself, it’d contribute a bit more flavour. I did love the mango sorbet though with the lychee and could have easily gone for another scoop of that! 

Other than the one dessert dish, we absolutely loved everything else about our meal at Botherambo. On top of the great food Kam’s got going out of the kitchen and the cool, but not too cool for school vibe, the service is great, staff are friendly, patient (especially the poor guy fending off all the people vying for a seat, and dealing with me 3 or 4 times before seating us) and attentive. We were never short of water, our food came out quickly, we only had one forgotten Singha order, but if that’s all I have to complain about, I think we’re doing darn well. 

Although I do absolutely adore Jinda with all my heart when it comes to Thai food, Kam brings a slightly different and refined approach to Thai food at Botherambo, and whilst Jinda is the kind of spot you’d pop in and out for a really cheap and cheery eat, Botherambo you can hang out in all night (as we did!); it's a little more dressed up, and it surprisingly still doesn’t dent the wallet too badly at all. Good work indeed.  

65 Swan Street
Richmond 3121

Botherambo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

8Bit Burger

So it may not be totally obvious, but if you have followed me on Instagram, you may or may not know that I’m a bit of a nerd. When I joined BrandWorks each week, someone in the office did a ‘Get to know you’ presentation, where we shared pictures of our childhood growing up and the things we liked etc. 

I casually popped up one photo of me in a room with a bunch of tv’s, guys and a video game controller in hand and mentioned I used to play in video game tournaments (not very seriously though mind you) and was met with a ‘WAIT UP. REALLY?!’

It’s not that unusual surely?

So when 8 Bit burger opened up, the gentle video game nostalgia just warmed my heart, so Brad and I made a trip over to the other side of town to meet up with friends, and get a burger fix. 

Before meeting our friends, Brad and I popped into Common Galaxia for our coffee and chai fixes. I loved that the space wasn’t too busy, and the counter seats by the window were just perfect for a little quiet time, watching all the cute little dogs that were walked by.

We also attempted to hunt for Olympic Doughnuts, and after walking all around the train station 3 or 4 times, and Brad getting a bit irritated at me, we realised that they were actually closed. Bummer!

But eventually, we made our way to 8Bit, bringing an unexpected mix of grunge, cool, edge and brightness to an area that’s still a wee bit daggy. 

8Bit isn’t very big, we were four, but there are only a couple of table style seats, the rest being high top counter seating, which isn’t usually so conducive for a group. And then waiting for four seats to open up? It takes a while. Even at 2pm in the afternoon on a Sunday, I was so surprised just how many people were coming in! Surely lunch for most people is at 12…?

While waiting, I scoffed down a peanut butter milkshake. The wait certainly outlasted the milkshake; although it was not quite Shake Shack level goodness, it was very close, and probably one of my favourite milkshakes in Melbourne. You can actually tell peanut butter (the chunky kind) has actually been included in the milkshake, through the texture and the intensity of flavour. 

 We eventually got a seat at the counter facing the kitchen, which is a clean, systematic and efficient machine, pumping out burger after burger, each looking as good as the next, with no muss or fuss. 

The burgers are visually stunning, bursting out of the little white box holder, they aren’t super big, but they are voluminous. Brad went big with his Double Dragon, with double beef patties, double cheese, double bacon, pickles, mustard, lettuce and 8 Bit sauce. The one bit I had and I found it was all there. Plenty of flavour, well cooked patty, soft and sweet bun. Yum. 

I opted for the After Burner, beef, tomato, red onion, lettuce, cheese, chilli sauce, jalapeños and chipotle mayo, without the bun, so that it was gluten free. Unfortunately, the bun free option is not quite as sexy, I was hoping to have lettuce leaves wrapped around so that I could still hold and eat it in a traditional burger way.

However, this didn’t stop it from being delicious. The generous topping of jalapeños is what made this for me, providing a juiciness and just enough heat, cutting through the richness of the patty. I did feel that they could’ve given me a little more lettuce or something though, considering I was having no bun…

We also got some cheese and bacon fries, which looked great, and were generally pretty good, but didn’t wow me too much. The chips were a bit soggier than I would like (I am aware that the cheese sauce will make them a bit soggy, but even then, I don’t think these were crispy to begin with), however, you can’t really be too upset when there’s bacon in the picture, although again, I think these would have benefitted by having some crispy pieces of bacon included for some texture…

In all, 8Bit is a good burger showing, and surely a welcome addition to the food scene out west. I probably wouldn’t trek out just to have it, but if I was on that side of town, would be more than happy to drop in. I guess we’re pretty spoilt out east and in the city already anyway…although them shakes are pretty darn good…

Common Galaxia
3/130 Victoria Street
VIC 3011

Common Galaxia on Urbanspoon

8 Droop Street
Vic 3011

8bit. on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 24, 2015

La Chinesca

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant

Slipping off Russel Street on to a dark and quiet laneway, through an unsuspecting door and down a set of stairs; in Melbourne you would probably expect to be met with loud music, slightly sticky floors and the firm vibrations of the bass bouncing off the walls. 

But La Chinesca is a surprise. Yes it’s a bit dark, and yes it’s stripped back, a bit edgy, with a mix of brick and concrete walls, but fortunately the floors aren’t sticky…yet. There’s also a definite sense of luxury, with lovely leather booths, a plush sitting nook up on the wall and Laurent Perrier lining the shelves of the bar. 

I’m definitely okay with this.

La Chinesca is somewhere I never got around to for the longest time, as before, they were toting a Chinese and Mexican fusion menu, and although I like both cuisines perfectly fine, I was a bit sceptical of the two together. 

However, they’ve decided to do an overhaul of the menu and play to chef Daniel Salcedo’s real strengths, who not only helped make a seriously good argument for South American cuisine in Carlton with Piqueos, but is a native of Lima himself. 

But first, let me briefly tell you, the cocktails are wicked. Wicked. Wicked. I rarely do cocktails anymore, having fully embraced my love of gin (and less calories in my alcohol habits), but goddamn. I wanted to have everything on that cocktail menu! I loved the Jungle Gin with choc chai gin (I KNOW!), Pimms, lemonade and mint. Although the chai and chocolate didn’t come through too strongly, the otherwise very refreshing cocktail did have a nice little bit of depth. 

Although we did stay on the Laurent Perrier for a while as well, do ask for wine recommendations. I don’t quite remember what I had (oh, that’s the alcohol talking…), but there were one or two glasses of Spanish or South American wine that was just fascinating, and delicious. 

But ah. We’re here for the food too. And although the Mexi-nese had some not so favourable reviews floating around, don’t worry, La Chinesca has gotten serious and Daniel Salcedo is only giving us flavour. 

The Cebiche de Carretilla Limeno, local white fish, squid, lime, red onion, corn, lettuce and chilli was a snappy way to get right to our palates. With a nice dash of heat, and plenty of zing and zest, this is not a mild dish by any means to start! Very fresh. Loving it. 

Grilled scallops were a perfect mouthful, only just cooked through, the way it should be. 

Where Daniel is really doing some good work though, is the Los Anticuchos, also known as the Peruvian Grill. From chicken, to beef heart (I managed to convince everyone to get into it!), all of the proteins are marinated in panca chilli, potato’s and buttered corn (swoon). All of the meat is still beautifully juicy and tender, with a lovely char, and a touch of spiciness. Was very hard not to ask for more.

And then there were the hand cut chips. With mayo and ranchero sauce. Golden, short, crispy, crunchy. Again was quite difficult not to just mow through them… They really could do with slightly bigger portions of these now don’t you think? Or maybe that’s just the glutton in me talking…

Everything that was brought out to us smelt simply amazing, and I was honestly surprised at the quality of the food that was coming out, since it might be quite easy just to label La Chinesca as a bar. Take this beautiful short rib, tender and smoky. 

To finish we got to have the ‘King Kong’, fig jam with Manjar Blanco, purple corn candy floss and shortbread. Oh man. I was freaking out over how short the shortbread is. You touched it and it crumbled, on the tongue it just dissolved into air almost. It was amazing, with the richness of the jam wedged between, and the sweet, but not overly, candy floss to add another flavour profile. 

By this point, the little basement had gotten pretty loud, as gorgeous salsa dancers got the floor into the mood, with a live band and a whole lot of fun. Although I used to go to live local band gigs with Brad since he was in a band before, live Latin music is so much more fun. 

La Chinesca has honestly surprised me, in the best way possible, and although I haven’t popped back yet, I certainly think it’d make a great spot for a quick drink, which could lead into a much longer night, with a whole lot of King Kong’s! I definitely left a little bit more stumbly than I expected to be on a Thursday night…

Harley House Basement
71 Collins Street
Melbourne 3000 

La Chinesca on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tokyo - Day 5 - Senso-ji Temple - Ueno - Akihabara

It is almost terrifying how much stuff there is to do in Japan. On both my trips to Japan last year, I felt like we hardly scratched the surface of the cities we were in! 

On the BrandWorks office last day in Tokyo, we had originally planned for everyone to go to Disneyland; even though I hadn’t been, I decided to opt out. Despite having already spent 4 pretty full days in Japan, we had somehow not gotten around to any cultural sight seeing, with not a temple in sight…and although I had done Tokyo before, rather than stand in lines for rides, I needed my cultural hit, and after Tsukiji had a hankering to really get my trigger happy finger working the camera, so spent the day venturing out on my own and exploring a little more of the eastern side of Tokyo.


I popped out of bed bright and early, I might have left the hotel by about 7:30am or 8am, to some nippy winds and a sleeping Tokyo, with the exception of one or two couples, after a very happy night it seems, staggering down the narrow streets in the red light district in Shinjuku. 

Whilst we never got to explore the infamous Golden Gai district in Shinjuku in the evening, during the day, it’s still a curious little space, with more bars than you would think possible crammed into impossibly small spaces, and signs burgeoning out from the wall, trying to out door each other. As I strolled by and snapped a few shots, there were a few lingering sounds of laughter and music in the air, with patrons who clearly decided the night should be carried on into the morning. 

I stumbled onto the Hanazono Shrine on the way to the train station, which has a cute little flea market set up at the front, nothing big, but there is one lady who is selling remnants of kimono fabric for a fraction of what it would usually cost (and I can’t help thinking how much my brother would love that!) 

The thing I love about Japanese shrines is that they’re hardly static places, with the traditional practices of tying up bad fortunes on wires next to the temple, and ‘Ema’, small wooden plaques with prayers or wishes written on them and hung up by the shrine, always providing something new to look at and see. 

And although the Hanazono Shrine was quite nice, I was on my way to one of my favourite temples in Tokyo (and one of the most popular as well)


Oh Senso-ji. The first time I visited Tokyo, my family stayed at a Ryokan (traditional Japanese style hotel) right next to the temple, so it certainly stayed imprinted with me. 

Located in Asakusa, it’s about a 30 to 40 minute train ride from Shinjuku. It’s a Buddhist temple that is also Tokyo’s oldest and one of it’s most significant. 

The best advise I can give you? Get there early. I got to the entrance of the temple, the ‘Thunder Gate’, just before 9am, and was surprised at the number of people around at the time already. 

The ‘Thunder Gate’ is quite an impressive visual statement, and it’s worth looking all around, how beautiful is this wooden dragon engraving that’s on the bottom of the lantern? Once I ducked in underneath to start taking pictures, everyone else started noticing and doing the same!

The gate leads to Nakamise-dori, which is a long strip of shops, that eventually ends with the temple at the very end. At this time, Nakamise-dori was just starting to wake up, and is a great time to arrive, a little bit hungry, as you can then stop by all the food stands to eat all the sweets and food while it’s super duper fresh. 

There’s nothing better than going to one of the many Ningo-yaki stalls along the Nakamise-dori, and getting a freshly made one put into your hand…that’s still warm. These little fluffy cakes are stuffed with red bean paste, and when you’re bundled up in your leather jacket, scarf and jumper at 9am in the morning? Perfect. I was actually a little hungrier than I planned to be at the time, and these were just the thing to warm the belly up. 

It’s great to watch them be made as well, whether it be by more traditional methods, or with automated machinery, which is just as fascinating. 

This fried treat, which is a bit like Ningo-yaki as well, with different flavoured batters and filled with red bean paste. I got the black sesame flavour, which again, when freshly fried, was just the thing for a cold tummy. 

And speaking of more hot goodness, freshly grilled senbei; rice crackers, are so much better freshly made. So crunchy, and with that delightful slightly charred flavour to it as well. 

Although the presentation of these takoyaki impressed me, with sliced baby octopus sticking out of the balls, I was a bit disappointed in flavour, as since the octopus was just added on top, there wasn’t any of the flavour in the batter of the ball itself…so skip these if you see them. 

The last thing I accidentally stumbled on to after I had walked around the temple, was Asakusa Kagetsudo. I first was drawn to it, as they had a plethora of model soft serves in a display, showcasing the myriad of flavours they had. But then I noticed, everyone was leaving the shop with these giant ‘melon pan’; melon bread. 

Now as I don’t usually go overboard on gluten, I had never had melon bread before, but when I saw the little line of people waiting to get theirs, and a photo board showing off all the celebrities that had visited (I even recognised my brother’s favourite singer, Kyaru Pamyu Pamyu in some of the photos), I knew there had to be something good going on here! 

So after a couple of minutes, and 200 yen (or something like that, it was around $2 for one) I was presented with this beautifully aromatic, golden mound the size of my face. And I was not disappointed in the slightest. 

So melon bread, isn’t actually made of melons or melon flavoured, it’s just got the shape of one…kind of anyway. And like a good brioche, you really don’t need it with anything. Just take one bite and revel in it’s goodness. Incredibly crusty and crunchy on the outside, indescribably fluffy inside, slightly sweet and incredibly moreish. I would say it does remind me of a brioche, except sweet, and crunchy on the outside. Haha! Not to be missed if you’re in the area (which you should be if you’re visiting Tokyo anyway)!

At the temple building itself, it’s a hub of activity, with tourists snapping away and locals going through their traditional rituals, from incense burning, to having their fortunes drawn.

Don’t forget to wash your hands at the fountains before you go into the temple!

Senso-ji is one of the few temples that have ‘Omikuji’ in English, which are the fortunes that people can get when they visit temples in Japan. Basically you grab the cylindrical or hexagonal (whatever shape it is really) silver container, shake it around a bit, and then tip it so that a single stick can come out of the little hole at the top. On this stick is a number, so you then go to the drawer with the corresponding number, and pull out your fortune! 

I did two, one for work, and one for relationship; one was great, and one was okay, so the ‘okay’ one I tied onto the wire that are next to the Omikuji stations to leave the negative luck at the temple and not bring it home with me!

How cute are these little deities dressed up with their red capes? Love it darling.

My last recommendation for Senso-ji, is as you trek back out, don’t go down the main strip of Nakamise-dori again, it’ll have gotten crazy busy in the hour you’ll have spent wandering around, but go down the sides. There are lots of other hidden little things to eat, and some great yakitori restaurants in the area that open at around 11am. The first time I had chicken heart was in a great little shop behind the Nakamise-dori. Happy times. 


After romping around Senso-ji, I popped back on the train and a couple of stops later, got out at Ueno station. 

Ueno may not be the typical spot most tourists flock to, there’s an authenticity in the area that I really enjoyed, and in the Cherry Blossom Season, this is definitely a hot spot. 

There’s lots to do in Ueno, with a park that is home to a multitude of museums and a zoo, but I was here to explore Ameyoko. Ameyoko are a couple of streets that run down the side of the train tracks, with an array of eateries, markets and all sorts of retail shops as well. 

Oh, I just found the atmosphere infectious. It's a slice of life around here that's a little bit more rustic and a little less glitzy. I just wanted to eat everything, and almost wished I wasn’t so full…there were so many cute little hole in the wall restaurants, but I just didn’t have the tummy space to try one! But at least there’s plenty to walk around and see, so I could still burn off a little bit and snack my way around Ameyoko. 

I couldn’t resist freshly cut fruit, and also a lovely and intense matcha soft serve from a shop that only sold tea…you could smell it from a couple of metres away! 

There were lots of great more local style markets, and supermarkets, where I found most of the Kit Kat’s and matcha flavoured Pocky that I wanted to buy as well. Lots of locals doing their regularly shop, and old men trying to hawk their goods. It felt a little like the Queen Victoria Market…but a whole lot bigger, with a lot of produce I can’t imagine finding at home too! 

If I had more time? Would definitely hike back to check out some of the museums and chill out in the park a little bit longer. 


My second last stop of the day, was Akihabara, also fondly known as ‘Electric Town’, where all things electronic can be bought and anime and video games are king. Basically, nerd central, my heartland. 

I won’t spend too long talking about Akihabara, as food-wise there’s not a lot going on here, but it is an interesting side to the Japanese culture that’s worth checking out. I mean where else in the world do you get ‘maid’ cafe’s and cute girls dressed up as maid’s handing out flyers for a cup of coffee? It’s all incredibly innocent really, but to someone who’s not Japanese, it can look quite funny! 

On the weekends, the main street is closed in the afternoon, which is both bizarre and wonderful, as the road is absolutely huge and would probably usually be a very main thoroughfare. With the giant buildings of flashing neon, you could almost be on a set of a Kaijyuu or monster movie…

After nerding out at Super Potato on all the retro games, I also massively geeked out on DDR. (Video to come!)

My last day wrapped up in Tokyo with a quick visit to the Pokemon centre, where I continued to geek out; a decadent chocolate mont blanc from Pierre Herme, which is literally one of the best desserts I’ve had in a while and ramen with the rest of the office for dinner at a random vending machine restaurant, when one of the more popular places we went to had an hour long queue at 8pm, thus proving that it really doesn’t matter where you go in Japan, the food is always good. 

Ah...writing this post has made me hungry, and sorely miss being in the land of the rising sun. Fortunately I’ve got tickets to go back with Brad this November…which means I have 10 months to prepare...I hope Brad's ready for this!