Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Crimean

Address: 351 Queensberry St, North Melbourne, VIC 3051
Phone: +61 3 9329 3353

So here is the story... I went away from Melbourne for about one month and I thought it would have been a good idea to celebrate my return with a nice eating out with friends... the idea was rambling into my mind during all the week but I did not planned everything until Friday evening where I looked up the web for some new restaurants and I found The Crimean. I was looking for something different from Asian cuisine, which is the one we end up eating in most of the cases... and I found this new place serving east European food (Polish, Russian, Hungarian, and so on). East European? ... that looks really nice! Let's have a look at the location and the website if any.... after a quick look at his score in the usual websites I decided to go for it and organized a dinner for Saturday night.

I quickly got about 10 people and called the restaurant for a seating at 7 pm. Unfortunately the place was busy for that time so we managed with the staff to get a seating at 6-6:15 pm to be freed by 8 pm; 1 hour and 45 minutes seemed a lot for me to have a dinner but in the end we did consume all the time there. We arrived a little bit late but as soon as I entered the restaurant I was quite happy with the environment: dim lights, comfortable environment with a nice music in the background that did not grab much attention but was just enough to give a special touch. One thing that attracted me was the use of lights: the place was not really bright and lamps were covered with a special curtain wrapping that was reducing the light emitted by the bulbs. The tables and chairs were nice and simple and the whole atmosphere was bringing you back to some remote East Europe place...

We ordered entrees to share and main course... unfortunately we were tight in time and did not went for the desserts, which seemed to be quite inviting. As entrees we ordered:

- Salmon with a nice dressing...
- Banitsa: Bulgarian feta & zucchini baked filo pie, salad, and caper chutney.
- Baked meatballs Georgian style.
- Poor man's caviar, rye.
- Fried dumplings, sour cream, and dill (pork and veggie options).

In order to better appreciate the food a small cup of borsch was served together with the entrees and bread, butter and black salt completed the serving. I have to say that all the entrees were nice and well prepared in terms of presentation. I loved the caper chutney that was really fresh and made me taste capers in way I never tried before. The dumplings were nice not oily or overcooked and quite different from the asian dumplings. The meatballs tasted really good and were accompanied with a light sour cream that gave a completely different flavor to the meatballs. On average the entrees were good and all the people at the table enjoyed them.

We then moved to the main course and we decided to have a bottle of good red wine (Symphonia) has helped to taste the food. I asked for the "Bigos", which is a casserole type dish (Polish) with a mix of meats (sausages, pork, beef) and sauerkraut in a very nice sauce. Others ordered the duck leg, which was nice and tasty, The beef short ribs with orange, beer, and Brussels sprouts completed the main courses. Except for the duck leg, which was very well presented but perhaps not enough for a main course, the portions were of a reasonable size, The taste was really nice and everyone enjoyed the evening. Crimean potatoes have been served to accompany the main: two cups of potato mash with a crispy surface that made the mash something very nice and different.

The time flew and at about 8 pm we asked for the bill and left.. we spent about 400 dollars in total, which was around 40 bucks per head. Reasonable price for a entree + main + drink but perhaps, considered the portion of the food, a little bit overpriced. I will probably go back there again but not for a gathering with many friends... most likely for a romantic evening or a dinner for up to 4 people.

Note: I usually dress up my posts with pictures of the food but given the dim light and my crappy phone I did not shot any picture that would have made this story better..... next time!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Mill Restaurant

Address: Upstairs, 71 Hardware Lane, Melbourne CBD, 3001 VIC, Australia.
Phone: +61 03 96001454

I have to admit that this was not my first choice for the evening, but I am definitely happy ending up here for my dinner. I had been looking the whole week because the occasion was special. Being so late in looking for a place to eat and being under San Valentine, almost all the places were already fully booked or with a specific menu for the evening. I was planning to take out for dinner a very nice girl I like on Saturday 13 February and I was looking for a cosy place, where you have enough atmosphere to talk quietly, but it did not had to be sooooooo romantic. I also wanted to look for something in (or close to) the Melbourne CBD to fit in with all the other scheduled things for the evening. After having checked few places on the Yarra river and in other clubbish areas of the CBD I found this very well reviewed place in Hardware Lane: the Mill. What attracted me first was the fact the I never heard of this place before and the place hosts the famous Charlie's bar at the ground floor. So it would have been a good option for the second part of the evening.... and finally Hardware Lane is a really nice lane of Melbourne with street music performers and full of people eating outside but not too crowded, quite nice then to have a walk there before and after the restaurant.

Once I made my mind up on the place, I started to have a look at the reviews in the usual websites of reference and doing some cross reference checks. The average score was quite high and whether I was quite sure about the quality of the food I was not completely convinced about the service that would have been a very important component of the evening. The more I was reading the more I was getting enthusiast and confident that The Mill would have been the right place for the evening. Then I picked up the phone and called them to book for a table for Saturday evening. When I called, the restaurant manager was not there so instead of calling back later I decided to drop by the place during lunch time to have a further check. Once I got there, I talked to the restaurant manager with deals with the bookings he was very down to earth and helpful in finding a solution for the booking and all the details planned for the evening. Being both late eaters we were lucky to find a spot at 9 pm and even if I was not able to select a specific table, when we got there the restaurant staff, aware about the plan for the dinner, reserved for us a very nice table on the corner of the room near a very nice lamp... We were also lucky that at 9 the restaurant crowd moved already out and few tables were occupied. The atmosphere was great and the music coming from Charlie's bar not disturbing at all.

We then started eating. My guest was not really sure what to order so we decided for having entree', main course, and dessert for both of us. I am a food lover and when I go out eating I like to try the full range of opportunities offered by the place. We ordered the following:

- Pan seared haloumi cheese with kalamatta olive, mandarin, and roquette slave.
- Pumpkin, mascarpone, and spinach ravioli with swiss brown mushroom carpaccio, crushed amaretti, and sage beurre noisette.

[Main Course]
- Pomegranade and apple rolled pork belly with roasted garlic mash and jus.
- Duck breast on a sage polenta cake with fried lotus root and red currant jus.

- Roquette, parmesan, and apple salad.

- Glass chocolate tart with mesh orange blossom, white chocolate, double dark Swiss chocolate ice cream, and pashmark with a coffee ganache.
- Meringue based panna cotta with cocoa shavings and a rose scented dragonfruit syrup.

- Lindenton late picked 2007 Marsanna Viogner, Heatcote, VIC

We started with haloumi cheese and pumpkin ravioli accompanied with bread and olive oil. I read that the haloumi cheese prepared at the Mill was wonderful, hence my expectations where quite high... and I think they met the real delivery! The pumpkin ravioli instead were a little bit sweet but it is very difficult for pumpkin ravioli to avoid the sweet taste and that sweetness did not ruin the eating experience.

The selection of the main course while ordering took a while but in the end we were both satisfied of our choices: my guest took the pork belly, she was very interested in seeing how it was prepared and she told me that she never took the pork belly in non chinese restaurants because it has to be prepared properly. Even in this case the chef made it all and even if the taste was different than expected. After looking around for a while on the main course options I decided to go for the duck breast. I think this has been the best choice of the evening: the duck breast was so tender and soft and the mash potatoes together with the jus gave to it a special taste that I still remember.

The desserts were incredible. I went for the panna cotta based mango and the taste was so elegant and delicate that you could not believe that there was actually mango inside the dessert. My guest decided to take the glass chocolate tart. The presentation was mouthwatering, the taste perfect, and the portion abundant....

All of the food was accompanied by a delicate white sweet wine. We were unsure about taking a bottle because if we missed the wine that would have been not nice... With the help of the restaurant manager we took probably the best sweet white wine we both had ever had..

We have been served by two different waiters that were always keen to ask us whether we needed something and if the evening was going nicely. The restaurant staff promptly bring us the bottle of wine kept in cold storage when our glasses were almost empty and always listened to our needs. I have never seen a so supportive restaurant staff so far in Melbourne. Moreover, they also actively took part to the surprise plan I prepared for my guest and helped me in delivering a small gift for her at the end of the dinner.

As a whole, food, atmosphere, service, and company, this was my best time in Melbourne for a dinner. I definitely recommend this place for a relaxed, romantic evening with someone or simply to have a great eating experience. I will definitely love to come back again, more than happy if with the same guest.

... ah.. price? ... just say reasonable :-)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

400 Gradi

Address:  99 Lygon St, Brunswick East, Melbourne VIC 3057, Australia
Phone: +61 03 9380 2320

After having heard so many good comments on this restaurant I finally decided to drop by there with some friend this evening. I had great expectations because the good comments and reviews found in the various web sites that I am used to check before trying a new place... and I have to say that I am not disappointed at all. The food, was good very italian style and the service nice. Price? reasonable considered the food that we got and that it is good Italian restaurant.

We sat outside, because even with the booking the place was crowded and there were only free tables outside for the time we booked. Not that bad, it is always cool having a look at Lygon street while you are eating...

My first interest was to try Pizza but we delighted ourselves with a starter: Tre, due, uno - Gnocchi. Gnocchi is a special kind of pasta made with potatoes and that can be dressed with different sauces and flavours, such as Napoli sauce, cheese sauce, and spinaches or basil. Guess what we got? a trio of dishes including gnocchi with Napoli Sauce, Ricotta Cheese, and spinaches. They were very good and warmed up our expectations and appetite.

We then moved to the main course and we decided to have two pizzas and some Gamberi impanati (breaded prawns) with a dressing of lemon juice, capers, and capsicums. The prawns were quite good and my friend was happy with her choice. I really liked the dressing that was really light and tasty. Let's now move to the pizzas that is the thing that more interests me...
We ordered two very different pizzas: Pizza Caserta ( Fior di latte, Raw ham, and basil and rocket) - quite classic, and Pizza Suprema (White pizza with ricotta cheese, rocket, roasted pumpkins, pinenuts, ...) - not too classic. Both of them were good and I have to say that there is only another place in Lygon where I ate pizzas like this and it is D.O.C.. This is the very Italian pizza i like not sweet, with a thin crust, and well baked.

The serving was very rustic and impressive: pizzas were served on wooden boards and they were quite abundant in size, tasty, and salty enough. I am very happy to have found another good Italian restaurant where I can feel at home. I also have to say that the service was really welcoming and ready to free your table from dishes (yeah the table was quite small and the large pizzas were occupying the entire table...) and to ask if everything was ok. I had a really good evening and after that... since we were close, we stopped at Gelobar to conclude the italian food trip with some ice cream and desserts. Very good evening!

Price? all together: 79 bucks. Gnocchi: 13 dollars, Pizzas were about 20 dollars on average, and Prawns 17 dollars ( yeah we got also some orange juice 3.5 dollars each..).... Quite good I would say.

I have to say that the pizza was a little bit soft, but this is just a personal taste. If I compare it with its direct competitor D.O.C., the advantage of 400 Gradi is that you can have a wider selection of food. This is normal since 400 Gradi is a restaurant while D.O.C. is a pizzeria and mostly prepare pizzas. Pizzas are both very good, the advantage of 400 Gradi is that you can book. Thumbs up for 400 Gradi then!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar

Address:  255 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
Phone: +61 03 9663 8010‎

I have been few times at the Your Thai Restaurant and this evening it wasn't even my first choice because I was looking for a new place to explore. Lately, I have been preferring Ghin Khao for Thai. Anyways, this time since it was a long time I was not going there I stopped by to have a dinner with my friend Sharlini that I discovered visiting her aunt in Melbourne.

I have always come out satisfied from Your Thai and this time it has not been different. The place is really colorful: not classy but with a lot of energy and freshness. The walls are painted orange and light green and you never have to wait for a long time to get served. Among the plethora of different dishes and combos available we got two chicken dishes:

- Crispy Chicken
- Lemongrass Chicken Rice
- Ice Blended Coffee
- and Sparkling water with ice..... (yeah today was very hot... around 43 degrees...)

We did not have to wait long for getting served and the portion were quite decent in terms of quantity. The presentation was good as well and the taste definitely ok. The crispy chicken came with a tomato flavored cup of rice and a fried egg on top along with some stick cut veggies. Sharlini was in charge of that order, while I was working at the Lemongrass chicken sided by a cup of rice and some stick veggies. During the dinner we all the time for chatting and getting brief each other about we did in the last two years... the place was lively but not so noisy where you cannot have a nice talk..

Once the dinner was over... we payed the bill and went out for a stroll near the Yarra river at Southgate... oh.... well the price? less than 25 dollars for everything that is a very good deal considered the quantity and the quality of the food... the only flaw I can reckon is that they do not accept debit card but only cash...... :(

I will definitely go back again for a quick easy and nice dinner with a friend.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wabi Sabi Salon

Address: 94 Smith St., 3066 Collingwood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Web site:
Phone: +61 03 94176119

I really have to give credit to my friend Huong that suggested me to drop by this very nice and stylish Japanese restaurant... the Wabi Sabi Salon. So I picked up my usual friend for eating outs and went there. The place is located at 94 Smith St, in Collingwood An area that has been renewed with new restaurants in the last two years... anyways, let's move to the hot part.. the food and the place!

As soon as we entered I thought... "oh, I love this place... very traditional and cosy place. A waitress, very kindly took us to our booked table where two couple of chopsticks where waiting for us placed in avery elegant way near the cups we would have used for the rice.. As you may know the price range of Japanese restaurants is a little bit over the average, and this restaurant does not make an exception to the rule.. We quickly skimmed the menu and found out that there were very good entrees from 8 to 13 dollars, sushi and sashimi in between 15 and 18 dollars, and mains from 23 to 26 dollars. Quite acceptable I would say... :)

For a dinner of two people we ordered: one entree, one sushi/sashimi, and one main with a cup of rice each.

As entree after a small contention we ordered the Spicy Squid (11 dollars). The cup came with a mildly spicy squid fried and sided with a very light mayonnaise and a leaf of salad. The combination was fantastic and delightful: the mayonnaise was very light and the crispy squid matched perfectly. Not really spicy but just as necessary. The dinner started very well...

We then moved to the Lightly Scorched, Yellow Tail Salmon (sashimi, 15 dollars). This dish come with a selection of salmon an other fishes in small pieces - 6 to be exact - 3 different types. We both tasted each different type and they were very delicate and special I especially like the tuna one.

As main dish we decided to go for the Wabi Sabi Signature Broad Bill Tuna (26 dollars) that is tuna with pumpkin, and other veggies all of them in a very nice lightly sour sauce. The tuna was very delicate in taste and the sauce quite nice. I really liked this way of having tuna (well I normally eat tuna by buying cans at the supermarket then you can imagine....).

All the food was really good but I still felt a little bit hungry so I went for a fusion sashimi dish: Salmon and Avocado Fusion Sashimi (18 dollars)!... The combination of Avocado and Salmon was quite tempting and my guess was absolutely not disappointed when the waitress came with the course: a perfectly and raffinate composition of slices of salmon and avocado organized in a veery artistic cylinder topped with red onion stripes... oh that was incredible... and the taste as good and delicate as its appearance.

Well time to sum up, we did not select any dessert, and went straight for the bill, which was 84.50 dollars... well not really cheap but it worth it all. I strongly recommend this place to anyone who likes Japanese cuisine... the atmosphere, the food, and more...

Thanks Huong!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

D.O.C. Pizzeria

Address: 295 Drummond St, 3053 Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: +61 03 93472998

I have been looking for a place where to eat a Italian like pizza instead of the common sweet and small pizza that you can easily find in restaurant. After a talk with some friends here that just got to visit their relatives I found a place in Lygon sun by Italians that make pizza in the way I know it.....
The place is D.O.C. Pizza and it is located at the corner Drummond St. and Faraday St. From the outside the place is really not attractive if compared with many other crowded restaurant in Lygon, but if you love pizzas you really have to try this. D.O.C. pizza does not make any reservation than you just have to show up and hope there's a free spot... We hoped and got the seat at 7:30 when the restaurant started to fill - up.

Whenever I go to a restaurant which make pizzas and I always look at the menu to see which kind of pizzas they offer... especially if they claim to be "original Italians"... and most of the time I find some strange pizzas that nothing have to do with the Italian way of doing it... and a lot of bacon..... :-). This time I happily discovered that the ingredients and the components were the right ones and no exotic flavors were offered. I got a Pizza Parma and my flatmate Chrisy got a Pizza Margherita.... two really classic kinds of pizzas... Pizza Parma is basically a pizza with tomato, mozzarella di bufala, and Parma ham... the pizza was slightly salty but definitely great and Italian like.... Margherita is basically made by tomato, oregano, and mozzarella... even this one was good... For while it seemed to me to get back to an Italian pizzeria.....
The prize?... here comes the hard note.... for two pizzas and two soft drinks (juice and coke) we spent 43.50 dollars. That is for a dinner mostly reasonable but higher than any other place I've been... my pizza was big and was 22.50 dollars while my friend's pizza was 14 dollars... Will I go back? definitely yes!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ying Thai 2

Address: 110 Lygon St, 3053 Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

We dropped by this place on a Sunday evening pretty early... and we luckily managed to get a seat. Ying Thai 2 is a really popular and affordable Thai restaurant. It is located on Lygon Street just in front of Piazza Italia. When we entered the ground floor was already crowded so the staff managed to put us upstairs. The place is peculiar: as the Nasi Lemak House the place is like an big house arranged as a restaurant... then in order to reach the first floor we went around the corridors and climbed the stairs as in common house. The first floor was completely empty but became crowded soon.
We ordered different courses and shared all together the food. We ordered Num Tok, which is a salad of grilled sliced meat with coriander, spring onion, lemon juice, ground rice and chili ($10.90), and Gai Hor Bai Thoey, which is marinated chicken with Thai herbs wrapped in pandan leaves, served with sweet chili sauce ($8.90). These two dishes were really peculiar and tasted very well. Then we moved on with a Gang Keow Wan a fantastic green curry sauce with coconut and vegetables with dipped chicken ($12.90) all accompanied with rice and roti bread.
The total price of our nice evening was about 40 dollars, which was 10 dollars each. The price is completely affordable and we got stuffed. This is definitely a good Thai restaurant to try.