American Hotel, Echuca

A short daytrip up to Echuca meant we were in need of a bite to eat for lunch. The American Hotel had been mentioned by a number of locals, so we planned a visit to satiate our hungry bellies after a morning of water sports on the river.

The food really was quite good and everyone enjoyed what they had ordered, from the hearty Texan braised beef chilli, juicy burgers and tacos to the giant servings of succulent pork ribs. Although some might assume pub food fare isn’t the best, especially in regional areas, this certainly isn’t the case here and it’s worth the visit if you’re in the area.

American Hotel - Texan Braised Beef Chilli - Peppers, Tomato, Beans, Guacamole, Dirty Rice, Corn Bread ($17.30 for small serve)

Texan Braised Beef Chilli – Peppers, Tomato, Beans, Guacamole, Dirty Rice, Corn Bread ($17.30 for a small serve)

American Hotel - Bacon BUrger Deluxe - Wagyu Pattie, Cheese, pickle, Bacon, Mustard, Ketchup ($18.90 + $3 for chips)

Bacon BUrger Deluxe – Wagyu Pattie, Cheese, pickle, Bacon, Mustard, Ketchup ($18.90 + $3 for chips)

American Hotel - Kansas Style Pork Ribs - Tomato and Molassas Glaze, Dirty Rice, Coleslaw ($30,30 for large), Fat Fries ($8.70 large)

Kansas Style Pork Ribs – Tomato and Molassas Glaze, Dirty Rice, Coleslaw ($30,30 for large), Fat Fries ($8.70 large)

American Hotel - Tacos - Pickled Carrot, Spring Onion, Cucumber, Coriander (3 for $15.90)

Tacos (3 for $15.90)

American Hotel
239-249 Hare St
Echuca, VIC, 3564
(03) 5480 0969
www.americanhotelechuca.com.au
American Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

China Spice, Melbourne CBD

China Spice

China Spice is tucked on the corner of Little Lonsdale on Sutherland St, so could easily be missed on the way to the little sweets oasis that is Shortstop, N2 and Raw Trader.  It doesn’t seem to garner rave reviews online, but sometimes  ratings are misleading. My parents and a number of our family friends like it here so I was brought along for lunch one day. I noticed some menu items were more Malaysian, which was a bit odd. Perhaps the chef is Malaysian, but in any case we steered clear and focused on the Chinese dishes.

China Spice - Chicken Soup with Fresh Mushroom ($28.80)

Our first was a steaming bowl of chicken soup with fresh mushrooms. It’s large bowl that looks deceptively small in the photo due to the oversized spoon that comes with it. We also ordered a bowl of rice to soak into the soup. Delicate, comforting and herbal, it would be perfect for winter, but was still very enjoyable in the warmer weather. A variety of different mushrooms, goji berry and sweet wombok accompany the chicken, adding more nutrients and subtle flavours that work very well together.

China Spice - Pickles and Pork Ribs Noodle Soup ($9.80)

Mum particularly likes the noodle soups here so we picked one she hasn’t tried yet – the Pickles and Pork Ribs Noodle Soup. To be honest, the flavour of the pickled vegetables wasn’t very prominent, but to make up for it, there was a very generous portion of pork rib for $9.80. The soup in this was also herbal, but more punchy, making it quite different and more complex than just the average spicy broth. Surprisingly this is only rated as ‘one chilli’ out of three. I do like my chilli, but this definitely felt like it deserved a higher rating than one. Maybe they were just being liberal with the chilli today.

China Spice - Mixed Grain Rice ($2.50)

So yes, the tables can be a bit sticky, but being brought up with sticky-tabled restaurants both in Melbourne and Malaysia, there are certain places where I don’t mind putting up with it. This is one of those places. There were little touches like a slice of lemon in the water, and mixed grain rice as standard. The service was decent, the servings are large, and most lunch specials are around the $10 giving you great value if you pick well!

 

China Spice
280 Little Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9600 3989
chinaspice.com.au
China Spice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Short Straw, Hawthorn

Short Straw

It seems to be increasingly common to find food industry veterans teaming up to form new establishments. Short Straw is another of these, being hatched from the minds of Hugh Hindle, Steve Rowley and Matt Vero, whose combined resume features places like Homeslice Pizza, Coin Laundry, Tall Timber, Touchwood, Marquis of Lorne and Rustica Canteen.

Short Straw

Finding the cafe itself can be a little bit confusing. Despite what a cursory glance of the official address might imply, the entrance is actually on Mary St (hence, the ‘b’ part of its street number).

Short Straw

The interior design is minimalistic and features American oak, metalwork, and a sense of airiness thanks to its skylights and tall, peaked ceiling.
Short Straw - Early Board - Mini Bircher w Granola, Berries, Organic Yoghurt, Prosciutto, Avocado, Poached Egg, Pumpkin Loaf, OJ ($18), Citrus-cured NZ King Salmon, Roasted Cauliflower, Beetroot Leaves

The kitchen is headed up by Josh Clark, formerly of Young Bloods in Fitzroy. Coffee is from Niccolo, though there’s also a rotating single origin coffee available. At the moment there seems to be a slight Asian slant to the menu with items like Thai sardine salad, and Vietnamese scrambled eggs with roti, papaya and optional salmon or smoked ham hock. The scrambled eggs looked absolutely delicious, and would be something I might have ordered if not for my stomach’s unfortunate intolerance for too much scrambled egg.

Short Straw - Early Board - Mini Bircher w Granola, Berries, Organic Yoghurt, Prosciutto, Avocado, Poached Egg, Pumpkin Loaf, OJ ($18)

Early Board – Mini Bircher w Granola, Berries, Organic Yoghurt, Prosciutto, Avocado, Poached Egg, Pumpkin Loaf, OJ ($18)

Short Straw - Early Board - Mini Bircher w Granola, Berries, Organic Yoghurt, Prosciutto, Avocado, Poached Egg, Pumpkin Loaf, OJ ($18)

Though I didn’t order it for myself, I’m loving the rise of breakfast boards, which have a little bit of everything. Short Straw’s version includes a mini bircher made with organic yoghurt, with little chunks of granola stirred though and fresh berries on top. There’s also a slice of ever-popular avocado toast, including a poached egg, and a small pile of prosciutto. It’s a pleasantly generous size for the price, and colours on the plate are simply beautiful.

Short Straw - Citrus-cured NZ King Salmon, Roasted Cauliflower, Beetroot Leaves, Green Olive, Goats Curd, Poached Egg, Rye Toast ($17)

My citrus-cured NZ King Salmon comes with a mountain of roasted cauliflower, beetroot leaves, sliced green olives, goats curd and poached eggs on rye toast. I’m still not too sure if I like goats curd, but the rest of the dish is lovely. The silky-smooth salmon is subtlely cured, and though not really salty, that’s what the olives are for. I also loved the cauliflower that appeared to have been prepared with a mix of spices that injected more colour, both visually and flavour-wise.

Short Straw

Short Straw has already become very popular with both locals and non-locals, and with its great food and friendly atmosphere, there are no signs of it slowing down.

Short Straw
743b Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn, VIC, 3122
(03) 9819 6203
http://shortstrawcafe.com/
Facebook
Short Straw Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rustica Canteen, Melbourne CBD

Rustica Canteen

Brenton Lang (Rustica Sourdough), Tristan White (ex-Head Chef of Ladro and Touchwood), and Matt Vero (Coin Laundry, Tall Timber, Touchwood, The Marquis of Lorne Hotel) have combined forces to set up Rustica Canteen. It takes on an industrial theme, going for a darker colour scheme with plenty of timber.

Rustica Canteen

Rustica Canteen - Sweets Display

Rustica Canteen - Sweets Display

Its drawcards are the delectable pastries a-la Rustica Sourdough on display at the counter, fresh bread available for purchase, and of course being a ‘canteen’, the food. Sandwiches will change every now and then, and will be filled with plenty of local ingredients and obviously made using Rustica’s delicious bread.

Rustica Canteen - Brioche Burger w Panko Crumbed Flounder, Red Onion, Iceberg Lettuce, Lime Aioli and Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad ($14)

There are other breakfast items available as well as daily specials, but I chose to focus on the sandwiches on both my visits. I’ve sampled the delight that was the panko-crumbed flounder burger, which featured an incredibly crunchy crust encasing juicy fish, and refreshing aioli on a toasted brioche bun. $14 may seem a little pricey, but it did come with a side potato and pickled cucumber salad.

Rustica Canteen - Smoked Beef Brisket, Carrot, Red Cabbage Slaw, Chipotle Aioli, Ciabatta ($15)

The beef brisket was indeed smokey, but had a very slight tinge of sweetness. Combined with carrot, red cabbage slaw and chipotle aioli on ciabatta, this was another one I wouldn’t mind tucking into again.

Rustica Canteen

It’s the sort of place I wouldn’t mind hanging out to do work, catching up with friends and returning for some of those yummy sandwiches and enticing breakfast dishes. With Rustica Canteen in place, this block is almost like a little foodie hidey hole with Raw Trader, Shortstop and N2 all in a row on Sutherland St, then Krimper and Rustica Canteen around the corner. CBD goers with a sweet tooth are spoilt for choice here.

Rustica Canteen
33 Guildford Ln
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9642 2203
www.rusticacanteen.com.au/
Rustica Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Piano, Richmond

The Piano Restaurant & Bar

Thai food seems to have earned a special place in the hearts of Melbournians of late. Since 2013, The Piano has been serving contemporary Thai cuisine with a touch of finesse, brought to us by ex-Longrain chefs Tommy and Arte.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar

Taking its place near the entrance is the eponymous German vintage piano, left behind by previous tenants, The Qualia Lounge. Not just a random fancy, the piano also pays homage to the site adjacent to the restaurant, which was operated as a piano maker in the 1800s.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar

Like the piano, the restaurant is fitted out with plenty of warm woods and exudes a relaxed and friendly charm. It’s popularity was evidenced by numerous reservations on the night and a booming takeaway trade. But don’t let the availability of a takeaway service fool you – the food here much better than your average local Thai.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar - Apple Mojito Mocktail - Muddled Fresh Mint, Lime and Apple Juice ($10.50)

Apple Mojito Mocktail – Muddled Fresh Mint, Lime and Apple Juice ($10.50)

The Piano Restaurant & Bar - Phuket Paradise - Gin, Thai Dark Rum, Blue Curacao, Fresh lime, Soda ($17.50)

Phuket Paradise – Gin, Thai Dark Rum, Blue Curacao, Fresh lime, Soda ($17.50)

The Piano Restaurant & Bar - Crazy Lady Boy - Vodka, Tequila, Strawberry, Apple Juice, Sliced Chilli, Lime ($17.50)

Crazy Lady Boy – Vodka, Tequila, Strawberry, Apple Juice, Sliced Chilli, Lime ($17.50)

The night began with a handful of cocktails. The refreshing Apple Mojito Mocktail with its muddled fresh mint, lime and apple juice was a welcome relief from the weather, and the Crazy Lady Boy with vodka, tequila, strawberry, apple juice, sliced chilli, and lime had an interesting kick.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar - Betel Leaf (Veggie) - Pomelo, Flat Leaf Coriander, Mint, Green Papaya, Peanuts, Toasted Coconut ($3.50 each)

Betel Leaf (Veggie) – Pomelo, Flat Leaf Coriander, Mint, Green Papaya, Peanuts, Toasted Coconut ($3.50 each)

Kicking off the food portion of our dinner, our taste buds were awakened by the vegetable version of their Betel Leaf. Topped with pomelo, flat leaf coriander, mint, green papaya, peanuts and toasted coconut, it was slightly spicy with subtle hints of kaffir lime and the pomelo was beautifully refreshing.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar - Soft Shell Crab with Tamarind Spicy Sauce and Black Pepper ($9.50)

Soft Shell Crab with Tamarind Spicy Sauce and Black Pepper ($9.50)

Though its description sounded simple on the menu, the soft shell crab with tamarind spicy sauce and black pepper was very well executed. It was truly crispy all over and the sweet flesh of the soft shell crab was juicy and notably fresh.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar - Green Papaya Salad (Somtum) - Shredded Green Papaya, Carrot, Tomato, Snake Beans, Peanuts, Chilli and Lime Juice

Green Papaya Salad (Som tum) – Shredded Green Papaya, Carrot, Tomato, Snake Beans, Peanuts, Chilli and Lime Juice

The invigorating combination of green papaya, carrot, tomato, snake beans, peanuts, chilli and lime juice made up the Som Tum (green papaya salad). It had a perfect balance of sweet and sour and was a wonderfully fresh accompaniment for the mains that were to follow.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar - Massaman Curry of Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank with Potato, Confit Onion and Roasted Peanuts ($24.50)

Massaman Curry of Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank with Potato, Confit Onion and Roasted Peanuts ($24.50)

Cooked over four hours, the lamb shank massaman curry was tender and flavoursome, and not too creamy, rich or heavy.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar - Piano Crispy Duck (Signature) - Our Signature Dish with Spicy Soy Dressing Topped with Crispy Thai Basil, Baby Corn, Snake Bean, Spicy Soy ($27.50)

Piano Crispy Duck (Signature) – Spicy Soy Dressing Topped with Crispy Thai Basil, Baby Corn, Snake Bean, Spicy Soy ($27.50)

The Piano’s signature dish is the Piano Crispy Duck. Twice cooked and dressed with spicy soy, the duck lay on a bed of baby corn and snake beans, and was topped with crispy Thai basil. The duck was crispy and tender, just as intended, and the combination of chilli, baby corn, and fried basil was exciting and punchy. Even once all the duck had been devoured, we couldn’t help sweeping up every last morsel with mouthfuls of rice.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar - Piano Panna Cotta

Piano Panna Cotta

To finish, the smooth Piano Panna Cotta was served with a variety of fresh fruit, including cubed palm seeds, and coconut ice cream on the side.

The Piano Restaurant & Bar

Both the food and service at The Piano was top-notch, and definitely ranks highly amongst the better Thai restaurants in Melbourne. I’ve not been too impressed by Thai food in Melbourne recently, but The Piano has really helped turned my opinions around.

 

Disclaimer: I was invited to The Piano as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way

The Piano Restaurant & Bar
18-20 Bridge Rd
Richmond, VIC, 3121
(03) 9428 9385
www.pianorestaurantandbar.com.au/
The Piano Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saint Urban, Richmond

Owner Martin Pirc and head chef Daniel Schelbert from Punch Lane have ventured eastward to Richmond to set up their bistro and wine bar. It’s a laid-back space where you can savour Australian and European wines and nibble on snacks, or have a proper meal. Named after Saint Urban, the Bishop of Langres in France during the 4th century, and a patron saint of wine makers, you know their wine is something they take very seriously.

Saint Urban
Ingeniously designed wrought iron arch windows, worn woods, handmade blue tiles and rustic, colourful walls impart a relaxed charm. An outdoor, heated patio area is also perfect for enjoying the summer sun.

Saint Urban - Quail Wrapped in Vine Leaf, Grapes, Verjus, Almond Cream ($19)

Quail Wrapped in Vine Leaf, Grapes, Verjus, Almond Cream ($19)

We decide to begin with an entree to share, and the quail wrapped in vine leaf, grapes, verjus and almond cream fits the bill. The succulent quail meat works well with the slight bitterness of the vine leaf, and we can’t help but savour the last dregs of the delicious sauce by enjoying it with some bread.

Saint Urban - Barramundi Fillet, Soubise, Mussels, Sauce Vierge ($30)

Barramundi Fillet, Soubise, Mussels, Sauce Vierge ($30)

Perfectly cooked with crispy skin, the barramundi fillet is accompanied by soubise, plump and juicy mussels and sauce vierge. The flavours are unpretentious and moreish, and the outstanding quality of the fresh produce really shines.

Saint Urban - Whole Baby Snapper with Fennel Puree, Pickled Chorizo, Rhubarb ($33)

Whole Baby Snapper with Fennel Puree, Pickled Chorizo, Rhubarb ($33)

I order one of the daily specials – the whole baby snapper with fennel puree, pickled chorizo and rhubarb. On its own, the fish is expectedly on the plain side, but together with the pickled chorizo and rhubarb it was really something else. I only wish there was more of the chorizo to go around!

We had a very pleasurable experience at Saint Urban, both in terms of the food and the service. It seems that the guys from Punch Lane have hit the mark once again.

Saint Urban
213 Swan Street
Richmond, VIC, 3121
(03) 8456 0933
www.sainturban.com.au
Saint.Urban Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kitty Burns, Abbotsford

Kitty Burns

Kitty Burns is attracting plenty of attention for its beautiful interior design and eye-catching food. Like Frankie Says, Kitty Burns takes its place within the Sanctuary apartment complex. The interior, courtesy of Biasol: Design Studio, features plenty of pale woods, pastels and white ceramic tiling. The bright, light-filled space feels even more open with its high ceilings, and though we didn’t sit there, those booth seats looked enticingly private and cosy.

Kitty Burns

Kitty Burns

Kitty Burn’s chef, Aaron Duffy, has been pumping out beautifully presented dishes from a menu that reads so well. What do I eat? It’s hard to decide. Herbal elixirs from Raw Satya and pastries from Rustica are also options.

Kitty Burns

Kitty Burns - Torched Kingfish with Kimchi Mayo, Leek Ash, Sea Succulents, Roast Sesame Dressing, Edamame Beans, Japanese Rice, Poached Egg ($22.50)

The torched kingfish with kimchi mayo, leek ash, sea succulents, roast sesame dressing, edamame, Japanese rice and poached egg was actually at the top of my shortlist, but I allowed A2 to order it instead. Its no surprise this dish tempted both us – we’re both suckers for Japanese flavours. Being lightly torched, the texture and flavour of the kingfish was simple and unadulterated, and the tasty sesame dressing and lightly flavoured rice complemented the fish so well without stealing its thunder. I may have to have one of these to myself at some point.

Kitty Burns - Smoked Pea and Garden Mint Pannacotta, Poached Egg, Bacon Crumbs, Pea Shoots, Potato Popcorn, House Smoked Salmon, Toast ($21)

Kitty Burns - Smoked Pea and Garden Mint Pannacotta, Poached Egg, Bacon Crumbs, Pea Shoots, Potato Popcorn, House Smoked Salmon, Toast ($21)

Of course, I had to have something different, so I went with my second option – the smoked pea and garden mint panna cotta. The spectacle of wispy smoke emanating from the jar as I opened it was as pleasing to the eye as it was to the nose. When I ordered it I was still a little confused as to whether to expect a sweet or savoury dish. It was most certainly savoury, and I certainly was not expecting that amount of flavour from the panna cotta itself. The egg was perhaps a little more solid than I’d have liked, but it did make it a bit easier to capture all the elements so I could enjoy everything in one bite. The Rice Bubble-like appearance and crunchy airiness of the potato popcorn was a delightful surprise, and the bacon crumbs injected some more smokey, savoury nuances to the whole combination. It’s not the type of dish that I typically order when I go out, but after taking a gamble I was impressed.

Kitty Burns

I’m excited to see how Kitty Burns develops given its spectacular beginnings. Those apartment dwellers are very lucky indeed.

 

Kitty Burns
24 Acacia Pl
Abbotsford, VIC, 3067
(03) 9427 0164
kittyburns.com.au
Kitty Burns Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sarti, Melbourne CBD

Bright red neon lighting  make it pretty hard to miss the entrance to Sarti – a necessity given its location in a laneway off Bourke St. Walking through the otherwise understated facade and up the stairs, we enter one of Melbourne’s favourites to treat ourselves to Sarti’s modern Italian cuisine. Its slick dining room is dark inside, though somewhat disappointingly, the hard floors made soundwaves bounce around a bit like a ball in Pong. There is a terrace to enjoy the sun, and it would likely be quieter outside, but today is a little too breezy for that.

Sarti - Bread

Sarti - Fritto Misto - Calamari, Soft Shell Crab, School Prawns, Zucchini, Chilli Tartare

Fritto Misto – Calamari, Soft Shell Crab, School Prawns, Zucchini, Chilli Tartare

We’re surprised by the variety of seafood in the fritto misto. Fresh calamari, soft shell crab, school prawns, baby octopus and whitebait are lightly floured and fried until crispy, and the chilli tartare is just perfect for them.

Sarti - Fiori di Zucchine - Zucchini Flowers filled with Baccala Mantecato

Fiori di Zucchine – Zucchini Flowers filled with Baccala Mantecato

I choose the zucchini flowers as my entree, which are filled with baccala mantecato, or whipped salt cod. The cod helps the zucchini flowers stand out amongst others which often just have cheese. It is a very subtle flavour though, and I personally prefer something more punchy…

Sarti - Carre d'Agnello - Lamb Loin, Pistachio, Rocket, Baby Artichokes, Yoghurt

Carre d’Agnello – Lamb Loin, Pistachio, Rocket, Baby Artichokes, Yoghurt

…like A2’s Carre d’Agnello. The serving size of the lamb is surprisingly generous for the price when compared to the other options. Cooked medium rare, the lamb is coated in crushed pistachio. Tasty and satisfying, this is our favourite of the starters.

Sarti - Trota Salmonata - Ocean Trout, Fennel and Orange Salad, Pea Puree, Clams

Trota Salmonata – Ocean Trout, Fennel and Orange Salad, Pea Puree, Clams

Moving onto mains, and mum’s ocean trout is perfectly cooked. The fennel and orange providing some lift to the rich fish, and the pea puree and clams contribute some umami to each mouthful.

Sarti - Fianco di Wagyu - 200gm Wagyu +7, Burnt Eggplant, Baby Leek, Rainbow Chard

Fianco di Wagyu – 200gm Wagyu +7, Burnt Eggplant, Baby Leek, Rainbow Chard

The chef’s recommendation for dad’s wagyu is a medium, presumably to help render some of the fat in the rich meat. Despite how it may appear, what results is a melt-in-your-mouth texture, with the beautiful charred flavour of the burnt eggplant, baby leek and rainbow chard complementing the caramelisation on the surface of the beef.

Sarti - Spaghetti alla Chitarra - Black Ink Pasta, WA Blue Swimmer Crab, Fresh Tomato, Garlic, Chilli

Spaghetti alla Chitarra – Black Ink Pasta, WA Blue Swimmer Crab, Fresh Tomato, Garlic, Chilli

Oh my. This is definitely one of the best pastas I’ve had in recent memory. Both A2 and I are attracted by description of the Spaghetti alla Chitarra on paper, and it certainly delivers. A large mound of Blue Swimmer Crab meat and roe are piled on top of the black ink pasta, and the fragrance is saliva-inducing. The spaghetti is perfectly al dente and the flavours are clean. There’s a subtle complexity to the sauce and I love the freshness that the tomato and chilli add to it. It’s a very popular dish at Sarti, and for good reason.

Sarti - Five Layer Hot and Cold Tiramisu - Coffee Jelly, Crunchy Savoiardi Biscuit, Chocolate, Mascarpone, Zabaione

Five Layer Hot and Cold Tiramisu – Coffee Jelly, Crunchy Savoiardi Biscuit, Chocolate, Mascarpone, Zabaione

Sarti - Five Layer Hot and Cold Tiramisu - Coffee Jelly, Crunchy Savoiardi Biscuit, Chocolate, Mascarpone, Zabaione

Sarti is said to make one of the best tiramisus in Melbourne so I’m well pleased to find it’s available tonight. A crunchy chocolate wafer separates the saviordi biscuits from the mascarpone, giving us crunchy biscuits rather than soaked ones. A little different, but I enjoy its texture. There’s a pleasantly strong coffee flavour and the mascarpone is not as rich as some other versions, warranting it a thumbs up from me.

Sarti

The prices are slightly higher than average at Sarti, but the food is sophisticated and delicious and you’re sure to leave with your taste buds satisfied.

Sarti
6 Russell Pl
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9639 7822
http://sartirestaurant.com.au/
Sarti Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rice Paper Scissors, Melbourne CBD

Rice Paper Scissors has been making waves since it opened and I’ve been wanting to try it for the longest time. We arrive for lunch, specifically so that we can book a table. We arrive just before 12pm and there are already people being told they’ll have to wait for the second seating at 1:30pm. We take a seat at the bar, which is perfect for two people. The high stools are well spaced, and the counter area is relatively deep, making it easier to fit our order on the table. In fact they’re roughly the same depth as the communal tables, but customers sit side by side rather than opposite one another, making it even more roomy (relatively speaking).

Rice Paper Scissors - Sticky Pork Belly - Muu Krob - Twice Cooked Pork in a Tamarind Caramel Sauce Topped with a Fragrant Herb Salad ($12)

The ‘Share the Love’ option of five dishes for a set price is now more expensive at $59, but the individual prices of the dishes are the same making the proposition sadly less enticing than before. I’d already made a shortlist of five dishes beforehand, and the Asian in me still wanted to save the $2 so went with it anyway.

They really do mean #eatwithyourhands. We’re each provided with two thick napkins and a finger bowl for cleaning – a necessity for all the hands-on action with the sticky sauces we’re about to encounter.

Rice Paper Scissors - BBQ Lamb Ribs - Sii Krong Nuex - Mekhong Whiskey Marinated Lamb Ribs in a Sticky Special Sauce ($12)

BBQ Lamb Ribs – Sii Krong Nuex – Mekhong Whiskey Marinated Lamb Ribs in a Sticky Special Sauce ($12)

The BBQ Lamb Ribs (Sii Krong Nuex) are unctuous and one piece literally slides off the bone as I pick it up. Packed with flavour from its Mekhong whiskey marinade and sticky special sauce, and oh so juicy, but the ribs hold mostly fat and also taste gamey. Definitely not one for people with a dislike for lamb, but a decadent pleasure for those who don’t.

Rice Paper Scissors - Thai Fried Chicken - Peek Gai Tod - Marinated in Galangal, Chilli and Coriander Root ($12)

Thai Fried Chicken – Peek Gai Tod – Marinated in Galangal, Chilli and Coriander Root ($12)

I go with the Thai Fried Chicken (Peek Gai Tod) on a recommendation, but whilst they were crispy and not saturated in oil, the flavours of the galangal, chilli and coriander root don’t leave much of an impression, and there is very little meat in some pieces. I begin to wonder if I should have picked the kingfish ceviche instead. I do like the slightly spicy mayo though, and it adds a needed kick.

Rice Paper Scissors - Sticky Pork Belly - Muu Krob - Twice Cooked Pork in a Tamarind Caramel Sauce Topped with a Fragrant Herb Salad ($12)

Sticky Pork Belly – Muu Krob – Twice Cooked Pork in a Tamarind Caramel Sauce Topped with a Fragrant Herb Salad ($12)

The Sticky Pork Belly (Muu Krob), the infamous twice cooked pork with tamarind caramel sauce, is tasty and thankfully not sickly sweet or claggy. Some pieces are a little dry, but overall we’re pleased with it. The refreshing salad composed mostly of beansprouts and mint helps to break it up a little.

Rice Paper Scissors - Crying Tiger - Seua Rong Hai - Char-Grilled Beef with a Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce ($12)

Crying Tiger – Seua Rong Hai – Char-Grilled Beef with a Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce ($12)

Crying Tiger (Seua Rong Hai) is made with tender wagyu and cooked medium-rare, though oddly there are only four leaves to go with our five pieces of beef. The flavours of the spicy citrus dressing are fresh and vibrant, making it my favourite of the dishes.

Rice Paper Scissors - Mini Vietnamese Baguette - Banh Mi - Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Pickled Vegetables, Herbs and Homemade Pate (2 for $13)

Mini Vietnamese Baguette – Banh Mi – Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Pickled Vegetables, Herbs and Homemade Pate (2 for $13)

Rice Paper Scissors - Mini Vietnamese Baguette - Banh Mi - Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Pickled Vegetables, Herbs and Homemade Pate (2 for $13)

Mini Vietnamese Baguette – Banh Mi – Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Pickled Vegetables, Herbs and Homemade Pate (2 for $13)

We finish with the mini banh mi, with crispy soft shell crab and pickled vegetables. The mayo looks the same as the one that came with the fried chicken, but it still goes well with the crab.

The bebek betutu sounds like an interesting proposition, but following our recently trip to Bali I decide not to set myself up for potential disappointment so soon. Perhaps next time.

Rice Paper Scissors
(03) 9663 9890
19 Liverpool Street
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
Rice Paper Scissors Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lume, South Melbourne

Chefs Shaun Quade (formerly of Royal Mail Hotel, Quay, Biota Dining and Urbane) and John-Paul Fiechtner (Bo Innovation, Hong Kong, and Le Chateaubriand, Paris) intrigued us with their pop-up preview before the official opening of Lume, and successfully excited their audience with thoughts of what was to come. A2 wanted to visit back in August, but it was relatively new so we decided to give them time to find their feet. With its sudden popularity it’s unlikely we would have been able to secure a last-minute booking anyway! A few months later, and with A2 going back overseas, a special farewell treat was planned and it was finally time to see what Lume was up to.

Lume

The facade is modest, and very subtle. Blending right in alongside its neighbouring terrace houses, it could easily be missed. The open kitchen can be viewed from the front room, where the a la carte menu is available. Pale timbers abound, both on the floors and the walls, giving it quite a modern but warm feel. Passing by the wine room we come to the back section where only the degustation is served. The stone floors, a very high, peaked glass ceiling, and liberal use of potted plants make it seem almost like we’re seated in a summery glasshouse. It’s relaxing. Almost like we’re sitting in a friend’s backyard. It is quiet though, and disconnected from the hubbub of the kitchen. I suppose there’s a place for both environments to suit different personal preferences.

Lume

Before you read on, I would highly recommend going into Lume with no preconceived notions. The intended element of wonder and surprise is kept more intact by not having too many expectations. I purposely went in without having read any review in depth, and I enjoyed the experience more than I would have if I did read extensively. So why write a blog entry? Well, the primary intention of this blog has always been to be a record for myself, but if you’d still like to continue reading, feel free!

As with some other degustations, the menu isn’t displayed before the meal begins, but it is, however, presented to us at the end in a sealed envelope. It helps keep things a surprise, but also helps us remember what our eyes and palates have just experienced. The first few plates arrive soon after one another, but are well paced. The dishes are presented as if we’re on a journey, with the waiter explaining the area inspiring the dish, whether that be an environment, a city, a region or a particular coastline.

Lume - 1 - Breakfast Eel on Burnt Barley Crumpet

Our adventure begins with Breakfast Eel on Burnt Barley Crumpet. It’s described as a breakfast dish, because the first meal of the day is the one that sets you up and gets you ready for what’s to come. The butter and honey are laced with a subtle, savoury and slightly smoky eel flavour, and I half wish there were more crumpets so I can devour all the honey in the jar.

Lume - 2 - Raw Taro and Calamari Entrails Warmed with Saltbush Butter

Raw Taro and Calamari Entrails warmed with Saltbush Butter. Artful squiggles of crunchy taro strands, smooth calamari entrails and squirts of olive paste are surprisingly flavoursome. This is mum’s favourite course.

Lume - 3 - Scallop Dressed with Jamon Dashi, Honeydew and Roe

Scallop Dressed with Jamon Dashi, Honeydew and Roe arrives next. I love the bowls, which are like broken egg shells. Almost like we’re eating treasures we’ve just discovered and cracked open. There’s something that looks a bit like pork floss inside and I wonder if they’re dried scallops. The Tasmanian scallops are juicy, and the dish is surprisingly savoury. Or perhaps not so surprisingly, given there’s roe, Jamon, saltbush and dashi in it. There are bursts of moisture and saltiness from the roe.

Lume - 4 - Emu Tart with Warm Jersey Milk and Rose Geranium, Macadamia

Emu Tart with Warm Jersey Milk and Rose Geranium, Macadamia

Lume - 4 - Emu Tart with Warm Jersey Milk and Rose Geranium, Macadamia

Emu Tart with Warm Jersey Milk and Rose Geranium is rather pretty. Macadamias are mentioned in the verbal description, and we wonder if that was the white shaved ingredient that looks like coconut. The tart had a savoury punch to it, and interestingly, the centre was rather liquid. This is one for eating with the hands.

Lume - 5 - Pearl on the Ocean Floor - Sweet and Salty Crunchy Pearl with Liquid Centre, Oysters, Salty Foam, Salty and Tart Gel, Fruity and Tart Yellow Thing, Red Tomato or Chilli Sauce

Pearl on the Ocean Floor

Lume - 5 - Pearl on the Ocean Floor

One of my favourites has to be Pearl on the Ocean Floor. It’s just so clever, and is an amazing flavour experience like nothing I’ve ever had before. We are recommended to eat the pearl first (with fingers of course). The whole pearl is popped into our mouths. Wow. The shell is crunchy, surprisingly cold, and there were so many contrasts in that one element. It was both sweet and salty, and once broken, the shell gave way to a liquid centre. This dish is inspired by the sea and it’s not hard to see how the inspiration played out. The ‘soil’, looks and tastes a bit like those dark rye crispbreads, but all crushed up into powder. Samphire and saltbush decorate the soil to give the appearance of a seabed. The oysters are fat, bursting with moisture and pleasantly salty. There’s a salty gel and a salty foam, but also something like Sriracha and another tart and fruity element to reign things in. It really was like a taste of sea.

Lume - 6 - Flinders Island Lamb Perfumed with Cherry Wood, Rhubarb, Hibiscus, Rose, Fennel Seeds

Flinders Island Lamb Perfumed with Cherry Wood, Rhubarb, Hibiscus and Rose. The dry-aged lamb iss so tender, so lean, and flavoured with fennel seeds. There’s another piece of lamb that seems to have a much finer texture, and we suspect it may be sweetbreads, but it is never confirmed. Most people would happily eat this if the ‘frightening’ thought of eating sweetbreads didn’t kick in anyway.

Lume - 7 - Jerusalem Artichoke, La Sirene Praline, Caramelised Apple, Chamomile

Jerusalem Artichoke, La Sirene Praline, Caramelised Apple and Chamomile arrives in a thick salt crust. The waiter says ‘La Sirene Praline’ so quickly that I have no idea what it is until I read the menu later. It’s a Belgian chocolate ale, with flavours of vanilla, Mexican cacao nibs and hazelnuts, in case you’re wondering. It is very, very salty, and the aroma reminds me of ham choy. The texture is almost like potato.

Lume - 8 - Sea Corn and Dairy Cow

Sea Corn and Dairy Cow

Lume - 8 - Sea Corn and Dairy Cow

Another of the particularly interesting dishes is the Sea Corn and Dairy Cow. I’m not exactly sure where the crab comes in, but I think the King Crab has somehow been transformed into a creamy custard-like substance, then set in a mold to create a smokey flavoured ‘baby corn’. Strands of corn silk, and a polenta chip contribute further to the corn theme, and the blow-torched strands of what may have been the diary cow component (perhaps udder?) have an addictive smokiness to it. Now, if the waiters mentioned ‘cow udder’ in their description, the thought of eating such a thing might psych out the unadventurous. Plates might keep returning to the kitchen with the udder untouched, even though it was one of the nicest things on the plate. A thought to ponder.

Lume - 9 - Barbequed Ice with Raw Cobia, Shiitake and Lemon Aspen

Barbequed Ice with Raw Cobia, Shiitake and Lemon Aspen. The idea behind this one was to give the impression of barbecued fish, without actually having barbecued the fish. The cobia is raw, cut straight from the bone like sashimi. The other elements are smokey, but I find them to be too bitter and overpowering for the beautiful piece of fish.

Lume - 10 - Dry-aged Duck, Preserved Summer Fruit, Elderflower

Dry-aged Duck, Preserved Summer Fruit, Elderflower

Lume - 10 - Dry-aged Duck, Preserved Summer Fruit, Elderflower

The Dry-aged Duck, Preserved Summer Fruit and Elderflower looks spectacular. The giant sugar-cured duck egg yolk is delicious. The outer part of it has hardened slightly during curing, but the inner liquid gold had been preserved. Now, I’m not a fan of black liquorice, but the liquorice is so subtle that my brain isn’t reminded of liquorice lollies at all. We’re told the ducks ate nothing but strawberries for the last six weeks of their lives, so that the meat would come out sweeter. The preserved cherry complements this sweetness quite well. The duck skin is crispy, and the fat so well rendered that there’s almost nothing left but moist and flavoursome goodness.

Lume - 11 - Cauliflower Cheese with Pastry Smoked over Pear Wood

Cauliflower Cheese with Pastry Smoked over Pear Wood

Lume - 11 - Cauliflower Cheese with Pastry Smoked over Pear Wood

Cauliflower Cheese with Pastry Smoked over Pear Wood. After the preceding courses I’ve come to expect the unexpected. We later discover the ‘cheese’ isn’t really cheese at all, but rather cauliflower. The ‘washed rind’ of the cheese has a sprinkling of sugar, contributing to a slightly sweet flavour, and the  inside of the cheese is rather liquid. The pastry had been baked in the morning, then smoked over the pear wood all afternoon. It’s not light and crispy like most croissants, but I find the denser texture of the pastry perfect for catching and scooping up the run-away cauliflower cheese. The others aren’t sure if they like it, but I enjoy it quite a bit.

Lume - 12 - Lambs Blood Ganache Rolled in Maple Oats, Native Apple Jam, Riberry Pepper

The egg bowls reappear, this time containing Lambs Blood Ganache Rolled in Maple Oats, Native Apple Jam and Riberry Pepper. I don’t taste any gameyness in the lambs blood ganache, which has a dark chocolate-like bitterness and has a dense fudge-like consistency, though mum’s super-sensitive-to-lamb tastebuds pick it up. It’s like eating a slightly naughty breakfast with apple jam, apple skins, and the bits of chocolate distributed throughout the ‘granola’. There are also some little cubes that are rather acrid. Unfortunately they are distractingly bitter and I end up eating only a few, which was plenty to go with the rest of the dish.

Lume -13 - Blueberries and Sour Goat's Milk

Blueberries and Sour Goat’s Milk is the second sweet course. The sour goat’s milk is not a flavour the parents are accustomed to, and some is left behind. Hidden amongst the blueberries are tapioca pearls disguised as blueberries, and finding the first one in my mouth is at first confusing, but pleasureable.

Lume - 14 - Jerusalem Artichoke, La Sirene Praline, Caramelised Apple and Chamomile

Jerusalem Artichoke, La Sirene Praline, Caramelised Apple and Chamomile makes a reappearance, but in dessert form. The ice cream is laced strongly with stout, the apple features as a reduction, and the artichoke shell is filled with something that is almost like white chocolate. At this point I really don’t know what is what anymore. This melts quickly and doesn’t leave much time for appraising with either the eyes or the camera lens. The alcohol is pretty strong and I feel my cheeks warming up, but I enjoy this very much.

Lume - 15 - Cacao Pod from Maralumi with Notes of Tobacco, Green Banana and Currants

Cacao Pod from Maralumi with Notes of Tobacco, Green Banana and Currants

Lume - 15 - Cacao Pod from Maralumi with Notes of Tobacco, Green Banana and Currants

Lume - 15 - Cacao Pod from Maralumi with Notes of Tobacco, Green Banana and Currants

Our fifteenth course is another spectacular one – the Cacao Pod from Maralumi with Notes of Tobacco, Green Banana and Currants. This finale is plated at the table. Tobacco ‘Wizz Fizz’ is sprinkled onto the plate first, followed by a few ‘vanilla pods’, then the chocolate cacao pod. A firm tap with a spoon reveals many different components stashed inside the cacao pod. There’s a dehydrated banana scroll that reminds me of dried jackfruit or lychee, egg-shaped currant jelly, a yellow custard-like substance, an orange fruity-flavoured thing, and tiny cubes of Granny Smith soaked in strawberry absinthe. There are so many interesting things to ponder over, and the cacao ice cream on the side was also delicious.

Lume

The service we received was efficient, attentive and warm. And the food? Well, no, not everything worked, but everything sure was inventive and different. Go in with an open mind and allow yourself to be surprised.

Note: at the time of booking, the 15-course degustation was $140. They’ve since introduced a pre-paid system which also includes a service charge, and the menu is now $165.

Lume
226 Coventry Street
South Melbourne, VIC, 3205
(03) 9690 0185
www.restaurantlume.com
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