Modern Asian

Mama’s Buoi

I have walked past Mama’s Buoi before, in the hidden laneway alongside GPO. On one hand I thought, “Another Vietnamese place?” But at the same time I was curious. Continue reading

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Gingerboy

With Melbourne’s crazy and unpredictable weather, I still haven’t managed to start Mission #2. Although what have I been eyeing? Well the Hideaway pop up at QV for one – it’s curated by Melbourne Spring Fashion Week and includes some special events and workshops, whilst acting as a cafe (Milky Joe) during the day. That was my go-to coffee back in my interning days! Continue reading

Burma Lane

I’m still surprised, that Red Spice Road‘s sister restaurant is not well known. But “not well known” still seems hard to define – most of the people around me had not heard of it, but the place was booked out the night we went.

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As with Red Spice Road, the service is always friendly and accommodating. I altered the number of guests a few times and they were neither annoyed nor snobbish. We also came quite late but my friends already present did not mention being rushed or questioned.

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It’s a nice place to enjoy a cocktail or some mocktails with your food and I always enjoy a good drink with experimental and Asian-inspired mixes.

RSR impressed me with a mocktail once, so I eagerly tried and enjoyed a THAI DAI ($9, right) which had lychee juice, pomegranate, kaffir lime. It even had a pomegranate in it, which was impressive. The lychee gave it a good degree of sweetness and the minty taste was not overpowering as it is in some drinks, allowing the pomegranate to shine.

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The food is a Western take of Burmese food with South-East Asian and Indian influences. We pretty much ordered all the meat since it was a large group, the top photo being the Lamb slow cooked in Yoghurt w/ Green Pea and Tomato Biryani ($27) and Rich Beef, Sweet Potato & Pickled Lime Curry ($28).

They were both so-so dishes, not amazing us, but exhibiting some different tastes. My friends were not fans of the beef. With its big tender chunks, it still seemed a tad dry and uninteresting. Unfortunately, a lot of expectations come with dining here and this take on Burmese cuisine does not seem to have the boldest flavours.

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We were excited to try their Roasted Pork Belly w/ Spiced Caramel Sauce & Herbal Salad ($29), after all, the most popular dish at RSR is their caramelised pork belly with apple slaw.

There was nothing wrong with the dish, but it had the same issue with comparison – the caramelised taste felt subtler than RSR, whilst the salad was nothing special. Even as a stand alone dish, I would find the pork belly acceptable but not a standout.

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I did enjoy the Prawn Dry Red Curry w/ Fried Cauliflower & Coriander ($29), as the sauce was nice and it had a tiny hint of spice. I think I was too busy enjoying the night to even notice the fried cauliflower!

We did notice that a lot of the dishes looked hot with the scattered chillies but none of them seemed to really be spicy except the chicken noodle dish below ($24). This was a little bland once again, besides the mint leaves and chilli tang.

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Despite similar prices to Red Spice Road, the food didn’t feel as satisfying. It’s possibly due to the weaker flavours and also servings are a bit smaller, as the restaurant is located on the Paris end of town.

We ordered a second round of food for the table so ended up with pretty much the remaining meat dishes and…

The Mushrooms stir-fried w/ Shan Tofu, Greens, Yellow Noodles & Coriander ($25, below.) This did not feel like the mushrooms were the main attraction of the dish but rather the tofu. Shan tofu is a Burmese tofu, and the inside texture and taste were almost like potato.

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We also had the interesting sounding Chicken Aloo-Rolled Chicken w/ Potatoes, Tomato, Spices, Lemongrass & Coriander ($28). The flavour was slightly different, the sauce seemed to demonstrate more vegetable flavours with a hint of Asian herbs. I enjoyed the chicken but felt like there was very little of it.

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Finally, we also had some classic calamari but it seemed quite plain compared to the fancy description of Calamari w/ Apple, Sweet Pork, Tomato & Herb Salad ($28). To me, it just felt like calamari, tomato and a few leaves…

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Unfortunately, this place did not live up to the hype. That is the unfortunate thing about having such a popular restaurant chain already, but may also explain why some people still haven’t heard of Burma Lane. The service and people are always top notch at both RSR and Burma Lane, but unfortunately this “contemporary” take on Burmese food has not won me over.

Burma Lane is located 118 Little Collins St and is open 12-3pm for lunch and 6pm-late for dinner. Check out their menu here.

Burma Lane on Urbanspoon

Anju Bar and Restaurant

Lately, I’ve been discussing and pondering over the idea of themes on my blog. Someone recently commented that I often blog about the same sort of places. Thus, next month I’ll be starting a new idea – so watch out!

For this month, let’s just say I’ll continue with my “usual” places, which I have realised consists of mainly Asian or modern Asian joints! (Check out this category, and it becomes even more apparent).

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Following my recent discovery of modern Korean restaurant Suda, I happened to discover another similar restaurant called Anju Bar and Restaurant via the procrastination that is Instagram.

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A friend mentioned it wasn’t busy last time she went, but with only two people, my friend and I still had to be seated at the bar on a Thursday night. It seemed most of the larger tables were taken or booked so I was happy that we were still able to squeeze in.

20140710_181647The menu is divided into traditional and modern dishes (click on picture above). I was surprisingly not overly hungry and decided to order the dishes that I’d heard most about, the sliders and the mother and son omelette.

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They also have plenty of Korean alcoholic drinks (click above) to go alongside your dish, from soju cocktails (again!) to rice wine (makgeolli).

You’ll notice, I drive often, so I had to go for a more tame pear juice ($4, below). I’m not sure if they make it themselves or not, but it came in the current trend of a mason jar mug, and had a nice, light and slightly diluted taste of pear.
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I have also seen pictures of an interesting ice-cream soju cocktail, as seen on The Bake-a-nista’s post, but I didn’t spot it on the menu above. It seems to involve dipping an ice-cream (on a stick) into your drink, so I hope they bring it back! It may have been a summer item.

20140710_183030Since all the sliders sounded amazing, we decided to order four of them. This included the soft shell crab (right), beef bulgogi (centre), pork bulgogi (spicy pork, left) and panko ebi (crumbed prawn, back). All sliders were $6 except the soft shell crab, $8.

Service was swift and attentive. It could be because we were right at the bar and in front of the register, but I’ve heard many good accounts. We asked for a knife to split our sliders and one was provided a mere few seconds later.

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Each slider had its own unique taste to match the filling. The prawn and soft shell crab had mayonnaise type of sauces and a slaw filling to match their crispy exteriors. I think I enjoyed the soft shell crab the most. It was crunchy and slightly juicy whilst complimented by the slaw and sauces.

The beef bulgogi meat was nice and sweet too, but a bit plain with not much else in there. The spicy pork felt a bit similar, but also didn’t feel suitable in a burger for me.

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Above is the mother and son omelette ($26), which was an oven baked omelette with cheese, bean shoots and spicy chicken inside. This was very cheesy, but I enjoy my cheese so it wasn’t a problem. The chicken pieces are a little hard to find but the cheese and egg make it a filling dish.

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The prices are more expensive than you would usually pay for Korean fare, especially as you get to the meatier options, but this is not your typical Korean restaurant. I’d gladly return for the lovely setting and service to try a few more items (and drinks), as it’s something a little different. But for now, I haven’t left with the desire to come rushing back immediately.

Warning: you will smell strongly of food when you leave, as the picture above shows how open the cooking area is at Anju!

Anju Bar and Restaurant is located at 18 Little Latrobe St and is open Mon to Fri 11:30am-2:30pm and Mon to Sun 5:30-11:00 pm.

Anju Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Modern Asian Restaurants: Fumanchu

Fumanchu has come up in my food searches before, but I’ve always been weary due to reviews about service and the fact that it’s related to Miss Chu, which I’m not a big fan of. But, as I felt like trying a breakfast with a twist, I thought the risk might pay off. Not to mention the place is conveniently located in the northern suburbs.

20140316_124235There is no sign at the front to indicate that you’ve reached the right place and when we walked in, we thought we had walked into a bar in the middle of the day. The place emanated a pub atmosphere with its pink neon lights and walls lined with alcohol. However, the waitress assured us we had reached Fumanchu, so we decided to sit alongside the window bench, which displayed more of typical cafe decor than the front counter.

20140316_114612 copyMeanwhile, the artwork of the seats along the bench displayed some sort of mid-20th century Asian film poster images. This made more sense after a quick Google search, discovering Fu Manchu as the name of a fictional character with an iconic moustache.20140316_115731 To start with, I ordered a mango juice whilst my friend ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee. My mango juice appeared to be freshly made as it didn’t feel full of extra sugar usually in bottled juice. The coffee surprisingly came out in a traditional fashion, with the Vietnamese coffee filtered and dripping into the condensed milk. After this, you pour it into your glass of ice. It was impressively presented but time consuming when you desperately want to drink your coffee! It was also quite strong for my liking.20140316_120931

As a fan of this Japanese food, I couldn’t go past the Japanese Okonomiyaki Pancakes ($17, above) from the ‘Something Different’ menu. It comes with shredded cabbage and peas inside the pancakes and is served with house cured salmon and wasabi mayo.

The pancakes tasted different to the ones you would get in a foodcourt, which seem to have more of a filling. However, this felt freshly made and a bit healthier with an abundance of peas. They were adequately sized to go with the salmon. The salmon provided a complimenting texture and flavour to the pancakes, which could have been a little plain on its own.

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My friend was tossing up between the Asiaotic Saute Mushrooms and the Asian Omelette ($15, above) and ended up choosing the latter with extra mushrooms. The omelette consisted of wok-tossed free-range eggs, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), Asian herbs and roti bread topped with fried shallots.

I didn’t realise the omelette would be served wrapped in roti bread, which was interesting. I also enjoyed that the side of mushrooms was a mix of different mushrooms including enoki, providing a proper Asian air to the dish. With egg and Chinese sausage, the dish incorporated many ingredients already familar to me so it filled me up well, but it wasn’t outstanding.

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I was glad I gave Fumanchu a chance as it ended up providing quite decent food. The service was okay but not horrible, it can just be a bit difficult catching someone’s attention because the place is quite spacious. The tables around me were packed when I arrived around 11.30am but empty by the time I left (pictured above).


Image courtesy of their Facebook – some lovely artwork I noticed on a wall before I left.

They also serve dinner with more recognisable Vietnamese meals such as pho (rice noodle soup) and bun (vermicelli noodles) but I’m still dubious about the authenticity, especially when they also serve non-Vietnamese dishes such as mee goreng. I’m happy to try Asian inspired dishes but when it comes to traditional food you’d have better for cheaper in Footscray or Springvale. That being said, I haven’t actually tried it so if any one has tried their dinner food please tell me about it in the comments!

Fumanchu has changed its name to Chumanchu but it doesn’t feel too official with their name still the same on Facebook. The restaurant is open Tue-Sun 8am-10pm and is located at 2 Gilbert Road, Preston. Check out some old versions of their breakfast menu here and takeaway dinner menu here.

Fu Manchu on Urbanspoon

Modern Asian Restaurants: Rice Paper Scissors

I walked past this place on my visit to Longrain, a new and upcoming place it was immediately put on my list of places to go. It was always going to be a risk though, with a modern take on various Asian and a lot of Vietnamese dishes, it would definitely challenge my notion of traditional Vietnamese food.

However, I’m very open to modern Asian restaurants as long as they provide dishes that taste good! It looked busy inside when we arrived around 6.30pm on a weeknight, so we chose to sit outside in true Asian hawker style with a wooden crate table. Service started off well and we chose to have the tempting offer of five dishes from the menu for $45 all up. 20140226_185001 The first dish that came out included two mini versions of banh xeoa take on the traditional Vietnamese pancake ($9, above). The English name said coconut crispy wafers filled with pork, prawn, bean shoots and fresh herbs, thus it was definitely crispier than the usual folded, large pancake.

The waiter recommended we eat it wrapped in the lettuce, which is a hard feat when the wafer is hard, but I managed by folding it up similar to a taco. This results in a messy, saucy meal but the crunch of lettuce and wafer, and the filling, provided a tasty mix of familiar Asian flavours yet something new. My friend wasn’t entirely happy when she decided not to use the lettuce and the waiter told her she should eat it with it, as it would be hard to eat otherwise. A recommendation is welcome, but being told you are eating the food wrong feels slightly rude. 20140226_185449 We didn’t take it too personally and moved on to our galloping horses, a Thai dish called ma hor, involving caramelised pork, prawn and peanut on sour pineapple ($9, above). From reviews, it seems like this is a favourite of many. I don’t usually like pineapple, but the taste of sour pineapple was easy to eat. The mix of filling on top sounds good on paper, but didn’t quite do it for us. The mix tasted a bit weird and salty and you don’t quite recognise what you are eating, but I guess it works for a lot of other people.

We also ordered a non-alcoholic drink, a crush of cranberry, lime and coriander ($6.50, above). Refreshing as it was, it had a bit of an odd aftertaste but it was not too bad and helped to cool down if you had too much chilli. I hear their cocktails are pretty good though so you can check out their drinks menu here. 20140226_194359 From this point, the small restaurant became full and I heard visitors being told it would be a 45 minute wait. Impressive for a new place, but at the same time our meal encountered an extremely long break.

After some prompts and apologies, our next dish of prawn crackers, using the Indonesian style and name, krupuk udang ($8, above) arrived. It came with king prawn, spicy sausage, soy caviar and sriracha mayo atop the large crackers. I discovered how tasty Indonesian prawn crackers are last year, as they’re larger, crunchier and more flavoursome but the presentation of scattered ingredients felt a bit random. It did taste quite good with the hints of chilli mayo, but it’s nothing amazing, especially after you’ve been waiting so long for it.

20140226_195445 Finally we had the mini Vietnamese baguettes, or banh mi ($9, above). It comes with free range bbq pork, pickled vegetables, herbs and homemade pate. I was dubious as they merely looked like mini hamburgers, but this was forgotten after I took a bite – the soft bread and pate burst with unique, inviting flavours.

For our fifth meal, they mistakenly brought out the coconut wafers again and not our betel leaves with duck. The wait was so long after that, we decided to leave and pay for four dishes. The waiter slightly apologised and rounded off our bill, however thought it was partially our fault for not correcting him when he had tried to check what we were waiting on. He had spoken quickly and we nodded because we assumed he was just asking if we were still waiting for dishes – and I’m not sure it’s our fault that they did not tick off the correct dishes.

Some of the food was impressive but weighed up against the long wait and service, I won’t be in a rush to come back. I didn’t leave full and don’t think I would have been, even after a fifth dish. But feel free to give it a try for some small bites and drinks, the food impresses many and you might experience better service than me!

Rice Paper Scissors is open Mon-Fri 12-3pm for lunch and 6pm-late for dinner. They are open 5pm-late on Saturdays and closed on Sundays. View their menu here.

Rice Paper Scissors on Urbanspoon

Modern Asian Restaurants: Seamstress

Another night, another modern asian place, but at least this time the flavours were slightly more unique and varied from the other places in this series. Seamstress is easy to walk straight past, located upstairs on Lonsdale St with its coffee shop Drystore Espresso on the ground floor and its bar Sweatshop located underneath.

It’s relatively small with the skinny room apparently being able to fit about fifty people. However, it didn’t give off a vibe of feeling cramped and we enjoyed the flowers hanging in test tube vases from the ceiling (unfortunately didn’t get a good photo as can be seen below). We were seated promptly as I had booked and I found their service swift and enjoyable all night.

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With two of my friends, we chose a dish each and agreed on one more. One aspect of the service that slightly concerned me was that they have a small, large and medium size of each dish, which seemed quite convenient at first. But instead of asking you to choose, they say they will judge on our behalf after they look over our order and proceeded to ask how hungry we are on a scale of 1-10. Although this could be seen as handy to some people, I don’t think a restaurant can ever judge how much I can eat…but more on that later.

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The first dish was the most inventive and its taste did not disappoint, the duck rice crepe money bag, roast duck breast, black garlic, & plum sauce (above). It was styled exactly like a money bag, tied with some greens. The crepes were nice and soft and the plum sauce was not overwhelming and sweet, but just a touch was enough to compliment the dish.

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Keen on some seafood, we also had the maple seared scallops, smoked rainbow trout, crispy shallot, apple salad with a Nam Jim dressing. The scallops were pleasantly juicy and the apple was quite dominant in the salad, providing a light and refreshing meal.

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Perhaps I have an underlying desire in my subconscious to try all the pork belly dishes in Melbourne because I went with the 12 hour braised Berkshire pork belly, jicama salad & kohlrabi kimchi (above). The pork was OK, not flavoursome on its own, and a little chewy to my friends. On the other hand I found the texture fine and I enjoyed the crackling. The kimchi was lightly spicy and the sauce tasted like any ordinary Asian chilli sauce, thus I think the best part of the dish was the kimchi, which wasn’t just traditional kimchi.

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Last up was the caramelised eggplant with red miso & silken tofu sauce, crispy spice crusted firm tofu & toasted sesame seeds. It had plenty of soft, eggplant pieces and and some hidden pieces of tofu. The flavour mainly came from the silken tofu sauce, which proved to be as sweet as we expected the plum sauce in the first dish to be. Consequently, this was a bit too sweet for us to eat without rice to balance it out, although it did ensure we were full by the end of the night.

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I also enjoyed a cocktail from their extensive drinks list called Apricot Rickey ($15, bad picture above), a delicious thirst-quencher with Apricot Liqueur and fresh lime juice served tall with soda water. It was a nice fruity, mixed drink, perfect for a weak person like me.

I could have had room for  dessert but my friends were quite full after the last sweet dish, proving that Seamstress’ sizing for meals was quite accurate for normal people like my friends, but perhaps not me. They were attentive for most of the night, although our meal slowed down a little midway and we were getting a bit hungry, but as our concerns heightened, the dishes came out.

Seamstress is open Mon-Fri 12-3pm for lunch, Mon-Thurs 5.30-9pm and Fri-Sat 5.30-10.30pm. Check out their website for their other opening hours for their various levels and their menu.

Seamstress on Urbanspoon