Abbotsford

Mission #2: The Farm Cafe

I set out the other day to meet Melbourne Food Blogger for coffee and in line with my outdoors mission, we decided to give The Farm Cafe at Collingwood Children’s Farm a go. Continue reading

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Shizuku Ramen

Almost a year later (ok not quite), I find myself back at Shizuku Ramen to try their new and revamped menu. I quite enjoyed it the first time, so was looking forward to giving it another go.

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Their new menu has a wide variety now, compared to the last time I visited when it all fit onto one page. They’ve now expanded into more options for ramen and plenty of entrees and sharing dishes.

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Dropping by on a Friday night, the place felt a little cramped as it was full of people, but it was also a feel-good atmosphere of everyone enjoying their dinner and a catch up.

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I enjoy their hip decor and the empty alcohol bottles they use for water. They also provide complimentary popcorn, powdered with something lightly brown and addictive on top, so much that I couldn’t stop until it got too salty at the bottom. It was something different to your average prawn crackers and really emphasised their take on modern cuisine.

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To start off, we ordered some crab meat croquettes ($8) below. It felt a bit plain despite the description of fresh crab meat, corn, white wine and we would have probably preferred a bit more plum sauce to liven up the taste. I did enjoy the deep-fried exterior, but who doesn’t like something deep-fried!

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A cold rainy night, we also ordered some Japanese tea to warm the souls. We then ordered two sliders after asking about how big they were and decided one would not be enough.

We ordered the lobster ($6) and pork ($5, below) sliders. The lobster tasted great but it felt really cold, like the lobster meat had just come straight from the fridge. The pork had BBQ sauce and was nothing to rave about – my friend also found the meat a little dry. Out of the entrees I think we liked the lobster slider the best, but still think it could use a little work.

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For our mains, my friend went with a ramen burger ($15) as she’s not really a ramen fan and so I recommended this. You may have read my last post and discovered I really enjoyed it and luckily my friend did too on this occasion. She did it the classy way though and asked for a knife and fork, which actually seemed to serve their purpose quite well.

We both think the attractive taste of the burger comes from the dark sauce. I’m still not sure what’s in it but it seems similar to plum sauce and works well with the candied pork belly.

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I also wanted to try something different, and after already trying the ramen burger, I went with the Shoyu Ramen Super Dry ($15). I was lucky as they thought they may have run out of serves for the night but there was still two left.

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It comes with Shoyu broth on the side to provide that much-needed winter warmer, but the noodles itself were drenched in a tasty caramelised Shoyu sauce. In trend with the other sauces, it had a dark brown hue.

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On first glances, it looks like there’s not a lot of topping with several slices of char siu (BBQ pork) but the sauce adds a lot of flavour and depth to fill you up along with the soup. The soup had a slight tang of something that made it a little salty. I didn’t mind it and it performed its job of balancing out the dry noodles, but I think I prefer the Shoyu broth at Fukuryu Ramen.

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I’m glad that I was able to try the dry ramen as it was something a little different to normal. I think the main attraction here would be the ramen and ramen burger, so I wouldn’t mind coming back to try their other types of ramen and maybe give something from the zensai (hors d’oeuvre) menu another try.

Shizuku Ramen is located 309 Victoria St, Abbotsford and is open everyday 11.30-2.30pm and 5.30-10pm.

Mon’s Adventures was invited to dine as a guest at Shizuku Ramen.

Shizuku Ramen on Urbanspoon

Jinda Thai Restaurant

After seeing photo after photo on my Instagram feed, it finally sunk in that this Thai restaurant is on my train line, thus I found an excuse to drop by for dinner with friends.

Although it was only mid-week and around 6.30pm, this place was packed, and I was surprised to see a long receipt-like list of bookings for the night. It’s lucky I booked, as we had five people and the place was close to full. 20140507_182828The place itself isn’t anything too fancy, although my friend said the restrooms are surprisingly quaint (pictured below). In addition to this, the benches along the wall at our table had a few cushions. Located off Victoria St, no one really expects anything that fancy, but it is a little more spacious and nicer than crowded Vietnamese restaurants. IMG-20140507-WA0002We were seated quickly however not provided any menus. We felt a little confused, as there were big menu boards on the other side of the restaurant and we weren’t sure if that’s what we had to order from. But spotting the table next to us with their own menus, it was evident we hadn’t been given any.

A little more confusing is that when they provided them, there are two menus, a booklet and another a single page, which appeared to have noodle dishes, recommendations and more. Still, the exact difference between them wasn’t explained to us, so we had to examine both of them thoroughly.

20140507_184958Luckily, as mentioned in my previous blog post, I’d received recommendations from other food bloggers so it made it a little easier to order. I almost always order a Thai iced milk tea, which helps my low spicy tolerance. It came in a cute trendy jar, but I felt like it was a tad smaller compared to what I’ve had in the past. 20140507_185739A popular recommendation was the boat noodles ($6 small, $9 large), so my friend, who unfortunately just got braces, went with this.

A large basket of condiments came at the same time as the boat noodles, and at first we thought it was all for her, then realised it was most likely for us all to share. Once again, there was not much explanation and they also forgot about our cutlery until we asked. 20140507_185759 The boat noodle soup itself was tasty – you can choose if you want a pork or beef soup and what type of noodles you would like. The soup’s colour is murky as it contains pig’s blood (a normal ingredient for Asian dishes – doesn’t taste as bad as it sounds!) But there is more flavour to the soup than pig’s blood, which was quite pleasant when I had a spoonful.

The downside are the sizes. We found the noodle sizes (the below one too) very disappointing and honestly wondered how that would constitute as a meal if we didn’t share some of the dishes. 20140507_190022 My friend ordered the above spicy dry egg noodle (above), which looked like barely anything. I guess the price for a small is cheap ($6), but there was no guidance from the waitresses that it would be this small. For either an individual or sharing dish, I find this a strange size.

This dish lived up to its name in spiciness, but it included offal even though my friend indicated she did not want it when the waitress asked.

20140507_190056 Surprisingly, the pineapple fried rice was addictive. The fragrance of pineapple provided excitement to your normal fried rice dish, and we scraped it to the last drop.20140507_190042The red duck curry ($15.90, top left) was another recommendation whilst I also couldn’t help choosing the Massaman beef curry ($14.90). The duck curry was more of a watery curry and quite spicy, so much that the weaker ones out of us couldn’t taste anything at first. However, after a few spoonfuls of most of the spicy dishes, we grew accustomed to it and started to enjoy the flavours. 20140507_190240 We had all chosen a dish (plus a few extras) and I was fairly happy with my Massaman curry. This wasn’t spicy at all, but had a slightly thicker and buttery texture. 20140507_190617 It’s also hard to not order tom yum soup ($15.90) when you’re at a Thai restaurant. This was similarly spicy, but addictive too after a few sips. We ordered a seafood soup and I was surprised they weren’t too stingy on the seafood, with a good amount of vegetables and prawns.

Another suggestion was an appetiser, marinated chicken wrapped in pandan leaf ($6.90 per 2 pieces, bottom right). Upon unwrapping, the chicken was fried, crispy and juicy. I really enjoyed it, yet one friend wasn’t amazed.

20140507_190635As the servings were fairly small, it was lucky we also ordered the Thai style marinated grilled beef ($15.90). It was cooked medium rare as requested and nice and tender.

More communication from the waitresses would have been helpful again, as we didn’t realise the cylinder in the background contained sticky rice. It’s in the menu description but we completely forgot about it. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) one of us discovered it at the end when we had all finished eating! 20140507_190916 I was worried we had ordered too much, but in the end it was just enough…to leave room to order a Thai milk tea crepe cake between us! This is another popular item I hear of often. Served with coconut sorbet, my friends all loved it, and it really is like eating your drink in a crepe cake form! However, they apparently sell the packets to make this in a grocery next door. 20140507_201814 Overall, the service let me down a lot. Cutlery was dropped and a little sauce was also spilt on my friend’s skirt. Because of this, I can’t see myself rushing to come back. Everything did feel authentic, but the service and serving sizes may deter me for some time.

I know a lot of other people have experienced better than me, so maybe give it a go at least once for the food and a different type of restaurant around the Victoria St/Richmond area but don’t expect top notch service.

Jinda Thai Restaurant is located at 1-7 Ferguson St, Abbotsford, just across the road from North Richmond Station. It is open Mon-Sun 11am-11pm. Find the menu on Urbanspoon here.

Jinda Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Japanese Burgers

Don’t be fooled – this isn’t just another burger post, but a post about Japanese food with a twist. If the typical sloppy meat burgers aren’t your thing, or you’re looking to try something a bit different, did you know there are sushi and ramen burgers in town? If not, now you do! If curiosity is biting at you right now, read on.

J Cafe Restaurant: 176 Exhibition St

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If you haven’t heard of this place in the city, this is where you can get your dose of sushi burgers. You are probably wondering what this actually consists of, but it’s not entirely surprising, it’s made of exactly what a sushi roll would have.

Two patties made of squished rice sandwich your filling, in my case, my soft shell crab and lettuce ($8.50 on its own, below) and in my friend’s case some prawns and avocado ($5.50). Then a sheet of seaweed encloses the entire creation and voila, you have your sushi burger!

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It was fairly busy when we got there, so we had to wait about 10-15minutes before we were seated. As a takeaway place, there wasn’t really much space to stand without being in the way of the entrance so we were relieved when some people left and we got to sit down.

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Apologies for the blurry picture, just included to show how they presented the food

A mere sushi burger would not fill me up, so we went for the set meals where you get your chosen meal with your burger (unsure of price, but quite worth it) and then you can choose between a drink or miso soup, so we had one of each. I’m not sure if this is the same as the bento meals ($12.50) on their current menu, but it doesn’t seem to be, as these are all packed into one bento box, whereas ours were served separately.

The presentation of the meals were quite impressive, coming on a large plate with sauce and extras such as cucumber, lettuce, tomato, corn, lemon and sauce. The ebi fry (deep fried prawns) are pictured above and our other choice was a good, safe serving of gyoza (Japanese pork dumplings, below). I don’t feel like you can go wrong with fried Japanese foods so I happily enjoyed the crumbed outside of the prawn and believe it always goes well with its mayo to dip in. From my bad memory, the gyoza were passable and I think it was a decent serving to go with the sushi burger.

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My soft shell crab was not bad and just a bit bigger than what you would get in a normal sized sushi roll. It wasn’t mind-blowing though and could have been a bit crispier and golden rather than its murky brown colour. The downside was the wait. The prawn burger came out first, then the sides, however it seemed that the crab burgers took a little longer.

It was a busy Friday night, so it was lucky that I could enjoy the sides whilst I waited. I enjoyed the cute Sushi Burger cartoon character (right) on the waiters’ shirts and on the menu and I would come back to try some of their other burgers such as the salmon aburi or their burger and noodle sets. I would also simply come back, because it’s something different to your typical Japanese and a different way to consume sushi, which is an everyday thing in Melbourne. They do have your standard Japanese meals too if you’re around the area so don’t be afraid to give it a try!

If you missed it, their current menu can be found here. J Cafe is open Mon-Fri 12pm-2.30pm, Tue-Fri 5.30-9pm and they are closed on weekends.

J Café Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Shizuku: 309 Victoria St, Abbotsford

You’ll be surprised to find this one towards the (funky) end of Victoria St, standing out from the abundance of Vietnamese eateries. Looking to choose between the Japanese and Korean we found on this particular end (closer to North Richmond Station), we wandered back to Shizuku and thought we would give it a chance.

It’s fairly small and was not busy at all for a Saturday night. The menu was quite small but their zensai or appetiser list was the most extensive section and had some dishes I hadn’t come across before. My friend was curious as to what eel tastes like, and I do enjoy my unagi (eel) don, so I was happy to order the unagi salad ($15) which included salad leaves, cucumber, apple, cherry tomato and some crispy noodles on top.

Unagi salad

I was afraid that it would be a small serving as a starter, but it was a suitable size for two people to share and we managed to pick through it from the start and all throughout our meal. The dressing was light but gave a sweet edge to the dish, balancing out the sour apples and adding flavour to the greens. Unagi has always tasted like fish to me, which I love, so the chopped pieces of grilled eel and its fish flavour were really complimented by the whole combination of apple and dressing. Whoever decided to start using apples in salads (a-la Chin Chin and Red Spice Road), is a genius!

My friend went for the miso ramen ($15) and I couldn’t go past the novelty of the ramen burger ($15). I didn’t realise until I saw the burger on the menu, that I had come across this place once on Weekendnotes and thought I should try this sometime. Having stumbled into this exact place unintentionally, I took this as a calling to have the ramen burger for the good of my blog (and curiosity).

You can get it with either pork belly or eggplant, and although I do like eggplant, I can never pass on pork belly. It had candied pork belly, plum sauce, prune sauce and kewpie mayonnaise. I’m not entirely clear what “candying” pork belly involves, but I guess it’s similar to caramelised but maybe even slightly sweeter. Don’t expect a crunchy and crispy pork, but a soft and tender pork with some rich sauces to go with it.

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The buns that enclose the burger are made from the ramen noodles, compacted into circular patties that sandwich your pork and lettuce. I’m also a big fan of plum sauce, so I enjoyed the combination of the sweet pork and rich condiments. The burger is served with miso soup and I was surprised as to how filling the burger could be.

The only problem was the usual burger dilemma – the messy end. Noodle buns aren’t exactly solid enough to hold everything together by then, and with the sauce seeping in, I found it difficult to hold and eat it without losing my dignity. The best I could do was put the leftover compacted noodles (there was no meat left) in my spoon and to eat it with my miso soup!

Despite the low ratings, I would suggest giving this place a try. I find the ramen burger much more interesting than the sushi burger, as their combination of sauces and the amazing, soft candied pork really won me over. But it will be more likely that you’ll find me at J Cafe in the meantime, merely for the convenience of location in the city!

Shizuku, according to their Facebook, is open Mon-Sun from 11.30-11pm. Their menu can be found on their website, but it’s not the latest version!

Shizuku on Urbanspoon