Richmond

Tree of Us

If you haven’t noticed, I love to take on people’s recommendations. I mean, rather than pondering over mixed reviews on Urbanspoon, that comfort of having the approval come from someone you know just provides that extra weight.

Thus, Tree of Us sits on my list of places to go after The Sunday Oven told me where she thinks the best burgers are at.

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Located on the quiet end of Church St, less lively than the likes of Victoria St (Shizuku, Jinda Thai), it can be identified by this dark, yet intricate artwork on the wall outside. I like that the place embraces this aspect of Melbourne, especially when it’s located in the inner suburbs where street-art is prominent.

As a burger place, they add a few basics to brighten up the interior, such as paintings and simple flowers, but also don’t try too hard because in the end – it’s all about the food!

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For a Saturday night, it seemed a little quiet, but I have noted it seems like a popular breakfast place too. This is understandable when there is a “Not Burgers” menu section which includes meals such as organic muesli, French toast and – wait for it….a breakfast steak!

Speaking of steak, I was extremely hungry (more than usual), so I went with the No Misteak (above, $18), which had scotch fillet, bacon, Swiss cheese, caramelised onion, relish, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The issue this posed is that the steak was a bit hard to bite off if I used my hands, but if I tried cutting the steak, it made my burger fall apart. First world problems much! In the end I went back to my hands – the steak was actually quite soft and became easier to bite, but I might have preferred it a tiny bit pinker.

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On the bright side, I enjoyed the way the Swiss cheese oozed over my steak and how the chips were like thickly cut potatoes ($4 as a side). I’ve said it before, I like my chips thickly cut, but these were a bit salty after too many.

My friend ordered The Chicken Coop with free range chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli and dill pickle (above, $12). These sounded like your standard burger ingredients, but my friend downed it astonishingly quickly.

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My other two friends ordered the staple Tree House Burger with beef chuck patty, lettuce, relish, mayo and dill pickle ($11). One of them ordered a Bonsai burger, which is a mini version of the burger ($6, above). They also offer this for the Lumberjack and Sweet Pea burgers. I think it’s a great option for people who are not overly hungry.

My friends also enjoyed the delicious and soft brioche buns used with the burgers. If it was earlier in the day, I would have adventurously gone for a milkshake/smoothie and maybe even a Breakfast Burger, but instead I went with a meat fest! Having had about three burger meals in that week, I still feel that Spot on Kebab Station wins in value for money and in the uniqueness of their burgers.

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Tree of Us offers great service, the owner looked after us and even provided a complimentary slice of salted caramel brownie (above) as our group chatted until were the last ones there. The salted flavour was quite strong for me, so I found the bite sized pieces for us a good portion. If you check out their Instagram, it seems that one of their mothers likes to drop by with homemade desserts quite often!

I love the simplicity of the place, the honest and down-to-earth feeling that the staff and shop provide and their ethos of sustainability. I’d be happy to drop by for brunch, as strange as that sounds, for a different and bubbly atmosphere and to try something off their Not Burgers menu!

Tree of Us is located at 71 Church St, Richmond and is open Mon-Tue 7.30am-4pm and Wed-Sun 7.30am-9.30pm. Check out their menu here.

The Tree Of Us on Urbanspoon

Top Paddock

In a bid to resist unnecessary purchases on Boxing Day, we ventured to Richmond instead to have unnecessary fancy brunch. I’ve heard lots of raving about Top Paddock yet I’ve always been dubious about visiting due to reviews talking about lack of service. But you never know unless you try, and service was not what disappointed me.

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Upon arrival, it was a good sign to see the place packed even on Boxing Day. It was quite large though, so we were seated easily but I hear that weekends have a bit of a wait time. I also enjoyed the homely and floral decor, the openness of the space making it feel akin to a greenhouse. The coffee section (above) was interestingly placed in the middle of the dining area and was separate to the register to pay for meals.

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We were seated right next to the coffee section, whilst this pretty, glowing view (above) greeted us on our other side. The service was swift, after being seated immediately it wasn’t long until our drinks orders were taken. One friend and I got iced coffees ($6, below). I found the ice cream tasted nice, more flavoursome than your regular vanilla scoop, yet the actual coffee a tad bland and diluted.

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For my meal, I was temped by everything from their big breakfast and pork belly dishes to the more experimental, “I don’t even know what that is but it sounds interesting” dishes. I gave in to the latter, having seen so many posts about this place’s interesting and successful dishes that I felt like I could not miss out.

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I chose the purple potato and buffalo ash brie omelette with padron peppers on sourdough, with added chorizo ($3), so it came to $20. The purple potato was not sweet potato as we assumed, but it seemed potato coloured purple. Meanwhile, we discovered the ash brie to be a type of cheese similar to goat’s cheese, which was what they used in the omelette previously.

I really wanted to like it, but I felt the potatoes placed on top for aesthetics did not work that well compared to say, Spanish omelettes where the potato is found inside. The chorizo was too salty, so in addition to the ash brie, the entire dish was too salty for my liking. Nevertheless, it wasn’t horrible and being hungry, I finished the meal.

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My friend chose the ricotta hotcakes with seasonal fruits, which included berries and strawberries, and marscapone ($17). It was nice, sweet and fluffy, or as she put it, like eating a giant muffin.

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After hearing about the soft shell crab burger ($21), my friend ordered this as she really enjoyed the one at Hammer and Tong. It was good and buttery but we felt the one at Hammer and Tong to be richer and tastier with more mayonnaise. It was also cheaper at $16, although a little smaller than this one. However one of my other friends present had a different experience at H&T, saying that the burger there was so salty she could hardly taste the crab, which just goes to show how different people’s experiences can be.

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Sometimes I wonder whether some places disappoint me because I’ve visited on a public holiday, when premium staff members may be on break, or because I come with too high expectations from the hype. It wasn’t as great as I expected and I probably won’t be back.

The decor was pretty and inventive, I especially enjoyed the street sign chairs (above), which are quite representative of signs in the inner suburbs. The teacup lights reminded me of the ones at Three Bags Full and then I realised Top Paddock is brought to us by the same (original) owners of Three Bags Full.

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The service as mentioned earlier was attentive and not at all slow, but I wouldn’t promise this on the weekends. However one waiter did clear my friend’s drink without asking her if she was done, and she had a bit left.

Lots of people have had more positive experiences but unfortunately not me. I was glad we managed to try it when it wasn’t during peak hour on the weekends, yet I thought this would mean more time and attention for our food. The food came out quickly and all at once, but the tastes unfortunately did not satisfy.

Top Paddock is open Mon-Fri 7am-4pm and 8am-4pm on the weekends. See their December 2013 menu here (it’s a bit outdated from the one we saw on Boxing Day which had slight variations.)

Top Paddock 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.

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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