Tag Archives: Asian

Mission #1: Yong Green Food

A restaurant recommendation that has often come up during my vegetarian mission is Yong Green Food. I made a quick stop by the other day and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test out my new Canon 600D camera. Continue reading

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Madame K’s Vegetarian

Sometimes spontaneity provides you with more memorable experiences, especially when out to dine. After an unfulfilling meal at Henry and the Fox (a post on this will be coming in the future), we ventured to Brunswick St for a second round.

Our initial plan was to drop by the popular vegan and organic restaurant Yong Green Food, but this plan was thwarted after their voicemail said they were closed for a break.

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Next idea was Vegie Bar, but this place is crazy-busy on weekends. But Melbourne is full of eateries and we were bound to find something else on Brunswick St – and my friend then spotted Madame K’s Vegetarian.

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It was smaller than Vegie Bar but still full of diners, and we were lucky to get a table for three.

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It was a bit cramped and the staff kept squeezing between me and another table, but I was just glad we managed to score a table on a Friday night.

We started off with some chive dumplings ($6.90, below – sorry for blurry photo). They were panfried and surprisingly full of flavour – I honestly didn’t realise these crispy vegetarian dumplings could be so tasty! I think the dipping sauce also had an attractive, strong flavour – similar to soy but a lot more compelling.

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I wasn’t entirely hungry after Henry and the Fox (how rare), thus I went for an entree of lamb sliders. I assume it was “mushroom made lamb”, as described in all their other lamb dishes on the menu. They won my curiosity as the description did not mention the common brioche buns but instead, naan bread. They were quite different but I don’t think it worked as a wrap for me.
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The doughy and thick nature of the bread means I would much prefer dipping it in some nice curry. The other ingredients reminded me of the minty flavours you would get in a Vietnamese dish. Unfortunately, I probably would have preferred these ingredients in a normal bun, as the bread is a tad chewy to bite off whilst trying to enjoy a wrap.

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My friends on the other hand, were still ready and gearing for another full dinner. They both ordered rice dishes, which were quite similar in taste.

One was a mushroom dish (above, $16.90), with various mushrooms, eggplant and Thai basil served with Jasmine rice. You have the option to choose Jasmine or brown rice. The dark sauce resembles oyster sauce, but I felt like the flavour was more interesting and intense than your average oyster sauce.

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This sauce was similar to what was used with the tofu and cashew dish (above, $16.90). And this was a good thing because we all enjoyed this flavour a lot. I think perhaps the sauce’s aroma and flavour was enhanced by the Thai influences, rather than your typical Westernised Chinese takeaway.

Whilst we enjoyed our meals, I noticed a constant stream of takeaway customers coming in and out of the restaurant. Service was quite quick – the only issue was they didn’t realise my entree was actually my meal, so they were waiting for me to finish before serving my friends’ mains. This was quickly sorted though.

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Finally, we couldn’t say no to dessert as we were enjoying a good chat and thought the banana roti ($10.90) sounded too good to pass on. I was still dreaming of Chin Chin’s amazing banana roti, but this was different and delicious in its own way. It was a bit like a crepe but with a thicker base of roti, with not only banana, but also strawberries, soy ice-cream, their homemade sauce and a bonus kiwi fruit.

Thus, I’m not ashamed to say – we ordered another one of these! I’d happily go back but I’m aiming to try Yong Green Food first. If you decide to go here, I’d suggest booking or going on a slightly quieter night during the middle of the week to get a better table.

Madame K’s Vegetarian is open for lunch Sat-Sun from 12-3.30pm and dinner every night from 5-10pm. Check out their menu here.

Madame K's Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

Asian Cheap Eats

Let’s admit it, there will always be a time when you crave cheap Asian food. I recently got to meet Kenny from the popular Western suburbs’ blog, Consider the Sauce, and we discussed how many people review the same popular places in the CBD etc, whilst he tends to go for the ‘ghetto’ places.

He makes a good point, and I enjoy weaving in and out of both worlds, or simply anywhere. My love of roadtrips leads me all over Melbourne and I love being able to have readers say, “That’s just near me, I’ll drop by and give it a try” whether it’s in the western or south-eastern suburbs (neither of which are my areas)!

So, here’s a few cheap Asian finds that I’ve stopped by in the various suburbs of Melbourne in the past few weeks. Enjoy!

Basil House: 461 High St, Preston
A mix of Vietnamese and Thai food, Basil House likes to provide a bit of variety. Due to the offering of both cuisines though, I feel like they lose a bit of authenticity in both areas.20140610_191050

But it satisfies the tummy and the craving, so most of the time it will do. The table settings are like any other Asian restaurant with cutlery and condiments on the table ready to go.

Decor is nothing special but at least this place isn’t cramped like some fast restaurants. It’s a little less hectic and more relaxed, but your food still comes out quickly.

20140610_191959High St is the busy, fast-ethnic-food-place-to-be in Preston. With a few other Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants on the little strip, you might pass by Basil House due to its split between two cuisines, which usually indicates it is catering too much to Western crowds by serving Asian dishes in general.
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We ordered some Vietnamese entrees including nem nuong (grilled pork, top picture) and bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaf, above) to start. The serves are suitable for sharing but I found the meat in both dishes a little dry.

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I think when you go to a cheap Asian restaurant, it’s all about ordering that one, complete, cheap meal and leaving satisfied. Com tam or broken rice (above) is a popular Vietnamese meal with grilled pork, shredded pork skin, egg and a sort of meatloaf with egg. It’s not pretty, but it is a staple meal at Vietnamese restaurants.

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We also ordered a large tom yum soup, although a little oily, it was surprisingly not bad. It was pretty warming and spicy for a winter night’s meal.

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My friend ordered one of the stir-fried chicken dishes, but I’m not sure which one. The chicken had a nice, light sauce whilst the vegies were cut in large chunks like most Asian restaurants.

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I chose the pad thai, which was better than my expectations and quite filling. I think they went a little overboard with the peanuts and towards the end, the flavour does feel a bit repetitive and bland, but I still managed to down it all.

Basil House is open everyday 10.30am-10.30pm. You can find an old version of their menu here as their website seems to be expired.

Basil House on Urbanspoon

Tra Vinh: 70 Nicholson St, Footscray
There are plenty of places to eat in the west, so a lot of people tend to overlook Tra Vinh. This visit actually made us realise that they don’t even have pho on the menu.

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But that’s not what this place is good for! To start off we ordered some classic Vietnamese drinks, a Vietnamese iced coffee and an avocado smoothie ($3 each). My iced coffee was a little small, but considering how strong Vietnamese coffees are, it was probably for the better at night time!

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What my friend loves this place for is their hu tieu mi kho dac biet, special dry Vietnamese pork noodles (apologies for blurry photo above). The noodles and various fillings are hiding underneath those beanshoots, which you can mix altogether with the sweet chilli sauce throughout to help flavour the dry noodles. It was so addictive, my friend ordered another bowl – and why not when it’s only $9.50.

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Hu tieu can also come in a soup base, so I went with the same dish but in a soup version. It has both clear noodles and egg noodles. The broth was welcoming, tasting like a great homemade soup. They have plenty of other dishes too, but they seem to mostly be known for their hu tieu dishes.

Tra Vinh is open daily 9am-8pm. Check out their menu on Urbanspoon.

Tra Vinh on Urbanspoon

Hoa Tran: 246A Springvale Rd, Springvale
This place is always busy and boasts a large menu. Another bustling Vietnamese suburban area, Springvale is home to many restaurants and shops to embrace your inner Asian. It has everything from bubble tea to pho, so whilst you’re there, don’t forget to check out Hoa Tran. Click the picture below for full article.

Hoa Tran is open daily from 9am-9pm. Check out their menu here.

Hoa Tran on Urbanspoon

Joomak

Joomak is a nifty, little Korean place located in a spot that you probably walk past everyday. In fact, it’s located immediately across the university I attended for three years, and I still never noticed!

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Of course, there’s a reason for that. It’s located downstairs, with the only signage evident after you poke your head into a random doorway and spot the pictured Joomak signs.

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Once you walk down the random stairway, not sure what to expect, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when some warm blue lights and private booths greet you. There are smaller tables out in the open, but we made a reservation, so we were led to a spacious booth.

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For a place I hear of so often, the menu seemed quite succinct (click image for larger picture). We were actually hoping for Korean BBQ but didn’t realise that they don’t offer it.

On the brightside, this made it easier to choose as we were especially hungry.

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I can never pass on most Korean pancakes. I usually order the seafood but as one friend wasn’t a fan of seafood, we thought we’d try the kimchi and pork.

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This was not bad, a little thin, but it was good to have a bit of meat in there. Of course it tasted better with a bit of dipping sauce (bottom dish), which seemed to be some mix of soy and sesame? Not an expert on the sauces that come with Korean food, but I know that I like them! You also get a bundle of kimchi (above the sauce) and interestingly a side dish akin to a pasta salad.20140523_182608 We ordered a few more dishes, and as often with Korean food it’s all about their marinated meat. Pictured above is the mild pan-fried pork ($15). It looks a bit small compared to other restaurants and for the price, and it also didn’t look as red as other places, which usually comes from some classic, spicy Korean sauce.

However, we did ask for mild and despite the appearance, I could taste a similar flavour to that red Korean sauce. It wasn’t really spicy at all, but that familiar Korean pork flavour demonstrates that it’s hard to go wrong with this dish.

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I preferred the pork to our beef bulgogi ($33, above), which has less of a flavour but kept me coming back because it has some Korean noodles underneath. This helped to satisfy one of my friends and I, as we were disappointed we couldn’t find japchae, sweet potato noodles, on the menu.

We also ordered the deep fried chicken drummettes ($15 for 7 pieces). This came with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. Like The BakeanistaI found this similar to a Chinese fried chicken, the skin not as crunchy and crumbed as most contenders in this new KFC/Korean Fried Chicken craze.

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But, what really got us was the drinks. Unsurprisingly, Joomak is also a popular bar, thus the small tables are available to those just after a few drinks, or there are some stools along the side. Above, you will see a strawberry soju cocktail that one friend ordered, with a little shot-like glass hiding behind it.

Another friend ordered the pineapple, and they both taste quite fruity with the alcohol not obvious. My friend and I received a lychee version for two, and for some reason it tasted a lot a stronger (but still good). I think they were about $17, so they really add up in your bill!

This place was not a standout to me, surprisingly after so many raving reviews. But, I’ve decided that after I saw this Instagram post from Food For My Belly that I’ll definitely need to return for the rice cakes with cheese and seafood. Looks devilishly good!

Joomak is located at 407/409 Swanston St, Melbourne CBD and is open Mon-Tue 5pm-1am, Wed–Thurs 5pm-3am and Fri-Sun 5pm-5am according to their Facebook.

Joomak on Urbanspoon

Caroline Thai Restaurant

A day in the western suburbs, resulted in us looking for a quick but quality place to eat before we had to catch a movie. My friend suggested Caroline Thai Restaurant, a moderately priced restaurant with delicious food and cutlery with elephants shaped on the ends.

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As it was a day featuring the last tastes of summer weather, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to order a classic Thai iced milk tea ($3.90, above.) It tasted sweet and authentic but not overly sweetened like some places. With four of us we all chose a dish each.

Under the Thai grilled section I chose the Moo Yang BBQ, which was grilled marinated pork with Thai herbs ($16.90, above). It tasted lightly barbecued but the sauce added the burst of flavour needed, and the flower added a nice touch to the presentation.

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We debated over whether to get a large or small serving of tom yum soup. The waiter was quite helpful, so in the end we chose to have two small serves of the soup. I think we got the vegetable tom yum so it was $6.90 for each, but when they came out we were quite happy with the decision because it seemed like just enough. This was probably my favourite dish of the night, as it wasn’t too spicy and seemed to have a depth to its flavour that made you keep coming back for more.

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In contrast, my friend insisted that the curry wasn’t that spicy last time so we asked for a bit of extra spice for our red curry with chicken ($16.90, above). However, when it came out he said it was a lot spicier this time – but for my weaker friends and I it wasn’t unbearable. It was definitely a bit on the strong side but if you had a lot of it, all it took was a sip of water.

What I like about the menu, is that for the appropriate dishes, it provides you with the different options of meat and fillings. For example, you can have red curry with beef, chicken, vegetables, prawns or seafood. It’s very straightforward and means they are quite flexible.

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Last of all was the seafood pad thai ($16.90, above). The noodles seemed quite thin, but this seems consistent with what people agree should be used in pad thai. It was good and what was to be expected, nothing too special.

With four meals all up, and not a lot of time, we didn’t manage to finish it all but I felt like we had a good selection. If we had more time, I would have probably demolished the tom yum soup! The place seemed to be starting to get busy early in the evening, and the food seemed fairly authentic. The waiters and waitresses also seemed attentive and helpful, able to help with any advice.

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Caroline Thai Restaurant is located at Shop 9/218-222 Caroline Springs Blvd, Caroline Springs. You can view the dine-in menu here. You will also find their drinks and take-away menu.

Caroline Thai Restaurant 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