Tag Archives: Modern asian

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

Advertisements

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.

20140712_192004

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.

20140712_200108_

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.

20140712_192007

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.

20140712_191956

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.

20140712_191938

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.

20140712_192545

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.

20140712_200302

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.

20140712_200308

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…

20140712_200230

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

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.

20140316_120946

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.

20140316_124218

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: Longrain

Well it seems this series will never end, the most popular restaurants in Melbourne just seem to exhibit this modern cuisine. Most restaurants take the best parts of Thai food and put their own twist on it, thus it seems that Thai food has become the easiest to modernise and market. Longrain’s website indicates it takes influences from Thai food and also Southern Chinese food.

I’ll make a brief mention of trying it at the Night Noodle Markets, as I won’t be doing a full post on that event. To be honest, I was not impressed by the markets. Their portions weren’t great and they were overpriced even for what they would serve in the actual restaurants.

Hot and sour pork salad

I tried their hot and sour pork with glass noodle salad and it was roughly $12/$13. Although it’s a salad, I didn’t expect it to be so, so cold. Their pork was more like tiny bits of minced pork hidden in the pile of noodles, almost like finding a needle in a haystack. And I could hardly taste any hint of hot and sour…After lining up for so long I felt like we’d make the wrong decision and wondered if their other dishes were better. Thus I wasn’t put off by the whole outfit, merely the night market idea, and was not afraid to drop by their actual restaurant for dinner.

The restaurant is located further down Little Bourke St, an area that I realised I have not explored, with Christmas signs and tiny Asian restaurants on a little laneway leading me towards Longrain.

A tad late, my friend had already ordered an appetiser (below) so it would come out soon. I’m not sure what it was called but it came with prawn crackers, lettuce and a bowl of salad-type dish with mint, chilli, prawns and more. It had that zing that comes from the strong aromas of chilli and mint and went well when scooped into the crackers. However, they only give you three crackers and lots of filling. You can also use the lettuce but it still didn’t seem enough, and we found it too strong and saucy to finish on its own.

Our appetiser

At this time we were sitting in the waiting area near the bar and not properly seated yet. Despite us telling them that our last friend was about to arrive, they said they couldn’t seat us until she got there. We found this a bit silly but a common trend in the upper restaurants in Melbourne these days, as well as the no bookings for less than 6 people policy.

Finally, we were seated and served by a young waiter who sped through all we needed to know and the specials. Don’t get me wrong, he was very nice and attentive.

Like many restaurants, the dishes are intended for sharing. The menu doesn’t state it, but they can do smaller portions for some of their dishes. The first dish that came out was the char grilled ocean trout with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf (below, $19.50). We were quite hungry, thus when we saw this small portion (this is the normal sized portion), we were quite worried about what the rest of the dishes would bring.

Char grilled ocean trout

We almost forgot about this when we tasted the trout, so soft and covered in Thai-inspired flavours. Despite this refreshing taste, I’m starting to find it difficult to differentiate the flavours from all these modern Asian restaurants as there is a high usage of lemongrass, mint and lime.

Fortunately the char grilled chicken, tumeric, lemongrass, chilli, lime (below) did not look as small. It was similarly flavoured to the previous dish, however I could taste a subtle, smoky BBQ flavour and the sauce added some spice. In fact a tad too much spice for one friend, and our waiter was nice enough to bring some cucumbers out for us to cool our palettes down.

Char grilled chicken

It’s hard to go by these restaurants without trying their respective caramelised pork dishes, thus we tried their caramelised pork hock, five spice, chilli vinegar (below, $33.50). Our verdict remains as it was, that nothing will beat Red Spice Roads pork belly, but this dish still gained a favourite for the night. The caramelised flavour was just strong enough and the pork was perfectly cooked, but there wasn’t really much spice (not complaining).

Caramelised pork hock

Lastly, we ordered a small portion of Mussaman curry (spelt that way) grass-fed beef, kipfler potato and roasted peanuts as one of my friends didn’t want curry. This was quite different from the Massaman curries that I’ve tried, looking a lot redder, thus my friend who prefers Chin Chin did not like it at all. On the other hand, I found it reminded me of some Indian curries, and enjoyed the taste. But besides the beef, I didn’t enjoy the other ingredients in the dish as much.

Mussaman beef curry

Although out waiter was quite nice, we weren’t too impressed by not being able to be seated without our last friend present. The service was initially slow, with the trout coming out by itself and the following dishes taking their time. We pushed them by asking for the remaining dishes to come out together, which happened but after some time.

If I were to compare to the other restaurants in this series, we found it quite similar to Red Spice Road but not as good. Red Spice Road is just as, or not even as, expensive in some areas. They take bookings, they seem to provide more generous servings and I’ve also always been impressed by their swift and faultless service. An upside at Longrain was that they do have the option of brown rice, which we ordered (at $4 per person).

Longrain only takes bookings for lunch and only for groups of 6+ for dinner.
Lunch: Friday 12pm – 3pm, but also Mon-Fri between Dec 2 and Dec 23
Dinner: Mon – Thurs 6pm – late and Friday, Saturday, Sunday 5.30pm – late

They are located 44 Little Bourke St. Visit their website here.

Longrain Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Stay tuned for yet another modern Asian blog soon! Any guesses where it might be?

Modern Asian Restaurants: Cookie

Upstairs on Swanston St, Cookie has been on my list for a while as it’s never been too far away. I was almost turned off from going there merely from a rude waiter on the phone, who snapped that he’s full on Friday night and doesn’t have any room.

However on the Friday, it seemed some online booking spots became free so I snapped one up and crossed my fingers that our service wouldn’t be as rude. Luckily, we were served by a lovely young lady and seated after a few minutes, as it was a bustling Friday night. Due to this though, the bar and restaurant was packed and the atmosphere was very much…LOUD.

It’s very dark but the dining tables are lit up with a single candle, providing romantic and dim lighting. The menu is a reasonable size, but I feel their drinks list is even longer. One of the first dishes we ordered was the sour pork belly salad with ginger, peanuts & curried rice balls ($21.50, bottom left).

IMAG5039

I think the pork was inside the rice balls, not separate (correct me if wrong). Either way, the idea is to break up the rice balls and mix everything together in order to enjoy the salad (end result below). The texture is similar to minced meat, it was different and had light flavours, the curry not really that strong, but this seemed suitable for a salad.

Next up we had the steamed mussels with lemongrass, kaffir lime, ginger, coriander & chilli ($19.50 for half a kilo, bottom right). I think this was our favourite dish, all the seasoning and extra condiments ensured that the mussels kept us coming back for more. The extensive list of ingredients make it sound like it will be extremely rich and exotic, however I think they use small amounts of everything, allowing subtle flavours rather than the bold use of coriander, lime and chilli at Chin Chin.

IMAG5044

On a side note, after perusing a long and overwhelming drinks list, I went for a lychee lemongrass martini ($19, above, right) as I always enjoy the taste of lychee juice. It pretty much tasted like a classic martini infused with lychee, with some lychees in there too. You can browse through their cocktail list here, and see that you can even choose your own flavours for a frozen daiquiri.

Lastly, we ordered the pork spare ribs marinated with roasted chilli & soy ($23.50, below). They were chilli but not overbearingly so. The sauce merely tasted like your regular Asian chilli sauce, and I don’t feel like it went well with the ribs so I ate the ribs on its own. They were quite crispy and a good degree of salty, merely messy to eat in such a fancy atmosphere! And the serving was humungous, granted we did order the mussels and the ribs from the “Large Dishes” menu.

IMAG5047

As usual, the waitress was amazed at how much we ordered and even more amazed when she returned at the end and not a speck was left. I enjoyed the service quite a lot, as the dining area isn’t that large, it feels more intimate and like you are receiving more attention. Even though it was a Friday night, they were quite prompt and helpful at recommending dishes and the best way to enjoy them. However, a small note, they did recommend roti to enjoy with our dishes, although I don’t really feel it fit anywhere. It was a bit plain/soggy, so I would go with rice next time.

IMAG5051

The dessert dishes didn’t really appeal to me and I thought we should instead save our stomachs for a trip to N2 Extreme Gelato. Thus, instead of surprising the waitress even more, we received our bill in a very cute Peter Pan book. For some reason I enjoyed this immensely, as the book was still intact, and flipping through reminded me of childhood days on a very carefree Friday night!

Cookie is located First Floor/252 Swanston Street (same building as Rooftop Bar), and is open 12pm – 1am Sun-Thu and 12pm – 3am Fri-Sat. Find the menu here.

Cookie on Urbanspoon

Modern Asian Restaurants: Red Spice Road

Red Spice Road

IMAG1706

Upon the recommendations of my sister, I made sure to go out of my way to try Red Spice Road. What better way to try it, than with a banquet ($65pp) on my 21st birthday? The RSR staff were lovely and very helpful over email whilst I was trying to organise this dinner. They even had a separate vegetarian banquet that I could order for one of my guests.

IMAG1702

But the most horrible thing that could happen to me (ME! The one who never stops eating!) happened that night. I had a stomach ache!!! I tried to power my way through everything, but by the last mains, I was struggling.

Once again, this post will not cover one trip but several visits – which should already indicate that I’ve given this place a thumbs up. The starters for my banquet (above) included Betel Leaf with Smoked Chicken, Prawn, Chilli, Mint and Lemongrass and Chilli Salt Lamb Ribs. The betel leaves were refreshing and the lamb just the right level of saltiness, making the crispy ribs even more addictive.

IMAG1791

I can’t go through every single banquet dish due to my memory, but let’s just say despite the high price, I definitely found it worth it. By the last round of mains (the infamous pork belly, which I will get to, was in the first round), we were still surprised there was food coming out and really struggling! The service at RSR (McKillop St) was also very prompt and attentive.

The above dessert from the banquet is some sort of pandan/coconut dish, which I can’t give a clear judgement on due to my dislike for coconut. To be honest, on my other trip (only several days later), we ordered the below desserts, and I can’t really judge any of them due to pandan/coconut being in everything! The one on the left was slightly more bearable as it included mango, and was in some glutinous rice pudding I think. This was earlier in the year though, so they’ve since changed their menu and I wouldn’t mind trying some of them (rosewater meringue and lychee sorbet, chocolate delice or banana dumplings!)

IMAG1809

I was also impressed by their drinks. Mocktails such as their pineapple freshca (below) proved their subtle Asian influences work well. I mentioned in an earlier post that you will learn I don’t like a lot of things – including pineapple. However the pineapple taste was not strong due to the crushed ice and the addition of mint leaves just made it almost as refreshing as a newly squeezed lemonade – but better. Sadly, I’m not sure if it’s still on the menu as it’s not on the website!

IMG_20130119_145532

I admit, what we really go back eagerly for each time is the Pork Belly with Apple Slaw, Chilli Caramel and Black Vinegar ($35, bottom right). Ask anyone who has been to RSR, and this will be their top dish. When we heard they changed their menu we were horrified until they said “….except for the pork belly!” The caramel and vinegar ensure that it’s slightly sweet, but also that the sauce is rich and sticky. It also has just the right amount of greens. You’ll see that there’s extra sauce on the side in the picture, always comes in handy!

IMAG5147

If you’re not already sick of my rant and wondering how I have the stomach to eat all this, I still have a few more dishes to go. The top picture (which was at Red Spice Road QV) includes mushrooms wrapped in calamari and some special BBQ chicken – I can’t remember the exact menu name and it’s not online, but the menu made it sound like some exotic BBQ chicken. Sadly, it tasted pretty average and didn’t have much flavour, I was expecting something slightly chilli or a smoky BBQ taste. The calamari was good but a small serving and we were so hungry we…ordered another serving of the pork belly. Why not?

On another trip to the McKillop St branch (I don’t have good photos, sorry) we had some dishes, which I would recommend over the above ones. This included a Beef Massaman Curry ($37) and Wild Barramundi with Cucumber, Herbs and roasted Shallot smashed Pork Green Nam Jim ($38). My friend prefers the Chin Chin Massaman, but I prefer this version as it’s not as thick and full of large chunks of vegies, but is served with potatoes, which works better in my opinion. I enjoyed the fish in it’s light Thai-insipired sauce, and I appreciate the amount of greens and herbs that RSR provides. Herbs aren’t always to everyone’s taste, but perhaps it’s the Asian in me.

IMAG3543

A few more points about RSR, I prefer the original McKillop St branch. Never fear, the pork belly is just as good in both venues, but their menus slightly vary. The QV branch has individual tables, which is better than yelling across communal tables at the McKillop branch, thus they have some smaller dishes. Their McKillop St menu seems to reflect the seating, listing large dishes to share. However, I just enjoy the atmosphere, the service and the menu a bit more at the original venue. If you’re lucky enough you might not end up on a communal table and somewhere nice and comfy like the spot in the above picture!

The pork belly will continue to bring us back, so each time we will just order a few more dishes (like sides to our pork belly) and I can keep testing out their menu!

Red Spice Road McKillop St is open for lunch 12-3pm and dinner 5pm-late Mon- Sat and is located at 27 McKillop St in the CBD.
Red Spice Road on Urbanspoon

Red Spice Road QV is open for lunch 12-3pm everyday, dinner 5pm-late Mon-Fri and 6pm-late on weekends. They are located at 31-37 Artemis Lane QV.
Red Spice Road QV on Urbanspoon