Thursday evening and Stef and I had arranged to try Wabi Sabi after hearing some good reviews. We love Japanese food and so after work, jumped on a tram and headed to Smith Street.
It's a cute little restaurant with Japanese roofing inside and an outdoor area at the back. The drinks list is extensive covering sake, shochu and wine but we restrained.
- Fresh snapper sashimi and daikon salad
- Lightly scorched ocean trout and scallop sushi
- Hiramasa kingfish contemporary sashimi
So we started off with some sashimu style dishes. The snapper salad was fresh and zingy and we enjoyed the balance of fish and salad and lucky for me not too much raw carrot.The scallop sushi and ocean trout sushi were probably one of my favourite dishes of the night. The fish was f
resh and plump; thick slices which is what I like and interestingly enough pre seasoned so no need for the old soy sauce dipping action. The king
fish was also good and again I loved the generous slices but I didn't enjoy the grated daikon and soy mixture which served as a topping. I found the texture of it weirdly mushy and grainy but Stef liked it so it obviously would be popular with some palettes.
Next fried stuff. The special tempura was beautifully light and crunchy and the dipping sauce a gentle blend of savoury flavours. There was a good choice of veggies, white fish, one prawn and some shiitake and enoki mushrooms.
I was intrigued by the white fish and proscuitto spring roll on the menu but execution of it wasn't as intriguing. We found it a little weird, hard and dry.
The stuffed chicken wings with pork gyoza filling were another favourite. Generously plump and savoury, juicy and meaty they were very good. There's a lot of social media chatter about the same dish at Akachochin in South Wharf and I have tried the version there and I have to say the Wabi Sabi wing gets my vote. It's just bigger and yummier and slightly crispier. I found the gyoza filling at Akachochin a bit too light and watery almost with a weird sweet flavour from the wombok or cabbage and prefer the dense meat consistency here.
Tender grilled black cod was overly salty so not a patch on Nobu's version sadly. The grilled yellowtail was not special enough really and didn't live up to the description on the menu.
Tender pork belly kakuni stew was indeed tender but the overpowering flavour was just sweetness and it really needed some other dimensions. The best version I've had of this was at Purple Peanuts where there was also a chilli heat.
Our last dish was Wagyu beef sashimi bruschetta. Very rich and meaty the beef tartare was good. I was surprised it was chopped up meat because the sashimi description conjured up idea of sliced beef like carpaccio. Nevertheless, flavours were good. I found the drizzle of mayo to be unnecessary as it was rich and fatty enough. Definitely a dish to share.
We were very full but couldn't resist a sweet finish so we enjoyed green tea creme brulee, green tea ice cream and black sesame ice cream.
The best was the black sesame ice cream. The green tea creme brulee was more like green tea mousse which is not necessarily a bad thing but I didn't like the red bean addition. The green tea ice cream could have had a stronger hit of flavour.
Overall Wabi Sabi is a good Japanese place with a wide menu. I'd return for the chicken wings and sashimi.
Two new dining companions and a suggestion to try Jim's - Steve and I were up for this particularly as it had been described to us as "lots of meat" and "good fun". So after a few TFI Friday drinks we went to meet Jim. There was warm welcome and we were shown to a small square table in the middle of the front dining room. A few nods and grunts later we and the bringing of glasses for our BYO wine and we were pretty satisfied that we'd be fed. What we would be eating was still a mystery but how we hoped for some fried cheese!
We started off with a loaf of warm bread and a plateful of dips - tsatziki, baba ganoush and taramasalata as well as some octopus. Great start as like seagulls we descended on the bread. The tsatziki was sharp and fresh, the baba ganoush garlicky and the taramasalata not overly fishy.
Next came the wonderful saganaki - a golden, gooey wedge of fried cheese laced with lemon juice and oh it was a delight. The calamari was delicious and the perfect consistency - not rubbery and tasteless. We also had some fish fillets which were soft and sweet. Thoroughly enjoyable start to the meal and this was all accompanied by a Greek salad to lighten things up!
After such a hefty start it was a relief that our main courses weren't overly huge. We had two beef skewers and a slow cooked lamb dish as well as some potatoes. The beef was tender and still pink with a delicate marinade that was garlicky and lemony and the slow cooked lamb fell off the bone and was tender and moist.
Dessert was baklava and a cinammon custard pastry. The baklava was a touch too sweet for me but then my tastebuds feel that way about all baklava so it's not a reflection on Jim's version. Steve really enjoyed the baklava and he's more the expert. I preferred the custard as it was lighter.
We tried to make a getaway but we were stopped by the waiter who shouted at us to stay seated for some free coffee. His shouting was jovial but laced with an edge so we stayed put and waited for the coffee. The coffee was thick, black, grainy with a sediment and was pretty nasty. I'm sure it was very authentic but not to our tastes - reminiscent of the Chinese herbal medicines my mum used to force me to drink. So we surreptitiously and as inconspicuously as possible made our way out to safety!
Our impressions of Jim's place was that it is a boisterous, rowdy and family style place. It's warm and homely. We enjoyed seeing what other people received to eat. Service is quick and undeniably of that old school slightly scary, as in you do what you're told but the waiter still smiles at you and you laugh with them out of fear. Yes it's somewhat manic and there is little room for romance but there's still a lot of love
Oh Easy Tiger! How loveable you are! Sunday night on a long weekend; great place to spend the evening.
We had reservations for 20:30 and a place at the end of a communal table was secured for us. The downside was it was close to the door and there was a draught that circulated round the knees and ankles so we hoped the spicy Thai flavours would warm us up!
We were served our cup of cleansing marigold tea which was warming and much needed on this cold Winter night and we were informed that Sunday night was Chef's Night so no menus and we were in the hands of the Tiger crew. We were happy enough with that and went with the more expensive banquet so that we could eat more and taste more!
First came the canapé style entrées. First came the ma hor which was a prawn, pork & chicken ball, cooked in palm sugar, served on a piece of fresh pineapple. Good beer snack. Sweet and crunchy with a hint of that fishy chilli jam that Thai chefs favour. The pineapple was a good accompaniment as it had a cleansing effect on the palate.
The small morsel of betel leaf with prawn, peanuts & fresh coconut packed a zesty punch with a strong citrus flavour coming through.
Next in the magical eatery tour came crispy soft shell crab with housemade sriracha & fresh lime. This crab was less dry than the one from Seamstress the night before but the sauce at Seamstress was a little more appealing with deeper and more complex flavours. Having said this the powerful sriracha was still a great accompaniment to the sweet crab. No restaurant has surpassed the soft shell crab at Cumulus however which manages to combine crunch, softness, juiciness and chilli all in one hit.
We enjoyed the cicken, shitake mushroom & water chestnut spring roll very much because it was crunchy and non greasy and mainly because the filling was meatier than the usual spring rolls. This was a pleasant alternative to the more common veggie and rice noodle filling.
Our main courses were just so delicious with different flavours and textures.
The steamed kingfish sour orange curry with lime, lemongrass and winter melon was my favourite with a tangy broth and perfectly cooked pieces of dense fish and fragrant coriander. I loved the broth with the steamed rice; almost like a gentle tom yum.
Fried pork neck and steamed squid salad with coriander, mint and red chilli nahm jim had so many elements to it. The soft squid was beautiful and not chewy at all. The pork had a crunch to it and the spice from the chilli nahm jim had a good spicy spike to it.
Steve's favourite was probably the coconut braised sher wagyu beef shin with pickled cucumber. The meat was impossible tender with that slight gelatinous stickiness to it from the long braising and the pickled cucumber and herb salad kept it light. The savoury juices were deep and warming and softened the spicy and sour notes of the other dishes.
We were advised by the very friendly and lovely waiter to pretty much mix everything up as the meal was about all the dishes together rather than as individual dishes and this baffled me at first but was actually very true. The flavours complemented one another and the steamed rice just soaked them all up.
And as an added bonus, the son in law egg! Perfectly cooked so its all oozy in the middle, it adds a creaminess to the rice and all the other sauces.
And after all that food we ended our banqueting feast with a sago pudding with palm sugar syrup and toasted pistachios and crispy rice. It was a small serve but just the perfect amount to finish the meal on a sweet note!
We loved our Easy Tiger experience in spite of our seat by the door. We'd love to return and try more here. It's non traditional Thai cuisine but it works and is great. There's definitely a place for it in our hearts!
Mid week dinner and rather than head to the usual Victoria Street, I decided to take a recommendation from my friend Ling and we headed to the Old Raffles Place in Collingwood. It's a kitsch kind of place and the kitchen area reminds me of a fish and chip shop and the dining area is like being in someone's house.
The bright red formica tables and laminated menu are reminiscent of the 70s. We ordered a hot and sour soup and some roti to start with. The roti was good and not too greasy and the curry sauce had a good fragrance and kick to it. I would prefer it if they could get rid of the layer of oil that's floats on the top as it stops the roti from soaking up the actual curry sauce.
The hot and sour soup was good - sharp, tangy and spicy. Possibly one of the better versions we've had in Melbourne. Other versions we've had have been either too vinegary or weirdly sweet and very gloopy. This had a nice consistency backed up with some good flavours.
Mains courses we went for sweet and sour pork, fried rice and combination laksa. The sweet and sour pork was very good with big chunks of meat and an array of vegetables. The balance of flavours was spot on. Unfortunately the rice wasn't the best accompaniment as it was a bit too lumpy and overpowering. Plain rice next time!
The laksa was good with three big king prawns that were fres - nothing worse than a mushy prawn and lots of chicken, fish slices and a scallop. The noodles were good and chewy and the broth creamy and tasty. I think the laksa at Queen Vic market is a little tastier but the accompaniments in this one are better. I had difficulty choosing between the laksa and chicken rice so we'll come back next time for the chicken rice.