We don't visit Prahran Market often being Northern suburbs residents but we found ourselves on a day out Southside on a sunny Saturday.
I have seen too many videos and photos of the oozy, cheesy goodness chez Maker and Monger that we couldn't leave without sampling.
Having indulged in a pretty satisfying lunch, we could only make room to share a toastie and we went for the Pimento which is a blend of cheeses and some cayenne pepper and cornichons.
Oh they do a cheese toastie well!
Golden brown, crispy bread and oozy cheese it's absolutely delicious and stays on the right side of greasiness...just! I definitely need to play bingo here and try everything they have to offer. That blow torched Reuben is one to watch and one that needs to be eaten! I guess we'll be coming Southside more often!
I have seen far too many pictures of Penta's Nutella panna cotta that it was inevitable we would one day cross the river and make it. Saturday was the day!
We arrived about 11:45 and there was no table available and a likely 20 minute wait so we put our name down and walked down the main street to kill some time. The 20 minutes went by reasonably quickly and we were soon seated at a roomy table and ready to order.
I opted for the grilled chicken shawarma salad with poached egg. The chicken breast was marinaded in spices and was deliciously tasty and juicy. Loved the grain salad with pops of pomegranate and creamy feta and yoghurt. There was probably a touch too much of the dairy goodness but I just left it to the side.
Steve had the Penta Benedict which is braised beef cheek atop sweet potato waffles with poached eggs and hollandaise and he enjoyed that very much too. He also added some mushrooms.
Our waitress was cheery and friendly and we were able to put the panna cotta on hold until we were ready for it.
And soon the anticipation was over and she arrived in her wibbly wobbly gloriousness! Her beauty is down to plating technique and burst of colour from the fruit and the flowers. It's definitely Nutella in flavour and the little dome of panna cotta is deceptively large so plenty to share. The strawberries were a delicious accompaniment cutting through the sugar. And the crumb was a welcome texture contrast. I'm not a huge fan of banana but I guess Nutell and banana are a classic combo that please many others so it makes sense. My personal preference would be more strawberry!
Penta certainly ticked all the boxes. Good strong tea served hot, friendly and efficient service, not too long a wait considering how busy they were for food and top quality dishes. It's a shame it's so far away! But yes, it's worth the drive!
Called in after dinner on the way home to try this healthy plant based, sugar free dessert. There were a couple of people in front of us in the queue, and one of the two servers stopped serving people in the queue to work on some Uber orders so progress was slow.
I saw someone order the grown up choc top and it looked impressive so followed suit. The ice cream choices in the chiller cabinet didn't really appeal. So the verdict; I enjoyed that it was light and not sweet. I found the coconut aftertaste not unpleasant but not delicious either. It was the texture I found unappealing...it's a bit too airy and for some reason wasn't very cold. I also felt it left a bit of a film in the mouth. So as someone who is not vegan or vegetarian or lactose intolerant, I've got to say I would not choose this over other ice cream.
Steve felt much the same and sadly we didn't get through the whole thing as it was just not for us.
So for those that have dietary requirements and need an ice cream substitute, go for it. But not for me!
Kinfolk was the venue for a team breakfast on Friday and one of my colleagues was able to book the larger communal table for us. The team at Kinfolk were very accommodating of us arriving in dribs and drabs. There were times when it was difficult to flag down someone such as when we wanted to order and to pay but we got there in the end.
The coffee was declared good. My English Breakfast tea could have done with being hotter to draw out more flavour from the the tea leaves as well as to be at my preferred drinking temperature.
I enjoyed the Egg Special which was a 63 degree cooked egg with greens and a capsicum smear and I added the maple bacon which was deliciously thick and sweet / salty. The bacon was an extra $5 for one slice which I thought was expensive.
We enjoyed our breakfast but I think the general concensus was it was 10% pricier than it should be or there should be an extra egg or slice of bacon in the dishes. I understand it's a worthy social enterprise and I'm not begrudging of the money they need to make but even at 10% less or the extra food item, I suspect there would still be profit and would be more aligned to other cafes so the margin needn't be as inflated as it is.
Bontempo doesn't seem like it's been in the friendly Fitzroy neighbourhood for long but it's been longer than we thought. Since April apparently and we finally made it one Friday evening. It was a bit impromptu but the restaurant was pretty empty. There were a few girlfriend dates, some families and some couples. It's a roomy dining room with the pizza oven being an impressive centrepiece.
We start off with the stuffed mushrooms wrapped in prosciutto and the Spaghetti Calabrese as an entree size. They arrive pretty quickly. Rustic in appearance; we enjoy the flavours and it's all well cooked. The serve of mushrooms does seem pretty small.
Steve starts off a little hesitant and and thinks it's decently average but he admits it all grows on him and by the end of our first two plates; he declares enjoyment and satisfaction.
We order two small pizzas as our main courses. The Fitzroy which is a veggie and meat mix and the Bont which is pulled pork.
The team of wait staff seem confused as we have ordered our food in two sections. We are asked a couple of times if we're ready for dessert or if we have enjoyed our meal. It's not particularly busy so perhaps they need to understand what's happening with the customers and see where they are at before asking about dessert. It certainly confused me as I wasn't sure our pizzas were on their way!
The wait staff are friendly and they try hard; I think there's a little inexperience or they might be new so it's not as slick as it could be. It's clear there is one guy in charge and he seems to have it more under control and has to lead the rest of them.
But onto the most important part - the pizza. I really love the pizza. The dough is just the right balance between thick and thin. Thin enough for some char and blistering but not crispbread thin. And thick enough to have some chew but not too heavy for the tummy. The toppings were delicious so all in all, thumbs up.
Two entrees and two small pizzas were a great amount for us. We found it well priced and good value. It's a family friendly, no fuss but still impressive Italian and we're glad it's our new neighbour!
Friday night comes round and Steve and I decide to get off the tram a little bit earlier and wine and graze our way home. After a drink and some charcuterie at Marion we find ourselves outside newly opened Amarillo and decide to give it a whirl.
We are shown to a great corner table even though we initially say we just want a drink. We're then tempted by the menu and the charry smells coming from the kitchen behind. The tables are mostly full and there's a pleasant laid back kind of buzz to the place.
The small menu does tempt us so we start off with some Spanish charcuterie which comes with some bread and pickled vegetables. They meat is salty and spicy and the pickles wonderfully fresh, zingy and crunchy. We also have the anchovy on toast which is bite sized with delicious salty anchovy and capers, some zingy pickled onion and fresh parsley to clean the plate from that intense briny saltiness.
The charred broccoli and stracciatella is exactly what we need as our next dish and goes down well.
We definitely enjoyed our sojourn at Amarillo. The food was good, the service personal and warm. It should become a neighbourhood gem and we'd certainly like to see it go that way. Show me the way to Amarillo!
IWhen your birthday falls on a Friday, it means celebrations every day over the weekend right? So for Steve Saturday celebration of his 41st birthday we went to Kisume. We'd been advised to request seats at the sushi bar so I called up a couple of days ahead and they noted the request.
On the night we turned up on time for 8:15pm booking after a couple of heady cocktails imbibed en route and to our delight we took up our seats at the sushi bar.
As expected, it's far from the zen atmosphere of more traditional Japanese restaurants and it's this upbeat electric mood that makes Kisume approachable and popular for the mainstream. Although I love Minamishima, I also understand it doesn't appeal to everyone and some may even find the omokase style daunting. Here it's fun to try and voices can be loud and questions asked.
I overhear one of the sushi chef discuss salmon with one of the wait staff and he says it's white fish which I have never heard before so I take the opportunity to ask him. He explains indeed salmon is white fish, tuna is blue fish and there's also silver fish such as mackerel and sardine. It was great to learn and chat and he shared that he has only recently re-located to Melbourne for the opening of Kisume from Sydney. I love a story behind my food.
There's the sushi bar menu featuring a huge choice of sushi and sashimi as well as an omakase option. I've seen so many pictures of the deluxe feature box that I feel I really need to satisfy my tastebud curiosity. Our waitress advises that it's sufficient enough for two as a main course and perhaps order a couple of other dishes.
Order just a few? When there's such a vast menu to choose from and I haven't yet mentioned the main menu where there are lots of other delicious sounding items like grilled mackerel, udon noodles, saikyo miso salmon.
So the box comes in two layers and there's an array of sushi and sashimi. It also comes with an aerosol canister to spray soy sauce on our sushi so we don't over season. How fancy and at the same time a bit of a novelty. It works though and it means the fish is the hero. It's not all fish though and there's a spicy raw beef atop a disc of cucumber which is delicious and possibly my favourite and some beef nigiri with truffle.
It's a delicious box of delights. The thinly sliced raw prawn with caviar is probably my least favourite but that's not to say it's bad.
By way of accompaniments to our box we go with:
Our waitress helps us make the choices. She recommends the tuna and says the tempura is a goer if we have big appetites. The tuna is actually forgotten but when we flag it to her it comes out pretty quick. I'm not actually a huge fan of the tuna. I like the big cubes of fish but the wasabi tofu I find bland except for the strong wasabi flavour which I'm not a huge fan of anyway.
The tempura tower looks impressive and the different salts are a nice touch. It's not as crispy as I'd hoped and it is a little bit greasy. I think next time I'd choose two other accompanying dishes and there are plenty to choose from.
In spite of the waitress advising us that we have ordered enough, I feel I can take on more and she suggests the Wagyu truffle balls which come out looking like black truffle but they're deliciously meaty scented with truffle and a melted mozzarella filling. Yes they are delicious and yes I could have eaten more of them.
I don't really feel like asking our waitress about more savoury dishes though. But I will bear in mind for next time, that I can do more! Our waitress is pretty busy. In fact all the waitstaff seem a bit frantic. They don't come across stressed and they are all helpful and friendly but busy. As we decide to drink cocktails and beers, there are a couple of times it's the friendly sushi chef who either flags waitstaff down to bring us the drinks menu or goes and gets one for us himself! I guess it is peak time on a Saturday night though...
We loved our dinner at Kisume. The sushi bar is fun and I would say try and get seats there but it's not the end of the World if you can't and still go in spite of that. Whereas with Minamishima I would actually rather wait until I can secure sushi bar seats.
I'm really looking forward to trying more dishes at Kisume perhaps at a less busy time though as service, although far from bad, was spread a little thin. Except for the wonderfully helpful and charming sushi chef.
Steve's 41st birthday dinner took place at Amaru in Armadale. It's been on our list for so long but we never got round to it. Chef Clinton McIver's recent appearance on Masterchef reminded us that it was high time we hauled ourselves to the ritzy suburb of Armadale.
I booked far enough in advance to secure seats at the Chef's Table which can accommodate around 6 people and provides a great view of all the activity in the kitchen. Lucky us had the end two seats so our entertainment for the evening was closer than the distance between TV and sofa at home! Even more importantly was that the bar seats are super comfortable and can hold the distance for the 11 course 'sensory menu'. Disclosure - sitting a the Chef's Table means going with the $155 per head sensory menu and accepting the supplementary item(s) at a cost and in our case it was Manjimup black truffle at an additional $35 per head - (I think I remember it at $35 per head.... but don't hold me to that!)
As is the trend, proceedings start with a range of snacks. We're well looked after throughout our meal as dishes are served to us by the chefs in the kitchen. Our first taste of Amaru's offerings is a prettily presented:
These snacks are serious business. They may be small mouthfuls but the contrasting flavours and textures demonstrate creativity and so much deliciousness.
As we move into dessert territory, we served:
Given the best potato I have ever had is Attica's "potato cooked in the earth it was grown" there has got to be a connection given Clinton McIver's chef history. However this potato is a potato ice cream with a potato skin shell and liberally dusted with a chocolate type powder. The ice cream is more milky than creamy and the chocolate covering is more nutty than sugary so the whole things stays light on the tummy which is important given what we have eaten and that there is more to come.
The next two desserts soon follow:
Reminiscent of Brae's parsnip and apple dessert this one has the same autumnal hues of colour. I actually prefer this flavour pairing but that might come from the fact that I don't like parsnips rather than any gourmet finesse!
The Meredith Cheescake is a beautiful rose gold tile of goat's soap adorned with a citrussy sorbet and I think some sort of honeycomb for crunch and sweetness.
So amidst the ball gowns and wedding dresses that adorn High Street Armadale, Amaru manages to hold its veiled head high as the beautiful bride worthy of all the guests' attention. We were well looked after by a pleasant and charming front of house staff that combine expertise with professionalism.
A dear friend took me out for a day in the South East 'burbs of Melbourne and we started off with a fortifying brunch at Second Home.
Strangely situated in the midst of an industrial estate, Second Home is a sympathetically restored warehouse that is airy and light but far from sterile. The cosy fireplace and wooden interior brings the much needed warmth to a wintry Melbourne. We arrived at peak time on Sunday and had to park up the road rather than in the little car park they have outside the building. We had to wait around 20 minutes before a table was available but we could order coffee in takeaway cups and the wait time just whizzed by.
I had the Charred corn, Manchego cheese and jalapeno hotcake with spiced pepper relish, corn salsa, avocade and a fried egg and of course I had to add the bacon. It's a bountiful bowl of colourful goodness; generous and appetising. My friend had the Hearty Home; essentially a traditional cooked breakfast. I saw the spaghetti on toast arrive at a neighbouring table and that looked pretty impressive too.
We very much enjoyed the relaxed experience; it's busy but not too loud or manic and it's roomy so it makes for comfort and well, like a second home!
Newly opened on Little Collins Street along with a handful of other popular eateries, Sushi and Nori gets pretty busy on a lunch time.
Priced at a higher point than other sushi trains at $4.50 a plate and $8 for a premium dish, it's certainly not an every day kind of lunch. But it has to be said the quality of the fish is worth it. In my opinion, it's fresher than any of it's sushi train counterparts and I like the selection they have. The premium dishes tend to be more plates of sashimi or other ceviche type so less of the rice which is my preference. Yes I have a pricey palate!
I've been twice now, each time with a work colleague and the cosy seating has been conducive to chatter. Both times I've enjoyed the sushi and sashimi. The udon is nothing to write home about with the fried chicken getting soggy in the broth so save your $7 for sashimi! And I did have to keep asking for water refills.
Food aside; my first tip would be to avoid the seating that's not around the conveyor belt because having to get up and go to the tiny pick up area to obtain your food is a big, fat pain and I'd rather wait for a better seating space or skip it.
Value for money I'd still go Tetsujin. Authenticity and for that Japanese feel I'd go Sakura Kaiten but for freshness and deliciousness, Sushi and Nori is the one for me!
For those that know us, this section will probably come with no surprise! Steve and I love eating out so this is our record of our time in Australia.