Friday, October 26, 2007

Rockpool Bar and Grill

As soon as you pass through the entrance and walk down the dimly lit passage lined on one side by a shop front of shelves of hams, you know that this is not going to be any ordinary steak house or bistro.
The multi million dollar restaurant, adjacent to Nobu and KoKo, only the diety and James Packer know how much it really cost, is set in a large crescent shaped room.
The recently renovated terrace has an inside/outside area that looks across the Yarra at the city skyline.
There is a large well lit open kitchen with about 20 or more white clad chefs beavering away at their work.
Staff are smartly attired The receptionists are in black and the waiters are in butcher's aprons and white shirts. The room is modern with banquette seating at many tables.

It seats 150 sufficiently spaced to enable quiet conversation.
Our statuesque hostess escorted us to a central table and a few moments later a waitress appeared with the usual question "would you like something to drink?" I prefer to consider the menu before having drinks and dislike the rush to ply you with drinks
The request for wine list and menu was attended to promptly and a sourdough rye bread and salted butter quickly brought to the table.
The food: We started with a lobster omelette ($38) with an extremely tasty but rather thin prawn butter sauce. The omletter which was generously stuffed with pieces of delicate losbster would have been perfect had the omelette not been slightly overcooked so it was a little hard on the outside.

The excellent duck ragout ($19) was served with beautifully prepared, very broad paparadelle.

Not yet having read the reviews in the Australian Gourmet Traveller (best new restaurant in Australia) or The Age Good Food Guide, I was unaware of the incredible lengths to which Neil Perry goes to present his fish dishes so as to preserve the maximum flavour and ordered the wood oven roasted pidgeon ($39) which also gets mentioned in despatches. Served on a bed of raddicio with parsnip and thin slices of pear ("chef prefers it to be served medium rare") it was quite excellent.

Unfortunately the same could not be said for the barbecued rib eye Wagu steak $110 for 200 grams. After most specific instructions as to how we wished it to be cook, it was served overcooked. The waitress unhesitatingly offered to take it back and a few minutesd later returned with a steak cooked as requested. (The man in chef's uniform found floating in the Yarra with a piece of steak stuffed down his throat is thought to be a former employee at Rockpool.) The rib eye was far too thin (about 8mm) to enjoy the texture and flavour of the meat, and was not attached to a bone. It was not what was expected and was rather disappointing . At $110 the steak was served "simply"

meaning totally unaccompanied by anything (salt and pepper were on the table) obliging us to order side dishes seperately. A bit hot for a dish that expensive. The accompanying horseradish and bernaise sauces were pleasant enough. The onion rings ($6) were a little cold but the potato puree ($6) was creamy and smooth.
The famous desserts were a mixed bag. The chocolate mousse on a bed of coffee granita ($16), topped with a chocolate disc was very successful. The mousse was exceptionally rich and creamy and well modified by the icy coffee-flavoured granita.

The mille feuille ($16) looked good but was not a success.

The pastry had lost its crispness and had become rather soggy in places and was dominated by the thick layers of undistinguished cream.
We enjoyed a couple of glasses of 'o6 Beaujolais ($14 a glass) and a NZ Pannell Pronto a mere $11 per glass.
I was more than a little surprised when i checked the bill to find that we had been charged an additional $35 for a glass of champagne which we had not ordered or received.
Tea and coffee were served with a tumbler full of caramelised puffed corn.
Will we go back? Yes! To try some of the other dishes, but I will never have Wagu there again!

Score: 14.25/20

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Veggie Bar

The Veggie Bar is at 380 Brunswick St., Fitzroy Ph. 9417 6935

I’d like to contribute a review on the place that my husband (Nathan) and I went for dinner on Saturday night – the Veggie Bar. We had an absolutely wonderful experience – one I’d love to share with vegetarians and vegans alike.

In addition to having quite an extensive menu – ranging from Tex-Mex to Asian stir-fries and tempting desserts – the service and atmosphere are unparalleled in the world of veganism.

We were greeted by an up-beat and courteous waiter who sat us straight away, even in light of the fact that the place was packed! He was also very interested in looking after us and proceeded to give us recommendations after we explained that it was our first time there. We kicked off our great experience with a regular beer and wine. And I must stress “regular” because it’s the first restaurant with real vegan options in which I find a normal looking wine list. I mean, I ordered a glass of Mr Riggs!

I was most impressed with the menu. It offered vegan and vegetarian options. What I found most impressive – and creative – is that they placed an “O” in front of vegetarian dishes that could be made vegan on request.

We proceeded to have a small pizza – with vegan cheese – which had a very thin and crisp crust and very tasty grilled vegetables. The burrito that my husband ordered melted in the mouth and was filled with mildly spicy beans. I ordered a stir-fry with tempeh and tamari sauce that had a very home-made taste to it, which was just what I needed after a day walking around Melbourne. In the end we had to resist the temptation on ordering dessert – a flourless, vegan chocolate cake with soy ice-cream – but you can be sure that we’ll be back for more!

The Veggie Bar is a place for those looking for atmosphere (one that I heard has taken 20 years to create) and a great vegan menu – with no frills, just fresh food to enjoy.
Contributed by Sylvana
Comment: I have never been to VB but I note there are some very mixed reviews at Two Cows a site to keep vegetarian travellers informed

Monday, October 22, 2007

La Campagna Winery and Olive Grove

La Campagna is at 176 Rogers Road, Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula, 3939.
Ph: 5988 5350.
Up a long and winding dirt road, far from the madding crowds of Portsea and Sorrento, you'll find this little gem tucked away. The owner Ted Ori has been cooking with wood-fired ovens since he was a child, and is a master of this artisanal sic form of cooking. The restaurant is open 10-5 weekends, but Ted doesn't serve anything but cake and coffee much before 12ish. He does, however, sell his crusty, chewy hand made loaves of bread.
The L'Osteria is located underneath the family residence, which is a little disconcerting, but the views over Port Phillip and Westernport make up for the odd sensation of walking into someone's garage.

Rustic charm but this wasn't it either!

The restaurant is small, only 25 or so seats, and the grey clinker brick walls add to the "eating in the garage" feeling. Some attempt has been made to cover the walls with pictures of food, and Italian scenes, but you've followed a hand-painted sign up a dirt road.
You shouldn't be expecting The Grand Dining Room ambiance after all!!
We chose the tasting platter, which came with a selection of his own black and green olives, some house olive oil, foccacia for dipping, some mini wood-fired oven pizza topped with passata, artichoke heats and mozarella. These were so-so, but that's subjective, as I personally like my pizza bases thin and crisp. There was just a little too much sog in them for me.The absolute highlight of the platter (if not the whole meal) was the bruschetta alla funghi. It was simply, heavenly.
Mushrooms, sauteed in butter, with a hint of dill, sage, Italian parsley, black pepper, drizzled with chilli-infused olive oil. What lifted this dish to the sublime was Ted's bread, which he had drizzled with olive oil and returned back to the wood oven to crisp up before serving. We paired this with a glass of their 2005 Vino Bianco (semillion/ vermentino blend),We then shared a roast lamb stuffed with fetta and spinach.
The lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender, rich and juicy... but at the end of the day, it was no more than a really nice roast lamb. Served with oven-roasted vegies and paired with a glass of their 2004 Tuscan red (sangiovese/merlot/trebiano blend)We finished with a slice of flourless almond Tuscan Lemon Cake, which was good, but not much was going to WOW us after those mushrooms.
Presentation was so-so, duchess-style potatoes, green beans, but again I mention... you've driven up a dirt road, past a hand-painted sign to eat Tuscan food, cooked in a wood oven. If you're looking for El Buli, this aint it.. but it never professes to be. The staff know their stuff. They were all very in-the-know about the wine list and were well acquainted with all the dishes on the menu. (and accommodating of any changes that patrons were asking for) All in all, one tasting platter, one main, one dessert, four glasses of wine, a loaf of bread to go and a punnet of olives came to $89. It's peasant, it's rustic. The olive oil is sublime, the smell as you drive up the pathway is enticing. The bruschetta is AMAZING.The bread is SENSATIONAL. Wine is available by the glass, the staff are helpful.The menu is limited (3 entrees, 3 mains, 3 desserts) but changes weekly, I was told. Vegetarian options were available.
Contributed by A Goddess in the Kitchen

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Introduction: A few years ago I stopped going to this Japanese restaurant at 280 Glenhuntly Rd because the service was so poor
Ambience: In a long room the aging square wood surrounded black top tables and paper napkins combine with the black uniformed waiters to give one the feeling of a Japanese restaurant
Service Very busy on Saturday night at times the waitress were running between the kitchen and the patrons A request for wine glasses and water produced nothing after 5 minutes and a second request to a second waiter also resulted in nought after a further 5 minutes. When a third waiter arrived at the table we refued to order until the original request was met.

Food: A mixed bag. The small dish of pickled bean shoots was as usual an enticing start
We tried three entrees - the spinach in lack sesame sauce ($5) was very tasty
The Eggplant stuffed with chicken mince was cooked to a perfect consistancy but needed some spice, perhaps even salt!,
The six small tuna sushi rolls were totally tasteless and the seaweed roll was dry and tough. A quite tasty seafood udon soup to share came with two bowls but only one spoon! But unfortunately the tempura had been put into the soup making the batter, which was too thick and heavy anyway, completely soft destroying the textural pleasure of the dish.
The whole deep fried barramundi was crisp and enyable when I gave up aspirations of eating it with chop sticks

Red bean icecream was a nice finish to the meal

Wine: Unless you want Saki BYO at $1-50/person is the best option

Price: Relatively inexpensive

Comments: You get what you pay for. The mlack of service irritated me so much that I wil not be back for a long time and the food, which was just a little better than OK could not make up for it

Score: 12/20

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ginger House

"Last night we wondered into Ginger House, 423 Bay Street Brighton.
My father was greeted by the host rather like a long lost relative, which always makes me slightly sceptical. The room is quite small, with approximately ten tables and although the decor is slightly dated it is obviously good quality and comfortable. Linen table clothes and attentive service all combined to a pleasant atmosphere. We started with the old favourite of chicken dim sims. They were perfectly cooked, light pastry filled with flavoursome meat which were nearly a meal in themselves considering their size. Next was the house speciality, peking duck. Excellent presentation with delicious sauce drizzled over the top, inside were lovely pieces of duck, juicy and with only a small amount of fat and finished off with crispy skin. We were off to a good start. Next was spicy bbq pork and while the pork was slightly disappointing, being overcooked the sauce was certainly aromatic.

Wine available by the glass was limited, but by the bottle there was a good selection of Australian wine to suit any budget. It is also BYO (wine only)

Ginger House certainly grew on me, and if I ever wanted a second opinion I could have always asked the steady stream of notoriously fussy Brighton-ites coming to collect their take-away. Each one Eric greeted by name."

Score: 13/20

Contributed by FB
I had to try Ginger House and got the opportunity last night.
It does have a nice atmospere and is a very comfortable suburban restaurant.
They also have a private room upstairs for about 15 guests
The service is prompt and friendly. Unfortunately we had a constant problem with the food.
Every dish was very over salted. I had to add 1/4 cup of water to make the normally delicate crab and sweet corn soup edible. The hot and sour soup was almost thick enough to eat with a knife and fork and very hot. Fried rice had to be returned (which they did graciously) The wild Barramundi fillet was beautifully cooked in ginger and shallots and crisp snow peas
but again the sauce was murderous and the mixed seafood with honeyed walnuts no better though it looked great
The sweet sour battered chicken had lain too long in the sauce, which was sweet but lacked sour, so the batter was completely soft defeating its purpose of providing textural variation to the dish
Soggy sweet and sour

I have to agree with FB's mark. As always it might have just been a case of poor selection of dishes

Friday, October 19, 2007


Introduction: Modern Japanese addition to Glenferrie Rd at close to High St Malvern Ambience: Well spaced white cloth covered tables with a sushi bar along one side of the room and and a very clean look give this place a sort of calm sophistication
Jimmy looking happy at the sushi bar

Service: Friendly and obliging

Food: In typycal Japanese style the presentation is extremely attractive. Each dish is a small piece of art. After a tiny disc, which would barely cover a 10 cent piece and of indeterminate taste, we began with a series of entrees. Tempura prawns and vegetables were in a very light batter with the usual dipping sauce were rather ordinary as were the Gyoza.


The grilled quail was plump, tender and presented in an easy to eat form whilst the zensai moriwae a selection of cold cuts surrounding a light, smooth savoury custard were good to look at but undistinguished.
Zensai Moriwase

The eels on a bowl of rice were rich and moist.Of the mains neither the steak, the duck, in a marmalade soy, which was a good size serve and enjoyed for it's taste by my companion nor the teryaki chicken did anything for me however the poached flounder was most unusual in a slightly sweet light soy sauce accompanied by large chunks of excellent fried tofu. The delicate fish fell effortlessly away from the bone. A very good dish and a nice change. The sour plum sorbet, perhaps too sour for some, was to my taste but I think the pick of the desserts was the green tea panacotta.
Green tea panacotta

Wine: I enjoyed warm saki to start with and then bottle of Scotchmans Hill Pinot Noir Comment: This is a very pleasant stylish restaurant for a family event with something on the menu to please everybody Score: 14/20

Chez Bob

Introduction: At 22 Beatty Ave Armadale under new owner, formerly from France Soir, this seems an unlikely place for a French Bistro style restaurant
Ambience: Very much like France Soir this narrow room with a small bar at the entrance seats about forty. It's not elegant and not bustling like France Soir but it's just as noisy. The walls are decorated with scarves of soccer teams from around the world (including one celebrating Melbourne Victory's 2007 premiership)

Service: Our late reservation - 8,45pm could still not be accommodated 'till 9.00 when a couple of tables had been vacated. The pressure on the waiters and chef had lessened by then and we were attended to in good time. Requests for information were met with good explanations both in regard to items on the menu and queries about some which are not served there e.g. frogs legs

Food: The menu, which was inherited from the previous owner, is very limited with only about 6 entrees and 6 mains. Fortunately it's quality that counts and here Chez Bob was outstanding.

The Mussels in a chilli sauce were a little hotter than I would have liked but did not damage the taste buds.
The lambs brains with spinach in a well spiced lemon butter sauce were beautifully prepared. In a thin crisp crumb casing they retained their structure and there was not a hint of membrane. Fantastic dish.

Lambs brains - a very handsome serve

The Duck was also outstanding with a fine blending of sour cherries and the chestnut paste the combined to give the best possible taste- just the right degree of sweet and sour with both the cherry and the chestnut taste.

Le Canard

For those who like such things the Pigs trotter with Sauerkraut was also excellently prepared and combined well the sauerkraut acting as a palate cleanser for the very rich trotter.

Creme brulee was yet another very rich dish and we also tried a scoop of the strongly flavoured cinnamon ice cream which goes with the poached pears

Wine: Still part of the inheritance almost all the smll list is available by the glass or bottle at reasonable prices. BYO wine Corkage $8/ bottle
Price: Entrees about $16 Mains around $27-32 desserts about $15

Comments: Unprententious, good value for good food. Expect an expanded menu and wine list before long

Score:14 /20

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Deconstructing Dinner

Everyone has an opinion about food. We read our faourite reviewers in Epicure or other local newspapers, there are TV channels devoted to every element of cooking from the pearls of culinary wisdom cast before us by celebrity chefs to cult programmes like the Iron Chef. Donna Hay, The Gourmet Travellor, Delicious - food magazines are everywhere and now the internet is overflowing with restaurant web pages, recipes reviews and advice
All this has gradually lead me to dissect out the elements of restaurant reviews. What does the reviewer do beyond noting what he/she ate and expressing their opinion?
The order of the presentation may vary and some elements are emphasised and others may be absent on occassion but consciously or not this is the stuff of reviews.
There is an introduction. It may speak of the history of the establishment, of previous visits of the owners or the head chef.
Usually there are some remarks about the physical aspects of the restaurant. Possibly size, access, quality of fittings, decor and style, comfort, space and the atmosphere or ambience this creates.
When considering the food it is common to also mention the service. Presentation counts but taste and balance are even more important. When appropriate texture and aroma also get a mention.
A wine list able to be matched to the food menu without breaking the bank is important and a good range by the glass desirable
Lastly consider the price,. Value for money is always a good thing
At the end of the day no matter how good most aspects of a restaurant are if there is something outstandingly bad it has a significant influence on a final opinion. Apalling service is so irritating that cannot be ignored and ones enjoyment is greatly diminished even for very good food
Now you hve everything you need so come on write a few reviews!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bopha Devi (also spelt Bhopa by Elizabeth Chong)

Introduction: If no one told you about this place you would never find it- which would be a shame. At 27 Rakaia Way, New Quay, Docklands, off Dudley St. Bhopa is a Cambodian Restaurant.
Flavours have been influenced by the French, Chinese, Indians and the countries on each side of them - Thailand and Vietnam. Coconut milk and coriander are common and hot chilli sauce is available for those who wish it but generally the flavours are subtle with out excessive use of spices.

I tried a variety of entrees and mains as follows:
Pork spare ribs with caramelised palm sugar sauce - super tasty but the pork could have been more tender Garlic chive rice cakes - a strange texture but I loved it

Vermicelli in crumbed fish curry soup - a beaut light coconut and curry flavour with a little coriander
Beef char Kroeung with fresh herbs another tasty sauce well cooked beef crisp vegetabes
Somlah Ga Gor with chicken a sort of vegetable chicken soup - a bit ordinary

Vutry Uoy's pork with fermented salted fishand crunchy vegetables. Seemed salty at first but proved to be very moreish

Amok of steamed fish - a Cambodian signature dish another light curry

Dessert: Rice flour dumpling in sweet coconut milk. Strange but nice
Comments: This is a family restaurant which among other things seeks to keep Cambodian culinary culture alive and is doing a very good job.
Mum front right does the cooking Mild tastes will not offend and are certainly unusual. I want to take my friends
Score: 13.75/20

Monday, October 15, 2007

How to Taste Chocolate

Introduction: I had the unusual experience of a chocolate tasting, not a chocolate eating, evening last week.
There was an array of 15 varieties of chocolate from around the world. The coffee beans were from Mexico, Columbia, Venzuala, Ecuador, among others and the chocolate makers, including the 5 star rated Hevin, from Europe, South America and USA. All the chocolates were dark ranging from the mass produced American Ghirandella (the factory can be visited in San Francisco) with the very low cocoa rating of 15% to the 85% SJ Galler.
After smelling the block for it's aroma each chocolate was broken into modest sized pieces and chewed a little before being melted in the mouth.
A sip of soda water cleared the palate for the next taste test
Each chocolate was then rated on 5 parameters + opinion so the marks could be added for an overall mark.
The parameters were
Length and

The tasting was not blind which might have made a difference to the scoring however I found the Ghirandello very much to my taste with the Valrhona Gran Couve the blue ribbon winner. The most expensive chocolate at about $25 for a small block, about 150 gm was the Pierre Marcolini Limited Edition made from Creole beans from Mexico which I scored only a little above average in this exalted company
Palates generally lose there discrimination quite quickly and there was nothing to suggest that in a different order on another day the scores might have been a lot different but it was a lot of fun. Worth trying at home some time.
If you get the chance try a block of the Jean Paul Hevin This very dark brown block with a light chocolate aroma has a rich taste with a slow melt and good length. There are small fragments of coffee bean incorporated into the chocolate giving it a very interesting character

Friday, October 05, 2007


Introduction: On the first floor at the Crown Entertainment Complex this quite beautiful restaurant looks over the Yarra towards the city.
Ambience: Quiet luxurious with tables on two levels. A large decrative tent at one side of the restaurant seas half a dozen patrons fo pre or post, dinner drinks

The tables are set with beautiful crockery
Service: Whilst there is certainly a good supply of waiters/waitresses several of the young ladies had difficulty understanding some specific requests regarding the food. The appearance of the floor manager quickly solved our problems.
The menu is Cantonese style, safe but unexciting as is the presentation

The dishes are all prepared to a high standard and what we had was beyond criticism. the basket of four dumplings was very good, each dumpling had distinctive flavour was delicate and of excellent texture. The deep fried lightly battered squid was tender and tasted good with the plum sauce which we requested.
The lightly battered butterflied whole barramundi was extremely crisp but retained sufficient moistness in the meat. We had this wih a sweet sour sauce, again at our request, and the crisp skin roast duck was totally delicious with a sweet apricot sauce.
A small serve of fried rice was actually quite large
Wine: A good range by the glass from about $9. The menu divides the largely Australian list first by type of wine and then by state of origin. The mark up is a bit steep, They also have a few premium French wines at a little over $1000/bottle.

Price: Very expensive and despite what is written on the menu, rather strange viz dumplings $13.64, squid $12.73 fish $56.82 duck$35.91 and rice $15-91!!

Comments: Far to expensive for the average punter

Score: 15/20

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Introduction: A family style Trattoria at 99 Dundas Place, Albert Park, serving substantial Itslan food

Ambience: Bustling with a large portrait of Mona Lisa looking down on the main dining room. The waiters describe the Italian menu in a mixture of clearly ennunciated Italian followed by solid Australian accents!

Service: Very friendly

Food: a good range of dishes. I started with crumbed lamb brains on a bed of leaves with olives and pine nuts with a caper sauce which improved greatly with some salt. The main of crumbed pork chop stuffed with pork liver, a sort of variation on beef Wellington!, did not work well because the liver totally overwhelmed the delicate taste of the pork. the vegetables - roast potato in its jacket, sweet corn on the cob roast pumpkin and green beans all tasted very good but missed out in presentation. The snapper fillet was served with the same vegetables and was surprisingly dry and tough. their pie was more of a pastry covered seafood and chicken soup than the consistancy one expects from a pie.

Their creme brulee was excellent a smooth creamy texture rarely achieved at other restaurants
Wine: A good range depicted on blackboards around the room. I particularly enjoyed the Massoni 2001 Pinot Noir ($50)

Price: about average for suburban restaurants Entrees about $16 Mains about $26 Desserts $12

Comments: A little bit of Italy in Albert Park

Score: 13.25/20