Monday, April 30, 2007

Dumpling King Restaurant

Introduction: A double shop front restaurant at 570-572 Station Street Box Hill
Ambience: Gives the impression (wrongly) of being just another restaurant
Service; Efficient

Food: Remarkable. We ate through a fair proportion of the menu and I was extremely impressed. I don't want to bore readers with a long list but of the 11 dishes I tried several were outstanding. The delicately steamed Shanghai dumpling is quite special as was the pickled mustard cabbage fish soup. The Dragon Well Tea Leaf smoked duck with Flower buns was very tender with a very light smoky taste. Tthe sweet and sour sauce with the Barramundi somewhat overpowered the taste of the fish but the broad bean and pickled vegetable stir fry soon distracted me from that. Both the Langzou Chicken omelette and the noodles in chicken broth were good with ut being extraordinary.

Wine; BYO is best

Price Average. Surrounded by so much competition they have to be reasonable

Comments: Well above the ordinary

Score: 15/20

Sunday, April 29, 2007

China Doll - Sydney

Introduction: At 4/6 Cowper Wharf Rd (Finger Wharf) Woolloomooloo this modern Chinese restaurant sits in the middle of a long strip of restaurants along the wharf.
Ambience: This Iain Halliday designed restaurant is pleasant but quite unexceptional. The rear wall has a blown up photograph of a willow pattern and there is a willow pattern plate at each table setting. An inside/outside space evenly split seating about 60 and an upstairs area seating a further 40 with views over the wharf of some expensive real estate is pretty well identical to the neighbouring restaurants. The cloth covered tables and serviettes are a nice change from the paper covers that are becoming so common today. On a warm day it's a joy to sit at an outside table
Service: prompt and reasonably efficient. A liitle over enthusiastic about the wine and cocktails

Food: Certainly the best thing about the place. We had, and thorougly enjoyed the $75 Degustation menu.

Starting with an excellent Hiramasu Kingfish and ocean trout sashimi in a light black bean vinagarette sauce folwed by an equally excellent, do it yourself, Kurobuta pork and peanut san choy bau.
The chilli salt squid was not so hot as to kill the taste buds and the well balanced tea smoked trout salad that followed could not be faulted.

The black pepper prawns with Yellow squash and snowpeas was pleasing to the eye as well as to the palate. I was less impressed with the Jungle curry of Blue eye with snake beans, which were very fibrous, and green peppercorns The delicate taste of the blue eye was drowned in he hot curry sauce.
The tea smoked duck was very tender with a strong smoky taste and the stir fried Chinese greens and Jasmine steamed rice were good accompaniments.
The crispy pork belly with a separate dish of chilli caramel was thorouhly overcooked and both far too dry and lacking the usual tenderness. Finally a most colourful plate of fresh fruit completed the meal
Wine; We enjoyed a light red - Moss Wood Amy's Vineyard Cab Merot ($58) There is a modest wine list with a few by the glass. Bottle prices start at about $40. They do have a cocktail list from about $14 to $19 in their words "Demonstrate the power of flavour, through altering composition of texture and taste, (to) explain the emrging international discipline of Molecular Mixology" Wow I don't know whether to laugh or cry!!!
When China Doll claims that these drinks"pay homage to and thank many of the great bartenderswho helped build China Doll to where it is today" All of two and a half years old by the way, I feel offended by the claptrap.
Price: At a little over $100/head I thought it was fair value. Mains on the a la carte menu are around $35

Comments: They do manage a balanced synergy of tastes and flavours. Worth a visit

Score: 14.75/20

Friday, April 27, 2007


Introduction: At 247 Springvale Rd. Glen Waverley this Japanese restaurant is most highly regarded for its Suchi dishes which are distinguised by a special rice
Ambience: On the ascetic side in a long narrow room with hard wooden chairs and little decoration apart from the very fresh seafood on show at the sushi bar.

Service: Black uniformed waitresses passed by fequently and provided advice

Food: I am not an afficionado where Japanese food is concerned but one could not be impressed by both the presentation and the delicacy of the dishes.

After a small dish of sliced vegatables and fish in a sweet vinegar sauce we started with 6 small eel suchii rolls with a sweet soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi had a pleasing taste and unusual texture
This was followed by deep fried marinated chicken in a crisp batter with a small mostly lettuce salad. KFC, just down the road, could learn something from this excellent dish
For mains we had a mixed Tempura Mori of prawns, ehiting, and vegetables in a wonderful light batter with a light dipping sauce ($8 or $36 for a larger serve with more vegetables.
The Chiri Mushi $22 - steamed Hapuka, prawns, scallops chicken and vegetables in a Saki soup with vinegar soy sauce to add to the dish to one's own taste was faultless.
Finally a cream cheese crepe with black sesame ice cream and fruit salad was fine end to the meal.

Wine: A scanty list, inexpensive with a small selection by the glass BYO if you want something better! Half a dozen hot or cold Saki's are available at modest prices too. I quite enjoyed a semi sweet hot saki with the meal

Price: Moderately expensive for a simple place. We paid $100 for two

Comments: Named after an Aurora seen over Western Japan in summer it translates as "The fire that is not fire." I guess it did not light my fire. It was an interesting meal of good quality but I would not rush to return

Score: 14.25/20

Monday, April 23, 2007

Juliano's Restaurant

Introduction: A sevice station at one time at 624 Camberwell Rd on the corner of Toorak Rd This is a very Italian family style restaurant
Ambience: Plain large room with tall windows looking out onto Toorak and Camberwell Roads

Service; Pleasant unhurried

Food: Unexceptional, good quality, domestic Italian dishes. Good size serves. The crispy skin roast duck was tasty as was the veal escallope. the flounder was very small but OK otherwise. the best part of the meal was the dessert. For the sweet toothed the wallnuts rolled in a pancake with a lovely sauce and a serve of icecream was ecellent

Wine: BYO or they have an inexpensive range by the glass caraffe or bottle

Price: Around $35 / person for two courses

Comments: Their web page bears no resemblance to the menu that we saw!

Score: 13.5 /20

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Blakes Feast at Malthouse

Introduction: In the foyer and adjacent room at the Malthouse at 113 Sturt St. Southbank.
Ambience: An open casual unpretentious area. Pre theatre it is always crowded
Service: Order at the counter - menu on the blackboard, take a number to identify your table. Pick up a knife fork and spoon, salt and pepper. Popular things run out quiote early. Food is delivered promptly.
Food: Basic. A soup of the day. Pies,

quiches, casseroles, chicken cachiatore now $18, and a variety of salads. Tastes better than it looks however the minestrone soup for $12 was a bit expensive. Could best be described as cafeteria food- reasonably substantial and tasty. I had no complaints about the pumpkin soup with ginger ($9) the beef and mushroom pie with salad ($10) or the beef and mushroom casserole on rice with a glass of house wine ($18)
A range of cup cakes and biscuits available
Coffee at the bar ($2) or glass or pot ($4) of fancy tea
Wine Quaffing house wine ($5) by the glass is more than reasonable

Price: Good value

Comments: Very good for a meal before the theatre. Things often run out so best to come a bit early.

Score: 13.5/20

Friday, April 06, 2007


Introduction: Self promoted as "Top Class Modern Japanese" at 62 Wellington Pde East Melbourne - the site of several, previously unsuccessful, restaurants There is a Western style bistro downstairs. Three degustation menus are available pretentiouly named Regal, Royal and Imperial
Ambience: Cold, sterile and not at all Japanese. Upstairs in a darkly lit long room with mirrors along one wall. Dark grey chairs and walls white linen table cloths and serviettes. Good quality cutlery and crockery.

Service: Although only looking after two tables - 11 patrons in all, our waiter struggled to provide for us reasonably efficiently. Explanations of the difference between the $50, $70 and $90 meals did little to explain the price differentials

Food; Profoundly disappointing. There was very little about it to distinguish it as Japanese. We had the Regal menu described as 5 courses which amounted to 11 tastes.
The first course "Prelude" of 4 items (see photo) mysteriuosly named Sphere, Shield, Enshrine and Spear which were in order Smoked salmon in sushi rice, two small slices of sweet omelette, Avocado and tuna in a wasabi-mayonaise sauce, the best thing on the plate, and Tricoloured dumpling of chicken, calamari and fish. This was follwed by a Bonito soup with a few scattered vegetables and a tiny piece of bacon - pleasant enough but pretty ordinary. The third course for some unknown reason called Sculpture and subtitled Ripples was a four slivers of fresh snapper with a very nice vinegar-soy dipping sauce. The last exotically named main (Fire) consisted of Sauteed zucchini with miso sauce, a grilled prawn wih garlic butter, I could not taste it at all, and slices of chicken breast, sauteed and topped with mint mayonaise, fancifully named Mint Mountain, and a tiny piece of fresh fish marinated in sake-soy sauce and grilled until far to dry.

Dessert, served in a conical glass was fresh fruit salad adorned with a tiny piece of chocolate cake about 3x1x1cm.
Wine: There were about half a dozen white and red wines on their list nothing over about $40 but no Saki! I did enjoy the Pinot Gris ($30) served cold

Price: Poor value

Comments: Perhaps their greatest virtue is that all the food is Gluten and Fructose free
At the end of the meal most of us were still hungry.
Score: 12.75/20

Monday, April 02, 2007

Mirka at Tolarno

Beware, self indulgent rant follows - but you *may* be interested to read Niels' self indulgent Mirka review: It's quite simple, just go.

Like Vines at Red Hill I simply couldn't fault the nosh, the quality of the food was such that I think you'd be hard pressed to find it at the best of the best of the overpriced boutique farmers markets. The entree's particularly were a really interesting combination of flavours; where everyone has jumped on the bandwagon of combining seared scallops with acauliflower and buttermilk puree, Mirka has decided that scallops can also go very well with black pudding and a bed of pea puree, and they're definitely onto something. The other entree we had was the stuffed zucchini flowers which are good even when cooked badly in my eyes, but again they've opted away from the typical tempura batter and lemon juice and gone for a more hearty and complex flavour.
The mains weren't as daring, rather relied wholly on great quality food prepared simply and cooked well. I had a fillet of Ox which was perfectly seasoned and cooked rare with a nice stack of very tasty thick cut chips, Stac went for the crumbed veal with cannellini bean and roquette salad. Both were delicious to put it mildly.
The wine list was very toffy with a bl--dy index at the front directing you to the various countries and as any wine list with an index containing half the world would infer - they're not shy with the markup on the bottles, but that's expected. We shared a bottle of De Bortolli 2003 Cab Sav' which was $60 for the pleasure, and it was a pleasure, though it was one of the cheaper options.
The restaurant itself was very cute and quite small. The main walls covered from floor to ceiling with Mirka's unique design really gave the place a positive glow - this was also greatly assisted by very friendly and non-poncy serving staff, though I think they did size us up as the plebs we are and treated us accordingly as I did overhear a lot of "certainly sir" and "excellent choice madame"'s from the adjacent tables.
Considering the menu is about the same price wise as Grossi Florentino's it's obvious they've cut some corners such as a lack of white linen but it really doesn't make a difference, especially if you're like us and are really only there for the food, perhaps the wine too....Prices aside I suppose my only other negative would've been the simplicity of the mains, by this I don't mean the ox should've come with some vastly complex sauce but rather one more sides to tie the dish together (rather than just effectively being steak & chips) and opposed to being steered towards paying even more for a salad or vegetable side, which would then have been too big to justify the cost of it and then mostly going to waste.
This is probably only a small bone of contention simply because at Vines last weekend, where although the mains were in the $35 range they didn't skimp on anything; offering a delicious amuse bouche to start with, coming back over 4 times to offer more bread despite us declining after the third serve(!) - primarily because we'd already greedily sopped up all the butter, oil and olive tapenade!! But also the mains came with a generous serve of vegetables as well as bringing out a large bowl of salad at no extra expense.
We had a peek at their lunch menu which is $30 for two courses, a glass of wine and a coffee and I reckon that'd be more than worth it's weight in gold - surprisingly not a stodgy pasta dish to be seen either!
All in all I couldn't have thought of a better way to have one final flutter of faux opulence before our lifestyles and our wallets decline into mortgaged poverty and our 30 year membership to the bbq club is issued. ----- Forwarded by Niels Marston

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Introduction Handy to the Dendy cinema at 24 Church Street Brighton
Ambience Only the name is Italian. Butcher paper coverd table cloths, in a typical shopfront establishment of no particular distinction

Service Friendly young staff. "Very good choice Sir' is one of my favourite comments

Food: The soup of the day, tomato and bean, was so thick it might have been eaten with a knife and fork but was quite tasty It's hard to make a really impressive spaghetti marinara but there was nothing to complain about the very good size serve that they produced. Much better was the shank pie. Served piping hot under a light pastry crust a nice lamb shank sat in a very good vegetable stew with a good pertion of baked potatoes with red peppers on the side.

Wine A moderately large list of not particularly distinguished wins from about $33 a bottle with a fair range under $40 a reasonable selection available by the glass

Price Vert reasonable Mains about $18 - $25

Comments A good place to go to before, or after the movies. Probably best to book. Everything is quite good Nothing is outstanding

Score: 13.25/20

Woodstock Cafe

It is called Woodstock Café - Nicholson St North Carlton. It is a trattoria that was transplanted from Trastevere in Rome. Nothing fancy, fully family run (by 3 generations of the family who own it) and the food is simple, typical Italian, as only the Italians know how to cook. The highlight is the pizza - unlike virtually all pizza places in Melbourne, all their pizza's fit the EU (Italian) official definition. They are made with proper fresh ingredients, including fior di latte and baked in a wood fire oven. These pizzas are significantly better than anywhere else I have tasted in Melbourne. They are the genuine Italian thing. The menu only has pizzas. The other meals are written on the blackboard and change daily, depending on what was bought and what they feel like cooking.They have been doing this before this became trendy in Melbourne - it is simply how they do it in Italy. The food is cooked by the older generationof the family. I happened to be invited into the kitchen to help me choose what I want to eat - it was spotless, and all the ingredients were fresh. When I was there with my friends on Friday night, we decided to sample a few things - Gnocchi Gorgonzola, Risotto Carciofi (artichoke) and we were convinced to try the Capretto al forno (baby goat baked in the oven). The food was served with no fancy pancy stuff, on round white plates, and was absolutely fantastic. The gnocchi was soft, melt in your mouth and the saucewas not heavy with a light flavour of the gogonzola. The risotto was perfectly cooked and you could actually taste the individual ingredients, including the fresh artichoke pieces. The goat was one of the most delicioust hings we had tasted. All three of us. It was extremely tender, melting like butter. We did not need a knife to cut it. We left the pizza selection (we had 2) to Tony (he is the son of the owners who gave up a career in accounting to follow his passion - real pizza). They were simply the best in Melbourne and would certainly match the best ones that I have eaten in Italy. It is relatively cheap - the food was less than $100 for the 3 of us for the food and we had a fantastic bottle of wine from Sardinia (a grenache) which was recommended by Tony. The atmosphere was true Trastevere style trattoria - emphasis on the food. The service was excellent but it can occassionally be erratic - 3 years ago,we were served our mains at different times. However, the food was so good, that it was irrelevant. I very strongly recommend it. Casual, no fuss Italian at its best. We stayed there till late and just to top it all off, the family excised (sic) us, all sat down at another table, and had a very typical, loud Italian family dinner when all the patrons (other than us) had left.

Score: ??/20