China Red Location: Shop 6, 206 Bourke Street, CBD, Melbourne Contact: 03 9662 3688 I’m notorious for hitting up the chef-recommended dishes list of any eating establishment, so when said list contains an item as good as Shanghai xiao long bao at uber-popular Chinese eatery China Red, I’ve just gotta tell you about it.
Fatboy Chapel 352-354 Chapel Street, South Yarra, Melbourne Contact: 03 9827 7506 Chinese cuisine is one of those that would be instantly familiar to most people, along with its associations born from stir fried takeaway and cramped red restaurants of the 80s and 90s. Like burgers, pizza and Thai food, a reinvention for the modern palette would help cleanse the mind of the culinary horrors of yesteryear.
Tim Ho Wan Location: 206 Bourke Street, CBD, Melbourne Those who have traveled through Hong Kong, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur will be familiar with dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan. Founded by acclaimed dim sum chef Mak Kwai Pui (Le Meridian, Lung King Heen), the original 19-seat restaurant was awarded a Michelin star after just one year of opening in 2009 and, since then, the restaurant chain has taken the place as the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world. We headed in to celebrate the launch of their latest monthly specials, which includes a serve of prawn and chive dumplings with a kick of chilli, crispy pork noodles and golden tofu.
New Shanghai Location: Emporium Melbourne, Level Three, 287 Lonsdale Street, CBD, Melbourne Contact: 03 9994 9386 http://www.newshanghai.com.au/ We barely need any excuse for more dumplings. New Shanghai’s new paired menu shows off the complimentary nature of wine and a smattering of their varied dishes. With expert advice from Oatley Wine Merchants, New Shanghai have put together a balanced menu showing off the best of both protein and grape. With Danny Bhoy’s famous tasting description echoing in my ear in a heavy Scottish accent : “Mmmm… crushed grapes…” we set out to investigate the complimentary pairings. I’ll leave the finer subtlety of wine tasting notes, legs, cooperage and annual harvest variance to those that are far more qualified to do so. The pairings as a whole however were great. Be sure to check out New Shanghai’s new pairings menu. The food and wine matching was subtle with the focus on the meal as a whole. I’ve talked about matching food with drinks before, so it’s no surprise to know how well it works as it does here.
The National Hotel Location: 340-344 Victoria St, Richmond, VIC 3121 Contact: 03 9429 8811 The National Hotel is one of those rare pubs that manages to radiate a sense of relaxed elegance while still catering to every pub goer. The fire-lit lounge and cosy rear dining room is offset by cool timber and concrete blocks which provide both texture and warmth to the huge space. The Hotel’s old Victorian shell has been renovated extensively, with a mix of recycled materials and rich overlays. It’s an inviting place, and an easy choice for a relaxing dinner or nibbles over drinks. We were recently invited to attend a blogger dinner at The National Hotel to try out both existing and new items on their menu in conjunction with the team at Reymond Communications.
Maxims Cakes and Pastry Location: 173 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9662 1980 When I was working and travelling in Asia, one of my favourite weekend indulgences in Hong Kong involved lining up outside Dim Sum Square to get my paws on some of the city’s best flaky char siu pork buns and steamed har gao dumplings. The world-renowned restaurant is somewhat of an institution, and guarantees diners one of the best yum cha offerings in the city.
Nestled in the corner of the top floor foodcourt at Emporium is New Shanghai. Being regular scoffers of dumplings from all around the CBD, we settled with Tsingtao’s and cocktails and awaited the feast of steamed goodness.
I am constantly astounded by the quality and diversity of food that is offered in Melbourne. Having recently returned from travelling and working overseas (where I had the pleasure of dining at quite a few Michelin-starred restaurants), I can comfortably say that Melbourne offers some of the best restaurants and cafes in the world, which, believe it or not, I much preferred over their Michelin-starred counterparts. This past month I have been very ‘busy’ re-acquainting my palette with Melbourne food. Here are a few favourites that I’d happily eat at (over and over) again: Hinoki Japanese Pantry Location: 279 Smith Street, Fitzroy, VIC 0065 Contact: 03 9417 4531 Fonda Mexican Location: 248 Swan Street, Richmond, VIC 3121 Contact: 03 9429 0085 Jinda Thai Location: 7 Ferguson St, Abbotsford, VIC 3067 Contact: 03 9419 5899
Melbourne Night Noodle Markets 2014 Location: Birrarung Marr Dates: November 14-30, 2014 Back with all the buzz and vibe from last year, the Night Noodle Markets returned to Melbourne this year with a bang. Lighting up the banks of the Yarra River in a new (and much better) location this year (Birrarung Marr), the festival boasted over 50 food stalls and food trucks representing dishes spanning Korea, Vietnam, China, India, Malaysia, Burma and Nepal. All of our favourite eateries returned (think Chin Chin, Mamak, Izakaya Den, Longrain and Gelato Messina), as well as some exciting newcomers (Kong, Charlie Dumpling and Mr. Miyagi). The festival was by far bigger and better than last year, with minimal wait times (on the days that we visited, there were hardly any lines), ample seating and enough space to lounge around on the grass while relaxing to the sounds of Melbourne’s top DJs.
Gelato Messina – Happy Taste Bud TimeWe loved Gelato Messina’s bespoke creations last year, and this year was no exception. Messina’s ‘pot luck pies’ included tubs of goodness with cheeky names like ‘Bangkok Holla’, ‘Phuc King Tasty’ and ‘Happy Taste Bud Time’. Our Happy Taste Bud Time pot luck pies were huge, encompassing a deadly sweet mix of lychee sponge, mango puree, rambutan and coconut gelato, whipped salted coconut cream and a chewy coconut macaron.
Urban Kitchen Emporium Melbourne Launch Restaurants: Pho Nom, Tokyo Pop, 1000 Wat Location: Lower Ground, Emporium, 287 Lonsdale St Melbourne, VIC Melbourne’s shopping mecca, Emporium Melbourne, has just gotten better with the arrival of the new Urban Kitchen dining area on the lower ground floor. With a energetic vibe and a brightly lit arena, the large dining space is peppered with Asian highlights, with vietnamese noodle shop, Pho Nom, serving up heartwarming pho, banh mi and rice paper rolls, and popular Melbourne institution, Ramen Ya, dishing out bowls of steaming Japanese fare. And if ramen ain’t your thing, then there’s also Tokyo Pop, with healthy bento boxes and sushi to boot.
Melbourne Night Noodle Markets Location: Alexandra Gardens, Melbourne When: 18th – 30th of November, 2013 – Mon-Tue: 5-9pm; Wed: 5-10pm; Thu:-Fri 5-11pm; Sat:4-10pm; Sun: 4-9pm As part of The Age’s Good Food Month this year, for the next two weeks Alexandra Gardens has morphed into an extravagant hawker-style night noodle market. With over 25 food stalls and nightly entertainment, a number of Melbourne’s most loved Asian eateries such as Chin Chin, Longrain, Izakaya Den and Mamak have set up shop, including some new and upcoming restaurants. The full list of participating restaurants can be viewed here, and it’s definitely an event that is not to be missed.
Spice Temple Location: Crown Complex, Whiteman Street, Southbank, VIC 3006 Contact: 03 8679 1888 Located on the stunning riverfront dining precinct, Spice Temple is all laid back glamour and cheeky lighting. Sleek lines, dark wooden tables and subdued lantern-like fixtures add depth and character to the restaurant, with the long wooden panels partitioning off the large space into enclosed areas.
Chef Lagenda Location: 16 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington, VIC 3031 Contact: 03 9376 2668 The little Malaysian joint is located mere metres away from the laksa giant, Laksa King, although it is just as much as local favourite as its neighbour.
Rose Garden BBQ Location: 435 Elizabeth St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9329 1560 Upon entering Rose Garden, you’ll immediately notice just how packed it is.Small tables and wooden chairs are squished closely together, the chatter of diners within quickly fills the room with noise, and extracts of the menu are plastered across the bright orange walls.
Dainty Sichuan Location: Level 1, 2A Cambridge Street, Box Hill, VIC 3128 Contact: 03 9041 4318 I was absolutely ecstatic upon learning that the Box Hill strain had finally opened up along Cambridge Street – the original establishment is located in South Yarra and, from its inception until now, has managed to maintain a fervent adoration amongst locals.
David and Camy Noodle Restaurant Location: 605 Station St Box Hill, VIC 3128 Contact: 03 9898 8398 David and Camy has been a staple for dumplings in Box Hill for as long as I can remember. The dumplings are dirt cheap, the no-frills service is quick and efficient, and the food is not spectacular but still hits the spot.
Shandong Mama Location: Shop 7, 200 Bourke St Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9650 3818 – no bookings policy Shandong Mama, located in the blinkoryou’llmissit Mid City Arcade off Bourke Street, serves up moreish dumplings and then some with a twist. The owner, Meiyan Wang (Mama) hails from a small fishing village in the Shandong Peninsula, and has lovingly created a unique offering of mackerel dumplings at Shandong Mama. Having heard rave reviews of the dumplings served up here, we were well and truly due for a visit.
Malaymas in North Fitzroy is the kind of place that is able to transport you right to the heart of Southeast Asia, in spirit at least. The informal dining room is full of simple wooden furnishings and oriental ornaments that may remind you of markets in Malaysia and Thailand, but its locale is just off the main drag of Brunswick Road.
The hole in the wall lunchtime spot is as busy as ever, with its huge steamer baskets and rows of char siu bao in line for the daily suit fest.
Vegie Mum is far from being your typical vegetarian restaurant. The small Asian family restaurant, nestled amongst a short strip of eateries in Doncaster, boasts an extensive menu, but with an added twist – faux meat.
Shanghai Street was on my radar this week. It’s an absolutely teeny store that is, more often than not, accompanied by a ridiculously long trail of customers that runs out the door and on to Little Bourke.