Hanaichi Location: 245 Little Lonsdale St Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9662 9409 Known for serving a range of donburis at lightning speed, Hanaichi is one of those places you go to when you’re tight for time and are in need of a meal that won’t make a dent on the wallet. Options are limited to comfort-food favourites such as chicken or pork curry dons, tempura and bowls of heart-warming udon.
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
Shimbashi Soba & Sake Bar Location: 17 Liverpool St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: (03) 9654-6727 Authenticity reigns supreme here – these healthy soba noodles are hand-kneaded and served up alongside an extensive range of imported sake. There are so many options to choose form, but do make sure you try the cold soba varieties, which are dipped in a range of sauces and broths. For a wholesome and varied work lunch, the lunch set is superb value – mine came with a teriyaki salmon don, chilled soba noodles and a small salad for a mere $16.8.
Market Lane Coffee Location: 163 Commercial Rd South Yarra, VIC 3141 Contact: 03 9804 7434 The low down: a minimalist institution, Market Lane Coffee is tucked away at the back of the gorgeous Prahan Market. Locals can head down for a quick fix or to the giant’s other shop, located within Victoria Market. Long blacks are divine, lattes spot on. Always delivers. Hinoki Japanese Pantry Location: 279 Smith Street Fitzroy, VIC 03065 Contact: 03 9417 4531 Fantastic value, top notch quality sushi, and a Japanese grocery all bundled into one. We’re absolutely in love with this place – for $45 the nigiri platter is enough to satisfy two or three hungry bellies.
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.
Shoya Location: 25 Market Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9650 0848 Long renowned for its culinary excellence, Shoya is a celebration of sophisticated Japanese cuisine. Opt for the traditional horigotatsu style seating and splurge on the chef’s omakase course (ranging from approximately $120-180 pp) or flip through the extensive a la carte menu. Two dishes we can’t go past: the agenasu dengaku (fried and grilled egg plant with prawns topped with fresh sea urchin miso paste) and the saikyo moromi-yaki (marinated and grilled miso white fish). Flavours are always subtle, and plating is exquisite – Japanese fine dining at its best.
Green Park Dining Location: 815 Nicholson St, Carlton North, VIC 3054 Contact: 03 9380 5499 The former premises of St Ali North, which closed its doors last September, is now occupied by the newly opened Green Park Dining; a mammoth operation that serves up the goods (bar included) from dawn ’til dusk. The space is absolutely huge – expect to be greeted by colourful bunting on the lawn out front & various cosy seating options within. Then there’s that cabinet to the front showcasing numerous sweets from Park Street Pastries (not joking when I say that I had a hard time not trading these in for brekkie).
Yong Green Food Location: 421 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, VIC Contact: 03 9417 3338 Yong’s is your one stop shop for all things vegetarian: raw, vegan, gluten free – you name it, they’ve got it. The crowd rolls in and out fast, so stake your claim early or come during the quieter hours to ensure you grab a spot at one of the tables before things get a little too hectic.
Thai green curry ($18)
The Thai green curry was quite enjoyable – my organic tempeh came immersed in a light, not too creamy house-made Thai green curry paste characterised by quite an amped up level of spiciness. I must admit that I am not one to usually order tempeh (it is one of those tastes that takes a little getting used to), but I quite liked the pairing. All of this married well with a bowl of biodynamic brown rice with just enough outer crunchiness to add some texture.
Thai green curry ($18)
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.
Warra Warra Location: Shop 19 & 20 Tivoli Arcade, 235-251 Bourke St Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9662 2077 After failing miserably to obtain a table at Movida (sadly we were a little too hungry to wait until 10:30pm), we made our way back towards the city centre. Warra Warra wasn’t too far off, and walking in felt like we were entering a hidden gem – the Korean restaurant is tucked away in Tivoli Arcade near Swanston Street, and is every bit quirky, modern and fun. The place may be small, but the slick interior design of Warra Warra immediately sets this place apart, with clean lines oozing a contemporary, simple feel.
Teppankai Location: 34 Bray St, South Yarra, VIC Contact: 03 9827 8822 A minute’s walk from the buzz of Chapel Street, Teppankai is a sophisticated Japanese establishment that offers the complete teppanyaki experience, with both traditional and contemporary takes on Japanese cuisine. The restaurant is gorgeous, with a mixture of dark and light walls and subdued lighting, and the option for diners to sit around the open teppanyaki hotplate watching the suave chefs in action, or huddle in groups around the smaller tables. The large al-fresco area out the front basks in sunlight, and is the perfect place for after-work drinks (a beer from the bar with a few bites from that tapas menu will do the trick).
Darac Grill and Bar Location: 51 A’Beckett Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9662 2441 Darac Grill and Bar is hidden away from the main fare in A’Beckett Street. And with a rather dark exterior and small sign, it’s quite easy to walk by without noticing it.
Purple Peanuts Japanese Cafe Location: 620 Collins St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9620 9548 First you have to locate Purple Peanuts (situated on the far side of Collins Street), but once you’ve found it, it’s one of those gorgeous gems that you’ll find yourself making excuses to keep coming back to, time and time again. It’s an absolute hot spot for health-concious CBD lunch-goers, with the quaint cafe also sporting a solid following for its dinner meals (open til 8:30pm).
Shira Nui Location: 247 Springvale Rd, Glen Waverley, VIC Contact: 03 9886 7755 We’re not quite sure what we feel about Shira Nui, mainly because the service, when we attended, was appalling.
Sushi Hotaru Location: Shop 118 200 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC (level one of the Mid City arcade) Contact: 03 9663 7538 (for enquiries only; no bookings) I was absolutely delighted to stumble across Sushi Hotaru; a small, bustling sushi-train establishment located on level one of the arcades lining Bourke Street. And as if the words ‘sushi-train’ weren’t enough to draw me to dining here, the menu (which lists practically everything at a mere $3), was love at first sight.
With a name like ‘Gangnam Station’, we walked into this restaurant slightly curious as to whether we’d be confronted with this:
Izakaya Jiro is a gorgeous addition to the Glenferrie Road mix. Embellished with towering Japanese artworks, shiny, lacquered tables and a sleek sake bar, the modern den is one of the fancier additions to the burgeoning row of restaurants in Hawthorn.
One step into Maedaya and it’s almost as if you’ve been transported into the interior of a olden pirate ship – the sake bar is laced with wooden features, whilst long ropes line the pointed ceiling.
A Hawthorn stalwart and producer of the most satisfying (and value for money) green tea milkshake that Melbourne has to offer, Samurai is a roaring Japanese restaurant wedged in the middle of the bustling Glenferrie Road.
In the middle of a rather desolate, dimly-lit street lies a surprisingly chirpy (and incredibly busy) Taiwanese restaurant called Peko Peko.