Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Zimari (by invitation), Prahran by Obelix

Melbournians are spoilt for choice when it comes to Greek food.  Zimari has recently introduced me to Cretan food.  A regionalised Greek cuisine, Cretan food emphasises home style cooking using seasonal, fresh ingredients.  So think slow cooked dishes;  oven baked casseroles;  flavourful salads in addition to the usual Greek food everyone is familiar with such as souvlakis and syrupy sweets. 

Melanie of Zimari and the chef had arranged for us to sample a selection of Cretan dishes and we were glad to be in their capable hands.  Zimari straddles the divide between cafe and restaurant.  It has quick lunch specials as well as more elaborate offerings for dinner or lunch. 

To start, there was a platter of warm herbed pita bread with four dips:  taramasalata (salmon dip),  tzatziki, beetroot and eggplant. 

In the spirit of all things Grecian, we then sampled a few ouzo and avocado prawns.  These were light and sauteed in garlic and lemon...yum!

These little pulled pork and haloumi sliders are a great example of the quick bites one could grab at Zimari for lunch. 

To go with the sliders, we had one of the most delicious salads I have ever had.  This was the beetroot salad with marinated beetroot, coleslaw, feta, walnuts and sunflower seeds.  I could happily eat this for days. 

Now onto the signature comfort foods of Crete...we sampled these moreish slow cooked beef meatballs in a lamb about melt in your mouth! 

Also in the slow cooked food train of thought was this lamb yiouvetsi which was the special for the day.  I've never had a yiovetsi before but once had, never forgotten.  It was an oven baked rissoni pasta with tender lamb pieces in a tomato, cheese and herb base.  It was perfect for a cold winter's day. 

By now we were loosening up the waist belts and getting quite sleepy with all that good food digesting in the tummy but there's still dessert!  We found room for the lightest citrus cake ever.  This delectable sweet was called portokolopita.  It was made with layers of filo pastry and held together by yoghurt and citrusy syrup.  It was served warm with vanilla icecream. OMG. 

Throughout the meal, we were served heart warming chai tea.  This went perfectly with the portokolopita. 

Verdict:  We loved it. 

Zimari is the perfect place to go for Cretan cuisine.  It's focus on healthy home styled cooking makes it a guilt free, nutritious (and delicious) option either for a quick lunch or a more substantial dinner.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Blue Chillies (by invitation), Fitzroy by Bureaucrat

Happy birthday to Blue Chillies, an iconic Malaysian restaurant in Fitzory, who recently turned a sweet 16 years old.  Ruby Grapefruit and I were there to help out with the celebrations and to sample a range of Blue Chillies' signature dishes.

We were treated to a number of entrees to share.  It was hard to pick a favourite as they were all really good.  Ruby Grapefruit quite liked the deep fried rockling fillets w curry leaves, chilli and spices. In particular, she loved the buttered egg floss, which the staff told us takes a bit of skill to make.

If I had to pick a favourite dish for the night, this would be it.  The yee sang salad.  It's a traditional Malaysian salad of sashimi salmon, crunchy salad dressed with apricot plum sauce topped with roasted peanuts.  It's usually served at Chinese new year and the individual components of the salad symbolise wealth, good fortune and wonderful auspiciousness.  The sashimi was super fresh and the salad was a delightfully fresh and crunchy.

I also really enjoyed the whitebait and sweet potato fritters.  It was light and crispy. The sweet potato gives a nice sweetness, while the chilli lime dipping sauce gave a fresh zestiness to cut through the fried fritter.  Also on the plate was the black pepper soft shell crab w ground peppercorn sauce.

It was a rather meaty affair when it came to Blue Chillies' signature main dishes. I really liked the deep fried king prawns, which were wrapped in crispy rice noodles and served on a bed of tomato, pineapple and coconut milk sauce. 

The thrice-cooked duck was tender and juicy, and had a lovely crispy skin.

Another tender duck dish was the slow-cooked duck rendang, which had a lovely unctuous sauce made from roasted coconut, Malaysian spices, fresh ginger, garlic and chillies.

Last but not least was the stickily sweet wok tossed pork ribs marinated in caramelised chilli jam. 

A sweet way to end our meal was a beautiful serve of sticky black rice pudding, which was served with coconut milk and topped with lots of aromatic coconut flakes.

Verdict: we liked it a lot

Blue Chillies is a modern Malaysian restaurant. While it firmly has its roots in traditional Malaysian cuisine - think, hawker-style food in a contemporary Australian settings.  The service is warm and friendly and you can tell how passionate the staff are about the food and the restaurant.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ampang Tofu, Doncaster East by Obelix

Ampang Tofu was a tip off from a friend and I was so prepared to be blown away by this place as my friend was but my experience of Ampang was not all that positive.  On reflection, it wasn't so much of the food that I was disappointed by, but more of the surly service.  The lady whom I ordered from was impatient and generally unfriendly. 

Ampang Tofu is the kind of low key family restaurant serving noodle and rice dishes.  It's speciality is the 'yong tofu' which is an all encompassing term to capture all manner of stuffed beancurd, okra, eggplant, etc.  

The yong tofu dish ($11) is self-customised by selecting one of three broths, one of three types of noodles and six pieces of yong tofu.  My friend seems to think that Ampang charges less for kids which is why it's so popular with families.  But I was not offered the kiddy discount for Kiddo and I did not enquire as the staff were so prickly as it was. 

Kiddo and I had our own variations of the yong tofu.  It was ok.  Nothing to write home about.  The price was decent but then again, I could probably get the same thing elsewhere with or without the surliness.  Kiddo made a remark to me that the laksa was a bit spicy and the proprietess overheard our conversation and said what do you expect from a laksa? I felt like snapping back at her for eavesdropping and sticking her oar into a conversation which did not involve her. 

Verdict:  We wouldn't return

Ampang Tofu is classifed cheap eats.  But it's not exceptional cheap eats.  As mentioned above, you could easily find similar offerings for the same price staffed by more congenial people.  

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Chatty Vespa (by invitation), Prahran by Obelix

In my lifetime I have had my fair share of crappy pizzas with plastic ham and cheese on a crust as thick as a surfboard. Oily, without substance and just generally bad.  I only mention this because it is in stark contrast to the pizzas at Chatty Vespa.  These guys focus on using best Australian ingredients at the best price possible.  The result?  Gourmet pizzas that don't harm your health nor budget.  I admit to over ordering as I was envisaging mingy gourmet sized pizzas I have encountered at other joints but soon realised a Chatty Vespa can easily feed two rather than the one-person-per-gourmet-pizza rule of thumb elsewhere.  So I can happily report that the leftovers were very welcomed the next day for lunch...

In addition to fab pizzas, Chatty Vespa has their own drop of fine vino.  Also their drinks cabinet are stocked with all sorts of organic libations.

I had to fight Kiddo for the garlic pizza which we had as a starter.  It was seriously garlicky and cheesy. It was Kiddo's pick of night.

P on the other hand went for the Sweet Chick.  This was free range chemical free chicken breast, carmelised onion, capsicum, fior di latte, tomato passata and finished with fresh parsley.  So good.  I normally steer clear of chicken pizzas because many places feel the need to smother it with icky BBQ sauce.  Not at Chatty Vespas!  The sweetness came naturally from the carmelised onion and capsicum.

And a close up for you....

I was very intrigued by the Plant Powered pizza.  This was my pick for the night.  It had broccoli, artichoke, goats fetta, fior di latte on a basil pesto base.  It was creative and delicious.  Chatty Vespa's has numerous vegetarian options, so for the veggos among us, don't feel you are just limited to the ole margherita.

And another close up for you.

Last but not least was the Capri Chose Her.  Yep, you guessed it:  ham, salami, artichoke, mushroom, olives, fior di latte, tomato passata with a sprinkling of oregano.  This one taste even better the next day....

Just a couple of things to add about Chatty Vespas:
  • They do delivery to the Prahran area and surrounds.  And that's where the vespa bit comes it. Delivery is done on these very cute custom vespas.  
  • They are environmentally conscious.  The pizza boxes are green boxes and can convert into serving plates and storage containers.  How clever!
  • Ingredients are all sourced locally.  More info on their website here.  
  • There's about 20 seats for dine in.  

Verdict:  We loved it.  

Chatty Vespas' gourmet pizzas uses high quality local and fresh ingredient at a family friendly (or student friendly) price point.  All pizzas are $17 and under.  Great food, great value.  The staff are also very fun and welcoming.  We are hooked.

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