Sunday, March 26, 2017

Souk, Melbourne CBD by Benny

Glance down Bligh Place (just off Flinders Lane) and a large, cryptic neon sign catches your eye, drawing you irresistibly to the end of one of Melbourne’s iconic laneways. Congratulations, you have found Souk. Just a short stroll from Flinders Street railway station, could there possibly be a better location for a hip new restaurant in Melbourne?

Souk, Melbourne, octopus
Charcoal octopus

Inside, a stylish ultra-modern fitout on two levels features lighting that bathes visitors in fluorescent pink neon around the bar downstairs, with multitudes of barely glowing exposed filament globes dangling from the ceiling of the upstairs dining area.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Shark Fin Inn, Melbourne CBD by Benny

Melbourne’s historic theatre district, centred around Her Majesty’s and the Princess Theatre (both built in 1886) is temptingly close to the vibrant Chinatown area. So, when Bilby Blue and I were treating Nanna to an afternoon matinée, it was an easy decision to grab a pre-theatre yum cha at the top end of Little Bourke Street. After surveying the many options, nostalgia beckoned us towards the Shark Fin Inn – it used to be a Benny family favourite, but we hadn’t been there for several years.

Shark Fin Inn, spare ribs, chicken feet, beancurd roll
Spare ribs, chicken feet and beancurd rolls

Back in the 1980s when the Shark Fin Inn first opened, yum cha was offered by only a few select Chinese restaurants, and only for Sunday lunch. It was a real treat, and the Shark Fin quickly gained a reputation for being one of the best. Nowadays yum cha is available all over Melbourne, seven days a week, whether you are craving a traditional offering (such as Mei Jing or Gold Leaf), café-style dining (Shanghai Street or Hutong Dumpling Bar), or a more innovative interpretation (Susie Wong or Block 7 Kitchen). Has the Shark Fin maintained its reputation?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tatsumi, Newmarket (NZ) by Bilby Blue

On a short break in Auckland, Benny and I were looking to catch up with my friend El Puma over dinner. But where to go? Another friend raved about Tatsumi, so it was an obvious choice for three Japanese food lovers.

Tatsumi’s owners relocated to Auckland from Christchurch following the 2011 earthquakes. Its modest entrance can be easily overlooked, but venture inside and you will find a quiet and serene environment.

Tatsumi, Newmarket, New Zealand, sashimi salad
Hamachi yellow tail sashimi salad

The food is exquisite – its Japanese origins are clearly evident, but the chef has cleverly incorporated elements of Italian and other cuisines that lift the dishes into something unique.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Ped’s Thai Cuisine, Camberwell by Benny

There are many reasons why you dine out rather than cook at home. One of the best is that the home cook has a massive bandage around his thumb, courtesy of slicing through it with a chef’s knife. That incident triggered a dash to the local hospital emergency department, leaving our dinner guests at home with the dogs. Told to expect a three hour wait before treatment, Bilby Blue returned home to finish the cooking and entertain on her own – our guests carefully inspecting the stir fry to ensure they avoided eating bits of Benny.  My thumb required six stitches and cooking on subsequent nights was a bit of a challenge.

Ped’s Thai Cuisine, Camberwell, roti

Ped’s Thai Cuisine is only about 12 months old, but the eponymous Ped has been operating notable Thai restaurants for over 30 years. He retired a few years ago, but fortunately for us he is back, clearly enjoying greeting customers and making sure they are comfortable. Ped’s Thai has a welcoming informality that is evident in everything from Ped’s enthusiastic greeting to the plethora of Thai trinkets and swathes of brightly patterned silks scattered liberally around the dining area, softening the otherwise unadorned walls.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chez Mademoiselle, Prahran by Bilby Blue

Stylish art deco interior. Exquisite patisserie in the display cabinets. French-speaking staff. Were we taking afternoon tea in Saint-Germain? Mais non! This was Prahran and Benny and I had been invited to the launch party for Chez Mademoiselle.

Chez Mademoiselle, Prahran, ham cheese croissant, croque monsieur
Ham and cheese croissant, with croque monsieur 

This chic Greville Street café, open for just a month, definitely has an air of Paris with a classy deep grey and white décor. The more extravagantly decorated back room has been turned into an elegant and cosy parlour with what appears to be an original antique fireplace – it would be a snug spot on a winter’s day. There isn’t much room for diners inside but additional seating is available outside on the footpath.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Favourite Kitchen, Wantirna by Obelix

The restaurant space within the Golden Pebbles Hotel has undergone many metamorphoses.  In its current incarnation under its present management, it is called Favourite Kitchen.  We were invited there by friends for dinner during the second week of Chinese New Year.  Unlike many Chinese restaurants which try to maximise seating by packing everyone in like sardines, Favourite Kitchen was spaciously laid out.

Favourite Kitchen, Wantirna, peking duck
We were told that the Peking duck was worth a look-in.  Carved at the table and served with delicate crepes these were the highlight of the evening.