Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Let Me Be Frank, South Melbourne by Bureaucrat

For a double birthday celebration, we decided to mix things up a little in this bureaucrat's world.  Instead of lunch or dinner, and instead of a prix fixe or degustation menu, the Lawyer and I decided to do breakfast instead. Also, instead of staying in the east, or heading into the city/Southbank, we went for something that's located between the two geographic locales.

Perhaps I've been a bureaucrat too long but going for breakfast at a cafe and paying, on average, $15-$22 for a plate of eggs doesn't make budgetary sense.  It ain't cost-efficient nor fiscally sound, and I can't help wondering what the opportunity cost of my dollars and cents (and sleeping-in time) would be if I just boiled an egg for myself at home.

Religion usually bores me and, as a kid, I'd do almost anything to avoid going to church.  However, I'm older and probably wiser, so now I can tolerate some religion - especially when there's a cafe attached to it.  Let Me Be Frank is a cafe that's located next to a bluestone church and it's associated with Father Bob Maguire foundation.  We booked a table and on the appointed morning, we all rambled our way into LMBF.  It's a great space - high ceilings, lots of natural sunlight, couches, communal table, original artwork, heaps of fresh flowers and a real warm and relaxing vibe to the place.

To fully wake us up, we ordered a latte for the Lawyer, tea for Beaker...

...and for the rest of us, a pot of fresh soy chai for each of us.  This was pretty fine chai - deep, aromatic and blissful.

Not to be outdone, Bubba Chuck got a hot chocolate in a takeaway cup (just like a grown up!) with her kiddies' breakfast burger - bacon, egg on a brioche bun w salsa.  She wolfed this down 

I went vegetarian and got the avo and feta smash w quinoa and corn salsa on sourdough.  I loved the use of quinoa to up the protein levels for the dish.  Great savoury tomato salsa, too.

Mother Hen and Mr Strong got the Hungry Frank for two.  Your choice of eggs, homemade baked beans, good quality ham (proper porkiness), grilled toms, avo, mushies, wilted spinach, hash brown on sourdough. It was epic and totally delish.

The Lawyer got the adults' Breakfast Burger w bacon, egg, cheese and salsa.  While all the dishes were pretty good value, this was a steal at $8.50.

Beaker went for the Healthy Frank - sourdough, poached eggs, fresh toms, herbed cottage cheese, lean bacon, avo and wilted spinach.

Food – 8.5
Ambiance – 8
Service – 7.5
Price – 8

We all really enjoyed our breakfasts - quality, fresh produce is used and you can tell by the flavours.  Quite generous serves and well priced too.  As much as we all liked our breakfasts, we were all really keen on coming back to try the lunch menu.  Definitely a keeper and definitely will be coming back.

Let Me Be Frank
217-239 Montague St  
South Melbourne 3205
Telephone: 0433 419 683

Let Me Be Frank on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 28, 2014

Adelaide Pho, Adelaide (SA) by Big Fil

Given its slightly off the beaten path location I was surprised at just how busy Adelaide Pho was.  I mean, just after 12 on a Thursday afternoon and we were lucky to get the last table for 2 in the place. 

Appeared quite a diverse crowd too, students, office workers, and members of the local Vietnamese community looking for a taste of home.  Tables turned over fast though, and even if full at worst I doubt we would have been waiting more than 10 minutes for a seat.

Inside it's pretty minimalist, red painted walls, fairly plain tables and chairs, just a few decorations on the wall.  It makes no pretense to fine dining but has a bit of a buzz to it, of happy diners munching through assorted rice and noodle dishes, or of slurping up their bowls of pho.

When available, something which I always like to order in Vietnamese restaurants is the grilled quail.  For me it's one of those true tests of a cheapish Vietnamese restaurant, at its best crisp, juicy and full of meaty goodness, but if not done right dry and unappetizing.  Served quartered the quail was mediocre, average rather than either good or bad.  Not too dry, fairly good flavours, but to be honest there are better available.

Better was my pho.  In what wouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows me it was the combination pho for me, nicely pink slices of beef, some sliced beef sausage, and while not as much as I'd have liked a few pieces of tripe and tendon.   The soup had good flavour, the noodles were nicely done and not overcooked and sloppy, the serve generous.  Nothing spectacular about it and I would have preferred some of the fillings a touch more generous but good, honest and filling.

My favourite dish of the day through was Mrs S' combination pork on rice.  As it wasn't my lunch I only got a sample rather than the full deal, but the roast pork was good with a nicely crisp skin, and the accompanying egg properly fried so that the yolk could be mixed in with the rice.  Best part of the dish and the day though was the delicious fried pork chop, which was wonderfully moist and tender.

Friendly, quick, cheap and tasty, overall the food and service were good, the atmosphere that of a cheap and happening place where the most important thing is the food.  Just how I like my pho houses really.

Food - 7.5
Ambience - 7
Service - 7.5
Price - 7

199 Waymouth Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Tel: (08) 8212 0997

Adelaide Pho on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Oriental Spoon Story 2, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

I take my shovel and I dig, dig, dig.

Oriental Spoon Story 2 on Elizabeth Street is the offspring of fairly popular Oriental Spoon on LaTrobe Street.  I’m not sure what their rationale was to open its second shop just meters away from the original shop. 

In any case, there are differences between the two.  On the whole, OSS2 has less lunch time deals than OS and seems to be a little bit pricier, too (by an extra dollar or two).  So with further ado, Mr S and I both opted for a rice dish, which we thought were some of the better value dishes on offer.

Banchan was brought to the table, which was a nice touch - I wasn’t expecting this as they don’t have this at OS.  The rice dishes are presented on these novelty shovels.  I got bulgogi beef with rice.  Lots of fluffy rice with quite a reasonable amount of tender beef and spring onions. 

Mr S got spicy pork. Similar to my beef, Mr S liked his dish enough but didn’t otherwise make an impression on him.

Food – 6.5
Ambience – 6.5
Service – 7
Price – 6.5

The food is reasonable but nothing exceptional.  I don’t have any against the food at OSS2 but with so many Korean restaurants around, I don’t think I’ll be coming back anytime soon.

While the d├ęcor is clean and light, it feels a tad clinical sitting in the restaurant… perhaps it’s because you look out straight onto Elizabeth Street.  There’s definitely a better vibe and warmth at the original OS – which feels more like a restaurant.

Service is okay but nothing exceptional, either.

Oriental Spoon Story 2
291 Elizabeth St 
Melbourne  3000  
Telephone: 9043 5199

Oriental Spoon Story 2 on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 25, 2014

United Latino Cocina, Adelaide (SA) by Big Fil

Hmm.  I always seem to be very much in two minds about food in Adelaide.  It's somewhere I lived for nearly 30 years and that I visit at least twice a year, so I have had the chance to see the food scene develop here.  My own view is that until maybe 2 or 3 years ago it was very much in the doldrums, particularly in the low and mid-range end which I usually frequented as an impoverished student or funds restricted visitor.  Recently though it has made a definite resurgence, and is much improved both in range and quality.  One example of this resurgence is United Latino Cocina, a nice newish Mexican restaurant which demonstrates that there is more to Mexican food than crisp shelled tacos and soggy burritos.

Located down a side alley on the southern side of the mall, United Latino is a sister restaurant for Lucky Lupitas.  It's a bit of a bold statement having dined at each once only, but of the two I thought the food was better here. 

Amongst the smaller dishes Hungry Pete was impressed with the Elote, grilled corn with chipotle mayonesa, lime and dry cheese.  If all you have tried before is the usual grilled corn with salt or butter it's likely to be a bit of a revelation but I thought it was ok rather than great, and could have used a more powerful punch in the flavours.

Similarly I liked both of the tacos we ordered, without being overwhelmed.  To me the better of the two was the carne asada, a soft corn tortilla filled with grilled beef, onion, guajillo puree, lettuce, cabbage slaw, crema and salsa verde.  Generously filled with nice tasty tender beef and salad, in what seems an unusual criticism if anything the filling was too generous and would have been better spread over a second taco.  Having quite so much filling made it a bit messy and difficult to eat.

Same issue with the fish taco.  Once you combine a generous serving of snapper, pineapple salsa, mayonnaise, slaw and shredded lettuce it became too large to comfortably eat wrapped up in a tortilla, and resulted in a case of excess liquid which if you weren't careful would just run down your arm.  I mean it's definitely good quality but it could have used a second tortilla, or next time I'd try to eat some of the filling before wrapping it all up.

Where I thought the food shone though was in the mains.  The Arroz con Pollo, a chicken thigh with cumin, black beans, rice, some salad and lemon yoghurt was beautifully cooked, and for me was better off from having used the thigh meat rather than the breast (the thigh has a stronger, more robust flavor than the breast which I prefer).  The cumin was used generously without being overpowering, the rice was light and delicate.  The pineapple and tomato adds a zing which lightens up what could otherwise be a heavily flavoured dish.  Generous in proportion as well.

My favourite though was the Costilla de Res Ahumada, a smoked and slow cooked beef rib with rice, pepper slaw and chipotle bbq sauce.  To me the best cuts of meat are those still on the bone and when you slow cook it you end up with a ridiculously tender, delicious piece of meat.  When dividing the rib for sharing with Hungry Pete it wasn't necessary to cut the meat with the knife, which was used to simply hold everything in place while I used the fork to pull the meat off the bone.  Without a doubt the dish of the day and what I would immediately order on a return visit.

Combining some good to very good food with a minimalist industrialist fit out and respectable service, it's no wonder that United Latino Cocina is popular with the lunchtime city crowd.  Arriving for a late lunch we were in fact lucky to grab a seat at the communal table, and it was only around 2 that other tables started to become more freely available.  Given the pricing it's starting to edge up more to the mid-range than cheap eats end of the market, but definitely a good and interesting addition to the Adelaide dining scene.

Food - 8
Ambience - 7.5
Service - 7
Price - 7

14-16 Francis Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Tel: (08) 8232 0674

United Latino Cocina on Urbanspoon
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