Friday, July 1, 2016

United Kitchen Dining & Tapas, St Kilda (by invitation) by Obelix

What first attracted me to United Kitchen was it's philosophy - United literally and metaphorically. I love the fact that food to be shared such as tapas, is a uniting, that is a communal experience. United also in the sense that the creators of United Kitchen hail from all corners of the globe to create in partnership a Latin-American inspired, Asian influenced and locally sourced produce. It is truly pan-world cuisine.

united kitchen, tapas, fusion cuisine, spring rolls, dessert
Case in point this peanut butter spring roll with a salted caramel peanut filling. Yes, I've gone all topsy turvy revealing the dessert first but I thought it epitomised the United Kitchen concept.

Whilst the philosophy of United Kitchen drew me, it was the quality and creativity of the food that impressed.

But before I eagerly delve into describing the array of tapas, it would be churlish of me to not give you the back story of the creators of United Kitchen. Chef Tong Li has accomplished an astounding number of achievements in his career so far. Tong realised his passion for cooking so he bravely made a career leap from economics and donned the apron to train across Mexico. Tong returned to Qingdao, China and trail blazed by setting up six non traditional restaurants in China. He is considered to be quite the avante garde chef back in China and I've been told he is a hybrid Jamie Oliver/Shannon Bennett equivalent in Qingdao. With Tong's partner in life and business, Lee, hailing from the UK and Bernard, the venue manager from Mauritius, it's quite the UN of the restaurant scene.

united kitchen, tapas, mocktails, bar
Now it wouldn't be a tapas bar without the bar bit, would it? All the drinks are crafted in house. Being teetotallers, Kiddo and I were delighted with our refreshing mocktail made with a blend of raspberry, ginger beer, agave syrup and pineapple juice. For those who like a tipple or two, the bar menu has several margaritas, martinis and the like. The bar itself is quite the centre piece in the floor layout (see interior pics below!).

united kitchen, edaname beans, tapas
Tapas won't be tapas without nibbly little bits with our mocktail. Our fusion style nibblies were true to United Kitchen's form. We sampled the Spiced Edamame Beans which had an aromatic Tom Yum flavoured dressing. This was indeed quite moreish and I could see many people would be happy to while away the hours nibbling these alongside a couple of cocktails.

united kitchen, tapas, guacamole
And Guacamole served traditional style with blue corn chips.

united kitchen, tapas, calamari
We had to fight Kiddo for the Calamari. Chef Tong advised that these were Lolingo squid sourced locally and served with salsa fresca and chimichurri. It was the perfect juxtaposition of crispy exterior and juicy and tender interior.

united kitchen, grilled corn, tapas
Meanwhile, I was enamoured with the grilled corn. It was chargrilled and slathered in Parmesan and blue cheese topping with ancho chillie and lime. The kernels were so soft and yielding. I was used to versions of chargrilled corn which were semi-cooked through but these were executed very well.

united kitchen, tapas, grilled cos lettuce
Quite often times when dining tapas style one ends up eating all manner of greasy deep fried things however the menu here at United Kitchen is very well balanced with lots of veg offerings. We had the cos lettuce which has been chargrilled with blue cheese, crushed peanuts, brown butter and roasted sesame and garlic dressing. It's complex in flavour and reminiscent of the umami flavours in Japanese cuisine.

united kitchen, crispy chicken, tapas
Next up were the crispy fried chicken goujons with smoked pimento on a bed of rocket. Once again, Kiddo enthusiastically and quickly snaffled all the salad so I can only assume that it tasted good because kids generally would not voluntarily eat a green unless it nothing short of delicious. Which left me agreeably with the crispy chicken. I'm not complaining! What can I say? They were juicy morsels of thigh meat with a light crispy coat and not at all oily.

united kitchen, tapas
And going with the premise that cheese on anything is wonderful, the cauliflower florets were baked with Parmesan, thyme and chimichurri.

united kitchen, slow cooked octopus
Now, I've been showing you tapas offerings thus far but United Kitchen also does standard mains and sides if that's the way you wanted to go. We sampled their slow cooked octopus with King Edward potatoes and chimichurri. Having watched my other half prepare octopus at home, I know what skill it takes to prep it properly so it's not tough as old boots. These tentacles were perfectly cooked, so soft and so creamy!

Now I've previously alluded to the peanut butter spring rolls so I'll just expand on it a bit more here (see first pic). In short, genius! I'm not a PB fan but who would have thought combining the flavours with salted caramel and then wrapping it up in deep fried pastry would work so well? It paired very well with the vanilla bean ice cream.

As promised, I will end with a few interior shots of United Kitchen. The ambiance at night is truly cosy with a touch of rustic. Lovely copper tone finishings lit up beautifully in the candle light.

united kitchen

united kitchen
Chef Tong in action.


We loved it
We loved it.


Kiddo rates this place and trust me, she's hard to please.  When we were finishing with our desserts, she expressed she was keen to return with her dad as she knew he would enjoy it.  I look forward to trying some of the other dishes on the menu and have started to comprise a hit list already.

Find it at

United Kitchen Dining & Tapas
52 Fitzroy St
St Kilda Vic 3182
Phone: 9534 4470

United Kitchen Dining & Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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