Thursday, 22 January 2015

#throwbackthursday roundup of a dozen quick photoless reviews (part I)


Grain Store
This is definitely one of the most hyped brunch places in Melbourne and we were very much looking forward to our visit there. After a very long wait to get in, a possibly an even longer wait for the food, what arrived at the table certainly wasn't all worth the drawn out anticipation. I had the polenta corn fritter dish and added bacon while M went for something sweet. I was very unhappy with my dish which was bland bland bland; not even the bacon was enough to lift the dish. M was also pretty disappointed with his choice and was uninspired by the coffee, which he described as 'average, not terrible but definitely not great'. Worst of all, we both got sick (an upset stomach) afterwards, which we suspect may have been due to brunch. 
The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Hardware Societé
M very highly rates the coffee here, which I guess is half the appeal of these brunch places for a lot of people. However, when I came here with a friend we had a terrible time of it. After the inevitable (for these hyped brunch places) we were hastily seated. I had a disappointing iced coffee and baked eggs which were bland and overcooked. My poor friend T got a duck confit, a favourite dish of ours, which proved to be very dry. Honestly, you know you're not doing very well when you manage to make duck cooked in its own fat dry.
The Hardware Société on Urbanspoon

Bowery to Williamsburg
According to M, the coffee here isn't amazing: very American, well expressed with a lot of crema but not the best roast for a black coffee, much more suited to a sweet latte or the like. However, this is definitely one of our favourite brunch and sandwich places in Melbourne. The sandwiches here (including the meatball sub and reuben) are always very tasty and very good value at $10. The options sides you get are also great, particularly the ridiculously tasty mac n cheese. M also loves the Shashoukas here, which are only available at breakfast time. We've been here on several occasions and the only thing that's been a bit disappointing was a hot smoked salmon in a pumpernickel bagel.
Bowery to Williamsburg on Urbanspoon

Chez Dré 
Like other hyped brunch places, the way here is long and you can't book but unlike some of these other places, the wait is worth it.Pretty well everyone in town knows that this place does some of the best cakes in Melbourne. You can't come here without at least checking out their gorgeous cabinet full of beautiful cakes and macarons.  The savoury food here is also very good; the reuben sandwich I had here was very tasty, albeit overpriced at $19. The mushroom with polenta we had here was also amazing.
Chez Dré on Urbanspoon  

Hammer & Tong
Another very popular lunch place in inner city Melbourne, and another one not worth the hype in our opinion. The pork belly dish we had here had pork belly which was very fatty and poorly rendered, soggy 'crackling, and the promised 'chilli jam' legit looked and tasted just like sweet chilli sauce. M wasn't crazy about the coffee; he said it had a nice crema but the roast itself was too bitter for a black coffee. I hated the drink I had; their housemade orange fizz which tasted like it was made with oranges which weren't very fresh. You know when you eat an orange and part of all of it is very dry and its taste has distinctly musty overtones? This tasted like that in liquid form.
Hammer & Tong on Urbanspoon  

Shanghai Dynasty
This is one of Dad's favourite places to go to when he's in town and I follow along so I can get my fill of snow crab. The snow crab they do here isn't as great as many of the Chinese restaurants in Perth, possibly because they are more familiar with the WA ingredient. However, it and the other seafood they make is still pretty tasty and fresh. Prices are also not as steep as one might expect given the over the top (in a good way), gilded decor. They also do a nice, and not too pricey, yum cha where you generally don't have to book.
Shanghai Dynasty on Urbanspoon  

Dainty Sichuan, Box Hill
We came here with a few friends for their famous hotpot, which the Good Food Guide had said good things about. I've long since learned that the Guide isn't necessarily the best authority out there for good food. One of the apparent  points of difference for Dainty Sichuan is that you get your own little hotpot instead sharing one with the table. While this was pretty convenient for a big table like ours, it's certainly not the only restaurant out there that does this. It's also one of the few places out there were you pay for your hotpot by ordering a la carte, whereas most hotpot is an all-you-can-eat deal. Hotpot is probably the only scenario/cuisine in which I prefer the latter, because it usually provides much better value. On this occasion even though we didn't order loads, it came to about $35 per person. This would have been fine if the meal was great, but we didn't enjoy it very much.

Something the Good Food Guide raved about were the homemade fish (and other seafood balls). I'm actually a big fan of the processed MSG-laden kind you buy frozen from the Asian grocery and the ones here didn't taste anyway near as good. That's not to say home made fish balls can't be good, I've had ones before (usually made with mackerel) which were very tasty. The problem with Dainty's is that they make theirs with what I strongly suspect to be Basa, a rubbery and awful fish which makes equally awful fish balls. They also almost certainly made their prawn balls with those shiteous frozen Vietnamese imported prawns. I'll stick to my cheap, all-you-can-eat hotpot, thanks.
Dainty Sichuan Food on Urbanspoon

Peko Peko, Fitzroy
Peko Peko in Fitzroy, not to be confused with the restaurant of the same name in South Melbourne, is one of those restaurants where we had two very contrasting visits. The first time we came here, we loved it. The dishes we had here the first time around, including the chicken makizushi and salmon don thing were very tasty. However, on our most recent visit we had a very different experience. The miso soup I ordered was frankly awful and the tuna maki we got was very stingy with the tuna and just not very good. The chicken karaage was also gristly, cloying and not very crispy. The teriyaki don we had was pretty tasty but not enough to save the evening. We also found the service here ambivalent at best and at times, abrupt.
Peko Peko on Urbanspoon


A very popular location for  Canberrans; I know plenty of people at work who love this place. However, if you come, be prepared for dry and bland pulled pork, the same deal for the brisket, wings which were far too 'wet', flavourless and not at all charry or crispy. The corn bread was disgustingly dry. The chicken. however, was pretty tasty, juice and flavoursome. The service here is of about the same standard as the food. I suppose the banquets are pretty cheap if you want a lot of (not very good) meat.
Smoque on Urbanspoon

Sanur's Balinese
Came here on the recommendation of a friend and because it's close by to my sprawling ducal estate. Ordered the bebek butuku which was described as roast duck on the menu but ended up being much more like a braised duck, definitely no crispy skin. However, the half a bird was very tender and pretty flavoursome, albeit not as amazing as we'd hoped given that it was a house specialty. We also had a pretty average beef rendang and some mee goreng which again was tasty enough but not charry enough and too wet for my liking. All in all pretty tasty and a good choice if you feel like Indonesian in Canberra, but we won't be rushing to go back.
Sanur's Balinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Asian Noodle House, Dickson 
Had a very plain and greasy kway teow here, no wok hey. The laksa that M got was alright, very average especially in light of the fact their pride themselves on their laksas. The second (and hopefully last) time I came here I was dragged kicking and screaming here by friends; seriously, I was so reluctant to eat here it nearly started a fight. That time I had a chicken crispy fried noodle which was was predictably very mediocre and laden with large strips of ginger which rendered it rather unpleasant to eat. I live close to the Belconnen Asian Noodle House and needless to say, I've never bothered to eat there.
Dickson Asian Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Ka Sushi Ramen
Came here once with Mum on a Sunday when many other restaurants in the vicinity were closed. Mum ordered the tonkatsu ramen which, from the morsel I tried, didn't agree with my palette at all and she definitely wasn't crazy about it herself. I ordered the small beef rice bowl which didn't taste at all how a good Gyudon should; it didn't seem to use the right ingredients, resulting in a flavour imbalance. The resulting flavour, while not completely horrible, did taste rather odd and overtly acidic, as opposed to the lovely sweet flavour a good Gyudon ought to possess.
Ka Sushi Ramen on Urbanspoon

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