"Food and culture is constantly evolving, therefore prompting one to continuously explore the many different types of food each cuisine has to offer. Gastronomy is the study of the relationship between culture and food, which makes living in a multi-cultural city an ideal place to uncover gastronomy secrets."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The New Yamagata Teppanyaki Japanese Restaurant

After a long search to try to find Melbourne's equivalent to my favourite Japanese buffet served at PJ Hilton Hotel, Malaysia, I have to unfortunately say that nothing really comes close to it. Nevertheless, my cravings for Japanese buffets led me to this place, which has an all-you-can-eat buffet with a two hour time limit. You can either make a reservation for the early seating, which is at 6pm or you can start feasting at 8pm. A large amount of salmon and tuna sashimi, various types of sushi, unagi, tempura, terriyaki beef, seaweed salad, octopus salad, beef tongue, Japanese pancakes, chicken and beef skewers, bean curd, fried fish, sesame ice cream and green tea ice cream were consumed that night. Although you can't expect premium cuts of sashimi, the sashimi and sushi served here is decent.

As with buffets, one would normally expect to walk up to the area where the food is served or displayed. However, at Yamagata, a pencil and several forms which list all the dishes available for the all-you-can-eat buffet is provided. All you need to do is select the dishes by filling up the form and hand the form to the waiter. A handy tip is to place a massive order each time to minimise waiting time and you can also ensure that there will be a constant flow of food on the table during the two hours. With the sashimi and sushi, each portion only contains two slices of fish. Hence, if you're planning to feast on salmon, tuna or sushi, don't be afraid to place five portions or more on the form.

All in all, I was about to explode after an hour of eating and obviously had to slow down during my second hour there. Nonetheless, if you have a huge appetite and enjoy sashimi, this buffet is well worth it.

Restaurant Information:
The New Yamagata Teppanyaki Japanese Restaurant
15-21 Anderson Creek Road, Doncaster East 3109
Phone: (03) 9841 9888
Website: http://www.yamagata.com.au/

Opening hours: Daily (6pm - 11pm), Friday & Saturday (12pm - 3pm)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ling Nan Restaurant

This restaurant located in the heart of Melbourne's Chinatown serves typical Chinese food ranging from "Asian KFC chicken", which is salt-infused fried chicken chop laced with chopped garlic and chilli to simple stir-fry vegetables with garlic to prawns with glass noodles to pork with black fungus to tofu dishes accompanied with a huge tub of white rice. Service was fast but understandably not the friendliest, given that the business thrives on high customer turnover. Like many Chinese restaurants, the staff at Ling Nan tries to squeeze as many people as possible onto a table, resulting in many accidental elbow nudges with the person sitting next to you.

I suppose one good thing is that if you ever feel peckish for a midnight snack or meal, Ling Nan is opened till 3am everyday. So, head down to Chinatown for a scrumptious meal after a late night out partying.

Restaurant information:
Ling Nan Restaurant
204 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000
Phone: (03) 9663 2347

Opening hours: Daily (5.30pm - 3.30am)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mecca Bah

The no reservation policy at this restaurant with views of Docklands waterfront makes it difficult to secure a table, especially on weekends. Hence, one can expect at least a half hour wait for a table, but luck was on our side as my friend and i didn't have to wait at all on a Friday night. Mecca Bah is perched on the dockside of Docklands Harbour. Surrounded by parked boats and cruise ships, we tantalise our taste buds to lovely Middle Eastern food. I ordered the spiced lamb kebab with fragrant rice pilaf topped with yoghurt sauce while my friend had the Middle Eastern spiced swordfish kebab with spicy couscous salad. The food was tasty, although the portions were slightly smaller than usual. Nevertheless, it worked out to be a good thing as it left us room for dessert. The dessert menu was admittedly rather limited so we decided not to order any dessert. I was craving for baklava and I was disappointed that they didn't have it. The dessert menu mainly consists of various ice creams and the usual desserts like stick date pudding, flourless chocolate cake and berry & almond tart. Honestly, I was expecting more Middle Eastern desserts on the menu, instead of the usual desserts served at any other restaurant.

The mains menu is quite extensive and some recommendations from some of my friends who have been there on separate occasions include the Roast pumpkin, chilli, pomegranate jam and feta Turkish pizza, Lamb with preserved lemon, green olive & harissa tagine and Chicken with tomatoes, almond, sesame seeds & honey tagine served with cous cous.

Since I have only been to this restaurant once, I have yet to try out something outstanding to be able to label it as my favourite dish. Therefore, it is best to try it out for yourself if you have a palate for Middle Eastern cuisine.

Restaurant information:
Mecca Bah
55a New Quay Promenade, Docklands 3008
Phone: (03) 9642 1300
Website: http://www.meccabah.com.au/index.html

Opening hours: Daily (11am - 11pm)

Monday, May 4, 2009

MoVida Bar de Tapas y Vino

After a couple of failed attempts to secure a reservation at Frank Camorra's authentic Spanish restaurant, MoVida Bar de Tapas y Vino (MoVida Tapas and Wine Bar), I finally succeeded in dining at this fine restaurant which have been continuously receiving numerous "Restaurant of the Year" awards. My dining experience here involved sampling a number of Tapas and Racion. Tapas are small individual dishes enough for one person while Racion are dishes to be shared amongst a few people.

Here's a list of glorious food that was consumed that night:
1. Vieira, jamon y espuma
Half shell scallop oven baked with jamon and potato foam

2. Cecina (awarded "Inaugural Dish of the Year" in the 2007 The Age Good Food Guide)
Air cured wagyu beef thinly sliced with a truffle foam and poached egg

3. Asadillo
Marinated roast capsicum and tomato salad, in Moorish spices

4. Mejillones en gazpachuelo
Mussels steamed and served in a warm white gazpacho sauce

5. Setas asado con jerez
Oven roasted portabello mushrooms finished with sherry vinegar

The 2007 Age Good Food Guide awarded MoVida's "Cecina" its inaugural Dish of the Year award. Admittedly, the tapas and racion served at MoVida had a unique taste, which sets it apart from other Spanish restaurants. It would certainly be hard to pick my absolute favourite, but among all the dishes that were ordered, I think the scallops was my favourite dish of the night.

A jug of sangria never fails to compliment Spanish food. Sangria is a wine punch that normally consists of red wine, chopped fruits such as orange, peach, lemon and/or apple, a small amount of brandy or triple sec, a sweetener like orange juice, honey or sugar and carbonated water. Desserts such as churros are yet to be tried out as five dishes between two people was plentiful. For a bigger group of people dining at this restaurant, the paella is highly recommended.

A warning to those who are intending to dine at this divine restaurant. If you plan to visit it on weekends, you'll need to make a reservation at least eight weeks in advance. If you can't be bothered to plan a meal two months ahead, you'll still need to make a reservation at least four weeks in advance to secure a table on a weekday. However, the seats at the bar cannot be reserved. Hence, if you happen to be around the area and feeling a little peckish for Spanish food, there is no harm popping in to try your luck at finding yourself a seat at the bar. All in all, it is a worthwhile dining experience for all those who have a palate for Spanish cuisine.

Restaurant information:
MoVida Bar de Tapas y Vino
1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne 3000
Phone: (03) 9663 3038
Website: http://www.movida.com.au

Opening hours: Daily (noon - late)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Minimo Café

Famous for its shepherd's pie, this café located on Sydney Road is bustling with people from all walks of life. However, if shepherd's pie does not take your fancy, there is a daily specials board which offer a range of pies, casseroles, risotto, pasta as well as a variety of breakfast dishes such as poached eggs, potato roesti and the likes. Apart from that, the freshly baked pastry and dessert is simply amazing. I tried the potato roesti with spinach and poached eggs covered with hollandaise sauce. In short, it is Eggs Florentine on potato roesti instead of English muffins. My friend had the chicken casserole served with savoury rice. A slice of blood orange cake was shared for dessert.

On another occasion, I tried the shepherd's pie, which was served in a terracotta tagine base, freshly removed from the oven. A layer of mashed potatoes topped with melted cheese shields all the ingredients that makes Minimo's shepherd's pie taste absolutely delicious. Beneath the layer of mash lies a mixture of minced lamb, diced onions, carrots, celery and red pepper. Sweet quince, capsicum and tomato chutney accompanies this dish.

Apart from hot food, Minimo Café also serves freshly baked homemade cakes, muffins, croissants and bread, which are laid out on the countertop, all waiting for anyone who walks in to grab one on the go.

Atomica coffee beans are used and the coffee here is decent. With plenty of newspapers and magazines lying around on the shelves, this place simply invites you to stay for dessert and enjoy a few more cups of coffee while leisurely reading your favourite magazines or browsing through the weekend papers.

Restaurant information:
822 Sydney Road, Brunswick 3056
Phone: (03) 9383 2083

Opening hours:
Monday, Wednesday - Friday: 7.30am - 4.30pm
Saturday & Sunday: 9am - 4pm

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blue Train Café

This is one of the few places suited for all occasions, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner or even just dessert. Strategically located along the banks of the Yarra River, this restaurant overlooks the river and Melbourne CBD. There is a wide variety of different cuisines that one can choose from, ranging from pizzas to steaks to salads to chicken curry to Moroccan spiced lamb to grilled salmon with asparagus and mashed potatoes. The dessert counter never fails to offer either. The Toblerone cheesecake is Blue Train's dessert specialty. The apple crumble is worth a try too for those who do not fancy cheesecake.

Blue Train Café serves items on their breakfast menu till 3pm and there is also a daily specials board. Also, don't forget to check the specials menu on your next visit there as I must admit that I usually order from the specials board on most occasions. The daily specials usually consists of a pasta, pizza, soup, a fish and meat dish as well as drink offers. Apart from that, breakfast and lunch specials are available on weekdays. The $4.75 breakfast special will get you a cup of coffee and two slices of organic sourdough toast with eggs. Five choices of $10 lunch meals are available each weekday and these dishes vary from week to week.

Unfortunately, this place do not take table reservations. However, there is a lounge area with couches as well as seats at the bar to allow people to enjoy a drink while waiting for a table. Blue Train also has an extensive list of cocktails, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages at reasonably affordable prices.

If you are ever feeling peckish and up for a light snack, I'd highly recommend the eggplant chips with sweet chilli mayonnaise or the trio of dips with hot stone bread. For mains, one of my favourite dishes is the grilled salmon laid on top of asparagus and creamy mashed potatoes, which is one of their daily specials. My favourite dessert would be none other than the Toblerone cheesecake. Why not give this place a shot if you're looking for somewhere to dine in a casual, relaxed atmosphere?

Restaurant Information:
Blue Train Café
MR5 Mid Level,
Southgate Landing,
Southbank 3205
Phone: (03) 9696 0440
Website: http://bluetrain.com.au/index.htm

Opening hours: Daily (8am - 11pm)