Eat here: Northern Soul, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Northern Soul
843 High St, Thornbury
http://www.northernsoul.com.au/

Happy hump day, kids! I hope everyone has a better day lined up than I do; I’ll be off having a few wisdom teeth ripped out in a few hours  >.<  I’d obviously rather be brunching, so let’s talk about that, instead.

I’ve had a bit of a crappy few weeks, so I was pretty excited to have not one but two lady breakfast dates over the weekend, with my two best friends 🙂 yay! Saturday morning’s breaky was at Northern Soul, and the second I set foot in the place, I was ready to use said foot to kick myself for having lived in the area for two and a half years and not having visited before.

I was in there all of 60 seconds before being hit by a combo of beautiful space, sexy dessert display, killer menu, super lovely staff and a general all round happy vibe. That’s what you want on a Saturday morning after a trying fortnight. In their own words, Northern Soul is a place where you can sit down, relax and enjoy some of the most delicious food in Thornbury.” They use fresh, organic, local, seasonal produce, happily catering for gluten free, vegan and vegetarians alike. They’re incredibly community and family focused, too, which is so great to have in an area that is so heavily built on older families and traditions.

When I head out to eat, I can usually pick a stand out dish pretty quickly to go with. This was one of those very rare times that I actually could not make up my mind. I’d narrowed it down to about 4 options, before remembering that they’re actually a Tibetan influenced operation, and they’re quite well known for their momos (dumplings). Breakfast momos it was!

Three big, fat, spinach and cheese filled momos, topped with smoked salmon and 2 poached eggs, with the most phenomenal dill and (I think) mustard seed yoghurt. While dumplings and smoked salmon initially seemed a bit of an odd combo, this was hands down the most creative breaky dish I’ve seen on a menu in a very long time, and it didn’t disappoint – completely perfect!

My beautiful friend went with one of the other dishes I was contemplating – the French toast, with Barbados cream, maple syrup and berry compote. Amazing…

I’m really reluctant to share this unassuming little spot in it’s quiet part of High Street, because I want to be able to keep visiting without a massive crowd, but when the food is THIS good and the service is lovely, and they’re supporting the community, you can’t not share it. The whole reason I blog is to share the things I love, and I really did fall in love with the place mighty quickly. If you’re a northerner, make it a priority. If you’re not, plan a visit out this way.

Meanwhile, I’m off to get my teeth pulled out and enjoy a diet of soup and jelly for a few days. The thought of heading back to Northern Soul when I’m all healed up is pulling me through!

 

Northern Soul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advertisements

Eat here: Nippori, New York, (Japanese)

Nippori
245 W 51st St, New York
http://www.nipporiny.com/

So, I’m currently curled up on the couch, coughing violently, with what I suspect is a  slight fever, and feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. But (light at the end of the tunnel) I’m also off to Japan in 43 days… this is rolling around SO quickly!!! This whole low FODMAP thing is a bit shit when I feel like a burger or a donut, but one of the other foods I frequently crave (and can actually eat at the moment) is Japanese! Yay! Every now and then I get crazy cravings for Japanese food. But good Japanese food, not like Japanese-by-numbers crap. I had one of those cravings in New York earlier this year, and did a bit of research online (AKA I Googled for 10 minutes before getting bored and hungry and settling on the first one I saw) and we ended up going to Nippori for dinner before seeing WICKED – conveniently located across the road,  by the way!

Nippori is a gorgeous little place, small but beautifully set out, with the very high standard of customer service you would typically associate with such a nice Japanese restaurant.  After being invited into the warmth from the New York winter cold and greeted like old friends who hadn’t visited in months, we were immediately seated and handed our menus. Everything looked to be pretty good, and the food envy started almost straight away, watching meal after meal being brought out of the kitchen and placed on surrounding tables. We decided to order a few plates, in the interest of being able to try as much as possible; we ended up with:

2015/01/img_5744.jpg

Top left: one of the specials of the day, a perfectly braised pork belly with onion, bean sprouts, and the most magnificent sauce. Perfect choice!

Top right: pan-fried pork gyoza, one of my favourites. Nippori did gyoza particularly well, great flavour without that unsavoury aftertaste you can sometimes get with dumplings.

Bottom left: assorted sushi platter. The fish was fresh and buttery, fell apart as you ate it, and the rice was really well seasoned. One of the better sushi platters I’ve had.

Bottom right: oyako don – this chicken, onion and egg on rice dish is a favourite of mine to order at home at Shiki Japanese, and despite being a little different and a lot more expensive AUD$9.50 vs USD$13.00), it certainly didn’t disappoint. The spring onions gave it a great taste, and the sauces they used were perfect with the chicken and egg. Loved it!

It wasn’t the cheapest place to eat, but then again, nothing really is in New York (particularly in the theatre district!). It was more than worth it though; good Japanese food is always something I’ll happily justify spending a little more on, and it’s a place I’d definitely recommend if you’re craving some good Japanese food in New York, too. And while we’re talking Japanese food, any exceptional recommendations for Tokyo??!

 

Nippori on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Shiki, Melbourne (Japanese) V.2

Shiki
75 Grimshaw St, Greensborough, Melbourne

So, I realised last night that I’m off to Japan in like 18 weeks…. !!!! That’s sneaking up awfully quickly! I’m really excited to go for a few reasons (the parks and temples, the sumo and shopping), but I think the amazing food there is going to be top of the list. We’ve got a lot of Asian eateries in Melbourne, but a lot of them are hipster/fancy/fusion type places – don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff too! But I also really like the simple, more traditional stuff.

I’ve written about Shiki before, last year actually. And I’m giving it a quick re-cap today after yet another recent visit because there aren’t that many genuinely good, simple, affordable Japanese places out in the suburbs in Melbourne, so people need to know about the few that do exist, just in case you’re craving this weekend!

Last time around, we shared a sushi boat and a few mains with the family; this time it was just husband and I, and we decided to get a few small dishes to share so we could have a bit of everything. Here’s what we went with:

1. Moriawase – mixed sushi, sashimi and nori roll platter – the fish is always fresh and melt-in-your-mouth soft.

IMG_8897

2. Yakitori – chicken skewers grilled in teriyaki sauce – the best and richest teriyaki sauce I’ve ever had!

IMG_8901

3. Okonomiyaki – seafood and vegetable pancake with bonito flakes, BBQ sauce and mayonnaise – I really like the okonomiyaki here, heaps of shrimp in there, and it is a really big serving!

IMG_8900

4. Gyoza – pork and cabbage dumplings – always a favourite, consistently well done, perfectly golden every time.

IMG_8898

5. Harumaki – vegetarian spring rolls – the pork ones are great, but the vegetarian version is actually really delicious, too. Also, that mayo for dipping… best!

IMG_8899

Shiki isn’t for everyone – it is out in the suburbs so it’s not super convenient for everyone to get to, it’s not fancy/hipster/elaborately plated dining, and the service can be a little slow when they get super busy. But I’ve been eating here for around 6 years now, and every time the food is consistently fresh, delicious and just like the time before. That’s why when ever I have a craving for good Japanese, I don’t bother looking for a new place to try out – I just keep going back to Shiki!

 

Shiki on Urbanspoon

Zomato/Urbanspoon blogger meet up at SUPERNORMAL (Eat here. Seriously.)

asd

Thanks for the re-gram @zomatoaus – awesome shot and a great night!

Last night I had the pleasure of hanging out with the Zomato Melbourne crew and a handful of other bloggers. You may have read that Zomato recently acquired Urbanspoon and they’ve recognised the big role bloggers have been playing in making Urbanspoon as successful and popular as it is, leading them to host their very first Zomato Meetup for some of the busier Melbourne food bloggers. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to have been invited along, particularly when I found out Supernormal were going to be hosting us!

Before I cut back to the awesome night we had, let me focus on Supernormal for a bit. This is the latest success in the seemingly endless string of greatest hits from Andrew McConnell – even if you don’t recognise his name, you’ll no doubt recognise the names of at least one of his restaurants: Cutler & Co, Cumulus Inc, Luxembourg Bar & Bistro… the guy really knows his stuff.  I’ve walked past Supernormal so many times I’ve lost count, always drawn by the neon red sign in the front window, but still hadn’t visited. It didn’t take long after walking through the front door to realize that the hype was warranted.

We were greeted with an epic banquet menu, which, needless to say, was enough to get a table full of food bloggers more than a little excited. After that, the night looked a little something like this…

 

IMG_7621

– Cucumber & wakame pickle
– Seaweed cracker with kingfish & pickled fennel
– Grilled baby corn with miso butter

These were great to start, and I think everyone fell a little bit in love with the miso butter on the baby corn. Indulgent, heavenly deliciousness.

 

IMG_7622
– Bonito, avocado, cucumber & wakame
– New England lobster roll

Do you have any idea how hard it is to shut a table of food bloggers up? Apparently not as hard as I thought – just put a few platters of those lobster rolls out. They were that elusive sandwich that can stop the chatter of 15 people, who decide they need to devote their full attention to eating for a moment. Amazing. And we found out that you can get these guys as a take away – work lunch breaks just got a little bit more exciting if you’re in the CBD! I’m a huge tuna lover, so I adored that dish, too – buttery soft, so very good.

 

IMG_7623

– Smoked beef, mustard leaf, clam mayonnaise (top left)
– Pork bao with tamarind sauce (top right)
– Prawn and chicken dumplings with chilli and vinegar sauce

The smoked beef was the surprise package of the dinner – we were instructed, after photos were taken of course, to just mush it all together in order to experience the flavours fully. It looked like a hot mess when we were done, and tasted better than anything I could have possibly imagined. How clam mayonnaise not only works but is something I was ready to lick off the plate is beyond me. The fried shallots with the soft beef were magic. I absolutely loved this one, and it’s a dish I’d love to order again. As was the bao – oh my… pulled pork in a crumbed, fried package in the softest little bun.. not really sure there’s much else to say about this one other than make sure it’s on your order when you visit!

 

IMG_7612
– Slow cooked Szechuan lamb, spring onion pancake and coriander paste with steamed white rice and an iceberg salad with ginger vinaigrette & mint

Not being a “spicy food” person, I was a little worried about this one, but my concerns were completely unfounded. The spice levels were more peppery than pure spice, so don’t be scared if you’re a chilli wuss like me! The lamb was magnificent – slow cooked, fall apart on your fork, tender juicy perfection. The pancakes were crispy, the coriander paste was fantastic, and the salad was the perfect way to refresh yourself from the heat of the lamb. Brilliant dish to share around a table of friends.

 

IMG_7615

IMG_7618
– Peanut butter parfait with salter caramel and soft chocolate
– Plum and green tea soft serve ice cream

If there’s a better way to finish a meal, I’m neither familiar with it, nor am I particularly interested in it. The parfait was everything you dream it’d be – rich, thick, super-smooth and creamy. It’s basically a sexier, ice creamier version of a Snickers, but still better than you’re imagining. It’s worth visiting Supernormal just for this. Honestly. And just when we were all ready to burst, the soft serve cups arrived. They were the exact way we all wanted to finish the meal without realising it; fresh, crisp, clean, sweet without being crazy sugary like the parfait. The sharp plum sat perfectly with the gentler green tea, and when you order this, dig deep into the cup for a little surprise!

I have to say a HUGE thanks to the team at Supernormal for an absolutely incredible experience. We had the most attentive team at our service, no glass was ever empty and no question unanswered. We were asked at the beginning of the night if there were any allergies, preferences, what not – my main concern was the heat factor from the chilli. The lovely lady looking after these requests went out of her way to explain the menu as it could be modified for me, to ensure I’d still get maximum flavour and meal enjoyment without burning my tongue off. She could have just said “no worries, we’ll put the spicy stuff on the side for you” and been done with it, but I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the extra few minutes she took to talk me through it all instead. It’s these things that take it from a nice dinner to an experience you’re going to remember and talk about for a long time to come.

We were also sent off by the Supernormal team with little goodie bags containing, among other things, a box of Pocky (!!!!!!!!!) and a jar of their amazing toasted pepitas which we started to night on and a “goodnight, thanks for coming!” from everyone I passed on my way from the table to the door. You guys are absolutely amazing, thank you for looking after us so well!

 

And another big thank you has to go to Pranav and the team at Zomato – they’ve been working superhumanly hard to get the integration and re-launch ready to go, and they’ve still been making time to speak to local bloggers to get their input. It’s so refreshing and so nice to have a big company take things to such a personal level, and to actually genuinely value the input and opinions of the people who are using their products every day. It was also so much fun to be able to finally put some faces to names of blogs I read so often and talk food and travel with a bunch of people who are also interested in all of that! And great to be able to have a table of equally patient diners who get that the photos must be taken before the digging in commences; we all love our family and friends, but they just don’t get it! Thanks for a fun night guys, looking forward to big things from both Zomato and all of the bloggers who took part last night:

Sheena and Thomas from Chasing A Plate

Paul from The City Lane

Winston from The Hungry Excavator

Cass from Hungry Cookie

Tian from Eating Diaries

And apologies to those I’ve missed from either forgetfulness or not being able to get around to everyone last night – if you’re reading this please let me know so I can put you on the list too!

 

Supernormal on Urbanspoon

 

 

Disclosure: I was generously invited by Zomato to dine as a guest at Supernormal, however the opinions contained herein are completely based on my own experience.

Eat here: Yummy Yummy Dim Sum, San Francisco, USA

Yummy Yummy
758 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, USA

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/436/65412241/files/2014/12/img_4809.jpg
Our first day in San Francisco was a pretty big one; Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, Ghiradelli, Lombard Street.. There was a lot going on. Except for food.

We’d had a bit of a situation the night before at the airport, flying to the city from LAX, which necessitated dinner being a bag of Bugles just before boarding. Breaky was provided by the hotel and eaten on the run in transit to Alcatraz, and lunch was a quick seafood cocktail at Fisherman’s Wharf. Come dinner time, it was decided that a proper sit down meal was needed, and we figured the best place to find something delicious and at a decent price would be Chinatown – that’s always the place to check first in these situations!

We took the same approach we usually take – if it looks super busy with heaps of locals, it’s probably good. This place seemed pretty popular, and not another backpack or tourist in sight. Looked a bit sketchy from the outside, sure, but the food…

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/436/65412241/files/2014/12/img_4807.jpg
For around USD$30 (including tip) we feasted on BBQ pork, pot stickers and the most insanely oversized pile of house fried noodles I have EVER seen in my life! Having unwittingly yet comfortable ordered enough food for 3, we nommed our way through some of the best Chinese either of us have had in a very long time. Oh, and we got complimentary fortune cookies at the end of the meal, too! Not sure how accurate mine was though..

Looks can be deceiving; if you’re in San Francisco and looking for something other than burgers and fries, hit up Yummy Yummy!

Eat here: Lucy Liu Kitchen & Bar, Melbourne (Asian)

Lucy Liu Kitchen & Bar, Melbourne
http://lucylius.com.au/

IMG_3322-0
I noticed Lucy Lius for the first time back in August on the way back to Flinders Street Station from the Time Out Melbourne Food Awards. Primary investigations and initial reviews looked very promising, so I was pretty excited when one of my lovely girlfriends asked if I’d be interested in a girl’s night dinner there!

Located down one of Melbourne’s seemingly infinite laneways, it’s hard not to have a bit of a giggle as you make your way to the entrance on Oliver Lane; let’s call it as it is, it’s an upper-class venue, with the front door located bang in the middle of an unevenly cobble-stoned road, so there are a whole lot of beautiful ladies wobbling precariously in their heels on said road. You can include the three of us in that category.

Relieved to be inside with all ankles intact, we were immediately greeted and seated; I have to be perfectly truthful here, I generally don’t expect much from the staff at these types of venues. As a very general rule, I’ve found in the past that the nicer the venue and the more expensive the food, the less attentive and less caring they tend to be. But full points to the guys and girls on the floor at Lucy’s; they were incredible friendly, very helpful with menu recommendations, super attentive, and made the experience that much better. Snaps to you, ladies and gents.

But let’s be serious, we want to know about the food. Excuse the quality of the photos – we were dealing with three hungry ladies and some serious mood lighting, so I did my best! The menu is designed for sharing, so that’s what we did.

Can I be completely honest here? I was SOOOO pleasantly surprised! The food was incredible! It’s always hard when you’re dining at a place for the first time that’s had so much hype around it; you go in with very high expectations which aren’t always met. No such thing here.

First round of plates, from left to right, as follows:

Untitled
1. Soft shelled crab “Jianbing” pancake roll ($12.00)

2. Crispy fried quail with shichimi pepper and spicy plum dressing ($15.00)

3. Barramundi & scampi dumplings with chilli, ginger and spring onions ($14.00)

4. Peking duck dumplings with Lucy’s hoi sin sauce ($16.00)

I couldn’t pick a favourite from this first round, seriously. Those pancake rolls were absolutely phenomenal – the soft shelled crab was the best I’ve had, and I have eaten some lovely soft shelled crab in some very lovely restaurants before. This one takes the cake. The quail was perfectly crispy, and those dumplings were something else. I was just a little bit smitten with the sauce that came with the barramundi and scampi ones.

 

 

And next up we had, from left to right:

Untitled2
1. Sake cured ocean trout with soba noodles, radish, green apple and pickled ginger ($18.00)

2. Stir fried Asian greens with garlic and chilli ($8.00)

3. Lucy Liu Wagyu beef F1 7+ with yakiniku dipping sauce and hot mustard horseradish ($38.00)

That trout and noodle salad was perfect in between heavier flavoured dishes – it was so crisp and fresh and clean, and that trout was so melt-in-your-mouth soft. Veggies weren’t just veggies – they packed the most delicious punch. And the beef was everything you’d have expected from such an establishment; it didn’t almost melt in your mouth. It actually did. The accompaniments were perfect, and it’s something I’d order again without hesitation.

 

So, yes, Lucy DID live up to all the hype. There’s a very good reason this place is on everyone’s lips at the moment, and why it’s always packed full of diners. It’s high end, so expect to spend a decent amount, but I’m a firm believer that good food is worth paying a little more for. And frankly, it wasn’t just the food; it was truly a dining experience. It was an upper class venue with a relaxed atmosphere, the food was fantastic, the guys and girls working the floor were first class, the recommendations were completely on point, and we had a seriously great night!

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Yellow River Cafe, Hoi An, Vietnam

Yellow River Cafe
38 Tran Phu, Hoi An, Vietnam
http://hoian-food.com/

Sibba and I had enjoyed a pretty big day – we’d flown out of Saigon and into Da Nang, enjoying a nice car ride over to Hoi An. We spent a bit of time hanging out by the pool and just generally relaxing, and decided to head out around 5pm to explore the town a little and hunt out some good food for dinner (naturally).

After a LOT of walking, we found ourselves by the riverside. We didn’t realise it had some how gotten to around 7.30pm and we still hadn’t had dinner. We were getting hungry. Actually, worse; hangry. When we came across this place, we figured the fact it was packed full of diners had to mean it was good, so we walked in and were seated at one of the last few available tables.

IMG_5036

We figured the best way to do it was order a few plates to share. We went with a refreshing green mango salad with carrots, fresh herbs, peanuts and prawn crackers. It was perfect – really fresh and crunchy, the dressing was tangy and full of flavour.

IMG_5034

Next up was a dish a good friend had recommended – white rose dumplings. These were phenomenal! Little steamed pork and prawn dumplings fashioned into the shape of little white roses, and topped with a liberal dose of deep fried garlic and shallots. Heavenly.

IMG_5035

Finally, we shared a few pork and vegetable skewers. I don’t know what the sauce they were coated in was made up of, but my GOD it was good!! The toasted sesame seeds were a great touch, too!

photo20

It was a fantastic meal, and as with the rest of our dining in Vietnam, unbelievably cheap! If you’re visiting Hoi An, I’d highly recommend a visit!