Posts Tagged ‘Restaurants’

In a recent post I tried to convince you, our readers, that we still have some of our cool… got it goin’ on, you know?.  Not convinced yet?  Well, this weekend we went out to trendy Fitzroy neighborhood and had a night out at Kanela, a popular flamenco and tapas bar on Johnston Street.  Having studied a bit in Spain (and having a not-so-secret obsession with anything to do with Spanish culture) I was very excited to hit up this hot spot with a couple of friends of ours.  The experience was a bit of a mixed bag.


Food: If you stay to watch the show there is the option of a $60 pp which includes a tapas per person and then paella for the table to share, along with bread and olives.  The portions were decent and we left full.  The tapas were pretty average and the paella was not really to my liking but traditional in terms of what you’d expect of a Spanish paella (mariscos, pollo, arroz, and saffron). Going into the night you sort of know that you’re paying for the performance anyway, not the food.


Decent drink/wine list: I myself sipped a lovely Tempranillo…or two…when in Spain, right? 🙂

Fun atmosphere: From the quaint space, the Spanish décor and guitar music overhead, I felt like I was back in a bodega in Sevilla.

Performance: The evening includes a 40 minute performance by flamenco dancers, a Spanish guitar player, and a singer.  The music and dancers were as good as any I’d seen in Spain.  Flamenco is so amazing and emotional and moving.

I will mention that I thought the performance could’ve been a tad longer, maybe a full hour, given what I mentioned above.  The place was slightly overpriced for the quality of food which could’ve been well compensated for if the performance had been longer.

As we left around 11:15, Johnston street was really coming alive.  We noted that most of the young’uns were just starting their night as we sleepily and slowly made our way to our vehicle.  Once in the car we talked about how we “belonged” there and how well we fit in with the trendy crowd.  And then we laughed.  And yawned.  And headed for home.

Kanela Flamenco Tapas Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

*Photos from Kanela

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These newly married days we wonder if we’ve lost our cool.  True, we never had much of it…but now on any given night we prefer to make dinner, cuddle up, and watch TV or read (that is, when we’re not traveling).  I know what you’re thinking, ‘WHOA – how much excitement can one couple handle?’  But those who know us from the ragged race that was our life in the US know how far we’ve come to reach this sort of balance, peace, this place of un-coolness.

So every once in awhile we like to live dangerously, step outside our comfort zone, and hit up a cool cafe.  You know…the ones with the cool factor, that make you feel cool by just being there.  Three Bags Full in Abbotsford (near Richmond) in Melbourne is one of those places. Their website describes their cafe as “Fresh house made produce and specialty coffee”.  Cool, right?!  🙂

There’s nothing special about the interior.  It’s a converted warehouse so the walls are brick and pretty bare.  Truly it’s mainly the waitstaff — who are waaaay cooler than I could ever hope to be — and the light fixtures that give the place its personality.  Can someone PLEASE tell me where I can get those teacup lights for over our as-of-yet-non-existent kitchen breakfast bar?

And before you ask, no I wasn’t paid for this post.  This is out of sheer love or maybe they slipped something into their heavenly ricotta pancakes (below), ricotta hot cakes with baked fruit and orange infused ricotta, to be exact.  Yes, most importantly, the food is to-die-for so you can enjoy a fabulous brekkie while you bask in all your coolness.

Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon

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If you’ve been following our blog you’ll know that our outings are dictated by our ever-growing stack of Scoopon and Living Social deals.  The latest, of which, brought us to Robarta on Fitzroy Street in Saint Kilda.  Ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 stars — depending on your restaurant review site of choice — I had high expectations.  Thankfully this trendy tapas bar lived up to its reputation.

We had an early booking on a Sunday evening so had our choice of tables.  We sat at a high top that looked out onto Fitzroy (gotta’ love Melbourne’s open-air dining).

Once seated we were immediately greeted by a pleasant gent who was a lovely balance of attentive-but-not-intrusive the whole meal.  With our Scoopon deal we started with a bowl of Miso soup each.  It was yummy and just a tad on the salty side, which Ryan loved.  We were off to a great start.

We ordered four tapas, mainly staying with an Asian theme.  The Garlic Chicken with sweet and sour sauce came out first with the chicken and pork spring rolls, along with the complementary fried rice.  These dishes were quickly followed by the Shanghai dumplings and spiced chicken wings.

Each dish was surprising, in a good way.  The chicken wings had a dipping sauce that I likened to an upscale version of A1 steak sauce and Ryan nearly licked the little bowl clean.  At first bite, the fried rice is pretty ordinary but the more you have, the more you taste special something.  It’s not earth-shattering gourmet cuisine but it’s good, bordering on very good.

We were happy with the tapas and comfortably full.  But we would not have missed the dessert, which was, by far the highlight of the meal.  It’s not odd that I would say that about a dessert because I believe that ending dinner on a sweet note is imperative but my dear hubs is not a slave to his sweet tooth like I am and even he agreed that the desserts were the best part.  Included with our deal was two desserts of choice.  We went with a lovely White Chocolate Panna Cotta which is described on the menu as “light, silky smooth cream and white chocolate custard with seasonal fruits and a drizzle of sticky red wine syrup”.  We also chose the Apple Mango Coconut Crumble which can only be described as “yuummmmmmm”. 

Ryan also enjoyed dessert with a latte which we — as emerging coffee snobs — can say was very well done.  The Scoopon deal made this little spot very affordable but even without it, we’ll be back to Robarta.
Robarta on Urbanspoon

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We love all that Melbourne has to offer but there is a small handful of little spots that are special to us.  Quaint, quiet, comfortable…little gems.  Seaford is one of those places.

Perhaps it’s because we first checked it out together when I was visiting last year, right around this time.  Or maybe it’s because it’s usually pretty low-key with only a few families here and there.  But whatever the reason, we can’t stay away.

Seaford was recommended by Ryan’s manager in his first few weeks in Melbourne.  During my visit last Easter we had a lovely lunch at the Seaford Beach Cafe overlooking the pier.

It’s a lovely little cafe that serves breakfast and light lunches.  The food is good.  The view is great.  And people will pay for the view at a restaurant.  This we know.  Ok, so the food itself is over-priced for what it is but you don’t leave feeling ripped off…remember the aforementioned view?  A few hints: 1. On a nice day, wait for a seat outside.  It’s worth it.  2.  Order a sandwich or salad to share.  The portions aren’t huge but it’ll help with the sting of the tab.  OR, you can do what we did last Friday….

Skip the cafe all-together and run across the street for fish ‘n chips.  There’s a little fish n chipper right across the way that is always bustling.  Friday we grabbed some take-away and ran back to the beach to enjoy our meal and our “free” view.

Cafe image from: http://www.beachcafeseaford.com.au/

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This past weekend we ventured to Little Creatures Dining Hall in Fitzroy on a recommendation.   This neat little eatery/drinkery is almost unnoticeable on bustling Brunswick street but as soon as we stepped into the doorway, we knew it was our kind of place.

We came for good food, of course, as our recent dining-out adventures have been less-than-impressive, but we also appreciate the whole experience of where we eat.  I hope this doesn’t make us sound snooty but for us it’s also about atmosphere. This warehouse-turned-beer-and-dining-hall had a great under-stated feel to it; simple with a touch of vintage.  Comfortable.  Casual.  Hip.

We perused the menu; breakfast served all day and otherwise simple lunch options.  (Have I mentioned how much I love creative menus?)

I started with a skinny mocha and Ryan chose a White Rabbit beer, the name of which I can’t recall.  I do remember, however, that it was over-priced or “dearer” (as Australians would say) than I’d expected.  We shared chips with garlic aioli and they were crisp, skin-on, yummy-ness.

Ryan really enjoyed his homemade chicken meat pie and I agreed that it was good, as far as meat pies go.

My ham and brie piadina was ordinary, at best.  I felt like the food on the whole was a bit pricey considering the quality but we really enjoyed the atmosphere and as I said, it’s about the overall experience.  While we might not make a special trip out to Fitzroy to dine here again, we would consider stopping by on our next shopping outing on Brunswick street.

Little Creatures Dining Hall on Urbanspoon

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Before our visit I heard that Singapore is good for shopping and eating.  Shopping doesn’t even make the top 5 of my favorite past-times but eating…well, let’s just say I’m all about it.

While in Singapore we tried a few dishes that would be, to me, Singapore signature dishes or experiences.  My favorite was probably Long Beach Seafood  where we shared a famous Chili Crab.

While I saw the servers asking others if they needed help with their crab, our waitress astutely identified us as helpless tourists so she didn’t even ask us before she expertly began breaking open the crab and replacing its contents into the shell dish for us to eat.

The crab is served in a wonderful sweet, slightly spicy sauce which can be (and was) lapped up with gorgeous fried bread.  YUM!

We went to the Food Opera at the ION Orchard which is basically an upmarket food court/hawker spot, but contrary to the typical food court in the US, the Food Opera featured fabulous and famous dishes, including Scotts Beef Noodles ($5!).  I ordered mine dry and enjoyed every last bite, from the not-too-salty gravy to the tender beef.

We did a DIY teppanyaki at Sho Teppan where we fried up our own chicken fried rice.  Ok, ok, so this is not Singaporean but was still a different dining ritual than we’re used to.   I enjoyed the experience so much that I went twice.  (I refer you to my comment above about my love of eating.)

And finally, we HAD to go to Din Tai Fung.  Also not a traditional Singapore experience (the restaurant originates in Taipei)  but “an experience” nonetheless.  We were fascinated watching the little army of chefs at their stations, expertly and efficiently crafting the dumplings.

The steamed pork dumplings were bite-sized bits of heaven.

We enjoyed everything at Din Tai Fung — from the sesame buns to the jasmine tea — that I wish we had time to make it back.  Oddly enough, we may have to grab our next Din Tai Fung experience on our next visit to Sydney, Seattle, or Los Angeles.

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From regular reading of our blog, you’ve probably gathered the fact that we like to eat.  But more than that, we’re slowly but surely making our way into eating more natural and organic…or, at the very least, trying to figure out what that all means.

Rockpool Bar & Grill, on Melbourne’s Southbank, promised to be a must-eat-treat for those looking for a fine-dining experience and who are conscientious of what they’re eating and from where it originates.

According to the website, “Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne was inspired by the great steakhouses of North America. With an uncompromising focus on excellent produce – in particular the meat program – beef sourced from only Australia’s very best producers, an outstanding wine list and sharp and enthusiastic service, this is a dining venue that offers a refined yet relaxed experience…the menu is simple and uncomplicated, the room luxurious.”

Everything from the ambiance to the customized daily menus made it feel like a fine-dining experience.

Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the menu, including the over-50-page wine list.

The only disappointment is the fact that the food was (in my humble estimation) over-priced.  My dad had a steak, which was prepared a perfect medium-rare, but lacked the tenderness we anticipated.  My hunch is that our American tastebuds are so used to Midwest beef that it just wasn’t quite what we expected.

Ryan had the Grilled Coorong Yellow Eyed Mullet with Tomato Confit, Olive and Basil Dressing which was good…just good.

I had the Wood-fired rotisserie chicken with Tuscan bread salad.

This was probably the best of all three dishes.  The chicken was tender and the salad was not too heavy but still filling.  I was, however, slightly disenchanted when I found the exact recipe on the Rockpool blog and realized I could’ve made the same thing at home (to serve 4) for way less than $39 (for one).

Bottom line: You pay for the name, the ambiance, the great service, and knowing that what you’re eating has been raised and procured ethically and responsibly.  Just don’t expect to be blown away by the food…perhaps just the prices.

Rockpool Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

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Hot Water Beach is a major tourist attraction in New Zealand and it is exactly as it sounds.  During low-tide, you can dig holes into the sand, and lay in hot, bath-like water.

I tested the water myself to verify the “hotness” but no, I did not get into bath-like water with a bunch of strangers.  We just sat on the beach and enjoyed wave-watching and people-watching…both equally as entertaining.

After Hot Water Beach, we grabbed lunch at Hot Waves Café and had a scrumptious meal.  New Zealand might just be the best country to eat your way around, as we—and our waistlines –found out.  We did not have a SINGLE bad meal while we were there.  Everything was made on the spot and with fresh ingredients.  At Hot Waves Café, for example, Ryan had Thai beef pasta and I enjoyed a steak sandwich with garlic aioli.

This was right outside one of the major tourist destinations of New Zealand and Ryan and I reflected that any restaurant near a major tourist destination in the US would serve a meal that left you anything-but-satisfied.  I generally leave those places mad that I spent double the price on a processed and mediocre (at best) meal….and am still hungry.  I’m not ragging on our beloved country.  It’s just an observational opinion.  A sad, observational opinion.

Later that evening we feasted on a gourmet dinner at Eggsentric Café , owned by “eggsentric” Dave, aka, “Chook” (Short for chicken, in Australian), who greets all the regulars, cook all the meals, and chats it up from the open kitchen.  His lovely wife seats and serves the entire place!  This cafe is a “must-visit” if you’re ever around the area.  The name says it all about the atmosphere and the food is “eggcelent”!  (INSERT GROAN HERE)

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I promise you that eating is not the only thing that we do in Australia, but the Melbourne food scene is the real deal and we, as ready and willing gastronomists, plan to learn what we can about Melbourne cuisine.

Brighton, very near to St. Kilda where we enjoyed lunch, is a popular spot in Melbourne, known for its beautiful beach, colorful beach boxes, and chic cafes and restaurants.

For an afternoon break, Ryan and I stopped by The Baths at Middle Brighton for a cuppa and dessert.

We shared a delicious apple berry crumble with a vanilla bean creme.

After our indulgence we walked along the beach and took in more views of the city.  Does it ever get old?

Ryan admired the sailboats and claimed one, of course.  (We need one to match the luxurious beach villa we’ve scoped out.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll also share one of my moments of non-glory with you.  This sign does not mean that there is to be no skinny dipping in that part of the beach….apparently.   I’d say that the Australian sign for “steep unexpected drop off” (so says my husband) needs to be more clear for non-proficient sign readers like myself.

*If you’d like us to review your restaurant or cafe and publish about our experience on our blog, please reach out to us at wheninoz@gmail.com.

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We were blessed with beautiful weather this past weekend (think 70s and sun) so we ventured to St. Kilda for lunch and a relaxing afternoon at the beach.  We enjoyed a lunch at Little Blue, a popular little restaurant on the St. Kilda Pier.

We had a Living Social deal and were looking forward to checking out this Melbourne hot spot.  Apparently in the past, this little spot received a bad reputation for poor food and service but what we experienced was anything but that.  To start, Ryan had the pork terrine, organic sour dough, parsley caper & shallot salad and I had the Heirloom carrots, winter vegetables, capers, shallot & Meredith goat’s cheese.

The highlight of this dish was the cheese.  It was the perfect salty balance to the candied walnuts.  When asked, the waiter informed us that it comes from a dairy at Shepparton, of which I’m a new fan.  For our mains, we both ordered fish and chips with pickled shallot and tartare, which were as great as you’d expect from a restaurant on a pier right on the ocean.

After our lunch, Ryan and I walked down the pier back towards the beach and enjoyed beautiful views of our new city behind the masts of sailboats near the pier.

We raved about the delicious lunch we experienced and both agreed that we would be back, Living Social deal or not.  I guess that marketing manager earned his/her wages.

*If you’d like us to review your restaurant or cafe and publish about our experience on our blog, please reach out to us at wheninoz@gmail.com.

Little Blue on Urbanspoon

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