Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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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Our Oz experiences have come in many packages but all of them have been memorable.  Recently, we were fortunate enough to participate in a Dinner at Pirianda, and that experience can only be described as magical.

Pirianda is a beautiful 28-acre garden in Olinda and the owners of Cream at Sassafras*, Mark and Leenah Johnston, host regular dinner-parties (and other customized events) from the gardens.  A few weeks ago, we attended one of their special seven-course degustation dinners. 

There were so many wonderful things to recount about the evening but I’ll highlight our top 5.

5.  Amazing surrounding scenery – the Pirianda Gardens are lovely and like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

4. Beautiful dining setting – There is an adorable little house where the dinner takes place, including a wonderful fireplace and a lovely deck from which to view the gardens.

3. Fun and interesting way to dine – The tables are set up so everyone dines together.  It’s a great way to meet people and for us, was a great way to learn more about Australia.  It felt like such an intimate dining experience.

2. Wine, wine, and more wine – Each of the courses is paired with at least one wine.  We loved tasting the fine wines, many from the Mornington and Yarra Valley vineyards right here in Victoria.  That night our cup over-floweth and in more ways that one.

1.  Seven “heavenly” courses – The seven dishes were delectable and a perfect balance of flavors.  Ryan’s favorite from the evening was the first main course which included baked Tasmanian salmon with a tamarind crust served with Mesclun salad tossed with an Asian dressing.  He boldly stated that it was “the best salmon he’s ever had”. 

If you’re interest is officially piqued,  you can attend one of the upcoming dinners.  We had a lovely time and it was such a unique experience that I deem it a “Melbourne-Must”. 

*Disclosure: I do a bit of Social Media Marketing work with this company. 

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We love finding new laneways in Melbourne.  Our most recent discovery was Degrave Street, near Flinders Street Station.

Surrounded by expensive boutiques set in old buildings, I felt like I was back in a movie set in Italy, except all the characters spoke English.

On a recommendation, we stopped in at Little Cupcakes.  Given my sweet tooth, I had to put Little Cupcakes up against our favorite bakery back home, Carefree Patisserie.

They were ever-so-patient with me as I carefully made my cupcake decision (arguably the most important decision of that day), changed my mind, made a new decision, changed my mind…you get the idea.

After all that, we settled on Red Velvet, Vanilla, and a mini lemon.  Ryan and I carefully tasted each one although two of them were mine, all mine ::insert evil laugh here::

We also enjoyed a couple of lattes in these cute customized takeaway cups.

The verdict:  The cupcakes were totally yummy, soft, and just the right amount of sweet.  We weren’t quite used to feeling the grain of the sugar within the frosting but that definitely didn’t stop us from devouring every last bite.  Any self-respecting sweet-toother would do the same.

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