Operator 25, Shortstop

Operator 25
25 Wills Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9670 3278
Operator25 on Urbanspoon

Shortstop
12 Sutherland Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts on Urbanspoon

operator25

My brother and wifey fly over to get away from Singapore annually. This time round their little one, my niece, came along for the trip.

After collecting them all bushy-eyed from their night flight, we hightailed it to Operator 25, a café with eggs benny so legendary that it had travelled across the waters where my sis’ in law (SIL) caught wind of it in Singapore.

table

Staying away from the bleak and sterile Scandinavian look that seems to be the rage of Melbourne, Operator 25 tucks into a little laneway bordered by worn brick walls and grey concrete. Completed with bleached wood topped with bright flowers, the overall atmosphere is inviting and warm.

menukids omelette
Ham and cheese omelette

A high chair is offered for my 18month old niece and once she’s settled the eating begins. Obviously being child-free, it’s never occurred to me to be offered or glance at a kids menu. I always assumed Aussie bubs feed off their parent’s dish as per the Asian custom, and the older ones with monstrous appetites would be stuffed to a comatose brim if they finished a dish from the usual menu. Operator 25 whipped out a kiddie menu, which downsized the portions, perfect for hungry little monsters and greedy parents not wanting to share. My niece had a dish of ham and cheese omelette, a humble but excellent dish which she readily opened her gob when offered a serve.

Benny
House Benedict – potato rosti, grandmother ham, poached eggs, mustard and tarragon hollandaise $16

SIL had the eggs benny, of course, which she mopped up every bit of it. There was crisp rosti, perfectly poached gooey eggs and excellent ham, all topped with a rich yolky sauce of tangy mustardy hollandaise.

bacon and eggs
2 poached eggs on sourdough toast $10
Add smoked bacon $4

My brother, a man of simple pleasures, had bacon and eggs. He does like his breakfast pork and even said the very words “bacon is bacon; there is no substitute’. Amen to that. I daresay he was thoroughly satisfied.

mushroom omelette
French omelette (of mushroom and 3 cheeses) on toast $16

And as for myself, as soon as I found out that the omelette of the day contained mushrooms and three cheeses, I was sold. There was enoki and swiss mushies, cooked down into a tasteful deliciousness, blanketed by stretchy cheese and peppered with chopped parsley. It was good, but could be punchier if the use of goats cheese was included.

donuts
(Top) Peanut butter and jam $5
(Bottom) Earl grey and rose $4.50

Full and happy, I dropped them off at Queen Victoria Market for a quick grocery pickup while I made a beeline to Shortstop, the new, much-talked about and often photographed café. There was one thing and one thing only on my mind, donuts. I hopped in, picked up 2 and sped off to collect my awaiting passengers.

Later that day, I indulged in these babies. No, I didn’t have them all at once. I could… but didn’t.

earl grey rose

The earl grey and rose donut turned out to be a crumbly teacake. The glaze of rose water syrup was not too sweet although the scent and taste of oil could be detected. The peanut butter and jam on the other hand, was an absolute winner. The donut was made with a chewy bread-like batter and glazed with a lovely peanut butter drizzle. There was a generous stuffing of jam, and it too, like the glaze, was gentle with sugar.

pb jam

There are 7 more flavours to go through, and cinnamon/cardamom and rhubarb/ginger are high on my list. The next time I’m there, I’ll probably swing into Raw Trader to balance it all out with some healthy treats. You heard me alright, raw cheesecake, imma get you.

 

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Filed under Brunch, CBD, Donuts, Sweets

A Day Trip to the Yarra Valley

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I dragged The Angmoh out to the Yarra Valley one Saturday morning for a day trip. I had an ulterior motive of course and you’d think it involves plenty of vineyard-hopping and wine-glugging. Not quite.

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Magics

Since The Angmoh was going to do all the driving, I let him sleep in that morning and finally kicked him out of bed at 0915. Our first stop, coffee.

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(Left) Orange poppy seed cake
(Right) Fruit toast $5

The Maling Room is located in an old post office and despite the worn façade and old-fashioned interior, the coffee is anything but. The house-blend Symmetry beans are one of its favourites due to its deep dark tones that carry a strong punch, perfect for sleepy mornings. I had a single origin Kenya Karimikui AA which carried apricot and fruit notes. With the intentions of having lunch in the valley, we decided to have something light. The fruit toast, possibly Noisette’s, is delightful as expected while the orange cake was a bit of a letdown. It was tooth-achingly sweet and hard from prolonged refrigeration.

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Having broken our fast, we headed into the valley towards The Angmoh’s requested destination, Yering Farm. His sole purpose of stopping here was to load up on apple juice. The juice is made on-site and this elixir is sweet with mild tang, crisp and a perfect thirst-quencher. We’ve previously made away with 12 litres and these are appropriately sealed and keep really well.

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We then headed towards Giant Steps for a spot of lunch. No, it’s not a steep mountain to climb. Rather it’s a collection of wines from single vineyards of the Yarra Valley. It houses a famous restaurant which makes a popular stopover. We took a gamble and rocked up without a reservation, and although there was a sign at the front stating that they were fully booked until 2.30pm (we were there at 1.30), we managed to get a comfy couch to recline in. Yay! This also meant we had to balance our plates on our laps, but hey, that’s no biggie. I indulged in a delicious easy-drinking pink moscato, delighting at how the colour matched my leggings.

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I’ve heard many a good thing about the pizzas at Giant Steps, so we split one carby pie amongst us two and also shared a dish of braised beef cheeks. The pizza was well-made with a thin base topped with quality ingredients. The generous use of San Marzano tomatoes aka the god of all tomatoes was well-appreciated but that made the pizza slightly wet, causing the toppings to slide off as soon as a slice was picked up.

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(Left) Spicy pork sausage, buffalo Mozzarella, San Marzano tomato and chilli $24
(Right) Px Sherry braised ox cheek with potato and cauliflower croquettes $22

The beef cheeks were excellent. Lovingly slow-cooked into a tender unctuous mess and hit up with the rich syrupy marinade from the Pedro Ximenez, it made one plate-lickingly good dish. The cauliflower croquettes provided a textural constrast with their crunchy exteriors, giving a twist from the common creamy puree.

Though I evaded temptation for a greater good, Giant Steps has one heck of an alluring bread and sweets shelf. The Portuguese egg tarts and rich chocolate tarts looked devine but I did need to save some tummy space and calories for what was to come next. We capped off lunch with a stroll through the main shopping street of Healesville, where this wall-art caught my eye.

healesville

Our final stop was the very reason for our day-trip into the Yarra Valley. The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie was hosting a hot chocolate festival over the month of August. Approximately 8-10 new hot chocolate flavours were made available each weekend. I missed out on earlier flavours such as Turkish Rose or Gingerbread but managed to try the Aztec Chilli hot chocolate while The Angmoh went for the Jaffa. These came as tall serves of warm frothed milk, speckled with the chosen flavour and a shot of molten chocolate to be stirred in. A miniature whisk is even provided to smooth it all out.

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(Top) Aztec chilli hot chocolate
(Bottom) Jaffa hot chocolate

We couldn’t depart the chocolaterie without purchasing some chocolate. I was like a kid in a candy store… wait, I really was in a candy store! Anyway, I made do with chocolate chips for baking, some native-flavoured chocolate bars and a huge stash of choc-coated liquorice for The Angmoh.

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Our drive out to the Yarra Valley was a delicious and fruitful one. We swayed off the typical wine-laden itinerary and still had a delightful time.

The Maling Room
206 Canterbury Road
Canterbury
Vic 3126
+61 3 9836 988
The Maling Room on Urbanspoon

Yering Farm
St Huberts Road
Yering
Vic 3770
+61 3 9739 0461

Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander
336 Maroondah Highway
Healesville
Vic 3777
+61 3 5962 6111
Innocent Bystander Winery on Urbanspoon

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery
35 Old Healesville Road
Yarra Glen
Vic 3775
+61 3 9730 2777
Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Brunch, Canterbury, Chocolate, Coffee, Healesville, Pizza, Sweets, Travels, Yarra Valley

Ichi Ni

Ichi Ni
12 The Esplanade
St Kilda
Vic 3182
+61 3 9534 1212
Ichi Ni Izakaya on Urbanspoon

ichi ni

A little while ago, work peeps arranged for an after work dinner at Ichi Ni. You know you work in a great place when you still want to hang out with your colleagues despite being in their company for more than 35hours a week. Oh and the best part: they let you take photos of the food before diving in.

table

When I was first informed that dinner was at a Japanese Izakaya in St Kilda, I had trepidations. I thought it was going to be “Crapanese” fusion with items heavy on sweet teriyaki and cloying mayo. But I trudged along good-naturedly and guess what, I probably ate most of the food on the table that night.

entrancegyoza
(Left) Beef gyoza – 6 pieces of pan fried beef Japanese dumplings served with soy ponzu sauce $14
(Right) Prawn gyoza – 6 pieces of pan fried prawn Japanese dumplings served with soy ponzu sauce $14

Ichi Ni sits along the tram tracks opposite the St. Kilda Sunday Market. Next to the iconic Etsy, the restaurant is flagged by a petite lantern and the interior resembles a modern temple.

tempurarolls
(Left) Vegetable tempura – 6 pieces lightly battered seasonal vegetables served with ichi Ni original tarte $12.50
(Right top) Ichi ni roll – 8 pieces with lobster, avocado, cucumber. Topped with flamed salmon sashimi and Japanese mayo $25
(Right bottom) Crab roll – 5 pieces soft shell crab tempura roll with lettuce, cucumber, avocado, flying fish roe and Japanese mayo $16.50

Blonde Biker Chick took rein of the ordering and I was told that the gyozas here were a must. We had a vast selection of izakaya dishes, including tempura and yakitori and a few dons to satisfy those with bigger appetites.

sashimi
Sashimi small – approx. 10 slices $22

I liked every dish. The gyoza was really good, with soft skins housing a juicy flavoursome filling. The sashimi was fresh but pricey for the amount offered. The vegetable tempura consisted of usual players like mushroom, zucchini and carrot. The batter was far from oily although I’d prefer if the usual dipping sauce was available. I found myself unexpectedly loving a dish of chargrilled rice cakes, drizzled in teriyaki and topped with cheese. The ingredients sound like the oddest combination but you know what, it totally worked! I ate my weight in grilled rice cakes that night, especially with the pickled radish, I just couldn’t stop.

rice ballcroquette
(Left) Yaki onigiri – 2 grilled rice balls topped with melting cheese $14
(Right) Hitokuchi katsu – crumbed pork belly served with Japanese BBQ sauce and mayonnaise $15.50

The don were served after we had finished more than three-quarters of the izakaya dishes. All of us were getting pretty stuffed by then and our mouths almost hit the ground when 12 bowls of miso soup were initially set down before each of us. BBC had placed an order for 5 don and we thought there was an error in the ordering. Lucky for us, it was just the staff being extremely generous and giving each of us a serve of soup so we didn’t have to share. The don (not photographed) were tasty and served their purpose of filling up the very last of our tummy spaces.

beef skewermushroom
(Left) Gyu yakitori – beef scotch fillet (2 skewers per serve) $9
(Right top) Tori yakitori – chicken thigh (2 skewers per serve) $8
(Right bottom) Field mushroom $10

Every now and again I find myself eating humble pie after forming a pre-judged opinion of a restaurant. Ichi Ni turned out to be more than pleasant and I look forward to visiting again just for those grilled rice cakes!

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Filed under Japanese, St Kilda

Quick bites: Ayam Penyet Ria

Ayam Penyet Ria
248 Clarendon Street
South Melbourne
Vic 3205
+61 3 9077 2947
Ayam Penyet RIA on Urbanspoon

Ria

I’ve been meaning to check out more of my local eateries. There’s plenty to choose from on Clarendon Street with a good variety of different cuisine such as Vietnamese from Wat Da Pho, Malaysian from Penang Road, and Italian from Etto. Having walked past Ria more than a couple of times, I finally stepped inside for a quick weekday lunch.

The Indonesian restaurant offers Penyet (or smashed) dishes, ranging from chicken to egg to eggplant. There’s also a couple of soup dishes and homemade sweets on selection. Ria’s marketing tactic advertises the mains to be under $10 but once the cost of rice is factored in makes it slightly more than a tenner.

ayam penyet
Ayam penyet smashed chicken (original) $9
Add rice $1.50

I tried the fried chicken that day and wondered where “smashed” comes in. Nonetheless, the chicken was fried the way I like it, with minimal batter and a coating of simple seasoning, namely turmeric. The sambal packs some serious heat and I was reaching for tissues by the end of my meal.

I left satisfied and eager to try the eggplant or beef ribs in future.

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Filed under Indonesian, South Melbourne

Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind

Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind
146 Sydney Road
Brunswick
Vic 3056
+61 3 9939 4042
Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind on Urbanspoon

TLP

Fakebooo, Ashley and I arranged a triple date over brunch at Two Little Pigs on a fine Saturday. Situated in hipster Brunswick, the café is marked by a nondescript doorway. Don’t let the small space fool you, for beyond the narrow interior with hanging meats and sausages lies a very cosy courtyard which comfortably housed our party of 6.

lattepiccolo and chai
(Left) Latte $3.80
(Right Top) Chai latte $4
(Right bottom) Piccolo latte $3.80

A variety of hot drinks were ordered across the table. The house blend coffee was rather strong and harsh and kinda reminded me of traditional Italian-style espressos. It did round off gently into soft praline notes. The chai smelt and tasted strongly off cinnamon.

bubble and squeak
Bubble & Squeak – poached free range eggs, tomato chutney, chicpea fritter of braised beef, caramelised onion, truffle oil and corn kernels $16.50

The menu is exciting and all of us took a while contemplating our choices. For the cholesterol-wary, there are healthy options of porridge, granola or fruit bread. And in case anyone not pork-inclined enters (maybe they don’t get the significance of the café’s name), there are other non-oink items to choose from. Ashley herself had such a dish, (she did get the name of the café, in case you were wondering). Her bubble and squeak was delicious and comforting, drawing mmms of approval with every mouthful. I avoided it like the plaque though; it contained corn.

ham and pea
Pea & ham – crisp roasted pork belly, poached free range eggs, green pea veloute served with sourdough toast $16.50

Fakebooobooo and I settled for the dish of ham and peas. The pea puree was stunningly moss green and provided a colourful and sweet contrast against the rich pork. Every bite of the pork crackle was like a symphony of crescendo staccatoed-quavers.

waldorf
Pork belly waldorf – roast pork belly, celery, royal gala, granny smith, walnuts, egg yolk mayo, preserved lemon $16.90

Fakeboooo chose a Waldorf salad. It wasn’t the healthiest of salads but boy was it the tastiest. The mayo was rich in the taste of yolk and thinned down by a hint of tangy vinegar. The vegetables were fresh and crisp and the pork tender and unctuous.

big breakfastfries
(Left) Two little pigs – free range eggs, thick cut bacon, san jose chorizo, duck fat mushrooms, spinach, hashed potatoes, apple chutney $19.50
(Right) Duck fat fries – parmesan and tarragon mustard aioli $7.50

The boys (Fakebooo and FBB don’t count) went predictable with a big breakfast. For those wondering why the café is called 2 Little Pigs and not 3 Little Pigs, this is the reason why. That 3rd little piggy sacrificed itself for this very dish to provide a humongous platter of bacon and chorizo. Fear not, it did not die alone nor in vain, for all that meat was accompanied by a mount of mushies, spinach and hash. Brad honoured its sacrifice by devouring every bit of it and leaving his plate sparkling clean. The Angmoh was defeated by its enormity and after Fakebooo chastised him for not finishing up the bacon he helped himself to the leftovers which almost made his eyes pop.

doughcakes
Nutella doughcakes with strawberry butterscotch ice cream $13.50

We also shared duck fat fries tossed with grated parmaggiano and oregano and a dessert of Nutella doughcakes. These pancakes were indeed doughy but were extremely fluffy with a crumpet-like texture. They were filled with Nutella and served with a berry ice cream and petite cinnamon sugar balls.

There are many places that I write about in this blog and return to, but you know a place is a true gem when a return visit is mandatory. Two Little Pigs is such a place; with its enormous selection of succulent pork-based dishes and a few non-porcine delights as well, there is a lot of potential to explore new territory in repeat visits and I for one shall be back sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Brunch, Brunswick, Chai, Coffee

The Lui Bar

The Lui Bar
Level 55, Rialto
525 Collins Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
The Lui Bar on Urbanspoon

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A couple of seasons ago, I took a visiting friend up to the Lui Bar. High up on the 55th floor of the Rialto, it was an ideal place to soak in all of Melbourne and her gloriousness. Coupled with alcohol, what more could we want?

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The Lui Bar is exquisite. There’s plush lounges aplenty and the very fact that you are sipping on a cocktail, sprawled on leather amidst the clouds, provides a sense of class and exclusivity.

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(Left) The Vodka Pour Over
(Middle) Pina Colada
(Right) Leatherwood Old Fashioned

Being new to Melbourne, Opossum had a lot to take in. Since Melbourne was a coffee hub, we insisted he get an espresso cocktail. The set up was impressive with the slow drip coffee percolating into Belvedere vodka. It was a fantastic balance of both brews, each complimenting the other into a delightful head-buzzing concoction. I had a lovely mixture of honeyed whisky. The use of leatherwood gave the drink an easy sweetness, buffed up with leathery and herby notes.

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Mini burgers (David Blackmore Wagyu beef, barramundi) $18

With the very air of Vue de Monde spilling in, we had to order some food. The Wagyu beef sliders made one very delicious mouthful of burger. The patty was thick and juicy and was accompanied by the classic American pickings of ketchup, cheese and pickle. The beer-battered fish burger too was excellent. The fish was well-battered without being too oily and the house-made tartare was one of the best I’ve come across.

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Chickpea fries $12

The chickpea fries were oh-my-god-amazing. The legume had been pureed into a soft fluffy mix and then deep fried. Each baton was steaming hot, crunchy and at the same time, velvety smooth. I couldn’t get enough of them.

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The Lui Bar is a great place to chill and a haven for unwinding. Be it a bar-hopping tourist or a home-grown Melbournian, I highly recommend that you get into that elevator and shoot up to the Lui Bar for some good times. And of course, if the wallet isn’t complaining, complete the experience with the gastronomical theatre of Vue De Monde.

 

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Filed under Burgers, CBD, Cocktails

Kong

Kong
599 Church Street
Richmond
Vic 3121
+61 3 9427 1307
Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

kong

Cookie Monster keeps up with food trends and suggested lunch at Kong. I was more than happy to go along with her suggestion.

I zoomed across the south-east suburbs to get to Richmond after work on a Saturday afternoon, rocking up just shy of 2pm. The restaurant was pumping but we managed to get a table rather quickly.

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(Left) Raspberry wine, vodka, fresh lemon, pomegranate, pink grapefruit $17
(Right) Trio of kimchi and pickles $7

A stiff drink was in order albeit a feminine one and I loved every drop of my raspberry wine. A starter of zucchini and daikon kimchi with pickled pumpkin was the appropriate way to awaken the palate. Cookie Monster was really impressed with the pumpkin and I ate it despite not being a fan of the vegetable.

buns
(Top) Soft shell crab with salted duck egg relish and coriander bun $6
(Middle) Peanut butter salt and pepper tofu with burnt chilli mayo bun $6
(Bottom) Spicy pork belly with pickled cucumber and kong crazy horse chilli bun $6

Cookie Monster and The Angmoh knew what they wanted very quickly. It was the soft shell crab and pork belly buns they were seeking. The Angmoh’s good intentions of letting me sample his pork belly bun disappeared as soon as he bit into it; it was packed with flavour and studded with a perfect crackle. I forgave him as I can only imagine how incredible it was. Cookie Monster and Hughey B had the soft shell crab buns and from the rate of how quickly these were devoured, I concluded they had no complaints. I had a peanut butter tofu bun. I do prefer the softer silken tofu from Wonderbao, but the combination of the nut butter, salty pickled vegetable and kimchi was excellent.

chopsticksroti
Pulled pork, slaw, kimchi, burnt chilli mayo ssam roti-roll $12

We couldn’t go past a roti dish after the waiter explained that a heap of time and experimentation were invested into perfecting the recipe for the wrap. It came neatly sliced into 4 portions, blanketing pulled pork, slaw and kimchi. It was pretty good indeed.

brisketsalmon
(Left) Bossam – 16hr smoked brisket with sansho pepper and grilled chilli $18
(Right) Wood roasted salmon with crispy skin seaweed salad and kimchi $21

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t bothered by ordering from the mains section in a Korean BBQ restaurant. The food came cooked to order, there was no fussing about with the flame and I wouldn’t leave smelling like charred meat. We shared 3 mains amongst us, a roast salmon, a pork belly soba salad and slow-cooked brisket. The fish and beef were well-executed and cooked to perfection. However the seasonings in both dishes were overwhelming and leant towards salty. I enjoyed the pork belly noodles purely because it did not have an overpowering dressing. Oh wait, the crackling atop the noodles was the most awesome keropok too!

bossam
Bossam – pork belly with soba noodle, nashi and apple soy $18

To offset all that protein we thought something green might work well. We ordered the dashi-cooked spinach because of its tongue-twisting name but were let down by the size and lacklustre simplicity of it. The dashi stock was faint and the overall taste of the dish came from the sesame-dressing. None of us thought it was worth its price tag.

spinach
Oshitashi-dashi poached spinach with sesame, mirin and soy $16

Having enjoyed Chin Chin, I wanted to be wowed by Kong. The Angmoh gave it his thumbs up but the rest of us thought that the marinades and seasonings suffocated the main ingredients in most dishes. The use of miso, spicy bean paste (dou ban jiang) and ssam jang is inevitable in any Korean/Japanese joint but should be used sparingly or thoughtfully balanced out. Don’t get me wrong, that walnut ssam jang was indeed delicious and I am keen to return to Kong to try other dishes but will be choosing wisely from the menu.

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Filed under Japanese, Korean, Korean BBQ, Richmond