Base Camp, Il Melograno

Base Camp
102 High Street
Northcote
Vic 3070
+61 3 9482 1168
Base Camp Northcote on Urbanspoon

Il Melograno
76 High Street
Northcote
Vic 3070
+61 3 9482 4971
Il Melograno on Urbanspoon

base camp

Cookie Monster had travelled back to Singapore to arrange the moving of her doggies over to Melbourne, leaving Hughey B to fend for himself. The Angmoh and I took his lonesome self out for dinner, leaving the decision of where to eat to him. We decided to try out his local curry joint in Northcote.

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(Right) Complimentary papadums
(Left) Mango lassi

Base Camp offers Nepalese and Indian cuisine and as the boys awakened their palettes with Everest beer (which is pretty nice), I got stuck into a mango lassi. It came tall and pretty and was extremely thick and sweet, almost like the Gippsland fruit twist yoghurt. I would have preferred a thinner, tangier version, like the ones I had come across in India.

laal maans
Laal maans – pride of Rajasthan. Lamb curry with cumin, pepper and paprika $16.90

The menu offers a good variety of curries and not the usual run-of-the-mill sorts like butter chicken or tikka masala. There is laal maans, which supposedly hails from Rajasthan and is the very dish that The Angmoh opted for. This had good flavours from the spices and I thought it was pretty nice, despite not being a huge fan of lamb.

goat curry
(Left) Plain basmati rice $3
(Right) Himalayan goat curry – goat curry on the bone $16

Hughey B’s Himalayan goat curry was the most well-received that evening. The gamey meat was tender and fell off the bones easily. It was more of a dry curry then a saucy one, but still wonderful with the rice and bread.

paneer
Paneer pasanda – stuffed paneer in the gravy of onion, tomato cashew cream sauce $14

Mine was the most unusual. It was from the specials menu of that evening, an offering of fried stuffed paneer in a tomato cashew sauce. It was the first time I’d come across stuffed paneer and this I enjoyed thoroughly. The filling of capsicum and nuts gave more flavour to the usually subtle cheese, and fried batter provided a different texture. I didn’t quite enjoy the sauce though, it was extremely rich and cloying. I also thought the serve of 3 paneer triangles didn’t quite justify the cost of the dish.

momonaans
(Left) Momo non-vegetarian – Nepal’s most famous dumplings with sesame tomato chutney $12
(Right top) Plain naan $3
(Right bottom) Garlic naan $3.25

Our other dishes included an entrée of momo, or Nepalese dumplings and naan, both plain and garlic. The momos had thin skins and the herbs in the filling gave personality to the dumplings. The chilli garlic sauce for dipping them in were also a great accompaniment. The naans on the other hand, were oddly fluffy and soft and were rather disappointing.

Our overall experience at Base Camp had hits and misses. I suspect the authenticity of the restaurant leans more towards Nepalese flavours, for the momos and goat curry were excellent.

il melograno

banana, coffeechocolate, fior di latte
(Left) Ricci coffee method, Banana walnut
(Right) Dutch chocolate, Fior di latte

chocolate rosemary
Chocolate rosemary, Iranian pistachio

We ended our evening with a brief stroll to Il Melograno, a gelato place that Cookie Monster has been telling me about. The flavours that we indulged in were chocolate rosemary, Iranian pistachio, Fior di latte, Dutch chocolate, banana walnut and Ricci method coffee. The gelato is served in a cup or cone and (best part) both are edible wafers! I had the 1st 2 flavours and they were stunning. I marvelled at the pairing of chocolate and rosemary, it was unexpectedly beautiful. I hear Il Melagrano does dinners too, and I think the next time we dine with Hughey B (and Cookie Monster), this will have to be the place.

 

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Filed under Gelato, Northcote, Curry, Indian, Nepalese

Combi

Combi
140 Ormond Road
Elwood
Vic 3184
+61 3 9531 0084
Combi on Urbanspoon

combi inside

So, I’ve embarked on a clean eating challenge with my gym. For 4 weeks, I will dedicate myself to a healthy diet, eliminating refined carbs, refined sugar and all sorts of processed foods from my life. I’m slightly over midway with the challenge and eating out is a challenge in itself as most places use sugar or MSG to punch up the flavours and tastes of food. Thankfully, Combi is my saviour.

combi outsideraw not war

Combi is located in the leafy suburb of Elwood and goes by the slogan “Raw, not war”. It is the epitome of clean eating and even takes the extra step of using water that has been through reverse osmosis, eliminating at least 98% of nasties, including heavy metals and impurities. For those who need a little bit of heat action, fear not, there are cooked options, including soup and ham sandwiches.

Knowing Fakebooo’s penchant for heated meaty appetites, I was surprised he was happy to tag along when I suggested Combi. He was extremely intrigued and was even at a loss when he read the menu. After a good few minutes of deliberation, he placed the order while I checked out the digs.

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Combi has a very hippy make-love-not-war feel about it. Staff work behind a counter decorated to look like a love shack. Ironically given I was in such a reputable establishment, I was kinda hoping for a daisy-wreathed dreadlocked fisherman-pants-wearing flower child to saunder out in a haze of marijuana smoke.

drinkgs
(Left) Beetroot kombucha $5
(Right) Organic cold pressed juice: Green fields – kale, cos lettuce, celery, cucumber, green apple, mint, lemon $8.50

Fakebooobooo ordered a green cold pressed juice of kale, cos, celery and cucumber. A sip of it instantly made me feel detoxed with almost the ability to photosynthesize. Yup, my notes were “tastes of chlorophyll”. Fakebooo’s beetroot kombucha reminded me of a tangy fizzy beetroot juice, odd but not unpleasant.

zoodles
Raw organic zucchini spaghetti – zucchini spaghetti with a creamy cashew sauce, mushrooms, soy beans, tomatoes, fresh herbs, topped with activated nuts $14.50

All of us went raw food-wise. Fakebooobooo’s zucchini spaghetti was a beautiful creation of slender zucchini ribbons, tossed with nuts, seeds, beans and mushrooms, dressed in a delicate coating of creamy cashew. It was divine, and made me envious as my “zoodles” are never that perfect.

acai superbowl
Super bowl: organic acai bowl – antioxidant-loaded acai blended with banana, blueberries, house made nut mylk then layered with crispy coconut flakes, activated caramelised buckinis, banana, maca and cranberries $15.50

Fakebooo and myself opted for superbowls, aptly named as they contained superfoods like chia seeds and acai. Fakebooo’s brunch dish had a topping of acai sorbet which was cold, uplifting and berry-licious. As for mine, the chia pudding was a little bit sticky and a little bit crunchy with just the right amount of sweetness from the bananas.

chia party
Super bowl: organic chia party – parfait of chia seeds, soaked in house nut mylk infused with orange rind, layered with banana, cherries crunchy activated chocolate buckinis, zesty incan berries and macadamias. Topped with house made coconut cashew yoghurt and strawberry coulis $14.50

Another reason why Combi is my lifesaver is because they have cake that is challenge-friendly. SCORE! I had my eye on the chocolate fudge, lemon cheesecake and snickers. Alas, the snickers had sold out so I had to make do with my other 2 options. Made with natural and raw ingredients such as activated nuts, dates and maple, I could literally have my cake and eat it. My favourite was the lemon cheesecake. The texture of the filling was velvety smooth and the fragrance of the lemon shone through beautifully.

cake
(Left) Raw chocolate fudge cake – activated almonds, coconut, dates, activated cashews, maple syrup, cinnamon, raw cacao, cacao nibs, coconut oil $8.50
(Right) Raw lemon cheesecake – activated almonds, coconut, dates, activated cashews, maple syrup, fresh lemon juice lemon rind, lucuma, coconut oil $8.50

Combi has been a wonderful dining experience and I will definitely find myself back there even after my challenge is over. Drinks and food are wholesome and leave you walking out with a top-to-toe feel-good completion.

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Filed under Bayside, Brunch, Elwood, Raw, Sweets, Vegan, Vegetarian

Quick Bites: Don Don

Don Don
5 Bank Street
South Melbourne
Vic 3205
+61 3 9696 6682
Don Don on Urbanspoon

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Dining at Don Don brings back student memories of skipping finishing classes and strolling down Swanston Street for a feed. Don Don lures in students like a honey-coated venus flytrap with its delicious Japanese meals that are speedily dished up and extremely easy on the pocket.

Now that I’ve graduated and weaving the laneways of Melbourne is a thing of a past, I’m glad that Don Don had the foresight to branch out into the ‘burbs, especially one that’s near me. My closest Don Don is situated in South Melbourne with her other siblings scattered in the CBD and Carlton. While Don Don mainly features rice dishes as extrapolated from the name, her cousin Don Too offers ramen.

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Chicken curry don $6.90

I stepped into Don Don for a quick feed on a lonely day off. My lunch was the chicken curry don, with chunks of tender grilled chicken, smokey from the teriyaki, cradled in a pool of mild curry. The curry at Don Don is far from sweet and pretty damn good. The meatless version uses charred tofu instead and is perfect for vegetarians and Meatless Mondays. A good mound of rice to soak up the sauce and a sprinkle of pickled radish for crunch and tang complete the dish, making it one of the cheapest and most satisfying meals one can get in Melbourne.

Having tried both the beef sukiyaki don and the salmon sashimi don I can vouch for their scrumptiousness, but it’s the teriyaki chicken curry that beckons me over and over again. For those in need of a quick meal or one that is budget-friendly without compromising taste, I highly recommend that you give Don Don a go.

 

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Filed under Japanese, South Melbourne

Mr Hendricks

Mr Hendricks
469 Whitehorse Road
Balwyn
Vic 3103
+61 3 9830 7579
Mr Hendricks Cafe on Urbanspoon
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It’s great having a dog. The kitchen floor never needs cleaning and table scraps don’t go to waste. Oh, it also gives me an excuse to have doggy brunch dates. I had a lovely catch up with Ashley at Industry Beans last year with The Sausage meeting Chai and recently, Daisy and I arranged for brunch so that The Sausage could finally get to meet Cupcake.

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With few options down Daisy’s burbs, we decided to check out a relatively newcomer in the brunch scene. Mr Hendricks looks smallish from the entrance but extends into a brilliant spacious dog-friendly courtyard.

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(Left) Chai latte $4 (Right) Magic $3.50

While poodle and dachshund sniffed each other out, Daisy’s partner, Ricky, had coffee and Daisy had a soy chai latte.The beans are by Padre and Ricky thought it was a pretty good cuppa. Prana chai is used, with whole spices and tea leaves steeped to infuse into a spicy nutty milky tea. I had a simple orange juice.

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House toasted granola with strawberry and rhubarb compote and vanilla yoghurt $12.50

The Angmoh had the only breakfasty dish amongst us. The granola came with 2 mounds of yoghurt and rhubarb compote. The toppings, while generous, were excessive and caused the entire dish to be too gluggy.

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Breakfast cassolet with confit duck, Toulouse sausage, persillade, ham hock and fried eggs $21

Ricky had a slight kitchen mishap in his dish of confit duck cassolet. A few bites into his dish had him discovering a blond hair. A waitress niftily swept up his dish, apologized profusely and had the kitchen prepare a fresh one. Despite the accident, the dish was excellent, rich in flavour and protein heavy from the legumes, sausage and duck.

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Crispy eggs with smoked ham hock, sweet potato puree, fennel, radish, walnuts, sourdough toast $18

Daisy has a soft spot for sweet potato and ordered crumbed poached eggs on sweet potato puree. The poached eggs spilled their yolks onto the orange mash, and with the tender flavourful pork hock, made a beautiful brunch item. IMG_9368
Tempura soft shell crab burger with fennel, radish, cabbage, avocado, kewpie $16.50

I went for the softshell crab burger. The minimal use of kewpie mayo was well-appreciated on my part and the thinly sliced cabbage and fennel helped cut through the richness of the crab.

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Brioche French toast with vanilla poached pears, caramel sauce, double cream $14.50

Dining with Daisy meant that we could indulge in a sweet dish. We shared the brioche French toast, which appeared as a slab of buttery eggy bread, drenched in caramel sauce and topped with sweet poached pears. I loved the texture of the bread but found the overall dish way to sweet. Daisy, however, thought it was just right. She certainly has a sweet tooth! As we ate, the dogs carried on with their canine shenanigans, sniffing about and batting puppy eyes for a drop of food. I came prepared with milky chew bones and that kept them entertained for a while.

Brunch was a lovely affair with both humans and canine counterparts enjoying every minute of it. I wish more cafes will have dog-friendly spaces that are not just limited to tables on pavements.

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Filed under Balwyn, Brunch, Chai, Coffee

Estelle Bar and Kitchen

Estelle Bar and Kitchen
243 High Street
Northcote
Vic 3070
+61 3 9489 4609
Estelle Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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One of my all-time favourite restaurants in Melbourne is The Estelle. Fakebooo and I had a degustation several years ago. That night, my heart was captured by the rhubarb and musk dessert and the memory of it lingers. I’ve returned to The Estelle a couple years back for a truffle event held by Fringe Food Festival and it too was spectacular, with the hand-rolled pasta and truffle sponge cake etched deeply in my mind. These visits were done during my pre-blogging days and I finally returned this year to try The Estelle’s celebration of winter, organised by the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

Each week over the month of August an animal was paid homage to, and on our drive into Northcote, The Angmoh jubilantly announced “we are going for Angmoh duck!” This is coming from an Australian man who, in his 28 years of living in Australia, is only familiar with the Chinese styles of duck, including Peking duck and the famous roast duck from Pacific House.

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As we settled into our wines, a cleansing entrée of duck consommé was tipped out of a sake bottle, pooling onto roast beetroot, duck leg and chickweed. The root vegetable bled into the broth, giving it a gradually deepening rosy hue. The duck leg was packed with flavour and each bite enhances the duck flavour of the soup.

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Next, we had confit duck breast and leg with broccolini and a duck reduction. The meat was perfectly cooked, tender and blushingly pink. A smear of sweet quince paste augments the richness of poultry. A side of kipfler potatoes with lapcheong, shiitake and parsley is set down in an earthern vessel, borrowing flavours from one of my childhood favourites, claypot rice. The main also comes with coleslaw, dressed in a sparingly creamy dressing.

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We finished off with a simple quince tart. The fruit had been caramelized into sweet sticky slivers and sat on crisp puff pastry. This was accompanied by a quenelle of vanilla-speckled crème fraiche. It was light and an extremely pleasant manner to round off the meal.

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With flawless execution, warm service and incredible food, The Estelle will remain a favourite and I look forward to yet another wonderful experience next year.

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Filed under Australian, Modern, Northcote

A weekend in Sydney

Once a year, I dedicate a weekend to Sydney. One weekend of pure gluttony, where getting full is not an option and optimising every last bit of space in that second stomach is very much mandatory. Last year Fakebooo and I flew up for a weekend of pastries, cakes and brilliant Argentinian food and you can read all about it here. This year my itinerary was pretty much the same, except this time round, The Angmoh came along as my dining companion.

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His only request food-wise was to have yumcha. That’s how we found ourselves in The Eight Restaurant, gorging on prawn dumplings, steamed pork ribs and glutinous rice as soon our plane landed. The restaurant was quiet when we rocked up close to 11am, with trolleys piled high with steaming bamboo baskets. By the time we left though, it was packed and rowdy, the way every reputable yumcha restaurant ought to be. The food was pretty good: slippery fresh prawns housed in silky translucent skins, smooth beef balls with the delicate crunch of water chestnut and velvety soy curd in a gingery syrup.

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We walked out lugging our backpacks and hiked across town towards Woolloomooloo, for the one and only and my Sydney-must-have Flour and Stone. Here I indulged in a rich chocolate tart while The Angmoh nibbled on some fruit toast. Deciding against the panna cotta lamington to save space for dinner, we headed towards our hotel for an afternoon siesta.

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alfajores

At 5pm, we were the first in line for Porteno. Having inadequate figures for a table booking, we decided to be kiasu and started camping an hour before the doors opened. Was the wait worth it? Hell yeah! Porteno panders to every carnivore’s wet dream where meats are grilled to perfection. Served in generous portions by cute waiters in leather aprons, every dish a sight for sore hungry eyes. My absolute favourite item, ironically, is a vegetable one. The grilled peppers are an absolute delight. Their skins blistered from high heat slip off to reveal soft flesh, succulent and sweet. Desserts here are excellent too, and I split an alfajores with The Angmoh. This was an amazing dish with crumbly buttery shortbread sandwiching a sticky caramel-like dulce de leche, all smothered in chocolate and then topped with an incredible brown butter ice cream. I was in dessert heaven.

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IMG_9417The next morning, we squeezed ourselves into a tiny café. Room 10 is a hole-in-the-wall which we’d chanced upon during our brief stroll in Kings’ Cross. We were counting the number of strip joints where a turn led us onto an unassuming laneway which had a handful of cafes and bistros. The morning crowd built quickly and we were lucky to get a table right away. The coffees were served hot and leant towards bitter. While The Angmoh enjoyed a slab of homemade banana bread with Pepe Saya butter, I worked off my morning gym session with a protein-heavy sandwich of smoked ham, triple cheese and smashed egg. Both dishes ticked all our breakfast boxes.

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Next on our agenda was another of my Sydney must-haves: Blackstar Pastry’s strawberry, watermelon cake with rose-scented cream. This has to be one of my all-time favourite cakes. Feminine in description and appearance, this cake is pure heaven with just the right amount of sweetness and perfect combination of floral and fruity flavours. It’s not only this cake that excels at Blackstar. The pastries too, are sensational. The Angmoh, after sampling the sausage roll, declared it to be “the best sausage roll of his life”. The flaky pastry is loaded with butter and filling was packed with flavour and spice, and even retained a resilient chewy texture. We took a couple of these bad boys back to Melbourne and The Angmoh’s dad proclaimed the very same.

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To kill time before dinner, I catched up on my zzz’s while The Angmoh enjoyed “Locke”. These odd arty-farty movies aren’t quite my thing but our final meal totally is. Gumshara Ramen sits in a foodcourt in Chinatown. The broth here is one of the best I’ve come across, with depth and stickiness achieved from boiling pork bones till kingdom come. The noodles and egg are cooked without any fault, retaining bite and wobble respectively. I enjoyed mine with a hit of black garlic and less salt. Needless to say, it went down a treat.

Sadly this concludes our weekend in Sydney. I’m already anticipating another foodie trip that will challenge the waistline and loosen the belt. Please hit me up for any mouth-watering delectable recommendations!

The Eight
9-13 Hay Street,
Haymarket
NSW 2000
+61 2 9282 9988
The Eight Modern Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Porteno
358 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
+61 2 8399 1440
Porteño on Urbanspoon

Room 10
10 Llankelly Place
Potts Point
NSW 2011
Room 10 on Urbanspoon

Black Star Pastry
277 Australia Street
Newtown
NSW 2042
+61 2 9557 8656
Black Star Pastry on Urbanspoon

Gumshara Ramen
211/25-29 Dixon Street
Hawmarket
NSW 2000
Gumshara Ramen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Argentinian, Brunch, Chinese, Coffee, Japanese, Noodles, Pastries, Ramen, Sweets, Sydney, Travels, Yum Cha

Little Big Sugar Salt

Little Big Sugar Salt
385 Victoria Street
Abbotsford
Vic 3067
+61 3 9427 8818
Little Big Sugar Salt - LBSS Cafe on Urbanspoon

LBSS

Smack in the middle of Victoria Road, Richmond, is the very last place you’d imagine to find Little Big Sugar Salt (LBSS). This café is way too hipster and offers way too many options for the straightforward “I-only-want-this-and-want-it-now” Asian-food-loving crowd. Craving for pho? There’s I Love Pho 264. In the mood for roast duck on rice, well there’s Pacific House. Step foot into LBSS and wait, you have to ask yourself if you’re really hungry and if you want something savoury or sweet. And I can imagine looking at the drinks menu makes these instant-gratification types want to chug migraine pills for the impending vertigo.

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I for one, love all of it. Because there are times where I don’t know what I want (uh huh, that does happen) and there are times where I’m after some jazzed up fancy caffeine (coffee with home-made almond milk) or super healthy hot chocolate (made of dates, almond milk and cocoa). And best of all, I can slowly take my time to make up my mind and enjoy all of it in the cosy living room interior of LBSS.

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Chai latte $4.5

The morning I was there, I was comfortably tucked into a little nook, typing away as I sipped on my milky chai. It could use more spice but with no one within arm’s length nudging for more elbow room and a calm air of silence around me, I was content.

GFeekakes
Glutenfreekakes – millet, sweet potato + currant cakes with cashew cream, chilli jam, wilted kale and eggs $17

I did have to deliberate when it came to choosing what I wanted to eat. EVERYTHING appealed, from the acai granola, to the berry pancakes, and the rainbow veg salad and even to the calorie-bursting, artery-clogging monster of a triple decker croque monsieur. In the end, I stuck with the glutenfreekakes and didn’t look back.

It was excellent. The vegetable fritters, made with sweet potato and millet were packed with natural sweetness and spiced up with fennel and anise. Hidden amongst the grated veg were currants that gave bursts of berry and tang. The wilted kale provided a splendid colour contrast, together with the spill of molten yellow yolk. Binding all of it together was a cashew puree, splendidly thick and creamy.

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I’m going to have to head back to LBSS and slowly work my way through their menu, both drinks and food. And one day, I promise, I will tackle the Dr. Ron Swanson.

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Filed under Abbotsford, Brunch, Chai