White tomato 2

Name: White Tomato
Location: Russell/Bourke St (160/162 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000)
Price range: See first entry about White Tomato

I did mention the wallpaper, and the fumehoods for every table. But did I mention the ceiling? I have now.

Rose stained glass ceiling/ So pretty and Korean/ But I don't know why

We went back to White Tomato to make further progress in my quest to review every lunch menu item. We were also hungry.

Beef Bulgolgi (with rice)
Sizzling beef on a slab of blistering hot stone. Oh yeah. There’s some cabbage and onions too. It still spits oil and emits plumes of lunchy steam when its set on the table.

Sizzle, crackle, pop/ No, it's not them Rice Bubbles/ It's Beef Bulgolgi

I found it to be bland for a bulgolgi though. (Not necessarily a bad thing! Sometimes you want to keep it simple and regain your sense of taste.) Overall, 7/10

Spicy soft bean curd and seafood hotpot (with rice)
We’ve seen this one before. This one is also still bubbling away when it arrives.

Soft bean curd in soup/ This is one of my fav'rites/ Good start to the day

It’s not as spicy as it looks, and is just about as spicy as I like any food to be. It is the sweet Korean kind of spicy. The bean curd is ace, as always, and there’s some seafood floating around somewhere in there. Prawns are good. Squid is also good. Mussels are small and stringy, but acceptable.  8/10

Spicy squid (with rice)
The spicy squid is actually less spicy than the bean curd and seafood hotpot.

The squid is actually a bit disappointing, because the bean curd and bulgolgi were so good. It’s slightly crunchy, and kind of creamy, a meeting point for the different cooking methods of squid. I think it could have been more crunchy, and spicier. Though, if you do want spicy squid on a hot stone with rice, go to the Korean place near Flinders’ St station. That one does a fantastic very-spicy squid. Take care though, the air itself is spicy and might make you shed tears before you can order. White tomato’s squid score, 7/10

 

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Dumplings

Just about every continent has its own kinds of dumplings. I am including those that are fillings enclosed in a thin layer of (usually unleavened) dough, and those which are balls of dough that have been boiled or steamed, or even fried.

There are the European dumplings, including those of Britain and Ireland (balls of flour and fat half-boiled half-steamed into a stew to extend a meal), Italian ravioli and tortellini (pockets of pasta with fillings inside) or gnocchi (balls of potato/flour, more similar to the UK dumpling), Scandinavian potetball, nockerl or klopse, Central European potato dumplings or fruit dumpings, Polish pierogis, Russian pelmenis, Middle-eastern shishbarak, Jewish kreplach and matzah balls, and Turkish manti. The dumplings of the United States, as found in chicken and dumpling soup. Carribean dumplings to be served with ackee and saltfish or chicken, and those in chicken soup. Or even Chilean pantrucas, a flat parsley dumpling served in a soup.

Now heading to the Himalayas for their momo, steamed pleated dumplings popular as a snack. Mongolian buuz and khuushuur. Or the Indian dumplings, with their savoury and sweet varieties. There are sweet gujhias, karanji and ada, or if savoury dumplings tickle your fancy there are pitha and kozhakkattai. If you prefer the southeastern asian dumplings, there are the Indonesian fish dumplings with peanut sauce (Siomay), Korean mandu and Japanese gyoza and takoyaki. After this list, we finally reach the dumplings I am most familiar with: Chinese dumplings. There are jiaozi, potstickers, wontons, zong zi, tangyuan and dimsum.

Dumplings are a comfort food (just see how many of them are in chicken soup or in stews or in a thick sauce, or eaten as snacks) made with delicious starchy goodness, and are a general crowd pleaser. They’re easy and fun to make (as long as you aren’t too fixated on them looking great), cheap, good food to share, can accomodate large numbers of people, and the filling can be altered to your tastes or whatever you have in your fridge. So, I made some dumplings. More specifically, potstickers in a southern chinese style.

Potstickers is the affectionate name given to a kind of jiaozi, because they stick to your pot. Jiaozi are pleated dumplings with a savoury filling inside. Just about every region in China will have its own specialty. There are different ways to pleat them, different filling preferences, flavourings used, spiciness, thickness of ‘skin’ around the filling, the cooking method, and size of dumpling. Above all, it’s really up to you. For me, potstickers should have a thicker, more doughy wheat flour ‘skin’ to accomodate for the panfrying cooking method and for maximum crunchiness of the dumpling’s base.

There were both chicken and beef dumplings, each extended with vegetables. Here’s a picture of the chicken dumplings.

Shoot before eating/ Two dumplings left on the plate/ Just made in time

Potstickers are cooked by mix of steaming, boiling and panfrying. How does this work? You can steam your jiaozi dumplings beforehand, then do a pan fry to get a crispy bottom. Or do it the lazy-one-pan-wonder way. Add a couple of tablespoons oil into a hot frying pan (make sure you have a lid to cover it with), place dumplings into pan, give the pan a shake to make sure the dumplings aren’t stuck to the bottom, add a cup of water (or enough to cover the pan by a centimeter or so. The water should be all evaporated near the end.), place lid on pan, turn down the heat and let the dumplings steam/boil for 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the skin. You want to cook them through.), lift lid and let the dumplings sizzle for a while to get a crunchy base. There should be no liquid at the bottom when the dumplings are sizzling. Once you feel the base is done, slide dumplings onto a plate and serve. I enjoy potstickers with a little side of sweetened red vinegar with very finely julienned ginger.

You can find recipes of potstickers at tastespotting.com, so I won’t place a recipe up here. But here is a picture of the one-pan method:

One pan potsticker/ Sizzle, boil and sizzle/ Eat, and don't burn mouth

Edoya

Name: Edoya
Location: Russell st/Bourke St (138 Russell St
Melbourne, 3000)
Price range: Entrees $6.50-12.80, Mains $14-55, Desserts $6-8

Edoya is a small Japanese restaurant, with plastic figurines of its food showcased in its front window. I love those plastic models of food. Inside is decorated with light wood panelling, paper screen-like fixtures on the window, paper lanturns and small ukiyo-e pictures on the wall. There is also a little sushi counter at the front, complete with wooden finish and a display case for the fish used in sushi and sashimi.

Irrashaimase/ Wooden counter and green tea/ Order some sushi

Takoyaki
Takoyaki is a popular snack food in Japan, associated with street foodstands and festivals. They are spherical pancakes with octopus and grated vegetables inside. The exterior is slightly crispy, and the interior is soft and fluffy with barely cooked-through batter. It is often served with demiglace sauce, sweet Japanese mayonnaise, bonito flakes (extremely thinly shaved fish flakes) and aonori (a seaweed condiment).
Edoya’s takoyaki is crispy, it’s sizzling hot when it comes out, it’s soft and yielding when you bite into it, it has discernable chunks of octopus, it has a mix of vegetables that accentuate sweetness, it has delicious bonito flakes, the demiglace isn’t gluggy, there is a bed of salad leaves  and altogether it looks fantastic with its colour and texture balance.  What else can I ask for? 10/10

Chop up octopus/ Make takoyaki for all/ Don't forget sauces

For photography/ See a feat of self-control/ Shoot before eating

Beef sukiyaki
Sukiyaki is a meat dish served in a shallow iron pan with a broth made from the medley of vegetables, mushrooms, jelly noodles. The beef is sliced thinly and requires little cooking time. It is seared quickly to seal, and the vegetables, mushrooms and jelly noodles are then added to produce a wholesome umami-rich broth. There is also some tofu to soak up those delicious flavours. Oh, and a raw egg added before serving.

A giant hot pan/ Bubbling umami food stuffs/ It cannot go wrong

Edoya’s sukiyaki is what I imagine sukiyaki to be, minus spring onions. There is aonori instead of spring onions. I would prefer the beef to be in large thin sheets rather than small pieces, but it does make it easier to scoop up with the ladle. I would also like more mushrooms, there was shiitake but no enoki, and I do think with the addition of enoki mushrooms the texture and unami flavour would add another dimension to the dish. (Grilled beef-wrapped enoki bundles are a must-have whenever they are available, the flavour and texture are an extremely good match.)Apart from that qualm, I haven’t anything else to criticise.
Overall, sukiyaki is an ideal Winter dish that is always a good choice to fall back on when nothing else catches your eye. 9/10

Teriyaki Sakana with green salad
Let’s work backwards with this one. A side of greens is always a welcome addition with meat. Sakana is fish. (The fish used was a mild white fish with delicate flesh.) Teriyaki is a cooking method, and also a type of sauce used in this cooking method. Teriyaki sauce is essentially a sweet soy sauce marinade. Many variations and ratios exist for teriyaki sauce, but the three main ingredients would be soy sauce, mirin (a rice wine/sake) and sugar. To make teriyaki-anything (you name it, teriyaki fish, teriyaki chicken, teriyaki pinepaple, teriyaki eggplant, the list goes on), you grill or broil your food, and brush teriyaki sauce onto it as it is grilling. The soy sauce gives you the characteristic orange-brown colour, the mirin aids removal of any unwanted fishy odours, and the sugar gives you the shininess.

Swim little fishy/ Into sizzling hot oil/ Then teriyaki

Teriyaki Sakana at Edoya is a joy and a half. The fish is fresh, there is no fishy odour that puts me off ordering fish when I eat out. The batter is light and crispy. The teriyaki sauce isn’t too sweet, and doesn’t overpower the fish. I did not try any of the mayonnaise dressing on the salad, so I don’t know how that was. But the fish was so delicious. Fish scores 10/10.

Edoya Special Dessert
This comprises of honeydew melon, a green tea mochi, two kinds of jelly with sweetened red bean and murcott mandarin (or a ‘tangor’ if you will).

Fruit, jelly, mochi/ and sweetened red bean on top/ Jelly is charming

The mochi is dense and chewy, and is slightly salted which is pleasant. The green tea gel inside is okay. Not fantastic, not disgusting, but it is pleasant enough. The white jelly tastes faintly sweet, and not much else. The toothpaste-green jelly tastes like coconut. The best part of the dessert would have to be the red beans.
Nothing is particularly outstanding, but nothing was offensive either. Overall, 6/10

 

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Wonton House

Name: Wonton House
Location: Russell St/Little Bourke St
Price range: Cheap eats are $9-14, and to-order items can be $6-30. There is a large range.

Wonton house is a Chinese eatery. Unless you’re after a particular item at this place, and you know that it is good, I would recommend going to the place next door. ‘Dumpling House’ or something similar to that.

I have several reasons for this recommendation. One, I will always choose dumplings over wontons. But that is just a petty bias towards a food item and I’m sure both places will have dumplings! It’s true that names can be deceiving, but Wonton House does mainly wontons, and Dumpling House does dumplings. Two, I’ve eaten at both places with a group of people, and Dumpling House was cheaper, had a better vibe, and in general it was a lot more fun. Mainly because you can share dumplings in a way you cannot share wontons. Three, I find the food at Dumpling House to be tastier. I did not like the beef combination noodle from Wonton House, and according to two other people, their prawn wonton noodle weren’t great either. But Wonton House does seem better for those who enjoy fried chicken with rice. Onwards for a detailed break-down!

Beef combination noodle ($12 ish)

Beef and egg noodles/ They are sometimes delicious/ But not at this place

I am disappointed. Next time I want a beef combination noodle, I am heading to a Vietnamese noodle (pho, with some accents. Pronounced more like ‘fur’) place. But no matter. The noodles are egg noodles, with a clear beef broth. It’s a heavy tasting broth, and tastes like what a butchery smells like. The beef is in large chunks, which can be okay if the taste and texture of the chunks are fitting for the soup. It is, but I prefer a more aesthetically pleasing presentation. There is beef meat, tendon and tripe. The tendon is soft and gelatinous, but it needs more care in its preparation for presentation. Sinew and blood vessels need to be scrapped off more cleanly. The tripe is in large pieces, and contains more of the underlying smooth tissue than the waffle-shaped tripe. This seems mightily unbalanced, and makes me feel cheated. What is the point of ordering tripe when half of the component necessary for that texture found in tripe is not given to you?
Overall, I found the lack of attention to detail to beef to leave a lot to be desired, and the taste to be heavy-handed. 4/10

Salted lemon Sprite ($3.50)
Curiousity strikes again. I like salted lemons. I like Sprite lemonade. They really need to decrease the amount of salted lemon they use, and remove the pips. It’s like having a mouth full of salt.

5/10, it scores higher than the beef combination noodle for the novelty.  (Picture of this drink can be found in the picture above. It is the cloudy  drink next to the bowl of noodles.)

Prawn Pork wonton ($11ish)

Wontons were tasty/ When did wontons lose their charm?/ Since I could make them.

Apparently, this is good. Looks good to me.

Tofu and greens with rice

Dried deep fried tofu/ Must be soaked with tasty sauce/ Otherwise too dry

Aaargh, sauce spillage.

Fried Chicken with rice.

Crispy fried chicken/ Check the frying temperature/ How can you go wrong?

This would have to be the most appetising thing we ordered. The chicken is crispy.

Beef and wonton noodle soup

Beef and prawn wontons/ Why choose one when you can have/ The best of both worlds?

Lemon Tea
(in the above picture. How does hot black tea with a slice of lemon go wrong? It shouldn’t, and didn’t.)
Milk tea

A mug of white tea/ When in doubt, make a milk tea/ Afternoon comfort

Pineapple Ice

Pineapple with ice/ I like the word 'pineapple'/ Pineapple. Pine. Ap.

It has canned pineapple bits in it.

 

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Yoyogi

Name: Yoyogi
Location: 211-213 Swanston St, CBD
Price range: Entrees $3-8, Main $7-15, Desserts $4-7, Drinks $1.50-5

Yoyogi is another cheap-eats place in the city. It’s been one of my favourites to go to for lunch whenever I am in the city with a group of friends. If there aren’t any other suggestions, I will steer the crowd towards Yoyogi. Often subconsciously.

The front part of the shop sells sushi, which is good if you’re eating lunch by yourself, but the real stuff happens at the back. Just walk up and request seats for 2, or 5, or however many people you can rope into having lunch at Yoyogi. Yoyogi does Japanese food, and has a wide range of items on its menu. Not to mention the menu also has pictures of everything so you can point to something that catches your eye. Another reason why I like Yoyogi is the way they serve tempura separate to your ramen. Usually tempura is placed on top of the soup noodles, which irks me because the batter becomes soggy. I enjoy picking up a piece of tempura prawn, usually well-blotted, and taking a bite of it before dunking it into the broth. There’s also crisp seaweed to go with it. Order geki kara ramen to see what I mean. (There will be a review on Geki Kara ramen, when I order that next time.)

Okonomiyaki (bit under $4)

Fry up some cabbage / Add delicious batter mix/ Japanese pancake

Okonomiyaki is ‘fry up whatever you want into a delicious pancake’. In Melbourne, it usually includes cabbage and carrots, maybe onion too. If you’re lucky, some more vegetables. It is served with a sweet demiglace sauce, and sweet Japanese mayonnaise. (Or any generic sweet asian mayonnaise. It’s different from the western mayonnaise, but it doesn’t take very long to get used to.) The green speckles on top is aonori, a type of seaweed.
I think they’re overly generous with both the sauce and mayo. It’s a sweet sauce, and I prefer my pancakes to be savoury. The only exceptions I will make for sweet pancakes is when they are free, or served with lemon juice, or are buttermilk pancakes with fruit.

Beef curry rice ($9.50?) (There is also Chicken curry.)

Hearty curry rice/ A super delicious food/ In mild or hot?

Oh my, curry rice. I’d say it’s one of the national cuisines of Japan. That list includes curry rice, ramen, gyoza, okonomiyaki, crepes, sweet bread, frozen yoghurt, miso soup and croquettes.  At Yoyogi, beef curry rice comes with a generous portion of rice and curry. It’s enough for two meals if you’re a light eater. In the curry part, there is beef, potato and carrots, which is exactly the sort of thing you can expect from ‘curry rice’. It also comes with a side of red pickles to freshen the palate.
Japanese curry rice (kare-raisu) is a bit of a thing of its own. It has very little resemblance to Indian or Malaysian or Thai curries. As far as I’m concerned, Japanese curry only comes from a packaged ‘curry’ roux that is dissolved into a stew of meat and vegetables to add that delicious sauce that it’s got to have. It sounds like the equivalent of Mac&Cheese, but let me assure you it is much more comforting than the ol’ Mac&Cheese. According to a polling site in Japan (Goo), 13.6% of the polling population (9921 people) eat curry rice 1-2 times a week, 44.4% eat it 2-3 times a month and 28.5% eat it every month or so. It’s easy to prepare, quick, cheap, it’s ingrained as a comfort food from childhood, so it’s no wonder curry rice is so popular in Japan. Not to mention it’s so damned tasty for what it is. (I don’t even know. Something that depends on a packaged roux pellet to be delicious doesn’t sound right by my books, but hey, it works and it is delicious.)
Here’s the link to the poll (English): http://whatjapanthinks.com/2008/10/23/murdering-curry-in-japan/

You can expect more food reviews from Yoyogi.

 

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White Tomato

Name: White Tomato
Location: Bourke St/Russell St, near Allans Music store
Price range: Lunch specials are AUD$9.50, available 12-3pm on weekdays. Otherwise, entrees are $5-8, mains are $11-18, drinks are $3 onwards (there are also bottles of sake, which make the drinks price range very broad) and you can also get large hotpots to share (serves 4) $30-38.

White Tomato is a Korean restaurant with affordable fare, but you can always work up the list and supplement your dinner with entrees, drinks and dessert. Just in case you wanted to spurge on a fantastic however-many course dinner.

You walk in, and the first thing that’ll catch your eye will probably be the christmas lights along the stairway. Then the funnels hovering above every table. There isn’t a photo of the giant funnel/fume hood/shimney, which I regret now, but here is a photo of the wallpaper.

The fume hoods are for drawing the steam away from the sizzling hot food. Otherwise with all the sizzling clay pots of food, and the pails of boiling hotpot, and the spicy smell of Korean food would condense onto your glasses, or in your nostrils and eyes, which detracts from the overall experience.

All the food items below are from the lunch special menu, all AUD$9.50 It’s a cropped menu with hotpots, rice/noodle and cold dishes. Eventually, I will have details on all the options as this place is one of my current favourites for lunch.

Bibimbap

A dish which is as fun to eat as it is to say. It’s a signature Korean rice dish in a big clay bowl. The rice lining the sides of the pot become crispy and crunchy, which is apparently the best part of having rice cooked in a clay pot. On top of the rice is a mix of sauteed and seasoned vegetables and beef, arranged in colour-blocks to be aesthetically pleasing. (I particularly enjoy this aspect. It’s so colourful and compartmentalised.) Usually there’ll be a fried or raw egg too. In this one, you get both. Here, you also get a little dish of spicy chili paste, and another dish of kimchi.

Pork and potato hotpot. Pork bones with bits of pork falling off the bone, and potato. There is also dried bokchoy reconstituted in the mildly spicy broth. Dried bokchoy doesn’t sound very appetising, but it does have a distinct-but-not-overpowering flavour that complements beef or pork, especially when it has been boiled with them to form a broth. It’s the broth where the flavour is at. It’s sunny and woody without being herbaceous or overly sweet. As with every other vegetable, it’s also a healthy and flavoursome addition to your meal. It should get more love.

Soft tofu and seafood hotpot. It has what seems to be an entire tube of soft eggy tofu, with assorted seafood in a mildly spicy broth. (Mildly spicy meaning I got through the entire dish without shedding tears.) There’s an egg in there too. Soft eggy tofu comes in a tube, it’s too delicate to be stored in a solid container. It’s like custard, but oddly delicious despite being vegan. Real custard is always delicious.

Petaling Street Malaysian Hawker Food

Name: Petaling Street Malaysian Hawker Food
Location: Corner Swanston/Bourke Sts, near Boost Juice.
Price range: Mains are $10-23. Mostly around the ten-mark, so it’s a cheap student-eats place.

Combination Hor Fun with egg gravy ($9.90)
I choose this because I like Hor Fun, which are wide flat rice noodles. Hor Fun stir-frying skills are essential for a short-order SE Asian chef, since it tells the customer a lot about the strength of the heat (specs of the kitchen) and tossing skills of the chef (specs of the chef crew).

Stir fry some Hor Fun/Stir fry some seafood and veg/ Add gravy real quick

I have had better combination Hor Fun with egg gravy at Kopitam.
At Petaling, the combination hor-fun with egg gravy is overly salty, the egg gravy is gluggy with cornstarch, the chicken tastes like its been sitting in seafood, but the seafood is passable. The Hor Fun themselves were sweating under the hot blanket of egg gravy, and became greasy and limp.  I’d give the skill check a fail, but the kitchen specs a bare pass. (needs more fire power) I am willing to overlook the lack of fire power and state of the Hor Fun  if the chicken and egg gravy were better.
Would I order it again? No.

Tomato soup rice noodles with fish balls ($9.50)

Chef recommended/ Leaves much to be desired/I am disappoint

This is another one of my orders. It was a ‘Chef’s recommendation’, so I trust the crew of Petaling would recommend something tasty. I am also a slave to curiousity. Tomato soup rice noodles you say? You’re on!
Unfortunately, it’s bland and uninspiring. It’s disappointing. The tomato soup tastes like watered down dregs of tinned Spag, with copious amounts of rice noodles (I don’t like that type of noodle, so it met my initial bias. The rice noodles used were the thick oily reconstituted ones with a round cross-section.). Fish balls and fish cake are okay in a noodle soup, but it needs something else with it.
Would I order it again? No.

Fried fish with Thai sauce ($12.80)
This is ordered by a lunch buddy. I was initially wary of fish, because it can go wrong in so many ways.  Fish is either fried or steamed here, with two sauce options for each. Here’s a picture.

Fried fish with salad/ With sweet and sour dressing/ A Win in my book

Looks good. Tastes good too. My wariness is dispelled. The fish is crispy on the outside, and still juicy on the inside. The wait was shorter than expected due to the cuts made into the fish to decrease cooking time.
Would I order it? Yes, and so would my lunch buddy (and has.)

Cham ($3 hot, $3.50 cold)

Drink a hot beverage/ Would you like tea or coffee?/ Why not have them both?

Cham is a mix of coffee and tea. What did I say about curiousity?
It’s actually tasty. I’ve had it twice. The first time, it is better than Kopitam’s (taste-wise, and quantity-wise if you order it hot), but the second, it was ordered during lunch rush hour and was overly sweet. It’s hit and miss.
Would I order it again? Yes.

Ribena Sprite ($3.50)

Bounce bounce Ribena/ Not as much vitamin C/ As stated in ads

Exactly what it says on the tin. It’s so pretty.

In advertisements here, Ribena was marketed as a rich source of vitamin C due to its blackcurrant content. Unfortunately, any high schooler versed in basic chemistry is able to titrate and calculate that this claim was false, and that it only contains roughly 10% of that advertised. It’s still a sizeable amount, but I can’t help but feel betrayed by one of my favourite childhood drinks for letting me down. Not that anybody should rely solely on Ribena for their vitamin C needs. I only wish that I had debunked the Ribena myth in my high school years instead of wasting my time trying to determine the pH of Salt & Vinegar Pringles, how concentrated the acid would become in a parched mouth of an overzealous individual, and if the acidity was able to give the sides of your mouth chemical burns. (That study was inconclusive. Also, I still have a test subject waiting to be fed a tube of Pringles.)

 

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