Meiji

Name: Meiji Japanese cafe
Location: 105 Little Bourke St CBD
Cost: $10-15 for pot rice, dinner menu can extend up to $20
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Would I come back? Yes.

paper screen

A wall partition/divide space and filter light/Tranquil ambiance

goldfish

Peace in a glass bowl/Are things going ‘swimmingly’?/They are for these fish.

Meiji is a small Japanese place with cosy décor. There are paper screens, beer flags and even a fishbowl. Meiji does something I haen’t seen at other casual Japanese places– pot rice. It’s a rustic rice dish with toppings, a little bit like a ‘donburi’ but the rice is more flavoured with the ingredients . Think of it as a cross between fried rice and donburi, with everything steamed together in a claypot. (Not that it is served in a claypot at Meiji, but the way they serve it is also charming.)

Everything else (bento and ramen) aren’t done as well as the pot rices, and frankly, there are better places for bento and ramen nearby. Go to Meiji for their pot-rices.

 
GOMOKU GOHAN (5 ingredient rice medley) ($10)
Score: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

gomoku gohan

Chicken, egg and prawn?/Three protein sources in one/ Oh wait, make that four.

bowlful

Bowlful with all things/Still another two bowls left/ But… so delicious

Meiji does the pot of rice flavoured with many ingredients as it is cooking. Sometimes I read up on gomoku gohan in Japanese cuisine books, and it looks like the perfect winter/autumn food. The rice servings in these pot-rices are fairly large, there 2 bowlfuls in there. For gomoku goban, there is chicken, prawn, quail egg, soft omelette slices, ginko nuts, something like beans crossed with water spinach (fern bracken?) and shiitake mushrooms.
Out of all the pot-rices, gomoku goban would have to be the best value-for-money meal. Big serve, plenty of toppings, super tasty and visually appealing.

SUTAMINA GOHAN ($14)
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes

stamina gohan

Sweet oily eel flesh/Unagi makes things better/Unless allergic

bowl stamina rice

Kimchi seeped white rice/ if you know not of this joy/ kimchi fried rice, go!

Sutamina is Japanese for ‘stamina’. Stamina rice has things traditionally thought to give you energy and counters lethargy. The rice has kimchi sauce through it, and there’s also some kimchi on top. Presumably to give you a kick in the mouth? There is also some grilled eel, which is said to counter lethargy on humid hot days. Beef, because as we all know eating big animals with red meat makes you grow up big and strong. There’s also a vegetable which I think is fern bracken, and shiitake mushroom as well.
Really tasty, but not an additional $4 worth of tasty. (If there is such as thing.)

ASARITAKENORI GOHAN
Score: 8.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

clam clam

Little clams in rice/Little bursts of umami/An elegant dish

Clams, mushroom and vegetable.

 

BUTAKAKUNI GOHAN

Score: ?

Would I order this? Yes.

Meiji butakakuni gohan

Chunks of pork belly/ Jelly-like fat, tender meat/Best of all, the sauce

Pork belly with sweet soy-based sauce.
TORIAGE TAMAGO GOHAN
Score: 7.5/10
Would I order it again? No.

Meiji chickenegg gohan

Fried chicken with sauce/ with strips of egg underneath/Chicken or the egg?

Fried chicken with soft sliced omelette. The fried chicken batter has a slight flour taste but tasty enough.

MISO SOUP
Score: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes

miso soup and pickles

miso and pickles/This should be compulsory/with every rice dish

Miso soup actually comes with the pot-rice, so I didn’t have to order it separately. It has wakame seaweed, spring onion and tofu in it. It isn’t too salty, and I enjoy having a small bowl of soup to go with my rice. My friend’s soup got cold after he finished his meal and the lady offered to reheat it for him. How nice is that!

PICKLES
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? – (comes with pot-rice)

I thought the little dish of assorted pickles was a nice touch. The yellow and pink ones taste the same and are pickled daikon radish, the green ones are dill pickles.

KAKI (OYSTER) FRY
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Meiji kaki fry

Battered, fried oysters/would be great in a po’boy/ not bad on its own

Small oysters, crumbed and fried. They are drained well so the lettuce isn’t soaking in oil. It’s a simple entrée, but the mayonnaise and fried seafood combination works for me. I wouldn’t order it by myself (because I don’t like oysters very much), but if someone was willing to share, then I would order this again.

AGEDASHI TOFU
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Meiji agedashi tofu

Crispy fried tofu/ Every haiku starts like this/Tofu deja vu

It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. From memory, both Ajisen and Yamato around the corner or down the street does a better agedashi tofu. Or it did several years ago. It could do with more umami from bonito or mushrooms. As it is it is quite plain.

HOTATE BATAYAKI
Score: 8/10
Would I order it? Yes.

butter garlic scallops

Butter and garlic/teriyaki sauce scallops/A hot tasty meal

Scallops sauteed in butter and garlic. Good combination. The scallops are soft and barely done in the middle, just as they should be. They taste fresh too. A bit on the salty side for me.

SASHIMI BENTO
Score: ?
Would i order it? Probably not.

sashimi bento is more like sushi bento

Sashimi bento/Not much fish, despite the name/Snacky food bento?

For a sashimi bento there isn’t much raw fish. The takoyaki (the three balls with sauce on them) are delicious, though if memory serves me right, there wasn’t much octopus. It was very soft and delicious, and had a good sauce. The scalloped round biscuit object in the bottom left-hand corner is a glutinous rice cake with sweet and savoury coating. My friend didn’t like it much, but I thought it was tasty. Maybe misplaced in a rice box. It would make a good snack or post-meal nibble.

CHASHU RAMEN
Score: ?
Would I order it? No.

anaemic ramen

Chashu, or ‘char siu’/is a delicious grilled meat/ Back onto ramen…

The ramen at Meiji looks anaemic compared to those at Ajisen or any other place that does ramen. Judging from the picture, I wouldn’t order the ramen at Meiji. I know the pot-rice is great at Meiji so there is very little that’ll steer me away from those.

MELON CALPIS
SOY MILK

drinks in cups

See drinks in glass cups/ Behold, the feats of canning/ How convenient

In conclusion, order a pot rice.
Meiji Japanese Cafe on Urbanspoon

Papparich QV

Name: PappaRich QV
Location: Level 2, shop 1, Qv Square, 210 Lonsdale Street
Cost: $10-15 mains, $4-$7 drinks
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Would I come back? Yes.

This is one of my go-to places when I am out of inspiration. It’s affordable, has a large range of tasty food and efficient service.

Papparich QV is the new name for the refurbished Old Town Kopitiam. The food is much the same, but with the addition of a roti and biryani section as homage to the Indian side of Malaysia. The menu has also been upgraded to include photographs of most items, and all drinks. I think Papparich has enjoyed better patronage since their renovation.

In addition to an upgrade to the menu, there are upgrades to kitchen and food preparations areas. Instead of the one food prep area, there are now a few areas organised in terms of hardware. At the back most of the noodle and curry dishes are prepared, then adjacent to that is the roasted meats section. In the far end at the back is the drinks and dessert preparation area. Sometimes you can see people blend up ice and fruit for chilled juices, and ‘pull’ tea. (Milk tea is poured from one container to another to ‘pull’ the tea and make it frothy, then strained.) There’s also the grill section where skewers of satay are prepared. There are also chefs preparing roti made-to-order.

“Smile for the picture lah, and look like you’re working!”, says one of the waitstaff.

Pretend to work, ey?/Playing roti pat-a-cake/Flip those meat skewers

When you visit Papparich, the staff will sometimes ask you if you’ve been there before. This is because there’s a novel ordering system. There are no waitstaff taking orders, and are left to do everything more efficiently. Each menu item has a code associated with it. For example, R01 is a roti dish, N09 is a noodle dish, MF14 is a drink. You write down the codes on the notepads provided, as well as table number. Then press the button on the cutlery box. A member of the waitstaff comes along and takes your written order, punches out a bill and returns the bill to you. Some people don’t like this kind of service, but I like it. It’s quick, efficient and a large party of people can take as much time as required to browse the picture menu.

Write your own order/ Add dietary requests/ No mistakes are made

ASSAM LAKSA
Score: 5/10
Would I order it again? No.

Sour fish-based soup/ Often includes tamarind/ Should have been tasty

I have reviewed this before when Papparich was Old Town Kopitiam. The assam laksa hasn’t changed, it’s still one of the worst choices out of all the noodle dishes they have to offer.

MEE GORENG
Score: ?
Would I order it? Probably not.

Dry stir-fried noodles/Original mee goreng/ Not the Indomie

Mee goreng doesn’t look bad, and I have heard it tastes good. But you can’t go wrong with stir-fried noodles. To me the mee goreng doesn’t look particularly interesting, but it is good to pay homage to our favourite instant noodle– Indomie MiGoreng.
BIRYANI RICE WITH SIDES
Score: ?
Would I order it? Probably not.

Malay Indian/biryani hybrid rice dish/Both chicken and lamb

Biryani rice with sides is just like nasi lemak but with spiced rice instead of coconut rice. If you like spiced rice, then go for it. The sides will be reviewed under nasi lemak.

NASI LEMAK WITH CURRY CHICKEN, SAMBAL PRAWN AND EGG
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

An ‘anytime’ food/Malaysia’s ‘national dish’/Nasi lemak. Lah.

This is one of my favourite dishes at Papparich. You get a bowlful of coconut rice, 5 chilli prawns, 2-3 pieces of curry chicken, half a hardboiled egg, peanuts, fried anchovies, slices of cucumber and a dollop of chilli paste (sambal). If you feel like having more sides, there is an option to add chilli eggplant, tandoori chicken, as well as many other things. (But 2 sides fills me up just fine.)
Sometimes coconut rice tastes too faintly of coconut to earn the title of ‘coconut rice’. But the coconut rice at Papparich definately has the coconut milk taste. It’s moist, fragrant and savoury. Curry chicken isn’t dry at all and has a mild curry taste. Good for those who can’t handle spicy foods, but still a tasty accompaniment. The sambal prawn (sambal is a kind of chilli paste) is spicier but still fairly mild. The spiciest component is the dollop of sambal in the side.

You can mix the sambal in with the rice, or leave it if you aren’t up to spicy food. I like to do half-half, that is, half coconut rice mixed with sambal, and the other half non-spicy. Or you could douse your egg into the sambal. Up to you.

IPOH NOODLE SOUP WITH STEAMED CHICKEN
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Chicken noodle soup/Why are you so delicious?/A good comfort food

Essentially chicken noodle soup. You get a large serve of steamed chicken breast steeping in sweet soy sauce, and a basin of soup with flat thin rice noodles and plenty of fried onions. The fried onions are the dominating flavour, so it’s not your usual chicken soup. But it’s good to have variations of a theme, right?
VEGETABLE LAKSA
Score: ?
Would I order it? Probably not.

Noodle soup icebergs/ Most of it lurks underneath/ But no Titanic

From the picture it looks okay. There is also some layered tofu in the vegetarian laksa for some protein. Always good to see restaurants making an effort to substitute meat for other protein sources for vegetarians. But I wouldn’t order it because I believe laksa is incomplete with a form of seafood. (Even if it is just fishcake.)

WAT TAN HOR
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Tasty rice noodle/ swimming in thick egg gravy/ Novel, worth a shot

Wat tan hor is a flat thick rice noodles stir-fried in a wok until it obtains an umami taste only achievable with high temperatures, or ‘wok hei’. Then an egg gravy is poured onto the rice noodles. Umami with a side of umami? Yes, please. There are also asian greens, sliced fish cake and prawns. “It tastes just like home”, according my Malaysian friend.

CHAR KWAY TEOW
Score: ?
Would I order it? Probably not.

Stir-fried rice noodles/One of my favourite dishes/ when it is done well

Char kway teow also utilises the same kind of rice noodles and also requires formidable wok hei. The wat tan hor was so delicious, but char kway teow was anemic. There was no characteristic umami smell or slighty charriness along the edges of the rice noodles. Two out of two times the char kway teow has been like this. Disappointing.

HAR MEE
Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

We all have bad days/ Insipid watery soup/ Disappointing. Boo.

This dish varies a lot depending on the day. Some days it even has different toppings on it, or it is missing a vegetable component. But the worst variable is the soup quality. Sometimes the har mee looks amazing, but other days it looks watery and bland. The day I ordered har mee it was watery and bland.

ROTI CANAI
Score:9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

It’s pronounced ‘chanai’/Fluffy, stretch, crunchy bread/ Why is it so good?

Roti canai is a tissue-thin chewy flatbread, rolled up then curled around itself like a snail, and cooked over grill. The result is a light, chewy but crisp delicious food item. While it is good enough to have on its own, there are 3 sauces to dip your roti canai in. There’s usually a curry sauce, a sweet chutney and a dollop of sambal. I like to order this and watch the chefs spin the dough, roll it into shape, and watch the transformation from raw dough to delicious food on the grill.

DRY CURRY EGG NOODLE WITH STEAMED CHICKEN
Score: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Curry egg noodle/Steamed chicken and curry sauce/ Not ‘curry chicken’

The steamed chicken is the same as Ipoh rice noodle soup. The noodle is an egg noodle cooked in curry sauce. It’s good, but after a while it becomes uninteresting.
BANANA FRITTER
Score: 8.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

The secret is out/ Maltose syrup is a must/Makes the best fritters

The batter is a bit thick and will go stale quite quickly, especially if it sits in a pool of melted icecream. Luckily you can request the banana fritters to be brought out after you’ve finished your lunch or dinner, so they are piping hot and crispy. There is also maltose lightly drizzled over the fritters. It’s great.

GREEN TEA RED BEAN DRINK 
Score: ?
Would I order it? Probably not.

A green tea thickshake/ For the maccha green tea buff/ Complete with red beans

This is not a drink. This is a dessert. Looks good if you are a maccha green tea buff.

 

GREEN TEA
Score: ?
Would I order it? Probably not.

As Doctor Who does/ Could I order a strong drink?/Leave the teabag in

There are so many other weird and wonderful drinks on the menu. I would rather try one of those rather than tea bag green tea. I can drink that home. But it’s nice to see they have that option open.

GRASS JELLY EGG CUSTARD SOY DRINK
Score: 7/10
Would I order it again? No.

Not a good-looker/ Grass jelly and egg custard/ Slurp them up with straw

I like grass jelly, egg custard and soy milk. But not so much all together in a drink.

HONEY LONGAN DRINK
Score: 8.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Two drinks in one slot/Ooh Ahh that’s something different/ Just like these iced drinks

This is soy milk with preserved longan fruit and honey. Sounds strange, but oddly delicious. The honey and dried longan fruits sink to the bottom, so be sure to mix it up with your straw to get an even distribution of sweetness. Or not, if you enjoy a gradient. Dried longan fruits have a much stronger and sweeter taste than when it is fresh, and like most other dried fruits it becomes chewier.

ROSE/ BANDUNG DRINK
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

(Picture above. It’s the pink one.)

I have reviewed this in Old Town Kopitiam QV before it renovated and became Papparich. It tastes the same as before, that is, sweet without being too sickly sweet. It’s slightly musky too.

BLACK SESAME ICECREAM SOY DRINK
Score: ?
Would I order it? Probably not.

Poke straw through icecream/ Ta-da! An icecream donut/ Huh, ingenious

This is black sesame icecream in unsweetened soy milk. When you mix the icecream through it looks like a thickshake.

TEH SPECIAL 
Score: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A food science prac/ Things with different densities/Science, everywhere!*

No, I didn’t misspell ‘the’. Hah.
This is the 3 tier tea drink that you should order. It is made with black tea, evaporated milk, palm sugar and ice. The palm sugar syrup is heaviest and sinks to the bottom, next is the evaporated milk, then ice, then black tea to tinge the evaporated milk in a gradient of brown. It’s a good looking drink. Tasty too.

*: Don’t drink this in the lab. (Or drink anything in the lab.)

 

BARLEY WATER WITH GRASS JELLY
Score: 3/10
Would I order it again? No.

icky barley water

I’ve had barley water at Laksa Bar, and that was tasty and refreshing. It was warm outside, so I thought some barley water would be wonderful. Wrong. The barley water is sludgy and slimy, not refreshing at all.

AW ROOT BEER
Score: No score, I am unable to compute the taste of AW root beer into a numerical score.
Would I order it? No.

weird as heck

Can I just say AW root beer is one of the strangest things I have tasted? It tastes like…. old peoples’ toothpaste and anaesthetic used at the dentist. It was almost pleasant with its mouth numbing effervescent way, but then no, it tastes like strong toothpaste. Then it was nice again. Weird.

Don’t let the score on urbanspoon scare you into thinking it’s some kind of terrible place. Some things are poorly done, but some are done very well. At least try their roti and special three layer tea.
PappaRich QV on Urbanspoon

Rice Paper

Name: Rice Paper
Location: 245 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Prices: Meals $10-15, Drinks $3-5
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 7/10
Overall rating: 7/10

Rice Paper is a Vietnamese hawker-style restaurant, who do a bit of everything. There’s a section on the menu for starters, rice dishes, noodles, and for vermicelli noodles. Much like the other restaurants along Swanston St, Rice Paper is considered a cheap eats place. Many things are under $10, and most are under $15, there are plenty of tables and the staff seem happy to move tables around to cater for large groups.
I went there after the lunch rush, so things were a quieter lull. I don’t have any problems with when the food was brought out, it wasn’t straight away nor was it too slow. The staff spoke to us on equal terms, seeing as we all seem to be students who want to kick back and relax for the rest of the afternoon. To me, Ricepaper has a laid back feel, and that’s not a bad thing at all during the lull times.

The walls are covered with framed pictures of Vietnam (one of my favourites is the picture of the bicycle), and the ceiling is decked out in colourful paper lanterns. The lighting is a bit dim, so it might make you sleepy.

Browse a gallery/ Rows of pictures of Vietnam/ Then order some food

CRAB AND TOFU NOODLE SOUP ($8.90)
Score: 6.5/10
Would I order it again? No.

Hey there scuttling crab/ You are looking mighty fine/ As food in my bowl

The soup is sweet and clear, no problems there. My major criticism is the crab balls. Usually crab balls are those orange coloured balls of flour, fish paste, flavouring and some cubes of carrot-looking things. Those are good in noodle soups, and are used in much the same way as other surimi products. The crab balls here seem to be handmade, which is a great thing, but the consistency is too soft and paste-like. It is a soft paste barely held together as a ball. I would like some bits in it, whether those bits are imitation crab or bits of real crab, or some kind of vegetable, or bits of fish, just something to give it texture.
(As a side point, I also dislike the dried tofu puffs. But you like those, and don’t mind a smooth eggy crab ball, then this isn’t bad at all.)

Hey there crunchy sprouts/ Bring your shredded cabbage friends/ Party in soup bowl

There’s also a separate plate of beanshoots and sliced cabbage to be added into the noodles. The hot broth should cook them slightly, but they’ll still be crunchy.

COMBINATION VERMICELLI ($10.90)
Score: 8/10
Would I order this again? Yes

Crispy crunchy things/ Grilled, fried and uncooked things too/ Texture champloo

Vermicelli is a thin opaque rice noodle. This has barbecued pork meatball, chopped up spring rolls, sugar cane prawn, shredded pork, cucumber, carrot and crushed peanuts. it is served with a bowlful of sweet vinegar (with some other things, but I’m not familiar with this dish). The idea is to add as much dressing vinegar as you need (I just dump in all of it), and mix it all together. The end result is a crunchy noodle dish with lots of tasty things embedded in the noodles.

 
Rice Paper Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Seven Seeds: 02

Name: Seven Seeds
Location: 114 Berkeley St, Carlton 3053
Price range: Breakfast $4.50-$9.50, Lunch $10.50-$14.50, Drinks $4-7
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 5/5 (“It’s all good.”)

I’m back at Seven Seeds. The menu changes often so there always seems to be something different. Everything gives me food envy.

BIRCHER MUESLI, RUBY GRAPEFRUIT, PISTACHIOS, LABNA, HONEY ($9.50)
Overall rating: ?

Healthy and tasty/ A most excellent breakfast/ Good warm or cold

Bircher muesli is loose muesli (dry rolled oats, sometimes accompanied by flakes of dried fruit and nuts depending on which box you buy) soaked in fruit juice overnight to make a unusually delicious and nutritious breakfast. It’s also good with natural yoghurt for creaminess. The honey makes the otherwise tart natural yoghurt and pink grapefruit sweeter.

 

SEVEN SEEDS HOUSE-MADE BEANS & CORN BREAD, AVOCADO, SOUR CREAM, SALSA ($13.50)
Overall rating: ?

Beans in tomato/ Avocado and corn bread/ Mop up sauce with bread

“The problem with Seven Seeds that is the serving sizes are too small.” You can feasibly eat a main, and dessert for lunch and never feel too full. But beans and avocado do fill you up.

 

TASMANIAN COLD SMOKED SALMON, HERB SALAD, CAPER & DILL CREAM CHEESE WITH SOURDOUGH RYE ($13)
Overall rating: ?

Sweet oily salmon/ Piquant capers in cream cheese/ Peppery rocket

Cold smoked smoked salmon with cream cheese? I’m there! It’s just good flavours all round.

SOUTHERN STYLE BBQ PULLED PORK, COLESLAW, MAPLE SYRUP DRESSING & BRIOCHE BUN ($14.50)
Overall rating: ?

Lone knobbly gherkin/ The Hungry Caterpillar/ But no stomachache

Photo before eats/ Now with added cross sections/ Eat before it's cold

I don’t know much about this one, so I will add another photo so you can discern for yourself. There seems to be a Southern theme this round at Seven Seeds.

VIETNAMESE STYLE BAGUETTE, FRIED TOFU, CORIANDER, PICKLED CARROT & DAIKON, CUCUMBER & SPICY SRIRACHA MAYO ($13.50)
Overall rating: 8/10

Cuisine reversal/ Baguette mimicks Viet* bread/Love the mixed style

Initially I wasn’t so sure about tofu in a sandwich, but it’s not bad at all! It’s firm tofu and has a crumbly texture. The tofu is made tasty by the mayonnaise. Everything else is crunchy and zingy. If you ever get sick of having a ham, cheese, tomato baguette (even though Seven Seeds does do a good toasted sandwich), try a tofu baguette. My only qualm is that I wish I found some more pickled daikon.

*: Vietnamese. (But that doesn’t fit into the haiku.)

HOUSE-MADE PEANUT BUTTER & BANANA BREAD, FRENCH BUTTER ($7)
Overall rating: 10/10

Define 'delicious'/ Peanut butter banana/ toast with soft butter

Define 'happiness'/ Peanut butter banana/ toast with soft butter

Ripe bananas have one purpose, and that it to be in banana bread. If possible, in this banana bread.

Natural peanut butter (so delicious, so much better than Kraft peanut butter) and ripe bananas in bread form, studded with roasted peanuts throughout the loaf for additional crunch and roasty flavour. Then sliced into thick slices, then toasted for a crunchy browned exterior and warm fluffy interior. It was so delicious. I need to make this cake. Then perhaps eat a few slices with generous portions of room temperature butter before proclaiming a baking victory.
Only qualm here is that the butter is served while still being cold. It just makes it harder to spread, and there’s less buttery goodness soaked throughout your peanut butter banana toast.
Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

Mezina

Name: Mezina
Location: 176 Smith St, Fitzroy VIC 3066
Prices: Meals $10-15, Drinks $3-5
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 6/10
Overall rating: 6/10

Trendy open space/ Attention paid to decor/ Not so much on food

Mezina has a large space, with varying levels of casual throughout. You can have a table if you wish to eat a meal, or lounge on the sofa with a coffee and cake. The food is simple no-frills fare.  I wish the food reflected the decor.

ELLE’S VEGIE BREAKFAST STACK ($12.50)
Would I order it again? No.

Open faced sandwich/ Vegetarian to boot/ I am in Fitzroy

I expected everything to be segregated and placed in a way that made use of the plate. I wouldn’t mind if this was a sandwich, if it had another slice of bread on top. Or if it were a turkish loaf. I really wish there was something special about it, otherwise to me, it seems too plain. There’s nothing wrong with scrambled eggs, roasted capsicum, avocado and fetta, those are foods that are tasty together. But with the addition of a homemade chutney, or some pesto, or maybe some herbs within the scrambled eggs, or balsamic dressing on the capsicum, it could turn into something I’d be happy to come back and eat again.

MIXED SEEDS TOASTED SANDWICH– EGG, BACON WITH RELISH ($7.50)
Would I order it again? No.

Sammich to break fast/ Easy to eat on the run/ Lots of protein too

I prefer my egg and bacon sandwiches to be buttered toast, fried egg with the yolk still runny in the middle and generous serves of rasher bacon. But if you’re more health conscious (it’s a good thing!), and like homogeneity throughout their sandwiches, this is your egg and bacon sandwich. Short round bacon, trimmed to remove the fat, and the egg is beaten before being fried. The relish adds some sweetness and something interesting to the mix.
Mezina on Urbanspoon

Docklands Gold Leaf yumcha

Location: Level 1 Star Circus Harbour Town, Docklands, 3008
Cost: $129 for 3 people, ordering a la carte from yumcha trolleys. That, my friends, was a lot steeper than I thought it’d be.
Cost rating: 2/5, expensive side of yumcha, but the best yumcha in the city.
Taste rating: 9.5/10
Overall rating: 9/10, minus one point from the lack of transparent pricing.

I do not know how much each item was, but the items can be divided into categories, getting more expensive in ascending order: small, medium, large, deluxe and special order. When you order a dish, your waiter will cross off the corresponding ‘size’ of the dish. At the end of yumcha, the dishes will be tallied up and then you part with your money.

Internal decor:

Long paper lanterns/ A river of glowing lights/ Guiding you to food

Gold Leaf is one of the best yumchas in the city area. As you can see in the picture, it’s packed. You should make a booking if you don’t want to be waiting for an hour. (We made a booking.)

Offering to you/ Oh god of prosperity/ Fine drop of water

I’m not sure which god this is, but he brings economic success. He also likes to drink. A lot. So at his alter, there should always be a cup of alcohol as an offering. (Nowadays the cups with water, to imitate rice wine.)

An important part of yumcha are the fishtanks. It’s like having dinner at the aquarium, except you can eat the things in the fishtanks.

King of his castle/ Resting upon other crabs/ Easy to fish out

Yumcha is literally ‘drink tea’ in cantonese chinese dialect. You can think of it like english high tea. You have tea, and you have food. While the tea is an essential part of the yumcha experience, the focus is on the food. Yumcha dishes are small dishes of neatly portioned morsels. The idea is to eat many different delicious things, drink delicious tea, have good company to eat and drink with, then company to squabble with for the bill. If you’ve never seen this strange and wonderful bill-competition thing occur before, watch out for a large table. It’s most likely to happen on large tables, with people from different families. One fond memory of bill-squabbling I have includes being bribed by my great-aunt to pass the bill to her so she could ‘look at it’. I got a free lunch and a preserved plum candy out of that.

Have some tea. Then read on for a la carte yumcha dishes.

A cup of hot tea/ Breathe in the fragrant vapour/ Unwind, and quench thirst

Soy sauce and chili/ Adjust your food to your tastes/ Get ready to eat.

Everybody has their own yumcha dish which they’ll consider the classics, and cannot leave without eating that dish. It’s a strange feeling: to feel unsatisfied yet satiated with food. For me, the classics include ‘fun cheung’ and ‘har gow’. For my usual lunching buddy, it is ‘dim sum’ and ‘char siu bao’. For our newcomer lunching buddy, it was fried taro puffs, chicken pie ‘gai pai’ and egg tarts. So, of course, we had all of those.

CHICKEN PIE/ GAI PAI
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Shiny chicken pie/ Much more like a chicken tart/ Plus a sweet crumble

If you like chicken pie, you should order this. The chicken pie is a ubiquitous yumcha item. The chicken pie at Gold Leaf comprises of two types of pastry: Flaky and Crumbly. The flaky pastry forms the crunchy bottom to hold the chicken mix, and the crumbly pastry forms the lid over the chicken mix and lends itself well for that cracked pattern seen in the above picture.
It’s short, crumbly, flaky and melt-in-your-mouth without being gluggy. The chicken mix is pasty. I’ve never met a chinese chicken pie with large bits of chicken in it. There are only small bits and a chicken-flavoured roux filling the pie. The whole experience of the chicken pie is smooth, rich and melt-in-your-mouth. Personally, I prefer to have larger bits of chicken in a pie as a textural component.
The pastries and buns at Gold Leaf (GL) are excellent. We suspect the GL chain in Melbourne has taken the pastry chefs from the yumcha that was previously at Hyatt Hotel. Usually yumcha is more renounced for their steamed goods, not their pastries, but it is the reverse at GL. Not because the steamed goods are bad, but because the pastries are excellent. I am impressed.

CHAR SIU PUFF
Score: ?/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Gigantuous task/ One, two, three, argh, too many/ Counting the layers

I didn’t get to eat this. I was too full from other things to eat this. But I would order it again because the pastries were fantastic, and it looks like something that lives up to those standards. Just look at the layers, amazing.

EGGPLANT PRAWN
Score: 8-9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Vegetable custard/ Why so delicious, eggplant?/ Silky smooth plus crunch

Pieces of eggplant slathered with finely minced prawn, fried, then steamed with a sweet garlicky sauce. The eggplant is silky, and its pulpy flesh gives way to become tender and crisp in the frying stage, then soaks up moisture and cooks in the broth of prawns and itself in the steaming process. The prawn mince is crunchy and its texture contrasts with the silky smooth eggplant. I docked two points for not frying the eggplant and prawn long enough to break down the fibres of the eggplant completely (until the eggplant resembles a custard), and for the eggplants being very slightly bitter. I am sure the latter point is just bad luck. Some people may feel that a short frying time is better. The trade off for the custard-like texture is the amount of oil that the eggplant absorbs. Eggplants absorb a lot of oil, it soaks it up like a sponge. (The oiliness can be helped by sufficient drainage of oil prior to steaming.) In the end, it’s up to taste.

BBQ PORK BUN/ CHAR SIU BAO
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Incoming trolley/ See trolley avoid traffic/ How do they do it?

Mega fluffy bun/ Well-risen, and pristine white/ A savoury cloud

Better than a cloud/ No clouds have char siu contents/ But rain is not bad

Char siu buns are tricky. There are a lot of components to it: char siu marinade flavour, barbequing the marinade pork strips, making the primary dough, cutting the primary dough with sugar, pleating the buns and steaming. There’s a lot of space to let your skill show.

The pork pieces are large, char siu sauce is balanced in terms of sweetness and mouth puckering-ness (from the plum sauce), bun itself is soft and fluffy. Also, it doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth. (I know I pay too much attention to these things. They might not even be important.)

EGG TARTS
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

You are my sunshine/ Not a Golden Circle ad/ A plug for egg tarts

Egg tarts are important. Very important.
The pastry needs to be flaky and crunchy, and the egg filling needs to be smooth, custardy and have a sweet glaze on top so the egg mix doesn’t need to be too sweet. The egg tarts at GL are just that.

ICECREAM MOCHI
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Edible snowball/ Crunchy, chewy and creamy/ They all start with 'C'.

Picture of inside/ Better take one for the team/ Time to eat mochi

Icecream is one of my favourite foods. I like mochi (a glutinous rice dumpling) too. See my posts on daifuku (stuffed mochi) and yukimi-daifuku (brand name of an icecream-stuffed mochi) for more information on mochi.
Red pill for  Red Bean Paste daifuku.
Blue pill for Yukimi Daifuku.
The mochi layer at GL is too thick and chewy, without the meltaway sensation. Mochi does become harder and have more structural rigidity when it cold, but in the case of yukimi daifuku, the mochi layer was much thinner to compensate for this. The mochi layer is also unstretchy, which gives it a chewy texture. There could have been more icecream in the mochi, but I can that would be difficult technique-wise. Usually this dessert would be filled with red bean, mung bean paste, lotus seed paste or a mix of crushed peanuts/coconut/sesame/sugar, and the mochi would be thick enough to compensate for the sweetness and texture of the filling. I do like to see restaurants keeping up with food trends, such as icecream mochi, which is why we ordered it in the first place. But GL still have a ways to go with their icecream mochi.

RICEPAPER PRAWN
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Like a summer roll/ Plus two of my fav'rite things/ Frying and mayo

I enjoyed this dimsum the most. It has minced prawn with lengths of carrots and spring onion, wrapped in ricepaper and seaweed, lightly battered then fried. The result is a delicious prawn-based dimsum, with several kinds of ‘crunchy’ textures in one. There is also sweet mayonnaise to go with it. I recommend this!

TARO PUFFS
Score: ?/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A golden collar/ Maybe even a gold crown?/ Eat some taro puffs

Taro puffs are pretty awesome. Look at the pastry surrounding it, so lacy and delicate. I’d order it again because so far, GL was an impressive pastry track record. Some days I lament the lack of stomach space to fit all these delicious things in it.

TOFU SEAFOOD PARCEL
Score: 8/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Pescatarian/ Food of the land, food of sea/ Flashback to Totto

A parcel with a block of silken tofu with a fried exterior, with prawn mince, a whole prawn, wrapped in seaweed to keep it together, then topped off with fish roe. It’s a treat for those who like seafood. I don’t think the seaweed is necessary, but it does add some more visual appeal. Bu taste-wise, the seaweed becomes soggy and watery, detracting from the seafood.

(Totto reference: ‘Totto-chan’ is a book about a girl who goes to a school for different children. The principle starts a lunchtime rule of having “food from the land, and food from the sea” as part of a compete diet. It allowed parents feel like they were making a ‘good enough’ lunchbox for their kids, even if they couldn’t spend a lot of money on them. For example, a lunchbox of rice, an omelette and seaweed flakes sprinkled on the rice was a complete meal. )

DIMSUM
Score: ?/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Prep work is the key/ Better make your own pork mince/ Go get two sharp knives

Apparently it is very good, so I should order it again.

PRAWN DUMPLINGS/HAR GAO
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Translucent rice skin/ Watch the critics judge this one/ Yumcha gold standard

Never met a prawn dumpling I didn’t like. Crunchy prawn mince with bamboo shoots mixed throughout for more crunch, encased in a stretchy melt-in-your-mouth glutinous rice flour skin. Yumcha classic.

PORK CRACKLING AND JELLYFISH
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

A plate of textures/ Did you know that's jellyfish?/ Don't let that stop you.

Pork crackling and marinated preserved jellyfish is a traditional banquet appetiser. The pork skin is crispy without having bits that are chewy, and the flesh is sweet and tender. Not too salty either, but I don’t mind that. Especially when the pork has a glazed roasted underbelly. No qualms with the pork.
Preserved jellyfish is not a food that many people come across. I suspect many people don’t know what the noodle-like foodstuff around the pork is, and I relish every opportunity for people to eat jellyfish, then bring to their attention that they’ve eaten jellyfish. I get mixed reactions.
Jellyfish doesn’t have a taste of its own, it’s slightly alkaline, but not enough to bother people. It’s eaten for the texture. It’s cold, and crunchy, like thick-cut vermicelli only crunchier. I prefer jellyfish to be seasoned a little more than they do at GL, but it’s still tasty.

TRIPE
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Gateway to offal/ Like most cheap cuts, good in stews/ Inoffensive taste

Tripe is another one of those foods people seem to have divided opinions on. I like tripe when it’s cooked properly so that it’s tender and flavoursome. I don’t have any problems with eating tripe, but I do know some people refuse to eat offal. I think they’re missing out.
Tripe at GL is soft, tender and flavoursome. It’s not quite soft enough to bite through the tougher portions, but this isn’t a problem until you find a really large piece. The tougher bits of the tripe need to be cut into smaller portions, and that is my only qualm with GL tripe.

PRAWN RICE NOODLE/FUN CHEUNG
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Hark, prawn noodle tube/ Or a rice-y rollover/ Or a steamed pastry?

These rice noodles are actually one huge sheet of glutinous rice flour batter, steamed then rolled around prawns. So in my mind, it isn’t a noodle, but what else can I call it? There’s something odd about the term ‘prawn noodle tube’. If you ever get the chance to see them beng made, it’s quite a task. It’s very easy to tear the sheet of noodle, and difficult to roll up noodles when it’s steaming hot.

The noodle sheet is thin, silky smooth and neatly rolled. The prawns are large, not those little prawns that you find in a lot of fried rice takeaways. (Even though I do like those little shrimp too.)

BEEF RICE NOODLE/FUN CHEUNG
Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? No.

Bad analogies/ Only serve to confuse you/Just call it 'fun cheung'

The only difference with the beef fun cheung and prawn fun cheung is the filling. Beef fun cheung has a soft beef mince mix with cornflour and spring onions in it. I prefer the beef mix to have less cornflour and flour binder and have some semblance of texture in my noodle tube, but GL seems to enjoy having a smooth consistancy in all its food.

That’s all for today’s yumcha haul. I recommend the ricepaper prawn and egg tarts. The ricepaper prawn rolls are a new addition to the traditional yumcha fare, and the egg tarts cover you for the baked goods.

Gold Leaf on Urbanspoon

Seoul House

Name: Seoul House
Location: 234 Russell St, near the corner of Russell/Lonsdale
Price: Mains $15-25, though bibimbap is $6.80 ($8.80 for bibimbap in stone pot)
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating overall: 8/10
The setting is more upscaled than I expected. I come in expecting to get a $6.80 bibimbap in a bowl as a lunch special, and sit in a fairly mediocre sort of place, then eat a hopefully good bibimbap with a spicy sauce. But it surprisingly nice inside.

A bustling city/ A chance for zen reflection/ What shall be for lunch?

However, instead of bibimbap, we ordered Korean BBQ instead. Here are 2 visits to Seoul House condensed into one post. The overarching theme is BBQ. All of these are $15.50, but there are some more pricey ones. They come with assorted kimchis.
We ordered:

  • Beef ribs
  • Pork belly
  • Beef scotch fillet
  • spicy chicken
  • oyster mushrooms

Here comes the contentious point. The staff at Seoul House cook for you. Some people like this aspect, some people don’t. I appreciate the sentiment, and I’m happy to let them cook for me, then let them cut the larger portions into bite-sized pieces. But I also enjoy the novelty of cooking my own meal. Give me a pair of tongs and I’ll flip that piece of meat excessively. (On the other hand, it might actually be a good thing that somebody came along and cooked for us.)

 

BEEF RIBS
Score: 10/10, can’t think of anything I didn’t like, or anything else I wanted.
Contains: Beef ribs, the meaty portions unravelled out from the bone, a button mushroom and a bit of brown onion. The beef is already marinated, so its super tasty.

Ribs neatly butchered/ All flesh unraveled away/ Ease of consumption

Then the waiter comes up and starts the cooking process.

Beef ribs and mushroom/ Just sit and wait for your meal/ Watch the grill like hawk

After the meaty bits are done (the bone can still do with more time), your waiter will cut it up into smaller bite-sized pieces for you.

Barbecue sear marks/ Smoky, meaty, delicious/ Eat before burnt black

Out of the five reviewed items in this post, the beef rib is my favourite. It’s already marinated, so it’s very flavoursome. Plus it has the BBQ-ey taste from being cooked on a hotplate. While I have not met a beef rib that has chewy meat, ribs can definately be very oily and greasy if they’re not done right. But the beef ribs here aren’t greasy at all because the oil trickles down the hotplate dome.

 

PORK BELLY
Score: 8/10, but this score can be higher for those who like pork belly.
Contains: Thin slices of pork belly
I have a working theory that Melbourne is going through a Pork Belly revival scene. Fifteen years ago or so, fatty meats were seen as a decadent but tasty option when eating meat. It was fatty, but the fat makes sure the meat is tender and juicy. It was an honest time for food. Then along the way, lean meats made their way in. In a way, it was good for the waistline, but it irked me to see people with irrational fears of fat. Then we entered the recent years, where suddenly there was pork belly everything in the food scene. Pork belly at Red Spice Road, pork belly on television shows as the velvety new chic, pork belly sandwiches at Earl’s Canteen, then more pork belly sandwich variations at fancier sandwich and baguette places, and more pork belly praise on social networking comments by the year. I’d say pork belly has made its comeback.

Regardless of Melbourne trends in food, slices of pork belly is a extremely popular in Korean cuisine. The pork isn’t marinated, so there’s a sesame oil based dipping sauce to go with it. It has salt at the bottom, so don’t scoop out too much of the cloudy blob at the bottom, because you will only recieve a mouthful of salt.

Pork layered with fat/ The most tender part of pig/ Porcine luxury

 

BEEF SCOTCH FILLET
Taste: 8/10
Contents: Thin slices of beef, still thawing
I found this to be sliced a bit too thin to handle the hot grill. Or if you do want every bit of fat to sizzle away, leaving only lean meat to be consumed, then this is the dish for you. As for me, I’m sticking with the juicy beef ribs.

Sliced marbled fillet/ Curled into a meaty tube/ Reminds me of tuiles

Very thinly sliced/ Almost cooked through by contact/ How to get it rare?

 

SPICY CHICKEN
Taste: 7.5/10
Contents: Marinated chicken, skin on. However, unexpectedly lean. Also, some onion.

A large portion size/ That is a portion for one/ Don't forget kimchis

Place chicken on first/ Fear not mushrooms won't burn quick/ Wilt before burning

The chicken is marinated in a red sauce, which has copious amounts of garlic and ginger. It is very lean, despite having the skin on. The skin itself is very thin, and seems to have had the fatty layer beneath it sucked out. I like chicken skin, but this chicken skin doesn’t have the usual mouthfeel. Great for those who are watching their cholesterol intake.

Close-up of chicken/ Still reddish after cooking/ I reckon its done

Taste-wise, it isn’t overtly spicy. Initially, it’s not spicy, then after a while the heat kicks in. It has a mild slow-burn as you eat it. But having said that it is not very spicy at all. Sweet chili sauce would be spicier.

 

OYSTER MUSHROOM
Taste: 7/10
Contents: Just a plate of oyster mushrooms.

What can I say? (five)/ Just some bloody shrooms (seven)/ 'Cept without blood (five)

A plate of oyster mushrooms, plain and simple.

Wilt, soft mushroom, wilt/ See the oyster mushroom wilt/ Wilt is a strange word

When you cook the mushrooms on the grill, they will wilt. Since these are unseasoned, you will get a little dish of the sesame oil-based sauce with salt on the bottom. But since there were other things on the grill, I didn’t feel the need to use the sesame oil. There are also kimchis to go with your meal. In addition to that, oyster mushrooms are fine on their own without seasoning.

 

KIMCHIS
With BBQ, you’ll get several dishes of kimchi. Kimchi is an all-empassing term for pickles. Most people associate kimchi with red spicy napa cabbage pickled in chilis and vinegar. For most part (in Melbourne at least), that is what you’ll recieve when you order kimchi. But there are plenty of other kimchis, not all of them spicy.

Spicy and sour/ Or perhaps mildly sweet?/ Or simply tasty

In an anti-clockwise direction starting from the far left, spicy napa cabbage kimchi, fast-pickle beanshoots, fast-pickle cabbage slaw, marinated fish pancake, sugar broil potato.

Spicy napa cabbage kimchi: The standard fare. It’s a lingering heat sort of spicy. It’s also sour from the vinegar. It’s considerably spicier than the Spicy chicken. Give it a go. It won’t be spicy in the way that it’ll numb your tastebuds for the rest of your meal.

Fast-pickle beanshoots: I use the term fast-pickle to refer to a very short pickling process. It simply involves immersing vegetables in a solution of diluted vinegar and sugar for an hour or so, depending on the vegetable. The result is a pickle-like taste but without the sogginess from over-steeping. The vegetables will be crunchy. Beanshoots aren’t the hardiest of vegetables, so they’ll only take an hour. For thicker julienned carrots, it might take 6 hours. Beanshoot pickle is crunchy and sour to freshen up the palate after oily beef ribs and meatiness.

Fast-pickle cabbage slaw: It is very much like coleslaw, but without the mayonnaise. It’s very crunchy.

Marinated fish pancake: It seems to be marinated with a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce and maybe garlic. I didn’t pay much attention to what was in it, because it was only lightly marinated. One day I’ll be able to rattle off ingredients from tasting. I describe fish pancakes in my post about fish pancake hotpot. Come get your fish pancakes.

Essentially, fish pancake is made from fish paste mixed in a pancake-like batter. My lunching companion didn’t like them very much, prefering the less floury fishcake more common in south-east asian (SEA) dishes. I like the SEA fishcake, but I also like fish pancake.

Sugar broil potatoes: I know this sounds like a weird dish. Sugar? In potato? Yes. It’s simmered in a sweet broth until it absorbs the flavour of the broth. It tastes like sweet potato, but with a salty soy sauce background. This is my favourite, so please try it if you get the chance.

More kimchi pictures/ Everybody likes pictures/Visual gluttony

Only one new contender here, boiled broccoli. But you get a closer view of the fast-pickle beanshoots (and carrots). I wish they had given us the fish pancake and sugar potato too.

Although I had initially set out to eat bibimbap here, I just ate copious amounts of BBQ. No regrets. I would definitely recommend their beef rib, and that you cross your fingers for the sugar broil potato side dish.

Seoul House Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon