Tuesday, September 8, 2015

David Tsirekas Dinner @ Hellenic Republic Kew

26 Cotham Rd, Kew ph  (03)  9207 7477

I was very fortunate to be invited to the special David Tsirekas event a Hellenic Republic Kew a few weeks back.  The Hellenic Republic restaurants are a favourite of mine, since I love the inventive twists to Greek food they come up with, and they are a very kid-friendly group of eateries in general.  

The room was packed to the rafters with guests.  After everyone was seated, a curtain pulled back to reveal an open kitchen, where George Calombaris, David Tsirekas, Travis McAuley (executive chef, Hellenic Republic), Arron Lynch (head chef Hellenic Republic) and Alex Xinis (head chef, Hellenic Kew) worked their magic preparing dishes under the fascinated eyes of their captive dinning audience.  

David (of Perama and Xanthi) from Sydney is a friend of George Calombaris and their easy camaraderie was sweet and clearly reflected their respect for each other's skills, and the opportunity to hear David's tales of his experiences was both heartwarming and fascinating. 

I was expecting a 4 course dinner, but in fact it was a 4 part dinner with 13 different dishes, each one created by one of the chefs.  The dishes were wonderful fusion dishes merging Greek origins with interesting new elements, some with surprising combinations, some with a touch of whimsy, but all with great thought and amazing execution.


We started with David's Tarama churros, latholemono, a savoury churro, a fabulous Greek take on the Spanish "donut".

The Smoked bone marrow, beetroot, feta, horseradish by George was probably my favourite dish of the night.  I love marrow, but this dish took it to the next level with its amazing flavour as well as it's pretty-as-a-picture presentation.  The chefs joked about the amount of work it took to clean and prepare the marrow and bones, and I am sure it's absolutely no joke!

The Ouzo cured ocean trout, Jerusalem artichoke, cucumber by Arron Lynch  was another beautifully presented dish.  I don't love ouzo but what it does for the trout is pretty awesome.

The Sheftalies, tahini yoghurt, caper leaves by Travis was more of what I usually expect of Greek food.  The meat was perfectly cooked and the yoghurt gave it the tang that elevated this dish to sensational.

The kefalograviera saganaki by Alex Xinis was a wonderful version of the traditional dish.  I love, love, love those caramelised grapes!


We watched the chefs dish up the Seafood kokoretsi, skordalia by David Tsirekas with fascination.  In essence a seafood filled roll with a crispy pastry, the crunchy outer shell contrasted wonderfully with the delicious and luscious seafood it encapsulated.

George Calombaris' Tartare of tuna with all its frills, prawn crackers was a fun dish clearly coming from the cheeky side of the chef.  The individual components of the tartare was served up separately with a bag of prawn crackers, and once mixed you eat it in the cracker.  It got all the guests at our table talking and giggling like kids.

I loved Alex Xinis' Melitzanosalata - I love eggplant in general, and the dish really showcased the fabulous versatility in texture and tastes you get get with the humble eggplant.


Each of the dishes were shared by 4 of us at the table, but by this stage I was honestly wondering how I would be able to finish all the food that were to come.  The duck and quince by David Tsirekas made it easy for me to "exercise"..... my ability to stretch my stomach to accommodate more food!  The sweet and tangy sauce perfectly balanced the duck meat that had been cooked to perfection.

The wagyu tongue and flat iron kalamaki by Tavis McAuley was grilled nicely and full of flavour, not your average meat on a skewer!

And then came Arron Lynch's Lahanosalata.  I am a big kid and I never liked Brussels sprouts, but these were so delicious that I have been ordering sprouts more and more when I go out (next step is learning how to cook it so that it's THIS flavoursome!)  The salad could easily be eaten as a meal itself.


No meal is complete without sweets for me!  David's Touloumba, warm rosewater custard, honeyed walnuts was a traditional and comforting dessert with a lovely custard....

....whilst the "Magnamopolous" - Greek yoghurt ice cream, caramelia, mastic, fruit was another one of George's marvellously fun creations, a tilt of the hat to Australia's favourite Magnum, with a slap of Greek pride and a wonderful tangy twist with the use of frozen yoghurt and fruit.

The dinner costs diners $95 per head for the night, and even though I was there by invitation, we all agreed that for that amount of high quality food and free flowing drinks and ouzo, the meal was definitely value for money.  My kidlets love George's cook book for kids and I bought a signed copy to surprise them in the morning.  They ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the photos of the food I had and I had to promise to bring them back soon for another meal, and of course they were jealous of my photo with George, haha.

Filming for Masterchef had just concluded and we were all amazed at the amount of energy George has, as he had a packed international schedule on top of organising this top notch dinner.  I will have to organise to come with Hubby the next time as I have no doubt he would enjoy a similar great night out. 

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Disclaimer : Eat.Play.Shop. attended the David Tsirekas dinner by invitation of Made Establishment and Hellenic Kew.  Opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Eat. @ Pillar of Salt

541 Church St, Richmond ph (03) 9421 1550

We've been to Pillar of Salt quite a few times and I can't believe I haven't blogged about it yet!  Bubs and I had another visit the other day on our brunch roulette adventures.  We used to come with the pram, and we would be quite comfortably seated out the back in the backyard.  More and more now we get to sit at the communal table out the front, on high stools which can be a little challenging for little ones but Bubs enjoys the "grown up" chairs.  The coffee here is always nice, my mocha ($3.8 ) never disappoints.

Our go-to dish here is the Benedict ($17.5), poached eggs with braised and shredded Ottway ham hock, smashed peas, and their apple cider hollandaise on toast.  The combination is perfect and always ticks the boxes for a hearty Melbourne brunch.

The cafe is always full and bustling, with coffee drinkers dashing in for their brew and take-away baguettes and baked goodies, as well as groups of diners catching up over breakfast, brunch and coffees.  I think it speaks volumes that they remain so busy, with the popular Top Paddock just down the road.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Eat. @ Legacy

347 Camberwell Rd, Camberwell ph (03) 9041 1796

We ventured out to Legacy for lunch during the most recent school holidays.  It's a busy little brunch spot on the ground floor of a new low rise apartment block on Camberwell Rd.  (Look for the nearby Beacon Lighting!)

The first time I was there with Bubs there was a big wait so we just grabbed some of their delectable donuts to go.

I next visited with all 3 kidlets in tow.  They started off with a couple of cool milk shakes ($6.5, comes in caramel, chocolate, strawberry or vanilla) served in jars of course.

I had a chilli mocha ($4.6) which I must admit was not very strong in the chilli at all (I actually asked to confirm that I did get the chilli version), so next time I'm gonna ask for one with more kick!

First up came the Sweet Potato, kale and amaranth fritters, with goat's cheese,Kaiser bacon and cherry vine tomato relish ($17.5).  A good standard Melbourne brunch dish, I did like the combination of sweet potato and kale in the fritters, and the chutney adds the tang in a good way.

My favourite was the Seared Sesame Tuna Tataki ($22) served with soba noodles, avocado, snow pea sprouts, spring onion, pickled ginger and an Asian dressing.  A really fresh fusion dish that was quite healthy and tasty.  

We couldn't decide between the sweets and ended up ordering 2 dishes!  (That's the great thing about eating out with the family!!!)  First up the Hokey Pokey Pancakes ($17.9) which of course was Macaron Monster's favourite! With house made honeycomb, ricotta, orange, vanilla bean creme fraiche, pomegranate and strawberries (and figs too as you can see).  The honeycomb was the bomb, and needs to be included in all desserts in my opinion!

Then we had the passion fruit pannacotta ($16.9), which was a very pretty dish with crushed pistachios, figs, strawberries, blueberries and an orange and poppy seed tulle.  The pannacotta was lovely and smooth and the fruits were refreshing with the pistachio and tulle bringing the crunch.  A perfect dish for those who like desserts for breakfast like I do.

The service was efficient and friendly, the music a little too loud but made for a bustling atmosphere.  I liked all the dishes we tried and am looking forward to coming back for some butter fried chicken on my  next visit!

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Eat. and Shop. @ Hinoki Japanese Pantry

279 Smith Street, Fitzroy ph (03) 9417 4531

I'm always on the look out for a good place for Japanese groceries and a good place for sushi.  Hinoki Japanese Pantry has both!

I really like the range of Japanese groceries available at Hinoki.  They have a great selection of essentials like sauces, noodles and cooking aids, as well as a fabulous range of rice crackers, sweets and snack foods that brings me back again and again!

The draw for most people of course is the fresh sushi bar on site.  There's limited seating available for eat-ins, but mostly I tend to grab take away for a great sushi meal on the go.   I find that aburi salmon sushi is not readily available in Melbourne but they make both nigiri as well as aburi salmon topped rolls here!

And of course a kicker of a match milkshake for $2.8 is always good!

A favourite place to eat and shop for our family!

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