Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eat. @ Chin Chin

125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD 3000 ph (03) 8663 2000

Hubby and I finally made it to the infamous Double Chin for dinner a few weeks ago.  It was a week after Valentine's Day, which we always celebrate late as we tend to like to avoid the the pressure of eating out on those "celebrated" days.  I've wanted to eat at Chin Chin for ages but have always been a bit apprehensive of risking a massive queue on our ever so rare date nights.  This year we organised babysitting early and headed to the city ahead of the White Night event.  I'm happy to report that we got there at 5:10pm, didn't have a wait and were seated at the bar for drinks and din dins by 5:15pm!

Their menu is quite extensive and there were lots of dishes of different sizes to share.  I contemplated the choices whist sipping on my mocktail of pineapple and coconut.

We ordered lots of little dishes to share, starting with the School Prawns ($14) with nahm prik pla gapi, herbs and crudites.  This was a much bigger serving than we expected and by the end of our meal we still had some left! 

The Chin Chin Pork "Roll Ups" ($19) were next, with red braised suckling pig which you self-wrap in pancakes, slaw and asian herbs.  An interesting and tasty twist to the "wrap and eat" dish which again was quite a big serve for 2 considering the price.

Next up, the most beautiful Tom Kha ($15) I've had.  The coconut, galangal, mushrooms and tahail basil soup had a really fragrant chilli oil, I could not get enough of this soup!

Then we had the Wok Fried Salt and Pepper Squid ($14), mostly because the couple next to us were having it and it looked fabulous, and it did not disappoint!

The Son in Law Eggs ($8) here are quite famous, served with an addictive chilli jam.  There were 3 eggs which is quite a decent sized serve.  The slightly crunchy skin gave way to a still runny centre, and the chilli jam gives it the spicy zing to counter the heaviness of the twice-cooked eggs.

Not having that many date nights, we *ahem* quite possibly over ordered and under estimated the size of the dishes!   The last dish we had was the Caramelised Sticky Pork with sour herb salad and chilli vinegar ($26)  This was perfectly paired with some steamed jasmine rice ($3) and I wish I could've eaten more!  Alas as much as I wanted to order dessert I literally had to roll off my barstool by this stage.  Next time!

Our dinner at Chin Chin did not disappoint and we were happy that our meal lived up to the hype from this now famous Melbourne hot spot.  The service was efficient and friendly, and as busy as the place was, we weren't at any stage made to feel rushed or ignored.  As we were arriving we saw a few young families with young children leaving after an early dinner, and I look forward to bringing our bunch of kidlets for a meal now that Bubs is older and much easier to handle at meal times!

Toilets - yes, and pretty awesome for the background "music" in the form of an instructional tutorial on learning to speak ?Thai ?Vietnamese.  I'm not sure but it did give me a giggle as I thought about patrons learning a new language as they peed!

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eat. @ Ba'get

132 Russell Street, Melbourne CBD 3000 

I love the fantastic array of food that we get to experience living in Melbourne.   Po'boys, bibimbap, tonkatsu, quesadillas are nowadays as common place as dim sims and souvalaki's were in the 80's.  Kids nowadays have so many interesting choices and I'm always happy to see my kids try foods from different cultures and learn to appreciate the healthier options that are offered.  (Macaron Monster still impresses me when she chooses sushi over Maccas when given the choice!)  Banh Mi are surely one of the first "fusion foods", having been created as a street food during the time of French occupation of Vietnam, and have long been around thanks to Melbourne's thriving Vietnamese Community.

Banh Mi has been a favourite food of mine since my Mum bought one for us as an after school snack when I was in primary school.  I was a pretty picky eater, yet the combination of crispy baguette, sharp pickles, variety of hams and even pate (!) somehow just worked so well together, even to my less than discerning young taste buds!    

I was invited to a banh mi masterclass to experience the traditional banh mi that will be available in the newly established Ba'get this week, and was treated to a really interesting "guided tour" on how good banh mi are made.  It is obvious Duy and his family, the lovely people behind Ba'get, are passionate about traditional, fresh and healthy food.   Duy told us a bit about his family's background in the food industry.  They have stayed true to the recipe used in the Mekong region of Vietnam, with slight adaptations over the years to perfect the balance of ingredients in their Banh Mi.  

Next up Duy's brother taught us how the baguettes are made and boy, I will never, ever under estimate how much skill one needs to make these baguettes!  To be honest I had never paid much attention to these rolls that are sold at all Vietnamese bakeries.  I'm delighted by the fact that the baguettes here are baked on the premises, and the winning formula for me is that they are being baked EVERY HOUR!  

So we all had a go at making the baguettes.  Here's my less than impressive looking baguette , shaped by yours truly......

And the subsequent outcome.  

I tell you it's much easier to make macarons then to bake the perfect baguette!   Don't worry, the baguettes made by the staff at Ba'get all look great!

Duy then taught us how to make the traditional pickle that goes into the banh mi.  The freshest ingredients made for a refreshing and tart pickle that gives a good banh mi the perfect balance of crunch and sourness to complement the fresh bread and meat.

Then Duy's sister Jenny assembles the fresh ingredients including options for the classic hams, lemongrass pork or chicken, pulled chicken or meat balls.  There's even a vegetarian choice with tofu which I tried for the first time and was surprisingly delicious!

The others also experienced some exotic looking Vietnamese cocktails.  I didn't drink because I was driving, of course! 

Don't worry about my lack of hydration though.  I polished off 2 of these most excellent traditional Vietnamese coffees.  They were strong, not too sweet, and full of kick!  Just the way a good Vietnamese coffee should be!

I also got to try some of the delicious pork ball skewers.  There will also be pork puffs, sesame donuts and a selection of pastries available as part of the menu.  Banh Mi inspired vermicelli bowls will be offered as a gluten free alternative.

Overall I think the baked-on-the-hour fresh baguettes and the emphasis on fresh quality ingredients will distinguish Ba'get as a more than worthy lunch (and even dinner) option for discerning Melbourne city-goers.  Ba'get officially opens on Friday 28th March (that's tomorrow!) and they are offering free banh mi to their facebook likers, so get in quick to try it out!

Ba'get Russell Street on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer : I attended the Banh Mi masterclass at Ba'get courtesy of Ba'get and Hothouse Media.  Opinions are my own.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Eat. @ Jimmy Grants

113 St David St, Fitzroy 3065

I love how Melbourne's food scene is constantly changing.  Every second day there's a headline proclaiming "this and that" are the new "that and another".  Nothing wrong with this short attention span I say as it means we get opportunities to try new things on a regular basis. Not long ago hot dogs were the new hamburgers, then the hamburgers were the new hot dogs, and now the humble Souvalaki is the new fast food on the block with Jimmy Grants serving up this Mediterranean staple as the latest addition to Hall of "foods that have been around for yonks but is now hip again" (much like 80's fashion hey!)

I once worked with a Dr Pappapoulos who was one of the nicest doctors I have worked with, and he taught me lots.   Hubby tried the Mr Pappadopoulos ($9) which was one of the nicest souvalakis we've had.  The flavour is subtle and the lamb is gorgeous and it tasted like a lovely meal from home, rather than the overly salty, heavily spicy and greasy wrap that are around every neighborhood.  The kicker of course are the chips in the souva and only proved my kids right that "chips always make things better"!

The Nonna Maria ($8.5) was the chicken souva with mustard aioli, chips, onions and parsley and is a great alternative to Dr P for those who don't like lamb.  I personally prefer lamb souvas but the Nonna is a great chicken option.

We also had a serve of Steamed Jimmy's Dimmy ($5) and really enjoyed the good-sized dumplings filled with meat.  I went to school in a community made up of a large number of Greek and Asian immigrants back in the 80's and 90's, and I must admit munching on dim sims in a souvalaki place gave me a good chuckle.

Jimmy Grants menu is filled with kid friendly food and great portions for sharing, but they also have the Kalamata Kid ($5.5)  which is a mini version of the chicken souva and it's great for the bigger kids, or as a snack for an adult!  Mini Me loved having a little meal to herself.

The chips in the souvas were not enough so we ended up ordering a plate of it ($5).  This was  simply garnished with garlic oil, oregano and feta.

There's also some yummy sounding desserts like Jimmy's Wheel (their version of the wagon wheel), Greek doughnuts and a wicked sounding choc top, but we resolved to come back to try these as we'd promised the kids gelato at Gelato Messina for a treat later.  I am definitely loving the trend of all the new casual joints for decent but fast bites in Melbourne.

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon