Australia, Melbourne, Melbourne - East

Top Paddock

 

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Situated in Richmond, 3 km southeast of Melbourne CBD, Top Paddock is a very popular venue with a long waiting queue most days of the week. The concept of Top Paddock is the intention for the produce to arrive from the paddock directly onto the customers’ plates. Most of the ingredients used in this café are sourced personally by the owner.

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We arrived here around midday on a Saturday and was greeted with a sight of many people waiting to get in. Even though there were lots of people, they had a good system of registering people and calling their names when a table was available. The staff was very attentive to their customers and always had a nice smile to greet customers.

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The inside is decorated in a modern manner, with the use of natural light and plants to bring the place to life. There is also an outdoor seating area.

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The coffee (mostly $4) was roasted by Five Senses. It was brewed perfectly, and the taste was a blend of nutty and smoky flavours, combined with a hint of subtle sweetness.

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The Rangers Valley Wagyu steak sandwich with beetroot relish, tempura beetroot shoots, fresh horseradish and wasabi leaves ($20.50, with an extra $2.50 for added fried egg) was a delight to our palate. It was a perfect blend of contrasts – the soft bread contrasted well with the crunchiness from the tempura, and the saltiness from the beef contrasted well with the bitterness from the leaves, the spicy kick from the horseradish and the sweetness from the relish. A fantastic dish.

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The Fresh Queensland soft-shell mud crab with a fennel and dill salad and lime mayonnaise in a brioche bun ($21) was all about re-creating the freshness of the ocean. The crab was fresh, well-seasoned and nicely cooked, sitting on a cushion of soft flesh. The freshness of the dish was further enhanced by the use of fresh herbs. The sweetness of the brioche bun provided some sweetness to the dish. This was a delightful dish and one that we would go back for again.

 

Overall, this café lived up to its hype, and is a place where we will come back again to try a few other items on its menu.
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Top Paddock

Website: http://toppaddockcafe.com

Address: 658 Church Street, Richmond, Melbourne

Phone: (03) 9429 4332

Opening Hours: Mon to Fri, 7am to 4pm; Weekends and Public Holidays, 8am to 4pm

Accepts MasterCard, Visa and American Express

 

Australia, Sydney, Sydney - Inner City

Pu’er

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Inspired by the great Chinese tea-houses of the world, Pu’er is situated in the trendy inner city suburb of Waterloo, offering patrons with unique dim sum and share dish menu, complimented by a large variety of Oriental tea and tea infused beverages.

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The restaurant has a nice ambience, with Chinese styled porcelain tables and wooden chairs. There is an open kitchen where kitchen staff prepares the fresh and wonderful food from their menu.

We dined there on a Sunday night and the service from the staff was very attentive.

The name Pu’er is actually a variety of fermented dark tea produced in China. To reflect the name of the restaurant, the menu, sitting on a wooden board, consists of a wide range of tea-based drinks, from traditional teas to tea infused beverages. The food menu, however, is more concentrated.

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Organic Misty Cloud $9

We ordered a pot of this tea, and this was served with a pot of hot water warmed by a candle, with the tea brewing in a separate flask, all served on a wooden tray. The wait staff explained how the tea ceremony worked and informed us that the best flavour from the tea would come about after the third infusion. The tea had a fresh nutty sweet flavour which became more subtle and delicate through further infusions.

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Peaches and Phoenix $17

A blend of peach iced tea with phoenix tea, along with a kick of alcohol, this drink was slightly sweet with some wooden undertones, which was very refreshing.

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Mushroom Pot Stickers $7

This pan-fried medley of shitake, champignon and straw mushroom dumplings had sticky skin with subtle mushroom flavours inside. The soft skin contrasted well with the crunchy fillings of mushroom and bamboo. They were lightly fried and were not oily at all. A nice entrée choice.

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Pork and Peanut Dumplings $7

These dumplings were filled with Teo Chew style spiced pork, roasted crunchy peanut and shitake mushroom. The infusion of flavours and textures from these little gems were awesome – we were able to taste the spiciness from the chilli, feel the crunchiness from the nuts, and experience the softness from the skin which absorbed the saltiness from the pork. The skins on the dumplings seem thicker than traditional Chinese dumplings, but we thought this was done on purpose in order for the skin to absorb the flavours of the sauce from the filling. A very enjoyable dish.

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Caramelised Berkshire Pork Belly $24

This main dish appeared small but was really tasty. The first thing we noticed when the dish was brought out was the smell of tea in the air from the dish. The pork was soft and easy to chew, and its meat just melted in our mouths without falling apart. The crackling was crispy and light. This dish had the taste of traditional Chinese tea and spices, which went down well with a bowl of rice. The inclusion of tea eggs was a nice touch and reminded us of Chinese marbled tea eggs. We thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
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Twice Cooked Shandong Chicken $29

This consisted of free range chicken and shitake which was slow cooked and pan fried. The sauce, which had a heavy vinegar flavour, was served on the side. This was a modern rendition of a classic Chinese dish, with the sauce on offer being more sweeter than the sauce from the traditional dish. The chicken was cooked to perfection, with the meat being soft and the skin being crispy. Jono found this dish delicious, but I thought the sauce was too sweet for my palate.

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Lemongrass Pannacotta $10

This pannacotta was served with black sesame soup and smoked melon. The watermelon which was smoked with lemongrass had a weird taste, but apart from that, the texture of the pannacotta was perfect and it went well with the black sesame. This was a nice dessert to end our meals.

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Coconut and Kaffir Lime Leaf Sorbet $10

The sorbet was served in a coconut shell from a young coconut, with coconut water and black sticky rice on the side. The whole dish carried out the coconut theme well. It was subtly sweet and delicious.

Pu’er is a great place where people can enjoy great Chinese food in a setting that is comfortable and open. It is interesting to see how traditional Chinese dishes have been modernised here, and with a pot of tea and a few dishes, we can imagine people sitting here for hours chatting away and enjoying life (as well as the great food and drinks). For the novice in Chinese cuisine, Pu’er is a great place to begin your experience in the variety of flavours that Chinese cuisine has on offer.

Pu'er on Urbanspoon

Pu’er

Website: www.puer.com.au

Address: 20a Dank Street, Waterloo

Phone: (02) 8399 1331

Opening Hours: Tues to Fri, 12pm to 3pm, 6pm to late; Sat to Sun, 12pm to late

Accepts MasterCard, Visa and American Express

By Greg

Australia, Sydney, Sydney - CBD

Masu Izakaya

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Masu Izakaya

An izakaya is a casual Japanese drinking place where people can go after work to grab a few drinks while chewing on yakitori skewers. To find a place in Sydney where there is a friendly vibe, with a good variety of drinks and food, is not easy, but we think we may have found the place.

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Located in Chinatown, Masu Izakaya has only been opened for a few weeks. It has a really nice atmosphere with bright lights creating a warm hue, exposed brick walls giving it a rustic look, and comfortable leather chairs. The inclusion of a chandelier near the stairs gives some class to the venue.

The wait staff was very attentive during our visit, and the provision of wet towels on the table was a nice gesture.

The drink menu was amazing, with a vast variety of Japanese sake (which ranged from $6.50 to $13 for 100mL) and Japanese whisky (which ranged from $10 to $17 for a glass). They even have some different types of soda drinks that we have not seen in other Japanese restaurants. The drinks menu is really worth checking out.

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One thing to note is that the bottle of soy sauce provided on the table contained very thick soy sauce, which gave the food a more robust flavour. This was a nice touch.

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Assorted Sashimi $22.80

This contained salmon, tuna, kingfish and scallop sashimi. All the sashimi was fresh and sweet.

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Dragon Roll $10.80

A lightly seared eel inside out roll with cream cheese, cucumber and avocado. The rice was cooked perfectly, and the eel did not contain any fishy taste. A nice dish.

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Scallop and Ebi Fry $9.80

A lightly seared scallop inside out roll with ebi fry and cucumber. The ebi fry (prawns) were crispy, with very subtle scallop taste. The added sesame gave this dish a touch of depth in flavour. Very enjoyable.

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Eihire (dried sting ray fin) $7

Nicely flavoured but a little bit tough, this is the perfect dish to devour while downing a few beers or sakes. The mayo was a nice little touch.

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Grilled squid $12

The squid was soft and tender, and yet it had the nice smoky tarry taste from the grill. Another perfect dish to accompany some nice Japanese beer.

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Skewers

The yakitori skewers are their speciality and we tried a few different types. Apparently all the chicken used in the yakitori are from local farms which makes them fresh and tasty.

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The Mushroom ($4.50) had two mushrooms stuffed with chicken meat, and it had a nice Asian flavour going for it.

The Nankotsu (chicken cartilage) ($3.50) was nice and crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside. Some chicken meat seem to have been intentionally left on the cartilage for customers to taste the chicken flavour.

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The Sasami (chicken breast) and Momo (dark chicken meat) ($3.50 each) provided a contrast in taste and texture. Greg liked the Momo as he found it tender and flavoursome, while Jono found it too peppery. However, Jono liked the Sasami as he could taste the natural real chicken flavour from it, but Greg found it a bit too dry.

We also had a number of other skewers.

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The Wagyu Beef ($7.50) was soft, tender and tasty. It was simply divine!

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The Butabara Pork ($3.50) had the right amount of fat, making it soft and tender, which contrasted well with the crunchiness of the spring onion. Furthermore, the saltiness of the pork, with the spiciness of the sauce, and the sweetness from the onion created an explosion of flavours in our mouths.

The Quail Egg ($3) had the smokiness of the grill and when mixed with the sauce, it just oozed through our mouth.

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The Rice Cake Maki ($3.50) divided our opinions. Greg enjoyed it, as it was full of flavour with the outside being crunchy and inside being soft. However, Jono was disappointed with this dish, as the flavour from the sauce was too strong, making it taste like some sticky fat filled with sauce.

Overall, we loved this place, and we will be back on a regular basis. The drinks are special, the food is great, and the vibe is friendly and relaxed. This is the perfect place to wind up after work and chat with your friends or colleagues.

 

Masu Izakaya on Urbanspoon

 

Masu Izakaya

Website: http://www.masuizakaya.com

Address: Shop B1, 35-39 Liverpool Street (corner of Liverpool and Dixon Street), Sydney

Phone: (02) 9261 3011

Opening hours: Mon to Fri and Sun 11:30am to 11:30pm, Sat 5pm til late

Accepts MasterCard and Visa only for bills over $30

Australia, Sydney, Sydney - CBD

Brewristas Cafe, Glebe

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Located in the trendy suburb of Glebe in Sydney is this cool café. It has a sleek, modern interior and is also quite big, with tables by the windows or the side wall. There is also a small courtyard at the back with more tables.

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The first thing I saw walking into the café was the counter with a big coffee machine. Surrounding it were other coffee related equipment such as filters, which showed how committed to coffee this place was. The barista uses a horn system to notify the serving staff when the coffee was ready, so customers can enjoy their coffee at the right temperature.

The staff was very open, friendly and attentive. Their enthusiasm showed their commitment to the customers and their products. They were always smiling

I ordered a macchiato. The coffee had nice intense flavours, which were nicely balanced, with a smoky yet fragrant flavours.

Jono ordered an avocado shake. He liked this drink, as it was not overly sweet, with a milky flavour from the use of condensed milk in the drink.

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Porky Pigs Hotteok – Traditional Korean honey jam pancake with bacon, poached egg, spicy guacamole, rocket & mango habanero mayo $15

Jono found the whole dish too sweet – the pancakes were already sweet themselves, the jam filling made them sweeter, and even the mayo was leaning to the sweet side. He thought that maybe he should have used the lime to make it less sweet. The bacon did help in reducing the sweetness somewhat. The poached eggs, though, were perfect.

I thought this dish had too much going on. I would have loved to have eaten the pancakes with the jam filling by itself as a sweet snack. It reminded me of Korean red bean pancakes. The addition of bacon added some saltiness to the dish, while the mayo added some spiciness and the lime added a touch of sourness. They actually detracted me from the real star of the dish which should have been the pancakes.

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Kevin’s Balls – filled with roasted pork belly, tofu, kim chi, sweet potato, encrusted with shin ramyun $10

This dish is named after the owner, and four small balls were served in a small cup.

One bite of this dish took me back to high school days, where I would make shin ramen in the middle of the night to keep me sustained as I studied for the HSC. The spiciness of the shin ramen that I remembered were all captured by this dish, and the kim chi added a depth of flavour to this dish. The portion of pork belly in the balls was also very generous. The crunchiness of the outside contrasted well with the soft texture of the pork belly and tofu.

Jono thought the dish was well presented, but a little hard to eat. He thought that putting the balls on the plate would have made it easier for people to eat, as the balls tended to fall apart when you put a fork into them.

Overall, Brewristas is a neat little café with very innovative food that you would not find in normal cafes. The coffee here is their specialty.

Brewristas on Urbanspoon

Brewristas Cafe

Website: http://www.brewristas.com.au

Address: 73 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, Sydney

Phone: Not available

Opening hours: 8am to 2pm, 6pm to 10pm, Mon to Thurs; 8am to 2pm, 6pm to 11pm, Fri; 9am to 11:30p, Sat; 9am to 9pm, Sun

Accepts MasterCard and Visa only, not American Express

By Greg