Australia, Melbourne, Melbourne - CBD

Wonderbao

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A wonderful way to start the day on a cold wintery morning in the city of Melbourne is to warm yourself up with a couple of hot steaming soft buns.

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Wonderbao is situated inside a small arcade at the end of a lane. It is a small store, with exposed brick walls, and wooden tables. The store is thoughtfully decorated with bamboo steamers and a row of Sriracha bottles, giving it a very Asian vibe.

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Gua Baos

These are available daily after 10:30am. We tried all three of them – Braised pork belly ($4.20), Roast pork belly ($4.20) and Fried silky tofu ($4.20).

The first impression of the hot steaming buns was how soft and fresh they were. The fried silky tofu gua bao was my favourite – the contrasting textures of the soft bun, tofu (which was crisp on the outside and soft inside) and the crunchy peanuts, along with the flavours from the sweet soy, coriander and pickled mustard, made this bun so pleasing to eat. The roast pork belly gua bao was tasty, with crispy crackling and soft pork belly, and the use of the hoi sin sauce and cucumber reminded me of the taste of Peking duck pancake. The pork in the braised pork belly gau bao was a little too chewy for my liking.

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Traditional Baos

The Da chicken bao ($3.50) was a big bun, with chicken, egg and shiitake mushroom inside. It was nice and tasty. The Cheung chai bao ($2.20) had Chinese sausage inside the bun.

Drinks

A cup of home-made soya milk ($3) went well with the buns. I would have preferred the milk to be less sweet and to have more soya bean flavours.

Overall this place is worth visiting if you are ever in Melbourne – it is cheap, quick and tasty. What more can you ask for?

Wonderbao on Urbanspoon

Wonderbao

Website: www.wonderbaokitchen.com.au

Address: Shop 4, 19-37 A’Beckett St, Melbourne 3000

Phone: (03) 9654 7887

Opening hours: Mon to Fri, 8am to 6pm; Sat, 11am to 4pm

Accepts MasterCard and Visa

Australia, Sydney, Sydney - CBD

Field House Restaurant & Bar, Novotel Central

As part of the NSW Food and Wine Festival which ran from February 7 to March 1 this year, Field House Restaurant & Bar offered a three course dinner with matching wines for $69. Jono and I decided to try this out.

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Arriving at Novotel Hotel at around 8:30pm, I was surprised by the appearance of the restaurant. It was in an open space, with white plastic tables and black chairs, and it looked more like a canteen than a restaurant inside a hotel. There was only one other diner at that time, and the staff were shocked that we were intending to dine there. When I told them that we had a booking, which I made a few days beforehand, they were not able to locate it.

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We sat down at our tables and were given the menus. I noticed that not all tables had both salt and pepper bottles on them – some tables had a bottle of each, while other tables only had one bottle of either.

The special menu the NSW Food and Wine Festival allowed us to choose a dish from a choice of three in each course. Each dish came with a specific matching wine.

When the meals were served, no one explained the food nor the wine to us. The food and the glasses of wine were just popped onto the table, with little to no explanation. The service from the staff was simply non-existent.

Now onto the food.

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Confit Bryon Bay pork belly, apple & ginger salad, chilli caramel
(2006 Blickling Estate Cabernet Sauvignon)

Jono ordered this choice for his entrée. He was disappointed with the skin of the pork belly, as it was neither crispy nor soft, but it was rather chewy. He described the meat as tough and chewy as well.   However, Jono mentioned the saving grace of this dish was the caramelised sauce which provided a good balance to the salad.

I had a taste of the pork belly and it was definitely undercooked.

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Nelson Bay king fish ceviche, jalapeno chilli, avocado and heirloom tomato
(2013 Audrey Wilkinson Semillon)

I ordered this dish, and noticed that the fish slices were too thick. I had a bite of the fish and it was not seasoned. Eating the fish with the jalapeno was a big mistake – the jalapeno was too hot and spicy, and it completely overpowered the delicate flavour of the king fish. Maybe the chef should have removed all the white parts from the jalapeno so the chilli taste would have been milder and then the flavour of the fish would have come through in this dish.

The wine matched was too light for the spicy flavour of the jalapeno.

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Pan roasted Coffs Harbour jewfish, smoked baby beets, pancetta & saffron butter
(2009 Poole’s Rock Chardonnay)

Jono ordered the fish. To him, this dish was very enjoyable, with the fish being well seasoned and all the other ingredients in this dish working well with each other.

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New England lamb rump, primavera potatoes, garden peas & mint puree
(2011 Audrey Wilkinson The Lake Shiraz)

I ordered the lamb for my main. The smokiness of the crust on the lamb, when removed, revealed succulent and juicy meat, and this was well matched with the sides and the heavy, fruity and tarry wine. This was a very nice dish.

Jono also tried part of my dish, and noticed that the sauce for the dish had a very heavy garlic flavour, which ironically, was more prominent than the chopped garlic on top of the potatoes. He also enjoyed how the strong, garlicky and spicy sauce matched the smoky flavour of the meat, yet providing a contrast to the soft texture of the meat.

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NSW cheese collection, sourdough bread and dried fruits
(2003 De Bortoli Botrytis Semillon)

Jono ordered the cheese plate for dessert. This was quite big serving for one, with a good variety of bread and a standard selection of cheese. The dessert wine was a bit too sweet for the cheese.

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Flourless baked Batlow apple tart, cinnamon ice cream and biscotti
(2010 Krinklewood Lucia Botrytis Semillon)

As the waitress was preparing the wine, I noticed that she poured the same wine as Jono into my glass as well. So I asked her whether both the wine for this dish was the same and she answered in the affirmative.

I did not want to make a scene, but the menu clearly stated that the matching wine for my dish was the Krinklewood Lucia, not the De Bortoli. It was very disappointing that the staff did not even know the menu.

The dish itself was also disappointing, the apple tart was too sour, while the biscotti was a bit stale. The honey flavour from the De Bortoli dessert flavour actually made the apple tart more sour.

Overall, given the level of service from the staff, and the inconsistencies in the food being presented, I would not come back to this restaurant any time soon. I expected more from a Novotel branded establishment.
Field House Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Field House Restaurant and Bar

Website: http://www.novotelsydneycentral.com.au/restaurant

Address: Novotel Sydney Central, 169-179 Thomas Street, Sydney

Phone: (02) 9281 6888

Opening hours: 6:30am to 10:00pm, Mon to Sun

Accepts MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards

By Greg

Australia, Melbourne, Melbourne - CBD

Loch & Key – Behind the bookcase

We landed in Melbourne and it was 11:00pm at night. The only thought that flashed up in my head was to get to the hotel as soon as possible and hop into bed. But No, my buddy “Greg” wanted to go out and scout for late night snacks. Greg has found so many hidden gems but I chose to go to the one that was just around the corner from where we stayed. – “Loch and key – Behind the bookcase”. We literally saw the book-shelf right outside at the entrance.

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Loch & Key is upstairs from Captain Melville’s Bar and Restaurant and yes we were flustered when we saw the door has closed. But don’t let that fool you because Loch & Key is always open and ready to give you an intimate cocktail.

It didn’t take long for me to notice an actual lock has been put up on the door leading to the stairway. We also noticed a bookcase was standing next to the stairway which was also an indication that we were at the right place.

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Loch & Key has gained its popularity for being one of those hipster-ish pub among the locals, filled with mood lighting and vintaged couches and chairs spread all over the floor as well as in balcony area, where plants and flowers are laminated on the side wall and hanging from the balcony.

The cocktails, beers and snacks selections were limited but I was really impressed with their bartender’s knowledge in terms of knowing their wines and beers. They were more than happy to make a delightful mixed drink to reflect our personal preferences.

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For my drink, I ordered a cocktail called “War of the roses”. The name is as sexy as it tasted. The first sip was sweet on the tip of my tongue and then the bitterness carried through to the rest of my palate. Excuse for me being frank, the drink was disgusting but ADDICTIVE.

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Greg got himself a cocktail called “Chrysanthemum” which I did not adore so much as I’m a person with a sweet tooth.

Greg’s comment: “The drink has a strong liquorish flavour which was very oriental in style, but overtime the citrus flavours come out making it very enjoyable.”

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To satisfy our hunger, we ordered a Truffled mushroom, smoke scarmoza toasties. We actually waited for quite a while until the toasties arrived and have to ask the bartenders to chase up the order for us. But the wait was well worth it, as one bite blew me away. The bread was light and crispy, and the filling was very flavoursome with the freshness of the truffled mushrooms and the smoky and salty taste of the cheese was not overpowering.

Loch & Key is a great place to go for a night out where you want to get away from the crowds in the city and be intimate with your homies, sharing unique boutique cocktails and simple delightful snacks. This place is worth checking out.

Loch & Key on Urbanspoon

Loch & Key – Behind the bookcase

Website: www.lochandkey.com.au

Address: UPSTAIRS 34 Franklin St

Phone: (03) 9663 6855

Opening hours: 6pm till Late, Wednesday to Saturday

Accepts Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards

By Jono