Australia, Sydney, Sydney - North

The Tall Lemongrass

We were invited by Missy Mischief to try out The Tall Lemongrass. The Tall Lemongrass is one of the Sydney’s favourite and most iconic Thai restaurants, and as part of its five year anniversary, we were invited to a special dinner hosted by chef and owner of The Tall Lemongrass – Wendy Khouphongsy.

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The restaurant is located on the main street of Crows Nest, in the lower north shore of Sydney. As soon as we walked into the restaurant, we noticed how elegant and modern the set up was. The restaurant has a big open area for dining, with an open kitchen. The vibe of the place was very cozy and laid-back. The background music was very chilled, and along with the openness of the space, we felt at ease in the surrounding immediately.

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Wendy was very attentive, giving us their normal menu to look at. The first thing that struck us when looking at the menu was that there were three categories of food on offer in the menu – the classic Thai dishes, the Thai dishes with a modern twist, and their trademark or signature dishes. This was very impressive, as it catered for all types of customers. The wine menu had a limited selection, but they were all handpicked by Wendy to compliment her dishes.

Wendy has prepared a special menu for us to try, with three starters and four mains. We were happy to go with the special menu that she has designed for us.

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Complimentary Table Snack – Prawn Crackers

On the table was a bowl of prawn crackers. Wendy explained that these were specially imported from Thailand and her customers loved them so much that they frequently asked for a bag of prawn crackers to take home after their meal.

Greg: The prawn crackers were full of prawn and pepper flavour, and was a good palate cleanser to accustom our palate for the spicy food that was to come. If I did not ask Wendy about the origin of the crackers, I would have thought they were home-made, as they reminded me of the home-made prawn crackers that my friend’s late mother used to make in Malaysia.

Jono: The prawn crackers were very tasty and crispy, unlike the ones you normally would see in some Chinese or Thai restaurants.

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Starter – Mien Khumm – Sweet radish, ground peanut, cooked prawn, chopped fresh galangal, lime, ginger, red onion wrapped in egg net and betel leaf

This dish was presented in a very modern manner in two champagne-like glasses, with the sauce on the side in a small glass jug.   It is a modern twist to a classic traditional Thai dish. The sauce is poured into the egg net and eaten like a sushi hand roll.

Greg: The dish was very nicely presented, and it was fun eating it like a hand roll. The egg net was strong, and pouring the sauce into it did not break it. Even though the egg net was filled with ginger and galangal, the dish was not spicy at all. These ingredients provided a nice kick to the sweetness from the sauce. A nice way to start the meal.

Jono: I liked this dish as a starter. It was fresh, with no meaty taste. The presence of lime, ginger and galangal did not overpower the grassy flavour from the other ingredients. The grassy flavour was a perfect match to the glass of sauvignon blanc that I was drinking from.

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Starter – Larb Ped on witlof – Roasted duck crushed toasted rice, mint, coriander, with a hint of chilli on a leaf of chicory witlof

This dish was presented very elegantly on small plates holding the witlof. Again, the presentation was very modern, and is an updated presentation of another traditional Thai classic dish.

Greg: The dish was warm and tasty. It was a perfect fusion of all my taste senses – spiciness (from the chilli and coriander), saltiness (from the duck), sourness (from the lime) and sweetness (from the witlof), smokiness (from the toasted rice) and bitterness (from the witlof). Lovely!

Jono: This dish seem like a Thai-Vietnamese fusion dish, with the Thai flavour coming from the toasted rice, but the use of fish sauce in the dish gave it a Vietnamese flavour. A very interesting dish.

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Starter – Fresh rolls Duck – Rice paper roll, roasted duck, vegetable, carrot, tofu, served with sauce

This dish was presented in a very traditional manner – just two large rolls with a dipping sauce on the side.

Greg: Even though this looked like a simple dish, it was very complex from a texture perspective. There was a contrast in textures from the various ingredients – the soft paper wrap, the crunchy carrot, the soft tender duck, and the kick from the spices and the sauce. Very nice!

Jono: This was definitely a Vietnamese inspired dish. Although the rolls looked like Vietnamese rice paper rolls, the taste was different as they used different herbs. There was a good balance between meat and vegetables, and the presence of tofu was an interesting addition. A very nice and unique dish.

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Main – Yum Aubergin Stack – Chicken minced, prawn, onion, mints, coriander, fresh chilli, lime juice, fish sauce

The dish was presented in a modern way, stacked up high like a sandwich with the chicken mince inside two pieces of eggplant, topped with prawns.

Greg: This dish had very nice fresh, clean flavours. The chicken and prawns provided texture to the soft eggplant, with a kick of spiciness coming from the herbs, chilli and onion.

Jono: The size and thickness of the eggplant slices reminded me of buns in hamburgers or pancakes. The three prawns on top provided colour to the dish. The chicken mince, with little bits of onions, were so delicious that it made me want to eat it all up straight away. There was a good balance between the amount of chicken mince and the eggplant. There was also a good balance of flavours, as the taste was not too spicy or fishy. The prawns were fresh and cooked well, and they were the best prawns I have tried in a long time.

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Main – Penang Osso Boco – Penang curry paste, coconut cream, fish sauce

The dish was very nicely presented, with the osso boco stacked up high and the curry covered the osso buco lavishly.

Greg: I enjoyed this Malaysian inspired dish very much. This took me back to my holidays in Penang, Malaysia, where I was eating curry on stools in small cramped stores. The meat was well cooked, and it was tender and soft. The curry had a hint of lemongrass flavour making it special and refreshing. The bone marrow from the osso buco gave a rich depth to the flavour of the curry. A must to try.

Jono: I enjoyed this dish as well. The flavour was awesome with the combination of curry paste, coconut cream and fish sauce. The presence of a piece of pineapple in the bottom of the bowl was a great surprise, and a good sweet ending to this dish.

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Main – Crispy 3 layers pork with caramel – Slow cooked then deep fried until crispy top with caramel

The dish came out with four big slices of pork bellies, with three red chillies on top, served on a colourful Chinese plate.

Greg: This dish was Chinese inspired, as evident by the flavour of the sauce and the plate that it was served in. It reminded me of the food I used to have when I was young in Hong Kong. The sauce was exceptional, but the pork was very hard to chew at times.

Jono: I really liked the caramelised sauce, but I found the meat hard to chew as well. However, the skin of the pork was very crispy and well caramelised.

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Main – Pad Thai prawns – sampling plate size

The last dish was a sampling size of the restaurant’s most popular dish, Pad Thai. It was nicely presented as two small parcels, each wrapped in egg net, providing a very creative way to present this traditional all time favourite Thai dish.

Greg: This dish was very tasty. The extra egg from the egg net added depth to the dish, with the presence of tofu pieces complimenting the flavour of the dish well.

Jono: This was a new way of eating Pad Thai, with the use of creativity seen through the presentation of the dish in egg net. The presentation did not cover up the delicious taste of the dish. The dish was served at the right temperature. The flavour was just right – the distinctiveness of the noodles shone through this dish.

Overall, this was a very impressive display of the dishes on offer at The Tall Lemongrass. Even though this was a Thai restaurant, the dishes took us to different parts of Asia, and reminded us of our childhood memories, which made the experience more incredible. Wendy was also very impressive – she was kind and down to earth, and she demonstrated good knowledge of the food and an understanding of the needs of customers. We saw her multi-tasking the whole night, cooking and serving customers, as well as doing the accounts towards the end of the night. We really enjoyed our time here and we will definitely come back to The Tall Lemongrass in the near future.

The Tall Lemongrass on Urbanspoon

The Tall Lemongrass

Website: https://thetalllemongrass.squarespace.com

Address: Shop 4, 136 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, Sydney

Phone: (02) 9966 0300

Opening hours: 11am to 3pm, 5pm to 10pm, Mon to Sun

Accepts MasterCard, Visa and American Express

Note: There is a second store in Haymarket, Sydney, located at Shop 7-10, 827-837 George Street. The phone number for the Haymarket store is (02) 9212 1935.

Australia, Sydney, Sydney - CBD

Edition Coffee Roasters, Darlinghurst

Located at the quieter end of Darlinghurst, Sydney, is this little café whose food is best described as a fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian.

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The setting of the café is simple, consisting of predominantly white walls and light coloured wooden tables. There are elements of Japanese influence scattered around the café, including jars of pickled vegetable and a small Japanese shrine near the top shelf in the open kitchen. Also noticeable were small pots of micro-herbs on the counter above the kitchen. The setting is comfortable and not overly crowded.

We visited this café at around 1pm on a Sunday for brunch and the café was nearly full. A look at the menu reviewed a menu that was very healthy and vegetarian friendly.

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Piccolo $4

I ordered my usual piccolo coffee to start off my meal. There was far too much milk in the cup. This was more like a three-quarters latte than a piccolo. However, the coffee did have a nice complexity, but was leaning onto the sour end.

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Cold Brew $4

Jono ordered a cold brew. The drink was refreshing and the flavour of the coffee shone through and was not diluted by the presence of the ice.

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Smorrebrod $19

Looking around at the other diners, this dish seem to be the most popular, and so I ordered it. It consisted of smoked king salmon on rye bread, surrounded by pickled vegetables and roe. The dish had a contrast of textures and flavours – the soft salmon was a great contrast to the dense rye bread, and the saltiness of the salmon and the roe contrasted well with the sourness from the pickled vegetable and the sweetness of the bread. Unfortunately, the salmon to me tasted more raw than smoked, and the bread was too dry for my liking. However, I was impressed by the contrast in textures and flavour that this dish was trying to achieve.

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Tofu salad $14

Jono opted for the healthy option and ordered the tofu salad. The dish came with fresh tofu, shitake mushrooms, pieces of nashi pear, wakame seaweed and daikon. There was also a miso soup that came as a side.

The first impression I had of this dish was the freshness of the ingredients and that this dish had a very distinct Japanese look to it. Jono couldn’t wait to dig into this dish and after a few bites, Jono had the following comments on this dish:

“The dish was flavourless. The tofu was very cold, and not tasty enough, even though the tofu was already split in the middle and soaked in soy prior to being served. But this dish had a very clean taste and would suit a vegetarian.”

I also tried some of this dish, and I felt that this was a very delicate dish, with very subtle flavours. To appreciate this dish, it should be eaten before drinking coffee as the heavy flavour of the coffee may have ruined our palate to appreciate the intricacies of this dish.

Overall, this café is serving very unique and distinct food, which makes it a worthwhile visit. However, the food at times may lack flavour and may not suit people that are used to eating tasty food or expecting a big substantial breakfast after a big night out. The kind of food being served certainly caught us by surprise.

Edition Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

Edition Coffee Roasters

Website: www.editioncoffeeroasters.com

Address: 265 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst

Opening hours: 7am to 3:30pm, Monday to Friday; 8am to 3:30pm, Saturday and Sunday

Accepts Visa and Mastercard cards, but not American Express cards

By Greg

Australia, Melbourne, Melbourne - CBD

Operator25

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This café is fairly close to the centre of Melbourne city, set inside a heritage listed building with a modern and rustic ambience. We were there mid morning on a normal working weekday and the place was so popular that we had to wait 10 minutes to get a table. But it was well worth it.

The waiters were all very friendly and helpful in explaining the menu. The coffee served was smooth with a great flavour.

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Balinese Pulled Pork Burger $20

The pulled pork had a slight curry flavour and this spiciness contrasted well with the sweetness from the sweet potatoes and the brioche bun. The pork was soft and it melted in our mouths, and this was a good contrast to the crunchiness of the sweet potatoes. A very delicious dish and a must try for everyone visiting this café.

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Pan Seared Scallops with French Lentils, Japanese Pumpkin Puree and Watercress $19

This dish was full of natural clean flavours. The scallops were fresh, and not overly seared, and therefore, they retained their natural fresh flavours. The pumpkin puree was lightly seasoned, and so we were able to also taste the natural sweet flavours of the pumpkin. The lentils and watercress provided some texture to this dish. This dish was full of contrasting textures, and along with the combination of the natural flavours from the wild, it was a simple but very enjoyable dish.

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House Benedict – Potato and Thyme Rosti, Grandmother Lamb Ham, Poached Eggs with Tarragon and Mustard Seed Hollandaise $16

This dish had the right balance of flavours. The smokiness of the leg ham balanced well with the sweetness from the potato rosti which had a hint of honey in them. This classic brunch dish did not disappoint and was very tasty.

Overall, this is one of the best cafes for brunch in Melbourne city, and everyone should come here at least once and try them out. All the dishes we tried were superb.

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Operator 25

Website: www.operator25.com.au

Address: 25 Willis Street, Melbourne

Phone: (03) 9670 3278

Opening hours: 7am to 4pm Mon to Fri, 9am to 4pm Sat and Sun

Accepts MasterCard and Visa, but not American Express cards

Australia, Melbourne, Melbourne - CBD

Little Mule Cafe

Tucked away down a little lane in the middle of Melbourne CBD is this little café that seems to have been converted from an old warehouse or garage.

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The first impression I had when I walked into this café on a hot morning was how stuffy the place was, and that it lacked ventilation and air flow. There were only two fans in the café which made sitting inside the café not a very comfortable experience.

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We ordered coffees ($3.50), smashed avocado with feta and lemon on sourdough with poached egg ($15) and a brekkie bruschetta with cherry tomatoes, red onion, basil and avocado with poached egg ($15.50).

The coffees were ok, and the dishes were very rustic in nature. The dishes reminded me of a home-cooked breakfast, and were fine but weren’t that special. For the price we were paying I expected something more from the dishes. The poached eggs were nicely cooked though, with silky yolk oozing out when we broke them.

Given that the food was ordinary, and the discomfort I experienced from the lack of air flow inside the café, it is unlikely that I will return to this café again.

Little Mule Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Little Mule Café

Address: 19 Somerset Place, Melbourne

Website: www.thelittlemule.com

Opening hours: 7:30 to 3:30 Monday to Friday; 9:30 to 3:30 Saturday

Accepts Visa and Mastercard Credit Cards, not American Express Credit Cards