Disclosure: We attended courtesy of Australian Asparagus Council and Prahran Market.
In case you haven’t noticed, the days are getting longer, it’s getting warmer (FINALLY), and asparagus is back in season. And back when the season just opened, Alastair and I went to an asparagus farm to see how they’re grown and processed.
We all know that I love stuff like this, so despite the fact that it was an even earlier start than the mushroom farm visit, I was all enthusiasm.
I haven’t visited Estelle in a while, and since our last visit it has had a make over and become Estelle Bistro. The bistro is more casual than the original and the fine dining has been moved next door to ESP.
I noticed on their website recently (long story as to why I was on their website, but it involved a not very good truffle dinner at a completely different and unrelated restaurant) that Estelle Bistro were holding Sunday roast lunches (3 courses for $50 with a glass of wine). Well. I like Sundays and I like roasts, and I like them even more when someone else is cooking, so roped our friends Maz and Daz for a catch up lunch, deliberately selecting the pork themed lunch.
We were seated in their outdoor dining area, which is completely enclosed and has a wall of edible plants in pots. It was also a sunny day and very pleasant out there.
Disclosure: We attended courtesy of Australian Mushroom Growers and Prahran Market.
On one Saturday recently, Alastair and I trotted up to Prahran Market at 7.30am.
Now, I like markets and all, but I don’t like them so much that I’d be there that early on a weekend. But I like mushrooms, so the reason for the early start on this particular day was a visit to a mushroom farm – Bulla Mushrooms.
Alastair and I had an impromptu date night one Thursday a while ago. I ended up working late and Alastair offered to come out and pick me up so I wouldn’t need to PT home in the dark and the rain – awwww.
On the way home we stopped on Inkerman St for a quick dinner. There’s a few options on that strip, and we decided on Machi, a Japanese restaurant.
Disclosure: Alastair and I attended courtesy of Southgate and Fuller PR.
It was a cold, wet, winter’s night… that could be the beginning to a really bad novel, but it also perfectly describes Melbourne right now. And it was a cold, wet, winter’s night when Alastair and I headed down to Southgate recently for one of their Moveable Feasts.
Southgate Moveable Feasts is basically a progressive dinner/lunch, where diners have three courses at three different eateries in Southgate. The program is available for Sunday lunch and Monday dinner until early August, for $65 or $85, and a glass of wine accompanies the entree and main courses, and coffee/tea with dessert.
There’s 13 or so participating restaurants for the Moveable Feasts, and the ones that Alastair and I visited were Pure South, Waterfront and The Deck.
So the latest hot opening in Melbourne is Din Tai Fung, which has opened on Level 4 of Emporium. I’m sure we’re all aware of Din Tai Fung – the mega dumpling chain that started in Taiwan over 40 years ago and now has restaurants in 12 different countries. Sydney itself has 7 branches, and the Melbourne one opened only last month.
Alastair and I have been to one of the Sydney branches before, so I was interested to see how the Melbourne one stacked up. We made plans with friends for lunch, and since we knew there would be huge lines we decided to show up 10-15 minutes before opening time to be sure of a table. We arranged to meet on Sunday, and when the day came Alastair and I headed into the city early to have a coffee before lunch.
Somehow, despite being Sunday morning, Alastair and I were running ahead of schedule, and after our coffee we went straight to DTF – arriving just before 10.30am, 30 minutes before they opened for the day.
We were first in line.
As we waited, the line steadily grew, and by the time 11am rolled around the line had already snaked around the corner, doubled up, and reached the escalators.
The doors opened, and unfortunately our friends hadn’t arrived by that time, so Alastair and I got a table for two and had lunch by ourselves (we did ask if we could be seated while we waited, but were firmly but politely told no). While this branch in Melbourne is rather large, seating 235 people, I feel like there was close to that number waiting by opening time.
Alastair let me order – as always – and our first item was the Drunken chicken ($10.80). This chicken was served cold, and had a strongish aroma from its Chinese rice wine marinade. It was very good, the meat was tender and flavoursome, though people who don’t like the rice wine flavour probably won’t like this.
Of course we had to order pork xiao long bao (6 pieces for $10.80). As expected from Din Tai Fung, the XLB were excellent. Even after being cooked, you can see how beautifully constructed they were with their perfect pleats.
The skin was thin and elastic, with a good amount of soup inside, and a juicy filling.
We also had some spicy prawn pork dumpling wantan ($10.80), which possibly just squeezed out the XLB to be my favourite item of the meal. Unfortunately the waitress gave the dish a stir when she placed it down – not so good for photos – but I suppose that was helpful of her?! The sauce that covered the wontons was delicious, not very spicy but really tasty, and the dumpling skins themselves were great.
We splashed out and ordered two of the truffle dumplings ($4.40 each). It was recommended that these be eaten without vinegar and ginger, so you can fully appreciate the truffle. There was definitely recognisable bits of real truffle in with the filling, and they were quite nice, but for me they were one of those “try once” things.
These were crab & pork XLB (6 pieces for $17.80), which were good but for the price I definitely preferred the plain pork ones. (Interestingly, going back and reading my Sydney post, I realise that I said the exact same thing 4 years ago. It’s nice that I’m consistent.)
We also had an order of the Cha Jiang noodle ($13.80).
These noodles have a topping made of minced pork, soy bean and tofu. The topping by itself was on the salty side, but perfect when eaten with the noodles.
And finally, for dessert we had golden taro bread and taro ice cream ($7.80).
This is not something that I would normally order, but Thanh highly recommended it. And wow he was right in his praises – it was so so good.
The taro bread was basically deep fried white bread with a taro filling. It doesn’t sound that great but they’d managed to fry the bread so it was thin and really crispy.
Even Alastair, who doesn’t like taro, tried some and loved it.
I wouldn’t bother with the ice cream again though – it was way too sweet for me. (The bread can be ordered without it.)
So the verdict – I have to say, the food at the Melbourne DTF is very good. I had to wait in line and I still think it was worth it. I would line up again too – and I don’t say that about many places.
Note that they close in between lunch and dinner, so if you do want to go for lunch I suggest trying to get there early or you run the risk of not being able to get a table. If you’re keen to get in the first round, I’d recommend trying to arrive 10-15 minutes before opening.
Din Tai Fung
Level 4 (via the escalator next to Jimmy Grants in the food court on Level 3 – or there are external lifts from the corner of Caledonian Lane and Little Bourke Street)
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone: 03 9654 1876