Posted on | May 4, 2012 | 15 Comments
Disclosure: Alastair and I dined courtesy of the venues.
Last week Hazzie and I were invited to check out a few venues in the fairly new South Wharf Promenade, located on the southern banks of the Yarra River. Last time I was down in South Wharf, it was the middle of winter last year, and the cargo sheds that several of the restaurants are in were still being fitted out.
We had four venues to hit up in a mini progressive tour/dinner. Dragging along Alastair and Gazman, we met down at South Wharf on a very dark and dreary night – not the best evening to be traipsing around outside. Fortunately, the venues were all fairly close together, so we spent minimal time in the rain.
Our itinerary was as follows:
Boatbuilders Yard: bar snacks and drinks
Akachochin: Entrees and sake
Bohemian: Tapas and paella
The Sharing House: Desserts
Our first stop was the Boatbuilders Yard. Located in an ex-boat maintenance shed, the BBY has been renovated and expanded into a bar and casual eatery. The design of the place has subtle nautical touches, referencing the original building’s history, such as the marine flags painted on the side of the large central bar that’s clad with recycled timber, and the red and green shipping lights outside.
As mentioned, it was a horrid night when we visited, which was unfortunate because most of the seating is outside the building. And the metal table and chairs inside – while funky- were cold: brrr! We were told that there are plans to warm the place up – enclosing some of the outside spaces with blinds and installing heating, as well as offering blankets and mulled wine.
In keeping with the casualness of the place, customers pick up food from the kitchen. We received a buzzer, and when the buzzer lit up to alert us that our food was ready, Haz and I trudged out into the cold to pick up our food since the boys were engrossed in their conversation about phones or tech stuff or gaming or SOMETHING (so much for chivalry). At the kitchen we managed to have a nice chat to the head chef, Rodney Shah, before heading back inside with our tray.
We tried the Sicilian calamari with croutons and raisins and the salt and pepper organic tofu with braised eggplant. Both were pretty good.
So were the cauliflower and haloumi fritters that were spiced with cumin and chilli and served with yoghurt. But my favourite was the school prawns – so crisp and sweet.
Drinks and snacks consumed, we headed off for our next stop: Akachochin.
Akachochin, a Japanese izakaya style restaurant, turned out to be our favourite of the night. The head chef is Kengo Hiromatsu, who previously worked at Nobu, and his menu highlights regional Japanese dishes with a slightly modern interpretation.
The fit out has been done really well – the cargo shed has been converted into a very comfortable, warm room. One side of the room is dominated by a large panelled blond wood wall, with the gaps inbetween the panels backlit by LED lighting.
A long sushi bar is on the other side, providing glimpses into the kitchen, and neatly arranged around the rest of the room are marble tables and blond wood chairs.
We took seats at the sushi bar and were poured our first sake. This was a sparkling sake – we were told that it was particularly good served with sashimi, as it was refreshing on the palate.
Our first entree was the Hiramasa namerou with rice crackers – a Japanese style tartar made with chopped kingfish with spring onions, moromiso (fermented soy bean), kizami-wasabi, and olive oil. It was served with the most incredible rice crackers – really thin and super crispy, though they did end up sticking to the back teeth.
Our next sake was one made from pure rice – it was full bodied and good for oily, deep fried food.
Which lead us to our next entree – the chicken wing dumpling. Yes, a combined chicken wing AND dumpling: AMAZING. All four of us sat there eating and going, “Mhmmm… mhmmmm… mhmmm…”
The wing had been deboned and then marinated for a day in a master stock containing daikon, shiitake mushroom, cinnamon, star anise and orange skin (amongst other things). It was then stuffed with a chicken dumpling mixture and deep fried. Sounds good, huh? It was so good – the crunchy shell/skin, the marinated chicken meat, the tasty dumpling… it was an incredible combo.
The last entrée was the wagyu teriyaki. Haz doesn’t eat beef, so she received pork belly, and boy, did she miss out (though she did say her pork was delicious). In our dish, the beef cut used was the shoulder, which is tender but not too fatty. The meat was coated in a slightly spicy sauce, and man oh man, was the meat incredible – really soft, almost creamy, and the sauce gave it a small spicy kick. Delicious.
It was matched with a plum sake, which is less alcoholic and not as sweet as the usual plum wine made with vodka. It had a lovely pink colour, and tastewise it started with the usual sake aroma but finished with a hint of sweetness on the palate. Really nice. I also loved how it was described to us, “Quiet but sweet.” So poetic.
We were all very enamoured with Akachochin. I could’ve happily sat there eating and drinking sake for the rest of the night, but we had to move on.
The next stop was Bohemian, a Spanish tapas restaurant. Dark and dim, the restaurant has dark drapes, dark wood, and a screen hanging from the ceiling showing foreign movies (French ones the evening we were there).
We slid into one of the booths, where I had a good view of the movie screen. It was strangely compelling – like watching late night SBS (except with less nudity).
We had a couple of tapas to start with. First was the patatas bravas – tubes of soft potato with a crisp shell and aioli on top. These were nice, though a tad salty.
The octopus with potato and smoked paprika was really interesting. Seasoning was a bit inconsistent – the octopus needed more salt, but the potato puree it came with was perfect. The octopus was very meaty – it was firmly textured but not chewy, and made me think of dried fish snacks.
We shared paella next. Bohemian serve three types – a paella de montana with rabbit loin stuffed with black sausage, a paella negar with squid ink and cuttlefish, and the one we tried – the paella mixta, a mixed paella with chicken prawns, squid and mussels. Strongly flavoured with chicken and seafood stock, it was hearty and comforting.
To finish off our time at Bohemian, we had their suckling pig dish. This part was a bit strange – there were four of us but only three portions. Haz didn’t get a plate, and was told that the waiter would come back – but it didn’t happen. Whoops. If we had known there would only be three portions, we would’ve shared.
Despite the mix up, the dish was rather good. The pork had a thin crisp skin on top, and came with a carrot ice cream and a balsamic soy, which gave an interesting contrast between warm / cold and meaty / sweet.
Unfortunately there was no time to linger at Bohemian, as we were over an hour late for The Sharing House. Timekeeping fail. Back into the cold night we went.
The Sharing House
We arrived at The Sharing House ready for desserts. The head chef there is Mark Briggs, formerly of Vue de Monde, and the food is modern European.
I loved the fit out of The Sharing House. It’s open and quirky: astro turf covered one wall and Lego and Duplo were used for decorative touches. And impressively (or rather scarily) the Lego bar reportedly cost $12,000 (gulp!).
We had four desserts to share. First was the mini ice cream cones, which came displayed in a test tube holder. There were five flavours: strawberry and limoncello, coco nib, pistachio, pedro ximenez and vanilla bean.
They were all pretty good, as were the crunchy cones. Special mention goes to the vanilla bean, which was unlike any vanilla ice cream I’ve eaten before – very creamy but with a bitter edge. I really liked it, but it might not be to everyone’s taste. The other special mention is for the mint ice cream, which tasted like freshly picked mint leaves.
Where are you on the jaffa divide – yay or nay? I’m a big NAY NAY NAY so the deconstructed jaffa cake didn’t excite me much. However, because it was deconstructed, it minimised the mingling of chocolate and citrus so even a jaffa hater like me could enjoy it. There were very small, but rich and dark chocolate fondants (very good), freeze dried mandarin pieces, small piece of mandarins, and mandarin and blood orange jellies covered in sugar.
The afternoon tea selection showcased several small delicacies. We had a little battenberg cake, ginger cream horn, lemon tart, hazelnut eclair and a passionfruit meringue.
And finally, there was an apple tart, made from layers of pastry and apple flavoured with cinnamon. We were warned that it was meant to be eaten with the vanilla ice cream (which was bitterish like the one in the cone) so it would be very sweet. Thank goodness for the warning because it was tooth achingly sweet on it’s own, but just right eaten with the ice cream.
Desserts eaten, our tour/dinner was complete. We gave the giraffe a pat and headed home.
South Wharf is an interesting location because it *feels* like it’s really far away from everything, but it’s atually only five minutes walk past the Melbourne Exhibition building. I have to say – it’s worth the walk. I really liked that all the venues were very distinctly different from one another, and were enjoyable for their own reasons. I can see myself heading back to any of them, and definitely will make it back to Akachochin very soon. I’d also like to try the savoury dishes at The Sharing House in the near future.
View Off the spork in a larger map
23 South Wharf Promenade
Phone: 03 9686 5088
33 Dukes Walk
Phone: 03 9245 9900
Bohemian Bar & Restaurant
35 Dukes Walk
Phone: 04 9682 0566
The Sharing House
35 Dukes Walk
Phone: 03 92459 9800