I have a theory about Donwoori, a Korean restaurant on Victoria Street, North Melbourne (across the road from the Queen Victoria market). It has almost zero online presence: it’s not in the white pages and it’s not listed on Urbanspoon. (Update: it’s there now! But it wasn’t at the time of posting) The only places that I could find Donwoori mentioned was at blah blog blah, a comment that Erwin left on my Wooga post, and on Foursquare. Details are scant though, and I couldn’t find a phone number anywhere.

So my theory about Donwoori is that it doesn’t actually exist in real life. Sure, I’ve been there and eaten there, but it must’ve been because we crossed a portal into an alternate universe. That is surely the only explanation possible – who has zero online presence nowadays?

Mr Carsisi, Kyneton

I’ve been meaning to visit Kyneton for years. Literally years. I have a friend at work who lives in Kyneton, and I have worked with her for 7+ years. And that’s how long I’ve been meaning to visit for!

Recently I was talking to her about Kyneton, and decided – you know what? Seven years is long enough. I’m going for a visit! So last weekend I rounded up Alastair, Bro, Maz and Daz, and we drove up to have lunch at Mr Carsisi.

Comme Kitchen

Recently I went on a girls’ night out with friends, Emily and Jo. Nothing dodgy of course, just a nice dinner at a semi-flashy restaurant. 🙂 We went to Comme Kitchen (a 1-hat restaurant in the Good Food Guide, if you’re into that sort of thing), which is located in a beautiful, historical building down a cobblestone laneway. As you walk in, you’re greeted by a grand staircase, and to the right is a large bar area with soaring high ceilings. The dining room, adjacent to the bar and tucked under the staircase, is much smaller and more intimate, only seating about 40 people.

Essence Restaurant at the Marriott

Disclosure: Alastair and I dined courtesy of Essence Restaurant.

I was invited in for a meal at Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel recently – the publicist said they were inviting bloggers because they wanted to find a new photographer for two (paid) shoots for their 2011 menu. Sounded good to me, so I headed down to check it out with Alastair.

The entrance to Essence Restaurant is located to the side of the Marriott Hotel foyer. It’s a large room, with polished floor boards, and big floor to ceiling windows looking out to Exhibition and Lonsdale Streets.

To start with, we shared some oysters, one of the specials they were running that month. Half of the oysters came out with smoked salmon, feta and dill. Being a person who generally prefers oysters natural, I found the salmon and feta too overpowering for the oysters – it detracted from their natural flavour.

The other half of the oysters were better – coming with a splash of salty, vinegary dressing and a dollop of roe.

For mains, Alastair ordered steak (I think it was the grain fed scotch fillet), which was served with a roast portabello mushroom, vine ripened tomatoes, hand cut fries and red wine jus. He requested it medium rare. Unfortunately, it was cooked to past medium and strangely bland.

I ordered the lamb rump, served with potato fondant, mushroom ragout, green beans and truffle oil. The lamb was nice – the meat was tender and I enjoyed the mushroom sauce that came with it.

However, the potato was strange. It was really gluggy and tasteless. Poor potato. 🙁

On to desserts. Alastair’s dessert, a chocolate fondant with macerated strawberries and ice cream, was a special that month that the waiter recommended. A different waiter brought it to the table and tried to give it to me. I had to hold back a snicker, because I’m not surprised they thought it was mine – it was a rather girly looking dessert!

As you can see, when the fondant came to the table it was still in the silicon heart mould, which I thought looked a bit strange. And the centre of the fondant was cooked through – sadly, no flowing chocolate core for Alastair.

I had the baked cheesecake with cinnamon poached pear, sticky wine syrup and a dollop of cinnamon cream. The cheesecake tasted nice, however I found the texture was very heavy and dense – too much so for my tastes.

Overall, I thought the food was okay but not terribly exciting. While the presentation of the food was good, unfortunately most of the dishes we tried had an aspect that marred them. And with mains at around the $30 mark, I would expect more consistency if I was paying.

Alastair remarked that our meal reminded him of eating at hotel restaurants on business trips, and it does have that hotel restaurant ambiance and feel. To be fair, it could be completely different on a busier evening. We were there on a Tuesday night and it was VERY quiet. We were seated by the windows, and besides us there would have been literally three other tables. During our meal, only about four other diners came in – people who were obviously lone business travellers. Essence is quite a large restaurant and I felt that the atmosphere suffered because it was so quiet. I wonder if there is a way to screen off parts of the room on quieter nights to make it seem cozier and less like sitting in an empty restaurant.

I’ve found it very hard to write this post because I don’t want to be unduly harsh but nor do I want to gloss over the negatives. I know that running a restaurant is hard work, and I applaud people who cook night after night for others – I couldn’t do it! However, I do feel that Essence could be improved. More consistency in what comes out would be a good start. Beyond that it would be nice to see more innovation in the food, or something more to spark some interest, to elevate it past an average hotel restaurant.

For other opinions, check out these blogs:

  • I Eat Therefore I Am
  • Almost Always Ravenous
  • 1001 Dinners 1001 Nights
  • Gastrology
  • [googleMap name=”Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel” width=”600″ height=”300″ directions_to=”false”]Corner Exhibition and Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia[/googleMap]

    Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel
    Corner Exhibition and Lonsdale Street
    Phone: (03) 9660 1183

    Essence Restaurant at Melbourne Marriott on Urbanspoon

    Chillipadi Mamak Kopitiam

    How many Malaysian style restaurants can Flemington support? Judging by Laksa King, Chef Lagenda and newcomer on the block – Chillipadi Mamak Kopitiam – at least three seems to be a reasonable answer! Though Penny says that Chillipadi does Tamil Muslim style Malaysian food, so it is a little different from the other two restaurants at least.

    Alastair and I have eaten at Chillipadi Mamak Kopitiam several times now, the first time being a couple of days after opening, when there were still some minor issues to be ironed out, and a lack of a liquor licence (which was finally granted last week).

    Kedai Satay

    Disclosure: My first meal at Kedai Satay was organised by a friend of the owner who got a group of food bloggers together. It was a complimentary meal that I never got around to writing up. This post is about subsequent visits that I paid for.

    My background is (Hong Kong) Chinese, but I grew up in New Zealand, which meant that I never learnt to read and write Chinese. When Alastair and I visited China many years ago, I felt like a real Failsian (Fail Asian!) because I didn’t speak Mandarin, most people didn’t speak English, my Cantonese is dreadful and they couldn’t understand it anyway! So last year I started Mandarin classes. I’m still Failsian, but I’m trying! 😀

    After my Mandarin class, Alastair and Bro pick me up in the city, and we head somewhere cheap for a quick dinner. The past couple of weeks we have been going to Kedai Satay, an Indonesian restaurant on King Street.

    Cookbook Challenge: Fortnight 4, Love

    Theme: Love
    1st Recipe: Braised beef brisket with chilli and tamarind sauce
    Cookbook: Blue Ginger

    2nd Recipe: Pecan Chai Pie on Cashew Crust
    Cookbook: Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen

    The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is “love”. Love, love, love. I’m very fortunate in love – I’m married to my best friend and the love of my life (gush) 🙂 . And then there’s the other kinds of love: family, of course – Bro and my mum and dad are ace. Plus there’s friendship love: see BFF for an example!

    So to show a bit of friendship love for this fortnight’s challenge, my BFF and I have teamed up and swapped recipes. She selected a few for me, and vice versa. (Check out her post to see what she made.) 🙂

    Wooga Korean Restaurant

    Is it immature to want to eat at a restaurant merely because of it’s name? If so, count me as immature because I was keen to eat at Wooga for that exact reason! Woooooooga woooooga. (Someone please stop me.)

    Wooga is a Korean barbeque restaurant located across the road from the Queen Victoria market, in a string of Korean restaurants. According to The Age, woo means beef, and ga means house in Korean. I went there with mum, dad, Alastair and Bro in December for a low key birthday dinner. When we arrived on a Monday night, they were the busiest out of all the Korean restaurants on the street and even though we had booked we had to wait for about 15 minutes for our table. There’s not much standing space inside, so we loitered outside on the footpath – fortunately it was a lovely, warm evening!