Thank goodness for the Melbourne Cup. If it wasn’t for the fact that in Melbourne we get the day off for a horse race, there would be a long, cold stretch between June and December with no public holidays to look forward to. The other good thing about the Melbourne Cup? Since it’s always on a Tuesday, taking the Monday off means a four day weekend. Hooray for long weekends!
Bro and I both took the Monday before Melbourne Cup off, so I suggested we go out for lunch. We headed to Naked for Satan, a newly(ish) opened bar in Fitzroy that serves pintxos. Pintxos are a typical snack of the Basque region in Spain, and are related to tapas – they consist of a mixture of ingredients on top of a small slice of bread and fastened with a toothpick. (more…)
This post is all about offal. If offal makes you squeamish, you may want to skip this one!
Did anyone do any Melbourne Food and Wine Festival events? I only ended up doing one thing – Animal Farm at Baba. Details from the program:
“a seven course menu exploring the flavours of Turkey and the Middle East, matched with wines from Spain and Italy. Featuring bone marrow, heart, brains, tripe, liver and kidney mezze, claypots and kebabs, with Turkish delight, gelato and Turkish coffee to finish, this is a culinary feast not for the weak at heart – but for those who eat it.”
Only Bro and I went to this dinner – Alastair stayed home and had a “safe” dinner of curry.
A long table was set up in the middle of the restaurant, with tables for normal diners around the edges of the dining area. We were told that the food would be served communally, but as not every seat was filled there was space between groups and each group received their own dishes.
The first course was a rich and smooth chicken liver parfait with middle eastern melbas and cornichons. A rather safe dish to start off with and good smeared on the crispy bread.
Next was roast bone marrow with smoked lemon, caper and parsley salad and Turkish bread. Little dishes of pink salt from Tibet were placed on the table. To eat the bone marrow, we scraped it out of the bone, spread it on the toast, sprinkled with a bit of salt and then topped it with some of the parsley salad. Mhmmmm it was buttery and soft, plus mildly meaty with the salt and parsley helping to balance out the richness.
The third course was Libyan baked lambs brains in gadaffi pastry and harissa. GAK. The brains felt sooooo greasy and just seemed to coat my mouth in fat. It was the fattiest thing I’ve ever eaten (more than the bone marrow)! Looking around the table at other diners, many seemed to share my distaste. The brains weren’t a very popular course!
Happily, the next course was tripe soup with cumin, currants and coriander. The soup was lovely – very strongly cuminy, and the tripe was cooked until very, very tender (I may be strange, but I thought it looked very pretty in the soup). Every now and again I would get little bits of currant and crunch down on cumin seed (one of my favourite spices).
The fifth course came out in three separate dishes. Oh boy, things were getting heavy!
First we had sweetbreads with basil and tomato. I don’t think I’ve had sweetbreads before, but I really liked them. They had a kind of firm, bouncy texture and reminded me of chicken nuggets.
Then there was a sumac seared ox liver with a glazed onion and chickpea salad. The ox liver was good too – rather rich, but the zingy sourness from the sumac and chickpea salad helped cut through the richness.
And last for this course was a za’atar grilled lamb kidney kebab. It was bought out to the table last, and we were already eating the sweetbreads and liver by the time it arrived. As soon as it was set down, all I could smell was that awful kidney scent. I ate a kidney, and while it tasted fine I couldn’t get over that smell. Even if my stomach hadn’t been approaching full I wouldn’t have been able to eat the whole kebab.
The last savoury course was an East Brunswick bunny boil-up. In the boil up was rabbit kafta dumplings, chicken hearts, lamb sweetbreads and peas. We also received a small dish of pilaf. The pilaf was really good, lovely and buttery, but unfortunately after so much offal we could only eat a couple of bites. The dumplings, hearts and sweetbreads in the light broth were all fine and good, but even the most hardened offal lover would have been a bit weary by this stage (and we were a bit…. weary….).
And finally, to finish, there was Turkish delight gelato, served in cones with a lump of Turkish delight on top. Thank goodness dessert didn’t follow the offal theme! The faintly rosewater flavoured gelato was a good way to end the meal and I loved the cones.
We didn’t stay for coffee – we had been sitting there for about four hours and we were desperate to get out of the wooden seats. The seats would’ve been fine for a normal dinner but four hours called for a cushion! Food wise, it obviously wasn’t the most balanced dinner (did you notice the distinct lack of any green stuff?) but we knew what we were getting into. In the whole we thoroughly enjoyed it, with only the brains and kidneys kinda defeating us. It was definitely a meal for the brave….. or for the ones with cast iron stomachs!
Baba Levantine Trading Company 80 Lygon Street, Brunswick East Phone: 9380 8534
On the Friday before Australia Day, Bro took the day off, so we organised to have lunch in the city. Rather than going for cheap Asian again (like the other lunches we’d had recently), we went down to Maha Bar & Grill.
After looking at the rather awkwardly sized lunch menu we decided to go for a soufra (banquet). There are 3 options available – two courses for $35, three courses for $40 and four courses for $45. We decided that we didn’t want dessert and choose the two course option.
Not too long after we had ordered, the first course came out on a wooden board. On the board there was a selection of mezze: marinated olives, char grilled eggplant, warm and crunchy runner beans, rather good hummus, cucumber topped with harissa and a feta-ish cheese, a carrot salad, and pita bread.
Everything was really tasty, and I particularly liked the cucumber – it was a great way of serving a mostly disinteresting vegetable! Almost everything can be jazzed up with spiciness and cheese!
We didn’t wait long for the second course, which also came out on a wooden board. On the board was butterfish with pinenuts and pomegranante seeds, fattoush, chargrilled lamb mince balls with heirloom tomatoes, capscium dip, cous cous with raisins, and more pita bread.
The smokey, garlicky lamb balls were nicely spiced, charred on the outside, and served quite raw in the middle – the capscium dip complimented them well. I enjoyed the heirloom tomatoes, and since Bro doesn’t like raw tomatoes I got to eat them all!
The butterfish (at the back) was also very good, perfectly cooked and juicy.
Bro and I both really, really enjoyed our lunch. The amount of food was just right and, more importantly, delicious. At lunch it’s particularly good value – at dinner it’s a bit more expensive. Judging by the meal we had though, I’m sure it would still be worth it!
Maha Bar & Grill 21 Bond Street, Melbourne Phone: (03) 9629 5900
I had my four wisdom teeth out yesterday afternoon. The procedure went fine – it was under a general anaesthetic, so I went to sleep and when I woke up I had four less teeth! In fact, the hardest part was having to fast with no eating after 8am or drinking after 10am. Particularly not drinking – it was HOT yesterday. I must admit that I was naughty and took a few tiny sips of water to wet my mouth after 10am.
Today I’m not feeling too bad. The inside of my mouth is swollen and is a touch uncomfortable. The discomfort is not bad enough for me to take painkillers yet, although I do have some on hand if this changes. I also made soup to get me through the next few days – pumpkin, and beef and vegetable. Soup is okay, but I can’t wait until I can eat normal food again!
Before my surgery, Bro and I had another lunch together. I felt like cheap Asian food again, and we went into the Mid City Arcade on Bourke Street and came across Kaneda Japanese restaurant.
They had a good selection of bento boxes on the menu, so we both selected one.
I had the Unagi Tempura Set, which came with the unagi tempura, sashimi, fried chicken, a spring roll, green salad, miso soup and rice ($13.50). You can’t really go wrong with something deep fried – certainly not with me – and the unagi was great! The batter looks a bit darker than you normally see, but it was still nice and light. And it had that yummy unagi fattiness… mhmmmm….
Bro had the assorted sushi and salmon sashimi set, which came with salmon sashimi, assorted sushi, fried chicken, spring roll, green salad, miso soup and rice ($13.50).
With all the deep fried items it wasn’t a particularly healthy lunch, but it was quick, casual and a reasonable price.
Kaneda Japanese Restaurant Shop 6 Mid City Arcade 200 Bourke Street Melbourne Phone: (03) 9663 8802
Bro had a day off recently, and came into the city to have lunch with me. We went to ITO Japanese Café on Bourke Street. When we entered I found that the restaurant was somewhat like the Tardis – it seemed much larger on the inside than the exterior suggested!
I choose an item that was on a specials sheet – the steak don set. The set came with miso soup, salad, a side dish and wafu steak on rice ($14.80). Good stuff.
The side dish was strange however – it tasted like it was soaked in tea or like pickled plums. I couldn’t quite place it, but it was oddness. Fortunately everything else hit the spot.
It was a stinking hot day, so I also had a green tea smoothie ($4.80). It was cool and refreshing, with that slight green tea bitterness.
Bro had the Nabeyaki udon which came with prawn, chicken and a raw egg in a hot pot ($12.50). He was sold by the raw egg!
After he finished his meal, Bro then proceeded to demolish everything that was edible on the table – the remainder of my salad, rice, pickles, AND the orange slice on my drink. I do believe he was hungry!
Japanese ITO Noodle Cafe 122 Bourke Street, Melbourne Phone 9663 2788
It was Bro’s birthday on Friday – 08/08. How lovely that the Olympics were scheduled especially to celebrate his birthday!
On Friday night, we went to Blush Foodroom to kick off the eating weekend. Blush is located on a corner, in a cottage that was once a milk bar. Nowadays, it’s a split-level restaurant that also does a busy trade during weekend brunch time.
You may notice a strange blue twinge in my photos – it’s from a blue light that was outside the window.
Alastair and I started off with the pork belly – twice cooked, served on a ginger and apple puree, with sesame seeds, spring onion and snow pea salad ($16.90). The pork belly was lovely and tender – initially I thought it was a tad salty, but it was just right when eaten with a bit of apple puree. The best part was the piece of crackling – like a salty pork chip! Yum!
Pat had one of the specials – pea and ham soup served with a dijon crouton. I have a wee issue with peas (I don’t like them) so I didn’t have a taste.
For mains, I had the Moroccan braised veal shanks on saffron mash, roasted baby root vegetables and served with a red peppercorn sauce ($31.90). Wow, this was huge! I found the meat very tender, but lacking in flavour. I would’ve liked a bit more oomph, particularly for something that was “Moroccan braised”. At least the mash was smooth and creamy.
Pat and Alastair had the herb and garlic crusted lamb rump with dauphinois potatoes, orange and thyme braised fennel and crispy prosciutto served with a port wine jus ($31.90).
And then, dessert. We all had separate ones (must have been feeling greedy that night). Alastair had the sticky date pudding ($13.50). The Boys decided that sticky date pudding is the best dessert – I don’t know if I agree with that assertion. I think creme brulee might be a winner for me. But Alastair’s sticky date pudding looked pretty good, particularly with the slowly melting ice cream….
Bro had the cheesecake ($11.90) – on the menu it was raspberry and vanilla, but he was advised that it was unavailable and it was substituted with a Bailey’s version instead. It came with coffee bean syrup and caramelised banana.
I had a chocolate and macadamia nut mousse with strawberry sauce and white chocolate ice cream ($12.90). The mousse was rich and smooth and I even enjoyed the ice cream, despite my general dislike of white chocolate. I also loved the crunchy chopped macadamia on top of the mousse too.
We spent the rest of the weekend eating. Stay tuned for more birthday eating adventures!