I’m one of those people who like lists. I like writing them, and ticking items gives me a little frisson of satisfaction. I’ll even add completed items to my lists so I get the pleasure of marking them off!

So it’s no surprise that I have a list of restaurants that I’d like to eat at. Due to lack of time, money, and lack of energy to organise a meal out, I tend to add more and hardly ever cross ones off! The fact that I don’t have strict criteria for places to make The List doesn’t help. Do other people like it? On The List. Does the food sound interesting? On The List. Do I like the name? On The List.

Okay, so that last statement isn’t true, but you get the general idea.

Hako was one of the restaurants on The List, and I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to tick it off! Alastair and I went for dinner several weeks ago, after a few hours wandering around a home ideas show (how terribly domestic and rather tragic for a Friday night!).

It was a rather chilly evening, and I was happy to see that there were free tables. The split-level premises is quite impressive, being a rather large and roomy space. The room’s white walls are offset with a very high matte black ceiling and dark floorboards. It all seems rather simple, but very cool.

(Terrible photos courtesy of my mobile, as my Bro borrowed my little camera when he went to Vegas!)

We started off with a plate of sashimi ($17.80 entrée size, $27.80 main size). We received salmon belly, tuna and some white fish…. We weren’t told what the fish was, and I neglected to ask! Nevertheless, the mystery fish, as well as the salmon and tuna was lovely and fresh. We could’ve happily eaten the main size (even with more food to come).


Our other starter was a plate of chargrilled chicken wings with plum paste ($10.88). The plate of 3 juicy wings were perfectly grilled and had a hint of sweetness along with a lot of smokiness. In fact, they had quite a distinctive taste…. Think smokey, sweet and grassy…..


For mains, Alastair had the ebi tempura ($17.80) which was soba buckwheat noodles in soup served with prawn tempura. The prawns had been stretched out before being battered and deep fried, which I thought made them resemble worms! They were served separately to the soup, which kept them crisp. However, Alastair dunked them in his soup as he ate them – heathen!


I had the unagi don – char grilled eel with rice and miso soup ($22.80). A generous portion of eel came to the table on top of rice. The eel was rich and tasty, with the fillets glazed in a sticky, sweet, dark sauce. I was rather satisfied with my meal and hunted down every last piece of rice and eel.

Service was charming. It wasn’t perfect, but the wait staff were likable and eager to please. We had such a pleasant evening that it made me wonder why it took me so long to get there. Hopefully I won’t wait so long to go back!

310 Flinders Lane, Melbourne,
Phone: (03) 9620 1881

Bottega: Ladies who Lunch

My friend Emily and I just managed to sneak the next instalment of Ladies who Lunch into January. The restaurant of choice this time was Bottega, which is located at the top end of Bourke Street, not too far from Parliament.

We were offered bread to begin. Really Good Bread. Sometimes it’s the very simple things that make me happy and the bread certainly did! The bread had a lovely chewy crust and moist, soft centre. The friendly and professional waiter came back later to offer us another piece, which I gratefully took because the bread was divine. (Another simple thing at Bottega that made me happy? Good quality wine glasses.)


We started off with the Silician sugar cured kingfish carpaccio with lemon, sherry, currants, radicchio and
pinenuts ($18). Look at it. It was so beautiful it was a shame to eat it.

Fish Nettle

My main was the romesco crusted barramundi fillet with roasted eggplant shown on the left ($31.50). My dish was stunning. It seems like such a simple dish, but it was totally amazing. The fish was cooked perfectly – moist and just flaking under my fork. The eggplant was meltingly tender (and y’know how much I love eggplant). The romesco was full of flavour and garlic. The garlic didn’t totally dominate though, and I didn’t really notice the amount of garlic until I realised I was sucking down glasses of water like crazy.

Em had the nettle tagliatelle with fresh spanner crab ($21). I’m told that it was delicious and rather filling.


We shared a side of broccolini with lemon anchovy dressing ($6). Again, something relatively simple, but done so well. The still slightly crunchy broccolini was dressed in a salty, buttery, lemon dressing. Breadcrumbs provided a bit of textural difference to the dressing. So freaking gorgeous.


We didn’t leave without having dessert. I had the cannoli filled with ricotta, hazelnut and chocolate candied orange with bitter chocolate icecream ($14.50).

The cannoli was a good way to finish off the lunch – not too rich or too sweet. The pastry tubes were slightly crunchy and firm, providing a nice contrast to the soft filling. I did find it a bit hard to eat with a spoon and a fork – too bad it wasn’t the kind of place where I could just pick it up with my hands!. While I’m not that into candied orange or orange flavours (I have no problems with the fruit or juice though) I still found myself gobbling the little chocolate candied pieces up. They gave a little zing to the creamy ricotta. The ice cream was a deep, dark chocolate and my only complaint is that it melted too quickly!

Chocolate tart

Em had the bittersweet chocolate tart with morello cherries and creme fraiche ($15). It looked very decadent!

Bottega is comfy and stylish, and on the day we were there, much quieter than I was expecting (perhaps the rain that day had kept people in their offices).

It was a wonderful lunch to finish off January. The next restaurant in the Ladies who Lunch series will have to be pretty good to compete with this meal!

74 Bourke St, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9654 2252

Laksa Me

Another hot Friday night lead us wandering the streets of Melbourne in search of Laksa Me. I had a vague idea of where I was going, but unfortunately it was a bit too vague. We overshot the laneway that Laska Me resides in, which meant wandering around in the heat for longer than necessary. Damned Melbourne and its laneways!

After a bit of backtracking, we found Liverpool Street and the restaurant. I was a tad disappointed to find that there was no air conditioning in the small room. Instead, several fans whirred busily away to keep diners cool, which admittedly did an okay job. Our table was directly outside the kitchen, under the gaze of a maneki neko and giving us glimpses of the chefs through a cut out in the wall.

Service seemed a bit confused, but quite sweet. We ordered beer and water, and only the beer showed up. Rather than laksa, we opted for starters and shared mains. We started with three items, ordering two portions of each and sharing them.

Betel leaf

Sliver of Beef Wrapped in Wild Betel Leaves ($3.50 each)

This starter was a sliver of beef, pan fried with peppercorn infused olive oil, and then dressed with coriander and roasted coconut vinaigrette, wrapped in a betel leaf. We found the beef slightly chewy but it was okay. I was quite amused by the flower garnish, which was actually made from a chili.


Vegetarian Triangle ($2.50 each)

he triangles were filled with wok tossed shredded daikon, crunchy yam bean and Asian chives, then folded in a Chinese white pastry. These were then pan fried and then drizzled with a dark sweet soy sauce.

Thai sausage

Succulent Grilled Thai Sausage ($3.50 each)

The thai sausage was minced pork mixed with rice wrapped in a cornhusk, then grilled and served with diced cucumber and crushed peanuts in a tangy Chinese salted plum sauce. The sausage was the best of the three starters – heavy with garlic and flavour. We found the starters slightly underwhelming but this was most likely due to us sharing and only having a small bit of each.

Nonya pork ribs

Nonya Pork Ribs – stewed Asian style pork ribs in a complex sweet, spicy and sour reduction. Served with Jasmine rice. ($22.00)

We perked up when the mains started arriving. The first to come out was the pork ribs. The tender meat swam in a dark, sweet caramelish sauce with a small hint of spiciness. The pork was delicious, but the sauce… I would’ve been happy to push the meat aside and just eat the sauce over a steaming bowl of hot rice.

Khao Soi Gai

Khao Soi Gai – Burmese influenced Northern Thai curry noodles ($9.00)

The next two mains arrived almost at the same time. The khao soi gai was a dish of thin, slightly crisp egg noodles topped with chicken in a rich, creamy, red curry gravy. The sauce was fairly spicy and had strong Thai flavours and fish sauce.

Dry chicken curry noodles

Dry chicken curry noodles – a hot and spicy dry creamy chicken curry on Hokkien noodles ($10.00)

We all loved the dry chicken curry noodles. A Malaysian style curry sauce smothered the thick egg noodles and boneless chicken. It was the spiciest dish on the table, and we couldn’t get enough. Another round of beer was necessary after this came out.

Sonny’s fish curry

Sonny’s fish curry – fish of the day slow poached with green bean, eggplants and okra in Sonny’s secret curry recipe. Served with Indian pickle, yoghurt and Jasmine rice. ($22.00)

The last main was Sonny’s fish curry. The fish curry was a large slab of salmon was smothered in a tangy, sourish curry that was flavoured with Indian spices and topped with yoghurt. In the context of the meal, this dish felt a bit strange. All the flavours of the other mains felt complementary, and this dish just didn’t seem to fit with everything else that we had eaten. This isn’t an actual complaint about the dish – the fish and vegetables were cooked well and the sauce was tasty.

After our hearty and sweat inducing meal we peeled ourselves off our chairs to pay our bill at the counter. The monetary damage was a reasonable $33 per person, (if sticking to laksa the bill could be much lower). We had an enjoyable meal and one day I will need to return to check out the laksa.

Laksa Me
Shop 1 / 16 Liverpool Street
Melbourne 3000
Phone: (03) 9639 9885

Camy Shanghai Dumpling and Noodle Restaurant

Has this restaurant been around forever? It certainly feels (and looks) like it. Even despite closing for “renovations” last year. Perhaps this is code for something else, as when they reopened, nothing had changed!

Eating here is like being part of an efficient factory line. Get in, order, eat, get out. There’s no niceties here, no waiting for you to digest your food over a drink and conversation. As soon as your chopsticks have been put down, you’ll be asked if you’re finished. Yes? Then what are you still doing here?

Let’s be honest. Camy does not make the best dumplings in the world. But they’re quick, and they’re cheap and there’s something about the place that’s good despite the daggy décor, and the abrupt service. Most occasions that we eat there, the bill comes to less than $10 per person (this occasion we were slightly over, $13.50 each, because we ordered beer). And sure, you may wait in the queue for 10 minutes, but you only wait a couple of minutes for dumplings to start arriving once you’re ordered. This time, I swear, it took one minute for our first plate of dumplings to be delivered. Obviously they’re not cooking them all to order!

Fried pork dumplings (15 pieces – $6.80)

Ahh… good old fried dumplings. With a slightly chewy skin, they’re usually not too oily. These are quite popular and they’re favourites for many people I know.

Steamed beef dumplings (12 pieces $6.80)

If you’re not that keen on fried dumplings, there’s also steamed dumplings. These ones are beef. They’re not bad, although I seem to prefer pork dumplings.

Steamed chicken and prawn dumplings (have forgotten the price!)

As you can see, there’s not much prawn in the chicken and prawn dumplings. I don’t find them as tasty as the other ones.

Chilli oil dumplings (15 pieces – $6)

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. These are pork dumplings floating in a soup slicked with chilli oil. There’s only the hint of heat in the chilli oil, despite the red slick.

Mushroom and vegetable dumplings (10 pieces $4.50)

The mushroom and vegetable dumplings are my second favourite ones at Camy. They’re chock full of garlic and onion and are a little sack of dumpling goodness. Mhmm hmmm.

Shanghai pork mini buns (8 pieces $6.50)

And finally the best is last – the Shanghai pork mini buns (also known as xiaolongbao in other places). The mini buns are little dumplings that are filled with meat and soup. The soup inside is made by placing a little bit of jelly inside prior to steaming. Once they are steamed, the heat turns the jelly into a liquid. Eating them can be a bit of a challenge – first, trying not to pierce the dumpling skin so you don’t lose the soup inside (hint: roll them on to a spoon), and second, trying not to burn yourself on the scalding liquid!

Although we didn’t have it on this occasion, the pumpkin cakes are also really good. They’re small, sweet, deep-fried morsels. We always order two plates and save them for dessert, managing to fit them in despite the plates of dumplings we have ingested!

Camy Shanghai Dumpling and Noodle Restaurant
25 Tattersalls Lane
Melbourne 3000
Phone: 9663 8555

Oriental Spoon

Oriental Spoon

While some people crave chocolate, my cravings tend to be for savoury items like hot, fat chips or alternatively for spicy food. Food Safari the other night claimed that spicy food is perfect for hot, humid countries, as all the spices help stimulate the appetite. I don’t know if that’s true, but last Friday it was unseasonably wet and humid and all I wanted the entire day was spicy food. Lunch was with colleagues at a Korean restaurant, which kept me happy for a couple of hours. After work though, a few drinks with my Bro, Alastair and a couple of his colleagues started up my craving again. I had read Mellie’s review of Oriental Spoon a while ago, and it had been sitting on my list of places to try for months and months. Everyone seemed happy with my suggestion for Korean food, so we braved the heavy rain and headed to Latrobe Street.

Once there, everyone glanced at the menu, but they were happy to let me pick the food. I love doing the ordering, because I get to pick things that I want to try! After conferring with my Bro, we decided on three dishes to share amongst the five of us.

Jap chae

Jap chae

We didn’t wait long for things to start arriving. Soon the wait staff was filling up our table with rice and banchan, and we had to shuffle things around when the mains came so we could fit everything on. The first main to come out was the Jap chae – clear potato noodles pan-fried with thin slices of marinated beef and assorted seasonal vegetables in a sesame oil sauce ($16.90). Yum, yum, yum. The noodles were light in texture and carried the flavour of the sesame oil and the slightly sweetish sauce.

Soft tofu casserole

Soft tofu casserole

Next was the soft tofu casserole with seafood ($35.90). This was soft tofu with mussels, pipis, prawns, squid and vegetables prepared in a spicy soup. Alongside the seafood were enoki mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, spring onions, green chilli and a good dollop of spicy red chilli paste. Also sitting grandly in the broth was a raw egg. The casserole came out on a little gas burner, which was turned up at our table to let the soup heat. We got a bit distracted by the jap chae and other items arriving on to our table, and the egg quietly disappeared, slipping into my Bro’s stomach. Apparently he was doing us all a favour, as the egg had overcooked by the time he got to it.

But the star was the tofu, hidden underneath the seafood and vegetables. It was magnificent – so silky and smooth, and the kind of tofu that could even win over a tofu hater (not that I am one!). The soup was spicy and fishy and well worth the eating sweats that everyone got. Mhmm, finally my spicy cravings were sated. < Cooking meat

Meat cooking on the stone

Last was the combination marinated set – a combination of marinated beef, pork and chicken, stone grilled ($37.00). The stone was bought out to our table on a portable gas stove along with a small basket of red coral lettuce and sauce (that tasted like a slightly spicy hoisin sauce).

The waiter turned the stove on, returning later with a plate of meat that he laid onto the stone, along with two mushrooms. The mushrooms looked sad and lonely next to all that meat!



You’re supposed to smear some sauce on the meat and then wrap it in the lettuce, but the lettuce leaves were a bit small and not really suited to rolling. I preferred the meat and the tangy, salty banchan eaten with rice.

The remains

The remnants of the meat and marinade caramelised into a sweet, sticky sauce. We scraped as much off the stone as possible!

We rolled our way out of the restaurant to find that the rain had finally stopped. With my craving finally satisfied, I was a happy gal.

Oriental Spoon
254 Latrobe St, Melbourne
Phone: 9654 9930

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Last week was my b-i-r-t-h-d-a-y. I felt a teensy weensy bit glum about getting older but knew that dinner at a restaurant would perk me up.

Seamstress is located in a four-storey building on Lonsdale Street. In the building’s past, there used to be an undergarment manufacturer, guilders, and a sweatshop. Nowadays, there’s a basement bar, a ground floor kitchen, a first floor dining room and a top floor bar. We arrived around 8pm on a warm Friday evening and wandered upstairs to the first floor. I was a tad confused about where I was going (upstairs? downstairs?) and fortunately we were greeted by the staff on the first floor. It was still fairly quiet at that stage (it filled up later) and we were given a choice of two tables in the long room.


Excuse the terrible photos – I have a new toy and am still trying to get used to it!

As we perused the menu, we were bought a broth to sip while we decided on what to eat. I believe it was a lemongrass, ginger and chilli broth. I loved the little cups that they were bought out in. Too cute.

Service was very friendly and funky – and obviously kiwi. Our waitress was very chatty and recommended food and wines and explained how the menu worked. We took up a couple of her food recommendations and happily went with her wine recommendations.


Crispy calamari

We started with the crispy calamari ($14), the silken tofu treasure box ($14) and the pork belly ($16.00). The calamari was covered in a tempura style batter and served with a little bowl of five spice salt. It was presented on a piece of Chinese newspaper. The batter on the calamari was beautifully light and pale. I tried the salt but left it because I found it too salty and overpowering. In hindsight, it would probably have been a better idea to sprinkle the salt rather than dipping the calamari into it… duh.


Tofu treasure box

The tofu treasure box was a little hot pot of tofu and shitake mushrooms. I love those meaty shitake mushrooms. I liked it, but I would’ve liked the dish even more if the tofu was more silken than firm.

Pork belly

Pork belly

The last item we had before our mains arrived was the pork belly; long boneless strips that had been braised in a dark, sweet/savoury sauce. The sprouts sitting under the pork had absorbed some of the sauce from it and they were soft and tasty.

After our starters, our chopsticks were taken away and we were bought a knife, fork and a spoon. We ended up asking for our chopsticks back. :p


Braised beef cheek

Our mains were the braised beef cheek and the red duck curry. Rice came with the main meals. Now I know that the photo looks like a brown plop (must have lost my photo skills there) but the beef was gorgeous. It had been cooked for five hours with star anise and cassia (and possibly more spices) and was very tender, dark, sticky and fragrant. I grew up eating a dish similar to this, gnul nam, and it has always been one of my favourite things to eat. It was the first thing that I asked my parents to teach me how to make.


Duck curry

The red duck curry was served on a bed of beans and broad beans. The beans still retained some crunch and the duck was very tender and rather spicy! Fortunately, for this non duck lover, the meat didn’t taste very gamey.

Dessert 1

At the front L-R: Ginger jelly, pannacotta, pineapple jelly. Middle: rose petal fritters

We finished with a dessert tasting plate of desserts ($25). There was a pineapple jelly, ginger jelly, a pannacotta, rose petal fritters with mint cream and wild rice and coconut cream parcels in banana parchment.

Dessert 2

At the front L-R: pineapple jelly, rice and coconut cream parcels in banana parchment, mint jelly.

By the time we got to dessert, we had downed a couple of bottles of wine. So my memory of dessert? Not that great. So, what can I dredge out of memory to tell you… I preferred the ginger jelly over the pineapple, the pannacotta was smooth and silky, the rice and banana parcels were creamy and the parchment was strongly banana flavoured (strangely enough). My favourite was the rose petal fritter which looks like a brown plop in my photo. I hope this brown plop photo phenomenon of mine isn’t becoming a trend. It did look better in person!

All in all, I ended up having a good birthday dinner. It even made me feel better about getting older (the wine helped a lot).

113 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Ph: 03 9663 6363

The European: Ladies who Lunch

I started a new job when I got back from my holiday, so I’m now one of those people who work in the city. Yey! Access to new shops and restaurants is very exciting. My credit card is a bit scared, but I’m very excited.

The other week I had a lunch date with a friend, and her lovely 7 month old daughter at the European. The European is located on Spring St, next to the Princess Theatre. It’s a moody little place – a long narrow dining room, black and white chequered floor, and dark wood panelled walls. As we were toting a pram, we were seated at the front of the room which meant a bit more natural light for pictures. Grand.

The European: oysters

Freshly shucked oysters – slurp

We started with one of the day’s specials – freshly shucked oysters. These were served with a little dish of a vinegary sauce. They were very hard to eat gracefully with the little garnish on top. Good thing we weren’t trying to impress! The oysters were fresh and sweet.

The European: cheese

Manchego and fig salami

We shared another starter – Manchego with fig “salami”. Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain (as I have discovered). The slightly salty, creamy cheese was lovely with the fig (and on bread, and by itself).

The European: fish soup

This was fish, prawn, clam, mussel, and a scallop surrounded by a tomato based broth. The seafood came out in the bowl by itself, and then the broth was poured on top. It was slightly tangy and seafoody. I also got some toast, which you can see in the background.

The food was presented nicely and the other plus were the little touches. For example, the lemon half that came with the oysters was wrapped in muslim to prevent lemon seeds from falling in. There was nice bread with a good quantity of garlic aioli. And the staff didn’t bat an eyelid when cutlery and napkins got thrown to the floor or when my friend’s lovely little daughter got a bit grizzly because she needed a nap. Thankfully it was fairly lively (noisy) in there so we didn’t seem to disturb other diners.

This might be an ongoing series. My friend has gone overseas but we have a lunch date for January when she returns. It’s my choice of restaurant this time; recommendations of good eating places around the top end of the city would be welcome (as long as they’re pram friendly!).

The European
161 Spring St, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9654 0811

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We went to see the Priscilla musical the other night and it was fabulous! If you enjoyed the movie you will love the musical. The singing was magnificent, particularly by the three main female singers (who sang all the songs that Bernadette, Mitzi and Felicia lip sync to). The costumes were gloriously OTT. I couldn’t believe the amount of work put into some of them, particularly when several were only shown on stage for less than a minute. I was also happy to see that they had included the bus, Priscilla, on stage!

As we were going to be hanging around the city after work, we decided to go to Horoki for dinner. Horoki has been extensively reviewed, and considering what everyone has had to say about it, I have wanted to go there for quite some time. Even though it was still early when we showed up, all the tables were reserved, so we nabbed two of the red stools at the counter.

Not knowing the size of the dishes, we started with three.


Tuna carpaccio – tuna sashimi served in a light soy dressing sprinkled with a good parmigiano reggianio topped with a touch of mayo ($13.80)

The tuna was nice but I wasn’t sure about the cheese. I tried a couple of pieces with cheese but ended up brushing it off for the remainder. The combination of cheese and soy didn’t work for me.

Horoki soft shell crab

Crispy soft shell crab with lemon sour cream mayo ($13.80)

The crab was fried in a very light batter and was beautifully crispy. This was probably my favourite dish. We squeezed the lemon juice over it but I think we could’ve done without – there were a couple of patches that were a bit too sour. I still loved it.


Beef Tataki

The Beef Tataki was a special that night. The meat was seared, thinly sliced and then covered with the sauce. It was brilliant.

After our three dishes, we still wanted more. So more we had!

Horoki steak

Diced scotch fillet steak and potato with onion and wasabi sauce ($14)

Scattered amongst the tender morsels of steak was little pieces of fried garlic. When I ate a bit of steak with some garlic and wasabi – whoa! Hello flavour explosion!

Horoki pancake

Korean style pancake. Calamari and garlic chives mixed in Korean pancake batter and lightly fried. Served with a sesame and soy dipping sauce ($11.60)

I am a lover of crispy deep fried items (which partly explains my hot chips obsession) and this didn’t disappoint. The pancake was crispiness punctuated by moments of calamari.

Horoki duck

Roasted duck and eggplant. Slices of oven roasted duck and a bed of eggplant smothered in a delightful miso and honey sauce, with a hint of Japanese mountain pepper ($16.80)

I’m not a big fan of duck, but as duck goes, this was pretty good. It was tender and moist and I loved the eggplant, which was soft but not mushy. However, I thought the sauce was a tad salty, although if we had been eating it with rice it possibly would’ve been perfect.

Alastair was quite keen to keep ordering after all this (I think he’s come back from our trip with worms) but despite the speed of the service we didn’t have enough time.

Horoki dessert

We asked for the bill, and with it came a small serve of mango mousse. A little bit of sweetness to send us on our way. We were sweet on Horoki already, but what a lovely gesture.

19 Liverpool St
Melbourne 3000
Phone: 9663 2227

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