Saturday, February 27, 2010


Where have you been all my life!
Just finished a fantastic brunch with Chris, Rach and Mi at Kamel.
Great company, delicious food and plenty of sustainable options.
We shared saganaki, dolmades, dips (tsatziki, hummus and beetroot) and some zucchini, corn and
chickpea flour patties. All very tasty and satisfying especially when
accompanied with a glass or two of Pinot bubbles.
Thanks guys!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kim Sing for a Song

If anyone bragged about a hearty lunch spot where you'd have change from a fiver in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, I'd have called them wishful.

Yet somehow Kim Sing manages to produce exactly that in the form of a tasty, filling, freshly cooked vegetarian fried rice for a grand total of $4.00. Yep, really!

I stumbled upon Kim Sing on a lunchtime ramble yesterday and came back again today. If you're seeking romantic fine-dining with white table cloths and starched waiters you won't find it. But you will find an armada of woks dancing on blue flames, a supersized menu with lifesize pictures of dishes on offer and exceptional value for money.

Kim Sing is tucked in Port Phillip Arcade (which embarrassingly I only discovered yesterday, despite having lived in Melbourne for 30 plus years). The cafe spans both sides of the walkway. There is a small yellow sign to identify the place, but long before you see the sign you'll probably see dozens of tables full of students, backpackers and hungry office workers all munching on delicious looking fare.

Yesterday I had the Stirfried Mixed Vegetables with Tofu and Rice for $6. Presentation might not have been superlative, but it was very tasty and came with a nice sauce. The tofu was good, the vegetables were nicely crispy and the mushrooms were really good.

I didn't notice the Vegetarian Fried Rice on the menu until after I'd eaten yesterday, so I had to come back and try it today just to see if it was possible to make a decent dish for $4. Verdict - yes! It came with carrots, beanshoots, spring onions, cabbage, brocolli and pieces of omelette. The rice was fluffy and light and there was enough on the plate to leave me feeling very satisfied. Was it the best fried rice ever - probably not, but it was infinitely better than the soggy overpriced, tasteless, reheated bain-marie gloop I've suffered through in food courts.
Kim Sing on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chatter Box

I confess I've been to Chatter Box several times in the last few weeks. They have a great lunchtime special of $8.30 for plenty of freshly cooked delicious dishes. So far I've had the Vegetarian Laksa, Nasi Pattaya and Char Kway Teow. All were very tasty.

On my first visit I had the Pad Kee Mou, but requested they replace the Mou (chicken) with tofu. This noodle fiesta was delicious with crunchy broccoli and other vegetables and the wonderful addition of fresh basil. It comes with a very satisfying amount of chilli which is more reminiscent of street food in Thailand and Malaysia than the usual anaemic chilli sprinkling apportioned in many other Australian restaurants.

Real Thai Recipes has an interesting explanation of the etymology of this dish. I assume they're talking about the same thing.

"In Thai, ‘pad’ means to stir-fry, and ‘kee mao’ means someone who likes to drink too much. ‘Kee’ literally means ’shit’, and adding ‘kee’ in front of any verb means it’s a bad habit. ‘Mao’ means drunk. So, a ‘Kee Mao’ (shit drunk) is someone who has a bad habit of drinking!"

So there you go!

The Laksa at Chatter Box is one of the better Laksas you'll get in the CBD. It might not rival Laksa King out in Flemington, but I'd give it 4 out of 5. I have a sneaking suspicion Chatter Box might employ shrimp paste and therefore this dish pushes the boundaries of eco-friendliness, but it is very tasty and sometimes one must relent.

The Nasi Pattaya was interesting. The fried rice part was excellent, but I'm not a fan of tomato sauce. I realise this is how the dish is supposed to be presented, but it just doesn't work for me. I ended up scraping the sauce off to the side. I really enjoyed the rest of the dish though.

Another bonus of Chatter Box dining is the endless free tea. I love this feature.

I was inspired to go here after Miss T Princess Vegan gave it a rave review. I reckon she was absolutely right.
Chatter Box on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vegie Ducks at the Dumpling Village

So I strayed from my staple of dumplings on my second visit today and it was a mixed blessing.

I couldn't resist ordering the Vegetarian Duck $4, just to see whether it was a salad-eating-antatid or something entirely different. As it happens, it is some kind of tofu/wheat gluten concotion (see pic). It tasted salty and had an interesting texture, but is probably a dish best enjoyed in combination with something else as its flavour is somewhat one-dimensional. I can't tell you how much the taste resembled its flesh and blood namesake because I haven't eaten any ducks for decades, but as a tofu vegetarian dish, it was quite enjoyable.

The same can't be said for the anaemic Vegetarian Spring Rolls $3 (see pic) which were mostly pastry and very little filling. I guess their price might have given me a hint of things to come, but I always hope for the best. I'd estimate the percentage of pastry to filling was probably 80/20 which made for a crunchy but rather tasteless dish.

The highlight for me today was the Buns with Vegetable and Mushroom $4 (see pic). I haven't had a huge number of steamed buns in my time as most of the places I've encountered them, they have been filled with dubious meat products of uncertain provenance. But at Shanghai Village Dumpling, they were full of delicous stirfried mushroom, spinach, and onion. The buns with light and fluffy and they came nicely presented in a bamboo steamer. Thumbs up for the buns!

I've also included a photo of resturaunt's Black List taped to one of the pink walls. I couldn't help it, I just found it quite funny. The List is designed to shame diners who have done a runner without paying. Maybe it's wrong, but it just reminded me of a tarring and feathering from times of old. I wonder how effective it is?

I shared my Shanghai Village Dumpling visit with Scuba Steve so we could have a bit of a catchup. Steve wasn't overly pleased by his experience as you can see his review on urbanspoon, but we had a good 'ol chat anyway while we waited and waited for our dishes to arrive. To be fair, they were quite busy.

Shanghai Village Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Southern Spice Secret

So you’re out west and suddenly develop a hankering for a fresh crispy masala dosai. Or you’re craving a breakfast poori that tastes like you bought it from a guy on Platform 18 at New Dehli Station as you rushed to board the Kerala Express? If you find yourself in this condition and you don’t mind popping into a cafĂ© that has slightly less ambience than your local laundromat, then I’ll let you in on a secret.

Situated in a prime location across from a multi-colour-flag used car dealership and next to Pizza Hut on busy Gordon Street Footscray, Southern Spice may well sate your desires. Even though their address is listed as Ballarat Road, you enter off Gordon Street, there is a carpark behind the little group of shops or you can catch the number 82 tram. Here is a Google Street View.

The food is cheap (Entrees $2.00-$4.00 Mains $4.00-$7.00) and delicious. When we used to live near this place and I loved dragging Mi here as often as I could. We even convinced many friends to come with us. And while they were initially dubious, they were instant converts after the first mouthful.

The masala dosai comes with the usual spiced potato and ghee filling and the poori is served with a delicious light dal. They also have great lassis and there a plenty more vegetarian and vegan choices on the menu.

I'll have to go back there and get some photos for you, but in the mean time, why not check it out for yourself?

Southern Spice on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thali Time

Oh joy! 

Bismi are now doing an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet from Mon-Wed with around 25 choices including dosai, roti, dhal and several vegetarian (8+) and non-veg curries. 

For $11.90 it is great value but it certainly won't be good for my waistline. I'm going back tomorrow!

Bismi has without a doubt the best masala dosai in Melbourne - crisp, paper thin and very very tasty. I've been enjoying them for around 4 years now and I think they might even be getting better. 

Their roti and thali dishes are great too. I can't comment on the biryani or meat dishes - never made it past my staples. 

I think they might have recently turned down the music (at least when I was there) and it's possible they have even have given it a clean! 

I would probably still frequent this place even if it was the grottiest in Melbourne - the food is that good. 

Bismi's Gold An Fork on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fo Guang Goodness

Perhaps Fo Guang Gallery hasn't been reviewed because everyone wants to keep it secret? Not really surprising given the tasty food, relaxing music, and beautiful asian art all combined inside a tranquil haven on Queen Street. The entire menu is vegetarian, but omnivores will still find plenty of good options.

I had the Vegetarian Laksa $12 (see pic) which was more subtly flavoured than I'm used to, but still delivered welcome complexity with fresh curry leaves, mung bean shoots, veges and tasty gluten/soy vegetarian 'pork'. The laksa soup didn't have the knock-you-over punch of flavour I enjoy at my other favourite laksa haunts (Laksa King, Chinta Ria Soul, Blue Chillies and Laksa Me), but that is probably because all the others use shrimp paste in their 'vegetarian' laksa whereas Fo Guang is a proper vegetarian laksa. Fo Guang's laksa has a nice amount of spice and good flavours.

I also enjoyed a pot of Kumquat Tea (see pic) which was a balance of citrus and sweetness - not too sweet though. It even had a real kumquat rolling about and infusing at the base of the clear glass teapot. The tea was served with two delicous mini biscuits. The menu at Fo Guang has more desert and tea options than mains, so make sure you leave some room.
I'm looking forward to going back and working my way through the wontons, spring rolls, stirfries, and steamed buns. But first on my list will be the Crystal Dumplings ordered by a customer on the adjacent table - they engendered serious food envy.

What else are second visits for, other than trying things you missed on the first?

Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery on Urbanspoon