Monday, August 23, 2010


400 Bridge Road, Richmond, VIC
Phone (03)
9428 3918

After a recent trip to Japan, I couldn't get enough Japanese food. When we got back, I was making it at home, every single night. I was making it at home, rather than going out to a restaurant, because I knew that whatever I made would be more authentic than most of the Japanese you could get in a lot of the restaurants around town. I also didn't want bad Japanese food to taint my amazing memories of the beautiful food we ate in Japan.
So, before venturing out to any Japanese restaurants, I did a lot of asking around to find out where I could find the most authentic, best quality Japanese fare in town. There were lots of suggestions, but one name kept popping up. Maedaya.

Like Japan, the staff are extremely polite and friendly, always serving us with a smile. The best bit is, that just like Japan, all the staff start yelling out welcomes in Japanese as soon as you walk in the front door.

The mixed grill we ordered firstly consisted of 5 different skewers, each with different sauces and toppings. Some really excellent tastes here. However, the main thing I noticed was that the grill didnt seem to be as hot as the Yakitori bars would use in Japan. So the skewers didn't really have that smokey / charcoal flavour that gives it that extra depth. Delicious all the same.

Next up was chicken meatballs on skewers, again with different flavoured toppings.
I didn't loves these meatballs. The toppings were all very interesting, but the meatballs themselves had an odd powdery texture, which I wasn't a fan of. They weren't horrible by any means, but I probably wouldn't order them again.

Unagi! That's Japanese for Eel, of course! One of my favourites from Japan. Coated in that kind of sweet Teriyaki style sauce - excellent!

Next we ordered the Gyoza. Everyone loves a good Gyoza. These little dumplings which have been steamed and then pan fried, so that they have a crispy and also chewy texture. The Gyoza were excellent, however could have done with some more seasoning in the filling itself. I think most places seem to rely on the Soy sauce that you will add yourself as a seasoning.

One of my best eating experiences in Japan was eating authentic Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima. Whilst this Okonomiyaki, was cooked in a different style, I was still pretty impressed. It looked more like the ones you see in the crappy Bain Maries in shopping centre food courts. However, the taste and texture wouldn't compare. It was fantastic. That Japanese mayonnaise always makes anything taste better, anyway!

Even though we were stuffed beyond belief by this point, we ordered a dessert each. Here is the Mochi Ice cream. Basically a ball of ice cream which has been wrapped in Mochi dough and frozen, with a strawberry sauce drizzled over the top. So good. So Japan! I'd never seen Mochi until I went to Japan and this is the first time I'd seen it in Australia. Admittedly, I hadn't been looking.

Lastly was our Green Tea pudding with Black Sesame Ice Cream. Despite the unattractive colours of both the pudding and ice cream, this dessert was my favourite dish of the night. The pudding had that slight green tea taste and wasn't too heavy or sickly sweet - even though it looked like it might be. The Black sesame ice cream was the perfect accompaniment.

While not many places outside of Japan would ever compare to the experiences you have when you are actually over there, I'd say that Maedaya is the closest I've had to an authentic Japanese restaurant experience here in Melbourne. I'm sure there are plenty more. What are your favourites??

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cumulus Inc, Breakfast

45 Flinders Ln, Melbourne Vic
(03) 9650 1445

Apparently everyone loves Cumulus Inc. I'd never been, so I thought I'd check it out for breakfast. The morning was one of Melbourne's coldest, windiest and wettest days we've had this year. For that reason, I thought we'd be a shoe in to get a table without a wait. Especially early on a Saturday morning.

At Cumulus Inc, it seemingly doesn't matter what the weather is like or what day it is. People will flock here, because it's meant to be 'that' good!
We waited about 20 minutes for a table, in the corner which is reserved for the waiting cattle. Cumulus is a big industrial room, with beautiful warehouse style windows looking out onto Flinders Lane.

We ordered the Ham and Cheese Toastie with relish and avocado ($14). I can't remember the fancy name of the cheese or the windswept location where the pig lived that the ham came from or which trendy bakery the bread came from. But as tasty as the toastie was, it was small. Not really what you'd expect for $14. You'd definitely need two to fill you up.

I'm sure the Lunches and Dinners here are better value, since the place is so popular. With so many breakfast places in Melbourne though, there's no room for places that don't provide value for money, because there are so many that do.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Gary Mehigan, Masterchef's seemingly cuddly, father-like figure has two restaurants to his name. Initially there was Fenix, which he part owned with Molecular Gastronomy wizard - Raymond Capaldi. Then came The Boat-House in Maribyrnong. A very family orientated restaurant, down by the river. Unfortunately, Gary and Raymond decided to part ways, which left Fenix at a bit of a loss, since Capaldi was a crucial element of what Fenix was famous for. After Capaldi's departure, for a number of years Fenix only ran as a functions centre. But then this year on Masterchef, we saw Gary wearing his chef whites, with the Fenix logo on the chest. Did this mean the re-opening of Fenix as a restaurant? Indeed it did!
Fenix in it's original form was loved as a cafe, just as much as it was as a restaurant. Locals would head to Fenix on a Saturday and Sunday morning and sit outside by the yarra, amongst the trees and enjoy some english style brunch.
I decided to surprise Em with a visit to Fenix, as she was a big Gary Mehigan fan whilst Masterchef was on television. She had never been to Fenix before and she definately didn't know that it had been re-opened.
We arrived at 9.30am on a wintery Melbourne Saturday morning to discover the only place to park in the vicinity is the Fenix carpark, which is part of the Victoria Gardens complex. This costs $5 for the whole day. This wasn't ideal.
At the restaurant, all of the table were free, except one. I asked the Barista behind the counter if we could just sit anywhere. He asked if we had a reservation. "umm, no, do we need one?" considering almost every single table was free, I would hope not. Someone came out from a back room and seated us at a lovely table near the window. The table cloths are crisp and white, the napkins are a natural brown and the chairs are Hans Wegner Wishbone style. The waitress is friendly, yet, like our surroundings, very, very formal. Not what I'm used to at a Saturday morning breakfast. When one of the waiters came by to top up our water (I think he was the manager) he spotted a group of people turning up at the restaurant. The people had prams and a couple of dogs. The (possible) manager muttered to us "great, my two favourite things dogs and babies!" Ok, I get the humour - but not very professional - especially considering that now I'm sitting here typing exactly what he said.

I ordered the Homemade Baked Beans, with smoked chorizo, farmhouse cheddar and baked free range egg ($16). I've eaten lots of baked beans around town and these by far were my standout favourites! Everything about them was perfect. The tomato sauce has a slight sweetness to it, which was perfect with the absolute best chorizo I have ever eaten. The chorizo was spicy and smokey. I tried to find out from the waitress where they source their chorizo, but she wasn't giving away any secrets. Served with the beans were two perfectly poached eggs and two pieces of toast. Pay attention now, because this matters later.

Em ordered the Eggs Flornetine. A simple breakfast, but she said it was some of the best eggs she's had in ages. Considering that we go out most weekends for breakfast, that's definately a compliment. The hollandaise sauce also appeared to be perfect and Em said that it didn't leave her tummy with that sickly feeling that Hollandaise sauce can sometimes give you.

So good was our breakfast at Fenix, that we recommended it to some good friends of ours. They were keen to try and we were keen to go back, so we went back the very next Sunday.
The next week, the atmosphere was the same - a little too highbrow for a Sunday morning if you ask me. It seems however, that not everything was the same in the kitchen at Fenix.

I again ordered those fantastic Baked Beans. Only this time it was like they spilt the sugar into the sauce. It was sweet, sickly sweet. It was almost so sweet that you could call it a dessert! Not cool. Also, it seems that despite the price remaining the same as last week ($16), this week, I only got one poached egg and one piece of toast! Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but I do recall the judges on Masterchef rabbiting on about consistency in the kitchen.

One of our friends ordered the Fenix Breakfast (Grilled bacon, oven baked roma tomato, homemade hash brown, gourmet sausage choice of scrambled or poached eggs - $20). The sausage was cut open only to discover it was very undercooked on the inside. We had to send the sausage back to the kitchen to be cooked further.

The most shocking part of breakfast was yet to come. Em wasn't feeling too good, so she chose to only order toast with Jam, which wasn't on the menu. The kitchen was only too happy to accommodate. However, when it came time for us to pay the bill, we checked the cost of the 2 pieces of toast with jam. It came to $10! Yes, you heard correctly, $10!! I can buy 3 loaves of amazing Babka bread for that price.

So, the first week we visited we had one of the best breakfasts we've had in ages - perfectly executed. And then, the next week, the complete opposite. Undercooked, over sweetened and overpriced food! It's amazing how a bad experience can completely outweigh even the best of experiences - like the one we had the previous week. So much so, that I won't be hurrying back to Fenix again for breakfast any time soon. And given that dinners are not cheap either, I'll probably avoid those in fear of inconsistent food.

Oh, and if you don't want to pay $5, we discovered that you can park across victoria st in one of the office building car parks for free. They are closed on the weekend, so there's nobody around to get upset that you're parking in their spot.