Thursday, November 25, 2010

Purple Peanuts

620 Collins St
Melbourne, 3000

The Spencer St end of Collins st used to be completely void of any type of decent lunchtime eating spot, other than a couple of food courts which sold your standard 'lemon chicken' and 'tropical rice' dishes from a Bain Marie. These days it's a totally different part of town. There are creperies, fish n chip shops, fancy sandwich shops and now there is a Japanese place to tell your workmates about.

Purple Peanuts recently opened in the shop that used to house Boost Juice. But apparently not a lot of people were all that keen on Boost down that end of the city and they seemed to much prefer to line up for the Krispy Kremes Doughnuts across the road. So Boost juice lasted about a year or so to make way for a few other asian food stores that didn't seem to do much trade.

In it's most recent form, the store houses a top little Japaese joint - Purple Peanuts. It's primarily a take away place, but there are a few tables and chairs in case you would like to sit down and watch people lining up for their lunch. Purple peanuts seems to be following a very similar menu format to that of Don Don / Don Too. Basically keeping it simple with only a few menu items like Chicken Teriyaki and Chicken Curry. Also keeping it cheap is a priority too.

They also sell various forms of Inari, which all look delicious, different types of handrolls, as well as different types of Onigiri. The Onigiri they sell here is different to the type I tried in Japan. It appears to be deep fried and look more like an Arancini ball than the Japanese Rice Ball that I'm used to. I was keen to try one of these, but they were sitting right out on the counter, just at mouth height, and I'm not a fan of food that has, possibly been sneezed on or coughed on by someone waiting in line, so I passed on those. This time, anyway.

I went with the Chicken Teriyaki option ($8.50) and I got it to take away. Back at my office I opened up my container and was pleasantly surprised. The chicken looked great. Although, it didn't appear to have those little charcoalie / crispy type bits that I love so much about the Don Don version. But the chicken was tender, the sauce was a little sweet like Teriyaki should be. The salad that you get with your meal is better than the salads you would get a Don Don. I love the sesame dressing they use on it here and the nicely cooked beans. You also get a decent portion of rice with your meal.

Unfortunately, my office has moved across to Docklands now, but Purple Peanuts is still just close enough to Docklands for me to wander over now and then, for some pretty awesome Japanese Lunch treats. Considering the line out the door yesterday when I walked past, it seems that I'm not the only one who is a fan!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

VinTam's Bakery - Docklands Challenge

Shop 109, 111 Merchant St
Docklands VIC

My team at work has been moved from the CBD out to Docklands. So I've gone from having amazing lunch places around me to having mostly crappy cafes, that no self respecting food lover would ever purchase anything from. However, I am determined to find some good places to eat around Docklands and I'm sure there are lots of people out there who are keen to hear about some decent places too. So, I'm going to share with you any good places that I find.

Some mates at the office had told me about a little Footscray Style Vietnamese Bakery, just around the corner from work. I wandered down today at lunchtime and discovered that they are a Pho joint!

I promptly ordered myself a bowl ($9) of Rare Beef Pho. I was very pleased to see that the big bowl was served with the traditional Thai Basil, Bean Shoots, Chilli and Lemon.
This Pho was as good as any you'd have in Footscrazy or Richmond. Only difference being that I didn't find the need to add any fish sauce. All of the ones in Richmond I find lacking any salt, so I need to add some fish sauce. Maybe these guys add a nice dash of MSG to brighten things up a bit!

VinTam also sells Vietnamese Pork and Chicken Rolls for about $5 - $6. Definitely keen to get back there and check those out. Am so rapt that I can have Pho for lunch now. Couldn't get that where I was in the CBD, either!

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The Farm Cafe ( Collingwood Children's Farm )

18 St Heliers Street
Abbotsford VIC 3067

Nestled amongst the trees, animals and alongside one of Melbourne's busiest bike trails (capital city trail) is The Farm Cafe - just next to the reception of Collingwood Children's Farm.
Looking out towards the chickens is this lovely little, mostly outdoor cafe. There's no table service, not much shelter if it's raining, but on a nice day, this awesome cafe is packed! Families stop off here before or after visiting the animals at the farm and bike riders stop off, for some breakky or lunch to fuel them on their travels.

The menu reads as you would expect a menu to read at the Children's farm. Lots of Free Range, organic, Bio-Dynamic, Sustainable ingredients make up the delicious dishes that are on offer here.

We visited on a Sunday morning about 9.30am and the place was already full of kids and their parents. Being outdoors though, the kids aren't too much of a drama as there's no walls for their yelling to bounce off.

You order at the counter and take a number. Usually that's not so cool, but here it works well.

Em orders the 'Goat's Toast'. Sourdough toast, beetroot relish, baby spinach & avocado
topped with marinated goats cheese $15 or with a poached egg $16.50. The beetroot relish was something out of the ordinary and pretty amazing. Goat's Cheese and eggs seem to just live in harmony together - well in my opinion anyway. Em also ordered bacon to go with her breakky, since it all sounded a little too healthy! She loved the breakky.

I ordered the Slow Cooked Beans, in a tomato & fennel seed sauce with marinated fetta & fresh herbs served with sourdough toast $10.50 with a poached egg $12. These beans were really good. Not quite as good as the first ones I had at Fenix, but they were up there. It was quite a big serve too, I couldn't even finish it.

So, if it's a nice day and you feel like a little venure down to The Farm Cafe, you'll be very happy with the food and you'll even be happier with the view. You wouldn't even know that you were about 4km to Melbourne's CBD.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Jim's Greek Tavern

32 Johnston St, Collingwood, Vic

So, where do you go in Melbourne if you want the best Greek food around? The famous Jim's Greek Tavern of course!
Well, that statement would have been true about 20 years ago. But these days Jim's Greek Tavern is far from the best Greek Food in Melbourne. In recent years with the addition of restaurants like George Colambares' traditional Hellenic Republic and the more modern Press Club, the standards have been raised.
When people go to restaurants like Tetsuya's, Vue De Monde, Quay, etc, you spend quite a bit of money. But it's all ok, because it's "an experience." Well if you want an experience, Jim's is one of those. I can't say it will be one that you will cherish forever, but it will be an experience.
If you've never been to Jim's, it's decor is still very much from the early 80's with apparently very little being done to it since then. The only difference to the staff from back then is less hair and what's left is a little more grey.

The staff bounce around like they're at their only daughter's wedding night. It would be good if that energy went into checking on their customers though.
Don't expect a menu when you arrive at Jim's. We got a "what would you like?" and our response was, "what have you got?" So, basically the waiter tells you what's being served that evening - there's a few choices when it comes to the type of fish and how you would like your meat cooked. It all sounds great! Be warned though, there are no visible prices anywhere and Jim's isn't all that cheap! You feel a bit stingy asking what the price of each item is, when it is offered to you, so you just go with the flow.

We started with the Saganaki. This came out far too quickly to be prepared especially for us, so it had been sitting there for at least a few minutes before it was bought to our table. You could tell because the cheese was rubbery and stodgy - the was saganaki goes if it isn't served straight from the heat. Lemon juice helps to reduce the richness of the cheese.

Next was some dips, which when you walk in, you can see come from a big bain marie style cooler on the counter. You would find better dips in the fridge at the supermarket to be honest. The bread however that is homemade, is pretty awesome. Nothing like fresh home made bread to soak up all those oils and juices!

Next up were scallops. These were actually delicious. They weren't all that much to look at and look like they are way over cooked, but they tasted nothing of the sort. They were tender, zesty with some lemon and really, really good with the bread! Definitely the highlight.

Next was the whiting. I chose the whiting out of the choices that we were offered, because whiting for some reason screams Greek to me. Not sure what it is. Maybe it's the fishermen that I used to see down at the Warmies when I was a kid, pulling the whiting in. The fish was excellent, minimal bones, not overcooked. However one piece of whiting for $32 was an absolute joke. We didn't realise the price until the bill came at the end. I saw whiting the next day for $5kg at vic market. The fish had just been seared in a pan.

Lastly came the lamb. You would think after cooking lamb for more than 20 years at this same restaurant to so many happy punters, you would think that these guys would have perfected it! Guess what? Not even close. The lamb was almost cold when it came to us. It was dry, dry, dry. And although it wasn't chewy, it was verging on unpleasant to eat. You needed a drink to help wash it down. Which wasn't helped by me having to ask the waiter 3 times for the coke that I ordered. The lamb doesn't even come with any type of garlic sauce or anything like that to help ease the dryness.

Overall, Jim's was a massive disappointment. The service is half arsed, the food is definitely not up to Melbourne's standard. If I was looking for greek food in the future, I'd definitely look elsewhere. The one thing that seems crazy though, is that this place is chockas! There wasn't a spare seat in the house and from my understanding it's like that on most weekends. No idea why, but they must have ordered different food to me. Or maybe it's the atmosphere that reminds them of home... if home has vomit on the stairs leading to the toilet.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Coin Laundry

61 A Armadale StreetArmadale, 3143

"Do you have a dollar, do you have a dollar for me?" - sung Lisa Mitchell in her song Coin Laundry. Well Lisa, I'm sorry, but if you need to scab a dollar from one of the punters at the fairly new Coin Laundry Cafe in Armadale, then you're probably eating out in the wrong area.

The customers at Coin Laundry, don't appear to be hard up for a dollar. That's probably because their modelling careers have taken off. The same could be said for the staff that work here too. The 2 male baristas look like something off the cover of Men's Health Magazine. While one of the female waitresses could easily be Australia's next 'it' girl. You would think that it would be hard to relax in a place like this, without worrying if you had a hair out of place or left some latte froth on your top lip. However, that's not the case.

Coin Laundry is suprisingly relaxed and laid back. The staff, despite their insane good looks, are very friendly and professional too. The room is sun-filled with massive windows looking out onto the swanky Armadale terraces. I reckon I can barely afford breakfast here, let alone one of those houses. But again, that's not the case! Breakfast is reasonably priced, which is why I guess the well to do, penny pinching locals love this place so much.

The menu doesn't go out of it's way to be different though, with everything on there sounding tasty, but very middle of the road. Considering the amount of amazing cafes in Melbourne at the moment, I was suprised to see a cafe of this calibre serving your standard poached eggs with bacon and rocket on top.

I ordered the Grilled Champagne Ham with Fontina Cheese on thick cut Noisette Sourdough with Roasted Roma Tomato and Torn Basil ($11.50) plus I ordered a poached egg on top ($3).

The Noisette bread was excellent as is everything I've tried of their's (especially their Olive Bread!). The fontina cheese looked a bit odd, kind of spread on the bread, looking a little like cream cheese. The poached egg, was perfectly poached and the tomato was nicely roasted. However the skin was left on. No big deal, but it would be nicer if they went to the effort of removing the skin. It was pretty tasty, but it's one of those things that you sit there and look at and go "I could have just made this at home and not driven all the way to Armadale." Which is exactly what I said.

Em ordered the Scrambled eggs with Bacon, Smashed Acovado and Rocket ($unk). Again, your standard cafe fare. Em noted that it was decent, but the scrambled eggs didn't have much flavour to them. However, I must point out that since I introduced Em to Bill's Scrambled Eggs in Sydney, nothing has quite met their standard. The 'smashed' Avocado has some lemon through it and maybe a bit of olive oil, which gave it's slightly runnier consistancy.
Em has a theory, that the better looking the barista, the better the coffee. Coin Laundry was apparently keeping up with this theory. Coin Laundry's coffee according to Em was pretty darn good! Their tea menu was fairly disappointing however, with only your stock standard Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Chai and Green. I wish cafes would show as much interest in the teas that they sell, as the coffee that they sell.

Overall, I reckon Coin Laundry would be a top local choice if you lived nearby. The staff are friendly and efficient, the food is decent, but it's not somewhere that I personally would be racing across town to re-visit. I think there are much more interesting options that I will be visiting before heading back there.

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