Review: The Mess Hall, Melbourne City

Review: The Mess Hall, Melbourne City

the mess hall

the mess hall

the mess hall

Breakfast in Melbourne city. I haven’t done that in awhile as I moved out of the city many years ago and driving all the way in for just breakfast really seems like a waste of time. Plus, everybody knows there’s a ton of other Melbourne brunch places that are way more exciting anyways. Right? RIGHT?

I ended up in The Mess Hall for brunch one morning, not entirely by choice. I was there because I had just been to Cumulus and was told that I had just missed their breakfast hour. Taking pity on me and my disappointed face, the helpful waiter directed us to The Mess Hall, which was how I ended up there.

The Mess Hall is an italian food restaurant that had signage that I couldn’t see. I nearly walked straight past it but the patrons sitting outside in the lazy morning sun clued me into the fact that a restaurant must be around the place somewhere.

Once inside, we were greeted with friendly smiles that lead very quickly to a table and menus.

Service however was a little slow. After what felt like forever, our food finally arrived: Hollandaise eggs with ham, spinach, hollandaise & dukkah on a sweet bun and Corn fritters served with avocado, cherry tomato, cream cheese and chilli.

The food was pleasant enough, though I wasn’t overly taken by the Hollandaise sauce. It seems nobody can beat homemade hollandaise sauce yet (made by Sefie, not me), ah well. The eggs were well poached, the corn fritters tasty.

Would I head back? I doubt it. While everything was pleasant enough, it just didn’t pack enough wow factor into the place, service and food to warrant a re-visit especially since I have moved out of Melbourne and am now one of those annoying tourists who tries to cram too much eating into one stomach. Oh wait, that’s really everybody. Never mind.

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Popping my Fancy-pants cherry: Momofuku Seiobo (Part 1)

Popping my Fancy-pants cherry: Momofuku Seiobo (Part 1)

Momofuku. Momofuku Seiobo.

When I first started planning my trip to Sydney, I decided that I wanted to go to a fancy-pants restaurant. We’ve been food lovers, eaters and enthusiasts for long enough that I like to think that we would actually appreciate the experience, rather than just ‘this is food.’

It was hard to pick which restaurant to go to. I wanted to go to Quay. I wanted to go to Tetsuya. I wanted to go to so many places that I just couldn’t pick. But in the end we decided to go with Momofuku, because I’ve heard so much about the darn steamed pork buns and really wanted to try it for myself.

I have to split the post into two parts as I really don’t want it to get overly heavy and hard to digest in one seating. So here’s Part 1!

Making a Booking

To eat at Momofuku, you need to make a booking. No walk-ins. Bookings are made via their online booking reservation system only. No phone bookings accepted. But to make things even harder, spaces are strictly limited with the restaurant only seating between 30-40 people, therefore the fight for tables can get quite heated. You are only allowed to book up to 10 days in advance, new table bookings are made available on the reservation system at 10am (AEST) in the morning.

The good news is that as long as you are there at the computer on time and have a fast connection, you shouldn’t have too many issues with obtaining a booking. (Remember, 10 days in advance, no more no less!) If you delay for even a minute, you will be forced to sit and stare at the screen forlornly at rows of red crosses. When I made my reservation, I noticed that all seats were snapped up within 3 minutes. So you gotta move fast!

14 courses.. starting now!

We were seated at the kitchen bar, which I was extremely delighted with. Not only was the lighting much better for photos, but you were also able to watch the action as it went down. I had a lot of fun ‘stealing ideas’ and trying to work out what was going onto the dish before it got to us!

Things to take note of to help your reading:

The Boy opted for the Vegetarian Course, while I went with the normal standard fare. You will see a V labelled on some of the photos to signify the vegetarian dish.

The Boy opted for the juice pairing ($55), while I went with the wine pairing ($95). I will only be showing photos of the wine pairing, but will also mention what the juice pairing was under each photo.

First Course

1. Nori Cracker topped with Roe / Vego version omitted the Roe)
2. Smoked Eel / Vego version: Smoked Potato
3. Pig’s Blood Chip / Vego version: 5
4. Shitake Mushroom Mochi
5. Kimchi Chip / Not available on the standard menu.

Juice Pairing: Apple and Fennel

This was described to us as snacks. I was really curious to see how the vegetarian course was match up to the standard fare and was quite amused to see that even though the ingredients differed, our items still look quite similar which is why I’ve only shown you 5 out of 8 of the items – they looked the same!

The smoked eel / potato was quite fun to eat. Beautifully delicate, it exploded in my mouth sending me to the heavens as I took in the beautiful depth of flavour the little tube contained.

The Kimchi Chip had to be the hero of both dishes as it was incredibly addictive and very moreish. If I could get a whole bagful of that, I’d be quite the happy girl!

The Sake went beautifully with this course, and I mused over the fact that I would never be able to drink cheap sake ever again. I’ve only ever had cheap sake and much like cheap wine, once you’ve had the good stuff, you never want to go back!

Second Course

Momofuku Pork Bun: Vego version had shitake mushrooms instead of pork; served with Siracha sauce.

Juice Pairing: Apple and Fennel

The Famous Momofuku Pork Bun. Finally I get to eat you. I have long heard of this famous pork bun but couldn’t help but wonder how good could it be? Well.. the bun was definitely beautifully made, fluffy and melt in your mouth; the meat was gorgeous and the siracha sauce just kicked things up a notch. Everything was gorgeous but I couldn’t help but feel that it didn’t really live up to the hype.

Having said that, I would probably be quite happy to order more of that, I do think that it was a gorgeous bun, but I also felt that it wasn’t really as amazing as I had heard. The humble chinese steamed buns strike me as having more flavour than this version!

Third Course

Vego: Tomato Salad with Whipped Tofu and Yuzu Dressing.
Standard: Pink Snapper Sashimi with Celery and Green Mustard Dressing.

Juice Pairing: Cucumber

The whipped tofu had the most interesting texture. It was foamy and felt like it had come out from a siphon. (Maybe it did, who knows.) You could definitely taste the tofu though, and this just blew our minds – foamy tofu!?!?

I really enjoyed the pink snapper sashimi but being incredibly used to having strong wasabi with my sashimi, felt that the Green Mustard Dressing was rather lackluster.

Fourth Course

Vego: Onions with pieces of Rhubarb and Sea Lettuce.
Standard: Raw Kangaroo Island Scallop with Rhubarb dressing.

Juice Pairing: Cucumber

We were very intrigued by the vegetarian version of this dish. Definitely not similar in any way or form to the Scallop. Not just that, it had these plastic looking greens on it that were apparently sea lettuce. Hmmmm. It didn’t taste like plastic, which was a good thing. In fact, the whole dish was beautifully balanced and the textural elements made for a fun dish to eat. Out of both our dishes, I much preferred this one!

My scallop was fresh and juicy. However the rhubarb dressing was way too tart and sadly overpowered the scallop. I was left with an unpleasant taste in my mouth and tried quite hard to chase it away with my wine.

Fifth Course

Vego: Confit Potato in Olive Oil with Quandong and Watercress Emulsion.
Standard: Confit Potato in Beef Fat with Quandong, Bottarga, Beef Fat and Watercress Emulsion.

Juice Pairing: Watermelon

I loved this course so much!!!! All the exclamation marks in the world cannot express how in love I am with this dish. Confit potato in beef fat is the most genius cooking move ever! I had been feeling kinda deflated prior to this as the boy had won our little ‘Veg vs Standard’ competition so far in the taste test but the standard version of this dish blew his out of the water and shot his to pieces!

His dish did taste a lot cleaner, a lot healthier, so that’s a plus. But Confit potato in beef fat!!! Oh yeah baby. The flavour, the melt in your mouth potatoes, the salty bottarga…. I must try and cook this dish at some point!

Sixth Course

Vego: Grilled Watermelon, Radish and Fermented Black Beans.
Standard: Wagyu Beef, Radish and Fermented Black Beans.

Juice Pairing: Watermelon

Both dishes looks the same so only one photo for you. Where the difference lies is actually underneath all of that beautifully crisp Radish slices. We were skeptical about the grilled watermelon and as it turns out, it did seem to lack a certain heartiness to it as it was very clean and generally yummy but definitely lacking.

The Wagyu in my dish had been chopped up into small cubes, beautifully tender and both flavour and texture really lifted the dish up when contrasted with the fermented black beans and the crisp radishes. I really quite enjoyed this dish and cheered for another score on the ‘Vego vs Standard’ test!

I should also make a super big mention about the sake that accompanied this course. Firstly the pink appearance of the sake caught my eye, secondly it was incredibly sweet yet not cloyingly so. It was fragrant, smooth like silk and my gosh, I wanted to down an entire bottle down my throat that instant. I was so in love with it, I started asking the wait staff how much I could buy it for ($200++ if you are curious). Interesting facts I learnt about this Sake: it’s brewed by one of Japan’s few female brewers and is brewed from red rice. YUM!

Seventh Course

Vego: Slow Cooked Egg, Courgette, Zucchini Flower, and Black Garlic.
Standard: Roasted Quail, Courgette, Zucchini Flower, and Black Garlic.

Juice Pairing: Carrot

If you were keeping count of my little game, this is where I tell you that I managed to chalk up another win for my side. The quail (boneless!) was rich, tender and so beautifully flavoured that I felt like getting up and screaming my love for it. I don’t normally eat quail and after eating this, I question why not!

The boy’s dish wasn’t quite as exciting however. Still, beautifully clean, the textures were in perfect harmony with each other and it was definitely good to see him eat an egg yolk. He normally gives them to me. I was also very pleased to see the Zucchini flowers on our plates. I had noticed them earlier on the stove and had wondered which dish they’d appear in. Another point for not being a typical stuffed zucchini flower!

Stay tune for Part 2!! What do you think of the dishes so far? I can tell you that I’m in love, drooling, wanting more! However my wallet doesn’t quite agree and my physical location is a bit of a hindrance so I shall just have to rely on these photos and my memory to relive the moment over and over again.

Till next time!

Eating Out: Akachochin, the best lunch deal you will find.

Eating Out: Akachochin, the best lunch deal you will find.

03 9245 9900
33 Dukes Walk
South Wharf, VIC 3006

Moving away from Melbourne has its perks. I get to explore a new city, find new treasures and learn to open my heart to more than just Melbourne. But the downfall to that would be the fact that I can no longer keep up with the amazing new places that are popping up around Melbourne like mushrooms after a heavy rainfall. I’m told that even folks living in Melbourne find it hard to keep up, such is the pace of growth in the restaurant population, but that just spells doom for the out-of-towners like me.

Still, I try my best. Which is why my last trip to Melbourne found me walking to Akachochin from Etihad Stadium as I had gotten quite lost. Perseverance is the key, my grumbling stomach and my yearn to meet my mates I-hua and Agnes saw me sticking it out and I was rewarded by my friends laughing at my misery through a glass window as I realised I had to walk around the building to get to the door. Damn.

Akachochin (so named after the red lanterns that usually adorns the doorway of Izakaya restaurants) is an Izakaya-style Japanese restaurant. That means that their menu consists of small dishes that are designed to be shared. And while this was normally not an issue (never an issue, really) I was there for lunch, and it was the lunch set menu that we had our sights on that day.

Akachochin offers lunch sets at $20 per pop between 12 – 4pm. You get: steamed rice, miso soup, yasai ohitashi (seasonal marinated vegetables in dashi stock) served with your choice of sashimi (salmon or kingfish) and a main option. I was pleased to see that if you didn’t fancy meat options, there was at least one option that catered for that. All too often you find that restaurants forget vegetarians exist…

I ordered Option 1 as option 2 just didn’t look all that exciting. For my main option, I went with butabara yakimono – grilled pork belly with spicy teriyaki sauce. And as I write this, I am salivating as I remember just how amazing the meal was. Damn being 7 hours drive away!

I could find nothing wrong about this meal. The kingfish was fresh, sweet and incredibly yummy. If I had to complain, I’d say that there just wasn’t enough of it! I could have eaten loads more of that and then some. It was so good. The rice was also well cooked. It wasn’t dry, nor was it soggy: just the right texture without being too sticky. Perfection!

As for the pork belly, if I could eat this everyday, I’d die happy! The spicy teriyaki sauce really got the appetite going and how can one ever say no to pork belly? Impossible. The skill and techniques applied were apparent and the care taken in preparing the dish was clear in every bite. The portion was generous but no portion can be quite generous enough when it comes to a hungry stomach and an amazingly prepared dish of pork belly. Ah, I’m a greedy pig, that’s what I am.

These chicken wing dumplings $15 came highly recommended by the ever-knowing tummies who shared my meal table. In them, I trust so I happily took a bite into my chicken wing. Immediately I was drawn to the fact that it had been skillfully deboned, wrapped and stuffed into a little dumpling with a wing. And somehow still preserving its shape as a chicken wing. Skill, this is what I need in my life! I-hua regretfully informed me that they weren’t quite as deep fried as they had previously tried them before, so I guess I will have to head back to Akachochin again to try them once more, hopefully with it more fried. Ah, such a tough life.

These desserts didn’t come with the set lunch (neither did the chicken wings) but we just couldn’t leave without some sweets to wrap up the already amazing lunch. I opted for the Sweet Potato Brulee $12 while the others went with Black Sesame Pannacotta with Green Tea Ice Cream $14. I should have gathered something was up when both couples ordered the same thing, as their dessert was seriously the bomb. The black sesame pannacotta was the best thing I’ve ever eaten, so silky smooth, so beautiful and so filled with black sesame. While my own sweet potato brulee was sadly lacking in the brulee department. There was no satisfying crack (it was more like a weak, half-hearted squeak), and while nice it didn’t have the wow factor that the black sesame pannacotta did. Oh well, next time!

If you are in town, you need to head to Akachochin. Without a doubt, it has one of the best lunch deals you can get for $20 in town. I know for a fact that the next time I’m in town with a bit of time to spare, that’s where I’m headed to again. Oh, Akachochin, you have stolen my heart.

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Eating Out: Pearl’s Diner @ Felixstow, #Adelaide

Pearl’s Diner
04 1981 5660
38A Briar Road
Felixstow, SA 5070
On Facebook

Hard to believe that Pearl’s Diner only opened a fortnight ago. Hard to believe that I’m actually writing a review for a place that I went to in the past month. I must be getting better at this blogging business. No? Alright then.

Pearl’s Diner is the baby of Burger Theory and La Waffle. The former being a food truck (and WHAT a food truck, when the mere mention of it brings joy), the other a wholesale business. It was launched a mere fortnight ago, but word spread like wildfire and when I was there on the 2nd night, the place was already pumping.

And rightly so, for folks would be familiar with the amazing tasting burgers that Burger Theory pump out on a regular basis. And now it comes with waffles, all day breakfast and the benefit of a chair and table, huzzah!

On my first visit there, I couldn’t help but let myself be suckered in by the burgers. Chasing down Burger Theory and its location can sometimes be hard, and the queues can be a little bit of a turn off. So having their burgers in a fixed location is a huge bonus, and I found myself eagerly ordering my usual: the ever so simply named Burger #1.

Do you know the look of joy of a kid’s face at Christmas? That would be what is mirrored on mine when my burger turned up at the table. Oh, come to Mama, you juicy burger, you. Juicy, fresh, with beautifully soft buns. Every bite is tasty, and every bite is heavenly. There is no denying just how gorgeous the whole burger is, and I could easily eat them everyday. My waistline and weighing machine would disagree, but the mouth and the stomach wouldn’t. Oh yeah.

I also ordered a milkshake, which was good though there wasn’t very much of it, which made me sad. Need more milkshake! On the table as well, is an array of sauces to go with your fries. I was in sauce heaven! I love having a buffet of sauces to choose from, who wants boring ol’ tomato sauce? Ew.

We also ordered buttermilk fried chicken wings and coleslaw to try. They were good, but they weren’t mindblowingly good. The burgers were mindblowingly good, the chicken wings just weren’t. The coleslaw was definitely one of the better ones I’ve tried, but again, just not that memorable. Stick with the burgers. Plus, the chicken wings were actually a little pink on the inside. I hesitate a little but ate it anyways.

So, my verdict on Pearl’s Diner? Go. Definitely go. Because their burgers will blow your mind. They seem to be slightly bigger than the truck burgers, which is good, as they also cost more which is also due to the addition of fries. I wish they had an option not to have fries with your burgers, because frankly, I just don’t eat that much fries.

Other than that, bring cash. No eftpos yet! UPDATE – they have eftpos now! Yay!

Here’s another drool-worthy pic of Pearl’s Diner signature dish. The burgers.

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Eating Out: Devour Dessert Bar @ Prospect, #Adelaide.

Devour Dessert Bar
04 1153 6343
96 Prospect Road
Prospect, SA 5082

I’ve said it once and I will say it again – the dessert bar culture in Adelaide is one of the best things about this place. I won’t go on to wax lyrical about why dessert bars are the bomb, but let’s just say that this will be one of the main reasons to make me rethink relocating from Adelaide.

Devour Dessert Bar is one of the many dessert bars that are gracing the dessert bar scene in Adelaide. I first visited it last year but wasn’t very taken by my experience. Keen to give it another chance (as it is not unheard of for restaurants to have a bad day), I decided to head back to Devour this year for the boy’s birthday.

Devour Dessert Bar is situated in Prospect, a fairly short drive up from the city. The shopfront is simple and unassuming, the inside is simply lit with yellow globes. The decor is simple but tasteful. It makes for a gorgeous setting to savour your sweets that one might even call romantic, but it certainly does not make for good lighting to take photos! Be warned though, Devour only accepts cash. There is a Commonwealth Bank ATM nearby, but always bring cash and be prepared!

The menu at Devour Dessert Bar changes every two months (roughly), which is exciting as it keeps things interesting. (You might remember that Eggless changes theirs monthly.) You can take a peep at the current menu here: here. If you are lucky, this menu will stick around till mid next week, so hurry! Because you do not want to miss out on the Peanut Butter Jelly dessert. Behold:

Peanut Butter Jelly: Burnt Milk Panna Cotta, Peanut Crunch, Berry Gel, Peanut Praline $12

This dessert is the most mind-blowing dessert I’ve ever eaten. The mixture of crunchy and soft texture between the panna cotta, crunch and praline can bring a grown man to his knees. The intoxicating taste of peanut butter has you wanting more, and while the macaron might not be as fluffy and airy as some others I’ve eaten, all is forgiven because all how good this dessert works as a whole.

Peanut Butter Jelly – one of those classic flavours that I really wish I had found out about earlier. The peanut crunch and praline was so good I felt a pang of pity for those with nut allergies for not being able to partake in this wonder. If you are in Adelaide and you have not tried this creation, you need to. I was also informed that this dish will not be featured on the new menu, so you really have to run!

Banana Macadamia Cake: Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Toffee Popcorn, Caramelised Banana $12

This was the boy’s pick for himself. Personally, I thought the PB&J was way better, but I believe I’m bias. The Salted Caramel Ice Cream was stellar, and the boy really enjoyed the toffee popcorn.

Lemon Meringue Pie: Lemon Curd Mousse, Lemon Marshmallow, Sable Crumbs $12

The dessert with the best plating out of what I’ve tried from the current menu. The marshmallows were beautifully fluffy and the lemon flavouring really popped. It was even slightly fizzy on the tongue – intriguing! The meringues made me swoon with delight and I wanted to run home and try making my own after eating them. I tend to associate meringues with lots of sugar and tend not to be the biggest fan of them, but boy were these good. Every mouthful was a trip to heaven and back. Again, the variety of textures on the plate brought depth and interest to the plate, definitely one of the better desserts!

Donut Sundae: Chocolate Fudge, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Honeycomb, Raspberry $12

The least exciting out of the range we tried. The idea was definitely good and the sound of it tickled our imaginations. However, the donuts were doughy and the whole dish as a whole fell a little flat. The honeycomb were the hero of the dish, but as a whole it wasn’t really a memorable dish. Pity. I would recommend skipping past this for the better desserts I’ve covered above. Like the PB&J. Ahem.

Assorted Macarons

Devour also does a range of macarons, and while I’m quite over the macaron craze that swept through Melbourne last couple of years, I couldn’t help picking up a box as some of the flavours sounded pretty enticing – Hubba Bubba, PB&J, Redskin, Sour Apples, and Jaffa.

My favourite was definitely the Hubba Bubba and PB&J. I was blown away by just how much like the real Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum the macaron tasted, amazing! I’d get them again in a heart beat. Pick up a box of assorted flavours for $12.50.

Don’t wait. Hurry. RUN.

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