Night Noodle Markets – Melbourne

IMG_1960Hearing about the Night Noodle Markets in Melbourne this year, I was really excited.  Apparently they were held last year too, but for some reason I was completely unaware of it.  I was also really glad that it was set up at Birrarung Marr, just a five-minute walk from Federation Square.

Jio-ing Ms EL to join me on this noodle adventure, we visited the markets on one of the last few days, and thought that perhaps there wouldn’t be many people, but how wrong we were!

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Here is the list of stalls that were there.  Am I the only one who is uncomfortable with the names allocated to the different areas of the park?  I mean, there isn’t an ounce of Asianness in those names.  Do you see sections of Queen Victoria Market labelled as Wallaby Corner or Kangaroo Lane?

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Before going, I looked up the map of the place to check out the food that was available, and I must say, that I was somewhat encouraged by the way the stalls were classified – Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese etc., instead of the usual “Asian-style” (which means what exactly? Asian food is so diverse!), which even many good restaurants have on their menu.

IMG_1964The first dish that we had was the Chilli Soft Shell Crab from Pasar Malam.  Chilli Crab is one of Singapore’s most popular dishes, so I had to give it a go.

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Unfortunately, there wasn’t a hint of authentic chilli crab flavour in this dish.  The sauce seemed to be made mostly out of sweet chilli sauce, and the soft shell crab was nothing to shout about.

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Thankfully, the chendol I had after the disappointing crab was rather good.  For $5 it wasn’t a bargain, but I don’t think it is too expensive either.

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These “donuts” were perhaps the best tasting dish of the day, after the chendol.  Chilli caramel pork encased in fluffy bao goodness with a plum-ish glaze.  They were also the most reasonably priced, at $2.50 per donut.

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Then we had the Beef roti roll (on the right), and the veg pan roll from Lankan Tucker.  However, both rolls failed to impress, and the flavours weren’t anything special.

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Here is the letdown of the day.  Lao taco #1.  I’ve never tried Lao food before, and so was really keen on trying something from this stall.  Ms. EL told me that it wouldn’t be great but I insisted on having something, saying that I’d regret it if I didn’t.  I now regret that I bought the taco.

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If the cooks had really added some spice into the beef it certainly didn’t come through, and I wish some of the coriander was replaced with the chilli as the menu states.  To call that motley salad “lao slaw” certainly deserves this year’s Overstatement Award.  It was nothing more than raw cabbage, tomato and red onion.  That this dish is called Lao taco is the biggest insult to Lao cuisine.  I won’t even get started with the corn roti.Overall, most of the food I tried at the Night Noodle Markets was majorly disappointing, especially the chilli crab, which was an absolute embarrassment to real chilli crab.

If you’re into overpriced and inauthentic Asian food, head to the Night Noodle Markets before they close on the 30th of November.  If not, just continue on with your plans for the weekend as if the markets didn’t exist, and enjoy better Asian food elsewhere.

Porter Republic

All the cafés I’ve visited so far are in metropolitan Melbourne, so when I needed to visit a campsite in Phillip Island, I immediately searched Google and Urbanspoon for cafés around the area.  I stumbled upon Porter Republic when reading the reviews of another café in the area, which happens to be closed on Wednesday, so Porter Republic it was.

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The sliding doors of the café were certainly appreciated on the day of my visit, but perhaps some sort of spring action slide should be installed, so that they close automatically – I found that some customers did not pull the doors shut after entering/exiting, allowing the cold wind come in.  Located just by the bay area, the sea breeze can be rather chilly.

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Once we entered the café, a friendly staff member greeted us (later we found out it was her first day!), and showed us to a table.  Table service was not available at the time of our visit, which seemed to be inevitable given that they were understaffed.

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I read in one review that one menu item called The Royale was really good, but unfortunately they had a new menu in place which didn’t feature that dish anymore.  Instead, the closest to it was PR Benny/Florentine, but I don’t like hollandaise, so I gave that a miss.

I ordered a long macchiato, and Ann ordered chai.  I found it interesting that the lady who seemed like the owner (or at least the most senior staff member) was not familiar with the chai on the menu and had to check with the barista prior to confirming my order.

IMG_1803The long mac was excellent, and could not be faulted apart from the fact that I’d prefer if it was served in a cup.

 

 

 

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The chai was exceptional, and Ann was so impressed with it that she was grinning from ear to ear.

Ann originally intended to get one of the pulled pork menu items, but after seeing another customer order the Breaky Trifle, she changed her mind.  The Breaky Trifle was served elegantly in a glass, with layers of granola and yoghurt, topped with strawberries and sliced apples.  It was accompanied by a mini bottle of milk.  I find the spelling of “breaky” slightly odd though; I’d have gone with “brekkie”.

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Ann was really impressed with what she ordered, but unfortunately my pulled pork burger failed to live up to the standards set by her brekkie and our drinks.

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We requested the mayonnaise to be served by the side, and thought the apple and ranch slaw would also be served separately, but it still came all in the burger.  Not wanting to make a fuss, I just ate it as is, although I generally do not eat mayo.  The chipotle mayonnaise which was meant to be served by the side was non-existent.  The pulled pork was the letdown of the day, being dry and flavourless.  I don’t think it was freshly cooked on the day.  Moreover, I am led to think by the quality of the burger that the kitchen’s standards are not too high.  The brioche bun was burnt around the edges and the underside, but yet was still served to a customer.  Despite this, I did not send it back, because our orders had already taken around 20 minutes to arrive though there weren’t many customers, so I couldn’t bear to wait while they prepared another burger.  The shoestring fries sounded nice on the menu, but when they arrived they looked like they came out of McDonald’s.  The burger was also served in a black plastic basket, which didn’t seem like it fit with the café’s style.  The only redeeming feature of the dish was that the fries were seasoned with flaked sea salt.  If only the pulled pork was seasoned too.

If you’re looking for a great coffee around the San Remo area, look no further than Porter Republic.  I guarantee you’ll be able to get your coffee fix here.  But if you’re also looking to have some food, I’d try someplace else.

Porter Republic on Urbanspoon

Nora

While I know that new cafés pop up around Melbourne all the time, I’ve never gotten the chance to visit any while they’re still new.  Only when I was on my way to the post office about a week ago did I pass by Nora.  I’m not sure what shop was there previously, but Nora was definitely somewhat new.  So I decided to go and get a takeaway coffee, as I didn’t have my dslr with me then to take pictures of the food.  Then I found out they were only open for a month and a half!!  Finally, I’ve come across a new café!

So I suggested to April and Ms JQ that we go there one day.  To make things better, it is walking distance from my place :)  And it so happened that Ms EL and Ms YL were able to join us too!

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Arriving at Nora, we were happy to see that there was still space for the 5 of us.  As typical Singaporeans, we chose to sit inside rather than outside.  What baffles me, though, is that Nora chooses to place a table at the front, taking up almost half the shop space.  Although that table does showcase Nora’s speciality – charcoal tarts, I still feel that that space could be better utilised with perhaps a larger sharing table that is present in other cafés (eg. Bluebird Espresso or Top Paddock).

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Nora’s menu is somewhat quirky, with dish titles which, at face value, seem completely unrelated to the dish itself.  Perhaps there are stories behind the dishes.

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For my coffee, I got a long macchiato as usual, but it turned out to be a long black with some milk.  The strength of the single shot was somewhat similar to the takeaway coffee I had a week ago, and wasn’t anything to shout about.

 

I forget the name of my dish (testament to its arbitrariness, or perhaps my bad memory?), but here it is.

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The ox tongue was tender and flavourful, and the kale was crispy.  I’d say the let down of the dish was the cured egg yolk, which contributed hardly any flavour or texture to the dish.  I don’t understand why it has to be scattered about, instead of being used in a capacity where it can be enjoyed with the dish as a whole.  Even my efforts to mop it up with the ox tongue yielded no significant results.

Each dish is served with yorkshire pudding and chinese cabbage (wombok) with some kind of curry sauce.  I can’t seem to find my photo of it, so if you’d like to have a look please visit April’s post here.  The wombok with curry dip is exceptional, but the yorkshire pudding lacks a sauce and doesn’t really fit.

We definitely had to try their charcoal tarts, so we ordered one of each flavour – strawberry and tamarind cream cheese, lemongrass and ginger, and sour cherry and kaffir lime cream.

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All the tarts are served this way if you have them in-house, so I only took one photo.  If you want to see a whole, uncrushed tart, you’d have to order them takeaway.  The tart flavours were unique, and they tasted good, but at $5 a tart I think they’re a tad expensive.

Overall, while the coffee failed to impress, the mains were good, but I’d say the best thing I tasted at Nora that day would definitely be the wombok with curry dip.  I could munch on a whole wombok with that dip over a good movie.

Nora on Urbanspoon

 

Stagger Lee’s & Shocolate

Marked only by a small chalkboard, Stagger Lee’s is a bright new addition to bustling Brunswick St.  Having been to Proud Mary, I had high expectations of Stagger Lee’s, given that both cafés are opened by the same owners.

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One thing different of my brunch adventure this time, though, was that instead of going with the usual crew, I met up with my coursemate, friend and fellow food-blogger, Elizabeth (go check out her blog!).

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The interior of the cafe is quite similar to Proud Mary, rather spacious, which I appreciated.  But we chose to sit outside as it was nice and sunny, vis-à-vis was rather dim, even though it was daytime.

 

Thankfully there wasn’t a queue when I got there (~ 12.30pm on a Wednesday), but strangely I was left standing at the entrance for a couple of minutes without being shown to IMG_9959a table.  Another patron came in soon after, and while waiting the two of us struck up a small conversation.  Finally we were shown to our respective tables after a staff member noticed our presence.

For my coffee, as usual I went for a long macchiato, but was really happy to see that they had two blends for the day – and one wasn’t Ethiopian.  I am well aware that Ethiopian blends are becoming more and more common in cafés in recent months, but the saltiness of the blend just doesn’t appeal to me. IMG_9949 I opted for the Guatemalan blend, and was really pleased.  The long mac in Stagger Lee’s is certainly better than Proud Mary.  The only unfortunate thing about the long mac was that despite it being served in a glass, the layers were not well-defined.  The layer profile looked somewhat latte-ish, just slightly darker due to the milk-espresso ratio.

For my main, I decided to go with the roast lamb, which sounded really hearty and shiok.  However, when the dish arrived, I was slightly unpleasantly surprised with the plating, as it seemed somewhat overly complicated, and to make things worse, the lamb was chopped into small pieces.  Moreover, while the menu did state that there was hummus, I didn’t expect it to be spread across the whole plate.

IMG_9953The plating seemed very George Calombaris-style, sophisticated and cool.  For all the disappointment that I felt with the plating, it made up with flavour.  I had never tried hummus before, until that day.  On my blog, I generally reserve comments about foodstuff that I don’t really like to begin with, because I feel it would be rather unfair to the chef.  In this case, the hummus (I really hope it is made in-store) was delicious (coming from someone who does not like hummus).  The roast lamb, though chopped up, was flavourful and tender.  These two ‘main ingredients’ were complemented with pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs, and baby radish, which gave the dish the freshness it really needed.  The bread, on the other hand, was a letdown, being tough and hard.  One overall disadvantage of the dish was that it was too oily, and I felt slightly gelad (Singlish for the feeling you get after eating something overly oily) after finishing it.

Overall, Stagger Lee’s is worth a visit, but I guess they could improve by spicing up their menu a bit – currently it is rather sparse.  I plan to revisit it after a couple of months, to try their other dishes, or other new ones that may be featured.

Stagger Lee's on Urbanspoon

After my meal, though I was feeling rather full, I felt it would be too much of a pity if I did not visit Shocolate, which was just round the corner from Stagger Lee’s.  I was so relieved to find that the interior of Shocolate was air-conditioned, and so I sat inside and started clicking away, only to be politely informed by the staff that photography of the menu or the shop interior was not allowed (they did have signs, but I didn’t see them).  They did allow me to take a photo of the ice chocolate that I ordered though.

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The chocolate syrup drizzled on the walls of the glass may have provided some sort of abstract-artsy look to the drink as a whole, but contributed little to the taste.  The chocolate flavoured milk was not too rich, but that worked out for good because there was so much of it.  The best part of the ice chocolate was the chocolate gelato, which had a really unique flavour, except for its iciness, which seemed rather unusual, unless it was intentional.  Also note that the seating area is rather limited, so be prepared to queue if you visit at a busy time.  For $8.95 though, I don’t think I’d be returning.

Shocolate on Urbanspoon

Two Little Pigs

Located in Brunswick along Sydney Road, Two Little Pigs certainly isn’t the usual Melbourne café, hidden in a small alley (e.g. Industry Beans, which doesn’t even feature on Google Maps, or at least when I was there a couple of months ago).  It doesn’t even have a main signboard showing its presence.

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Upon our arrival, we were surprised to see that there was no queue, and neither was the whole café occupied.  We were seated in the courtyard, which was covered, to our relief, as it started drizzling while we were still eating.

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As usual, I went for a long macchiato.IMG_9777

Although I’m not sure what the blend was, I was really happy that it wasn’t Yirgacheffe.

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Having read all the previous blog posts shared on urbanspoon prior to my visit, I decided to go with the Peas and Ham.  I feel that the presentation was quite nice, and the addition of red elements made the dish look much more vibrant, else it would have looked dull and gloomy.  The pea velouté tasted like peas (obviously, haha), but was slightly grainy.  The portion of pork belly I felt could have been larger, but the main problem with it was that it was not seasoned.  The eggs were borderline overcooked, and were really small.  The garnish of coriander was unnecessary.  As a whole, the dish was under-seasoned.  When I thought to add some salt to the dish, I saw that the salt & pepper on the table was not what you’d normally find in a café.  Most cafés have flaked sea salt, but the salt & pepper were Saxa.

I was slightly disappointed with the Peas and Ham, and with the salt & pepper, but that wasn’t the most shocking thing of the day.  Mr. NH ordered the dish Two Little Pigs, which looked something like their version of a big breakfast.  That was all fine, until I noticed a short strand of hair on one of the poached eggs.  We notified the staff about this, and they immediately offered to replace the dish.  The second dish arrived in good time.  Mr. NH tucked into it immediately, and was about 3/4 through the dish when he discovered another strand of hair under a slice of chorizo.  We decided not to pursue this as we were already finishing our meal.  However, after this experience I don’t think I will be returning to Two Little Pigs.

The best thing about Two Little Pigs was the staff.  They were friendly and attentive, and came to check on us a couple of times during our meal.

Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind on Urbanspoon

My Yoghurt Journey

I have never liked yoghurt.  I avoided it at all costs.  I would not eat anything with yoghurt, whether it be Indian or Greek food, or any kind of yoghurt for dessert.  The sourness of the yoghurt just turns me off, and to this day I wonder how people enjoy original flavour froyo.

But I got converted to yoghurt by a friend, Ann.  One day after dinner with Ann and Ms LW, we decided to go for some yoghurt.  Ann told me how good the froyo was at Yo-Chi so I thought “okay, I’ll give it a try for once.” Arriving at Yo-Chi Carlton, I was surprised at the interior decor.  It felt slightly sophisticated, like when I went for my first appointment at the Genius Bar at Apple Chadstone.  A friendly staff member approached us and asked if we wanted to try any of the flavours.  I told her that I’d rather not since I don’t like yoghurt, and wouldn’t want to waste it.  I got convinced into trying the hazelnut one anyway, and boy was I surprised at how good it was!  The hazelnut flavour wasn’t too overpowering, but yet enough to kind of disguise the natural sourness of the yoghurt which I so sincerely dislike.  I ended up getting a small serve of hazelnut, salted peanut butter, and salted butterscotch.  All these flavours weren’t sour.  Yo-Chi has a really impressive range of toppings for your froyo.  They range from sliced fruit to coulis and compotes, to more unhealthy but more yummy stuff like crushed oreos and chocolate bits.

Since that experience, I have been back to Yo-Chi about 6 times.  Although I have slightly overcome my yoghurophobia, my past experiences of sour yoghurt are still etched in my mind, leading me to trust no other froyo shop but Yo-Chi and the same flavours – with the addition of chocolate.

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My standard Yo-Chi dose is the above four flavours in a small cup/bowl, topped with raspberry coulis, Yo-Chi homemade crumble, crushed oreos, honey roasted cashews, and mini M&Ms.  It is delicious.

So, to all the froyo haters out there, give Yo-Chi a try.  Each day that passes that you don’t get to try Yo-Chi is a day that is gone forever, never to return.  But for the record, I still, to a great extent, dislike Greek yoghurt.  I don’t think I’ll ever be converted to that.

Yo-Chi Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon

Taste of Singapore

Having been in Melbourne for almost 2 years, and traveling to the Oakleigh/Clayton area about 3 times a week, I am quite ashamed to say that I’ve never been to Taste of Singapore.

So one Saturday after Young Adults Fellowship some churchies and I decided to go to Taste of Singapore for dinner.  Even now I wonder why for all the past Saturdays I chose other venues for dinner – I mean, I must’ve have gone for dumplings or Korean food 20 times.

Anyway, arriving at Taste of Singapore, we were greeted with a very modest establishment.  It looked like a family-run business.  They had a range of Singaporean/Malaysian foods like briyani and rendang, but it was what was on special that caught my eye.

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I haven’t had Mee Soto for ages.  I think the last time would maybe be about 4 years ago.  So I got the Mee Soto, and a slice of kueh salat.

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The food was taking quite some time to prepare so I ate my dessert first as I was starving.  The kueh salat was really up to standard.  If I wasn’t waiting for my Mee Soto I would’ve had at least 1 or 2 more slices.

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After about 15 minutes, the Mee Soto finally arrived.  Them serving the dishes one by one reminded me of Sue’z Delight, but the wait was made pleasant by the friendliness of the staff, as opposed to the obnoxiousness of the Sue’z Delight staff.

The Mee Soto was really really good.  The key to a good Mee Soto is the soup, and Taste of Singapore has perfected the recipe.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see it served with begedil (deep fried mash potato thingy), something which I frequently ate during my high school days.  Oh, the memories that came flooding back.  My only complaint would be that the serving size was rather small.

Based on this experience, I’d say Taste of Singapore is a value-for-money Singaporean eatery that is worth the trip for any Singaporean.  And I really like supporting family-run business too.  However, if you’re looking for the more Chinese kind of Singaporean food, you won’t find it here.  For stuff like char kway teow, kway chap and hokkien mee, go to Bert’s Cafe in Bayswater.  That said, Bert’s Café doesn’t have mee rebus/mee soto, or other Malay kinds of Singaporean food – Taste of Singapore is there for you.

What are you waiting for?  Head to Taste of Singapore now for your bowl of Mee Soto!

Taste of Singapore @ Ida & Abas Kitchen on Urbanspoon