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

Babka Bakery Café

Whenever I hear the word babka, I instantly think of Israeli bubka – for all the Singaporeans out there, it looks something like a giant kueh bahulu, just that the inside isn’t spongy, but rather made up of many layers of cake-like texture, with chocolate in between.  If you can’t picture this in your mind, just google it :)

Anyway, arriving at Babka, I found that the Israeli bubka that I was looking forward to was nowhere to be seen.  Instead, the café was small and cluttered with too many tables and chairs.  Right beside the entrance was a cupboard full of all sorts of jams, which also served as the separator between the seating area and the entrance.

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We were actually there for the lemon pie.  April said she’d read that Babka had really good lemon pies.  So we sat down and ordered a slice of lemon pie and honey and pecan pie.  Though each slice was $7.50, I must say they were very generous with their slices.  My only complaint regarding the presentation would be that the lemon pie was not sliced properly, as the tip kinda collapsed.

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The lemon pie was slightly too acidic for me, even with the cream.  While the caramelised top of the pie was nice and crunchy, the pastry was a bit on the soggy side.  The honey and pecan pie was good, but nothing too great to shout about.

Because I was dissatisfied with my coffee from Breakfast Thieves just before, I decided to go for another long mac at Babka.

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Their long mac saved the day.  It was served in a glass with all three layers, and the espresso, though obviously not any fancy house blend, had a full bodied flavour that one would expect from a well-extracted shot.

Overall, although the coffee was good, I wouldn’t return just to have another.  One last note – on urbanspoon I read that many customers were displeased with the service, but I felt that the service was pretty good.  The waitress who took our order was friendly.  Unfortunately, customers don’t return for good service.  They return for good food.

Babka Bakery Café on Urbanspoon

Breakfast Thieves

Most of the brunch places I’ve been to don’t have anything Asian on the menu, with the exception of vague menu items such as “salad with Asian dressing” – whatever that is.  So when I saw that Breakfast Thieves had something Asian (with specific details), I thought that it was time for me to try something Asian for brunch for a change.

I didn’t like the way the menu was set out though.  Each dish had its own name, like my Asian dish was called Robin Hood – I don’t see what connection there is between Robin Hood and the dish, or between the names and ingredients of the other dishes for that matter.  The protein was ocean trout smoked with pu-erh, set on a bed of soba noodles.  The dish came with edamame, crispy enoki mushrooms, red dates, and sliced chilli, in a plum wine consommé.  IMG_5980

As you can see, the plating was very good.  The ocean trout was cooked nicely, but it could perhaps have a slightly more ‘smoky’ aroma.  The soba noodles didn’t seem homemade.  The other ingredients like edamame and shitake mushrooms complemented the dish well.  The crispy enoki mushrooms were still crispy when the dish was served.  However, unlike the sauce from Proud Mary’s potato hash the week before, the plum wine consommé was terribly disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong, the dish did need some kind of sauce or broth to bring all the elements together, but perhaps plum wine wasn’t the best choice of flavours.  Although it was clarified well, it tasted like red date juice, and was way too sweet.  I was somewhat glad that we were seated outside along the footpath, such that the table was slightly tilted, causing the consommé collecting at the lower half of the plate, leaving the top half relatively dry where I could protect the fish and the crispy mushrooms.  The chilli was also sliced unevenly, and was by no standards spicy, adding almost no extra flavour to the dish.

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As usual, for my coffee I went for a long mac, but was let down yet again.  If you’re going to serve a long mac in a glass, then please be sure to serve it with the three layers, if not just serve it in a cup – or the layer profile will end up looking something like a latte’s.  The house blend had a tinge of sourness to it, and tasted somewhat diluted.  Most places I know make long macs with two shots, so if the long mac I got did have two shots, they were very weak.  After looking at the menu again to see what constituted the house blend, I was not too surprised to find that 20% of it was Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.  That was where the hint of sourness was coming from – I’ve had a single origin long mac made with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe before.  It just doesn’t have that kind of full bodied flavour.  Can’t fault Breakfast Thieves for this one though – I should’ve looked at the menu more closely or asked the staff before ordering my coffee.

Overall, my brunch was rather depressing, and I don’t think I’ll be returning.

Breakfast Thieves on Urbanspoon

Proud Mary

After a long night of working on my thesis, I thought I’d post about Proud Mary, since it’s been a couple of weeks since I was there and April reminded me about posting yesterday.

So here we are at Proud Mary.  See the number of group handles!  They had a range of blends available but I don’t know why they don’t advertise their blends more aggressively.  This applies to other cafes as well.  I wonder why they don’t tell their customers about the other blends that they have – I’m always happy to try a blend that is not their house blend – just something different for a change.

IMG_5377As usual, I went for a long mac, but unfortunately I have to say that the strength of the espresso wasn’t really that great.

But whatever disappointment I had from the coffee, they made up with the main.  I ordered the potato hash, based on Ms JQ’s recommendation.  I was actually going to go for the ox tongue, but I thought I’d go for the hash instead.  As a typical Asian, I somewhat tend to move away from the more common items on the menu, thinking that they’re available everywhere.  Hashbrown?  Yeah head into Maccas if you want one.  But after my experience at Top Paddock with their ricotta pancake, I really want to give every common menu item a try.

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So here it is – Proud Mary’s potato hash.  The hash was packed full of flavour even by itself, and I really liked the texture of the potato.  The bacon added another dimension of saltiness to the dish, and the kale was really really good.  But the highlight for me was the sauce.  Oh that sauce…  I remember watching a Masterchef episode once when Marco was on the show (during Marco week) and he set this challenge for the contestants – to recreate his signature dish – the one with lentils, ravioli and quail.  He said that the sauce is what brings the whole dish together – and I never really understood that until I had this dish.  The sauce was really nice – it was rich in flavour, the consistency was perfect, everything about it was good.  As Marco says “Perfection is many little things done well.”

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As you can see, my egg was perfectly poached.  Ms JQ and April‘s poached eggs were slightly overcooked though.  One of them poked their yolks but nothing flowed out ><.  Well, at least we got one perfectly cooked egg.

I would really like to return to Proud Mary to have the potato hash again.  Apart from Top Paddock, I’ve never visited a cafe more than once, but I will make the exception for Proud Mary’s potato hash too.  I just hope they improve their coffees.

Proud Mary on Urbanspoon