Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cumulus Inc., Melbourne CBD

Cumulus Inc is one of Melbourne's well-renowned cafes, which also operates as a dining restaurant at night along with its bar counterpart, Cumulus Up, in their upstairs space. It is located on the further end of Flinders Lane that also houses countless restaurants and cafes such as Chin Chin, Meatball and Wine Room, Fonda Mexican, The Grain Store, Supernormal, Dukes Coffee Roasters (phew...) as well as a few hidden bars here and there. The girls and I were lucky to stay at a hotel close to these foodie joints so it wasn't too hard when we picked a cafe to go for breakfast before going our separate ways. Plus Cumulus Inc was one of the many many many cafes on my Melbourne wishlist from my last trip.

While the cafe was further than what I expected from the map, the service was actually very quick for a Saturday morning, which is good for the girls who were on a tight schedule. Cumulus Inc is one of the many eateries owned by chef and restaurateur, Andrew McConnell. His name that may not be too familiar to the casual Sydney diner but he is an icon in Melbourne with countless restaurants under his helm. This includes Supernormal, Cutler and Co, Golden Fields, and The Builder's Arms to name a few. From visiting two of his venues during my Melbourne trip, it appears that the fitout has a signature minimalist appeal with grey, black, white and brown being the prominent colours at the venue.

Skim Mocha ($3.80)

I knew I was going to have a long, adventurous and unplanned day ahead so a coffee was needed to wake me up. This cafe uses organic fair trade Single Origin Coffee house blend for their coffees. While the mocha had an aromatic flavour, it was on the sweeter side compared to some mochas I've had in the past.

Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice ($7.50)

The grapefruit juice was not too fizzy actually. Refreshing to have once the weather gets warmer again. Not too sweet either.

Mortadella, cheddar and braised black cabbage toasted sandwich ($16.00)

I found myself drooling over CC's toastie. Cannot resist the perfectly grilled look on that toast. While it was on the expensive side compared to other toasted sandwiches I've seen around town, CC got very full and satisfied on this dish so I guess it was more filling than it appeared. 

Smoked ocean trout, rye toast, baby zucchini and slow cooked eggs ($17.00) 

AC was pleased with her healthy-looking dish of smoked ocean trout blanketing over two hidden slow cooked eggs. I tried a bit of this dish and really liked how the ocean trout melts in your mouth as you taste it. Also the eggs were soft and oozy, which was always a winner. 

Sardine on toast, red onion and cream cheese ($17.00)

F loves her food salty so she opted for the sardine on toast with red onion and cream cheese. While the rest of us thought it was too salty, she thought it needed a tad more salt. This did look like a dish with an interesting combination of flavours and textures. Not a huge fan of cream cheese personally but F seemed to enjoy this dish.

Shakshouka - baked eggs with roasted pepper and shanklish ($17.00)

Long time readers and close friends will not be surprised on what I ended up ordering. Yup, it's their signature shakshouka with roasted pepper and shanklish (a type of Middle Eastern cow's/sheep's milk cheese). I love my baked eggs and Cumulus Inc's version has definitely made it into one of my favourites. It was rich, flavoursome and slightly spicy but the tomato-based sauce wasn't overly strong and much less watery compared to a few baked eggs I've had in the past (a major plus!). This pleased CC who is generally not a fan of baked eggs. The yolk had that soft, gooey texture and the shanklish cheese wasn't as strong as I initially expected. It may be a mess but it was perfect comfort food to have on a cool morning. 

Canele ($4.00)

After paying the bill, I couldn't help to order a canele as well to take away. It was crisp and buttery on the outside, while the inside was soft, bubbly and not too sweet. 

The service seemed attentive when we were there even though it got busy. Surprised that a table for 5 people was available almost immediately after we arrived since it was around 9am on a Saturday. The prices were standard in comparison to other Melbourne cafes (not too expensive but not cheap either) though I personally thought that a toasted sandwich for $16 is still a bit too much. If I lived in Melbourne, I wouldn't mind returning again for the shakshouka and trying the other dishes on the brunch and dinner menus as well as checking out their wine bar upstairs. 

Cumulus Inc
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 1445
Mon-Fri: 7:00am - 11:00pm
Sat-Sun: 8:00am - 11:00pm
Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pu'er, Waterloo

An Asian tea house restaurant in Waterloo? The setting sounds unfamiliar but somehow it works. Situated within the same vicinity as Devon on Danks, Kepos Street Kitchen and Mojo By Luke Mangen; it is surprising to hear that Puer has actually been around for a good number of years. Yet I've only heard about it late last year. While Waterloo is hard to get to by public transport (not to mention delays from trains, trackwork and weekend traffic that day), I was excited to check out Puer after receiving an invite to sample their extensive menu.

While it has some of that fancy decor that you may spot at other Modern Asian restaurants, there is a dominance of wooden furnishing throughout the venue for that olden tea house appearance. Surprisingly, the wooden chair were actually comfortable that I didn't notice the material until I stood up at the end. Teapots could be found throughout the venue including bear the front door with tea leaves laid out in a petite bowl. 

Taiwan All Season tea ($9.00)

There's a generous selection of teas, which made it hard to choose which one to try. Eventually we went with the "Taiwan All Season" based on the waiter suggesting that this tea was a suitable match for a variety of dishes. The waiter advised us that this was a two step process where we wait the tea to steak for about two minutes before pouring the leaves into one smaller teapot then filtering the tea into an open teapot and finally serving it in a small cup in its clear form. It had a pale yellow appearance with a bold, smooth, floral flavour that makes it unique compared to the complimentary tea you would get at most other Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants.

Peach and Phoenix ($17.00)

The Peach and Phoenix cocktail was not your average peach ice tea. There's that slight liquor boost from the various Phoenix tea infusions mixed in the drink. This was certainly an ideal fruity drink to have on a warm Autumn day. 

Spicy Prawn Dumplings ($8.00)

Choosing the dumplings was even harder when you just want to eat them all. The spicy prawns were actually quite mild but still had that slight kick that excites your senses. The bold red colour  in the chilli pastry makes these dumplings look aesthetic pleasing to the eye before you pop them into your mouth.

Scallop Dumplings ($9.00)

The scallop dumplings were just as colourful, plump and juicy as the spicy prawn dumplings. They weren't as flavoursome as the former so we made good use of the soy sauce and chilli sauce on the side. Still very tasty nonetheless. 

Wagyu Tacos ($16.00) 

From reading many reviews, I knew that the wagyu tacos were actually more like steamed buns but that still got me keen enough to try. Out of all the dishes, this was definitely my favourite out of the lot! You just can't resist the tender, saucy, 9+ Oakley Ranch wagyu beef with house-made chilli paste and four leaf greens sandwiched in a flatter yet fluffy steamed Chinese 'taco' bun. Would order this dish again just for myself.

Hong Kong mini burgers ($15.00)

While I really liked the taste of the crispy panko crumbed pork with the house smoked chilli paste and hoisin, the bun was a bit too oily for my liking. Thankfully, the fillings and the crisp texture of the bun made it worthwhile for us to chow down this dish. 

Three cup drunken duck ($26.00)

We liked the sound of drunken duck and Pu'er didn't disappoint. The duck meat was tender and easy to pull apart due to its slow cooked method. This was well complemented with veggie garments and shiitake mushrooms on the side. It's a really huge serving size with one massive duck breast per person.

Caramelised Berkshire Pork Belly ($24.00)

Ok I was struggling by this point but V was encouraging me to keep going with my share especially since its pork belly. I was awed by the look of that crackling on top. So want that crackling all for myself! The pork belly tender and fatty and matched well with the spice-infused, boiled eggs. This actually reminded me of the dish I usually have with my folks except mum always takes the fatty bits out. So delicious even though I was in food coma mode by then.

Steamed rice ($3.00)

Didn't expect to enjoy the rice but I liked the texture of this short-grain variety. It was not too hard and not too soft, which was what I prefer in my rice. This went really well with the meaty juices from both of the main dishes.

Chocolate brownie, banana, spiced wine jus, palm sugar ice cream, salted almond praline ($10.00)

I intially thought that the desserts would be the death of me but that second stomach was there for this brownie. Topped with a salted almond praline, this had that fudgey taste but it actually wasn't as rich as I expected. The palm sugar had a decadent, creamy and buttery flavour which tasted well with the banana slices.

Coconut and caffir lime leaf sorbet ($10.00)

The coconut sorbet was lighter than expected, which worked well with the surprisingly warm weather that day. It was served in a young coconut, which I thought was quite adorable and neat. Wasn't sure what the black sticky rice was doing on the side but it worked well with the creamy sorbet. 

All in all, the dining experience at Pu'er was pleasant. The staff were friendly and accommodating to all customers inside the restaurant at the time of our visit, which was a bonus. It also seemed family friendly since many of the other diners brought their kids with them. With most Modern Asian restaurants like Mr Wong, China Doll, LL Wine and Dine and the like, the food was on the more expensive side such as the dumplings priced at $7-$10 with only 3 servings in the basket. Despite that, I'm keen to head back to try more of the dumplings and the tea next time I'm in the area. 

DISCLAIMER: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Pu'er. Opinions are however, my own.

20a Danks Street Waterloo NSW 2017
(02) 8399 1331
Tues-Fri: 12:00pm - 3:00pm, 6:00pm - late
Sat-Sun: 12:00pm - late
Pu'er on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 4, 2015

Porch and Parlour, North Bondi

After that epic bacon feast in the last post, it's time to slow down and get back to loving healthy food again. Bondi Beach has plenty of healthy cafes in the vicinity but the one that has caught our attention was the renowned Porch and Parlour. It is located in North Bondi but still a reasonable walk back to Bondi Beach. While there is a couple of naughty options like the Devil's Breakfast, the majority of the menu consisted of salads, greens and superfood focused dishes like quinoa so you feel slightly less guilty on eating out here especially so close to the scenic beaches.

While coffee is available, you can also choose one of the freshly pressed juices for a healthier alternative. I still to my coffee afterwards because of the cool weather but the pressed juices were naturally refreshing. Some were a bit heavier in the content but we could taste the fruitiness in each of these drinks.

Porch BLT ($14.00)

Despite all that talk about healthy food, we still got a couple of some not so healthy dishes such as the Porch BLT with aioli. But damn gotta love the look of that crisp bacon. I didn't get to try this but DG said that it was satisfying and filling.

The Devil's Breakfast ($22.00)

Sighs, I wanted to get something lighter but I cannot keep my eyes off the Devil's Breakfast especially with all that firm and juicy chorizo. This also came with paprika, chilli coated eggs, beans, fried potato, rocket and avocado on toast. So bad but so delicious. Slightly spicy but manageable if chilli isn't your thing. With that price, the dish was a generous serving especially with the avo on toast on the side. It's a hearty dish that would be perfect for the colder weather that we've been getting lately.

Green Breaky Bowl ($17.00)

We all shared one of the Porch and Parlour's healthiest dishes which was the Green Breaky Bowl. This contains kale, quinoa, spinach, coriander, mint, parsley, boiled eggs and avocado. Considering all the meat I've ate with The Devils Breakfast (along with the added guilt), I was in serious need for some veggies. While there was the usual superfood like quinoa, avocado, and kale that will probably make you groan at the thought, it actually worked well together as a tasty dish that will make your stomach feel full but not bloated. Be wary of the greens sticking to your teeth though. Very keen to order this for myself next time. 

Raw Cosmic Salad ($18.00)

CC decided to stick with the healthy vibe and got herself the raw cosmic salad with salmon on the side. This salad consists of mixed herbs, lettuce, apple, fennel, beetroot, quinoa, guacamole, "raw sisterhood sauerkraut" and "cosmic crackers". I tried a bit of this dish and found it to be refreshing with lots of different textures and flavours from the soft and zesty guac to the crunchy apple, lettuce and fennel. The salmon was also well-seared to CC's liking.

Considering there's 3 of us with 4 dishes and lots of drinks, it was a surprise that we managed to clean up almost every single plate on this very small table. The staff were quite attentive even though it was a busy Sunday lunch. While they do all day breakfast, they also have a dinner menu from Wednesday to Sunday. We are all very keen to go back to try the other dishes that this cafe offers, especially on a warmer day whenever it's here.

Porch and Parlour
17/110 Ramsgate Avenue, North Bondi NSW 2026
Mon-Tue: 6:30am - 4:00pm
Wed-Sun: 6:30am - 10:00pm
Porch and Parlour on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cuckoo Callay, Newtown

Bacon! Bacon! Bacon! It was no surprise that I jumped for joy when I first heard about Cuckoo Callay holding a Bacon Festival back in February. Was even happier when I realised this will be going on for 12 weeks. Fast forward many weeks and multiple visits later. Well I haven't managed to try the whole menu but for what I did try, I was really satisfied. By now, this post is probably a bit too late since it will be ending pretty soon but hey better late than never? 

Conveniently located right next to Newtown station, there is so much to love about Cuckoo Callay when it comes down to their fun and down to earth approach. Even on the menu with lots of cute names such as "Birdy Nom Nom", "Cinderella's Breakfast", "Georgeous George and #HashTag Browns 3.0 (heh). According to the take-away menu on the front, they give out free hugs but I haven't had the guts to ask. I probably need one though sighs.

Skim Mocha ($4.00)

Skim Latte ($3.50)

Cuckoo Callay uses Single Origin Roasters house blend. So far, I've been really impressed by the coffee here. The mocha was slightly sweet but not in an overwhelming way and the coffee art was always a highlight. Been starting to drink lattes as well and the one I've had was smooth and not too bitter.

Drizzle Sticks ($10.00)

Bacon dipped in chocolate may not sound as appealing at first but it got quite addictive after a few bites. Loved biting into the sweet chocolate while getting mesmerised by the meaty bacon strips. Great to have when the weather was warmer.

What a Croque of Bacon ($19.00)

As a lover of croquettes (if it's done right), I couldn't go past this dish. It looked slightly similar to the #HashTag browns 3.0 dish on the regular menu except without the avocado and replacing the bacon steak/salmon/haloumi with long Bourbon bacon strips. The thick-sized vintage cheddar croquettes were chunky and creamy on the inside whilst crispy and crumbly on the outside. Enjoyed mixing the bacon and croquettes with the pea puree and the gooey egg yolk (more on that later). With its reasonable serving size, it was definitely one of my fave dishes that I would order again if I get the chance. Just the colourful appearance of this dish alone will bring a smile to your face.

Bacon All the Rules ($24.00)

If you really LOVE your bacon then get this dish. There's 5 (YES FIVE!) different types of bacon in this one dish alone. This consisted of Black Forest Smokehouse maple bacon, bourbon bacon, bacon steak, bacon sausage and (*gasp*) bacon-crumbed poached eggs served on sourdough toast. Man I'm getting meat sweats just writing that last sentence. Yup this was certainly not one for the faint hearted but I couldn't look away. Just that experiencing so many different forms and textures of bacon was a culinary journey that I was gladly happy to explore whether it was the tiny specks of crumbed bacon or the salty yet juicy bacon sausage or that thick slab of bacon steak.

Oh yeahhh

That yolk porn...

Also the poached eggs NEVER EVER fail to disappoint me. So many gooey times here.

Ya Bacon Me Crazy ($20.00)

While it may be a dish that you would likely to get for dessert after a savoury meal, it was surprisingly filling enough on its own to satisfy your hunger. Thanks to the maple bacon and the waffles, there was still a bit of that warm, savoury and slightly salty flavour as you sink your teeth into this towering plate of cinnamon ice cream and choc-coated bourbon bacon indulgence.

Best. Chips. Ever ($9.00)

While I can't comment on whether these chips were the best ever, they would certainly rank high on my list. So thick and crispy on the outside and incredibly fluffy on the inside. Great to share with a group of friends though it can be very addictive.

While the food may be on the pricier side of the spectrum, the service has been welcoming and accommodating. The portions were quite generous so that made up for the price. Sadly the Bacon Festival is ending very soon after its 12-week run (around early-mid May which is just around the corner!) so if you love your bacon, hurry to Cuckoo Callay before the pigs fly away!

Disclaimer: I paid for every single meal mentioned in this post.

Cuckoo Callay
324a King Street, Newtown NSW 2042
Mon-Fri: 6:00am - 4:00pm
Sat: 8:00am - 4:00pm
Sun: 8:00am - 3:00pm
Cuckoo Callay on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 20, 2015

Work in Progress, Sydney CBD

I do love a good pop-up but sometimes you forget about it and then it's gone. It's even harder trying to go through the entire menu before the pop up close its doors. So imagine my relief when I heard that Patrick Friesen's (Papi Chulo) pop-up restaurant at Work in Progress has extended beyond the initial duration of March into Merivale. While it's still temporary for the time being, who knows what would happen in the long term. Just look at Cafe Paci (and I STILL haven't been there!).

Pork and Prawn Wontons, strange flavour, Sichuan pepper ($12.00, 4pc) 

The cuisine served at Work in Progress has a fusion of various Asian cuisines with a modern twist with a strong emphasis on their signature Korean fried chicken (more on that later). It also operates as a noodle bar with a small selection of Modern Chinese dishes. One of these was the Pork and Prawn wontons, which was offered as a snack. It was slightly spicy thanks to the Sichuan pepper and the "strange flavour" sauce which seems to have a bit of soya sauce, spices and peanuts among its many ingredients. While the silky wontons were slippery to handle, they were plump, firm and juicy to demolish before the main dishes arrive. The only downside was that the price for $12 for 4 pieces seemed quite steep especially when you can get double the amount for cheaper at other dumpling establishments. 

Shallot Pancake ($6.00)

While the shallot pancake was half the price of the dumplings, it was actually much more filling so the value for money in this dish was pretty damn good. You can easily get full on this dish if you order it for yourself. While it was nice to dig into the crispy thin layers of pastry, it was too salty than how I preferred. 

Curried Wagyu Brisket Lo Mien ($16.00)

Initially a limited time only dish, the Curried wagyu brisket lo mien noodles was upgraded to permanent menu status due to popular demand especially in the foodie scene (sadly the snow crab tobiko lo mien noodles had to be removed as well. Why not keep both? :p). Gotta say that I'm really glad that this dish is now on the menu. The egg noodles were a tad thicker, which was how I liked my egg noodles even though it's harder to find compared to the thinner variation. Plus the wagyu beef was amazingly soft, tender and the broth was rich, creamy and flavoursome. Would definitely order this again.

Sichuan Duck and Tofu Lo Mein ($16.00)

Speaking of thin noodles, this popular variation can be found on the other noodle bar dishes in this limited menu. It was quite spicy but still bearable enough especially if you want a bit of heat from this crazy weather lately (urghhh). Generous serving size too.

Combo #88 - Half n Half Fried Chicken: ginger nuoc cham, and chilli with peanuts ($18.00)

And now for that crispy fried chicken! At 8 pieces, this was surprisingly easy to devour if you are super hungry and this was the only dish you order for yourself on the night. It also came with a side dish of pickled daikon and kim chi, which ended up being handy once you need more than just fried chicken in your mouth. The chilli chicken with peanuts was sticky, sweet and slightly spicy, though it was easier to manage and also milder than the one I had at NaruOne. While the ginger nuoc cham fried chicken looked insatiably crispy, there wasn't too much of that earth shattering crunch that I was hoping to expect in the batter after looking at countless photos. Despite that, the chicken was well cooked, juicy and still crispy enough to devour the entire plate.

This is a restaurant that I would often find myself after work, whether it's for the food or a drink from their extensive cocktails and wine menu. Since it is a Merivale venture, it's no surprise that the prices were on the more expensive side. With its limited range of food options on the menu, it's an ideal place to get a large group of friends or colleagues together to share and try the entire menu in one sitting. 

Work in Progress
50 King Street, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 3000
Mon-Fri: 12:00pm - 3:00pm, 6:00pm - 10:00pm (Bar: 12:00pm - late)
Work in Progress on Urbanspoon