Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Naked For Satan - Fitzroy, Melbourne

Since my trip to Spain in 2012, I became a huge fan of pintxos (or Spanish finger food on a stick). So I was sad to hear that The Carrington, one of the very few places in Sydney that serves pintxos, has ceased serving these bite sized snacks for good and has now altered the menu to Latin American dishes. But that's for another review. When I heard that Melbourne has a pintxos and vodka bar known as Naked for Satan, I knew I had to include it in my list of places to eat for my trip. Though it was a bit hard trying to convince some of my friends that it was not a venue involving naked people and Satanism.

The venue does not do bookings and it was a Saturday night so the best thing to do is rock up. Once we were inside, the atmosphere was crazy but there was no front of house staff to put you on a waiting list. So we had to wait or look around for a table and luckily there was a group about to leave. There was a hip, casual and buzzing vibe inside the bar with lots of cool kids mingling around and posters of naked people lingering around the walls to keep up with the name. Oh and dim lighting. Sorry about the pics. 

The pintxos bar is similar to a buffet, only much more delicious! Very cheap too at only $2 per pintxos and if you show up during weekday lunch or have dinner on the less busy nights, then it's only $1! Great place if you are on a budget though if you like chowing down pintxo after pintxo like me then it's easy to get carried away. Basically, you get whichever dish you want with the provided tongs onto your plate and make sure you keep the toothpicks which will be used to pay later on when you are done. We weren't sure if this was an effective method since it's easy to lose more than a few toothpicks and pay less for your feed (especially if you are drunk or a tightarse) but apparently it seems to work. 

Seafood with Prawn and Capsicum 

The Imaya - Garlic, Cherry Tomato, White Anchovy, Parsley - FAVE

Wagyu Bresaola - FAVE

Tortilla (Egg, Potato and Onions) with Aioli

Smoked Chilli Mussels and Chickpea

Sundried Tomato with Cispy Pancetta and Peas- FAVE

Smoked Salmon with Pickled Onion - FAVE

Pissaladiere - Onions, Anchovy and Olive

Smoked Duck with Relish - quite sweet actually

Black eyed Bean Salad with Carrot

As you can see, I definitely got carried away with the pintxos because they were so tasty and addictive. While there were so many with generous and perhaps unusual toppings, my pick of the bunch was actually the fresh and simple smoked salmon and the plain-looking wagyu bresola. Seriously, I could eat cured meat on a slice bread all day and never get sick of it. Even got seconds! Another top pick of mine was the sun-dried tomato with pancetta and peas because the overall flavours worked so well together...and of course the pancetta! Everything else were just as delicious though my least fave would have to be the Pissaladiere because of its strong and salty flavours and the grainy texture. There was also a few that were tasty but I reckon woul be even better if they were delivered hot to our table such as the Tortilla with Aioli. 



Speaking of which, you often get waiters carrying plates of hot pintxos delivered to your table where you get the option of grabbing that bite or not. Very similar to what you see at yum cha but with a Spanish touch. Really enjoyed the creamy and cheesy croquette and the empanada. Wished I had the stomach to try more of the hot pintxos.

Chorizo, Cream Cheese and Green Chilli

I didn't end up trying the above dish but most of my friends did and reckon this deserves a shoutout. This was one of their faves out of the pintxos for them even though they thought it was slightly spicy. A couple of them even got seconds for this plate. 

Rich Chocolate Rum Ball with Pistachio

Within the platter of savoury dishes, you can even find a few sweet pintxos when you are feel like having dessert. The rich chocolate rum ball had an intense, bitter but sweet flavour that you would usually expect from truffles. Very nice to have after eating so many savoury pintxos.

We didn't end up checking out their rooftop area 'Naked in the Sky' because of the long queues to get to that space nor did we end up trying out the signature vodka (we ended up having sangria as usual). While the service was friendly, we wished that there was a person at the front taking names down and call us back later since it was incredibly packed and messy. Other than that, this bar reminded me of the restaurants in my Barcelona trip  eating up all the pintxos. It's a great place to chill and mingle with your friends while nibbling on these snacks. And it's super cheap which will make your wallet happy. If I lived in Melbourne or have more trips in the near future, I will definitely be returning to try more pintxos and to make a visit to Naked in the Sky. I do love a good rooftop bar.

Naked for Satan
285 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9416 2238
Sun-Thurs: 12:00pm - 12:00am
Fri-Sat: 12:00pm - 1:00am
Naked For Satan on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Meatball and Wine Bar, Melbourne CBD

A restaurant dedicated to meatballs? Say it isn't so! Originally we were meant to visit Chin Chin on Flinders Lane but the waiting time was 45 minutes long for a Saturday lunch. We were walking around the streets of Melbourne for a while and there were three hungry guys with me. Plus after the queue at The Hardware Societe earlier that day, I was not too keen on waiting in line again. When I notice that The Meatball and Wine Bar was extremely close by, we decided to head there instead. However with three guys in a place dedicated to meatballs, you can expect a lot of dirty jokes. Let's just say, I have not looked at this restaurant in the same way since thanks to the euphemisms.

It was quiet when we were there for lunch but since it had a bar-like atmosphere and it closes at 1am, I could imagine this place would be quite busy at night. The staff was friendly and helpful with what we wanted to order which was a bonus for us. The innuendo jokes kept on going once we had a look at the menu (e.g. "let us feed you our balls", "something for your balls to sit on", and "balls may contain nuts" in the disclaimer). Not even making this up. At least it's awesome to see that the Meatball and Wine Bar team have a good sense of humour.

"Balls and All" - Beef Meatballs with Red Italian Tomato Sauce and Homemade Pasta ($21.00)

The concept for ordering the meatball dishes is simple. Choose your ball, choose your sauce then choose something for your balls to sit on (they are talking about the base...of course). You get a choice of beef, chicken, pork, fish, and veg for your ball. 

For this dish, we picked the beef ball which was made of pasture fed black Angus beef. We then decided on the traditional red Italian tomato sauce and homemade pasta for the base after getting some advice from the friendly waiter. The homemade pasta was thickly cut and well-cooked so they had a nice bitey texture. While we found that the beef meat balls were a tad dry, we still thought it was very delicious and full of flavour especially when paired with the rich and tangy red sauce. We didn't eat much of the bread since we had enough carbs but it would most likely be necessary had we chose other bases like creamy polenta or white beans.

Pork Meatball Sliders with Green Pesto Salsa Verde (3 for $18.00)

The guys were curious about the sliders so we ordered the pork meatball sliders with green pesto salsa verde. The concept was similar to the "Balls and all" plate except that the base was a mini brioche bun. This was a tasty combination but also a mouthful trying to balance the components without everything falling apart. The pork meatball was juicy and flavoursome thanks to the fennel seasoning. My only criticism was that I wish there was a bit more green sauce because that was amazing stuff! 

Mini Balls ($14.00)

Just when you cannot get enough balls, the guys and I were even more intrigued by the mini balls on the menu. These were actually a combo of beef, pork and chicken balls which was a great way to try a bit of everything. While it's perfect as a snack to share, I thought that the mini balls were pretty dry though the sauces helped to season the overall flavour. Plus we were getting full from eating too many balls (did I just wrote that?).

Trio of sauces - Green Sauce, Wasabi Aioli, BBQ Sauce

Bad innuendos aside, the guys and I had an enjoyable time at the restaurant. The service was lovely and the food was tasty. In terms of pricing, it's not the cheapest eateries unless you are with a few friends to share a few dishes or you want to try one dish on your own. They do have a breakfast menu when they open at 8:00am on weekdays and a daily late night menu, which is convenient if you happen to be in the area. I wouldn't mind coming back to try some of the other items on the menu including the cured meat plates, mozzarella cheese board, veg balls and fish balls (T and W: "veggies have balls?"). It's an interesting concept that I could see happening in Sydney eventually given the casual dining trend these days including places like the fairly similar Buffalo Dining Club and the Drink n Dine joints. 

The Meatball and Wine Bar
135 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9654 7545
Mon-Fri: 8:00am - 1:00am
Sat-Sun: 11:00am - 1:00am
Meatball & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Hardware Societe and La Belle Miette, Melbourne CBD

A cafe that has been on my wishlist for ages has been The Hardware Societe. Originally I was planning to go to Melbourne in late January when the fire broke out at a neighbouring Thai restaurant, which led to the closure of the cafe for a few months. Thankfully it reopened again in late February and, like Chur Burger and their own fire incident last year, it has been going as strong as ever.

OK, I have mentioned countless times on how impatient I get when it comes to waiting for a table at restaurants and cafes but seriously, what's with Melbourne dining and queues?! I was hoping to wake up early to get to The Hardware Societe as soon as it opens. But then I like to sleep in even on holidays. As soon as you get there, you write your name and number of people down and the staff person calls out your name when a table is available. I think we waited about 45 minutes before we were seated at our table. Still shorter than waiting at The Grounds for 90 mins.

Thought that the interior decor had a modern, contemporary and chic appeal with fake butterflies scattered all over the walls and light bulbs dangling from the ceiling. Very cool, buzzing yet chilled vibe inside the cafe. Because of the busy crowds, we were seated at the communal table which was fine with us. The staff was mostly very nice, helpful and friendly though we did encounter one staff person who was a bit more abrupt but otherwise, we had a pleasant service experience.


S already had a sip before I got a chance to take a photo. The latte art looks very lovely and my friend seemed to enjoy her cup. For every cup of coffee, there's a complimentary tiny doughnut on the side, which is really adorable to eat on its own. 

Jug of milk chocolate

Mocha coffee

Making the Mocha

I asked for my usual mocha but did not expect this when it was served to our table. At The Hardware Societe, the mocha was a two-step process with a jug of chocolate milk on one side and a coffee cup with an espresso shot on the other side. Very unique approach to the usual mocha that I've had everywhere else. When mixed together, it delivered a rich, frothy and milky texture with a decent amount of chocolate. Oh yeah and I'm not that great at pouring.

Forgot the name of this drink but the waiter said that they just included it on the menu that week. CC said she really loved this drink and was keen for another glass after finishing it up. Think it was flavoured iced tea.

Baked Eggs with Chorizo Sausage, Piquillo Pimento Sauce, Crunchy Almonds, Queso de Cabra Goats Milk Cheese 

After reading about this dish in so many reviews and hearing the recommendations from the waiter, I knew I had to order their famous Baked Eggs. The flavours were not too strong with the sauce, nor was it as cheesy as I initially expected. The crunchy almonds and the well cooked and juicy sausage complemented well with the creamy goats milk cheese and the tangy pimento sauce. Plus there was a generous amount of egg yolk in the sauce for this meal which is delicious if you can handle that much egg yolk mixed in the broth (personally I thought it was fine but that's me). So much eggy goodness zomg! It also came with two slices of toasted bread to dip with the baked eggs and sauce. A great heart-warming, comfort dish to have on a cool morning in Melbourne.

Poached Eggs with Pork Belly and Sweet Potato Cake

While CC and S were busy food envying my baked eggs, I was drooling at their poached eggs with pork belly dish. Pork belly with eggs...why not? The pork belly looked so juicy and tender from observing my friends' dishes and from trying a bit as well. The yolk from the poached was still amazingly runny and messy. Was intrigued by the crumbed sweet potato cake which tasted a tad similar to the croquettes. Liked the crisp coating and the soft filling when I tried a small piece. Would like to order this myself if it's still on the menu next time.

Loads of sweet treats!

We were so full from our dishes so we didn't end up getting any dessert. There was a generous selection of desserts to get for takeaway which I regret not getting because they do look scrumptious. The cafe also has a mini shop on the corner selling various food produce including jams, sweets and spreads. Maybe next time.

Praline filled Easter Eggs - we did grab one of these to take back to Sydney

It was quite different compared to the Sydney cafes that I had been to especially from the interesting mocha and hot chocolate set up to the super adorable teapots covered with the patterned tea cozy (I wish I had a good, non-blurry photo of this). The prices were reasonable with most individual dishes priced at less than $20. Like Mamasita the night before, if I lived in Melbourne or if I have more patience when it comes to waiting, I would certainly be keen to visit again to try many of the dishes on the menu. However with so many cafes in Melbourne yet to explore, a return visit will take its time especially with the long lines and not much time to spare if you are only there for the weekend. Still if you haven't been to this cafe, it's worth checking out at least once for the food and the atmosphere. It has certainly got me addicted to baked eggs since coming back to Sydney.

The Hardware Societe
118-120 Hardware Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9078 5992
Mon-Fri: 7:30am - 3:00pm
Sat-Sun: 8:00am - 2:30pm
The Hardware Société on Urbanspoon 

After the mega-filling meal at The Hardware Societe which was worth the wait, we stumbled onto the nearby La Belle Miette located further down on Hardware Lane for our sweet fix. The lane had a touristy and romantic vibe with red being a prominent colour. Beware of the restaurant staff on that street trying to lure you into their restaurant...they literally try to follow and beg you even if you say no! 

From the moment I saw the shop from outside, I thought that the decor of the shop reminded me of the patisserie shops back in France. This was evident from its simple, cute, pastel colours evident in the Parisian-esque furniture and the macaron boxes. La Belle Miette also does tea and they have limited seating if you feel like sitting down and having tea inside the store. The staff was really helpful with assisting on which flavours to pick - including the more popular flavours and the special editions.

You can get boxes of 6, 8, 12 or 18 macarons of your pick. Initially I picked 6 macarons but after looking at all the flavours again, I could not help but pick one more. After receiving my purchase, I seriously did not want to open the box because it looked so pretty!

Macarons L-R: 72% Cocoa Single Origin Chocolate (Venezuela), Caramel a la Fleur de Sel, Pistachio, Violet and Blueberry, Raspberry, Strawberry and Vanilla

Most of the macarons cost $2.50 which was cheaper than nearly all the macaron shops in Sydney and on par with Zumbo's macarons. There were a few special, unique macarons that were a bit more pricier at $2.80 including the 72% Cocoa Single Origin Chocolate (Venezuela) and the 'Bastile' - Moet et Chandon and Blackcurrent macarons.  

Hazelnut Belle Miette

While most of the flavours were similar to what you would expect at Baroque/La Renaissance and at Laduree, what I loved about these macarons was how they were able to retain its shape and firm yet light texture after carrying them around Melbourne all day. The same happened when I bought more the next day and took them back home with minimal damage. There a few moments when I did not want to eat the macaron just savour that glossy shell. In terms of flavour it was very sweet and not too buttery. It's hard to pick a favourite and it was even harder just selecting which one you wanted to order especially when you are at the store gazing at all of those perfect shells. For me I really enjoyed the hazelnut and the sweet and vanilla but to be honest, they were all winners for me.

The macarons were so good that we went back the next day to buy more for the trip home including the Earl Grey and the Moet Chandon. Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos from that visit but they were just as good. Since there wasn't much damage when taking the macarons back to Sydney, these macarons will be ideal as a gift for anyone who loved macarons. We are already looking forward to our next Melbourne trip and making a quick stop for more of these delectable sweets along with trying out more sweet places around the city including Luxbite and Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio. 

La Belle Miette
30 Hardware Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9024 4528
La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mamasita, Melbourne CBD

The last time I was in Melbourne was back in early 2010. Now I know what you are thinking: WHY HAVEN'T I BEEN BACK SOONER?!?! After finally making my way back down there I asked myself that same question countless times. Now it's my chance to make up for all that lost time. Even though it was only a short weekend but better than nothing right? Because one of my friends was unable to take leave, we all flew out to Melbourne on late Friday night. By the time we checked into our hotel, it was already 11:00pm. Luckily I was researching for any late night restaurants in Melbourne and the first that popped inside my head was the extremely popular Mexican restaurant, Mamasita. Partly because of my love for Mexican food, regular mentions in the food press and overhearing the hype from other fellow Sydney bloggers who have also trekked to Melb in the past.

Complimentary Salsa Verde for the Tacos (which I used on everything!)

When we arrived at Mamasita at 11:30pm, there was actually no line (and it was a Friday night!) which was good to see especially after hearing from everyone about the epic 1 - 2 hour lines up the stairs to get inside this small restaurant. It was dimly light throughout the whole venue which was frustrating when trying to take photos (I apologise for the terrible photos!). In terms of the atmosphere it had a buzzing ambience though the crowd appeared to be dressed quite hipster and trendy plus there were so many couples (!!!) which made us felt a little out of place.

Mamasita Sangria (200ml: $8.00, Jug: $38.00)

The late night 'Taqueria' menu was a bit limited compared to the regular lunch and dinner menus but there were still the essential faves including the starters (corn, tortilla chips), tacos, ceviches, quesadillas and desserts. We started our night with a jug of sangria as always. While we did enjoy the sangria, it wasn't as fruity as we usually liked. It also wasn't as flavoursome and CC and S both thought it had a slight "soy-like taste" which was a bit odd.

Elote Callejero ($4.90 each)

After looking at the menu, we had our eyes on the Elote Callejero, which was street-style char-grilled corn coated with shredded queso fresco, chipotle mayo and lime. While CC still preferred the much sweeter corn from Queenie's, I devoured the juicy, messy, and tangy kernels in no less than a heart beat. While it was a savoury and relatively spicy dish thanks to the mayo, queso cheese and paprika that melts so easily as you bite into them, it was well-complemented with the sweetness of the corn and a squeeze of the lime thus bringing a burst of exciting flavours to the taste buds. It really was mouthwatering goodness! Was pretty bummed when I demolished my share. If you are looking for something similar in Sydney, the corn at Ms G's is very similar to this in my opinion.

Taco de Arrachera - grilled flank steak, guacamole, tomatilla salsa and red onion ($6.00) 

Taco de Puerco - Al Pastor- style pig's cheek, fiery apple and while cabbage ($6.00)

If I lived in Melbourne, I would have checked out Mamasita on a regular basis just for the soft shell tacos. Initially S wanted to get the Ox Tongue taco but after realising that there's ghost chilli mayo, we each ordered a steak taco instead (according to Man v Food, ghost chilli is one of the spiciest chillies EVER but from hearing other people trying this taco before it sounds like this was quite mild actually)The flank steak was so juicy, tender and zesty thanks to the smear of creamy guacamole and tomatilla salsa. I also ordered the Taco de Puerco (Pig cheek), which was actually one my faves from the night. It may look simple, messy and minimal (sorry for the terrible pic) but the meat was wonderfully cooked with a firm, crispy, spit-grilled taste with the crunchiness from the salad and the apple. Both were very delicious, moreish and surprisingly filling since the girls were already getting full by this point.  

Quesadilla de Huitlacoche ($14.00)

We also ordered a Quesadilla de Huitlacoche to share when we noticed that it has mushrooms in the filling. Its fillings also include Huitlacoche (or Mexican truffle...or corn smut. Ignorance is bliss. Damn you Google), queso crillo, corn, epazote, pico de gallo and queso fresco. And I'm sure the green stuff on top is jalapeno. Yup there's no sign of meat or fish in this dish so it's good if you're a strict vegetarian. This looked similar to a pizza in terms of presentation with cheese scattered on top of the tortilla. Nice earthy taste thanks to the Mexican truffle and mushrooms inside combined with the generous amounts of cheese. Wasn't as flavoursome as I would have hoped but good to eat if you are looking to eat something with a milder flavour. With those ingredients, I can imagine seeing a dish like this somewhere in the streets of Mexico.

After trying a sample of the dishes from the late night menu, I could imagine why so many people would be so keen to line up for so long for this restaurant especially when there's a decent number of Mexican restaurants in the city. The prices were quite reasonable given the portions for some dishes though it was not the cheapest in my opinion. I was very disappointed that the popular tostaditas were not included on the late night menu. If I live in Melbourne, I can imagine coming back here again to try many of the other dishes including the tortilla chips, the tostaditas and the ceviches since I really enjoyed my time here. If only I'm a patient person when it comes to ridiculously long queues at peak dining hours since they only do bookings for groups of 8-10 people. Since I will most likely be returning back to Melbourne a few more times in the near future, hopefully I can squeeze in a session at Mamasita during its non-peak dining hours as an afternoon snack.

Level 1, 11 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 3821
Mon-Thurs: 11:30am - Midnight
Fri: 11:30am - 2:00am
Sat: 12:30pm - 2:00am
Sun: 12:30pm - 10:00pm
Mamasita on Urbanspoon