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