Saturday, 30 April 2016

Espresso and Matcha's Foodie Odyessy - Melbourne Day 2 After Dinner : Spring Street Grocer

On our way home after the delightful French dinner, we noticed a bright neon Grocer sign, bustling with patrons. Having the impression that grocers would normally not be open that late at night, we were intrigued.

It was only after noticing the bright Gelati sign in the corner that our curiosity was satisfied.

The gelato was stored in the traditional metal canisters akin to what Gelataria Cremona had.

As a result of this, we had to resort to the paper sign to make our decisions on what flavours to order.

Between the two of us, we got a 500mL container takeaway.

The three flavours we picked included matcha with sesame, mascarpone with coffee and fleur de latte.

The matcha, whilst strong in green tea flavours was also very very sweet. I had also wrongly assumed that the sesames would be served ground up, but this didn't happen to be the case. Nevertheless, I was able to appreciate the fragrance of black sesame when munching on them. As for the Fleur di Latte, I had also assumed that "latte" was a reference to the coffee. Clearly it was a reference to milk, with Fleur di Latte being quite a renown cheese. My companion found it very agreeable and ate all of it. As for the mascarpone with coffee, that was my favourite of the three flavours because of its strong coffee flavours and smooth texture. Overall a wonderful way to end the night.

Price Range: $5 - $10pp

Taste: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Environment: 7/10

Spring Street Grocer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Espresso and Matcha's Foodie Odyessy - Melbourne Day 2 Dinner : A la Bouffe

Whilst Sydney excels in Asian food, there is no doubt that Melbourne excels at European food. With that in mind, we decided to have French for our second dinner in Melbourne. After doing our research, we settled on A La Bouffe, situated on Toorak Rd, South Yarra.

The restaurant was bustling when we arrived, and we were glad to have made a reservation ahead of time. Our waiter for the evening was particularly warm and friendly, which made the experience all the more better. The restaurant consists of two levels, and whilst I would have enjoyed an upstairs table, apparently there was a function happening that evening.

We were promptly seated, and menus were provided.

Upon ordering, complimentary fresh bread (baguettes) were provided. Whilst it could have been better warmed, we were surprised and impressed with the waiter refilling it after we had finished. Having eaten around quite a bit in Brisbane, I can say that that's not something I've experienced up here, and it goes to show that a little generosity makes a big difference from the customer's perspective.

As a shared entree, we ordered the Steak Tartare. My confidante, being quite conservative in his tastes, wasn't so sure about eating raw beef. Nevertheless, I believe that that evening, I managed to convert him. The beef was very very fresh, and mixed with an egg sauce, onions and capers. We found it to be delightfully refreshing, strongly seasoned, and highly appetizing. As my confidante commented, it didn't taste like how he would have expected raw steak to taste like, but rather it tasted like something a lot more salad-y.

We ordered two mains to share. The first to arrive was the steak frites, served with a simple herbed butter on top. Despite the fact that it was not a particularly thick piece of steak, it was still served perfectly rare. The flesh was very tender and well seasoned, whilst the herb butter was definitely one of the best I'd ever had. The fries were freshly fried, and the portion was also very generous, however as it was served in a separate bowl to the steak, I would have appreciated some condiments to go with it, as it was unable to soak up the steak juices.

The other main we shared was the Duck A La Bouffe, being half a roasted duck on mash and spinach with an orange sour cherries and Cointreau sauce. Being used to the roast ducks that you get in Hong Kong style barbecues, I found this half duck to be a little small for a duck, nevertheless it was significantly bigger than the average chicken. The duck itself was a little overdone for our tastes, with the flesh becoming a little coarse. I was initially a little skeptical with having cherry sauce on what was essentially a main meal, but it provided a light fruity taste to the dish. The potatoes were also very creamy, and the dish was very filling.

Price Range: $50 - $70pp

Taste: 8.5/10
Value: 8/10
Service: 9/10
Environment: 8/10

A La Bouffe Bar & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Espresso and Matcha's Foodie Odyessy - Melbourne Day 2 Lunch : Din Tai Fun

For those of my readers who have read about my recent travels to Sydney would no doubt have read my review of Din Tai Fung at the Star. Having been to the original store in Taipei, I can say as a matter of fact that one of their fortes is consistency. Across all their stores worldwide, the standard of food will only have very small deviations, but quality and quantity remain largely the same. That's why I went to their Emporium Store in Melbourne. 

Being situated in the top floor of the complex, we headed there at 11.00am to ensure we could grab a table.


Being a sit down restaurant as opposed to a food court this time, we were soon presented with a regular menu and a specials menu.

Food was ordered via a tick sheet.

One of the things I really enjoy about Din Tai Fung is the quality of their tea. Today's brew was a fragrant jasmine green tea, which was strong and appetizing.

Being one of the earlier tables to arrive, our food came out very quickly. It was quite the spread.

The reason why I keep coming back to Din Tai Fung is without a doubt their Xiao Long Bao. With its thin skin - so thin that it's semi transparent so that you can literally see the hot meaty soup inside, and so elastic that you can easily pick it up without breaking or leaking, it is without a doubt the tastiest dumpling in the world. The fillings were tender, soft and well seasoned without being oily or overcooked. Needless to say I absolutely loved them.

The wantons came in a light chicken broth, which was nourishing and warming. The dumplings were cooked to just the right texture, without being so overdone as to break the skins. Compared to the more yellow skins that HongKongers like me are used to, they used a whiter skin, which didn't have as strong an egg taste, but this actually complimented the meat and vege filling more by bringing out those flavours instead.

We ordered the small sized hot and sour soup, but this turned out to be able to be more than enough for the two of us. The soup contained quite a number of things such as tofu strips, bamboo shoots and fungus. With chilli powder and shallots on top, we were hit hard with the strong flavours of the soup.

Wanting to try something off the special menu, we opted for the truffle oil beef fried rice (because everything is better with truffle oil). Upon presentation of the dish, we were slightly surprised with the obvious canyon in the middle of the (previously) bowl shaped rice. However, given that a good friend rice is judged upon its ability to have every granule separate from the others (i.e. not lumped together), it definitely met this condition, which explained the crack. The truffle oil was very fragrant, but didn't overpower the dish, whilst the beef was not overdone. 

We also decided to share a classical favourite of ours, being the chicken fillet noodles. The chicken fillet, whilst not as large as Hot Star, was still considerably larger and more generous than other Taiwanese restaurants. The potato starch batter was not too thick, but very very crispy. The noodles were again arranged in a manner very soothing to my OCD, and had been cooked to a perfect texture and served in the same chicken broth as the wantons.

After finishing off the meal, we were greeted at the counter by the adorable DTF mascots. It's too bad that they don't have their souvenir stores in the Melbourne shop like Taipei. Then again, I can only hope that they decide to come to Brisbane soon.

Price Range: $20 - $25pp

Taste: 9.5/10
Value: 8.5/10
Service: 9/10
Environment: 8.5/10

Din Tai Fung Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Espresso and Matcha's Foodie Odyessy - Melbourne - Day 2 Breakfast : Little Rogue


Our first full day in Melbourne commenced with us hunting down breakfast in one of the most infamous Melbourne Laneways, Drewery Lane. Having done quite a bit of research before our visit, we had decided to grab breakfast at Little Rogue, which was quite popular with the locals. With quite an inconspicuous shopfront (and no apparent sign), it proved quite difficult for us to find.


Inside, the cafe was quite small, but definitely homey. It was quite packed, despite the early hour.

Expecting a large variety of breakfast foods, I was surprised to be faced with a small assortment of pastries in which to make my decision. Thankfully, I was in the mood for a croissant that morning.

So we ordered at the counter, and food was brought out shortly. 

My confidante had the flat white, which was very rich and creamy, whilst retaining the strength of the coffee. The only downside though, was the acidity, which was a little more than we would have liked it.

I opted for the matcha latte, which was quite a popular drink. It was served pre sweetened, and the matcha granules were somewhat more coarse than the ones I had at Cre Asion in Sydney, however it did taste a bit like Sweet Treats from Brisbane.

Between the two of us, we shared one plain croissant, and one ham and cheese croissant. When ordering croissants, I usually opt to have them slightly heated before consumption, but in this case was quite shocked when they advised that they did not have any toasters or grills to facilitate this.

The plain croissant was quite big and the pastry was flaky. The fact that it was slightly cool meant that my experience detracted quite a bit, but nevertheless, I still enjoyed it. On the other hand the ham and cheese croissant contained all the elements of the plain croissant, but had melted cheese on top, which subsequently cooled to be rather tough and plastic-y, as well as a one piece of thinly sliced ham in it. I could't help but feel disappointed that it could have been so much better.

Price Range: $4 - $10pp

Taste: 6/10
Value: 7/10
Servcice: 7/10
Environment: 7/10

Little Rogue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato