Weekend Foodtrail in Melbourne

Here on my food blog, I like to share (not to judge nor critic) my experiences about the food and the restaurant. It is just like we go out with friends in a group, enjoy the company, have a good laugh and probably end up talking about the food. Hopefully we always have a good experience. After all, we go out to have a good time, so we should try and enjoy the best of the night, and hopefully not blow a big hole in the pocket!

So please read on if you are interested to know what I think about the places and food we had in Melbourne in the weekend. We went to 3 different places; Friday dinner at Gingerboy, Saturday lunch at Shark Fin House for Yum-Cha and Saturday dinner at The Press Club.

GingerboyLet me start with Gingerboy. It is located on 27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne. It is trendy, hip, lots of energy, loud music and very popular. There are two seatings, one at 6pm and the other at 8pm. We booked the first seating. We arrived a bit early. They have a separate cocktail lounge upstairs, so up we went for a drink. I had a Mocktail and it is superb. Refreshing, sweet and quite tangy.

 We went back to the restaurant about 6pm and it is already packed with a few tables. The place is cozy, black wall with red threads lining one of the wall like a split red curtain, the other wall is framed with black bamboo and fairy lights hidden behind the bamboo and over the ceilings, almost like stars in a night sky! It is absolutely stunning and yet has a relax, cozy feel to the place.  We read the menu, very interesting. Gingerboy define its food as SEA (South East Asian) cuisine meets Melbourne style with a contemporary edge (well, you figure that out yourself). It mentions about hawker food from streets of Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. Both my partner and I are very familiar with SEA cuisines and in particular hawker food of Singapore (quite similar to Malaysia), Bangkok and Hong Kong, so we are naturally very excited and look forward to the food.

 We ordered “satay spiced swordfish tataki, coconut cream and pickled cucumber”, “hot and sour banana flower salad with red onion, mint and crispy fish” for starter and “fried baby snapper, roasted chilli dressing and mango salad”, “lime and galangal basted baby chicken, peanut tamarind caramel” for main to share, and finish with “chilli orange sugared banana fritters, mint and baileys ice cream” for dessert. The total price on food alone is $119.50. Ouch! That is expensive for a hawker style food, but I guess you pay for the environment, music and of course, Melbourne style or infusion, whatever you like to call it. 🙂 

DSC00853We are not totally disappointed with the experience. The banana flower salad is flavoursome with heaps of fresh chopped mint, coriander and Vietnamese mint. It is sour enough with fresh lime juice. It reminds me of a typical Nyonya salad dish, called Fish Kerabu. I will see if I can find a recipe to share.

 

 

DSC00860The other dish that we like the most is the basted baby chicken. The peanut tamarind caramel sauce is a bit too sweet for my partner. I mix the sauce with rice so it is not too bad. It, however, has quite a strong “palm sugar” syrupy taste.

 

 

 

DSC00857The biggest disappointment for us is the baby snapper. This dish is probably Thai inspired, which we had in several occasions when we visit Bangkok. Unfortunately, this dish is too bland and very expensive at $35 for a small fish.  

When we vacate our table for the 8pm seating, there is already a huge crowd waiting to be seated. There are smiles and laughter everywhere eagerly waiting to experience the “Gingerboy”. 

 

DSC00866The next morning, we met my nephew for Yum Cha at Shark Fin House. Needless to say, this place is one of the most popular Yum Cha venues in Melbourne. It is reasonably priced, the food is great and the place is buzzing with lots of Chinese. I feel right at home. 🙂 We ate a lot from Sui Mai to Char Siu Soh (shown in the photo, chinese BBQ pork in pastry toasted with white sesame seeds) and Loh Pak Koh (fried turnip cake), which is my partner’s must have at Yum Cha. We all have our “must have” little dish at Yum Cha. For me, it has to be Char Sui Cheong Fun, which is steamed BBQ pork wrapped in a thin layer of freshly made rice flour roll.

DSC00879Our choice for Saturday dinner before we go back to Hobart is The Press Club located at 72 Flinders Street, Melbourne. My partner chose this place, which is highly recommended. It is also owned by George Calombaris, one of the 3 judges of the MasterChef Australia program. 

The Press Club has two seatings. We booked the first seating because we have tickets to see a Broadway musical, “Wicked” at The Regent Theatre.  We arrived on time at 6pm for the door opening. It is a classy restaurant with an open kitchen.

We ordered “Roasted silken tofu, feta crumble, chicken parfait, chocolate and olive oil toast” and “Prawns Saganaki, ravioli of prawn, tomato butter sauce” as starter, and “Slow cooked duck in olive oil, mushrooms, garlic and parsley, Greek kafe and sokolata soil” and “Pork two ways, fillet and belly, stifado of fruit and vegetables, skordalia raviolo” for main.

The food has to be one of the best meals I ever had for a long time. Every details of the food, presentation and unique flavour of the dishes are well executed by the kitchen. The service and hospitality of the restaurant manager, Angie and her staff are excellent and professional, which is hard to find in today’s fine dining restaurant without giving that unwelcoming kind of “attitude” feeling to the guest (if you know what I mean). We feel very welcome and the staff was quite apologetic for our main, which took a bit too long. That is our only disappointment. We did not have the time to sample the dessert as we had to rush to the show.

After the show, we decide to go back to the restaurant to sample the desserts and finish our dining experience at The Press Club in a proper way. The desserts are light and beautifully crafted. We are given a sample of three types of desserts specially selected by the manager. It is truly an unforgettable dining experience. This is one restaurant that I will definitely go back again and highly recommend to anyone that is into good, creative food and hospitality.

13 responses to “Weekend Foodtrail in Melbourne

  1. Thank you Victor. If I had known that you and Reb were heading anywhere within cooee of China town then I would have loved to know whether The Lotus Inn was still there.

    I have a small connection in that my best friend was Farida Jahari (their spelling..Chinese Malay) in the late ’60s. That is her mum was Australian/Chinese but her dad was Malay.

    Re ‘bland’ are we spoilt by too many spices and cannot appreciate natural flavours?

    My love of Chinese quisine in the ’60s (China town Melbourne) was how dishes were shared. That is, if you didn’t have at least 6 friends then you do not have table.

    • Umm…Tee Hee, I really don’t mind if it is bland as long as I can still taste the produce if it is fresh. But, I can hardly taste the usual sweetness of a good snapper.

      Well, that is how I would like to eat Chinese or any Asian food. All dishes out at the centre of table and share with a group of family or friends. I still can’t believe that when I see people eating at a Chinese or Asian food, they will not share the food but each one order one dish…this still happens here in Hobart.

  2. It’s a shame that you weren’t born a couple of decades earlier then I could have taken you fishing with my father and his brothers. The snapper, flathead and gummy shark were hauled in via long surf rods then laid across the beach. The fire was made from drift wood and the fish cooked on the beach at twilight.

    Re sharing, I think that restaurants think that this is catering to the English culture. Always restaurants would provide chopsticks only and we Aussies were expected to eat with these and you had to specifically ask for a spoon or a fork (which was very embarrassing). And yes I still know how to use chopsticks and have some lovely engraved ebony ones.

    • Yes, English culture. Not sure if you have noticed when you were in Malaysia that most Malaysian will eat with fork and spoon, even in a Chinese restaurant. Why? Because Malaysia used to be Malaya during the British colonial period.

      This is particularly true in Penang, which was the first state to be colonised by the English. I grew up at home using fork and spoon, rather than chopstick. Believe it or not. We still use fork and spoon when we go out to eat in a “coffee shop” style of chinese food, and even at a restaurant in Penang. The only time that we use chopstick is when we are having hawker-style food like a noodle dish. I suppose my parents brought us up during the colonial time that it is more proper and classy to use a good silver fork and spoon rather than a wooden chopstick.

      Min – any suggestion how I can get more traffic on my blog? I am thinking maybe we can start a regular weekly post on 1 recipe each week (so anyone interested can try the recipe during the week and comment on the recipe?), and a weekly wrap up with a food gossip, like “Is service important to you” to generate some discussion.

  3. Victor..what about asking Reb and Joni if you (we) can have a space on Blogocrats. There is a Friday Footy Thread and so why not a Saturday food thread. The weekends are always quiet and it would be an excellent opportunity to fill this gap. if you would like to write, just ask Steven for my home email address. Hugs.

  4. Thanks, Min. I was thinking more along the line of getting more traffic on my blog, not Blogocrats. I am not sure there are that many foodie bloggers around using WordPress. I need to do more research on the other food blogs.

  5. We will not visit that place because they serve and process shark fins, thereby contributing to the extinction of the shark population.

    EDUCATE YOURSELF and adapt if you want western clients!

    Shark finning will remove the top predator from the ocean’s food chain over the next few years unless Asia stops this cruel and senseless slaughtering. That in turn would lead to lower forms like algae to grow uncontrollably and your entire fisheries would go down the drain.

    INFORM YOURSELF AND STOP EATING A TASTELESS PIECE OF “SEAFOOD” that leaves sharks in agonizing pain. You would not do this to Dolphins (oh wait, you actually do that too!).

    www. shark-fin-soup .asia

    • Very strong view, Jonas. Nothing wrong with that. Everyone is entitle to an opinion and passionate about what and how someone else should live their life.

      We were at Shark Fin House, but having Yum-Cha. Not a big bowl of shark fin soup.

      Anyway, I am in two minds on this, Jonas. On one hand you have to be born and grow up as an Asian to understand and appreciate that shark fin soup is a delicacy to the culture.

      On the other hand, it is upsetting and cruel to see how the Indonesian fishermen hunt sharks in the ocean and slaughter the fin off the shark and tip the fish back to the ocean, all because of demand and is market driven not only by Asian market, but western countries as well – Chinatown in major cities such as Sydney, London, New York, San Francisco where you will find western clients seeking such delicacy and experience.

      So, maybe we should start here in Australia’s Chinatown, and try “educate” the westerner not to eat shark fin. That will be a start. Rather than attacking someone’s else culture.

      Btw I do not eat dolphin or shark fin as my main dietary requirement.

      We should all be Vegan. That is what I have tonight – 2 kinds tofu with 2 kinds mushroom. 🙂

  6. @Victor – yes, that might be an option. However, I am not against eating animals, or fish for that matter. But the ignorance of the consumer coupled with the desire of chefs to “go with what they’ve always done” is seriously

    And if I cut off the legs of a chicken or dog to eat them and then did not even have the moral decency to kill the animal, but to throw it on a field and where it will slowly die, I don’t think many people, regardless of their “cultural heritage”, would say that’s fine, just because I’m calling that my “culture”.

    Plus, all those wonderful cultures may soon not have ANY fish to eat. If you knew something about Hong Kong for example, you would know that their fishermen have to go out further and further to sea in order to catch something… wonder why that is… overfishing. Plain and simple.

    But as I said – if they actually USED the rest of the shark it would be a different story. If they killed the animal after cutting off its fins, it would be a different story. But alas, none of this happens. BUT there is a different issue here too: The shark population has declined by 90% according to all credible sources. Come on – this is a predator that has been around virtually unchanged for MILLIONS of years, and now faces extinction in the next generation of mankind. This is the issue here.

    And it is NOT a case of only “Indonesian Fishermen”!!!
    The Chinese do it, the Equadorians do it in Galapagos, etc.
    Plenty of blame to go around.

    • Well, you have said it Jonas. So how would you propose to change consumer behaviour and chefs (as clearly pointed out). It is all about demand and supply. So where to start?

      Programs like the one I saw on Tele and ABC news in the past highlighting overfishing of sharks and how the fin was cut and fish returned back to sea is “eye opening” to people that actually watched them. Otherwise, the mass population that drives the demand would not have known how the the fins are produced. Consumers assume the whole shark is used in seafood market. Same with domestic animals that are slaughtered, or caged chicken eggs…and more.

  7. By showing Sharwater to as many people as possible as a starter. To refuse to dine in restaurants that serve shark fin dishes – and demand to see the chef/manager why you are not eating there.

    Education is key, we’ve done this on several occasions and if done with an understanding for where the chef etc. is coming from (not knowing about these issues (although I’d say it should be every persons duty to stay informed about their own business and supply chain – I would never buy a fake Armani coat either for $5 because it is obvious it was made by exploiting labour work forces etc., besides being morally wrong)), on several occasions the initial resistance was turned into a “thank you, this will actually benefit my business too”). It is after all, a good think to be able to show where you get your meat/fish/soybeans from and that they were grown/harvested/fished/… in a sustainable way.

    Cod is almost gone in UK waters – but there are plenty of fish that make excellent fish and chips in the water – but chefs and consumers need to be open minded and try something new.

    It should not be so darn hard for them considering it makes ecological AND business sense.

    Thanks for your contributions – good discussion! 🙂

    • No problem, Jonas. Happy to have a good discussion.

      Maybe we should talk about human rights next time – child exploitation in third world countries, on-going acid attack on young girls in Bangladesh…world is in a turmoil.

  8. “a good thing” not “think” etc. – some typos, sorry.

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