Eat here: Gypsy & Pig, Melbourne (Japanese/pork)

Gypsy & Pig
Shop 3, 391 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne CBD
http://gypsyandpig.com.au/

Monday again – how quickly it comes around! This weekend was a bit more exciting than usual though, because it was a long weekend (good work, Melbourne, giving us the day off in preparation for the footy), which happened to fall on our five year wedding anniversary, which we therefore took advantage of with a night away (which gave me a chance to put together another get away mini-guide 🙂 ). But we were back in town on Friday night and decided that instead of token gifts (we’ve been together for 11 years now, we’ve run out of crap to buy each other), we’d go out for a good dinner instead. Because why would you want another necklace when you can have all of the pork?!

I actually can’t for the life of me remember how I came across Gypsy & Pig (some random Zomato or Google search?!), but I’m stoked I did – tucked both obviously and totally inconspicuously on the corner of Little Lonsdale and Hardware Sts in the middle of the city, it’s signage basically consists of a glowing pig out the front. Because that’s what they’re all about; pig. Kurobuta, to be more specific, which is a particularly prized type of pork to the Japanese (coming from the ancient Black Berkshire breed), and considered to be the best pork in the world.

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Chef Kenji Higuchi is a one-man machine, running his business and kitchen with the most captivating silent precision; it’s only a little place, seating around 24 people if I had to guess, and Chef Kenji feeds everyone pretty much single handedly. We were seated with the best view in the house, in my opinion, facing the very open kitchen and enjoying the whole show.

The menu is incredible – very Japanese, very pork-centric, and each item sounding more delicious than the next, making it really hard to only pick out a few things. We decided to maximise tasting opportunities and ordered a few dishes to share…

Seared salmon nigiri sushi ($4.00 per piece)
Smoky, fresh, incredible. The perfect way to kick off the night!

Potato croquettes with Kurobuta mince ($18.00)
Landing in front of us literally fresh out and piping hot, they were delicious – smooth and almost creamy centre, perfectly crisp coating.

Deepfried crumbed Scotch Egg ($8.50)
This is their signature entree, and it wasn’t hard to see why – thick, golden coating with a flawlessly soft inside.

Deepfried crumbed Kurobuta hamburg with melted cheddar cheese ($21.00)
We were expecting an actual hamburger, but got this instead; it’s all the good bits of a burger without the lettuce, tomato and bread! Extraordinarily soft and crumbly mince tucked inside yet another perfectly crisp and golden shell, with just the right amount of melty cheese in the centre. Wow.

Crispy Kurobuta belly and vegetables ($19.00)
Actually the best pork belly I’ve ever eaten to date. No words can describe the perfection of this dish; the meat was literally melt-in-your-mouth soft and tender, the fat flawlessly rendered away… I mean, there’s just nothing I can say that can do this justice. Just go an eat this. Just eat it.

 

The service was faultlessly attentive, the food was just incredible, every little detail was impeccably attended to. Yes, it’s a pricey night out, but when you’ve eaten your way through this menu in this beautiful, intimate little space, I can guarantee you won’t regret the cost. It was such a great night out, and I genuinely already can’t wait to return!

 

Gypsy & Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Eat here: Chumanchu, Melbourne (Vietnamese) V.2

Chumanchu
4 Gilbert Rd, Preston, Melbourne
http://www.chumanchu.com/

Allow me to start this post in complete honesty; this post was meant to be about a different restaurant.

Ok, so now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me talk briefly about my relationship with Indian food. I’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant once, and once only. A fancy place in Sydney. I must have been allergic to one of the deliciously exotic spices used in Indian cuisine, because I was violently ill and curled up in the fetal position for hours that night with the worst stomach cramps, and what we’ll call gastro-like symptoms for the next 24 hours. That was something like 6 years ago. Which sucks for my husband, because he loves Indian food.

He’s been a bloody trooper for the last few months in particular, helping and supporting me when I’ve needed it more than ever before. I thought it might be nice to take him out for Indian for dinner to say thank you! Well, that was shot to shit pretty quickly… We turned up to Labbaik in Preston, which I’d heard was pretty good. The food may be good there, but after seating ourselves, fetching our own menus, and sitting there for 5 minutes with absolutely no service, we got up and left.

I turned to my Zomato app for advice, and came up with Lovely Indians Restaurant, a few kilometres away. With a 4.0 out of 5 rating, I figured it should be pretty decent. Over we drove, and walked in, and hovered around the front door for 30 seconds before being seated. Then, the lady who seated us went out the back, and never returned. We waited another 5 minutes, having been seated and then ignored, no menu, no water, nothing. So we got up and left again. That kind of (lack of) service on a Friday night is not acceptable. I tried, I really did, but hangriness was developing by that point, so after a few choice words, I directed husband to Chumanchu. I was in absolutely no mood for another disappointment – I’d been there before and knew the food was great, so figured that’d be a safe bet. It had also been a while between visited so I was hoping the food lived up to my good memories of it!

You can check out my last visit here (I didn’t bother taking any photos of the restaurant because the interior hasn’t changed at all since my last visit), and despite having been around for a while now, the place was still packed. Tables were reserved all over the place, and we were seated on the big  communal table in the centre of the restaurant because it was so busy, which is always a good sign. There are heaps of delicious options on the menu, and it’s hard tp narrow your order down to only a few, but here’s what we ate…

We got a serve of the pork banh cuon (2 pieces for $11.00) which were as delicious as I remembered them being last time, and every bit as good as the ones I ate in Vietnam. Delicate steamed rice “crepes” nestled on a bed of bean sprouts, filled with tasty pork, and covered in deep fried shallots. Order these, they’re great.

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Next up were the prawn spring rolls (6 pieces for $13.00). They were really good, heaps of prawn meat and a great nuoc cham dipping sauce with lots of crushed peanuts.

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The main courses here are absolutely enormous, so one is more than enough to share after a few entrees! We went with one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes, banh xeo ($19.00) – a pancake of sorts filled with pork and prawn, bean shoots and mung beans, covered in fresh herbs, and golden fried to perfection. I ate a ton of these all over Vietnam, and this is the best one I’ve found back here in Melbourne. It is honestly the biggest serving I’ve ever seen and we were both stuffed after polishing it off. Last time I visited I said I’d come back just for this, and I’ll say it again (husband agreed).

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After a shitty false start (followed by a second failure), I was stoked that we ended up at Chumanchu – I’d been wanting to go back for ages, and after the initial disappointments, it tasted even better. If you’re needing something to look forward to at the end of our last long weekend/public holiday until November (blehhh), consider Chumanchu to break up the week! And if anyone has any recommendations for good Indian restaurants that will actually provide some service to their guests, I’d love to know about them!!

 

Click to add a blog post for Chumanchu on Zomato

Zomato/Urbanspoon blogger meet up at SUPERNORMAL (Eat here. Seriously.)

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Thanks for the re-gram @zomatoaus – awesome shot and a great night!

Last night I had the pleasure of hanging out with the Zomato Melbourne crew and a handful of other bloggers. You may have read that Zomato recently acquired Urbanspoon and they’ve recognised the big role bloggers have been playing in making Urbanspoon as successful and popular as it is, leading them to host their very first Zomato Meetup for some of the busier Melbourne food bloggers. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to have been invited along, particularly when I found out Supernormal were going to be hosting us!

Before I cut back to the awesome night we had, let me focus on Supernormal for a bit. This is the latest success in the seemingly endless string of greatest hits from Andrew McConnell – even if you don’t recognise his name, you’ll no doubt recognise the names of at least one of his restaurants: Cutler & Co, Cumulus Inc, Luxembourg Bar & Bistro… the guy really knows his stuff.  I’ve walked past Supernormal so many times I’ve lost count, always drawn by the neon red sign in the front window, but still hadn’t visited. It didn’t take long after walking through the front door to realize that the hype was warranted.

We were greeted with an epic banquet menu, which, needless to say, was enough to get a table full of food bloggers more than a little excited. After that, the night looked a little something like this…

 

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– Cucumber & wakame pickle
– Seaweed cracker with kingfish & pickled fennel
– Grilled baby corn with miso butter

These were great to start, and I think everyone fell a little bit in love with the miso butter on the baby corn. Indulgent, heavenly deliciousness.

 

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– Bonito, avocado, cucumber & wakame
– New England lobster roll

Do you have any idea how hard it is to shut a table of food bloggers up? Apparently not as hard as I thought – just put a few platters of those lobster rolls out. They were that elusive sandwich that can stop the chatter of 15 people, who decide they need to devote their full attention to eating for a moment. Amazing. And we found out that you can get these guys as a take away – work lunch breaks just got a little bit more exciting if you’re in the CBD! I’m a huge tuna lover, so I adored that dish, too – buttery soft, so very good.

 

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– Smoked beef, mustard leaf, clam mayonnaise (top left)
– Pork bao with tamarind sauce (top right)
– Prawn and chicken dumplings with chilli and vinegar sauce

The smoked beef was the surprise package of the dinner – we were instructed, after photos were taken of course, to just mush it all together in order to experience the flavours fully. It looked like a hot mess when we were done, and tasted better than anything I could have possibly imagined. How clam mayonnaise not only works but is something I was ready to lick off the plate is beyond me. The fried shallots with the soft beef were magic. I absolutely loved this one, and it’s a dish I’d love to order again. As was the bao – oh my… pulled pork in a crumbed, fried package in the softest little bun.. not really sure there’s much else to say about this one other than make sure it’s on your order when you visit!

 

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– Slow cooked Szechuan lamb, spring onion pancake and coriander paste with steamed white rice and an iceberg salad with ginger vinaigrette & mint

Not being a “spicy food” person, I was a little worried about this one, but my concerns were completely unfounded. The spice levels were more peppery than pure spice, so don’t be scared if you’re a chilli wuss like me! The lamb was magnificent – slow cooked, fall apart on your fork, tender juicy perfection. The pancakes were crispy, the coriander paste was fantastic, and the salad was the perfect way to refresh yourself from the heat of the lamb. Brilliant dish to share around a table of friends.

 

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– Peanut butter parfait with salter caramel and soft chocolate
– Plum and green tea soft serve ice cream

If there’s a better way to finish a meal, I’m neither familiar with it, nor am I particularly interested in it. The parfait was everything you dream it’d be – rich, thick, super-smooth and creamy. It’s basically a sexier, ice creamier version of a Snickers, but still better than you’re imagining. It’s worth visiting Supernormal just for this. Honestly. And just when we were all ready to burst, the soft serve cups arrived. They were the exact way we all wanted to finish the meal without realising it; fresh, crisp, clean, sweet without being crazy sugary like the parfait. The sharp plum sat perfectly with the gentler green tea, and when you order this, dig deep into the cup for a little surprise!

I have to say a HUGE thanks to the team at Supernormal for an absolutely incredible experience. We had the most attentive team at our service, no glass was ever empty and no question unanswered. We were asked at the beginning of the night if there were any allergies, preferences, what not – my main concern was the heat factor from the chilli. The lovely lady looking after these requests went out of her way to explain the menu as it could be modified for me, to ensure I’d still get maximum flavour and meal enjoyment without burning my tongue off. She could have just said “no worries, we’ll put the spicy stuff on the side for you” and been done with it, but I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the extra few minutes she took to talk me through it all instead. It’s these things that take it from a nice dinner to an experience you’re going to remember and talk about for a long time to come.

We were also sent off by the Supernormal team with little goodie bags containing, among other things, a box of Pocky (!!!!!!!!!) and a jar of their amazing toasted pepitas which we started to night on and a “goodnight, thanks for coming!” from everyone I passed on my way from the table to the door. You guys are absolutely amazing, thank you for looking after us so well!

 

And another big thank you has to go to Pranav and the team at Zomato – they’ve been working superhumanly hard to get the integration and re-launch ready to go, and they’ve still been making time to speak to local bloggers to get their input. It’s so refreshing and so nice to have a big company take things to such a personal level, and to actually genuinely value the input and opinions of the people who are using their products every day. It was also so much fun to be able to finally put some faces to names of blogs I read so often and talk food and travel with a bunch of people who are also interested in all of that! And great to be able to have a table of equally patient diners who get that the photos must be taken before the digging in commences; we all love our family and friends, but they just don’t get it! Thanks for a fun night guys, looking forward to big things from both Zomato and all of the bloggers who took part last night:

Sheena and Thomas from Chasing A Plate

Paul from The City Lane

Winston from The Hungry Excavator

Cass from Hungry Cookie

Tian from Eating Diaries

And apologies to those I’ve missed from either forgetfulness or not being able to get around to everyone last night – if you’re reading this please let me know so I can put you on the list too!

 

Supernormal on Urbanspoon

 

 

Disclosure: I was generously invited by Zomato to dine as a guest at Supernormal, however the opinions contained herein are completely based on my own experience.

Eat here: Yummy Yummy Dim Sum, San Francisco, USA

Yummy Yummy
758 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, USA

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Our first day in San Francisco was a pretty big one; Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, Ghiradelli, Lombard Street.. There was a lot going on. Except for food.

We’d had a bit of a situation the night before at the airport, flying to the city from LAX, which necessitated dinner being a bag of Bugles just before boarding. Breaky was provided by the hotel and eaten on the run in transit to Alcatraz, and lunch was a quick seafood cocktail at Fisherman’s Wharf. Come dinner time, it was decided that a proper sit down meal was needed, and we figured the best place to find something delicious and at a decent price would be Chinatown – that’s always the place to check first in these situations!

We took the same approach we usually take – if it looks super busy with heaps of locals, it’s probably good. This place seemed pretty popular, and not another backpack or tourist in sight. Looked a bit sketchy from the outside, sure, but the food…

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For around USD$30 (including tip) we feasted on BBQ pork, pot stickers and the most insanely oversized pile of house fried noodles I have EVER seen in my life! Having unwittingly yet comfortable ordered enough food for 3, we nommed our way through some of the best Chinese either of us have had in a very long time. Oh, and we got complimentary fortune cookies at the end of the meal, too! Not sure how accurate mine was though..

Looks can be deceiving; if you’re in San Francisco and looking for something other than burgers and fries, hit up Yummy Yummy!

Cook this: quick & healthy – cold soba noodle salad with ginger soy dressing

Totally overdue for a quick and healthy one, my bad! With the weather warming up here in Australia, this is a great, easy meal you can thrown together quickly for dinner, and enjoy left overs for lunch the next day. I love making this with simple, easy, canned tuna, but if I have a bit of extra time, grilled chicken or pork works perfectly, too.

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The salad itself pretty simple:
– soba noodles (allow them to cool before using in the salad)
– grated carrot
– sliced cucumber
– avocado
– roasted peanuts
– protein of choice

But that’s not the exciting part – it’s the dressing that makes this special. It’s a great salad dressing, pretty strong and full of punch, so it works best with plainer, simpler flavours and salads.

Ingredients (makes enough for two salads)
– ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
– 1 tbsp sesame oil
– 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
– 2 tsp caster sugar
– 1 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp cold water

If you enjoy your salads a little on the spicy side, add a little fresh chilli in, too. Then, whisk it all together, pour over your salad, mix and enjoy!

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Cook this: quick & healthy – chicken & greens with coconut peanut sauce (gluten free)

OHHHH THIS IS SOOO GOOD!!! A HUGE thank you to the lovely Andrea at Cooking with a Wallflower who posted this recipe a few weeks ago – as soon as I saw it on my reader, I knew I had to give it a try! If you’re not pulling recipes from other blogs to try out in your own kitchen, you’re missing out, by the way; bloggers are real people, in real kitchens. Their photos may not be fancy and shiny and magazine quality, but because it’s coming from a real person, you know the food is going to be amazing!

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Her chicken and greens looked delicious, but what really got my attention was the sauce – a combination of hoi sin, peanut butter and coconut milk. As soon as I read it, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen this idea before – three incredible flavours, which all worked perfectly together!

It’s a very, very quick dinner, and it actually is pretty healthy too! Andrea’s version looks amazing, and you can get her recipe from her blog. My version went something like this:

Veggies: stir fried broccolini and bok choy with garlic oil and a little soy sauce.
Chicken: sliced breast fillets, grilled on the BBQ with just a little salt and pepper.
Sauce: exactly as per Andrea’s instructions:

Add hoisin sauce (1/8 cup), peanut butter (2 tbsp, crunchy), and coconut milk (3 tbsp) into a small pot over low heat. Use a heat resistant spoon or spatula to stir the sauce. Once the ingredients are evenly incorporated, remove the sauce from heat, and pour it into a small bowl.

How simple is that?! Best part was that I doubled everything and it all re-heated really well for dinner the following night, too!

Eat here: N. Lee Bakery, Melbourne (Bahn Mi/Bakery)

N. Lee Bakery, Collingwood, Melbourne
http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/71/1549701/restaurant/Collingwood/N-Lee-Bakery-Melbourne

I fell in love with the humble banh mi after eating a few in Vietnam; when they’re done freshly and properly, they’re just about the best sandwich you could possibly ask for. Traditionally, you’re looking at a super fresh, slightly crunchy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside roll, filled with pate, butter, grilled pork, cucumber, carrot, chilli and coriander. They’re the ultimate Vietnamese street food – super cheap (I can’t remember paying more than the equivalent of AUD $1.20 for one in Vietnam), hand held, and fresh (read: not deep fried).

Despite Melbourne’s huge Vietnamese population, I’ve been a little hesitant to start my banh mi hunt back at home, because I know what they’re meant to taste like now. What if my very high expectations are dashed? I can’t be wasting valuable calories and stomach space on crap food! But, alas, I had a craving for one, and cravings must be met. A quick fact finding mission led me to N. Lee Bakery. I was already familiar with the name, given the one on Collins St near the post office that I pass every now and then while I’m out running work errands. The one husband and I visited was the Smith St store. We rolled up just before 12pm on a sunny Saturday, and found ourselves around 8 deep in the already growing line. By the time we’d ordered and sat down to unwrap our sandwiches, we looked up and saw this line out the door. It was crazy!

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I was pretty excited to see in the window the sign advertising the day’ special – crackling pork! My favourite! Husband got the grilled pork. First up – insanely, unbelievably cheap! Mine cost $6.80, and husband’s $4.50 – I actually asked the lady to repeat herself when she asked for the total, because it sounded too cheap, especially considering how big the sandwiches actually were! No wonder the line was out the door! And check out the nice, crispy bits of pork in mine..

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The banh mi themselves – all reservations I had were instantly dashed on the first bite. It was easily as good as the stuff I ate in Vietnam, and made the same way, even down the the pate and butter smears to start the process. I had a few bites of husband’s sandwich too, and the pork in both was fantastic, really tasty and perfectly cooked. And stacked full, as you can see!

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Honestly, there’s nothing more I can say about the banh mi from N. Lee other than they’re making the best stuff I’ve had out of Vietnam, and I plan to make myself a regular visitor at the CBD one on lunch breaks!

 

N. Lee Bakery on Urbanspoon