Sometimes you DO get to choose your family… Eat here: Ichi Ni Nana, Melbourne (Japanese)

Ichi Ni Nana
127 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
http://ichininana.com.au/

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile & who love you no matter what.”

Last weekend I posted this quote on Instagram after a particularly fantastic night out. As I wrote a few days ago, I wasn’t real keen on “celebrating” my birthday this year, but I was convinced that dinner with my best friends wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. I texted the four girls I consider to be my best friends, and three were available. I decided on Ichi Ni Nana, because I love Japanese food, I hadn’t been there yet, and it was in an area easy enough for everyone to get to after work. So last Friday night, I had dinner with my husband and the three girls – my family.

“Family isn’t always blood.” No, it isn’t. My family is rocky at the best of times, which has necessitated the finding of other “family” over the years. I’ve had friends come and go, as we all do, but I think it’s been particularly devastating to me when “friends” have cut ties with me because of how important they’ve always been to me. During the times my blood family weren’t there for me and couldn’t/didn’t have my back, my friendship family did. These girls are that family to me.

One I’ve known since year 7, and we have truly been there for each other through the most horrendous times of our lives. Where a lot of people might shirk that friendship in later years through embarrassment of what the other knows, it’s only made us closer. We’ve seen each others’ rock bottom and we’re still here for and because of each other.

Another two of those ladies I’ve been friends with for a good 6 or 7 years, although it feels like a lot longer. We worked together and became life long friends. One of them has been not only my best friend, but sister, mother, soul mate, counselor, shoulder to cry on, drinking buddy, partner in crime, and MC at my wedding. She’s one of those remarkable souls that I know I’ll be infinitely connected to and who’s mere presence will assure me that everything will be ok.

The other is the rare type of friend that you don’t have to be constantly seeing or texting or calling to know she’s there. She respects the need for isolation during the shitty times, and is ready to pick right back up where you left off when you’re ready to face the world again, no questions asked.

And the fourth horseman is one I worked with a few years ago in the travel industry; we initially bonded over a mutual love of travel, burgers, donuts and a shared hatred of stupid people, and now it feels like we’ve been friends for a million years. We share an intolerance for fructose and lactose, a lot of personality traits, and the understanding that sometimes all each other needs is a shoulder to cry on and then a cake to share. She’s one of the few people I can turn off my filter and just be 100% myself around.

And then, finally, my husband. We’ve been through a lot together, which elevates him to best friend status, and not just husband. Us girls don’t talk fake tans and new shoes around him (or ever, to be honest), and we’re not a lovey-dovey annoying couple around them (or, once again, ever). These are the people I wanted to be with to enjoy good food and a good night, and so (with one missing), I did 🙂

So now that you’ve “met” my “family,” let me introduce you to some amazing food…
Ichi Ni Nana (Japanese for numbers one two seven) opened only a few weeks ago in the cavernous space that was Old Colonial Inn. Paul Adamo and Vince Sofo (the guys behind The Espy, among other ventures) have spent the last few years prettying up the old space and transforming it into a multi level bar and eatery. And it’s gorgeous inside – with hand-made wooden detailing, dim lighting and beautiful lanterns, it’s the Fitzroy take on a classic izakaya. The menu is enormous, and made to share, so here’s a look at some of the food we got stuck into…

Drinks first – I went with the Jasmine Sake-Tea-Ni ($17.00) – sake, jasmine, tea, fresh grapefruit and a little sugar syrup. Perfect.

Sashimi salad ($20.00) – a beautiful little plate of salmon, tuna, white fish, crab and fish roe, served with wasabi that’ll knock your socks off, soy and herbs. Fresh, clean, flawless.

Pork bao ($14.00) – fried rice bun with BBQ pork – I’ve never had bao in fried buns before, but this is something that needs to be happening more often. Being fried meant they kept their shape and didn’t fall into a mushy heap with the sauces, but they were still soft and pillowy inside. And that pork…

Wagyu sliders ($14.00) – juicy, tender wagyu beef and wasabi slaw in a really eye-catching black bun, with the most delicious pickle I’ve ever eaten on the side. Really great addition to the table, and they were pretty popular all round.

Salmon teriyaki mayo hako sushi ($20.00) – seared salmon block pressed sushi seasoned with Japanese mayo and teriyaki (best combination of sauces ever, FYI) and topped with roe and spring onion. I loved this – the salmon was buttery soft, there was just enough sauce, and the roe on top was the perfect salty addition.

 

Other items ordered and enjoyed included:
– fried eggplant with sweet miso sauce
– scallop 5 ways
– vegetable gyoza

 

And then, dessert. Two of the girls ordered the chocolate mousse ($12.00) – star anise-infused chocolate mousse with yuzu cream, chocolate soil and charcoal waffle. I tried it, I liked it, that yuzu cream was delicious!

Also ordered were a few serves of the chocolate harumaki ($12.00) – chocolate filled spring rolls with vanilla ice cream, salted caramel, toasted almonds and a little mascarpone cheese. These were a big hit – crispy golden pastry filled with warm chocolate and a pile of ice cream to dip them in – what’s not to love?!

The final dessert was the one I wanted most – a scoop of green tea & biscuit ice cream ($10.00) probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had outside of Messina, which is a big call for a place that doesn’t specialise in ice cream! Smooth, creamy, amazing green tea flavour – hands down the best thing to finish on! I’d go back just for that and some sushi in summer!  

One of my favourite new arrivals to Melbourne’s summer dining scene – while it isn’t super cheap (but what is in Melbourne?!), the quality and variety make it well worth a visit, particularly for a special occasion 🙂
Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - 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.

Luna1878 Winter Night Market @ QVM, Melbourne

Luna1878 Winter Night Market @ QVM, Melbourne
http://www.qvm.com.au/night-market/luna1878-winter-night-market-2/

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Yes, I know, this is a bit late given that Wednesday was the last Luna1878 Night Market of the season, but I hadn’t a chance to get there until this week! Don’t worry, the summer season of night markets will be starting up soon, from November 5th, so just a quick intermission before we can all go back and enjoy Wednesday nights once again!

In the mean time, the food vendors that featured at the Luna1878 Night Markets will still be cooking up delicious treats for you to eat at their own places, so here’s what we ate at the market this week, and what we’d HIGHLY recommend you try, too! And yes, we – I didn’t eat all this myself, husband gave me a hand!

1. Wonderbao’s fried chicken bao and the chicken and shitake bao bun. Amazing start to the night, the bun was good value for money I thought at $3, the larger fried chicken bao was very overpriced in my opinion at $7. Only in Melbourne can you get away with charging that much and still having a line of people!
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Wonderbao on Urbanspoon

2. The chunky steak pie from Gourmet Pies – sadly the pastry was a little thin on the bottom and starting to get a little soggy, but the filling… wow.. probably the best filled steak pie I’ve EVER had. Massive chunks of quality beef that fell apart as you bit into them. Great value for $6 – there was also an option for an $8 pie plus peas and mash plate.
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Gourmet Pies on Urbanspoon

3. BBQ pig with rice and accompaniments from Hoy Pinoy BBQ. Massive winner. Tender, juicy BBQ’d pork, and the sides were phenomenal. Would definitely go back for this again. Good value for $12.
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4. Chilli’s pulled pork tacos. Not overly amazing, but the pineapple in there was fantastic with the pork. Loved that. Also a bit overpriced at $6 for one small taco, plus extra $1 for guacamole.
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5. We thought we were done when we spotted LongHorn’s BBQ stand. Like moths to a flame. Brisket roll for $12 was a little pricey, but to be honest, I’m happy to spend that kind of money when the quality of the meat is THAT good. I’ve Googled and Googled but can’t seem to find any more info on this place – the only one I can find is based on Florida??! Any one know any more about LongHorn?! I want more!!!
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6. Didn’t get in quick enough for a photo, but husband had a fried chicken drumstick from Mamak – soft, tender, juicy chicken and the coating was really nice.
Mamak on Urbanspoon

7. I may have been a little over excited come dessert time and forgot about a photo of the crème brulee and the cannoli from the Crème Brulee Cart. They were both unreal. Even husband who isn’t a huge dessert person helped me polish it all off pretty happily!
The Brûlée Cart on Urbanspoon

8. Finally, special mention to Steel Drum Popcorn – I usually buy a bag at the market, but was so full I actually forgot.. the shame! If you haven’t tried their incredible sweet and salty popcorn before, you are missing out in a big way. This stuff is popcorn crack. Get on it.

 

Another awesome night at the market, can’t wait for November to do it all again before we head to America to eat our way through their markets, too!

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