Cabinet Bar & Balcony

It is no secret by now that Melbourne has lots of hidden gems tucked between laneways or up a few flights of stairs. Although how hidden are those places really? Sure, you won’t be able to spot it from a main road, but with the prevalence of online reviews and just social media in general, it’s near possible for a place to remain truly hidden.

I ain’t complaining though, because without recommendations of the internet, how would I come to find a place like Cabinet Bar & Balcony?

The bar is sleek and moody, with the best seats located on the, you guessed it, balcony! Being one of the minority of restaurants that still offers bookings, it made it much easier for my friend and I to secure a table on the balcony on a weekday night.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

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The L-word – $13.00

We started things off with some champagne cocktails, and my choice of the night was rather fruity and light, thanks to the addition of cranberry juice.

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Pouring Rayne – $13.00

Pouring Rayne (ha!) on the other hand, was more subdued and more of an adult drink imo.

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Cabinet Popcorn Chicken – $13.50

Although short, the menu had a fresh take on your average bar food, and the popcorn chicken was an example of that. The bite-sized pieces were juicy and crunchy, and I loved dipping it in the tangy mayo.

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Eggplant Chips w/ Aioli – $13.00

Eggplant chips is something that I’ll always if it’s on the menu. The version at Cabinet faired quite well, with large strips of eggplant cover in a thin layer of panko crumb, and fried to perfection. My only complaint would be that it lacked some seasoning, however, the aioli on the side certainly helped with that.

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Chorizo, Olives, Feta + Basil Flatbread – $10.00

Being a Wednesday night, we had to take on Cabinet’s offer of $10 flatbreads, and after some intense discussion, we settled on the chorizo one. This was a healthier take on yourΒ  traditional pizza, being on a much thinner base of flatbread, leaving us with more room to indulge on the toppings. The thickly-cut slices of smoky and flavoursome chorizo were undoubtedly the star of the show, and the simply yet classic combination of flavours made the flatbread an overall winner.

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Mini Chocolate Fondue w/ Croissant, Strawberries and Marshmallows – $12.00

Cabinet keeps its dessert menu short and sweet, with only one item on it – the mini chocolate fondue, so it was a good thing that my friend and I were both keen for it. The melty pot of chocolate was perfect for dunking all the other goodies in, I especially enjoyed the buttery croissant.

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Cabinet certainly carries its own charm, as showcased by the constant flow of diners throughout the night. I always enjoy a bar that puts some serious effort into its food menu too, and Cabinet does just that.

And with events like $10 flatbread Wednesdays, $10 Aperol Spritz Sundays, and $10 Margherita Mondays, it’s guaranteed that no matter when you visit, it will always be a good time.

How to get here:
Cabinet Bar & Balcony is located on Rainbow Alley, although it’s visible from Swanston Street, it is a 10 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Cabinet Bar & Balcony Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Very Good Falafels

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetMiddle Eastern food is one of my favourites. Grilled meats all piled high on a plate, with dips and pickled goods on the side, and everything can be wrapped up in a pita bread, what’s not to love?Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetVery Good Falafels do things a bit different here, as the name goes, they have a focus on serving up some of the best falafels in town, coupled with a rotation of house salads that can either be served on their own, or topped off with falafels.

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Falafel Plate – $10

I went for the signatory falafel plate, piled high with goodies ranging from pickles, trio of dips, and a simple salad, with three falafels and a large ladle of tahini to finish the whole thing off. To say that the falafels were very good is an understatement, they are probably the best that I’ve had to date! They were freshly made to order, and you can definitely tell by the crunchy exterior, and a soft interior that still had some bite to it.

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Falafel Plate – $10

I loved that I could assemble this plate however I wanted, whether it was pairing the falafel with one of the dips or throwing a bit of falafel with some vibrant vegetables in the pita bread to freshen things up a little.

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Salad – $10

Very Good Falafel has three or four house salads at one time, and unfortunately I failed to write down the options available on the night we visited (I know I know). However, I have it on good account that they were all better than your average house salad, with the beans salad (?) being my friend’s favourite of the night.

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As you can see, we wiped our plates clean. Very Good Falafel exceeded my expectations in the best ways possible, I was happy to see that something I often view as a side to mains that are much more exciting being the star of show. The tahini and hummus were also phenomenal, I had thought that nothing could beat home made hummus prior to my meal, but the silky and nutty blend here is much better that I could whip up in a food processor.

I had wanted to bring a tub home, but it was sold out at this point. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to go back.

How to get here:
Very Good Falafels is located on Sydney Road, catch tram #19 from Melbourne Central or Flinders Street Station, and get off at Stewart St/Sydney Rd, and the small restaurant is a minute walk away.

Very Good Falafel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

KUU Cafe + Japanese Kitchen

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Japanese food is one of my go-tos in the warmer weather, given that fresh sushi and sashimi is refreshing as it can get. Kuu has been on my radar for a while now, and I managed to pay it a visit before the cold front crossed Melbourne all of a sudden.

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9 Piece Shikiri Bento Box – $17.50

I made sure that we went to KUU on a weeday morning so that we could order the 9 Piece Shikiri Bento Box, truly a breakfast fit a king. KUU tends to change up the variations quite regularly, and on this occasion, I particularly enjoyed the crunch of the chicken karaage, the sweet and sour fish tofu, and the spam onigiri, combining two of my favourite things.

Although a lot of thought had clearly been put into the construction of the bento box, it was a bit too frilly for my liking, and the content left me feeling underwhelmed.

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KUU had what seemed like a winning formula on paper; attentive service, quirky interior and a Japanese inspired brunch and lunch menu. Although I didn’t enjoy the meal much, my dining partner quite liked her order of the Karaage Japanese Fried Chicken, so maybe I just got the short end of the stick this time round.

How to get here:
Catch tram #1 and get off at Moray Street/Park Street, and the cafe is a minute walk away. Alternatively, catch tram #12 and get off at Park Street/Clarendon Street, and the cafe is two minutes walk away.

KUU Cafe + Japanese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheerio

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetI don’t visit Richmond as much as I’d like, given the endless dining options in the area. I did manage to sneak in a quick brunch there with a few friends though, and we chose to dine at Cheerio, a little cafe located off the main road.

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Omelette w/ Triple Cream Brie, Basil, Gypsy Ham, and Confit Tomatoes, served with Pumpkin Soy Toast – $17.00

I’ve been really feeling egg-heavy dishes lately, and upon hearing great things about the omelette at Cheerio, it was a no-brainer to order.

The omelette was extremely soft and creamy, and the triple cream brie certainly helped in that respect. It is definitely not a light breakfast, but hey, I knew what I was getting myself into. Having said that though, the confit tomatoes and the asparagus hiding beneath the pillow of omelette did prevent the omelette itself from becoming dangerously heavy, and I was left quite impressed.

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Omelette w/ Triple Cream Brie, Basil, Gypsy Ham, and Confit Tomatoes, served with Pumpkin Soy Toast – $17.00

The pumpkin soy toast itself was no ordinary bread, being from Woodfrog Bakery, one of my recent finds at a Sunday Market, the toast was quite structured, and did not disintegrate even when I piled the omelette on it.

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Avocado, Tomato Medley, Basil, Meredith Goat’s Cheese, Sumac Dressing, Toasted Pepitas, and Tomato Salt on Pumpkin Soy Toast – $16.00 With 2 Poached Eggs – $4.00

The other dish that I got to try was Cheerio’s take on the classic smashed avocado. The chunks of avocado were of exceptionally high quality, none of that under or over-ripe business here. I always love the addition of nuts and seeds to any dish, and the toasted pepitas were no exception.

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Cheerio seems a lot more homely than some other cafes around the area, and we really enjoyed our time here. If you’re looking for a bit of an escape next time you’re on the bustling streets of Richmond, take a detour and pay Cheerio a visit, I’m sure you won’t leave disappointed.

How to get here:
Catch the train and get off at Richmond Station, and Cheerio is a short five minutes walk away.

Cheerio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Miznon

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Has anyone tried Israeli food? If the answer is no, then you’re not the only one. Miznon promises to bring Israeli street food to Australia, and I was keen to see what it was all about.

Although Miznon is a new addition to the Melbourne food scene, the restaurant has already set up shop in Paris, New York, Vienna, and Tel Aviv. Opened by Israeli Masterchef Judge Eyal Shani back in 2011, its worldwide expansion meant that I went in with some high expectations.Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetUpon entering the restaurant, we were taken away by the lively and buzzing atmosphere, and the extremely friendly kitchen staff.

We got some of the best seats in the house, the table being right next to the free nibbles station, which included pita off-cuts, sauerkraut, tahini, tzatziki and some sort of chilli sauce. It was also a dangerous spot to be in, it was extremely hard for us to stop ourselves from eating the endless supply of pitas.

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The first of many oops

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White Spritz – $12.00

We had some cocktails to accompany the pita. The mixture of rose, soda and orange made the White Spritz a light and refreshing drink.

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Red Spritz – $12.00

The Red Spritz, on the other hand, was a lot more intense, with the addition of Campari, and the fresh plucked sage leaves.

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Clockwise: Sweet Potato, Calamari Plate, Sabich

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Sweet Potato – $8.00

Onto the food. We started off quite simple with a piping hot sweet potato straight from the oven, it was tender and sweet, and I’m so going to steal the idea of eating it with sour cream on the side, as it prevented the sweet potato itself from getting too heavy.

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Sabich – $12.00

Sabich is a traditional Israeli dish, featuring eggplant, topped with tahini, tomato perfume, and a sliced hard boiled egg. Sabich actually reminded me of the Japanese dish, Nasu Dengaku, i.e. miso glazed eggplant. Though the cooking technique is somewhat similar, Sabich had a much more earthy flavour, especially because of the tahini. The chilli on the side, though unassuming, was very spicy, so tread with caution.

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Calamari Plate – $15.00

The calamari plate was exactly that, lightly grilled calamari served with a salsa of sorts, made up of cucumber, tomato, onion and parsley. The dish was extremely refreshing, and the calamari was cooked perfectly. Although quite simple, the elements all complimented each other, and it was executed with care. My friend hates seafood (I know), but she actually ate a few pieces of the calamari, an indication of how good it was.

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Baby Cauliflower Flower – $13.00

The baby cauliflower flower is sort of a legend at Miznon, being featured heavily in its instagram feed. The whole head of cauliflower is boiled the grilled until tender, and every part of it is edible, including the leaves, which I liked more than I care to admit. The cauliflower falls apart at the prick of a fork, and after dipping it in some tahini and Atlantic salt, it’s simply irresistible, even if you’re not usually a vegetable lover.

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Clockwise: Pita with a Bone, Sac de Coque

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Pita with a Bone – $19.00

Although we were already becoming full at this point, more food were on its way. The pita with a bone is another dish I had been looking forward to all night, being a big fan of well-cooked lamb. The bones were plucked out with minimal effort, and the meat was so soft and juicy. The pita bread itself was perfectly airy, having earlier been deemed as the best pita I’ve had, based on the off cuts alone. Although I wished there was some sort of spice or acidity to lift the flavours a little, this was still a very satisfying experience.

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Sac de Coque – $14.00

Sac de Coque is Miznon’s take on a chicken salad, or at least that’s how it felt like to me. The pieces of the roasted chicken were a little dry, but it was made better by the aioli. Although this was not a stand out salad, it was a good way to sneak some green leaves into the meal to make us feel better about ourselves.

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Miznon was everything I expected and more, from the lively kitchen yelling out orders all night, to the prominent use of lunch bags and cardboards over plates, it had an extremely welcoming atmosphere. The flavours of the food were also top-notch, and I was happy to tick Israeli cuisine off my list. The only drawback is probably the price tag; for a restaurant that features street food, it certainly is on the higher end of things.

Although the menu at Miznon is only one page long, the variation of exotic dishes and pita pockets means that a future visit is required; maybe when I am no longer stuck in the full time student status.

Miznon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

How to get here:
Miznon is located on Hardware Lane, a short five minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

I dined as a guest of Miznon.

JAPAN 2017 | Osaka: Universal Studios

My second day in Osaka was dedicated to one activity only – Universal Studios. I was excited beyond words. I had bought the ticket online the day before on the Universal Studios website, the Japanese version, you actually can’t buy tickets from the English website. The process was all done in Japanese, and being a non-Japanese speaker, it would have been near impossible to navigate. However, there are a number of useful tutorials floating around the internet, and I followed this one to purchase the ticket.Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetI arrived at 9.30am, and the theme park was already filled with people! I knew where I was heading into though – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! You have to first get a numbered ticket, which assigns you a time to enter WWHP, I’ve heard that if you get in late, you may not be able to enter until 5 or 6pm, which is not ideal, because waiting for the ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – alone takes two hours. I was lucky enough to have gotten the early-ish ticket, and the line entering WWHP wasn’t too bad either.Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetAfter walking through some hedges, the Flying Ford Anglia is waiting for you at the corner.Β Processed with VSCO with a6 presetThe feeling of entering WWHP is indescribable. I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter, it being the first series that actually got me into reading, and then patiently waiting for each movie to come out every year. It definitely felt like I was entering somewhere magical. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetYou can choose to have the Butterbeer hot or cold, in a plastic cup or in a collectable mug, I chose the latter, because it was definitely one of the cheaper memoraphilias.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetAfter a quick browse around, I joined the line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and although the wait was two hours long, there was plenty to see every time you entered a new area, making things interesting throughout.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetThe ride was incredible, hands down my favourite experience in Universal Studios. I’m not going to say too much about it because I think it’s better to go in blind, but trust me, it is worth the wait.Processed with VSCO with kk1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 presetThere are plenty of shops to browse through in WWHP, including Honey Dukes, Ollivanders, Zonkos’, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Owl Post and Owlery, Dervish and Banges, Gladrags Wizardwear and Filch’s Emporium of Confisticated Goods. The souvenirs do get repetitive after you’ve entered a few shops, but it was fun nonetheless. The one thing I was set on buying is the knitted jumper that Mrs Weasley handmakes for all of the Weasleys, Harry and Hermione, but it unfortunately was unavailable in Japan. I settled for a Ravenclaw scarf.

Some other fun things to do in WWHP include the life demonstration at Ollivanders, it was interesting to hear the American man perform the scene from the first Harry Potter movie in Japanese. There is also a live performance of the Hogwarts Choir in the square.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetI bought food from 7/11 in the morning, knowing that dining at the theme park itself would be extremely pricey, and there wasn’t any place I wanted to try in particular. However, I couldn’t resist the $5 minion bun, but hey, that’s not too steep for a solit photo op.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetBesides WWHP, Universal Studios is divided into seven sections: Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Amity Village. Water World and Universal Wonderland; with rides including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 4K3D, Hollywood Dream. Jurassic Park. Jaws, Terminator 2: 3-D and Backdraft.

There are obviously plenty to do and see, and you’re not going to be able to go on all the rides in just a day, especially with long waiting time for each ride, so it is worth planning your day ahead, and decide where you want to spend your time. You also have the option to purchase the Express Pass 7 or Express Pass 4 to shorten your wait time significantly. However, keep in mind that these passes can cost as much as the ticket itself.

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Me in my new scarf taking incredibly cheesy photos at the direction of the guides on-site

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetI went on a couple more rides in the afternoon, and just walked around different areas, soaking everything in. Given that I visited Universal Studios in mid-January (yup, January 2017), the Christmas light show was still on every night, and that was spectacular in itself.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

After spending the entire day in Universal Studios, I was tired, hungry, but filled with joy. There is a plaza-like area just outside of Universal Studios, with plenty of dining options available. I settled for some udon with fried goods. The handmade udon is better than any that I’ve had in Australia, with various toppings available, and you have the option to add soup from the soup dispenser. Unfortunately, because the fried goods had been sitting there for a while, it was not as crispy as I had hoped. The meal was satisfying nonetheless.

Osaka provided me with some of the most amazing experiences, and I picked up some takoyaki on the way back to my hostel to commemorate my last night here. Onto Kyoto we go!

Spending Tracker

7/11: 1005JPY ~ 12.4AUD
Butterbeet: 1100JPY ~ 13.6AUD
Harry Potter postcard: 700JPY ~ 8.2AUD
Minion bun: 550JPY ~ 6.8AUD
Udon: 940JPY ~ 11.6AUD
Takoyaki: 450JPY ~ 5.6AUD

Total:Β 4745JPY ~ 58.2AUD

Hochi Mama

I love the idea of tapas, nothing beats getting to try a range of dishes without breaking the bank. That’s probably why I was so taken by Rice Paper Scissors a few years ago. After hearing that the restaurant next door – Hochi Mama has a menu in a similar fashion, I was very excited to visit it on a balmy weekday night.

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The menu is divided into smaller, larger, side, and desserts. For the $59 for two deal that we went with, you get two selections from smaller, two from larger, and one side, all to share.

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Rice Paper Rolls w/ Grilled Eggplant and Fresh Vegetables

Given that our other choices were more substantial, it was a good thing that we started with the DIY rice paper rolls.

The grilled eggplant were undoubtly the star of this dish, having been marinated in a tentalising paste, with just the right amount of char coming through.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetThe perks of DIY rice paper roll is that you can choose what you want to put in it, and how much of each ingredient you’d like. Being a somewhat picky eater, this was definitely a positive for me, as it meant I could neglect the carrots altogether.

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Hochi Chicken Bahn Bao

Onto the fried things. The chicken was as good as fried chicken goes, crunchy but light batter, and juicy meat on the inside. I especially loved the fermented chilli beans on top, a nod at the Chinese cuisine that baos originate from.

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Hanoi Style Crispy Beef Ribs

This is the first time I’ve tried fried beef ribs, and it did not disappoint. Continuing to showcase the kitchen’s control of the deep frier, the meat certainly was succulent and falling off the bone with very little batter involved. The salad did seem a little thrown together to me, on the other hand, but offered a palate cleanser nonetheless.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetI somehow lost the photo of the last larger dish that we had – the Southside Tofu Curry, so you’ll just have to have a look at the group photo for now. Being a fan of a wide variety of curries, I did enjoy the sweeter version here at Hochi Mama. The large amount of sauce was also appreciated, as it went well with the side of Coconut Rice.

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Being situated next to Rice Paper Scissors is a double edged sword for Hochi Mama, especially when they’re both serving up some sort of Asian fusion. Although the restaurant was quite filled up throughout the night, it does not have a huge line extending onto the alleyway like Rice Paper Scissors.

It might come as a surprise to some, but I actually think that Hochi Mama is just as good as Rice Paper Scissors, if not better. The prices of each individual dish also meant that getting the $59 deal actually can save you up to $20. So next time when there’s a ridiculous wait time next door, why not head into Hochi Mama and see it for yourself?

How to get there:
Hochi Mama is located on Liverpool Street, get off at Parliament Station, and the restaurant is three minutes walk away.

Hochi Mama Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato