Melina on the Rooftop

Melbourne has entered into the depth of Winter without a warning, but here I am, still clinging onto rooftop bars. Although it’s nothing like bathing in the Summer sunshine with a cocktail in your hand, there is still something charming about sitting snugly under some heaters with a view. All that is to say, we decided to have dinner at Melina on the Rooftop recently.

Crispy Saganaki Cheese – $18.00

We decided to grabbed a few dishes to graze on, with the first being the crispy saganaki. The crunchy batter on the saganaki added some texture to the soft cheese, and the sweetness from the drizzle of the balsamic glaze paired nicely prevented the saganaki from becoming overly salty.

Fries – $12.00

The shoestring fries was golden brown, and the Greek season on the fries were quite addictive. The feta cheese dip on the side was an interesting addition, although the crumbly texture and the thinness of the fries meant that it wasn’t the easiest to dip in.

Antipasto – $34.00

The antipasto had your usual suspects with a Middle Eastern twist with the addition of some grilled halloumi. The meats were all quite average, with the smoked ham seriously tasting like it was bought from a supermarket deli. It was nothing really worth writing home about altogether. The bread served on the side was also quite dry, and the balsamic glaze drizzled over top seems like more of an afterthought.

There’s no question that the vibe is quite intimate and romantic at Melina on the Rooftop, definitely a place that’s good enough to take a date. That being said though, I did find the food to be quite overpriced, especially considering the portion size. We made a booking on EatClub, which took 30% off our bill, making it quite reasonable. I still think that the food was quite average even after the discount. All in all, Melina on the Rooftop might be better suited for a couple of drinks after dinner than a proper sit-down meal.

How to get here:
Melina on the Rooftop is located on Lonsdale Street, a 5 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Melina on the Rooftop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Meatball and Wine Bar

Let’s talk about balls. I mean, meatballs. Yes I have the maturity of a 10-year-old.

So, what makes for some great meatballs? They can’t be too dry, and have to be the perfect size with a good amount of garlic and herbs thrown into the mix. When done right, although simple, it’s what comfort food is all about.

With meatball in its name, I was ready to be hit up with some world class meatballs at The Meatball and Wine Bar. How many times can you throw meatball into a sentence? Meatball meatball meatball.

Beef Balls, Red Sauce, House Pasta

Anyway, balls for all is a simple but clever idea. Choose a ball, choose a sauce, and choose a sotto palle, i.e. something for your balls and sauce to sit on. The first combination we chose comprised of beef balls, red sauce, and house pasta, so essentially spaghetti and meatballs – but not really, because they actually do a version of this at The Meatball and Wine Bar.

Back to the dish at hand. The only ingredient listed under the beef balls was pasture-fed angus beef, and I get it, the chef’s gotta keep their secret and all, but seriously, list a few more things so I can at least attempt to make this at home! The beef balls were extremely flavoursome, benefiting from a generous use of herbs and spices, and the al dente pappardelle was the perfect vehicle for the balls and sauce.

Chicken Balls, White Sauce, Super MB Potato Mash.

I was worried that the chicken balls might edge on the dry side, but this was not the case at all. The chicken balls were milder in flavour compared to the beef, especially when put together with the creamy white sauce and the mashed potato, but it was still miles ahead of any ball you could have elsewhere. The pistachios in the balls added some texture, and all in all, this was a delightful plate.

Jokes aside, The Meatball and Wine Bar is the great place for date night. Dark and moody, pasta and wine, I can’t think of a better way to guarantee a second date. Restrain yourself from making too many balls pun though, that might not fare too well. Then again, if they don’t laugh at the word balls at least three times throughout the night, are they really the one?

Yup, this restaurant review has officially turned into some grade A dating advice, thank me later.

How to get here:
Meatball and Wine Bar has three locations across Melbourne, CBD, Richmond and Collingwood, I visited the CBD restaurant, located on Flinders Lane, seven minutes walk away from Flinders Street Station.

Meatball & Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fukuryu Ramen

It’s crazy to think that not that long ago, it was near impossible to get a good bowl of ramen in Melbourne. The situation is definitely a lot loss dire now, with ramen joints popping out all across town. Fukuryu Ramen was, however, one of the first decent restaurants that specialises in ramen, and I was interested to see how it fares against the newcomers some years later.

Red Dragon Ramen – $15.90

Wanting something with some kick, I went for the Red Dragon Ramen, which is said to be the spiciest ramen on offer. The noodles were slightly curly, and had a good bite to it. The soup was indeed, quite spicy, definitely capable of making you sweat as the heat builds up. Besides the spiciness though, the soup base was also full of umami, and quite thick, benefiting from a long and slow simmer of the pork bone broth. The trimmings of chashu were fatty and satisfying, and the egg was also cooked perfectly.

I’m happy to report that Fukuryu Ramen has stood the test of time, and is a reliable place to visit for a good ol’ bowl of ramen, especially now that we’re finally getting some cooler weather!

How to get here:
Fukuryu Ramen is located on Corrs Lane, which is just off Little Bourke Street; a short 7 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Fukuryu Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

4 Fingers Crispy Chicken

The fried chicken search continues, and today we find ourselves in 4 Fingers Crispy Chicken, a fast food chain that’s headquartered in Singapore.

Both the decor and service were nice enough for a fast food restaurant, after ordering from the counter, we sat down waiting with a buzzer in hand.

3 Wings and 1 Leg (Mixed) Meal – $16.00

Wanting to try out the classics, I opted for the 3 Wings and 1 Leg option, adding $6 to make it a meal with a side of sweet potato fries and a can of sprite. The chicken were indeed, very crispy. Benefiting from a dry batter, the texture remained even with the addition of the soy garlic and hot sauce. The hot sauce was actually pretty spicy, and the soy garlic had that addictive balance of salty and sweet.

3 Wings and 1 Leg (Mixed) Meal – $16.00

The side of sweet potato fries fared well too. 4 Fingers has clearly mastered the use of the deep fryer, and these fries were light and crunchy, with a fluffy interior.

Fried chicken by itself may not be all that exciting, hence why 4 Fingers has ventured out into a range of burgers and rice boxes for variety. My overall experience at 4 Fingers was quite pleasant, and I would be keen to return for a quick meal and try out some of the other food on offer.

How to get here:
4 Fingers is located on Bourke Street, seven minutes walk away from Parliament station.

4 Fingers Crispy Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bodega Underground

A Mexican wine bar may not be what you’re expecting to find in Chinatown, however, this is Melbourne, and stranger things have happened.

The lowly-lit Bodega Underground is enigmatic to say the least, I can definitely see it as a place that all walks of life would be seen in. We visited the restaurant for lunch, and as always, food took priority for us over the drinks.

Elote – $6.00 each

The chargrilled corns were coated generously in a layer of cotija cheese, although it lacked the smoky flavour that I look for. With a fresh squeeze of lime however, each bite was bright and delightful, albeit messy to eat.

Pollo Mexicano – $14.00

Fried chicken is another must-order for me when it’s on the menu. The chicken itself were popcorn-sized, although crunchy enough from the batter, I didn’t find it particularly Mexican. The chipotle mayo did have a bit of a kick, and helped to add some flavour to the chicken pieces. The serving size though, was pretty small.

Quesadilla Frita – $14.00

The questionable serving size continues with the mushroom quesadilla. The presentation was not what I was expecting, rather than the traditional quesadilla, being two tortillas stuffed with mushroom and cheese and grilled, it was sort of like a mushroom salad or stew of sort, with two tiny pieces of tortillas thrown on. Flavour wise, this was also quite average, with everything sort of blending in together, but not in a good way.

Tacos de Camote – $11.00

We ordered two servings of tacos, with sweet potato being the first choice. The pickled beetroot and vegan jalapeno crema meant that the taco had layers of flavour, however it would have really benefited from some crunchy pieces of sweet potato instead of the soggy ones present.

Tacos de Pescado – $13.00

Crunch was not an issue with the fish tacos, fortunately. In fact, I really liked the contrast between the fresh cabbage slaw and the fried fish, and the green pea guacamole and soft tortilla.

I was rather underwhelmed by Bodega Underground. The menu seemed interesting enough, but I found it to be quite overpriced, even by both Melbourne and Mexican food standard. The high price were not redeemed by the lack of oomph overall in the dishes we had tried.

The meal cost $10 more than a similar spread I had at Mesa Verde, but we still left hungry, and therefore do not see ourselves returning.

How to get here:
Bodega Underground is located on Little Bourke Street, two minutes walk away from Parliament station.

Bodega Underground Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tanghuo Kungfu

I went back to China for a month at the beginning of 2018, and that’s when I realised that Malatang has taken over the world by storm. Combined with meal delivery apps and ride-sharing services, those three things helped me in surviving one of the coldest winters in Nanjing, with more snow than the city had seen in decades.

Malatang joints started popping up in the suburbs with a high concentration of Chinese population first in Melbourne, before taking over the city, to the point where there are pretty much a Malatang restaurant every 50 metres in the CBD.

The idea of malatang is quite ingenious really, I like to think of as hot pot for one. After grabbing a large bowl and a pair of tongs, choose from fresh ingredients including vegetables, meats, seafood, soy-based products and all the balls you can think of are. Once you’ve put in way too much food in your bowl because you want to try a bit of this and a bit of that, walk to the counter where you’ll be asked whether you want everything served in a soup or have it dry, and choose the appropriate spice and tingle level (the sensation that Sichuan peppercorn leaves on your lips), pay for your goods by weight, and then settle back at a table, and before long, a bowl of piping hot Malatang will be set in front of you.

Tanghuo Kungfu hails from China, and was one of the first Malatang restaurants in Melbourne, having opened its Box Hill location in 2017, and expanded into the city last year. The city location is sleek and a lot larger than other Malatang restaurants, complete with a sauce station and self-serve water dispensers. There is no shortage of food selection, and the service was very friendly, with staff greeting you at the door.

Left: Rose Oolong – $5.00
Right: Cherry Blossom Green Tea – $5.00

Tanghuo Kungfu has an additional tea station, which makes a lot of sense, as Malatang can be on the heavy side due to all the spices, and sipping on green tea throughout the meal helps to lighten things up. The bottles are also cute and portable, meaning that you can take it with you once you’re done and use it as a makeshift water bottle!

Malatang – $3/100g

Regardless of variety, everything goes for $3 per 100 grams, with the minimum spending of $12 per bowl, making the maths quite easy. I chose the traditional Malatang, with high spice level and medium tingling level. The soup is what differentiates each Malatang restaurant for me, and the version at Tanghuo Gongfu is quite good. It has clearly been boiled for hours, resulting in a complex depth of flavour, and there is a sweet after taste. My favourite toppings to add to malatangs include tofu puffs, seafood money bags, Chinese cabbage, crown daisy, sliced lamb, pork and mushroom balls, bamboo shoot, quail eggs just to name a few. It’s always fun to pick and choose from the selections available, but watch out, as things can get out of hand really quickly!

Malaban – $3/100g

We also tried the Malaban for the sake of variety. The dressing that all the goodies are doused is primarily made of sesame and chilli oil, and the sweet after taste that I really liked in the soup rendition did not fare as well here, being overly sweet to the point of cloying. We both agreed that Malatang was the better choice in this case.

Malatang is great both as a quick lunch or a late night meal, its versatility being its biggest selling point. You can make it more substantial by adding in some noodles, or keep it light by choosing mainly vegetables, the choice is completely yours. With Tanghuo Kungfu opening from lunchtime to the early hours of the morning daily, it is definitely somewhere worth trying out Malatang at!

How to get here:
Tanghuo Kungfu is located on Elizabeth Street, a short five minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

I dined as a guest of Tanghuo Kungfu.

Tanghuo Kungfu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Mesa Verde

There’s a lot of good stuff sprawled across the floors of Curtain House, and Mesa Verde is one of them. The drinks menu here is endless; it’s a no brainer then for the restaurant to be a popular choice for after work drinks, but we were here for the food.

Mesa Verde appears to have had a menu change since I’ve visited a couple of months ago, apologies in advance if you see something that you particularly fancy that isn’t on the current menu!

Tortilla Chips – $12.00

The house made tortilla chips is much better than the supermarket variety, with some added thickness that ensured it wouldn’t crack even when you’re scooping up an obscene amount of guacamole with it. Speaking of, the guacamole was creamy with a zing, and there was more than enough to go around with the chips.

Salmon Tostada – $7.00

Tostadas are great, first of all, it’s just a fun word that rolls off your tongue, and secondly, it’s essentially a crunchy taco, need I say more? The tostadas at Mesa Verde were topped off with the creamiest avocado, that had a mousse-like consistency, which went really well with the plump and fresh slices of salmon. Although this was messy to eat, the flavours meant that it was worth it.

Charred Corn – $8.00

I love charred corns, especially when they’re smothered in morita mayo and cotiya cheese, all lightened up with a squeeze of lime. Again, messy to eat, but well worth it.

School Prawns – $9.00

The school prawns were coated in an addictive layer of spicy seasoning, and would have definitely went well with a margarita. The pickled green chilli hiding behind the prawns had more than just a kick to it, so eat at your own risk.

Pork Taco – $7.00

To finish things off, we shared a couple of tacos. First up was the pork taco. the shredded pork lacked the oomph that I was looking for, but the chilli salsa did help it out, and the pickled radish gave it some texture.

Baja Fish Taco – $7.00

The baja fish taco was my pick of the night, although it took a ridiculous amount of time to pick off all the corianders. The fish itself was cooked in a light batter, and was perfectly tender inside. The herb aioli was quite mild, I think I would’ve preferred the smoke marita mayo here instead.

Given that drinks takes centre stage at Mesa Verde, it was nice to see that the restaurant did not neglect the food either. The bill does add up with tacos here and charred corns there, but it did have a groovy vibe (is this still a thing? asking for a friend), and I can certainly see myself returning and trying out some of the drinks.

How to get here:
Mesa Verde is located on the 6th floor of Curtain, on Swanston Street, just a short five minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Mesa Verde Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato