OKo Oko

Oko Oko is a small but functional restaurant that is located right next door to Melbourne uni, it does a range of okonomiyaki, as well as some classic Japanese rice dishes, such as curry katsu don and beef bowl.

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Chicken Karaage Oko Pancake – $10.9

For those unfamiliar with the dish, an okonomiyaki is essentially a vegetable pancake, that has a lot of different veggies, and very little flour. It’s cooked up on a hot plate and formed into the shape, Oko Oko adds all sort of toppings onto their version of the traditional Japanese dish, and we opted to share the one with the chicken karaage. The pancake itself was thinner than I’m used, but the shredded veggies added some nice crunch to it. The karaage was nothing to write home about, but how bad can fried chicken be really?

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Pork Katsu Curry – $11.90

The dark colour of the curry sauce looked extremely promising, and the flavour was definitely there with this dish! The pork katsu was not all that substantial, but if you are in need of some extra protein, there is that fried egg up top, which I thought was a bit of a random addition. Japanese curry is a lot milder in flavour, and uses less pungent spices than say, Indian or Malaysian curry, and a big bowl of this is comfort food at its best.

Oko Oko doesn’t have the most authentic nor creative Japanese food in town, but I don’t think that’s where it aims to shine. With most dishes around the $10 mark, and its convenient location of being right next door to Melbourne Uni, it is an easy place for students to grab some food in between classes.

How to get here:
Oko Oko is located on Swanston Street, catch any of the tram heading out of the city from the Swanston Street side tram stops at Flinders St or Melbourne Central, and get off at stop #3 Lincoln Square, the restaurant is two minutes walk away.

Oko Oko Carlton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Kaprica

Kaprica has been a hidden gem close to uni for as long as I can remember. It is easily missable if you don’t know what you’re looking out for, but on any sunny day, there’s sure to be a crowd sitting outside, and that’s what gives away its location.1

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Provelone (Small) – $16.00

I’ve been here from time to time throughout my study, but is still yet to test every pizza on the menu. On this occasion, I went for the Provelone, which had the topping of artichoke, provolone, rocket and tomato. This was a very lightly flavoured pizza, and all four ingredients worked in harmony. I especially loved how the rocket cut through the richness of the provolone and the saltiness of the artichoke, and the tomato base lent every bite some acidity.3

The small pizza is very satisfying for one person, and doesn’t break the bank, which is why Kaprica remains popular amongst students nearby. I’m pretty sure we visited at around 3pm, hence the empty tables, but trust me, if you’re visiting on a Friday night, be sure to make a booking so that you don’t have to wait out in the cold.

How to get here:
Kaprica is located on Lincoln Square, catch any tram heading out of the city from Melbourne Central/Swanston Street and get off at Lincoln Square South, Kaprica is less than two minutes walk away.

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

Shaanxi-Style Restaurant

It’s been a while since I’ve paid a visit to Shaanxi-Style Restaurant, it used to be a family favourite, especially when my grandma was here, but nowadays we tend do eat in a lot more often, and when we are eating out, there is an endless list of restaurants to try out, making returning to an old favourite something of a novelty.

I was craving lamb skewers after a day trip in the Macedon ranges, and no place does them quite like Shaanxi-Style, hence how we ended up having dinner here. Nothing much has changed in terms of both the decor and the menu, and by that I mean extremely minimal decor, but pleasant enough. The menu may be quite daunting if you are unfamiliar with Shaanxi cuisine, it’s heavy with spice, noodles, and all sorts of soups, and if you really don’t know what to order, at least there’s some photos on the menu to guide you.

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Special Pork Feet – $7.00

We had some trotters to start, now if you’ve never tried pork trotters, this may not be the best place to start. The trotters were braised in what is commonly known as ‘lu shui’, a master stock of kind, it usually has a mixture of soy, cinnamon, star anise, clove and cardamom, and what ever secret ingredient each restaurant has up their sleeve, the braising liquid is used over and over again, turning it into an extremely flavoursome concoction. This was served warm, which is something I’m not used to, since we always have it cold at home, giving it more of a bite. The skin and the tendon of the trotter were cooked down to a gelatinous state, and were a delight to eat.

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Lamb Noodle Soup – $10.90

Melbourne’s weather suddenly took a dip, and what better way to combat that than to have a big bowl of hot noodle soup?

This was the first time we had the lamb noodle soup, and the soup itself had a distinctive lamb flavour, with the addition, of bok choi, tofu puffs, black fungus and bits of lamb.

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I originally expected the noodles to be handmade, but unfortunately, this was not the case. The noodle lacked the bite that handmade noodles have, but it was quite moreish nonetheless.

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Lamb Skewers – $2.50 each

Onto the reason that we ended up in the restaurant at all, the lamb skewers! I will always have a soft spot for these in my heart, and on this night, Shaanxi-Style delivered again. The large chunks of lamb were grilled over charcoal, with a generous seasoning of salt, cumin and chilli powder, my favourite part about these skewers are the charred edges, especially with the more fattier bits, where the fat has gone completely crispy.

Shaanxi-Style may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are sick of fried rice and dumplings, or just feeling a bit adventurous, then give it a go, then at least you’ll know for sure whether you are a fan or not!

How to get here:
Shaanxi-Style is located on Whitehorse Road, five minutes walk from Box Hill Station, which is on the Belgrave and Lilydale line.

Shaanxi-Style Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lux Foundry

Easter break came at a much needed time, and my friend and I made the most out of the one day with the good weather to do a day trip to Trentham Falls, which was really pretty! The walk was a little scary for me, but rock climbing’s just really not my thing.

You what is my thing though? Brunch, always brunch. Case and point, if I know I’m going on a semi-hike, then there’s only one thing that will get me out of bed that morning, you guessed it, brunch.

And that’s how we ended up taking a little detour, and went to Brunswick for some food before heading to Trentham Fall.

Good brunch places are definitely not in short supply on this end of town, we chose Lux Foundry because it has a very vegetarian friendly menu, which was perfect since one of us is a vegetarian.4

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Middle Eastern Breakfast – $17.50

Even though I’m not a vegetarian, and usually always go for things like bacon, pulled pork, pork belly, bacon, bacon, bacon, I wanted something on the lighter side on this particular occasion, and ordered the Middle Eastern breakfast. It consisted of two poached eggs, two falafels, beetroot relish, smokey baba ganoush, and the carb came in the form of grilled zataar flat bread.

The zataar meant that the flat bread was good enough to eat on its own, but even better when dipped in the ooey egg yolk, or some baba ganoush. The falafels were crispy on the outside, and had a good mix of spices inside to keep things interesting. The beetroot relish provided some acidity if you find the dish too heavy, which it wasn’t in my book anyway.

Overall, the dish worked really well together, and kept me full and happy on the hike, or as happy as I can be when hiking anyway.

21The beautiful weather on the day meant that we could seat in the courtyard, where we spotted/squealed over many people enjoying the food with their paw friends.

Lux Foundry has a loyal following, especially considering the fierce competition in the area, and it’s easy to see why, the half page menu was interesting enough, and the friendly service was highly appreciated. Give it a go if you’ve tried all the places on Sydney Road, and is looking for something that’s a tad bit more hidden away.

How to get here:
Lux Foundry is located on Hope Street, catch tram #19 from Melbourne Central or Flinders St Station, and get off at stop #24, Lux Foundry is a five minutes walk away from the tram stop.

Lux Foundry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Green Refectory

Green Refectory is somewhat of an institution on Sydney Road, and after all these years, I finally managed to visit it myself.

The menu is sprawled over the blackboards over the counter, and the glass cabinets are filled with cakes, pastries, and salads, you are definitely spoilt for choice here.

The service is minimal, find a table on your own, and order up at the counter, and you’ll be given a whiteboard with a symbol on it as your table number, and in a few short moments, the food will be at your table.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

The atmosphere is the perfect sort of laid back, relaxing place, the type that make you feel like you can stay for hours, whether chatting away with a friend, indulging in a book, or getting some work done, and there were definitely people doing all those things during my visit.

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Skinny Flat White – $3.70

My friend and I met up at 9am, which meant that a coffee was definitely needed. The flat white was smooth and velvety, and the adorable old school saucer added a cute touch.

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Breakfast Stack – $12.00

Being a first time visitor, I thought it was obligatory that I order one of Green Refectory’s most well-known dishes, the breakfast stack. The tall stack consisted of a potato rosti, tomatoes, bacon, grilled haloumi, spinach, and an egg on top. The potato rosti was pretty much a mash, but it was tasty nonetheless, with bits of melted cheese throughout. The whole stack was tied together with a tomato relish, and although it’s truly nothing special, it had all the key ingredients of a good breakfast, and for a little more than $10, there really isn’t much to complain about.

Green Refectory certainly had a lot to offer, and although it’s definitely not your refined brunch, and does not have that many innovative dishes on offer, given its sheer quantity of choices, everyone can surely find something that they like. I heard it can get quite busy around meal times, but it really was a quiet and relaxing place when we visited at the earlier part of the day, and it is a place that I am likely to return to, especially since it’s literally right on the doorsteps of a tram stop.

How to get there:
Green Refectory is located on Sydney Road, get on tram #19 from Melbourne Central or Flinders Street Station, and get off at stop #20 Barkly Square/Sydney Road, and it’s literally 10 meters away.

Green Refectory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oriental Spoon

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Oriental Spoon is amongst one of the oldest Korean restaurant in CBD, backed up by no evidence other than my memory. I was never really that big a fan of it, but after being turned away at three Korean restaurants, we finally admitted defeat and walked into Oriental Spoon at 9pm.

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Top: Bean Sprouts | Bottom: Kimchi

The banchans were placed promptly on our table. The bean sprouts were pleasant enough, but the kimchi was a lot sweeter than I’m used to.

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Top: Cucumber Kimchi | Bottom: Fishcake

The cucumber kimchi had the same sweetness as the standard kimchi, and the fishcake had a nice bite to it.

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Fried Chicken Combo – Soy and Sweet Chilli: $34.00

The whole night we were trying to hunt down some Korean Fried Chicken, so this was a no-brainer of an order. When the chicken was placed in front of us, it looked so sad and pathetic. There was only 10 pieces of chicken, and the pieces were quite small too. My Korean friend even asked the waitress if this was a full of half serving, and we were told it was indeed the full one, and the waitress looked a little embarrassed by the question, if that’s any indication.

Size apart, these were pretty disappointing taste wise too. My friend said they were no better than actual KFC chicken, which I had to agree with, there was barely any sauce, and the chicken were just not the crunchy and juice kind that I’m used to from other Korean restaurants.

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Jap Chae – $17.90

We also got the jap chae to fill us up, which is sort of like a fried noodle dish with sweet potato noodle, sliced beef and a variety of vegetables. According to my friend, the authentic way to make this dish is to cook each element separately, and then mixing it together, to ensure everything is cooked perfectly. The dish is meant to have a very light flavouring of soy and sesame oil, but this was not the case here at all. This reminded all of us of beef bulgogi, and not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not the flavour you have in mind when it comes to jap chae.

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The restaurant was reasonably filled up when we visited, and there was a range of customers. Given that Oriental Spoon has stayed around for years, and expanded during that time, clearly it’s doing something right, but I am unwilling to give it another go after this meal, especially because there are so many grean Korean restaurants around Melbourne.

How to get there:
Oriental Spoon is located on La Trobe Street, 5 minutes walk away from Melbourne Central.

Oriental Spoon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Golistan

Afghan food is pretty foreign to me, and out of all places, I did not expect Box Hill to be the home of an authentic Afghan restaurant, but that just goes to tell you how diverse Melbourne truly is.

We were a bit confused when we first got to the restaurant, after parking at the rear of the restaurant, we had to walk through the kitchen to arrive at the tables. But after the confusion was over, the whift of freshly baked goods and grilled meat made us feel at home, although the decor was minimal, and there were a few tables plastered around in the small space.

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Complimentary Afghan Bread

After looking through the menu, Afghani food appeared to be similar to Lebanese and Persian food, all of which I love. The basket of complimentary Afghan bread that was made in the house was placed in front of us after we had placed our order, and man, these are some of the best free bread going around! Crispy and chewy, these bread were great on their own, but even better when had with the grilled meats!

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Chicken Tikka – $16.00

The chicken pieces were marinated in a mix of mild spices before being freshly grilled, and man, these were good! Each piece was full of flavour and extremely tender, although I don’t know what spices were involved, it’s definitely a well balanced mix.

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Lamb Tikka Kebab – $16.00

The lamb tikka were even better! The spice mix seems to be less intense than the chicken version, allowing the meaty flavour of the lamb to shine through. Although the servings were quite generous, we still had to fight for the last piece!

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Manto – $14.00

Onto something more unusual, we tried out the manto. These were reminiscent of dumplings, with a filling of lamb mince, and were served with a tangy yoghurt sauce on top. The filling was a bit bland for my liking, but the sauce compensated for that.

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With its ample use of spice and occasional sighting of vegetables (look at that sad salad), Afghan food is right up my alley! Given its convenient location, I’ll definitely be back for more.

How to get there:
Golistan is located on Station Street, a 10 minutes walk from Box Hill Station, which is inside Box Hill Central

Golistan Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Naked in the Sky

After all these years, Fitzroy remains cool and hip, somethings’ll never change. Naked in the Sky, as many of you may know by now, is the rooftop bar right above Naked for Satan. If you’re looking for some more inventive tapas, have more than a $10 note to spend, and are looking for some breathtaking views, then enter the escalator and all your dreams will come true.

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Crumbed Eggplant w/ Honey and Blue Cheese

The crumbed eggplant is always a must-order for me. These are kind of like eggplant chips, the crumb is super crunchy, and the mix of honey and blue cheese is perfect, definitely get this if you’re an eggplant fan!

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Grilled Beef Eyefillet Skewers

The large cubes of eye fillet were quite meaty, and the simple flavouring of salt allowed the meat itself to shine through. My only complaint is that this was on the small side of things.

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Baked Camembert

I loved the baked camembert! I have tried to bake camembert myself at home, but they always turn out to be too oily. The truffle paste and pieces of chestnut prevented the whole thing from becoming too rich.

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Popcorn Chicken

The popcorn chicken were unlike the original Taiwanese version, but they were tasty in their own rights! The light dusting of batter was very flavoursome, and the pieces of chicken inside were succulent.

Naked in the Sky is definitely one of my favourite rooftop venues around, and given the unusually warm temperature in Melbourne, you still have plenty of time to give it a visit before the weather gets more chilly! It’s as popular as ever though, and there’s really no guarantee that you’ll get a seat on the limited number of numbers if you arrive around dinner time, but hey, isn’t that half the fun?

How to get there:
Naked in the Sky is located on Brunswick Street, catch tram #11 and get off at stop #17 Johnston Street/Brunswick Street

Naked In the Sky Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tall Timber

Brunch and I have a bit of a love hate relationship as of late. With new cafes popping up left, right and center, it’s near impossible to make time and visit some of the old school favourites. But hey, first world problems am I right?

Anyway, my friend and I finally managed to visit Tall Timber after all these years. We went on a cloudy Saturday morning, and the place was absolute packed, but we managed to score a table in the outside area.

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Skinny Flat White – $4.00

Given that we arrived before 10am, which is pretty much two hours earlier than my normal brunch time, I had to get a coffee to start things off. The coffee was smooth and went down easy, although nothing out of this world, it was exactly what I needed.

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Eggs Benedict – $20.90

The eggs benedict is one of the most, if not the most popular dish at Tall Timber, and I had to give it a go. The golden apple cider hollandaise was silky and creamy, with just the right amount of acidity, pulled pork was juicy and flavoursome,  and there was plenty of it; and the eggs were, of course, perfectly poached. Apple and pork is a classic flavour combination, and it was great to see Tall Timber translate a Sunday roast to a breakfast classic.

My only issue with this dish was the bread they used, it read sour dough on the menu, but to me, it was more akin to white bread.

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I was tempted to grab a butterbing on my way out, but managed to leave without one, self control eh.5

You can tell how bad the weather was in this photo, however, it was still packed full of people, which just goes to show how much people love this place. And just like the rest of Melbourne, brunch is something I’m still always down for, no matter how much I whine about it.

How to get there:
Tall Timber is located on Commercial Road, catch tram #72 from Flinders St Station or Melbourne Central, and get off at stop #29 Braille Library, the cafe is a minute walk away.

Tall Timber Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oh Deer

Korean food has slowly but surely made its way to my top three favourite cuisines, it’s just so versatile! Their passion for everything cheese is also a plus, and along came Oh Deer, a Korean fusion restaurant serving up a range of specialty food that are hard to find elsewhere in Melbourne.

We were given a menu to browse through, but we had out mind set on the Molton Cheesy Pork Rib set, which came with the pork ribs, kimchi fried rice, and two bowls of miso soup.

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Miso Soup

The miso soup looked promising with its cloudiness, and tasted quite pleasant.

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Cheesy Pork Ribs

Onto the star of the show, the pork ribs! The waitress put a gas stove top on our table, and placed the big stone pot on top.

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After a while, the cheese started melting, and she checked on us regularly, and cut the ribs up.

Banchan came in the slots on the outer edge of the stone pot, and were cooked in front of our eyes too. There were corn with mayo, omelette, tteokbokki, and mashed sweet potato.

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Mashed Sweet Potato

My friend and I both really enjoyed the sweet potato. However, I think because the stone pop is larger than the gas top, not all the banchans were heated evenly.

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After the cheese had completely melted, the waitress came once again, and wrapped the cheese around the pork ribs. The pork rib did not have a lot of meat, but the sauce was very flavoursome, and the cheese added some creaminess and complimented the sweet sauce quite well.

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Kimchi Fried Rice

After all the cheese was used up, the waitress cooked the kimchi fried rice with the leftover sauce from the pork ribs, and although there were not a lot of kimchi, it was still tasty and filling.

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I think for me, Oh Deer stands out with its novelty, but the food were of average quality overall. If you’re wanting to try something different then go ahead and give it a shot, but otherwise, I’d sit this one out.

How to get there:
Oh Deer is located on Royal Lane off Chinatown, less than ten minutes walk away from Flinders St Station.

Oh Deer Korean Fusion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato