The White Elephant

Since opening its doors just over a year ago, White Elephant has become a local favourite for authentic Sri Lankan food. I don’t have too much experience with the cuisine myself, and was excited to try it out.

Lamb Curry – $18.90

The aromatic lamb curry may seem small, but the large chunks of lamb and potato meant that it was actually quite substantial. The lambs were cooked until tender, and the fluffy potatoes really took on the creaminess of the sauce.

String Hoppers Set – $18.00

We ordered String Hoppers out of curiosity, having never seen the dish elsewhere. It came with coconut sambol, which had a strong coconut flavour from the use of both coconut flesh and coconut milk, and added some crunch to the curry too.

String Hoppers Set – $18.00

The chicken curry was also part of the set, and I was surprised to see chicken on the bone being used. Although this meant that it was slightly more difficult to eat, the meat was extremely flavoursome, especially when you drizzle some of the sauce on top, which had quite a thin consistency. We thought that this was similar to a Malaysian curry, although the sauce consistency was quite different.

String Hoppers Set – $18.00

The string hoppers themselves turned out to be pancakes that were made of rice noodles akin to vermicelli. Although unusual, I did find this to be a little salty, especially when eaten with the chicken curry.

Eggplant Moju – $15.00

Our vegetarian dish of the night was eggplant moju, and this was unanimously voted best dish of the night. The pieces of the eggplant were first pan fried to result in great caramelisation, before being finished off in the pan with a mix of spices including cinnamon, making this a light and refreshing contrast to the heartier meat curries. The cooking method actually reminded me of Yuxiang eggplant, a Chinese dish of eggplant cooked in a soy-based sauce, although the flavours are quite different.

Godamba Roti – $3.50

We originally wanted to try out the Pol Roti, but were told by the waitress that that it is not to everyone’s taste, and were talked into getting the Godamba Roti instead, which was essentially a plain roti. This did set a good benchmark though, the roti was fresh and flaky, and was perfect for dipping into all of the curries.

Cheese Roti – $4.00

The Cheese Roti is the much more indulgent cousin of the Godamba Roti, and the stretchy cheese meant that this was good enough to eat on its own, but even better when eaten with the curries.

Yellow Rice – $10.00

We were not going to try the yellow rice given the number of other carbs we had already ordered, but this is a signature side dish at White Elephant, and the waitress insisted on serving us with a smaller portion to try out, which we happily obliged with. The subtle creaminess of the coconut milk meant that this was mild and fragrant, and again, great for soaking up the curry sauces.

The food did take a while to come out at White Elephant, given that it is a mother-daughter operation. With only the daughter being the floor staff also meant it could be difficult to get her attention, especially when the restaurant was busy.

Living in the other side of town means that I don’t have the luxury of dropping by White Elephant to grab some takeaways for dinner, but the enticing and unique combination of flavours of Sri Lankan food has guaranteed my return.

How to get here:
White Elephant is located on Barkly Street, catch bus #220 and get off at Clarke Street/Barkly Street, and the restaurant is a minute walk away.

I dined as a guest of The White Elephant.

The White Elephant Sri Lankan Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NL House

NL House is a small shop that has a succinct menu that features Malaysian classics. Bright and modern, it’s mainly a place where people seem to be picking up takeaways, but there are a few seats available both in and outside of the restaurant if you’re choosing to dine in.

Fried Chicken Nasi Lemak w/ Traditional Sambal – $12.80

Being the namesake for the restaurant, it would be remiss of me to not order a plate of nasi lemak. I went for the fried chicken version, and before long, a plate that held all the components of nasi lemak was placed down on the table. The chicken was dry and crispy on the outside, encasing a tender and juicy inside. The traditional sambal had just enough of a kick to it to make me sweat while mixing it through with the rice, and did a terrific job of tying everything together.

Although nothing fancy, NL House is certainly promising when it comes to delivering authentic Malaysian food. Word on the block is that it also serves a killer chicken laksa, which I’m definitely keen to try out once the weather cools down.

How to get here:
NL House is located on Grattan Street, catch any of the trams on Swanston Street from Flinders Street or Melbourne Central heading towards Melbourne University and get off at Melbourne University, and the restaurant is a short three minutes walk away.

Nasi Lemak House 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

Mr Miyagi

Mr Miyagi is probably one of the most talked about restaurant in Melbourne. Ever since it graced the inaugural Night Noodle Market with the now infamous salmon tori taco, the restaurant has gained a more-than-loyal following. The wait can be hour long at times, and the only way to avoid this was to stand by the door around 15 minutes before the opening time.

Mr M’s Frose – $16.00

The Frose train is here to stay, and the pretty pink drink was exactly what you’d expect, rose in slushie form, perfect for those who prefers a sweeter drink.

Japanese Eggplant Rice Paper – $5.50

Although tempted to order the Tori Taco that I enjoyed from Night Noodle Market, I decided to instead venture out and try the eggplant rice paper roll instead. The presentation of the roll was spot on, and the sweet miso glaze reminded me of nasu dengaku, one of my favourite Japanese dishes.

Tempura Broccoli – $13.50

We ordered the tempura broccoli at the recommendation of our waitress, and the lavish shavings of buffalo ricotta looked quite promising when it was laid down on the table. The tempura batter was almost too light though, and the broccoli was overcooked to the point where the florets were on the mushy side. Although sounding great on paper, the execution could have definitely been improved for the dish to shine.

Miyagi Fried Chicken – $16.00

Wanting something a little more substantial, we ended the meal with a box of fried chicken. Japanese fried chicken is typically known for its light and crispy batter, with extremely tender meat inside. The deep-fryer was certainly put to the task in this case, but unfortunately the chef was heavy-handed with the seasoning, resulting in salty chicken pieces.

I seriously don’t get the hype around Mr Miyagi. Admittedly, I went in sceptical after reading the pricey menu and the atrocious wait, but I was open to be wowed by the food, but that just wasn’t the case. Every dish was lacking in one way or another, and the overall atmosphere at the restaurant was also a little strange.

Good Japanese fusion is not hard to find in Melbourne, thus I will not be joining the line outside Mr Miyagi’s door anytime soon, and I wouldn’t recommend for anyone else to do so either.

How to get here:
Mr Miyagi is located on Chapel Street, just two minutes walk away from Windsor station.

Mr. Miyagi 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 

Donut Shop

Melbourne’s obsession with donuts continues, and although I’ve already found a go-to, the simple and laid-back interior of Donut Shop drew me in when I had a few hours to kill in the area, and I decided to try them out.

Mocha Crunch – $5.00

At the friendly suggestion of the waiter, I settled for the mocha crunch. The donut was very soft and airy, which contrasted well with the biscuit crumbs on top, and wasn’t overly sweet. This is one of those donuts that light enough that you don’t feel too guilty after having one as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Donut Shop is a great place to catch up with friend over some coffee and donuts. There was one weird thing: the place is named Burgers & Donuts on Zomato, and as far as I’m aware, no burger appeared on the menu. Mystery aside, good luck deciding between those donut flavours, may the odds be ever in your favour.

How to get here:
The Donut Shop is located on Gertrude Street, around a 12 minutes walk from Parliament station.

Burgers & Donuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato