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

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The Crux & Co

My best friend came down to Melbourne for her birthday weekend, and what better way to start off the celebration than a birthday brunch?

The Crux & Co has been on my radar for a while, but it was only when we arrived that I realised it was right opposite Kettle Black, where I celebrated my birthday a couple of years ago, what a coincidence!12

The interior of Crux & Co was spot on, large and airy, with high ceilings and plenty of green plants to go around, the space was chic yet homely.

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Croissant w/ Smoked Salmon and Ricotta – $16.00

The food came out relatively quick, and of course, being a cafe in South Melbourne, it wouldn’t be complete with some edible flowers thrown into the mix. The croissant itself was buttery and flakey, with layers of smoked salmon hiding underneath a green salad, the creamy ricotta also went well with a salmon, though it’s not a flavour combination that I had seen before.

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There was also plenty of sweet offerings in the glass cabinet, however, I had to head back to uni, and didn’t have a chance to sample anything,. But hey, that just mean I have to make a return soon!

How to get there:
The Crux & Co is located on Albert Road, catch any tram from stop #13 Federation Square/Swanston Street, and get off at stop #20 Domain Interchange/St Kilda Road, and the cafe is three minutes walk away.

The Crux & Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chez Dré

Whenever someone asks me what my favourite restaurant is, I can never come up with an answer. Melbourne is just filled with a myriad of restaurants, each with their own quirks and trademarks, and it’s too hard to pick just one! If they’re asking for my favourite place to brunch however, Chez Dre is a no-brainer.

Chez Dré has never disappointed me on the number of occasions I have visited, their menu are classic French with a twist, priced reasonably, and the little courtyard is just so darn adorable. This blog post combines two separate visits, because I just love this place too freaking much to not visit at least once, preferably 1043847918237928 times a year.

Left: Peach and Mint Iced Tea – $6.00
Right: Prana Chai w/ Soy Milk – $6.50

I ordered an iced tea off the daily specials, and it was so refreshing! Definitely tasted better than the sugar loaded Lipton version.

My friend enjoyed her chai too, the little pot yielded around two cups of chai, and the flavour wasn’t too diluted, which is a rare thing to find.

Grilled Spatchcock with Crispy Polenta

Another one from the specials. The small spatchcock was deboned then grilled perfectly, the creamy sauce making the meat extra juicy. The crispy polenta was indeed very crispy, and added some interest and texture to the spatchcock. Although there was essentially only three elements on the plate, they worked very well together, and each part was executed perfectly.

Pressed Pork Belly w/ Grilled Pear, Pig Ear and Apple Salad

This was from the Summer seasonal menu I’m pretty sure. The pork belly was not as tender as I’d hoped, but the apple and pig ear salad was extremely crunchy, and definitely elevated the dish. I know I know, I’m choosing salad over the pork belly, what have I become, but the acidity of the apple just worked so well with the crispy pork ear!

Chorizo and Asparagus

This dish consisted of flavours I’m familiar with and loved, the chorizo was of very high quality, and although there was only a few slices, I savoured the flavour of each and everyone one of them. The grilled asparagus cut through the richness of the chorizo, and after dipping it in some of the gooey egg yolk, it is a delight to eat in itself. Oh and let’s not forget that red capsicum puree hiding underneath the bread, it helped to brighten up the entire plate!

Sardine and Squid Ink Sauce

Excuse the poor dish names, can you tell I didn’t write anything down? Anyway, my friend wanted to try something unusual, and this dish had sardine, a black sauce, and some sort of capsicum salsa, which meant it ticked all the boxes. Although weird on paper, the strong flavours actually worked together quite well! The brininess of the sardine had the salty capcisum salsa as its counterpart, and the whole dish was mellowed out with the poached eggs. This dish was meant to come with coddled eggs I think, but unfortunately, the coddler was broken on the day we visited.

Just because the cakes and macarons are sold at Bibelot now doesn’t mean there isn’t a good selection of pastries at Chez Dré still, in fact, I paced up and down the glass cabinet trying to pick just a couple of goodies out of the bunch.

Salted Caramel Donut
Salted Caramel Donut

The donut was slightly denser than what I prefer, but the gooey salted caramel made up for that minor flaw.

Strawberry Cronut
Strawberry Cronut

The fluffy lightness of the cronut was so on point (btw I’m so glad that cronuts is another food trend that’s here to stay), the strawberry was quite sour, which made it the perfect palette cleanser after all that food.

Chez Dré has everything I look for in a good café, friendly but not overbearing service, menu that has both the weird and wonderful, and the standard offerings, that’s always on seasonal rotation, ensuring that I’ll never run out of things to try, and I absolutely love its interior! Bright and filled with light, with pot plants hanging from the ceiling, it’s both minimal and elegant.

I can’t wait for someone to visit from interstate or overseas, and I’ll have an excuse to visit Chez Dré again! Not that I need one hey.

How to get there:
Chez Dré is located on the corner of Coventry Street and York Place, catch tram #12 and get off at stop #128, Dorcas/Clarendon Street, the café is located a short 5 minutes walk away.

Chez Dré Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nara Thai Street Food

Nara Thai Street Food is one of the newer additions to South Melbourne, although it’s pretty much in the CBD. It’s filled with knick-knacks that are reminiscent of the street of Thailand – not that I’ve been, but hey, I’ve seen plenty of pictures. Over the top of the restaurant, there was a rainbow pennant, giving the space an inviting and playful vibe.

Nara Thai’s menu was pretty long, and had some traditional offerings, such as green curry and tom yum, to some less well-known Thai dishes. We tried to order a bit of everything, and as always, ended up over ordering.

Pad Thai (Chicken) – $12.90

We started things off on the traditional side of things, with a serving of chicken pad thai. Does anyone remember that ridiculous song about chow mein or fried rice or whatever it was btw? No? Just me? All good. Anyway, the pad thai was piled up high (that rhyme though), and was tempting us with its glistening noodles. There is also an assortment of accompaniments on the side, that you could mix in if you wish.

Pad Thai (Chicken) – $12.90

We just ahead and mixed everything together, ’cause #yolo. The result was amazing, in fact, this is probably the best pad thai I’ve ever had. The noodle had a nice stretch to them, the ingredients were fresh, and the flavour was right on the brink of being the perfect kind of sweet yet sour.

Fried Whole Snapper w/ Mango Salad – $20.50

The chef at Nara Thai were very kind, and the giant plate of fried whole snapper was placed in front of us on the house. The snapper had a light cornflour batter, and the large chunks of flesh were mostly very succulent, however, there were drier pieces in the mix. The mango salad on the side was very refreshing, and I loved the addition of roast almonds, which added both texture and flavour to the salad.

“Tom Sap” – Spicy Pork Soft Bone Soup – $14.90

Tom Sap is something that I’ve never heard of before, but I am familiar with my mum’s home cooked pork soft bone soup. This was nothing like my mum’s version though, with a myriad of spice and herbs added into the soup, which gave it a ton of dimension flavour wise. It was more on the stew side of things, with plenty of pork soft bone to be crunched on. The soup was very sour, and not overly spicy, despite the scary looking dry chillies.

Tasty Fried Garlic Pork – $15.90

If you don’t know already, I am a garlic fanatic. So when I spotted the fried garlic pork, it was a no brainer to order it. The pork was lightly fried, before being tossed with some diced fried garlic, and the result was tasty pieces of meat, with quite a bite to it. If you don’t like things that requires some jaw workout, then this is not for you. Personally, I did enjoy it, although I didn’t think it was particularly Thai flavour wise.

Green Beef Curry – $13.90

We originally wanted to try the Massaman curry, which was sold out on the day unfortunately, so we settled on the green beef curry instead. It’s actually something I’ve never had before, since it’s typically green chicken curry that’s on the menu. The large chunks of beef has been stewed over a long period of time, resulting in some extremely tender meat, which broke apart at the probe of some chopsticks. The curry was darker than usual, and was very fragrant and spicy, great for mixing with some steamed rice!

Smoke Coconut served with Sticky Black Rice topped with Peanuts – $6.90

The generosity of the restaurant continues with a complimentary dessert, which comes in the form of sticky black rice and coconut ice cream, a classic combination. The rice was, you guessed, sticky, and a little salty, which actually paired perfectly with the sweet and creamy coconut ice cream.

Nara Thai was a pleasant surprise, the flavours kept true to traditional Thai food – what I know of it anyway, and the servings were very generous. The restaurant remained relatively empty throughout the night, so next time you have to wait for a good 30 minutes at Jinda Thai, why not take a detour and come to South Melbourne instead?

How to get there:
Catch any tram from the Federation Square/Swanston Street stop that’s heading out of the city, and get off at stop #20 Domain Interchange/St Kilda Road, and the restaurant is 3 minutes walk away.

Nara Thai Street Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bibelot

Chez Dre is probably one of my favourite place for brunch in Melbourne, and a large part of that is due to their amazing array of desserts. So when they opened up a dessert bar right next door, of course I marked it down as a place to visit.

My friend from Japan came to Melbourne for her graduation, and because she has a sweet tooth, I decided to take her here for a promising afternoon treat.

After ooh-ing and aah-ing for a good ten minutes at the glass cabinets, we finally settled on three petit gâteau and three macarons to share between the four of us.

Chocolate Tart – $9.50

We started things off with a classic chocolate tart, although there was definitely an elegant twist in Bibelot’s interpretation. Beneath the shiny exterior, there was several chocolate textures, including some decadent chocolate ganache and chocolate mousse, and the tart base was made with almond sable, elevating it to the next level. The timeless combination of chocolate and almond was definitely a winner.

Left: Salted Caramel – $3.00
Right: Blackcurrant-Chestnut Macaron – $3.00

The well-loved salted caramel macaron was exactly what I expected, the pink salt giving a much needed relief to the rich caramel.

We went for a fruity and light macaron next, and it definitely ranks as one of the best macarons in Melbourne for me. The lightness of the outer shell contracted beautifully with the creaminess of the chestnut-vanilla creme, although the chestnut flavour was quite hidden.

Pistachio – $3.00

Next up we picked pistachio, because you can never go wrong with pistachio. The pistachio flavour definitely came through a lot stronger than the chestnut.

Mango, Yuzu & Coconut – $9.50

The mango, yuzu and coconut was probably my pick of the day. The citrus note from the yuzu was quite intense, but along with the mango and coconut mousse, the flavours were balanced out nicely. The different textures of mousse, tuile, jelly, dacquoise, and cremeux sounds way too complicated on paper, but they all complimented each other very well.

Green Tea Dome – $9.50

We picked a green tea option just to pay homage to my friend’s Japanese roots, and this is probably the epitome of Asian dessert, combining green tea, black sesame, and adzuki beans.

Inside the dome made with muscavado creme, which was actually a bit denser than I expected, there was layers of adzuki beans, black sesame brulee, more muscavado creme, and green tea chiffon at the bottom. The flavours worked well together, and again, the complexity of the textures was what sold it for me.

We each had a different favourite cake in mind when we left, which just goes to show how perfect each and everyone of those desserts are, it really depends on what kind of flavours you like. There was a range of chocolate goods that you can bring home with you, or purchase as a gift. Visiting Bibelot definitely reminded me of why I love Chez Dre so much, and a return is much needed!

How to get there:
Bibelot is located on Coventry Street, take tram #1 and get off at Stop #25 – Cecil St/Park St, and it’s a five to ten minutes walk away.

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