Grand Lafayette

Grand Lafayette has relocated from Port Melbourne to Prahran late last year, taking over a large industrial space and expanded its menu to include an all-you-can-eat Japanese dinner option. We visited for Sunday brunch on this occasion, saving the dinner menu for another day.

The cafe was extremely airy and well-lit, with plants and pops of colours scattered through, making it sophisticated and stylish, a perfect place to brunch the weekend away.

Iced Green Tea Latte – $8.00

The dark green colour of the iced green tea latte looked promising, and upon mixing it through, it was a well-rounded drink, with a good amount of earthiness coming through from the matcha.

Soy Cappuccino – $4.50

The soy cappuccino, though less visually stunning, also hit the spot with its caramel and berry notes.

the full spread
Chicken & Waffles – $22.80

Chicken and waffles has become one of my go-to dishes whenever I can find it on a menu, the combination of sweet and salty is just right up my alley. Grand Lafayette’s take on this American classic is definitely one of the most extravagant I’ve seen to date. While the waffle was more on the soft side, the batter on the fried chicken was substantial and crunchy. The most surprising part on the plate though was the berry coulis, making it a combination I hadn’t seen before. It’s a clever twist on the traditional maple syrup, and although it may sound a bit strange at the beginning, I actually really enjoyed the mixture of flavours. This is definitely not a dish for everyone, but if you are a fan of chicken and waffles with just maple syrup, I’d say give this one a try.

Confit Duck – $26.80

Confit duck is an extremely time-consuming and technical dish, so I was keen to try it out. The crispy broccolini had a nice charred flavour, and the black rice was well-seasoned with diced chorizo and onion mixed through. The star of the show was certainly the duck itself. The meat was falling off the bone, yet the exterior was extremely crispy, offering a juxtaposition of textures in every bite. It was a much more refined plate than the chicken and waffles, and was more a lunch or even dinner dish than brunch, making me feel like the heftier price tag was justified..

Braised Pork Belly Gua Bao – $10.00

We also got some cute little gua baos on the side. The soy-braised pork belly was tender and flavoursome, and the pickled greens helped to cut through the richness of the meat.

Although the two dishes we tried at Grand Lafayette both were at a higher price-point than what I would pay for brunch typically, I can appreciate that they were probably more labour intensive than say, smashed avo, which is actually $16.80 at the cafe, making it fall within the reasonable range price with, which is also the case for all other non-signature dish brunch options.

Price aside, I did have an enjoyable brunch at Grand Lafayette, and it might be a place to visit if you’re looking to splurge a little and treat yourself for a nice and relaxing meal on the weekend.

How to get here:
Grand Lafayette is located on Clifton Street, a seven minutes walk from Prahran station.

I dined as a guest of Grand Lafayette.

Grand Lafayette 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

Radio Mexico

Situated right by the beach, Radio Mexico is a great place to hit up for dinner after a day in the sun. In saying that, the changing weather at Melbourne didn’t stop us from satisfying our taco cravings.

Guacamole – $10.00

Radio Mexico is said to have some of the best guacamole in town, making it a must-order for us. The guacamole was probably some of the smoothest I’ve had, and was also light and refreshing. The homemade corn chips were delightful too, but really, I would eat that guacamole all on its own off a spoon if I could.

Hongos – $7.50

I love anything mushroom, and this mushroom taco was definitely a winner. The roasted mushrooms were dark and flavoursome, with the creaminess from the crema poblano acting as its perfect counterpart.

Carne Asada – $7.50

The BBQ hanger steak was juicy and tender, and although less intense in flavour when compared to the Hongos, it was a simple but delicious taco nonetheless.

BBQ Pork Belly – $7.50

There was definitely plenty of crackle to go around in the BBQ Pork Belly taco, giving it a giant boost of texture. Pineapple is a common partner of pork in Mexican cuisine, and it did a great job of adding some sweetness to the taco.

Babacoa De Res – $17.00

Radio Mexico’s take on nachos came in the form of chilaquiles, and we went for the slow cooked beef option. The beef packed some heat thanks to the ancho chilli, and the lettuce helped to cool it down when things got a little too spicy.

Roast Chicken – $20.00

The ever humble roast chicken was not so humble at Radio Mexico, being served in a mushroom and jalapeno broth, which was absolutely delicious, and great to spoon over the green rice.

Pork Belly Al Pastor – $24.00

We knew that the pork Belly Al Pastor would be good after the pork belly taco, however, this still blew my mind away. The dark broth was full of flavour, and the meat, having been roasted first and then placed in the broth, was able to take on the flavours extremely well.

Radio Mexico has been a popular dining spot for both locals and tourists, and it’s not hard to see why. Serving up some of the best Mexican food I’ve had to date, it’s definitely a place I’d venture out to more often, especially when Summer comes around again.

How to get here:
Catch tram #16, heading towards St Kilda Beach, from Flinders St or Melbourne Central, and get off at Luna Park/Cavell Street, and the restaurant is two minutes walk away.

Radio Mexico Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Papa Gino’s

Papa Gino’s is a no-frill Italian restaurant in a sea of Italian restaurants on Lygon Street, and we decided to drop in for a quick lunch on a weekday.

Ai Funghi w Penne (Entree) – $14.50

Feeling like a white sauce, we ordered the mushroom in creamy sauce with penne. The penne were perfectly al dente, and although the mushroom sauce was quite run-of-the-mill, it was reminiscent of a comforting home-cooked meal nonetheless.

Capricciosa (small) – $13.00

The capricciosa was also quite pleasant. Its base was crispy enough to create texture, but sturdy enough to not sink under the topping of mushroom, ham, olives and cheese. Again, nothing to write home about, but it did the job.

Papa Gino’s does not pride itself in offering gourmet and authentic Italian food, however, its selling point are its family-friendly atmosphere, no-frill menu and friendly service, making it perfect for large gatherings of sorts.

How to get here:
Papa Gino’s is located on Lygon Street, catch any of Swanston Street trams heading out of the city from Flinders Street Station or Melbourne Central and get off at University of Melbourne, and Papa Gino’s is 5 minutes walk away.

Papa Gino's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Flovie

It usually takes a new cafe a bit of time to find its footing in Melbourne’s ever-saturating brunch scene, however, being the brainchild of Jia Wang, co-owner of White Mojo, and Valerie Wang, florist of White Mojo, Flovie sure had an edge. That is also a double-edged sword in itself though, with great reputation comes great responsibility, and my expectations were high from the moment I set foot into Flovie, especially given the long line of people waiting to be seated outside the cafe.

The interior is one of a kind, with more floral arrangement than your eyes could feast on, and adorable mismatched chairs and tables scattered across the floor. The overall atmosphere was magical and comforting, especially with the incoming colder seasons.

Even the glass is iridescent!!
Snow White – $9.00

After some long and serious pondering, I landed on the Snow White from the four choices of Flovie perfume mocktails. When the drink landed on the table, I knew I had made the decision in choosing the most extra drink in town.

Snow White – $9.00
Snow White – $9.00
Snow White – $9.00

After pouring the butterfly pea and lychee syrup into the glass while trying to get some decent boomerangs for the ‘gram, the end result was something that was light and sweet, and not too overly floral, which was something that I was afraid of.

Soy Flat White (Small) – $4.00

The coffee was on par with Melbourne’s best too, silky and nutty, with a hint of chocolate, this was just what I needed on the drewry morning.

Rose Tea Latte – $7.50

Back on the unique side was the rose tea latte, which was more of a milk tea than a latte in my opinion. Nevertheless, the combination of rose tea, pistachio and coconut milk worked well in unison, and this is a must-order if you’re a fan of rose.

Char Siu Pulled Pork + Eggs Benny – $20.00

Onto the food front we go. We decided to go with one savoury and one sweet option to share, in order to get the best of both worlds. First up was the Eggs Benny, featuring char siu pulled pork, mandarin hollandaise and fried mantou – a Chinese style bun, as the base. The pulled pork was insanely tender and flavoursome, clearly been cooked for hours before being pulled apart. The crunchiness of the fried mantou is something that is not usually found in eggs benny, and I really appreciated the additional texture brought on by it.

Flovie Black Forest Hotcakes – $20.00

Excuse the obscene number of photos coming up, the Black Forest Hotcakes has that effect on you. Not having too much of a sweet tooth myself, I was initially hesitant in ordering the hotcakes, but knowing that this is one of the signature dishes at Flovie, I decided to give it a shot.

Flovie Black Forest Hotcakes – $20.00
Flovie Black Forest Hotcakes – $20.00

Stunning presentation aside, each element on the plate served the dish well, and there was nothing that was placed on the plate simply to make it insta-worthy – a pet peeve of mine.

Flovie Black Forest Hotcakes – $20.00

The stack of hotcakes was nice and fluffy with just enough chocolate flavour coming through, and the cherry compote was so much better than maraschino cherries that are typically found in a black forest cake, the acidity contrasted well with the richness of the smooth chocolate creme anglaise. The quenelle of mascarpone chantilly was thicker in consistency than the heavy cream version, and the slight tang complimented the acidity of the cherries well.

Flovie Black Forest Hotcakes – $20.00

The hotcakes look a bit more destroyed over here, however it is a testament to just how light and fluffy it is. The airiness is what sets hotcakes apart from your regular pancakes, and this stack definitely delivered on that front.

Herb Salt Chips w/ Lime Aioli Yoghurt Dip – $10.00

The obligatory side order of chips was a more-than-generous serving, and the chips were perfectly crunchy with an addictive herb seasoning. If you did find the chips a bit too heavy, the cool yoghurt dip on the side is a sure way to remedy that.

It’s time for the final verdict, is Flovie worth the hype? And the answer is a resounding yes from my visit. Sure, the wait is long, but that is far outweighed by the beautiful interior, unique menu, and well-executed dishes that are not only photo-worthy, but taste amazing too. On top of all that, you can also pick up a fresh bouquet of flowers on your way out, killing two birds with one stone.

How to get here:
Catch any of the Swanston Street trams heading out of the city from Flinders Street Station or Melbourne Central and get off at Queensberry Street/Swanston Street, and the cafe is 5 minutes walk away.

I dined as a guest of Flovie.

Flovie Florist Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

JAPAN 2017 | Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Taisha; Arashiyama; Nishiki Market; Kichi Kichi Omurice

After packing up everything in the hostel in the morning, and having a quick breakfast in the kitchen, I headed out for my last action-packed day in Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari-Taisha

Snack break!

My first stop of the day was Fushimi Inari-Taisha, probably one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto, if not all of Japan.

Walking through the famous torii gates is a must-do, and the higher up you go, the less people there are, allowing you to soak up the serenity all on your own.

The total hike takes around three hours, which I decided to skip out on due to the tight schedule I had, but I would imagine it to be quite enjoyable if you’re looking to spend a whole day in the area!

Snack break round 2

Just outside of the Shrine is a restaurant that specialises in unagi don, i.e. grilled eel on rice. Although there was only two pieces of eel being given in the set that I ordered, there was a perfect amount of caramelisation resulting from the grill, and the quality cannot be faulted. The eel liver soup on the side sounded like a bit of an oddity, but it didn’t actually have any distinctive flavours.

Arashimaya Bamboo Grove

After spending another hour on public transport, I arrived at the famous Arashimaya Bamboo Grove!

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve seen so many photos and heard so much about the bamboo grove beforehand, but I actually found it quite underwhelming. I mean sure, there was a lot of bamboo, but the walk lasted for maybe ten minutes, before transforming into a regular forest, which was still nice and all, but I personally didn’t find it to be anything special.

Tenryu-ji

Tenryu-Ji was closeby to the Bamboo Grove, so I decided to check it out. But to be honest, by this point of the trip, I was pretty much templed/shrined out, being not religious myself, I found the experience to have become a little stagnant and repetitive. Although I understand that objectively the temple is built beautifully, it was hard for me to not feel like I was going through the motion and actually appreciate the temples more, which was a shame,

Snack break round 3

Nishiki Market

Knowing that I had a booking at Kichi Kichi Omurice for dinner in just over an hour by the time I got to Nishiki Market, I decided to just take a walk around, and save the food for next time.

Although significantly smaller than Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka, Nishiki Market had its own charm, and it seemed to be more like a local market rather than a tourist attraction. Kyoto is famous for its matcha, and I picked up a couple bottles of matcha spread to take back home, which I later found out is actually stocked at Calia for two times the price!

Kichi Kichi Omurice

Kichi Kichi Omurice has been made famous through various viral videos over the last few years, and I knew it was definitely somewhere I wanted to visit on this trip.

Bookings can be made up to four weeks advance, which means it’s something that you definitely need to plan ahead for. The restaurant is open for both lunch (weekends and public holidays) and dinner (everyday except for the holidays listed on the restaurant’s website), and only seats 8 people, which means that the one-hour-long reservations often fly out of the window. The reservation is made on the restaurant’s website, and it’s a relatively fuss free process, with every step translated in English. Reservations opens on 3pm GPT+9 Sunday, and my only tip is, be ready to book immediately after reservation opens so that you secure yourself a spot! Click here to be directed over to Kichi Kichi Omurice’s website.

the Omurice itself

So the question now is, was all that planning ahead worth it? And honestly, the answer is yes. The fried rice is perfectly separated fluffiness of the omelette is out of this world, and the demi-glace that’s poured over top ties it altogether. I did think it was slightly under-seasoned, but that’s really just me starting to nick-pick a good thing.

The omurice isn’t even the best part. Chef Motokichi Yukimura is truly one of a kind, he’s so good at what he does, loves doing it, and is definitely not camera shy. Although I saw it happen in front of my own eyes maybe five times that day, I still don’t understand how exactly the omelette is made, but he seriously made it look effortless. On top of being an excellent chef, he was also a great entertainer, and was more than happy to take photos with each of the 8 diners at the end of the hour. It was really an experience that’s not to be missed, and I’m glad that this was the final note of my short stay in Kyoto.

Snack round four

I left Kyoto with some mixed feelings. Having heard so many people rave about this city beforehand, I didn’t think I vibed particularly well with the city. That being said, there were some real highlights too, and I’m glad I paid Kyoto a visit regardless. After picking up some snacks for the road, I hopped onto the last Shinkansen of the trip, and headed back to Tokyo for my last day in Japan!

Spending Tracker

Public transport: 210JPY ~ 2.6AUD
Beef skewer: 500JPY ~ 6.3AUD
Yam omelette: 300JPY ~ 3.7AUD
Eel rice set: 2100JPY ~ 25.9AUD
Tenryu-Ji ticket: 500JPY ~ 6.2AUD
Ice cream: 300JPY ~ 3.7AUD
Drugstore: 5655JPY ~ 70AUD
Sesame: 600JPY ~ 7.4AUD
Green tea lollies: 1230JPY ~ 16.2AUD
Green tea jam: 2500JPY ~ 30.9AUD
Omurice: 2700JPY ~ 33.5AUD
Loft: 1128JPY ~ 13.9AUD
Green tea waffle: 151JPY ~ 1.9AUD
Total: 17874JPY ~ 228.5AUD

Ribs & Burgers

American BBQ was all the craze a few years back, and Ribs & Burgers was one of the first few restaurant that introduced the cuisine to Melbourne. A lot has changed since then, and Ribs & Burgers is a fully fledged chain restaurant at this point, with four joints sprawled across Melbourne.

Pork Baby Back (Large) – $34.90

The full rack of baby back ribs smelt amazing when it landed on our table. The meat was falling off the bone, and the sweet caramelisation from the grill added an extra layer of flavour to the ribs. This was definitely worth the inevitable sticky fingers.

Chips

The chips were nothing to be scoffed at either, golden and crunchy, this may push the meal from being rich to decadent, but hey, you’ll never find me complaining about chips this good.

Beef Ribs – $23.90

The beef ribs were basted in the same signature BBQ sauce of Ribs & Burgers, but the result was completely different. The meaty flavour was a lot stronger in this case, and although it lacked the tenderness of the pork baby back, it would be ideal for someone who is a serious carnivore.

Apple and Cabbage Salad

Balance is key, and the crisp and light apple and cabbage salad was the logical counterpart to the rich beef ribs. Eating bites of the salad between the ribs ensured that your arteries aren’t too overly clogged by the end of the meal.

Compared to some of the more upscale steakhouses, Ribs & Burgers is a no-frill sort of deal, and the ribs remain tasty after all this time. It may not be an ideal setting if you’re trying to seriously impress someone, however, the laid-back vibe makes it perfect for a quick weekday dinner, and that’s clearly been working out for Ribs and Burgers.

How to get here:
I visited Ribs & Burgers at its Hawthorn location, which is located on Glenferrie Road, about 10 minutes walk from Glenferrie Station.

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