Friends of Mine

Richmond is filled with good restaurants, so for one to last on the busy strip, they must be doing something right. With that in mind, we headed off to brunch at Friends of Mine.

Unlike the trending all white everything interior a lot of cafes have been going for, Friends of Mine goes for a much more richer tone, with a grand chandelier near the entrance, although not my style, it is nice to see something different once in a while.1

2

From Top to Bottom: Latte, Cappuccino, Flat White

We all ordered different coffees, and they were all done properly, and tasted pretty great.

3

Cured Salmon Gravlax – $19.00

The salmon gravlax was on the healthy side of things, while still being quite substantial. The salmon were plump and cut quite thickly, and tasted great when dipped in the egg yolks. I wish there was some sort of carb on the plate too though.

4

Crispy Barramundi

The piece of barramundi was on the small side of things, but the crispy skin was certainly delivered, with a hint of smokiness. The salad that the fish sat on appears to be Asian inspired, with a simple vinaigrette dressing.

5

Red Velvet Hotcakes

This is no longer on the menu as well, but don’t worry, you’re not really missing out. On paper, red velvet hotcakes sounded like perfect, however, these were extremely dry and quite hard. I honestly don’t know how they made these, the outside was almost like a shell? We managed to eat one hotcake between the three of us, and left the other one completely untouched.

6Overall, Friends of Mine seems to be your run-of-the-mill cafe in the suburbs, even that might be a bit generous, given that the brunch quality in the suburbs has improved significantly over the last year.

I really wish I had nicer things to say about Friends of mine, unfortunately, the food we tried were average at best, and in a place like Richmond, where there is an abundance of cafes nearby, I would much rather go somewhere else.

How to get there:
Catch the Belgrave or Lilydale train and get off at Burnley, Friends of Mine is around five minutes walk away.

Friends of Mine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

JAPAN 2017 | Osaka: Osaka Castle; Kuromon Ichiba Market

My first day in Osaka was packed full of activities, and it’s a bit photo heavy, so I’m going to split the day into two separate blog posts!

Osaka Castle

It was raining the entire day, but when you’re  travelling, that’s just something you gotta deal with unfortunately. My first stop was Osaka Castle because I wanted to beat the crowd, it was around half an hour walk away from the closest station, but the walk was very scenic and serene, and I had the ugliest yellow raincoat on to protect myself from the rain.

The castle itself was magnificent, and inside, there were eight levels. It is recommended that you go to the eighth floor first, and then make your way down. There was one level dedicated to artefacts from the Azuchi-Momoyama period, another to the life of Hideyoshi, the lord that was responsible for the construction of the castle.

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Kuromon Ichiba Market

After that long walk, it was time to hit up a market for some food, aka one of my favourite things to do while overseas. I marked down Kuromon Ichiba Market as one of my must-visits the moment I heard about it, and it certainly did not disappoint.

Full of food stalls, random nick-nacks, and fresh produce, I happily spent a couple of hours eating my way around the market.

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Kobe Beef

There are a number of stalls that sold Kobe beef, I picked one that had a large selection of cuts, and was more akin to a butcher shop that locals would frequent. The meat were simply grilled on a hot plate with a light hand of salt and pepper. The moment I took the first bite though, legit died and gone to meat heaven. The meat was so tender yet flavoursome, it’s really something that you have to try at least once!

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Uni

Next, I went to get me some uni, aka sea urchin. Again, I picked a stall that was reasonably priced, and had a range of sizes. After you pay for the seafood of your choice, the uni is prepared in front of your eyes, and then handed to you ten seconds later, it really doesn’t get much fresher than that.

Uni is an acquired taste though, so be prepared for something that’s a little slimey and soft, and very, hmm, ocean-y LOL. If you are a fan of uni already, then make sure you get your hands on these!

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Takoyaki

Takoyaki was next on my radar, do you see the pattern of hot and cold yet? Anyway, Osaka is famous for takoyakis, so I did have high expectations already, but these little balls of heaven blew my mind away.

I’m going to list down three reasons why they are the best things ever, because lists are fun.
1. They were piping hot, and when I say hot, I mean it, I burnt the roof of my mouth because I couldn’t wait, but hey, worth it.
2. The outside was crispy and the inside was so god damn creamy, like legit, the sticks they give you are pretty useless because of the gooeyness inside, so the balls literally just collapse when you try to pick them up, which means you gotta think fast and act even faster in order to shove them in, hence the high chance of burning your mouth.
3. There are legit little octopus pieces inside each ball!! Okay scratch that, they’re not little at all. Because of the creaminess of the batter, the octopus pieces have even more of a contracting texture, making it all-so-delicious.

Have I sold you on these takoyakis yet? Please please please, get some when you’re there. The ones in Melbourne suck so much in comparison, and to think that I used to like them, urgh.

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Tuna Sashimi

The fatty tuna sashimi is another must-eat in Japan, but seriously, everything in the market is a must-eat imo. There’s a stall in the centre of the market that specialises in tuna, and the chef is literally slicing up the sashimi right in front of you. I got the one with three types of tuna, and they were all great in their own ways, but of course, the star of the show was the toro, aka tuna belly, it literally melts in your mouth!

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Wagyu Beef

I wanted to try some wagyu as well, but damn it, I should have gone to the same stall that i got the Kobe from. The skewer was a lot smaller in size, and only a fraction cheaper. That being said though, the beef was still really tasty, and the splash of soy highlighted the umami.

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Croquette

To finish off, I got a random croquette thing, which I also regret tbh. I thought the croquette would be fresh from the fryer, or at least heated through, but it was cold and sad. Although it was still really crunchy, but that was the only good things about this.

And that is the end of my food-venture! For now anyway haha, Osaka is known for being the food capital of Japan, and I can definitely see why! Kuromon Ichiba Market showcases the outstanding produce that Japan has to offer, and is a great place to sample a range of different things in one go. Most of the market was undercover as well, which makes it a great place to visit on a rainy day too.

Spending Tracker

Lawson: 140JPY ~ 1.7AUD
Public transport: 420JPY ~ 5AUD
Osaka Castle ticket: 600JPY ~ 7.4AUD
Osaka Castle Coin: 730JPY ~ 9AUD
Postcard: 50JPY ~ 0.6AUD
Kobe beef: 1555JPY ~ 19.2aud
UniL 1500JPY ~ 18.5AUD
Takoyaki: 450JPY ~ 5.6AUD
Tuna: 1500JPY ~ 18.5AUD
Wagyu: 1000JPY ~ 12AUD
Croquette: 100JPY ~ 1.2AUD

Total: 8045JPY ~ 98.7AUD

Palsaik

Endless choice of meat and fun DIY, what’s not to love about Korean BBQ? I mean okay, the smell lingers for days, but that’s a price worth paying for. Palsaik specialises in Korean BBQ, and has been around for a while now, and I finally made it down there one Monday night with a friend.

The interior was a lot sleeker than I expected, mood lighting all around (which means bad photos unfortunately), and there was plenty of tables. The whole space looked more spacious than Korean restaurants I’m used to.

1

Palsaik Set – $58.80

We get the all-so-famous Palsaik set, also known as the 8 flavour pork belly set! The set included 8 different flavours of pork belly (duh); wine, original, ginseng, garlic, herb, curry, miso paste and red pepper paste; as well as a seafood and soybean paste stew, two steamed rice, and assorted vegetables.

2

Seafood and Soybean Paste Stew

The stew was quite flavourful, and had prawns, mussels and calamari rings.

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Banchan

There was also some lettuce, as well as kimchi, spring onion salad, pickled radish and pickled onion, so that you can wrap up the pork belly in the lettuce, and a combination of whatever sides you fancy.

4

But let’s be real, the best part about Korean BBQ is all in the cooking! The sizzle of the meat, and watching them caramelise, it’s just such a satisfying experience. Out of the eight flavours, my personal favourite was garlic and red pepper paste, the garlic was, well, garlicy and delicious, and the red pepper paste lent the pork belly some spiciness, which almost always gets a tick in my book.

We all know the real purpose of those vegetables – to make us feel good about ourselves for eating vegetables, and hey, they did their job.

Although I much prefer having Korean BBQ at home, if you do want to head out into Town for some Korean BBQ, then Palsaik is definitely a great choice! With a decent selection of meat, and a great atmosphere, it’s suitable for both small and large groups.

How to get there:
Palsaik is located on Little Bourke Street, around 10 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Palsaik BBQ Korean Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

JAPAN 2017 | Tokyo: University of Tokyo; Yokohama: Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

University of Tokyo

My friend is currently doing her Masters in University of Tokyo, so of course, on my last day with her, she took me on a personal tour after a quick breakfast of oden from 7/11.

I think visiting universities is something that doesn’t get as enough attention in the travelling community, but I personally find it very eye-opening and enjoyable. We took a stroll around the campus, and it was really impressive! Although most of the buildings were more reminiscent of a Western style, the Akamon, aka the Red Gate, is something that was retained from the Edo Era.

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Waterfall (!!)

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Lake opposite the waterfall (!!)

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Akamon

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

After visiting University of Tokyo, it was time for me to take my first Shinkansen to Yokohama! I had only one place on my list to visit in Yokohama, and it was the Ramen Museum to no one’s surprise.

The museum had three levels, and the bottom floor was set up like traditional Japan in the 1950s. The ordering system is quite simple, there’s a vending machine outside each ramen shop, and you press the button of the item that you want to order, and then insert the cash, take the ticket, upon entering the restaurant, hand the ticket to one of the waiters, and then wait for your ramen to arrive.

There was a total of 9 ramen shops, and I aimed to try three of them, but unfortunately was full to the brim after two, first world problems I know.

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Tonkatsu Ramen from Najima-Tei

The cloudiness of the soup meant that there was a ton of depth to the soup, and the ramen itself was perfectly al-dente. The only negative though was there the soup was extremely salty, which meant that as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t drink all of it.

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Spicy Miso Ramen from Ryu Shanghai Honten

I also tried the spicy miso ramen, since it’s something that’s not as commonly found in Melbourne. After mixing the spicy miso paste to the soup, it did help cut through the richness of the soup, which I didn’t expect! I think this ramen was more akin to traditional ramen, where there is a layer of oil on the soup, and you have to kind of stir the soup around if you don’t want the oily bits.

Spicy Miso Ramen from Ryu Shanghai Honten

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Spicy Miso Ramen from Ryu Shanghai Honten

Hokkaido style ramen was featured here, known for being thick and slightly curly, it had a bit more bite to it than the thin straight kind that I’m used to.

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I arrived in my hostel in Osaka at around 8pm, and was so tired, so instead of my original plan to visit Dotonburi, I decided to stay in the hostel and just have some down time, write in my travel journal, figure out how to buy Universal Studio tickets online, you know, all that good stuff.

Spending Tracker

7/11: 635JPY ~ 7.8AUD
Drug store: 6365JPY ~ 79AUD
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum Ticket: 310JPY ~ 3.8AUD
Ramen from Najima-Tei: 750JPY ~ 9.3AUD
Ramen from Ryu Shanghai Honten: 870JPY ~ 10.8AUD
Lollies from the traditional lolly shop in the museum: 140JPY ~ 1.7AUD
Postcard: 411JPY ~ 5AUD
Osaka accommodation: 8900JPY ~ 106AUD
Universal Studios Ticket: 7400JPY ~ 89AUD

Total: 25781JPY ~ 312.4AUD

 

Milkcow

Milkcow is an ice cream shop that originated from South Korea, and has since expanded all the way down to Melbourne. It had a pop up store for a while in Emporium, and has since opened up its permanent location on Swanston Street.1

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Milky Honey

Wanting to try something simple, we opted for milky honey. The texture of the ice cream is definitely a lot creamier and silkier than the cheaper alternatives, and the organic honey added just a touch of sweetness.

3

Caramel Pop

The popcorn in caramel pop had the additional crunchy texture from the popcorn, and the caramel was not overly sweet as it tend to be sometimes.

The ice cream in Milkcow err on the delicate side of things, I couldn’t find the prices listed on their website, but from memory, it was around the $6-$10 mark, which is quite pricey for what it is, at least for me, I’d much prefer to spend the same amount on some good quality gelato. However, if soft serve style ice cream is more your cup of tea, then by all means, do visit Milkcow for yourself!

How to get there:
Milkcow is located on Swanston Street, two minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

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

Legacy

Stepping into Legacy, the Scandinavian-inspired interior already made me excited for the food that we’re about to have. There is a communal table when you first enter at the cafe, but we were sat at one of the tables towards the back, providing just a tad more privacy.

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Skinny Flat White – $3.90

Starting things off with a skinny flat white, since you know, try new things, venture out, all that good stuff. The coffee was smooth and went down a treat.

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Lamb Super Salad – $20.00

I was pretty proud of myself for getting a salad, it’s like seriously, who have I become? A salad person? WHAT?! All joking aside, this super salad actually didn’t taste all that… salad-y (?), and by that I mean, there was a ton of flavour and textures going on, yet it was still quite mellow. There was a good amount of lamb, and the obligatory greens took the form of kale and rocket, two of my favourite leaves when prepared right, and the hazelnuts added a nice toasty touch. The sweetness of the cranberries also offset the sourness from the beetroot pachadi perfectly. Overall, there was pretty much nothing to fault, and it’s actually a salad I would order again, and that is saying a lot!

34Legacy has a short yet exciting menu, paired with some gorgeous colourful healthy smoothies, yet it doesn’t come off as overly pretentious where you would only fit in if you were decked out in gym gear, which is actually quite hard to achieve. If you’re looking for a new cafe to try in the Eastern suburbs, definitely give Legacy a shot!

How to get there:
Legacy is located on Camberwell Road, catch tram #64 and get off at stop #61, Camberwell Junction/Burke Road, and the cafe is around 7 minutes walk away.

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

JAPAN 2017 | Tokyo: Tsukiji Fish Market; Asakusa; Shinjuku

Tsukiji Fish Market

First things first, we decided to have a sushi breakfast (!!) at Sushisei, my friend said it had great reviews, and the line outside proved its popularity. The wait wasn’t all that long though, and we were seated at the sushi bar, definitely the best seat in the house imo.

I went for the Omasake set, and seriously, best sushi I have ever had. The freshness and the quality of the seafood was unbeatable, and one of the reason of why I love sushi so much is that although undeniably decadent, it’s still very light, leaving you feel satisfied, but never overly full after meal (unless you choose to have 10 plates at a sushi train restaurant of course, which I did later down in the trip).

The chef prepared the food with such precision, and was extremely friendly, he was telling us about Japanese alcohol, and after hearing that I have never tried plum wine, he even offered me some to try!

Sushisei
4-13-9 Tsukiji, Chuo 104-0045, Tokyo Prefecture
+81 3 3541-7720

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Omakase

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Chirashi

After the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time, we strolled around the market, there was plenty of fresh sashimi if you are still feeling peckish, and a large range of fresh produce for locals to purchase. Dried food also seemed quite popular, there were black beans, kelp, teeny tiny crabs (!) amongst other things. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb2 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Asakusa

We headed off to Asakusa next, and if you want a good bird’s eyes view of the area, including Tokyo Skytree, then definitely head up to the top floor of the information centre!Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with g3 preset

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The street that leads towards Senso-ji was filled with shops that sells snacks, drinks, crackers, and other bits and bobs, and I had a great time browsing/eating my way through it. One thing to take note is that in Japan, even street food is eaten in an orderly manner, and by that I mean once you’ve bought something, you have to eat it within the proximity of the stall, and throw away whatever rubbish you have in the bins provided.
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Senso-ji sat at the end of the main street, and it was packed full of people! My friend and I decided to try out the omikujis, and both of us got the great curse, which meant we had to tie them up to leave the bad luck behind!

We took a side street to walk back to the station, and I spotted a melonpan shop, and oh my goodness they were AMAZING!!! It’s kind of like a turned up version of a pineapple bun, where the exterior is super crispy, and the inside was soft and chewy, it may not sound that great on paper but trust me, it was amazing. I got it with cream inside but I’d advise against it, the cream kind of overpowered the subtle sweetness of the bun itself.

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Shinjuku

Just to get some shopping out of the way, we headed off to Shinjuku, and of course, we went to Zara aka my happy place. I feel like Zara in Asia is so much cheaper in comparison to Australia, and I really had to put my self-control into test in order to only pick up a few things.

After some more shopping and browsing around, we had dinner at Marumo, a restaurant that was in the food court level of the shopping centre we were in. I got the hamburger on rice, what I imagine to be Maruko’s favourite meal (man I miss that cartoon), and yup, ended the day in food coma.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Spending Tracker

Sushisei: 2500JPY ~ 31AUD
Sweet black beans: 700JPY ~ 8.6AUD
Daifuku w/ strawberry: 300JPY ~ 3.7AUD
Omasake: 110JPY ~ 1.4AUD
Agemanju: 140JPY ~ 1.7AUD
Melonpan: 350JPY ~ 4.3AUD
Grilled scallops: 600JPY ~ 7.4AUD
Crackers: 1800JPY ~ 22AUD
Zara: 4870JPY ~ 60AUD
Uniqlo: 2145JPY ~ 26AUD
Marumo: 1480JPY ~ 18AUD

Total: 14995JPY ~ 184.1AUD

Arbory Bar and Eatery

Arbory serves up a wide range of cocktails and wine options, and a versatile menu to accompany the drinks. Overlooking the Yarra, it has a killer vibe whether in day or night. A few months ago, a group of us decided to have dinner here for a little celebration.

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Electra’s Elixir – $17.00

I always go for either a citrus-y or sweet cocktail, and this was the perfect balance of the two. I can’t remember the exact mix in this cocktail, but if you’re into fruity drinks that aren’t overly sweet, then definitely give this one a try.

2

Southern Fried Chicken Burger w/ Chips – $16.00

Keeping things simple, I ordered the Southern fried chicken burger. There was nothing ‘Southern’ about this burger imho, however, it was nice and crispy, and the crinkle cut chips were fried well too.

Although the food is unremarkable at the Arbory, given its atmosphere and prime location, as well as its extensive range of cocktails, including Espresso Martini on tap (!!), I will definitely be returning.

How to get there:
Arbory Bar and Eatery is located on Flinders Walk, come out of the right exit (that I can’t remember), and it’s literally right outside Flinders St Station.

Arbory Bar and Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

JAPAN 2017 | Tokyo: Tofuro

Narita International Airport → Tokyo

After I arrived in Narita Airport, I made my way to B1, where the Skyliner was located, buying the ticket was pretty simple, I bought a one way Skyliner ticket and the three day subway pass. I also exchanged my JR Pass at the JR office, located on B1 as well. After that, I was all ready to go with my Skyliner.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

I arrived at my friend’s house at around 5pm, and she had picked an izakaya for us to have dinner, so after a quick change of clothes, we headed out to Ginza.

Dinner at Tofuro
1-10-6 Ginza | B2F Ginza 1st Bldg., Chuo 104-0061, Tokyo Prefecture
+81 3 3563 3033

Tofuro is a slightly more up-scale izakaya, with lots of private booth and different sittings, the whole place was very serene, with pops of red contrasting against dark wood. There was even a bridge over a tiny creek!

The food was quite delicious too, featuring lots of local produce around different regions of Japan, including Aomori, where my friend is from!

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Little fishes for us to snack on

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Tamagoyaki

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Fried Tofu

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Grilled Squid

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Soba Set

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It was a great way to start off my time in Japan! After dinner, we went to three (LOL only in Japan) convenience stores, and bought lots of snacks and lollies, as well as a permanent marker LOL, seriously Zebra can do no things wrong.

Spending Tracker

Drink from Family Mart: 149JPY ~ 1.8AUD
Stamp (I sent out the postcard when I was flying out from Tokyo): 70JPY ~ 0.9AUD
Skyliner + 3 days railway pass: 3500JPY ~ 43AUD
Public transport: 140JPY ~ 1.7AUD
Tofuro: 2683JPY ~ 33AUD
7/11: 803JPY ~ 10AUD
Family Mart: 216JPY ~ 2.7AUD

Total: 756JPY ~ 93.1AUD

Tim Ho Wan

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Tim Ho Wan, the Michelin-starred yum cha restaurant finally opened its doors to the public after various delays, and to say that Melbourne was excited is an understatement. The line that snaked outside restaurant meant that a wait is always expected, although it actually moves rather quickly.2

I’ve visited several times now, and can confirm that the quality is very consistent, and on par with its restaurant across the ocean. The concept at Tim Ho Wan is similar to Hong Kong Dim Sum, where you’re given a sheet of paper to mark what you wish to order, plates of food will magically start appearing in front of you after you hand the paper to one of the waiters.

3

Braised Chicken Feet with Abalone Sauce – $6.80

The chicken feet is a milder rendition of the classic dish. Instead of being fried and then steamed, the chicken feet were simply braised in abalone sauce, resulting in, well, a milder flavour profile.

4

Spring Roll with Egg White – $6.00

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Usually I would never order spring rolls, since it is such a pedestrian dish, but because we had a pescatarian amongst us, we had to take advantage of all the vegetarian and seafood options. It was a pleasant surprise though, the filling of egg white was very fluffy, and the spring roll was crunchy, but not overly oily as they tend to be.

6

Baked Bun with BBQ Pork – $7.80

The signature dish of Tim Ho Wan, literally every table had a plate (or two) of the buns, and I can definitely see why. The crunchy shell paired with the sweet BBQ pork filling, give me three of these and lunch is sorted.

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Beancurd Skin Roll with Shrimp – $6.80

I passed on these since they had carrots inside, but according to those who tried it, although pleasant, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

8

Prawn Dumplings – $8.30

The prawn dumplings were perfect, the skin were translucent but not gluggy, and the filling had a nice ratio of prawn to bamboo shoots.

9

Spinach Dumplings with Shrimp – $7.80

The bright green colour of the spinach dumplings made them so pleasing to look at, and they tasted just as delicious. Another surprise favourite.

10

Steamed Egg Cake – $5.80

I loved the fluffiness and delicate nature of this cake, however, one of my friend did find it too eggy.

11

Vermicelli Roll with Shrimp – $7.80

The vermicelli roll, although not ground breaking, was executed well, the roll itself had integrity, and the filling, well, there was a lot of prawns.

12

Wasabi Salad Prawn Dumplings – $7.80

Still confused about where exactly the salad is in this dish, but the crunchiness of the dumplings were delightful. I wish the wasabi mayo had more of a kick though.

13

Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver – $7.50

Another member of the four heavenly kings, the filling of pig’s liver, although unusua, was actually a bit dry.

14

Tonic Medlar & Osmanthus Cake – $5.80

Besides looking extremely pretty, these slightly acidic cakes, with the floral aroma from the osmanthus, were a light but sweet end to the meal.

15

Mango Sago Pomelo – $6.00

My pick for dessert though would be the mango sago pomelo, there was nothing to fault with this classic combination of flavours, and the thickness of it all made me think that they actually used a lot of real mangoes!

1617Overall, there’s not much to fault with Tim Ho Wan in terms of the quality of the food, however, its menu is quite limited compared to other yum cha places, and the price is definitely higher. With that in mind, I’d still return, even if it were just for the baked BBQ pork buns alone, yup, they’re that good.

How to get there:
Tim Ho Wan is located in Village Centre Arcade in Chinatown, a short 10 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Tim Ho Wan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato