Secret Kitchen

Secret Kitchen has been doing well in the Melbourne market, having opened several restaurants, ranging from those that offer a quick bite, to others that serve up a wide array of Chinese dishes in a modern and sleek setting.

Today, I will be recounting my visit to the latter of the two varieties, where I had yum cha on a weekend, something that I definitely don’t do enough. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, yum cha is popular in the Guangzhou province and Hong Kong in particular, the idea is that waiters and waitresses will be pushing carts filled with plates of goodies around the restaurant, and when they reach you, you make pick at your heart’s desire. It can be quite overwhelming at times, given the large variety of dishes, but it is something worth trying.

Braised Chicken Feet

Braised chicken feet is a must-order for me at yum cha. The chicken feet were deep fried then braised in a sweet soy garlic marinade, and are quite morish to nibble at.

Siu Mai

Another classic, the skin of the siu mai was a little too soft, but that was made up with the plump prawn and pork filling.

Har Gow

How can you have siu mai without har gow? These translucent goodies always have me mesmerized. The filling is a lot less finely chopped in comparison to that of the siu mai, which meant you could really taste the plumpness of the prawns.

Wasabi Prawns

Onto something more innovative, the prawns in this case were wrapped in a thin, airy and crispy pastry. The wasabi mayo drizzled on top had a good wasabi kick to it, something that a lot of restaurants are lacking.

Steamed Beef Tripes

Back to the more traditional side of things, the tripes had a quite light and delicate flavour.

Sticky Rice with Chicken

One of my friend has never tried sticky rice with chicken, so we decided to order it for her sake.

Sticky Rice with Chicken

Inside the glutinous rice, there was a filling of chicken and mushrooms that had been braised in soy beforehand. If you were looking for something more carb heavy, this would be a good pick.

Vermicelli Rolls with Prawns

The vermicelli rolls were silky smooth, and contrasted well with the freshness of the prawns.

Red Bean Cake

We originally wanted to order some egg tarts for dessert, however they had already sold out unfortunately, which meant we settled for the red bean cake. Nonetheless, these were quite light in texture and not overly sweet.

Salted Egg Yolk Lava Buns

These buns were quite hard to hunt down, only because the friend that wanted to order them thought they were custard buns rather than salted egg yolk ones, but we did manage to get our hands on them, thankfully.

Salted Egg Yolk Lava Buns

The crispy top were reminiscent of both the roast pork buns at Tim Ho Wan, and pineapple buns sold in Chinese bakeries. The bun itself was quite sweet, and the salted egg yolk centre was rich and creamy.

Secret Kitchen offers a somewhat less traditional but more enjoyable experience than most yum cha restaurants, and that comes from the atmosphere and service mostly. The food may not be particularly authentic, but they were all enjoyable, and it would be a good place to take those who have never had yum cha before. Remember to make a booking though, especially on the weekend, as the restaurant has become quite popular.

How to get here:
Secret Kitchen is located on level 3 of Doncaster Westfield Shoppingtown, which is accessible via many buses.

Secret Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Murasaki Tanuki

Local gems are some of my favourites, especially when authentic food is found in unlikely places. Murasaki Tanuki certainly falls under both categories, being a small Japanese eatery located on a inconspicuous shopping strip.

Sure, the interior may seem quite bare when you first enter – tables scattered around, with minimal decoration. However, the restaurant was filled with diners even during lunch hours on a weekday, which sort of hints at the quality of food that can be expected.

Takoyaki – $6.50

Takoyakis are some of my favourites, although they’re usually pretty good – think gooey batter containing octopus bits, and topped with a mix of takoyaki sauce (what I think of as Japanese BBQ sauce) and kewpie, and what could go wrong? However, it has also been truly difficult to find ones that stand out from the rest, especially after having tried some of the best renditions in Osaka.

The Kanto population are said to prefer a more textured take when it comes to takoyaki, and this description matched the version served here at Murasaki Tanuki; being quite different to the Kansai rendition that I had become accustomed to. They were a lot crunchier, which of course, highlighted the soft interior.

Curry Udon – $11.50

Given the weird humid yet cold weather that Melbourne is currently experiencing, a bowl of warm curry udon was in order. The soup was very thick and boasted the milder and sweeter flavour of Japanese curry. The thickness can be attested in this photo, as there were pieces of tender beef and slippery udon hidden beneath the soup too!

Miso Soup served with the Bento
King Salmon with Miso Bento Set – $19.00

There were plenty of bentos to choose from, and they each come with miso soup, sashimi, an array of side dishes, takikomi gohan, i.e. rice that’s cooked with the addition of scallops and vegetables in this case, and the main dish of your choosing, which in this case, was the daily special of king salmon with miso.

The salmon was grilled perfectly, and the sweetness of the miso enhanced the freshness of the fish. It even had crispy skin!

The extensive menu at Murasaki Tanuki covers all of the standard Japanese fares depending on what you’re craving on the day coupled with the reasonable prices, especially when taking the high-quality of produce into consideration, it is easy to see why the restaurant has become a local favourite. Whether you live nearby or not, Murasaki Tanuki is worth a visit!

How to get here:
Murasaki Tanuki is located at the Studfield Shopping Centre, catch the #901 Frankston to Melbourne Airport bus, and get off at Studfield SC, and the restaurant is a short two minutes walk away.

Murasaki Tanuki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tipo 00

There are plenty of good Italians restaurants in Melbourne, yet if you asked ten different people where you could find the best pasta, Tipo will probably be mentioned more than a couple of times. The restaurant has been on my radar for years, from memory, they used to not take reservations, and the intimate dining space meant that a table was hard to come by. However, that is no longer the case, as bookings of all group sizes can be made now. This made things significantly easier for us, as a group of us had visited Tipo for a birthday celebration.

Bread with Whipped Ricotta

Free bread can never be the wrong way to start a meal, especially when they’re freshly baked from the kitchen, and served with some cool whipped ricotta, like the one served at Tipo.

Polenta Fritta – $9.00

The polenta chips were creamy on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and the generous sprinkling of rosemary parmesan was delectable.

Octopus

Next, we ordered the octopus form the daily specials. The tentacles had a gorgeous char on them, and the smoky flavour really came through. The sweetness of the corn contrasted well with the smokiness of the octopus.

Burrata – $16.00

Cheese is always a winner in my book, and this was no exception. The creamy and cool burrata had a light drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and the caper berries added some tang to the plate, while the capsicum offered its sweetness, rounding off the dish.

Calamari – $19.00

The vibrant colours of the purple potatoes and the broad beans made this a visually enticing dish. Again, the smokiness of the calamari was more than welcome. This was a more subdued dish in comparison to the Octopus, as the flavours were all in a similar profile.

Casarecce – $25.00

Tipo’s menu comprises mainly of pasta, and we each ordered a different dish because variety is the spice of life. These little twists of casarecce had simple additions of radicchio, pork sausage and white wine. The bitterness from the radicchio can be a bit divisive, as one of us thoroughly dislike the bitter taste. I however, thought that it contrasted nicely with the juicy pork sausage. Although this was not mind-blowingly good, it was still a good plate of pasta.

Tagliolini Al Nero – $28.00

The squid ink tagliolini has become synonymous with Tipo at this point, and I had to of course try it on my first visit. The tangles of tagliolini was cooked perfectly, of course, the only way that Tipo knows how. The addition of fresh squid and bottarga meant that the sweetness of the crustacean really had a chance to shine.

Gnocchi Di Patate – $32.00

Another unanimous favourite was the gnocchi in a duck and mushroom ragu. The pillows of gnocchi were the best I’ve ever had, they were the perfect balance between being soft yet retaining a bite, and not overly starchy like gnocchis can often get at restaurants. The rich ragu was also a delight, the generous pieces of duck meat meant that this was an extremely satisfying bowl of pasta.

Pappardelle – $34.00

The pappardelle was essentially Tipo’s take on a traditional bolognese, substituting wild boar for beef. The thick pieces of pappardelle were again, perfect, and acted as the perfect vehicle for the bolognese. Although refined, this was still at its heart, comfort food that puts you in a happy place.

Although the $5 per head cake surcharge was a bit hefty in my opinion, the food at Tipo actually reached the high expectation I had going in, which is saying a lot. The service was on the briskier end, but it was still courteous enough. The price tag at Tipo means that I won’t be returning for a quick lunch anytime soon, but I’m certainly more than happy to re-visit the restaurant when the occasion calls for it.

How to get here:
Tipo 00 is located on Little Bourke Street, a short five minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Tipo 00 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BurGround

BurGround is a 3-months-new restaurant that features burgers (duh), salads, healthy smoothies, not-so-healthy milkshakes, and some traditional and not-so-traditional sides that go hand in hand with the mains. 

The space is large and airy, and you can tell that a lot of love and effort was put into it to ensure that it caters for both smaller and larger groups. On the day that we visited, the burger-eaters ranged from students, couples to large families.

Crazy Daisy – $7.00

We started things off with Crazy Daisy, said to be one of the owner’s favourite smoothie. It features mango, banana, yakult, yoghurt and coconut water. The sweetness of the mango was the highlight of the smoothie, and the interesting addition of yakult added some layers of flavour to the drink.

Cookies & Cream – $7.00

On the more indulgent side, nothings a beats a good-ol cookies and cream milkshake. BurGround definitely didn’t pull back on the use of Oreos, as its crumbs were present in every sip. The milkshake was not overly-sweet, and was worth every calorie if you’re a fan of anything cookies and cream.

Sweet Potato Chips – $4.50

The sweet potato chips were nice and crispy, in fact, it was probably one of the crispier renditions I have tried, giving us the first glimpse into the expertise BurGround had over the deep fryer.

Onion Rings – $5.00

The onion rings had a satisfyingly crunchy outer layer, that contrasted well with the sweetness of the onion. The only problem I had was the some of the larger pieces did not fit into the quaint little sauce ramekin, an issue that could be resolved by breaking the ring into pieces of course.

Skyrider – $14.00

Onto the main events – the burgers. The first thing you notice about the Skyrider would be the hot pink bun, made by including beetroot juice in the making of the brioche.

Skyrider – $14.00

The burger was more than its bun though, in this case, as it was stuffed with goodness, including beef patty, chorizo, tomato relish, sriracha mayo, cheddar and rocket – cause greens. Overall, this was a quite enjoyable burger, the beef patty was cooked well, and the chorizo and sriracha mayo added a kick to it. I did find the tomato relish a little overwhelming at times though, and less of it would have allowed the other flavours to come through better, and also help in retaining the integrity of the buns.

Merry-Go-Round – $14.00

Keen for something that is more out of the box? Then Merry-Go-Round might be a good pick. Stuffed full with three pieces of pork belly, pickled cabbage that was reminiscent of a cross between kimchi and sauerkraut, cheddar and wasabi mayo, this was definitely a winner.

Merry-Go-Round – $14.00

The pork belly was full of flavour, and the pickled cabbage did its job by cutting through the richness. More wasabi mayo would have been ideal in this case, as it would have provided a contrasting flavour. Some crackling definitely wouldn’t have hurt either, but then again, that might just be me being greedy.

Crispy Wings (3 pieces) – $8.00

You might think that that was the end of our meal, however I pretty much saw a plate of crispy wings at every other table, and couldn’t resist but to order a small plate to try myself, especially after being told that it was better than the wicked wings from KFC. The looks of these wings certainly resembled the KFC version, the batter gave crunchy a whole other meaning, and although not spiced as heavily as wicked wings, these were equally as morish, and the pickled cabbage again, lifted the whole dish a little.

With plenty of burger restaurants floating around Melbourne, BurGround certainly does its bit to hold up to the competition. There were something for everyone, whether you were after a traditional burger, something a little bit more creative, or God forbid, a salad, BurGround will be able to satisfy your cravings. The fried goods are equally hard to pass up, and there were talks about adding fried cheese to the menu in the near future, yup, you heard it here first. So next time, if you’re bored with Grill’d next door, why not give BurGround a shot?

How to get here:
BurGround is located on Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds, a short three minutes walk from Moonee Ponds Station. There are also plenty of street parking on the strip, if you were planning to drive.

I dined as a guest of BurGround.

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

Cabinet Bar & Balcony

It is no secret by now that Melbourne has lots of hidden gems tucked between laneways or up a few flights of stairs. Although how hidden are those places really? Sure, you won’t be able to spot it from a main road, but with the prevalence of online reviews and just social media in general, it’s near possible for a place to remain truly hidden.

I ain’t complaining though, because without recommendations of the internet, how would I come to find a place like Cabinet Bar & Balcony?

The bar is sleek and moody, with the best seats located on the, you guessed it, balcony! Being one of the minority of restaurants that still offers bookings, it made it much easier for my friend and I to secure a table on the balcony on a weekday night.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

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The L-word – $13.00

We started things off with some champagne cocktails, and my choice of the night was rather fruity and light, thanks to the addition of cranberry juice.

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Pouring Rayne – $13.00

Pouring Rayne (ha!) on the other hand, was more subdued and more of an adult drink imo.

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Cabinet Popcorn Chicken – $13.50

Although short, the menu had a fresh take on your average bar food, and the popcorn chicken was an example of that. The bite-sized pieces were juicy and crunchy, and I loved dipping it in the tangy mayo.

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Eggplant Chips w/ Aioli – $13.00

Eggplant chips is something that I’ll always if it’s on the menu. The version at Cabinet faired quite well, with large strips of eggplant cover in a thin layer of panko crumb, and fried to perfection. My only complaint would be that it lacked some seasoning, however, the aioli on the side certainly helped with that.

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Chorizo, Olives, Feta + Basil Flatbread – $10.00

Being a Wednesday night, we had to take on Cabinet’s offer of $10 flatbreads, and after some intense discussion, we settled on the chorizo one. This was a healthier take on yourΒ  traditional pizza, being on a much thinner base of flatbread, leaving us with more room to indulge on the toppings. The thickly-cut slices of smoky and flavoursome chorizo were undoubtedly the star of the show, and the simply yet classic combination of flavours made the flatbread an overall winner.

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Mini Chocolate Fondue w/ Croissant, Strawberries and Marshmallows – $12.00

Cabinet keeps its dessert menu short and sweet, with only one item on it – the mini chocolate fondue, so it was a good thing that my friend and I were both keen for it. The melty pot of chocolate was perfect for dunking all the other goodies in, I especially enjoyed the buttery croissant.

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Cabinet certainly carries its own charm, as showcased by the constant flow of diners throughout the night. I always enjoy a bar that puts some serious effort into its food menu too, and Cabinet does just that.

And with events like $10 flatbread Wednesdays, $10 Aperol Spritz Sundays, and $10 Margherita Mondays, it’s guaranteed that no matter when you visit, it will always be a good time.

How to get here:
Cabinet Bar & Balcony is located on Rainbow Alley, although it’s visible from Swanston Street, it is a 10 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Cabinet Bar & Balcony Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Very Good Falafels

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetMiddle Eastern food is one of my favourites. Grilled meats all piled high on a plate, with dips and pickled goods on the side, and everything can be wrapped up in a pita bread, what’s not to love?Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetVery Good Falafels do things a bit different here, as the name goes, they have a focus on serving up some of the best falafels in town, coupled with a rotation of house salads that can either be served on their own, or topped off with falafels.

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Falafel Plate – $10

I went for the signatory falafel plate, piled high with goodies ranging from pickles, trio of dips, and a simple salad, with three falafels and a large ladle of tahini to finish the whole thing off. To say that the falafels were very good is an understatement, they are probably the best that I’ve had to date! They were freshly made to order, and you can definitely tell by the crunchy exterior, and a soft interior that still had some bite to it.

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Falafel Plate – $10

I loved that I could assemble this plate however I wanted, whether it was pairing the falafel with one of the dips or throwing a bit of falafel with some vibrant vegetables in the pita bread to freshen things up a little.

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Salad – $10

Very Good Falafel has three or four house salads at one time, and unfortunately I failed to write down the options available on the night we visited (I know I know). However, I have it on good account that they were all better than your average house salad, with the beans salad (?) being my friend’s favourite of the night.

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As you can see, we wiped our plates clean. Very Good Falafel exceeded my expectations in the best ways possible, I was happy to see that something I often view as a side to mains that are much more exciting being the star of show. The tahini and hummus were also phenomenal, I had thought that nothing could beat home made hummus prior to my meal, but the silky and nutty blend here is much better that I could whip up in a food processor.

I had wanted to bring a tub home, but it was sold out at this point. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to go back.

How to get here:
Very Good Falafels is located on Sydney Road, catch tram #19 from Melbourne Central or Flinders Street Station, and get off at Stewart St/Sydney Rd, and the small restaurant is a minute walk away.

Very Good Falafel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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