Sonido! specialises in Colombian cuisine, something that I don’t have too much experience nor knowledge with. The small cafe is vibrant and colourful, offering a glimpse into the tenacious Latino culture.
Starting off with an iced coffee, the tall glass of drink was quite acidic but easy to drink nonetheless.
Arepas is sort of like bread made from corn colour, meaning that it’s gluten free for the celiacs out there. The arepa was soft and a little chewy, being the perfect vehicle for the chargrilled chorizo. Speaking of which, the long slice of chorizo was juicy and flavoursome, probably one of the best that I’ve had. Paired with the cool salsa and guacamole on the side, this was a simply but satisfying plate.
I was too full by this point to try out the Portuguese tart, which I’ve heard great things about. Guess that just means I’ll have to return with a bigger appetite.
How to get here: Sonido! is located on Gertrude Street, ten minutes walk from Parliament station.
There’s a lot of good stuff sprawled across the floors of Curtain House, and Mesa Verde is one of them. The drinks menu here is endless; it’s a no brainer then for the restaurant to be a popular choice for after work drinks, but we were here for the food.
Mesa Verde appears to have had a menu change since I’ve visited a couple of months ago, apologies in advance if you see something that you particularly fancy that isn’t on the current menu!
The house made tortilla chips is much better than the supermarket variety, with some added thickness that ensured it wouldn’t crack even when you’re scooping up an obscene amount of guacamole with it. Speaking of, the guacamole was creamy with a zing, and there was more than enough to go around with the chips.
Tostadas are great, first of all, it’s just a fun word that rolls off your tongue, and secondly, it’s essentially a crunchy taco, need I say more? The tostadas at Mesa Verde were topped off with the creamiest avocado, that had a mousse-like consistency, which went really well with the plump and fresh slices of salmon. Although this was messy to eat, the flavours meant that it was worth it.
I love charred corns, especially when they’re smothered in morita mayo and cotiya cheese, all lightened up with a squeeze of lime. Again, messy to eat, but well worth it.
The school prawns were coated in an addictive layer of spicy seasoning, and would have definitely went well with a margarita. The pickled green chilli hiding behind the prawns had more than just a kick to it, so eat at your own risk.
To finish things off, we shared a couple of tacos. First up was the pork taco. the shredded pork lacked the oomph that I was looking for, but the chilli salsa did help it out, and the pickled radish gave it some texture.
The baja fish taco was my pick of the night, although it took a ridiculous amount of time to pick off all the corianders. The fish itself was cooked in a light batter, and was perfectly tender inside. The herb aioli was quite mild, I think I would’ve preferred the smoke marita mayo here instead.
Given that drinks takes centre stage at Mesa Verde, it was nice to see that the restaurant did not neglect the food either. The bill does add up with tacos here and charred corns there, but it did have a groovy vibe (is this still a thing? asking for a friend), and I can certainly see myself returning and trying out some of the drinks.
How to get here: Mesa Verde is located on the 6th floor of Curtain, on Swanston Street, just a short five minutes walk from Melbourne Central.
I hate hiking. There I said it. So in order to turn this upsetting event into a somewhat joyous one, and to ensure that we have enough energy for the actual hike, we made a detour and stopped at The Jolimont for brunch before heading off to Wilsons Prom.
Balance is the key to life, hence why the French Maple was a no-brainer to order on this particular occasion. The French toast was quite dense, but made for an interesting base for the essential toppings of eggs benedict. The runny egg yolks actually helped to counteract the richness of the hollandaise, which was made with more butter than usual. This is definitely not for those who are not willing to clot up their arteries first thing in the morning, as its indulgence cannot be ignored.
The smoked salmon eggs benedict swapped out English muffins for hash browns, which stayed crispy throughout the meal. The generous layers of vibrant smoked salmon made this a more-than-substantial plate. We did think that the obligatory side salad with the sole ingredient of rocket was a bit heavy-handed.
The Jolimont screamed neighbourhood cafe from top to bottom, with regulars being greeted by their first names by the waitstaff, simple and no-fuss menu, and a price-point that’s well below what I’ve become accustomed to with cafes that are located closer to the CBD.
Although the menu may not appear exciting to some, it was a satisfying meal regardless, with each dish done well. I’m happy to add The Jolimont to my list of cafes to return to if I’m in the mood for something local and comforting, with no frills attached.
How to get here: The Jolimont is located on Jolimont Road, catch bus #765 Mitcham to Box Hill and get off at Longbrae Avenue, and you’ll be at the door of the cafe.
Gukbab literally means soup with rice, which is a way that some Korean stews are meant to be had, by mixing the rice through the soup and eating the whole thing together, almost like an instant version of congee. I had the dish a few times when I travelled to Korea (blog posts coming in March!), and was excited to see a restaurant in Melbourne that specialises in it.
It’s easy to miss the restaurant, with no clear signage and being scattered in the same building with a few other restaurants each with bigger signs. However, once you enter through the glass doors, the strong scent of sizzling bulgogi and Army stews will let you know that you’re in the right place.
The free banchans consisted of a pasta salad, pickled onion, and your obligatory kimchi. Nothing out of the ordinary here, and they were all fun to munch on after we placed our order.
Despite there being plenty of soups and stews that were harder to find in other Korean restaurants, we ordered the classic kimchi jiggae on this occasion. I make kimchi jiggae quite often at home, especially during Winter, but this was definitely better than my homemade version. It had a great depth of flavour in the soup itself, that’s made up of more than just kimchi and gochujang, which made for a great base for the sweet potato noodle and pork in the stew.
Japchae is a common Korean dish that is essentially stir fried sweet potato noodle with thinly sliced veggies, including capsicum, carrots, black fungus, mushrooms and beef. The slippery sweet potato noodles were sweet and salty, with a strong sesame flavour from the ample use of sesame oil, a staple in Korean cuisine. Despite this being a quite pedestrian dish usually, I actually really enjoyed it.
The fiery colour of the stir fried chicken caught our eyes first, and this was actually quite spicy. The chicken pieces were quite tender, and the cheese toned down the spiciness slightly. The strong spicy flavour meant that it was a great dish to have with a plain bowl of rice, but if you can’t handle a lot of heat, I’d say give this a miss, or be prepared to be drinking plenty of water after every bite.
Everything that we tried at Gukbab was quite authentic, and the restaurant is great for a bigger gathering, given the extensiveness of the menu, ranging from stews, fried chicken, bibimbab, hot plates and even bingsu!
The byu-dagi guk bab is said to be the signature dish of the restaurant, and I definitely look forward to trying it out on my next visit, just gotta wait until the 40 degrees days are over.
How to get here: Gukbab is located on Little Lonsdale Street, just two minutes walk away from Flagstaff station.
I know I know, I said I’m over brunches. But when we’re talking about halloumi fries, homemade baklava, dukka toast and Middle Eastern platters, can I really say no that?
So here we are, trying to reconcile a wobbly relationship we’ve been having with brunch at Advieh, a cafe that does both brunch and dinner on certain days of the week, with a menu that promises great things.
The Middle Eastern flair does not stop at the menu at Advieh, the mosaic lanterns hanging from the ceiling, Moroccan-style tiles, and the dark and moody lighting were all reminiscent of a riad.
It was quite warm on the day and some ice-cold drinks were on order. Although the iced chai was not present on the menu, the waitress was happy to put in an order for us. The spice blend was quite strong, which is actually quite rare to come by in Melbourne, most chais being on the watery side of things.
My caffeine fix for the day came in the form of iced coffee. The drink was robust and a breeze to drink, keeping me cool in the process.
Advish’s take on the mix grill plate looked light and refreshing, and consisted of three Moroccan meatballs, a piece of grilled chicken shish, hummous and two salads of your choosing. There were three salads to choose from on the day, and after a long deliberation, we settled on the potato salad and the chickpea salad.
The meatballs were my favourite on the plate. The were juicy and flavoursome, benefiting from the ample use of spices. The chicken shish on the other hand, was a little dry, but made all better when had with the hummous. The use of vinaigrette and parsley meant that the potato salad was a touch lighter than your traditional mayo heavy variety. The creamy chickpea salad was another winner, this is the type of salad that I can get behind!
The size of the dukka toast was the first thing I noticed, Advieh definitely isn’t shy with their servings. The pairing of pesto and avocado is ingenuous, and one that I’ve actually never tried before, with the earthiness of the pesto contrasting beautifully with the creaminess indulgence of the avocado.
The halloumi fries were fried in a light batter, and the yoghurt sauce drizzled on top counterbalanced the saltiness of the squeaky fries. The pops of pomegranate also added some freshness to the plate.
Advieh is something special. With its succinct but versatile menu, friendly and unpretentious service, and reasonably priced and more-than-reasonably portioned food, it left me with a re-found appreciation for brunch. I’m already planning a re-visit to give their dinner menu a try.
How to get here: Advish is located on Gamon Street, a short six minutes walk from Seddon Station, which is on the Werribee line.
There’s always some frozen homemade dumplings on hand at home, courtesy of my mum, and they’re hands down my favourite dumplings ever. This makes it especially rare for me to eat dumplings when I’m out. I was more than willing to make an exception for Shandong Mama though, given that the restaurant specialises in mackerel dumplings, a filling that I’m entirely unfamiliar with.
My heart sank when I saw on the menu that the filling of the fish dumpling was made with coriander and mackerel, being a long-time avid coriander hater. But whatever, I decided to suck it up and order them anyway, since that was the reason we were here.
The dumplings were very floppy looking due to the mousse-like consistency of the fillings. The filling tasted okay, as okay as it can be with the additional coriander at least. If you liked fish and didn’t hate coriander though, I’m sure it would be perfectly pleasant. However, the dumplings were overcooked, which meant that the skin was very soft, and one of them had broken during the cooking process.
We also tried out the fried beef dumplings. The shape of these dumplings were quite unconventional, gaps were left intentionally on both end of each dumplings, said to allow the juice of the beef filling to flow out and seep into the bottom crispy skin to maximise flavour. The skin of the fried dumplings were a lot thinner than the boiled renditions, and held everything together nicely. These were pretty good, the strong mixture of soy and spring onion meant that these were tasty mouthfuls with a crispy bottom.
I was pretty disappointed with my visit to Shandong Mama to be honest. I couldn’t justify the hefty price tags on these for the slightly above average taste and small portion, only ten dumplings per serving! I’m glad that I was finally able to put an end of my curiosity about the fish dumplings, but I think I’ll stick with my mum’s dumplings for the time being.
How to get here: Shandong Mama is located in Midcity Arcade between Little Bourke Street and Bourke Street, a ten minutes walk from Melbourne Central.
Brim CC is a no-frill Japanese restaurant that serves up a range of home-cooked comfort meals, including their famous curries, which you can have paired with a salad or a soup; omurice, udon and the like.
The decor is minimal to say the least, with tables that could fit around ten to fifteen diners. Although simple, it was very welcoming. There was bookshelf to browse through, and a Japanese map made with stuffed cloth, highlighting some of the attractions you could find in different prefectures of Japan.
It was quite a humid day, which meant that I had to pass up on the curry to prevent myself from sweating up a storm, and settled for the titular bento box instead.
The bento plate, rather than box, reminded me of how versatile Japanese food can be. The plate was filled with Japanese potato salad, rice balls, meatball, tofu topped with a sweet miso sauce, and a carrot salad.
Everything was cooked with love and care, and I especially enjoyed the miso sauce. It was a nutritious meal that left me feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
Brim CC is nothing fancy, but the food here reminds me of dishes that can only be cooked by a mum, delicious and nutritious. Maybe it’s not a great place to impress a date, but on nights that you’re not quite feeling up to the task of cooking yourself, this is the perfect place to be. Oh, and the fact that most dishes cost under $15 definitely doesn’t hurt either.
How to get here: Brim CC is located on Little Collins Street, a short 5 minutes walk from Southern Cross Station.