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.
Hidden away from the foot traffic, Delhi Streets lures diners in with a tentalising selection of Indian street food. Despite its location, diners were pouring in and out of the restaurant throughout the night. Being the keen beans we were and arriving just after 6pm, we safely secured some bar seats, and were excited to sample what was on offer inside the colourful and contemporary space.
Being known for serving up street food, it should be no surprise that Delhi Streets had an extensive selection of entrees, some of which I haven’t seen elsewhere. Wanting to try a bit of everything, we opted for the chatt platter, which came filled with four types of chatt, ready to be devoured.
The pani puri is something has quickly become a must-order for me. The novelty of pouring in the spiced water never seems to wear off, and the combination of the crunchy shell and soft potatoes is a great way to get your tastebuds excited for what’s to come.
The aloo tikki was light and fluffy, the curry spices bringing layers of flavour to the potatoes.
Smothered in tamarind chutney and yoghurt, papri chaat is the Indian counterpart to nachos. The flour crackers did the heavy lifting for the chickpea and potatoes, and it was a light and refreshing change to the traditional nachos.
Bhel puri is reminiscent of a grain salad, and it was seriously texture city, with its combination of puffed rice and sev, i.e. small pieces of fried noodles. The tangy flavours come from the bhel chutney, rounding it up to be a salad not to be missed.
The Special Thali is a good dish to order if you can’t decide on one curry to settle on, as you’re given the option to choose three of the available thalis. The butter chicken was thick and creamy, and was really taking comfort food to the next level. The lamb vindaloo, on the other hand, had a nice kick to it, and the chunks of lamb was extremely tender. The vegetarian option came in the form of lentil curry, which was mild and flavoursome. The accompanying naan was soft and pillowy, and were great for soaking up the various sauces. All in all, this was an extremely satisfying platter to share between two.
Taking on a refined and contemporary approach that doesn’t compensate flavour, it is easy to see why Delhi Streets is loved by many, of which now I am one of. I will definitely be back to try more things on its extensive menu.
How to get here: Delhi Streets is located on Katherine Place, a short six minutes walk from Southern Cross Station.
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.
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.
Some food trends come and go, but Korean fried chicken is here to stay, and I’m all for it – nothing brings satisfaction to the table quite like a plate of greasy chicken.
While there are some promising restaurants that can always be counted on, I had wanted to try out Goodovening for a while now. The restaurant had been packed on the few times that I had walked past, so we made sure to book beforehand.
The outdoor seating area was reminiscent of restaurants scattered on the streets of Seoul, being slightly elevated, lit dimly and the tables are set under clear covers, which means diners can sit outside all year round.
I have no idea what these were, and it’s hard to describe the taste. They were sort of tasteless to be honest, and quite hard, but were fun to nibble on nonetheless. We finished chewing on these quickly actually, and the waitress was more than happy to bring us more without us having to ask.
Of course, we had to test out the benchmark first with some fried chicken. The batter looked promising, and indeed had that light airiness that I have become accustomed to. We chose soy garlic for the flavoured half, and although the chicken had less sauce on it than other places, they were sweet and tangy, and the crispy batter was not compromised at all.
The chicken came with a cabbage coleslaw and we also order some chips ($5.00) with it, because hey, if you’re going to be frying chicken then you might as well fry some potatoes on the side!
Cheese make any food taste better, and Koreans are known for putting cheese over absolutely everything. The spicy chicken pieces were very punchy and had a nice kick to it, and the cheese added some creaminess to the dish.
Although nothing out of the ordinary, these rice balls were adorable and fun to eat with the chicken, and also helped to tame down the spiciness when needed.
We’ve gone all out at this point, so what’s one more chicken dish? Carbona chicken is exactly as it sounds; the pan was filled with boneless fried chicken, fries and cabbage, all served on top of a thick and creamy carbonara sauce. This was indulgent to say the least, with the crunchy chicken paired especially well with the richness of the sauce. We all thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite of this.
The dinner actually turned out to be a surprise birthday dinner for me, my friends had bought me my favourite cake from Bibelot, and it was a really enjoyable night for all of us. My friend had asked one of the waiter to put the cake in the fridge at the beginning of the meal, along with some candles. At the end of our meal, the same waiter came out and plopped the cake box in the middle of the table, without opening the box or clearing out our chicken bone filled plates first. I was so confused by this point, and my friend had to ask him to bring out the candles and a lighter in two separate attempts. I mean it was a little odd, but we all had a good laugh about it. It probably just came down to a matter of miscommunication, but I guess just make sure that you ask the waiter to bring out the cake more clearly if you were also celebrating a birthday?
We tried out three styles of chicken at Goodovening, and maybe that seems like a lot, but the extensive menu actually made it really difficult to narrow our choices down. I’m definitely looking forward to returning, although it’ll be hard to not order the Chicken Carbonara again, I will try to venture out and try out some of the other chicken dishes on offer.
How to get here: Goodovening is located on Queen Street, get off at Flagstaff station and the restaurant is around seven minutes walk away.
Shanklin Cafe has intrigued me for a while now with its crazy high rating of 4.9 on Zomato. After skipping out on brunching for a while, I decided that it was maybe time to restore my faith in what used to be my favourite meal of the day with a visit to Shanklin.
The interior was right up my alley, being set in a restored Victorian style building, and a front yard that was perfect to bring your furry friend to. The inside was equally as pretty, carrying through the rustic use of exposed bricks, with a feature wall of blue and pink mosaic-esque tiles.
It was quite a warm day, and my dining partner chose to have an iced latte. We were a little confused as to how this was served, with a shot of espresso coupled with a larger glass that seemingly already had some coffee in it. Regardless, it was an icy brew that gave the right amount of caffeine kick.
My usual order of flat white was equally satisfying, being a dark roast that was easy to sip on.
The portobello mushroom is said to be a must-order at Shanklin Cafe, and my friend was more than willing to try the dish, given her love towards mushrooms to start off with. The plate had a lot going on for it; the vibrant colour of the romesco sauce is what first stood out in the dish, which paired well with the earthiness of the juicy portobello mushrooms. The two poached eggs added sustenance, and the zaatar on both the mushrooms themselves and sprinkled over the top brought a Middle-Eastern touch.
Although not marked as such, I think this was a vegetarian dish, and a substantial one at that.
It’s always hard for me to say no when pork belly appears on the menu, and so it was a no-brainer to order the pork benny. The pieces of roasted pork belly was on the fatty side, which means that if you’re a eater of leaner cuts of meat, this may not be right for you. The hollandaise did prevent the dish from being too heavy though, and I did quite enjoy it.
Did I enjoy my meal at Shanklin? Sure. The food was hearty and classic, with innovative elements tied in. I did think that it was on the pricier side though, with most dishes being above the $20 mark, and if you were to order a drink too, the bill would easy rack up to around $30. That’s the thing with a lot of brunch places I think, not exactly over-priced, but not exactly bang for your buck either.
Maybe I’ve just grown out of the brunch phase, but I can’t really justify that sort of spending like I used to. I mean I’m still going to indulge in it here and there, but it certainly isn’t going to be a weekly thing anymore. Oh well, c’est la vie.
How to get here: Shanklin is located on Tooronga Road, catch the #75 tram and get off at Tooronga Road/Riversdale Road, and the cafe is three minutes walk away.