Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Melbourne Mini Getaway! (30MAR14 - 01APR14)

I was quite excited about the trip, despite the fact that I was going down there for the sole purpose of renewing my passport and that I have been to Melbourne twice. It was only for three days and it was good for the boyfriend to visit another Australian city he had not seen before. 

Third time lucky was the charm for me, as I didn't like Melbourne too much - but then I never had a proper chance to check out the food culture that seems to be a rage everywhere in Melbourne CBD. Not to mention, we also decided to splurge and stay at a fancy accommodation: nothing less than a 4-star property. I have also my colleague to thank, due to his advice on using another wholesaler, whose prices are too darn cheap to pass-up on. After much research and digging around, I decided to book two nights at the Crown Metropol. I got a bit confused with the rating (on the wholesaler's page, it shows 5-star but on Google, 4 to 4.5?), but nontheless, it looked quite luxurious.

And it was amay-zing!!

We bummed around and took our time unpacking a little bit before deciding to check the rest of the place out. As per fore-mentioned in my previous post, the hotel interlinked with the rest of the entertainment complex, so we scooted down towards the casino, passing by many retail stores and restaurants on the way. A wee look inside the casino before heading into the city, to show James around central Melbourne. Surprisingly, and luckily, it was considerably a warm, sunny day. The weather then prompted us (yes, I am using the weather as an excuse) towards a random bar, which for the life of me, I cannot remember its name. All I can remember that it was down a strip of various cafes/restaurants (if any Melbournite can help, the strip had a Vietnamese restaurant and a French crepe-place and plenty of other restaurants all on the same mini-street), and it had a sign saying: Roof-top bar now open. James and I, made our way up a few flights of stairs before entering a quaint little bar, which served some food as well. Nothing better than a couple of pints each and something to fill the tummy. As per usual, I always get to choose the food!

James, my waiter for the day. 

Rabbit & pork terrine, served with some pickles and toasted bread.

After a couple of beers each and in the heat, we got tipsy pretty damn quickly before making our way back to the casino for more drinks and James' try for luck at one of the blackjack table, leaving after losing $50AUD :( Long story short, that was pretty much the first day spent in Melbourne.

Day 2:
Feeling slightly less great after one-too-many alcoholic drinks in the system, we decided to head down to Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar, for a buffet breakfast, where we stuffed ourselves silly (the waffles was the best I've had and it's not the average fluffy kind either. It has a somewhat biscuity style and taste). Next on the agenda, was the sole reason as to why we went to Melbourne in the first place: my passport renewal. Since the process took waayyy faster than I had expected, we then caught a cab back into the city for more exploration. My friend had recommended a place called MoVida prior to our little escapade, and it was by chance we found the other branch tucked in a little alley. We were still too stuffed from our breakfast, so a walkabout took place, which ended at Melbourne's museum. It was late afternoon by then, and my feet were sore from walking in shoes definitely not meant for walking in. It was also a great excuse to catch the free tram and a little side-sightseeing before getting off near MoVida.

News of air-dried wagyu beef dishes, and other great tapas spread quite quickly from one foodie to another and I had to check this place out for myself. I hate to admit, but I had missed out on the large food scene in Melbourne as I was a poor student and the second time, I had no opportunity to visit nice restaurants as well.

Hot, and sweaty, we both ordered beers and asked the waiter what he recommended. Found this awesome dark Spanish beer, which was light and easy to drink.

A perfect way to end a long, sweaty walk, with a bottle of Alhambra

Another item on the menu, which seemed to be my friend's craze, other than the air-dried wagyu beef, was the smoked mackeral, so I ordered that as soon as we had the chance to look at the menu. The waiter did mention that the "tapa" was bite-sized. He wasn't kidding.

Left to right: Gazpacho (Organic Corn Gazpacho with Spanner Crab & Salmon Roe) $6.00AUD each and Caballa Ahumada (House Cold Smoked Mackerel with Pine Nut Gazpacho Sorbet), also at $6.00AUD each.

I loved the Caballa Ahumada: it was a chilled appetizer, but with an instant hit of smoked fish whilst the sorbet really intensified the flavour. James' order of the Gazpacho was also quite interesting, as it was served in a chinese tea-cup. I had a sip (I found it okay, to be honest), whilst he insisted that the chunk of crab at the bottom of the cup was really yummy. Another dish I had ordered (but not displayed here) was the Mejillone Al Gazpachuelo (Spring Bay Mussel Enriched with an Almond Sauce) $3.00AUD each. What we thought was a little bit of a rip-off was the Patata Brava (Deep-fried potato with Spicy Aioli) $3.50AUD each. Why? See below:

Seriously? It's a single potato gem with some good sauce, but it is NOT worth $3.50AUD! I can buy an entire pack of potato gems at a local grocery store for a dollar extra!! 

We then moved on to the "Raciones", which is a much larger, to-share dishes:

 This dish would be my favourite so far at MoVida: Pate de Pato (Duck Liver Pate with Pedro Ximenez Foam & Toasted Brioche). $15.00AUD

Cecina (Air-dried Wagyu with Poached Organic Egg & Truffle Foam) $21.00AUD. Actually, the cream-coloured stuff is mashed potato. What happened to the truffle foam, IDK).

The pate dish, was so far my favourite dish served there - it was creamy, intensified duck-liver-flavour, and the slightly-sweet foam, added to the enhanced flavour. The melt-in-your-mouth toasted brioche was a good bonus too. However, the Cecina, was somewhat disappointing as we had our hopes built up based on my friend's personal feedback on the dish. I am going to assume that he had the proper stuff, as I would again assume that air-dried = slightly crunchier meat, rather than meat that tasted like a cross between Black Forest Ham and salami. Why it was served it mashed potatoes as opposed to truffle foam, is still a mystery. Don't get me wrong, it was still flavourful and interesting to eat, but not what we had in mind.

The last dish we ordered after this (again, not pictured) is a dish they had as a special of the day: grilled octopus & beef with chickpeas (the proper name of the dish evades my memory). That was pretty filling and wholesome, which finally satisfied our hunger.

What I thought:

  • Food/Presentation: 4/5 (it was good, but yet there is a rustic charm to the served dishes. A little bit of a hit-and-miss situation in our scenario).
  • Ambience: 4.5/5 (Rustic, quaintly located in an alley way full of graffiti.)
  • Service: 3.5/5 (some of the staff were somewhat friendly, but left us alone a little bit too long. It is casual dining after all, but still...)
  • Monetary value: 3/5 (depending how big of an appetite you have, the bill can rack up quite easily)

Check MoVida Out:
1 Hosier Lane (off Flinders Street) | Melbourne,
Victoria, 3000, Australia
(P): 03 9663 3038

MoVida Bar de Tapas on Urbanspoon

After our fill, we walked back to the entertainment complex, had a couple more drinks before calling an end to the night.

Day 3:
Last day in Melbourne: slept-in as much as we could and packed as quickly as possible. The check-out service, again, was impeccable, where we dropped off our luggage for safe-keeping before wandering around, deciding which place to have our last meal in Melbourne. After much debate, consideration and discussion, we finally settled for Nobu.

We were literally the first ones there for our brunch. Our waiter, bless his soul, provided impeccable service - he was patient, introduced Nobu and the dining & cuisine style (Japanese fusion), offered recommendation when needed. The menu had too many delectable items to choose from and decided finally on getting a different bento box each - which featured a variety of dishes within a dish.

 Nobu Bento Box (Top left, counter-clockwise): Sauteed Vegetables with Spicy Garlic Sauce, Black Cod Miso (Nobu's Signature dish), Baby Tiger Prawns with Butter Ponzu, Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing, and the Chef's selection of assorted Sushi. $50.00AUD. Served with Miso Soup.

I ordered the Sushi Bento (Top left, counter clock-wise): Prawn Tempura Cut Roll (6 pieces), Yellowtail Jalapeno, Chirashi Sushi, and Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing. $45.00AUD. Served with Miso Soup.

Everything in the bento box, was delightfully fresh and tasty. We could not have asked for more. The waiter also explained that with the dining experience in Nobu, he would serve the miso soup for starters before presenting the main meal.

I gulped down the soup as I was starving by then and as soon as the food came (the Nobu Bento came first), we dug in. Boy, oh boy: the prawns were fresh and tasty, the cod was melt-in-your-mouth tasty, and the dressing on the sashimi salad was my favourite!

The Sushi Bento came next and I shoved that down too. The "chirashi sushi", explained by our kind waiter, was like an "open" style sushi: more technically, sashimi on a bed of rice, which was what I was hoping for anyways.

Nobu had a restaurant launched Perth ages ago, but I had never taken the time or effort to try it. Man, I missed out!

Anyways, this is my perception:

  • Food/Presentation: 4/5 (it was a Bento box, but still stylish nonetheless)
  • Ambience: 4.5/5 (definitely feel like you're in a top restaurant)
  • Service: 5/5 (Uh-May-Zingg)
  • Monetary Value: 3/5 (Great food, but for top-end prices. Worth it if you're rich!)
8 Whiteman Street | Southbank
Victoria, 3006, Australia

(P): 03 9292 7879

Nobu on Urbanspoon

After brunch, I decided to bring James for a view of Melbourne from above, via the  Eureka Skydeck 88, where we had a quick look before heading back to the hotel's Skybar for more views, but with a drink in hand.

Over all, I was quite sad that the trip passed so quickly. Despite having been to Melbourne before, I wouldn't mind going back just for the food and hotel!

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