Friday, 21 February 2014

Event: White Night Melbourne 2014

White Night is upon us once again! Make sure you head down to the city tonight for light projections, performances and free art exhibitions...activities will take place all around the city, particularly at Federation square, Flinders Street and Southbank. This year Metro has even organised public transport for the masses

Many of Melbourne's art institutions, including ACMI (The Australian Centre for the Moving Image) and the NGV (The National Gallery of Victoria) will be open for 24 hours, so you'll be able to pop in to watch free films and visit free exhibitions. More information can be found at the official White Night website. Have a look at some of last year's festivities...

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Rice Workshop

Address: 238 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, Vic, 3000
Phone: (03) 9650 6663

Due to one of my weekly volunteer activities, I've always walked up Chinatown and passed Rice Workshop. As I'd been curious about it for a long time, I went to try it out this week. Rice Workshop is probably best described as quick-eat Japanese restaurant with a self-serve component; you select a dish, it gets served to you, then you pick out the sides you want to eat it with. On my first visit, I tried the Ontama beef with a side of potato salad. 

The potato salad was pretty much mashed potato with little vegetable pieces in it. It was quite Japanese styled - slightly more tart and less creamy than traditional mash. I felt pretty neutral about it - it wasn't bad, but it wasn't the best mash I'd ever had. The Ontama Beef bowl, on the otherhand was good value for money and quite tasty too. The beef was thinly-sliced and served with a delicious sauce. There was also a perfect little soft boiled egg with the dish (the Malaysian in me really enjoys a good soft boiled egg), which added a nice runny yolk to the rice.

On my next visit, I tried the Chicken Karaage with spicey mayo. The fried chicken was crispy and the mayo, a tart and spicey affair. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I enjoyed the Chicken Karaage at Shuyun.

I also tried the desserts...the tiramisu mochi and the green tea soft serve ice-cream. The mochi was devoured before I remembered to take a photo, but it didn't have too much going for it. The bean paste filling was nice and creamy, but the mochi shell was hard and stale - rather disappointing given that mochi is pretty much the softest dessert you can get! I did, however, like the green tea soft serve...for $2, you can get a generous hit of matcha. A nice little dessert for the end of summer.

Rice workshop has a pretty little dining space for you to finish your meal in. There's even an upstairs area if you prefer your privacy. And it's complete with interesting lights in almost every corner...

The restaurant also provides the quintessential Melbourne alleyway experience - if you enter through their side entrance, you can see some pretty graffti decorating their walls. Just what every Melbourne-based quick-eatery should have :)

In conclusion, Rice Workshop is a great place for you to eat if you're on the run - it's cheap and easy with a comfortable space to dine's also pretty central in the CBD (right at the start of Chinatown from Swanston Street), so you won't have a hard time finding it. Service is pretty quick and quite friendly (the waitress even told me that she liked my t-shirt). In terms of food, I'd recommend the Ontama beef and the green tea ice-cream, but not the mochi (even though I liked the filling. No one should have to eat hard mochi). All in all, the meals were filling and pleasant.


Service: 9/10
Ambience: 8/10
Food: 15/20

Is it worth visiting? Yes, if you're in search of a quick bite or a casual, Asian eatery.
Price range: $ (You're looking at $7-$10 a bowl and about $2 for sides)

Rice Workshop on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Brunswick Mess Hall

Address: 400 Sydney Road, Brunswick, Vic, 3056
Phone: (03) 9388 0297

To say bye to one of my close buddies moving to Canberra, I visited The Brunswick Mess Hall for a group dinner. For some weird reason, I'd always walked past this joint in Brunswick and thought it was more of a formal function space than a casual restaurant or bar. But I'm glad my friend suggested The Brunswick Mess Hall because it was a really nice venue with flavoursome Asian cuisine!

Between the six or so of us, we shared a couple of dishes. My favourite of the night was the Szechuan Pepper Squid. The squid pieces were lightly battered and fried, so it was crunchy and there was more squid than batter to enjoy. I didn't actually taste too much pepper, let alone that of the Sze-chuan variety (the real hot stuff), but I liked it better that way as I could eat it with lime and sweet chilli sauce instead. The little bed of salad was delicious with its mint, onion and lime juice combination...spicy, sweet and sour....

I also put down the order for some Yakatori sticks. They came quickly enough and looked great on the plate...

But they were a little too salty for my liking. It was nice chicken, though it would have done better with a little less sauce. We also tried the Pad Thai, both vegatarian and non-vegetarian. (I feel like there was a photo... but I don't know where. I'll upload if found). Both were quite hot, so I'd recommend it only if you enjoy spicy food. I feel like it differed a lot from my favourite type of Pad Thai, but it was still quite tasty with lots of beanshoots.

During the night, we found it a tad bit difficult to catch the attention of the bar staff to which we were suppose to hand in our order (self-tick order sheet system)...But it was a busy, busy Friday night and the staff were really attentive and nice when they had the time. Also, our cocktails came out reasonably quickly. I ordered a 'Tromba Cooler' from the menu mainly because I saw the words 'pandan vanilla syrup' and the Malaysian in me got really excited...

I liked the Tromba Cooler because you could really smell and taste the Pandan Vanilla syrup. So it felt like a pandan chiffon cake had been pleasantly blended into my drink. On the flip side, I couldn't really taste any pineapple. Still, it was a pleasant, tropical cocktail and I enjoyed the pandan too much to have any real complaints.

A few nights later, when I found myself in the same area, I wondered in to try the other cocktail that I had been eying over: The Sakura Fizz. It was a pretty little thing and was quite fragrant due to the rose and honey elements. If egg white sounds odd as an ingredient, have no fear! It does nothing to the taste. You only get the tequila and fruitiness of all it all - a good drink for summer, particularly if you enjoy sour flavours. The second visit was on a Wednesday night and there were far fewer people. The staff were even more attentive and friendly on that day and the speed of service improved dramatically.

The venue itself was something to enjoy with its creeping vines, animal projections and dangling lights. There was a DJ on the Friday night spinning tracks at the back, but you could enjoy a more intimate conversation up front, in one of the comfortable little rooms...

All in all, The Brunswick Mess Hall was great fun....colourful, vibrant and messy in a good way. This applied also to the food and drinks. I enjoyed the cocktails, with their inclusion of fun Eastern elements and patterned straws. I also thought the food menu offered a good selection of old favourites. While I wouldn't call it the best Asian food I've tasted, nor the most creative, I will say that they offer flavoursome, crowd-pleasing I'd recommend The Brunswick Mess Hall for functions or big dinners, where there's a lotta crowd-pleasing and entertaining to be done!


Service: 8/10
Ambience: 9/10
Food: 15/20

Is it worth visiting? Sure, it's a cool, vibrant space with flavoursome old favourites.
Price range: $$$ (You're looking at $12-$28 per dish)

The Brunswick Mess Hall on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Event: Japanese Summer Festival

Well, long break again since my last food adventure...but this time it was spent exploring Thailand (which you can read about under 'travels' on that side ->). But I'm back in Melbourne now to enjoy the rest of the Summer (and the hot weather which I thought I had avoided!)

What's on in Melbourne, you ask? I happened to wonder into a one day Japanese Summer Festival today which was hosted in, and around, Federation Square. The Japanese Summer Festival showcased national costumes and performances, as well as a number of traditional and commercial food stalls.

The stall run by The Little Red Pocket Cocktail Bar caught my eye because it's Chinese New Year (Happy year of the horse! Or if you can read some Chinese: 新年快乐龙马精神!) and people get red pockets during that time, so I thought it was a play on that. 

It turns out that The Little Red Pocket Cocktail Bar is a well known venue that was voted into the World's top 100 best bars! As the Japanese Summer Festival was set in a public space, The Little Red Pocket Cocktail Bar didn't serve any alcoholic drinks. Instead, they offered some pretty looking mocktails. Even though I'd just finished an iced green tea latte (creamy condense milk with a good mix of matcha), I was tempted by the Virgin I bought it (to keep fully hyrated in the outdoor heat, you see.)

Little Red Pocket Cocktail Bar on Urbanspoon

I liked the Virgin Lychee mocktail, even though it seemed like a simply drink. It was slightly sweet, quite fruity and very very cool - a great combination to address the thirst brought on from 40 degree heat. The mint and lemon helped to add extra flavours and make it more refreshing, as well as more presentable.
I'd like to go to the actual venue someday. But for the moment, I'd say the drinks were refreshing and fun. The service was very fast and efficient at the stall, though too busy to really assess.

Did anyone else visit the Japanese Summer Festival? Or have you been to The Little Red Pocket Cocktail bar before...and did you enjoy your experience there?