Yo-Chi

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to frozen yoghurt. Like, “oh I meant to have a well-balanced meal but I walked past a Cacao Green and now I’m shoveling green tea froghurt in my face, what do you mean that’s not healthy, green tea is full of vitamins, and also mochi” level of addiction. I’ve basically got to a point where if I even see a frozen yoghurt place, I actually can’t stop myself from getting a cup.

Which means that when at our recent outing to The Local Taphouse, when Jojo mentioned that she had parked her car in front of a frozen yoghurt place, my mind started clicking over as to what one it might be. And when I figured out that it must be Yo-Chi, heralded by many a froghurt-loving hipster as the pinnacle froghurt experience, well, I just had to connive a reason to walk Jojo to her car. For her safety in the wilds of Balaclava, obviously. Nothing at all to do with us both wanting iced treats.

So Yo-Chi’s deal is that it is do-it-yourself frozen yoghurt. You line up – and boy at our visit did we have to line up, at 10pm on a hot Saturday night the line was out the door – choose your cup size, select what flavour/s you would like out of at least eight different varieties, choose your toppings, which range from fruit pieces to nuts, chocolate, candies, and even sweet sauces, and then your final creation is weighed in order to determine price.

I like my froghurt to be a simple and mainly fruity concoction, so I went with the coconut and mixed berry yoghurts topped with strawberry pop pearls. I am ridiculously addicted to pop pearls, I blame my twin bubble tea and Dessert Story dependencies. If you have not yet been fortunate enough to discover pop balls, they are essentially akin to little hollow tapioca pearls filled with fruit nectar. They are dessert crack. The ones at Yo-Chi were very syrupy and sweet, yet still had a reasonable strawberry tang to them. Not quite as nice as the more standard mango-flavoured ones you see about, but still good.

As for the froghurt itself, Yo-chi clearly like their flavours big and bombastic. This nearly made for coconut’s undoing, as it was such a strong blast of tropical goodness it very quickly overwhelmed me. One for the mad fans of coconut, not the merely curious! The mixed berry, however, was much more to my liking, with noticeable tangs of blackberry and raspberry.

Jojo went slightly mad and attempted to fill her cup with as many different flavours and toppings as she could. From what I can remember, among what she sampled included the coconut, chocolate, and honey soybean yoghurt flavours, and she topped them with a big spoonful of halva, drizzled with hot chocolate and caramel sauces. From a spoonful that I managed to pilfer, I was particularly interested in the honey soybean yoghurt, which Yo-Chi touts as their original flavour. Being mild and sweet, it would definitely be the perfect yoghurt for those that love their toppings, as it would complement anything.

Yo-Chi is the sort of ice creamery (froghurtery? Patent pending, patent pending, patent pending!) that provides endless variation and experimentation, meaning that re-visitation prospects are high. The froghurt itself is of good quality, and frankly I’m just lamenting the fact that Balaclava is well out of the way of my day to day meanderings, otherwise I’d be having their tart frozen treats every day.

Yo-Chi

292 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

Ph: 9527 7001

www.yochi.com.au

Advertisements

Batch

If you are a crazy anal-retentive person like me, you have a list of all the foodie places around Melbourne that you hope one day to visit. This list is, for the most part, a fluctuating beast: new places are constantly added and then often promptly forgotten about, others that I have been too sluggish to visit are sadly deleted once news of their closure becomes widespread. Places once visited get their names italicised if they were good. Bad places are slashed with a strikethrough, or deleted if the wrath is all too great.

And then there are the places that I’m excited to visit above most others, and are decorated with a little asterisk. And no other asterisked place has waited so long for me to visit as Batch has. I remember talking about visiting Batch around the time I started up this here blog. It’s shameful I’ve taken so long, so I made up for it by visiting it twice in mere weeks!

Batch is on bustling Carlisle Street, and has a tendency to be bustling itself. It’s nicely fitted out, with a lot of slightly industrial floral arrangements and an array of cute little knick-knacks that remind you that the owners hail from across the Tasman.

On my first visit I had the potato rosti, with harissa creme fraiche, fried egg and a side of spinach. Do you like the idea of having a crispy, oily potato pancake for breakfast? If not, good, because I love the idea of having a crispy, oily potato pancake for breakfast and if you abstain it means more for me. It was a deliciously evil fried breakfast, all the things your doctor warned you about, and it was sinfully good.

And if you think I had healthful respite with the spinach, oh ho ho, you would be wrong. This was the best kind of spinach, the kind lovingly slathered in butter and dusted with salt. Delish. I felt like a very wicked little glutton by the time I’d finished it, and instead of guilt all I felt was contentment.

Highly pleased with this first visit, a week later I suggested Batch as the venue for a larger brunch with myself, Muffin, Bennett, Rob and Joe.

I was a little bit more healthful this time round, and went with the two boiled eggs with soldiers, with accompanying sides of spinach and mushrooms. The eggs were nicely boiled with gooey centres that were perfect for dipping my bread soldiers into, such a satisfyingly nostalgic dish! The spinach, sadly, was nowhere near as good as the first time, it was very watery and didn’t seem to have been seasoned at all. Though at least there are salt shakers and pepper grinders on tables, so it was a bit more palatable once flavour enhanced. The mushrooms, however, were a delight, all zingy with mustard seeds and continental parsley.

I did not get around to sampling anyone else’s dish besides Muffin’s, who got the potato and spinach hash, which looked like a great big bowl of breakfasty potato salad. Tasted great, with a distinct flavour thread of sour cream and mustard seeds (they love their mustard seeds here).

I am very positive about Batch’s food, but I cannot be as effusive about their tea. They are pretty insipid brews. The earl grey I had on my first visit was horrible, all flat and muted, lacking in bergamot overtones and having an unpleasantly metallic top note. The English breakfast I had the following visit was better, but nothing special and still reasonably bland. I neglected to ask what brand they use (and I can’t find any tea info in any other blog reviews because it transpires that no one cares about tea), but by the taste of the earl grey alone I would hazard that it may be T2, because T2 earl grey has that same muted, metallic taste and is vile (seriously, do not stock T2 earl grey. Just don’t). Perhaps I will have to just bite my tongue and order mochas next time I go, everyone I dined with said that the coffee is amazing. I just sometimes wish places that put so much care and effort into coffee selection and preparation would extend the same courtesy to tea, but oh well. It’s a beverage culture thing, I guess.

There may have been quibbles here and there on my behalf, but the important thing was that I suggested this place to and experienced it with five other people, and they all came away having highly enjoyed themselves and praising the food, coffee and space to the hilt. And that seems to be where Batch hits the nail on the head: it has great food, and gives itself over to creating a great, friendly space for friends to gather together to eat and giggle, and they’ve been doing so consistently for about six years, which in the longevity-shy cafe scene is pretty impressive. So give Batch a go. Tea’s not great but the food is sinfully seductive, and if you can wear off your fried breakfast belly with a kip in a sunny park afterward with your friends, well, you’ve just had yourself a perfect afternoon, haven’t you?

Batch

320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

Ph: 9530 3550

Monk Bodhi Dharma II: The Pear-ening

As soon as I saw on Vegan About Town that Monk Bodhi Dharma’s french toast had changed from featuring bananas to featuring poached pears (pears! The most delicious of all fruits!) I knew that I had to beat a path of sample them. The Boy and I managed to concoct a reason: celebrating our halfversary. Halfversary is the halfway point between your actual anniversary. Use this new occasion to extort breakfast dates out of your significant other!

The pear french toast is pretty much exactly the same as the banana version apart from the fruit substitution, so there’s still the citrus mascarpone¬† and the pistachios, although the syrup that accompanies the poached pears is the result of a primarily cinnamon and bay leaf infusion. The other difference is how the dish leaves you feeling after you’ve consumed it. The banana version was so rich that that I felt quite full and bloated afterwards (deliciously bloated though!). The pear toast, on the other hand, might be the most perfectly filling dish ever, sating your hunger yet leaving your tum as light as a feather.

The Boy had some corn-based fritters, beautifully plated with a lovely big smear of basil pesto and some roasted cherry tomatoes. His meal appeared, I looked away to behold my plate of delicious pears and toast, looked back – and the fritters had been INHALED! Completely gone! “Were you hungry?” I asked. “A bit, yeah,” replied The Boy with a grin. I took that as a sign that the fritters must indeed have been as delicious as they looked, and The Boy indeed was very approving of both the food and the surrounds.

I also took home with me a raspberry vegan muffin (the sweets cabinet had been calling to me all through breakfast, I could resist it no longer!). I ended up sharing it with my mum and dad, and after the shock of discovering that it was vegan, my dad decreed it to be THE BEST MUFFIN HE HAD EVER HAD! Mum and I weren’t arguing; it was beautifully soft and moist, and liberally stuffed with raspberries. Truly glorious.

So yes, Monk Bodhi Dharma, once again thumbs up all round.

Monk Bodhi Dharma

Rear 202 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

www.monkbodhidharma.com.au

Monk Bodhi Dharma

A couple of Sunday mornings ago, I waved The Boy off on his bicypede on his way to training, and realised that I had a good two hours to fill up before having to meet my friends at the Astor to watch Doctor Zhivago. Hmm, what to do, what to do. I decided to wander over to Balaclava in order to check out whether Las Chicas was quiet (read: less than 15 people waiting out on the pavement) enough to attempt getting breakfast. Alas, the pavement was thronging with masses of hungry-looking people with apparently dire hangovers requiring eggs, stat. I have limited waiting patience, so I was stumped for where I was going to eat.

“Hang on!” said a wee voice inside my head. “Isn’t Monk Bodhi Dharma on Carlisle Street somewhere?” “It IS!” I answered it excitedly (yes yes, I have conversations with the voices in my head, do not pretend to be SURPRISED). But where exactly? The little voice hesitated, and my mind started frantically trying to recall the various blog posts I’d read about the place. The little voice finally came up with “… behind the Safeway?”

I ambled to the Safeway, and lo and behold there was a little sign leading up an alleyway to a tiny brick hut. I had made it! And it was lucky I was a lone diner, because the little place was heaving at the seams. I slipped onto the end of a bench that faced the coffee machine, the last space, and eagerly looked to the menu.

Vegetarians should be very happy here, as I was when I saw the menu was completely veg-friendly. Yay! Let’s do a dance. I was of course completely seduced by the thought of a sweet breakfast, and despite seeing some absolutely massive bowls of bircher muesli floating around, I always figure if you’re going to go sweet you may as well go decadent. Hence I went with the Madagascan French toast, which was two slices of sourdough toast slathered in caramelised banana, citrus marscapone and a smattering of chopped pistachios. The carmelised banana was sweet, sweet, SWEET! Yet luckily the marscapone proved to be quite tart so my palate didn’t end up being overwhelmed, and the dish all together was quite delicious. I was very nearly defeated by the sheer size of it (portions at Monk are very generous, just how I like them), but never fear, your intrepid correspondent won out in the end.

Monk Bodhi Dharma seems to have attracted so much attention due to its coffee, they have single-origin beans and individual grinders and siphons and a whole lot of other technical-sounding stuff that I don’t really give a jot about seeing as I think coffee tastes like death. But what really IMPRESSED me (look, capitals, that’s how much I was affected) was that they also put equal effort into their tea, the true beverage of champions. My Irish Breakfast was infused for five minutes before it reached my bench, which means it was lovely and full bodied without the need to keep the tea leaves in the pot. It also meant no gross, over-steeped second cup, which is what happens with a pot left full of leaves. To pour out a second, perfect tea was such an overwhelmingly wonderful thing I quite honestly could have wept.

I was very impressed with Monk Bodhi Dharma, and am enormously keen to go again. The space and staff were both very welcoming, especially for a lone diner. If I’m not feeling nervous while somewhere new on my own and actually end up enjoying myself and feeling comfortable, that to my mind is indicative of a good atmosphere. My only quibble would be that, considering the small space, it may not be a place to go with a big group of people on a busy weekend. Otherwise, it really is a perfect little place.

I voyaged off to the Astor with a satisfied belly and a new cafe to place up among my favourites. And as for Doctor Zhivago, oh my goodness, it was amazing, get off your butts now and watch it and develop a severe crush on Omar Sharif or Tom Courtenay, or both, it’ll do you good.

Monk Bodhi Dharma

Rear 202 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

Ph: 9534 7250

www.monkbodhidharma.com.au/