Warra Warra Korean Kitchen

Here I have been waiting, waiting waiting. Waiting for the Melbourne foodie blogosphere to discover my newest secret lunch and dinner spot, my newest food love. I thought that despite it’s hidden location, word would have to get out. SURELY. Food this good doesn’t stay a secret in this town. They would come. I had faith.

I waited.

I waited MONTHS.

Nothing.

I scrolled through all my favourite blogs. I looked at the trendsetter foodie blogs, run by folks with their noses to the ground and their fingers on the mayo-filled pulse. Not even the slug-a-beds at the printed press had a whisper. Not a word.

Maybe folks just don’t get as excited by good Korean food as I do. Or maybe the tricky location is the reason! Whatever it is, this grave injustice MUST BE RECTIFIED.

So, let me introduce you to Warra Warra Korean Kitchen.

I was first introduced to Warra Warra about a month after it opened by my friend Julian, who is the best kind of friend because he facilitates new Korean food experiences. When was the last time your friends took you out for bibimbap? Never? GET RID OF THEM. With it’s handy location close to work, I was very excited to have potentially delicious Korean food within lunch break walking distance.

Head down the Tivoli Arcade from Bourke Street right to the end where you come out onto Rainbow Alley, turn right, and you will find Warra Warra in the second storefront on the right. It’s a super cute place, with three long outdoor tables (this is where barbequing happens, if that is your Korean cuisine jam), before you head inside into the bright interior. The staff are enormously friendly and attentive, with often the owner himself looking after you.

After being seated (with a complimentary little bowl of spicy pumpkin seeds), I normally go straight into ordering the tofu bibimbap, because bibimbap is where it’s at. I have rhapsodised previously about how bibimbap is the perfect meal, and Warra Warra dish up a pretty damn good version, filled with many vegies and tofu and the glowing orb of egg yolk that sits on top just asking you to pop it and sizzle against the hot stone bowl. Make sure you put plenty of Korean chilli sauce on top before you mix it all up – some Korean restaurants skew their chilli sauce too much towards the sweet side of the spectrum to appease Western palates, but Warra Warra rides a nice balance between sweet and proper spicy heat.

Loving bibimbap as much as I do, I find it hard to stray to other things on the menu, but I’ve manged to try a few of Warra Warra’s other vegie dishes. The jabchae – stir-fried sweet potato noddles with vegies – is a lot more saucy than I’ve come to expect the dish to be, but is still delicious and is served with a little mound to rice to soak up the excess. The vegetable pancake is a huge meal, filled with all kinds of fried vegetable goodness and served with a wee bit of salad to give you a slight aura of health. Non-vegetarian wise, most of the friends I’ve dined with who haven’t gone with bibimbap have gravitated towards bulgogi, particularly the beef, and have heartily enjoyed them. Combined with the complimentary banchan dishes, which can include kimchi and various types of pickled vegetables, dinner is a solid proposition here.

For those working in the city hunting for a good lunch, Warra Warra has cheap deals on bibimbap, bulgogi and soups, and a food bar where you can build together a lunch out of all sorts of little savoury treats, where there’s PLENTY of vegie options, like tofu steaks and seaweed salad and pickles and crispy sweet potato.

I honestly can’t encourage you enough to look into Warra Warra sooner rather than later. It’s the sweetest place, and it deserves a large and loyal patronage. So put on a big parka and meet me at Warra Warra for some bibimbap and a jug of soju, and we’ll all pretend we’re in a Hong Sang-soo film.

Warra Warra Korean Kitchen

Shop 19 & 20 Tivoli Arcade

235-251 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9662 2077

warrawarrakitchen.com.au

Kinfolk

It is not often that I find myself down the Spencer Street end of the CBD, which means I’ve been aching to check out Kinfolk for the longest time, but haven’t had the opportunity in my day to day wanderings to just happen past it on the fly. Finding myself with an unexpected morning free, I hopped on a city loop train and purposely got off at Southern Cross with the intent on finally experiencing Kinfolk.

Why is Kinfolk so interesting? It’s actually a social justice project, where all of the cafe’s profits are given to four development projects. The cafe is run by volunteers, the food supplies and outfit are all donated, and you can actually chose which project you would like your money to go towards, using the old ‘put a coffee bean in the appropriate jar’ means of funds distribution.

The cafe is a nicely cluttered, comforting space – basically think hippy chic. The volunteer staff are a cheery bunch, although it is wise to keep in mind that they are volunteers, and while the service I experienced was smooth and friendly, due to the concept they’re not going to be able move the earth just to please your whims (so remember that next time, lady seated at the table next to me who had a fit because there weren’t enough ‘lunchy’ options to her liking).

The food available is very brunch orientated and features a lot of simple, rustic dishes. I ended up going with the bean cassolet, a little ceramic dish filled with a variety of beans in a sweet tomato sauce, flecked with generous white daubs of feta, with two nice slices of crusty bread on the side brushed with oil.

My English breakfast tea, which arrived at nearly the same moment as the beans – well done on the synchronicity there, waitstaff – was served in a lovely fat, brown 70s-style teapot with a mis-matched cup and saucer set. The whole picture of the fat teapot sitting next to the beans was so striking that I actually stopped to snap a little photo before starting to eat, which as I’m sure as you’ve noticed from this wall of text blog, I’m not a habitual photographer, and for me to stop and take the time to take a snap before shoveling food in my face is a big deal.

Seriously Hayley, cropping out the bread from the beans platter, you are the worst food photographer.

Here is it, the only photo to have ever appeared on Ballroom Blintz. And now you know why I don’t take photos.

Now, as you may have noticed, the beans are not terribly large. You will not receive an acreage of food in terms of portion size here. But what was there was very nice indeed, with creamy feta slighting up against the sweet tomatoey beans that still had a touch of bite to them. And honestly loading up slices of good bread with tasty, saucey vegetables never gets old with me.

After such an anticipated wait, Kinfolk could have very easily been a disappointment, but I certainly felt very content after popping my coffee bean into the Palm Island indigenous education program jar and walking off to work. I’m sure there’s plenty like me who spend a goodly portion of their income on eating out, so it’s good to have a place where you can not only purchase a happy tum, but also a little change for the better somewhere else in the world.

Kinfolk

673 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD

www.kinfolk.org.au

PM 24

As a special three-way birthday treat to ourselves, Jen, Em and I decided to splurge and have ourselves a lingering lunch at PM 24. Because of course that is the proper way to go about birthdays, with lavish French food.

PM 24 is well fancy, as you would expect. I was quite nervous on sighting the black and white tiled floors, tasteful wood furniture and charming actually-French waiters that this was going to turn into a rather expensive outing. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that lunch at PM 24, while not being something you could conceivably afford to do every week, is actually quite good value for the quality of the food you experience.

For the meaty aspects of this meal that were enjoyed by Em and Jen, you can have a look over at Em’s blog Enjoy Eat Watch, where she goes through our visit in detail. I’ll just be focusing on the vegie specifics.

First we were all offered a complimentary starter, a pumpkin veloute. This was essentially a neat little pot of very high-quality pumpkin soup with a crown of cream or perhaps creme fraiche, and scatterings of chives and croutons. Delightfully smooth and bursting with flavour for such a wee thing, it did what a starter should do and got us all very excited for what was following.

Our shared proper starter was the cheese and Jerusalem artichoke souffle with sauce fondue. I quite comprehensively lost my mind over this one. The feeling of sinking your spoon into the souffle was like the sensation of cutting through water, it was that unbelievably light. Not so light was the accompanying cheesy fondue sauce, which I kept grabbing ever more spoonfuls of while cackling manically (this is a thing with me, apparently, whenever I’m liking a dish too much I just start wildly laughing, go figure). Oh Jerusalem artichokes, I love your earthy, buttery flavour so much, I wish you weren’t such a bother to prepare otherwise I’d cook with you all the time.

My main dish was the pumpkin agnolotti with mushroom fumet and candied walnuts. Crowned with a fuzz of foam, the pasta encasing the pumpkin filling was delicately tender, and all the other flavours involved were surprisingly gentle, from the sweet tang of the soft walnuts to the woody hum of the mushrooms, all building into a tremendously well-balanced dish that creeps up on you in a savoury crescendo.

Of course there had to be potatoes in the mix somewhere, and being a French restaurant we had to go with the pommes frites with parmesan and rosemary. These were fiercely crispy on the outside, yet still moist and fluffy within, a very more-ish ship. My only complaint for basically the whole meal is that the rosemary wasn’t very apparent at all here.

I also ordered the cauliflower gratin, which was probably going too far in terms of ‘things drenched in cheese sauce’. It was lovely, but I would recommend choosing either it or the souffle, not both in one sitting!

I also filched quite a few of Jen’s side of green beans threaded through with sauteed leek (Jen seems to be constantly compelled to order anything that features green beans when we eat together, a habit that I’m all for encouraging). These were beautiful, the beans achingly fresh, the leek all translucently golden winding its way around the beans. I gobbled up probably far to many of these than I should have, sorry Jen!

We were completely stuffed by this point, but then the charmingly French waiter came by wafting a tray of cakes under our noses, and really that’s just cruel because I certainly have no self-control upon the sighting of cake. We ended up deciding to share a square of chocolate mousse between us. Extra charmingly, when the plate with the mousse came out the waiter had written “Happy birthday!” in chocolate sauce cursive on it. Awwwww! The mousse had a thick layer of raspberry struck through it’s middle, and the sweet-tartness of it added a touch of fruity relief to the richness of the chocolate.

What a feast! Throughout I drank a nice hefty glass of Eric Bordelet cider, a sweetly refreshing French (of course) fizz which, if I hadn’t of been driving, I would have liked to have had a lot more of.

Obviously PM 24 isn’t the sort of place you could eat at every day. You’d die from cheese sauce overindulgence for starters. But for a special occasion or when you have a craving for French food done simply and well without too many curveballs at a price that doesn’t delve too deeply into your pockets, you should be well satisfied. Make sure to wear your stretchy pants.

PM 24

24 Russell Street, Melbourne

Ph: 9207 7424

www.pm24.com.au

MIFF Eats 2012: Electric Boogaloo

Melbourne International Film Festival time! The film nerd Christmas in August! The greatest time of the year! And a perfect way for me to say fie at my bank account and treat MIFF as a period for good films and good food. Knowing that I wasn’t going to get the chance for any overseas traveling jaunts this year, I said to myself “bugger it”, took leave from work for the entirety of MIFF and basically went on holiday, attempting to eat myself decadently silly where I could in between the 45 films I saw. What follows is the most illustrious of the vittles I sampled.

Hako

After watching Step Up to the Plate and consequentially becoming VERY hungry, Jen and I took a stroll down Flinders Lane and ended up at Hako. I remember way back in the days when I was first becoming aware of the Melbourne foodie scene that Hako was quite talked about around town. Things seem a touch quieter at Hako these days, and although we had a pleasant enough meal with nice service and liberal libations of plum wine, there’s only one dish out of the four or so we had that’s really worth reporting, and that’s the herb salada maki rolls. Studded on the outside with seeds and inwardly stuffed with a mix of herbs and greenery, these were deceptively full of flavour and certainly had a lot more depth to them than a lot of vegetarian sushi I’ve come across. Jen and I were tempted to order another round of them, but had already racked up a decent bill so decided to let it go. Should I return to Hako in the future though, it will be for a feast solely comprised of those rolls and plum wine.

310 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9620 1881 

www.hako.com.au

China Red

Okay, I think I’ve figured China Red out. You may remember from last year’s MIFF Eats post that I was well confused about the patchy nature of the food on offer here, with some of it being really great, and other dishes proving to be almost unforgivably lackluster. But given its convenience and the fact that the food comes out super quick (both very important when it comes to trying to fit in a filling meal between films) I hit it up a few times during MIFF, mainly for the bright green vegie dumplings. The skins are still a touch too thick but that’s the only negative I can come up with, the fillings are nice and varied and the entire concoction is properly tasty. I also partook of the spring onion pancake, which was nicely crispy and not too oily, and of course that fabulous mango, coconut cream and sago dessert that just kills me dead. With China Red do your research, figure out the dishes you like and stick to them like glue. The benefits of a fast dumpling cannot be denied.

Shop 6, 206 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9662 3688

www.china-red.com.au

Journal

Ahh, Ol’ Reliable. I went to Journal for two consecutive Sunday brunch visits during MIFF in order to prepare for an extended filmy afternoon and evening. The first contained a creamy celeriac soup, a decadent cherry danish, and a chai served with a generous pot of honey, which is my sole requirement for a good chai. The second visit yielded up a stupidly tasty tomato and basil bruschetta (another example of getting the simple things oh so right), and a flaky croissant served with the daily jam, which just happened to be rhubarb. Can we all band together and make rhubarb jam a thing, because oh man is rhubarb jam a tart-sweet bomb of sticky deliciousness! I ended up being very indelicate and used my knife to scoop up the remains that didn’t end up on my croissant and just slurped it on its own.

253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9650 4399

Little King

This little gem has easily become my favourite haunt in the city. Hidden behind St Paul’s Cathedral down the same cobblestone alleyway that features the Chapter House gallery space, it’s a tiny lace-curtained bolthole that has some of the tastiest treats and most gorgeous service about town. I have become fast addicted to the soft pumpkin, baby spinach and goats cheese baguette to the point that sometimes I’m blind to anything else that may be in the cabinet. The coffee’s damn nice, at least to a non-habitual coffee drinker like me (I think it the coffee may be done by Padre, take that for whatever it means to you coffee fiends). Best of all, there are always heaps of yummy vegan sweet treats to choose from, which you should totally be doing at all possible times. Especially the banana and dark chocolate muffin. Om nom nom.

Shop 4, 208 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9654 0030

littlekingcafe.com

Chin Chin

See, I wasn’t lying when I said I used this year’s MIFF as an excuse for decadent food treats! Before viewing the truly excellent I Wish, Jen, Em, Sohi and I managed to score a table at easily the most talked about joint in town (the magic time to go in order to avoid the queues, it seems, is late afternoon). Em has already blogged extensively about this visit over on her blog Enjoy Eat Watch (complete with photos!) so I’ll just do a quick rundown of what I sampled as part of the $65 per head ‘Feed Me’ option – which is OBSCENE value for money, by the way.

– vegetarian wraps with crispy tofu, that come out on a DIY platter. Piles and piles of vegies to choose from in stuffing your wraps, and the peanut satay sauce that comes with it was whizz-bang wonderful.

– crispy corn fritters served with Vietnamese mint, chilli jam, slices of fresh ginger and lettuce leaves. I have to concur with Em and agree that this was the only dish that we sampled that didn’t quite work. All these little fried babies needed was the excellently spicy chilli jam, everything else was extraneous and conflicted texturally.

– a plate of green with the lightly steamed pea and bean shoots with soy honey sauce. I’m a big fan of greens done simply with a good sauce, and this hit the spot perfectly.

– vegetarian fried rice. While nothing will ever compare to my dad’s fried rice, this was still a very satisfying version, with a good proper level of salty soy and a variety of vegie bits and bobs (you always want your fried rice to have a good amount of bits and bobs).

– extreme dessert quartet of sweet destruction: honeycomb parfait with ginger sorbet, banana roti with condensed milk sauce, corn ice cream with caramel coconut rice, and a creamy, coconutty Thai-inspired trifle. While all of these caught my interest in some way, the one that would have me going back in a second would be the honeycomb parfait. Smooth, rich, creamy parfait undercut by the sharp tang of the ginger sorbet: utter bliss.

Needless to say, I am now among the multitudes that found Chin Chin to be utterly worth the hype.

125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

chinchinrestaurant.com.au

Cumulus Inc

I hadn’t tried Cumulus before, mainly due to the fact that I had never really heard of them rated as a good dinner joint for vegos. Indeed, once I was sat at the bar and started perusing the menu, I was dismayed that it seemed to be totally dominated by listings of oysters and charcuterie items. But within the salads and comestibles section I found succour with the cauliflower, chard and taleggio gratin dotted with delicate fronds of black truffle. This is the kind of dish that was so good that I wanted to lift it above my head into the light and declare it the high god king of all that the sun touched, but you know, I would have burnt myself on the hot skillet if I’d done so, so I didn’t.

What is also good about the salad and sides selection is that all bar the gratin can be downsized into half serves. I got myself a wee bowl of the cracked wheat and freekeh salad (I was eyeing off the roasted potatoes with sage and garlic but figured it wouldn’t be advisable to then sit through two films on a tummy filled with double stodge). This was an agreeably nutty side that definitely leavened the going with my cheesy gratin, and certainly felt healthy enough that my cheese guilt lessened considerably.

It’s also worth mentioning that Cumulus was a great experience as a solo diner. Sitting up at the bar you peer directly into the kitchen and can watch the chefs at work, and they all seem more than happy to chat with you while they’re putting together desserts, or cleaning oysters with tiny paintbrushes.

45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9650 1445

cumulusinc.com.au

Should you be particularly interested in my filmy MIFF musings, you can head on over to 240films.com, where Jen and I are still very slowly going through our reactions to all the films we saw. By the rate we post at, we should have them all done by Christmas.

Gingerboy

Yet another milestone for the Blintz family rolled around, and you know what that means: we go out and eat ourselves stupid to celebrate. For my sister Megan’s 21st we all rolled up for a modern Thai banquet at Gingerboy. How did you come to the decision to dine at Gingerboy, Megan? “I googled ‘good Asian restaurant in Melbourne’ and it was the first result.” Stirling.

Now, as there were quite a few of us we ended up going with the banquet option, which meant a mountain of food ended up coming out, and I got a touch overwhelmed in keeping track of everything. But like too much food has ever stopped me before.

I was very well catered to as a vegetarian, and the kitchen made me several special veggie versions of their standard menu dishes, starting with a mushroom san choi bow. It was pretty typical, warm mushroom pieces cradled in a crisp lettuce leaf, quite juicy, all in all a good starter dish.

Then there was the son-in-law egg, a crumbled coated soft-boiled egg sitting in a generous blob of chilli jam. The rest of my meal could have consisted of forty more of these little babies and I would have been ecstatic. I just really like a good tasty egg and this gooey example ticked all the boxes.

A veggie spring roll followed, it was all dressed up with garnishes and seasonings sprinkled all over, kicking it up a notch from your standard springy.

A wee salad then came out filled with cucumber, coriander, mint and other green things, which was very much welcomed as a refreshing palate cleanser.

Then time for a main-sized dish, where I was brought a big slab of steamed silken tofu with Asian mushrooms and XO sauce, served with these crunchy flakes that I think may have been some kind of vegetable that had been flash-fried, which I had to beat Megan off with a stick to stop her pinching them. This was such a filling dish, the tofu beguilingly soft, with all the accompaniments providing both complimentary flavours and textures.

I thought the tofu was going to be the sole vegie main meal, but no sooner had I filled myself to near bursting with it than another came out, this one a braised eggplant served with a nest of crispy noodles. I feel bad, I should have eaten a lot more of this because it was lovely, the eggplant all soft and and intriguingly flavoured and it melted in the mouth, but I was getting so full, and the last thing I wanted was to not have enough room for the dessert platter (priorities), so I only ended up having a little nibble of the eggplant, and otherwise picked at the crispy noodles.

And now for the coup de grace, the DESSERT PLATTER OF AMAZING DOOM: aloe vera and young coconut tapioca with pineapple sorbet; espresso tofu cheesecake with milk jelly and chocolate coffee beans; spiced apple and rhubarb cashew crumble with vanilla ice cream; coconut and chilli chocolate splice with candied chilli and lotus root; and banana fritters with yellow rock sugar and pandan ice cream. I manged a taste of everything, and they were all intriguingly different (though I’m pretty sure the espresso cheesecake had gelatine, so be careful vegies). The banana fritters with their bright green spheres of pandan ice cream were delightful (although I’ll say that about anything involving pandan), the spiced crumble the perfect thing for a cold wet evening, but my favourite was the aloe vera and coconut tapioca, because I love tapioca like Loki loves big gaudy horned hats (Avengers reference brought to you by OH MY GOD, GUYS, BEST MOVIE EVER OR BEST MOVIE EVERRRRRRRRRRRR).

The cocktail list is also worth a look if you like your alcoholic drinking to be a bit fancy. I had a Peach Lilly Possum Blossom, all gin, peach liqueur, lillet blanc, lemon juice and cinnamon and ginger syrup, alternately tart and sweet and very refreshing.

The only quibble I have with Gingerboy is that it really is not a friendly space for anyone with accessibility issues. There are lots of tight walkways and steps, tables are placed really quite close together and navigating the floor can be tricky, and as for the bathrooms, they are located up a VERY steep flight of stairs, which turned a bathroom visit by my 90 year old grandfather who walks with a stick into an Everest expedition.

But the food was all over very satisfactory, and for this level of dining was also reasonably affordable, especially given the obscene variety of dishes that were brought out (I haven’t even touched on the meaty dishes, but my family were very well pleased with pretty much all of them). If we were to go into a head-to-head modern Thai battle royale between Gingerboy and Longrain (as my family immediately started discussing on the ride home, because we are combative people), I’d still come down on the side of Longrain. But those son-in-law eggs, oh my. You gotta try those.

Gingerboy

27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9662 4200

http://www.gingerboy.com.au/

Longrain

My mother and I’s birthdays are separated by a mere few days, so this year we decided that family celebrations for the two events should be compressed together into a single dinner of awesome. I was entrusted with the choice of venue and was quite overwhelmed with the task, especially as since my sister Carly’s new beau is a chef who very conveniently seems to know everyone in the Melbourne food scene, it means that booking swanko places that are generally hard to get into for family dinners has suddenly become very easy* (seriously guys, get onto getting yourselves your own chef BF, the whole family benefits!).

Luckily Muffin had recently gone to Longrain with her own family and sent the longest and most amazing text message in the world detailing the fabulousness of her meal, and since I trust Muffin with my life I figured that I would trust her with restaurant recommendations. To Longrain, loved ones, let’s go!

The restaurant is in a gorgeous space, as you would expect, all greens and mahogany browns, and lordy, if you’re in a bigger group, make sure you get booked into one of the big, circular tables that are made of heavy dark timber. The entirety of the middle of these tables are beautiful stone lazy susans! Seriously, why don’t all tables come with a built-in lazy susan, we are living in the 21st century, we should be on top of this.

The table began with a round of the betel leaf starter, of which I got a special veggie version (once you let your waiter know that you’re a veggie, all of a sudden they let you know that there’s a ton of veggie versions of most dishes secretly available to you!). I was neglectful of taking note of exactly what was in it, but it was a fresh and juicy burst of veggies and herbs that was a very pleasing palate-preparer.

My entree proper was a veggie version of the eggnet salad filled with beansprouts, slivered chili, peanuts, all doused in mild, sweet vinegars, and with an amazing cucumber relish that my other sister Megan promptly stole from me. This was another burst of veggie freshness (everything at Longrain is permeated with clean, crisp, fresh flavours and textures), and I want to know how to create that eggnet, except that I’m afraid that my mother might one day come home to find me entangled in spools of egg. That would be awkward.

While the rest of the table ordered a round of about seven dishes between them to share (let me warn you that the serving sizes here are very large, you don’t need many dishes to fill you, but in my family we don’t do things by halves and insist on ordering half the menu), for my main I selected the salt and pepper silken tofu. Being one of my favourite dishes to order out, I had very high hopes that this dish would be a transcendent version. Expectations met! Silky smooth insides with a swoon-inducing crispy coating. There was definitely something interesting going on in the outer layer’s spicing that was a bit more complex than just plain salt and pepper, perhaps some five-spice power or some equally lip-puckering mix. The Chef BF attempted to get Carly to try some (“It’s good tofu, you’ll like it!”), only to be met by a shriek once she took a mouthful. “It’s burning, oh god it’s melting and burning, you’re trying to kill me!” Death by tofu, a noble end for vegetarians, evidently an embarrassing one for omnivores.

To counteract the fried nature of the tofu, I also ordered the Chinese broccoli with chilli and garlic. Seems unassuming, but good golly this was stupidly delicious. Not only was the broccoli itself good and crisp, the garlic and chilli sauce was all kinds of tasty goodness. I ended up pouring the excess sauce onto my brown rice and chomping away happily on it. Yet another dish that I had to beat Megan away from, she was intent on consuming ALL OF IT, which is very unusual considering it was a plate of vegetables.

Dessert time! Vanilla tapioca with jackfruit and a globe of deliciously soft watermelon sorbet on the side. This was a gentle way to finish the meal, the light sorbet releasing a refreshing taste of watermelon across the tongue, with the tapioca pudding providing possibly the freshest, lightest stodge food imaginable.

As for beverages, I had recently come off medication that had prevented me from drinking alcohol for a few weeks, and to get back on the tipsy train I broke my fast with a Manhattan, which is a long time favourite of mine and the drink I use to judge a cocktail maker’s metal. This one was pretty damn good, nice and strong (the first sip of a good Manhattan should make you gasp at least slightly), although I think it may have been shaken rather than stirred, which has a tendency to make the whole a touch too watery, but honestly that’s just my personal preference and in this case didn’t affect my enjoyment of it.

The Chef BF also chose a beautiful bottle of KT Melva Watervale riesling (I was negligent in noting the year I’m afraid, sorry wine aficionados) that he shared with the table. I’m a fan of riesling over any other wine variety to begin with, but this in particular was a fine specimen, with bubbling citrus topnotes and a smooth finish that leaves a very agreeable taste on the palate, it was a brilliant complementary accompaniment to the flavours of the food.

So in conclusion, Longrain is spectacularly badass, we all rolled out of there with our stuffed bellies feeling enormously pleased and contented with ourselves. While our very gluttonous experience may not be the best way for everyone to approach the place (you didn’t see the bill, OY VEY. Delicious but expensive times), but I’m very much looking forward to going back to sit at the bar and languorously throw back some more cocktails over a smaller selection of dishes.

Longrain

44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9671 3151

http://www.longrain.com.au/

*Disclaimer, yo: Just because the Chef BF helped to get the Blintz family a date with Longrain does not mean that we received any freebies or discounts, nor were staff aware that I was a blogger. We paid our way, and my opinion is not for sale. Just putting it out there, seeing as this has been a sensitive issue ’round the foodie blogosphere of late.

MIFF Eats

Oh Melbourne International Film Festival time, you are my absolutely favourite time of year! And in order to soothe my soul that it is once again all over for another year (*sniff*), this post is dedicated to relieving some of the food adventures I had while scuttling around the city attempting to enjoy as many filmy delights as possible over 17 days (although my Werner Herzog/Gasometer adventure is to be saved for it’s own post, it was that epic).

Wagamama

When I was on holiday in the UK a few years ago I found it ridiculously hard to find any kind of East Asian food that wasn’t crap, or served with chips (ABOMINATION). When I discovered a Wagamama in Cardiff and had a bowl of vegie ramen that didn’t make want me to write a letter of apology to Japan, I was so happy I could have cried. But I hadn’t yet tried the Melbourne outlet until I discovered that it was a perfect halfway point between the Forum and Kino.

On my first visit I ordered a vegetarian bento box for $15 (only available at lunch) and it was pretty decent. The yasai katsu curry was delicious, with panko-crumbed pieces of eggplant, zucchini and sweet potato all slathered in this great not-too-spicy sauce, which I had great fun mopping up with my ball of rice. The vegie gyoza were not as successful, the filling was nice but the wrappers were a bit stiff and probably not steamed for long enough. The edamame were a little tough too, but still tasty. And I really enjoyed the fresh green salad augmented with red dashes of rubbery pickles, it was a good way to finish off the meal. It also came with miso soup, which is always a plus for me.

Unfortunately I had a dinner there later on in the festival which was frankly a bit nasty. I ordered a vegetarian soup which was basically just a giant bowl of soba noodles and bean shoots in a very average broth. There were a few token bits of zucchini and snow pea floating around, but all in all it was uninspiring and an outrage at around $18 for the bowl. I might return for another bento, but count me out for dinner.

83 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9671 4303

http://www.wagamama.com.au/

Hoboken

The blogsphere seems to have been suspiciously quiet about this place (or at least the blogs I follow have been, apart from Carla over at Easy as Vegan Pie who mentioned it in her one of her own MIFF posts). I hadn’t heard anything about it before stumbling over it when taking a short cut to the Forum via Hosiers Lane.

First thing that Hoboken taught me is that I can totally be won over by cafes that have pots of ornamental cabbages sitting outside their front doors. I LOVE cute pots of cabbages, it turns out. I also love cute barista boys who are all “Not sure what to eat? Here, have this giant roll filled with an omelette and coriander and peri-peri sauce, it is DELICIOUS,” to which I reply “You are correct, young sir, and also congratulations on your face” (okay, I only thought that last bit, I didn’t say it. But I thought it REALLY HARD, in the hopes that he might have had telekinetic powers). They also do a very hearty mocha, which I resorted to quite frequently during the festival. To have relied so heavily on caffeine as a crutch, how shameful for an avowed coffee dissenter like myself! But sometimes nothing else will see you through five films a day.

I am deeply intrigued by Hoboken, and hope to return for several more visits.

3 Hosier Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9078 2869

Journal

Ahh Journal, such an old stand by. Sure, sometimes the staff  hide behind that wall of a bar like it’s a medieval fortification designed to keep back the ravaging hordes of Genghis Khan, but the food is deceptively simple and oh so good. Where else could something as basic as avocado on toast be such a satisfying nibble? And they craft a good mocha as well, though enticing the staff out so you can get a second one sometimes proves difficult.

253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9650 4399

Chocolate Buddha

I first discovered Chocolate Buddha during last year’s MIFF, so it seemed appropriate to visit again this year. And I was hungering for some sushi, as earlier in the day I had watched the divine documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (watch that trailer and weep), so nothing was going to stop me from chowing down on sushi dreams after that. Chocolate Buddha had a chargrilled tofu nigiri special on offer, so I figured that would suit my longings perfectly!

They sadly ended up just a tad bland (chargrilling clearly doesn’t do much for the flavour of tofu if you haven’t let it soak in the flavour of something else first), but there was enough tasty interest in the form of the accompanying pickled ginger and wasabi to jazz them up.

My main of the tofu ankake don was a much more complete prospect, with greens like choy sum, bok choy and wombok mingling with shiitake, silken tofu, ginger, carrot, bamboo shoots and shredded up nori sheets over white rice. If there’s anything more satisfying than a big fresh bowl of vegies and grains, I don’t want to know what it is.

Federation Square, Cnr Swanston and Flinders Streets, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9654 5688

http://www.chocolatebuddha.com.au/

ACMI Lounge

Did you know that ACMI Lounge does bang-up amazing soup for $11? I bet you didn’t! It’s damn huge, making it a really filling quick meal, especially when you’re a little pressed for time and have to do the film buff’s sprint to Greater Union. I ordered the potato and cauliflower soup one night, and while it was definitely stacked more on the starchy potato side of things in terms of overall flavour, it was delightfully creamy and warmingly pleasant. Best of all, it came with a piece of parmesan encrusted bread that was longer than the bowl itself. That’s how you win me over, with giant chunks of cheesy bread!

ACMI, Federation Square, Cnr Swanston and Flinders Streets, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 8663 2537

http://www.acmi.net.au/acmi_lounge.htm

China Red

I honestly don’t know how I feel about China Red. It’s in a terribly convenient location, especially during MIFF when it was just around the corner from Greater Union and made a perfect pre or post film dining spot with friends. It also retains its novelty value with the touchscreens that you use for ordering; my friends and I still haven’t lost that sense of glee in pressing buttons and then having food magically appear. I just wish the quality of the food wasn’t so damn inconsistent.

I mean, how can you go from the sublime example of one of the most deliciously perfect desserts I’ve ever encountered, which pairs coconut cream, mango puree and delicate white pearls of tapioca like they’ve been plucked from the very gardens of the gods themselves (I don’t know why the gods are growing tapioca in their gardens, just follow me for the sake of the metaphor), to charging $6 for a ‘vegetable soup’ that essentially was a few green strands and some tofu puffs floating in practically straight-up water? I have no idea.

It seems like it’s the sort of place where you have to search out for the good items and then stick with them. The brilliantly green vegetable dumplings are pretty good (although their skins are probably just a touch too thick for my tastes, although it is a reassuring sign that they are handmade), and on our last visit during MIFF Joe and I shared this incredible pumpkin dish where sticks of it had been somehow crumbed in egg yolk and fried. The riot this caused on our tastebuds was too glorious to be described.

But then for every great dish there’s one that’s just disappointingly average (vegie spring rolls, I’m looking at your generic curry tasting arses) or outrageously bad (I can’t get over that soup, I just can’t). Oh, China Red, you are confusing and I am honestly not certain how I feel about you at all.

Shop 6, 206 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9662 3688

http://www.china-red.com.au/

Oh food and film, will there ever be a more perfect combination? No, no there isn’t, that was a rhetorical question. And as for the festival itself, what made me catch my breathe, cheered me, or utterly changed my life the most out of the 41 films I ended up seeing? Well, including the above-mentioned Jiro, let’s just say that if you were loitering in a cinema foyer and caught sight that they were playing Submarine, Attenberg, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Melancholia, Tiny Furniture, or Bobby Fischer Against the World, you’d be doing yourself a great service to immediately purchase a ticket and a choc top, settle down in the dark, and prepared to be entranced.