Newmarket Hotel

Sometimes Muffin and I go on food missions, where we basically go on reconnaissance to restaurants to test and see whether they’ll be suitable for future celebratory dinners. In this case Muffin wanted to see if the revamped Newmarket Hotel would be a suitable venue to take her family to for her birthday dinner. And me, well, all I needed to hear was that the menu was Mexican-influenced and I was all on board.

The first impression of the fitout is that the Newmarket is sliiiiiiiick as all get out. Pub look on the outside, living in a gorgeous terrarium on the inside. Now I want to live in a gorgeous terrarium, particularly if the food is as good as it is here (clue: REALLY FUCKING GOOD).

Our starter was the guacamole with salsa fresca and tortilla chips. Sounds simple, but it was simple done well. The guacamole was slightly chilli-spiced, and it was all together very snackable, I couldn’t stop nibbling even after other dishes hit the table.

I was far too overexcited about the prospect of sampling the BBQ corn on the cob with chilli and queso fresco, and had indeed been telling anyone who would listen at work that day that I was having corn-onna-stick for dinner. Alas, this particular corn on the cob does not come onna stick, but it does some with finger bowls! Which is good, because otherwise you’d make a filthy mess of yourself what with all the tasty sauce. The corn was beautifully charred to the point of having a very more-ish quality, it was lucky Muffin swiftly took the other half because I was ready to gobble it up too.

Being me, I had to make sure that there were some potatoes in the mix, so I made sure to order the triple cooked bravas potatoes with two sauces. The unidentified sauces were a brown, smoky one that was probably some variant of barbeque sauce, while the other was white and reminiscent of kewpie mayonnaise. Whatever they really were, they combined with the crisp squares of potato into a quite sophisticated take on a staple.

Balancing out the potatoes was the quinoa, broad bean, pecorino and mint salad (though I have a feeling that there wasn’t any mint and that it had instead been replaced with some other herb). This was a fab palate leveler as well as a tasty dish in and of itself, the nuttiness of the quinoa all nicely complemented by the herbs and broad beans. I really love grainy salads and this was a very good representation of the type.

After all this sharing we decided to sample a quesadilla each. I went with the blue corn quesadilla with spring vegetables and asparagus. This was like a little delightful slice of spring, all greens jumping brightly off the plate, with the hint of summer approaching in the levels of chilli heat involved. Beautifully plated and flavoured, THIS is what fancy Mexican inspired food should be like.

Muffin had the quesadilla with huitlacoche, wood BBQ mushrooms, spinach and jack cheese. I’d never tried huitlacoche before, and Muffin was kind enough to supply me with a taste. It’s very nosey, similar to when you eat a delightfully stinky cheese and all the pungency attempts to escape through your nose. Which is probably an obnoxious experience for some people, but for me just amps up the savoury factor.

We had a little rest and then decided to tackle a shared dessert together, because really how could you not? The caramelised date and banana cake with peanut butter parfait was HEAVEN. Unlike a lot of sweet dishes that combine two differing elements in taste and consistency together, this wasn’t an exercise in contrasts. The cake and the parfait were perfect together, you couldn’t eat one without the other.

We didn’t get a chance to try the Newmarket’s cocktail menu, which was a shame as from our seats adjacent to the bar we were treated to viewing the preparation of all kinds of delectable-looking beverages, it was quite a show! (Probably helped that all the bartenders were capslock level HANDSOME) We’re pretty keen to go back just for cocktails and nibbles; it’s nice that it’s a multifaceted venue in that you don’t just have to treat it as just a sit-down dinner place.

Reconnaissance achieved, you will be pleased to hear that Muffin did indeed take her family back to the Newmarket for her birthday, and it received rave reviews all round! She also sent me a drool-worthy text message detailing everything that they ate, which made me draw two conclusions: 1. The internet is truly poorer for the fact that Muffin does not have a food blog of her own, and 2. That I need to go back in order to experience the pear cazuela. Melty chocolatey pear heaven, you are destined for my face.

Newmarket Hotel

34 Inkerman Street, St Kilda

Ph: 9537 1777

newmarketstkilda.com.au

Mikoshi

This post should really be titled “How Hayley Discovered Sushi Hot Dogs and Flipped Out So Extensively She Essentially Has Been Incapable of Doing Anything Other Than Drawing Smiling Anthropomorphic Sushi Dogs Everywhere Ever Since.”

Hitting the harried ambiance of Fitzroy Street to find some sustenance before a gig at the Palais Theatre, Muffin and I had already bypassed a few restaurants we’d scribbled the addresses out of the Good Food Guide when we came to a stop outside Mikoshi. And all it took was for me to see the word “sushi” adjacent to the word “dog” for me to firmly state, “We are eating HERE.”

Mikoshi’s menu proclaims its food as being “Asian fusion at its best!” Now I don’t blame you if you baulk at the term fusion; a lot of late 90s/early 2000s eateries killed the idea of fusion stone dead by merging together foods into hideous abominations That Should Never Have Been. But Mikoshi’s version is not only super tasty, it’s a stroke of sensible genius. There’s nothing in these dishes that is out of place or weird. It’s simply Japanese, served in a clever fashion.

For entree, of course we had to have a sushi dog each. I went with the seitan “cali-dog”, whereas Muffin had the tuna-filled option. The sushi comes out ostensibly as a big, regular roll, but it’s split down the middle and crammed full of exciting fillings – as well as marinated seitan mine had some tempura vegies as well. They even do a sauce and mustard style drizzle with the sushi mayo! It was ridiculously amazing.

There’s also sushi burgers, which we didn’t order, but I spied some at another table and am now intrigued by them, seeing as they appeared to be domes of iceburg lettuce that hid… what, I wonder? It’s a mystery! A potentially¬† delicious mystery.

We also ordered some other, less creatively exciting yet still awesomely delicious dishes. There were vegetable gyoza, with noticable chunks of shiitake inside, which is my marker these days for acceptable gyoza. Well, these were way more than just acceptable, they rated pretty highly on my “best gyoza to be had” scorecard.

I also ordered the yasai ramen. This was made with a shiitake infused broth, and the vegetables had been stir-fried before they were added to the soup. The fact that the vegies had been stir-fried gave the whole dish this amazing smoky flavour, which kind of ramped up all the other components. It was honestly a highly impressive dish, and probably the best soup discovery I’ve had in a long while (SO stealing the stir-fry method for my homemade ramen soups).

Muffin ordered the chicken bento box (Muffin likes bento boxes because she likes the fact that they’re basically compartmentalised culinary surprises). This bento was comprised of teriyaki chicken, kingfish, tuna and salmon sashimi chicken strips that seemed to have been tempura’d, tofu and wakame salad and a rice ball. She enjoyed everything greatly, and thought it was a very well put together bento.

Mikoshi has heaps of interesting vegie options, which makes me far more enamoured of it than the similar-but-nowhere-near-as-good Sushi Burger in the CDB, which I decided not to blog as it only had one vegie option. I can’t wait to go back and order a sushi burger. What lurks under that crisp lettuce shell? Oh, the delicious anticipation!

Mikoshi

151-153 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda

Ph: 9534 9559

Bluecorn

It was a lurvely sunny Sunday, and the Boy and I were stuck for something to do. We’d slept in, eaten toast and tea for brekky, and the long afternoon stretched before us with not a plan in sight. What to do, what to do…

Well, being us we immediately thought of filling our bellies (why neither of us are the size of houses, I’ll never know), and I was in the mood for Mexican, so we decided to mosey down to St Kilda in order to sample Bluecorn, which had been peaking at the top of my “I NEED TO EAT HERE OTHERWISE I WILL SIMPLY PERISH!” list for quite a long while.

It’s a bit of a shame seeing as I was so excited that Bluecorn turned out to be, well, not bad by any means, but slightly disappointing.

I had the goat’s cheese quesadilla with sesame eggplant, black beans, sweet corn, tomato, melted cheese on top, sour-cream and a chipotle-infused sauce, and a coriander based pesto, served in a purple tortilla and a big dollop of guacamole too. That is easily the longest ingredient description for a single meal I think I’ve ever written.

The Boy had the vegetarian burrito with black beans, sweetcorn, capsicum, jalapenos, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and probably some other stuff that I’ve forgotten, it was as jam-loaded with ingredients as my quesadilla.

We also got a side of¬† chilli-infused chips, which turned out to be baby potatoes cut in halves and sprinkled with spices and served with sour cream. These were quite nice, but am I the only one starting to get a little tetchy with the fact that a lot of places are advertising ‘chips’ on their menus, but what you get instead are potato halves, or cubes? They’re not chips! They’re potato bits, or potato bites, or whatever other name you can come up with, but they’re not chips! They lack chip-ness!

Anyway, back to the quesadilla. Honestly, as a dish it made me feel quite overwhelmed, and not the good overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to start with the dish, it felt like there was a whole heap of different elements thrown together without any real cohesion. This is an issue I get stuck on a lot lately, I don’t like feeling that there hasn’t been any considered thought going into a dish, and a chef has kind of just thrown everything they have on a plate. And the sad thing is, when all the components were isolated they were quite lovely: the sesame eggplant was smoky and subtle, the quesadilla ingredients were all fresh and tasty, I was particularly into the black beans and the goats cheese. But as a meal, these components just didn’t connect with each other, and there was so much I probably only ended up eating half of it (and me leaving food on a plate is so rare it should be considered endangered).

The Boy felt a little similar about his burrito, that there was just so much to deal with that it was a little daunting. We came to the conclusion that although the food at Bluecorn is by no means bad (and indeed, if you like getting a giant plate of grub that is fresh and overflowing, you’re going to love it), but it’s food style is just a little too all-over-the-place for, well, mostly me. Oh well, win some, lose some.

Bluecorn

205 Barkly Street, St Kilda

Ph: 9534 5996