lunching Italian-style at Southbank…

Italian would have to be in my top 3 cuisines… not so good for clean and lean though so this lunch was going to be a slight challenge…. NO PASTA FRANK!!

Convenience was the reason we chose Tutto Bene at Southbank for this catch up with an old client, now friend. But, this location was going to tick off a box that probably should have been ticked off years ago. “You haven’t had a risotto at Tutto Bene?!? And you call yourself a Melbournian?!”

It was freezing, therefore it could have been any day for the last 6 months right…? Anyway, enough weather whingeing.. See, I told you I was a Melbournian… We were sat outside in a kind of sheltered area to watch the action (mostly just peeps running from one shelter from the rain to the next, as they navigated their way down the banks of the Yarra). It was warmer than it sounds on the balcony but I have no doubt on a sunny day that balcony would be a coveted spot. I perused the menu ignoring the sections I most wanted…. pasta and risotto and looking to the protein section. I’ll be having the duck special thanks..

Tuuto Bene duck special

And it was sensational. “It doesn’t look like duck” I hear you say. And you are right, it was taken off the bone and pressed into this delicious little square. YUM!

Of course there was a risotto in the group and it also looked pretty speccy…

7 weeks ’til the wedding and then I have added it to my list once everything is signed, sealed, delivered… if you know what I mean…

A lovely lunch was had by all, with definite intentions to return and maybe watch a little more exciting action down on the banks of the Yarra.

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Munchies at Misuzu’s…

Delicious dinner with the lovely ladies at Misuzu’s! A restaurant with 3 doorways… One end is meant to be lighter and less expensive. Izakaya style – a drinking place first with food to accompany. The other end is a more formal japanese restaurant. And in the middle it’s take-away for the lucky Albert Park locals.

An old favourite! A very special old favourite for some… we witnessed a proposal on this particular evening… really only given away by the excited squeal of the lucky lady!

We shared a bunch of starters, a little sashimi and a sneaky, and super tasty bottle of Riesling…

Crispy free range chicken tossed in black bean sauce

Pork gyoza

Crispy tofu in dashi broth with enoki tempura

Misuzu’s is always delicious and always pretty ext… Save it up for the special people!

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Clean and Lean cooking at home… by me… Frank… YUM!

So, I have recently been trialling the Clean and Lean phenomena… It’s kind of obvious but sometimes you just need someone to write it in a book and thanks to James Duigan I have been cooking some amazing meals at home. This is not bride diet by the way… It’s way too early to start that. I have definitely been interspersing Clean and Lean with the odd cheesecake or two… hhmmmm…

A couple of awesome brekkies:

Oat and ricotta pancake served with greek yogurt and strawberries

Poached eggs on asparagus

And a couple of dinners:

Turkey burger on cape seed roll (not exactly Clean and Lean… bread = bad but at least it’s super grainy)

Cajun chicken served on quinoa and avocado with a capsicum, asparagus & corn salsa

Lucky groom don’t you think?!

Delicious and healthy but also expensive and fiddlely…. I wonder how long I will last…

Bridesmaid brunch at Gardiner & Field

It was probably a mistake to try the new Armadale venue, Gardiner & Field, on it’s first open weekend… especially after a good write-up in Broadsheet earlier this week…

I kinda thought that the old milk bar was going to transform into a cool cafe to give the girls at the Cubby House Canteen some healthy competition… but really, it’s not actually targeting the same crowd… or at least it shouldn’t be but obviously some of the Malvern Mums forgot that the little ones like a babycino and a swing-set as there were certainly a few kiddies filling the valuable real estate in the small cafe…

We knew we would have to wait and we were told 20 minutes… No problem. Five great friends and only one hangover (oh no… not the bride)… Half an hour later a very apologetic waitress explained that a group had finished but they just wouldn’t leave… Understandable. I hate being rushed out of places so we waited patiently for another 15 minutes and eventually sat down and ordered asap…

Spiced quinoa, pumpkin and chickpea fritters with flatbread, spiced yoghurt, coriander and poached eggs

Poached egg with prosciutto and a broad bean, peas, avo & fetta mash

I ordered the quinoa fritters on flatbread. Pretty much clean and lean too, except the flatbread… which was EXCELLENT!!! The whole dish was delish, except the eggs just felt a little out-of-place among all the other ingredients… and I am the one who loves weird stuff… The ladies told me the that broad bean eggs needed more fetta in the mash. Don’t hold back boys! Whack in some flavour or otherwise it’s just too healthy…. The coffee was great, served in really cute aqua cups.

For me this is a place I would return on a weekday… then again, these days I feel like I am writing that at the end of every breakfast story… Basically I just need to stop having hangovers and get up earlier! Dammit!

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Chilli time at Chin Chin…

Another dunch at another no-bookings restaurant… Dunch is a 3pm Friday lunch that allows us to get into the super popular restaurants and means we don’t have to go back to work!

Finally Frank goes to Chin Chin!

With the Friday lunch gang who survived the habenero chilli incident at Mamasita we were looking forward to more hot dishes ahead of us. The restaurant was absolutely packed. Even at 3pm. According to the waitress Chin Chin is actually packed from the minute it opens until the minute it closes every day. I believe her. Unlike our Mamasita experience we were not even slightly rushed through our meal. We sat at our table until 7pm stuffing ourselves with the ‘feed me’ menu (highly recommended but make sure you are hungry!)

A cocktail on a arrival… Do it!

Kingfish Sashimi with lime, chilli, coconut and thai basil

The papaya salad was really hot! We thought we could handle it and to our credit no one ordered milk but it was def the hottest dish of the day. The girls needed a ciggie break after this one just to calm the palate…?

Spicy hot green papaya salad with chargrilled red chilli, prawn floss and peanuts

Organic pork satay with cucumber, pineapple, crushed peanuts and 3 flavour sauce

Crispy skin duck with pickled cucumber and ginger salad and sesame salt and fresh lemon

Organic silken tofu salad with thai basil and hot, sweet, bitter dressing

The tofu was my favourite dish. Fried tofu is one of my favourite things ever and in combination with chilli and the dressing it was an absolute winner.

Massaman Curry – Hopkins River braised beef brisket with pink fir apple potatoes and crispy shallots

This was the first time I have tried Massaman curry. Another one of those times I wonder why the hell it took me so long. I have had it at least three times since!

Palm sugar ice-cream sundae with salted honeycomb and lime syrup

An obligatory dessert of course. YUM! We actually had two desserts the sundae above and the grilled banana roti bread with condensed milk and cinnamon sugar which was sensational but looked pretty average in my photo so just trust me, It’s a must-order. Now you understand why you need to be hungry to order ‘feed me’in fact, I think there was meant to be another course but we just couldn’t fit it in and still have room for dessert.

Chin Chin was every bit as good as the hype! I hate waiting for restaurants but I probably would wait in the cool downstairs bar for this one…. Or go again for Friday dunch of course.

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A little snack at Little Press…

A well needed break on an evening dedicated to wedding stuff… in between a meeting with the chef and a meeting with the photographer there was an hour or so to spare. As we were on the edge of the city, walking right past the Press Club, we thought a snack and a glass of wine… or three, was in order. Little Press & Cellar is adjacent to The Press Club and is a cosy, intimate space to share some small, tapas-style food. They also have a very cool little function space, seats about 14, with a range of set menus to suit different price ranges… I now just need to work out the right function to have down there… That being said, I just went to the website and it looks like they are re-doing the fit-out as we speak so this could well have changed by the next time we visit.

Here are a few of our shared bites. Very bad photography from me on this evening but the lighting is not really suited to iPhone photos.

Kataifi prawn, attiki honey, smoked almond, coriander – THESE ARE INCREDIBLE

Slow cooked octopus, oyster mayonnaise, pickled daikon

Cabbage and fennel slaw, pomegranate

Slow cooked lamb ribs, orange pomegranate glaze

Dish of the night was the prawns, almost knocking Ichi ni’s ebi mayo off the top spot for best prawns in Melbourne. So close! The lamb ribs were sensational too and complimented nicely by the salads. The bill was slightly exy at the end of the meal but not too surprising to dissuade me from returning again for a little nibble.
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The Super Six at Ocha…

I had heard a lot about this local gem of a restaurant Ocha, in it’s old form in Kew. Now in a shiny new premises on Barker’s Rd Hawthorn, I organised a gang together to do the monthy Mon night degustation. This normally occurs on the last Monday of each month and consists of a 10 course menu at $120 per head. Unfortunately for us, we scheduled in a month where a famous noodle chef decided to visit from Japan and the degustation night got moved to a date we were unable to attend. So rather than reschedule a whole month away, we decided to make the most of the very reasonable $7 per head BYO policy on the Friday night instead.

The menu was very long, so many choices, don’t want to stuff up! So, as per my preferred way of ordering, we let the staff take control. We thought this would deliver the best degustation experience without actually having to spend $120 per head… pretty smart right? Here is a selection of what we ate… Yep, we were very hungry…

Japanese meatball

wasabi infused salmon tartare on homemade potato crisp with flying fish roe

Crunchy prawn dumpling served with green tea salt

Grilled scallop in its shell with Ocha’s hollandaise sauce

Crunchy calamari “legs“ tossed with fresh chilli and garlic

Pork belly special

Sushi & sashimi platter with soft shell crab rolls

Miso marinated black cod, grilled and served on salad

“Would you like dessert?”

Silly question really… The dessert menu is definitely worth a look, once again there are lots of choices! We went with this super crispy banana fritter and a perfect “ooey, gooey, chocolate pudding”.

deep fried crunchy rice flake covered banana with chocolate sauce & green tea icecream

One side of the table also had free entertainment as we watched the SUPER AWKWARD action of a new couple (arguably a first date) unfold. A seriously over the top date, with both participants dressed to the nines, with perfect ringlets and dripping in jewellery. He even reached across and kissed her hand over their meals. Cute right? Or gross! Ha!

One thing we hadn’t accounted for on this Friday night was just how thirsty we would actually be. We brought along 3 bottles of wine but the boys decided it was premium japanese beer night and proceeded to drink 10 steins between them… I am not bringing this up to shame them, us girls ordered at least another bottle (and I think a couple of glasses) of delicious german reisling, but rather to explain the size of the bill; it equated to $125 per person which shocked us until we delved a little deeper into our hydration habits. We were certainly satisfied though by the amount and the quality of food.

I was unsatisfied the next morning however, when I woke up with a humungous hangover, only to be informed by smartypants Ben, that German reisling has a higher sulphur level than most white wines, and should really be drunk in moderation (like all wines obviously)… I informed Ben right back, that this information would have been super handy to have accompanied his wine reccomendations (all German reislings) at the time, the night before…
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