Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ring-a-d-ding @ Chin Chin

I've always had some strange affinity with drinking beer out of a brown paper bag. It takes me back to the days of hanging out in St Kilda's O'Donnell Gardens drinking longnecks of cold Melbourne Bitter on a hot Summer night watching some dreadlocked fire-twirlers.
So when my compadre and I sat at the bar at recently opened Flinders Lane hotspot Chin Chin and spied beers being drunk out of paper bags, I thought back to those glorious days and was filled with the nostalgia and warmth of those hot summer nights, notwithstanding that this particular evening was bitingly cold.
Chin Chin is a big open New York loft style chic space with plenty of seats, a long salubrious bar and a serious buzz. After a swig out of my paper bag ensconced beer, I looked around the glamorous surroundings and loosened my tie after a gruelling day in the office. It was then that I realised I was a long way from O'Donnell Gardens and wistfully reminisced about those simpler times. Nonetheless we necked the rest of our beers and moved onto a more mature and beautiful bottle of Mayer Yarra Valley Bloody Hill Pinot Noir.
Historically I haven't been a fan of "modern hawker Asian" food and generally prefer a trip to Victoria Street over a Coda, Seamstress or the like. But I may just be converted. The lovely and attentive service staff were extremely helpful with food suggestions and there was plenty to choose from on the large paper placemat style menu.

Here is the run-down of our ventures through the menu: 1. Steamed Chicken Dumplings - a perfect start to the meal with a great vinegar/soy/chilli/spring onion filled sauce.
2. Salt and pepper squid with Vietnamese mint and chilli sauce - great follow up to the dumplings, very impressed with the chilli sauce and texture of the squid
3. Spanner Crab, lime & mint salad - my comapdre said it was excellent, a little too spicy for me
4. Duck - wow
5. Massaman Curry - great strong flavour
6. Pickles and mint - the perfect mix with the curry.
7. 3 layered pudding with violet crumble - incredible mix of textures and my personal favourite.

Overall I give this a strongly recommend 8.5/10. I wouldn't be surprised if within the next month (if not already) there will be lines out the door, Mamasita style.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pound for Pound Winner @ France - soir

Modern new-wave eateries are ubiquitous in Melbourne – whether it be uber-cool Mexican trendsetting Mamasita on the top of Collins to the slick basement that is the Japanese Izakaya Den on Exhibition, our city is brimming with the new. But what about the old? What about the places that have withstood the test of time? Anyone with a decent bank facility and a loose association with a supermarket sponsored guest Masterchef judge can open a restaurant and have the reservation book jammed on the basis that the place is the next big thing.

So it was with this in mind that my Dad, twin brother and I gathered at the mainstay French Toorak Road relic, France - soir. See it was my Dad’s birthday, and he has placed a standing prohibition on being given Architecture books for birthday (and Father’s day) presents after a decade plus and completely heaving full bookshelves of same. We switched the 280g glossy embossed Frank Lloyd Wright books for the equivalent weight France-soir specialty steak. Head-to-head the steak was pound for pound a clear winner.

On a brisk Thursday night we had the pleasure of a nice spot by the window, jammed close to our neighboring tables. Aside from the food here, I love the service. French waiters who take their food and wine seriously and who often start prickly but warm to you after you have first ordered. Our waiter warmed further when the adjacent table filled with a gaggle of 5 attractive women who looked like they would have been sitting in the same spot in the late 80’s with perms and super-sized shoulder padded power suits eying off anyone that looked remotely like a Wall Street dealmaker.

We started with whole grilled calamari with fresh herbs (encornet entier grille aux herbes) and grilled sardines (sardines grilles) washed down with a beautiful La Strada Shiraz chosen at random from the biblical sized wine list.
For mains it was steaks all round – my brother and I had the Thick Eye Fillet (fillet de bouef) whilst Dad went the Rib-Eye (cote de bouef). All were cooked to absolute perfection and were perfectly complimented by a side delicate Butter Lettuce salad, satueed Spinach and shoestring fries.

For dessert we had a mountain peak of Meringue served with creme anglaise (Iles Flottantes) washed down with a couple of nips of smoky Laphroiag scotch.

There is a reason why this place is still around and booming with people. It is the best steak in this city. I still remember coming here for the first time and thinking that I could never eat a pub steak again. So if you do come here, be warned, it will make it very difficult for you to order a steak anywhere else. But, it is definitely worth every cent/bight.