Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Review - Don Too

19 January 2012

Don Too
330 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Cuisine: Japanese

DonToo on Urbanspoon

The food is served very quickly here. You order, pay and pick up your food at the counter. Usually, before you can put your change away, the food has appeared at one end of the counter, ready for you to pick up. Most of the menu items are ready-cooked and able to be quickly plated by the staff in the tiny kitchen. 

Don Too has two adjoining tiny dining rooms, with tables close together.  The name at the door says Don Too. The menu says Don Don. It hints to a connection between Don Too and the other Don Don restaurants in Melbourne. Don Too doesn't take bookings. It is very popular with office workers in the area. At lunch times there is usually a long, but fast moving, queue to order. Takeaways are as popular as dine-ins, which is understandable given there is limited seating.

We arrived at lunch time and managed to get a table for three; this was made possible by having one person scout for a table and then sit at the table, while the others order at the counter, othewise we might be stuck with food and no table!

The menu is a simple one page with 11 main items. We ordered the Don Don Box, Chicken Curry Don and Beef Curry Don. The Don Don Box is certainly value for money - a large bento box containing a generous serve of teriyaki chicken, sukiyaki beef, rice and salad of vegetables and fruits; the fruit varies depending on their supplies for that day. "Don" is abbreviated from "Donburi",  which is Japanese for "bowl".  The Chicken Curry Don came in a bowl and consisted of teriyaki chicken on rice, sitting like an island with a mild curry gravy to one side of the bowl. This is considerate as it enables you to mix in as much, or as little, gravy as you like, rather than the whole lot being innundated with gravy on top.  I like the chicken teriyaki in the Don Don Box and the Chicken Curry Don; it was presumably pan-fried, with a nice grilled texture on the outside and randomly coated with a thick, slightly sweet, soy-based sauce. The Beef Curry Don was sukiyaki beef and rice, with mild curry gravy to one side of the bowl, like the Chicken Curry Don arrangement. I had eaten the beef sukiyaki before and been happy with it. However, the sliced beef today had large slices of fat. Some diners do like a large amount of fat with their beef. I prefer not to have to trim off large pieces of fat from my sukiyaki beef before I can eat it. Japanese curry is mild, unlike the hotter, spicer curries from Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, or South Asian countries like India and Sri Lanka.

The cutlery provided for both takeaways and dine-in is plastic. Plastic cutlery is awkward to use; this is unnavoidable for takeaways but it would be nice to have proper cutlery for the table. Despite being a cheap place to eat, the place looks clean and has an agreeable darkened atmosphere with rustic solid wooden tables and chairs, and not the garish lighting and cheap furniture of other budget eateries.

Overall, I was happy with the food and dining experience.

Taste Rating: 6.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10

Don Don Box

Chicken Curry Don

Beef Curry Don

Don Don Box, Chicken Curry Don, Beef Curry Don

Don Too Menu



Saturday, 28 January 2012

Review - Miss Marple's Tea Room

16 January 2012

Miss Marple's Tea Room
382 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Sassafras
Cuisine: English

Miss Marple's Tearoom on Urbanspoon

We had an overseas visitor so decided to make a trip to the Dandenong Mountains and to Miss Marple's Tea Room for lunch. Knowing that Miss Marple's attracts tourists on weekends and that it does not take bookings, we opted to go on a Monday. Surprisingly, it was busy. However, we only had to wait five minutes in the little sitting room before our table was ready.

We go to Miss Marple's for the ambience of an English cottage a la Laura Ashley and the Agatha Christie memorabilia. The staff wear traditional black English-style uniforms with aprons. The service was pleasant; all the waitresses who served us were smiling and friendly. The place is small and they try to fit in as many tables as possible, so when packed with diners, it is more cramped than cosy - difficult if you want to move around but comfortable once seated and you are able to have your own conversations without any intrusions from the surrounding tables. 

We ordered Cheese and Herb bread, two lots of Fish and Chips, Beef Cottage Pie, Chicken Cottage Pie and Quiche Lorraine. Drinks were milkshakes, Teapot of Taylors "Yorkshire Gold" tea and caffè latte. The Cheese and Herb bread was good so we ordered another serve. The fish was Blue Grenadier which I had a taste of and found to be a touch fishy, the batter was good without being too thick but the chips were fairly ordinary. However, the others enjoyed their fish and chip meals. My meal was the Beef Cottage Pie and for comparison, I tasted the Chicken Cottage Pie ordered by our visitor. I prefered the beef pie to the chicken pie as the beef pie had more taste, whereas I found the chicken pie ordinary and the meat a bit dry. However, our visitor prefered the chicken pie to the beef pie. I don't have to say that taste is a very subjective thing! The pie serves were small, especially considering they were mains. The Quiche Lorraine looked like a burnt mess next to the chips. It was not the usual look of creamy egg and bacon custard in a pastry crust. Miss Marple's version has the outside of the quiche so brown it looked burnt. The tea had a good medium strength with a nice flavour and aftertaste.

Overall, a nice place to take out of town or international visitors for the English-style environment.

Taste Rating: 6/10   Value Rating: 6/10

Cheese and Herb Bread

Cheese and Herb Bread
Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

Beef Cottage Pie

Chicken Cottage Pie

Quiche Lorraine

Yorkshire Gold tea

Caffè Latte

Teapot Collection

Miss Marple's Tea Room - a quaint English cottage

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Review - RaRamen

15th Jan 2012

114 Kings Way, Glen Waverley

Cuisine: Shanghai, Asian

Raramen Glen Waverley on Urbanspoon

RaRamen is a popular place for affordable, simple Shanghai meals. It has taken over the venue of one of Glen Waverley's old favourites, Bob's Kitchen, and the food is very similar. No bookings are taken and there is usually a queue during lunch and dinner times, with cramped seating. Arriving late on a Sunday night, we easily got a table although the place was still busy. Dumplings and hand-made noodles are the popular staples here. Each variety of dumplings can be ordered either fried or steamed. I prefer fried dumplings as they taste nicer than steamed ones, leaving aside which is more healthy! We ordered fried prawn and chicken dumplings, steamed vegetable dumplings, fried pork dumplings, Shanghai fried noodles, lemon chicken with noodle soup, spring onion pancake and red bean pancake. The food here tends to be greasy, which seems to be typical of Shanghai food. However, all things in moderation is a good philosophy when it comes to food. The fried prawn and chicken dumplings, and the fried pork dumplings, were as expected with reasonably tasty fillings. The dumpling skin is a touch too thick. The steamed vegetable dumplings were bland. I see no need to have the dumpling skin coloured green, other than the need to differentiate these from the meat dumplings, but the meat dumplings all have the same colour skin and seem to be able to be differentiated. The Shanghai fried noodles were simple but nice; if this dish is cooked less greasy, it would be so much better. The lemon chicken was surprisingly nice and would appeal to an Asian palate, as well as to Westerners who are used to ordering lemon chicken in Asian restaurants. The noodle soup that came with the lemon chicken was ordinary with broccoli and and hand-made noodles. The spring onion pancake was quite nice, and not overly salty like at other places. The red bean pancake was not outstanding but was nice enough to order again next time. There are complimentary self-serve slushies - a favourite with kids, and adults. Overall, a good place to have affordable, no fuss food.

Taste Rating: 6.5/10   Value Rating: 7/10

Fried Prawn and Chicken Dumplings

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings

Fried Pork Dumplings
Shanghai Fried Noodles

Lemon Chicken with Noodle Soup

Spring Onion Pancake
Red Bean Pancake

RaRamen Menu

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Recipe - Chilli Garlic Prawns


Check out the recipe for fantastic Chilli Garlic Prawns, provided by Richie. The recipe can be found in the Contributors' Recipes - click that tab and page down to locate the recipe.


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Chinese New Year snacks


Chinese New Year is on 23rd Jan 2012 this year. It is celebrated over 15 days!

I've posted some of my favourite snacks to eat during CNY - click the 'Photos By Arrow' tab if you would like to have a look. There is so much more to eat during CNY but this is a start :)


Friday, 20 January 2012

Review - La Camera

14th Jan 2012

La Camera 
Shop MR2 Mid Level East End, Southgate

Cuisine: Italian

La Camera on Urbanspoon

I always enjoy the balcony seating at La Camera. The view of the river with boats cruising past is relaxing. The green trees near the balcony add to the nice feeling. Wanting an early dinner on a Saturday, we had no trouble getting a table without a booking. At other times though, it would be best to book. Particularly if they have their special weekday lunch menus on.

We ordered Rigatoni Pollo, Coscia di Polla alla Cacciatore, Spaghetti Bolognese and Il Gambero Pizza. My favourite is the Rigatoni Pollo - the slow roasted chicken pieces are simply great with the cream sauce. Close behind is the Il Gambero Pizza - the size never fails to impress - the plate disappears under the pizza and the pizza looks like it is sitting on the table! I like seafood pizza and the Il Gambero has good sized prawns. The chicken in the tasty Coscia di Polla alla Cacciatore is so tender it falls off the bone with a light touch of the fork. The Spaghetti Bolognese comes with a large amount of meat and sauce - I find the sauce a bit too sour and would have preferred more spaghetti to balance the meat and sauce.

Overall, a very good meal in nice surroundings.

Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10

Rigatoni Pollo

Coscia di Polla alla Cacciatore

Coscia di Polla alla Cacciatore

 Il Gambero

 Il Gambero

Spaghetti Bolognese 

Great View!
La Camera

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Review - Thanh Dat

13th Jan 2012

Thanh Dat  
268 Springvale Road, Springvale

Cuisine: Asian, Vietnamese

Thanh Dat on Urbanspoon

The place was reasonably full on a Friday night. We got a table as soon as we arrived which was good timing. It is one of those places where turnover is high - you come for a quick meal and you leave - so the tables are regularly seated with new occupants.  

We ordered beef pho, chilli prawns, seafood noodle soup,  lemongrass beef with rice and spring rolls. The vegetables that accompanied the pho looked fresh but there were only 2 types - regular basil and bean sprouts. It would be nicer if there were Vietnamese mint and/or regular mint as well. The pho was not the best we have tasted but it is passable enough to come back for. The chilli prawns were chilli hot and would appeal to those who are after a mid-fiery taste in prawns. The seafood noodle soup was a touch sweet. The lemongrass beef had just a hint of lemongrass, the accompanying rice was tired and dry instead of fluffy but on the plus side, the beef was not oily. The spring rolls looked nice but did not taste fantastic and the filling was overly firm. 

The place seems popular with families and groups of youngsters of both Asian and non-Asian background.  We would go back if we want to have pho and are in the area.

Taste Rating: 6/10   Value Rating: 7/10

Basil and Bean Sprouts for the Pho

Beef Pho

Chilli Prawns

Seafood Noodle Soup

Lemongrass Beef with rice

Spring Rolls

Monday, 16 January 2012

Review - Laksa Bar

13th Jan 2012

Laksa Bar  
108 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Cuisine: Asian, Malaysian

Laksa Bar on Urbanspoon

Laksa Bar opened about one and half months ago. Tucked away in a side street, it appears quiet on the outside but is bustling on the inside at lunch times. Arrive early - we walked in just after 12.15pm and managed to get a table; by 12.30pm, it was much harder for those who arrived.

The menu consists of several simple printed pages on a clipboard. You order and pay at the counter; one big downside is the long order queue which snakes across the room while other customers and staff carrying meals weave around you.

We ordered House Curry Laksa with chicken, Char Kway Teow and Nasi Lemak with beef rendang. It then took about 15 minutes for the food to arrive at the table. The House Curry Laksa soup was more like a very thick gravy - personally I prefer a thinner laksa soup. The menu does give an indication of the "soupiness" of the 3 types of laksas so choose accordingly. The boneless chicken pieces in the laksa were nicely crispy and meaty except for a couple of pieces that were slightly hard. Meals can be ordered mild, spicy or extra spicy. We opted for spicy for all 3 dishes. Surprisingly, the Char Kway Teow turned out to be the most chilli hot of the 3 dishes; the taste was good enough for us to order it again next time. The presentation of the Nasi Lemak with beef rendang looked very ordinary but the taste was good; our yardstick was the beef rendang which passed our taste test, as well as being tender. The accompanying chilli condiment was slightly bitter and lacked taste.

We won't rush back but this will definitely be on our list of places worth coming back to.

Taste Rating: 7/10   Value Rating: 7/10

Menu on a Clipboard
Simple and Functional

House Curry Laksa with chicken

Rice and Noodle Options
Nasi Lemak with beef rendang
Char Kway Teow

Laksa Bar