HOT: Qua’n 888, Shop 24, Little Saigon Shopping Centre, Ryan and Leeds Streets, Footscray

Quan 888

Thanks to a tip-off from the on-the-pulse Footscray Food Blog I dropped into Qua’n 888 on my last grocery shop to Footscray’s Little Saigon market.

What we’re used to in Australia is generally southern Vietnamese cuisine with a smattering of northern Vietnamese dishes – but food from the middle region doesn’t tend to get much of a look in.

At Qua’n 888 they specialise in food from the cities of Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue. You can find the small restaurant in Little Saigon market, at the opposite end of the crowded chaos of the fresh food stalls.

The decor is serviceable and filled with neon, food posters and random Vietnamese/Chinese bric-a-brac. The service is very friendly and the young owners speak English, which helps if you need guidance through the menu.

quan 888

They have two noodle best-sellers – Bun Cha Ca Da Nang (Da Nang style vermicelli fish cake soup) and My Quang (Quang Nam style noodle with sauteed pork, prawn and quail egg) (both $10). I tried the former, which came out with the pungent purple shrimp paste and additional chilli and garlic thoughtfully presented to one side along with the crunchy bean shoots and mint leaves.

I happen to love the strong, stinky aroma of shrimp paste and if you choose not to tip in the whole dish of condiments the soup becomes less rounded in flavour and frankly less interesting. The fishcakes were squishy and chewy, like fried tofu puffs, and very distinct from the bland pouffes you often get from commercial packets.

quan 888

I also tried the banh selection, which offers three different forms of steamed glutinous rice cake with various fillings ($10). I particularly loved the mouth feel of the slippery, translucent banh loc, the shorter of the two rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves and filled with prawn and pork. The banh nam, the longer of the wrapped parcels, was too mushy for my liking and contained prawn, pork and mushrooms. The banh beo in the little bowls were freshly steamed to order and sort of an in-between in texture topped with shrimp, fried shallots and shards of peanut. You dip the rice cakes as you wish in a nuoc cham.

To drink I tried the homemade corn milk, a refreshing concoction of freshly squeezed corn juice, condensed milk, cow’s milk and sugar ($4). Next time I’m going to try their homemade soy milk ($4).

When I paid the friendly owner told me that I must return on a weekend to try the Cao Lau Hoi An, Hoi An style noodles with roast pork. There’s only limited availability because the noodles are hard to source, while the pork is apparently similar to char siu.

Like Co Thu Quan next door, I love that Qua’n 888 is introducing Melburnians to the distinctive regional flavours of Vietnam. You won’t find their style of food everywhere and if you’re keen to explore more than pho and rice paper rolls then try it out.

Qua’n 888, Shop 24, Little Saigon Shopping Centre, Ryan and Leeds Streets, Footscray

10am-6:30pm daily

HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41-49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

like minded projects

Like Minded Projects is a stunning cafe on Smith Street that specialises in vegan, gluten-free and raw food.

It’s a combined operation with three different like-minded businesses – coffee roaster Coffee Supreme, raw and whole food kitchen Fred Gets (which includes in its collection Pana Chocolate’s raw organic desserts) and Ace raw cookies and nut milk.

like minded projects

The decor is head-turning, with a long glass frontage beckoning you inside the whitewashed and coolly chic interior. The light room is enhanced with shiny surfaces and pops of colour from the ceramic planters and the vertical green wall at the entrance.

The three suppliers each have their own distinct section highlighted by neon signs. Coffee of course comes from Coffee Supreme and how can you avoid a coffee machine that instructs you to ‘Get Some’.

like minded projects

like minded projects

If you’re after food then Fred Gets  supplies vegetarian salads, open sandwiches, juices, muesli and other gluten-free dishes.

like minded projects

 

like minded projects

Just load up an enamel bowl ($11.50 for large), get a squirt of your housemade dressing on top and draw up a stool by the expansive people-watching window.

For lunch I chose half-and-half of two healthy salads, two croquettes and a fritter. The just-toasted croquettes were surprisingly fluffy though with the amount of salad I had I could have just had one. The fritter was on the dry side and I’d do without next time.

like minded projects

For dessert I browsed Ace’s raw cookie collection and must admit I didn’t particularly enjoy my taste test. My small morsel was tack-hard and rather dry – basically, what I’d expect a cookie without butter to taste like. On the Ace side is also a stock of coconut-based ice-creams by Zebra Dream which I’ve enjoyed before. I recommend his mint choc chip!

For sweets I steer you instead towards the brass-trimmed cabinet filled with healthy treats from Pana Chocolate, a raw chocolate and dessert retailer in Richmond. I liked the humorous references in all their dessert names – twists on well-known chocolate bars and sweets!

like minded projects

What makes raw desserts different to your bog-standard Snickers bar, for instance, is that a small morsel really fills you up. After my lunch I thought I’d like to try a couple of the sweets from the cabinet as I couldn’t decide, but after my modestly sized Vespa Wheel (their take on the Wagon Wheel) I simply couldn’t eat any more.

like minded projects

I took some of the desserts home as I was assured that they would freeze well. Over the course of a few days I nibbled on various sweets and I concluded that my favourite was the raw lamington. With other items I found either the texture wasn’t quite right or the raw chocolate was too rich for me.

I like that the food at Like Minded Projects is wholesome but it’s provided with a sense of humour. Along with the uber-stylish space, the cafe is one pretty package for advertising the virtues of clean-eating.

Like Minded Projects, 41-49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Mon-Fri 7am-5pm

Sat-Sun 9am-5pm

Click to add a blog post for Like Minded Projects on Zomato

HOT: Grand Trailer Park Taverna Level 2, 87 Bourke St, Melbourne

grand trailer park taverna

Nestled between a Nandos and 7-11 on Bourke Street is a stairway to a heavenly waterfall. Goodbye Happy Palace, Hello Grand Trailer Park Taverna!

grand trailer park taverna

I have no idea how they got trailers up those narrow stairs but now you can sit inside a colourful cut out Airstream and eat fancy burgers and alcohol-spiked milkshakes.

grand trailer park taverna

Sounds like fun? It is!

I was invited to try out their menu and the kitschy trailer park was super busy on a weeknight with people of every type, from after-work suits to artsy students. On a sunny day check out the outdoor area overlooking prime real estate on Bourke and Exhibition Streets.

Tables contain all the necessary equipment for tackling one of their nine burgers, including wet wipes. It’s hard to choose but if you’re stuck (and hungry) go for the McDowell ($15.50), their version of the Big Mac, which was named one of Epicure’s Best New Burgers.

grand trailer park taverna

As I like my burgers HOT I choose the Atomic – premium Aussie beef pattie, American cheddar cheese, chili cheese kransky, crispy bacon, BBQ sauce and truffle cayenne mayonnaise on a lightly toasted brioche bun ($16.50). It’s an imposing tower of protein but oh so bad-it’s-good, with the melding of juicy beef, squeaky cheese and fatty, crispy bacon.

Their classic cheeseburger is dubbed CB1 ($7.50) and is actually just as satisfying as the Atomic at half the price (and presumably calories given its relative size).

To thoroughly throw the health kick out the window I pair the burger with a small serve of fries (too salty) and a potato, mac and cheese croquette (bit bland). Personally I don’t think the burgers need any starchy sides for your stomach to feel satisfied.

I wash everything down with a spiked milkshake containing a glug of Marker’s Mark Bourbon and salted caramel syrup ($17). It’s creamy and sweet and you can definitely taste the bourbon. You will laugh aloud when you see the maple bacon garnish!

grand trailer park taverna

If you don’t fancy a milkshake then the booze list includes classic American cocktails, local lager or wine.

For dessert I made the mistake of ordering the Kinder Surprise milkshake ($21) AND a serve of waffles with Nutella parfait, whipped cream, strawberries and Nutella sauce ($9).

grand trailer park taverna

A milkshake is easily a dessert in its itself as a tall glass probably contains around 250ml of milk. Add to that some icecream, chocolate, Frangelico and Baileys and it’s a chocolate milkshake, only tipsy!

grand trailer park taverna

The waffle stack is essentially a dessert burger and while it was indulgent and naughty if your stomach only has room for one burger then go with an actual meat (or mushroom) option. The waffles were a bit stodgy for me and not so amazing that you need to leave room to try them. 

Grand Trailer Park Taverna is a fun and boisterous place to indulge in some serious artery-clogging eating. Stick with the burgers and spiked milkshakes and I guarantee you’ll have a good time!

Grand Trailer Park Taverna, Level 2, 87 Bourke St, Melbourne

Tuesday to Saturday 11.30am until late

Grand Trailer Park Taverna on Urbanspoon

HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

where the wild things sing

Summersalt is Melbourne newest arts festival centred around Southbank’s Dodds Street/Sturt Street area, with five weekends of art, dance, music and theatre in February.

I bought tickets to ‘Where the Wild Things Sing’ which was billed as an ‘urban safari through the streets of Southbank where opera and puppetry collide in an adventure full of surprises’.

The hour performance was certainly a surprising experience, not least of which it introduced me to some beautiful street art and buildings in an area that I’ve often visited but never really explored fully.

where the wild things sing

There were about 30 adults and children on our family-friendly performance of the show and I very much enjoyed an hour of kookiness and unexpected encounters accompanied by some beautiful singing. The evening (non-family-friendly) performances are apparently ‘naughtier’ with adult themes and are for people 15+ years.

The 60 minute experience was led by raconteur Bernard Caleo who, along with series of mermaids, guided the group to a series of intimate performances in unexpected places.

where the wild things sing

where the wild things sing

where the wild things sing

I won’t reveal too much but the roll call included a gorilla, giant maggots barbecuing, a panda reading a pamphlet, tiny surreal sculptures, a bed-bug ridden beardy man and some crazed synchro swimming in a tub.

where the wild things sing

where the wild things sing

where the wild things sing

The whole surreal experience made me laugh, kept me fascinated and made me look at my surroundings in a new light.

where the wild things sing

Tickets are $5 from Melbourne Recital Centre and numbers are strictly limited for their last performances on Friday 20 February and Saturday 21 February.

Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank 

Family performance Sat 21 Feb 3pm

Evening Performances (for 15+ years
, adult themes) Fri 20 Feb 8.30pm

Tickets $5 each. 

HOT: Persillade, 150 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne

persillade

Despite its proximity to the CBD, Richmond, Fitzroy and Collingwood, East Melbourne is a bit of a never-never land when it comes to dining out. Persillade will challenge your preconceptions about skipping past East Melbourne when looking for good food.

persillade

Housed underneath an apartment building, this smart bistro and cave a manger (wine shop with food) offers all day dining, 7 days a week. Their wine bar provenance is emphasised by the empty wine bottles acting as pendant lights over the high communal table. The overall look is streamlined and neat while being comfortable.

persillade

I’ve tried Persillade‘s breakfast and lunch dishes  to great satisfaction and peeking at the dinner menu I’m pretty certain that the same high quality would be maintained.

persillade

The daytime menu is split into breakfast and lunch but you can in fact order a lunch dish at breakfast and vice versa. Ostensibly French in focus, I don’t see much of a French influence on the menu, but no matter. I’m very happy with my crispy round of jasmine rice hash, chunks of smoked trout, tangy kimchi and softly yielding 63 degree egg ($18).

persillade

From the lunch menu I try the bbq lamb ribs, sweet bell peppers with a fresh and zesty corn salsa and a slice of sweet spongy corn bread ($26). The ribs come in a hunk drizzled with a barbecue sauce that’s full of smoke and fire and not sweet at all (my pet hate with barbecue sauce). There’s also a puddle of creamy garlic aioli to smooth out the spiciness, while the salsa lends lightness to an otherwise heavy combination of ingredients. The balance is just masterful.

persillade

For dessert I try the lemon posset, a rainbow fruit salad and biscuit crumbs ($14). It is creamy, light and cooling but I’m not wowed by it. My savoury dishes have set such a high standard that it’s hard to beat.

Persillade is the perfect neighbourhood eatery, with a clever and interesting menu all day and friendly staff who will welcome munchkins with a kids menu. But even if you’re not a resident of East Melbourne its a cafe/restaurant that’s worth the travel.

Persillade, 150 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne (03) 9078 4056

Mon 7am–4pm

Tues to Fri 7am–10pm

Sat 8am–10pm

Sun 8am–3pm

Persillade on Urbanspoon




HOT: CH James, 86 Station Street, Fairfield

ch james

CH James is a cafe and restaurant in Fairfield’s main shopping strip Station Street and it’s aiming to be a neighbourhood hub for Fairfield locals. The fact that it’s named after Charles Henry James, a 19th century parliamentary representative for the local area, is a good start.

ch james

The cafe spans over two contrasting spaces. The main dining area and kitchen is a light-filled modern structure which also houses the handy coffee window for train commuters. Bifold doors lead out onto the outdoors area, a charming courtyard adjoining a red brick church with zebra-striped umbrellas interspersed with raised garden beds.

ch james

I was invited to try out their menu and joined the breakfast crowd on a bustling weekend morning.

ch james

The menu is not your average ho-hum spiel, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients (the chef is ex-Pope Joan). You can even spot the chef picking herbs and veges for your breakfast while you wait!

ch james

I tried the house cured trout, with thin slithers of melting fish adorned by a tangled heap of pickled and piquant greenery ($17). I particularly enjoyed the refreshing fennel and dill salad and you can choose to have it with a poached egg ($2) for a bit more protein.

ch james

Dr Marty’s crumpets were beautifully presented with airy whipped ricotta, strawberries and drizzled with Melbourne’s Rooftop Honey, a very reasonable $10 compared to some other places I’ve seen the crumpets served.

ch james

The toast with house-made preserves was equally pretty ($7.50), with an artist’s palette of spreads and condiments waiting to be slathered onto the slices of EDS Bread.

ch james

I’m not normally one to go for fruit salad when I’m eating out but it was such a hot day that the watermelon was calling my name. It was a delicate tower of fragrant watermelon cubes sweetened with orange blossom water, speckles of granola and a small dab of minted yoghurt ($10). An artful combination of colours and flavours which I think would be suitable as a side or a second course as it wasn’t substantial enough as a dish on its own.

ch james

CH James’ coffee comes from Small Batch in North Melbourne, their tea from Chamellia and hot chocolate from Mork Chocolate. The coffee station was super busy on a weekend morning but I encourage you to step inside and pull up a chair for a delicious breakfast in sunny and relaxed surroundings.

CH James, 86 Station Street, Fairfield  (03) 9486 3484

Mon – Sun 7AM – 5PM

C.H. James on Urbanspoon

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