HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 1 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

Lygon Street is a strip that’s so familiar to me that it’s a bit same old-same old, so I decided to ask readers for a tip for somewhere new to try. Le Miel et La Lune was a fabulous discovery! The cafe is in a sweet little spot just a block away from Lygon St which serves….Korean. I was expecting a French patisserie and got gochuchang.

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 2 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

Which is fine because I love Korean food and I love a kick of chilli in the morning. And while you can still order poached eggs and smashed avo on toast (yawn) I urge you to try the more unusual fare in the all day breakfast and lunch menu.

The Korean chef Jung Eun Chae has developed a menu where pickled vegetables (not necessarily kimchi), miso and enoki, shimeji and shiitake feature. I was so excited I didn’t know where to start!

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 3 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

I chose the heaviest lunch dish available, the tteokboki, described to me as like gnocchi ($17.90). It is in fact a popular Korean street snack with knobs of soft rice cake, slices of fish cake and sweet red chili sauce. This version was served with an unexpectedly successful pairing of melted tasty cheese and a perfectly poached egg. It was spicy, salty, oozy and chewy at the same time. Amazing!

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 4 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

The other dish I tried was the crispy tofu salad ($17.90) with balls of shiitake mushroom and tofu rolled and deep fried. Five generous orbs came with a pickled daikon salad, sauteed kale, almonds and chia seed. Overall I didn’t love the texture. The balls were too dry and everything else on the plate was crunchy and crispy too. Compared to the luxurious texture of the tteokboki it was just too earnestly healthy for my liking.

The lunch has more Korean inspired gems, including a bulgogi burger, SSAM pork belly and a 12 grain rice bowl.

I’m not convinced that coffee is the right beverage to match these dishes but if you cannot function without it then they serve beans from Proud Mary.

The service at Le Miel et La Lune was as sweet as the cutesy decor. The large windows let in the morning sun (and become bench seats on sunny days) but I liked hunkering down in the banquette by the wall, watching to see whether the upside-down pot plants would crash down on an unsuspecting customer.

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 5 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

Le Miel et La Lune is an unexpected spot of Korean nestled amongst Italionophile Carlton. Its menu contains some of the most unusual ingredients and combinations I’ve tried in Melbourne, which makes a trip to the cafe an exciting journey of discovery.

Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton 03 9043 9767

Mon-Fri 7am-4pm

Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

minilink HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Supernormal 180 Flinders Lane Melbourne 2 HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Flinders Lane has arguably Melbourne CBD’s hottest eat street right now and one of the newest residents is Andrew McConnell’s Supernormal.

Supernormal 180 Flinders Lane Melbourne 1 HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

It’s hard to tell from the name but the restaurant specialises in Asian-inspired food. It’s mostly Japanese with a hint of Chinese and Korean, as you can tell by some of the signage and the little touches such as sesame grinders and a Japanese candy vending machine by the toilets! Downstairs there’s even a private karaoke room.

Supernormal 180 Flinders Lane Melbourne 3 HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

I went for lunch with my (Asian) parents and they were impressed by the food, not so much by the prices. While the mostly concrete interior design is stark, utilitarian and almost canteen-like, I think you’ll be hard pressed to eat a full meal and spend less than $40-$50 a head on just food.

Supernormal 180 Flinders Lane Melbourne 5 HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Part of the reason is that we found a disproportionate amount of protein compared with the side dishes and starchy staples eg rice, buns, bao. So you have to order more to compensate (steamed rice at $4 a bowl) or eat pulled pork or duck meat on its own. This may be ‘paleo’ but it is anathema to any person brought up on Asian cuisine.

Nevertheless, the food was generally spot on. We started with some slippery prawn and chicken dumplings ($14) swimming in some a hair-raising chilli sauce.

Supernormal 180 Flinders Lane Melbourne 4 HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

The spicy eggplant was not the Sichuan dish that I was expecting but rather a cold salad of black-braised eggplant with spring onion, coriander and wobbling cubes of house-made tofu ($16). Full of flavour but not really my style.

Supernormal 180 Flinders Lane Melbourne 7 HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

We enjoyed our quarter of twice-cooked duck, crispy and juicy at the same time with a hint of star anise in its skin. The steamed buns (just three) were pillowy light and perfect for nestling bites of meat and cucumber.

Supernormal 180 Flinders Lane Melbourne 8 HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

The piece de resistance was the Korean BBQ pulled pork shoulder ($74). We were warned that it was huge and would take 20 minutes to come to the table. With anticipation mounting, a large steaming bowl of spicy/tangy/salty molten pork meat arrived at the table, accompanied by a bowl of kimchi and some perfectly domed steamed buns. We had a lot of meat left over after our bun intake so we ordered some steamed rice.

Supernormal 180 Flinders Lane Melbourne 6 HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

If you have enough people to share it with then this dish is a must-have at Supernormal. Luckily we were able to take the remainder of it home and it was delicious the next day wrapped in a tortilla with some salad!

Supernormal 180 Flinders Lane Melbourne 9 HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

If you have room try the avant-garde dessert of pink lady and miso soft serve icecream. Yes miso! Surprisingly the combination worked in harmony – nectar sweet apple ice cream with a hint of umami now and then on your tongue. The now defunct Golden Fields’ famous peanut butter parfait reappears on Supernormal‘s menu but I reckon it’s time to try something different.

Supernormal is an imaginative combination of fast food/fine-dining where the food and service will win you over. Go and enjoy it and just don’t gasp at the bill at the end.

Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 03 9650 8688

Sunday – Thursday 11am – 11pm

Friday and Saturday 11am – midnight

minilink HOT: Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

HOT: Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray

Ebi Fine Food 18A Essex St Footscray 2 HOT: Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray

Ebi Fine Food is a Japanese restaurant tucked away in a suburban street in Footscray near the West Footscray side. It’s not a main shopping strip and you may easily miss it except for the Japanese lanterns fluttering enticingly, framing the doorway.

Inside you’ll find a tiny Japanese fish and chippery. Yes that’s right! You’ll find good ol’ fashioned fish and chips on the menu but you can choose from traditional battered fish to tempura crumb. Or go Japanese entirely (with an odd segue into Korean bibimbap).

Ebi Fine Food 18A Essex St Footscray 3 HOT: Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray

During my lunch they did a steady takeaway trade. Just as well as the dining area is teeny – just a row of stools along the high dark wood counter (similar to those found in traditional sushi restaurants), two squashed tables inside and some outside seating.

To start I tried Ebi’s version of takoyaki – without the tako ($9 for 4). They call it a ‘vegetarian ball’ and it was the dish that launched Ebi many years ago when it was just a mobile food cart at festivals selling the vego balls.

Ebi Fine Food 18A Essex St Footscray 4 HOT: Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray

The vege-yaki/vegetarian balls were lightly rolled balls of deep fried dough doused in soy, mirin and kewpie mayo. I think some flying bonito flakes are needed for extra appeal but they’re an addictive little starter.

For lunch there are a series of bento, nabe and rice dishes. I tried the bento with fish three ways ($18) which changes daily. On that day, the box contained eel cutlet kabayaki (a sort of sweet soy), panko crumbed salmon with red capsicum infused Japanse mayo and red miso barramundi. All of the fish was cooked fresh – as soon as it hits the pan or fryer it’s onto your plate.

Ebi Fine Food 18A Essex St Footscray 1 HOT: Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray

The bento box contained pickles, a green salad, Japanese potato salad made with sweet potatoes and some cold vegetable dishes including a squishy eggplant topped with creamy miso, a cube of marinated fried tofu and a woody stalk of bamboo shoot. The steamed rice was actually a highlight, as it came garnished with some umami seaweed and bonito sprinkles.

Ebi Fine Food 18A Essex St Footscray 5 HOT: Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray

Desserts continue the Japanese fusion theme and I decided on the tofu cheesecake, inspired by a recipe by Japanese Iron Chef Morimoto ($9). This was a highly whipped airy concoction of sponge base, tofu with a hint of cheese and citrus and garnished with sugared lemon peel. The soup spoon contained a maple and coffee syrup but I preferred the cake without its delicate flavours masked by the syrup.

For a suburb that’s surprisingly lacking in Japanese restaurants (given the proximity to numerous fishmongers in Footscray) Ebi Fine Food is a casual Japanese restaurant which serves Japanese food with care as well as reputedly producing some of the best fish and chips in the area. It certainly seemed to be a favourite with locals, who all knew the owner/chef and staff by the name.

Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray (03) 9689 3300

Tue – Thu: 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Fri: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Sat: 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm

minilink HOT: Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray

HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 1 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington
Frying Colours is a modern Korean restaurant in Kensington and it’s a dream come true and a labour of love by Min Hui Lee and his partner Robert. Min is the Korean chef and designer of the restaurant and Robert helps out at the front of house when he’s not at his day job. Together they present delicious food in relaxed surroundings.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 6 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

Min was a designer in a former life and the restaurant is handsomely fitted out. There is lots of wood and concrete with elements of industria and I particularly liked the built-in waiter’s station.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 7 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

My first impression of Frying Colours was the incredible hospitality they showed to our party when we turned up with diners ranging from a 9 month old baby to my parents in their 60s. They didn’t blink an eye, helping us settle in with two high chairs, packing prams in the corner and getting food to the table quickly.

Granted, I was lucky enough to win lunch at Frying Colours (through Facebook no less!) but I got the feeling that everyone’s warm and welcoming manner was genuine and not just because I’d won a competition. They also didn’t know that I wrote a blog until I started using my camera.

We let the kitchen decide what to serve us and boy did they create a feast.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 2 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

To start we were presented with two plates of dumplings – kimchi dumplings with a soft silken skin and soy and sesame dipping sauce ($8) and steamed pork dumplings more suitable for gentler palates ($8).

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 12 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

Next up were some tender deep fried calamari ($16) which fooled the kids into thinking they were eating chips. The adults dunked them in some fiery gochujang and everyone was happy.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 8 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

The pork belly and kim chi stew was hearty and hot and perfect for the winter’s day. It’s a huge bowl though so it won’t leave you much room to try anything else. Even shared between 4 adults we couldn’t finish it.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 14 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

The vegetarian bibimbap ($16) came out sizzling in a hot stone bowl and was generously heaped with a neat fan of vegetables and a wobbly egg yolk in the middle.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 3 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

It was an excellent rendition of the dish though next time I’d leave it in the bowl for longer before mixing so that there was more of the crusty rice bottom to scrape up.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 16 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

If you like Korean barbecue then the FC Mixed Grill is the dish to order ($40). You can pick three out of five different meats and we were given chicken thigh, marinated scotch fillet cooked medium and pork belly. The ridges from the flame grill were branded on the meat and imparted everything with a smoky charred flavour without losing any of the meat’s juiciness.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 17 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

Korean cuisine is famous for their fried chicken and at Frying Colours you can choose your fried chicken with original, spicy or sweet soy ($19-32). The chicken didn’t lose any juiciness from the frying and the crispy batter was just right in terms of thickness and crunch. We took some leftovers home and reheated them in the oven and they were still very moist (with some steamed rice and the leftover kimchi – fantastic!).

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 5 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

If you can handle the heat then I recommend the spicy version as the gochujang gives the dish a less KFC, more Korean flavour.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 10 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

For sides my pick is the wasabislaw ($5), a piquant and fresh counterpoint to all the frying and grilling. Except for the kimchi of course, for you must try it.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 15 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

Min makes all the kimchi based on his grandmother’s recipe and he started the fermentation process for the first batch of kimchi 6 months before opening the restaurant. We tried two versions – a traditional cabbage and a cooling cucumber kimchi, both served in cute mason jars (ask whether you can take the rest of it home!). Both versions were well balanced with the flavours of soy, bean paste and chilli all distinguishable without any of the flavours being overpowering.

An hour passed and the kids started getting restless. The adults were still working their way through the feast so I asked Robert whether they had any dessert. He replied that there was no dessert menu (yet) but he had some ice creams upstairs we could have. Not thinking, I said yes, only then realising that he was giving Drumsticks to my children from the personal stash in his house upstairs! While I was very embarrassed by my request I was very impressed that he went above and beyond to ensure that everyone enjoyed their meal.

Frying Colours 520 Macaulay Road Kensington 4 HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

I really loved the food and atmosphere at Frying Colours. It’s evident that everything has been done with care and they go out of their way to ensure that everyone has a good time. Robert kept repeating that they loved having kids come in and make a mess.  So I’m sure we’ll be back as a family to do just that!

Just note that they take bookings but leave some tables for walk-ins as they want the place to become a favourite for locals – and there’s nothing worse than walking down to your local to find it so packed you can’t get in.

Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington (03) 9939 9679

Mon-Fri 12pm – 2.30pm and 5.30pm – 9pm, Sat 12pm – 10pm

minilink HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month The Deck and Miyako Southgate 2 HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

During Good Food Month the restaurants that make up the Southgate precinct are showcasing their signature dishes from 1-30 November. The dishes range from steak to scallops, from $20 to $35, so there’s something to suit everyone. You could even try a dish from one restaurant then move onto the next venue in a DIY progressive lunch or dinner!

I was invited to try the signature dishes of The Deck and Miyako, two restaurants that I’ve not visited before despite having been to Southgate many times, particularly pre-theatre.

Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month The Deck and Miyako Southgate 3 HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

The Deck is a small elegant restaurant which peeks onto its neighbour Hamer Hall and wraps around to views of the city (as do many of the other Southgate restaurants, making it a perfect spot to take visitors).

Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month The Deck and Miyako Southgate 4 HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month The Deck and Miyako Southgate 1 HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

It caters for a business crowd during the day and theatre-going crowd at night (their pre-theatre menu is particularly good value). The food demonstrates a strong Italian influence and hence their signature dish is a velvety scallop, prawn, cauliflower risotto topped with some crispy proscuitto ($30).

Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month The Deck and Miyako Southgate 5 HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

The rice was cooked perfectly, with a slight bite and a consistently creamy texture throughout – no mushy bits, no crunchy bits – which is so hard to achieve. The seared scallops and liberal scattering of diced prawn throughout gave the dish a decadent touch and it was all beautifully presented in what can only be described as a ceramic vessel.

Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month The Deck and Miyako Southgate 11 HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month The Deck and Miyako Southgate 31 HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

Moving onto Miyako, the Japanese restaurant’s signature dish was surprisingly not particularly Japanese given that their menu generally follows the straight-and-narrow route of Japanese cuisine.

Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month The Deck and Miyako Southgate 21 HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

The deboned and chargrilled spatchcock with creamy sweet potato mash ($33.50) was more akin to a dish you’d find in a Mod Oz restaurant, though it was finished with an intense teriyaki sauce as a nod to some Japanese influence. I found the rosemary oil too overpowering and quite odd combined with the soy-based teriyaki, so I would actually recommend asking for the dish without it.

You have until 30 November to enjoy a signature dish from Southgate’s participating restaurants at either lunch or dinner and if you order the signature dish during a weekday lunch Monday-Friday you can enter the draw to win a Southgate Dinner voucher for you and three friends. Bon appetit!

Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and MiyakoSouthgate

The Deck, Upper Level U1/2 Southgate, Southbank  +61 3 9699 9544
Mon-Fri 7:30am – 10:30pm
Sat-Sun 12pm – 10:30pm

Miyako, UR2 Upper Level, Southgate Arts & Leisure Precinct, +61 3 9699 9201

Mon-Sat 12-2:30, Sun 12-4
Mon-Thu 6-10:30, Fri-Sat 6-11, Sun 6-10

minilink HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

minilink HOT: Southgate Signature Dishes for Good Food Month, The Deck and Miyako, Southgate, Southbank

HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

Hinoki Japanese Pantry 279 Smith St Fitzroy 3 HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

Japanese is one of my favourite cuisines and so you can imagine my excitement when Hinoki Japanese Pantry opened in my neighbourhood.

Hinoki is a Japanese grocery store and sushi bar rolled into one. That means you can stop for a healthy lunch of nigiri, maki, sashimi or hand rolls and then do some shopping afterwards.

The sushi counter provides an overwhelming 89 (!) options . Personally I found the raw salmon to have more flavour than the bland, dry tuna, whether it’s in the form of nigiri or in a maki roll.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry 279 Smith St Fitzroy 8 HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

You can also buy a slab of sushi grade salmon or tuna at very reasonable prices and slice it yourself at home. For dinner one night I had a thick fillet of salmon sashimi with a tub of Hinoki’s goma wakame, a bargain dinner at $8.50 and $2.50 respectively.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry 279 Smith St Fitzroy 7 HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

The grocery section is filled with a brightly coloured selection of snacks, sweets, curry mixes, sauces, noodles/rice, seaweed and frozen goods (Japanese beer, plum wine, shochu and sake are coming later). It’s only a couple of aisles so it’s interesting browsing without becoming mind-boggling though there does appear to be a soy sauce for every occasion. Here are some of my picks…

Matcha cookies! These individually wrapped thin butter biscuits are perfect with a cup of green tea as a mid-morning pick-me-up.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry 279 Smith St Fitzroy 1 HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

Or you could make your own candy. While these look really fun unfortunately the instructions are all in Japanese and I couldn’t make sense of the pictorial representations either. I put those back on the shelf…

Hinoki Japanese Pantry 279 Smith St Fitzroy 2 HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

My favourite donburi (rice bowl) is unadon which is basically steamed rice with eel grilled in a style known as kabayaki, similar to teriyaki. I like to keep some frozen unagi in my freezer for dinner emergencies and with some steamed brown rice and greens (an inauthentic touch) it becomes a quick, balanced meal.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry 279 Smith St Fitzroy 4 HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

My other Japanese freezer emergency meal is edamame with gyoza. The homemade gyoza by Hinoki are small, delicate morsels filled with either seafood or pork and cabbage ($6.50 for 15 pieces) and they take less than 10 minutes to pan-fry and then steam. While that’s happening you just chuck some boiling water on the edamame.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry 279 Smith St Fitzroy 5 HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

Hinoki Japanese Pantry 279 Smith St Fitzroy 9 HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

For dessert there’s pots of black sesame and green tea ice cream – the latter is better than the former, which lacks the gritty texture and tar-black flavour of fresh black sesame ice cream. There are also various ice cream blocks and daifuku containing red bean (my least favourite Asian dessert ingredient so I avoid it) and some extremely tart but refreshing yuzu sorbet.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry 279 Smith St Fitzroy 6 HOT: Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy

Given my penchant for Japanese food I will be frequently Hinoki a lot. I like that it’s clean, bright, stocked with interesting/cute/weird food – a fun place to poke around if you can’t read Japanese but are curious to try different things.

PS I’ve just joined Instagram as melhotornot so you can keep tabs on other interesting Hinoki discoveries I make from time to time!

Hinoki Japanese Pantry, 279 Smith St, Fitzroy +61 3 9417 4531
Closed Monday
Tue–Thu 10am–6pm,
Fri–Sat 10am–7pm,
Sun 10am–4pm


View MEL: HOT OR NOT in a larger map

HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Japanese Afternoon Tea Hihou Level 1 1 Flinders Ln Melbourne 1 HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Hihou’s limited edition Japanese Afternoon tea represents all that I love about the food scene in Melbourne.

Japanese Afternoon Tea Hihou Level 1 1 Flinders Ln Melbourne 7 HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

A hard-to-find, hidden situation (walk through Nama Nama from Spring Street or ring the doorbell on the unmarked black door on Flinders Lane). An urban location with a scenic view of one of Melbourne’s beloved green pockets. And the opportunity to relax on a weekend afternoon over tea and treats.

Japanese Afternoon Tea Hihou Level 1 1 Flinders Ln Melbourne 3 HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Japanese Afternoon Tea Hihou Level 1 1 Flinders Ln Melbourne 8 HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

For three Saturdays in July (future dates are 13 July and 20 July) as part of City of Melbourne’s Look.Stop.Shop winter program, Hihou are offering  Japanese afternoon tea with Lupicia teas or coffee from Market Lane in their beautiful bar. It’s possibly the best value afternoon tea you’ll find in the CBD as the 2 hours of indulgence will cost you only $25. 

Japanese Afternoon Tea Hihou Level 1 1 Flinders Ln Melbourne 9 HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

I’m not normally a fan of fruit flavoured teas but I’m in love with the Ume Vert – Japanese plum green tea – by Lupicia. It’s sweetness and clarity in a cup and I’m stocking up at Lupicia‘s QV store. I urge you to try some of the green teas on offer in the tea menu and eschew the boring Earl Grey/English breakfast/peppermint route.

Japanese Afternoon Tea Hihou Level 1 1 Flinders Ln Melbourne 6 HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Hihou’s riff on the traditional three tier afternoon tea tray means three courses of savoury and sweet bites. The first savoury course consists of a fat scallop siumai embedded in a whole fleshy shiitake mushroom and soy dipping sauce. A small laquered plate holds some panfried oyaki dumplings filled with chilli miso whole soy beans. The finger sandwiches are not your usual cucumber or smoked salmon – rather they are filled with nuggets of pork tonkatsu, some slithers of cabbage and mayo.

Japanese Afternoon Tea Hihou Level 1 1 Flinders Ln Melbourne 10 HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Next comes a laquered box which opens to reveal a gasp-inspiring selection of delicate sweets. Our favourite bite was the matcha and macadamia nut cookie, followed by two sweets which are currently appearing in Nama Nama’s winter picnic bento box – the chocolate shochu coconut truffle and sticky pistachio and peanut caramel shards. I quite like the bean paste texture and faint sweetness of wagashi but my friend wasn’t as much of a fan. And we both found the miso paper and sweet potato cigar curious, but not particularly appetising given its savoury notes and combination of slippery and mushy textures.

Japanese Afternoon Tea Hihou Level 1 1 Flinders Ln Melbourne 4 HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

The third course is more sweets in the form of an almost savoury rectangle of black sesame cheesecake and a fluffy warm yuzu tofu cake covered with a white chocolate sauce. The plate came served with a matcha whisked tea, a large bowl of frothy powdered green tea of the kind that I don’t often see served in Australia and a lovely way to neutralise the palate after all that sweetness.

Japanese Afternoon Tea Hihou Level 1 1 Flinders Ln Melbourne 5 HOT: Japanese Afternoon Tea, Hihou, Level 1, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

 

Hihou’s Japanese Afternoon tea is only available for a limited time so make sure you book and catch it while you can. I hope that they’ll extend the season for it as it’s a wonderfully unique experience for a city that loves its afternoon tea.

Hihou Japanese Afternoon Tea, Level 1, 1 Flinders Lane, Melbourne +61 3  or book online

Remaining dates Saturday 13 July and Saturday 20 July, 3-5pm

 

HOT: Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

Winter Bento Picnic Nama Nama 31 Spring St Melbourne 3 HOT: Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

Last week, during the particularly cold snap we had, I saw not one, two but three people dressed in shorts and flip flops. They weren’t Swedish backpackers but were clearly made of hardier stuff than me as I shivered away in my scarf, woolly hat and coat and barely left the house.

The folks at Japanese cafe Nama Nama are evidently thinking in the same vein as those winter-shorts-and-thongs wearers, as they have launched a Winter Bento Picnic for the month of July as part of Look.Stop.Shop, a month-long program of events and experiences curated by Three Thousand and presented by the City of Melbourne.

Before you scoff ‘who wants to dine alfresco in the middle of winter’, a picnic is actually a brilliant way to up your Vitamin D intake when the sun peeks through the bare tree branches. Treasury Gardens, just across the road from Nama Nama, is the perfect picnic backdrop, with a relatively flat landscape of lush green grass, golden leaf falls and dappled sunshine. Certainly makes a nice break from the artificial light of the office and you just need to rug up a little.

Winter Bento Picnic Nama Nama 31 Spring St Melbourne HOT: Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

For $20 per person (minimum 2 people) you receive a surprise bento box (though you can specify pescatarian, vegetarian or any other dietary requirements if need be), a sweets bento box to share, a large thermos flask of green tea, two paper cups and a woolly picnic rug to sit on.

Winter Bento Picnic Nama Nama 31 Spring St Melbourne 7 HOT: Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

The presentation is super kawaii and the food was interesting and surprising – meaning that I’m not sure of the identity of some of what I was eating but it was universally delicious.

Winter Bento Picnic Nama Nama 31 Spring St Melbourne 5 HOT: Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

What I could identify in my bamboo bento box was a delectable Wagyu beef rice paper roll with creamy mayonnaise, poached chicken salad with circles of radish, mince and green-flecked rice wrapped in a bean curd skin, some peppery pickled cucumber and daikon and a main dish of baked eggplant, braised beans, Asian cabbage slaw and rice.

Winter Bento Picnic Nama Nama 31 Spring St Melbourne 4 HOT: Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

My pescatarian friend enjoyed some miso marinated salmon fillet with rice, curried sweet potato with carrot and lotus root and some beautifully fatty ocean trout sashimi, a highlight.

Winter Bento Picnic Nama Nama 31 Spring St Melbourne 1 HOT: Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

The desserts were equally delightful morsels. A piece of fudgy dark chocolate disguised as a lamington, some fluffy berry and pistachio cheesecake, shards of sticky nut toffee, a small crushed almond biscuit, sweet pear and caramel tartlet and a Pokemon-looking wagashi – Japanese bean flour treat (an acquired taste I think).

The green tea was the perfect healthful accompaniment to the food, though I would like them to provide sturdier cups that are able to rest on the grass without tipping over!

The surprise element of the bento boxes means that you’ll be able to unroll the rug for a Winter Bento Picnic at Nama Nama any fine day in July and not eat the same thing. So enjoy the novelty (and the winter sunshine) while it lasts!

And psst…Whisper ‘MasterDen sent me’ at Nama Nama (or sister restaurants Izakaya Den and HiHou) to unlock special treats. No idea what they could be but I’m trying the secret password next time!

Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

Monday – Saturday in July 11:30am-3pm

$20 per person, minimum 2 people, must call +61 3 9639 9500 to pre-book. Can cater to dietary requirements. 

minilink HOT: Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

HOT: Mina-no-ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

Mina no ie 33 Peel St Collingwood 2 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

The couple that established Japanese cafe Cibi has opened up their home-style hospitality further by opening up Mina-no-ie, whose motto is to ‘make yourself at home’.

Mina no ie 33 Peel St Collingwood 1 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

It’s a small tucked away cafe in the industrial end of Peel Street but it has been embraced by locals, especially those with young kids and prams. It’s a sweet, sun-dappled place which has transformed an impersonal warehouse into a warm and welcoming space, complete with whitewashed walls, blonde wood tables matched with naive rounded stools and touches of greenery perked up with some simple brown paper bags (a decorating trick I’m going to borrow for my home).

Mina no ie 33 Peel St Collingwood 3 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

I met up with Gourmet Chick and her husband for brunch and we were able to squeeze ourselves onto a small table that was leaving – it’s pretty busy on a weekend. A smiling waiter greeted us promptly and dispensed paper menus while taking drink orders. A creamy latte, frothy cappuccino and ryokucha Japanese tea arrived, all served in huggable glazed ceramic cups and in the case of the tea, an adorable metal and wood tea pot for one with even its own circular wooden trivet. 

Mina no ie 33 Peel St Collingwood 9 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

The menu contains breakfast and lunch options all done with a healthful, Japanese twist. You’re not likely to find these dishes all over town, a la smashed avocado.

The kitchen at Mina-no-ie is about as open plan as you can get so you can be assured that the food you’ve ordered is freshly prepared and served with care. Their focus is on using local, seasonal, free range and organic ingredients where possible.

Mina no ie 33 Peel St Collingwood 7 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

Gourmet Chick decided on the baked eggs with sweet miso, roasted eggplants and butternut pumpkin ($16.50). What appeared was kind of like a shallow pan of fondue – not a bad thing by any means and delicious stretched onto the slices of the grainy buttered sourdough. It was a nicely balanced dish – sweetness from the pumpkin, a slight bitterness from the eggplant, saltiness from the cheese and umami from the miso. I might even try this one at home as in winter I always have a surplus of pumpkin from my fruit and veg delivery and am sick of making pumpkin soup.

Mina no ie 33 Peel St Collingwood 8 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

The other breakfast dish ordered was the mum’s scrambled eggs with sourdough. I’d consider it more of an omelette than a scramble – a small detail but if you’re expecting a barely cooked mass of eggs as opposed to a pan-fried half-circle then you’ll be disappointed. The eggs were declared ‘good but nothing special’.

Mina no ie 33 Peel St Collingwood 6 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

As I’d had breakfast at the crack of dawn I was ready for lunch so headed for the Mina-no-ie Complete ($18) – braised pork belly or pan-fried salmon served with two salads – a cauliflower, broccoli and carrot mix and an Asian style slaw – plus grains of rice, quinoa, soy beans and a dash of sesame sseds. It’s a hearty serve of health on a plate, with lots of different textures and flavours to dance around. Highly recommended.

photo 291 1024x734 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

The other dish which I love at Mina-no-ie and which I’ve had on previous occasions is their wholesome soup with petit onigiri ($15). The ingredients of the soup change regularly but I had a cold-soothing chicken meatball soup, the kind my (non-existent) Japanese/Jewish mother would make. It’s a warm broth of ginger, spinach, coriander, mushrooms, black fungus and the sesame seed-crusted rice balls are so cute squatting on some crispy nori seaweed – just wrap up and pop in your mouth like a betel leaf. The miniature triangles of rice make a nice change from a side of bread.

Mina no ie 33 Peel St Collingwood 4 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

To cap off our meal we tried the sweets – a matcha muffin with a matcha crumble and white chocolate ($4) plus a chocolate croissant which is not made in house ($5). Both of these patisserie items were on the stodgy side so I wouldn’t categorise them as a ‘must-have’.

Mina no ie 33 Peel St Collingwood 5 HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

Mina-no-ie has successfully carved out a niche in Collingwood for simple, tasty, healthy and well-priced Japanese-influenced food. Pull up a chair and make yourself at home.

For other home-style Japanese food in Collingwood try Aka Siro and Cocoro.

Mina-no-ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood +61 3 9417 7749

Tue—Fri 8—4

Sat 9—4

Sun—Mon closed

minilink HOT: Mina no ie, 33 Peel St, Collingwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOT: Ducks in a Row, Taxi Dining Room, Level 1 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne

Ducks in a Row Taxi Dining Room Level 1 Transport Hotel Federation Square Melbourne 1 HOT: Ducks in a Row, Taxi Dining Room, Level 1 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne

Cosy up to winter in the best possible way by enjoying Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s June celebration of cold weather cuisine and Victorian produce, the Roast Collection and Put Victoria on Your Table.

I was invited to a preview of one of the special events which is being held in June at the Asian inspired fine dining restaurant Taxi Dining RoomDucks in a Row. It’s a 5 course degustation lunch every Sunday in June featuring free-range ducks from Great Ocean Ducks near Port Campbell.

This is not duck, duck, duck, goose but duck, duck, duck, duck, duck and dessert! And it’s simply delicious.

Ducks in a Row Taxi Dining Room Level 1 Transport Hotel Federation Square Melbourne 8 HOT: Ducks in a Row, Taxi Dining Room, Level 1 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne

The lunch commenced with coffee smoked duck sushi – thin slivers of smokey meat presented atop rice like nigiri – with a dash of teriyaki glaze and a wad of fresh wasabi with so hot that it will hit your cold on the head.

Ducks in a Row Taxi Dining Room Level 1 Transport Hotel Federation Square Melbourne 2 HOT: Ducks in a Row, Taxi Dining Room, Level 1 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne

The next course was Asian style dumplings with chilli, fried shallots and hoisin sauce and a neat salad of shredded cabbage, carrot and water chestnuts. While I liked the duck meat filling the dumpling wrapper was too thick and doughy for my liking. I think it could have been silkier and smoother with a little less handling.

Ducks in a Row Taxi Dining Room Level 1 Transport Hotel Federation Square Melbourne 7 HOT: Ducks in a Row, Taxi Dining Room, Level 1 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne

I enjoyed the theatricality of the third course – a bamboo-handled Japanese teapot poured out a clear duck broth made using the bones remaining from the other courses. The steaming broth melded with the Thai basil, water spinach, coriander and chilli, making a warming and richly fragrant soup which packed a punch with its chilli quotient.

Ducks in a Row Taxi Dining Room Level 1 Transport Hotel Federation Square Melbourne 3 HOT: Ducks in a Row, Taxi Dining Room, Level 1 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne

The main course was a classic Taxi dish – roasted Sichuan pepper duck with fresh lime and house made sriracha salt. The duck was double-cooked – firstly steamed to gently cook the flesh and then flash-fried to lend the outer skin a caramel crispiness.  Tt was the standout course for me as I loved the contrast of textures in the meat, the light and fresh lime and orange segments cutting through the richness and the hit of unami from the glaze. With good reason the dish has been on the menu for almost 10 years with only slight variations in that decade.

Ducks in a Row Taxi Dining Room Level 1 Transport Hotel Federation Square Melbourne 4 HOT: Ducks in a Row, Taxi Dining Room, Level 1 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne

While I didn’t feel too ‘ducked out’ after four consecutive courses of duck, I was relieved that dessert didn’t also involve duck (though there had been some discussion about duck fat ice cream). Instead, the dessert course was a riff on the duck theme. In summer the Great Ocean Ducks feed on the strawberries of the neighbouring farm and in winter they eat green apples from the farm’s orchard. Hence the dessert was a green apple tart tatin with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of sticky calvados caramel.

Ducks in a Row Taxi Dining Room Level 1 Transport Hotel Federation Square Melbourne 6 HOT: Ducks in a Row, Taxi Dining Room, Level 1 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne

Ducks in a Row is being offered for the five Sundays in June for lunch only for $85. There is no matched wine option but there will be wine recommendations with each course (yes there is even a duck champagne!).

Ducks in a Row Taxi Dining Room Level 1 Transport Hotel Federation Square Melbourne 5 HOT: Ducks in a Row, Taxi Dining Room, Level 1 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne

It’s a lovely way to spend a wintery weekend, eating good food and with excellent service and views to boot. Get in while you can!

Ducks in a RowTaxi Dining Room, Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne +61 3 9654 8808