HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 1 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

To stand out in Melbourne’s competitive dining out industry, you’ve really got to have a signature dish, something that gets Instagrammed to death. At Mjr Tom, Collingwood’s latest cafe/bar, that dish has got to be a banana hot dog.

Yes, you read right!

Before we get into this intriguing dish, a few things you should know about Mjr Tom. It’s an all-day eatery and bar that’s split into three areas for whatever mood you’re in.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 10 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

At the front is a small front area with the coffee station and simply framed seating nooks that give the space a Zen-like Japanese aesthetic.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 11 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Head back and there’s a lofty area housing a central bar with seating plus inviting booths that are surprisingly sunny despite being eye-level with the apartment block that overlooks the narrow laneway.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 2 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

The booths are the best seats in the house, and the raw plywood, corrugated metal and greenery that adorn the space give it an outside-inside feel.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 4 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 3 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Downstairs is the bluestone basement and private dining room, with a spanking new pool table and high stools and tables.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 9 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

The menu is eclectic, to say the least, with breakfast available 8am-3pm and lunch from 12pm. I count Asian, Latin, American and Italian influences –  then there’s that banana hot dog.

The dish is a roasted banana split into two and topped with bacon lardons, grated smoked scamorza, two banana-shaped garnishes cut from arepa, tomato marmalade.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 6 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

It’s a fun and tasty dish, albeit a bit gimmicky (and amusingly phallic). Ingredients like Brazil Nut get lost in amongst the heat from the green chili and coriander salsa and the riot of other flavours. The only reason I wouldn’t order it again is because it’s $17.50 for what is essentially one tricked up banana fritter and I was still hungry afterwards.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 8 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

If you’re after a breakfast classic with a twist then try the granola, which is also a more reasonable $12. It’s a chunky mixture of nuts, seeds and fresh berries surrounding a wobbly buffalo milk pannacotta and a slightly tart yoghurt sorbet. The texture of the pannacotta is perfect though I would have liked more flavour in it.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 7 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Lunch options include fish tacos and beef-cheek empanadas and an Asian chicken burger. C’s Israeli pearl cous cous salad ($14.50) is chock full of cucmber, zucchini, mint, herbs and nuts with a ball of labne rolled in black sesame on the side. It’s fresh and light but unless you’re vegetarian you’ll need the chunks of bacalao (extra $4) for flavour and protein.

The coffee is imported from Italian roaster Romcaffe and was smooth and creamy. The chai, while beautifully presented in crockery that reminded me of volcanic rock, was too watery in both texture and flavour.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 5 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Mjr Tom in the daytime is a relaxing place to hang out and its global menu means that there’s plenty of choice. At night I imagine it’ll be a fun place to eat and drink, making it a great addition to the Smith Street scene.

Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood (03) 9419 8048

Daily 8am–1am

minilink HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

 

HOT: Pop Up Scroll, 86 Smith Street, Collingwood

Pop Up Scroll 86 Smith Street Collingwood 5 HOT: Pop Up Scroll, 86 Smith Street, Collingwood

In a continuation of Melbourne’s love affair with sweet baked goods, Pop Up Scroll is a temporary pop up shop on Smith Street pedalling scrolls and I was invited for an afternoon tea of scroll tasting.

 A former Chinese herbalist shop has been transformed by the married owners (a pastry chef and interior designer) into a gelati-coloured doll’s house with retro features.

Pop Up Scroll 86 Smith Street Collingwood HOT: Pop Up Scroll, 86 Smith Street, Collingwood

Inside is a temporary purpose built kitchen (the lease expires in May), a counter luring customers with different scroll flavours and some cute seating along the wall and in the window.

 Pop Up Scroll 86 Smith Street Collingwood 2 HOT: Pop Up Scroll, 86 Smith Street, Collingwood

Twice a day scrolls are freshly baked, glazed and topped. Their sell out is the original cinnamon scroll with cream cheese frosting and it is my favourite. Unlike traditional cinnamon scrolls, say from Scandinavia, these scrolls are not dense, yeasty and bread-like. The dough is based on a brioche recipe, which means the texture is butter and fluffy. Really it’s more like a doughnut than a bread product – and hence you can easily eat more than one!

 Pop Up Scroll 86 Smith Street Collingwood 6 HOT: Pop Up Scroll, 86 Smith Street, Collingwood

In fact, my recommendation is to buy mini scrolls ($3) rather than the large scrolls ($4) so that you can try more than one flavour. Other favourites include the peanut butter and banana and decadent chocolate with salted caramel. I’m not such a fan of the coconut and white chocolate scroll as the dessicated, caramelised coconut topping was tooth-achingly sweet, even for a seasoned sweet tooth like myself.

Pop Up Scroll 86 Smith Street Collingwood 1 HOT: Pop Up Scroll, 86 Smith Street, Collingwood

 You can pair your fragrant scrolls with a coffee by Coffee Supreme and if you’re desperate for something savoury they do offer a few options.

 After the 6 month lease is up there are plans for a more permanent shop for Pop Up Scroll in the inner north (which will then be called Eat a Scroll). Until then, get your scroll fix on Smith Street.

 Pop Up Scroll, 86 Smith Street, Collingwood

Monday-Friday 8am-4pm

Saturday 9am-4pm

minilink HOT: Pop Up Scroll, 86 Smith Street, Collingwood

HOT: The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards

good cafe guide HOT: The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards

The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards were announced tonight – did your favourites make the cut?

These cafes won top honours and * indicates a cafe that I’ve reviewed previously:

Top Paddock* (Richmond) – eftpos best cafe

Stagger Lee’s* (Fitzroy) – best new cafe

Dakdak (Moorabbin) – local hero award.

Seven Seeds (Carlton) – best coffee

Pellegrini’s (CBD) – Hall of Fame

Ora* (Kew) – best food cafe

Brunswick East Project (Brunswick East) – best barista James Kilby

Everyday Coffee (Collingwood) – best brew bar

Guerilla Espresso* (Footscray) – best small cafe

Industry Beans* (Fitzroy) – best boutique roaster

The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 will be available for $5 with The Age for Saturday 21 June and in selected bookshops and online at theageshop.com.au for $9.99.

Check out the award winners for 2013. 

HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

Smith Street Alimentari 302 Smith St Collingwood 8 HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

It’s just too hot to cook!

Fortunately inner north favourites Brunswick Street Alimentari and Gorski and Jones now have a new sibling to add to the Holy Trinity of good food – the food store Smith Street Alimentari.

Smith Street Alimentari 302 Smith St Collingwood 1 HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

All of the three cafes/restaurants share a few things in common while carving out their own identity. Smith Street Alimentari is more deli/produce/takeaway meal driven than the other two establishments. That means there is very little seating – and what there is either in the outside tables or perch-upright bar stools. And you need to order at the counter which can mean a little wait during the lunchtime rush.

Smith Street Alimentari 302 Smith St Collingwood 5 HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

The counter is where everything happens. It’s hard to select just one thing for lunch – for wintery weather there’s a roast of the day with hot or cold sides ($16.50), for summery heat there’s a selection of freshly-made salads full of healthful ingredients like chickpeas and roast veg. For those on the go there’s a whole raft of sandwich options, from doorstoppers on white bread to pressed paninis.

Smith Street Alimentari 302 Smith St Collingwood 4 HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

 

Smith Street Alimentari 302 Smith St Collingwood 3 HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

We decided to try the poached chicken and coleslaw sandwich – a hefty handful of soft white Baker D Chirico bread and filling which was pleasant but not terribly exciting. The robust flavours of the pork and veal meatball sandwich were much more satisfying.

Smith Street Alimentari 302 Smith St Collingwood 7 HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

Cafe staple ham and cheese croissants were light and flaky but for the filling I prefer the chunky ham which is used at other places.

Smith Street Alimentari 302 Smith St Collingwood 6 HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

From the takeaway meal section, you’ll still find excellent pork and fennel lasagne in foil containers (it’s a staple in my freezer), the pork meatballs (so you can make your own meatball sub) as well as a range of items to stock up your pantry – fancy grains, oils and cheeses – and fresh provisions including olives and fresh pasta.

Smith Street Alimentari 302 Smith St Collingwood 2 HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

The whole place makes me salivate on every visit and their ready made meals have been a godsend in this stupid heat that we’ve been experiencing lately.

For another cafe with delicious ready made meals try Ashkelon Food Store.

Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith Street, Collingwood+61 3 9416 1666.

Daily 8:00 am – 7:00 pm

minilink HOT: Smith Street Alimentari, 302 Smith St, Collingwood

HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood


Lee Ho Fook 92 Smith St Collingwood 81 HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

Happy Year of the Horse! Celebrate Chinese New Year at possibly the hottest Chinese restaurant in Melbourne at the moment – Lee Ho Fook.

When Lee Ho Fook opened in October last year expectations were high as the head chef, Victor Liong, had previously worked at Marque and Mr Wong. Now that the initial hype has died down the small one room restaurant is still going strong.

Lee Ho Fook 92 Smith St Collingwood 71 HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

The space fits only around 50 people at the bar and on tables and the room is sparsely furnished. There are no dragons or gold leaf in sight – in fact, nothing on the exterior or interior that would really alert you to the fact that it’s a Chinese restaurant, even if you noticed that the shape in the smoked-glass window was a panda.

lee ho fook 92 Smith St Collingwood HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

The menu is similarly understated with its Chinese origins. Every dish is Chinese-with-a-twist, which didn’t agree with my (Chinese) parents every time but still makes for delicious food. Plus I think what they’ve done with a traditional cuisine is pretty inventive.

We visited Lee Ho Fook with 7 people and when you book for over 6 diners you are forced to order a set 8 courses ($48 per person) or 10 courses ($68). The set menus are a sort of greatest hits selection and when the bill was toted up the set menu was better value than the dinner for two my parents had ordered the night before. We were all big eaters and we didn’t feel you needed the 10 courses to be satisfied.

Lee Ho Fook 92 Smith St Collingwood 61 HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

To start, we had the ‘Chinese Huxtaburger’ – addictive mini sliders of steamed milk bun skewered with a crispy hunk of candied pork, a slice of salted cucumber and fluffy pork floss.

Lee Ho Fook 92 Smith St Collingwood 51 HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

The prawn toast was just as awesome, finely minced prawn sprinkled with black sesame and domed over crispy toasts. It was served with some fresh butter which was an unnecessarily rich, Western, ingredient and no one touched it.

Lee Ho Fook 92 Smith St Collingwood 31 HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

Next up was the raw ocean trout and jellyfish salad served raw. It was an update on a classic Cantonese new year dish with sashimi-grade slices of fish, shredded jellyfish and topped with coleslaw and fried wonton crisps for colour and crunch.

Lee Ho Fook 92 Smith St Collingwood 21 HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

Another highlight was the crispy skin Shandong Chicken. Shandong chicken is basically crispy skin chicken that has been twice cooked (boiled then deep-fried) and served in a black vinegar, chilli, soy sauce and coriander sauce. It was like Chinese KFC and just as addictive. Crunchy, paper-thin crackled skin covering juicy meat on the bone and served with the classic Shandong dressing.

Lee Ho Fook 92 Smith St Collingwood 41 HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

More crispness in the form of lamb belly fried with chilli and garlic. A high impact, flavoursome dish perfect with steamed rice but a little too fatty for my liking.

Lee Ho Fook 92 Smith St Collingwood 11 HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

The best dish of the night for me was actually the most straightforward Cantonese dish that you’ll find in most Chinese restaurants – steamed barramundi with ginger and shallots. What was different here was that the fish was filleted, Western-style, meaning no bones or fins or popping eyes. It was steamed to perfection, with no hint of rubber and with the clean freshness of the seafood enhanced by the aromatics.

Lee Ho Fook 92 Smith St Collingwood 22 HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

The dessert was the most removed from traditional Chinese fare. Each person received an artistically laid out platter of miniature desserts – a subtle jasmine tea custard with burnt caramel, sort of like an Asian creme brulee, plus osmanthus jelly with a gently sweet white peach sorbet.

Lee Ho Fook is Liong’s first restaurant and it’s a great debut.  It will be moving to new premises in Duckboard Lane, CBD next year. I imagine that rents are higher in the city than in Collingwood (even eat-street Smith Street) so you may find prices will necessary be going up. Just in case, I recommend that you book yourself a seat at Lee Ho Fook before it decamps south.

Lee Ho Fook92 Smith Street, Collingwood (03) 9077 6261

Wed to Thurs 5pm – 11pm
Fri 12pm – 11pm
Sat 5pm – 11pm
Sun 12pm – 11pm

minilink HOT: Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood

HOT: Lemon, Middle and Orange, 25-31 Rokeby St, Collingwood

DSC04073 1024x676 HOT: Lemon, Middle and Orange, 25 31 Rokeby St, Collingwood

Collingwood still industrial heart has sprouted a cafe with a curious name – Lemon, Middle and Orange. The reason for the moniker? The stainless steel and wood cafe is an architecturally designed conversion from an old paint factory and those were the chrome pigments the factory used.

Despite the fact Rokeby Street harbours more trucks than foot traffic, Lemon, Middle and Orange has become already become a favourite with nearby residents and workers who totter along the narrow single-lane footpath to the unsigned frontage. The small tunnel-like entrance of perforated steel leads out into a narrow, pared back indoor space with a long wooden bench along the wall. It’s a couple of degrees warmer than outside due to the cranking kitchen, which is something you may or may not desire depending on the weather.

DSC04071 706x1024 HOT: Lemon, Middle and Orange, 25 31 Rokeby St, Collingwood

We arrived on a weekday lunch time and there were not very many tables left. We managed to snag a small table by the front foyer take-away area (with distinctive felt-upholstered paint cans as seating) and scanned the small but interesting breakfast menu which has an Irish slant due to the owners’ Irish heritage.

DSC04066 1024x680 HOT: Lemon, Middle and Orange, 25 31 Rokeby St, Collingwood

I order house smoked plum cured Tasmanian salmon ($17) which arrives with a generous helping of lightly smoked fish, some mellow fried potato latkes (pancakes) which are popular in Ireland, two punctured poached eggs, a mound of shaved fennel toppling over the plate and a slick of horseradish cream. It was a beautifully balanced mix of richness and lightness, with lots of interesting textures combining together.

DSC04069 1024x680 HOT: Lemon, Middle and Orange, 25 31 Rokeby St, Collingwood

For dessert I go back to breakfast and order the waffles with caramelised banana puree and Jock’s vanilla ice-cream ($15). On paper it is a delicious mix but fried waffles, crunchy banana chips and crispy bacon all together equalled too much crunch at once for me. All those dry goods were a pain to pile onto a fork (even smeared with puree and ice cream) and it actually hurt my mouth to chew it! I would have preferred plain old sliced banana on my waffles instead and then the balance would have been perfect.

The lunch menu uses the traditional Irish brown soda bread they bake onsite every day and I’m told that the bread is quickly becoming a signature dish at the cafe.

Lemon, Middle and Orange is worth a visit, though I’d try to avoid any peak times. We went around 12 midday on a Friday so it was understandably busy but there was quite a wait for the food – long enough to warrant a follow up to see whether my order had been lost.

Lemon, Middle and Orange, 25–31 Rokeby St, Collingwood +61 3 9415 1593

M–F 7.30am till 3:30pm
Sat 8am till 3pm
Sun 9am till 3pm

minilink HOT: Lemon, Middle and Orange, 25 31 Rokeby St, Collingwood


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HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood

Bistro K 366 Smith St Collingwood 3 HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood

At dinner with a group of food-loving friends one night we each made predictions as to the next food trend that will sweep Melbourne (cos the taco burger food truck thing is so 2012).

My prediction is Korean. It is spicy, hearty, healthy and, well, not Mexican. And while my knowledge of Korean doesn’t extend too far beyond bibimbap and bulgogi, perhaps stylish newcomer Bistro K is the place that will teach me to look beyond Korean BBQ to modern interpretations of Korean food.

Bistro K 366 Smith St Collingwood 6 HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood

If nothing else, their Korean drinks list was an eye-opener. The non-alcoholic fizzes were a series of unfamiliar names so I took a stab at a can of Sujunwa, cinnamon juice, which proved to be a sweet hit. My friend tried the traditional Korean Yuza-Citron tea which was sort of like pouring hot water onto marmalade and similar to the traditional flu remedy of honey and lemon with hot water.

In the alcohol column there were traditional Korean rice wines and plum wines and curiosity will one day lead me to try their fruity, soju based cocktails or a jug of Mak Ku Li, fermented rice milky wine, with various fruits.

Bistro K 366 Smith St Collingwood 2 HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood

The menu is split into small plates, larger plates, bibimbap. The prices are very reasonable – small dishes are around $10 and mains are under $25. And the servings were appropriately sized – you’re not getting a tiny bit of food as a ‘main’ course.

Bistro K 366 Smith St Collingwood 8 HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood

From the entrees we selected the deep fried crumbed oysters ($12 for 4). Crumbing is not the way I’d normally choose to enjoy my oysters but in this case the crunchy coating was an enjoyable contrast to the fleshy oyster briney-ness inside.

Bistro K 366 Smith St Collingwood 4 HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood

You can’t avoid kim chi in Korean cuisine and for our other entree we selected one of the more traditional dishes on the menu – slow cooked pork belly with kim chi topped with a thin slice of steamed tofu ($11.50). The relative blandness of the tofu was just the right counterpoint for the package of sour and spicy pickled cabbage and tender rich pork. You can also have this dish as a main course and it is just the kind of food I’d hoover down with rice on a cold winter’s night.

Bistro K 366 Smith St Collingwood 7 HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood

We were equally impressed with our main courses.  If you’re vegetarian/vegan (or even if you’re not) then I highly recommend the spicy cubes of deep-fried tofu with a side of fat, fleshy grilled king mushrooms the likes of which I’d never seen (I actually thought I was eating meat until I realised it was fungi). It’s a bargain for $18 and I reckon even meat eaters won’t feel like they’ve been cheated from their protein.

Bistro K 366 Smith St Collingwood 1 HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood

Our second shared main course was a fall-apart fillet of pan fried butterfish which really did melt in your mouth like butter. It came with more king mushrooms, a brushstroke of pumpkin puree and some interesting textural contrast in the form of soy jelly film.

Both mains were served with black rice and a bowl of soy bean and vegetable soup which meant that we actually didn’t have room for dessert – a shame as I would have liked to try their house made ice cream ($6).

Bistro K 366 Smith St Collingwood 5 HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood

I really enjoyed my experience of Bistro K – it serves a sophisticated yet very reasonably priced menu that I’m keen to explore further. Who knows, maybe Bistro K will lead the vanguard of Melbourne’s newest food trend.

Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood +61 3 9973 605

minilink HOT: Bistro K, 366 Smith St, Collingwood


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HOT: Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood

Robert Burns Hotel 376 Smith St Collingwood 1 HOT: Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood

‘Do you have anything that doesn’t have garlic in it? I don’t like garlic.’

‘Sorry – we’re a Spanish restaurant. Everything has garlic!’

I felt a little sorry for the guy, obviously a tourist. Who would have thought that walking into the Robert Burns Hotel meant a menu of paella and chorizo and not haggis with tatties and neeps?

Robert Burns Hotel 376 Smith St Collingwood 2 HOT: Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood

The front of the Robert Burns Hotel looks like many a workers’ club, albeit a bit spruced up with fresh flowers and no sticky carpet in sight. The back restaurant is a lighter, brighter space with comfortable banquette seating down one side and cane chairs and wooden tables in the remainder of the space. You can order from the menu and eat in the front area or the restaurant, though if you sit in the pub space you’ll be propping up food on your knees or perched on high stools.

Robert Burns Hotel 376 Smith St Collingwood 4 HOT: Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood

 

I love the juxtaposition of tartan carpet with the quickfire Spanish being bandied around in the kitchen.

Robert Burns Hotel 376 Smith St Collingwood 5 HOT: Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood

 

The Robbie Burns has become a bit of a home-away-from-home for Spanish expats in Melbourne so their menu spans cuisine from all regions of that country. The food is comfortably familiar Spanish, with special emphasis on meats from the grill (parilla). Luckily I don’t have an aversion to garlic!

At the moment on weekdays they offer  a lunch deal of $12 for a dish from their express lunch menu or $15 for an express lunch dish with a beer, wine, soft drink or coffee. The lunch dishes are light meals and offer great value.

As I was super hungry I decided to start with some jamon croquettes from the standard menu ($10.50 for 5). You can also order the same croquettes on the lunch menu where you’ll get 6 croquettes (3 of the jamon, 3 of the croquette of the day) for $12.

Robert Burns Hotel 376 Smith St Collingwood 7 HOT: Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood

The texture of the croquettes was about as close to perfect as I’ve experienced. Super crispy on the outside and so creamy on the inside. There were only a few tiny slivers of jamon within each croquette but I wasn’t too concerned. I just loved to crunchy/oozy combination of it all.

From the express lunch menu I had the mussels in an aromatic sofrito salsa. The mussels were very fresh and plump, and the amount of sauce left over at the end was almost equivalent to a small bowl of spicy tomato soup. The accompanying bread was perfect for mopping up the sauce and in fact I asked for more to wipe the bowl clean.

Robert Burns Hotel 376 Smith St Collingwood 3 HOT: Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood
Greedy for more I decided to go all out and have three courses, so I finished my lunch with the chocolate coulant ($11.50). They warn you that it takes 15 minutes to arrive because the molten chocolate pudding with vanilla bean ice cream  is made to order (they forgot to put the ice cream on the plate for the photo but brought it out separately later). It was everything that a chocolate moelleux should be but wasn’t amazing.

Robert Burns Hotel 376 Smith St Collingwood 6 HOT: Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood

The standard menu at the Robert Burns Hotel is available for dinner and they also hold special events – their current series explores cuisine for each of the Spanish regions. Go for an easygoing take on some classic Spanish cuisine with nary a bagpipe in sight.

Robert Burns Hotel, 379 Smith St, Collingwood +61 3 9417 2233

Monday – Tuesday 5pm – late

Wednesday  – Sunday 12pm – late

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: Pop Up Tonkotsu Ramen, Wabi Sabi Salon, 94 Smith St, Collingwood

Pop Up Tonkotsu Ramen Wabi Sabi Salon 94 Smith St Collingwood 3 HOT: Pop Up Tonkotsu Ramen, Wabi Sabi Salon, 94 Smith St, CollingwoodThank you long weekend!

It seems that most people have taken the opportunity of a 3 day weekend to head out of town, leaving the ramen-hunting to the rest of us.

One of my favourite Japanese restaurants Wabi Sabi Salon is offering Tonkotsu Ramen Sundays, an interesting alternative to the Sunday roast. Until further notice every Sunday lunch time from 12 midday Wabi Sabi Salon will be open for one thing only – hot, steaming bowls of homemade ramen.

Pop Up Tonkotsu Ramen Wabi Sabi Salon 94 Smith St Collingwood 1 HOT: Pop Up Tonkotsu Ramen, Wabi Sabi Salon, 94 Smith St, Collingwood

Ramen is perfect winter comfort food. Having one of those big bowls plonked in front of you is like having a steam facial and the more you eat, the hotter you get, until you’re shedding layers like a sunburnt Brit.

The menu has just three items on it – traditional Tonkotsu Charsyu noodle ie sliced pork and egg, a Tonkotsu Tan Tan spicy noodle with minced pork and a Vegetarian Tasty noodle.  The tonkotsu pork stock is put on the stove 24 hours before and the noodles are made fresh on the day, with only enough to fill 150 bowls.

Pop Up Tonkotsu Ramen Wabi Sabi Salon 94 Smith St Collingwood 2 HOT: Pop Up Tonkotsu Ramen, Wabi Sabi Salon, 94 Smith St, Collingwood

I felt in need of some chilli for the chill so decided on the Tonkotsu Tan Tan spicy noodle. The bowl was filled with a heady, murky broth of porky goodness with a small slick of sesame and chilli oil. However, I don’t know if my tastebuds had been numbed by the hot soup but I definitely didn’t think it was spicy. The noodles were excellent, springy and toothsome.

I was thrilled to enjoy such great ramen on my doorstep until I was told that it cost me $16 (cash only). That’s not my experience as the going rate for a bowl of ramen. And it’s almost double the price for a bowl of pho, another form of a filling noodle broth.

So while I would recommend Wabi Sabi Salon‘s Pop Up Tonkotsu Ramen if you live nearby (and so it gets a HOT), is it so amazing that I’d cross town for it and get not much change from a $20? Probably not.

Pop Up Tonkotsu Ramen, Wabi Sabi Salon, 94 Smith St, Collingwood +61 3 9417 6119