Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sheni's Curries, Melbourne

Today I was excited to be trying out the much read about Sheni's Curries.  Mentioned in The Age Cheap Eats guide, the cuisine is Sri Lankan and Southern Indian. 

Step down through the pvc strip curtained doorway to enter a small, but adequate curry eatery.  A counter full of delicious looking curries and other assortments await hungry diners.  Being a Friday, they offer Friday lunch specials and I decided to go for the mixed special - $9 for a small or $10 for a large.  Saving my stomach from too much consumption (and my little wallet from a dollar), I opted for the small. 

As you can see, I got three different curries, a popadom, various accompaniments and even a bit of salad.  Unfortunately I can't remember what everything was. 

All I can say is that my lunch had the spicy kick of typical Sri Lankan cuisine and managed to finish all but a few small morsels left on the plate, due to feeling rather full.  It was certainly delicious.

Lunch times get really busy with queues of office workers lining up.  If possible, grab a seat by the window to have a street view whilst reading one of the available papers on the window shelf. 

This place also does take out and I think they now open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings until 9pm.

Cheap, cheerful and good spicy value for money.

Sheni's Curries
Russell Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9654 3535

Mon-Fri: 8-9pm

Monday, June 14, 2010

Arintji, Melbourne

Arintji is referred to as a cafe-cum-restaurant by many who have reviewed the place.  Serving modern Australian fare in what can only be described as 'grazing' plates.

It was opened back in 2003 by renowned French chef Jacques Raymond.  But, it has since changed hands...

Arintji sits on in the heart of Federation Square and has casual outdoor seating with orange umbrellas.  Walk inside and there are orange cushioned donut shaped chairs in the cafe area to the right and a bar to the left.  Walk up a few steps to the more formal dining platform which is a roomy light space with views across the Yarra River. 

Our friendly waiter kindly explained to us that their menu is for grazing and sharing.  Thus, not to expect big plates.  Kind of surprising when some of the plates were $16 plus.  For that amount of dollars, I expect a substantial sized plate or at least something absolutely spectacular however small.

So, my companions and I all opted for a burger each, some fries, a salad and a tart.  When we enquired on the size of the burgers, our waiter grinned and hesitated before describing them as 'cute but really tasty'.  Hmmm, could that be a cover up for saying 'they are so tiny and probably won't fill you up unless you're a size zero with a baby appetite...but don't worry, they're so packed full of flavour that you won't even notice how small they are'.

A pair of burgers arrived, with one on its own.  I only took a photo of the pair and yes, they certainly were small.  At $6.50, I would have preferred them to be a little bigger..

Mmm, a generous bowl of french fries with ketchup ($6) arrived next.  And these were the small portion...

Followed by a healthy rocket, radiccio and grana salad' ($8)...which was very delicious. 

And my companion, Miss M's 'Gorgonzola and leek tart with crispy prosciutto' ($8.50) -  which was more like a slice of quiche Lorraine as we know it back in the UK.  It was certainly small with a token piece of leek on top.  Crispy prosciutto mixed with rocket on the side, which Miss M delighted in. 

Fairly friendly service, nice location, food OK, servings small.  All in all, a nice enough place for a get-together lunch, just don't expect to stay too full for too long afterwards.

Federation Square, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9663 9900

Daily 10AM-Late

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tia To, Melbourne

One may not automatically associate a casino with Vietnamese food, but the Crown casino has a Vietnamese eatery called Tia To located on the ground floor.  

Having been here a couple of times previously, I can say that I like this place for it's ridiculously close proximity to my front door - a mere five minutes or so walk; it's not too pricey, and service is welcoming. 

This place is an open eatery, meaning diners can sit and look out onto the gaming floor which is great for those who like to people watch and believe me, it really is fascinating watching gamers.  If I were to go back to my university days to write a thesis on the psychology of people, I would consider the subject of gamblers. 

Nevertheless, educational degrees aside, this place offers a generous array of sauces and dippings which sit neatly on a tray that adorn each table.  There's fish sauce, soy sauce, chilli sauce, chilli flakes, pickle, hoisin sauce and satay sauce.  Oh and not forgetting, a holder of toothpicks that all good Asian eateries offer.  Useful for picking out any awkwardly caught pieces of food, namely green herbs - not a good look if on a first date. 

My companion and I ordered a prawn rice roll each ($6.50 for both).  They weren't huge which was good, but they seemed pretty fresh and the sauce was thick and sweet with broken up pieces of peanut on top.  We both enjoyed them and looked forward to our mains.

As is typical with me, I wanted the beef pho noodles and those we got.  It took a while for them to come out, which didn't bother us too much.  But had we been starving, we probably would have been getting pretty cranky with me cursing expletives whilst picking my teeth with toothpicks for something to do...

Apologies for the blurred photo, but the thin slices of pink beef can be seen.  The rare paper thin beef slices were cooking naturally in the heat of the broth as they arrived.  Mmmm....

We mixed in the beansprouts, basil, chopped chilli and lemon juice which arrived before the noodles actually.  The beef was lovely, only I wish there had been more of it.  The soup was more beefy than aromatic though which was a little disappointing. 

It could have done with more oomph - I would have liked to have tasted more of the lovely spices that go into a good pho broth.  Pho-tastic it was not.  But it didn't stop me from gobbling up the beef, noodles and beansprouts splashed with spoonfuls of chilli sauce (which I think was Siracha - yummy!).

If I'm honest, I've had better pho broth elsewhere, but the rare beef slices are to die for!

The other dish we ordered came from Tia To's speciality dishes - 'Stir fried eggplant with dried shrimp and mince pork'.  All the speciality dishes come with a serving of white rice.  I rarely eat white rice (only when out and no other choice; even then, I eat only a couple of spoonfuls), but today, did I tell you I was famished?  Well, I was.  I had a good session in the gym and I needed to fuel back up, so I had four spoonfuls of rice...ooh, I was really pushing the boat out today!

Calories aside, this dish was lovely.  The eggplant pieces were deliciously soft and weren't bitter tasting at all.  The dried shrimp turned out to be fresh shimp, but we weren't complaining.  It was served on a bed of fresh iceburg lettuce and it wasn't too oily.  Overall, a great ratio balance of pork, shrimp and eggplant.  This was just what the doctor ordered and we polished it off with no complaints. 

Service was a bit slow today, not sure why as they weren't full.  But it has been better on previous occasions.  It may not be the best Vietnamese, but it's not bad and I'll definitely be back here for some more Tia To goodness.

Tia To
Crown Entertainment Complex, Main Gaming Floor, 8 Whitman Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9292 6989

Sun-Thu: Noon-11pm
Fri-Sat: Noon-Midnight

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

St. Ali, Melbourne

At 12-18 Yarra Place in South Melbourne is a hidden gem.  I say hidden because unless you're in the know, it's not obvious to a passerby looking down this street that there's a great little coffee place just a few steps and a skip away.  

St. Ali occupies a converted warehouse with wooden tables and mis-matched chairs.  Yes, this place is certainly quirky, but oh so good quirky!

I arrived at one o'clock today and was instantly greeted by a wide eyed and smiley waitress.  I instantly saw my friend sitting at the end of one of the communal tables and went to sit with her.

Another waitress came and offered to get us some coffees right away.  Again, with a lovely  huge smile.  Wow, with the amount of smiles we were getting in such a short space of time, we were becoming instantly enamoured with this place. 

We both ordered flat whites ($3.80 each); except I ordered a 'skinny' as opposed to regular.  There were a couple of coffee makers with brewing looking contraptions to the side, it all looked a bit like a potions class going on in the background. 

The flat white came with a lovely fir tree pattern on top.  It was beautifully smooth and oh so yummyliciously creamy.  Mmm, I think I fell in love with this place from the sip go!

This place has a breakfast menu as well as a lunch menu.  We decided to share a couple of dishes.  From their 'kitchen confidential' section, we chose the 'my mexican cousin' ($14.50) which is their secret recipe corn fritters with baby spinach, grilled halloumi and kasundi with our choice of poached eggs.

From the 'between the sheets' (sounds a little naughty), we chose the 'morrocan spiced chicken thigh burger' ($16), stuffed with tomato jam, tomato, avocado salsa and rocket.

They both arrived at the same time.  The burger came in toasted turkish bread - one of my favourites.

One can see the yummy filling - chicken, lovely fresh green avocado salsa, plenty of crunchy rocket and big beef tomato slices with lovely sweet tomato jam.  The ingredients were all fresh and tasty and after a good morning workout, it felt indulgent without being too glutinous (apart from the white bread...)

The corn fritters came with two lovely poached eggs on top with kasundi on top (sliced mango pickle).  The halloumi wasn't salty as some that I have had before, and the corn fritters were delicious and very non-greasy.  The poached eggs were just about runny, with the edges of the yoke cooked - a little more done than I prefer.  But all in all, a well rounded dish which hit the spot. 

We polished off the meal with a chai tea latte ($4.80 each).  The spices had been ground up and topped with hot milk in a one handle jug.  I asked for honey on the side and they gave me a generous shot glass of honey.  The chai latte was delicious, but it could have done with more oomph if I'm honest. 

Staff here are so super friendly.  We were made to feel welcome from the moment we set foot inside the place to the moment we left. 

St. Ali is just brilliant.  I love the concept and I love the fact that they take such pride in their coffee.  I think I've been persuaded to make the effort to come back here just to buy some ground coffee beans.  After which, I will just have to try to emulate their great coffee back home! 

St. Ali
12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne, VIC 3205
Tel: +61 (0)3 9686 2990

Mon-Tue: 7am-5pm
Wed-Sat: 7am-11pm
Sun: 8am-5pm