Thursday, September 25, 2014

Good times collective #11: Melbourne must-eats

Even as a not-so-common visitor to Melbourne these days, there are places and dishes that are almost quintessentially Melbourne from a Sydney perspective, as I'm sure there are the other way around - though perhaps less so with various restaurants and trends capturing stomachs in both states.

Fried eggs with jamon, figs and potato tortilla from Hardware Societe, Hardware Street, Melbourne
The hype around CBD laneway cafe Hardware Societe doesn't seem to have died down at all, if my last two visits to Melbourne are anything to go by.

Always turned off by the usual breakfast queues, I was pleasantly surprised on a Thursday morning with no queue but still a jam-packed venue including a shared communal table.

Fried eggs with jamon, figs and potato tortilla from Hardware Societe
Breakfast at Hardware Societe is no light affair. With Spanish and French influences throughout the menu, breakfast is a little more glam than your standard cafe breakfast and quite irresistibly so.

Spanish jamon cured ham and a wedge of potato tortilla made an appearance alongside in-season fresh figs and a scattering of pumpkin seeds in a gorgeous spin on breakfast eggs and toast that was as gourmet as it was filling.

Herb roasted mushrooms with twice cooked gruyere de comte souffle from Hardware Societe
Even more rich was the vegetarian dish of buttery, herb roasted mushrooms atop seeded toast, with watercress and two fluffy cheese "souffles" finished with a herbed creme fraiche; certainly one of the richest, and ultimately deliciously filling vegetarian meals I've had to date.

Bills burger from Huxtaburger, Fulham Place, Melbourne
There's yet to be a burger joint in Sydney with the name and following of Huxtaburger in Melbourne, which has three venues throughout Melbourne and avid, die-hard fans. The CBD outlet, hidden in a laneway and backing out into a food court, is licensed and with indoor and outdoor seating.

It's a more of a scoff-and-dash venue, which is fine by the hungry devourers of the all-Aussie Bills burger featuring a fried egg and bacon with the juicy beef pattie, and beetroot and a pineapple ring in addition to lettuce and tomato - a burger doesn't get much more Australian than that.

Rudy burger with chipotle fries from Huxtaburger
After a holiday standard breakfast; that is, a relatively huge one, I could only manage a kids-size burger. And large fries but only because they were of the nostalgic crinkle-cut variety, tossed in a lightly spiced chipotle seasoning.

The cute Rudy burger on a shiny mini burger bun with a beef pattie, lettuce and tomato was a classic burger with both tomato sauce and mayonnaise. For a proper meat hit, though, go the full size.

Tam Tam ramen from Fukuryu Ramen, Corrs Lane, Melbourne
Melbourne's a little behind Sydney on the ramen game - while we can virtually turn any corner in the city and inner suburbs and find a great ramen joint (post coming next week on the new, second Ippudo in the Central Park complex, Broadway), it's not quite as easy in Melbourne.

Fukuryu Ramen is located up a couple flights of stairs in an aged laneway building, but once you're up there, it's like any other brightly-lit fast food restaurant. Order at the front and get a neat little tracker, rather than a buzzer, that alerts waistaff to your seating location once your food is ready for table delivery.

Offered in regular or large size (adults aren't allowed to order the kid's size - I tried), the mildly spicy, red-hued 'Tam Tam' ramen featured chasuhu roast pork slices and nori seaweed sheets propped up against the side of the bowl, as well as half a googy-yolked egg and pork mince through the soup. The broth had a fantastic smoky umami-ness that strongly encouraged one to finish the entire bowl of soup.

Miso ramen from Fukuryu Ramen
There wasn't quite the same depth of flavour in the miso ramen which had a chicken and fish based broth. It came with toppings of buttered corn, shallots, norichashu, egg and oddly, also some of the minced pork at the bottom of the bowl. While it was decently rich with miso, it wasn't the best miso ramen I've ever had and not nearly as good as my neighbouring bowl.

Sweet potato fries with Vietnamese spicy chilli mayonnaise from Lord of the Fries, Flinders Street, Melbourne
I'm actually yet to visit the Lord of the Fries outlet in Sydney, but happily divert to the store near Flinders Street station every time for a hit of fried potatoes - or in this instance, sweet potato.

Darkly fried, the sweet potato chips alternate between crunchy and soggy, enriched with the 'Vietnamese' sauce - a lightly spiced mayonnaise.

Ninjabread martini, Section 8, Tattersalls Lane
An outdoor, converted shipping container bar pumping with music in a Chinatown lane is quite the concept and Section 8 seems to pull it off effortlessly. Downstairs from other nearby bars, I assume the noise isn't an issue - how un-Sydney - and while sangria jugs and beers seemed the popular choice, I was completely and somewhat unexpectedly delighted with my Ninjabread martini.

Vanilla vodka featured with a touch of cream in the shaken cocktail that seemed to lack a real ginger hit, but it was the gingerbread crumb rim that won me over in the decidedly 'yum' cocktail.

Jia zhang noodles from Camy Shanghai Dumpling, Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne
After a drink or two, the allure of cheap dumplings and noodles nearby in Tattersalls Lane is hard to resist. The well-priced menu and brusque service go hand in hand, and there's even an all-you-can-eat option for the seriously hungry.

The meaty, saucy jia zhang wheat noodles are fabulous for booze-soaking, and general eating too. The generous bowl of dry noodles is topped with a fine pork mince and finely chopped other ingredients in the Asian bolognaise-like sauce, with Chinese greenery on the side.

Pan fried pork dumplings from Camy Shanghai Dumplings
The crisp bottomed pan-fried dumplings are also people-pleasers, with a unique situation where the dumpling wrapper is just as good as the juicy, porky filling. With vinegar sauce and a touch of chilli, these are the kinds of dumplings that I could just eat forever, for the rest of time.

Hot and sour soup from Camy Shanghai Dumpling
The generosity of serving sizes continued with the hot and sour soup, served searingly hot and thick, jam-packed with tofu, bamboo shoots and other goodies in a well balanced vinegary and chilli soup base.

Xiao long bao from Camy Shanghai Dumpling
The only disappointment at Camy Shanghai Dumpling were the xiao long bao soup dumplings which were quite terrible and even worse than the frozen, steam-at-home varieties. Cooked in a too-small bamboo steamer, the dumpling skins ripped and lost what little soup they held while the filling flavour was so mediocre that even vinegar and soy sauces couldn't help.

I always feel like I need a salad week or two after an eating and drinking weekend in Melbourne, but it's all about the balance and the good times afterall.

The Hardware Société on Urbanspoon Huxtaburger on Urbanspoon

Lord of the Fries on Urbanspoon Camy Shanghai Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Section 8 on Urbanspoon Fukuryu Ramen on Urbanspoon


Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Oh the tragedy of those xlb! So looking forward to my Melb trip - I have Huxtaburger in my sights :)

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Oh the tragedy of those xlb! So looking forward to my Melb trip - I have Huxtaburger in my sights :)

Ramen Raff said...

LOL on my last visit to Melbs, I first went to Hardware Societe and then followed by Huxta! hahaha love em both.


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