Saturday, January 26, 2013

Italian Charm @ Sorrento Trattoria

S, W and I decided to head out to the Portsea/Sorrento area for breakfast, which turned into brunch and then lunch. In fact we didn't actually manage to make it down until well after 2pm. After a spot of shopping along the main strip in Sorrento and an obligatory ice cream, given it was a 40 something degree day, we finally decided it was time for some real food.

Our awkward timing meant that most places had their kitchens closed before the dinner rush, but I spotted a little pizza joint across the road that seemed to still be open. Initially we planned to take away a pizza and eat it down by the beach, as the restaurant didn't seem to be more than a tiny take away shop front.

Upon entering the shop and seeing a few empty tables, we decided to dine in. It wasn't until I walked past the counter and saw a beautiful little courtyard in the back, that I realized the restaurant was much bigger than I thought. We picked a table in the back garden, draped in sunlight and were made to feel very welcome by our waitress.

After perusing the menu we decided to order the cheese platter, a main sized chicken and avocado gnocchi and a medium chorizio pizza. The cheese and fruit platter was generous, the pizza was a little on the crisper side and the sausage overdone, but it was still rather tasty, and the gnocchi was also quite nice but a tad bland. Despite my criticisms, the food on a whole was better than many of the Italian restaurants I have been to. Sorrento Trattoria is a nice place to bring the family for an enjoyable and affordable meal. From what I recall the meal was around the $60 mark, maybe even a smidgin under.

I was glad we paid this little restaurant a visit, kitsch tablecloths and all, the place had a charm about it. I'd even go as far to say that the garden nestled in the back brought back memories of my time eating my way through Italy.
Sorrento Trattoria on Urbanspoon
My Rating: 7/10

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Curry Munching @ Elephant Corridor

Sri Lankans and anyone who shares their love for a good spicy Lankan curry, are spoilt for choice in Melbourne. However, when it comes to finding somewhere fancy enough that you could take a date, there honestly isn't much on offer. But that's where Elephant Corridor comes in. It is an absolute gem of a find, it's classy, tastefully decorated and provides honest Sri Lankan cuisine.

Technically Elephant Corridor is an Indian and Sri Lankan restaurant, but I must admit that I'm yet to try their Indian fare, despite frequenting it countless times. Sri Lankan food is very different to North Indian cuisine which many people are familiar with, so for those of you that do visit Elephant Corridor, I urge you to shy away from your usual butter chicken and try some Sri Lankan food instead.

Being too lazy to cook and in the mood for string hoppers, S,W and I headed to Elephant corridor for dinner. When we arrived there, the place was packed and I was starting to wish I had thought of making a reservation. Lucky for us the waiter was able to find us a table. We were seated and a basket of pappadums and a serve each of tamarind and mint chutney were brought over promptly. The accompaniments were full of flavour, however the pappadums disappointingly were a little stale.

After browsing the menu for a couple of minutes we decided to order three serves of string hoppers ($10.90 each), kiri hothi ($4.50), Sri Lankan beef curry ($20.90), cashew curry ($14.90) and pol sambol ($6.90). I had to restrain myself from buying the devilled chicken too, as I think they do a pretty mean job of it. It goes better with rice than string hoppers, so I gave it a miss.

For those of you who haven't tried them before, string hoppers are steamed mounds of noodles made of rice flour. Each serve consisted of 15 string hoppers, half were made of red rice flour and the other half white. They were hot, fluffy and steamed to perfection. Two servings would have been plenty, because we really couldn't get through the three that we ordered. In my opinion string hoppers are not the same without a good kiri hothi. Kiri hothi is a coconut milk gravy that you are meant to pour over the string hoppers to soften them up and add flavour, what we ordered was nice but not as good as the last time I had it at Elephant Corridor. The cashew curry was by far my favourite, cooked in coconut milk and spices, it was creamy and well ... I just couldn't fault it. Likewise, the pol sambol which consisted of grated coconut and spices hit the spot, it was fresh and wasn't too spicy. The beef curry similarly delivered, it was so good we ended up trying to scrape out every last bit of gravy.

All in all we were all very satisfied with our meal and left with our tummies a little too full. My only regret was that I didn't eat my string hoppers the traditional way. I was feeling a little self conscious with all the people around me eating gracefully with their shiny cutlery, but let me let you in on a little secret, Sri Lankan food tastes a world better when you dig in with your fingers.

Elephant Corridor on Urbanspoon
My Rating 8.5/10

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A slice of cielo @ Cielo Gourmet Pizza Pasta

I've never been a fan of pizza chains (well maybe with exception to Domino's, I am in fact quite in lust with their smoked bacon and blue cheese pizza). But then again that may have more to do with my love affair with blue cheese, than the quality of their pizza. My chain snobbery keeps me on the lookout for a good local (and not quite so local) pizza joints and I think I may just have stumbled upon a gem in Cielo.

Cielo is admittedly one of my favourite pizza places in Melbourne. It's one of those places I go to so often but always forget to review, I'm constantly telling myself I'll get some pictures next time, but it never seems to happen. So I've decide to post what I have and review it anyway, because it's just too good to keep a secret.

On a balmy summer evening U, V, R and I decided to have our dinner down at the beach and headed to Cielo to pick up a pizza or two. Tempted by their menu and fueled by our indecisiveness, we ended up leaving with three pizzas between the four of us. We settled on a large Vegipatch ($16.50), consisting of;
a Napoli sauce base, mozzarella, button mushrooms, roasted potato, roasted eggplant, roasted pumpkin, roasted red peppers, baby spinach topped with goats cheese. We also chose a medium sized prosciutto pizza, with an olive oil base, mozzarella, prosciutto, garnished with rocket, shaved parmesan cheese and topped with a balsamic drizzle ($16.50)and lastly a medium sized tandoori pizza, with a Napoli-tandoori sauce base and packed full of; mozzarella, chicken fillets, spanish onions, roasted red capsicum, topped with tzatziki ($14.20). 

We bundled our pizzas into the car and drove down to the nearby beach. We sat on the rocks and lay our pizzas down ready to eat, only to be confronted by what can be best described as a colony of about a dozen huge rats. Regardless of our not so welcome dinner guests, we moved our pizzas out of reach and devoured each and every one of them, though I'm still not quite sure how we managed to finish them all. The prosciutto was my pick of the night (I think one of my local Indian shops does a much better tandoori chicken pizza) and I highly recommend the vegipatch too, for all you vego's out there.Though we didn't have it on this occasion if you end up trying out Cielo's, the asparagus pizza comes with high recommendations. The joint also does decent pasta, however its their pizza that I visit them for.

I can't really fault Cielo, their prices are reasonable, the owner is always friendly and welcoming and their pizzas speak for themselves. In Italian 'cielo', depending on the context of use can mean heaven, such a name may be hard to live up to, but one must say Cielo certainly tries.

Cielo Gourmet Pizza Pasta on Urbanspoon 
My Rating: 7/10

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Try a little Larder @ Larder

After a morning spent traipsing through Daylesford market and taking a heritage train ride to musk and back, K and I were feeling a tad peckish. We headed towards Daylesford's main sprawl of shops and settled on Larder.

The cafe was warm and welcoming inside. The staff, not so much. A few smiles and friendly banter wouldn't have hurt, particularly as we were the only two people in the place. Nevertheless, I must say they had done a good job with the decor, though I doubt any minimalists would agree. The kitchen utensils, pots, pans, scales and what not, which adorned the shelves, added some vintage charm. The delicatessen towards the back of the cafe was also quite tempting, with a variety of meats and cheeses for sale.

Their menu looked quite appetizing, but given we weren't too hungry we decided to try out their more snack sized options. I can't quite remember what either of our meal choices were called, nor can I seem to find them on Larders menu online, however K choose chorizos accompanied by an aioli dip and I decided to go with some cheesy puffs with a serve of chutney. From what I recall they were both around $7.50 a pop. The chorizos went well with the aioli dip and the chutney was quite nice too. However, my snack on a whole was less than ordinary.

Overall this dinning experience was lukewarm, but I think you owe it to a restaurant to try out their real cuisine and our little snacks hardly qualify. So, I suppose I'll have to give larder another go next time I'm visiting Daylesford.

Had I been happier with the service, I would be more inclined to come back, especially as the rest of their menu looked quite promising. Regardless of how good or bad Larders grub might be, if you're down in the neighborhood I do recommend you pop in for a cappuccino, because they certainly do a mean one.

Larder on Urbanspoon 
My Rating: 5.5/10 

Monday, December 3, 2012

A bowlful of sin at the kings table @ Laksa King

I've never been a huge fan of laksa, it's not that I don't like the taste, it's just that it's always seemed a bit too sinful for my liking. I suppose that makes me a hypocrite, it's not like I say no to burgers or chocolate for the same reason, but somehow slurping up mouthfuls of coconut milk seems decidedly worse.

My friend K was down on holiday from Canberra and suggested we catch up at one of her old haunts, Laksa King. I met J and K down in Flemington one Tuesday evening to mull over our life, post undergrad days. We arrived to find a very packed restaurant and even more people waiting their turn to be seated. Fortunately J had arrived earlier, OK well truth is K and I were late, but at least this meant we didn't have to wait around for ages for a table.

Since we decided on a restaurant famed for its laksa and appropriately named after it, I thought it'd be wrong for me to order anything else. K said Tuesdays are her vegetarian day, so she ordered the vegetarian spring rolls ($5.50 for 2) and a mee goreng, sans everything non veg ($10.90). J and I decided to share a plate of Vietnamese spring rolls ($9.20 for 8) and for mains, J chose to go with the seafood curry laksa ($13.20) and I, the chicken ($9.80). We all decided to get an iced lychee each as well ($3.80).

Being a huge fan of all things lychee, I expected to like the ice lychee drink, but it was very 'meh,' too sweet and nothing special. The pork spring rolls were my favourite, even more so than the laksa. Juicy and moist inside, with a crunchy outer layer. I didn't try the vegetarian spring rolls myself, but K gave them the thumbs up. The laksa was brought out in next to no time, steaming hot and generously large in size. We each enjoyed our large bowls, full of coconut-y goodness and fresh ingredients. I'm not sure our laksas tasted all that different from each other, regardless I would definitely go back again and perhaps again....

Laksa may be a sinful treat, but if you're in for a cheap, delicious, hot meal, in bustling, lively restaurant, you simply cannot go past this undisputed king of laksa.

Laksa King on Urbanspoon

My Rating: 7.5/10