Two Lost Boys – Windsor

Michael Almagor and Justin Kony.  No doubt, these two names are lost on some. Meanwhile, for others, these two lads are well known for being two of the finest barista’s serving out honest coffee at a range of Melbourne’s top cafes over recent years. With a combined experience of over a decade, Almagor and Kony have worked at; Eden, Gattica, Hobba and Dukes (to name a few). If you had ever spoken with these two upstanding chaps at any stage during their careers, it was never a moment of, ‘if they would open’ their own baby, it was only a matter ‘of when’.

DSCF9347_905

In September 2013, this long-time coming goal of Almagor and Kony became a reality when they decided to bring the good people of Windsor their first venture –  Two Lost Boys (TLB). Hidden in Maddock Street (a mere stone’s throw from Chapel Street), the premises is positioned opposite bustling Windsor Train Station. As all the loyal chommies (chom groupies) are aware – side streets, lane-ways and hidden are my scene ;) – this is exactly that.

IMG_2509_905

The space is; bright, open, inviting and warm. All key features that The Chommery is looking for when searching the ultimate dining experience in Melbourne. In this instance, we sing praise to Nathan Ruttner. A recent graduate of Interior Architecture at Monash University, Ruttner has created an environment that has left a plethora of customers astounded that this was his first solo gig following the conclusion of his studies. Looking forward to seeing more of this gentleman’s work around Melbourne in 2014 and beyond.

IMG_0296

Coffee beans have been carefully sourced from specialty coffee roasters’ – Monk Bodhi Dharma (202 Carlisle Street, Balaclava). No beating around the bush here; Monk Coffee totally rocks. Customers are spoilt for choice with a house blend and two ever-changing single origin blends.  Combining Monk’s terrific blend with Almagor and Kony’s expertise – the proof is in the mug (see above) – try for yourself!

IMG_02911

To kick-off the food options, we had the Knafeh - crispy Mediterranean-style pastry, kadaif hair filled with ricotta and halva, crowned with rosewater syrup, crushed pistachio and Egyptian fairy floss ($10.00). A sickly-sweet dessert, perfect to throw in the middle of the table and share after (or before) your meal.

IMG_0292

Ham Benedict ham hock, poached eggs, wild spinach topped with spiced hollandaise ($15.00). A great take on one of the old time classic breakfast options. Putting my request on paper (virtual paper that is), for the guys to start jarring the hollandaise and retail it out to the public.

IMG_02941

Sweet Potato & Beetroot Fritters with house-cured salmon carpaccio, spinach, horseradish & walnut cream served with a poached egg ($16.00) + an egg ($2.00). A creative take on one of Melbourne’s more recent favourite breakfast dishes. The cured salmon is some of the best I have eaten in a long time.

IMG_0293

Baked Eggs with French style white beans, topped with goats cheese and herb crumbed crust served with sourdough toast ($14.00). Beautifully presented on the wooden board with the egg concoction inside the porcelain dish – this option has very quickly become a Lost Boys classic.

IMG_0290

Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes with mascarpone, slivered almonds, topped with date molasses ($14.00). Evenly shmear  the mascarpone on each of the pancakes, and enjoy each fluffy and light mouthful.

There you have it; Two Lost Boys – Windsor’s coolest new cafe to hit the scene in 2013. I think it is now time to lose yourself in Maddock Street and let the boys shower you with exceptional service, great coffee and honest cafe fare.

Hope you all have had a Happy New Year and all the best for 2014.

The Important Details…

Cuisine: Cafe Fare
Suitable for: All
Dress: As you like
Price: $15 – $20 per head
My View: An instant Windsor hit
Address: 20/2 Maddock Street, Windsor
Phone: (03) 9939 9313
Website: http://www.twolostboys.com.au/

Two Lost Boys on Urbanspoon

Beatbox Kitchen – Various Locations

The innovative concept of ‘food-trucks’ has taken off in Melbourne over the past few years. There just isn’t a question in my mind that a dinner (or lunch) sourced and prepared inside the confines of a vehicle would be a far more exciting dining experience to that of a restaurant. If you are like me and seeking that extra bit of flair and point-of-difference that fails to appear in so many restaurants – you will love a food truck experience.

IMG_7982

Today’s Chom will be educating the good people of the world about Beatbox Kitchen (above). As far as I am aware this was the first food-truck to appear on the funky streets of Melbourne. Tweeting and facebooking where it will be perched for a lunch and/or dinner offering, serving a simple menu of burgers, fries and soft drinks. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the basic menu or the sound equalizers on the side of the van, this kitchen produces a seriously good burger. Don’t believe me? Not surprised – I didn’t trust myself either. Take it from The Burger Adventure who voted the Raph Burger (featured below) as 2nd best burger in Victoria in 2012. Elite!

IMG_7986

Ordering chips ($5.00) to accompany a burger is a no-brainer. Would you wear shoes without shoelaces? Or drink vodka without red bull? I think not. The same rules apply here. These are thinly cut and Maccas-esque. Lather them up real good with a side of relish or the famous “stereo” sauce and caused a tickle to the taste buds.

IMG_7987

I don’t want to stun any of you, and I am not going vegatarian, but in the holy name of the Chom – ‘I shall vow to try most/all things on the menu with or without meat’, I did just that and sampled The Shroom Burger, a soft bun with regular salad, onion and tasty cheese melted onto a mushroom patty ($10.00). You better believe it. It was great actually! Would I get it again? Only if my GP told me to avoid meat – even then I doubt I would listen. Take it from me vege-huggers, this is worth your time.

IMG_7985

No arguments in my mind that the main event is The Raph Burger (above $11). Just a no-frills, delicious burger. The combination of the melted cheese and juicy beef worked well with the crunch of the bread and fresh vegetables. I must note that if you don’t eat this burger straight away this can get a little messy but nevertheless its a must chom experience.

IMG_79831

Needless to say, there is little more I can do to send you in the direction of some of Melbourne’s tastiest burgers. At this stage, you could do what I did and wait for your first Beatbox encounter at a music festival where the truck frequently visits e.g. Falls, Meredith or Splendour in the Grass. If you can’t wait (I don’t blame you), jump on board their Facebook and/or Twitter page and follow/like along with 20K+ devout fans.

Lastly, while I am in the spirit, I advise you to check out the new food truck directory website/app called ‘Where the Truck At‘. A dedicated team has designed a page that lists all the available options and opening times of Beatbox and beyond. Click the link and open up your chomming to the wonderful creation of Food Trucks.

The Important Details…

Cuisine: Hamburgers & Fries
Suitable for: Young & Old
Price: $10-$15 per head
My View: One of Melbourne’s finest burgers
Follow: Website, Twitter or Facebook

Beatbox Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Portone – Balaclava

It is hard for me to contain my level of nachas (Yiddish for joy/pride) when I can inform the good people of the globe about a true hidden gem. Portone Wood Fired Pizza is not only hidden in terms of its obscure location but also from well deserved media attention and exposure. For me, Sam, major shareholder and CEO of The Chommery, I say it openly and honestly that these are my favourite places to write about – hands down.

PIzzaParty

Portone is hidden away in a small walkway separating cosmopolitan Carlisle Street and the Coles parking lot in Balaclava. I will testify that you can be a regular down this neck of the woods for years and yet never see, taste or smell the goodness pouring out of this little venue. This place is as relaxed as they come, with a minute dining space located within the arcade and a simple menu advocating a handful of entrees and a range of pizzas. Take my word for it – very informal.

DSCF5687

I  beg you to look past the laminated menu and just take Portone for what it is  - old school, friendly and delicious. We began by indulging in an entree of field mushrooms served with butter, lemon, garlic and mozzarella ($9.00). We shared this between three gentlemen and it provided  1-2 juicy, warm ‘shrooms each. Scrumptious and a perfect way to tease the appetite.  In hindsight, due to the large sizes of the pizzas, we probably didn’t need a starter but if you ask me, ‘would I do it again’? The answer would be confident, ‘definitely’.

DSCF5696

Pizza 1 was the Putanesca – Napoli sauce, fior de latte, olives, anchovies, capers, cherry tomatoes and parsley. A simple combination of toppings that we all know and love. Might I add, I am an admirer of the standard of thickness of the base, crunchy but still doughy.

Ordering and paying becomes so much easier with the set price of $16.50 for a medium (13″) and $19.50 for a large (19″). Let me be the first to tell you, the large is really large (suitable for more than one). Not like the new-wave miniature pizza crave taking Melbourne by storm.

DSCF5688

Moving onto the Porcini – Porcini and napoli sauce, fior di latte, confit garlic, roasted field mushrooms and thyme  ($19.50). True pizza deliciousness. Another basic but effective combination of mouth watering cheese and buttery mushrooms. Definitely get one of these and smack it in the middle and share that up. Chommery approved.

DSCF5697

Finally, the Gamberi – Napoli sauce, mozarella, chilli prawns, cherry tomatoes and sauteed spinach. No need to go on. This too was extremely chommable. Just a warning, this pizza was hotter than we thought but great for people that like to spice things up.

Three pizzas and all of them winners.

DSCF5714

I will leave you folks today with the particularly mesmerising view of a couple of fresh pizzas getting all fired up in the oven. I have said this once and I will say it again – I have to get me one of them for home.

Portone is open 6 nights a week from 5:30pm – 10:00pm (excluding Mondays), but that information is only helpful if you can find this hidden treasure :)

The Important Details…

Cuisine: Italian

Suitable for: Pizza lovers only

Price: $20 per head

My View: A hidden gem!

Address: Shop 3 Arcade, 244 – 254 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

Phone: (03) 9939 1739

Website: http://www.portonepizza.com.au/

Portone Wood Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

Duchess of Spotswood – Spotswood

Spotswood mixed_1_1

When you venture a good 20km away from the nest in order to satisfy your weekend brunch cravings – you are really hoping for something special. The destination of choice for this Chom adventure was none other than Duchess of Spotswood – in Spotswood Victoria. It saddens me deeply that I have known about this eating premises for some time  and have only just visited it for the first time now.

Spotswood mixed_2 (1)

Consistently mentioned, regularly blogged and continually awarded as one of Melbourne’s finest cafes and I just never pulled my finger out far enough to venture over to this side of town. Label me lazy and truthfully I would not argue. With the amount of media and direction that this little beauty has received, I should have dined here long ago. Have no fear The Chommery will make up for lost time.

DSCF5659

Kings Woodcock – scrambled eggs with green tomato chutney served with pork, chilli and fennel sausages ($17.50). While I felt this breakfast option was the least creative of the range of dishes we ordered, the flavours did not disappoint. Beautiful buttery eggs with little snags are a safe bet for the less adventurous.

DSCF5649

The Duchess of Pork – Crispy pig’s jowl with fried eggs, rich truffle sauce and sourdough toast ($18.50). From the amount of praise I have heard about this dish I am glad to finally be able to validate them. This was seriously something to write home about, or in this case write online about. A thick, generous piece of piggy perfectly moist in it’s own juices and truffle sauce complemented by soft, perfectly cooked fried eggs. A winner every day of the week.

DSCF5645

The Clam SCRAM – scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, Cloudy Bay clams and spanner crab ($21.50). While some of the team claimed this to be ‘too fishy’, I absolutely loved it. The portion size is not massive however, the richness of the eggs combined with the protein from the sea dwellers made for a surprisingly heavy option. Note; only for the FFC (fish friendly chommers).

DSCF5651

Idle Tongues – Seared ox tongue with marinated char-grilled zucchini, deep-fried zucchini flowers and poached eggs ($19.50). A truly creative choice. Even if you exclude the delicious taste, just the range of items included scores points to the dish. Only in Spotswood will you find a tempura-like vegetable and melt in your mouth ox tongue lying next to some poached eggs.

DSCF5648

The Prince of Wales – House smoked salmon with pickled cucumber, fennel and horseradish yoghurt, poached eggs and brioche ($19.50). I bet you I wasn’t the only one that wasn’t expecting a superbly poached fillet of salmon instead of the normal mingy strip or two of packeted nonsense. I want to give too many of the dishes we chommed as the ‘Dish of the Day’! This one is certainly fighting hard for a spot. You will be seriously hard pressed to find a nicer piece of fish even in some of your top restaurants. A great order.

DSCF5656

Crumbed lamb’s brains with poached eggs and sourdough toast. If you are thinking gross, you can stop right now, thank you very much. These rocked all our socks off. The has to take the prize as dish of the chom. Rich, sumptuous, brainy centre with a light hazelnut crunch in every bite. The light tartare was not overpowering and balanced the rich brains to a tee. A very well thought out dish (pardon the pun).

DSCF5660

An inside look into the true craftsmanship and beauty of these rare delicacies. Take special note of the gooeyness attached to each of of the lightly fried balls. All of it adds up to my most memorable brunch options of my eating career. Call them genius, call them mind blowing, call it the smartest dish you have ever eaten – just go chom some extra brains. A must order for any keen foodie.

If the Duchess is your local spot, then I can’t help but be somewhat envious of you. If you are an East-sider (like myself), then the traverse across our great city (Melbourne) for a premium breakfast or lunch is well worth it. Either way, I implore you to find a cafe using higher quality produce and constructing more creative dishes. Seriously, let me know if you find one. For the moment, I will leave you very comfortably saying that ‘you won’t’. I think it is time that you spoil yourself like royalty and dine with her excellency - The Duchess of Spotswood.

The Important Details…

Cuisine: Superior quality cafe fare

Noise: Gentle hum

Suitable for:  All creatures great and small

Price: $20 – $25 a head w coffee

My View: Exceptional 

Address: 87 Hudsons Road, Spotswood

Phone: (03) 9391 6016

Website: http://www.duchessofspotswood.com.au/

Tip: Head a few doors down to Candied Bakery (81a Hudsons Rd) for a sweet treat after/before Duchess!

Duchess of Spotswood on Urbanspoon

David’s – Prahran (Yum Cha)

It’s a Saturday or a Sunday – you’re hung over or just really hanging for a massive meal? I present to you, all you can eat yum cha at the recently updated David’s Chinese in Prahran. Two sittings are available at 11:00am and 1:30pm and they last for a full two hours of constant chomming.

While there are no trolleys, which I will be honest with you is very disappointing, you can take comfort in the set-in-stone price tag of $35.00 for as much food as you desire. While this isn’t as cheap as Minh Tan II on Victoria Street ($15-$20 per head) in Richmond, it is cheaper than the opulent Red Emperor feast in Southbank ($55 per head). I do think that a David’s yum cha experience is worth your while for that stupidly big feed that you indulge in once every blue moon.

IMG_0028

You are more than welcome to check out my full scoop on David’s offerings for dinner here. But without further adieu, I will let you in on the vast range of snacks that helped me get to bursting point last Sunday afternoon.

IMG_0022

We can start the meal on the false pretence that we will be healthy. Some steamed Chinese greens never go astray.

IMG_0007

BBQ pork buns were a must chom. Might as well try it all.

IMG_0009

One-bite soft shell river prawns. Eat ‘em with their heads on or off – I don’t mind.

IMG_0017

Very deep fried sesame prawn toast. Unhealthy, but loads of oil must help the hangover.

IMG_0016

Steamed pork dumplings.

IMG_0015

Pork and prawn shu mai.

IMG_0014

Shanghai village pork ribs with a remarkable sweet sauce.

IMG_0019

Ginger prawn dumplings.

IMG_0003

Deep fried prawn rice paper rolls.

IMG_0011

Shredded lamb with chilli, garlic and spring onion.

IMG_0002

Chicken San Choi Bao, classic springers and spring onion pancakes.

IMG_0023

Seafood dumplings with scallop crown.

IMG_0021

Battered salt and pepper calamari. Freaken delicious, but ask for some plum sauce for perfection.

IMG_0008

Banana leaf encasing sticky rice with pork inside.

IMG_0020

Roast pork dumplings.

IMG_0018

A pile of Peking duck pancakes. They weren’t the best in Melbourne, but am I going to sit here and complain about a plate load of these wraps?

photo 3

Something about green prawn dumplings that attract me… a lot.

IMG_0026

Banana street fritter pieces. If you can fit in one or two by this stage, I salute you.

IMG_0025

Pulling cake and almond pudding with sesame powder.

IMG_0027

Finally, soft-centred chocolate dumplings. These are really something special. Even if you have no room left maybe put one in your pocket and save it for later.

While most of these choices are more of a Westernized adaptation of yum-cha, the taste is very pleasing. My only advice is pace yourself.. or actually scrap that. Do whatever you feel is best. Don’t forget, once you have sat down, you might as well have a little nibble on everything that comes your way because you have already paid for it.

Hope you enjoy folks.

Do let me know other yum-cha experiences that you come across in Melbourne and beyond!

The Important Details…

Cuisine: Yum Cha

Noise: Plenty

Bookings: Yes – best in advance via telephone services

Suitable for: Big Chommers

Dress: As you like

Price: $35.00 – all you can stomach

My View: One of Prahran’s better choices for a feed

Address: 4 Cecil Place, Prahran

Phone: (03) 9529 5199

Website: http://davidsrestaurant.com.au/

David's on Urbanspoon

Dandelion – Elwood

Attention foodies of Melbourne – you now have a Vietnamese dining choice south of the great Yarra River divide. The people of Elwood have much to thank chef Geoff Lindsay for bringing his take on modern, up-market Vietnamese food to humble Ormond Road.

IMG_0322

While no bargains are to be found here, you can take comfort in knowing that you will be dining in a very comfortable and relaxing environment. This is a major change from the regular fast-paced hustle and bustle you would expect whilst dining at most joints on Victoria Street (Melbourne’s Vietnamese hub).

IMG_0321

Dandelion is an attractive eating destination for both younger and older folk. The older generation will take comfort in dinner bookings available 7 nights a week and lunches too (Thurs-Sun). Meanwhile; keen, younger foodies are here to sample Lindsay’s take on 21st century fusion Viet cuisine.

IMG_0302

Now, without further ado, let us start talking about the food – because that’s why your reading this today. We dined here during the week as a group of 5 chommers and racked up a food bill of approximately $40 per head. To begin we had a ‘nibble’ of the crispy sesame and coconut rice papers with spanner crab dressed with coconut, chilli and lime ($16.00). The crab was buttery soft and almost melted into the crackers. Next time will try the chicken ribs with ginger.

IMG_0305

While rice paper varieties included rock lobster, soft shell crab and spicy pork, we knew that we could not afford to order them all – despite wanting to chom every variety! We decided on the torched salmon, caviar, shredded lettuce, apple and yuzu soy ($16.00). Totally scrumptious and a shame others were so pricy – slightly cheaper we would have ordered one of each.

IMG_0301

A minimum order of three of green rice fried tiger prawns with nuoc cham ($5.00 each) is required by the kitchen. An easy task to achieve considering how bloody brilliant these were.

IMG_0303

Call me a loser – I felt that I should present the constructed prawn with all its accompanying body armour. Drizzle that baby with the juices provided, wrap it up and … chom. Flavour and texture explosion to follow in the mouth of awesomeness – ridiculously crunchy. A must order – one per person (at least).

IMG_0308

‘Fresh off the coconut grill” – The crew at Dandelion deemed the BBQ pork spare ribs with lychee and mint salad ($38.00) so special that it was given its own heading on the menu. Much of this hype is owed to this specific course winning the prestigious Age Good Food Guide ‘dish of the year’ 2012. One can assume that it is only fair to let all customers know that they can sample an award winning dish during their chom – as we did graciously.

IMG_0311

While we skipped the entire pho section of the menu, I took due notes that wagyu beef with brisket, chicken and mushroom and spanner crab options were on offer. Would be crazy not to sample one of them upon my next visit. We did have the Mekong fish curry with coconut, young jack fruit and sweet potato ($33.00). The broth was very light, while the fish was fresh and cooked perfectly, complemented by loads of garnish. The sweet potato pieces floating around were a top addition too. The pork belly and goat curry options tickled my fancy too.

IMG_0310

Steamed shredded chicken salad with Vietnamese slaw, peanuts, crispy shallots and nuoc cham ($23.00). Once properly tossed, this was an excellent side salad; filling, delicious and full of flavour. I would recommend one salad between 4 chommers.

IMG_03090

A range of accompaniments that were provided with the ribs and curries respectively

IMG_0316

Dessert number one was little coconut pancakes with mung bean puree and coconut ice cream ($16.00). Just under a mouthful per person, which, combined with its sticky sweetness, is all that you really need. Get stuck into that coconut ice cream when you are done with the little cakes.

IMG_0317

To conclude a lovely evening we all helped demolish the deep fried black sesame ice-cream with palm sugar and and caramelised monkey banana ($16.00). Who doesn’t like fried ice-cream, seriously?

To cap it all off, the service at Dandelion was truly exceptional. The staff were very patient with my somewhat difficult group and waited on us extremely professionally. While the overall price was on the expensive side, I believe that it can be justified once in a while when you want to eat Viet in a more high-class environment. Dandelion is doing great things for Elwood and surely will do nice things for you too.
Keep on chommin’.

The Important Details…

Cuisine: Modern Vietnamese

Noise: You can hear yourself think

Bookings: Yes – to make life that one bit easier

Suitable for: Older crowd – not cheap

Dress: Casual

Price: $40 per head (excluding alcohol)

My View: DVIE – Delicious Vietnamese In Elwood

Address: 133 Ormond Road, Elwood

Phone: (03) 9531 4900

Website: http://dandelion.ws/

Dandelion on Urbanspoon

Wonderbao – Melbourne

A visit to the small take-away outlet down A’Beckett lane left me in two very interesting states. First and foremost admiring the  deliciousness of all the bao we just sampled and secondly, wondering why the hell these guys are not open at night or on the weekend. These two senses of wonder will surely be felt after you visit Melbourne’s new hot-spot Wonderbao.

IMG_02878

This place caters perfectly for the corporate and RMIT uni-types that roam Melbourne’s city for the best grub going around. Wonderbao offers a cheap, quick and delicious snack on the go. Take note of what the space looks like, with limited signage (just as the Melbournians like it) and a camouflaged black finish you can easily miss.

Untitled

Seating space is very limited – 5 stools to be precise. So don’t come here expecting to have a proper sit-down breakfast or lunch experience. Take-away is my best advice or gently perch yourself outside on a milk crate and catch some vitamin D while chomming down your bao. Just be careful not to spill the Siracha down your top – like I did.

IMG_0277cropped

Two of us dined and we ordered a grand total of 6 buns to share. After some complex mathematics, this resulted in 3 per person – this would be the Chommery Approved (CA) suggestion of ordering.

Double

To begin with bao festivities, we had the classic Char siu bao – BBQ pork bun ($2.00). The famous bun that we all have grown to love so much over our eating years. Wonder’s version was great – a thin but substantial layer of  juicy, sweet chunks of pork wrapped in regular soft encasing. A good start to the chom.

IMG_0282

While not visually appealing ‘da pork’ bao was an interesting choice. This was an absolutely enormous bun filled with shitake mushroom, egg and Chinese sausage ($3.20). The size and weight of this bun was truly special but it was far from my favourite of the day.

IMG_0289

I am certain you will agree that the next three baos look too good to eat. Each one a piece of artwork with it’s distinct finishing touches. The braised pork belly gua bao with pickled mustard, coriander and crushed peanuts ($3.80) was divine. A generously thick, fatty layer of pork belly stole the show, doused exquisitely with the peanuts to create a truly special bao.

IMG_0271

Could I be as bold to say that I preferred the roast pork belly gua bao with cucumber, pickled carrots, daikon and hoisin sauce ($3.80) to the braised? I think I like the consistency of the roast pig slightly more, combined with the fact that the meat and the fat blend in more easily with this method. Extra points given for the use of the vegetables – this must be heart foundation approved. A must order bao!

IMG_0272

The fried silky tofu gua bao ($3.80) won the gold medal for me on this occasion. Hands down, this was the best bao and believe it or not, it was vegetarian! The gentle piece of tofu was lightly fried, then surrounded by pickled mustard, coriander, crushed peanuts and sweet soy and finally encased in the soft bun. This is a brilliant food dish and is a tribute to the bao lords.

IMG_0294

The nai wong bao filed with egg custard  ($1.70). How could this chom end on any different note than with a custard filled treat? The nai wong was also huge and split perfectly to share with your amigo.

And there you have it – I have done it again – waffled along way longer than necessary to convey my contention for today’s piece. I will re-enforce it now in case you haven’t yet been able to decipher it – if the above photos appeal to you – get your ass to Wonderbao!

The Important Details…

Cuisine: Asian / Chinese / Buns

Bookings: N/a

Suitable for: Cheap-eat fans

Price: $10 per head

My View: Beautifal Bao!

Address: Shop 4/19-37 A’Beckett St, Melbourne

Phone: (03) 9654 7887

Website: http://www.wonderbaokitchen.com.au/

Wonderbao on Urbanspoon