Saturday, 1 March 2014

Moon Park

he says:

Ever since I visited Manna Healthy Way in the Hunter Connection food court I have developed a bit of an interest in Korean food. Not so much Korean BBQ but more the kimchi, and well, really anything but the usual BBQ.

Melbourne Gastronome's post on Moon Park a few days before our planned weekend trip to Sydney was perfect timing. I opted for Sunday lunch and made the booking immediately on finishing reading the post. Moon Park is in Redfern which has never had the best reputation.  I even had to respond to one of my dissenting friends with, 'It's the Collingwood of Sydney!'

I think there were a couple of Australian beers available but there was no way I was going to choose a Coopers over a tinny of OB. How good are Korean beers?

rice crackers with konbu seasoning

I love the name Moon Park, it's a great little play on what I believe to be two of the more common Korean names. Think UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and musical prodigy Psy aka Gangnam Sytle and real name Park Jae-sang. Disclaimer, I didn't know that either until now. Thanks wikipedia. 

zucchini and mussel pancake

Mussel pancake? Ah, that would be 'yes' said the Hoy Tod obsessive. While completely different in style and texture to the famous Thai mussel omelette this Korean version was equally crisply delicious. At $10 I thought the serving was also very generous. We had plans to order numerous dishes so had to really struggle with leaving it half uneaten.

seed biscuit with sea urchin

One of the more beautifully presented plates, the scorched sea urchin was certainly a taste like nothing I had experienced previously.  I'm not sure why but we both agreed that for some reason we are more willing to be adventurous when to comes to seafood. Sea urchin roe is probably a bit of an acquired taste and certainly one I will be working on.

cucumber kimchi

And I learned that cucumber kimchi goes really well with beer! Like I read in David Chang's Momofuku cookbook, pickling is the unsung hero of cooking. So in that spirit I will share a recent discovery from him. Quick pickled cucumbers. Thinly slice some baby cucumbers and add a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt then wait 15 minutes and enjoy. And also great with beer!

bibim: rice & pearl barley, gochujang, corn, crab, cured egg and nori

I haven't tried too many bibim's from other Korean restaurants and although I plan on changing that rapidly I imagine it would be hard to find one as good as this. Just a magnificent combination of flavours. That's all that needs to be said really.

pork belly, young corn, kale & clams

This pork belly dish was beautifully cooked and presented. I'm not sure how I feel about kale. Maybe it's a superfood, but I guess I just don't feel it. Kale rant aside this was a really enjoyable dish, the combination of pork and clams is wonderful. They also use oysters which would be equally amazing.

moon pie: prune, maesil marshmallow, ginger jelly, graham cracker

This was easily my favourite dish. It could be that I'm a dessert fiend but this dish absolutely smashed it out of the (Moon) Park!  Not included in the description is the white chocolate pannacotta. Possibly a deliberate omission but it certainly made for a wonderful surprise addition to this deconstructed masterpiece. I came extremely close to ordering a second plate it was that good. Love love loved this dish. And love love loved Moon Park. For those visiting Sydney Moon Park is a must. I will certainly be back next time I'm in town. 

Moon Park on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Momofuku Seiōbo

he says:

I used to hate Sydney. Now I love it. Not in a 'I want to live there kind of way' but in a 'I want to visit for a few days and eat myself stupid' kind of way. We recently had a chance to do just that and Momofuku was our first stop.

smoked potato apple

I don't have a bucket list but if I did Momofuku would be right up the top. I have never had a restaurant experience like it. Just incredible.

steamed bun pork belly

At first the online booking system looked like a complete lockout but a bit of persistent checking turned up a 1pm lunch reservation. Perfect! I quite liked the online system, designed to deter restaurant scalpers! I didn't even know they existed but they sound like bad people (with good taste).

crab chickpea amaranth

Lunch wasn't cheap at $110 pp but given that the meal went for 1 hour 45 minutes and included 10 incredibly complicated courses I decided it was actually really good value. The wine pairing at $75 was a mandatory addition for us. Oh yeah, loved this dish. Crab without the effort is so much tastier. 

eel dashi octopus turnip

I was given David Chang's Momofuku cookbook a few years back and although I haven't cooked a single dish I've read it cover to cover and back again. His take on Asian flavours is something special. Like this eel jelly! Who'd have thought. David Chang of course! This was paired with a gorgeous milky saké perfectly accompanied the Japanese flavours of the dashi and octopus.

potato parsons nose roe

When I read that the menu included a preparation of parsons nose I thought it was a bit of a piss take and it probably is a bit. Albeit an amazingly tasty one! We dined at the bar and definitely noted what an interesting way it is to enjoy a meal. Watching the chef's construct these beautiful dishes is very inspiring. 

egg cauliflower mushroom

The descriptions I have used are from the printed menu given to diners at the end of the meal. They probably don't do the complexity of the processes in each dish justice but I like the confidence of not having to explain how difficult it all is. We watched the chef peeling eggs to obtain these delicately runny yolks. No explanation required, it looked very tricky! 

mulloway carrot kelp

Maybe this was Momofuku's take on the classic meat and three veg. It tasted as elegant as it looks. 

chicken cucumber watercress

Each dish is presented to you by one of the chefs. Something I think might be quite challenging for a chef not used to dealing with the general public on a regular basis but definitely a good thing to get to see people enjoying your creations instead of being hidden out the back somewhere. 

curd blackcurrant mint

I was especially taken by the beautifully crafted bowls and plates in various complimentary colours. One of the luxuries of running a highly successful establishment is that you get to source wonderful items to compliment the delicious food you serve. Some of the items reminded me of the takeawei ceramics crafted in North Melbourne by my lovely friend Chela. 

peach almond thyme

Being an Asian food tragic I don't get to eat a lot of traditional desserts which means that when I do I usually go all gooey. This dish was absolutely superb. Definitely my favourite dish of the meal. Silky creamy peachy loveliness. 


And all too soon it was over. Would I return? Yes definitely! Next time for dinner. Fortunately the come down wasn't too hard as I knew we had a booking at Moon Park the following day...

Momofuku Seiōbo on Urbanspoon

Monday, 20 January 2014

Gai Yang BBQ

he says:

These days I'm posting a lot less than I used to but I'm still enjoying eating and cooking new amazing asian food every day. For lots of reasons I just don't seem to find the time to write about it. Occasionally something new comes along and I feel compelled to share it. I love Gai Yang (Thai Grilled Chicken) and was cooking it up on my Tao for a few friends a couple of weeks ago. As usual I was struggling with massive flare ups from the sugary marinade that caused the usual blackened outside and undercooked inside. I mentioned to my friend my long term goal of making my own barrel BBQ that I once saw in a Lucky Peach article by Naomi Duguid. I just hadn't been able to find the right barrel. He suggested a beer keg and even better offered to bring me one. A couple of weeks later and a shiny stainless steel beer keg landed on my front porch! This is what happened next. 

Inner flange removed with grinder and steel cutting blade and Tao inserted inside. 

Ventilation hole cut to align with Tao air inlet. 

Wire hanging ring added.

Charcoal fired up and chicken hung to roast. The beauty of this system is that the chicken juices drip down the sides thus avoiding flare ups.

Juicy roasted tender Gai Yang, perfect inside and out.

Lid added and coals stoked and fanned to around 200 degrees.

The first of many batches of Gai Yang to be roasted in my fantastic new beer keg Thai BBQ.

Just add sticky rice and sweet chilli sauce and let the good times roll! Next up, grilled catfish - aroy mak mak!

This is the article from Lucky Peach that inspired my design - hopefully David Chang doesn't mind me posting it! It's a great magazine, definitely worth checking out if you're into food.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Piano Restaurant & Bar

he says:

With the recent arrival of our little man Burt, dinners out have been as rare as an uninterrupted night's sleep. So when the we were offered the chance to come and review the recently opened The Piano Restaurant & Bar we jumped at the chance.

Just outside the CBD at the beginning of Bridge Road, The Piano Restaurant & Bar is headed up by ex Longrain chef Tommy. And it isn't hard to see that Tommy has taken some of what he learned at Longrain and applied to this new venture.

Before I go into detail about the dishes served I can't help but point out that the Thai cuisine served at the Piano is probably what Thai people would refer to as Thai fusion but most Westerners would just call delicious upmarket Thai. Really what I mean but this is you won't get a whole lot of spice and the seasonings are definitely adjusted to the sweeter side to accommodate the western palate. Given the success of most popular modern Thai restaurants in Australia it's not hard to see why Tommy (and others) have taken this approach. Personally I can enjoy both styles of Thai cuisine (Authentic and Fusion) and I certainly don't think that the Thai have adjusted their cuisine to suit the western palate to the extent that the Chinese have, Honey Chicken anyone?

After a selection of delicious entrees the first main to come out was what one of the two signature dishes, The Piano Crispy Duck with Spicy Soy Dressing. Beautifully presented with a delicately shredded chilli and crispy fried basil leaf garnish and served with julienne bamboo and snake beans this crispy skinned tender duck in sticky sweet sauce is super rich and absolutely sublime. At $22.50 for a very generous serve, it's also great value!

The second signature must try dish is The Piano Slow Cooked Beef Ribs in Chilli Soy Sauce. Quite similar in appearance to the duck, the beef ribs dish is slightly spicier and as you would expect with beef, even richer and deeper in flavour.  I just love slow cooked dishes and felt that beef ribs are a wonderfully fatty alternative to pork belly in this style of dish. I can't write a review of a Thai Fusion style restaurant without mentioning what it seems is the flagship dish of these establishments, Crispy Fried Pork Belly. I first tried this dish at Red Spice Road, then Longrain and of course Chin Chin and after reading a few of the thousand or so reviews of these restaurants it seems like this dish is pretty much ordered (and loved) by everyone who dines at any of these establishments. I felt that The Piano Beef Ribs was a great interesting new take on this classic dish and again, the pricing of $20.50 is incredibly good value.

For some reason Lamb isn't particularly prevalent in Thai cuisine, I've never really worked out why that is. Perhaps it's partly because pork is just the best protein you can eat! Once again on the fusion theme, another very popular combination is Lamb Shanks and Mussaman curry, why do we love it so much? Cause it tastes so good! How can you go wrong with the nutty creamy goodness of the Mussaman sauce combined with tender braised lamb shanks? You can't! $20.50!!!

By this stage I was just about losing feeling in my legs but the lovely owners of The Piano insisted on bringing out just one more dish. I love eating but am just not able to easily consume great volumes of food, I'm often amazed when I read of the monstrous banquets that some reviewers frequently post. Given my state of fullness, this was a nice dish to finish with, Pla Sam Rod or Three (Sam) Flavour (Rod) Fish (Pla). So what exactly are these three flavours you ask? It's no great secret, they're sweet, salty and sour like so many classic Thai dishes. The toasty cashew nuts and the base of fried spring roll wrappers add a lovely texture and interesting twist to this classic dish.

I normally don't go on much about the prices of meals in my reviews but the value proposition at The Piano Restaurant & Bar is just too good to not mention. With a beautifully modern styled interior, excellent convenient location, great flavours that will appeal to a wide audience and super competitive pricing I am confident that The Piano Restaurant & Bar will become a very popular addition to this end of the Bridge Road shopping strip.

The piano restaurant & bar on Urbanspoon

I dined as a guest of the restaurant who knew in advance that I would be dining there, and selected the dishes they wanted to showcase. This review may be reproduced on Please visit the ‘Thailiciouz’ website for information on how you can receive hot deals from various Thai eateries, massage parlours and other contemporary Thai businesses.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


he says:

My grey nomad in-laws recently moved into the caravan park in Sunshine which I took as the perfect opportunity to try and find some new Western suburban gems. After spending the afternoon trawling through Consider the Sauce and Footscray Food Blog and Urbanspoon I really wasn't much the wiser on where we should go. What I mean is, blogs like CTS and FFB serve a wonderful purpose in telling you about great new places but then I often make the mistake of reading more about these places on Urbanspoon which it seems these days is mostly dedicated to tearing places down and leaving you less certain of whether to visit them or not. In this instance That's exactly what happened and I decided to take the safe option and go with a tried and tested favourite - Quan Viet in Braybrook. On the way there I used my phone to google the address for my in-laws and a wonderful thing happened. Google suggested some other places nearby - one of which was Sang's Takeaway Food restaurant in Maidstone. One more click and I learned that Kenny had visited previously and given it the thumbs up and that was enough for me! Change of plans - we're going to Sang's in Maidstone.

When you arrive at Sang's you will be greeted by owner Duc whose attentive service is second only to his passion for what he is doing. I sat watching him patiently explain to some customers that 'yes we do sell Chinese food but we don't have sweet and sour pork although we do have a lot of other delicious dishes'. And he is absolutely right about that. For me it's a sign of a great menu when I get completely overexcited and order way too much food. Cue list of over-ordered but amazing meals.

The first dish to arrive was Vietnamese Papaya Salad with Prawns. This dish is that typical Viet combination of lovely presentation and fantastic flavours and wonderful texture. From memory this was around $16, a bargain for such a great dish, and a deceptively large serving. These days I mostly tend to eat the Thai Papaya Salad Som Tum but on tasting this dish I was reminded that my introduction to green papaya was via this dish from Luke Nguyen's book Songs of Sapa.

The next dish was Honey Chicken but not as you know it, this is Sang's Vietnamese style Honey Chicken and it is superb!  Think succulent juicy chicken with a sweet slightly charred crust. Add a bowl of sweet chilli sauce and you've got dipping heaven baby! Loved this dish, it was also $16 and quite large. On my next visit this dish and the papaya salad will be the first two items ordered.

One of the first dishes that stood out on the menu wall of photos (I love a good photo menu wall) was the Banh Xeo. This dish is apparently named after the sound the crepe mixture makes when it hits the hot pan, think Seeeee-ow! At $10 it is easily one of the cheapest Banh Xeo you will find and this was right up there with the best of them. It seems to be a dish that has a few different variations but this style is similar to that served at Quan Viet, a lot of places make a huge crepe almost 50 cms across that is quite sparse on fillings. This versions is the opposite - short, fat and delicious. It comes with a pile of herbs and lettuce for wrapping up bits of crepe and stuffing them in your mouth. The whole process is pretty messy, the box of tissues on the tables really comes in handy! 

This last dish is Salt and Pepper Fried Fish, the type of fish was specified but I didn't take close note and therefore forgot. What I didn't forget was the fantastic light and crispy batter that the fish was encrusted in. I often see (and order) salt and pepper squid at Vietnamese restaurants and this was just as good, possibly better. Hey, I love any excuse to eat sweet chilli sauce! I also ordered a huge serving of fried rice but am obviously a bit out of blogging practice these days and completely forgot to take a photo. If you live out West or are just visiting I highly recommend dropping to Sang's, the pricing is excellent and the food is even better.

Sang's Takeaway Food Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 11 August 2013


he says:

Yes I haven't posted much lately but life has been pretty busy what with running a popup restaurant, having a baby and holding down a full time job, plus a few other projects. So excuses aside I was given a bit of a kick the other night by one of our Soi 38 regulars, "you need to update your blog more often". As I responded, it isn't for lack of ideas, I have about 10 posts that I probably should write but somehow get distracted. So my plan is to pick up the pace a bit and write about my favourite Thai places in Melbourne. I mean, I still eat and I eat almost exclusively Thai food so inspiration isn't a problem. Yes I cook a lot of it myself but I still manage to find my way to some of the better places on a regular basis. So in no particular order here goes, the first place that has been nagging away at me in terms of needing to write about is FOMO.

FOMO is run by the lovely May who who also runs probably my all time favourite lunch spot Pad Thai in the Midtown building. I have never written about it but it has been a regular for years, anyway that will change soon so I promise. For those who don't know, FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out and is directed at the Thai expats living in Melbourne who are missing out on all the amazing food that is available back in Thailand. Well it isn't just the expats who are missing out, it's been over a year since our last trip and I suffer from serious FOMO almost every day!  

This is the first dish I tried at FOMO, of course it was their boat noodles. These are easily the best boat noodles you can get in the CBD. This version is is the pork 'Nam Tok' which basically means 'with blood'. I'm pretty sure FOMO use blood jelly rather than actual blood which is what's used in Thailand but the jelly still adds a nice depth and richness to the broth. Aside from the richly flavoured broth, the highlight is the tender stewed pork which literally melts in the mouth. So if you're ready to graduate to the next level after Pho and move up to boat noodles then find your way to FOMO. 

I'm pretty much going in the order of the dishes as I tried them over multiple visits. I have such sweet memories of the duck soup with egg noodles I ate in Bangkok that I had to give this a go. Overall it was a lovely dish that I went back for a couple of times, if I'm being picky I really want a tender stewed piece of duck rather the shredded duck meat but that's just me. 

I knew ahead of time that FOMO was opening and waiting was difficult, especially as I knew they would be serving a menu of Thai noodles soups. Obviously these are my favourite dishes but also they are very hard to find, especially in the city. This is Tom Yum, hot and sour and supremely delicious! And that's proper Tom Yum, not the red prawn coloured broth Tom Yum Goong. Don't confuse them, they're totally different,. both are delicious but this version is the true king.

When I'm not eating Thai soup noodles I love a breakfast or lunch of Hoy Thod, which is also referred to as Thai Mussel Omelette. This is another of my all time favourites and I have a lot more to write about it that I can fit in this post, stand buy for a separate Hot Thod Post! in the meantime, get into FOMO and thy their version and let me know what you think, I will provide instructions on where to go next. Wherever you go, make sure you have heaps of Sriracha chilli sauce to drown it in, it's the Thai version of Heinz ketchup. 

When I saw the FOMO menu I got quite excited about spotting the Patongo or Thai donuts listed on the menu and had fond memories of late night visits to Haymarket in Sydney for a fix of freshly hand rolled fried donuts served with pandan flavoured custard... heaven! The FOMO pandan custard certainly ticked all the right boxes but sadly what was served up was not Patongo but rather a Vietnamese donut. And hey, if I'm enjoying a Congee for breakfast at Huu Huu Thanh then I want a Vietnamese donut but when I order Patongo... I want Patongo! 

When my parents were in town of course I took them to FOMO. The benefit of having a larger group is that you can order things you wouldn't otherwise order by yourself. Yes I eat solo a lot and I'm fine with it. This selection of grilled meats with Jaew sauce was divine. An absolute highlight that has changed the way I cook at home. For me this is what eating out should do, make you rethink how you prepare food yourself, that what good food does for me anyway. You should go to FOMO and try this, it will change what you think of as Thai food. And don't forget to order some sticky rice to go with it. 

I almost never order Thai curries these days, it's not that I don't like them cause I do. It's just that there are usually so many other things that I'd rather eat. I was with my parents and they love a good Mussaman so we ordered this one and we weren't disappointed. It was easily the nicest Mussaman I have eaten since the version we had from Roti Mataba on Phra Artit Road Bangkok. The beef was deliciously tender and the sauce gorgeously sweet. My parents enjoyed it so much they went back a few days later for another helping. And don't forget the cashews, if you like Mussaman try FOMO's and let me know what you think, I reckon its a winner.  

For obvious reasons it took me a while to dive in and order this next dish, Ox Tongue Krapow. Fortunately for me I was enjoying my lunch at the FOMO bar a few days ago and a guy walked in, sat next to me and ordered this dish. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to come back the next day and give it a try. All the usual flavours are there, basil, oyster sauce and of course chilli but what the most interesting thing was the texture of the ox tongue. The combination of being slightly chewy yet tender at the same time is something quite Thai and perhaps an acquired taste but albeit one not too difficult to come to appreciate. I will be back many times to enjoy it that's for sure. 

I'm going to finish with my latest favourite go to dish from FOMO. The Som Tum Moo Yang Khao Neow or Papaya Salad with Grilled Pork and Stick Rice. Superb value at $15.50, I have this at least once every couple of weeks. Be prepared though, it really has some chilli kick! Flavour wise its impossible to describe, you'll just have to go and try it for yourself! I recommend you grab a Cha Yen (Thai Iced Tea) to cool you down while you consume this awesome dish!  In my ideal world there is whole street of Thai restaurants serving dishes of this quality. And of course, this magical street is just around the corner from where I work. So yeah, I love FOMO. I hope you do too! 

FOMO Thai on Urbanspoon