MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

Helping you add flavour to this wonderful city.

Archive for the ‘Richmond’ Category

Co Do

with 4 comments

196 Victoria St, Richmond
Phone: 9421 2418
Open daily 9am-10pm
Mains $8-$20
BYO – No corkage
Transit: Victoria St / Church St. Trams 24, 78, 79, 109
Located in the heart of the Vietnamese precint in Richmond – along Victoria street. Co Do does a good trade, and is always full, churning out dishes to feed its hungry patrons.
We scoured the 200+ dish menu, and chose a couple from the Co Do  Specials menu including

Steamed mini pancakes with minced prawn and green bean paste ($6.50)
These were also sprinkled with with  mung beans, pickled carrot and radish and spring onion. This dish was served with fish sauce, and tasted reasonable –  the pancakes were a little bit bland, but I am very partial to  mung beans so it got bonus points to me for that. The pancakes themselves were a little average.
Also on the specials menu was the

Bún bò Huế $8.50 – Hue traditional Vietnamese Style Chili Beef soup, sliced rare beef, pork, beef loaf, pork loaf and prawn cake

Bún bò Huế is a traditional noodle  soup from Huế, consisting of vermicelli noodles swimming in a spicy, beef and tomato based soup flavoured with lemongrass.

This is one of Co Do’s ‘signature dishes,’ and is listed underneath all their signage. Thankfully, this version does not disappoint – sweet, sour, spicy it is wonderfully refreshing yet packs a punch with intense flavours.

Bun Rieu (approx $9)

A thick, tomato-y soup with crab meat and drop noodles.

Close-up of the thick ‘drop’ noodles.
This dish was intensely filling, with a thick, tasty tomato-based broth with pieces of crab meat. We could not finish this dish. The flavours were good, but it was definitely very filling!
The accompanying plate with salad, bean shoots, mint and lemon to add to the soups.
We also ordered a Vietnamese coleslaw with jellyfish and chicken. This wasn’t bad, it could have done with a bit more spice, and the several limp pieces of jellyfish were a little disappointing, especially since I ordered this purely for the jellyfish.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 7.5. The soups were full of flavour, probably helped along with a little MSG. The bun bo hue packs a pretty good punch, but isn’t overly spicy. Let down by the pancakes and the salad.

Value: 9. You’d be hard pressed to make the broth with the amount of ingredients you’d need to buy for the price. Amazing value, as with most joints along Victoria Street.

Service: 6. You don’t come for the service. At least you don’t have to pay for it either.

Authenticity: 7.5. I’m not Vietnamese, but I think it fairs well in authenticity.

Atmosphere: 6.5. Cheap, cheerful. Quick. It doesn’t pretend to be a fine dining restaurant, but like I said. You don’t pay for a fine dining restaurant.

Overall: 7.5. Great stalwart on Victoria Street. Come for the bun bo hue.

With over 200 items on the menu – it would be impossible for everything to be perfect – though some dishes here are certainly close. I’m very keen to come back and sample some of the other items, and also to try the pho – which Billy of Half Eaten claims to be pretty good.

Written by glutamatejess

August 3, 2010 at 1:02 am

Demitri’s Feast

with 26 comments

Demitri’s Feast

141 Swan St
Richmond, 3121
(03) 9428 8659

Hours: Tuesday – Sun, 7:30am-5:00pm
Breakfast until 3pm


So, I visited the Age Cheap Eats 2010 winner for the Best Breakfast Place in Melbourne 2010.

I love the Philosophy as stated on their website.

Greek food by a Greek guy
made with Melbourne’s freshest, seasonal, organic and free range products”

It was extremely busy, as the Demitri’s Feast had just been crowned the title for The Age Cheap Eats 2010 Best Breakfast last month. Fortunately the wait wasn’t too long, and we managed to secure a seat in the charming courtyard garden out the back.

How cute are the stools – made from olive oil tins! Clever, cute and environmentally friendly.

My dining companion ordered

Scrambled Eggs w. goat’s cheese feta and oregano roasted tomatoes on toast $13.5 (with extra bacon)

This consisted of a luscious pillow of scrambled eggs,  wonderfully soft and creamy, topped with herbs and fetta and sweet juicy roasted cherry tomatoes, still on the vine. All this lay on top of sourdough toast from Dench. I would say this dish gave me massive food envy, though as L pointed out, you can’t get food envy when you practically eat the whole thing. It was so delicious I think I ate more of it than she did.

I ordered the

Zucchini Fritters w. free range bacon, and oregano roasted tomatoes $14.5

Unfortunately, my dish could not invoke anything like  the dreams of floating in scramble-heaven that L’s dish could. The fritters consisted of grated fresh zucchini and fresh herbs (dill and mint I believe). The flavours were ok, however, texturally, the dish was gluggy and dry, and simply unpleasant to eat. The fritters were also very small, and served with bacon which was overcooked (L’s were cooked fine) and less tomatoes. It really needed something else on the dish that was moister, like poached eggs, cheese,  relish, or even butter. It really did not need the bread as it was already too dry. A real disappointment, I put part of it down to the cafe being very busy and struggling to cope, hence overdoing the dish.

Taste: 7/10. Massive thumbs up for the scrambles, points off for the fritters. Can’t wait to try the baclava french toast that everyone raves about.

Authenticity: 9/10. Simple, but good Greek food by a Greek guy. Showcasing some hearty home-cooked style Greek food.

Ambiance: 9/10. Love the philosophy, love the concept, love the use of recycled goods, from the tins converted into stools to the cardboard menus. Real family ambiance.

Service: 9/10. Fantastic. A bit slow, but the staff were extremely attentive and apologetic for the delay (which wasn’t any more than what one would normally experience on a Saturday around lunchtime). Super friendly.

Value: Well priced for the scrambles, serving was large and quality was excellent. Fritters were small for the price. Coffee

Overall: 7.5/10. Can’t wait to go back and try the rest. Even though the fritters were supremely average, just goes to show that good service and great atmosphere really does make your food taste better.

Written by glutamatejess

April 7, 2010 at 1:33 am

Ramen Battle – Heat 1

with 6 comments

Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to our first food battle. Contender number one is Ramen, the delicious Japanese dish. More information on the rules can be found here. Here’s a choice bit of history about ramen from our old friend wikipedia:

Ramen (ラーメン) is a Japanese noodle dish that originated in China. It is served in a meat- or fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork (チャーシュー, chāshū?), dried seaweed (海苔, nori?), kamaboko, green onions and even corn. Almost every locality in Japan has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu ramen of Kyūshū to the miso ramen of Hokkaidō.

Melbourne has a multitude of Japanese restaurants and many of them serve ramen so we’ve set out to taste some of the top contenders for Melbourne’s best ramen. For more information on how the battle works, read this earlier post.

The contenders for Heat 1 are:

  1. Ajisen Ramen
  2. Meshiya
  3. Momotaro Rahmen
1. Ajisen Ramen
130 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9662 1100
Ajisen Ramen on Urbanspoon

Spicy Ramen at Ajisen Ramen

Jess and I have a history at Ajisen. We frequented the place a lot when we were both in Hong Kong at the beginning of 2005 (yes that’s over five years ago) and made it a point to visit the Bourke Street store now and then after our return to Melbourne.  A nice HK anecdote:  I usually have very high tolerance for chilli but I met my match in the HK branch of Ajisen’s spicy ramen. I’m pretty sure my face went as red as a tomato and there may have been tears.

I’ve always considered Ajisen to be somehow inferior to proper ramen joints and only really went there out of nostalgia, but I now must admit that I stand corrected. Despite the lack of authenticity (be wary of Chinese staff at Japanese restaurants) and the global-chain-like nature of the company, Ajisen actually makes a mean bowl of ramen. The spicy ramen is my usual and is a good value dish, containing a number of vegetables (cabbage, carrot, fungus, spring onion), tea egg and spicy mince meat in a shoyu broth. There are plenty of veggies, in fact one of my main gripes with the dish is the predominance of cabbage. I’m not a huge fan of cabbage at the best of times, it’s a bland, flavourless vegetable when boiled, but Ajisen takes it to a new level that I think can accurately be described as padding. Ie. pad the dish with lots of cabbage so people think they got value for money. I don’t see why they need to do this, there’s plenty of other stuff in the ramen and I usually leave half the cabbage uneaten. One thing I appreciate about Ajisen’s ramen is that they use tea eggs instead of regular boiled eggs, I love tea eggs, think they go great in ramen and appreciate the nice touch.

The place doesn’t feel too cramped or claustrophobic like many other Asian restaurants that serve similarly priced food (see Meshiya below) and even though the predominance of backless furniture is annoying (a pet hate), it’s still not an uncomfortable place to eat a meal. The staff are usually prompt and there is enough of them (thank God), and their cartoon mascot is dead cute.

Ramen rating: 7/10
Everything else rating: 7/10
2. Meshiya
200 Lonsdale St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9654 6242
Meshiya on Urbanspoon

Tonkatsu Ramen at Meshiya

Meshiya is a small but busy restaurant on the Lonsdale Street side of Melbourne’s QV complex. Asian international students (many probably living in the apartment blocks upstairs) and office workers (probably from sensis and BHP) are the customers are here, and are both usually a decent weathervane for good cheap Asian food.

I ordered the tonkatsu ramen in a shoyu broth. The broth was pretty good, I’m a big fan of sesame seeds in shoyu ramen, however I felt there was a little too much MSG in it. I wasn’t happy with the tonkatsu at all, it was far too soggy and the noodles tasted a touch overcooked. In fact, it tasted like they had been soaking in the broth for like half an hour before being served to us. Having said that, the dish wasn’t too bad for the price and, if pressed, I would probably go back to eat here.

The place  is tiny and does itself no favours with its layout being long and thin rather than square. This makes it very difficult to get the attention of serving staff (as usual, Meshiya is severely understaffed) and gives the place a cramped and claustrophobic feeling.

Ramen rating: 6/10
Everything else rating: 4/10
3. Momotaro Rahmen (seeded)
392 Bridge Rd
Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9421 1661
Momotaro Rahmen on Urbanspoon

Tonkotsu Ramen at Momotaro Rahmen

Momotaro comes seeded due to a number of recommendations I have heard and read from other food bloggers, friends and a generally good reputation including a brief write-up in The Age. It’s Richmond location makes it slightly less than convenient but I was eager to try the ramen at this much vaunted noodle joint.

I’ll begin by telling you straight up that I was very disappointed. While the staff all seemed to be Japanese, I fail to understand how Japanese people (with presumably Japanese palates) can serve up such average ramen. Perhaps I’m completely wrong here, maybe the ramen here is actually awesome and I’m completely nuts but I’m going to go with it.

I ordered the tonkotsu ramen, a ramen quite different to the usual shoyu ramen which comes in a soy broth. Tonkotsu is based on a broth of pork bone and collagen. The dish also came with a slice chashu. Everything about Momotaro screams a frugal miserliness. You get one small slice of chashu which is a poor quality cut (the most disappointing thing), the vegetables are non-existent (my friend with who ordered the highly vaunted negi miso ramen, a vegetable based dish complained of the same) with bean sprouts dominating. You have to pay $2-3 extra for extra toppings (presumably, one more slice of crappy chashu? yay) and the egg wasn’t boiled properly and wasn’t a tea egg.  Granted, the noodles were good, but the broth was also a let down. Not enough flavour.

In addition, it’s order-at-the-counter service, the place is tiny, the chairs are uncomfortable and the ventilation was so poor that at 6.30pm on a regular day with the door open we were all sweating like prostitutes in church and gasping for breath. Basically, a real letdown. I have no idea why everyone seems to love this place so much, maybe it was an off day and maybe I’ll give it another chance but frankly, I’d rather go to a Chinese-run place that serves better ramen than a supposedly authentic Japanese place.

Ramen rating: 6/10
Everything else rating: 3/10
The Winner of Heat 1: AJISEN RAMEN

At the end of the day, out of these three places, Ajisen is the place I’d go to if I have the choice. The ramen just tastes better, even if it isn’t as authentic.

Stay tuned for Heat 2!

The Grand Hotel, Richmond

with one comment

The Grand Hotel
333 Burnley Street, Richmond
(03) 9429 2530




Grand Hotel Dining Room on Urbanspoon

MS and I decided to check out one of the gastropubs in Melbourne. Gone are the days where a pub meal meant poor produce fried, deep fried or refried then dished out onto plates masquerading as ‘food.’ Gastropubs are spotted throughout Melbourne, with good food made well and a focus on quality produce.

The Grand Hotel is a prime example of a gastropub, a simple dining room. Located in the sleepy end of Burnley street, from the outside it appears unassuming but walk inside, and it’s really quite charming.  Whilst the Lounge Bar may appear a bit dated, the beer garden out the back is really quite pretty.

This review is of the Dining Room, the little side room next to the bar.

We ate;

Roast Duck served with a spelt, barley and cherry salad and an orange and juniper berry sauce $33.50

which was nice, quite flavoursome, the cherries did little to add to the dish except make it visually more attractive. I love duck, and whilst this dish was quite good, I haven’t had much duck that the Chinese didn’t make better.

Pot-Roasted Veal With white wine and sage, served with silverbeet and parmesan - $32.50

which was nice, with restrained mild flavours, but had a nice texture, but Alex wasn’t overally impressed.

Alex: It was a solid dish and executed well but this sort of thing isn’t really my bag. I’m no expert on various cuisines but, to me, it was reminiscent of bland English and Northern European food, not high on flavour but a good hearty meal. I give it a tick on execution but just not something I would order again.

Jess’ Ratings:

Taste: 7/10. The food was good, but not stunning. Good flavours, cooked well, and serving sizes were decent.

Ambiance: 8/10. Beautiful dining room. Quiet, dim but still well-lit enough to see your food, had a nice feel to it.

Service: 9/10. Excellent. Not in your face, but very attentive. Couldn’t fault it.

Value: 7/10. Not bad, again, good serving sizes. Food was of high quality produce, though of course the dishes weren’t cheap.

Overall: 7/10. Nice experience. Didn’t blow my mind, but had little to complain about. Overall very enjoyable.

Alex’s Ratings:

I agree entirely with Jess on this one, it was an excellent but leisurely dining experience. 🙂

Written by glutamatejess

February 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm