February 24, 2010


569 Chapel Street,
South Yarra, VIC 3141
(03) 9827 4379
Food: Japanese
Website: www.kanpai.com.au
Date visited: 1st January 2010

One of the few places I know of that serves straight Japanese food, with a kitchen that is open until midnight everyday is  Kanpai. Not only are the dishes set at a fair price, but all the classics can be found to satisfy those cravings - Agedashi Tofu, Yakitori, Teppanyaki (not the real deal, but close enough), Tempura Udon, Unagi Don and so on. I must admit, the only times I've dined here are when I finish work early enough (before 11:30pm) to make the trip to South Yarra for a quick Japanese hunger fix. Otherwise, I don't think it is really worth the trip during normal hours of the day for a meal, unless I'm already on the street. Here's what we ate on our  most previous visit:

Tako Su - a refreshing salad of sliced octopus with a zesty soy dressing

Assorted Tempura - heavily battered onions, green beans, sweet potato and calamari

Tori Kenchin - stuffed chicken wings

Beef Curry Bento Box

Yose Nabe - great for hearty soup lovers; a hot-pot of seafood and vegetables

February 23, 2010


186 Riversdale Road,
Hawthorn, VIC 3122
(03) 9818 2299
Food: Chinese with a Cantonese/Sichuan influence
Date visited: 3rd February 2010

One of my favourite places to visit for authentic Chinese food with great charisma is Choi's. The dishes are brilliant in the balance of sweet flavours with salty and delicate textures with rich. I've found that the service is consistently efficient and attentive, and the ambience welcoming -  great for a casual lunch or an intimate dinner.

Must-trys are the Chef's Specials of the Day, Peking Duck (each serving is wrapped for you at the table by a waiter), Kang Bao Beef/Chicken (where the meat is traditionally stir-fried with cashews and dried chilli) and Baked Scallops (in their shell with a pork and seafood mix and bread crumbs). Choi's recently refurbished their dining area into a more chic and luxurious space, so we decided it was time for another visit!:

Pan-fried Baby Abolone - this was a chef's special, served with a tangy soya/oyster sauce

From left: Scallop with Spring Onion, Ginger and Pork Floss; Oyster with Thai-inspired Dressing; Scallop with XO sauce on Deep-fried Wonton Skin; Oyster with Spicy Miso

Mandarin Beef San Choy Bao - Mandarin Beef is a dish on the menu, and we got it specially made into a San Choy Bao with lettuce. I love the refreshing crunch as you bite into it, follwed by the savoury juices from the beef as they seep into your mouth, mixed with the sweetness of the capsicum.

Spicy Salted Scallops - lightly fried with spicy herbs and chilli

Kang Bao Beef - juicy fillet steak cubes stir-fried with cashews and dried chilli

Chinese Brocoli, Snow Peas and Bok Choy - wok tossed with a touch of ginger and soy

February 22, 2010

Hu Tong Dumpling Bar

4-16 Market Lane,
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 8128
(Also at: 162 Commercial Road, Prahan, Melbourne VIC 3181)
Food: Chinese, Sichuan, Dumplings
Website: www.hutong.com.au
Date visited: 11th January 2010

Early this month called for a tantalizing of the taste buds at HuTong Dumpling Bar, notorious for its delectable Shao Long Bao. The Chinese eatery, with its dark wooden furnishings and abrupt service, serves a slew of Sichuan and Shanghai-style dishes, gleaming with vibrancy, flavour, and more often than not, spicy chilli and oil.

The experience begins from the moment you enter on the ground floor, where a chef can be viewed, making the Shao Long Dumplings. He wraps a pork filling with jellied meat stock (formed from refrigerating a rich broth) inside a dumpling skin, then with deft movements, pleats the skin into perfect little folds. Heat from steaming the dumplings in a bamboo basket melts the gelatin inside into a soup that characterises the Shao Long Bao.

 Shao Long Bao

So popular is the Shao Long Bao that every table is adorned with a placard, explaining the 'correct' way of devouring the morsel, so as to not scold your tongue from the hot soup by plonking the whole dumpling into your mouth at once:

1. Gently pick up a Shao Long Bao with chopsticks, making sure that you don't break the skin.
2. Dip the Shao Long Bao into the provided shredded ginger and black vinegar sauce.
3. Lift it up and place it on your spoon.
4. Nibble the side of the Shao Long Bao and suck out the soup, savouring the meaty, juicy and sweet flavours of the broth inside.
5. Add some ginger and vinegar to the Shao Long Bao and eat the rest.

 Scallops with Eggplant in Claypot in Szechuan Chilli Sauce - This dish is traditionally served silky and shiny with lots of oil. We were so thirsty after each mouthful

Deep-fried Soft Shell Prawn in Salt and Pepper - the prawn shells were extremely tasty and surprisingly easy to chew through

Sichuan Pickled Vegetables - once again, quite spicy, but was great for cutting through the richness of the other dishes