It is so refreshing to see young Northcote entrepreneur Luca Guerra buck the trend of Neapolitan wood-fired pizza and instead re-imagine his favourite culinary stalwart; Gabriele Bonci and his iconic Pizzarium. The concept is glaringly simple. Where Neapolitan pizza prides itself on light dough, lightning cook times and minimalist ingredients, Lievita instead focuses on qwerky, contrasted, sometimes extreme ingredients with virtually no boundaries. The pizza is cooked in large slabs, cut to order and sold by weight. Ever looked at a menu at a pizzeria and loved at least 5 or 6 pizzas? This takes the depression out of choosing just one. The dough, while still subjected to longer fermentations, bucks traditional white flour for integrale, flour that has been stone ground to retain the natural bran and germ that retains much of the essential fats, oils and minerals that flour was once known for. The cook times, circa 25 minutes allow the ciabatta-esque dough to develop a caramelisation and gives the denser dough a better chance for oven spring. The variations, of which there are literally hundreds, change seasonally. Opening in summertime, you can expect plenty of tomato, eggplant and zucchini along side all year round favourites like classic Caprese and potato. The styles range from classic Crostata, where one main ingredient dominates, to ripieno where a host of them are sandwiched in between two layers of dough. The various combinations, Guerra muses, are “only limited by the imagination”. Lievita officially opens in January 2015. In true Pizzarium style, there are no bookings, no large tables, and no roomy 200 seats. No, this is everything that encompasses pizza al taglio; cozy, romantic and social. Lievita 298 High St, Nortcote.
Some things just take forever to do…
Its not my fault that the growing trend of ‘Closed on Tuesday’ is getting bigger. Am I missing something here? What makes Tuesday so much different to Monday? I don’t know anyone who has ever said ‘Shit, it’s Tightarse Tuesday. Better stay home.’ So much so that Kodiak Club has taken at least a year for us to get to for review. Well finally, we managed to corral the crew into the joint on a Monday, and it was empty. JW said this places heaves on the weekends, which is good because they have such an amazing collection of American beers and bourbon and I can only imagine the atmosphere when this place gets busy.
The burgers, as you would expect, were equally amazing. 2 grass fed beef patties with American (didn’t say what, i’ll say Jack) Cheese, pickle, onion and a bourbon mayo. The sauce was just enough to give you a whiff, but you can add additional if you wish. We found no need, but did give it a healthy dose of chilli sauce.
As an aside, I don’t buy into the Waygu bullshit hype anymore – neither should you. A good blend of meat, (most good places will go with the tried-and-tested ground chuck from good quality cows), and Wagyu, are almost indiscernible for a couple of reasons.
1 – Unless it is true Japanese Wagyu such as Kobe or my favourite Omi, it is imitation. Plain and simple. American and Australian versions are just that – versions – and whilst they offer generally a leaner cut of Wagyu the taste is more towards a traditional cow than of the Japanese sort. Don’t get me wrong, I love Aussie waygu, and use it religiously, but you shouldnt be paying any extra for it in your burger and you will not taste any difference in the final product. This is also because:
2 – Waygu is made to be cooked the complete opposite to how burgers generally are. Burgers are blended and moulded and thrown on the griddle at scorching temperatures aiming at a really quick cook time. Waygu on the other hand, has fats that render at lower temperatures, hence need to be caressed into a medium rare temperature. Get it wrong, and you risk consuming a consummate mess of burned fat and meat, even if it is still pink. Thats not saying it can’t be done right, you only have to look at Huxtaburger to see Aussie Wagyu Burgers done well – its just that it’s not necessary. Having the privilege to eat at Spotted Pig and Minetta Tavern in New York, I can tell you the cuts of beef used are more important than weather it is Wagyu or not.
Back on topic, this was a stunner on the night. Crinkle Cut fries were ok (Of the frozen sort me thinks) but the burger was absolutely sensational. Cooked to a perfect pink, the bun was brioche but not overly sweet and the cheese just set it all off. This will go down as one of Melbourne’s top burgers in 2014, and for good reason. Go now!
Every so often…
It’s not the new startups, off spins or popups.. Every so often, the one you have been missing out on is sitting under your nose.
Such is the case with Charcoal Grill on the Hill, a Kew mecca that has, for years now, been serving locals with their famous cuts of meat cooked over their proprietary broiler.
The wine list, which is among the best listed in Australia, will have enough on it to see you pick out a different bottle on each visit through the remainder of your lifetime. The food, a focused yet extensive list of cuts ranging from porterhouse to eye from standard (Brilliant) to waygu (Sublime). Co-owner and Master Sommelier Dejan Derbogosijan is quick to point out that the Wagyu on offer is the real deal, 300+ day aged meats cured on site, not like many of the imitations on offer around town.
Even the starters, such as the famed Chevap’s are from Wagyu trimmings and are salty, decadent slabs of beef that could be the sole focus in and to themselves. I am salivating purely at the prospect of one day convincing Dejan to turn them into a signature burger, as countless Chefs have done all over the world with their proprietary grinds. This friends, was shaping up to be a stellar evening.
Our cuts, identical slabs of Porterhouse served Medium Rare (On Dejan’s almost insistence) was cooked to absolute perfection. The meat, tender enough to dissolve in your mouth quicker than an Alka-Seltzer was tender, creamy and very juicy. The barebones meat is accompanied by some fantastic steak fries and a side salad for the health conscious. This paired beautifully to a 2006 Pondalowie Special Release Shiraz served in the largest and sexiest shiraz glasses I’ve yet seen.
We finished off with a coffee, and sat back simply in awe of what had occurred in front of us over the course of the evening.
Why then, it has taken me 27 years to get down there is somewhat absurd. Such is the case, that the entire time I was sitting there shaking my head at J. This review, somewhat disjointed because I had opted to leave the camera at home should serve as a signpost for those in a similar circumstance as me. I don’t have the quality photos that this review deserves, but jump on the website if you need the relevant food porn. But go one better, and make a reservation here (Well in advance). It will be truly memorable.
Footscray sure is an interesting area..
By day, it is a bustling, down under replica of downtain Saigon; replete with more Vietnamese bars, supermarkets and restaurants than you can shake a Banh Mi at.
By night however, it drops into a monochromatic urban jungle and then out of the blue, like a Goomba, up pops 8-Bit, Melbourne’s newest Huxtaburger clone to try to take a piece of out of the ever expanding market.
The fit-out is modern, clean and cosy.. Just a handful of tables + chairs and even fewer bar stools line the joint. Be prepared to wait, our visit was absolutely heaving and with a phone directory of take-away orders our wait was approximated at around 40 minutes.. Just enough time to grab a beer, and sit down with J and talk rubbish. Except we couldn’t sit down, because there were no vacant seats. That’s ok, because we just grabbed a beer and stood. Oh no, we couldn’t do that either – No liquor license. Maybe we can BYO? Nope, not an option either. Well poo. We didn’t feel like shooting the proverbial over a glass of Taro Milk, so we wandered the streets while we waited.
We couldn’t locate any liquor stores, and the only lady who wanted to help us owned a Vietnamese Supermarket. When we mentioned we were after beer, she motioned to the nearby alleyway. Not feeling adventurous, we decided to visit an empty restaurant and pickup a bottle of China’s finest (Read: Worst). At $5 though, whose complaining.
We decided to consume it in an nearby piazza, complete with public urinal and pokies venue. Geez we felt classy. This was possibly not 100% legal per-se, but just as food safety inspectors tend to avoid the area, so too on the evening did the local constabulary.
Anyway, realising the time, but not having heard anything from our server who we were told would call us when our order was ready, we decided to check in anyway as the time was nudging 9pm. For two men who’s metabolism rate sits only slightly below the speed of light, this was an eternity.
So then, you can imagine the look on J’s face when he spies our order on the counter that had been neglected long enough for the beer battered fries to turn into a a cold mess and the burger not far behind. Not content having waited almost an hour, we requested they jettison it and we waited around 10 minutes for a replacement.
Truth be told, I’m probably being a little negative in my review… But Let me tell you, the burger was awesome. The service (Or, more concisely, the lack thereof) was however truly disappointing.
I’m not 100% sure how they managed to bang out replacements in 10 minutes (The fries weren’t terribly hot either..Take that how you will) but you really can’t fault the way it was devised, constructed and displayed. I had the Altered Beast which comprised Beef, Bacon, Cheese, Grilled onions, Lettuce, 8BIT sauce, BBQ sauce and the addition of Jalapeño.
At $25 for the both of us (No drinks), there’s certainly value to be had in 8Bit. The burgers were great, very delicate flavours, creamy succulent patties and the brioche was good.
I’m not sure about the chips, they were not bad but i’m sure the only ‘beer batter’ was what was written on the side of the box they came in.
It’s hard to say whether I’d suggest making the hike out especially, and I’m not sure, of your own accord, how many of you will find yourselves out on the streets of Footscray at night. If you are though, or are local to the area, takeaway I’m assuming is where this place would excel. Give it a go.
Eat 8 Bit
8 Droop St, Footscray
Apologies for the short update
Things are a little crazy at present, covering more ground over the last two days than I have driven last calendar year. From Rome, we belted across to Abruzzo and had some amazing dinner at a defiante starter if you ever find yourself around Chieti – Ristorante Ferrara (Via Orientale, 39 Bucchianico)
Pay your €25 and head downstairs into the cantina where you have your selection of a fantastic array of cured meats and cheeses
And roving appetisers that will make you question whether you are in the basement of a restaurant, or simply in heaven.
BUT, don’t fill up – because after an hour of that with all the bubbles you can shake a stick at, head upstairs and get into the local cow.
From Abruzzo, we made a 5 and a half hour stint in the car up to Veneto, to a little town called Vittoria Veneto where lives our Prosecco producer Le Vigne di Alice.
From here we took a drive into the mounts of Belluno, to a restaurant we were told, has not dropped below a single Michelin star since inception – Dolanda (Via Dolanda, 21 Plois d’Alpago). This deconstructed Carbonara Nuova was simply sublime, done so, we were told, so that you can see how the sum of the parts comes to be. Toss the lightly poached egg into the hot pasta and carve what appeared to be Capocollo and dig in. Amazing.
We also had their take on Costoletta alla Milanese. This entailed remains from what only could be a Brontosaurus (As you can see by the enormous bone). This was again a dish to be in awe of.
So that’s in for now – Today we head to San Daniele, no doubt to throw another couple of points onto the end of my cholesterol reading.
When in Rome..
Blah blah, you know the sayings. But possibly the one that holds the truest, is that one should avoid restaurants adjacent to any tourist destinations like the plague; ‘less you want to wander into one of hundreds of Rome’s honeypots of trap destinations. Menus with half a dozen languages, wait staff hawking business Lygon St style and fusion classics such as Hamburger and Pizza featuring on the same menu are also usually giveaways. However, what if there was a restaurant that flew in the face of everything you were taught?
And that’s where Armando fits in, because it’s been here a million years, serving Roman classics such as Amatriciana, Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe and Scaloppine to scores of locals and tourists alike, and it’s within a stones throw of its namesake. It’s the sort of place, that, even before it’s facelift in summer last year (I know this first hand because I was here in August and went to dine only to find it completely gutted) remains a ‘no reservation, no chance’ sort of place.
Truth be told, this was only my second outing here.. And honestly I didn’t rate it the first time. So, with a helpful dose of skepticism in we went to quench our 31 hours of transit time famine and thirst.
The wine list is fairly comprehensive. Whether your after local regional wines from Lazio (we never are), or from greater Italy you will find something suitable to both your palate and budget. We had a ripper Barolo from Cavalotto, and amongst an at-capacity restaurant, we set in.
My fiancé, despite having Napoli origins makes once of the best Carbonara sauces I’ve tried, and this was almost identical. Crisp, al-dente Spaghetti thrown into some fine olive oil and crunchy pancetta, tossed through a couple of runny eggs at the end and sprinkled with a liberal dose of both black pepper and Parmesan. Heavenly
I finished off with the quintessentially Roman veal Scaloppine with a white wine reduction, crisp prosciutto and sage. Easily the best I’ve had, and Australian restaurants please take note: leave the soggy ‘Gnocchi alla Romana’ I have to fork aside anyway off the menu. If I want a pasta, I’ll order it.
So there we have it. A fantastic evening capped off at one of only two ‘must eat’ restaurants for me in Rome. A delicious meal, and an even better foray into our pre-culinary antics for Vinitaly 2014
And that was that. So then, Armando is perched amongst, for me, one of two real must-stop destinations when visiting Rome. Just make sure you have a reservation.
Armando al Pantheon
Salita dei Crescenzi 31, Roma, Italy
I hate Urbanspoon…
…It’s funny. You learn to take every Urban Spoon review with a grain of salt, testament to the mediocre scores holding true for Collingwood’s newest smoke house: Le Bon Ton – a wonton assault on all things Southern American by a Texan head chef. 75% on the Spoon at last count.. Laughable considering the high scores holding elsewhere. And the comments are golden, there were some real classics. One diner complained about the smell of the smokers, saying they will “definitely need to do something about that”. Well pardon me for walking into a smoke house! Do you also walk by the markets and complain about the smell of fresh fish? My shirt smelt so good I deep fried it the next day.
Anyway in we went, through the cool as hell bar area and into the dining room. It’s a pretty standard Texan exposed brick affair, closely spaced tables ensure you will see what your neighbours are eating and vice-versa. Which is kinda neat, because we had Manu Feildel plonk his arse on the table next to us and proceed to order salads. On a diet, apparently! Not us, because we set down to a trio of sandwiches. Two staples, and the special for the moment: The Waygu Burger. This was the first to arrive, and we set in.
“Wow-ee” were the initial thoughts. A special? C’mon guys. This burger, despite being the highlight of 2014 thus far, has a permanent spot in my Melbourne top 5. Delicious brioche, bacon, salad and a perfectly charred greasy wagyu patty. Nothing more to be said really. Except for an apology that the picture is rubbish, but the lighting was bad and I had Manu over my shoulder no doubt thinking about how bloggers are tossers!
The pulled pork sandwich was next. This went to prove that the large smokers aren’t just for show, this thing had been smoked low-‘n-slow for a long time. And it showed. Aromas of hickory apparent throughout the mercifully tender pieces of pork engulfed in onions and sauce. Boy oh boy, this night just kept getting better and better.
And then there was a pause. A pause because we knew we had ordered one more sandwich, the burnt-end brisket sandwich. A cut that while overlooked by many, is a staple of Southern American cuisine.. Essentially, as the name suggests, the heavy charred, fatty ends of the brisket known as the point which, funnily enough are also the tastiest.
As it turned out, the kitchen had made a boo boo. Despite only having elapsed maybe 2-3 minutes after we finished our other two we thought we should alert a nearby waitress who checked and humbly apologised for the mixup. We didn’t care, and even though they turned a new one around in under 5 minutes, they still took it off the bill. That is exceptional service, because we weren’t complaining (We are pretty laid back lads). In 99% of Melbourne’s restaurants this happens on a daily basis, and they don’t even acknowledge the error let alone want to do something about it. What cool cats.
In it came, with an order of fries that we decided we needed because we hadn’t already consumed enough calories. Look at the beauty within.. A congealed ball of delicious smokey goodness, layer upon layer of flavours with raw vegetables thrown in for texture and a delectable mayo in there as well. This was the true highlight of the night and honestly likely the best you will get in Australia.
So folks, I have a pretty easy list now for the upper echelon of pulled pork, brisket and burgers. Because they are all in the same joint. Every minute you waste reading this blog entry is one you are missing out on by not being in there.
In case it wasn’t obvious…
We go places for a good burger. 35 minute drive to Moorabin in the middle of an Industrial district? I vaguely knew the area, as I have played golf nearby at Kingston Heath a couple of times, and to be perfectly honest, both times were disappointing. Not because of the course, but because of how I played. So it’s ironic then, that a similar trip for a bit of culinary nirvana turned out somewhat of an anti-climax in the end.. Not least of which because we had to postpone our booking because of how popular this place is (Or, has become since the swath of press). Nevertheless, in we rocked up, at around 8:20 when the entire place was heaving with clientele. If this place did 250 seats, they all had arses on them.
Inside, vintage signs both neon and metal line the walls. And everywhere else, the distinctly texan vibe was palpable. So was my forthcoming need for prescription lenses, because I think by the time I arrived home I had them burned into my retinas. But they were so cool, I didn’t mind in the slightest.
The fit out surrounds tables, booths and bar stools, menu is usual diner but they have a strong emphasis on Sandwiches. Mostly beef, but they do have chicken and vegetarian offerings. Having said that, if you are seriously coming out here for a vegetarian meal than you have bigger issues than the 35 minute wait time we had for our meals. Onwards and upwards, and some popcorn chicken for antipasto was seriously good. With house mayo that was even better. Things were heating up.
Samuel Adams brought the refreshments, because mostly every other American beer on the menu was sold out on the night. Not to say this was an issue, as I love the beer. Apologies for the red sheen, this was the aforementioned signs working their magic.
In came the burger, and look at that beauty. We all decided on the same, a 180 gram beast of a burger with onions two ways, bacon, (added) chilli mayo, and salad. The bun, an altogether too sweat offering for me, was a little bit too Breadtop croissant. It interfered with the spices in the meat. I couldn’t help but think of the buns at Merrywell. Or Captain Melville. Or even The Beaufort.
The patty, despite being beautifully spiced, was way too cooked. Remnants of pink remained, but it was a dry mess. Was it the fact that they were at capacity? Surely not, as this was a Wednesday.. Imagine what they deal with in the busier days. We had 4 identical burgers, and all four were dry. Imagine our disappointment, like 4 little kids who woke up to coal on Christmas day.
J mused that on a good day, with all the stars aligning, this place would be on par with Merrywell for quality of burgers. Maybe. And friends, would that be worth the bush bash when perfection is on your doorstep?
It may seem a little strange…
To write this, but you actually have to look when you’re in the market for quality Indonesian food in Bali. There is fine food aplenty in many different cuisines, most notably International and European styles but in terms of home grown talent you really need a pointer to get you in the right direction.
And that direction is Seminyak, food meccah and arguably one of the fastest growing regions in Bali. Just a stones throw from Sarong, another highly regarded restaurant that offers Asian centric food Merah Putih on the other hand is unashamedly Indonesian.
Starter dishes like beef shin in doughy pockets laced with an incredibly potent chilli sambal ready the palate for the hearty Indonesian food that follows. Incredibly sweet, slow braised shin testament to such a talented crew working behind the stoves.
For something a little left of field? Why not try these super-fresh quail spring rolls. They were a refreshing change from cookie-cutter Chinese specials, and so good that we actually ended up ordering it twice more for a total of three serves (Between 4).
Decadent, crispy corn fritters with an eggplant sambal were lovely.
The gado gado, a refreshing salad with beanshoots and cucumber included a quail egg and was magnificent.We finished off with a beef short rib, which was arguably the only weak link of the day. Not to say it was a bad dish, it just lacked the panache of the others and came off a little bland.
So, truth be told, during this mens lunch out we actually tried Merah Putih on a bit of a whim after a long slog through the rain. Much to the dismay of our partners (Who had decided, mind you, that we were dining here for dinner but neglected to mention it) we did the lunch/dinner double and not once did we feel like we were eating more of the same. Even with a fixed dinner menu for our large group, we still tried uniquely different things that I would not hesitate to revisit.
If you are in Bali and want to sample some of, if not the finest cuisine of the region, make the journey to Merah Putih. Personally, I could’t see a Bali trip without at least one.
Jl. Petitenget No. 100x, Kerokoban, Bali
Down the drunk end of Swan St, an area few are likely to see short of an inebriated drinking session during AFL Season lies this quirky beer-lounge-meets-burger-bar where the variety of ales on show is rivalled only by the pub grub on offer.
Sat behind the counter, lies the area where the magic happens. long rows of grillers and stoves show exactly what goes on beneath the menu right down to the salamander that is the secret to the crispy bun – the finished burger is sat inside it for a good minute to ensure no cheese remains unmelted.
We decided on identical numbers (Great for consistency in theory, but in reality its because we generally like all things the same right down to the type of girls we are allowed to date). This particular sandwich came packed with a good quarter pound patty, lettuce, cheese, bacon, bbq sauce and a delectable brioche. Jettisoning the undercooked onion ring, we set out to tame our insatiable apetities.
Without question this is a quality burger. You don’t even have to eat the thing to realise. You could simply print a cutout of the above photo, season it with a bit of salt and pepper and eat it and the flavour would still burst through the page. Simple yet effective ingredients and an inch-perfect cook time are all you really need. And one of the biggest factors; a brioche bun that is mated dimensionally perfect to the patty it houses.
Add to this some frozen potato planks which were fine, if not overly impressive.. And you have a pretty comprehensive package. So, if you find yourself in the area, and you want a quality burger fix, head on down to the BBL. You won’t be disappointed.