Tucked away in the student accommodation bloc opposite the tram terminus on Swanston St, the are definitely worse places for lunch!
Pro tip: take a friend and order one of the dishes that comes out to the table IN A WOK!
88 Grattan St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 7702
I believe that food comprises a large part of my memory. I remember my father introducing me to sardines in tomato sauce on toast for breakfast, and crunching on Sunnyboys at the local swimming pool in the height of summer. Indeed, I write this blog on memory alone; I don’t take notes while eating, because that would get in the way of my eating.
But there are times when I don’t remember. Most often, it’s because I’ve been drinking too much, but sometimes I’m just otherwise distracted. The latter was the case when I visited Dumpling Den. It was a first date, you see.
I’d been meaning to try out Dumpling Den for a while, and dumplings didn’t appear on this list of things not to eat on a date, so I figured it was a good idea. I don’t agree with a lot of things on that list, by the way. I agree that things that get stuck in your teeth or that will inevitably end up all over your shirt should be avoided, but I don’t think you need to avoid eating something on a date just because it’s kind of phallic or has sloppily suggestive juices which you’ll need to wipe from your mouth. Where’s the fun in that?
So we ordered two types of dumplings – fried pork, and steamed chicken and prawn – and I promptly forgot to note anything about the food as we talked about bands, family, the nature of friendships, and Benjamin Law.
I remember less about the pork dumplings – not much aside from the fact they were a little tricky to separate as they’d become something of a homogeneous mass in the process of pan-frying them together – than I do about the exact hue of his eyes. I don’t really remember much about the other dumplings either, but I remember us bumping knees under the table. I don’t remember if the chilli oil was worth writing about, but I remember he ordered an orange juice. OK, I confess I don’t even remember that; I just saw it in the picture below.
What I do remember is feeling a little nauseous, but I don’t think that was the dumplings, I think it was just butterflies in my stomach; I was a little nervous.
It’s not often that my memory fails me, when it comes to food. In fact, I’d say it’s something of an extraordinary circumstance. But then, he’s a pretty extraordinary guy.
So this review’s a little pointless, hey? Well, no, because I know he’ll read it. 😉
88 Grattan St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 9748
So this place has the dubious distinction of being the first restaurant I have double-reviewed. The first time I went there, I had the ramen, which was something of a disappointment. So this time around, when I went on a date with Mr J, I was decidedly not going to go down the noodle route. Besides, eating noodles on dates is for whores. You know what I mean.
We started off with some gyoza. Now I realise it’s a style thing, and that gyoza are not jiaozi, but it always bothers me that gyoza filling is kinda loose – it makes me thing that they’re under-cooked. These gyoza were no different. Not to say they were bad – indeed the flavour of the filling was quite good – but I’m starting to think this Japanese staple isn’t really one of my favourites.
221 Lygon St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 5758
There’s a time and a place for everything in life, so they saying goes. I’m not sure who said it, but they’re a very forgiving soul. Because conversely, life’s too short to [insert something negative here]. My insert negative is [go on bad dates].
Recently single again, I’ve started picking up the pieces of my life and going through that strange process known as ‘moving on’. It’s strangely coincidental, but every time in my life that has marked the end of a significant relationship, has also been marked by my moving house. But I digress. I recently went on a date, which life was too short to have really happened. I won’t go into details, because you’re reading to find out about Papa Gino’s, not the travails of my dating adventures. That’s another blog entirely!
After a couple of beers, which impaired my judgment somewhat, I agreed to move on for dinner. Since I was a bit inebriated, I was quite happy when he suggested pizza. I’m a patient guy, so I thought I’d give the conversation a chance to improve. I also thought it might still be early enough for us to get a table at D.O.C.. Alas, I was wrong on both counts. So given my relative inexperience and lack of knowledge about pizza on Lygon St, we ended up going to Papa Gino’s.
I won’t lie and say I’ve never been there before – I used to go there very occasionally for work lunches – but I’ve never really liked the place. It’s a bit too bustle-y, the chairs are uncomfortable, the lighting is strangely bright, and well, the pizza is mediocre. The only saving grace is that when the place isn’t too busy, the waitstaff are charming. But in the evening, it’s usually busy.
This night, he ordered the quattro gustri. Out of these, I think the margherita was probably the best corner. I’m really not a fan of shredded ham on my pizza. It makes me think of McCain’s frozen pizza, and let me just say, as far as pizzas go, McCain never did it once, let alone again. The other mushroomy and olivey corners weren’t terrible, but weren’t much to write about either, so I won’t.
91 Cardigan St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 4666
You can thank/blame the duck enabler for this one. I had heard through the twitters that Hotel Lincoln had a duck pie on the menu, so on a Friday night, after a couple of hours of indoor climbing at Hard Rock, I wandered up Cardigan St with my sister and brother-in-law – I’m never going to get tired of the idea I have a brother – and Mr E and Ms J for some dinner. To my chagrin, and the disappointment of Ms J, we found out that the duck pie was only available on Tuesday nights, so no duck pie for us.
I hadn’t been to the Lincoln in years, and I don’t think I’d ever eaten there before. I was expecting something of a gastropub, but I didn’t quite expect that there was what felt a quite prim and proper restaurant out the back! Needless to say, we were all a tad under dressed, and I’m fairly sure the staff were unimpressed when we traipsed in. Still, to their credit, they were supremely professional, and I think they warmed to our table, despite Ms J’s rather gauche insisting question as to whether we’d get bread for the table. She was pretty famished, you see. In hindsight, we perhaps should have eaten in the bar!
As the mains were likely to take a while – you’ll see why below – so Mr E ordered the smoked trout pate with avocado and toast as a starter for the table. The trout was a little too solid to be called a pate in my opinion, but it tasted good, and was well paired with the avocado and shaved fennel.
My brother-in-law (see, still cool!) had the roasted kingfish fillet, with kipfler potatoes, spinach and anchovy butter.
The food at the Lincoln was, in a word, great. The service was, in a word, excellent. I was a little disappointed at the small range of option on the menu, but I guess what they do produce, the produce extremely well. I’d definitely recommend you visit, but just be aware that prices are more fine dining than pub, and the atmosphere is that way too.
106 Berkeley St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 8664
I’m not really much of a coffee drinker. I’m that loser who gets sneered at by coffee nazis for having two sugars and soy milk in his latte. Yeah, I know, I may as well be drinking decaf, I’m that derivative. So while I’ve heard nothing but good things about Seven Seeds, I haven’t exactly rushed out to try their coffee. But I did finally get around to it last week.
Repeat visits of late to Nasi Lemak House have yielded more photos of the different nasi lemaks (and other dishes) there… see my original post for restaurant details.
295 Drummond St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 2998
When my friend Ms J comes to visit from Sydney, it’s often hard to find a place to go for dinner. Ms J was originally from Melbourne, so she knows all the old favourites, and there’s something of an onus for me to try to take her somewhere ‘new’. (New is a relative term here, as she moved to Sydney a few years ago.) I can’t really take her out for Thai or Japanese food, because let’s face it, while I love many of our Thai and Japanese restaurants in Melbourne, Sydney pretty much does it better. So according to Ms J, one cuisine in which Melbourne wins hands down is Italian. Last time she visited, we went to Donnini’s. This time, I thought pizza was in order, so we wandered down to D.O.C.
It was a Sunday night, and the place was pretty much full. People were waiting about 20 minutes for a table inside, but seeing as the frigid Melbourne winter hadn’t kicked in yet, we were happy enough to sit outside, even though in hindsight, it meant that we had to pretty much inhale the pizza to eat it before it got cold. Which isn’t really too far from my regular pizza-eating practice anyhow, I guess. Oh, and being outdoors in the streetlight is what accounts for the extremely poor lighting in the following photographs!
175 Elgin St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 0202
Let’s be frank: Pugg Mahones isn’t the sort of pub I’d choose to hang out in with my friends. But then I’m just not that sort of guy, I guess. Still, I have been there on multiple occasions, with workmates to inflict savage defeats upon our foes in Monday night trivia. It just sort of makes sense to arrive a little early and eat dinner there, because we’re all a little lazy on Mondays. And really, the food’s not bad. Not spectacular, but decent pub grub stuff.
Oh, and since it’s a pub, I have of course tried the chicken parma there. It’s pretty pedestrian – I wouldn’t go there expressly for it, but it’s not a bad option on the menu.
115 grattan St, Carlton
A Carlton institution for the last six years, Nasi Lemak House never fails to satisfy me (and countless others who live, work or study in the vicinity of Melbourne University). Although it is open at night, I more often than not find myself there for lunch, when it’s wise to arrive a few minutes before the hour, to grab a table before the lunch-hour regulated hordes descend.