Mr Price’s Food Store

502 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9326 8062

Last year I was placed in charge of organising the office Christmas lunch. This place was high on the shortlist, because of (and also in spite of) Joyce’s review. Unfortunately, because a few of the ladies in the office have rather specific dietary requirements and preferences, the lack of a menu meant I had to strike it from the list. It took me four months to get around to visiting it myself. It was certainly worth the wait.

From the street, the place looks like more of an antique or curio store than a restaurant…

… and that feel is certainly carried through to the interior. But instead of feeling shabby, the place has a warm, homely feel to it, with mismatched table settings, and interesting items adorning the walls and bookshelves. I’m guessing when it’s busy, these things make for good distractions while waiting for the food?

I was lucky enough to stumble in on a day when it wasn’t too busy – in fact there were only two other tables occupied – and Mr Price (Gary, should you feel informal) was milling around in the kitchen when I entered. He presented me with a hand-written menu – the menu changes each day depending on what produce Mr Price deems fresh and seasonal at the nearby Vic Markets – and I took a seat at a table by the window.

I’ve been on a bit of a soup kick lately, I’m not sure why, because the weather hasn’t really turned autumnal, but nonetheless, I opted for the cauliflower soup. Sound a little boring? That’s because I forgot to mention it was spiced cauliflower soup accented with duck fat. Mmmm, duck fat…. It was served with two chunks of fresh bread, and the salt and pepper which was presented were not touched. Also on offer that day were a couscous with lamb ragout, and a salad of some description with salmon.

The soup was velvety and smooth, the flavour of the cauliflower more highlighted than masked by the subtle use of spices, and the duck fat was present, but not too overpowering.

I’m not averse to dining alone – I often have lunch on my own – but I do get a little bored. Especially on a slow news day, when the ABC news app isn’t delivering interesting stories. This totally wasn’t a problem at Mr Price’s Food Store, as the shelves (and indeed my table) were loaded with interesting books; from best-sellers and Booker prize winners, to the wealth of cookbooks. I took to reading about how to prepare veloute with my soup.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about Mr Price’s Food Store, but I can honestly say I found it one of the most charming restaurants in Melbourne. I’ll definitely be back on a regular basis.

Mr Price’s Food Store is open for lunch Monday to Saturday, from 12pm, and dinners on Friday night. Bookings are advised, and I believe it’s cash only.

Mr Price's Food Store on Urbanspoon

Zen Japanese Restaurant

Siam Discovery Centre, Bangkok

On our last day in Bangkok, we just had enough time to hit the Siam malls. A big night out the night before meant we were both a little seedy, and as a result, the idea of shopping-centre chain restuarants was rather palatable. I’m being a little unfair here, because a) restaurants in shopping centres in Bangkok are generally not bad, and b) Japanese chain restaurants in Bangkok are also generally not bad. So anyway, we stopped in at Zen (because I couldn’t locate the Fuji chain restaurant in the chopping centre).

The funny thing about Zen was the staffing. There seemed to be a strange hierarchy of waitresses – the more senior waitresses dressed in kimonos ordering about the junior waitresses/bus girls who wore Zen polos and skirts. They all had a rather bored air of indifference, which was a tad annoying, but not too unexpected really, for teenage/college-aged girls to be working on a Sunday afternoon; there were no male waitstaff at all, funnily.

Anyway, we ordered the gyoza which were quite good, though the filling was a little bland. They also seemed to have been deep-fried, which was a good thing in this instance (fulfilling the requisite hang-over fried food quotient), but generally gyoza are better when they have been pan-fried.

I also ordered the sushi moriawase set, which seemed exceedingly fresh, and I had trouble finishing. It also came with some kim chi, a strange slaw, and miso. The miso was the best of the accompaniments. Oh, and the wasabi was fresh. Love fresh wasabi!

Mr N had some sort of donburi (pork with double-carb surprise of both noodle and rice!) that similarly came with the funny slaw. It wasn’t amazing, but it was passable for a seedy Sunday afternoon.


270 Victoria St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9328 1221

For those of you who are regular readers, you’ll know how much I love a Korean BBQ. So this will be the first of a series of three reviews of the North Melbourne Victoria Street mini-Seoul Korean BBQ restaurants.

I went to Woo-Ga recently with a friend, who is by my books an expert on Japanese food and culture, but surprisingly had never had Korean BBQ before! I mean surely the rules of geographic proximity mean you sample cuisines which exist near your object of cultural obsession, right? Anyway, I digress in a rather verbose way. More about the food!

We ordered the Combo Set A (which serves 2-3) and includes a big beef rib, scotch fillet, a spicy kim chi and tofu soup.

It also came with the obligatory kim chi side dishes, and rice, but the rice wasn’t mentioned in the set, so we foolishly also ordered the ‘healthy mixed rice’. This was pretty much a bi bim bap only with a less fatty cut of meat, I guess. Oh, and it was in a stainless steel bowl, instead of a stone one. I wonder if that makes it healthier? In any case, it was still tasty.

Woo-Ga’s pretty great value – especially if you order one of the combo sets – and any place where you cook at the table is going to be fun. I’ll definitely be going back, after I try its more popular neighbour Hallah, and revisit the cousin down the street, Toodouri. Penny from also enjoyed her visit – see here for much better photos!

Wooga Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Vietnamese Food Meme

I came across this list of 100 Vietnamese foods on Thuy’s blog, A Blog of Salt, and I couldn’t not play along!

The instructions:

Bold the foods you’ve eaten.
Leave alone the foods you haven’t eaten.
Strike through the foods you don’t ever intend to eat.

Vietnamese 100 Foods to Try

1. Banh Bao (Steamed Bun)
2. Banh Beo (Rice Flour Discs with Dried
3. Banh Bot Loc/Banh Quai Vac (Dum
plings with Pork and Shrimp or just Shrimp)
4. Banh Canh Cua (Udon-like Noodles with Crab)
5. Banh Chung/Banh Tet (Lunar New Year Sticky Rice Cakes)
6. Banh Cuon (Rice Noodle Rolls)

7. Banh Gio (Steamed Triangular Rice D
8. Banh Hoi (Rice Vermicelli Sheets)

9. Banh It Tran (Round Rice Dumplings with Pork, Shrimp, and Mung Beans)
10. Banh It La Gai (Nettle Leaf Dumplings)
11. Banh Khot/Banh Cang (Mini Savory Pancakes)
12. Banh La/Banh Nam (Steamed Flat Rice Dumplings with Pork and Shrimp)
13. Banh Mi Hot Ga Op La (French Bread with Sunnyside-Up Eggs)
14. Banh Mi (Sandwiches)

15. Banh Pa Te So (Pate Chaud)
16. Banh Tieu (Fry Bread)

17. Banh Tom (Shrimp and Yam Fritters)
18. Banh Trang (Rice Paper) Bonus points
for eating soaked, no-soak, and toasted varieties.
19. Banh Uot (“Wet” Rice Noodle Sheets)

20. Banh Xeo (Sizzling Crepes) Bonus
points if you’ve eaten both the palm-sized Central-style ones, and the wok-sized Southern-style ones with turmeric and coconut milk.
21. Bo Thui (Beef with Roasted Rice Powder and Fermented Bean Curd)
22. Bo Bia (Spring Rolls with Chinese Sausage, Dried Shrimp, and Jicama)

23. Bo Kho (Beef Stew)
24. Bo Luc Lac (Shaking Beef)

25. Bo Ne (“Stand Back” Steak and Eggs)
26. Bo Nhung Dam (Beef Dipped in Vinegar)
27. Bo Nuong La Lot (Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves)

28. Bo Tai Chanh (Beef Carpaccio with Lemon)

29. Bo Xao voi Khoai Tay Chien (Beef Stir-fry with French Fries)

30. Bo Xao Xa (Beef Sauteed with Le
31. Bun Bo Hue (Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup)
32. Bun Cha Hanoi (Hanoi-Style Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork Patties)
33. Bun Nuoc Leo Soc Trang (Soc Trang-Style Noodle Soup with Fish, Pork, and Shrimp) Bonus points for its more pungent cousin Bun Mam (Noodle S
oup with Fermented Fish Broth)
34. Bun Rieu (Vermicelli Rice Noodle Soup with Crab Paste)
35. Bun Thit Heo Nuong (Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork)

36. Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh (Roasted Catfish with Scallion Oil)

37. Ca Kho To (Braised Catfish in a Claypot)
38. Ca Phe Sua Da Phin (Iced Drip C
offee with Milk)
39. Canh Bi/Bau Nhoi Thit (Pork-Stuffed Winter Melon Soup)
40. Canh Chua Ca (Sour Fish Soup)
41. Ca Ri Ga (Chicken Curry)

42. Cao Lau (Noodle Soup with Pork from Hoi An)
43. Cha Ca Thang Long (Hanoi-Style Fish with Dill and Turmeric)
44. Cha Gio/Nem Ran (Spring/Egg Rolls) You only get points if you’ve eaten the Vietnamese egg rolls wrapped in rice paper, not the version with Chinese wheat egg roll wrappers. Bonus points if you’ve also eaten Central-style Cha Ram (Shrimp Egg Rolls) and Cha Gio Bap/Ram Bap (Corn Egg Rolls).
45. Cha Lua (Steamed Pork Loaf)
46. Chanh Muoi (Salty Lemonade)

47. Chao Tom (Grilled Shrimp Paste Wrapped Around Sugarcane)
48. Che Bap (Corn and Tapioca Pudding with Coconut Milk) or any other coconut milk-based che such as Che Chuoi (Banana Tapi
oca Pudding) and Che Ba Mau (Three Color Pudding)
49. Che Sam Bo Luong (Dessert Soup with Dried Dates, Dried Longans, Lotus Seeds, and Seaweed)

50. Che Troi Nuoc (Dough Balls in Ginger Syrup)

51. Chuoi Chien (Fried Bananas)

52. Chuot Dong (Southern Field Rats)

53. Com Ga Hai Nam (Hainanese Chicken Rice) must be eaten with #82.
54. Com Hen (Clam Rice)
55. Com Lam (Sticky Rice Steamed in Bamboo)
56. Com Tam (Broken Rice)
57. Com Ruou (Fermented Rice Wine)
58. Cua Rang Muoi Tieu (Salt and Pepper Crab)

59. Dau Phong Luoc (Boiled Peanuts)
60. De (Goat)
61. Dia Rau Song (Raw Herb Platter)
62. Do Chua (Pickled vegetables ie. Carrots and Daikon)
63. Ga Nuong Xa (Grilled Chicken with Lemongrass)
64. Gio Thu (Head Cheese with Pig Ears and Tree Ear Fungus)
65. Goi Du Du Kho Bo (Papaya Sala
d with Beef Jerky)
66. Goi Cuon (Salad/Spring/Summer Rolls)
67. Goi Ga (Chicken Salad)
68. Goi Mit Ngo Sen (Young Jackfruit and Lotus Root Salad)
69. Hot Vit Lon (Fetal Duck Eggs)
70. Hu Tieu (Tapioca Noodles with Pork and S
hrimp) Bonus points for both Saigon, with barbecued pork and shrimp, and Nam Vang (Phnom Penh) style with liver and ground pork.
71. Kem Flan
72. Lau (Hot Pot)
73. Mam Nem (Fermented Anchovy Sauce)

74. Mam Ruoc (Fermented Shrimp Paste)

75. Mi Hoanh Thanh (Wonton Noodle Soup)
76. Mi Quang (Turmeric Noodles with Pork and Shrimp)

77. Mi Vit Tiem (Egg Noodles with Duck and Chinese Herbs)
78. Mi Xao Don (Crispy Chow Mein)

79. Muop Tom Xao (Loofah and Shrimp Stir-fry)
80. Nem Chua (Pickled Pork Sausage with Shredded Pork Skin)
81. Nem Nuong (Grilled Pork Patties)

82. Nuoc Mam Gung (Ginger Fish Sauce)

83. Nuoc Mia (Sugarcane Juice)

84. Oc Buou (Apple Snails) or any other sea snails
85. Pho Ap Chao Bo (Pan-Fried Rice Noodles Sauteed with Beef)

86. Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup) bonus points i
f you’ve eaten filet mignon pho and for Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup)
87. Rau Ma (Pennywort Juice)
88. Rau Muong Xao (Water Spinach Stir-fried)
89. Soda Xi Muoi (Salty Preserved Plum Drink)

90. Sinh To Bo (Avocado Shake)
91. Sinh To Ca Chua (Tomato Shake)
92. Sinh To Dam (Aloe Vera Shake)
93. Sup Mang Tay Cua (Asparagus and Crab Soup)
94. Tiet Canh (Duck Blood Pudding)

95. Thit Heo Kho Voi Trung (Braised
Pork with Eggs)
96. Tom Tau Hu Ky (Shrimp Paste Wrapp
ed in Bean Curd Skin)
97. Tra Atiso (Artichoke Tea)

98. Tuong Ot (Chili Sauce) bonus points for Vietnamese American Huy Fong Sriracha Chili Sauce and extra bonus points if you use it to make Sriracha Buffalo Wings

99. Xiu Mai (Meatballs)
Xoi (Sticky Rice)

I scored 85 out of 100, plus four bonus points for variants, so a total of 89. Not too bad, I guess. Will work on knocking off the rest on this list soon!

Joe’s Garage

366 Bruswick Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 9419 9944

Joe’s Garage is somewhat of of a Brunswick St institution. Serving standard cafe fare, it’s usually bustling and it’s enough of a landmark with its neon signage for you to use as a reference point when giving people directions. I had a friend who used to work as a waiter here, back in the old student days, and though it was never amazing food, it was decent, and the vibe was fun and casual.

I haven’t eaten at Joe’s in years, but I stopped in for brunch with some friends recently, and found that things had changed somewhat. First of all, the service was definitely lacking. Yes, it was a Saturday afternoon (which is usually pretty busy for cafes along Brunswick St) and we were seated outside, but we were waiting at every turn, and the staff seemed more interested in cleaning the glass door than getting the bill to us.

The food itself was hit and miss. The miss first: my friend D ordered the poached eggs on toast, which came rather unappetisingly presented (see below) and we had to ask for butter. Butter! Really? Friends J and K both ordered the bubble and squeak, which were served with a poached egg, hollandaise and a hash brown. I’m a huge fan of hash browns, but this wasn’t a hash brown. This was a potato burger. Other than the carb-overload, this dish was pretty appetising, and both J and K were happily sated. I ordered the Caesar salad with chicken, which was pretty good! The egg could have been a little runnier, and I would’ve liked a little more dressing, but apart from that, it was a pretty good salad.

Joe’s Garage is one of those places you go when you don’t know what the tastes of your dining companions might be. I didn’t mind it, but I’m in no hurry to return.

Joe's Garage on Urbanspoon

Old Town Kopitiam Mamak

QV Square (210 Lonsdale St), Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9654 2682

I’ve been meaning to visit this place for ages now, and with Ms N having a hankering for some Indo goodness after a Sunday afternoon movie at ACMI, this was the perfect opportunity. Old Town Kopitiam Mamak has been blogged widely as being a place to go for roti, which I am still yet to try there, but it’s also a great option if you’re after a cheap and quick nasi campur/kandar meal.

Ms N had the stewed beef and spiced cabbage with turmeric. The beef was a little sweet, but there was more than enough rice to temper that. I chose the curry chicken and the belachan eggplant. The eggplane was great, though I would have liked a little more sauce with the chicken. All in all, solid – especially for bain-marie food – but not amazing. Still, two dishes with rice and a pappadum for $8, you can’t really complain! I’ll be back to try the roti, for sure.

Old Town Kopitiam Mamak (QV Square) on Urbanspoon

Grand Central Cafe

253 Charman Rd Cheltenham
Phone: 9583 9998

This Cafe takes its name from the fact it’s right near the Cheltenham train station. Yes, it’s one of *those* cafes, which has a slightly clever name, and delivers pretty standard cafe fare. Except the quality is rather good. I’ve been here a couple of times now, and whether it be big breakfast, pancakes, focaccias or coffee, it doesn’t disappoint. Except for the smoothies – they’re a bit on the small size. I’m tempted to sleep in next weekend, so I can justify having the lasagna for brunch. It stands about 10cm tall!

Grand Central Cafe on Urbanspoon