Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Workers Club

February 9, 2021

   

Pub trivia is back, and we signed up for a reunion round with friends at the Workers Club. They've had a bunch of different things going on in their kitchen over the years; at the moment it's a fairly standard Melbourne pub menu with four very welcome vegan mains listed at the bottom. There's tacos, a burrito, a parma and... a "Where's the beef?" burger ($24).

There's no official affiliation here. I assume the menu writer is making the same jokey pop culture reference that we are in our blog title, without any intended rivalry or endorsement. But we'll endorse this burger! The Workers Club are claiming this mock-beef patty to be house-made and it's a good 'un; gluteny without being too dense, with a salty, slightly earthy taste. There are also major flavour boosts from mock-bacon, mock-cheese, pickles and a double-down condiment mix of mustard and tomato sauce. The vegan buns are clearly different from the regular ones, but they're not a disappointment.

Happily we won the trivia night and earned a voucher for our troubles, so I reckon there'll be a couple more "Where's the Beef?" burgers in our future.

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Most past blog posts about The Workers Club cover free meals and outdated kitchen incarnations. An exception is Parma Daze, who enjoyed their parma options in 2018.
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The Workers Club
51 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9415 6558

Accessibility: There's one step up on entry and a medium-high station to check in and sanitise just inside the door. The front room, laid out for trivia bookings, had both low tables with backed chairs and high tables with backless stools. There were wide corridors through the middle of the room but tables were densely backed near each other. We ordered and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Origin Tales II

February 5, 2021

   

The Origin Tales has been in our neighbourhood for two-and-a-half years, and we've not blogged it since our first visit. This is an oversight, because I'm extremely fond of their burgers and there's precisely zero of them in that first post! So, if you haven't done so in your own time, meet the Zinger Tower ($16.90). It features a mock-chicken patty with the crunchiest of crumbs, crispy mock-bacon, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, and a pleasingly tangy sauce. I consistently make a terrible mess of it: the patty slips around and the sauce drips everywhere, but I've never once regretted ordering this burger. The accompanying chips have a nice little seasoning going on too.

This is just one of five burgers on the menu. I've also enjoyed the Phish Burger (it's got bonus avocado!), and Michael likes the Double Decker, which involves two tempeh patties and a hash brown.

   

On our most recent visit, though, Michael branched out to the Laksa Fried Rice ($14.90). He appreciated the mix of mock meats and veges hidden within, and described it as flavourful and medium-spicy.

There's a lot more to love at The Origin Tales. I've bought their Hainanese 'Chicken' Rice for a smug day-later lunch, there's fried noodles, and soups, and golden-fried entrees. But on 90% of my visits (including 100% of my once-a-month locked-down 2020 pick-ups) I just keep going back to that darn Zinger Tower.

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Since our first blog post, The Origin Tales has also been blogged on messy veggies and Whatever Floats Your Bloat.
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The Origin Tales 
41 Lygon St, Brunswick East 
8383 9061 

Accessibility: There's a shallow ramp on entry, densely spaced tables and a wide corridor through the middle. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cà-Rem Gelato

 January 24, 2021

   

We had a long overdue day of Footscray fun with friends in January. We started out with Savers and browsing an Indian grocery, hit up Huong Viet for lunch, and stocked up on treats from Pie Thief and Vincent Vegetarian Food Mart. Phil Lees recommended Cà-Rem Gelato for dessert, and it was an easy skip across the street from lunch. 

Cà-Rem is run by two friendly Vietnamese-Australians, who proudly make their gelato from fresh ingredients with a rotation of bright and imaginative flavours. We encountered abundant fruity, tropical options like avocado, durian, taro and coconut, Thai mango, and Vietnamese banana. While I almost always focus on the richer, creamier (and yes, chocolate-ier) flavours, this was exactly what our mid-day, 33-degree visit called for.

   

I was charmed by their salted kumquat sorbet, with each mouthful transforming from tangy to sweet and salty (top photo). I didn't need but certainly didn't waste my less daring insurance scoop of lychee and mint sorbet (the two scoops together came in at $6.80). Michael took one scoop ($4.80) of the remarkable Coco Black, a creamy and very high cocoa-content, vegan-friendly option. I wondered if they might use coconut charcoal to achieve its melting-tar look. 

Located on Leeds St, Cà-Rem is right in the middle of Footscray's action; it'll be easy to browse the cabinet for what's new any time we're in the neighbourhood.

   

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Cà-Rem Gelato
45 Leeds St, Footscray

Accessibility: There's a small lip on the door on entry. We ordered and paid at a high counter. There are moderately spaced tables with low stools inside.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Chotto Motto

January 21, 2021

   

In January we went to our first gig in almost a year! When they're permitted they're now typically at 50% capacity and some artists are compensating by offering early and late shows on the same evening. We happily snapped up early weeknight tickets to see Olympia at the Gasometer (open roof! new seating!), and booked a table at Chotto Motto for dinner afterwards.

Pandemic conditions are having their influence there, too. On the upside for customers, there seems to be extensive new seating outdoors and in their courtyard. On the downside, booking intervals are more restricted. The friendly staff made sure we knew that the kitchen closed at 9pm, and were packing up the furniture around us at 9:20pm. It's fair enough but also a pity - there's something about this restaurant's rosy lighting, cute clutter of knick knacks and snacky foods that would especially suit late night hang-outs.

   

OK, so what of those snacky foods? It's primarily Japanese style here, with Chotto Motto initially attracting attention for its fuzed gyoza 'pizza'. They're serving their gyoza separated and steamed now with plenty options besides (gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options helpfully labelled). The drinks list is fun, too. Beyond the beer and wine, there's plum wine, cocktails, highballs, sake and a novel array of soft drinks. Erin and I took the weeknight gently with a yuzu soda for me (above left, $6.50) and a Japanese Mystery Soda (above right, $5.50) for her; Erin reported that it tasted of bubblegum.

   

We were unsure how much to order, but with a little assistance from the staff we got it right. The edamame ($7.50) are said to be sprinkled with Magic Spicy Dust Shichimi, which just barely carries through when you're not crunching the pods.

   

The Saikyo Miso Gorgonzola Mac N Cheese with Aonori panko crunch (above right, $15.50) could've been a disastrous clash of flavours but its funky notes were actually pitch perfect. In the dim light the Mixed Veggie Age Bitashi (above left, $14.50) was a confusing medley of fresh and pickled vegetables (including large quantities of celery?!), but at least it offset the richness of the mac'n'cheese.

   

The gyoza, front and centre on the menu, were the final dishes to arrive at our table. There are three sauces and three fillings (only one filling veg*n) to mix and match. We liked their shitake and chive option (10 gyoza for $22.50), though for me the filling was less a feature than the toppings. The roast sesame sauce (pictured above), is mild, gently sweet and generously showered with sesame seeds.

   

The crispy chilli oil is so popular they sell it in jars on your way out. It's complex rather than hot, with abundant fried garlic and onion pieces, and fermented black beans (it's also vegan and gluten-free!). You bet Michael took one of those jars home.

It was a hot summer night and unluckily for us Chotto Motto's soft serve machine was out of action. We hear that they usually run fun flavours so we'll have to cycle by for another shot soon.
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There's a vegan-focused review of Chotto Motto on messy veggies. Omni blogs foodie about town and the sprinkler are fans, but Linnie Eats All The Food not so much.
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Chotto Motto
287 Wellington St, Collingwood
0466 054 911

Accessibility: There's a tiny lip on the door on entry. At the moment there's seating out on the street, inside and out in the courtyard/garage. The tables I saw were well spaced from each other, but often located in somewhat cluttered or crowded nooks. The indoor lighting is low and red-tinted. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

O.MY Restaurant

 January 17, 2021

   

Towards the end of 2020 I celebrated a milestone birthday, and a group of my friends pooled their resources to gift me a future meal for two at O.MY Restaurant. I wasn't familiar with the name, but Yung and Libby filled me in - it's a fancy restaurant accessible by train, with all food intensely focused around the business' own fresh produce, grown on a farm in Cardinia

The morning after receiving this gift I looked up O.MY's instagram, keen for a preview of their food. I was shocked to learn that they'd recently lost their restaurant to a fire... on their second day of reopening after COVID restrictions relaxed. In a stunning effort, the O.MY team secured and fitted out a new venue within about a month and we were able to secure a Sunday lunch reservation a month after that.

   

As you can see from the top photo, the decor is dominated by black, including light but closed curtains. The intention is probably to seclude diners from the highway and strip malls outside, and the result is that I was photographing food under artificial light even in the middle of the day. I've decided to share just a subset of the more presentable photos. The dishes are so closely tied to what O.MY harvest seasonally themselves, that you're unlikely to encounter the same dishes anyway!

   

The menu is so changeable that they describe their degustation ($185 per person) as including "between 12 and 25 items". Our first seven were presented without cutlery, a fun and slightly disorienting series that included "garden oysters" (in the post's second photo, dressed with buttermilk and green garlic oil), the freshest of tomatoes, hot-to-handle fried pickles, and Michael's favourite (pictured just above): puff pastry filled with labne, peas, Warrigal greens and more green garlic oil.

   

Four savoury dishes were served with more formal implements. The culmination was this plate of roasted cabbage hearts, salt-baked beetroots, plums and nasturtium, all served with a thick, deeply flavoured onion jus.

   

Desserts were also plentiful! We were most fond of the raspberry tart, filled with a little cream and caramel. Our final, memorable mouthfuls were peach halves (pictured below) with local honey and daintily piped cream.

   

Our visit to O.MY was a very special day out. The centring of produce grown in-house is remarkable, a boon for vegetarians. If there's a downside, it's that vegetarian protein comes from small touches of dairy, with nary a legume in sight. I felt satisfied and not over-full, and I wonder what an O.MY vegan menu would be like. We experienced high-end, attentive table service with an extra youthful, irreverent streak that revealed just how enthusiastic they all are for what they're doing. With two Age hats to their name, O.MY clearly excelling within their niche.

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Have a look at other bloggers' reviews to see how the menu has evolved over the years and responded to the seasons. You'll struggle to find a negative word on One Piece LeftElsewhereBriefly, Around CaseyBLK's Food BlogInbetween DessertsJacqui's Food FetishA Chronicle of GastronomyI'm So HungreeBarley BlogFoodinFocuszDining Without BordersDAMMIT JANET I LOVE FOOD, and eatmystreet (twice).
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O.MY Restaurant
70 Princes Highway, Beaconsfield
9769 9000
menu varies daily

Accessibility: To the best of my memory, the entry was flat. Tables were decently spaced, and we received full table service. There are slightly awkward, narrow areas around the entry and on the way to the bathroom that might be difficult for maneuvering a wheelchair or pram. Bathrooms are shared with other businesses in the building - I think I saw an accessible, non-gendered bathroom on the ground level, and I used a gendered, narrow bathroom up a flight of stairs.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Herby zucchini & peas with semolina porridge

 January 16, 2021

   

One of our green-thumbed pals offloaded some of her excess zucchinis on us and we went digging around for a new recipe to use them in. Of course Ottolenghi has a series of courgette-focussed columns. We picked this dish out of one of them and gave it a shot. It's a pretty simple recipe - once you've chopped up your zucchini and herbs it takes no time at all to cook. And it's wonderful! The zucchini dish is bursting with flavour from the basil and tarragon, with a hint of lemon sneaking through, while the semolina porridge is a slightly creamier base akin to polenta - hearty and delicious. It was so good that we made it again before I even got around to blogging it!


Herby zucchini & peas with semolina porridge
(from Ottolenghi's Guardian column)

50g butter
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1.2kg zucchini (about 6), sliced into half moons
200g frozen peas, defrosted
25g basil leaves, shredded
15g tarragon leaves
zest of 1 lemon
600ml milk
600ml water
180g semolina
100g parmesan, grated
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
salt and pepper


Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Once it has melted, fry the garlic for a couple of minutes until it just starts to go golden.

Add in the zucchini with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until the zucchini starts to soften up. Reduce the heat and cover the pan and leave to cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and - after a minute - kill the heat, stir through the herbs and lemon zest and set aside while you make the semolina.

Combine the milk and water in a medium saucepan with some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then add in the semolina, whisking constantly to avoid lumps forming. In 3-4 minutes, it should have thickened up into a smooth porridge. Kill the heat and stir in most of the parmesan.

Serve the porridge, topped with the zucchini mix and sprinkled with pine nuts and the leftover parmesan.