Hazel, Melbourne CBD

Welcome back (to you and me). The pandemic has put a bit of a pause on this blog, but as things get better here in Melbourne, I’m eating out more and ready to share the delicious things I’ve discovered.

Firstly, a disclaimer: Hazel is somewhere I went to pre-pandemic, but I took these nice photos, and had them saved as a draft here on the blog. It has been patiently waiting for me to press publish for quite a while now!

So because this is from a while ago, I won’t review it, but I will tell you what we ate, and give you a bit of a feel of the place, just in case it inspires you to visit, or answers some of your questions about the place.

Anyway…

How pretty is hazel? So much light, white walls, tan furnishings and pops of green. Such a nice space to spend an afternoon or evening, drinking and eating away.

I love the lighting too – those bronze clam/ seashell/ mermaid bra lights are so cool. The chandeliers look like chimes, but I’m not game enough to stand up on a table to play them.

We began with some drinks, one alcoholic and one non alcoholic. You might know that I don’t drink alcohol, and it is so nice to see a restaurant with a nice selection of mocktails and non-alc fancy drinks.

I’ll leave you to guess which is alcoholic and which isn’t, but I’ll drop a hint: I think I got the best deal because mine tasted like a fizzy strawberry milkshake.

Crackers and dip instead of bread and butter as a complimentary starter.

At the time, Hazel was famous for these thickly cut toasts, but I don’t think they make them anymore. 😦 Got to say, we really loved them. This one is liberally topped with cultured butter and anchovies.

This one is slathered with pate (I think duck liver), which was super rich and indulgent.

Here it is heading towards my mouth.

We also ordered a pasta to share, because carbs are life. Again, I love the plate.

No dessert for us, as we were super full after eating half a loaf of bread and a plate of pasta!

Summary: The toasts and drinks were the highlight for us. I loved the space, and I know I will head back to Hazel for a drink and to try their new menu.

I promise I won’t be a stranger, and I’ll be posting more regularly from now on.

xoxo

Karma

Hazel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Isme, Fitzroy

Summer Friday evenings are made for drinks and dinner with friends, watching the sky slowly change colour. We recently spent a warm Friday evening at Isme, a Lebanese restaurant hidden in the backstreets of Fitzroy. We were invited by restaurant management to try the menu, and it was a wonderful evening. Japanese may be the cuisine that I love to eat out, but Lebanese is the cuisine that I usually cook at home. So I was excited and ready to get inspired.

Drinks! We started with some fresh and zingy mocktails. A tropical fruity drink and a minty lime drink. Both were fabulous.

The menu at Isme is made up of Mezza (Lebanese tapas) and a few bigger dishes. I like this because it means you can try lots of different things and share over drinks. Pictured above is the ‘hummos dip topped with diced lamb and traditional spices’ ($15.9), ‘sumbuski ‘($10.9) and ‘pumpkin pockets’ ($12.9)

The hummos dip was creamy and rich. It tasted luxurious with the beautifully spiced diced lamb on top. It came with crunchy shards of pita to scoop it all up, and so I did.

These awesome sumbuski were packed with minced meat, onion and pinenuts. We kind of fought over the last one.

The pumpkin pockets were hearty and wholesome. A vegetarian version of kibbeh, which is usually made with minced meat.

We also ordered the ‘roasted eggplant’ (15.9) which was my favourite dish of the night. The soft and caramelised eggplant was topped with a rich tomato, onion and garlic reduction and scattered with chickpeas. I could eat this forever. Eggplant is already one of my favourite vegetables, but the rich cooked-down tomato really kicked it up a notch. So good!

Mini chicken skewers marinated with garlic, zaatar, lemon and chilli and served with a garlic dip. ($13.9) Tender, flavourful chicken with a proper super garlicky dip.

Our final savoury dish was from the ‘Bigger’ side of the menu: ‘The Vegan: fried cauliflower, broccolini, asparagus, pomegranate, currants, pine nuts and herbed tahini’ ($18.9). This was our least favourite – we thought the flavour could be elevated a bit. However, that being said, it was still yum, just not the kind of epic you would expect from the ‘Bigger’ side of the menu.

To finish off the meal: ‘Sweet as Isme’: sugar and cinnamon dusted chips, served with vanilla bean ice-cream ($12.9) It was fun dipping the crunchy chips (I think they were deep fried bread!) into the icecream. Though, I would have loved some softer chewier chips as well as crunchy ones to mix it up a little.

It was such a lovely night, with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I think Isme is a great spot to go to get away from the crowds of Brunswick street and have a leisurely lunch or dinner.

Disclaimer: I was invited by Isme to try their menu, and I did not pay for the food provided. My words and opinions are my own.

ISME Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cooking corner

I was so excited when I discovered that Cooking Corner was on Eatclub. It looked so cool from the outside, and it was on my list to visit, and then I checked Eatclub, and voila: 35% off! Woo!

Not that the menu isn’t really reasonably priced, I’m just a bit cheap. When you eat out as often as I do, you have to be a bit savvy!

Anyway, Cooking Corner is a pretty new Chinese restaurant which specialises in baos and rice-bowl dishes. I’ve been to Cooking Corner around 5 times now, and have enjoyed every visit.

I love the plants and minimalist design of the interior of the restaurant. Exactly my kind of style ( I’m totally ready to move in).

Some of the delicious things that I’ve tried off the menu:

Fragrant Shallot Oil Dry Noodle ($9)
These noodles have the perfect amount of bite and have lots of flavour without being too oily.

Cooking Corner’s soups are the kind of dish you want when you have a cold and need something comforting, warming and hearty. I enjoyed the shitake mushroom chicken soup ($15), but their braised beef noodle soup is also reviving.

We have tried many of Cooking Corner’s Baos and Bao Burgers, with our favourites being the pulled lamb shoulder ( it has jalapeños!), menchi katsu and tempura fish.

Head to Cooking Corner for a lovely atmosphere and cheap eats ( remember to check Eatclub!)

Cooking Corner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Two birds one stone ( South Yarra)

This past weekend in Melbourne was perfect for brunching. After a rainy week, we finally got some sunshine, and so I was keen to go on a big walk and indulge in something deliciously calorific.

Two birds one stone had generously reached out the day before and asked if I wanted to come by and try their menu, and really: you could see the stars alining.

So my friend Jacqui and I clocked in some steps on our fitness trackers and arrived, ready for a brunching feast!

The cafe had such great atmosphere: that relaxed but exciting vibe that only comes with great food and service. It was also super busy!

We started with lattes, which were delicious. Fruity coffee and perfectly steamed milk.

The menu here is really fantastic. There is something for everyone, vegetarian, gluten intolerant, vegan, sweet tooth, sweet avoider and more!

It was hard to choose what to order but in the end we went for…

A coconut, matcha and yuzu chia pudding with mango puree, passionfruit, berries and lemon balm ($16). You know how much I love matcha and yuzu – I simply had to order this, and I was super glad I did.

My friend correctly described this as a bowl of happiness.
The colours and arrangement in the presentation were just beautiful and I’m super happy that it carried through in flavour too.
The pudding was not too sweet and there was a perfect citrus zing from the yuzu. The pudding was also perfectly set: not gloopy. It tasted light, refreshing and was still very filling.

We also ordered one of the cafe’s famous dishes: Ricotta pancakes with rhubarb and raspberry compote, vanilla mascapone, seasonal fruit and toasted pistachio ($19)

This was a fluffy but still cakey stack of pancakes. I love ricotta in pancakes as it gives them air as well as texture!

They were not too sweet or heavy too. The fruit, mascapone and nuts were great toppings, plus the dish looked dreamy. Seriously so pretty!

I was seriously impressed by Two Birds One Stone. Their dishes are fantastic examples of the Melbourne brunch scene, and I suggest them as a great way to start your weekend.

Thanks again to Two Birds One Stone for inviting us, and to Sam, the manager for his generous and excellent hospitality.

www.twobirdsonestonecafe.com.au/
Two Birds One Stone Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Manhattan Modern Indian, Toorak

Manhattan is a recently opened Indian restaurant ( just over a month!) which has a fun and creative vibe to its dishes. It is modern Indian food with a twist.

We were invited by the owners to check out their new 7 course degustation menu. We had a lovely time, and enjoyed the stories and ideas behind each dish.

First things first though:

The interiors of the restaurant have been kept from the previous restaurant and don’t quite match the fun, vibrant dishes, and the quirky energetic attitude from staff.

The degustation on the evening was a six course instead of 7 because of an ingredient delivery issue.

This is a really new restaurant so they are still finding their feet, so keep that in mind when you visit too.

We were not presented with a menu, so be prepared for a night filled with delicious surprises.

Now onto the food:

We started with a cup of warming cardamom and rose tea, which was sweet, fragrant and delicious. It was a cold rainy day, so it was much appreciated!

From there, a fantastic paddle of pani puri was presented, with each vial containing a different flavour: there was mint, tamarind, potato, roasted pineapple, pomegranate and even toffee!

Pani puri are crunchy puffs which are filled with either chickpeas or potato or something else, and flavoured water. They are seriously taste and texture sensations and one of my favourite snack foods.

Manhattan’s version of pani puri was colourful and heaps of fun. I loved the toffee puri, which was only slightly sweet but caramelised.

Following the puri was a samosa, which to me looked like a mountain. It was drizzled with pink and green sauces, and was filled with veggies. It perhaps got a bit soggy from the sauces but was still very yummy.

Then we had the best tandoori chicken tikka I have eaten in a while. When ordering this dish from other restaurants, I have been disappointed as it can be over cooked and very dry.

However, Manhattan’s version was succulent and moreish. Loved it.

Our mains arrived soon after: a Goan prawn curry, with the actual sauce being poured onto the plate on the table. Fun to watch. It was a bright yellow/orange hue and a very attractive dish. There was a light heat to the curry, and mild spices – it was nice, but perhaps could have packed more punch!

We were super full at this point, as you can imagine, and the next course was perfectly timed, as it was dessert! A ‘Surprise pot’ layered with crunchy chocolate soil, light buttery cheese foam and gulab jamun style cake at the bottom. Plus, it was topped with an edible flower! This was a great sweet with lots of texture and not too heavy.

We had a great time at Manhattan. The owner is really passionate and has a vision to bring vibrant authentic food to the area. Visit if you want to try something deliciously different.

Let me know if you visit and tag me on Instagram @goodfoodgoodkarma. I’m keen to see your shots and hear about your experiences. ❤️

Thank you to Manhattan for inviting us to try your menu and experience your new restaurant. I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing the place bloom with your creativity and energy.

Tahini, Melbourne CBD

Melbourne’s indoor arcades are just as magical as it’s laneways, and are definitely worth exploring. I find the best restaurants and cafes simply by exploring, and that is how I found Tahini. It has been a delicious and dangerously addictive discovery.

My first visit was solo during a week day lunch time, and I ordered what the waiter recommended, not really knowing what to expect.

Since then I have been back with family, friends and for a solo lunch again!

Safe to say, that dish I ordered on my visit was seriously yum: the soufra for one.

It is essentially a Lebanese feast for one where you can choose the type of grill ( meat or halloumi or veg), and it comes with hummus, falafel, pita, tabouleh, labneh, pickles and spiced rice/noodle. If you are like me, and seriously suffer from FOMO, then Tahini is the place for you, because you can try a bit of everything!

If you visit with friends and family, the soufra options turn into a banquet where you can try heaps off the menu: and it is such great value ( $46 for 2 and $25 per head for 3+)

Your table gets filled with small bowls containing the likes of delicious fresh dips, crunchy falafel, rice wrapped in vine leaves, cheese cigars, salads with crunchy pita, pickles and grilled meats!

Look, they have other things on the menu too, such as meal sets of wraps, dips, salads and chips ( Tablieh) and salads which you can add grilled meat to, but I think the soufra is a must order!

Their drinks menu is also worth exploring: we love the housemade apple, mint and ginger lemonade, but next time want to try the rose water & pomegranate lemonade.

Make sure you book, because it gets really busy at lunchtime, and you don’t want to be waiting in a line staring at people eating ( my worst nightmare).

Rating: 5/5

Tag me on Instagram @goodfoodgoodkarma if you go, and let me know what you think!

Tahini Lebanese Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hakoya Izakaya

It was recently pointed out to me that I have a slight theme running through this blog, and really, it wasn’t planned at all. I just really enjoy Japanese cuisine. I haven’t been to Japan but hope to go in the next few years.

Hakoya Izakaya possibly noticed this and kindly extended an invitation to host me.

It is a new restaurant on Lonsdale street, just before Elizabeth street. I have actually been walking past them on my way to work, watching the interior of the restaurant get built, and thinking ‘must visit”.

So, a couple of days ago, I visited at dinner time to try their menu, give them some feedback, and share with you what it is like!

Before I get to the food, I have to say, the interior of the restaurant is gorgeous. I think it is somewhat reminiscent of Shobosho in Adelaide, though Hakoya Izakaya has a more welcoming and warmer atmosphere. There are heaps of lovely wooden surfaces and colourful art adorns the wall panels within the booths.

We were warmly greeted as we entered the restaurant, and the menu was explained to us. At Hakoya, you can order using an ipad menu or with a waiter.

We started our meal with fresh Sashimi, which had a melt in mouth texture and a dish called wasabi nori taco which is a must have appetiser. It was crunchy seaweed crackers with a wasabi punch topped with diced mixed sashimi. Light and delicious!

Hakoya is special because it is the only place in Melboune that does Seiro-mushi, which is a beautiful traditional Japanese dish where veggies and meat are steamed on the table in a handmade artisan box made from Hinoki wood.

The dish came with two dipping sauces as well. Citrusy Ponzu for the veggies and Sukiyaki sauce for the meat.

You have to try this! The steamed meat and veggies develop a complex yet mildly smoked flavour from the wood. It is a healthy, comforting and filling meal, which we found was perfect for the windy Melbourne evening on which we visited.

I have to say that Seiro-mushi was presented so beautifully with perfect little rolls of beef and nicely arranged veggies.

We were lucky to be able to try the Wagyu Sukiyaki Nabe as well, which is Japanese Hot Pot. It was a total feast!

This nabe is actually the best one I have tried. It wasn’t overly salty, there was heaps of flavour and it seriously packed with veggies, noodles and meat!

The wagyu was marbled and soft and the udon chewy and slightly slippery. Plus, there were heaps of mushrooms (one of my fave things to eat in hot pot!)

Look at it bubbling away! The Nabe also came with dipping sauces: a traditional egg yolk and sukiyaki sauce. The egg yolk added rich creaminess but there was heaps of flavour in the Nabe already that I didnt dip too much.

Thank you again to Hakoya for the invitation – it was a really lovely and impressive experience.

I can’t wait to head back to have some more Nabe and Seiro-mushi on another cold night!

Hakoya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kurimu

I’m a big fan of pastry chain PAFU, which sells freshly baked Japanese-inspired puff pastries filled with a range of ingredients. So you can imagine my excitement when they emailed me to say that they were launching a new Japanese-style pastry store.

Kurimu sells choux pastry filled with custard and rolled in crunchy sugary almond bits.

Currently there are original custard and strawberry cream flavours, but hopefully the range of flavours will expand…

Hopefully matcha creme and dark chocolate are on the cards because I’m addicted to the crunch.

Currently, my favourite is the original custard, but that is just because I love that classic flavour: the strawberry one is just as delicious.

I love breaking the pastry in two to share – it is the perfect size for sharing.

Have you tried Kurimu?

Kurimu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Wanderer Thai Bar

The Wanderer is a new Thai restaurant in the CBD. We received an invitation from Paul, the restaurant owner, to come by and try their menu and share our thoughts with you.

It is seriously gorgeous inside.

Lots of orchids, a tree with fairy lights for leaves, vintage suitcases and more.

The decor is not traditionally thai, and slightly reminds me of a hotel lobby bar, but it is still stunning.

Check out those chainmail curtains and plush red booth seating.

The staff were really nice, and the owner, Paul, was friendly and open to questions.

I am allergic to nuts and let the restaurant know before we arrived, and let the waitress know when we were ordering. We carefully selected dishes that had no nuts, on the advice of the waitress. However… our first dish arrived with nuts in it. 😅

That being said, my dining companion thoroughly enjoyed the “mixed fruits Thai-style salad ($16.90)”. It was the perfect mix of sweet, salty and sour. There were so many different types of textures from the fresh fruits, and it was a great zingy appetizer.

The “Thai-style fried rice” ($17.90) was full of flavour, and a big portion with eggs, chicken and veggies. It was absolutely delicious, but we think the price point is a bit high for fried rice.

This “green curry chicken” ($18.90) did not arrive with rice, which we had to request. However, it was delicious, with apple eggplants and chicken. It was a very saucy curry, and we felt it could have had a bit more chicken/veggies in it.

The prices at The Wanderer are definitely higher than other places, but the ambience and flavours were of a high quality.
Sweet, spicy, zingy, sour, tangy : it was all in balance. Other than the mistake with the nuts in the dish (which could have killed someone), service was friendly.

We really enjoyed our visit to The Wanderer. Our rating: 3.5/5

The Wanderer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fujitei, St Kilda

Fujitei is an authentic Japanese restaurant in St Kilda. It is a neighbourhood gem, run by passionate chefs who are driven to serve classic Japanese cuisine.

We were invited to try their menu, and really loved the relaxed, warm atmosphere and beautifully made dishes.

This inside out maki roll ($20) was filled with lots of tuna and salmon, coated with crispy tempura and topped with salmon caviar. I love that the simple fresh flavours of the raw fish gave the roll richness and creaminess, rather than the usual over the top mayonaise/sauce that you find in a lot of maki dishes. I really loved the tempura bits and the pop of caviar too. Super yum. A great dish to share!

This glossy grilled eel fillet ($29) had a sweet soy glaze, and was an indulgent delight. Eel always reminds me of Nasi Dengaku (fried miso eggplant) for some reason. I think it is that they are both melt-in mouth, creamy and saucy.

Beef takaki ($16) – a light dish with a citrusy/acidic sauce – a great starter.

Perfectly cooked miso flavoured cod fish ($28). I love this type of simply grilled fish. I find it so comforting. It is so light and soft, you can cut into it with a fork.

This little shell was filled with creamy mushrooms, a Hokkaido scallop and topped with salmon roe. Another great appetiser, it sure had the umami factor!

A gorgeous carpaccio in a Japanese/Mediterranean style, and a must order! It was lightly dressed in a basil olive oil vinaigrette, and was awesome. Different, but still super Japanese in flavour.

A giant mix platter of sushi/sashimi, stunningly presented and with lots of different things to try. 😍 Fish was perfectly cut and rice was the right temperature and firmness. A really great platter. I loved everything I tried. All fresh, and all done expertly.

I saved the best for last. I had never tried this before – wagu beef cooked on a giant fragrant Houba leaf ($50), which was painted with thick miso paste. A little box filled with coals was placed in the center of the table, and you could watch (and smell!) the fat in the meat melting away, the leaf releasing a toasty grassy fragrance and the miso caramelising! SO EPIC. A must order.

We seriously loved our visit to Fujitei. I can see it being a place to go when you want a no frills, relaxed environment with reliably delicious and authentic Japanese food.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fujitei Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer: we were invited to dine as guests of the restaurant. All our opinions are our own.