Saturday, September 17

Maki Maki cafe

It's very cute that there is a restaurant in Melbourne with the name "Peko Peko", so I went around Adelaide to hunt for a counterpart, and I found one!

Location: Parc Arcade, Gawler Place, Rundle Mall, Adelaide, SA ,5000, this is admittedly a late discovery since I never knew this particular Arcade existed till I deliberately looked around. It didn't help that to the left of this arcade's entrance was a carpark entrance and to the right was the main road, so I would never have guessed this humble door led to a very youthful strip of shops and cafes.

Website: There is no website for this particular cafe, as they are a fairly new and family-sized establishment.

Price: The main food they sold was sushi rolls and bento boxes, rolls were between $2.30 to $2.70, and bento boxes were $6.80-$9.80, with an optional drink add-on for $1.70. Typical lunch prices although slightly on the cheaper end.

Food: I must confess that I am a big fan of Japanese food, so I am very picky on the quality. MakiMaki probably doesn't hold up very well for me but to be fair, it is only a takeaway restaurant (though they do have seats), and it is very cheap for near-authentic Japanese meal.

The vegetarian bento was probably the more disappointing meal. Despite its decent presentation, the rice was overly dry, the vege patties were bland tasting without the accompanying sauce and sadly the best bit of the meal was the spoonful of seaweed salad hiding underneath the spring roll.

This was arguably the best bento they had, since you had sashimi, teriyaki chicken AND a bit of eel in one meal. Each of these held up average in terms of taste, and I noticed the universal garnishments for all their bentos were spinach leaves and a spring roll. A bit lazy but I can't complain since this box does offer a lot more to enjoy, especially given it was only $7.80.

Finally, The smoked salmon salad was a 'luxury' dish comprising of a bit of seaweed, avocado, smoked salmon slices and sushi rice. At first it looked like a lazy pile up of sushi ingredients in a bowl, but surprisingly it does have a very distinct look and taste thanks to the wasabi/mustard sauce on top which transforms an otherwise cliche taste into something very refreshing. This was probably the best dish we had, but the salmon was a bit dry and there was AGAIN spinach leaves. It's the equivalent of putting 2 cucumber slices in chinese rice dishes, which I thought was a bad idea since the whole institution of Japanese food is diversity. They could at least alternate spinach leaves with shredded lettuce or something.

Other: the cafe had lots of big signs saying that the seats are for "Makimaki customers only", and someone who was just joining a few people to eat without buying a meal himself was also warned that he needs to buy something to sit down. I thought that was a little bit unfriendly. However, the overall atmosphere was relaxed and dishes were served fairly quickly.

Rating: 3/5 You get what you paid for. The cafe is nice to eat at, food presentation is decent, but the taste and preparation was subpar for Japanese cuisine, both by Adelaide standard and mine. There was no miso soup accompanying any of the dishes; it wasn't even an add-on option. This was disappointing given that this cafe was actually operated by Japanese staff. And finally, because it resided in such a secluded arcade, it took me 4 years of walking through Rundle Mall daily to actually realise it existed, so not an easy place to find as a supposed 'convenient' stop-by during your lunch break unless you already knew where it was.

Maki Maki Japanese Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 14

The Turret

An interesting meet up in Ballarat with Bianca from Cooking Capers!

Location: close to the hospital, at 802 Sturt St (see map)

Website: no website (I'm surprised), Bianca's post on Cooking Capers, a few reviews and opening hour details, an empty urbanspoon page.

Price: around $15 to $20 for mains


BLT sandwich with avocado - fresh sourdough bread, with bacon, lettuce, tomato and a smear of avocado. Decent serving, good flavours, with a healthy serving of salad.

Duck risotto - the duck itself was very dry and hard to chew. Risotto had the texture of rice porridge rather than normal risotto.

A range of desserts - that looked yummy, we didn't try any though.

Vanilla chai latte - oh and I started my meal with a chai latte, it was a bit too sweet.

Other: nice atmosphere and decorations inside. Apparently hospital journal club was held here!

Rating: 4/5 overall a nice cafe, with decent food and good serving sizes (Ballarat is full of good cafes!) but the weird duck brought the score down. But perhaps it's an outlier. If I visit the cafe again, I would like to try the other items on the menu.

Turret on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 13

Uni Square Cafe (Noodle and Rice Bar)

I can't believe it took me all these years to discover this little eatery! I used to live five minutes away from here, and hanged out at the adjacent law library quite often. I had hor fun takeaway from here once but that wasn't particularly memorable. It must be the dodgy store front that makes it hard to remember what this place actually sells (it serves cheap Chinese Malaysian/Singaporean cuisine).

Location: conveniently located opposite the law library of Melbourne University (165 Pelham St, Carlton - see map).

Website: the only information that seems to be online is a quick page about opening hours, and a scant urbanspoon page.

Price: $8.40 to $9.40 for most dishes. Specials for about $6.50 for 2 dishes and rice (haven't tried this, didn't look appealing). There is quite a good variety of rice dishes, fried noodles and more - you can browse the full menu below:


Laksa with chicken - delicious thick, tasty soup with tender chicken, and a mixture of thin rice noodles and thick Hokkien noodles. I haven't had laksa in ages, it was fantastic.

Wonton noodle soup - for a clear and healthy option.

Dry wonton noodle - add an extra egg for about $1. The wontons were small but tasty, buk choy made it healthy, and noodles were just like that stuff I used to eat in Singapore (the noodles that I only grew to like after about half a year of living there). I've never come across this dish in Melbourne - it's authentic Singaporean/Malaysian food.

Other: there is a basic but better than downstairs dining area upstairs.

Rating: 5/5 surprised to find such authentic cuisine near uni. From what I've tried this visit, the prices and serving sizes are decent. Highly recommended especially for those who enjoy hawker food, or those who are from Singapore/Malaysia and miss the food at home. I can overlook the dark and dodgy store front.

Uni Square Cafe on Urbanspoon

Hot Space Sichuan Bar (麻辣空间)

I love Melbourne CBD for its quick cheap Asian meals. This store is new, before I left Melbourne it used to be home a cheap Singaporean cafe that served a $10 bah ku teh with two tiny pieces of pork.

Location: Chinatown (213 Russel St, Melbourne - see map)
Website: no website, but there are several urbanspoon reviews.

Price: thanks to the lovely waiter handing me a take home menu, I was saved the trouble of taking photos of the menu during my meal. Prices are generally around $10 for rice dishes, $7 for appetisers, $15 to $20 for shared main with $2 for rice. Sorry the menus aren't great quality but you can still make out the menu if you zoom into the photos.


Fish fragrant eggplant with rice (素 - 鱼香茄子饭) - delicious with the right balance of vinegar-y taste. Except it was overly greasy and could have been more spicy. We tried to enhance the spiciness by the extra chili on the side but it didn't help at all - "hot space Sichuan" food wasn't at all hot after all.

Special Sichuan fried rice with chicken (四川芽菜鸡粒炒饭) - fried rice with shredded chicken and pickled Chinese vegetables, which was strange. Tasted okay but way too salty.

Other: warning - if you look carefully on the "rice dishes" menu, normal steamed rice is an extra $2 whereas egg fried rice is $2.80. It's ridiculous that you would charge extra for rice on rice dishes. We didn't get charged this time, but we definitely did last time (I guess it depends on the waiter or waitresses). It's a stupid thing to do, makes people feel cheated.

Rating: 2/5 I enjoy some of the dishes here, including the eggplant and Gong Bao chicken from last time. And I wouldn't mind trying some of the other main. But I wouldn't have visited again if I had remembered the ridiculous extra payment for rice. And it's disappointing to have "Sichuan" cuisine that isn't hot at all.

Hot Space Sichuan Bar on Urbanspoon

The Westernport Hotel

Leaving Phillip Island, we searched hard for a decent place for lunch. A few restaurants were closed, and we finally stopped at the Westernport. According to the website, the establishment was recently refurbished. My family would never consider pubs as a potential eat out place. And it was only in Ballarat, where eating out options were more limited, did I start to enjoy and see the great potential in pub meals.

Location: just before you enter onto the bridge that joins Phillip Island to San Remo. Address: 161 Marine Pde, San Remo (see map)

Website: official website, urbanspoon with no reviews as of yet, opening hours on FB

Price: most of our meals here were on the Mon to Sat lunch menu for $12.50. Otherwise mains are generally $20 with daily specials which are cheaper. The regular menu is available online.

Salt & pepper squid - "served with chips & home-made tartare." An item on the lunch specials menu. I'll leave it to the calamari expert to comment. But I thought the serving was inadequate, and more like a kids sized meal (and no salad?)

Westernport classic steak sanga - "Marinated minute steak, with bacon, lettuce, tomato, relish, caramelised onion and chips." Also from the lunch specials. Wow that bread was rock solid - hard to cut, hard to chew, stale? Plus the dish was somehow cold when it was served. On the plus side it was tasty, and the steak was okay although not particularly tender.

Caesar salad - "An old favourite, served with cos lettuce, croutons, shaved parmesan, egg, bacon, anchovies and a creamy caesar dressing." The salad was an extra $4 on top of the lunch special price for chicken. However this was one of the best dishes of the day. Egg was poached, deliciously runny inside, salad had just the right amount of dressing, and anchovies were an interesting addition to the salad.

Roast with vegetables - I can't find this item on the online menu, but it was between $15 to $20 on the regular menu.

Other: spacious indoor and outdoor dining options. Pubs and drinks available next to the cafe, and I believe Westernport also offers accommodation.

Rating: 3.5/5 the meal was pleasant. I enjoyed my Caesar salad, but I can't recommend some of the other dishes such as the small burger that was rock solid. The food isn't cheap or properly pub-meal sized, but perhaps ordering from the rotating specials menu makes the meals more worth what you pay for.

Westernport Hotel on Urbanspoon

Pino's Trattoria

A warm Italian restaurant after watching the penguins come up to shore on a freezing, windy evening.

Location: Pino's is located in the central town of Phillip Island. Address: 29 Thompson Avenue, Cowes (see map)

Website: official website, a yummy looking blog, and urbanspoon

Price: around $20 to $25 for mains, $15 for pizza, $10 for dessert. A menu is available online, but annoyingly it doesn't state prices.


Pino's chicken parmigiana - "Grilled crumbed chicken breast with layered napoletana sauce, virginian ham and melted mozzarella cheese served with seasonal vegetables." Tasty, crunchy parma served steaming hot. However I wasn't satisfied by the amount of vegetables - just a wedge of potato and a piece of brocolli.

Calamari fritti - "Calamari rings crumbed in house and fried and served with a garden salad." My calamari expert friend (who had this dish) should give a description of how this compared to the three or four other calamari dishes he had that weekend!

House special (main) - "Onions, bacon, mushroom, tomato sauce & a touch of cream." Options of fettucini, spaghetti or penne. Of course I chose fettucini - fresh, smooth, but thick texture, yum. The sauce was actually delicious and unique. However, there was too little "stuff" and we ordered a main but the serving was still small.

Marinara (entree) - "Selection of seafood pan seared with garlic finished in Napoletana sauce." Again, great pasta, great sauce, a few prawns and scallops. But still a stingy serving.

Potato pizza - "Mozzarella cheese, roast potato, garlic, onion & rosemary." I thought, why would you order potato pizza! But this was amazing, great crispy dough which was soft inside. The mix of hot melted cheese, potato and herbs was perfect. I totally regret not ordering a large pizza for dinner.

Crostata al cioccolato - "70% calabuat chocolato filling inside a dutch cocoa pastry served with fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream."
Other: Pino's has capacity to cater for a lot of people, but as it is in the centre of a busy tourist town, I'm sure this restaurant would be packed during peak seasons. Relaxed, comfortable atmosphere inside. Interesting round glass flasks are used to serve water.

Rating: 4/5 great food, really surprised by the amazing pizza. However, after ordering a "main" sized meal - we do expect to be full. Instead, we all went back to our motel, heated up a frozen pizza, some nuggets, and had a second dessert of ice cream and mochi afterwards.

Pino's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 4

Peko Peko Cafe

Our pre road trip meal. I've had peko takeaway meals before, as the cafe is very close to where my friend lives. But this was the first time I've dined in! For those who haven't come across the word, "peko peko" is an onomatopoeia in Japanese for "I'm hungry!"

Location: opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, 181 Wells St (see map)

Website: no official website, but here is one blog review with lovely photos, and another with photos (and there are plenty more links to blog reviews on urbanspooon).

Price: a full menu is available on urbanspoon, special menu above, ~$8 entrees, $10 to $15 for mains


Salt and chilli chicken box: a cute bento box with crispy fried chicken pieces, rice, a small portion of tofu and vegetables. Tasty but could do with a little more chilli. Plus point - didn't find any crystals of MSG (I ordered a similar dish in Rose Garden, Elizabeth st which had visible MSG crystals haha).

Chilli calamari and Taiwanese sausage box: similar to the bento above. Interesting combination of calamari and sliced sausages but if I were to order calamari, I would prefer the salt and chilli calamari. A sweetish sauce that was a tad too rich.

Ginger beef peko box: the sliced beef was surprisingly tender and delicious. Stir fried with vegetables. A lighter and healthier option than the ones above.

Beef about - part of the "peko noodle bowl" selection. A herbal soup with beef slices. Definitely filling with the large quantities of beef. Soup had a pleasant herb taste, although it's bland for something you would find in a restaurant, which isn't a bad thing - less salt is good for you. However I didn't enjoy the dry meat.

Other: the cafe has a special vibe - it's cute, with interesting couches, tables, artwork, and more. A very popular hangout for city dwellers and office workers, so rock up early or make a booking

Rating: 4.5/5 love the layout and cute atmosphere. Food was not wow or amazingly cheap, but it was decent with a good range. Somewhere I would definitely go back again.

Peko Peko on Urbanspoon