Saturday, May 11

The Forge Pizzeria

Heard a lot about this place. Tagged along to a dinner gathering to try the pizza here.


Location: 1771 Sturt St, Alfredton, VIC (Ballarat) - the original outlet is quite a distance from the main "town centre" section of Sturt St, towards the East. However, there is a newer branch serving the same menu, located within city centre at 14 Armstrong Street North

Website: official website, and urbanspoon reviews

Price: average $15 for small, $18 for medium, $20 for large, but varies between each pizza. See website for lunch and dinner menus.

Food:


Artichoke - "artichoke, parsley, garlic, olives, shaved ham, tomato, mozzarella". I guess simply listing the ingredients is a convenient, and effective, way to go about writing your menu. The crust was thin, woodfire baked in an impressive looking oven (see above). I don't mind thin crusted, but this felt flat and reminded me of the "lazy pizzas" I used to make with Lebanese bread as the base. Unlike the "fast food" pizza joints, the tomato and cheese layer was mild instead of overwhelming. The shaved ham was in thin slices, and definitely tastier than the sliced ham I would have used for my pizzas. Olives I dislike, mainly because of its intense saltiness. By the way you can read more about why olives come canned and jarred. And the highlight of the artichoke pizza, was definitely the artichoke itself. I've never had artichoke before this, and wouldn't know how to cook or eat it. It had the pickled salty and sour taste, which was a great combination to the other ingredients. The texture was lovely too - the soft layers reminded me of bamboo shoots in Chinese cooking.


Pumpkin - "pumpkin, spinach, Meredith goat cheese, garlic rosemary, tomato, mozzarella, cracked pepper, topped with a sprinkle of pine nuts." The pumpkin was sweet and not quite cooked. My personal preference would be for thicker slices of softer, cooked pumpkin. Goat cheese - this had the taste halfway between ricotta and plain yoghurt. I'm curious to try goat milk. As you would expect, the spinach leaves didn't add much to the taste, but did add colour to the pizza.

Other:


The Sturt St (Afredton) branch is rather small, with only several tables available for dine-in. The place felt like a takeaway, or fish and chips store, rather than a restaurant for a sit-down meal. Majority of customers were getting takeaway, with the pizza folded in round pizza cardboard, rather than pizza boxes.  But there are plenty of seats in the newer branch at Armstrong St (town centre).

Rating: 3.5/5 the pizza was good with interesting toppings, but for over $15 per pizza there wasn't much pizza, and perhaps there are other restaurants that are more deserving of the number one spot on Urbanspoon Ballarat. Wouldn't mind trying some of the other flavours here, and there is no doubt that this is quality pizza compared to the filling but not particularly classy pizza at Domino's or Pizza Hut.

But, for the same price in Melbourne, you can buy great pizza Al Albero - which has a chewier, but still light and fluffy, and with delicious toppings. Plus more generous serves of toppings. And for cheaper options, everyday there is great thin crusted $4 pizza with interesting toppings at Bimbo Deluxe (Melbourne). Bimbos is quite dark and seedy though. Early one evening we hanged out in a dark dome called "the igloo" - we could barely see our food, and just outside was a couple making out on the couch. Or locally in Ballarat, I'm a fan of the Lake View Hotel's Wednesday night pizzas, which are charged by the hour from 6pm - that is, $6 at 6pm, $7 at 7pm and so on. Just saying, there are other options.

The Forge Pizzeria on Urbanspoon The Forge Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 7

Chimac

Over the past few years West Melbourne has developed a growing cluster of Korean restaurants. Side-by-side on Victoria St is a row of Korean BBQ stores - Yeonga, Donwoori, Wooga, Hallah, Toudoori. A little further down Peel St is Chimac, which serves Korean chicken and beer. In Melbourne, Korean fried chicken has an immediate association with Gami, for good reason too, since Gami's outlets (near Parliament, Flagstaff, and now King St) have really popularised the concept. Chimac is less well known, at least for now. 

From a better angle, it would be chicken
Location: Shop 1, 39-47 Peel St, West Melbourne, VIC (opposite Victoria Markets)

Website: just an urbanspoon page. Urbanspoon is good, but I think any restaurant would do well to set up a simple webpage with opening hours, contact details and a menu, which would be particularly helpful for takeaway patrons.

Price: fried chicken is essentially the same price as Gami - $30 for whole. I actually like a simple two paged menu. Saves you from wading through pages and pages of unfamiliar items.



Food:

Sorry about the poor photo quality with these black walls and dim lighting.




Deep fried raw spaghetti - I thought this was table decoration, and wouldn't have thought to munch on it. But it's edible, crunchy, spaghetti. Interesting, but too salty and raw.


Spicy pork belly - from the "sizzling on iron" plate section of the menu. As far as I could tell this was your standard pork bulgolgi (dwaeji bulgolgi), and not particularly outstanding for the price of half a fried chicken. Bulgolgi is a common dish found in Korean restaurants, consisting of grilled marinated meat, usually cooked with onions in a sweetish soy sauce. Sprinkled sesame seeds is half the magic.


Seared tofu stack - "tofu, cheese and caramalised kimchi". We thought perhaps, they meant, tofu steak? I liked the texture of the grilled soft tofu and melted cheese. I think crisp sharp cold kimchi, as well as stews and soups made with kimchi are flavoursome and great. But the layer of kimchi with this dish tasted like soggy Chinese cabbage, and I didn't enjoy it. My main issue here too is that I don't understand how tofu is more expensive ($20+) than the pork belly sizzling plate ($15) because even a large slab of tofu can be purchased at minimum costs. And surely, you can't go too wrong with grilling tofu as there is no expectation of hitting a particular point on the spectrum between "rare" and "well done".



Spicy pork ta-kor (Korean style taco) - I wasn't sure what to expect, whether it would be soft or hard tacos, and I'm suspicious about fusion cuisine anyway. But this was delicious, and reminded me of the only dish I was really impressed about at Mamasita, which was the amazing $6 tacos. Lovely light wraps, hot spicy pork, crunchy salad, hot sauce and creamy mayonnaise. Will be back for more.




Half & half Chimac chicken - served with salad and pickled daikon. The chicken here is great, delightfully crunchy and juicy inside. It comes in three flavours - original, sweet soy, or Korean harissa. I'm not saying Korean fried chicken is somehow more acceptable than fast food fried chicken, but the original reminds me too much of KFC to really be enjoyable. Korean harissa, sticky sweet hot chilli sauce is my favourite. And sweet soy is rather tasty too. How does it compare to Gami? It's been awhile, but this batter seemed a little less dry and hard, but just as crunchy. 

On a side note, whilst reading about Korean fried chicken, I came across this fascinating "Food Lab" series. In this particular article, he systematically tries different mixture of batters and their outcomes. Similar to my friend's "Systematic Review of Marshmallows". Evidence based cooking is great.

Other:


Opening hours here are from 5pm to late. Staff was friendly, and my friend was rather impressed with the chef's playing-with-knife skills. I haven't witnessed it myself. One thing with the open kitchen on side is that whatever you wear become infused with the smell of oil. It's more tolerable than smoke from Korean BBQ's though.

Rating: 4/5 fried chicken at least as good as Gami. The tacos were a welcome surprise, and I'm keen to try some of the other "urban snacks" on the menu! I would avoid those first few dishes though.

Chimac on Urbanspoon