Wide open road: Check out their coffee

Wide Open Road

03 9387 6079

274 Barkly Street, Brunswick, VIC 3056

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I needed a coffee fix in the mid morning and decided to check out the Wide Open Road. Wide open road was a cafe with a character. She really evolved from the simple cafe setting 1 year ago to the current classy and homely cafe. Do check out their coffee! I did not get any food there but will sure be back one day to check out their offerings. Owned by the same owner of a minor place. Their latte was plain amazing. A 4 out of 5 latte.


Laurent Boulangerie Patisserie

Laurent Boulangerie Patisserie

03 9654 1011

306 Little Collins St, Melbourne, VIC 3000

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On a lazy weekend, we decided to go for some cakes and hot drinks at Laurent. Laurent is situated along Little Collins and the building has two levels. The entrance is not like most, it is via a corner of the building, clearly an interesting architectural feature. Laurent’s decor was very pleasant, clean and modern yet heritage-rich.

On display, was the inviting macaroons, pastries, tarts, cakes and sandwiches. Clearly, you can visit Laurent every single day and yet be able to try something new.

We went for a tarte bordaloue, a millefeuille, a large latte and a large hot chocolate. The tarte bordaloue was well-balanced in sweetness and the tart crust was very crusty. The millefeuille had nice vanilla custard layered with crispy pastry thins. They were simply divine and unfortunately, the photographs did not do them justice. The large latte and hot chocolate came in huge bowls, unlike the slices, they were rather ordinary. Wallet damage was huge, we paid nearly 30 bucks for them. This Laurent visit was a 4 French cafe meal.

Boscastle Pies at Brunswick: There are better vege pasties and coffees out there.


03 9092 8113

260 Barkly Street, Brunswick, Victoria 3056

(Click here for boscastle webpage)

Boscastle on Urbanspoon

Some time ago, The Age did a review on pies in Melbourne. Boscastle was one of the pie shops featured in that article. Click here for the article. This prompted me to head down to the Boscastle shop at Brunswick one afternoon. This also appeared to be the factory where the baby Boscastle pies are born.

Boscastle pies can be found in many shops and cafes, and their pies are marketed as gourmet pies. These pies had a English-origin, after all Terry, the founder had worked in England for 3 years! 🙂

In the cafe, one would be able to have Boscastle pies and coffees. There were many choices of Boscastle pie available.

Other than a cafe, there were fridges where Boscastle pie seconds can be bought at a reduced price. Seconds sounded very odd, why would a food business sell seconds?

I ordered a vege pasty and a latte. Although, the vege fillings were wholesome, they tasted bland and lack seasoning. The pasty did not have a crispy crust as one would expect good pasty crust to be. I had the impressive that the the pasty had been microwaved. The latte was very ordinary and not worth any raving. In summary, better vege pasties and coffees could be found elsewhere. A 2.5 out of 5 pie and coffee treat.

Melbourne Dae Jang Geum Korean BBQ

Melbourne Dae Jang Geum Korean BBQ

03 9662 9445

235 Little Bourke St., Melbourne, Victoria

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After work, our tummies started to rumble. We strolled down Chinatown without any idea what was for dinner. Within minutes, we noticed Dae Jang Geum Korean BBQ and went up the stairs beyond the door. Other than some menu displays, Dae Jang Guem had a rather lonely and uninteresting reception. Some lively interaction or personality at the entrance would surely encourage more diners in. Despite this, the restaurant was well packed. We noticed some Korean customers dining in. Surely, the food would be authentic. There were at least 8 to 10 waiting staff that night and they appeared very enthusiastic and swift in their work. Their tables were modified so that a BBQ grill could be used. This was rather uncomfortable as on a few occasions, my knee knocked onto the below-table extension frame. This prompted me to adopt a rather uncomfortable sitting posture during the meal.

The side dishes tasted pretty averaged and petite-sized. Unlike, other Korean restaurants who would served up a decent portion on their side dishes and would be proactive in offering to replenish the side dishes when little was left. We did not observe such hospitality here.

The fried starch noodle, seafood pancake and the kimchi pork stew were very ordinary and did not deserve any merit. It was obvious that they were scrimping on ingredients. On a good note, the seafood pancake had this crisp surface and an unique textural dimension. Unfortunately, the sauce that came with it, did not go well with the pancake. In summary, nothing we ordered screamed excellent, you would not have miss out if you give Dae Jang Geum a miss. This was a 2.5 out of 5 dinner.

Rose garden BBQ: Economical and tasty asian treat

Rose Garden BBQ

03 9329 1560

435 Elizabeth St, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Rose Garden BBQ on Urbanspoon

Rose garden BBQ has been a favorite regular Asian food joint for myself. It should be safe to assume that she has a strong following in Melbourne. On many visits there, I could see many return-customers. This eatery offered delectable authentic Asian food at prices that did not break the bank account. The menu comprised of dishes for one, although it was possible for two to share if both were small-eaters. One thing that delighted me was that they did not scrimp on ingredients and not attempt to size up the meal with carbohydrates (rice or noodle) like others. Clearly, she took pride in her menu offerings. Unfortunately, it did not open on Sunday, unlike the many other alike restaurants in the city. Frequent customers included the countless students and workers in the city: an advice would be to consider takeaway and not dine-in during lunch time of working days (12-1pm).

Albeit, Rose Garden did not have a fancy interior; she compensated with her delicious, down-to-earth, wholesome and authentic cooking. To some extent, their non-fancy decors did render me a cozy and warm feeling, which I could not put in words. Near the entrance, a rack of lovely roasted meats would be on display. On the walls, there were endless choices that would make me feel like a kid lost in a candy shop. My estimation on the items they offered would be between 30 to 40. My advice would be to try a different dish each visit. I always wondered how they managed the logistics of the ingredients. Turn-around time was the characteristic that never failed to amaze me (time between you placed an order to the order coming to your table). Clearly, Rose Garden had a formidable working business model.

Yes, there were trivial things that Rose Garden did not do so well: (1) the place would have dirty floor and slightly poor ventilation, (2) you would have waiting staffs rushing to you within the second you take a sit and clearing your plate the moment you finished the last bite, and (3) they could be lacking in consistency in their dishes (i.e., there would be taste-variation on the same dish between visit). These never did heavily influence my regular visits to sample their endless choices.

One of the many Rose Garden menus was their top 10 popular dishes. If my memory did not fail me, the vermicelli with salted fish, and chicken was the No. 9 of the popular list. This had been my favorite item: I adore the wok-hei (the slightly burnt taste created by high heat wok), the moistness in this dish (I bet some broth/sauce was added during the cooking process) and how well the salted fish complemented this dish. One warning would be at times, this dish would be slight greasily. So do hop down to Rose Garden one day to sample some delicious Asian treats. This Asian eatery is a 3.5 out of 5 eat.

Taiwan Cafe: Unwise to follow the buzz blindly for good food

Taiwan Cafe

03 9663 6663

273 Swanston St
Melbourne, VIC 3000

(Click here for a map)

Taiwan Cafe on Urbanspoon

Taiwan Cafe 1 - main entrance

My dining experience at the Taiwan cafe is a fine example of a buzz may not equate good food. Recently, on various occasions when I commuted along Swanston Street, I noticed that there was a new asian restaurant that replaced Old Town (Click here for the existing Old Town). Then, I could not help thinking that how volatile food business can be and the queues that formed outside this new venue.  This queuing phenomenon was rather novel in Melbourne and hence motivated me to taste their menu, thinking how fabulous their food could be.

We arrived outside the Taiwan Cafe at 5.30pm and found out the restaurant would oddly only open at 6pm. Shortly after which, a queue started to form. In the queue, I was thinking why would a food business restrict its dinner business hours and not capitalize on potential business. Could it be given it is still the new kid in the block and creating a queue bottleneck of diners looking for a fad would create a buzz: hence, potentially attracting more patrons? Oh well, me and my conspiracy theories? We then comforted ourselves that this would be a great dining experience while queuing for the next 30 minutes. Eventually, Taiwan cafe opened at 6.10pm.

Unfortunately, everything seemed to go spirally downwards from here. When the business opened, we were designated with a miniscule table, which was literally 10cm between two other similarly-sized tables. Given the crowd and the small dining floor, we were basically packed like sardines (this line is so primary school). The venue was so congested and the noise from the crowd in a small volume gave me a slight headache. On a good note, I did observe that there were many servers and the decors seemed very refreshing.

We tried to order a few other dishes from the menu but was told that they were unavailable for the day. The numerous servers on many occasions seemed very dazed and disorganized. Thus, this suggested that the number of servers does not relate to good service. Serving of the dishes was also irregular. Eventually, after various iterations of what they had or not, we ordered four items:

1. Chilled beancurd & Century Egg

In this dish, the chilled tofu and the century egg were garnished with chopped green onion, meat floss and some oyster-like sauce. Although, the dish was refreshing to the palette, it was plain ordinary and lacked creativity.

2. Taiwanese beef noodle soup

Here, the noodle was slightly overcooked and had this rather mushy texture. The broth was rather diluted and lacked favor. Sliced beef; the supposedly hero of the dish was sadly tough, another good sign of being overcooked.

3. Pan-fried beef dumplings

These pan-fried beef dumplings were the worst I had in Melbourne. They came last, after a lengthy 15 minutes when we had finished all other ordered dishes. We were told by the manager that they needed 20 minutes to prepare this when queried. These dumplings were greasy and seemed very stale/frozen. When I took a bite, tasteless and oily liquid dripped over the table. This was definitely not a pleasant dining sight.

4. Red milk tea with extra pearl

The red milk tea was nice but one could easily find better ones in the CBD.

Our dining experience at the Taiwan Cafe disapproved the hypothesis that buzz on a food joint suggests good dining. Moreover, the queue outdoor appeared to be fabricated by poor time and serving management. As a food lover, it hurts to write a critical review on a new food eatery. But when writing a review, genuine opinions should be brought forward. The lack of time management, poor service and disappointing food left us with no options. This was a 1 out of 5 dinner.

Brunswick Foodstore

Brunswick Foodstore

Address: 29 Weston Street (enter through Charles Street), Brunswick, Vic 3056, Australia (Click here for a map)

Tel: 03 9388 8738

Brunswick Foodstore on Urbanspoon

Brunswick Foodstore lies in a rather obscure location off the busy Sydney Road but you will not be disappointed with a visit. In this warehouse-convert cafe, decors were not impressive but they did a decent job. At the side of dining area, was a massive coffee bean roaster that imparted the whole place with a lovely charm. Off the wall, bottles of gourmet-looking tea and spices were up for sales.

Lunch was a grilled chicken wrap with a middle-eastern hint and lattes. Wrap was well-toasted and warm. The chicken breast had a nice grill-charred smell and taste, along which the salad/spice combination was refreshing. Overall, the food was good, the price was reasonable, and service was friendly. A 3 out of 5 cafe visit.