Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Best value bento

Shuji Sushi Japanese Cafe at the top end of Bourke Street just down from Spring Street offers good food at excellent value for money.

A popular haunt for public servants and professionals from the Paris end of town, it's a good place to go if you don't have a corporate card.

The product
While we wait for our dishes to arrive we are served some wasabi peas and peanut balls to fill the time.

The signature of Shuji Sushi are their bento boxes. At $9.90 per box they offer a variety of good quality typical Japnese treats. Bento box b offers rice, crumbed pork cutlet, tempura capsicum, tempura egglant, tempura chicken, two california rolls and two pieces of sushi. For me, the best part of this bento is the pieces of tempura chicken - a non fatty piece of thigh chicken fillet coated in crisp tempura batter then drizzled with teriyaki sauce.

The menu which doubles as a placemat offers four bento boxes and and approximately 24 other dishes. The usual suspects: teriyaki don (chicken with katsu sauce on rice), curry katsu don (pork schnitzel with japanese curry on rice) and yasei udon (assorted vegetables and tofu in Udon noodle soup). Every dish on the menu is under ten dollars.

One of my dining companions, a vegetarian, ordered the Yasei Udon (pictured to the left) and found the floating boiled egg a little off putting but the quality of the soup and other ingredients to be very tasty. The broth had a miso flavour.

The atmosphere
This place is always busy. People line up outside the door to purchase takeaway sushi and the dining tables are pretty much taken by 12:00pm. Reservations can be made. It is recommended that you either book a table or show up five minutes before midday.

The service
The service is minimalist and all of the staff are Japanese. Staff are friendly but extremely busy so once your order is made the only other time you see them is when they deliver your meal.

There could be some problems with language barriers when ordering wine. One example: Me: "Is the house white a chardonnay or a sauvignon blanc." Waitress: "Yes." As anti-chardonnay drinkers we were told told that the house white was "definitely not chardonnay". We believed them, but I think what we were given was a cask variety.

The verdict
Highly recommended for those looking to get some good food and save a few dollars at the same time.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Good value and full of punch

Punch Lane
As part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival a variety of restaurants around Melbourne have been offering a two course plus glass of wine meal deal.
Today I took advantage of the deal at Punch Lane and received a quality meal at excellent value.

The product

For entree I ordered the seared calamari with Thai salad, chilli and roasted peanuts. Calamari, scored and cooked up into curls, coriander, spanish onion, shredded cucumber, chilli, bean shoots. The flavours were purfect and the meal light and crisp.

This photo does not do this meal justice. It looks like some grey old piece of meat with some mash from a bain marie at an RSL.

However, it was much more than that.

Chicken confit with creamy mashed polenta. The chicken was cooked to perfection. Skin crispy, meat fell easily away from the bone and then melted in the mouth.

Polenta was easily the nicest polenta I have ever tasted. Polenta can go wrong quite easily - I had some a couple of weeks ago that looked and tasted like cold baby food.

This polenta was different - hot and smooth with a slight cheesy flavour.

The chicken and polenta was soaked in a light seasoned jus.

Meal was washed down with a glass of house riesling.

The atmosphere

The venue has a warm winter feel. Comfy red chairs with cushions, wood finishes, walls of wine, chalkboards showing wine by the glass. The crowd was mainly businessmen and there were a couple of octogenarians. People who like their food but don't need to be seen.


Service was sharp. They have two sittings for lunch at the moment for this special. One at 12:00pm and another at 1:30pm.

Considering the confit alone is usually $27 this meal represented excellent value for money.

The Verdict

Recommended. I want to go back.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Behold! It's a cheese sandwich.

Here it is. The inaugural post of What's for lunch? I decided to keep it simple. Chiefly because it is the day before payday and this was all I could muster in my 8am rush to leave the house this morning.
The product
Wholemeal bread. Bega Super Slim "Less than 2g of fat per serve" cheese slice. Toasted in the work toaster.
The bread is a wholemeal variety bought from a local bakery in the Carlisle Street, Balaclava district. It has a dry tasteless finish, especially given the absence of butter. Certainly not bought from what I would call an 'artesian baker'.
Bega Super Slim is one of the better slimming cheeses. Available at all good supermarkets. A little tastier than the 'Kraft Free*' cheese, due to the addition of approximately 1.5g more of fat. The cheese has that 'stick to the roof of your mouth and burn it leaving little bits of skin falling away like flaky paint' consistency.
Note: There is no such thing as fat free cheese and low fat cheese is barely cheese.
The atmosphere
Fingers clicking on keyboards. The whir of the printer. Hustle and bustle (that bit was a lie). Yes, you guessed it. I am eating at my desk.
Self serve. Quite a line at the sandwich maker but a little jostling and a few elbows and I was at the front of the queue. Lucky I am leaving here in a few weeks.
The verdict
Filled a hole. Only recommended as a last resort.
Next on What's for lunch?: Review of Punch Lane $30 set menu. Stay tuned.