Shompen, Carlton, Melbourne

Jamie (@JamieMagikalEatz) was invited to come try out Shompen – a new Indian Fusion restaurant situated in one of the backstreets of the ever popular Carlton and i was of course lucky enough to accompany him.

Walking in i was impressed with the decor and fit out of the restaurant, which from the outside looked a little uninspiring.
Setting my eyes on the menu i was instantly excited. The menu was perfectly sized with a good 6-10 dishes to choose from for both Starters & mains and the best part was i wanted to eat it all. I can sometimes be described as a bit fussy so for me it’s always a treat when i’m excited about pretty much every dish on the menu.
We started with a couple of dishes to share including one of my all time favourites, soft shell crab. The crab was coated in a crunchy coating which did make it a little drier than the more standard tempura however still full of flavour. The dish was beautifully presented with some great accompaniments.

Soft shell crab goodness

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Don Tojo, Carlton

From the same family of Don Don and Don Too, comes Don Tojo, perfectly placed in the studenty hub of Carlton. If you’re not familiar with any of these words, the sweet essence of these restaurants are that they offer super delicious Japanese food, on the cheap, lightning fast. And it doesn’t get any cheaper than this. The teriyaki chicken don is $7.40 and the tofu curry don is $6.50. The portions are great value and it’s an easy cheap eat to recommend. The curry here is a bit more watery than the chunky style I like, but the pickles are good and the flavour is right. Sometimes the chicken and beef doesn’t taste of the best quality, but hey, look at the savings.


Duncan went with the teriyaki chicken don, although I have had this one before on other occasions. Well, I think I’ve had most of the menu really. The only slight difference with Don Don was that the food wasn’t instantaneous with a few minutes delay which isn’t a dampener by any means. The sauce in the teriyaki chicken is pleasant and plentiful, and you do get a heap of chicken, although it sometimes has that weird chewiness.


I went with the curry with grilled tofu option. I quite liked the curry sauce here, as I always have. I did think the two triangles of tofu are a little boring and lacking in the end. I’d rather the sukiyaki beef or teriyaki chicken which are also options for the curry. The sauce has a good level of savoury spice and goes great with the pickles and the rice.


Don’t worry, I did get a share of meat in the karage chicken. This only came for only $5.80. But I can’t say I enjoyed this too much. The pieces weren’t quite proper chickeny pieces and the flavour was quite lacking. It was fine dipped in the curry sauce but otherwise would have benefitted from some spice, mayo or salt. There was a katsu curry option that was sold out at the time of our visit, would have loved to have checked that out. Still lots of praise for a place that can deliver quality and speed for less than eight dollars so that justifies a slightly better rating.


Don Tojo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Miel Et La Lune, Carlton

A morning run on a hot summer’s day saw myself and Ryan end up at La Miel Et La Lune (try saying that ten times fast) for breakfast. The corner spot has a lot of charm and it’s in a handy location. Our early hour meant no issues getting a choice of table, and we were grateful for the high powered air conditioning. The food was good, but I wasn’t quite as enamoured as I was expecting at La Miel Et La Lune.

Service was exactly half cold and half good, not sure what was up for the first staff member. I had a chia pudding, he had bacon and eggs. These are decent, my pudding didn’t quite have all the chia consistently soaked so the occasional clump distracted from an otherwise solid offering with sweet touches on the fruit. I’m told the pastries are worthwhile if you’re checking it out. The lunch menu options also looked creative.


Nothing beats an icy cold juice on a blistering hot day. Mine was the beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger ($7). A vibrant red and a good little mix that started off my time at Le Miel Et La Lune.


The thought of a hot meal when I was already melting was inconceivable, so I opted for the chill of the Chia seed pudding ($14.50) with seasonal fruits, banana and dukkah. I probably won’t miss the heat when I move to London, instead I’ll get to enjoy exciting zero degree days. The chia in the pudding here wasn’t evenly soaked, so occasionally there was a spoon with clumps of raw chia stuck together. the rest of the pudding is quite nice, it’s a large serving and the exotic mix of fruit and toppings keep it worthwhile. The sweetness was perfect. A bit of a twist might have made it more memorable, not unlike the sorrel foam over at Addict.


My friend did go for something warm and savoury, and in the form of the eggs and toast ($9.90) with a side of bacon ($4.50) and avocado ($4.50). Feedback was positive. The lunch options here offer some enticing-sounding dishes, including the pork belly potato hash with mushrooms, capsicum, egg, and sesame sauce. There’s also an interesting offering of eggs on grain rice with pickle, miso sauce and optional mushrooms. So a tinge of Asian influences. So overall I was reasonably happy with Le Miel Et La Lune and would return to try out the lunch offering, which arguably may have been better than the pudding.


Le Miel Et La Lune Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Re: Brunetti, Carlton

Dining at Brunetti is always a bit of a mixed bag, sometimes you really luck out with the classics and other times, well, the food doesn’t taste terribly fresh or interesting at all. We had a bit from all possibilities when we popped in and that’s typically the case on all of my visits. This one was after a fun afternoon with friends checking out the Lawn Bowls club, having drinks and dinner and then needing a sweet fix to finish off the evening.


I thought we were doing a sharing thing, so ordered way too much with a couple items from each cabinet. There’s no easy way to work yourself through all the offerings at Brunetti’s, there is simply too much choice. That’s a great thing for first impressions but ordering can be overwhelming at times without any real recommendations on where to start. Prices are good, meaning it’s never too painful to grab a couple from List A and a couple from List B.


The mousse desserts are always great, light and cream without ever feeling too sweet of heavy. Cannoli was tasty with a fruit inclusion. Our final favourite from the choices was the ricotta and Nutella cheesecake. I picked this one as it won some random as award, but it did prove to be entirely tasty. Very little at Brunetti is ever offensive but I didn’t get much out of the Opera (still dry) or the french custard tart (base too full on)


Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar, Carlton

Somewhat dated but entirely welcoming, Jimmy Watson’s remains a stalwart option for Lygon Street drinking.  The courtyard space provided an idyllic spot for a lazy Saturday afternoon for some reminiscing with friends. Staff are friendly and  well organised, with the food being good enough but could do with a bit of refresh to be more enticing to prospective customers. With any good location in Carlton, the food’s on the pricer scale of things for what you get, but the spot at Jimmy Watson’s is pleasant.


We popped along following a fun afternoon of lawn bowls. We had organised a table upstairs on the deck but on arrival were told this was booked instead for another party. Not ideal, but what can you do I guess. Drinks and food orders are a DIY at the counter affair but this wasn’t an issue with staff cheerful and friendly, and orders coming out in decent time. Menu’s better and bigger than you might expect with a few special dishes amongst the bar staples of fried foods and pizzas.


I still stuck with pizza and mine was the prosciutto, here served with a napoli base with plenty of herby tones. At $23 it remains on the hefty side of pricing, but the flavours were great and the only con would have been the base. Compared to the one I most recently had at nearby D.O.C., the one from Jimmy Watson’s didn’t quite have the same fluffiness or lightness in the dough. This is one of the qualities I tend to look for in an authentic pizza.

jimmywatson2Wedges and shoestring fries were at the $9 mark for each and these are as expected. Nothing particular to note, but they always do the trick and make for a good sharing snack to whet everyone’s appetites. Outside of the Margherita, there’s two other vegetarian options for the pizzas with a few of the girls opting for the Roasted Pumpkin ($20). This one also has feta, tahini, spinach, mozzarella and toasted almonds. Feedback from the crowd was that it was good.


We had a good ‘lil time at Jimmy Watson’s on this summery day and it remains a great spot for a crowd, particularly when coupled with good weather. An ideal location and years of histories that mean they know what they’re doing.


Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

D.O.C. Pizza & Mozzarella Bar, Carlton

We had some time to kill before our movie over at the Nova, so we headed into D.O.C. for a pizza dinner. It’s located a short corner away from the bustle of Lygon Street, making for a convenient location with seating options inside and out. Outside of pizzas, the menu has  mozzarella bar and salad items available. We enjoyed the two pizza options we had, with an enviable crust and high quality toppings. D.O.C makes for an ideal spot for this side of Carlton with speedy service and a cosy atmosphere to marry with the most excellent cuisine.


Ryan and I stuck to the pizza, sharing an order of the Abruzzese ($20.90) with porchetta, jujube fruit mustard and radicchio and the Speck ($22.90) which had smoked prosciutto, fontina, wild mushroom and thyme.  Both items were great but we both preferred the Speck with a perfect amount of cheese and some tasty meat. The crust at D.O.C. is thin and authentic and leaves no undesirable aftertaste or heaviness.


The Aburuzzese was a bit over the top with the shredded radicchio. This took a bit away from the saltiness of the porchetta, which was excellent. Anyway,that was a problem readily solved with some ingredient removal and rearranging. Service in and out of D.O.C. was efficient making it a relaxed stroll over to check out our flick for the evening. Which was also very good.


DOC Pizza & Mozzarella Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shakahari, Carlton

I’ve previously heard some great things about Shakahari, and with an eclectic menu and vibrant service it served as an excellent choice for a long overdue catch up dinner with friends following holidays, occupational changes and a baby arriving. The vegetarian dining experience at Shakahari was amongst the best I’ve had in Melbourne and I was thoroughly thrilled it lived up to its title. Stepping in to the low-fuss venue you might not think much of it at first, but it does carry a constant homely feel with a spacious dining floor and partial courtyard.


We couldn’t go past the signature Avocado magic to start ($16) of avocado wedges and red capsicum rolled in eggplant slices and ‘tempura-fried’ in a rice batter with a sesame coriander puree. This plate perfectly encapsulates the Shakahari experience; exciting, timeless twists on tasty food that just happens to be vegetarian. I could have eaten this all night, a delectable crunchy coating covering moreish vegetable morsels with a fragrant, herby dip.

shakaharidumpling Our second sharing entree was the Mushroom hemp dumplings ($16) with a filling of mushroom and hempseeds poached in a lemongrass and galangal soy milk stock laced with Thai herbs. This was a quality starter, perhaps not quite to the extent of the former, but we enjoyed these mushroomy pilloy bites and the broth was pleasant and aromatic.


My main was another of Shakahari’s signature dishes, being the Satay Shakahari ($21.50) with some of the photos online being a little deceiving – this is a huge plate. There’s sides of turmeric rice, vegetables and pickles with deep-fried skewers of beancurd, seitan, onion and capsicum that’s blanketed by the peanut satay topping. Slightly naughty on the deep-fried front but a tasty, tasty dish wth the sides all holding up with the sauce nutty, sweet and in copious supply. I haven’t had too many bouts with seitan but its was a most worthy meat substitute here and my only qualm would only be slightly more on the rice front for balance.


Gazal also couldn’t resist the Shak’s satay, with her husband getting the Lasagna Donatella Yomama ($22.50). Interestingly this lasagna is completely non-dairy with layers of turtle beans, pinenuts, tomato and pumpkin, beetroot and pumpkin seeds. Jenny’s order was the Sonam, Chum Chum ($22.50) which has lots of components which I’m too lazy to list, but all you need to know is that it was great! Lots of love for Shakahari and easy to see why it’s been around for over a staggering forty years in business.


Shakahari Vegetarian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Two Tall Chefs, Carlton North

For this weekend’s brunch fix, a friend and I headed northwards to Two Tall Chefs, a well-rated cafe establishment in the picturesque Nicholson Village area of Carlton. For us, Two Tall Chefs without doubt lived up to this high standard with impeccable service, great ambience and two solid meals. The staff member had suggested plating each dish separately for sharing purposes and this was a most ideal suggestion to get a taste (exactly half!) of each choice.


First up was the savoury choice. This was the Two Tall Chefs’ Pork belly ‘Bubble and Squeak’ ($19) with roasted pork belly, chorizo, peas, carrot, broccoli, egg and white pudding on potato rosti. I adored the meatiness of this dish, great savoury flavours blended tastefully with the vegetable ones. Would have preferred slightly more on the pork belly front, the chorizo was a bit overpowering (not necessarily in a bad way). Potato rosti was tasty and all in all, a great start for things.


We both went nuts for the second, sweet option. This was the Gingerbread pancakes ($16) with fresh strawberries, spiced honey and creme fraiche. The pancakes were delightful with a pleasant sweetness and clear gingerbread influences. In fact it was almost like a cookie-cake execution and we ate it right up. We were warned about the addictiveness of the pancake candied crust and this apparently rang true (missed on my plate). The fruit and creme fraiche were thoughtful additions to balance out the overall sweetness of the dish.

The seperate plating was a successful means for us to get to try each others dishes (wish more places would do this yeah?) and the person serving us was very chatty and interesting too. Great neighbourly vibes and worth checking out for some of their cheese and events as well.


Two Tall Chefs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brunetti, Carlton

This first time I ventured into Brunetti, on the Carlton part of Lygon Street, I was totally blown away. Cabinets and cabinets of delightful treats with such range and options. Lots of Italian items and lots of non-Italian items. Right by the entrances are two rows of cake cabinets which are plentiful and well presented. Despite the crowds that can occur, the ticketing system is pretty clever in preventing fisticuffs at the counter and I’ve never had issues locating a table either.

I’ve been more than a few times and sampled a decent chunk of everything. Some of the less popular items aren’t as always fresh but everything there is usually decent. Nothing amazing. The ice-cream cookie was too sweet. The one time I got a celebration cake it was good but needed a ton of time settling to room temperature. The cannoli was one of my standout items. Actually anything that had cream was good.

And I do like that you can get mini-versions of things.

I typically take everyone I know visiting Melbourne to Brunetti as there really isn’t much else that stacks up in creating an impression.

Pro tip: go group so you sample a few things from here and there


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

Yo-Chi Frozen Yogurt, Carlton

A huge store at Yo-Chi and delivered on my expectations of frozen yoghurt-based delight whilst in the inner north. My friend recommended Yo-Chi as a light finish for a brunch whilst in the neighbourhood and I was pleasantly surprised with the range and ambience of the locale. There are twelve flavours of varying profiles and no less than twenty topping options that feel considerably more “gourmet” the the usual. My bowl cup thing ended up a bit of a mess (not sure if that’s simply reflective of my serving skills) with flicks of mixed berry, original recipe, salted butterscotch, peanut butter and classic vanilla.


On the toppings route I went for mango mochi, zebra coconut (that’s with some chocolate) almonds and a few jelly balls. For a fat-reduced alternative to gelato it definitely sticks and the peanut butter was worthy of particular mention. The salted butterscotch was bit too weak for my tastes but the others were nice enough. I quite like the open space of the venue at Yo-Chi, there isn’t a heap of options this way that’s good for a proper sit-down. Worth checking out to see a froyo operation of this scale, at least.


Yo-Chi Frozen Yogurt Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato