Monday, June 25, 2012

Briagio’s – Niddrie, Victoria

Niddrie is one of those suburbs in Victoria I would never drive to not for any reason.  I can’t even remember ever driving through it. In this case we had been invited out for dinner. Our hosts had already established the eating venue where they were meeting others. We were on the road over that side of town so it was a definite yes.  Italian style food is one of our favourites, followed by Indian, Greek and the list goes on.  In the main street of Niddrie shopping centre you will find Biagio’s. Parking spots are around just lookout for them.

A double shop front greets you as you approach this big, open, spacious, modern restaurant. Though Italian food chokes the menu a number of large wall posters are of French printed text. This seems odd, why not Italian verse? We arrived at 6:30pm to find the restaurant packed so on popular nights a reservation is a must. Tables can be arranged to accommodate large groups so think about Biagio’s for your next big function should you live nearby. With hard wooden floors and high ceilings and no sound baffling, on busy nights it gets hell-loud. Be prepared. Unfortunately on the night we were there there was a large table of young girls a few of which felt there stories should be shared with the rest of the diners.

Service is prompt, efficient and friendly and the food is excellent. This is one food venue worth a drive to. If you’re not up for dinner or lunch they do a great cake and coffee. Our table of six all enjoyed their meals and all commented how good the food was. There are plenty of selections and portions good size. Save some room for dessert. Our “home made” tiramisu was disappointing and for an Italian restaurant was way off the mark. Other desserts, at the table, did look good so our choice was just a bad one.  But your choice will be a good one should you venture to down town Niddrie. Yes you should.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Moravia Restaurant – Camberwell - Victoria

Buried in the heart of the Camberwell shopping strip, on Bourke Road, is Moravia Restaurant. This long thin cafe extends to an upper eats area. A walk through to parking makes access easy.  If you can’t get a spot here, behind the main shops there is three hour parking and unlimited from 1pm on in other areas. Moravia is more of a large cafe than a “classy” restaurant. It is licensed and has a good selection of beers and basic wine list. The general feel is European or Italian. In fact most of the staff had strong accents. I like this it adds to the atmosphere.

I would drop in for a lunch while shopping in the area but wouldn’t make a special trip just to dine here. In my case it was to catch-up with old friends. Being near the Camberwell station it can make for a convenient meeting point for those who like to train or even tram. Where some cafes are so noisy you struggle to hear your own thoughts this was not the case here. The general ambiance being on the quiet side.

Service was efficient and the food OK. The four I eat with all enjoyed their meals. Pricing is reasonable and if you are budgeting you will come away feeling satisfied and not worried about deeper credit card debt.  The cake selection is excellent. I would make this the place to drop into for that cake and coffee you have to have while out shopping.  They do make a good coffee.

The Herb Farm Restaurant - Lilydale - Victoria

While on a Sunday drive through the Yarra Valley, on our approach to home, we stumbled on the Herb Farm Restaurant.  It was 3pm and we were quite hungry and looking for some where to have a late lunch. Shocked to find this delightful establishment still serving lunch at this late hour we tired-up the horseless carriage and parked our hungry butts at a window seat. There is plenty of parking right in the restaurant.

The view from the restaurant is elevated and pleasant with plenty of trees and being on the corner of two major roads, lots of cars whizzing past.  The eating area is open, quiet and extensive and you will have no trouble finding window seats or romantic a nook. Attached to the restaurant are two gift shop rooms, one having hundreds of delicious coffees and herbs for sale. Take a look.

Service was prompt and friendly with an extensive and very yummy food and wine list. There were too many choices for my wife who took quite some time to make her food selection. The sparkling wine I sipped as a palette freshener was excellent and the white with the Garlic Prawn Fettuccini was perfect. You will have no problems finding something you like, both on the menu and the wine list.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Restaurants of South America.

On a five week eating adventure through South America we visited not only many very interesting places but dinned in some exquisite restaurants, cafes and hotels.  Of course we had our share of bad food even a little food poisoning but on the whole the gastronomical adventure was very pleasant. Countries/Cities visited were : Dubai, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil (Rio only).

The countries we really enjoyed were Argentina, Chile and Peru.  One meal I was chasing was an Argentinean steak. This proved harder than it seemed until I realised I had to order “fillet”. My first two encounters with Argentinean steak resulted in in-eatable meals. Finally in Lima Peru I had my first quality steak. OK it wasn’t Argentina but it was South America and the steak was worth the wait.  Let’s start in Lima (capital of Peru) and Mangos, Larcomar Plaza.

Mangos – Mira Flores - Lima - Peru
I had struggled all over Argentina  to get a good steak with no luck at all. I had had some excellent pasta meals but no steak. My first satisfying steak was enjoyed in Lima. I order Filet Mignon with trepidation (which is not a source). It was absolutely delightful and though a good serving, I just did not want the eating experience to stop.

For the steak we sat outside under the stars on a mild night. Mangos is a huge restaurant with both inside and outside dinning, a huge bar and an up stars area. The whole restaurant is built on the side of a cliff and through the day has excellent views of the ocean. Mangos is a great place to eat with excellent service fine outdoor areas and magnificent view.

La Bomboniere – Lacomar plaza - Lima - Peru
Also at Lacomar plaza is La Bombonaire. Though we didn’t have a meal here we did drop in for cake and coffee. For me the Creme Broulee I ordered was gorgeous with a few short backs. The coffee good too. The Broulee was just a touch runny according to my wife but this did not detract from the experience.  While sipping your coffee you look out across the Atlantic Ocean.  Service is good and the cafe has a French feel about it.

Bodega de la Trattoria – Miraflores - Lima - Peru
Not far from where we stayed in Lima, the Lima Wasi Hotel, is Bodega de la Trattoria. This is a new looking very elegant restaurant with high ceilings, a bar and open spacious eating areas. I love my pasta and when in an Italian restaurant what else would you have? The pasta was perfect, service first class and the wine was good also. It can be a little pricy and though the food is good you are paying for the decor.

Mojsa – Puno - Peru
Our wonderful hosts at the Kuntur Inn in Puno suggested we try Mojsa Restaurant in Plaza De Armas (the town square). It was only a short downhill walk from our hotel. Mojsa looked good from the outside so we so we went in. There are steep steps up to the restaurant on the second floor so you must be able bodied. Mojsa is pleasant inside but not overly decorated. There is a wood fired pizza oven at the back, a good place to be on cold nights. If you are early or lucky you may be able to get a table on the balcony which is enclosed. There is a great view of the street and plaza from here.

The food is beyond reproach and reasonably priced. Luckily food in South America is cheap at most places even the better eat houses. Order anything you feel like from the menu here there is almost a guarantee that you are going to like it. Entree and main is the way to go which suited my savory palette.  We had the chance to visit other good restaurants but didn’t because the food a Mojsa’s was that good.

Service is OK but not off the planet but you can’t eat service it just adds to the experience. What you must experience is the food at Mojsa. From pizza to trout and a selection of the local beers the experience was delightful. Mojsa is the place you must try if in Puno, Peru. Try for a balcony table.

El Galeon – Mercado Central -  San Diego - Chile
One of the better restaurants we visited was El Galeon. This is long walk from de Armas Square but an extremely pleasant one.  As the name suggests its main fare is seafood.  The restaurant is long and thin, much like a ship, with the bar and kitchen upfront. The kitchen area is visible from the street and also from within the eating area. Pressing yourself against windows from the outside will allow you to see the kitchen in action. Don’t like what you see, don’t go in. Not only is the food unique in style and variety but it is served in a shallow clay bowl.

Preparation of the meal may start on the kitchen bench tops but that’s where it stops. The meal is constructed in the clay bowl then cooked, served and eaten in the bowl.  This way it stays hot and all the complexity of the juices is delivered straight to your table.  Service is friendly, wines and beers are plentiful on the menu and the ambiances congenial to a great eating experience. This IS the place for two. Not the cheapest place to eat but the food is seriously delicious with plenty of variety. When in town make it date.