Sunday, July 21, 2013

Discovery XLI

On a cold dark July evening I settled into the cosy warmth of Diksteins in Bank Place. This has long been a favourite of mine, and although naturally it has changed over the years, and I lament the loss of my friend the waiter who would hand me a Little Creatures as I walked in the door, it's still a pretty nice place to be. This is a view from the tiny bar, looking out into Bank Place.
Soon I was joined by the city and Docklands workers, and we set off up Little Collins to McKillop Street and Hardware Lane, dodging the restaurant spruikers on the way, to our destination near the corner of Lonsdale and Exhibition Streets.
Up the wooden stairs we climbed, to Seamstress. Although we had opted to dine at the early hour of 6.30, the place was already buzzing. We met our fourth discoverer, were divested of our coats and escorted to a table at the back of the long room. We admired the ceiling swathed in swatches of cloth, which concealed the subdued but not too dim lighting, and the bent wire coat hangers from which bottles of artificial white flowers were suspended.

Although the place was so busy the service was really friendly and efficient, and we were soon enjoying our drinks and consulting the menu.
First up came a snake bean and sweet potato won ton with green pea and coriander purée, closely followed by the remarkable crispy brussels sprouts with lemon miso and chili. Having done my research I knew we simply had to have these, and we discovered that all the rave reviews were spot on. Next came a lovely dish of eggplant with miso sauce, tofu and sesame seeds. The chunks of eggplant were rich and tender and contrasted very nicely with the crispy tofu. If we had a complaint at all, it would have been that the ratio of tofu to eggplant could have been increased. But that is a small complaint for something so delicious.
Meanwhile some duck rice crêpe money bags and eye fillet with porcini and shiitake pâté and wasabi sweet potato were shared among the carnivores.
Replete after this feast, we had no room for sweets or coffee, although some of us found space for some more of the excellent beer selection. At this stage I will admit that yes, we were encouraged to try Seamstress on account of the special offers from Dimmi and Urbanspoon, but honestly it had been in the back of my mind to try it out some time anyway - it had just taken me a few years to get around to it. We really liked Seamstress and can recommend it any time, special deal or no.
With our coats skilfully retrieved from their perch high above the front window, we were soon on our way to nearby Parliament Station, in good time for the connections to both the east and the inner northwest. The Belgrave train and its attendant shuttle trundled us efficiently back to the dark and gloomy city of Boroondara, where our damp walk from the station was illuminated by this gorgeous flowering wattle.
Seamstress on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 5, 2013

Discovery XL

For our fortieth discovery the regular discoverers were again reduced by half, but we decided to team up with another two family members for a 'taking it to the people' early discovery and car pickup. Our destination: Aangan in West Footscray. Initial contact was made at the Sherlock Holmes, over a Thunder Road Collingwood draught and a cider. The next stop was the 220 bus stop on Queen Street.

While in general I highly recommend you get on the bus, in retrospect I think that taking the train to West Footscray and then walking to Barkly Street would have been more efficient, and probably more fun. But eventually the bus did clear the city snarl and was happily bowling along Footscray Road. From Footscray station it was only a few minutes to our destination.

Aangan is rather bigger than I expected but at 6.00 pm it was still fairly quiet. We had taken the precaution of booking for five in case Mr 31 was able to join us, which meant that we enjoyed a more generously sized table than the standard offering for four, and two sets of pappadums. This was a nice bonus.

Lamb saag was shared among the carnivores, with tawa paneer and dal tadka to keep me happy. Aangan has so many paneer dishes on the menu that I felt obligated to try one. It arrived sizzling on the hot metal tawa, with onion, capsicum and mushroom. The dal was a good contrast: not too rich, nice and runny and pleasantly spicy. We also shared garlic naan (which is OK but I have to say I prefer plain naan, which doesn't interfere with the other flavours) and a filled naan with potato. Quite delicious for a treat, but the crispier texture of the plain or garlic naan would be preferred by many. Next time we should try a parantha perhaps.

Paneer, dal and naan
Paneer, dal and naan

With the meal we enjoyed a Haywards 5000 or two (or three, in my case) making a grand total of 25,000. The girls were sensible and stuck to lassi. And gulab jamun.

The trip back to the sleeping city of Boroondara via the equally quiet streets of Sunshine was uneventful, and we were soon settled happily on the couch. Mr 31 was somewhat unhappy at missing out, as it was his suggestion to try Aangan after he had tasted their food at a street festival. Nevertheless he rang for an update and seemed pleased with our choices. We'll definitely go back as there is so much to choose from: Aangan has a wonderful array of vegetarian dishes. I'd recommend going with at least four people so you can sample a good range of flavours and textures. And Haywards.

Aangan on Urbanspoon


Discovery XXXIX

Discovery was reduced to two on the evening of the first match of the so-called Champions Trophy featuring Australia and New Zealand at Edgbaston. The venue? A familiar couch and comfy chair in front of the Fox sports channel.

Mr 31 arrived bearing the discovery dinner, courtesy of Tandoori Den. More an old family favourite than a new discovery, this long established Camberwell restaurant provides consistently good food and service. For my sister's surprise birthday party a 'few' years ago, we simply took the pots and pans down the road and returned with them full of steaming goodies. We haven't had Tandoori Den takeaway for a while, but back in the day we often ordered dal saag. This was always obligingly provided and we didn't discover until much later that it wasn't actually on the takeaway menu.

Tandoori Den takeaway
Tandoori Den takeaway

But back to discovery. We ate mushroom jal frazi and aloo gobi with rice and naan - plenty for two, with leftovers. We discussed why on Indian restaurant menus, spinach is palak or saag, lentils are dal, potatoes are aloo, cauliflower is gobi, peas are matar but mushrooms are mushrooms. On looking up my favourite Indian vegetarian cookery book by Jack Santa Maria, I discovered that mushrooms are khumbi. So we are no closer to explaining this phenomenon.

New Zealand (especially Daniel Vettori) were looking good, but Australia recovered with some crucial wickets towards the end of the innings. During the slow passages of play we amused ourselves with the social media reaction to Dave Warner's brain fade in 'an Aussie themed bar' in Birmingham. Mr 31 was able to advise from experience that going into a Walkabout bar in the first place was a bigger mistake than the ill-timed off cut (experience of Walkabout, that is, not of ill-timed off cuts. Mr 31 was a handy batsman in his day, as well as an excellent keeper.)

Unfortunately the match was washed out around 1.00 am. Mr 31 headed home in disgust and I went wearily to bed, happy that I would be having Tandoori Den curry for dinner again in a few hours time.