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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Feast of Merit

It's been a month since our return to Melbourne. Hibernation and recuperation has been a big factor and it was only a few Fridays ago where we enjoyed our favourite meal since we've been back. Feast of Merit is an initiative from ygap that takes inspiration from seasonal and locally sourced produce with a Middle Eastern twist. The former cafe interiors have been stripped off and the raw bones and exposed bricks left us all feeling like after a detox, bright and happy.

My gin and tonic was spiked with muddled strawberries and star anise, lending a florally liquorice flavour. Mr 1-Upper went with a refreshing "cooling tonic" meant to cool and calm the system from inside out, consisting of fresh mint, aloe vera, chia seeds and rooftop honey while the others were happy with their choice of Yangarra Shiraz ($12) and Moobrew Hefeweizen beer ($13).

Shauna's G & T ($12) and a cooling tonic ($7)

Alongside the drinks, we were each served a complimentary tonic to sip before and during the meal. I wasn't able to get past a couple of sips due to the breath-taking heat of the tonic arising from the strong ginger element.

Ginger tonic (complimentary)

The grilled flat bread arrived first, drizzled generously in olive oil and za'atar, providing the perfect vessel to gorge on the deliciously tangy eggplant dip. Another serving of flat bread was promptly ordered to scoop up the rest of the smoky dip.

Grilled flat bread, za’atar, Nagambie olive oil ($4)

Smoked eggplant, lemon, pomegranate ($7)

Going with both ox tongue starters on the menu, we revelled in the utterly delicate grilled ox tongue complemented well by the pickled radishes and carrots, with the licks of char on the meat evident in the flavour.

Grilled ox tongue, ras el hanout, sour milk, baby radish ($10)

The lure of crunchy croquettes made up of molten, buttery potato puree and ox tongue were also too good to deny.

Potato and ox tongue croquettes (3 per serving)

It was hard to fault either of the salads we had ordered to go with the mains. The cauliflower was fried to a deep golden brown with a prominent nuttiness; complemented well with the blackened onions, hung yogurt and sour cherries. While a little on the pricey side coming in at $18, it was a vegetarian dish that could easily trump a meat.

Fried cauliflower, blackened onions, hung yogurt, sour cherries ($18)

The roasted carrots were tender and sweet, accompanied with a pungent honeyed tahini, a broken soft boiled egg and topped with crushed seeds and nuts for a bit of textural contrast.

Roasted heirloom/common carrots, honeyed tahini, soft egg, seeds and nuts ($18)

The lamb was hearty, rich and fall apart. Slightly unsuitable for the warm weather, especially when paired with the spicy harissa sauce, and it seemed something was missing from the dish to mellow out the richness or spiciness.

Cherry Tree organic slow cooked lamb joint, harissa (2 servings $40)

We had all been hankering for some steak and while it was more on the medium side and a little tougher than normal, the flavours of the meat completely satiated any cravings that had heightened since our return from the United States.

Hopkins River skirt steak, chermoula, dried lemon, smoked almonds (2 servings $40)

The rosewater strawberries provided a distinct tart flavour against the rich chocolate mousse and medjool date caramel filling; we found that the flavours were well rounded and the pastry, short and crumbly.

Dark chocolate mousse, medjool date caramel, rosewater strawberries and seeds ($11)

The grilled apricots were paired with a dense pumpkin sponge; made even better with the addition of the whipped labneh and crystallised pepita seeds. This was my favourite of the two desserts.

New season stone fruit, spiced pumpkin sponge, whipped labneh and crystallised pepitas ($10)

Following on from its namesake of a traditional festival, all profits raised from Feast of Merit directly aid youths in Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Australia. So not only is the food highly exciting and well executed, eating here, either for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you're helping others in need.


Will I return?
Yes, both the food and concept reach high standards.

Feast of Merit
117 Swan St
Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9428 8480

Mon 7:30am - 3pm
Tues to Sun 7:30am - 11:30pm

Feast of Merit on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 15, 2015

New Shanghai

Every year as Chinese New Year approaches, I declare that this is the year that I will finally make my own pineapple tarts. It looks like I have dismally failed again and once again, the laborious process has escaped me yet again. One thing that we never fail to attend is the multiple family Chinese New Year dinners with family. To usher in the new year, Erin from iD Collective was kind enough to invite Mr A and I along for a dinner at New Shanghai and we enjoyed our dinner so much that we returned again with family only a week later.

Disclaimer: On my first visit, I was invited by iD Collective to enjoy a dinner at New Shanghai. All thoughts and opinions are based purely on my experience at the time of visit.

Encouraged by our friendly waiter, we ordered a duo of ice blended drinks. While they looked highly dubious and they leant towards the sweet side, we found them refreshing and addictive.

Iced blended kiwi and lychee drink ($4 each)

The supple skin of the dumplings were virtually transparently thin, the skin just thick enough to tolerate any awkward chopstick action, and be plucked from the steamer without bursting. Like any good xiao long bao, the delicate pork filling is teamed with a collagen-rich, flavoursome broth which arrived at a comfortable temperature.

 Xiao long bao ($7.80)

Similar to xiao long bao, these pan fried pork buns are housed in a slightly thicker and doughier casing. When made correctly, the bun isn't too thick and the bottom is pan fried to a crisp and you'll even be surprised with a surprising amount of soup inside.

 Pan fried pork bun ($10.50)

As Chinese New Year was approaching, our waiter recommended the Chinese rice cake noodles, typically eaten for good fortune in the new year. Our previous experiences with stir fried rice cake noodles have been discouraging, so it came as a surprise when we were inhaling these soft and chewy beauties coated in a silky X.O sauce and shredded pork.

 Stir fried Chinese rice cakes ($14.50)

Sadly, the only let down of the meal was the deep fried barramundi, for its thick coating leaving us with mouthfuls of batter rather than fish. Although once we got past the batter, the fish was great with the balanced sweet and sour sauce.

Deep fried barramundi with sweet and sour sauce and pine nuts

Disclaimer: We revisited New Shanghai again with family and paid for the entire meal.

When we returned with family to have an early Chinese New Year dinner, we were keen to reorder a few favourite dishes and try some new ones as well. The juicy chicken was simply steeped with a light rice wine flavour.

Drunken chicken - Chicken soaked in Chinese wine with herb & spice ($9.80)

With more gristle than meat, the sweet and sour pork ribs were coated in a sweet and sticky vinegar sauce.

Sweet and sour pork rib ($5.80)

Although the pork xiao long bao is a perennial favourite, the xiao long bao filled with crab meat came a second close for its sweet and rich filling.

Xiao long bao ($7.80)

Crab meat xiao long bao ($11)

Without any insistence from us, the stir fried rice cakes and pan fried pork buns were ordered and thoroughly enjoyed by the rest of the family.

Stir fried Chinese rice cake with X.O. sauce & shredded pork ($14.50)

Pan fried pork bun ($10.50)

Tossed with peanut butter, chilli oil and spices, I found that the prawn wontons were missing something, quickly rectified with a dash of vinegar.

Prawn wonton tossed with peanut butter, red chilli oil & spice ($14.80)

The broth had a clean flavour despite the leanness of the meatball. Similarly, though the noodle soup was bordering bland, it was made up for the fact that the crispy chicken was paired in a pungent and spicy garlic sauce.

Steamed meatball with Chinese cabbage in broth ($7)

Deep fried crispy skin chicken with special garlic & chilli sauce on noodle soup ($13.80)

Desserts consist of the usual offerings - sweet dessert soups, sesame filled dumplings and fruit puddings. We elected for the flaky pastries filled with a thick red bean paste. I enjoyed a half portion although I can imagine any more could become quite gluey.

Baked pastry filled with red bean paste ($9.50)

Situated in the busy Emporium, New Shanghai is consistently busy although I have found that their dumplings maintain a high standard. The menu is expansive and offers a huge variety to please most patrons; if you drop by, the xiao long bao and pan fried pork buns are a definite must order.


Will I return? Yes, the xiao long bao and pan fried pork buns at New Shanghai are among my favourites in Melbourne.

New Shanghai
Emporium centre
Shop 323, Level 3
287 Lonsdale St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9994 9386

Mon to Wed 10am - 7pm
Thurs to Fri 10am - 9pm
Sat & Sun 10am - 7pm

New Shanghai on Urbanspoon

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