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Ayatana

97 Chapel St, Windsor

Thai

http://www.ayatana.com.au/

I had visited the Thai restaurant that used to reside at this site a number of times but for some reason I hadn’t got around to going to Ayatana until now although I’d heard good things.  After it opened it seemed to be very quiet for quite a few weeks – before obviously word of mouth got around and now it is often full.  As soon as you walk in you can tell Ayatana is a more refined experience than its predecessor.  The décor is simple but classic, and the lighting is muted.  A good date destination I imagine.

The restaurant is small but you know what they say about good things.  The tables soon fill up but it doesn’t feel overly crowded.  The service is prompt and polite.  The menu is full of so many items that sound delicious none of us come to a quick decision over what to order.  In the end we selected the pan seared Japanese scallops, the minced pork and prawn rice paper rolls, and the five spiced duck breast steamed buns.

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All of the entrees are delicious and presently beautifully.  A lot of care and attention has gone into the food and it’s obvious.  For mains, we ordered the hot, sweet and sour crispy barramundi fillets, the slow cooked massaman curry, and the roasted macadamia and cashew nuts stir fried with chicken breast fillets.  I had the barramundi and it was fantastic.  Just the right amount of kick, and the sweet and sour were balanced perfectly.  The barramundi was also nice and crispy.  By all accounts the other two mains were very well received as well.  I was impressed with the presentation of the stirfry in particular as too often that can just be a pile on a plate with no care in the presentation.  It also had a nice bite without being overpowering.

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There were so many things that I missed out on trying I’ll definitely head back here soon to try more of it.  I can hear the pork belly calling me.  When the worst bit of the meal is when your scallop falls off its perch of sliced Granny Smith apple, you know you have very little to complain about.  Ayatana isn’t into trendy, it’s just into good food.

Note: There is also a take away menu available.

Ayatana on Urbanspoon

basque

Basque Tapas and Wine

159 Chapel St, Windsor

Spanish

http://www.basque.com.au/

Basque Tapas has been serving up Spanish food since 2003 but I haven’t eaten there before other than for a quick lunchtime burger with their $10 deal. On Friday night I popped in for a late dinner. The restaurant was reasonably quiet for 9:30pm so we took a seat in the street side outdoor alcove. The menus were delivered quickly although it took quite some time for our orders to be taken.

The menu is mainly tapas but there were also a few full meals and paella to share. There were also set menus available. The tapas seemed pricey to make a meal of, so we decided to share a wild rabbit and chicken paella, and start with the black pudding pan seared with apple and sage on bread, and patatas bravas picante, which are crispy potatoes served with aioli and spicy tomato sauce.

paella

We also ordered a bottle of the house merlot from a wine menu that seemed over-priced. On the way home I noticed the house wine was selling at $8 a bottle at the store a few shops down so the $35 they were charging seemed a bit rich, even with restaurant mark up.

Points for authenticity go to the waitress taking our order. Her Spanish accent was strong enough to make her a little difficult to understand. The staff in general were friendly and helpful.

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The potatoes were nice enough and a good sized helping. Perhaps it was a stretch to describe them as crispy on the menu though. The black pudding was excellent and I’d definitely have that again (excuse it being half eaten the photo). The paella was very good although the rabbit on the bone made eating a little difficult. It was a good helping and we were too full at the end of it to consider the desserts menu. I’m sure the staff appreciated this as we were the last people in the restaurant.

Everything about Basque was satisfactory without being standout. Still, it’s probably your best option for authentic Spanish in Prahran/Windsor if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s also your only option.

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Colonel Tan’s

229 Chapel Street, Prahran, 3181

Thai

www.revolverupstairs.com.au/colonel-tans/

Revolver, Revs, Revolting… whatever you call it, Revolver Upstairs is as Melbourne as dim sims and hook turns.  I’ve lost more hours than I can count, or certainly remember, in its dark and sticky environs dancing away to Boogs and Spacey Space on a Sunday morning, surrounded by people for who sleep is but a distant memory and the only meal they’ve eaten in the last two days is the inside of their mouth.  It’s certainly not an image that conjures up the thought – yeah, that’s were I’d like to pop into for some delicious Thai food sometime, but if you don’t, you’re missing out.

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Colonel Tan’s was created by Karen Batson of Cookie and The Toff in Town.  It’s named after Revolver co-owner and Thai pop star Tan Punturaumporn, with the Colonel ranking being a reference to the five spice chicken specialty and it’s Southern American cousin.

The stairs leading up to Colonel Tan’s are a decent workout, and I’ve seen plenty of people struggle to navigate them, but that’s mainly on the way down after 15 hours dancing inside.  The inside of the venue is lowly lit with a myriad of aging lampshades and chandeliers, and is littered with 80’s video game machines and old couches with an appetite for mobile phones and wallets.   The kitsch floral vinyl tablecloth clad tables are set out at the far end of the room near the utilitarian bar.  The walls (and ceiling) are an absolute joy at Revolver Upstairs.  They are full of artworks from brilliant artists and are always evolving.  Banksy and Shepard Fairey feature prominently among them, with works from prior to their global fame.  The more attention you pay the more fascinating art work you will find.

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The food menu is quite extensive, but if you don’t like spicy food then you may be restricted a little.  The drinks menu is also very extensive and it’s nice to be able to order these from your table rather than fight your way to the front of the bar with sweaty patrons queued five deep as is the case on a weekend.  Fruit infused water is also provided.  We ordered a couple of baskets of the requisite Colonel’s five spice chicken, and betel leaf salad with snapper, peanuts, ginger, chilli and lime to start with.  The chicken kicks arse.  Or it would do if it’s legs weren’t amputated and deep-fried in a beautifully spiced and crispy coating.  It’s a definite winner when compared to that of the more famous Colonel.  Make sure you get at least one basket of this when you visit.  The betel leaf salad is a DIY dish where you wrap the snapper filling into a betel leaf.  It’s a cracking dish but be warned, it has some serious chilli kick.  You’ll be heading for a serviette or two after knocking back these two finger food dishes, the salad can be particularly sticky.

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For mains we ordered Penang lamb curry, stir fried tumeric chicken, Pad Thai eggnet and stir fried red curry pork to share between the five of us.  The lamb and the pork were particularly good, with nice juicy pork belly chunks in the red curry and plenty of chilli kick in the lamb.  We were all close to letting out the belt a notch at the end of it, and the best bit, since Thursday is locals night, it’s half price for anybody with a 3181 post code or a Revolver membership.  Eight dishes of food ended up costing us less than $15 each.

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There are two dinner sittings per evening, one at 6pm and one at 8pm, and it’s closed on Sundays and Mondays.  If you turn up on a Sunday you’re in for a whole different sort of evening.  Bookings are recommended for Thursdays.

Do yourself a favour – forget about the boozy nights and days where you ended up in Revolver and promised yourself you’d never return… and return.  Return for the food.

Colonel Tan's on Urbanspoon

 

Note: Most of the photos are not mine – it’s so dark in there the iPhone doesn’t really cut the mustard.

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Melt Pizza

171 Chapel St, Windsor

Pizza

http://www.melt.com.au/

Melt is a new pizza restaurant which aims to bring the traditional Napoli pizza to Chapel St, but with a modern twist.

The restaurant has a bright and modern feeling with white tiles and terracotta roof tiles on the wall, and the large stone pizza oven in the corner cranked up to 400 degrees.  In addition to the indoor seating, there is alfresco seating out the front and back of the restaurant, and a private room.

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There is no shortage of hipster staff who were all very friendly, although shouldn’t the beardy ones be wearing beardnets?  The ordering process allows you to either pick a pizza from the menu or create your own from the large array of ingredients.  Either way, all the pizzas are 11 inches (although I’m not sure if that’s measured by a girl or a guy).  The dough goes from ball to cooked pizza remarkably quickly especially given it takes just 2 minute to cook in the oven.

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The pizza had a crispy thin base and stacked with enough rocket to disguise the fact that there were supposed to be prawns on there somewhere.  It was very tasty and had a good chilli kick.  My sole complaint is that leaving tails on the prawns makes the pizza very messy to eat so I’d rather they were removed prior to cooking.

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The restaurant is licenced and has a small but reasonable collection of wines and beers and ciders.  They also sell salads, panuozzos (woodfired sandwiches), doughballs, meatballs and gelato.  I think Melt is on to a good thing, and it was certainly busy enough to suggest it’ll be very successful.

Melt Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Mulatta

50 Chapel St, Windsor

Pizza/Italian

Maybe this place is a step above your average takeaway pizza joint but I’m not sure it offered enough to make me come rushing back.  The decor is inviting with Italian rustic charm and makes the most of the exposed red brick walls.  The waitress took ages to serve us as she was setting out cutlery on empty tables rather than serving the few customers they already had.  She was friendly but made me repeat my beer order a number of times until I got the Italian pronunciation correct – a bit like being back in school.

I ordered gnocchi ragu from the specials board, and my friends choose the linguine pescatore and the caprese pizza.  Ten minutes after ordering the waitress returned and asked my friend who ordered the linguine if it was food.  Or at least that’s what the three of us heard her ask even though it made no sense.  He said yes and she walked off happy.  She returned another five minutes later to ask if the linguine was with Napoli sauce or olive oil as she’d failed to ask when taking the order.  It was starting to not bode well for his meal.

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When the food finally arrived it was all good hearty Italian fare so I can’t complain about the meals.  The pizza base was light and crispy and was cooked in a traditional wood fired oven.  The pastas were tasty and reasonable portions.  With more attentive service, the restaurant could certainly be quite appealing.

pizza linguine

Apologies to the random nature of the photos, I accidentally deleted half the photos from this evening.

One highlight of the place is, if you decide to get spaghetti and get sauce all over yourself, don’t worry too much, there is a shower in the bathroom – if you don’t mind standing on the Japanese rock garden.

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Mulatta on Urbanspoon

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Haruaki

145 Chapel St, Windsor

Japanese/Korean

I decided to give this place a go last Sunday evening.  Chapel St was buzzing and restaurants were full – except Haruaki, which was emptier than a hermit’s address book.  To be honest I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a customer here.  The place doesn’t look that terrible so we pulled up a seat at a table on the street.

The menu is a fairly extensive collection of standard Japanese/Korean fare and I decided to go with the unagi don as I couldn’t recall trying eel before, and my friend went with a chicken teriyaki bento box.   The food was fairly quick to arrive as you’d hope in an empty restaurant, and the only hiccup was there was no sushi roll for the bento box but it was replaced with croquettes.

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The food all tasted pretty good (the eel tastes like fish), it was reasonably priced, and the service was good.  I’m not quite sure why this place is often empty.  Maybe they do a roaring weekday lunchtime trade, they do have lunch specials.  There is certainly no shortage of Asian restaurants on Chapel St though so you have to do something to set yourself apart – and perhaps that is what’s missing here.  It’s good – but nothing special.

Haruaki on Urbanspoon

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Montrose 1887

34 Chapel St, Windsor

Cafe/Tapas

To be honest we only walked in here by accident, but when we got in there and realised we were the only potential customers in the place I felt too bad to leave.  Montrose 1887, has only been open a couple of months, not 127 years as the name might suggest, so now seemed like as good a time as any to review it.

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The reno since it was Dino’s Cafe has been done tastefully although I had to hold myself back from going on a light bulb smashing rampage as yet another restaurant has gone down the naked Edison bulb path of lighting.  Is there no creative lighting left?  I can’t remember the last time I reviewed a place that didn’t have these lights.

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Given we were the only customers in there, we took our pick of the many tables available and took one near the entrance.  The staff were very attentive, as you would hope given the situation.  The menus we were given were broken up into tapas, mains and a couple of desserts and we decided to try a couple of the tapas items each.  We ordered the saffron chilli chicken pinchos with lime tomatillo salsa, the butterflied local prawns in a sizzling jerk sauce, the tostaditas with pulled pork, guacamole, enoki mushrooms, pickled carrots and salsa, and the yucca croquettes with mojo.

The food was presented very nicely – and I’d love to show you nice photos of it, but even though we were sitting directly under 3 light bulbs, they failed to give off enough light to get a decent photo.  The croquettes were served in a mini deep-frying basket and cut to look like fat chips.  They were crispy and delicious.  The chicken skewers were okay but being cut from breast they were a little dry.  The prawns were very nice as was the jerk sauce.  I think I actually finished them without making any jerk sauce jokes too which was a pretty good effort.  The tostaditas looked a picture and were a great flavour combination.

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A couple of tapas each was not particularly filling but it’d be an expensive exercise to try to satisfy a big hunger here.  Luckily there is a pizza joint over the road so I got a large Windsor Classico on the way home.

Special mention must go to the bathroom decor though.  Although the restaurant lighting may be passé, it’s the first time I’ve seen a massive bouy in a bathroom (except for that incident at Summadayze 2006).  I was very tempted to climb up on it Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball style.  And who doesn’t love a talking penis poster?

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All in all though, it’s definitely worth sticking your head into this cafe located directly over the road from Windsor Station.  Hopefully it’ll be a bit busier when you visit.

Montrose 1887 on Urbanspoon

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Kin

Shop 1, 233 Chapel St, Prahran

Vietnamese

Kin has taken over the old Chapelino Cafe site but the shop has had a full make over.  Recycled wood is used extensively, from thick wooden bench tops to the Kin sign hanging over the bar.  Lighting is provided by the now ubiquitous naked Edison bulbs – surely this fad must end eventually.  It does however provide a homely feel, also helped by the naked red brick, and wooden panel walls.

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My friend and I ordered a bowl of phở each, one chicken and one beef,  the bò lá lốp and the chargrilled herb and chilli squid.

The phở was delicious and came with all the various accompaniments you’d expect.  The bò lá lốp is marinated beef wrapped a betel leaves and then grilled.  The bite sized morsels were succulent and tender.  The squid was served as flat and pre-sliced.  It didn’t have a particularly big chilli hit but was tasty all same and it was cooked well. 

photo 2I forgot to take photos of the dishes – but here’s the aftermath.

 All the meals were reasonably priced and the staff were friendly and helpful.  I’ll definitely be going back to try our more of their menu.  They are also open for breakfasts.

Kin Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

laksabar

Laksa Bar

247 Chapel St, Prahran

Asian Street Food

Laksa bar is the sister of the Lt Lonsdale restaurant in the CBD.  I was pleased to see it had taken over the old Straits of Malacca restaurant.  I hadn’t tried it yet but, not to wish ill of the owners, I was waiting for it to fail – it just looked very unappealing and they’d made no effort with decor.  It was really pretty fugly.  With so many good Asian restaurants in the area there was no reason to go there.  Unfortunately Laksa Bar hasn’t really improved the situation.  In fact, you can still see portions of the Straights of Malacca signage on the wall as,  as far as I can tell, all they’ve done is pasted a few brewery sponsored posters on the wall, replaced the counter, and changed a few of the lights.  It’s a large restaurant so they really should have made more of an effort.  Hopefully the food is good enough to allow us to ignore the slapdash decorating.

posters  It started out… well pretty average to be honest.  We ordered some soft shell crab and some of “Miss Ling’s” chicken and prawn dumplings.  The crab was okay in that it was crab shaped I guess, but the overriding taste was the oil in the batter.  I was sort of hoping crab and spices would be in the top two flavours and the chilli mayo that came with it seemed like it was store bought.  The pan-fried dumplings were actually pretty good, as was the house special black bean sauce.  Maybe it’s house special because it’s the only one actually made in house.

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We also ordered some of the ‘signature’ crispy chicken with hot and spicy sauce.  The menu asks for 20 minutes to prep time as it’s “slightly trickier to prepare”.  I’m not sure what’s tricky about deep frying chicken but we ordered at the same time as our entrees and it came out just before our mains.  The chicken was the highlight of the night.  The hot and spicy sauce wasn’t really either particularly, but it was tasty… and sticky.  Maybe that’s what attracted all the little fruit flies.

chicken

For mains I ordered the house laksa with fish while my friend ordered the nasi lemak with beef rendang.  My overriding impression of the laksa was yellow.  Everything was yellow.   From the sauce to the deep fried emping chips on top, it was very yellow.  The laksa contained both thick and thin noodles and the fish component was deep fried… making it quite yellow.  It was disappointing that the fish was battered and deep fried, it would have been a better dish with fish pieces cooked in the laksa.   The tofu was also fried and spongy.  The over all taste was okay but nothing special.

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The beef rendang… well lets not sugar coat it, it tasted pretty awful.  I really like a beef rendang done well but we barely touched this.  It was grim.  The dish was saved a little but having the nasi lemak to eat instead but really that should be a side.

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So, pretty awful decor and some pretty average to awful food.  How long with this one last?

Laksa Bar Prahran on Urbanspoon

Thai Chapel interior

The Thai on Chapel

76 Chapel St, Windsor

Thai

After eating here a couple of times before and being very impressed with the food, this visit took the shine off just a little.  We ordered a starter of steamed rice skin pork dumplings to share.  The menu said there were five pieces in a serve but they delivered us six so we could split them evenly which was nice.  The dumpling skins seemed quite soggy though and there was very little pork taste as the peanuts over powered any other flavours.

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For mains I ordered the beef massaman curry and my friend ordered the chicken pad gatium, which a stir fry with onions, garlic and pepper sauce.  The actual massaman curry sauce was delicious  but the beef was quite dry.  The pad gatium was a good sized helping however the garlic and onion flavours were quite potent.

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The meal wasn’t particularly bad but I’d had much nicer from here previously.  Hopefully it’s not indicative of dropping standards.  On the plus side, they are licenced now and the Singha is on tap   :)

The Thai on Chapel on Urbanspoon