Calia Japanese @ Emporium Melbourne @ Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Charlie & Co. dined as guests.
Wednesday 15th November

Tonight we're delighted to be dinning at Calia in the Emporium, a Modern Japanese restaurant with menu designed by Michelin Star Chef Francisco Javier Araya

Fun Fact - Did you know that we don't have the Michelin Guide? Instead Australia does Chef's Hats.

Opening as a new 'restaurant-to-retail space' in February, Calia is one of the firsts in Australia. Basically it's a restaurant with a shop where you can buy some pretty awesome ingredients and ready to eat food, something from the pantry to freezer. But more on that later.

Over to the restaurant, a modern minimalist design of clean, aesthetic marble served as the perfect backdrop for a range of beautiful, fresh and delicious dishes we sampled across the evening. We're snacking on these awesome 'caramelized purple sweet potato crackers' which I'm going to buy a pack of. Sorry didn't get a close up. 

Given free reign on the menu, we didn't know where to start! Drinks would be a good idea. There really was something for everyone, from coffee by Seven Seeds, cold pressed juices to teas and matcha drinks by Calia. There's sake and wine too.

Iced Matcha
I had the iced matcha latte which was slightly more bitter than preferred, though not as bitter as Rustica. Great with a scoop of ice cream. Not too sweet, I would have preferred a bit sweeter being a sugar addict. I'll ask for more sugar next time.

Iced Chocolate
Andy was my +1 tonight and he had the Mork iced chocolate 70%. Darker than he preferred but it's the perfect blend I find between too sweet and too dark, it's right. Even better when it's blended up with ice. 

This isn't all the space by the way. 

Short speeches happened, Calia was announced as a Zomato ambassador in Melbourne! One of the two. We heard from  tonight’s head chef was ex-Koko chef Kerry Lam, an expert in Japanese cuisine; about the restaurant, its concept and focus on sustainable and ethically sourced produce.

Umami Fries - The Sixth Sense of Flavour

First to arrive were the fries, a huge serving even between four. The picture on the website seems to be very light on seasoning, unlike what we were served. I heard they were to die for, though found them unremarkable other than being french fries which I love. The seasoning I'd expected to be amazing after the hype, but no.

On the menu there are... 3 entrees, 10 mains, 3+ desserts (3 on the menu + Bibelot selections). The advantage of dinning in a group is that you can order a range of dishes to share, rather than just the one! And so we started with entrees, all three.

Scalloped Sakura
Freshly caught scallops dressed in a delightful wasabi ponzu sauce

Super fresh with a light citrus-based dressing that was just right. 
Beautifully presented, this is the entree to order.

The King - Alaskan king crab claw baked in miso mayonnaise

I loved the way it was presented upon black pebbles, and the cheesy tasting miso mayo. Unfortunately the crab itself was a bit crumbly and on the dry side. 

While I didn't eat everything we took photos of, we tried most. 

Kinoki Bowl (v)
A varietal mix of mushrooms comprising of tofu, shiitake, fried enoki, shiso. 
Drizzled with black truffle oil and a hint of ume.

This was the one vegetarian dish on the menu - and so if you're not vegetarian this is not the place for you. There are so many beautiful beef and seafood dishes on the menu. 

Chirashi - A selection of fresh, sustainably caught sashimi

Pretty fresh, I would have liked to serve this with a wedge of lemon. I do love sashimi, though don't see it happening on rice, at least without a sauce that could overwhelm the fresh sashimi. I'd get this without the rice and serve it as an entree. 

The Toro Bowl - Tuna belly glazed with suki sauce and tuna belly tartare

I wasn't really a fan of this one, as it wasn't really my style and was paler in comparison to all the amazing dishes we tried. Most of the dishes were much more saucy, but if you're after something light this could be it, or the next dish.

Aburi Salmon - Flamed seared salmon topped with ikura and our secret CALIA sauce

Another favourite, it had that perfect flavour balance. Fresh salmon with a teryaki-like but not sauce, thinly sliced on rice with red pickled ginger and wasabi.

The Marbled Sukiyaki Bowl
Premium Marble 9+ wagyu slices with a 63° egg

Juicy and tender beef with a light seasoning, it was quite good. Oh wow that onsen egg is amazing, the same one you find in ramen and just suck off the spoon (slurp without the sound? - word this better). The egg was runny and beautiful! You can actually make this one at home, as the recipe is online shared the chef. 

Some of the mains we tried.

Calia Wagyu Bowl
Our chef’s selection of single origin premium grilled wagyu with a 63° egg

The other beef bowl on the menu and chef's favourite it's not hard to see why. Everything about it was perfect. Yes it is different from the first beef bowl, in that the flavours are quite different. Juicy and tender it was simply unforgettable! Served on a bed of rice.  I would say the best beef dish I've ever had! Along with in the other beef dish. The marinade had a perfect balance of sweet and salty, with the use of mirin, salt, sugar and soy. The classic Japanese marinade/dressing (ok there is a word for this). The rice had its own sauce, which made it a tad bit salty. Easily balanced with a fresh salad. We need to order a salad. 

At $34 this is one of the two more pricey menu items, most mains are around $20 except this one, the sashimi and toro bowl.

This and the salmon bowl are my top two favourites. We'll be back for birthday dinners!

Struggling to fit it all in the table! These were the five dishes we shared.

Hojicha Latte

Like a chai latte but with more of that nutty brown rice flavour. - Nicole (@feedblogspot)

If you're a matcha fan you're in for a treat! Two out of three desserts on the menu are matcha things. There are also desserts from Bibelot in the cabinet.

Hokaaido Chizukeki - Our take on the Hokkaido cheesecake with Yuzu jelly

A light and fluffy moist spongy cheesecake, lighter than my last cheesecake (last night at Tetsujin) it paled compared to the matcha themed desserts. Though I do love the stuff around it, that crushed pistachio, freeze dried raspberry, jelly crumb. And a tiny cube of yuzu jelly, so small but intense! There needs to be a link between the cheesecake and jelly, because one is too vanilla and the other intense. 

Matcha Mia Tiramisu

A perfect match of mascarpone xx matcha cream, ladyfingers, 
freeze dried raspberries and chocolate drenched in coffee.

A crowd pleaser, the matcha was quite strong though not bitter, I couldn't taste the coffee myself. But this would delight any creamy dessert lover. 

Matcha Lava Lava
A rich enticing chocolate lava cake oozing warm matcha ganache, it’s divinely decadent. Order this one with your mains, as it takes 25mins to make.

I heard if you're a molten/lava cake fan you mightn't like this variation, as you're expecting chocolate rather than matcha. But I quite liked it, a warm moist chocolate cake filled with matcha filling, but it's not too sweet, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Not too rich, just right. I'm not really a molten chocolate upon chocolate fan, but I've got matcha madness!

Someone else said... "The Matcha actually taste like legitimate Matcha. Not overly bitter or overly artificial sweet. The slight bitterness of the liquid Matcha is balanced by the sweetness of the green tea ice cream." Perfectly said.

Everything was delicious and we had a lovely time tonight.

Will we be back? Yes! To eat and shop. We'll be ordering the Calia beef bowl for sure, the salmon, the scallops and lava cake. I heard they do fancy coffee art for matcha latte! Like Hello Kitty, Pokemon & Totoro! As it's a bit more than we normally spend we'd dine at Calia for a special occasion, though still affordable for fine dinning.

Should note that they don't really don’t take bookings, rock up and get your name on the list. Also due to location they have shopping center hours: 10am-7pm Monday-Wednesday and on weekends, and until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

Have you been to Calia? 

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

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Dinners @ Barolo on Main Street @ Thursday, November 02, 2017

Thursday 27th July
Menu has been updated since our last visit, they didn't have pizzas before, 
and some dishes aren't on the menu anymore.

Barolo is one of the few Italian restaurants on main street, along with cheap family friend eats Sofia, neon blue lit Sauced and two fancy candlelit places that I don't know the name of. What sets it apart from the others is that it's a groupon and dimmi regular, making it more affordable than expected. Located next to Grill'd and opposite Camberwell Station if you visit in the evening park at the station.

There's an upstairs and downstairs area, upstairs is nicer, and also it's much brighter in my photos than real life. Dates-worthy lighting - depending on where you're seated. 

Aranchini Ball $6

I think the perfect serving of rice is one big aranchini ball, mushroom and liquid cheese. How was it? Good but not amazing.

Beef Meatball $6

Tomato & Basil Passata (that's the sauce). How was it? Ordinary

Lamb Skewer $6

The lamb skewer wasn't marinated served with a yoghurt sauce, ordinary. There was so much potential for this one.

Round two for entrees at Barolo to the right of Grill'd. It as a quiet evening, though still early, the waitress was very friendly. The food was good but nothing amazing, we might be back.

Friday 4th August
And we're back! 

Beef & Shiraz Ragu $30

On a winter evening we had the beef and shiraz ragu with mash. Warm and hearty I loved it! Just a touch salty but ok, melt in your mouth beef accompanied with mash, not the best one ever but still pretty good. I'd highly recommend this dish and would get it again.

Through dimmi we were offered 50% off the bill, and I do love Italian food though it tends to be over the budget (other than pizza). 

Excellent service from my favourite waitress.

Thursday 17th August

Antipasto Board

Prosciutto, Salami, Bocconcini, Swiss Emmental, Marinated Olives, 
Grilled Vegetables and House Baked Bread

And we're back again, I have to say this is one of the rare places where we're regulars. Though we never pay full price. Through groupon and dimmi deals is the way we like it. This offer was a three course meal (shared entree/dessert and a main each) for $20pp.

Fettuccini Duck

Slow Cooked Duck, Napoli, Red Wine

This is what jas had, I had a taste and it was good though being duck it was one of the more pricer dishes, and frankly not worth it. I felt that the duck would have been better in another dish.

Fettuccini Mushroom 
Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic Puree, Cream , Parmesan

It was a huge serving! Much bigger than you'd think, and quite filling too, so I actually only ate half and got the other half for lunch tomorrow. Rich and creamy it was exactly what I was after, though next time I'd add chicken too.

Lemon Tart

Raspberry Compote and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 

The tart wasn't lemony enough, that's a really bad thing as resturant quality dictates you need to use real ingredients, whereas cafes have their desserts made in a warehouse. The raspberry also took too much attention away from the tart and had more flavour. For $15 this was a fail.

Super friendly service as always. We always gets the same girls. 

Come for dinner, skip dessert. 

Saturday 9th September

For Father's Day we booked a table for six at Barolo, grandpa still fears Italian food after our visit to Sofia a few years ago XD Sofia is down the street actually and still a thriving restaurant.

Unfortunately we got the table by the kitchen with kitchen lighting and no atmosphere. Light spilled over from the kitchen and sounds. Didn't get a picture, as I asked to move upstairs, to a dinning room under the stars. At least I think that's what they were going for. Needs more deco.

To share we ordered three entrees, the most suitable for sharing between six.

Antipasto Board

Prosciutto, Salami, Bocconcini, Swiss Emmental, Marinated Olives, 
Grilled Vegetables and House Baked Bread

The cheeses were fairly mild, we need olives and some salty cheese. 

Prawn Dumplings

The prawn ones, har gaw I think they're called. They were good, steamed and served with a sauce I don't recall... but odd at an Italian place. Pretty sure they're the freezer kind (I like Mr Chen brand).

Garlic Prawns  = Garlic Confit, Parsley

This was the recommended entree, served with toasted bread, they were quite good. With a garlicky lemon liquid, though because the bread was toasted it wasn't ideal for dipping.

At first I was going to take a group shot, but the others weren't keen on waiting for all the mains to arrive before starting. 

Beef and Shiraz Ragu with Creamy Mash

This is one of my favourite dishes, warm and comforting with plenty of hearty flavours.

Gnocchi Pumpkin w pumpkin, cream, parmesan

A couple bites were good, but I always find gnocchi a bit boring in terms of texture. So soft and doughy. It was good though.

Chicken Risotto 

Chicken, mushrooms, spinach, parmesan

Dad's favourite, and I do love a good risotto, this one was perfect. 

Spaghetti Marinara 

Mussels, clams, prawns, calamari, white fish, chilli, garlic, napoli

We order two of these as mother likes to order the most expensive thing on the menu or seafood dishes to get the most of her money. This is a woman who's budget for dinner is $6 per person and hates eating out. In hindsight we should have got two of the ragu or risotto.

This dish is why I won't be back for a very very very long time. There was one mussel and it was off. I couldn't smell it unfortunately till it was in my mouth, but it tasted like urine. In my mouth! I haven't had mussel since, and feel queasy whenever I think of this place.

Chicken Maryland Cacciatore 

capsicum, mushroom, onion, olive, rustic potatoes

Tastes as expected, the potatoes were nice and crispy. Needs more seasoning though. 

Dessert was a bread and butter pudding, an affrogato and what appears to be chocolate pudding. Never assume the menu is online, because this menu changed before I wrote down what the dishes were.

Chocolate Pudding w Cream & Ice Cream

Bread & Butter Pudding

A large serving, one truly to share while the others aren't of sharing size. This one takes 20mins, so order when you order your mains. Rich and creamy it was delicious, now we just need an apple pie.

Affogato Grande

Double Espresso, Vanilla Ice Cream,Whipped Cream,+ Baileys

Andy's choice, which he regretted as it didn't taste as nice as expected - but the ingredients are all listed? This would be that coffee served with dessert I'd think.

You'd think/hope six mains shared between six would be filling right? Nope, we had McD on the way home. The meal felt more like an entree. Dessert choices I felt were limited, and tiramisu wasn't on the menu?

The team that was on tonight was completely different from the usual, and the guy asked my friend which part of china she's from. Cause a good experience starts with a bad table and making people feel uncomfortable doesn't it? My friend is japanese, and when she said this he decided to share some words he knew... Wow. We're here for the food not a language share class. If this had been our one and only visit I'd rate service as bad.

Food was good, I love the ragu and risotto, but wouldn't pay full price. For our group dinner we bought a deal through groupon, which was around $100 for dinner for 6, with 3 entrees/desserts to share, and a main each.

Dad forgot to bring the wine and regretted it.

Will we be back? Maybe in a few years. Don't order the seafood!!

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

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