Kuu Cafe & Japanese Kitchen, South Melbourne

Kuu Cafe + Japanese Kitchen is as the name suggests, a brunch cafe with Japanese inspired flavours and dishes. Located in South Melbourne, it's easily accessible via tram 1 on Park Street, just off Claredon Street.

The cafe is quite small and there's not much space for moving around. The tables are quite close together, however the place is quite brightly lit with large windows at the front so it doesn't feel too crowded. There's also seating outside the cafe, which is great in this warm summer weather. The decor is minimal, with white brick walls and a shelf of decorations on one side. The staff were friendly, though at times it took awhile to get their attention as it was quite busy when we went.

Hellenic Republic, Kew

Hellenic Republic is a popular Greek restaurant in both Kew and Brunswick East, priding itself on simple and fresh produce from both Melbourne and Greece. I'd been to the Brunswick East one a couple of years ago and had a really great experience, and this visit to the Kew restaurant did not disappoint either. The Kew restaurant is located near Kew Junction, can be accessed via trams 109 or 48, and there's plenty of parking at the back.

There's a very holiday feel to the decor at Hellenic Republic, with all the straw hanging across the ceiling together with all the small light bulbs and the pale wooden furniture. The atmosphere at the restaurant is very lively with all the customers; it's such a popular place that you'd most likely have to book a table in advance. The staff were friendly and attentive, and we didn't have to wait too long for our food.

Kong BBQ, Richmond

Kong BBQ is a Korean/Japanese fusion restaurant in Richmond, a short walk down from East Richmond Station and also accessible via tram 78. The restaurant is actually opened by the same people who own Chin Chins, one of the most popular restaurants in Melbourne.

The interior of the restaurant is very bright, with the large windows allowing the natural light in. Together with the white walls and light wooden aesthetics of the whole place, gives a simple and modern look. The staff were very attentive, coming to check up on us several times throughout the meal, and the food came out relatively quick. Each table comes with a roll of paper towels (as some of the dishes can get quite messy to eat!), and we were also provided with hand wipes for our chicken wings dish, which was a nice little touch.

International Food Adventures - New York City, USA Part II

The best part about travelling is undoubtedly the exploring and discovering of new places. As fun as the touristy stuff is, it's venturing out that makes you feel a little less like a tourist, and a little more like you're one of the locals. Of course, it also helps when you know an actual New Yorker who can show you all the good stuff; all the things that may not make it on any of the travel books, the top ten of the Buzzfeeds and the Urban Lists, but just as authentic. Big shout out to my cousin Victor for being such a wonderful host and taking us on a little adventure down East Village side of NYC!

International Food Adventures - New York City, USA Part I

Fun Fact: Maccas chips in Australia actually taste better than Maccas chips in NYC. The chips in NYC don't seem to have any salt on them; they taste more like the ones you get with fish and chips, but having the texture of the long, thin fries.

I had a list of so many places that I wanted to eat at in NYC, and unfortunately didn't get to try all of them, even having spent almost a week there! The food scene in NYC is just as you'd expect: vibrant, multicultural and with endless places to try out in every corner of the city. One of my favourite things to eat in NYC were the bagels - even the ones from Starbucks were amazing! There's so much more elasticity to the bread of the bagel, and even with a simple cream cheese topping it tasted delicious.

Magnolia Bakery in Grand Central Station was one of the many dessert places we got to try in NYC, in particular their famous banana pudding. Even for someone who isn't a big fan of banana, it was an enjoyable dessert; the banana, pudding and vanilla biscuits mixed together for a sweet yet never overpowering flavour, with a fluffy texture that was lighter than a typical pudding.

As a big burger fan, Shake Shack was a must in NYC, though I have to say it didn't quite live up to the hype I'd expected. The beef patty was quite thin, and the use of that same artificial style, plastic-y cheese mentioned in my previous USA post made for an average burger. The bun itself was nice and soft though oily, and the crinkle cut fries were decent enough, but nothing I couldn't get at a Mr. Burger, Huxtaburger or the like in Melbourne. That, plus the long waiting period to not only order but also receive our order, was a bit of a let down. Maybe Melbourne has just become such a great foodie city that so many other places dull in comparison!

I'd been dying to try out Dominique Ansell's cronuts since they became a thing, so of course had to make a trip down to lower Manhattan for this! For those of you who aren't familiar with the name, Dominique Ansell was the chef who came up with the concept of a cronut; a croissant and donut fusion topped with icing, similar to what you can get at Adriano Zumbo's and other places in Melbourne. The flavour when we went was a pear, honey and cream cheese cronut. It was lighter and fluffier than the ones I'd had in Melbourne, and definitely not as sickly sweet or oily. The use of cream cheese balanced out the sweeter fruity flavours of the cronut, even with all the sugar dusting.

Luke's Lobsters is one of the most famous places in NYC for lobster rolls, so on a trip to downtown Manhattan/Wall St, we decided to give it a go. The lobster roll combo we went with consisted of a half a lobster roll, half a crab roll and half a shrimp (prawn) roll, as well as two crab claws, slaw and a dip. I really enjoyed the rolls, as the seafood was fresh with seasoning on top, and the bun soft. Compared to a lot of the heavier dishes we'd been having, this was a nice welcome change, together with the slaw on the side. I was a bit surprised with the whole half pickle we got with the dish - this too seem to be an American thing - usually it was something you'd only rarely see on burgers, and I didn't feel like it was really needed in any of the elements of the dish for additional flavour.

At Chelsea Market, we had dinner at Buddakhan, an Asian fusion restaurant with a hip, upbeat atmosphere not unlike that of Chin Chin's or Gingerboy. As we hadn't made a reservation, we had to sit at the section usually reserved for drinks while you wait for your table so it was a little cramped, but the food was still great nonetheless. For starters, we ordered pork buns and tea smoked spare ribs, mains of peking duck fried rice, asian green stir fry and a black dragon chicken dish, finished off with a 'Crying Chocolate' dessert.

My favourite dishes from here would have to be the pork buns and the dessert; the pork buns had an extremely soft bun and the charred pork belly was tender and juicy, with ample flavour and generous portions. The Crying Chocolate dish consisted of malted chocolate ganache with a vietnamese coffee ice cream, and for a chocolate based dessert, wasn't all that sweet; the coffee ice cream had a good strong flavour, and helped to balance out the sweetness of the ganache.

No trip to NYC is complete without having pizza, and ours was no exception. Having done some research before going, we ended up going to Lombardi's Pizza in Little Italy - the joint is actually the first ever pizzeria in America - established in 1905. The atmosphere and ambience of the place is not unlike what you'd find in the row of Italian restaurants down Lygon St in Carlton; vibrant and lively, filled with sounds of chatter and music. With its red and white checkered table cloths and dark wooden furniture, there's a comfortable, homely feel to the restaurant, with the delicious smells of pizza and pasta surrounding the whole place. The dishes we ordered were the Grandma Grace's Meatballs, a tomato and mozzarella dish and a large margherita pizza.

The beef and pork meatballs were topped with a homemade gravy sauce and shaved romano cheese, and was a very hearty dish to start off the meal. The meatballs were a generous portion with great strong flavours, in particular the tomato gravy cutting nicely into the meat, which itself was juicy and tender.

The mozzarella balls came with slices of tomato and were drizzled in olive oil. As a huge fan of mozzarella cheese, I really enjoyed this dish, with the chewy texture and subtle cheese flavours mixing together with the acidity and zing from the tomatoes, balanced out with salad greens.

Between three of us, we were slightly too ambitious and ordered a large pizza (8 slices/18 inches), which we struggled to finish! You can't go wrong with a simple margherita pizza, with fresh tomato paste and melted stringy mozzarella cheese. The base of the pizza was quite thin, but as a lunch option a 46cm pizza is still quite a lot for three people!

Despite being extremely full from the large pizza lunch we had, there was a cheesecake shop nearby that we visited afterwards called Eileen's Special Cheesecakes. Located in Downtown Manhattan, it's been opened for over 40 years, with a range of sweet and fruit based cheesecakes. We went with an original cheesecake, a strawberry one and a mango one. The cheesecake itself was quite dense but as the portion wasn't very big, it didn't feel very heavy or too filling. There wasn't a very obvious base to the cheesecake like with most of the ones here, but it was still very enjoyable.

On our last morning in NYC, we went down to the Rockefeller Plaza to try out the famous Lady M crepe cakes, which was absolutely divine. The twenty or so layers of extremely thin crepes, each with a sweet, light pastry cream in between, was probably my favourite dessert in NYC. Crepe cakes I've had before don't come anywhere close to the Lady M ones; sometimes the ratio of cream and crepes isn't quite right, resulting in a slightly dry dessert. Even though the layers of crepes were very thin, it was still extremely sturdy and the cake didn't just topple over or fall apart when we cut into it. Definitely a must try for anyone visiting NYC!

This blog post seems to be getting closer to a short story, so I'll leave one of my food highlights for a future post! A night in East Village spent like a local New Yorker (I'd like to think so, anyway!).

White Mojo, CBD

White Mojo is a cafe on Hardware Street, opposite Hardware Society in the CBD off Lonsdale Street between Elizabeth and Queen St. A second cafe has also opened up in Balwyn, opposite the cinemas and easily accessible by tram 109.

The interior of the cafe is quite bright, with white and pale wooden walls, and the atmosphere is lively, with sounds from the kitchen at the back and the chatter from the customers. The staff were attentive and friendly, and we managed to get a table in fifteen minutes.

The Crux & Co., South Melbourne

The Crux and Co. is a relatively new cafe in South Melbourne, opposite The Kettle Black and easily accessible by any tram that goes through the Domain Interchange. The cafe has a range of croissants, pastries and sweet dishes that are balanced out by Korean inspired savoury dishes f.

The decor at Crux and Co is simple and minimalistic, with bright lighting and pale wooden furniture that make for a cosy and warm interior. The atmosphere is lively with all the people chattering, and the cafe is big enough that you didn't have to raise your voice to hear the people next to you. We waited about 15 minutes for a table, and about the same time for our food as well. Service was really great, with staff that were friendly and extremely attentive, though not to the point of being obtrusive.

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