Proud Mary, Melbourne

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I went to Proud Mary for one reason: eat Ricotta Hotcakes served in a grand power station-looking like building. The cafe was stunning and the logo reminded me of an automobile company; all so very hipster. Coffee was popular and I was given an iPad with a list of coffee to choose from with the corresponding background of the beans but these were all a playful stunt. Something to occupy me while I waited for my hotcakes. The coffee was good but I was more taken with the blue cups and the cute stools with a extra plank to rest the feet.  Two large communal tables took up most of the cafe and I loved the relaxed crowd. Most people were having some special-looking poached eggs on toast but I was there for one thing: ricotta hotcakes, pancake’s obese cousin!

My love for hotcakes/ pancakes came much later in life. When I was young, I equated them to American food and I despised any form of Western food. I was a Congee, rice, noodles, and dumplings child. Old videos of my family holidaying in America showed a scrowling me in a petrol station surrounded by sweet Dunkin Donuts, and I was always upset unless a bowl of rice was in front of me. Wherever we hit a city, Chinese restaurants were mandatory. Scrambled eggs and sausages made me puke. Bacon, let’s not go there. I still am unale to accept American-style fried-to-death streaky bacon. God knows when I began to accept Western food but I reckon I started to like pancakes as they remind me of cakes. Sinking my teeth into the slow pillow texture.

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But anyway back to my hotcakes at Proud Mary. I ordered the Ricotta Pancakes with Caramelised Pears, Rose Mascarpone & Toasted Almonds and waited.

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When I first saw the waitress holding a plate walking towards me, fear came over. It was mammoth; three puffy golden brown circles of pancakes stacked on each other, and the pears precariously hanging on, one even toppled over. It looked like the whole tower of flour was going to collapse before I could snap a picture but it obediently held on. Each hotcake was as solid as the next and filled with large cubes of ricotta cheese. When the hotcakes were still warm, the cheese oozed out when I wielded my knife and fork into it. The caramelised pears were strangely not sweet and provided the much needed health component to it. The cream on the side was lightly infused with a rose essence. The floralness did not threaten to overpower and helped to cut across the heaviness of the ricotta and flour. What a genius!

After a long time, the plate was finally clean. This was it. I came, I order, and I unabashedly conquered. I was stuffed but so blissed out for a while after.

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My only complaint: not enough syrup for me to soak the hotcakes.

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PS: Hot water with lemon costs a bomb here.

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The hotcakes costs AUD$17.50, pricey but it was a hulk of a plate, polish everything off the plate and money will be well spent!

If you ever crave hotcakes, Proud Mary will dutifully satiate that craving for you.

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Mamasita, Melbourne, July 2013

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If there was only one place I had to visit in Melbourne, this was it. Everyone I knew who lived, worked or visited in city made me swear I would try this Mexican eatery. With the pathetic state of Mexican eateries in Singapore, few and good ones being crazily overpriced, I knew Mamasita was going to be the place to hone my South American gastronomic skills. With the knowledge of legendary queues, proper planning was needed and by 5p.m, I was delightfully ushered to a bar counter seat. I love counter seats, I get to watch my food or drink being prepared, and especially in Sydney, the place where you can get extremely close to the chefs and they throw you more food or an extra drink. At that time, the restaurant seemed empty but the bartender assured me soon it will be otherwise. Sure enough at 5.30pm, the restaurant was full and there was a queue down the stairs. The eatery was surprisingly small. And there the murals were pretty! There was a large window to the kitchen and the Bartender and I had a good chat on the action within during the weekend. But I was not there for the murals or bright yellow theme, I was there to work up an appetite!

Sitting at the counter provided me with the opportunity to chat with the Bartenders and their recommendations were so important in ensuring a lone diner like me was able to leave with the best from their extensive menu. That early evening, I had three different tacos for starters, Mole Negro Con Pollo (black mole with raised right confit chicken maryland) for my main course, and a Mezcal Margarita to accompany the food.

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For the tacos, from left, the bartender recommended the de Camarones (marinated prawns, red chilli & chipotle almond salsa), de Pescado (grilled fish, lime, achiate paste, red onion salsa & chipotle mayo), and de Lengua y Chachete (braised ox tongue & cheek, pickled veg & ghost chilli mayo). All three were encased with the softest warm shell and heaps of shredded lettuce. Of the three, the de Lengua y Chachete was most memorable. It was supposed to be braised but I was astounded by the crispy smoky beef parts with its rich beefy flavour; wagyu beef has never been my thing. If there is ever a reason to return to Melbourne, it would be that ox tongue and cheek tacos.

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I had the most hipster Bartender taking care of me that night. Up for anything, he recommended Mezcal, a smoky-like tequila. But Mezcal is not Tequila. According to the internet: “mezcal and tequila are two completely different liquors. Tequila may only be made from the blue agave in government-specified areas of Jalisco, Mexico, while mezcal may be made from any variety of agave.” (For more information on Mezcal, read here!)

Tequila is not my thing but a smoky tequila was all new and moments later, a tall glass of light green cocktail with a thick salted-vanilla rim was placed before me. The Mezcal Margarita was potently alcoholic. The Mezcal was harsher and more in-the-face than tequila. Plus it left the same strong smoky aftertaste the way aged Whisky does. The agave syrup provided subtle deep sweetness as opposed to in-your-face-white-sugar. It was wonderfully unique. My Asian redness revealed itself midway through the drink and I was all giggly and flirty. When I am drunk I also become more adventurous and greedy which led to…

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Mole Negro Con Pollo (black mole with raised right confit chicken maryland). The Bartender insisted on this even though it was a main course and I had just wolfed down three tacos but Mole sounded all so foreign and I could not resist! I was glad I ordered this because my friend Google told me the recipe calls for strange sounding chillis; ingredients that would be impossible to find in Singapore. When the plate-bowl arrived, it looked so grim and I wondered if I made a mistake. The blackness was a stark contrast with the seasame seeds and sliced red chilli. It wasn’t just black, it was pitch black and thick like stuff that I bomb out after eating bad food. And the blackness meant I could not even decipher the chicken parts; visually the most unappetizing stuff I have been served (note, not including those I make). But boy was it delicious! My tastebuds could detect deep hints of cinnamon and chilli; so exciting! And the perfectly cooked chicken pulled away easily from the bone. The meat was so moist and smooth; it just slithered and danced around my mouth. Oh yums! This dish was truly joyous.

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And now photos of the restaurant:
Pretty hot lady reclining enticing you to order more…
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The small main area of the restaurant which was probably the reason for the legendary queues.
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The window to the kitchen where great meat were being grilled.
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Mamasita was just great. Had my first Mole, my first smoky tequila (and actually enjoyed it), and the most outstanding tacos ever!

Big Choc Bikkie, Magnum Australia

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I discovered much later in life that Magnum ice ream has a wide range of flavours outside Singapore. This should be unsurprising given that different markets have their own unique tastes. Last July, on a hungry evening in Melbourne, I craved for an ice cream and hunted for one in the local convenience store. When I looked down at the deep freezer, I saw a Magnum flavour that had the most interesting name: Big Choc Bikkie. Bikkie is a slang for “biscuit” and only in Australia have I ever heard this word. On the Magnum Australia website, this flavour is describe as:

Now you can enjoy the ultimate chocolate indulgence with smooth, creamy chocolate ice cream covered in thick, cracking milk chocolate studded with crunchy biscuit pieces.

This was like the Magnum Almond but quite different with the double chocolate; a full-on experience. The biscuits cut across the richness of the double dosage of cocoa but did not steal any of the chocolate away; it merely served as a texture and prevented the ice cream from getting too monotonous. I was so excited with this ice cream that I could not resist biting into it before realizing a picture was needed. But even then I was much too greedy to seek good lighting hence the grainy picture taken in the middle of a street. Trying a Magnum unique to a country is another wonderful and delicious way of discovering a country.!

Here are more reads I recently discovered that caused me severe wanderlust:
28 Unusual and Wonderful International McFlurry Flavours. My favourites were #4, #13, and #20. What’s yours?
Travelling McDs: She may be just next door but Malaysia McDonald’s offerings are so different from that in Singapore.
If McDonald’s is not your thing, how about Oreos?

The Falafel Man and Prahran Market, Melbourne

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The Best Falafels in Town

If not for the queue which was absent from the rest of the food stalls, I would have laughed at this bold assertion and walked away. But if I did, I would have missed out on some stellar falafels and so I was glad to have followed the herd (this time, at least). The falafel man was a quiet steady man who displayed no frazzledness, or emotions for that matter, even when the queue snaked across the courtyard. Working alone, he fastidiously fried the falafels and served them up with either pita bread or the “whole lot”; a mixed of Middle Eastern salad, pickles topped with a thick yoghurt-based sauce. The falafels were orgasmic. I like to see myself as an adventurous soul and I have tried my fair share of falafels but never tasted anything so good that made me think all others I raved before were nothing compared to the plate in front of me. My lunch was good for several reasons. First up, it was freshly deep fried. With the high turnover and small fryer, the falafel man was constantly throwing them into the hot oil. The result was a thin crispy crust surrounding the soft, moist chickpea and parsley filled meatball. I heard the “crunch” the moment I bit into it. The well-seasoned and generous parsley provided the flavour. The salad – with its contrasting temperature, mushier texture, and refreshing taste – only heightened the goodness of the falafels. This plate alone alone definitely warrants a trip to Prahran.

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