Review: B’Stilla, South Yarra

There have been times when I wished I had an older sibling. An older brother perhaps, with friends who I could have crushes on from afar. An older sister, who could teach me how to apply makeup properly so I wouldn’t look like a clown the way I did through my early teens. Yet, I wouldn’t trade the responsibility of being a (much) older sister for anything. The ten years between my brother and I has often meant that my role in his life blurred the line between being a sister or a mother.

In the early years, I was very much a mother – changing diapers, attending parent-teacher interviews, doing after-school pick-ups. As the years pass though and he becomes an adult himself, I’m enjoying our new relationship where I’m more of an older sister with authority – someone who can tell him off for being lazy and not looking for a part-time job, and someone who can broaden his knowledge of the world by introducing him to new life and culinary experiences.

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On my recent visit to Melbourne, I took him to B’Stilla – a Moroccan restaurant in South Yarra that’s been receiving rave reviews. It was just us on this early dinner date, as my father was still overseas. We arrived for a very early dinner reservation at 5.30pm, and were one of only three parties dining at that time. It didn’t take long for the restaurant to fill up though, with all tables full by the time we left an hour and a half later.

Apple, cucumber, mint and soda mocktail ($8) and a Pineapple, mint, blood orange, and bitters ($8)

Apple, cucumber, mint and soda mocktail ($8) and a Pineapple, mint, blood orange, and bitters ($8)

Having never been to B’Stilla before, our waitress explained the menu to us, and suggested dishes of a few different sizes to create the perfect dinner for two. But first, we started with a mocktail each – my apple and cucumber was deliciously refreshing with a minty twist, and his pineapple and bitters was quite thick and fruity.

Lamb ribs, dukkah, date and lime ($17)

Lamb ribs, dukkah, date and lime ($17)

Our first ‘small plate’ ordered was the Lamb Ribs – frenched, marinated, spiced and grilled before being seasoned with dukkah. With a squeeze of lime juice over them, they were simply delectable – super flavourful, a little bit spicy and tangy and tender. I only wish there was more than two ribs each!

Duck and chicken pie, almond, cinnamon and saffron ($16)

Duck and chicken pie, almond, cinnamon and saffron ($16)

The B’Stilla Duck and Chicken Pie was something entirely new to me as well as my brother – neither of us had ever tried this before! It’s essentially a filo pie, but with a twist – while the contents of the pie are savoury, the exterior of it is sweet, with a generous topping of icing sugar and some caramelisation to the filo in the baking process. It’s a strange concept, but it works. It helps that I find duck quite a sweet meat to begin with, especially when cooked with almonds and cinnamon as it is here.

Merguez - barbecued duck sausage syrian lentil stew, pomegranate ($12)

Merguez – barbecued duck sausage syrian lentil stew, pomegranate ($12)

I ordered the Merguez after seeing it make an appearance on the table next to ours. Each element on its own is unremarkable, but once you put it all together, it’s quite stupendous. The slightly tangy burst of fresh flavour from the pomegranate seeds helps to cut through the earthiness of both the sausage and the lentils. Quite unusual, but it works well.

Root vegetable tagine, chickpeas, cumin yoghurt, pumpkin seed ($28)

Root vegetable tagine, chickpeas, cumin yoghurt, pumpkin seed ($28)

I loved the Root Vegetable Tagine with its thick creamy tomato based sauce which was set off to perfection by the spiced yoghurt.The dish ran the risk of potentially becoming too texturally bland, but the softness of the vegetables and creaminess of the sauce was offset with the fresh crunchy pepitas scattered on top. Rich, comfort food, perfect for winter in Melbourne.

Moroccan slaw, almond, apricot, chilli dressing ($10)

Moroccan slaw, almond, apricot, chilli dressing ($10)

For a quick dose of vegetables, we also ordered the Moroccan slaw – crunchy and well-dressed with the occasional sweet hits with each sliver of dried apricot. Truth be told, it was really the apricot that made the slaw a great dish – without it, it would have been like any other side salad, healthy but not very exciting.

Hot amlou pudding, preserved orange, argan syrup ($12)

Hot amlou pudding, preserved orange, argan syrup ($12)

We finished our meal with dessert to share, the Hot amlou pudding as suggested by our waitress. It’s essentially a honey and almond pudding with preserved orange peel and sweet syrup drizzled on top. Simply remarkable, especially with the boozy cream that it rested on. Doing a bit of research, it seems as though ‘amlou’ is a honey and almond paste that’s usually readily available for purchase in Moroccan supermarkets…I look forward to finding and buying some to eat at home because it was just that delicious!

Overall, my brother and I really enjoyed our visit to B’Stilla, and we talked about potentially returning with my father for a visit when I’m next in Melbourne. It’s the type of place that he could really enjoy, and though Moroccan-style food would be new to him, I think he would really enjoy it. I’ll certainly be back!

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Review: Sumrayn Thai Bangkok Street Food via EatNow

I’ve tried a few different online order food delivery services now, and have had largely positive experiences. It’s hard to judge though, as I order takeaway food so irregularly – what actually defines ‘good’ and ‘bad’ service? For me, I think it all comes down to how user-friendly the website is and whether or not they make it easy for you to get food into your mouth sooner rather than later. EatNow ticks all the boxes.

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Once you hit the homepage, you’re presented with a single question – where do you want food delivered to? One question to get you started on your journey, so you’re not bombarded at this point with a million questions about what cuisine you’re after, whether you want your food delivered to you or whether you’ll pick it up…it’s simple, and very user-friendly.

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Once you get to the next page, that’s when you can begin to filter by what you’re interested in. The system does do some automatic sorting for you based on whether or not the restaurant is open at the time, whether they offer free delivery, and its popularity and proximity.

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I decided that (uncharacteristically!) I feel like some Thai food with a bit of a twist, and so I pick Sumrayn Thai Bangkok Street Food located in Chatswood. It certainly helps that they have a lot of different special offers, including a 15% off first time orders which catches my eye. EatNow automatically calculates this discount for you and updates your total order on the side, which makes it much easier as you go through the menu to ensure that you keep within your budget.

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Now I don’t know about you, but I love signing in using my social media accounts. I’m permanently logged into Facebook and Twitter on my computer, so when it comes to creating new accounts for websites like this, it makes it a lot easier to simply click the ‘Sign in with Facebook’ button than bother with creating a new account and trying to remember passwords!

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Once you’re logged in and you provide your delivery details, you can choose to pay in a few different ways. I rarely carry cash on me in this age of Paypass, so I always like to see easier alternative payment options available. I used Paypal, and the process of moving to Paypal to login and verify payment before returning to the EatNow website was virtually seamless – very easy for the consumer.

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The order confirmation came in stages. First you see your confirmation on screen, a minute later you get a confirmation email, and then when the restaurant receives and acknowledges your order, you get a confirmation SMS. It’s a little excessive, but comforting at the same time as you definitely know that you’ve placed your order and that your food is on its way.

Our apartment can actually be quite difficult to find as it’s not accessible through a normal street address, so I always worry that any delivery people will be left wandering around completely lost. The delivery man for Sumrayn Thai was a total gun though, and came to our apartment without an issue, even complimenting me on the delivery instructions I had submitted with our order for making it easy for him. He was right on time as well, arriving at 6.55pm for a 7pm order.

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Given it was just dinner for the two of us, I tried to control my usual over-ordering desires and simply ordered two entrees and two mains. I even skipped ordering our usual serve of delicious fragrant coconut rice so that we didn’t fill up on empty carbs. Everything came nicely packed in a mix of styrofoam containers, plastic takeaway boxes, and foil-lined paper bags.

Crispy Soft Shell crab with Black Pepper Sauce, $22

Crispy Soft Shell crab with Black Pepper Sauce, $22

The first main I ordered was the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Black Pepper Sauce. I’m an absolute fiend for soft shell crab and try to order it whenever we go out. I have to admit though that I was a little apprehensive about how this would turn out given that fried food doesn’t always travel well – it’s the type of thing you really need to eat almost immediately after it comes out of the deep fryer. This turned out incredibly well though, with the soft shell crab still crispy and crunchy after the trip from Chatswood to our apartment. The ‘black pepper sauce’ was a bit disappointing though, as it was a mere drizzle on the side salad rather than a full dipping sauce like I had envisioned.

Golden Tofu (4 Pcs), $7.50 and Crab and Prawn Rice Net Spring Roll (5 Pcs), $8.50

Golden Tofu (4 Pcs), $7.50 and Crab and Prawn Rice Net Spring Roll (5 Pcs), $8.50

Entrees were the Golden Tofu and the Crab and Prawn Rice Net Spring Rolls. The rice net spring rolls are just that little bit more interesting than normal spring rolls because of its interesting texture. Other than that, they were pretty standard spring rolls, and like the soft shell crab still managed to stay crispy! The tofu was quite enjoyable – it was a simple base that worked really well with the peanut sauce dipping sauce that it came with.

Stir Fried Crispy Pork Belly with Chinese Broccoli, $18

Stir Fried Crispy Pork Belly with Chinese Broccoli, $18

This Crispy Pork Belly with Chinese Broccoli was a real highlight. I had thought that the pork belly would be cooked with the broccoli which would have been quite questionable in terms of how it would remain crispy. Thankfully when it arrived, the dish actually came in two parts – the stir-fried Chinese broccoli in a plastic container full of sauce, and the crispy pork belly chunks in a foil-lined paper bag. Though the dish is technically supposed to be eaten together, it’s just as nice to separate the two different elements and eat them separately – the pork belly equal parts fatty and crispy, and the broccoli flavourful with a real chilli hit.

K and I really enjoyed our dinner from Sumrayn Thai, courtesy of EatNow’s Sydney CBD Food delivery. Service was prompt and polite, food was surprisingly good having survived the trip to our apartment, and we even got a bit of a discount with 15% off the first order, making dinner for two (with leftovers for the next day!) an easy $50.60. EatNow made ordering online superbly easy, and we’d definitely consider them again the next time we need takeaway food!

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Note: This review was sponsored by EatNow, but all words and images are my own.


Review: Gradi at Crown Casino, Southbank

I’m a talker and over-sharer. That’s just my nature. My colleagues probably know far too much about me as I’ve involved them in most of my personal dramas from insisting that they look at my feet to help me decide if I have different sized-feet, to loudly announcing that I’ve chosen to embrace hairy legs for winter (seriously, why bother shaving?). My close girlfriends receive the same treatment and I probably monopolise most of the conversation every time we get together.

It always surprises me when others don’t quite over-share the way I do and are more inclined to keep big, life-altering news close to their heart and very low-key. Like my friend Dotty, who revealed (under duress!) at our last dinner get-together that she and her partner had gotten secretly married on their latest trip overseas, with a ceremony in Tokyo Disneyland. And as if that wasn’t life-changing enough, she announced that she was five months pregnant.

Colour me baffled – if that was me, I’d be shouting the news from the rooftops! That’s the beautiful thing about humans though – we’re all different. Honestly, I don’t think our friendship group would work quite as well if everyone over-shared like me, as having a mix of personalities is what keeps us going!

Mix of mocktails, $12 each

Mix of mocktails, $12 each

This exciting news from Dotty was shared over pizzas and drinks at Gradi at Crown Casino. An off-shoot of the original award-winning 400 Gradi, the Crown location is in high-demand with all tables taken on the Saturday night we were there, and queues stretching out the door. A reservation is a must if you dine there at peak times.

A few of us in the group choose not to drink alcohol, and so we asked our waitress for a few mocktails. Without an official mocktail menu, she asked us to choose our preferred style of mocktail (sweet, fruity or sour), and then a feature fruit (berries, citrus, passionfruit, etc). With our preferences in mind, she went away to the bar and came back with some personalised mocktails – each perfectly hitting the mark of what we were in the mood for that evening. For that reason alone, I’d recommend choosing a mocktail rather than a cocktail because you’re certainly not limited by what’s set out on the drinks menu!

Broccolini, $12

Broccolini, $12

On the menu that evening was a few vegetable sides and starters to share, as well as a selection of their thin-based style pizzas. First up was the Broccolini, lightly blanched and with some shaved parmesan on top. While the broccolini was still crunchy, you could tell that it was actually getting a bit old – the stalks were a bit too thick and the florets were starting to yellow. To be fair, it is getting harder to find perfect fresh young broccolini at this time of the year, but I was disappointed that the produce wasn’t quite up to scratch.

Arancini, $6 each

Arancini, $6 each

The Arancini on the other hand, was simply delicious. It was only lightly crumbed, allowing the delicious herbed rice and vegetable mix inside to be the main feature. It can still sit quite heavily in your stomach though, so if you’re planning on over-ordering on pizzas and pastas for main, I’d probably recommend a different appetiser that isn’t quite so carb-heavy.

Insalata di rucola, $13

Insalata di rucola, $13

In Insalata di rucola was lovely. The rocket was nice and fresh and young, meaning that we avoided getting that really peppery taste of old rocket. In contrast, this salad was lovely and refreshing, with just the right amount of balsamic vinegar dressing to give it a little bit of a kick.

Parmagiana pizza, $24

Parmagiana pizza, $24

I was a big fan of the parmagiana pizza – grilled eggplant is one of my favourite pizza toppings. Grilled eggplant with lots of melted cheese on top is even better, especially if the pizza base has only been lightly brushed with tomato sauce – there’s nothing worse than a pizza with too much sauce on it!

Margherita verace, $21

Margherita verace, $21

I always like to order a margherita pizza when I visit pizza places like this as it can be a great indication of a restaurant’s approach to pizza. Unfortunately, the base of this pizza was overdone, and there wasn’t as much cheese or basil as I would have preferred.

Boscaiola, $22

Boscaiola, $22

Beware the boscaiola pizza if you have people in your group who aren’t very fond of stronger flavours. The goats cheese topping this pizza is definitely on the stronger side, especially when paired with this pizza base which was, again, a little bit overdone in my opinion with some black charcoal air pockets on top, and a base that was burnt in places.

Gradi do pizza in the traditional style – thin-based, not too much sauce, minimal toppings. Cooked in their special pizza oven, the pizzas that come out are on the verge of overcooked, but the great toppings are just begging to be eaten. It is very busy in Gradi at night though with an associated lack of service – you may find it hard to catch the attention of the wait staff. Despite that, it is a good restaurant for catchups as it’s quite central and easily accessible. The food is reasonably priced, and is perfectly designed for sharing in a larger group. I’d like to go back at some point, but first, I’d like to try their original location at 400 Gradi!

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