Review: Captain America’s Hamburger Heaven, Forest Hill

Five years ago, I traversed the length of the West Coast of America with my friend Beth. Over the course of a month, we went from as far down south as Tijuana to as far north as Vancouver. Some parts of the trip still stick in my mind. Our day at Disneyland for example, or the beautiful drive through Washington State from Seattle to Forks (we went for a Twilight tour!).

I’d managed to forget whole other elements of the trip though, and Beth had to remind me recently that I had in fact had a go on the mechanical bull in a Wild West bar we visited. I don’t have an excuse for forgetting about those experiences…except perhaps the $15 bottles of vodka at CVS?

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In honour of our USA trip, we visited Captain America’s Hamburger Heaven at Forest Hill Chase on Beth’s recent 30th birthday which also happened to be the 4th of July. How apt! The cliched kitschy retro diner was only half-full given it was a Monday night, but there were a few other large groups with kids in the diner celebrating what looked like family birthdays.

USA Floats, $6.50 each
USA Floats, $6.50 each

We started our meal with a spider each, called USA Floats as you have your spider with American soft drinks. My pineapple Fanta tasted nothing like pineapple, but the extremely artificial fruity fizzy drink did go particularly well with the creamy vanilla ice-cream. Beth’s Sioux City Cream Soda became even more creamy with the ice-cream added!

Captain America's Celebrated Heavenly Burger, $19.90
Captain America’s Celebrated Heavenly Burger, $19.90

Beth had the classic Captain America’s Celebrated Heavenly Burger, stacked with the beef patty, fried egg, bacon, onion, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, cheese and a pickle, served with crispy crunchy chips on the side. The chips weren’t remarkable (I think the oil was a bit old), but the burger was exceptional with a deliciously grilled patty.

I did try to talk her into trying their burger challenge (a 1kg double burgr with 3o0gm of chips), but she wasn’t keen – and lucky that, as the standard burger was already so stacked that I can’t imagine what a double burger would even look like!

Pizza Burger, $15.50
Pizza Burger, $15.50

I chose a Pizza Burger with a beef patty topped with pizza sauce and cheese with lettuce, tomato, ham, olives, onion, mushrooms, capsicum and pineapple…wow! I couldn’t eat this with my hands, and had to attack it in pieces with a fork and knife.

I picked out the olives as they didn’t add much to the burger, and thought the pizza toppings were a bit soft overall. It would have worked better if there was a bit more texture – e.g. if the capsicum was smokier and grilled rather than softened and caramelised. Overall though, definitely a burger to tempt the tastebuds and clog your arteries.

Captain America’s Hamburger Heaven doesn’t do anything by halves. Burgers are ridiculously large and overindulgent, and you’ll barely need to touch the chips. I don’t even know who would need to order a starter or a dessert to go with their meal – we couldn’t even share a dessert between the two of us no matter how much we wanted a slice of good ole American apple pie. Definitely the place to go if you’re looking for kitschy diner overindulgence in Melbourne!

Captain America’s Hamburger Heaven is located in Forest Hill Chase, at 138/270 Canterbury Road, Forest Hill.

Review: Nieuw Amsterdam, Melbourne CBD

The first time I heard of Nieuw Amsterdam was on Sarah’s food blog. I loved the look of it, so had it in the back of mind as somewhere I wanted to visit on one of my frequent visits to Melbourne. The perfect opportunity finally came up on a visit earlier this year for a dinner out with my girlfriends, sans babies and toddlers. Just six girls, out for dinner!

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We all trickled in to dinner slowly – from being ten minutes early, to half an hour late. Ordering a few drinks off the on-request-only mocktail list, at least those of us who were early got to kick back and relax with a beverage in hand while waiting for those who were late. My fauxjito tasted just like the real thing, though it tended towards sourness whereas I prefer a sweetness to my mocktails.

Note for those who choose not to drink alcohol – the wine and cocktail list is pushed quite heavily by the wait staff, so you do have to make a special request for the mocktail list. If you do drink though, it’s hard to go past the multi-page cocktail menu offered by Nieuw Amsterdam!

Smokey Beef Brisket with slaw, corn bread, BBQ sauce, $25
Smokey Beef Brisket with slaw, corn bread, BBQ sauce, $25

We decided to order our own mains, rather than trying to split a number of dishes between six people. Splitting a few dishes between two or four people is easy, any more and it just gets too difficult!

Along with my friend Katy, I chose the Smokey Beef Brisket, a delectably tender piece of beef that suffered only from the small serving. Two and a half thin slices of brisket do not a full meal make! Even when padded out with a little fistful of coleslaw (a little dry, could have done with more mayonnaise) and some toasty warm corn bread, you still find yourself wanting a bit more. A few bites of other people’s meals maybe?

Jerk chicken, black bean, crispy rice, potato chips, $22
Jerk chicken, black bean, crispy rice, potato chips, $22

The Jerk Chicken was ordered by two people, and came with significantly less sauce than I would have expected. The potato chips were an interesting touch, and I personally enjoyed the sticky rice which reminded me of Chinese-style sticky rice! The chicken was nice and tender, but I think it lacked that massive hit of spicy jerk flavour that additional marinade or sauce on the plate could have provided.

BBQ lamb ribs, $22
BBQ lamb ribs, $22

The BBQ Lamb Ribs also made an appearance, and they were just heavenly. Lamb and rosemary is an unbeatable combination, especially when in the form of chargrilled ribs sticky with sweet tangy BBQ sauce. The only downside was that this was a bit of a strange main, with only ribs on the plate. While the brisket had cornbread and coleslaw, and the chicken had sticky rice and chips, this main had only ribs which made it seem somewhat incomplete.

Green beans, bacon, onion, white wine, $9.50
Green beans,  $9.50

Luckily for those who ordered the ribs, we ordered a number of sides to share which helped to round out their meal. First, a simple side of crunchy fresh Green Beans, made much tastier with ample use of butter and seeds on top.

Dutch potato fries, sriracha mayo, $9
Dutch potato fries, sriracha mayo, $9

These Dutch Potato Fries were amazingly good – so crispy that they tasted twice, maybe even thrice fried. These were very very more-ish, and I think I may have eaten half the serve all by myself. I couldn’t help it though, with the chilli mayonnaise, they were simply to die for.

Cobb salad, $10
Cobb salad, $10

The Cobb Salad was a little bit boring to tell you the truth – there’s not much you can do with iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber even with a good dressing. To be honest, I felt like the salad was a tad overdressed.

Pumpkin donuts with Jack Daniels cream, $12
Pumpkin donuts with Jack Daniels cream, $12

Dessert was much more impressive though, and really made the whole meal worthwhile. The six of us shared three desserts – the first of which were the Pumpkin Donuts with Jack Daniels Cream. While the doughnuts were tasty in their own way, the Jack Daniels cream was really the highlight of this dish. Equal parts boozy and creamy, we found ourselves scooping up every last drop of cream so as not to let it go to waste.

Berry Split with white chocolate mousse and cream cheese sorbet, $13
Berry Split with white chocolate mousse and cream cheese sorbet, $13

The Berry Split was also a big winner at our table – a healthier version of a banana split, it comes with sorbet instead of ice-cream, and berry granita instead of chocolate sauce. Don’t let this nod to less calorific sweets fool you though – this dessert is pure decadence with the perfect blend of fresh tangy and icy granita, smooth white chocolate mousse, and crunchy caramelised biscuit on top.

Chocolate Delice with honeycomb, $13
Chocolate Delice with honeycomb, $13

The Chocolate Delice was too sweet for some, but was perfect for myself, the chocolate fiend. I really liked the presentation of it as well, as something slightly different to the more rectangular chocolate delice slices that you’ll find at a bakery. The ooze of chocolate cream in the centre, with the crisp honeycomb on top, was simply spectacular. I’d order it again.

Nieuw Amsterdam was a bit hit and miss for our group of six, and it may have been a better choice to go with fewer people for easier sharing of dishes. I’d consider coming back with a smaller group, if only for the desserts! The large cocktails menu also make it an ideal post-work drinks destination as well, as they do have a bar area downstairs in the same building.

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Review: Mr Big Stuff, Melbourne CBD

When I was recently in Melbourne, my father expressed an interest in trying German food. I intended to take him to Hofbrauhaus for the best Bavarian food and beer on my last visit to Melbourne, but unfortunately neglected to make a booking for a late Saturday night dinner. Simply showing up the door and asking for the next available booking had the maitre d nearly laughing in my face. I’ll know better for next time!

Luckily we were able to wander around to look for another restaurant and managed to grab a table at Mr Big Stuff at 9.30pm, one of the final tables of the night. My brother had been there just a few weeks earlier, and thought that my father would enjoy the food there given how much he had enjoyed our visit to the Merrywell, which serves up similar modern American cuisine without the soul food twist.

Pabst Blue Ribbon ($9), Coldstream Crushed Apple Cider ($9), Non-Alcohol P.Y. Tea ($9.50).
Pabst Blue Ribbon ($9), Coldstream Crushed Apple Cider ($9), Non-Alcohol P.Y. Tea ($9.50).

I ordered a non-alcoholic mocktail, my brother ordered his usual cider, and Dad asked me to order him a beer. Having read a little bit about the stereotypes associated with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, I thought it would be funny to order one for my father who is the complete antithesis of the typical hipster Pabst drinker. Little did I know that he was actually drinking it before it was cool – when our drinks came out, he exclaimed “I used to drink this back in the seventies!”. Apparently Pabst Blue Ribbon was a beer of choice in Hong Kong in the seventies, and my father would drink it all the time. My dad was the original hipster.

Daily Special - Bean Salad
Daily Special – Bean Salad

We were quite hungry by that point, so I quickly ordered a few dishes of the menu for the three of us to share. First up was the daily special of a mixed bean salad, with kidney, black eyed, and cannellini beans all represented in the salad. Dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice and combined with a medley of fresh herbs and chillis, the salad is equal parts earthy, refreshing, and more than satisfying. It’s a pity that it’s not on Mr Big Stuff’s regular menu, as there was definitely a lack of fresh options like this. (Correct at time of writing – apparently now they’ve added salads to their menu!)

Hushpuppies, $8
Hushpuppies, $8

The first small bites to come out were some deep-fried super-crispy Hushpuppies. I’d never tried hushpuppies before – to me, they were just a brand of extremely comfortable footwear that your grandparents would buy because it was good for the corns on their feet. Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I realised that hushpuppies were actually delicious deep-fried balls of cheesy cornmeal batter – a vastly superior form of corn.

Shrimp & Grits, $12
Shrimp & Grits, $12

I’d wanted to order some of the sliders that they had on their menu back then, but unfortunately the kitchen had run out of sliders by the time we sat down to eat. In their place, I ordered the Shrimp & Grits. Again, though I had heard of grits and hominy before in my reading of classic American literature, I didn’t have a clear picture in my mind of what it actually was. My Big Stuff’s interpretation of grits is extremely creamy and cheesy, with some tangy salsa and fried shrimp on top. I personally would have preferred a few more shrimp as our table of three really only got a single shrimp each.

Fried Chicken and Waffles, $24
Fried Chicken and Waffles, $24

I didn’t have to think twice about ordering the Fried Chicken and Waffles as soon as I saw it on the menu. I love classic sweet and savoury pairings like this – maple syrup & bacon and salted caramel are some of my favourite flavours. This was a fantastic dish of crispy crunchy battered fried succulent tender chicken and pillowy soft buttery sweet waffles drenched in syrup. I couldn’t get enoough…so it’s lucky that I don’t currently live in Melbourne as I could definitely see myself going back to have this dish again and again. My waistline would definitely suffer!

Mac & Cheese, $12
Mac & Cheese, $12

The last savoury dish delivered to our table was the piping hot Mac & Cheese which had been baked in the oven until the breadcrumb topping had browned and the cheese was golden and melted into a gooey mess. My father absolutely loved this mac & cheese – while he claims that he doesn’t like cheese, his appreciation of the saganaki at Gazi and then this mac & cheese says otherwise! Personally, I liked the mix of textures in this dish – unlike other mac & cheese which tends to just be soft and gooey, I liked the crisper textures offered by the breadcrumbs and top layer of cheese.

Chocolate and Pecan Tart, $10
Chocolate and Pecan Tart, $10

We finished our meal with the Chocolate and Pecan Tart which came with a healthy dose of pumpkin puree and caramelised pepitas. I enjoyed how more-ish this tart was – it wasn’t too sweet, and the mix of the creamy gelato, the hard and sticky pepita caramel, and the crumbly pecan biscuit base really made this tart a dessert to be enjoyed to its fullest.

I really enjoyed our visit to Mr Big Stuff, and my father and brother did too – though Dad still rates the Merrywell over My Big Stuff. While I may not be back to Mr Big Stuff for a big meal any time over the next few months, I may just find an excuse to pop in for the fried chicken and waffles as a snack to share with a friend…

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