Search This Blog

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Pabu Grill and Sake

With recent additions Shop Ramen, Hinoki Japanese Pantry and BistroK, plus long-stayers Peko Peko, Easy Tiger, Wabi Sabi Salon, Wood Spoon Kitchen and more, Smith Street, Collingwood is slowly turning into an Asian food haven, with a strong focus on Japanese cuisine. Woohoo!

One night after some ramen, friends and I decided we needed dessert, and sake. (Essential.) We walked past the freshly minted Pabu Grill & Sake (190 Smith Street, Collingwood) and decided to give it a shot. We sat at the front communal table and were given very attentive service by the host. I was particularly keen to sample the sake flight and one of my favourite all-time desserts, mochi. (See my previous rave about them here.) The green tea ones were okay, but the plain and melon flavoured ones were delicious.

A selection of MOCHI !!!

Pabu (Japanese for 'pub') pitches itself as a modern Izakaya, or Japanese tapas bar - that is, a casual establishment where the food is designed for sharing. It also has a decent array of sake, Japanese-inspired cocktails, beer and wine to choose from, and enticing lunch specials that make me wish I worked in the area. After our li'l pop-in that night, one friend decided to have his birthday lunch there. This meant much more opportunity for photo-taking :)

Courtyard greenery

This time, we were seated in the courtyard, which was much more private and relaxed-feeling. We went for a banquet menu option of 9 or 10 courses for $55 per head (or $75 including a sake flight), and it did not disappoint.

Pretty menu

We had a "Taste of Pabu"

Sake goodness

Arguably the best bit

Here were our dinner eats (my faves were the spicy salmon and the crunchy prawns):

Beef tartare



Spicy salmon salad



Crunchy prawns

Well hey there little fella


Mixed meat skewers

Aaaand our drinks. Apparently the Kill Bill cocktail wasn't all that. Also, I later heard from another friend that Pabu offers a flight of the same sake served at different temperatures to bring out different characteristics. Worth a try next time, methinks!

Pretty sake flight

"Kill Bill" umeshu cocktail

Hiding behind her Kirin

I liked the fit-out: loads of dark wood, low lighting and a modernised traditional feel, if that makes sense. Design can be attributed to EAT Architects, who were also responsible for Maedaya (another Japanese grill) in Richmond.

The crockery is in earthy tones of blue and brown, and there's a nod to kitsch culture through old movie posters and some pretty pleasant, cruisy tunes (we heard MGMT, the Jackson Five, M83 and Bon Iver).

This time again, we received extremely attentive service from the host. Although friendly and full of helpful information, we did feel he was a bit long-winded in his explanations and would have preferred to be left to our own devices a bit more. Some customers require extra help, sure, but others like to fly by the seat of their pants -- and we are definitely pantseatflyers.

Conversely, there were times when service was lacking, for example too many dishes arriving at our table at once, when previous plates hadn't been cleared. We took to piling used plates on the next table to make space. These are, of course, small service touches that one hopes will improve over time. Otherwise, I found Pabu to be excellent value and a pleasant environment. Staff endeavoured to fulfil all our requests, and the food was fresh, delicious and beautifully presented.

Pabu Grill & Sake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 30 December 2013

Lemon, Middle and Orange

(As seen in GRAM magazine)

Now officially THE CLOSEST cafe to my house, I am delighted to announce that new Collingwood addition, Lemon, Middle and Orange (25-31 Rokeby Street, Collingwood) does a decent dose of caffeine. 

Secondarily, it is a few doors from my local watering hole, the Prince Patrick Hotel (135 Victoria Parade, Collingwood) -- so now I can trot directly from brunch to the pub. Score! 

Kidding. (Sort of.) Of course LM&O (or "the citrus place", as my housemate and I have taken to calling it) has benefits other than its proximity to the pub. 

For instance: the decor. Originally an old paint factory, LM&O's premises were dolled up by upstairs neighbours John Wardle Architects, next-door neighbours Spacecraft Studio, and branding-crew-to-the-hip-and-delicious, Projects of Imagination. It's all pared-back blank surfaces of concrete, stainless steel, brick and loads of timber joinery -- with touches of yellow and bright orange, naturally. (Incidentally, the cafe's name refers to chrome pigments found on a sign during renovations. Good, cos otherwise I couldn't figure out the 'middle' bit at all.) 

Paint and Colour Merchants sign from which the cafe gets its name.

It's plopped halfway down the unassuming Rokeby Street (hey, there's a 'middle' link!) in the southern end of Collingwood, and unless you walked directly past, you would never have known it was there. In recent weeks, a wee sign has been added near the door, to flag the cafe's existence.

Industrial lookout from an industrial-style cafe

A long, thin space, the brightest bits of the cafe are the inviting open area at the front, complete with coffee window, and the communal table hidden right at the back. The middle section is a bit dimmer (i.e. better for hangovers...) and houses a bunch of smaller tables, a narrow wall-mounted bench, and the main serving counter, behind which runs the kitchen. It's all very warm and industrial-sexy, but I must say, I find the orange-topped paint-can stools very uncomfortable, so I tend to avoid the communal table and wall benches and sit my toosh on a larger, if more conventional, wooden chair whenever possible. I do enjoy the funky bird logo - though I'm not entirely sure what kind of bird it's meant to be (there's a twig in its beak, so perhaps a dove??). 

Communal table at the back... now sans uncomfy stools!

On its opening weekend, Lemon, Middle and Orange was abuzz with anticipation, and managed to pull through smoothly with few obvious teething problems. This may well be due to the combined expertise of owner-operators Margaret Lawless and Liam Ganley, former Auction Rooms chef Sam Morris, and a smiley barista who clearly knows what he's doing on the custom yellow Marzocco. Coffee is by Espresso Syndicate with rotating seasonal single origins from Clark St Roasters, and teas come from Storm in a Teacup. An interesting drink option is one of the flavoured hot chocolates from Grounded Pleasures: African Red, Orange Infused, or French Mint. Well, okay... if you insist. 



The food is fancy without being wanky, with locally-sourced ingredients, surprising flavour combinations, and a pleasing ability to fill your belly. For example, I've had the coconut and vanilla rice pudding, baked stuffed apple, lemon syrup, anise toffee twice now, and twice been tantalised by the contrast of rich rice pudding, sweet toffee chunks, and astringent apple. 

Rice pudding with toffee and apple

On my first visit, I tried the smoked sweetcorn and quinoa porridge, confit mushrooms, soft egg and toasted crumbs - surprisingly light for a 'porridge', and the quinoa goes beautifully with the flavour of corn; on my second, poached duck egg, green beans, peas, pancetta, sourdough croutons.  

Sweetcorn & quinoa porridge with mushroom and egg

Poached egg = split. Mmmm, gooey eggy goodness.

My housemate is a fan of the croquette of the day and recently tried the egg and bacon breakfast roll - it seemed to hit the spot. Soda bread baked daily in-house is both a speciality and a nod to the owners' Irish heritage. 

Egg and bacon roll

On my most recent visit, I tried the house hot smoked plum cured Tasmanian salmon, potato latkes, poached eggs, fennel, horseradish creme fraiche. Just the right amount and not too heavy. I have found all dishes to be aesthetically pleasing, fresh and tasty. Next up, I'd like to try something containing black pudding.

Salmon, potato, fennel and eggs

Lemon infused yoghurt, puffed grains, earl grey poached fruit, pistachio

Poached duck egg, green beans, peas, pancetta, sourdough croutons

...and with duck egg cracked open :) 

Lemon, Middle and Orange is open seven days for breakfast and lunch, with a liquor licence application underway. Service to date has been efficient and polite. A pleasurable local experience! 

(better menu views are available on the cafe's website)

Lemon, Middle and Orange on Urbanspoon