Ora Specialty Coffee. Kew.
A never-fail local favourite.
Haddock fritters, with egg and capers gribiche, celeriac herb salad, and salmon roe.
From Ora, in Kew.
Yes, there are indeed fritters everywhere at brunch these days - corn fritters, zucchini fritters, eggplant / cauliflower / ricotta… you name it. And yet, Ora’s haddock fritters were unusually delicious.
The haddock fritters were deep-fried fluffy haddock balls, atop a bed of creamy egg gribiche, which was laced with capers to break up its richness. A mildly dressed celeriac herb affair lightened the whole thing, and the sprinkling of salmon roe were little balls of delight.
What sets Ora apart - and the reason that it has firmly established itself not only as a local favourite but also as one of Melbourne’s respected café institutions - is that its ever changing menu not only sources the freshest seasonal produce, but it is also carefully designed. The dishes are novel, innovative, and enjoyable (as tried and tested by its patrons as specials prior to making its main menu).
Nestled in a quiet suburban corner of Kew, parking is not an issue despite the constant teeming flow of customers. The coffee never fails to impress, and for something different, the iced teas made on site are refreshing and delicious. It is a fail-safe brunch option in the suburban East, and it will never get boring as its menu is constantly evolving with unusual ingredients.
“My Mexican Cousin” - fried sweet-corn fritters, with kasundi, halloumi, greens, tomato, and poached egg.
At ST ALi North, Carlton North.
Off-shoot of the famous ST ALi (now ST ALi South). Located in a little parkland strip next to some bike trails, thus conveniently drawing a throng of fashionable bike-riding coffee-sipping foodie-enthusiasts. Yes, it is all very hipster.
Ignoring the bike racks and an additional takeaway window, the menu has remained very much the same, and the staff brew an equally delicious coffee from those ST ALi beans. But sadly, unlike its Southern counterpart, ST ALi North is still in café infancy and struggling to find its feet to keep up with the pace that comes with the name. Waiters are confused, run off their feet, and often fail to notice customers in need to service.
Perhaps it was simply my hunger-striken bias after waiting 30+ minutes for a glass of water and some menus… but I found the food, whilst “nice”, was not quite there. It was as if there was something missing and the dish simply didn’t come together. And despite meeting the famed Salvatore Malatesta, who personally waited on our table and warmly rectified the lack of service… I cannot say that my experience at ST ALi North was one that will prompt my return any time soon.
Yet, it will be interesting to see whether ST ALi North establishes itself as one of those solid Melbournian café institutions, or whether it becomes a sinking ship in Salvatore Malatesta’s coffee and culinary fleet.
It’s terrible; it’s dreadful. Overbearing, pretentious, madly repetitive….
… Didn’t any of my neighbors notice how absurdly gloomy and dolorous the story was? How the dominant blue-gray coloring was like a pall hanging over the material? How the absence of dancing concentrated all the audience’s pleasure on the threadbare songs? How tiresome a reverse fashion show the movie provided in rags, carbuncles, gimpy legs, and bad teeth? How awkward the staging was?
… Is it sacrilege to point out that the Victor Hugo novel, stripped of its social detail and reduced to its melodramatic elements, no longer makes much sense? That the story doesn’t connect to our world (which may well be the reason for the show’s popularity)?” —
David Denby on Les Misérables the movie.
In the New Yorker.
- - -
Definitely a different opinion on the movie and the musical than most.
Whilst I disagree strongly with his opinions on the production - I do admit that the singing by most of the actors left something to be desired… I must say, Victor Hugo’s novel is titled “Les Misérables”. What then, would one expect from the plot of a novel titled as such? Definitely not the same type of “singing in the rain” as Denby seems to expect from the genre of entertainment known as musicals.
I would then argue that the appeal of Les Mis the musical is not in its grandeur of social detail and political climate. But rather, it is in the exploration of individual characters - from the mundane emotions of love and security to the idealistic aspirations of change and revolution. Marius dreams of a social revolution, but is at the same time gripped by a fantastical (and I suppose immature) love for Cosette. Cosette herself is kind-hearted, naive, and seems utterly unaware of the bigger contextual picture. Cosette’s mother, Fontine - a truly miserable character, wants only to be able to feed and cloth her daughter, and has no regards for anything beyond basic security.
Now, think about this, how removed are these characters from our world? Aspirational young men dream of bigger things that would change the world - but are plagued by a myriad of minor everyday problems that seem common and should be unimportant. Naive individuals go through life, day to day, with no interest in things beyond their immediate sphere of existence, as they are generally unaffected by the world outside their own little bubble. The underprivileged struggle to fulfil their basic need for survival and security, they don’t even begin to aspire anything as they are preoccupied with the tedious present, and are so often overlooked by those in power in favour of solving “grander” problems.
Now, let’s look at Jean Valjean and Javert. Denby complains that these characters “never develop and are never pushed beyond each other’s surfaces”.
So. Jean Valjean lived as a convicted criminal imprisoned for stealing bread to feed his sister’s starving child. After nineteen years, he is finally released back into society, and treated with prejudice and distain. Utterly dismayed at life after jail, he breaks parole. And, with some help from a kindly priest, he makes a new life - and a new identity - for himself, as a respectable gentleman. Yet he remains fearful that his true identity would be revealed by the ever-present Javert, and so, he shuts himself (and Cosette) off from the outside world completely. He becomes a person obsessed with life at the personal level - firstly for the redemption of a crime he committed, then with the preciousness of a “second life”. Valjean and Cosette exist in a box with only themselves, and until Marius, the father-daughter duo were completely disengaged from the social sphere.
On the other hand, Javert is a law enforcer entirely obsessed with “duty” and the great good. He refuses to understand any reason to a crime on a personal level. For him, a convict is a convict, a crime is a crime. There is only the law to be upheld, and the law has no leniency for rule-breakers who disturb society. Valjean broke the law, and therefore he must be a bad man, regardless of original circumstance of the crime. He also broke parole, and therefore he must be recaptured, and returned to serve his sentence, with no consideration that he may have changed for the better. In a similar vein, for Javert, the Revolution must be crushed in its infancy, regardless of reason or cause. It does not matter why the young men are revolting - whether the government is corrupt, whether social poverty is unbearable… Revolution is illegal, and thus the instigators are to be exterminated. It also matters not that the instigators are only idealistic schoolboys - hardly dangerous socialists. Javert refuses to acknowledge cause or reason on the personal level, he sees, judges, and acts, only on the social level. There is no “self” - he is Javert, and he is the law, and the law is the society.
Now, we have Valjean who is encased in the personal and disjointed from the social, and Javert who encompasses the social but ignores the personal. Two extremes, and Les Mis reconciles these two sphere within the settings of the Revolution through the two characters.
Valjean, upon discovering what had transpired between Marius and Cosette, realises that he cannot live - nor force his daughter to live - in a way that is completely disjointed from society. He visits the barricade and saves the injured Marius, as he realises that no matter how hard he tried, the social sphere will ultimately affect the personal existence. He cannot hide himself and Cosette away in isolation indefinitely, just as he cannot conceal his personal identity forever. And it is only with this acknowledgement and the revelation that he is in fact Jean Valjean, that he receives peace and absolution.
Javert, however, after having had his life spared by Valjean and seeing this “convict” save Marius at this risk of his own life, begins to doubt his impartial judgement. Could the law be flawed? Could he Javert have been wrong? Struggling to comprehend the implications of this, Javert refuses to accept the symbiotic nature of individual personal existence within the settings of the great social sphere. He is unable to reconcile the two and chooses instead to end his life. This could perhaps be metaphorical for the inability for a coherent society to exist without regards to the various individuals that form it. There is no social sphere without the personal existence of individuals.
So now, let’s have a think about Les Misérables as a musical. Gloomy and dread-filled it may be, but is it stripped of social details and completely irrelevant to our world?
We have characters such as Marius, Cosette, and Fontine, that represent various individuals that exist in a changing society. These individuals are each preoccupied with different personal issues, despite all existing within the same contextual sphere of encompassing social problems.
We then have Jean Valjean and Javert, who embody the personal existence and the larger social sphere. Their characters do not interact much with each other, not because of failed character development in the plot, but because Les Mis showcases a disjointing in the social and the personal spheres, which must ultimately be reconciled. It is only when personal existence is not mutually exclusive to the larger social context - and conversely, the society accounts for its individuals’ needs, would change be coherent and the society remain functional.
Duncan’s drum cover of Coldplay’s Paradise.
"F*ck you, you are an embarrassment."
After speaking with Karen (founder of Meld Magazine), it has rekindled my passion for journalism and writing… alright, perhaps it was more like it rekindled my belief that… words… can a career make. Whatever the case, I must admit that I miss writing about the mundane things that are NOT food-blogging. I miss writing about human interactions, the social sphere and the trends emerging with the younger generation (judgement included), and also on a more serious note the political climate of our time - yes, I support Obama.
But Karen did make a good point.
In this day and age of digital media, it is all about personal branding. You cannot have a blog where you write about what your dog ate for breakfast coupled with what you then ate yourself during the day. It should be focused upon one thing and one thing only - be it food-blogging, political commentary, or whatnot. It is only with a specification then can you carve out a niche for yourself.
And so until I can decide whether I would be bothered with the up-keeping of another blog filled with political ramblings or social analysis… This tumblr will be my outlet for ramblings of various natures.
Over and out.
Braised pork belly gua bao at Wonderbao.
Steaming hot buns always go down a treat. Wonderbao knows this well and serves up a delicious range of steaming-hot Chinese baos in a little eatery off A’Beckett St near RMIT in the CBD.
At $3.80, the braised pork belly gua bao is the most expensive thing on the menu. Not to disappoint, it comes out bursting with fillings. Two pieces of melt-in-your-mouth pork belly (not recommended for those who don’t like fatty meats) is encased in a fluffy white bun in a sort of open sandwich. Plenty of pickled veggies, coriander and crushed peanuts too. Yum.
A range of other baos are available at around $2 - from the sweet nai wong bao and taro bao to the traditional char siu bao and the massive pork or chicken dai bao… vegetarian baos also available. But be careful of ordering too much as the buns are surprisingly filing and all the $$ will add up! Whilst the baos could have been fluffier, they tasted pretty authentic and were rather delicious.
Finally, cannot recommend the warm soya milk ($2.80) enough. It was not overly sweetened, and was the perfect compliment to this bao feast. A not-so-hidden gem on the edge of the city, will definitely be returning again to Wonderbao. Pity it is not opened on the weekend!
I hate men who are indecisive, I also hate men who are incompetent.
Attention to detail and the ability to organize the most mundane things are attributes that should be a given.
The phrase that annoys me most is “…up to you!” Can you not decide for once??
The Geisha at Twenty & Six Espresso.
One amongst the hip boutique cafes popping up along North Melbourne, Twenty&Six serves up a delectable an all-day modern-Australian breakfast menu tempered with a more Japanese-inspired lunch fare.
A bit fancy at the price of $22, the Geisha provides good return for your money - both quality and quantity. Fresh sashimi-grade tuna is coated with black and white sesame seeds and ever-so-lightly seared, it is then perched on top of a pudding of a wasabi and potato mash (a bit too wasabi for my liking) and layered with daikons and green-beans, all to be finished with a sweet-soya reduction.
The impressive steak-sized tuna and the pile of creamy mash is likely to leave you in a sort of food coma, but a range of delightful teas (again a bit fancy at around $4-5 per cup) will help you digest. The cheerily friendly and charming staff do add another bright point to this quaint little brunch spot.
Tsuke Don at Purple Peanuts Japanese Cafe.
Whilst it is named “Japanese Cafe”, don’t expect the typical Melbourne-Japanese fare of katsu dons and charshu ramen. Purple Peanuts delivers an array of Japanese-inspired dishes that are healthy, hearty, homely, and a bit on the unusual side. And all at under or around $10.
The tsuke don at $10.90 delivers a warm bed of sushi rice topped with little sashimi-grade salmon cubes that are marinated in a yummy mixture of mirin, sake, soy and sesame. This is tossed through with cubed pickled daikon, carrots, cucumber, marinated seaweed and lettuce leaves. The serving is definitely enough to feed the ravenous office crowd, and the extra $2 will get you a bowl of steaming miso soup.
Whilst a little bit strange at first, the flavours work extremely well together to create a light yet filling meal. A little out of the way for most CBD working ants (near corner of Collins and Spencer St) but definitely worth the trip!