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Frank Sweet

Frank Sweet

Articles (3)

Melbourne's best hot pots

Melbourne's best hot pots

The undeniably carnal high that comes from dropping meat and veg into scalding broth powered by gas and flames at the dining table is something a good many of the world’s peoples are into. China alone accounts for at least ten distinct varieties of hot pot across its highly nuanced regional gastro-map, but neighbouring countries Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand are also bubbling many of their own unique broths.   In this exercise, we’ve plucked out six of the city’s most impressive hot pots from across East Asia and indexed them by country and frenzy factor, with five representing frenzy AF. Wrangle a crew – you’ll generally want at least four – and prepare to get a little messy (and smelly – good smelly) at one of Melbourne’s best. If you're still hunting some of Melbourne's bests, try hitting up our favourite Korean BBQ joints or test your spice levels with Melbourne's hottest dishes.

Melbourne’s top five spicy dishes for die-hard chilli fans

Melbourne’s top five spicy dishes for die-hard chilli fans

We at Time Out love spicy food. A habanero here, a hot tamale there. But for some, there’s nothing quite like the self-inflicted agony of scoffing spice for sport’s sake. Hats off to you, whoever you are. We nearly burned a hole through our tongue to find you Melbourne’s top five most incendiary, soft palate-destroying spicy dishes. Prefer sugar to spice? Here are five awesome bubble teas to try, or milkshakes to soothe the burn. Or for a quickfire feed, try one of the 50 best cheap eats in town.

Where to eat hot-pot-for-one in Melbourne

Where to eat hot-pot-for-one in Melbourne

One of the great modern innovations of Chinese fast casual dining, malatang, or ‘hot numbing soup’ has at last taken root in Melbourne’s increasingly detailed regional Chinese food scene. Malatang is an abridged take on classic Sichuan hot pot, streamlined into a single bowl for the solo diner. A favourable price point and a high vegetable content also make it a good call for any night you don’t want to cook.It works like this: customers grab a pair of tongs and a basket and line up in front of a series of shelves holding vegetables, carbs, seafood, meats and vital organs. You fill your basket with whatever you would like to eat, then it is weighed, charged per 100 grams and whisked away to be plunged into one of several rich, secret spice-laden broths that range in intensity from mild to ruinously hot. In most malatang venues your meal is then served in a fabulously ornate bowl ‘dry’ (without broth) or ‘wet’ (with) minutes later.For new players, malatang restaurants generally mandate a minimum per bowl—generally somewhere in the area of 300-400 grams. This information will be available somewhere near the counter, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you begin assembling your meal — 400 grams (plus soup) is nothing to sneeze at. Dedicated malatang stores are opening across the CBD and out into the suburbs of Melbourne. Here’s our pick of the top five spots to get your hot pot fix. Prefer dumplings? Here's Melbourne's best. If you don't know what you

Listings and reviews (20)

Gray and Gray

Gray and Gray

It fronts like Dennis Denuto’s lacklustre office in The Castle, but step through the dodgy blinds and sheisty gold lettering of this one-time legal office and things get decidedly more a la mode. You’ll see a lot of that sleight of hand at work at Gray and Gray, the fascinating brainchild of Boris Portnoy (All Are Welcome Bakery) and winemaker Mitch Sokolin that entered the cocoon a shabby law firm and left a stunning Georgian and Russian wine bar, the likes of which Melbourne has long wanted for.  Anyone following Gray and Gray’s rise will have clocked the magnetic sense of self-assuredness that runs through the whole experience here; a wink-to-camera cheek that begins with the mind-bending anti-design and copy of the website (“Give the worst gift! GRAY and GRAY gift!; CLOSING DAILY OPENING DAILY; BOOooK NOW!”) and continues through that absurd High Street facade. Even the Google reviews are funny—50 percent praise for the restaurant, 50 percent breathless allegations of malpractice against the former tenants (“Have given my family the run around for the 2 months!”). The mood is dialled somewhere near gonzo before you even arrive, but don’t be fooled—dinner at Gray and Gray is a study in flair and precision that lampoons the dour Soviet stereotype with razor-sharp wit and seriously good food.  The “Set Post Harvest Menu” (the modus operandi for the moment, with a la carte offerings to follow soon) references Sokolin and Portnoy’s Russian heritage and shared experience making

Etta

Etta

There was a time when Brunswick East threatened to throw itself into a positive feedback loop of mince and suds. Wouldn’t have sucked. Alas, it’s now more likely to be a loop of polished neighbourhood wine bars – probably the better outcome –skippered by Hannah Green’s pick-of-the-litter Etta: the handsome 70-seater ex-fish shop that epitomises the maturation of the area and whose sharing-is-caring menu is about as date night as it gets.  That menu now belongs to Rosheen Kaul, the 28-year-old rising star keeping the focus on the fire in her first gig at the top. Black-framed, concertina glass doors presage something tasteful and show a smart-casual wine bar humming on a Wednesday night, fit with dark stools, textured light brown walls and some terrific outfits. Through the archway beckons Kaul’s semi-open kitchen on the left; a diligent, calm scene that projects confidence and control throughout the main dining space. That sense is corroborated by the overall venue design—clever use of levels and layers, covert booths bored into the walls, and a rambling jungle garden kept behind glass that evokes the memory of somewhere much more humid. There’s a misconception that Etta is largely vegetarian. It isn’t. There’s plenty here to service vegetarian and vegans alike, and vegetables are often heroed – the heritage eggplant with crispy enoki and roast sesame is one of its flagship dishes – but you’ll find plenty of brilliant, considered meat options throughout Kaul’s menu, too. Spli

Tipo 00

Tipo 00

There’s a section of Little Bourke Street known to some as ‘Adventure Town’ for its abundance of camping shops. You’ve been there lots – it’s that shadowy, raked strip of toe shoe spruikers and spondonicle peddlers just west of Elizabeth Street. It’s also pound for pound one of the best places to eat in the CBD.  Maybe you know it as the site of Shanghai Street’s first outpost. Possibly for OG third-wave coffee hovel Brother Baba Budan. Perhaps you frequent the Danish Consulate’s secret smørrebrød dispensary, Denmark House. It’s a busy beat, and while there might be no denser concentration of carabiners in the southern hemisphere, the best adventures in these parts are fairly and squarely culinary. If you’ve had some luck in life, you might just know this moody Melbourne snapshot for Tipo 00: one of the finest pasta bars you could ever hope to spend your time in. “It’s not like it used to be,” says our waiter wistfully as she scans an animated dunch crowd, pointing to the fact the 40-seater is only three-quarters full at 3.45pm on this cold Monday and not spilling out the door as per. It is, of course, fully booked at dinner for weeks to come, but “the tourists just aren’t here anymore”, meaning there are a couple of unoccupied seats under Tipo’s powder blue ceiling for the first time in a long time. That’s good news for you, and just between us, dunchtime might just be the best time to eat here.  There’s a sort of post-lunch-rush afterglow in the air that is very attractive:

Rosa's Canteen

Rosa's Canteen

The air of institution is palpable as we belt up the wooden steps to Rosa’s by the two, late and sweaty, worried we've offsided the matriarch of Sicilian comfort food with our disrespect. It’s palpable however you arrive, to be fair: the accolades adorning the entrance; the disciplined floor team playing their skilful full-diner press service; the lone-wolf barrister at the bar cradling his flagship alla Norma (eggplant pasta) and a bottle of sangiovese for one. The sequel to the erstwhile Rosa’s Kitchen, Canteen is abuzz with post-work, pre-footy punters. Its reputation precedes it, but it’s clear even on cursory inspection how the Rosa Mitchell model remains on top more than ten years after pivoting from haircuts to cold cuts. “She’s not here tonight!” we remark internally (hopefully) as we’re tucked in to a high table by restaurant manager Dave and invited to gaze upon “Bondi Beach”. He’s referring to Melbourne’s oft-overlooked legal quarter, the shadowy west-end cluster of courts and eateries of which Rosa’s is the clear standout, fittingly situated two stories up, the Supreme Court dome sharp in the foreground. It’s a lovely match for these agreeably malt-forward Sardinian Birra Ichnusas. It’s 6.30 on on a  Thursday, and it’s packed – legal boomers abound. All look to be having some good old boomer fun under the high ceilings. As the pig is to mud, so too the boomer to cucina Italiana. And often too the wine list: here a considered selection of mid-priced, mid-weight Sic

Lee Ho Fook

Lee Ho Fook

Did ‘fusion’ really ever leave? Was it merely masquerading as ‘new-style’ all along? And when it’s this delicious, does it even matter? These are the hard-hitting questions you must ponder at Victor Liong’s time-honoured, pan-Asian institution Lee Ho Fook, as you meander through a set menu (only) of hatted small plates on the CBD’s graf-scrawled, Tourism Victoria-core Duckboard Place.  In our case, we are meandering through the Sunday lunch sitting, where the set menu will wend about four courses and roughly as many regions, setting you back $80 for the pleasure and a further $60 if you want to wine match (would’ve thought so, though the non-alcoholic options, headlined by the fig leaf ice tea, are great). Dinner will cost you twice that and will come with another four courses, but that’s a while away and we’ve other places to be.  But for now we are here, under the airy gabled ceiling in a bricky room politely humming with overdue catch-ups, awaiting instruction from the warm and cluey (if understaffed) floor team. It should be noted that there is a certain dagginess about the place personified by the toothless lounge jazz blanketing the room and the crowd of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child matinee attenders. Neither are a deterrent whatsoever—bonuses if anything—but it is something to note if you’re more of a two-hour package rave bruncher. It’s convivial, but it’s noticeably subdued. It’s also Sunday afternoon, so there’s that. Anyhow, our friendly steampunk waiter Geoff

Chibog

Chibog

At its best, Pinoy cuisine is a light-hearted, heavy-handed riot. Pork-stuffed bullfrog? Deep-fried pig trotter? Peanut butter oxtail curry? There’s not much time for subtlety or apology when it comes to Filipino food, and that flavourful abandon is without doubt one of its strongest suits. So it’s with slightly cautious optimism that we enter the chic, brick and steel Chibog, eager to see how this big-hearted cuisine plays out in a self-styled ‘modern Filipinx gastronomy bar’. Firstly, if you’re journeying specifically to Chibog, park out the front to avoid being led astray by the neighbouring wafts of this nascent gastro hub—Night Sparks’ dumba karahi; Magic Momos’ magic momos, for example. Once you’re in, order an ube macapuna colada: a heavily rum-ed, Tinky Winky-purple take on the old faithful that nods to the fluro root vegetable’s ubiquity in the Philippines. Now that you are hammered, clock the deep-fried trotter next to you and the knife thrust vertically through its oily hide. That’s the crispy pata. It comes with a vinegar dipping sauce, and if you like trophy food, order it and brace for Category Five decadence. If that’s not you, continue through the shared menu of small plates and large and select one of each per diner present.  Chibog doesn’t do betute (the stuffed frog), but it does do rellenong pusit—a small squid stuffed with pork mince and carrot —which hits the table first. A hasslebacked, flower-adorned surf ‘n turf sausage roll of sorts, the pork and squ

Cafe Gummo

Cafe Gummo

Ever wanted to dip your toes into East Timor’s experimental noise scene? Already dipping? Cafe Gummo might be for you. Yet another win for the northern stretch of High Street, the café-by-day, dive-bar-by-night has been turning heads with its staunch socio-political messaging and inclusive atmosphere since opening its doors in 2018, offering a safe but unmistakably wild space for all who step to its anti-dickhead, pro- bric-a-brac digs.Before we begin, it’s important to be aware that Cafe Gummo is not for the precious. It’s 10pm on a Wednesday when we arrive, and categorically experimental music is spilling onto (and well down) High Street from the venue’s small, road-adjacent band room. Five bucks gets you into tonight’s line-up of mostly Indonesian noise musicians plying their machines to a busy front room; mainly young, some standing, some sitting on the ground. All very respectful, all transfixed by the pained wailing of the vocalist, who herself is now on the ground. The walls are plastered in a mix of anti-facist, anti-ScoMo, pro-Indigenous, pro-LGBTQIA posters. One of the lighting fixtures is an old hi-hat decorated with clothing pegs to resemble a lampshade. Records line the walls, and there’s a wonky, hairy dartboard surrounded by wall punctures from a handful of mismatched darts. It’s all by design – a cohesively incohesive approach to interior decorating that gives the venue its powerfully unhinged ambience. The modestly appointed bar offers cheap jugs, a few beers

Jinda Thai Restaurant

Jinda Thai Restaurant

4 out of 5 stars

For all the culinary brouhaha that Melbourne generates nationally and abroad, we can’t seem to get a handle on reliable, cheap Thai. At least, so went the adage – our Vietnamese is unbeatable, our Chinese nuanced and regionally precise, but our Thai conspicuously wanting. When Jinda Thai opened its doors in 2013 it did so as the loud exception: a bustling, instant classic trumpeted more loudly still for its faithful menu, earnest hospitality and relative lack of competition – save for a couple of pricier fusion institutions. In the years since, “cheap Thai” has emerged as one of Melbourne’s most-improved culinary sectors, but Jinda remains its leading light. As a result, it can be hard to get a seat. Even at 5.45pm.  “Can you be out in an hour?” We can be out in an hour, yes, but given that Jinda’s capacious 150-pax digs are barely 15 per cent full and the outside UV index is still “Very High”, we’re wondering just how necessary that will be. Alas, “definitely we can!”. We can also kickflip a ten-stair, but that probably won’t be necessary either.  We’re seated at a converted Singer sewing table at the front of the exposed brick mess hall – an old sewing factory – opposite the restaurant’s personal ATM: an obelisk of pure business acumen that complements the restaurant’s $35 EFTPOS minimum and cash-only lunch policy. The air is thick with fish sauce as scattered conversations mesh with the faint din of the kitchen. Our waiter rogers a message through her headset like she’s st

Frankie's Tortas and Tacos

Frankie's Tortas and Tacos

3 out of 5 stars

We’re eight-deep in the queue here at Frankie’s Tortas and Tacos, a stationary Mexican food truck servicing the outlet adventure stores of Smith Street’s arse end. “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” we exclaim, in unison, in our heads, in two-part harmony. “Why, it’s only a Tuesday! It’s but 12.30pm on a Tuesday, and we’re stood in a great sodding queue! Imagine!”Frankie’s opens at midday, and arriving much after is to risk the ultimate disappointment. “They often run out of food – get there early” goes the cautionary tale of diners and would-bes past. It’s a good selling strategy – just ask Brunswick’s Juaninto’s (née La Paloma): create delicious thing, make little of it daily, generate urgency, convert urgency into buzz, foster addiction, yield profit. Maybe it’s intentional, maybe it’s not. Either way, when the goods are as bulletproof as, say, the Paloma Roll, everyone’s winning.Six-deep in the queue and Frankie’s reveals its form – a caged area extends from the white truck (and one-time kebab joint, complete with functional kebab rig, more on that in a moment) to the street and offers questionable seating (red plastic stools, iron benches and a few bar stools) for roughly 15. Palpably smug typography courtesy of the team that nailed Leonardo’s declares Frankie’s the “Home of the Al Pastor”: a rotisserie-pork taco or torta filling courtesy of Mexico’s first Middle Eastern immigrants, who allegedly introduced their new pals to the spit (praise be). It’s an aesthetic triumph, popping

Showtime BBQ & Dumpling Bar

Showtime BBQ & Dumpling Bar

4 out of 5 stars

No offering of food plus entertainment will ever eclipse that of the late spooky-steak sensation Dracula’s. Nobody’s suggesting that. But while Melbourne continues to mourn the ugly, protracted death of a cross-disciplinary icon, the dinner ‘n’ show niche appears to be bouncing back 19km southeast of the CBD in Clayton, assuming form as a raucous 80-seater where live karaoke meets the latest regional Chinese trend to take root in Melbourne: chuan’r.  One of the most cost-efficient and frenzied ways to get fed (and lit!) along China’s eastern seaboard, chuan’r is essentially the skewering, seasoning and coal-fire barbecuing of, well, pretty much anything. Originally from the country’s west, where the skewers are served on little swords, it’s now a wildly popular street food for workers and students alike – particularly in the country’s northeast – and subject to the outdoor cooking laws of the city, available on nearly every street corner. Yangrou chuan’r, lamb skewers loaded alternately with lamb meat and lamb fat, are considered the de facto captain of the lot, but the central canon runs from veggie mainstays like jiucai (Chinese leek) and jinzhengu (enoki mushrooms) through to fish, mantou (sweet Chinese bread) and a definitively ‘head-to-tail’ programme of red-blooded cuts. Everything is doused in cumin and chilli, and every participating throat is doused in beer or baijiu – China’s ruthless sorghum-based white spirit.  Thank you for attending our TED Talk. Showtime BBQ &

Lan Sen Noodle Bar

Lan Sen Noodle Bar

3 out of 5 stars

There must be something inherently compelling about Thai street food and exhaust fumes. It proved a recipe for sustained acclaim at inner-city wundernook Soi 38, whose unlikely but colourful digs at the bottom of a Wilson’s carpark have been full since launching its popular noodle program in 2015. Some 26km southeast of its progenitor you’ll find Lan Sen Noodle Bar: a lively 25-seater applying that fumey blueprint to a carpark in merry Springvale.  “We used to be a grocer”, explains our waiter, “but there are too many in Springvale now. So my auntie decided to turn it into a restaurant two years ago.” A wise move, it would seem, packed as it is on Tuesday afternoon with comers young and old. We’re told that this joint is locally famous for noodles and a broader roster of pan-Thai street foods, and a quick scan around the naturally lit room confirms the hype – bowls of fragrant, predominantly rice-noodled soups topping one in two tables, their aromas (and the odd car fume) ushered about by a charming pair of tiring ceiling fans.  A mug of sweet ginger tea in a fetching cat print mug gets us underway as we thumb through a menu of Thai street and not street food. We’re caught instantly by the miang pla too – an upright mackerel grilled and served with cabbage and noodles – but are advised against it because we “might not like it”. Bah! We push through, and out it comes grilled to tender perfection, and we get to ripping flesh from spine. The idea is to wrap a pinch of meat and v

Marios

Marios

4 out of 5 stars

In Marios, as in Mario times two, not Mario’s – Marios’, if anything – we have a lot to be grateful for. In 1986, when Fitzroy was but a dusty café nullius ruled by barbarous feudal lords and hangry megafauna (presumably), Marios’ opening as the first cafe on Brunswick Street would usher in not only the dawn of the suburb’s vibrant café culture but as goes the fable, the dawn of ‘all-day breakfast’ in a city now defined by it. The humble trat whose legacy alone guarantees a packed house every night is now a bona fide beacon of the inner north. People love Marios.  We know the story: two Marios bet it all on affordable-but-tableclothed Italian fare and won big. The lasagne’s reputation precedes it. The waitstaff wear waistcoats. Our Kylie visited once. Some other guy’s worked the pass since day dot and is getting on a bit.  Bedrock, institution, just like mama used to make, etc. Those who have grown up with Marios generally know what they’re setting out to achieve on any given visit. It’s usually pasta-related, and it’s often as simple as a stonking Bolognese and a post-work chinwag. Perhaps the puttanesca and a little solo social media. A celebratory T-Bone if you’ve been good. Less commonly, a three-course journey through the specials board and beyond, but hey, someone’s gotta do it.   It’s a heaving Wednesday night on our first visit – too packed to sit in the living room-cum-bordello front dining area. We’re ushered past the buzz and the people watching – a long-haired ma