34 Inkerman St, St Kilda, VIC 3182
03 9537 1777
My friend Tanyamon came for a visit from Hong Kong over the weekend. I skeptical of her choice of travel dates- firstly it’s Grand Final weekend and secondly Melbourne decided to welcome her with freezing weather, hail and storm. Anyway, I guess she is not here for the awesome weather, but rather, the glorious food offerings we have in Melbourne.
Being a foodie herself and taking me to the delicious and unique Rakuen in Hong Kong, I didn’t want to disappoint her. She specified “No Chinese food!” so I gave her a few options including Hell of The North and Estelle which I love, and Pei Modern and Newmarket Hotel which I would love to try. She decided on Newmarket Hotel, a Californian-inspired restaurant with a wink to the South.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect with Californian cuisine, as I haven’t been to California since 3 and all I know about American food is oversized burgers and that there is awesome food in the South. To be honest I was slightly hesitant about Newmarket Hotel. I heard a few stories about staff being pretentious and the food being so-so, but I also heard a lot of positive things about it and thought it would be good to at least try it.
It was freezing cold when I arrived, and although I don’t normally order coffee in a restaurant I asked for a soy mocha $3.50, which really hits the spot.
We didn’t really take long to decide what we wanted as we were starving. As huge fans of soft shell crab we ordered the soft shell crab tacos ($17 for 2, $8 for one extra). The tacos were awesome. Warm, soft and pillowy, it enveloped the delicious deep fried morsel of soft shell crab to create a beautiful texture contrast. The coriander, fennel and salsa lifts the dish so it doesn’t feel oily. As my dining companion said, a perfect entrée.
Next up, we were presented with the special of the day: Tostada with house cured tuna $18. This is the prettiest Tostada I have ever seen. Delicately flavoured, the tuna was super fresh. The fish roe which dotted prettily like orange jewels not only served as eye-candies but also burst with slightly salty flavour of the sea. At first we thought the black bits were truffles but since it was not in season I didn’t think that was the case. I think they were bits of black pepper tostada but I could be wrong. Overall a big thumbs up to this dish.
Tanyamon must be a huge piggy fan because she decided on two pork dishes as mains. The first one is the Wood Oven Rostisseria of the Day, which is the Whole Hog Pit BBQ $38. Obviously for $38 they are not going to bring us the whole pig. What we got was pulled pork, roast pork meat and crackling with greens, coleslaw, sweet potato (it said “sweet potatoES” in the menu but we got one ) and a hot vinegary sauce.
We all agreed that we are least impressed by this dish. Even though each of the elements were quite nice, it didn’t really seem to come together as a dish. The pulled pork was really yummy and tangy but we all agreed that it would go nicely with those yummy soft taco wraps we had before as the pulled pork was quite salty by itself. The roast pork meat was OK, it had great flavours but the meat was a touch hard. The pork skin on the roasted meat, which we expected to be crispy was not and we had a hard time cutting through it. I think we could never get used to non-Asian crackling either. I just don’t understand the appeal of those white puffy bits that is slightly tasteless.We couldn’t fault the greens other than perhaps if it was more bland it might go better with the pulled pork.
Our next pork dish was the Pork Rib ($16 ea). The Pork Rib was not like a rack of ribs as we know it. Only one “rib” was served but it was quite big (our waitress said it’s about 150g per serve) and it included a small slab of pork belly with it. The rib was slow cooked and the ribs are more like soft bones. The rib was slathered in Mr. Wilson’s BBQ Sauce which was rich and tangy. Tanyamon’s cousin kept saying “All these zingyness kept dancing in my mouth!” LOL. Tanyamon also commented she would rather have two servings of this rather than the roast pork. Oh well you live and learn.
I wasn’t too sure why this came last as this was the seasonal starter, but I thought it was a fantastic dish to finish. I had noooo idea what “piccolo fritto” was but they had me at ink aioli. Yes, the full description said “Piccolo fritto of the sea, artichokes & ink aioli” $18- ohhh yeah. I know it’s probably not a first date thing to order, but I am weirdly obsessed with squid ink anything, so any opportunity to have squid ink, I would put my hand up for it (yes, even at a work team lunch where I had to spend 10 mins in the toilet trying to get rid of my black lips and black teeth…)
Google tells me that Piccolo Fritto means “Little Fry”- ohhhh yeah. Somehow I think they have put this dish in the wrong category- this is certainly not a starter! Out came a generous serve of deep fried goodness of fish, soft shell crab, mussels, artichoke, onion rings (which is really bad for my FODMAP belly but so good for my tastebuds!). Drizzled in black ink aioli, the flavours were lifted by a generous squeeze of lime. The dish was surprisingly not very oily either and the seafood pieces were fresh and succulent. We were quite full by then but I kept nibbling at this dish.
We also ordered a pitcher of Azusa cocktail to share halfway through our meals. Azusa ($35) was really citrusey and refreshing- it would be great for summer, sitting outside their courtyard. It was great when it arrived just before our mains came also, as it also helped lifting the richness of the dishes.
Overall I was very impressed by Newmarket Hotel. I wish I had found this place earlier and I was so glad that Tanyamon chose to try Newmarket Hotel. I was a bit sad that I was too full to try their awesome sounding dessert like the Mexican Coffee and Tequila Flan or their Latin Style Chocolate Pot with Dulce de Leche or their Caramelised date and banana cake with peanut butterrrr parfaittttt… NOMS…. if only we didn’t order the roast! Oh well- there is always next time.
The dreaded up-their-asses service experience were nowhere to be seen. Our drinks were topped up constantly, the staff was professional, efficient and friendly and the dishes were all spaced at the right times.
I am none the wiser about Californian cuisine though as what we seemed to have ordered came from the South, but I ain’t complaining-I would definitely bring visitors and friends alike to this marvelous place. 8.5/10