Tonka – One of the ”Big 5”

For Valentines night, love was in the air and my ever organised (darling) girlfriend had booked well ahead of the crowd to get a table at Coda’s new (ish) sister restaurant. I didn’t know what to expect but being Valentines night I let my girlfriend carry me down the scary back alley that leads to Tonka. On first impressions there are similarities between the two restaurants but Tonka has a more clean and fresh look about it.

Pani puri, crispy parcel filled with spiced potato, mung beans, date and tamarind chutney with aromatic water

In Melbourne we are spoilt, unlike anywhere else I’ve been in the world, you’d struggle to go to a high street cafe or restaurant and get a bad meal, generally speaking you have to really pick at things to find negatives. There are however times when I go to places and they blow me away, it’s never a full meal, but just one dish which turns off the part of my brain that regulates saliva production, normal speech and the ability to swallow. I like to call them the big 4;

  • Gelato Messina – Fitzroy – Salted Caramel and White Chocolate Gelato
  • Chin Chin – CBD – Massaman Curry
  • Red Spice Road – CBD – Pork Belly, Apple Slaw, Caramel & Black Vinegar
  • Niche – Bridge Road – Corn Fritters, Avocade Mouse, Cajun Creme Fraiche

Chargrilled Western Plains pork belly, chickpea, pork crackling and pickled radishOne thing I love about Coda is the impeccable service, this is replicated in Tonka; we were unsure what to order so the extremely knowledgable staff said they would bring a spread of their favourite dishes. The sommelier then liaised with the waitress to give us an option of 3 wines which would go well, again, he knew his stuff and had been to a number of the vineyards.

We started with Pani puri, crispy parcel filled with spiced potato, mung beans, date and tamarind chutney with aromatic water, as well as Hervey Bay scallop with sweet peppers, spiced cauliflower and pancetta, both dishes were good, nothing amazing but a solid start.IMG_2556

The next thing that happened took me by surprise, extremely similar to the first time I got intimate with a lady, something completely unexpected happened, it came out of no where and unfortunately was over all too quickly. The soft-shell crab pakora with pickled cucumber, lemon, chilli and mint came out, it didn’t look the most appetising dish, however, it makes it onto the ‘Big 5.’ The crab was soft and cooked to perfection, the light batter around the outside had beautifully subtle indian flavours and took me somewhere special.

The next couple of dishes didn’t really stand a chance, like putting Wayne Rooney next to Cristiano Ronaldo, both footballers but very different looking. The chargrilled pork belly we felt was overpowered by the charred taste, it tasted of ash and unfortunately wasn’t quite to my taste. We also had the lamb curry with roasted coconut, black cardamom and white poppy seeds which was delicious as well as the Rajasthani duck, cucumber, mint and buffalo milk curd with a side of fried cauliflower, garam masala salt, fenugreek and yoghurt dressing, again, exceptional food but standing in the shadow of the soft shell crab.

IMG_2557All in all I would whole-heartedly recommend Tonka, taking Indian food to the next level is a tough ask, aspects of Tonka manages this and the attitude and knowledge of the staff is exceptional. We didn’t feel rushed even though we were dining on one of the busiest nights of the year and we had the best seat in the house. Based solely on cuisine and personal choice, I think I preferred Coda, however, would be more than happy to revisit Tonka.

Price – 7

Quality of food – 8

Atmosphere – 9

Take a look at my review of Mr Carsisi! on Urbanspoon


Hammer & Tong 412

DSC_0446I’m not a princess, I have very few expectations of restaurants but I do like the little things done well. My pet peeve of a number of restaurants is elaborate dishes, GDP of a small country spend on decor and furnishings and a wine list rivalling War and Peace only for it to be 40 degrees outside and I’m served room temperature, tepid water.

Hammer and Tong has a reputation, I generally don’t like reputations and like to form my own opinion, but the amount of people raving about the place couldn’t be ignored. We decided to give it a go and arrived at about 10.00am to be seated straight away (a real luxury in Melbourne, we’ll save my tirade about restaurant booking systems for a later date, watch out Chin Chin and Attica!). You can’t help but be impressed on first impressions, the space and interior is typically Melbourne, modern with an old, industrial, warehouse feel to it. We were seated, given menu’s and ice cold water, perfect to counter the hot weather, so far so good! The menu was fairly limited with some fairly unusual concoctions, think breakfast ramen with hen’s egg, oyster mushrooms, bacon dsahi and spring onions.

DSC_0449I struggled to order as I often do but opted left of field with a soft shell crab burger, Jax ordered the tomato fondue bruschetta, basil and buffalo boccocini. My burger came and it was spectacular; the brioche bun was sweet and toasted, asian slaw had a good hit of coriander and the crab was crunchy, moist and delicious, I loved this dish.

On the other hand Jax’s bruschetta came, it was burnt to a crisp and I almost felt bad watching her grimace her way through it whilst I ploughed into my work of art. I had a taste when she called it a day (as scripted, one of the real upsides to having a girlfriend) and unfortunately was pretty disappointed myself, all I could taste was ash from the cremated bread and the tomato sauce tasted sweet like the topping from a cheap pizza. My advice, choose wisely!


Price – 8

Quality of food – 7

Atmosphere – 8

If you liked this post, take a look at my post on St Ali in South Melbourne;

Hammer & Tong on Urbanspoon