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The most important reason I am now writing this post all the way from Melbourne is to attend Mellissa’s 21st birthday. She has one of the easiest to remember birthday of anyone I know, on 8.8.88, you can’t get any more auspicious than that.

Just a night after I arrived, on the eve of her birthday, we had dinner at Vialetto, a little restaurant at Hardware Lane serving Italian food. The food was very pedestrian and nothing to shout about, so despite taking a tonnes of photos from the restaurant, I shall refrain from writing about a place that I wouldn’t return.

Mellissa's 21st Birthday
Charlie’s bar is located at the quaint Hardware Lane

Right after dinner, we adjourned to Charlie’s bar a couple doors down the lane. The bar itself is located at the basement level with some tables outdoor (not exactly very awesome to be outdoor in winter, though heater is provided). The service was really good, our server made sure the reserved area is vacated as soon as we arrived and took orders in very efficient and professional manner.

The guys arrived soon enough and by 11pm the group grew to some 30 people, including all of Mellissa’s housemates, university friends, and other friends from KL including Zehan, Pinky and her bf Kah Kit too.

Mell's birthday at Charlie's bar
Zehan, KY, Mell, Kah Kit, Sam, Pinky, Mell,
JW, Harvey, Singz, Graeme, Mark, Ian, Mrina, and more!

At the end of the night Mellissa got quite tipsy, though luckily still quite manageable. The guys love the drinks at Charlie’s bar, the cocktails were made just right with enough amount of proper alcohol. The place was quaint and comfortable, even the music too was good. Everyone had a great time, and of course, the no indoor smoking policy in the city always help.

Minor set back of the whole evening was the lack of a cake but oh well, Mell did bake a chocolate cake 2 days later, heehee. Happy Birthday darling!

p/s: Going skiing at Mt. Buller in less than 12 hours, I’m very anxious for my first ski trip in 8 years, gonna be Mell’s first heehee.

Cafe Italia must be one of the most uncreative names for an Italian restaurant to assume, especially one that is tucked in a small lane connected to the little Italy of Melbourne, Lygon Street. Fortunately, it is also one that serves up very good authentic Italian cuisine in for pretty reasonable prices.

Cafe Italia at University St, off Lygon, Melbourne
alfresco dining at Cafe Italia when weather permits

Incidentally, this is also one of Mell’s housemates, Jun Wei’s favorite Italian restaurant in Melbourne. The eatery is located on a rather small 1-way University Street (between Melbourne University and Carlton Garden) and only has a small 3’x3′ sign on the outside. Pretty easy to miss especially since the place sorta look like a green house from the outside during cooler months.

Together with Zehan (who also needs a bf, a good Muslim boy perhaps?), the four of us went there in the middle of April during my last trip to Melbourne.

spaghetti fruitti di mare and fish special
spaghetti frutti di mare (seafood), fish special (barramundi)

The restaurant has three different area, conventional dining, private rooms, and court yard (which, as mentioned, converts to green house like area when it’s colder). Interior is tastefully decorated with a bar, wine racks, and plenty of plants. Very comfortable and yet not overly done.

The menu is not any different from most Italian restaurants, offering pasta, beef, lamb, fish, pizza, and of course, a variety of appetizers, desserts, and wine.

lamb chop and rigatoni ragu
lamb chop, rigatoni ragu (pasta with eggplant)

I ordered the lamb special ($27.90)- a generous piece of char grilled lamb chop marinated with lemon and wine served on pea mash. The meat was tender, juicy, and the taste of the lemon and red wine marinate was just right. I was so glad I ordered it. The pea mash was interesting and I actually liked it better than mashed potato by quite a bit.

Mell had the pesce del giorno (fish special $28.90)) – a piece of barramundi (I think) fillet served with fire roasted peppers, brocolini, and lime saffron sauce. The seafood was fresh and sauce went well with the whole combination, no complains at all there.

jun wei, KY, mellissa, and zehan at cafe italia
Jun Wei, KY, Mell, Zehan

Zehan and Jun Wei had the rigatoni ragu (spaghetti with eggplant, $17.90) and spaghetti frutti di mar (seafood spaghetti $22.90) with both of them expressing approval for their dishes in terms of taste as well as presentation.

Comparing to the more student friendly (budget wise) places such as Cafe Notturno, Cafe Italia is 30-50% pricier, but if you look into the place, service, as well as food quality and taste factor, then it is a very worth while place to visit.

map to cafe italia at lygon street, Melbourne

At the end, our bill came to just a bit less than $100 for the four of us (we only ordered water). Dollar to dollar, an excellent value don’t you think? Now I think I might need to go back there again for the next Melbourne trip.

Address:
Cafe Italia
56/66 University St,

Carlton
Victoria 3053,
Australia

GPS: -37.799366,144.967926
Tel: +613 9347 0638
Website: cafeitalia.com.au

Last night I had one of the most impressive home dinner over at Singz’s, one of Mell’s friends. When Mell told me that Singz’s mom cooks the most amazing prawn mee, I sorta took it with a pinch of salt since you know, I’m from Penang and all that. But after the dinner, I have to give it to Mama Wong, it was most awesome indeed!

Mama Wong’s kitchen has a automated shopping mall style glass sliding door separating the cooking are and the dining room, so very cool! The only disadvantage I can think of is when you have a power outage. They better have an emergency generator at home.

penang prawn mee and laksa
Mama Wong’s Penang prawn mee and laksa

Anyway, there were altogether about 10 of us at the dinner, and each of us chose between Penang prawn mee or asam laksa. The host obviously had everything very well planned, all the cutlery and condiments were in place, for the prawn mee we have

  • extra prawns
  • sambal
  • fried shallots
  • hard boiled eggs

And for Asam Laksa we have

  • har kou (prawn paste)
  • mint leaves
  • pineapple strips
  • cucumber strips
  • red chili
  • diced ginger flower (bunga kantan)
  • sliced onion

And those are just the condiments, the prawn mee was easily the best I had since Lian Gaik at Butterworth, Penang. The perfect soup with prawn, kangkung, mee hun + mee, and most importantly, PORK RIBS! I’m getting so hungry just writing this omg.

Asam laksa was pretty good too, plenty of fish chunks and all that garnishing, it was a shame that my stomach just couldn’t let me take more. I had requested half a bowl after the huge prawn mee serving but it seems that Mama Wong didn’t believe half a bowl. Oh well.

tropical fruits & grapes, mua chee, and barley tong sui
tropical fruits & grapes, mua chee, and barley tong sui

Mua chee, together with a plate of mangosteen, nangka, grapes, and pink guava were served next. The mua chee was as good as any I’ve had too. And as our collective stomachs were getting full to the brim, bowls of hot barley tong sui appeared.. *slurps…burp*

Singz; Jun Wei; Ian, Ching, Mrina
Singz; Jun Wei; Ian, Ching, Mrina

It was a very enjoyable dinner experience, aided by a lot of bimbo talks that us 3.5 guys had to endure. Oh, by the way, Mama Wong’s daughter, Singz (on the top left picture who looks a bit psycho, she doesn’t normally look like this (or so they say)) is single and available, please leave a comment with links to your facebook or something for a chance of eternal awesome prawn mee supply.

Oh, she likes bad boys with piercings and tattoos.

p/s: I’ll make a huge announcement should Mama Wong decide to open a restaurant.