Posts Categorized: Cheap eats

Journal Canteen: eating and drinking out of our discontent

It’s a little know fact that Journal Canteen – or Rosa’s Kitchen as the hidden neon sign on the first floor of the Centre for Adult Education (CAE) Building on Flinders Lane says – is now open on Friday nights. Up until I discovered that, I had only ever eaten lunch – for which bookings aren’t taken – there. For you to discover it, enter the Centre for Adult Education (1st floor, 253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne +61 3 9650 4399), and turn right up some stairs. To say it is hidden away is like calling the mafia law abiding, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi doesn’t like to party with topless girls. Or that Italian cars are reliable (now I’m in trouble). The vibe is refectory and you will have to share a table with the other diners, office workers by day teachers by night. The level of chatter is high and it’s the sort of place you feel comfortable dining alone with a book (or twitter in my case). The cook, Rosa Mitchell, insisted on linen serviettes. “Just in case Stephen Downes reviews it,” she jokes. And it adds class. My first lunch I felt was a little too rustic, but Rosa Mitchell’s Sicilian style food I have eaten ever since has been terrific. The food is simple, seasonal and homely and (warning) sometimes includes tripe. The recipes, you’ll want them for the anti pasta ($15/$27) alone, are available in the cookbook Rosa’s Kitchen which is brilliantly put together by Murdoch Books ( I paid for mine). (As an aside it is worth reading Jules’ review which which I totally agree.) The Veal Saltimbocca is hard to refuse. Most mains are $20. Dessert $7.50. At lunch time the degustation is $32. Four courses for supper on a Friday night we visited was $39 and stovetop coffee is thrown in. Our evening meal comprised of the anti pasta, a squid ink risotto, roasted pork and dessert. A tightly written, reasonable value and interestingly European wine list doesn’t break the bank either with most priced between $36 and $47. This is the kind of food that is just right for this moment: A miserable economic climate only made darker by the damp, cold winter. You’ll want to come here to eat and drink yourself out of your discontent.

Slippery, furry and cold, I also ate terrific little scrotums of flavour at Din Tai Fung

This is one of the most memorable and best value dishes I ate while briefly in Sydney – the $6.80 Tofu with pork floss and 1,000 year old eggs – at Din Tai Fung at World Square. I think it was even better than the Shao-long bao, which has become so fashionable at Yum Cha nowadays. I was eating with Shelley from SBS Food who was far more adept at eating these punchy little bags of flavour, using a technique that ensures that they didn’t burst down her front. Having only been introduced to these fashionable little soup-filled scrotums this year, I use the extreme and risky eating technique of shoving them in my gob. I just hope that one day I will learnt that this is a fast track to stained cloths and a burnt tongue. Shelly, however wasn’t into the tofu dish. And I can see why. The floss looks like the result of shaving a brown jumper with a Remington Fuzz-Away. But I fell for the wobbly cold smooth tofu, the temperature itself providing a contrast to the woolly pork-flavoured floss and the black eggs. The shame was the nut-like testical of pork that rattled inside the above buns. Nevertheless, the value was terrific and I would return again. I’m going to submit this to Very Cheap Eats as the total cost for lunch for two with tea was $45.80.