Wealth Creator ducks out for lunch in Melbourne with $20 in our wallet by Stella Sookun
137 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9639 7073
If you’re into unassuming hideaway-style eating, then this practically unsigned Japanese restaurant (and we’re talking just a light brown door at the end of a wonderfully graffiti-covered wall) is an eatery well worth seeking out. Serving delicate and attention-to-detail Japanese cuisine in a low-key atmosphere, Yu-u offers just enough choice for their $18 set lunch menu.
What I had
The set lunch menu consists of chef’s choice of sautéed cabbage and Chinese vegetables, soup of the day Р which consisted of a clear soup of diced carrots and Chinese vegetables Р a small portion of steamed rice and then your choice of several mains ranging from beef and salmon to fresh sashimi options. I went for the thinly sliced beef, adding a rice tea drink for an extra $2. The set lunch also includes a side order of steamed seaweed, mash potato Japanese-style and a slice of orange to clean the palette. My beef main was truly excellent. Thinly sliced, very tender and cooked through with spring onions, red ginger and carrots.
Yu-U dining is more about detail than adding a dent to your stomach. The food comes out quickly and immaculately presented. Wait staff arrange dishes on a number of porcelain trays ready to send to patrons who sit around a raised oblong-shaped dining table in a dimly lit concrete box of calm. There’s also an impressive selection of sake served at hot, cold and room temperature.
Go forth and fawn if you’re after a sophisticated light bite. This place is unpretentious and relaxed but is definitely a kudos builder for anyone you take with you. Best of all it’s only a stumble away from Federation Square. The rice and soup portions in the set menu are a little on the slim side however, so this is not a recommendation for starving Marvins.
Pellegrini’s Expresso Bar
66 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9662 1885
If you’re really hungry, eating alone or with possibly one other (small) person and want a hit of authentic Italian coffee to boot, than prepare yourself for plate upon white plate of heartwarming and tasty pasta. This bar is very intimate folks Р15 red-leather stools line one side of an old school serving bar that vibrates with food and expresso orders shouted and missed in both Italian and English. There’s also a back room with tables and white cloths, but I have no idea how you get there or what qualifies you entry. Interestingly, pasta dishes are posted up on a large wooden board towards the back of the bar sans prices with coffee signed as “as requested”.
What I had
For $19 I received a lasagna and side salad with a home made lemonade. Fifteen minutes later an ample sized portion of very fresh pasta has arrived with a chunky tomato and cumber salad dressed simply but tastily. Buttered white doorsteps were a welcomed touch. A cracking lasagna is not to be taken for granted and Pellegrini’s serves a mean one. A rich tomato sauce, well cooked meat and perfect cheese selections mean that the pasta stays put when you cut into it and that the flavours stay interesting all the way through.
The words ‘Melbourne Institution’ are bandied about quite regularly with some eateries and I am aware Pellegrini’s often falls into this category for most. However, like most institutions, checks and balances are often needed if unwelcomed. The food is excellent and reasonably priced, no doubt, but staff may have become just a tad complacent in terms of customer service. If you’re vaguely concerned about personal space or that radical idea of a smile, you may want to turn back and walk out. But, you’d be a fool to.
269 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9663 8181
A review of alternative business lunches for $20 in Melbourne wouldn’t be complete without the state’s almost cult-like fever for dumplings. Much like Dim Sum, the best places to eat spark lively debates among even the most passive partakers of this particularly Melbourne sport. I for one wouldn’t dare suggest that there aren’t better or cheaper dumpling houses scattered across the CBD (I value my writing life) but, because of its obvious accessibility for tourists and office workers alike, Dumplings Plus gets my humble vote.
What I had
I chose 10 pan-fried pork dumplings for $10. Each dumpling was more than ample and cooked well enough. For me this means pastry which is not too thick and pork that doesn’t taste like a four-legged dead animal upon chewing. I accompanied this with a generous serving of pastry and chive pancakes, four vegetable spring rolls and a Diet Coke. The pancakes were light and oil-free, the spring rolls fresh and packed full as all good spring rolls should be.
Dumpling Plus’s central location, turnover of tables and sheer taste factor is everything you should want in a dumpling house. If eating here were an equation, it would probably go something like this: you’re hungry, add some fresh ‘you-can-see-them-being-made’ dumplings, multiply with well-chosen veggies or meat cuts to equal a most happy and fuller you. Best of all is the bill, where you almost curse yourself for not ordering the same again.
From the happy faces around me and the change in my purse, I’d happily recommend this pit stop of a lunch to anyone hungry, working or other.
Pekopeko Modern Asian Café - Restaurant
190 Wells Street, South Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9686 1109
Pekopeko is a local hero as far we’re concerned. In fact, many within the Wealth Creator team are near out of excuses for excessively looking out of our windows and discussing what we’ll order well before our photocopier’s warmed up each morning. We definitely covet our neighbour. Family owned and thriving for the last six years, the Peko menu offers huge choice. There are 18 different Peko boxes to choose from offering all meat, fish and veggie options. If you are boxed out then there are an equal number of light meals, entrЋe platters, noodle bowls, Peko plates, ‘just soups’ and ‘just salads’.
What I had
For $12 I had a Peko bento box of Teppan Chicken, paying an extra $2.50 for miso soup to start. The Teppanyaki box is a popular one with thinly sliced chicken stir fried in a garlic soy sauce with carrots and bean sprouts. You also receive an ample serving of rice and two sides of green beans and tofu all served in an oriental box. The dish is filling, fresh and hugely tasty.
From the additional sides my colleagues ordered (think fresh spring rolls, sausage slices and sliced pork) the sides are definitely worth an order, too.
Pekopeko gets my 5 forks for delivering hugely tasty well-priced food. Accommodating staff complement a well thought through dЋcor that is scattered with personal touches from mini pinball machines, Polaroids of regulars to my favourite, the till dog that nods when you drop your tips in its mouth. Genius. This is all achieved in a completely unpretentious way with a family-run feel to boot. The word is out though, so make sure you book ahead if you are taking a client to avoid waiting for a table.