Maxie Juang is a self-confessed kitchen perve. The 26 year old foodie isn’t ashamed to admit she has a thing for peering into open kitchens when she dines out, just to see how they operate. “I love watching how they work and seeing how they do things, mostly to see if I can do it at home - mostly I can’t!” She laughs.
It’s been nine years since Maxie made Melbourne her home. She is originally from the southern port city of Kaohsiung in Taiwan, a place that has undoubtedly dictated her preferences when it comes to flavour and food. In fact, her food philosophy is broad and for someone so young, she isn’t afraid of much - she’s been known to order the blood sausage without flinching - and not only is she well versed on all the best places to eat, she is never short of random facts about said places.
If food is a journey, then Maxie is a well seasoned traveller and she’s managed to leave her footprint in a number of establishments around the CBD, often choosing her destinations based on their proximity to her favourite city haunts, devoting the better half of an entire day to the experience.
So, without further ado, let’s find out where this foodie goes for food!
Shimbashi Japanese Soba & Sake Bar
17 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
“Just near Spring St, next to the Princess Theatre and a cool Vietnamese fusion place called Hochi Mama, Shimbashi’s location was what originally drew me to it, but I’ve since found they do these really amazing soba noodles.
They get top-grade buckwheat from Tasmania and grind it fresh every day, in the onsite stonemill. They get up at 4-5am everyday just to do that. It’s made fresh and it’s one of the only places I’ve found in Melbourne that serves soba noodles on their own, fresh and chilled.
I really like that area of the CBD - my favourite bookstore, Paperback is right next to it and it’s also close to some really nice wine bars - Romeos and Siglo where you can sit with a glass of vino and enjoy the beautiful view of Parliament House.”
Feast of Merit
117 Swan St, Richmond
12 Sutherland St, Melbourne “A while ago, a friend of mine was involved with YGAP and I decided to volunteer as a kitchen hand with one of the organisations initiatives, Feast of Merit. It’s a social enterprise/restaurant that is wholly based on the farm-to-fork philosophy and 100% of its profits go towards supporting local leaders in Africa, Asia and Australia.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the cuisine, I’d say it’s perhaps a fusion of native Aborigine with some middle eastern influences. It’s all about locally sourced, sustainable and seasonal produce.
Being located on Swan St in Richmond, I like to drop in for a bite if I’m coming from or going to a gig at the Corner Hotel, and the venue itself is super chilled with a nice communal feel to it. It has this big panelled glass window that opens up and you can sit on the ledge and swing your legs outside - it’s the perfect spot to bring your dog!
I took my dad there once when he was visiting from Taiwan and he loved it. Actually, funny story - it’s where his obsession with sparkling water began. I wanted to spoil him that day and you know that question, where the waiter asks “Sparkling or tap?” and because you’re poor you just get tap? Well I thought, “F%&k it, sparkling water for my dad!” Last time I went back to Taiwan, my parent’s fridge was full of sparkling water and mum was all like, “What have you started?! We don’t need this expensive habit!” Thanks Feast of Merit!”
33 Guildford Ln, Melbourne
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts
12 Sutherland St, Melbourne
“When it comes to choosing cafes, I’m not into the whole “Oh there’s this cool, new matcha-turmeric-chai latte, let’s go there just to try it.” I’m a little bit of an old soul and I have a habit of walking everywhere rather than taking transport, so I’ll go for a stroll in areas I like and visit places based on that.
For CBD cafes, Rustica Canteen and Shortstop go hand in hand for me.
Rustica is by far one of the best places to get sourdough loaf in the city. I don’t even eat bread but I’m a wannabe hipster so I buy my bread there and just give it to my boyfriend. People flock there to get it. The original Rustica Sourdough is on Brunswick St, Fitzroy, it’s been there for sometime and Rustica Canteen opened more recently. Last time I was there, I remember reading that they are in the process of acquiring a license, so they might branch out into a bar in future.
After getting my very-essential-and-not-at-all-unnecessary loaf of sourdough, I’ll stop by Shortstop for coffee and a doughnut. It’s run by the ex-owner of Market Lane. What I love about this place is that they don’t do lattes and cappuccinos, they just have a black cup, a white cup and a recently introduced cold brew option (I feel like they were one of the first to introduce it).
Instead of having a doughnut menu, they have a glass case and inside they present one of each donut with the flavour on a name tag. They do a really nice earl grey doughnut with rose petals, but my go-to is the sea salt and honeycomb. Unlike fried doughnuts and the OTT doughnuts you see all over Instagram, Shortstop’s flavours are more simple and almost cake-like in texture, so they’ll get you through your entire cup of coffee.
361 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
“Yes, there’s often a queue and a somewhat long wait to get into Tipo 00, but that’s how you know it’s good! It’s quite small in size, but the hospitality is incredible.
I went with my boyfriend once and we weren’t overly hungry but we still wanted the three course experience, so instead of getting two serves we decided to just get one and share. They knew how long we had waited and we were served directly by the maître d’ when he could easily have gotten a regular waiter to serve us.
We ordered the bean salad with feta, walnut and shaved apple for entree. The main was quite nostalgic for my Kiwi boyfriend, he grew up on a farm, so the rabbit pappardelle was familiar for him. The rabbit was super soft and tender but still held its texture and every shared dish we ordered they actually separated into two separate dishes for us, even the dessert!
We were there for the second dinner session and it was still quite busy, but it’s really conveniently located (right next to Emporium and Bourke St Mall) so there are plenty of ways to kill time while you wait!”
San Telmo Argentinian Bar & Restaurant
14 Meyers Pl, Melbourne
“This recommendation is a little more expensive but it’s the kind of place I was happy to shell out money for. As soon as you walk in the door you’ll notice a slight South American, colonial feel and a massive open grill - open kitchen too, so I was able to check out what was going on behind the scenes ;)
The menu is Argentinean inspired and my favourite dish is the beetroot and vinegarette salad. It’s the perfect place for that last minute fancy dinner and a good one to recommend to friends who have been to all the usual suspects.
They make their cocktails with fresh fruit - I tried a pineapple one - and you can really taste the fruit flavours. They also do a really mean rib eye and I also enjoyed the blood sausage there. I know the idea of it can make people feel a little queasy, but San Telmo has really perfected the fine balance between moist and dry and the seasoning is spot on.”
Pastuso Peruvian Cevicheria, Pisco and Grill
19 ACDC Ln, Melbourne
“Following on from San Telmo’s South American influences, my next suggestion, Pastuso is all about Peruvian cuisine.
It’s memorable for me, as it’s the first place I tried alpaca and also because they do incredible desserts. A lot of western desserts are a little too wholesome for my Asian palette (I’m not a fan of the whole ‘more is more’ philosophy - a whole chunk of cake is sometimes just too much for me) but at Pastuso they do picarones - sweet potato and pumpkin doughnuts, served with white chocolate mousse and a cinnamon infused raw sugar syrup. The vegetable base is a good foundation, not too rich, but the sweetness of the white choc mousse really balances this dessert.
So where does someone who has ticked off the majority of Melbourne hotspots want to go next?
“To stay and dine - the Pumphouse Point at Lake St. Clair in Tasmania.” says Maxie. “ The food is a showcase of Tassie’s finest local produce and the accommodation itself is set 250 metres off land in the middle of the lake, meaning you wake up surrounded by water.”
In general, Tasmania speaks to Maxie on a number of levels - “I’m a huge art fan, so I’d love to spend some more time at MONA. They always bring in a lot of prominent exhibitions and it’s just really mind bending. It’s a little dark and I like the fact that they challenge your perspective. Dark Mofo Festival is another reason I’d love to visit Tasmania again. I just love food, performance, music and art, I really gravitate towards it.”
Boutiq is a socially powered app that allows you to recommend your favourite places, sharing them with your friends and network, just like Maxie here. Use it as a memory bank for these unique moments, and the best way to discover the hidden gems around you - recommended by the ones you trust. Sign-up now to be the first to know when the app is available to download.