Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel

After reading Truffle's post about the Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel in Crown and how they had a lunch special of 3 courses for $43.90, I immediately decided I had to go. I asked my friend John to come as he said "money is no object" after holidaying in England and spending heaps on average food. Here's John looking very stylish in a clean shirt rather than his usual old t-shirt/ripped jeans combination.

The restaurant has a very clean modern feel about it. The high ceilings and glass windows looking out onto the Yarra give it a very open feel. In reality, the restaurant isn't that big. The small entrance opens into a reasonable sized room but the use of lots of mirrors, especially the column covered in mirrors help to give the illusion of more space. The kitchen is cleverly hidden behind the column and some wooden fence type planks. The restaurnat has a bit of posh vibe to it, but got more comfortable as more people occupied tables and the noise levels rose. We were seated to a heavy wooden table with crisp white tablecloth. I liked that already. The crispy white tablecloth was matched by equally white napkins. We ordered drinks from the plush heavy menu. I ordered a Cabernet Sauvignon while John got a Shiraz. Both wines were very good, if slightly expensive at $10 and $15 a glass respectively.

For entrees, I got the Snails Provencale. This consisted of puff pastry over the top of a snail which is covered in garlic and parsley butter with some tomato pieces mixed in. It was totally delicous. The contrasting textures and flavours worked so well without masking the flavour of the snail at all.

John got the Tasmanian Salmon Gravlax. The gravlax was served with a spelt blinis and some creme fraiche. I crumbly bits around the edges were like capers, parsley, egg and potato I think. The salmon gravlax was delicious, with the texture of the salmon still firm and not too salty at all. It didn't have that strong taste of smoked salmon and instead had the hint of herbs.

For mains, I got the Slow Braised Wagyu Ox Cheek. I read on a few review sites that this dish was the must have dish, and they were certainly right. The cheek was so tender with a hint of stickiness due to the tendoins running through it. I liked the dark sauce that went with it. The carrots were ok but what I was totally falling over for was the truffled mash. It was so creamy and the flavour was like a mixture of rich cream and butter without the richness. It was great and I kept saying mmmmm each time I took a mouthful.

John ordered the Medley of Lamb, which he couldn't stop going mmmmmm to as well. He started off with the lamb cutlet, which was good already. I then tried a bit of the cut of lamb, which was really good and full of flavour. Then there was a lamb roll, which John said was great. Finally though, last but not least was a tiny cigar shaped piece of lamb. That was the best according to John.

We had side dishes of beans and snow peas in a vinaigrette and cauliflower gratin. I thought both were ok but John like the Bechamel sauce on the cauliflower.

For dessert, I forced John into getting The Brasserie's Tasting Plate since you need at least two people to order that. He didn't put up much resistance and agreed to it. Starting from the left and going clockwise, we have some fruit salad, profiteroles with hazelnut and chestnut cream, baba soaked in cointreau liquuer with citrus salad and orange marmalade, more fruit salad, chocolate marquise with pistachios, sorbets (vanilla and raspberry) with almond crips and vanilla creme brulee.

Since desserts are my favourite part of the meal, let me dissect each dessert one by one. The fruit salad was good as fruit salads go. It had sweet kiwi fruit mixed with slightly sour strawberries and pineapple. The profiteroles were the only bad part of the meal. The choux pastry was all hard and tasted stale. It wasn't helped by the crunchy things on top that were really sweet. Then the worst part was the hazelnut and chestnut cream, I hate chestnut cream usually but this one was especially bad. I didn't finish my profiterole needless to say. After that disappointment, I was immediately lifted by the baba. It was deliciously soaked in cointreau and the custard underneath it went really well with it. The soaked orange pieces and marmalade added some bite to it. The chocolate marquise was so decadent. It was like the richest chocolate cake with a softer texture like mousse. The sorbets were refreshing, especially the very strong flavours in the raspberry one. Finally, the creme brulee had a wafer thin crust that hid a beautifully smooth concotion.

Service was really good, professional from start to finish. We were promptly seated and given menus. We actually got our iced water, which is a rarity for some restaurants. The waitress who served our table was very good, asking how things were going just the once during the meal and once at the end. She also checked whether we wanted desserts, more wine and coffee. The waitress who took our order did forget my entrees, which makes me wonder why people don't write down orders anymore. Relying on your memory is fine if you're Einstein, but for mere mortals, when rushed, you tend to forget things. Also, a slightly funny thing was when our entrees were brought out for a second time. Despite finishing our entrees already, a different waiter came around with the entrees again. Being the instinctively honest guys that we were, we told him that we had already eaten our entrees. Upon second thoughts, I wouldn't have minded a free try at the salmon gravlax hehehe, although that would have probably made me burst after dessert. So it was good that we didn't indulge in our greed and accept the extra entrees.

So what didn't I like about the place. The service, ambience and food were great on the whole. Only the profiterole was to my total disliking. The waitress did drop some salad tongs loudly next to us, but she didn't make a fuss. She just kept walking away with the dishes, then came back to pick up the tongs. Very professional. I did dislike the knives they had. The handle was this weird square shape, which looked great when the knife blade was seated facing the table, but totally impratical to use. It felt really weird and uncomfortable in the hand. The only other thing was the toilet flushed with so little force that nothing got flushed away, which didn't leave the best look. So there I am nit picking at the small faults. Otherwise it was great.

I had the Entertainment Book card with me so we got an even further discount from the lunch menu price. All up, our 3 course lunches, with wine and coffee only cost $91 after using the entertainment card. We gave a tip to round it up to $100. What a great meal for only $50 each. Compare that to the awful meal at Sakura House which also cost $50 for bad food and service and no wine. You can make your money stretch a lot further when you go to the right places. I totally recommend going here for the lunch special. It would be a different story at dinner as you would pay full price for the exact menu choices. It's a shame more top restaurants don't allow their lunch specials on weekends.

Overall Rating: 17/20, Food, service, ambience all great with value for money as well for the lunch special.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Brasserie By Philippe Mouchel on Urbanspoon

The Definition of Seafood

I went on a day trip with some friends on the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles. You can read all about it here. It was a great trip and my favourite part of the day was watching the sunset at the Twelve Apostles. It was truly beautiful as the photo below only partially does justice to.

Initially, I thought another highlight would be eating the seafood at seaside towns along the way. How wrong I was going to be. The advertised seafood in the brochures showed oysters done 5 ways, lobster with creamy sauces and prawns grilled to perfection. When we stopped at the towns, we couldn't find any seafood at all, well hardly any.

Our main stop for lunch was at Apollo Bay, where there was suppose to be glorious lobsters to try. We walked down the main street and passed heaps of cafes and shops all having the word seafood on their names or front window. What was the definition of seafood, basically fish and chip shops. The seafood was just battered fish and some calamari. Where was the fresh lobsters, juicy oysters, clams of all varities, crabs, scallops, fresh fish not battered and prawns glistening in the sunlight. It was nowhere to be seen. Fish are technically seafood but one type doesn't exactly qualify for the word seafood.

I was extremely disappointed, and the closest I got to any seafood was my lunch of battered flathead tails, potato and rocket salad. The fish didn't taste that fresh or nice at all. The meal was very small and not that cheap either. I was disappointed that I wasn't tucking into a huge platter of fresh seafood.

Friday, September 21, 2007

7&7 Korean Restaurant

As far as restaurant names goes, 7&7 is quite strange. I'd love to find out what it meant. It's definitely not obvious. 7&7 is a Korean restaurant on Koornang Road in Carnegie. We went there for Friday lunch today after another restaurant we wanted to try was closed. 7&7 was close by so we went there instead. It wasn't as packed as I thought. Usually when I go there for dinner, it's really full.

This restaurant is a small place with only a few tables. It is visited by Korean people, which is a good sign in terms of the food. From the looks, the restaurant is also run by Koreans.

I've been to 7&7 quite a few times and have found the food to be very good. However, I can't say the same about the service. It tends to be on the extremely slow side. Tea is not refilled, water takes forever to arrive, giving your order takes a long time. Basically everything takes a long time. They must run on a more relaxed time frame, which is ok sometimes. However, the quality of the food brings me back despite my grumblings about the service.

For lunch today, they had lunch specials so we all got that. The lunch took a good 30-45 minutes to arrive, which is on the slow side considering the restaurant was only half filled. We had a bit of a chuckle when the tables next to us got their meals just before us despite being in the restaurant looking very settled in already when we entered. They were shocked that some dishes arrived so late and were like "Oh, we thought you weren't going to make those dishes or something". They had already shared the dishes that did arrive and were almost finished already.

With the six of us guys moaning about how hungry we were (we left for lunch late already due to a meeting), finally Jeffrey got his noodles first. We all just drooled at the sight of it and said how good it smelt. He started to eat his noodles, and was half way through before Emmanuel got his Pork Lunch Special. Again we all watched him, and he said "I can't eat like this, with alll of you watching me". Finally, when Jeffrey was about finished, the four Beef Lunch Specials for Tin, John, Keiran and myself arrived. We all tucked into the food like hungry hippos and there was no sound at all. Everyone was too busy eating.

I liked the two dumplings that they had. I dipped them into the special soy sauce and they were very tasty. 7&7 do a very good kimchi, but in the lunch special we got other pickled vegetables. The pickled radish was to my liking, but I didn't really like the cucumber or bean shoots. The highlight was the honey type potatoe, totally delicious. As for the beef, it was very good. The stir fry beef was smothered in a yummy sauce and had vegetables mixed through it.

I like the food but the service really lets the place down. If you are in a bit of rush, 7&7 is not the place to go. Otherwise, the food is worth putting up with the hit and miss service.

Overall Rating: 13/20, Food is good and would score much higher if not for the really slow service.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Fig and Pistachio Biscuits

Upon my usual daily check of the food blogs I read, I saw a recipe from Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice for a Fig and Pistachio Biscuit. Coincidentally, I had seen some dried figs at my local supermarket so I knew I could get all the ingredients to make the biscuits.

These biscuits are quite easy to make. The hardest part was shelling all the pistachios. Where can I buy pre-shelled unsalted pistachios? Apart from that, it was pretty basic. There is the strange part of taking the biscuits out of the oven half way, cooling it, cutting into small pieces and popping it back in the oven.

The biscuits taste fantastic. The fig and pistachio combination work so well. The flavour is this strong yet at the same time subtle flavour where you can't quite work out what the taste is. I also like the contrasting textures of the biscuit, with the outer parts being crispy while the centre being a bit softer.

Fig and Pistachio Cookies

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange extract (if you don’t have orange extract, use 1 tbsp. grated orange zest)
1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (don’t chop them up)
1 cup chopped dried figs
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flour and baking soda and set aside.

Combine the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary.

Mix in the vanilla and orange extracts (or orange zest).

Stir in the pistachios and figs.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.

Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured surface and gather into a ball.

Divide the ball into three equal pieces.

Roll the pieces into logs that are about an inch and a half to 2 inches thick and about 10 to 12 inches long.

Carefully transfer the logs to the baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. The logs will be slightly golden and firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes.

Carefully slice the logs into cookies (about an inch thick).

Transfer the cookies back to the baking tray so that they are standing upright. Do not lay them on one side. Put the cookies back in the oven for 10 minutes.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Red Lemon - We Left With A Sour Taste

The meal that never was. That was our red lemon experience. Red Lemon is a cafe on Swan Street in Richmond. We had arranged to meet at Richmond before going to the Hawthorn versus North Melbourne footy final. I had commented to Justin that it was all going to go bad, as with our usual dinner before a big sporting event experiences. How right I was going to be.

Initially, we met at the Swan Hotel to eat. It was totally packed so we decided to go someplace else, sighting all these other restaurants on Swan Road. We walked down the street back towards the station and the MCG. Upon passing a lot of place, enquires within showed that most were full. Finally, we passed Red Lemon and they had a table so decided to go in. The huge blackboard with all these different simple quick meals also meant we could eat quickly and get to the match. How wrong we were to be.

When we got seated, we got given menus, which had all of 5, yes 5 items on it. When we wanted to order the dishes on the blackboard, we were told those were for lunch only and we couldn't order that. Ok. So out of the huge choices, most of us opted for the Porterhouse Steak, which was only a measly 200g instead of the usual 350g and would cost $19. What the heck, we needed to eat and beggers can't be choosers. We had a footy match to go to.

As we sat and waited, and waited, and waited, all the while looking at our watches and saying "Now we have .... minutes to eat", we finally had enough. Hence we discussed leaving and just grabbing some fast food on the way. When the waiter/owner heard us, he rushed over and very arrogantly put his hand on Justin and said, "It's only 5 more minutes". Justin then replied that we really had to go, to which the owner started to get aggresive and said "It's only 5 more minutes". Then Ha said that we had already been waiting 45 minutes, in which his reply was "You came in a big group (there was only six of us) and it was really busy when you got here". That still doesn't change that we waited 45 minutes and really had to leave now. I mean, how hard is it to cook a few steaks, especially when most of us wanted it medium rare too. There are only 5 items on the menu, most of which would already be half prepared already.

So we got up and left to catch our footy match. The owner walked out behind us and said "I don't want to see you come back ever again". We won't be thanks. So that was the meal that we never had. Not that I was particularly looking forward to it. It looked quite expensive and there wasn't exactly a lot of choice.

Has anyone else ever walked out of a restaurant? I've done it one other time when the food was really taking forever and we had a movie to catch. It wasn't as confrontational that time as we just said that we had a movie to catch and had to leave. The waitress said that was ok and cancelled our orders. This time, our meals hadn't begun being cooked yet either, so I don't know why the owner was getting so upset for.

Sakura House

Sakura House is located in the O-Zone strip of restaurants near the cinema at Knox City Shopping Centre. Kin and I went to dinner there as Jo and Paul were busy. We said that we were going to eat something cheap, but such is the case, it always works out the opposite. Had I known what I know now, we should have gone to a top notch restaurant and enjoyed ourselves fully. More on that later.

The restaurant interior looks nice, with very tall ceilings and simple clean decor. The 2 metre water feature right next to me was very cool indeed. The only slightly strange part was why they didn't put a ceiling on. The open beams meant you could see all the air duct pipes, all grey and covered in dust. Kin was saying wouldn't a lot of dust drop down from those ducts and I would have to agree.

Kin ordered a clear Chicken Broth Soup to start and we opted for entrees of Fried Oysters and our usual must have Beef Tataki. The fried oysters didn't taste so good, with the oysters tasting a bit off and not fresh at all. It was definitely a frozen job as I've bought those frozen Canadian oysters in a packet before and they have that really strong taste.

The Beef Tataki was good, with the thin strips of beef covered in a good light sauce with the obligatory onions underneath. I like it when they cook just the outer part of the beef very quickly.

The Sashimi Platter was definitely not good. The fish did not have flavours or the right textures. In fact, some of it was still frozen, with ice crystals still in them. It didn't live up to the price at all.

The Yaki Niku was rather ordinary. The beef didn't have enough of a grilled flavour at all, more like a pan fried flavour.

The Wafu Steak with Special Sauce was not good either. Apart from the steak being rather chewy, the salad was just a mess without flavour.

Ok so now back to the issue of a cheap meal. When we looked at the menu outside, it was totally different to the menu we got inside. We realised the outside menu must have been a lunch menu. This is slightly deceptive as we entered the restaurant on the food displayed on that menu. Anyway, when we saw the prices on the main menu, we were like "What the heck, lets go all out and enjoy ourselves". The place looked very nice and obviously were trying to pass themselves as a high class establishment considering the prices. We gave them a chance, but they failed miserably.

The service was rushed and rather pushy. The lady kept asking "Are you sure you don't want rice" three times. No, we didn't want any rice. She was also very abrupt, walking off before I even made my drink order.

The food was so disappointing given the prices. The meal ended up costing $50 each, a massive amount that could get you so much more at better restaurants. Let's put the price of this meal into perspective. The Movida experience that I constantly rave on about cost $46 and included French wine and dessert. The Horoki experience that I enjoyed so much with their innovative Japanese food that included a free dessert only cost $25. Finally, the truly high class service and food that we got at Isthmus of Kra cost $60. There we weren't rushed at all and the food matched the prices.

Hence, I think it's fairly obvious that I won't be visiting this establishment again. Truly disappointing experience, with the final straw being when I wanted to use the toilet. The waitress said they didn't have a toilet, or one they were willing to let patrons use anyway. Isn't it illegal not to have a toilet in a restaurant? Speaking of toilets, my ultra sensitive stomach also had a "reaction" to their food which left me in the toilet for quite a while when I got home.

Overall Rating: 7/20, Food not good and way too expensive. You can eat at some of Victoria's best restaurant for the same amount of money.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Date Cupcake With Caramel Frosting

After I read JFox's post on the Date Cupcakes that she first bought at market and then made, I had decided immediately to make it.

I thought the cupcake would be really sweet using so much dates, but it turned out not to be at all. The process of boiling the dates removed the sweetness, as well as using very little sugar.

For the recipe, please go and see JFox's post. I'll just make a few notes of things that I would watch out for.

* I thought the amount of ginger sounded too much and was tempted to reduce it. Luckily I didn't as the amount stated gave it a nice tang.

* I would reduce the amount of cloves in future. I found the cloves flavour a little bit too strong. It may have been due to me using whole gloves and then grounding it, giving a stronger flavour than pre-grounded cloves.

* I found the caramel frosting a lot of work. You have to boil everything and then wait till it cools before adding in the sugar. I didn't wait till it cooled enough I think and added the sugar, meaning the sugar melted and it got all runny. It was also a lot of mess to try and pipe the frosting. I might skip this part next time as it tasted great without it and was actually preferred that way by all my work mates and myself.

Apart from that, the cupcake is really good. It is moist and has so many intricate flavours which everyone couldn't work out. They were all going, I know this flavour but can't quite put my finger on it.

EDIT: I've decided to post the recipe in case other people's blogs go down but mainly so its all easier to find when I want to make this recipe again myself.

Date Cupcakes With Caramel Frosting

450g dates, pitted and diced
2 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon mixed spice
120g softened butter
1 1/3 cups castor sugar
4 eggs

Put dates and water into a heavy based saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium to high heat, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and add ginger and bicarbonate of soda. Stir well until combined.Let mixture cool to room temperature.

This mixture is best made the day before to allow the dates to absorb more of the water.[As I diced up the dates, I placed them in the saucepan with the water already measured out to start them absorbing the water - this seemed to work fine]

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line three 12-hole muffin trays with 26 cupcake cases [this number may vary depending on the size of the paper cases].

Sift together self-raising flour, ground cloves and mixed spice.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter for 1-2 minutes. Add half the castor sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add remaining castor sugar and beat for 2 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has almost dissolved.

Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture until well combined [this will seem harder than your regular cupcake mixture at this point - but don't fret!]. Fold in the cooled date mixture until thoroughly combined.
Spoon mixture into cupcake cases, filling to three-quarters full.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a fine skewer comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from trays immediately and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before frosting.

Caramel Frosting

100g butter
2/3 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup cream
8 cups sifted icing sugar

Combine the butter, sugar, golden syrup and cream in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally with wooden spoon until sugar has dissolved. Turn up heat to high and boil for at least 5 minutes. Take off heat and cool to room temperature.

Add half of the sifted icing sugar to the cooled caramel mixture and use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat for 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy and of a spreadable consistency.

Add extra cream if the mixture is too dry or extra icing sugar if the mixture is too wet.This can be used immediately.

The Boundary Hotel

Having more to new premises at work, we had to find new Friday Lunch places. This week we decided to try the Boundary Hotel on the corner of East Boundary and Centre Road. We had heard good things about this place and how the food was very good and it was very a popular place.

We walked to the place and when we arrived at about quarter past twelve, found that there was only a very small crowd there. Upon sitting down and looking at the menu, the prices deflated everyone a bit. This place was going to be one of those Posh Pubs, where I have found most don't live up to.

Anyway, I ordered the Prawn Paella, which at $21.95 was a bit steep for a lunch I thought. Usually all the places in the past that we went to, $10 would easily cover you. Once I got my beer as well, I had passed $25 spent for lunch. Usually most places have a lunch special where you either serve a smaller size or use less expensive ingredients, but this place didn't have one.

So what about the verdict on the food. It was good, but too much for lunch. My Paella had good flavours but by the end of it, was getting rather sickly. The overpowering flavours really started to get to me at the end. The Moreton Bay Bug didn't taste that fresh and the flesh wasn't very firm.

Overall consensus is that we probably won't be going back for lunch due to the high prices. The atmosphere inisde is very relaxed, with nice comfortable chairs and gentle music playing. Service was good too.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food and service quite good but prices too expensive for a quick lunch.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Ying Thai Part 2

After coming back from the snow trip, we were all starving. We wanted to eat something strong in flavour after three days of making our own meals where we didn't have any salt, pepper or sugar. Hence I suggested we go to Ying Thai as everytime I go there the dishes always have a huge kick to them. Ying Thai is Thai food with all its fire and not towned down for Western palates at all.

Ying Thai is located on Victoria street near the corner of Hoddle intersection. It's a bright orange building with large glass windows. The decor is simple with fairly old wooden tables and chairs. The walls are painted bright colours with various murals on them.

We ordered a Papaya Seafood Salad to start off with. I just love the salads at Ying Thai. They are all packed with so much flavour and have a clean crisp taste. The papaya salad was shown with three chilli rating on the menu and it sure was. It was so hot but yet addictive at the same time. The fish sauce type sauce went well with the crunchiness of the papaya and carrots. The prawns and calamari also gave some good flavours.

The first mains dish that arrived was the Pad Thai. Usually I don't like Pad Thai too much as it's too sweet for my liking. This pad thai wasn't too sweet and had a good burnt "wok" flavour to it that I like. We finished it so quickly and Jo loved it so much she ordered a second one.

The Steamed Whole Fish with Garlic and Lime Sauce was fantastic. I don't like fish that much but this one was really good. The Perch I think had no muddy taste at all. The meat was tender and the sauce was acidic and sharp. It was again also quite hot in terms of chilli, just the way I like it.

The two curries in the Red Curry Duck and Green Curry Beef were both really good too. The curries weren't too rich with too much coconut milk. The sauce though still went great poured over our steam rice. I prefer the sharper flavours of the red curry more but others preferred the more mellow flavours of the green curry.

Finally the last dish to arrive was the Hot and Sour Soup with Egg. It was a very interesting dish, arriving in a heavy black bowl which was heated with a burner underneath. This was no tiny candle burner but an alcohol based one. The dish was really started to bubble. The soup itself I thought was ok but was a bit much after drinking more. The idea of putting fried eggs with some sort of chive type vegetables in the egg into the soup was very different. The egg soaked up the soup but I didn't really like it all that much.

Service was quite good, with most requests for water, cutlery, more rice quickly fulfilled. Only our enquiry for dessert stumped one waitress a bit. Otherwise it was a great filling meal that was also value for money. All the dishes shown plus an extra Pad Thai and drinks for everyone cost less than $25 with tips for the wait staff as well.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food is very good with service that is more than capable. Food is fiery and good value for money.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Ying Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hot Pot In Hotham

I went on a ski trip the past weekend with friends. You can read about it here. This post will be dedicated to what we ate at Hotham.

For the first morning, we ate breakfast at the cafe next to Hoys ski rental in Marrietville, which is the closest suburb to Hotham. Lunch on the first day was also just pies and stuff in AJ's Cafe Bar in Hotham Central.

The first night's dinner was something you would never guess, hot pot. Peter had brought this massive electric wok thing. You can see it below with the corn in it. He also bought heaps of fish balls, beef balls, pork balls, beef slices, lamb slices, vegetables and noodles.

We even had restaurant quality XO sauce, made by Peter's uncle who works in Dragon Boat, not the city one though which I have criticised quite a few times in various posts.

Jo did all the hard work of getting things ready while us guys were playing computer games. Shame on us.

So despite being all the way in Mount Hotham, here we were eating a full on hot pot. We even had chopsticks. It was quite good but there was way too much food. Despite Peter's orders for everyone to keep eating, there's only so many fish balls one can eat.

The second day's breakfast was scrambled eggs, toast, cooked mushrooms and bacon. It all tasted really good, especially when the cold makes you so much hungrier.

For lunch on the second day, we had toasted wraps and sandwich. My salami, roast chicken, avocado, cheese and mayo grilled Turkish bread sandwich was really yummy. I washed it down with some of David R's home brew beer, which was really good.

For dinner on the second night, it was (oh no moaned everyone) hot pot again. This time, everyone was less enthusiastic about it. There was still heaps of food left and again there were fish balls everywhere. I think everyone had nightmares of fish balls that night. So again we dutifully ate our hot pot. There was less enthusiasm compared to the first night and everyone didn't eat quite as much.

We had some white and red wine with our dinner. The Jacob's Creek Chardonnay 2006 was quite nice, but the definite surprise for me was the Jacob's Creek Shiraz 2004 that I brought which was fantastic. It was such a nice drop. Having finishe both bottles, David R, David M, Kin and myself went to the bar near our apartment and drank some more cocktails. They didn't really do cocktails so they weren't too good.

For the final days breakfast, it was sausages and mushroom for breakfast. The sausages tasted ok, but were spoilt a little since they got a little frozen in the fridge. We tried to eat everything left in the fridge so we ate the remaining salami and toast. There was even talk to frying the fish balls for breakfast by Peter, but overwhelming consensus was we should take those back home. No more fish balls for anyone on this trip.

Lunch was a simple wrap with whatever meats and vegetables we had left. It was random combinations of avocado, chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese and salami. However, those were prepared the previous night by Jo who left them in the fridge. Little was she to know that Peter would crank the temperature down in the fridge just so that his Coke's were colder. This meant we had frozen wraps with ice chunks for lunch. I ate half of mine and then got some dim sims from the cafe.

I think we did surprisingly well with the food situation and covered most situations. We had lots of juice and soft drinks as well. The only thing we did forget was to bring salt and pepper. The rental apartment had everything, including things such as a electric whisk and ironing board, but not salt, sugar, coffee or tea. We eventually bought those things from the mountain supermarket.

It was a great ski trip and I had heaps of fun. The quality of the food was also ok. Good job done by Peter and David R for buying all the food and Jo for cooking most of it. I only contributed to the food by washing the dishes and glasses. My cooking skills aren't so great. I only like to bake desserts as you probably know from reading my other entries.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Lindt Chocolates for $1 Each

Those of you who regularly read this blog will know that I love good chocolates. I'm not quite a connoisseur, but I can definitely tell between good and bad chocolates. When I heard word of a lolly shop in the vicinity of our new work building, I had to pay them a visit and see what they had.

I took a walk to the shop, called Sweet As, near the corner of North Road and East Boundary Road. I was expecting a warehouse type thing but it was a fully furnished shop with heaps of lollies and chocoalates. I will need to go back to get a better look at the merchandise, but the first thing that caught my eye was Lindt blocks of chocolates for $1. I had forgotten to bring my wallet so quickly borrowed a few bucks from everyone. I then grabbed seven blocks of the Creme Caramel chocolates.

So it sounded too good to be true right, well sort of. There obviously a catch. You don't go selling good chocolates for such ridiculous prices. The usual price for these Creme Caramel blocks is $5.50. Upon closer inspection at the sign, it showed that the chocolates were past their used by date. I looked at the used by date and it was only a couple of days ago. Ah big deal. The chocolates would still be fine. The used by dates are always conservative and I've eaten heaps of things past their dates and never had a problem.

After I paid and went outside, I tucked into a block with my work mates. It was delicious and tasted fine. I might have to go back and buy some other types. They also had the mocha flavour for $5 for 5. I will have to pay regular visits to the store now to see what they have on special each time. Until then, I will chomp on my delicious chocolates.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Kum Den

This must be one of my first original restaurant reviews on this food blog without any photos. I went to dinner on Friday with Justin, Justin, David, David, Harinder and Susannah for Justin (Spikey's birthday). We went to Kum Den, which is a Chinese restaurant on Waratah Place off Chinatown.

The restaurant is just a modest looking place hidden in the laneway. The small side sliding door gives way to the usual bland tables. There is quite a few fish tanks with an assortment of live seafood such as lobsters, fish etc. The walls are also littered with colourful paper all with dishes on them. I don't know why so many Chinese restaurants like to do this. Those dishes aren't exactly specials as they are on the menu and never change.

We snack on prawn crackers while waiting for everyone to arrive. When we have more people than our current table can hold, we get upgraded to a larger table. Since it was Justin's birthday, we left it to him to do all the ordering. We also give him our ultra cheap present of a card and a book.

The dishes that Justin orders are Stewed Pork with Plum Sauce, Sizzling Sweet Chilli Pork, Claypot Honey Chicken, Taro Duck, Fried Milk and Snow Pea Leaves with Garlic. I was expecting the food to be bad, but to my surprise, it was all good.

The Stewed Pork is the middle section of the pig where you get the layer of fat with the meat. It's then done in a way called Hong Siu, which is sort of like a plum sauce. Anyway, the meat was tender and the flavours were good.

Slightly similar in taste was the Sizzling Sweet Chilli Pork. The pork strips were battered and then put onto a hotplate with vegetables and a sweet chilli sauce. The Claypot Chicken came in a metal claypot, so that was a bit disappointing. However, the chicken was cooked through (unilke at Dragon Boat) and tender. The sauce was also a nice sweet honey type sauce. It was also still warm. Take note Dragon Boat. The fried milk was good too. It was done with a pepper chilli mixture rather than the usual slightly sweet flavour. The Taro Duck was done well, with lots of soft taro covering a roast duck. Even the snow pea leaves with garlic was good and not bitter, which can happen with slightly older snow pea leaves.

Overall, the service was good too. Requests were taken care of such as more prawn crackers. They also refilled the tea throughout the night and greeted us off when we left. The atmosphere was ok, with our table contributing a lot of the noise.

I must admit that I thought this place was going to be bad as it looked rather ordinary from the outside. But I guess I shouldn't underestimate the quality of the food in Chinatown. If it wasn't of a decent level, it wouldn't have survived so long considering the expensive rent. I would go back to this place for another meal. It worked out pretty cheap too.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food, service and price all pretty good. Interior is a bit ordinary as well as atmosphere, but if you have a lot of people, you will generate most of the atmosphere.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Imperial Kingdom - Yum Cha

Since this was our last week of work at our current building, we were going to have a big lunch out. Well every week we have a big lunch out on Friday, but this time we were going to splurg and spend double digits for our meals. I told everyone about my lunch at Shira Nui the previous week and how good it was. So we tried to get a table there again, but alas, they were all booked out.

So instead we decided to go to Imperial Kingdom for yum cha since we hadn't gone there for a while. From left we have Hien, Trung and Keiran (giving me the evil eye) enjoying their food.

Again, there's Keiran, the mysterious Emmanuel who threatens to sue me if I put his face on my blog and Wei.

Here's me and Jessie. Look how big Jessie's face is compared to my super slim face hehehe.

We usually just grab a variety of dishes and everyone picks what they like. As usual, there is an abundance of prawn dishes, which Keiran doesn't like at all. Therefore we make sure we get stuff like BBQ pork rolls, spring rolls and sticky rice chicken parcels for him and Emmanuel. Emmanuel vowed to never go to yum cha again after Wei had previously "tricked" him into eating chicken feet. However, I convinced him that there are lots of other things to eat.

For those of us that like phong jao (chicken feet), we got right into it along with all my other favourites like steamed XO sauce eels, har gow (prawn dumplings), har cheung (prawn rice rolls), gee bow har (rice paper prawn rolls), dai zhi dofu (scallops on tofu) etc etc.

I'm not sure what has happened to Imperial Kingdom but it used to be so popular. Nowadays, even on a Friday, its only half filled. I used to love Imperial Kingdom but haven't really been a fan for the last two years. The standard of dishes seems to have really dropped and its not the cheapest yum cha place. I'm not sure exactly what has gone wrong with the place as the maitre'd and all the old staff are still there. A couple of the problems I can pick are that they don't have any new exciting yum cha dishes and their standard ones are of the best quality either. For example, the har cheung skin is not great, the zhi bow har skin is way too oily, the phong jao flavour is not fantastic etc. Also, service here isn't in keeping with modern places. The old staff are still very rude and seem like they don't care. The trolley lady walks past and we ask what she has but she can't even be bothered to open all the steamers and tell us. That's always been their style as I've been going to Imperial Kingdom for a good 15 years. It just seems like that service isn't good enough anymore, not unless your food is fantastic. I find that I know prefer New Royal Garden more, which are words I never thought I would say. New Royal Garden used to be awful, but ever since they changed management about 7 years ago, their very competitve prices combined with the lift in food standards have made them a better option than Imperial Kingdom.

Anyway, being our last meal at Imperial Kingdom as a work group was nostalgic. I can remember a meal there when I was still in first year uni and was doing my vacation work with my current company. I had just broken my front tooth ice skating and at the Friday lunch there, I could only eat soft things like congee and har cheung. Ah, how time flies. It's been 7 years since that meal.

Overall Rating: 11/20, Food is ok but service is a bit lacking.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Imperial Kingdom Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 01, 2007


After reading M's Nemesis' post about her snot blocks, aka Galaktoboureko, a Greek custard dessert, I decided to make it as well. Upon telling my Greek friend John that I was going to make this dessert, I didn't really get the reaction I thought I would get. Recently, I've become quite the baker and have made quite a lot of great desserts (I may be biased but I still know what has worked and what hasn't). However, John said "Are you sure you want to make this dessert, you need 10 years of baking experience to make this dessert well". My reply was "It's only custard, how hard can it be". Those were to be my last confident words.

The photo from M's post of the Galaktoboureko looks so good and it didn't sound like she had too much trouble. However, I found that I had lots of problems the whole way through. Most things that I have attempted of late have gone fairly smoothly, even the Japanese Cheesecake which sounded quite hard but turned out unbelievably well. It must have been beginners luck. The galaktoboureko gave me so much trouble that I almost threw out the mixture half way through. Having said that, don't let me deter you from trying. I delight in seeing other people fail muahahahahaha. Only kidding. I'm sure the more advanced bakers out there can make this easily without any problems.

For the recipe, please see M's post as you all know I'm too lazy to rewrite it. However, here are the things that went wrong for me and you should take note of.

* When adding the semolina, definitely add it slowly and stir continuously. I added it too fast and it all clumped up. It was at this stage that I was really angry and wanted to chuck it all out. Instead, I strained out the clump. I knew that the dessert wasn't going to be right and it was as I predicted, there wasn't enough semolina to hold the whole dessert together. The results was that the custard was very rough in texture and too soft. It fell apart really easily.

* I made the syrup as the recipe instructed. I then poured it over the galaktoboureko. However, I think my syrup was still to thin as it never quite set and was just a pool of liquid in the tray. Also, the amount of syrup was way too much for the custard. I think I should have only poured a little so the pastry was still crispy. Either that or pour some and then drain it off after. I'm not sure exactly what you're suppose to do.

Here is how my Galaktoboureko looked. It looks rather awful. The taste was still good and I ate three straight away. However, the texture of the actual custard was not firm enough and too rough. I'm sure if I make it right next time, the texture would be much better.

I need I still need some more baking experience to perfect this dessert. However, I have not given up and will attempt it again soon, having learnt my mistakes this time. I might also ask M's Nemesis for some tips as to what I'm doing wrong.

EDIT: I've decided to post the recipe in case other people's blogs go down but mainly so its all easier to find when I want to make this recipe again myself.


For the custard pie

- 4 cups full cream milk
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 cup semolina
- 4 eggs
- 20g vanilla sugar (or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
- 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
- packet of filo pastry
- 90g butter, melted

For the syrup

- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp orange flower water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 slices lemon peel

- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Bring milk and white sugar just to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add the semolina in a thin steady stream, stirring constantly. [Very important or else it will clump!!]
- Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is smooth and thickens slightly. Add more milk if mixture is too thick.
- Remove from heat and set aside for 15-20 minutes to cool slightly.
- Gradually add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition until well combined.
- At this point I strained the custard mixture in a sieve to remove any lumps.
- Add the vanilla sugar (or extract) and lemon rind and stir until well combined.

To assemble

- Place 1 filo sheet in the base of a 24 x 30cm ovenproof dish and brush with a little melted butter.
- Top with another filo sheet and lightly brush with melted butter. Repeat with half the packet of filo sheets and melted butter.
- Pour slightly cooled semolina mixture over the filo in dish.
- Continue layering with remaining filo sheets with melted butter between each sheet. I found it easier to brush the sheet on a flat surface first and then put it over the custard as it gets quite messy otherwise.
- Lightly score top of galaktoboureko with knife. Brush with the remaining melted butter.
- Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until golden.

To make sugar syrup

- Place all ingredients into a saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
- Simmer for 15 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly.
- Cut through marked lines on top of galaktoboureko, pour over the hot syrup and and set aside to stand.