Sunday, May 18, 2008

Frenchy's Bistro - Birthday Dinner 3

I had already celebrated more than enough at dinner 1 and dinner 2, but it's an excuse to try a fancy restaurant. Due to a logistical mix up, birthday dinner 3 was 10 days after my actual birthday. We decided to try Frenchy's Bistro in Glen Waverley.

When you enter Frenchy's, there's sort of a front desk with lots of bottles of wines on it. The restaurant is decorated in either an old fashioned French restaurant or is a parody of a French restaurant. They had all the fun paintings or French chefs, those funny wine bottle holders, old style lights and other 80s things. I liked it, it was all a bit of fun I thought.

We were seated at a table against the wall looking out through the other patrons to the glass restaurant window. The chairs, as mentioned on numerous restaurant review websites, are wooden ones and not the most comfortable. They had butcher's paper over the tables. That's a bit tacky I thought. I thought only Chinese restaurants did that, especially at yum cha.

After ordering wine, the waiter brought iced water as well, without us having to ask. The waiters, as I noticed, were mature gents. You don't usually see older wait staff, generally at family run businesses only. I don't think they were all related. As long as they can do the job, I don't see why wait staff has to be young people. There is a discussion over at Tomato about what good service is and whether older people have a role. One interesting thing about the younger waiter is that he really looks like Justin Timberlake, a young Justin Timberlake in his Nsync days. Kin asked me who the waiter looked like and I got it immediately. I definitely thought there was a resemblance but Paul and Jo didn't think so.

For entrees, we ordered the Snails with bread and the Pork Belly with Scallops to share. The Snails was my favourite dish of the night. In fact, it was the only dish that was really good. The snails were done in a traditional butter and garlic sauce, with a pickled salad and bread to accompany it. The scallops were big and juicy. However, the pork belly wasn't so good. The skin wasn't crispy and it lacked flavour. It was all drowning in a lot of pea soup.

For mains, Jo and Kin both got the Roast Lamb. The lamb was cooked to perfection and was tender, but was devoid of any flavour, even the taste of lamb wasn't very strong. The beans were soft and nice, but then were immersed in this strange chilli type sauce that again didn't have much flavour.

Paul's Pepper Steak was good but not fantastic. The meat part was very good, cooked with a good charring on the outside and still pink and moist on the inside. The pepper sauce was very strong, a bit too strong I thought.

My Moreton Bay Bug special sounded fantastic on paper, but was a mess. I couldn't even taste the Moreton Bay bugs and they were completely masked by this very very salty ham. The risotto was cooked well texture wise, but the flavour was bad. It had vanilla or some other sweet flavour through it and I didn't like it at all.

Jo got the Quince Crumble for dessert. The quince was wonderfully fragrant and totally delicous. It was however, very sweet. I don't know if that is natural sweetness from the quince or a lot of sugar was added in the crumble.

Kin's Death By Ice Cream sure sounded and looked good, but was more style than substance. There was mango, hazelnut, vanilla, chocolate ice cream and a lemon sorbet. I don't know if these ice creams were hand made or just store bought. The hazelnut ice cream was the highlight.

Paul's Belgian Chocolate looked better than it tasted. The chocolate part itself was surprisingly disappointing. It was very sweet and didn't taste good. The gold foil looked very sparkly, but that was the only sparkling thing about the dish.

Finally, I was eagerly awaiting my chocolate souffle. After watching a lot of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, I know pay a lot of attention to desserts on menus and think about whether they are mostly pre-prepared and then just finished during serving. This chocolate souffle cannot be pre-prepared in any way. Hence, the menu showed that it would take 20 minutes. It was done perfectly in terms of texture, so wonderfully light and fluffy. The chocolate flavour wasn't as strong as I thought, but was again extremely sweet like the other desserts. The sickly sweetness of all the desserts killed them all.

The one present I had to share with all you readers is my wonderful stash of Patchi chocolates. They're my favourite chocolates of all and last year I got a tree of them for my birthday. I think there is a pattern emerging here about my love for chocolates. My work mates got me Lindt chocolates that I finished. This was immediately followed by my sister getting me a big box of Koko Black chocolates, which I have finished already. And now I get a big box of Patchi chocolates to follow on with, perfect.

The food at Frenchy's was surprsingly disappointing. The dishes sounded traditional enough, but nothing was really good. Compared to other French restaurants that I have been to such as The Brasserie and Madame SouSou who also do classical French cooking, this place falls far far short. I don't think I will return here when there are similarly priced options that provide far superior food.

Service was good and personable. I liked the older wait staff who are extremely relaxed and can catch with you with ease. The atmosphere was quite good. The noise levels got really loud at one stage when the whole restaurant just seemed to be talking at the same time.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food is ok but nothing tasted really good.

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.

Frenchy's Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Goshen Korean BBQ - Birthday Dinner 2

After already having a birthday dinner with my work mates at Shira Nui, I was expecting to have another one this weekend. But then my friend Kevin rang me and to say Happy Birthday. Then he also said that we should get together to dinner. Never one to refuse dinner, espeically when its to celebrate my birthday, I said ok and left it to him to organise.

Before meeting up at Glen Waverley, Dennis rang and said to meet him a bit earlier to go and get some wines from his wine storage. I had romantic visions of an underground masonary cellar with racks and racks of wine bottles. Instead, it was a locker style cupboard as Kennards Storage. He showed me a lot of the wines he had, many of them extremely expensive. We picked a couple of bottle and went off to meet the others.

A very old looking bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1963.

We met up with Kevin and Patrick and were initially going to try out the new hot pot place in Glen Waverley since it was so cold and a perfect time for hot pot. However, that place was packed and so we went to Goshen Korean BBQ instead. This restaurant is on the main Kingsway stretch near the Village cinema. It used to be this Shanghai restaurant where I once had the most awful hot and sour soup I've ever tasted.

There was a couple of table free at Goshen and we chose to sit at the BBQ table, telling the waiter that we wanted BBQ. After sitting at the table for ages and asking for the menu once, we finally got up and got our own menus. We also waited for them to clear and clean the table. We had already told the first waitress that we wanted to drink our wines. Eventually, after asking again, we got some glasses. The waitress then proceed to block up the BBQ, which we all smiled at.

We finally ordered two Set B BBQ meals. This included two meats and one seafood variety to BBQ at the table. We got a dish of everything, chicken ribs, pork, beef ribs, beef, octopus and mixed seafood.

The entrees of fried dumplings and tofu salad arrived. However, we didn't have any bowls or chopsticks to eat them with. Again, we had to ask for them. The dumplings were actually quite good. They had a crispy skin and sat in a shallow puddle of soy. The fried tofu salad was very refreshing. The tofu was soft inside and crispy outside, and the mixed greens had a sharp soy dressing.

The vegetables arrived first and the waitress dumped them all onto the grill. The meats then arrived and she proceeded to dump all that onto the grill too. That meant that it took really long for things to cook as the grill wasn't very hot anymore. We were starving so kept tucking into the refillable salad and kimchi. Upon request, we finally got more refills.

Finally, the meat cooked and we started to eat it, but there was no rice. We asked for rice, to which a tiny shallow bowl of rice came. The waitress said that we could ask for more rice when we needed it. We joked to each other how there was a massive shortage in rice recently. We gulped down the two teaspoon of rice each very quickly. Again, we asked for more rice and again the same small bowl arrived. We asked for rice about 5 times that night, the same as kimchi. Finally, I just asked for a big bowl of kimchi.

The meat itself was quite good, though Patrick and Kevin wanted some BBQ type sauces to go with it. A sauce would have been good, but the marinated meat had good flavours by itself too. The ribs were soft, the beef had a good bulgogi marinate, the chicken ribs were my favourite and the prok wasn't bad too.

When we had started to finish the meats and were going to slowly place the seafood onto the plate, the waitress came by and just dumped all the seafood onto the grill. She then joked that none of us must cook at home. Hmmmmmm. I think it is she that doesn't cook. Again, dumping all the cold seafood onto the grill just meant the whole grill virtually stopped and the food took forever to cook. We were going to place small bits on at a time so they would cook as we ate. By the end, we were really full from the food and it was all good too.

I saw the massive dessert sets being taken to other tables so really had to try some. The dessert plate consisted of sesame ice cream, green tea ice cream, red bean ice cream, chocolate dumplings and a fried banana with honey. I really liked the red bean ice cream. There was a hint of red bean with a honey flavour mixed with it. The chocolate dumplings were really good too.

The atmosphere is quite good. The noise levels aren't too bad. I like the comfortable seats and the room looks quite pleasing with the motifs around the walls. The service wasn't quite as good. Maybe it's a case of being open only recently, but the service was shocking. We had to ask so many times for things as they kept forgetting. They also didn't have to initiative to do things that clearly needed to be done. Of course we need chopsticks to eat, what are we going to do, use our hands. Of course we want the rice now, not when we finish eating. Of course we want more rice as we had indicated right from when you brought the first small bowl.

I'll go back again as the food is good and not overly expensive. I'll see if service improves or it's just another one of those Asian restaurants where service is utterly terrible.

Overall Rating: 12/20, Food is good but service needs a lot of work.

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.

Shira Nui - Birthday Dinner

Having been to Shira Nui previously for dinner and their weekday lunch, I have been trying to go back so many times it's not funny. Ever time I ring to book, with more than a weeks notice, they still say they are full. So finally, with my birthday approaching, I asked my work mates if they wanted to go with me. Eventually, we decided to go mid week so we could get a booking. Even then, the staff told us we could only book for the 6-8pm session. We would find out later how seriously they meant that.

Since most of us went straight from work, traffic was really bad. Eventually, everyone arrived, about 30 minutes past 6. We ordered some dishes to share and since I had been there previously, everyone trusted me to order.

Here is a shot of my ever ageing face, with Tin, sporting his Canon polo and giving Canon some free advertising. Also at the dinner were Tin's sons, John, Wei, Jessie, Keiran and Esther.

I ordered a couple of Sushi and Sashimi Moriawase. The presentation of the dish looks great, and with tastes to match. I loved all the extremely fresh fish, with the tangy salad to match. The sushi has the perfect combination of the rice cooked just right, with appropriate vinegar and wasabi levels.

The Sushi Main was again just more delicious fish and rolls.

An absolute favourite from last visit was the Pan Fried Salmon Sushi. I got two serves of this so everyone could get at least a piece. The salmon is superbly seared on the outside whilst still raw inside. It is topped with pepper and chilli powder I think. It just melts away in your mouth. Superb.

The Seafood Udon Soup was a good cleansing dish. The broth contained all the flavours of the seafood and the noodles were slurped up quickly.

The Slow Cooked Pork was so good that we got a second serving. The meat just feel away from the bones as Keiran commented. It had a sweet type sauce with it, coating the stewed vegetables as well.

The Pan Fried Chicken had a crisp skin and a teriyaki type sauce. The meat was still tender and I really liked the vegetables from this dish.

I loved the food so much that I forgot to photograph the Lamb Cutlets as well as the Steak. Both meaty dishes were cooked to perfection, still tender. The cutlets sat on a bed of fresh salad with a tangy soy type sauce while the beef had roast vegetables.

The ambience at Shira Nui is calming and subdued. I think our table was making the most noise. We were laughing and talking to each other. I think this rubbed off on the other patrons and made them more relaxed too as the room started to buzz more and the noise levels rose a little. The clean feel of the restaurant and good lighting makes for a comfortable meal.

The service was good and friendly. The waitresses were efficient and requests were fulfilled quickly. Even when they forgot something, when they later remembered, they brought it and apologised.

The meal was very pleasant indeed, with only a small hiccup at the end. We knew that we were suppose to be out of there by 8pm, but we didn't how strictly they meant that. It turns out, they were very serious. When we finished our meals, we sat around talking and no one really looked at the time. We were discussing desserts already and were ready to order. The waitress then brought our bill and said they needed the table. We asked if we could order desserts but she said they really needed the table, meaning no we couldn't have dessert. There were some grumblings as everyone wanted to try the creme brulees that I kept telling them were really good. The waitress could have come and asked us if we wanted dessert a bit earlier when they were clearing the tables and saw us just sitting around. Instead, we were left slightly disappointed with no dessert.

So for dessert, we headed off to Pancake Parlour nearby. The service at Pancake Parlour as I pre-warned everyone, was "fantastic". How right I would turn out to be. It took four requests and three wait staff to finally get our water. Requests for extra cutlery and cups took forever. It's amazing how awful the service is at Pancake Parlour for the high prices they charge. At least I made sure I got my money's worth in maple syrup.

Back to Shira Nui. Having tried more of the food there than last time, I'm still very impressed with how good the food is. The service is also very friendly and efficient. I would have gave them another point this time, but due to the problem with desserts, I'm giving them the same score as last time.

Overall Rating: 15/20, Food, especially sushi and sashimi, is very good. Staff personable and efficient.

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.

Shiranui on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 09, 2008

I Cuss Therefore I Am

I saw this very fun link over at Ed's blog about how much swearing occurs in a blog.

Apparently, this blog has swearing in 4.8% of pages, which is low. But I'm not too convinced. I rarely swear in my blog and I don't think I've used the F-word or C-bomb or anything close to that once. I have used shit and bloody and crap etc, but is that really swearing?

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

Sunday, May 04, 2008


I go to some restaurants with a lot of expectations and anticipation. It's either because I've heard and read really good things about it, or that I've waited a long time to go there. There are some places that exceed my expectations such that I have gone back or can't wait to go back agin, such as Horoki, Horoki 2, Horoki 3, Movida, Movida 2, Rockpool Bar and Grill and Vue de Monde.

Then at the opposite end of the spectrum, there are places where what is delivered is so far from my expectations that I'm utterly disappointed. Previously, the places that I have been disappointed at, in order of least disappointment to most disappointment are:

Shoya: I was expecting quite a lot from Shoya as Danny from Tummy Rumbles had suggested it. He said they did some of the best sashimi in Melbourne. This part turned out to be very true, but the rest of the experience was very lacking. It was nothing like I imagined from browsing their online menu.

Bar Lourinha: I had read such good things about this place, such as Serenity Later's post about it. However, the reality was that most of the food was very bland and overpriced in my opinion.

De Los Santos: This place was another one of those places where the menu reads a lot better online that the actual food. A lot of the food was bland and uninteresting.

Rumi: The biggest disappointment by far has to be Rumi. Not only did they get so many favourable reviews from the media and bloggers, I also waited a long long time to be able to get a table there. In the end though, I found a lot of the food quite awful and just didn't understand what I wasn't seeing that others were.

However, I can now knock Rumi off the list as the most disappointed place and annoint the newest toad in Verge. I had read two extremely glowing reviews by John Lethlean on Verge. Verge had also been on my list for quite some time as a place to visit. So with my impending birthday next week, what better excuse to go eat there with a friend. The fact that I could get a discount with the Entertainment Book sealed the deal.

I went on Saturday night so the only option was the Degustation menu. This was fine with me as the online degustation menu sounded so good. The fact that I could choose my 5 dishes made me even more excited.

My friend and I got there at quarter past 7. We were looking for the bright green panelling on the exterior like on the website, but couldn't find it. Finally, we saw the building number and proceeded inside. We went past a dark lit bar, to which a waiter spoke to us. I told him about our booking and we were led upstairs. The space is a very unusual space. There are tables to the side of the stair case on the middle level, with the top level dominated by a small dining room. A bench in the centre of that room broke up the area strangely. There were tables surrounding that bench, as well as a couple of tables crammed (or positioned privately, it all depends on how you look at it) behind the stairwell.

We were seated at a very cramped table, lowly lit by a candle. I've never been a fan of dark mood lighting in any restaurants. You really do need a bit more light to eat I think. It was all a bit uncomfortable, as the next tables were very close. I could even nearly bump into the gentlemen behind me when I sat back a bit. Our conversations started off very muted and we just couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. As the room filled up more in the next quarter hour, we relaxed a bit more and chatted.

The degustation menu was explained to us by our waiter and we ordered some wine whilst agreeing on the menu choices. The palette cleanser of fish on a lotus seed arrived. I forget the exact ingredients but I went ahead and popped it into my mouth. It tasted ok but didn't really elicit any reaction from me.

Bread arrived and there was a sesame bread as well as some sourdough. We were both fairly hungry so dug into the bread. The seseame bread was not to my liking so I only ate half. I then tucked into the sourdough. Boy, was it sour. It was also very firm and not to my liking.

The first course we chose was the Octopus "carpaccio" with nameko mushrooms, tomato and shiso. The dish was so small, my friend joked and said, "where's the cat". I didn't understand and asked for a clarification. He said that there was so little of it, it was only enough to feed a small cat. I laughed heartily and had to agree. I dug into the "carpaccio" and again, it did not elicit much reaction from me. The octopus was rather "fishy" in taste and a bit "slimey". I didn't feel the mushrooms or shiso added any flavour. I just got the overall flavour of sourness.

At this point, we were both hoping that it would get much better soon. I kept saying that the reviews were all really good. We told ourselves that we probably just picked a bad dish.

Next up was the dish we both had been waiting for. We love wagyu and really enjoyed our Wagyu steak at Lygon Steakhouse previously. Also, after my Jamon Sushi experience, I knew how good raw Wagyu can taste. The Tataki of Wagyu with umeshu noodle, grated egg white and onion ponzu was again tiny. The egg whites didn't really go well with the beef. The beautiful flavours of Wagyu was completely hidden and all I could taste was more sourness. I was so disappointed with this dish. How can you manage to destroy Wagyu. Apparently, you do that by adding a million other things to it that doesn't enhance its flavours at all.

The next dish was a Risotto of spring onion and ginger and a caramelised fennel cigar. By this stage, I should have started to lower my expectations, but foolishly, I was still thinking the risotto would blow my mind like the risotto at Vue de Monde. How wrong I was to be. Whilst the risotto at Vue de Monde was perfectly cooked and every spoonful was a joy, this risotto was like a congee my mum makes with spring onion, ginger and fish, excepts my mum makes it better, as I told my friend. The risotto was undercooked so there was still some hard lumpy bits. The fennel cigar tasted like an oily spring roll and again, the whole dish was just sour. What's up with making everything so sour.

By this stage, food wise I was so disappointed. At least the wine and conversations were very good. Hence I was partially distracted from the food. But my friend was really disappointed too and said he needed to go outside for a smoke. He said all the food was so underwhelming and the whole atmosphere of the restaurant was all show and no substance. By now, I had to agree. So I told the waiter that we would be downstairs for a smoke break. He told us that we could take our wines to drink outside, which we did. I laughed all the way down the stairs as I have never uttered the words "I'm just going outside for a smoke" before. We sat outside and drank our wines while my friend had a smoke to expell all his disappointment. We were already discussing about pizza and cake on Lygon street afterwards, such was our hunger.

The final savoury dish was a Chargrilled "1842" scotch fillet, tongue, sweet and sour turnips and mustard miso. So of all things, you would think that you cannot, absolutely cannot ruin a good steak. You don't even need to add anything to a well cooked steak for it to be good. Well, you can ruin it a steak, by pairing it with this awful tasting mustard miso. The steak was cooked well and the parts that had not been tainted by the miso was very nice. I liked the turnips with their sharp taste. The tongue was ok.

Between the savoury dishes and dessert, there was a huge break. So we just sat there and enjoyed the rest of the wine and talked, forgetting about the food. We had decided that once we had dessert, we would leave immediately and head somewhere else that had some atmosphere and we could just laugh without feeling uncomfortable.

The Pistachio and White Chocolate Parfait with caramelised peach and sesame meringue arrived. It too had been shrunk by the particle compression machine. The sesame meringue were so small, they could have been individual rice bubbles. I liked the caramelised peach with its sweet and slightly sour taste. The parfait was good, but nothing fantastic. When we ate dessert, we drank the last of the wine, took a sip of water and got the bill. We were out of there quick smart, ready to go to Lygon for some hearty food.

I know food is not about quantity, but if you are offering a degusation menu, one criteria is to satisfy your diners hunger. I'm not a huge eater too, so that wasn't the problem.

Service wise, it was all quite good. The waiters were all professional and did their jobs well. They were a lot colder than the wonderful staff at Vue de Monde though. The waiters/waitresses here never looked either of us once in the eye. They just stared above us and were reciting the food from memory. It was a total contrast to the service at Vue where the waiters made eye contact with each and every one of us and pointed to each item they were describing rather than rattling off the list as quickly as possible.

The atmosphere was this strange uneasy feeling. We were fairly relaxed after the start, but nowhere near what you would want. Conversations were kept at fairly low hushed tones, and even when I wanted to let out a massive hearty laugh a few times, I stopped myself. The strange layout of the room didn't help to make things more inviting. And I really don't like the ultra low lighting. Later on when we were at Lygon, we had much more insightful and philosophical discussions just sitting on an outside table with a coffee and cake. And that only cost about $10 each, not over $100.

I'm not sure what the a la carte menu would be like, but usually the degustation would be the best dishes that a chef can offer. I didn't think any of the dishes were great and some of them I didn't like even. The odds of picking that many wrong dishes is not good. There are 5 choices in each sub category, so to pick all bad dishes in all five sub category meant we had 1/3125 chance. So I believe we got a fair sample of what the chef could do. For the $80 it cost for the degustation, it may initially sound cheap for a top restaurant, but it was ultra expensive considering how little food there was and nothing was close to great. I ended up eating a whole slice of tiramisu at Lygon and then some more fruits when I got home to satisfy my hunger.

Verge is now the most disappointing restaurant. Maybe the flavours and style just doesn't sit well with me or my friend. My friends observation that it was a totally underwheling experience that saps the life out of you may sound a bit extreme, but having experienced it, I would have to agree. I was so down about the restaurant that despite the professional service, I didn't feel like giving a tip at all.

Overall Rating: 9/20, Food utterly disappointing and serving sizes so small that I was left very hungry after 5 courses. Atmosphere not inducive for good conversations.

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.

Verge on Urbanspoon

Kimchi Hut

Kimchi Hut is a newly opened Korean restaurant on Coleman Parade in Glen Waverely. It is next to the La Porchetta which you can see from Springvale road. Korea Gardens in Clayton used to be my bench mark for good cheap Korean food in the suburbs. But after eating at Kimchi Hut twice and trying 13 dishes, I have to say that Kimchi Hut are now my favourite.

The first time I went there with a group of 10 friends. We ordered a lot of our usual favourite dishes off the menu. We got things such as Beef Bulgogi, Spicy Pork, Jap Chae, Rice Cake with Spicy Sauce, Seafood Hot Pot, Bi Bim Bap, Seafood Platter BBQ, Seafood Pancakes etc.

All these dishes were done extremely well. You can judge how good a Korean restaurant is from their Beef Bulgogi. If they can't do that classical Korean dish well, then there's not much hope for everything else. The good thing about Kimchi Hut is that their traditional dishes do not taste like every other Korean restaurants. The sauces on all their BBQ dishes tastes a lot better. Take the Seafood Platter BBQ dish as an example. The sauce isn't just spicy and that's it. There was a hint of other flavours that lifted the dish.

They also have some other dishes like the Cold Noodles, Fried Sweet Chilli Chicken and Rice Cake with Spicy Sauce that not all places have. These dishes help to create more variety and choice.

The ambience and interior is good. The clean wooden tables are surrounded by posters of fresh produce that a friend said looked like it had been taken straight from Safeway. There is a huge LCD TV that broadcasts concert DVDs all the time. The noise levels do not get too high and you can hear your friends quite easily.

The service is ok, no worse than any other Korean restaurants. You do have to order the food clearly and its best to point to the dishes on the menu. The grasp of English of some of the wait staff is not fantastic.

Price wise, this place is even better than Korea Gardens, which is a feat in itself. You get a free bowl of rice with every dish, which is very good. It worked out to well under $30 the first time, which included desserts and lots of drinks. The second time, it only cost an ultra cheap $11 since we had free tea.

Overall Rating: 15/20, Food is very good and prices sensational.

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.

Kimchi Hut on Urbanspoon

Kowloon Cafe - Another Red Lemon

From now onwards, anytime we storm out of a restaurant, it will be referred to as a Red Lemon. For those who haven't read my post, Red Lemon is actually the name of a restaurant. It was where we walked out since our meals took so long. It tends to happen that somehow dinner or lunch always takes too long and we are late for things.

Well, it happened again when we went to watch Iron Man. Paul, Jo, Kin and I went to Glen Waverley to watch the movie. We were deciding what to eat. We initally thought of going to Grand Tofu as it is very cheap and fast. However, when we spotted the newly opened Kowloon Cafe on Kingsway in the Glen, we thought we would give it a try. We had bought our tickets and there was still 50 minutes to the movie. The restaurant was only a quarter full, so we thought there was plenty of time.

After ordering drinks, we watched as the waitresses brought drinks to the wrong tables, food to the wrong tables, customers sending back food that was cold. This was not a good sign. We were right next to the kitchen and heard the massive confusion going on. This is one place that needs Gordon Ramsay to come and help them get their act together.

A bowl of won ton came for Jo. She was hungry so we said for her to start eating. By the time she finished, none of the other dishes had arrived yet. Of all the dishes, Kin's ham and eggs on rice should have been really fast and should have arrived instantly. Usually that's what happens at other Hong Kong style cafes in Glen and Box Hill. So after 30 minutes had passed, I asked the waitress if they could hurry our food a bit as we had a movie to catch in 20 minutes.

I did hear the waitress go into the kitchen and say they needed to make our food, which meant they hadn't started it yet. Yet another 10 minutes passes and the deadline we gave ourselves had arrived. We got up and was just about to leave when they brought out my Portugese baked chickein on rice. We told them that we really had to leave and where the other dishes were. They still weren't ready. Anyway, I suggest that Paul, Kin and myself quickly gobble down this dish, which we did in record time. Then we walked to the counter to pay for what we had eaten and told them we had to leave. They head waiter or maybe owner then said our food was coming. We told him that it was too late and we had to catch our movie. He finally said ok and apologised for the delay in food. We paid and went to watch our movie.

This is one place that clearly needs to get their act together. I understand that they have just opened, but they really shouldn't open until they can better serve customers. All night, all I was were mixups and confusion. People were sending back their meals and waiting. Some diners on a table may have their meals whilst others just sat there adn waited. The restaurant are doing themselves a disservice by not hiring trained staff or training their staff. They are ruining their own reputations already and alienated customers from going back. Not only that, customers will tell their friends as well about not going there, such as I am doing now. I will give them another try in a few months, but until then, I'm steering well clear of that place.

Jamon Sushi - Bloggers Tasting Menu

Ed from Tomato has posted about a wagyu tasting night at Jamon Sushi. He asked if any other bloggers would be interested. There was only suppose to be 8 all up, but such was the interest, 13 people ended up going.

The attendees included
* Cindy and A from A Few of My Favourite Things
* Claire from Melbourne Gastronome
* Danny and Mellie from Tummy Rumbles
* Myself and my friend
* Ed obviously from Tomato
* Elliot and Sandra from 1001 Dinners 1001 Nights
* Rosko and Georgina (who I don't think have a blog)
* Neil from At My Table

I was the first to arrive at 6:30pm, still half an hour early. I found Charles Greenfield, head chef and owner still busily running around preparing things. We found out later that Charles had lost electricity from 2-6pm that day, so to be able get the meal going was a great feat itself.

I introduced myself and my friend to Charles. I started to ask Charles questions about the restaurant and when it opened and commented how small the place was. Charles didn't seem happy at my questions about his restaurant being reviewed in the paper and he said the writers never listened and just made things up. Also he said his restaurant was actually a kitchen and that I should be careful about saying how small it was. I was worried that I had already put my foot into my mouth before the meal had even started. I needn't have worried. Charles was only joking with me and was very nice to me all night, joking with me and answering my questions.

I'm going to write about the food from how I felt about it. I didn't take any notes and as my friend said, that's the difference between a professional and an amateur like me. You can find a much better discussion of the ingredients in each dish over at Neil's post about it.

When everyone had arrived, Charles introduced himself and what he planned to do for us tonight. Charles has been working with Wagyu for a very long time, almost twenty years I think. He was going to do a Wagyu tasting menu for us and along the way also educate us on Wagyu and food in general. The Wagyu we were going to eat was Sher Wagyu, all grade 9+ cuts. Coincidentally, a friend was just telling me about some Wagyu he bought at Box Hill, which turns out to be Sher Wagyu as that is one of the places they sell.

The meal started off with a palette cleanser of pickled ginger, daikon and marinated mushroom. We then kicked off the wagyu-fest of cuts of scotch fillet. There was some soy dipping sauce that Charles had made himself. The scotch fillet sashimi was beautiful, smooth, flavoursome and with just a hint of soy, delicious fragrant.

The same cut of scotch fillet was then rolled in "California" style rolls with various other things like daikon, mushroom, seaweed, lettuce etc. Again, a tiny touch of soy dabbed on top completed the roll. All the flavours worked so well together, but the wagyu flavour was not lost at all. It was still central to all the flavours.

Next up we tried an eye fillet cut. As you can see from the photo, it looks a lot leaner than the scotch fillet. It had a very different texture and flavour to the scotch fillet. It had a "meatier" flavour more consistent with regular beef I thought. It was still insanely tender and paired with the asparagus for a different flavour combination.

Next up, Charles prepared some seared Wagyu using the scotch fillet and eye fillet, giving us a direct comparison.

The Wagyu was seared in a sandwich press type device at 300 degrees Celcius. This meant we got the nice browing on the outside but was still pink inside. The two cuts tasted different again cooked (yes I know thats stating the obvious). The eye fillet took on a mild duck meat flavour. It just broke apart in my mouth. The scotch fillet had more of the cooked Wagyu flavour that I'm used to, with the fat melting and providing that ultra smooth taste.

I think it was after this course that Charles passed around some simple snow peas with a dipping sauce made from tuna head that had been boiled for 7 and 9 hours respectively. It was such a simple thing to do in terms of pairing ingredients, but it was simplicity at its best. I loved the 7 hour tuna sauce with the crispness of the snow peas.

Next up we had a nice warm soup with wagyu shabu shabu style. The soup had that clean flavour like everything else throughout the night. It was just so comforting with the mushrooms and kelp.

Charles then joked that we would get to taste a world first, a pairing of squid stuffed with wagyu. When he first said it, we all laughed, but then he started to prepare it. The squid had been soaked in vinegar all day. He cleaned the squid and then proceeded to work his skill stuff Californian style rolls with Wagyu into the squid. With the left over flaps of the squid, he made a salad with two types of fish roe, snow peas and some spicy pepper I think.

The squid rolls were beautifully presented on a glass plate with a dipping sauce. The rolls worked really well with the contrasting flavours. Who would have guessed that wagyu can work with squid.

We then tried some Porterhouse cuts. Charles seared these again and presented them on a bed of cucumber slivers with brussel sprouts and marinated radish. The porterhouse cut is my favourite. I loved that fat all throughout the meat and that stronger flavour.

The last dish of the night was cold soba noodles with raw wagyu strips, kelp, mushroom and a broth. It was very refreshing and a perfect lift to end the night.

Some nashi with lime drizzled on it finished off a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It was great to catch up with my fellow Melbournian bloggers again. There were lots of interesting discussions, even toilets got a very hearty discussion. And Hawthorn beat Collingwood Danny :-).

The best part though was meeting Charles and seeing him at work. His passion for Wagyu and cooking clearly shines through. There is nothing pretentious about his food or himself. As my friend said, Charles is a very genuine person. His philosophy on working with the natural flavours of food has really worked in his restaurant/kitchen. After tasting his wagyu menu, I want to go out and buy some and experiment with the meat too. After that dinner, I was thinking you can't really go wrong with Wagyu. How wrong I was to be proved a few nights later, where at Verge, they managed to totally destroy the wagyu by overdoing it (more on that in another post). There is a huge skill in preparing simple food with the right combinations of flavours and clearly Charles has that skill. Thanks to Charles for hosting us and being generous in answering questions and explaining things. Thanks to Ed for organising the event. I look forward to having more dining and learning experiences at Jamon Sushi.

Overall Rating: 17/20, Fanstastic Wagyu tasting menu with its simplicity.

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.

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Rose of Thailand Part 2 - Recognised From My Blog

It's not quite up there in the same league as Jack getting an email from Ben Shewry about her review of his food, but I had my own small blogging fame recently too.

I had been to Rose of Thailand previously and had a good time there and the food was good. Recently, I got feedback in the comments section of that post from one of the managers at Rose of Thailand. Not only did they apologise for the confusion in regards to a few tiny things, they even followed up to find out what went wrong. I didn't expect that they would be able to track down my order, let alone the problem. But lo and behold, they found my order from months ago and identified the problem. My friends and I were also offered a free dish and drink to make up for last time. The fact that restaurants actually take feedback from bloggers and then go make changes is great.

So I went back recently to try the food again. I just booked under my name "Thanh" and dined with some friends. I didn't ask to speak to the manager or anything. I was just there to eat and enjoy myself. Anyway, as I'm ordering, the waiter looks at me and asks if I have been there before and ordered the banquet last time. He then asks if I'm "Thanh", to which I say yes. He says he will come back and talk to me later.

A bit later, another gentlemen, the manager came and started to talk to me about the previous times slight mix up. He explained about how lots of customers also get confused about these two drinks. Also, he explained why the Larp Chicken wasn't as good. The head chef was on hoilday, the second chef was sick that day, and the third chef in line made the dish. He apologised again and offered that dish for free to try again. I said it was ok and said we wanted to try some other things.

Again, the food was very good. The Thai Fish Cakes were again very good, full of fish and herbs. The Red Curry Duck was smooth and had good flavours. The Green Curry Chicken was one of the better green curries I've had. And the whole Barramundi was very moist and spot on. The manager came back to our table several times to check that everything was ok.

So there was my small blogging fame incident. I'm very excited about it because of the fact that restaurants actually take the time to improve themselves. How they managed to recognise me is a bit strange. I do put photos of myself occasionally on the blog, but unless they have my photo pasted to their bulletin board, I'm not sure how they picked me. Anyway, I'm definitely going back to Rose of Thailand in the future as it is a good, cheap, Thai restaurant that's actually close-ish to my house.

Three Nut Cake

With my newly bought cookbook, Belinda Jeffery's Mix and Bake, I've gone through all the recipe and have already decided that a lot of them sound fantastic and I will try to make. I have already made the Macadamia Brownies which I adapted the second time. This time, I decided to make the Three Nut Cake.

I would describe the three nut cake as a slow burn cake. When you first pop it into your mouth, you don't immediately go mmmmmm. It is only after you start chewing it a bit, and taking more and more bites does it's flavours get released. Then, I found myself eating another piece. The flavours of three nuts slowly releases and is full of flavour. The coconut also comes through at the end of the bite.

Three Nut Cake
From Belinda Jeffery's Mix and Bake


120g almond meal
2 1/2 tablespoon castor sugar
3 1/2 tablespoon plain flour
75g very cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

125g hazelnuts
100g pecans
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup shredded coconut
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) Heat oven to 180C. Have a 23 springform tin ready, lining not required.

2) For crust, put almond meal, sugar and flour into food processor and whiz together. Add butter and whiz some more until a breadcrumb consistency is obtained. Press crumbs evenly into cake tin. Put in fridge to chill.

3) For filling, coarsely grind hazelnuts, and then pecans in the food processor. Whisk together sifted flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add ground hazelnuts, pecans and shredded coconut and whisk everything together.

4) Beat together whole eggs, egg yolk and brown sugar until it is light and fluffy.

5) Fold in flour and nut mixture and vanilla extract into egg mixure until well combined.

6) Pour batter into tin and bake for 40 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out with moist crumbs.

7) Cool on wire rack before release springform tin and removing cake. Cake keeps in freezer for up to 3 weeks.

Macadamia Brownies

I was browsing at Borders one day and went past the cookbook sections. I only own one cookbook so far, and that is the Movida book. I've only started to bake and the Internet is good and all for recipes, but sometimes you want a book that you can just keep turning back to for tried recipes. I make a lot of the desserts from Ellie's blog, Kitchen Wench. I remembered that Ellie said her favourite book was Belinda Jeffery's Mix and Bake, from which she had made a lot of the recipes. So I bought that book.

The first recipe I decided to try was the Macadamia Brownies. In Belinda's version, she also adds choc chip. I made the recipe following her recipe exactly the first time. It was very nice, but was too rich and chocolatey (what am I saying, too much chocolate) for me. I literally got a sugar rush each time and was a little dizzy after I finished a whole slice (a pretty big slice but still one slice nonetheless). So the second time I made it, I did what am self respecting baker would do, I modified it to suit my taste. I dropped the choc chips, reduced the sugar by half a cup and put in some Marsala. The resultant brownie, in my opinion is even better and has now surpassed the Moosewood Fudge Brownies as my favourite brownie. This modified version of Belinda's brownies is still rich, but not too sweet. Also, the Marsala adds this extra dimension to it, where you can just taste a hint of something very fragrant and its at the back of your tongue.

Macadamia Brownies
Adapted from Belinda Jeffery's Mix and Bake

250g unsalted butter
180g good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups castor sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup plain flour
100g roasted macadamia, cut into large chunks**
3 tablespoon Marsala

1) Heat oven to 180C. Butter square 23cm tin and line with baking paper.

2) Melt butter and chocolate in saucepan over low heat. Set aside for 8 minutes to cool.

3) Add sugar, vanilla extract and Marsala to chocolate mixture and whisk to mix well. Add one egg at a time, beating until each is well mixed in before adding next egg.

5) Sift in flour and stir until it's all combined. Do not overmix as the brownies will toughen. Fold in roasted macadamias.

6) Scrape batter into tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until an inserted wooden skewer comes out with moist crumbs.

7) Cool brownies before lifting it out of the tin. Brownies can be stored in the fridge for 1 week or the freezer for 3 weeks.

** To roast the macadamias, I just spread them out onto a tray and put into the oven at about 90C, stirring occasionally. Watch the nuts carefully as they colour up as you don't want them to burn.

Soy Bombs With Chinese Style BBQ Sauce

I first tried these Soy Bombs with Chinese Style BBQ Sauce at the second bloggers banquet. They were made by Cindy from Where's The Beef?. They were a huge hit at the banquet, and I really liked them. Cindy gave me a link to the Soy Bombs and the Chinese Style BBQ Sauce. I decided to make them spontaneously one night as I really wanted to eat them again. I had most of the ingredients but needed to pop out to the supermarket to grab a final few.

The soy bombs and sauce are very easy to make. The sauce does require quite a few ingredients, but the flavour of it is fantastic. It can be eaten with a lot of things. The sauce blends so well with the soy bombs that the bombs just don't taste quite as good without the sauce.

Soy Bombs

500g extra firm tofu
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce (less if your peanut butter includes salt)
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
fresh basil, roughly chopped/ripped (or another herb of your choice)
~1/2 cup plain flour
~1/3 cup vegetable oil

Crumble the tofu into a large bowl. Add the onion, soy sauce, peanut butter, breadcrumbs and basil; combine thoroughly. Roll the mixture into balls about 3cm in diameter and lightly coat them in flour.

Pour vege oil into a non-stick frypan so that it's about 2mm deep. Heat the oil until not quite smoking and add a tofu ball - it should sizzle in the oil. Once it does begin to sizzle, add more balls to the pan, turning them after a minute or two to develop an even crust. When they're done, transfer to absorbent paper and continue with the remaining balls.

Chinese Style Barbeque Sauce
makes about a cup

In a bowl, combine:

1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup apple juice
1-2 teaspoons chilli paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder.
Taste, and adjust the flavour balance to your liking. Store leftovers in the fridge.