Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monk Bodhi Dharma (Balaclava) 10/2010

Monk is a strange little place that serves vegetarian and vegan dishes
to that somewhat trendy section of the public that are keen to support green, organic fresh and local produce. It's only concession to non vegan is the use of organic milk, sour cream and ricotta. They don't even serve eggs. It is open for breakfast and closes about 5.00 pm with a lunch menu from noon. The place is crowded, the bare wood tables, some separate some to share, are very close to each other and the seating, on low heavy wood stools, or along bench seating is not very comfortable. A key, attached to a milk jug hanging from the wall is provided for access to the toilet which is outside. It is particularly spacious and well outfitted with a pleasant musical accompaniment. It’s cash only, always busy, friendly and fairly noisy. They have a one page menu on a clipboardwith unusual dishes scattered among the regular stuff like Bircher muesli. Wait staff are patient and willingly describe dishes and ingredients in detail. The lunch menu usually includes two soups and a casserole.
A particularly delicious dish is the corn fritters, three of them with lots of corn kernels served with roast cherry tomatoes.
It was topped with basil pesto and basil leaves and accompanied by a pannikin of sour cream.
Toasted sliced baguettes with a caramel sauce acompanied with a pear poached in cinnamon and cardamon and and a some crushed nuts on a thick cream.
These were two dishes were extremely unusual, original and surprisingly tasty. They serve specialty coffees and are also make an excellent hot chocolate.
Score: Not easy to categorize but at least 13+ /20

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Le Petit Bourgeois (E. Malvern) 10/2010

Despite our reservations about the Age Good Food Guide we often find it's brief summaries and comments on dishes reasonably in agreement with our own feelings. Occasionally we think they get it quite wrong, especially in their score. In the case of LPG I'm grateful that after a short fling at 14/20 many years ago they seem to have settled on 13.5 for several years. This is not really enough to get a rash of new patrons rushing to their doors so, though often booked out, one can usually get one of their eight pleasantly spaced generously sized tables given enough notice. The very thing the AGF downgrades them for is the part of the reason we particularly like to go there. It's because of the sedate, quiet, extremely pleasant atmosphere. It's because of the general absence of 'buzz', the good size tables, good cutlery, crockery and linen without being over the top. It's a place to enjoy conversation and food. The food is also a highlight. The cooking is careful and excellent. It's quality French cuisine. Nothing over the top just really good cooking. Everyone agrees about the food. For us that adds up to a really good restaurant. The menu is not large and nor is the wine list but they're adequate. Our friends enjoyed an entree platter ($19 or $28 to share)
whilst I loved their delicately prepared quail. A lamb main was as good as it looked.
As requested it was cooked just beyond rare retaining all its succulent taste. Chef John Salisbury is a master of souffles, there are always several on the menu.
This was the pear souffle. They are invariably as light as air. He also has a great touch for other egg based desserts. I did have some more photographs but they seem to have got lost on my very full memory card. Looks like we'll just have to go back again for another meal!
Score: Last year we gave it 15 and it was worth every bit of it. Well worth a hat. 15.25 /20

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ocha (Hawthorn) 10/2010




Once an overcrowded very popular modern Japanese restaurant Ocha has moved to new quarters at 3 Church St. Hawthorn where they have room to spread out so that it is now possible to eat in comfort in a large quietly decorated space, which also features very modern origami like lighting.
There is considerable stress on presentation. Dishes tend to have multiple ingredient making it particularly demanding on kitchen staff. Here are some dishes we had there recently illustrating this. Dishes are attractively presented. Food is very fresh matching and maintaining individual tastes of ingredients. An 'antipasto' dish had mullet roe, beef tataki, Sugaki oysters in wine vinegar, garlic and butter periwinkles, Ebi Pango - Japanese prawn dumpling, Horenzo - spinach and soy salad and salmon canape demonstrated this as did many of the following dishes. A Sushi Nigiri - with salmon toro and unagi (eel) was accompanied by a soft shell crab roll and a range of Sashimi - tuna, kingfish toro, salmon and lobster
.
A typical and classic Japanese fare displaying lovely textures. A vinagared seafood salad was
both attractively presented and appealing in the variety of tastes it provided. I did not get a picture of the next dish, a baby abalone tempura presented in the abalone shell.It was not as crisp as it should have been which was disappointing. Miso marinated black cod seems to be

a Japanese specialty dish that varies enormously from restaurant to restaurant. It is a signature dish at Nobu and whilst this was an excellent piece of fish it did not approach that we had at Nobu. Duck sandwich was actually slices of tender duck breast with a light sauce and a crisp bean shoot accompaniment.
Wagyu beef amiyaki was yet another beautifully presented dish. It was tender but it could have
been any fine steak because the Wagyu taste was lost in the sauce. Wagyu seems to lose out as soon as anything is done to it except for being quickly barbecued. We finished the meal with a dessert selection.
Passion fruit mousse, fruit, vanilla ice cream and plum wine jelly, fruit salad and green tea ice cream.
There is a concentration on presentation requiring attention to detail and efficient organization for plating dishes

This is certainly one of Melbourne's finest Japanese restaurants concentrating on getting the best out of the finest produce and presenting it beautifully in attractive surroundings. Whilst not every dish came out perfectly there is nothing serious to complain about.
Score 16/20

Humble House (Brighton) 10/2010



Half the restaurants in Melbourne are below average and half of them are above it, whatever that means. I have no problem with placing many of them in, what is to me, the appropriate category. Humble House at 11 Church St. Brighton sits comfortably in the better category. Indeed the first dish we ate there was one of the best soups I can remember. Some might be deterred by its deep green colour but this spinach fish/prawn soup ($8)

was outstanding. As is so often the case where the first dish served is excellent those that follow are also very good. After an entrée of crab shell stuffed with crab meat ($11)
which was fairly ordinary and a crumbed Mongolian steak

which was also fairly average we had two sea food dishes. The first, prawns with snow peas,
was served with a rich but subtle ginger butter sauce that was so good that we bought a container of it to take home. The prawns were just cooked and as a result they were less dense and more flavoursome than usual. I’ve not had this sauce before. It’s a great match for a delicate crustacean. A large fillet of Barramundi in a fish sauce

met all my standards for and finally what Sandra described as the best banana fritters she's had completed the meal.It’s an unpretentious place with room for about 40 downstairs

and another couple of dozen in an upstairs area. The whole place was pretty full so reserving a table is highly desirable.

Score 14.25/20

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cumulus Inc (Melbourne) 10/2010

It's rare these days that we leave a restaurant astonished at the quality of the meal that we have just been served but it has happened several times recently. Most recently it was at Cumulus Inc. This is a restaurant that we have wanted to visit or along time but avoided because of their no reservation policy. Today we were in town and had time. Fortunately we arrived at a quiet moment and got a table immediately. The restaurant occupies a large room. They have a bar along one side and an open kitchen on the other with tables at the end of the room and in between. Now that we were here we wanted to get a taste of a good range of dishes. We started sharing a globe artichoke soup with fresh spanner crab ($10). Presented in a glass it didn’t look impressive which goes to support that cliché that you can’t judge a book by its cover. It was a fine combination tastes with a touch of acidity which still allowed us to experience the delicate flavour of the crab. Definitely produced by a chef with a fine palate. The next entrée, a foie gras parfait, ($17), was to die for.

Almost creamy with superb texture and fine taste no diner interested in food should fail to have this dish. It came with lightly toasted brioche, little raisins with a touch of sweet sauce and tiny sprigs of attractive greens. incidentally the two breads they served, a sourdough and a slightly sweet corn bread could not have been better. We then had another remarkably good entrée, a carpachio of Wagyu (their spelling) tongue, ($17), with small pieces of mustard fruit.
These almost see through slices of tongue delivered a fine taste which was well balanced with the sweet mustard fruit. A warm spicy cauliflower side dish, ($15)
with pomegranite seeds and a little goats curd had enough chili for some bite without destroying our palate for the next dish, The whole grilled flounder, ($38), proved to be headless
but lacked in no other respect. Lightly cooked in a gentle slightly lemony sauce it had that specially succulent taste and texture of fish caught that morning. A special, not on the menu, pork belly with a nutty shredded cabbage salad, ($26)
left me deficient in adjectives for an adequate description. The pork was tender whilst the crackling was crunchy without threatening to send you for dental repairs. The salad a nice counterfoil, would have been acceptable as a side dish on its own merit. Finally a mandarin parfait with a rich chocolate and an almond cake was the nicest way of enjoying a few extra calories. Each element offered a distinct but not dominating variation in taste and texture. The chocolate was especially rich and creamy, the parfait cool and citrusy, the almond cake less sweet than marzipan.

There is a reasonable range of wines by the glass mostly ranging from about $9 to $17

This was a meal with a huge ‘wow’ factor. Each dish displayed a talent for balancing tastes and combining ingredients to producing varying textures in attractive presentations. It seemed that a meal like that deserved a much more appropriate environment than the crowded, noisy bare tables at which they are currently served. We were sorry to see most diners apparently so preoccupied with their conversations that they seemed to be eating with scant regard for what was on their plates. There are a lot of other interesting dishes on the menu so it's worth more than another visit.

Score:18 /20

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Top Five Blogger Series - Food & Drink

This post appeared on The Foodologist site on Facebook. Since it suggested sharing and I thought it interesting I'm offering it here for anyone interested. Not having read most of the blogs on food I have no serious opinion about these selections.
I might add that Sandra has completed several units of the Master of Gastronomy course with distinction and I have read most of the relevant literature for the course.

Top Five Blogger Series - Food & Drink

Picking our favourite restaurant bloggers across Australia is no easy task, as there are plenty of them, and good food can be a subjective thing.Melbourne newspaper The Age recently reported that there are now 659 food and drink blogs in Australia (mostly in Victoria) and, according to Grab Your Fork, as many as 56 new food blogs posted for the first time in 2009 in Sydney alone, making the task of picking a top five from each state both time consuming and mouth watering!Apologies to the many worthy blogs we have left off the list (certainly a few good ones missed the cut!) but, obviously, we couldn't squeeze everyone in...

Here goes, state by state:

Western Australia

  • EatingWA

Don't be put off by EatingWA's desire to push its celebrity bloggers, it has plenty more to offer than footballer Quinten Lynch's take on sushi in Northbridge. It is chock-full of good information, easily navigable, well presented, and updated regularly. The site also offers discounts for its members, which is a nice bonus.

  • The Food Pornographer

It's hard to ignore a blog with a title like The Food Pornographer, so we won't. It's the full bottle on all things WA food, including restaurant reviews and produce vendors. Unfortunately, TFP doesnt like olives, but we can live with that.

  • Perth Food Engineers

Purely a restaurant review site, Perth Food Engineers is a good little intro to the world of Perth eateries. The site itself is a bit clunky and old school in its layout, but the message gets across succinctly and without fuss. Well worth a look.

  • Cafe Grendel

It's all about the coffee on this cheeky little site. Not afraid to speak their minds, Grendel goes through coffee cocktails, coffee outlets, the people involved in Perth's coffee shops and much more. It's accessible too, no coffee snobbery here.

  • A Very Foodly Diary

This is as much a recipe site as a restaurant review site, but A Very Foodly Diary has plenty to offer the WA food lover. It's reader-friendly tone certainly doesn't hurt its cause. One for the aficionados.

New South Wales

  • I Am Obsessed With Food

If you want commitment to food, then look no further than I Am Obsessed With Food. It might not be the prettiest website going around, but in terms of detail, it's pretty special. The blogger, Reemski, takes photos of everything, which is essential for a good food blog - whetting the appetite nicely in the process.

  • Eat Drink Play

A clever domain name, Eat Drink Play follows a group of fun lovers around Sydney's eastern suburbs, as they hop from restaurants to bars and much more. The site is a little busy, but that's ok, as the content well and truly makes up for it.

  • Does My Bomb Look Big In This

We're not going to answer the question, but Does My Bomb Look Good In This certainly answers plenty of questions about Sydney's food scene. Heck, DMBLBIT even provides the reader with its 'to do' list, which may be a step too far, but at least you know what is coming up.

  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

This is a terrific site for Sydney's food enthusiasts, as the author has done plenty of research and clearly knows her stuff. Even the Sydney Morning Herald's "Good Food Guide" merits a review - that's detail, folks, and we like it!

  • Jenius

We can't leave New South Wales without mentioning this Gen-Y food lover's blog. The pics are enough to catch the eye, but we're really impressed by how much food this blogger can order in one night out! It certainly helps when it seems like half of the menu is included in the review!

Victoria

  • Melbourne Gastronome

'The musings of a 30 year old Melbourne foodie gal', this site proclaims and delivers. A nice, clean display makes for easy navigation, and our 'foodie gal' certainly loves her food and drink. The cocktail reviews and restaurant reports are overwhelmingly positive, but with Melbourne's reputation for top quality entertainment areas, that's not a huge surprise.

  • Jeroxie

It's addictive and consuming. Cool tag line, great layout, fresh approach - oh, and some darn good food appraisal to boot. That's a pretty bloody good start for a food blog. The clarity of the images makes it look like a photography website, and the writing is top notch (Jeroxie is a project manager at a digital brand agency outside of the blogosphere). An excellent site for those heading to Melbourne.

  • Confessions of a Food Nazi

We're generally not enamoured of anything with 'Nazi' in the title, but this site is definitely top five material. Then again, this Melbourne Food Nazi describes herself as an irreverent, geriatric Gen-Xer, so the blog's title justifies itself. Full of tips and links, this blogger is a constructivist (unlike her National Socialist namesakes!) and we like it that way.

  • Travelling in Mary Janes

So much more than just a food & drink blog, Travelling in Mary Janes is about as passionate a website as can be found. With sister sites that include crafts and fashion, TiMJ's (Mary Janes are shoes, we're led to believe) has some of the most delicious looking food and recipes on the website, and is a breeze to navigate.

  • The Breakfast Blog

Ten points if you can guess what this blog is about. Yes, Einstein, breakfasts are hugely important, and an increasingly competitive market for eateries and cafes. If you can put together good eggs on toast with a lip-smackin' coffee, you're going to have a popular place. This blog helps you find the ones that lift the bar.

South Australia

  • The Foodologist

This is more than a restaurant review site. The Foodologist is a committed South Australian who is fond of promoting his state's produce, which is admirable. The 'Foodologist' isn't a misnomer either; this blogger has a PhD in Physiology and a Masters in Gastronomy - top that!

  • D Bites

This site doesn't pull its punches, giving one Japanese restaurant a score of 4/20. D Bites will tell it like it is, so if you appreciate that kind of thing, this is the place for you.

  • Lamb Ears and Honey

For all things food in South Australia (and a little bit of drink too), Lamb Ears and Honey is a nice site. Get into it, crow eaters!

  • Leena Eats

Also possessed of a Masters in Gastronomy, Leena Eats is as much about the journey as the food. Leena crams in plenty of stories into this hybrid food/travel blog - it's ultra entertaining as well as being a good source of information.

  • Perpetual Curry Pot

If you like curry, then look no further than Perpetual Curry Pot for all the curry recipes you'll ever need. We're hungry just thinking about a pot of curry that never runs out.

Tasmania

  • Food Finder Tasmania

We learnt here that Tasmania is honey central - bet you didn't know that! There's a bunch of other useful information on this site too, including why Skeleton Bay is named thusly (a whale skeleton washed up there apparently), as well as tips about pottery, crafts, cooking utensils and assorted items. It's very homely, but pretty cool.

  • Hobart Food

It's not often a blog is recommended by a state government, but, sure enough, Hobart Food has a pointer from the Tassie Govt website. Admittedly, this site is not flashy, and needs to be updated more regularly to be in the class of the Melbourne blogs, but its author is a postgrad student and the archive of reviews is impressive, so all is forgiven. Check it out for restaurants in Hobart especially.

  • The View From My Porch

My Tasmania - Not perfect, but close, says the header to Steve's food blog, where he opines about all things from the south of the island. While some of the opinion is probably best served elsewhere (such as the rant about cricket match fixing) the blog is entertaining and informative, and news from the southern end of the southern-most tip is hard to find.

  • Rita's Bite

Incorporating Hobart's Food For Thought, Rita's Bite is a great entry into the Tassie capital's food and drink scene. Rita also manages to incorporate some social commentary onto her site, which is a welcome addition.

  • Hobart Restaurant Bitch

It isn't updated regularly enough, but how can you go wrong with a name like Hobart Restaurant Bitch? It's not actually as menacing as the title might suggest, but the blog certainly tells it as it is. If you want a very honest appraisal of Hobart's food spots, this could be the place for you.

Queensland

  • Life's a Feast

This road trip blog has the best the Sunshine Coast can offer, proving once again that life is indeed a feast. It's a cool way of approaching a drive through Queensland, and with pics and videos, one can appreciate the experience that much more. It's a must for those heading to the area.

  • Eat, Drink and be Kerry

Nice title for a food blog, and the fact that it's put together by a freelance writer surely helps the cause - no surprises that it reads well and is nicely presented. With contributions from outside of Queensland too, this is a well-rounded blog that is well worth a look.

  • Food Bling Brisbane

This blog describes itself as a down to earth guide to the best restaurants, cafes, takeaway and delis in and around Brisbane - a simple premise for a strong platform... A good starting point, and then some, for Queensland foodies.

  • New Brisbane

The New Brisbane site is a guide to nightlife in the river city, with a bunch of independent contributors providing their two cents. The pretty basic layout could do with an upgrade, but we're after content more than frills, so give this a look.

  • Gold Coast Food Guide

Have a guess what the Gold Coast Food Blog is about? If you're heading to the GC, make sure you scan this site for a heads-up of what's hot and what's not.

Australian Capital Territory

  • The Canberra Cook

Restaurant reviews, recipes and much more, The Canberra Cook is a site for living in Canberra, not just eating. It's not exactly the Ritz-Carlton of food blogs, but a solid introduction to the ACT nonetheless.

  • Snowdrops, Meringues & Berries

We like this site a lot. Snowdrops, Meringues & Berries is clear, has great pictures of the food, and some cool features such as "you might also like". This is definitely a winner.

Northern Territory

  • Darwin Blog - Dining

A quickfire approach to Darwin's restaurants, this site is nice and simple for those heading to the north.

  • Darwin Food

A snapshot of Darwin's dining and nightlife scene, Darwin Food is not as extensive as we'd like, but it does the job for those on a flying visit to the city.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eis (Albert Park) 10/2010

Expectation is the thief of joy. A woeful hamburger at to greasy Joe's is quite acceptable but a lousy dinner at a supposedly fine restaurant is really disappointing. Eis has been on my agenda for some time, recommended as something of a hidden gem in the heart of the Albert Park restaurant area at 188 Bridport St. So expectations were high but the gem turned out to be somewhat flawed. It is a very pleasant venue with seating for about 34 patrons. It has a neat, clean feel about it. Tables are set with paper covered linen table cloths and napkins. Wire backed seats are a bit too flexible and have pillows for comfort.
We started with three entrees. Deep fried Gyoza were presented with a small slightly wilted salad and a spicy dipping sauce.
They were small and over fried with very little filling. A half an eggplant stuffed with onion looked great. unfortunately It was excessively sweet. Chicken katsu crumbed, fried and presented with a red sauce which was a little overpowering for the chicken, came with a very ordinary, and most un Japanese, mashed potato! One of the distinguishing features of Japanese restaurants is in the presentation of dishes , both the crockery and the way vegetables are sliced or cut. Eis falls down badly here. For all that it was quite nice and I'd have it again. These entrees were all OK but for us the mains failed. A chicken and rice noodle curry turned out to be a hot curry soup
which surprised us as we have never had a hot Japanese curry before and Sandra could not eat it. I ordered a salmon with crumbed pesto dressing which was on a bed of mashed potatoes and a little spinach and pumpkin.
There was nothing remotely Japanese about this dish. I could have had it with teriaki sauce but felt this would be to strong for the delicate fish. It was a very plain dish and I should have ordered something else. Why a Japanese restaurant would serve this sort of thing at all, and particularly with mashed potato, puzzles me. The other issue that arises from this experience is the way in which a restaurant should handle a customers dissatisfaction. If a dish is not cooked as requested or has an obvious fault it is normally replaced without question. When the dish is simply not to the customers liking, or even inedible because of an ingredient that the customer did not expect and cannot stomach what should the restaurant do? Is it reasonable to have a different approach for customers who are known to the staff as compared to those who come for the first time? Should they apologize for serving food just as they always do simply because someone finds it awful? Does good will, and good marketing suggest that something should be offered gratis - a dessert or beverage or even a replacement dish? I know what I would do if I was the proprietor. We were not very happy by now and didn't even consider a dessert. Eis is extremely Anglicized and does not rate as fine dining in my book.
Score: 12.5/20

Saturday, October 09, 2010

CHATTER 30 What's in a Name

English is a great language. It includes an immense number of words. It's full of oddities and lends itself wonderfully to every nuance of expression from poetry to puns. Derived from Latin it has substantial contributions from many other languages. Many things are referred to by the name of the person first given credit for describing them, deserving or not. Usually this presents no great problem. There is no doubt what Pythagoras' theory is or exactly what Bell's palsy refers to but when it comes to gastronomy all this breaks down.
Chefs take it upon themselves to modify recipes at will but still retain the previous name of the dish. Furthermore it is rare to find an attribution to the origin of a recipe even if it is known. It helps if the recipe is actually named after a place e.g Weiner Schnitzel or after a person e.g. beef Stroganoff.
In Austria Weiner schnitzel is defined by law and must be made of veal but anywhere else in the world this legislation does not apply. Presumably deriving from the German word schnit, cut, it also has some relation to the English cutlet. Scnitzel may be, but usually isn't, referred to as Weiner style or similar. More often it is called after the meat used e.g. chicken schnitzel but frequently it appears on menus as Weiner schnitzel with meat some considerable age beyond veal. There is fairly general agreement as to prepare and cook scnitzel. Stroganoff is another matter.The first recipe for it appeared in a classic Russian cook book about 1860. It contained cubes of meat, sour cream and mustard but had no onion, no tomato and no mushroom. This has gradually changed over the years so that most recipes include mushroom and onion and some include tomato paste or even ketchup. Now it appears, courtesy of Masterchef in Australia at least, to have taken another leap using the classic Hungarian ingredient sweet paprika. Almost the only standard ingredient is the shaved meat and that wasn' t even in the original recipe. Julie Goodwin, winner of the competition last year, has a recipe on the I'net which even includes paprika and Worcester sauce.
It's time people called things what they are. If it's Joe Blows variation on a dish let's call it that.