Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Potsticker (Caulfield North) 01/2012

*Click on pictures to enlarge.
The corner of Hawthorn and Inkerman Rd. has been the kiss of death for restaurant after restaurant. Lone Star, Millers, Scherazade and several others have failed to thrive here but The Potsticker, still showing signs of Chinese New Year, was close to full on Tuesday night when we dropped in. It offers Cantonese style food and has a reasonable wine list or accepts BYO. Some one with a bit of flair has redesigned the interior by making bar style seating around a large rectangular elevated shallow pool surrounded by 20 seats in the middle of the room. This very decorative area, partly curtained off from the rest of the room, turns what used to be a barn like space into an attractive and practical dining area. Here decked out for New Year.This bit was left intact for the last two proprietors.Led by Eric Wong, former owner of Cina, we were shown to a seat by floor staff wearing loosely knotted narrow ties glistening with shiny metallic sequins. The menu offers several banquets as well as the regular a la carte dishes and we chose the $65 deluxe banquette.
It started with a very good sea food san chao bao,
followed by a second entree of dumplings, like Shanghai dumplings these potstickers had retained a little soup within the pastry packets. Very nice. We swapped the spicy prawns for battered prawns with a sweet sour sauce served in a separate bowl to keep the batter crisp. The sauce had a good balance between sweet and tart, a very good dish though could have done with a little more. Two pieces of duck breast, presented as Peking duck followed. The pancakes were not quite as fine as they might have been, but better than most and the duck was not thinly sliced. I suspect it was just roast duck rather than the traditional Peking duck. We enjoyed it regardless. Continuing to avoid the hot dishes we swapped the chicken on the menu for chicken with cashews. This was a simple, standard, Cantonese dish, served with fried rice. Mongolian beef with bok choy was the last main course before the dessert. Comparisons, the saying goes, are odious but I have to say the generally much more expensive restaurant that we ate at a couple of days ago served a much less aesthetically pleasing rendition of this dish though they both tasted good. Dessert was a slightly over gelatinized mango pudding. We returned a few days later and had some more very good dishes. Substantial crabs claws ($8) were good starters. A plate of mixed mushrooms ($20) was excellent although the tofu was over baked and a bit tough. Silken tofu would have been better. A whole barramundi ($30) was quite small but a very fine fish with gentle white flesh which we all enjoyed. Sweet and sour prawns were exactly like those we had at the banquet. If they continue to serve good food at reasonable prices The Potsticker has lasting properties at this normally unpopular site.

Score 14.5/20

Monday, January 23, 2012

Davids (Prahran) 01/2012

*Click on any photograph to enlarge it.
Check SpellingDavid's has long been an AGF one hat restaurant, featuring an emphasis on the curative properties of their various teas. It's Chinese New Year. The year of the Dragon is upon us so we're going to have a seven course banquet ($65 pp only $6 more than their usual major banquet. The place is packed and noisy. Since we were last here they have added more tables to the front of the place and removed the stands of teas. They've also added some new decoration along the wall.
Service is a little slow with the large crowd but after a one hour lag from when we arrived until the second course dishes appeared at a reasonable rate.
Shredded duck meat soup infused with mushroom and bamboo shoots perfectly described this dark and satisfying soup.
Shanghai garlic pork ribs which were actually dried pork chops coated in bread crumbs and garlic, there were however no bones, seemed a very un Chinese dish. It was quite pleasant and could have been served in a Mediterranean restaurant anywhere. Peking duck, supposedly thinly sliced roast duck meat in a home made pancake with cucumber, spring onion and special plum sauce was a poor effort. The duck was a thick slice of breast and the pancake quite thick. It was presented wrapped and ready to eat. My duck had a little plum sauce, far to little, at the bottom of the pancake and the cucumber and spring onion were lost with the thick piece of duck breast. Lobster with XO chili sauce was overcooked and the lobster meat was quite tough. I'm unimpressed with strong sauces and delicate sea food but on this occasion it hardly mattered as the over cooked lobster had lost any delicacy.
Sauteed rockling with Chinese rice wine and woodear fungus served with steamed rice was a complete contrast to the lobster. A beautiful dish worthy of David's reputation. Mandarin steak, diced eye fillet with Mandarin sauce and seasonal Chinese vegetables came with David's fried rice. A good dish but the presentation with large Bok Choy on the plate adjacent to the small diced beef jarred aesthetically with me. Fried rice was excellent, which it almost always is at any Chinese restaurant. Red bean pancake with ice cream was a pleasant end to a very patchy meal.One hat restaurants don't always live up to their reputation.
Score 13.75/20

Terrace Bistro Bar (Prahran) 01/2012

We came to this cafe restaurant as a result of what seemed like an irresistible offer from Groupon, a company that send me a barrage of offers from companies willing to supply discounted services for almost anything.from exfoliating socks to wire screen doors It's the food offers that interest me. This one came up as too good to believe.
The Terrace Bistro Bar

Meat and Seafood Platter for Four People Plus One Bottle of Wine
Voucher value: $265.00
Voucher code: 16/5748 Security Code: 65AD1380A1
Valid from 20.01.2012 to 20.05.2012
REF: 715929436
The merchant: The Terrace Bistro Bar
162-164 Commercial Road, 3181 Prahran, Tel. (03) 9098 1155
http://www.terracebistro.com.au, Opening times: Mon-Sun: 7am-late
Fine print
Purchase multiple vouchers, 2 vouchers per table, Subject to availability, 48-hour cancellation policy or
voucher is void, How to Redeem, Valid from 20 Jan 2012, Valid to 20 Apr 2012, Phone to book: (03) 9098
1155, Present voucher on arrival.
The photo reproduced above just looked like a promotional cafe picture but in fact it was the $265 dinner for four.
It consisted of the following seafood: A couple of slices of smoked salmon, a few lightly crumbed calamari rings on a bed of dandelions and three or four salmon croquettes which tasted more like potato than anything else. The meat was three bland small meatballs, two tiny pieces of pork belly, not at all crisp and three or four slender slices of sausage in a tomato sauce. In addition there were a couple of slices of fried egg plant and a corn fritter with a spicy avocado paste on top. They also served some very nice bread.
At most restaurants each of these serves would be described as a taste and would not be more than a maximum of $9 and possibly as little as $5 or $6 at a cafeteria like this. Call it what you like it was no more than a meal for two people. Everything had to be cut into four making each thing only a mouth full. The wine was the best part of the meal and that was nothing special.Before we were served, and not knowing what was coming, we asked that the dishes be served separately rather than all at once. That's fine our waitress said. a few minutes later the two platter arrived. We were astonished. the person who seemed to be in charge was totally inflexible. That's how we serve it and that's what you get - you saw the picture!!! Yep, just like the photo.Even if you take off $20 for the wine, I saw it on line for $18.95 a bottle, that leaves $245 or say $120 for each platter so this was $120!From the restaurants point of view I think this represents a sad misjudgement. They probably pay Groupon at least $20 Their wine probably cost about $15 preparing and serving the meal must have cost at least $30 so they are making no money and may even be losing on the whole thing. As a promotion it is worse than doing nothing because, not only would we never go there again we naturally relate this misadventure to all our friends.
Three tiny meat balls for four people, don't make me laugh. Two miniature pieces of pork belly, oh come on. $265 for these two little platters and a $20 bottle of wine, hysterical. The whole thing amounted to a snack. I could have eaten the lot all by myself and what's worse the food was poorly seasoned and had NOTHING to recommend it to us. We left to go and get something to eat.
Score: 12.5/20