Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mama Baba

I really feel like I am blogging about this place too late, as they are closing their doors this Saturday.
I recently discovered their $15 take away lunch/dinner special and I'm loving it. So I'm actually really sad to see this place go.
Last night I got the Spiced Lamb spaghetti and the ouzo chips. The spaghetti was like a hit of flavour in the face. Strong lamb flavours and robust spices through out the pasta. Personally I like pastas to be less heavy and more tomato-y but I didn't mind this one at all. The olives were a nice twist as well.

The Ouzo chips taste a bit funny at first but it grows on you. It's doesn't compare to the chips in gazi but it's still way better than the chips you get at your fish and chip joint and it's the same price!

I also went for their lunch special a little while back and I'm only blogging about this as I think the service deserves a mention. With the lunch special you get a beetroot with  salmon to start you off and a salumi plate to share. The cured meat selection we got was definitely something that my friend loved. The delicate slices with the right level of saltiness.

The pasta of the day as a pea and sugarsnap fussilli. Very delicate flavour and the pasta was perfectly al dente. I was quite happy with the meal and it was plenty that I already struggling to finish. Half way through our meal one of the waiters came over and asked us how our meal was. I told him it was beautiful and the fussilli was a nice change but I think my favourite is still their bolognese. It was just a simple conversation and within 10 minutes we had a plate of bolognese on our table complimentary. We were very happy and thrilled as we know that day, the bolognese wasn't actually on the menu.

Oh there was also the salad on the side too! Simple greek salad to help keep things balanced. =)

I've read about many post from other people saying the service is bad. I have to disagree. Each time I have visited (either take away or dine in) the waiters have been friendly. On the odd occasion service will be slow but that is normally only due to the crowd size in the restaurant.

Overall I rate them a 14/20. Not a perfect scored but still extremely sad to see the doors close. It's not the best pasta I've ever had, but it doesn't aim to be the traditional Italian pasta place either.


Mama Baba on Urbanspoon

Rockpool

This place has been around for a long time now. It's situated right next to the Yarra River inside the Crown complex. Headed up by Neil Perry, known to be one of the best chefs in Australia.

 I have been here quite a few times over the years and I always get the same entree. I love their Waygu Bolognese. The fresh al dente pasta with the rich tomato waygu sauce. I've always found it really surprising how well this dish is done here but a few doors down at Rosetta (which is also a Neil Perry restaurant, but just Italian themed) does it so poorly. This sauce is a very meat heavy sauce but you still don't get that 'overloaded' feeling. In my book, it's a must try.

If you come to Rockpool, you have to have a steak..... unless you try their steaks, you haven't dined at Rockpool before. Served with horseraddish and beanrise sauce on the side and your choice of musturd and barbeque sauce. It is recommended you try the natural flavours of the beef first and it is always a beautiful cut of meat. If you order medium, it is perfectly pink in the centre but cooked on the outside. It is definitely the best steak in Melbourne!

We also got the waygu oyster blade braised with red wine and served with potato puree. The meat on this was so soft it melted in your mouth. The red wine sauce was rich and intense, then together with the fluffiness of the potato. It was quite an amazing dish. It was massive though, I wasn't able to finish it and was very sad I had to leave that waygu on the plate.

Now for the sides, this is actually my favourite part after the waygu bolognese. We got the Mac and Cheese and as the name suggest, it's macaroni and cheese served with speck. This was a very dry mac which made it perfect as a side. It still had enough cheesiness and sauce which is what I love about this dish.
Rockpool is pretty famous for their potato gratin, we get it everytime we come... and we always regret it. It's not that it's a bad dish but it's very heavy. The scalloped potato slices with the cabbage is beautiful immersed in a strong cheesy flavour but along with the heaviness in the mains, it's always a big struggle to finish.
Lastly there was the green beans with creamy anchovy dressing and almonds. This sounds rather boring but with all the heaviness in the other dishes, I really appreciated the light and crisp aspect of this dish. The anchovy dressing wasn't over powering but just right. Only downside was I think they put too much dressing on the beans.

Overall I would give it a 17.5/20. There is really little that I will fault the dishes, I just wish I had a bigger stomach. The service is attentive, it is well deserving of it's reputation.


Rockpool Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Story in a Cup

Hot day and froyo is like a match made in heaven!

Decent flavours and not too sweet..... best thing is, there is no crazy line. You make your own so you can be a generous or tight as you like with the topping.

Downside is the small range of choice of topping. I would've liked a green tea flavoured yoghurt too. I'm not sure if it was just me, but the lychee I got also, tasted like it was a bit off. But I've been to this place many times and this is the only time it has happened... 

I got the blood orange, coconut and hazelnut. I love the coconut and blood orange, found those complimented each other really well.

Story In A Cup on Urbanspoon

Tao Tao House

So I came across this one as I heard the chef is ex-Flower Drum. With a family birthday dinner due, I used the opportunity to try it out.

When we walked into the restaurant, the first thing that we noticed was this is a Asian restaurant that is frequent by non Asian diners. We were the only table of Asian within the restaurant but it didn't really bother us too much as long as the service and quality of food made it worth while.

To start we ordered the soft shelled crab, when this came to our table it was actually after our mains... and it just looked like a big mess on a plate. The crab wasn't seasoned very well so it was purely relying on the crab's natural flavours but there was so much batter on the crab, that it was hard to taste anything else. I think if there was less batter it would have been a lot better.

We ordered a crispy skin chicken but what arrived at our table wasn't actually a chicken but more a spatchcock. It was divided into 8 pieces and there was 10 of us at dinner. It would have been nice if we were informed beforehand by the waitress. Besides the small portion (and the fact it was a spatchcock and not a chicken) the skin was nice and crispy, which the meat was still tender. There was a good balance of the skin being not too oily but also not dry.

Next was the Yee Mien, which is basically a simple stir fried noodle with mushrooms and chives. It wasn't too oily or salty and the noodles were soft without being soggy. It was a nice dish but nothing spectacular.

Mapo tofu was also on the menu. I'm not expert on mapo tofu but this one was just very very spicy and also very sweet. I didn't mind the sweetness too much but I know normally you don't get that in Mapo tofu. The tofu bits were silky and soft.

Spicy eggplant pot, in Chinese it's actually translate more to 'fish fragrant eggplant' as originated from a village in China that had fishing as a primary trade. It's generally spicy from spicy bean paste and depending who is making it sometimes peppercorn too. The one at Tao Tao was not too spicy but more just very very sweet...... The eggplant was braised nicely and there was a generous amount of mince meat and garlic. I think if not for the sweetness it won't have been too bad.

We also ordered, stir fried beans, salt and pepper fish, sweet and sour pork but none of them are really worth talking about.

Overall I found the food to be no different to an average Chinese restaurant you'll find in Box Hill or the city but at a higher price. I think the service was horrid, we were ignored while the waitress was busy giving hugs and kisses to another diner nearby. Between the spatchcock and soft shell crab there was a 30 minute wait. I've read about how great this place is for yum cha, so maybe it's good for yum cha only? If you are accustomed to Chinese food I would not recommend you come here. I just have to say I left feeling very disappointed.


Tao Tao House on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 13, 2014

Chimac

Located next to the Queen Victoria Market, Chimac is a place you can easily drive by and not notice it. Situated on Peel Street, it's not near the strip of Korean restaurants on the other side of Queen Vic. This is a Korean fried Chicken and Beer place. When you walk in, there is a urban vibe to the place with the run down lay out.

Sadly because I only went with the boy, we could only try a small portion of what Chimac has to offer. When we sat down, there was fried raw spaghetti on the table. A fun concept but I didn't really like the blandness, I prefer the usual prawn crackers to raw spaghetti.


To start we got the tofu on kimchi field which is basically a big block on tofu topped with cheese on a bed of caramelised kim chi with minced pork belly bits. Other reviews I read spoke highly of this but personally I found it very disappointing, it was quite bland and oily. We were initially tossing up between this and the kimchi carnitas basket which is a Korean version of topped chips.... We got food envy when we saw the other table that ordered it.

We also got the seafood pancake to share, this was not too oily which a decent amount of calamari inside. The sauce was a good ratio of soy and vinegar and went with the pancake nicely.
Finally the chicken!! We got the wonder soy flavour because that is suppose to be their signiture dish. We weren't disappointed either! Crispy on the outside with batter laced with sweet soy sauce. The chicken was juicy and moist... I couldn't help but lick my fingers at the end. I will definity go back to try the other flavours but with more people next time!

Overall 13.5/20. Awesome chicken! A bit on the expensive side but the great chicken does make up for it! A very small menu, would've liked to have seen cheese and corn on the menu. The tofu was a let down, if not for tofu and spaghetti, I would've rated this place 15.... Maybe next time I go back and try other things on the menu I would change my mind.... I will keep you updated! 



Chimac on Urbanspoon

Indochine

This is a place that I've been going to since I was in high school. It's an extremely popular choice for Vietnamese food in Box Hill. When you walk in you are normally greeted with fast paced and squashed seating.

With most meals I like to start off with some prawn spring rolls. Small and nicely wrapped parcels of prawn eaten with lettuce, rice vermicelli and dipped in fish sauce. I like the spring rolls here compared to most other Vietnamese restaurants in Melbourne because it's always fried to a nice golden colour and not dripping in oil.



As a main my favourite is always the fresh beef pho and the bun with lemongrass beef and spring rolls (yes more spring rolls). Starting with the pho, the broth is very fragrant, so fragrant that star anise is very evident. Some might even find it a tad on the salty side. The fresh beef is just tender, but I THINK there is also a generous helping of MSG in this as I'm always reaching for water.



With the Bun, it is a generous helping of vermicelli with lettuce, mint, coriander and carrot base topped with lemon grass beef and spring rolls. I love the flavour of the beef but they always seem to overcook it. The springrolls are always good for that extra bit of crunch. The dressing is a fish sauce that gives the dish that bit of sweetness.

Overall this place is nice cheap Vietnamese food but don't expect service. Over my years of dining here I know if you are Asian, you will not get service, actually I think I will go as far as saying their service is just rude. They tend to favour Non-Asian diners. Most locals would be aware of it. Just don't go expecting fantastic service. 13/20 

 Indochine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Difference between Ice Cream and Gelato

This post is not entirely a review but because I got owned when I had this discussion with a friend. I feel quite ashame to say.... that I lost in that argument.

With my love affair with ice cream and gelato, I have sadly always thought they were the same thing. Since a young age I made the assumption that gelato is just the italian way of saying ice cream as a singular form (Uno galato, due galati).

It turns out there is actually a difference between them and they are as follows

Gelato:
- Has a softer texture due to the way it is churned. Gelato is churned at a slower speed than ice cream and ice cream is generally churned in a harder and faster manner
- Generally has less fat that ice cream due to the milk and cream content
- Is denser. Gelato has about 25-30% air, compared to 50% for ice cream

Ice cream:
- Ideal serving temperature should be 10 degrees, anything warmer results in a puddle. If gelato was served at this temperature it would be rock solid.
- To be considered ice cream it needs to have at least a 10% fat content (hmmm not so great for the waistline).

Now for my next little ramble... I have gone to N2 quite a few times in the last few months and I have heard people say it's all just a gimmick and it's overpriced ice cream blah blah blah. So if you haven't read my other post, I think it's also worth mentioning and explaining the use of liquid nitrogen in gelato making. Liquid nitrogen allows the freezing process to be faster and also small ice crystals in the process. So in theory it should result in smoother ice cream. Liquid nitrogen is also not something that is cheap to obtain compared to using a standard ice cream maker. So next time you taste gelato made with liquid nitrogen, have a closer taste and you should feel a difference in texture, especially compared to the ice cream brands you would find in your supermarket freezer.

Finally I tried more flavours since my last post which include:
Rock my road (Sour cream chocolate with marshmallows, cherries, peanuts and rasins)
- Really liked this one, the thought of sour cream chocolate kinda grossed me out at first but you can barely taste sour cream, it more just rich chocolate with yummy bits that you would expect to find in a rocky road)

Red Bean with green tea shortcake
- Love the Asian flavours, the red bean is not too sweet but enough red bean bits for the texture. The powdery cookie shortcake was a good centre

Ferroro reveal
- Disappointing, looks great when you see it, but it's really just nutella ice cream.

Pandan creme brulee
- the pandan gelato on it's own is delish! Don't see the point in paying that extra $2 just for the burnt sugar

Cookies and cream
- It's cookies and cream, but compared to everything else that N2 has to offer... it's quite boring. Like seriously.... why get cookies and cream when there is so much more to choose from?

Rum and rasin
- This thing was so strong..... I wondered if I would be over the alcohol limit to drive after...

Coconut sorbet with honeydew jelly
- If this came back on the menu... I would drive back to Brunswick now! Light coconut sorbet with jelly bits... almost reminds me of a  bubble cup in gelato form?

French earl grey Dulce de leche
- Full of tea flavour..... Almost a bit teh tarik...

Nope... N2 did not pay me in anyway to post this or test all their flavours... I am just sadly addicted to their ice cream..... If they ever wanted to hire a taste tester I would jump for the role though Hahahahhahahaha. Hope you guys find this post helpful!



Mr Ramen San

Located on Glenferrie Road in Hawthorn, it's one of those shops that you can easily walk pass and  not notice it. When you walk in, you are greeted with a simple and friendly atmosphere. Nothing fancy about this place but still the sense of Japanese.

We started with a few things to share, we got the takoyaki, potato salad, renkon chips and gyoza. Takoyaki has a special place in my heart and I almost always have to try it whenever I see it on the menu. The takoyaki at Mr Ramen San came with a very generous heap of bonito. The takoyaki was just right in texture, not too soft nor dry. The sauce though was a bit too sweet, but the stickiness was still pretty spot on. Nice takoyaki, not my favourite but I won't mind a second serving. 
The potato salad... well it's a potato salad. Pretty standard and nothing extraordinary but I guess if you like potato salad then you might like this one too?
The renkon chips was the plate my hand keep going back to. Great chispy texture and just that added bit of sweetness compared to normal potato chips. The gyoza again was no stand out, it's better than a lot of other gyoza I've had but the filling was just a bit too salty. However it was fried perfectly without the excessive oily finish, that's always a plus in my books.


For our main, my friend and I both got the charshu ramen, only mine was spicy tokontsu as I love that extra kick. The pork bone flavour was quite evident in the soup, even though the soup was not very thick. The ramen was nice and had that 'bouncy' texture. The charshu was nice and soft. The only downside for me is, this just had nothing spectactular about it. The ingredients were quite simple so I was really expecting some stand out flavours. I mean it was still a very good bowl of ramen, but just not one that I would crave for (yes, I am a bit weird and occasionally I will crave a good bowl of ramen). The soft boiled egg deserves a mention for having the right softness. There is nothing I hate more than a overcooked soft boiled egg.

Overall 13/20, it's good ramen place at a decent price. It aims to be the local ramen shop and if that's the standard it's aiming for then, it does do well. If I was in the area again, I would go again, but it's not something I would go out of my way to eat.

 Mr. Ramen San on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cutler & Co


This place has been on my "To Try" list for a long time now. I have visited Builder's Arm Hotel and also Cumulus Inc on more than one occasion and always left feeling very giddy and full. For those of you who are as much as a foodie as me, will know the common theme here is Andrew O'Connell.

When we sat down the first thing I could smell was this strong garlic butter, I didn't even know what it was at that point and my mouth was watering. Later on we found out that it was one of their sides, garlic potatoes.

Looking at the menu, I had a hard decision of deciding on what to get so we went with the degustation. To start our meal off we were given a homemade cracker with eggplant and black sesame sauce. This was quite interesting, I've never really had anything like this before, I really liked the flavour of the cracker but it was a bit too much black sesame for me.

We order a couple of extras on top of the degustation menu. We got the Devilled crab with cos lettuce and waterfall oysters. As compliments from the chef we also got to try the smoked trout on rye toast. The Devilled crab had a creamy texture then broken up with the crisp and freshness of the lettuce, it was a dish nicely executed. The Waterfall oysters.... were just oysters... nothing extraordinary about it. If anything, I think I would prefer a creamy texture oyster like Coffin Bay. The Smoke Trout was an unexpected surprise, with paper thin rye toast and horse radish, it was a surprisingly good appetizer.

Another I like to mention is the bread, I know bread is nothing special and most places offer bread but that sourdough..... The saltiness in it made it that extra bit special.

Now for the real degustation course.... first course was Kingfish Sashimi with green strawberries and apple with sorrel (it's a green herb). Very light flavours and good fresh kingfish. I didn't really like the sound of green strawberries on the menu but together, that sourness worked nicely. Overall light fresh flavours. If you like things with more of a robust burst of flavours, this may disappoint you. Next up was the ebi prawns served with pea soup and zucchini flower. This felt like a deconstructed cocktail prawn dish. The prawns had a fresh sweet tasting texture. The pea soup was a very mild taste. The zucchini flower didn't really do anything for me at all. Then the final cold starters was the Hay baked carrots with goat curd, puff rice and walnut. Out of all the starters that formed part of the degustation this was my favourite. I loved how the earthy sweetness of the carrot was portrayed and the puff rice and walnut meal was like a soft fluffy bread crumbs with crisp bits laced throughout. It's quite a difficult texture and taste to describe, but it was broken up with the creamy bursts from the goat curd.


The first warm course was the roast chicken, but we had a different variation for one of ours that was replaced by the pan fried flathead. The fish maintained it's natural juices from the pan and was teamed up with carrot puree and potato mash. The roast chicken with soft polenta, bab corn and miso was one of the highlights of my evening. The chicken was very very succulent and the flavour on that chicken skin was like a mini explosion of roast chicken flavours in your mouth. Then the polenta had a beautiful soft texture and nicely matched with the miso jus. The baby corn was good for that balance in texture.


Last main course was the wood grilled beef rib with kohlrabi (German turnip) and sesame. The beef was extremely tender with a generous amount of sauce to go with it - beautifully cooked. The turnip to go with it was soft (but not soggy) was a nice side to the dish. We ordered a side of the garlic potatoes and that was a perfect side for the beef. The roast potatoes are a must have with any of the mains. Before you even see the sight of the potatoes the  smell of the garlic is so strong that you will start to salivate.

Before the desserts came we were given a pallet cleaners of granita with candied watermelon and lychee and cream. Catering also for the lactose sensitive we were also given one that didn't have any cream in it. I tried both and had to say I prefer it without the cream as the lightness really helps with breaking up the heaviniess from the previous parts of the meal. I found the lychee to be a tad too sweet, I would've preferred fresh lychee over candied lychee.


We were served with both cherry sorbet for me and my partner got earl grey ice cream. The cherry sorbet was a good use of produce in season. Good combination of sourness and lightness but nothing amazing in terms of ice cream/sorbet. The earl grey ice cream was beautiful and smooth, the brandy jelly gave that nice kick.

Overall I give it a 18.5/20 I really enjoyed the food and found it to be a wonderful experience. However I think it lacks in the department of creativity. Everything they did they executed wonderfully and with some dishes you can also say it was a perfect dish. I can see where the 2 chef hat comes from and I can also see why they don't have that final chef hat. If they could have more experimental dishes that was executed the way I saw, this would be a good contender for restaurant of the year.


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