Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sahara - Parramatta

For a nice, relaxing catch-up, my friends and I headed for dinner at Sahara.

When we got there (around 7.30pm on a Friday night), the store was still pretty empty. And so, we were quickly whisked to a nice quiet table near the back of the store.

Drinks were ordered, and my friends and I decided to just order a few dishes to share.

Wedges were ordered for an entree (~$8... I don't remember exactly >.<). These came out fresh and hot (almost burning), and were crisp on the outside, potato fluffiness on the inside.

Wedges with Sour Cream and Sweet Chilli Sauce - ~$8

We also decided on two Pides and one Shish. There was the Bodrum Pide ($18.50), which was stuffed with grilled chicken, mushroom, and mozzarella cheese. Again, these came out nice and hot and crunchy. It was also nice how the restaurant did not jip us of the filling :)

Bodrum Pide - $18.50

The other was the Aegean Pide ($17.50) which was stuffed with baby spinach, feta and mozzarella cheese. Mmm... Soooo yummmy and tastey even though it was meatless. in my opinion, it was even tastier than the Bodrum.

Aegean Pide - $17.50

And even yummier was the Tavuk Shish ($21.90). The garlic and herb marinated chargrilled boneless chicken pieces were sooooo delish! especially when eaten with the bread and soaked in aioli. :) I'm not a fan of pilaf rice, but my friends were saying how they couldn't stop eating it, even when they were completely stuffed.

Tavuk Shish - $21.90

Although the waitress tried her best to convince us about dessert, we were all too full to fit anything else in.

In all, the service was average and the ambiance was chat-friendly.
I'd definitely come back for the chargrilled chicken drenched in aioli - or maybe I just miss the herbed mayo from Grill'd too much! :P

Food - 8/10
Service - 7/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 29/40

Sahara Turkish Restaurant
Westfield's Parramatta
Shop 2185
Cnr Church & Argyle Street
Parramatta, 2150
Tel: (02) 9687 7898

International Cakes - Melbourne

International Cakes

After a nice relaxing dinner at home, the only way I could prevent my partner from sleeping was to drag him out for a walk (ie. to hunt for dessert).

After walking past the first cake and coffee hang out and not feeling hungry, by the next decent one (which was many many minutes away) the summer chilliness of Melbourne hit me, and we just had to go in and eat. Well, after checking out the window displays ofcourse!

A huge range of cakes and sweets!

I opted for a chocolate pistachio baklava (which I swear, wasn't this huge in the window!!!). This was a GIANT baklava, around 25 cm in length, covered in chocolate. Baklavas, being usually sickening yet yummily sweet in by itself, smothered in chocolate... woah - ultimate sugar hit. You can't blame me for not being able to finish this (I got half way then gave up)!

Giant Pistachio Baklava

My partner went for the tiramisu. Compared to my baklava, this was a lot less sweet. But also compared to the tiramisu's I make at home, this was a lot less coffee-tasting and a lot more sponge-cake like. This, however, is much to my partner's liking, and he happily gobbled it all down :)

All up, the two sweets cost around $14. The place felt nice and homey. And although it did not have the best looking cakes and sweets in Melbourne, they give off a traditional cake store vibe.

Food - 6.5/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 6/10
Overall - 25.5/40

International Cakes
185 Lonsdale St
Melbourne, 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 2092

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Plume - Doncaster, Melbourne

A while ago, my partner called me to rave on about one of the "best congee"s he has ever had. Being a comment from a usually non-congee eater, I was all ears and eager to experience it for myself.

One of the first things I noticed about Melbourne yum-cha places is that you can book! How awesome is that? No more waiting for numbers at the door! Our booking was for 11am... I think we woke up around 11 LOL. Nonetheless, we called up and the waiters were very understanding about our lateness.

As it takes around 20-30 minutes to drive from Melbourne city to Doncaster, we got there at around 11.30am, and were seated promptly. In no time at all, our table was filled with hot steamy yum-cha food - and an order for two 'thousand egg and pork congee'.

The siu mai and prawn har gow were the same as any we could get anywhere. No surprises there, but it sure did satisfy my siu mai craving :)

siu mai

Har gow

After satisfying my cravings, of course we need to care for some of my partner's favourites - namely, chicken feet in black bean sauce and pork ribs. Again - both yummy, and similar to all other yum cha places.

chicken feet in black bean sauce

pork ribs in plum sauce

And then there is the steamed radish cake. Mmm... one of my picks. I thought it was quite delish, an opinion probably not shared by my partner who likes all his food pan-fried, deep-fried, or char-grilled! The consistency is mushier than normal pan-fried radish cakes, but that's the way I like it :)

steamed radish cake

Now for the reason why we drove down to Doncaster - the congee. I had high expectations, and these expectations were met. The congee was smooth and silky and just so WoW~ The crunch Chinese donuts remained crunchy as I greedily downed my super tasty congee. It was soooo awesome!
super yummy congee

Lastly, there was dessert. Egg tarts. Hmm... I think these were made the way my partner liked them. The "tart" base was crispy and cruchy and crumbly as opposed to the cheesecake-biscuit-like tart base that I prefer.

Egg tart

Plume is a traditional-like Chinese restaurant offering bookable yum-cha. The waiters seem all like overseas students, not super attentive, but does the job. The food? Mostly the same as other yum cha places, but the congee outdoes all competitors, leaving memories which make you simply crave for this simple yet awesome dish! All up, our meal cost around $50.

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 6/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 28.5/40

Plume Chinese Restaurant
546 Doncaster Road
Doncaster, 3108
Tel: (03) 9840 1493

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shoya, Melbourne

Shoya Japanese Restaurant

My short trip to Melbourne, was indeed, very too short - and hence, our eating-out choices were limited (time-wise and money-wise). After a short debate, I voted for Shoya as the place I absolutely have to go to. Why? because I was extremely enticed by one of their dishes (you'll see which one soon).

Greeted by very enthusiastically friendly waiters, my partner, two friends, and I were seated upstairs, where we observed "two" sushi/sashimi chefs hard at work.

Nice and simple

Sushi-chef at work on our ice-bowls!

The waiters promptly handed us the drinks menu - allowed us to order drinks - drinks came... and we drank... and drank... and drank...

After a fair passage of time, we finally received the long awaited for food menu.
Our waiter informed us that if it was our first time at the restaurant, we would be better off ordering the chef's "omakase" (the "leave it to the chef"), as we would be "confused" if we wanted to order separately. After a brief glance at the menu, my fellow eating-mates and I were inclined to agree. The menu was all words (japanese and english) with no pictures. We might as well just leave it to the chef (the owner-master-chef SHIGEO NONAKA and his team)!

So, four omakase's it was! The only thing that bothered us a little was that the price was from $100. Hmm... what does the from mean?!?!?!?

Our very (slightly over) attentive (and eavesdropping) waiter was quick to unravel the mystery. For the $100, you get the basic omakase, comprising of 10 courses. For $120, you get an extra "hatching sea egg" course. And for $140, you get an extra good cut of super marbled beef (the sirloin), and extra good cuts of sashimi and extra good cuts of basically everything.

Hmm... hard choice - I (and my two friends) stuck with the basic whilst my partner opted for the extra course (all for the sake of my photos ofcourse!) :P

So - our first course! It was a lightly miso marinated eel with crab salad, salmon roe and black truffle (oh, and the edaname bean!). Out waiter explained that the way we're supposed to eat this was to pick it up with your fingers and shove it in your mouth in one piece (he explained it more eloquently). Eel is one of the things I don't eat, so I happily picked up my crab salad, roe and black truffle and shoved it into my mouth~ Mmmm.... sooooo yummmy!!! My eel-eating friends thought the dish was absolutely delish as well. Also, before this day, I had not tasted black truffle (or atleast, I don't think I've tasted it). I've heard lots about how much of a delicacy black truffle is - but really, it's over-rated. Black truffle tastes like... hmm... not much. :P
1st course: Miso-marinated eel with crab salad, salmon roe and black truffle

The second dish was miso-marinated cod with foie gras, tuna salad/pate (??) and...(oh, and the edaname bean!) [ok ok, I admit, I was just so excited about getting and photo-ing the dish, I wasn't paying much attention to the waiter...]. Again, the waiter said that this was best eaten with your hands in one bite. And that was harder than it sounds as the cod was slippery and warm and you really had to be quick with your hands to manage to get the whole thing in your mouth at once! Nonetheless, when it did eventually arrive in my mouth, it was bursting with flavours and tasted nice and miso-y and pastey.

2nd course: Miso-marinated cod

Then my partner's additional course came - the 'hatching sea egg'. The tiny little egg came in a huge straw lined wine box. The egg was lightly poached and topped with spinach jelly-like substance and a deep fried piece of scampi. I did sneak a taste - and it was interesting. Very much like a softly poached egg with spinach! LOL. Interesting texture - but was it worth $20 for a little egg?

Extra course: Sea-hatching egg

And now, the reason why I elected to come to Shoya as opposed to the hundreds of other good restaurants in Melbourne. It's for this absolutely awesomeness sashimi in ice-bowl. Yes - the whole thing is ice!!! When I asked the friendly waiter how they make the bowl, he said that it was a "trade secret". *sighz*. Well...my friends and I figured that they just freeze a whole sphere of ice - then one of the two guys at the sashimi bar goes in and blow-torches a hole in the sphere. Sounds logical huh? :)

3rd course: Sashimi in Ice-bowl

Anyway, I think that it's a totally awesome way to keep your sashimi cold (and they said that they don't reuse the bowls for hygienic reasons...hopefully that is true). We got three slices of salmon, tuna, and kingfish. There were also roe wrapped inside a slice of whiting fish. Then the yellow thing was sea-urchin, topped with a bit of gold foil. On the whole, I guess I've had better and fresher sashimi - but it wasn't bad. And the presentation factor~ Woah - that wins my vote!

The nice overly friendly and chatty waiters gave us time to enjoy our ice-cold sashimi. He was also fascinated by our fascination over the ice bowls (yes, I am easily entertained!). At long last, he managed to collect all the bowls (before they turned into a plate of water) and whipped out the next dish for us. This next dish was very interesting - or atleast I thought so. It was beef tongue wrapped in green tea soufle (type thing)... (oh, and the edaname bean!). The beef tongue I'm used to eating is thinly sliced, mostly char grilled. This was super thick cut, 2-3cm, and super soft (kind of like beef brisket... but even softer). It was very tastey, but I think I prefer the normally textured beef tongue better. Oh, and the green thing it was wrapped in didn't do it for me either - it was soggy and wet and... yeh... I'll just order my tongue grilled next time!

4th course: Beef tongue

The next to come were giant tempura crab legs (supposedly shipped straight from Hokkaido). Notice how one of them is on a plate of its own? That was my partners, and although it really looks the same as ours, it was big big bigger! Crab leg is awesomeness! Crunchy on the outside, tastey and soft and tender and crabby on the inside and sprinkled lightly with green tea salt. Soooo much crab meat! (oh, and the edaname bean!) Mmm... if only the artificial crab meat I buy from the asian grocers taste as yummy.

5th course: tempura crab legs

After the appetisers and entrees, the first of our two mains arrived. My friends were expecting a big (or atleast a decent sized) slab of fish. But... it looked around the same size as our entrees LOL. This was swordfish wrapped with crisp konbu seaweedy stuff (oh, and the edaname bean!). Interesting - the fish was not as tender as I would have liked (but probably the most tender you can make swordfish), but the saltiness of the crisp seaweed complemented the fish very much well.

6th course: Swordfish

The next main came in a bigger portion. It was a marble score 8+ beef steak with potato stacks, black truffle (which again tasted like not much), chilli (oh, and the edaname bean!). The steak was sooooo super yumminess. Mmm... reminded me of the time my partner and I paid AUS$160 for 100g of Matsuzaka beef in Kobe (google it if you haven't heard of it before). Awesomeness and rich in flavours I like.

7th course: Marbled steak

Then there was miso soup and rice (garnished with edaname bean). Yes, I was expecting the little green bean to be in my soup too! Miso soup was... miso soup. And the rice was slightly sticky and soggy. I quite like my rice that way - but by now, I was completely stuffed. I tried to off-load some of my rice to my partner, but he's no fan of soggy rice (oh, and what made it soggy was that they seemed to have cracked an egg into it near the end of the cooking process).8th course: Miso soup
9th course: fried rice

Onto dessert now. My friends and I got 'sea-urchin' cheesecake with black sesame (green-tea dusted) panna cotta, whilst my partner got chocolate mousse with panna cotta. They didn't tell us what they added to the mousse, but I'm sure there's something in it, cos it didn't taste like normal chocolate mousse! As for my sea-urchin cheesecake... well, I'm just glad that the sea urchin taste was not profoundly infused (as I'm not too big a fan of the yellow slimy thing). My vote still goes with the panna cotta. Sooo yummy and black sesame tasting! (and where's my edaname bean???)

10th (and final) course: dessert!!!

Overall, I was very happy with my meal (and my companions seemed to be so too). The service at this place is good (almost too good), and somewhat into eavesdropping on our conversations... Nonetheless, the ambiance is awesome for a quiet chat and catch-up with friends whilst being fed with extremely tastey and somewhat exquisite foods. If nothing else, you just have to come here for the ice-bowls!

Well done owner-master-chef Shigeo Nonaka on preparing a fab meal!

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 8.5/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 33/40

Shoya Japanese Restaurant
25 Market Lane
Melbourne, 3000
Tel: (03) 9650 0848

Grill'd Burgers (2) - Melbourne


You've seen my partner rave on and on and on about how great and awesome and fantastically delicious the burgers (and mayo) at Grill'd is. And now you're about to read me going on and on and on about how yummy these "healthy" burgers are!

Healthy is probably not the right word for it, after all, it is still just a burger (and burgers are rarely THAT healthy).
The Mighty Melbourne with Chips - $9.90 + $3.50

Firstly, you had to choose the type of bread - be it Panini, White or Wholemeal bun - all baked daily and "low in sugar". Then, the type of burger... my partner and I were just having this as a snack before dinner, and hence, chose to share the 'Mighty Melbourne' ($9.90). This burger comprised of grilled lean beef, yummy cheese, bacon, free range egg, salad, relish, herbed mayo, and... beetroot (ugh).

Before ordering this, my partner promised me that he'll ask for the beetroot on the side, and then conveniently FORGOT about that... hence, he paid the price by having to fish it out (super super quickly before it was able to stain and contaminate the rest of the burger).

My partner desperately picking out the beetroot

Ahh... the horrible culprits are finally out!

We also ordered regular chips ($3.50). Mmm... Sooooo super thick cut and yummy. Crunch on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and dusted with a herb mix. Easily the best chips I've had, especially when dipped in the herbed mayo!!! (mental note to self: must go back to Melbourne, just for Grill'd chips)

So just how awesome is Grill'd? Despite the beetroot glich, the burger was super huge and juicy and oh so tastily yummy. Mmmm... if only they had Grill'd in Sydney! Each bite was super yumminess, the salad crisp and fresh, the egg with melted cheese complementing each other perfectly, and the lean beef? Puts my mind at ease as my mouth hungrily gobbles it up.
Heavenly yumminess! Makes Maccas looks bad (not that I won't visit my favourite M joint).

Food - 9/10
Service - 6/10 (nowhere near as speedy as Maccas, but definately worth the wait)

Ambiance - 6/10

Value for money - 7/10

Overall - 28/40

Various locations in Melbourne.

(the one we went to...)

83 Acland Street,

St Kilda, VIC, 3144

Tel: (03) 9534 6900

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kabuki Shoroku - Sydney

I was given the (normally) difficult task of choosing where to eat for a family dinner. For once, contemplation time was brief - as there's been this Japanese restaurant I've simply been dying to try for over half a year now.

I stumbled across Kabuki Shoroku's website one boring afternoon and was simply left in awe by the amount of food I wanted to try at this place. Unfortunately, the time to visit this restaurant had never been right... until now! :)

Kabuki Shoroku

Walking into Kabuki, I was swept away by the serenity, tranquility and the overall "jap" feeling of the place. Dazed and in awe, we were kindly guided over to a quiet corner of the restaurant, passing by the sushi chefs and the super fresh cuts of fish at the bar.

The restaurant from my perspective (just missed the sashimi bar! >.<)

If I was with my partner, I would have ordered half the menu! (including super marbled beef on cooked on hot stone or the $70-80 set menus). Instead, with my parents, I needed to be a bit more conservative with my orders.

I settled for the seaweed salad ($16), the Deluxe Sashimi Assortment ($56), the Kabuki rolls ($22), and the Unagi (eel) with Rice ($24).

The seaweed salad was a fresh, sauceful (but not overpowering), but a bit lacking on the seaweed.
Seaweed Salad - $16

The Deluxe Sashimi assortment came on ice!!! (I'm overjoyed everytime my sashimi comes on ice!) Tasting refreshingly cold and super fresh, each bite is joy as the pieces are thickly cut. Mmm. Select sashimi were also lightly seared to give that variety of texture. My only complaint about this dish is that they only offered one measly little extremely yummy and tasty scallop (which was cut in half). Definately want atleast a handful of these scallops! mmm...
Deluxe Sashimi Assortment - $56

I love it when my sashimi is rose-shaped :P

The Kabuki rolls comprised of egg, avacado, prawn and salmon. Being a big roll, it was impossible for me to shove it all in my mouth to taste the blend of flavours. Yet, even in smaller bites, the sushi was deliciousness and oh so orderly.

Kabuki Rolls - $22

Then there was my dad's favourite - Unagi rice. Being a non-eel eater, I was amazed at the sweet smelling aroma which floated out of this box. The smell of the sauce was more flavoursome and more enticing than any other eel I've seen - so much so, I was enticed to even steal some of my dad's rice! (and being a non-rice eater, that's definately telling you something!)
Unagi-ju (grilled-eel with rice) - $24

Lastely, we ordered dessert. We couldn't really decide what we wanted so we went for the Dessert Tasting plate - 3 choices ($12). This included mint choc icecream, green tea panna cotta, and tofu cheesecake, all nicely complemented with fruit. The green tea flavour was richly and densely infused into the green tea mousse. And the tofu cheesecake was an interesting alternative to the normal cheesecakes I eat (and made me feel slightly healthier~!).
Dessert Tasting Plate - $12

On top of the dessert tasting plate, I (being greedy) also opted for a scoop of black sesame icecream ($5). If you're looking for smooth, creamy icecream - this is not for you. But as I'm weird (or so my partner says), I particularly enjoy icey-types of icecream and so this was heavenly!!! (you don't understand how difficult it is to find icey icecreams these days!)

Black Sesame icecream - $5

Kabuki Shoroku is definately a restaurant worth going (and returning) to. The staff were very nice and friendly (though very much Jap-accented) and the food and the atmosphere was superb!

Oh, and did I mention free parking after 6pm in the Wilson carpark when you dine here? Simply awesome! :)

Food - 9/10
Service - 9/10
Ambiance - 9/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 34/40

Kabuki Shoroku
Ground Floor, St Martins Tower
202 Clarence St,
Sydney, 2000
Tel: (02) 9267 4552