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May 2, 2012

Because I am slack… slacker than I thought!


Slackness no more

June 24, 2011

Ok the slackness will end, today! I was trying to write long Lethleanesque reviews and just couldn’t find the time. From now on I’ll write more frequent shorter posts to keep things ticking over. Here are some of the places that I have dined at recently …

Tea Rooms of Yarck – Yarck
What an awesome country restaurant this place is. With 2 AGFG Hats I thought there was no way we would get a booking for 5 with a days notice. Wrong! Yarck is a small town of about 15 buildings and this gem is one of them. The menu is heavy on Italian flavours with Pizza available. I ordered crumbed rabbit with fennel and mandarin salad for entree and their fabulous slow cooked pork roast for main. The pork was so rich and fatty it was more like a dessert, I highly recommend it. The crackling was a real treat, too. I didn’t have dessert but managed to find room for a chocolate cannoli! For 5 of us with only 1 bottle of wine (a delicious Barbera – Italian of course) it came to under $500. Only problem is it is a few hours drive from Melbourne, great if you have family members in Euroa, though 😉

No website

Huxtable – Collingwood
I finally got to Huxtable… the only problem was I didn’t mean to. Boire was closed and I had to find somewhere quickly. On a Thursday night they were certainly busy, however, they fitted us in at the bar. This will become one of my locals for sure. For nibbles (while I waited for my very late Girlfriend) I snacked on freshly shucked moonlight bay oysters and a cheese and jalapeño croquette. When she finally arrived we ordered pumpkin and chickpeas, lamb with silver beet and balsamic jus and  roasted brussel sprouts…. all were top notch but maybe the brussels were a little over done.  We split a delicious upside down quince cake with cinnamon crumble for dessert. The bottle of Argentine Grenache I polished off was great, however, I was having too much fun to write it down… The place reminded me a lot of Cumulus but with a real Collingwood vibe.


Ladro – Fitzroy
Before DOC became my regular pizza place, I’d hit Ladro normally a couple of times per month. I found their pizza was dropping off and not hitting the standard the once did. Anyway, I can happily report that things are back up to scratch. I was with a large table and we tried one of all the Primi Patti … but really It was about the pizza. My love affair with Pizza for Otto (Rocket, Capers, Anchovies and Speck) is back on. The pizzas are smaller however, it feels like they have increase the density of the toppings. My girlfriend had the roast of the day, which was quail… It was top notch. Glad to be back!



April 7, 2011

My apologies for not writing up my review of Clooney from when I was in Auckland. I found my (poorly written and drunken) notes and the menu with the wine matches, earlier today. I started writing my review and found my memory of the meal quite patchy. However, it should be up on Sunday.

In the meantime, my mate Benn was lucky enough to go to Noma. Yes! I know he’s a lucky prick… but check out his photos.


Maha, Melbourne

April 4, 2011

Leaving Maha, I really questioned the Good Food Guide’s judgement. Honestly, it was a very disappointing meal. The space and wait staff are what you’d expect from a 1 Hat place. In fact, the staff were really solid, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. The sommelier helped me pick some great wine, including an amazingly bone dry Cote de Rouffach Riesling. When it comes down to it, it’s about the food… and our whole table left mystified.

We ordered the Sultans Feast degustation menu.

First was “Pakenham asparagus, local scallop, basil labneh, gin and tomato chai.” When the deep bowl plates were brought out I was really impressed with the vibrant colours and the wonderful smell of basil. It looked fabulous. The staff informed us not to eat and to wait for the next element. Now what happens when you pour a hot liquid on labneh/yoghurt? It’s not a pretty look. What was worse was the over powering astringency and sourness of the tomato and gin “chai”. The delicate flavours of the scallop, labneh and asparagus all masked by this totally incongruous soup!

This formula of an overpowering element killing the rest of the dish was repeated for the next three dishes. A kataifi wrapped oyster confused with sumac foam, octopus suffat served with a smear of beautiful looking and presented aged black garlic which resulted in an way too intense combination, beautiful (in isolation) air dried wagyu with a bewildering basterma (dried beef) powder that tasted more like Gravox than anything else and absorbed all your saliva and the dishes flavour.

I personally didn’t mind the next course of wild barramundi with halva mayo, pumpkin, crunchy chickpeas and prawns. A couple of my companions, however, complained about their fish being over cooked and dry. I found that the crisp skin of the fish matched nicely with the bright orange smear of cumin infused pumpkin.

Earlier in the week, I had dined at Cumulus with a a couple of friends who had never eaten there. I insisted that we get the lamb shoulder. The lamb shoulder at Cumulus has such a clarity of flavour with the fat, you want to pick up the bones and eat the meat off the bones. The “signature dish” of Maha is a 12 hour cooked lamb shoulder and what a disappointment it was. It tasted greasy, like it had been reheated, deep fried for extra crispiness or had been sitting on the pass for way too long. The tabouleh was one of the best, i’ve had.. but the lamb was such a let down.

Desserts sat with the rest of the courses in the realm of mystifying. The first dessert was coffee and cardamon jelly with mastic ice-cream and coffee salt caramel. The jelly was extremely flavourless when mixed with the other ingredients. The dish would have been better served by a small portion of the mastic ice-cream and the coffee salt caramel. Turkish delight doughnuts had been deep fried with something else (possibly the lamb??) and had what seemed to be a commercial turkish delight centre. For table of 5 we were served 10 of them, I think 4 of them went back to the kitchen. They were served with an almond ice-cream that was more milk than anything else.

We should have complained at the end of the meal, but it was a group of friends that rarely sees each other. It wasn’t until we left we found out that everyone else wasn’t impressed or happy with their meal.

I won’t be back!

2/5 (If it wasn’t for the staff and the wine it would be 0 or 1)

Ken Yakatori Bar, Auckland

February 25, 2011

When I was researching restaurants in Auckland I was surprised by the number of Japanese restaurants and even more so by the number of yakatori places. To my knowledge, there are no specific yakatori restaurants in Melbourne and I have been craving it ever since coming back from Tokyo in August.

Ken Yakatori Bar on Anzac is just outside of the CBD of Auckland and an easy walk. Walking in it smells like a yakatori place, the heady mixture of chicken fat and charcoal. There are about 10 bar side seats (always where you want to be in a yakatori joint) and about 8 other tables. In true Japanese style there is a picture menu to help you choose. There are the regular Japanese standards of edamame, sashimi, karaage chicken … but why order that when you are at a yakatori-ya? I got there early, about 6:15 and the place filled up very quickly around me (mainly with Japanese ex-pats). Luckily, I was able to get my hefty order in first; beef tongue, chicken liver, chicken heart, chicken thigh with plum miso, chicken gizzard and pork belly with onion. I was given a little starter of snapper sashimi and mushroom soup. It was an odd number, the mushroom soup had a lovely deep mushroom flavour but was thick like undiluted Campbell’s mushroom soup?! It was delicious, just a little difficult to eat. We are not talking top end yakatori here (like Birdland Ginza or Fuku) but good flavoured, correctly seasoned, authentic, well cooked yakatori. The fat in the tongue, belly, thigh and liver was perfect and the highly textured gizzard and hearts were soft.

All washed down with a couple of Yebisu, it came to the grand price of $38NZD (that’s $28AUD). With food and prices like this, I’d love to have a Ken’s in Fitzroy!


Had to get the Yebisu in there.

Round up of Auckland

February 23, 2011

I had a bit of an odd time in Auckland. I would swing from good to average to boring places. However, I’m glad I made the effort to try a few various places.

There is great yakatori at Tanuki’s and Ken’s and I recommend both these places. In the coming days, I’ll write a review of Ken’s. Conversely with a plethora of “sushi” places and japanese dining options I assumed that a the Sushi Train in Viaduct would be OK. Boy, was I wrong. Lifeless sushi but at least the Kirin Lager was cold. The mistake was mine, I should have known better.

Sal’s NY Pizza was disappointing. I really was expecting an ethereal pizza experience. I suppose it is hard for a place to live up to such hype, especially when you are a Melbourne pizza veteran. Crust was good and crisp but the meatball had a very shallow flavour and the vegetarian was overpowered by the capsicum. Not to mention no beer because there was no duty manager; unforgivable. I had to pour the chilli flakes on to get any sort of real flavour.

Dizengoff in Ponsenby. Boring! Boring! Boring! This is supposed to be the cafe. I think Melbourne has spoilt me; cibi, de Clieu, seven seeds blow this place out of the water. Coffee was less than passable for Melbourne’s mid-range. It’s sister cafe Sheinkin was better with coffee, worse on breakfast. The hipster level was low too as I was only able to spot one pair of tortoiseshell glasses!! Waitresses were cute, though. Federal & Wolfe (on the corners of the respective street) was a much better cafe option; nice environment, friendly staff, better food options. I also drank coffee at Ben (on Fort street), was pretty good with strong cocoa flavours.

Murder Burger; yes I’d murder someone to get one. It’s a burger joint so what else but rock (ZZ Top) on the stereo. Up there with Tokyo’s Golden Brown for my number one burger spot. My only complaint was the bun was a little dry. Bargain price of 10.90NZD; so about $8.50AUD.

Clooney was an excellent meal, definitely in my top 5. I’ll write a full review soon. Class act from start to finish.

Murderous Burgers with shocking iPhone photography.

Southern Vietnamese Fishcakes

February 14, 2011

ZOMG! Best.dinner.evar! These are good, really good. I’ve always wanted to cook good Vietnamese food and watching Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam on SBS has pushed that even further. I’ve had sister’s/his Red Lantern cook book around for a little while but only ever really cooked the awesome chicken and rice soup. After having a bit of a flick around, I found inspiration on the last page. Man these things are good and go great on a hot day with a couple of beers. I suggest you double the recipe, because even after 6 of them you’ll want a few more.

500g Spanish mackerel (I used trevally)
2 Spring onions, white parts only
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 fine white pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 Tbs fish sauce
1/4 bunch of dill (I never thought about dill in Vietnamese food)
Oil for deep-frying

– Blend the fish, spring onion, salt, pepper and garlic. I did this with a knife and not a food processor.
– Place the mixture in a mortar and pestle. Dip the mortar in fish sauce and pound the mixture. Continue pounding until all the fish sauce is used and the mixture doesn’t stick to to the pestle.
– With wet hands work in the chopped dill.
– Form into little patties (about 5cm x 2cm) and deep fry at a medium heat until golden (3-5min)
– Serve wrapped in lettuce leaves with Vietnamese herbs and dipping fish sauce. I used butter crunch lettuce, perilla (shiso), white raddish, cucumber, chilli and basil.

Apologies for the Thai beer.

Balls of joy!