Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shoya - Food for Thought

So I've realised that this blog has so far been a lot of munching, and not enough musing. And since I'm in a fairly reflective mood tonight, I figured I'd 'whip up' a post that's more muse than munch.

Walking back from the gym today I decided, on a whim, to have a slightly indulgent dinner at Shoya. It was probably the third or fourth time after going to the gym that I've felt like having some nice fresh, good quality sashimi to complete my evening of healthy living. However, my rational mind (and my bank balance) have always stopped me from stepping into the restaurant for a post-gym dinner.

Well, this time I decided that I could afford it and in I walked, hoping they hadn't closed their kitchen yet.

Ordered myself a Sashimi Moriawase (an assortment of kingfish, tuna, salmon and scallop sashimi), some spicy tuna sushi rolls, and the Kani Ravioli. LOVED the sashimi (omigod the wasabi was spicy!), was quite happy with the spicy tuna rolls (but kinda wish they hadn't put salad leaves in there..), and was quite disappointed with the 'ravioli' - basically a crab meat dumpling with some bonus crab shell bits thrown in...

Won't get into the specifics of the tuna rolls and ravioli. But the sashimi - each bite of sashimi I savoured to the milligram. Chewing slowly, taking small bites, pausing in-between to fully process each amazing moment. Haha, yes sounds quite OTT, but that really was pretty much what I was doing! Also, I've always thought that it's pretty cool that they serve the sashimi in an ice bowl, on a bed of ice - very dream-like.

Apart from the sashimi, the next thing I really enjoyed was the green tea with it's subtle smokey flavour. I would have been happy just sitting in a quiet corner, sipping this tea and reading a book. But alas, I did not have the luxury (and time) to do that. Another day maybe...

So back to my musing. Sitting there, eating as slowly as I wanted to with no one to rush me or make me feel like I was wasting time, I had a chance to really ponder upon each mouthful, let my thoughts wander, and forget about everything else. It could almost be called meditation... It felt nice :) I was doing what I wanted to do for myself, and not anyone else. I didn't have to worry about holding people up, or avoiding awkward silences, or how silly I may look with food stuffed in my mouth. Yes, sounds like I'm a bit of a loner - don't get me wrong, I love the company of my friends and family, but it is nice to occasionally have some alone time with good food.

So the bill came to $49.30. Bit steep for one person with no special occasion to celebrate, but I figured that life's too short to spend saving up 'for the future'. Some things should be done just when you feel like it - no other excuses required. Having said that, I'm not going to be silly enough to spend my life savings in 1 hour, just because I feel like it.

So yes, here I am in my bed, typing this post, sashimi craving satisfied, feeling pretty content with life :) (And craving for more of that green tea...)

Shoya Nouvelle Wafu Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Melbourne Cafes

I love the artsy cafes dotted around the inner-city suburbs of Melbourne. Admittedly, I don't exactly fit in with the regular crowd - with their funky hairdos and eclectic fashion - but I still like to soak in the atmosphere, and the food (and apparently coffee) are pretty awesome!

I'm going to be lazy and group them into this one post. Here's a list:

1) Cafe Gaia - 4 Avoca Street, South Yarra

Got to the cafe just as it was about to close. But the staff were still very friendly and accommodating - offered us a few minutes to quickly scan the menu and place our orders before the kitchen closed. Unfortunately, they had already started packing up the chairs and tables so I couldn't really experience the ambience of the cafe.

Had the piadinas on the menu - roast pumpkin and olive ($12) and double smoked ham with gruyere cheese, tomatoes and basil ($12).

I would like the chance to go back there again to try more things from the menu, and preferably not close to closing time so there's a chance to sit back, relax, and enjoy the food unhurriedly :)

Best Earl Grey tea I've ever had - not sure what brand this was...

Cafe Gaia on Urbanspoon

2) (Finally!) Arcadia - Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Been wanting to check this place out since I walked past it sometime last year and noticed the queue of people waiting for a table. Walked/trammed past a few more times, always gazing longingly at the cafe. Yes, I'm pretty sure my face had a look of longing on it each time I caught a glimpse of the cafe.

So FINALLY last week, I got a chance to sample and decide for myself the true standard (in my opinion!) of the food there.

Went for brunch with a friend, and after looking around (discretely) to see what the other Arcadia customers were eating, decided on the following two items:

Middle Eastern spiced eggs on rye with red pepper pesto, spinach, poached eggs & hazelnut dukkah

Corn Fritters w/ smoked salmon, fresh rocket, poached eggs & chilli & coriander yoghurt dressing

I loooove nuts. So naturally, I really liked the hazelnut dukkah that was sprinkled on top of the eggs on the first dish. Also liked the sweet red pepper pesto that was spread on the bread. Actually, I liked everything on the plate. And I really liked how multi-faceted the whole dish was.

Same goes for the smoked salmon on corn fritters - loved the multiple flavours. The corn fritters were perfect! Slightly crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. I've had corn fritters that were very dense and stodgy before. And I'm glad to say that these corn fritters were the total opposite of stodgy!! The smoked salmon was amazing - literally melted in my mouth, not too salty, just the right moisture. Perfect. Oh and the yoghurt on top - blew me away. Hehe. Strong words - but it was very very tasty and went well with the eggs, salmon and fritters.

I also ordered the chai tea here - the proper kind, with the tea and spices soaked in milk.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was a very happy person after this meal - what an amazing start to the day! Arcadia only has 2 stars in its review in The Age's Cheap Eats Guide - but I think it deserves 3!! :)

Arcadia on Urbanspoon

3) De Clieu - Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Noticed this place on the way to Arcadia, and had the chance to make a visit just yesterday. Didn't stop here for a substantial brekkie, so just had a couple of coffees, and an open sandwich - Le Croque de Clieu. And yes, I actually had a coffee!! Only because when I looked this cafe up on good 'ol Google, I read a lot of reviews about the coffee here. It's a sister cafe of Seven Seeds, and serves Seven Seeds coffee.

The service was simple and efficient. The decor - lots of wood, not dissimilar to Seven Seeds, just slightly more chic, minus the hanging bikes.

I ordered a weak flat white (probably to the horror of the waiter). At first glance when the coffee was served - my exact thought was "pretty pattern :)". Took a sip, made a funny face. No sugar in it... Added 2 teaspoons and tried another sip. Big smile :D Yes I could finally appreciate that this was good coffee (despite having to drink the coffee with lots of sugar and requesting for it to be 'weak'). I know, coffee snobs may be reading this and looking down on their noses at me. Whatevs.

The Croque de Clieu was basically sunny-side up egg, on bread, with roast tomato, brie (I think..), labne (?) and lemon aioli on the side. Super yum. I'm not sure what type of bread it was - some sort of sourdough from the looks of it, but it was amazing bread!! I was so excited, that I forgot to take a picture of the food :p And also forgot exactly what was in the sandwich.. Yes, epic fail on my part. But the total bill for 2 coffees and the sandwich came to $20.10. Not bad :)

Coffee counter at De Clieu

De Clieu on Urbanspoon

4) Rouge - Beatty Avenue, Armadale

Nice, quaint, French-style cafe. Pretty window display. Friendly staff.

The best chocolate croissant I've ever had ($5.60)!

Simple, super yummy, and well-balanced spinach and goat's cheese torte ($17.50).

Rouge Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Deepavali Lunch - Lamb Curry etc.

    Lunch spread - aerial view
Had a few friends over for curry and other Indian(Sri Lankan?)-type dishes for Deepavali. FYI: For those unfamiliar with Deepavali (aka Diwali) it is a Hindu festival marking the triumph of good over evil, as told in the Mahabharata. Naturally, a lot of eating is involved :) And curry is the main feature. (YUM!)

Made a dry lamb curry for this lunch - the recipe is actually in my head, taught to me by my mother, so no exact quantities to go by. But I've tried to document it as best as I can (see below).

Other dishes I made to compliment the lamb curry are also food my mother used to make:
  1. Stir-fried okra - sliced diagonally and stir-fried with a bit of cumin, turmeric, salt, black mustard seeds, dried chillies, curry leaves, red onion, and garlic.

    I was ecstatic when I found fresh okra in Woolworths! I think the combo of this okra dish and lamb (or chicken) curry is the best food pairing everrr :)

  2. Deep fried eggplant - soaked in salt water first to remove the bitterness, then seasoned with chilli powder, some turmeric, salt, and deep-fried.

    Wasn't planning to make this initially, but found some lovely Lebanese eggplants, again at Woolies, and decided to deep fry some for the lunch.

  3. Indian-style egg omelette - egg beaten with chilli powder and salt, and fried with diced red onion, the cut into rough squares.

    My omelette was paler than usual - probably because I used less chilli powder than usual.

  4. Fish cutlets - boiled and mashed potatoes, fish boiled in salt and turmeric and mashed, mixed with a bit of garam masala, diced red onion, chilli powder, salt, and a bit of egg, rolled into little balls and deep-fried.

    I'm not sure why they're called fish cutlets, because they definitely don't look like lamb cutlets... I guess they're more like fish cakes. Can be made with prawn instead of fish - I'm keen to try making prawn cutlets sometime in the near future :)

  5. Basmati rice

  6. Pappadum - bought some from the Asian grocer, and deep-fried them :)
Yes, a lot of deep-fried food. Was planning to make some dhal, or gravy - something that can be poured over the rice - but ran out of time!

(At this point, while typing out this post, I am desperately craving some lamb curry...)

Verdict on my food - my friends loved the food! But I'm not sure how my aunts, the curry experts, would rate my curry...

Enjoy the pictures :)

The fish for the fish cutlets, after being boiled in turmeric and salt water

The cutlets all rolled up and arranged on plates - ready to be deep-fried

Fish cutlets - the finished product :)

Lamb curry - I like to dice my lamb up into small, bite-sized pieces. Just wish the photo looked as good as the curry tasted! :p


Deep-fried eggplant

Lamb Curry Recipe (approximate)

I use the same recipe for lamb and chicken. What makes them taste different is the taste of the meat itself. Since I usually don’t measure how much of the ingredients I use, this ‘recipe’ is just a guideline – feel free to adjust and experiment until you find a balance that suits you.

  • 300g of meat (for chicken it’s usually just one large chicken breast)
  • 1 medium to large sized potato (optional)
  • 1 big truss tomato (you can use normal tomatoes too)
  • 1 medium sized red onion
  • 3 large cloves of garlic
  • Ginger – a piece the size of your big toe? Erm, 3cmx3cmx2cm?
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves
  • 1 medium sized cinnamon stick (or cinnamon powder – but the stick works better I think :p)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 5 heaped tablespoons meat curry powder mix (I use Baba’s, which can be found at most Asian grocers)
  • 2 tablespoons chilli powder (again, Baba’s, but anything will do – the amount is totally up to you whether you want it to be spicy or not)
  • Salt – to taste. I just usually add some, taste the curry, and then add more if it isn't salty enough
  • Brown sugar - I add a bit because I think it makes the curry taste that much better :)
  • Vegetable oil (or sunflower/canola)

1. Dice onions to small pieces (I usually cut it into half then cut each halve into 3 and then just slice it thinly, but not too thin). And finely chop up 2 garlic cloves.

2. Pound 1 garlic clove, the ginger, and a bit of the diced onion together in a pestle and mortar until it forms a paste.

3. Cut meat up into pieces – size is your choice (but not too big - I like bite-sized pieces). Then mix in the paste from Step 2 and leave to ‘marinade’ while you prepare the other ingredients.

4. Cut tomato into eighths. Peel and dice potatoes so that they are about the same size as the meat pieces.

5. Heat oil in a wok till moderately hot (medium fire).

6. Throw in curry leaves, fennel, cumin and cinnamon stick (broken into 2) and cook till fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).

7. Then throw in the diced onions and chopped garlic and cook till they start to brown then put in the tomato.

8. Cook until tomato starts to soften (don’t let the onions and garlic burn). Then throw in the meat and stir well. Cover it for 5 to let the meat cook.

9. Remove the cover, throw in the potatoes, put in the curry and chilli powder and salt and give it a good stir. Then add 1 cup of water, stir, and cover again and leave to cook for 10-15 minutes (check constantly and stir so it doesn’t dry up too much, or burn).

10. Remove cover again and cook on a higher heat (stirring continuously) till the curry becomes dry. Drizzle with a bit more oil as this helps it to get a nice moist texture. (This step 10 is optional - if you want a curry with some gravy, skip this step).

11. Once the curry becomes your desired consistency, remove it from the wok and devour with some Basmati rice :):)

*You can add in half a cup of coconut milk/normal milk in step 10 if you want and serve it either as a wet or dry curry.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ellery & Co. (and celery)

Had brunch (lunch?) with Gordon today at Ellery & Co. in Hawthorn. We decided to check it out because it had a pretty good review in the The Age's Cheap Eats Guide - and it was given 3 stars!

The cafe itself is furnished very simply - basic cafe-style, nothing quirky or unique. The menu is interesting without being over-the-top. I guess in terms of being a simple place for locals looking for a casual, cheap and tasty meal, this place hits the nail on the head. I found it to be a refreshing change from places like Hardware Societe and Auction Rooms. The feel of this cafe was more intimate, more laid-back - no long queues to get a table, no crowded spaces, no need to raise your voice to be heard over the din. Nice :)

Shared the Ricotta, Mushroom and Spinach crepes ($14 I think...) and the Chicken, Mushroom and Roasted Pine Nuts pie ($12). Both were served with a very simple, but very tasty salad of rocket with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing. Only complaint I had about the salad was that the one that came with the pie had bits of celery in it! Blegh.

The crepes were very tasty, but I kinda wish they had baked the dish in the oven for a little longer so the cheese on top would have become a little more golden brown. The pie was the clear winner amongst the two - loved the pastry, loved the filling! Lots of mushroom, and not too creamy/mushy. The relish that came with the pie was also a big favourite - but I didn't eat it with the pie, because the pie already tasted sooo good just on its own!

Those two dishes, with an OJ and chai tea added up to be $34. Not bad I say.



Ellery & Co on Urbanspoon