Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Place Called "Home"

Home is a Thai restaurant in Sydney, that I'd heard good things about and decided to check out whilst I was there a few weeks back.

I liked how they have their kitchen out near the front of the restaurant, and while waiting for a table, you can watch the kitchen staff prepare the food. They have a large selection of Thai food on offer - I had trouble picking just one dish for my meal!

To my delight, I noticed that they served mango with sticky rice!!! My FAVOURITE Thai dessert. No points for guessing what I had for dessert then :)

Had the Thai fish cakes ($8.90) as an entree, the seafood pad thai ($12.90) for my main meal, and the mango with sticky rice for dessert (I think it was $6.50). My stomach was filled to the point of exploding by the end of the meal (probably from expecting 3 food babies - food triplets). Still I was very happy and very satisfied :)

Initially I was told that they had run out of mangoes and so weren't serving the mango with sticky rice any more. I felt like a part of me had died. But then midway through my pad thai, the waiter happily announced that they had mangoes again! So my sticky rice dessert was back on the cards :) Yay!! Fate had reunited me with my mango with sticky rice.

The pad thai whilst tasty, was not the best that I've ever tasted. I still really liked it though. I liked that they served the chilli, sugar and peanuts separately on the side, just like they do in Thailand! The fish cakes were very yummy. And the mango with sticky rice - LOVED it! I haven't been able to find a Thai restaurant in Melbourne that serves it. Was over the moon that they served it at Home.

Very reasonably priced, tasty, with fast service. I highly recommend it. Only thing is that you need to set aside at least 30 minutes to wait for a table... Or try rocking up before 6pm.

Thai fish cakes

Seafood pad thai

Mango with sticky rice!!! :D

Home Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Makoto - Best Sushi Train Ever!

Makoto is the sister restaurant of Masuya (also in Sydney). I had the chance to check it out when I was in Sydney for a few days for work, and managed to squeeze in a dinner with my cousin who works in Sydney and recommended the place.

Words cannot express how happy I am that I had the chance to sample some of its delectable offerings!

The seared salmon sushi (in the first photo) is definitely my favourite. I could probably eat 5 plates of it and be very content :) It had this amazing smokiness to it, and when coupled with the awesome sweet soy sauce that had been sprinkled over it, produced this highly satisfactory burst of flavour. Oh man so good.

Had 10 plates of sushi between the 2 of us, and the bill came to $40. I'd happily pay that same amount again for that quality of food. I highly recommend this place if you like Japanese food, and happen to be in Sydney.

The food photos speak for themselves, so for once, I shall not say much more :)

Seared salmon sushi



Seared scallops - almost as good as the salmon version!

Makoto on Urbanspoon

MissChu Tuckshop, Melbourne CBD

Like many other things in my life, this post is long overdue. Trying to clear my backlog of posts now :)

But anyway, a few weeks (*ahem* months) back, I FINALLY had a reason to check out Miss Chu's. Being a mere stone's throw from where I live, it's quite surprising that I never ventured into this little so-called tuck shop that has been much talked-about in the Melbourne food circles.

The shop itself is very quirky in a classic, olden-day, Vietnamese fashion with large monochrome pictures plastered over the walls, little wooden stools and tables filling the space, and dome shaped light hoods swinging lazily from the ceiling. The outdoor eating area at the front of the restaurant is also a very nice place to sit and enjoy a meal, weather permitting.

The ordering system is fairly unique to this part of the world - you indicate the number of serves of each item you would like on a little "order-form" and pass it to the waiter when you're done. It's fairly non-intrusive which might appeal to some people. I personally don't mind either way, as long as my orders are noted correctly!

Started off with the rice paper rolls that this place is apparently famous for. We had the roast duck and banana flower rice paper rolls ($8 for two rolls). It was served in a little cardboard take-away container with dipping sauce in a little plastic bottle on the side. Interesting... Would've preferred having it served the usual way, i.e. on a plate, but this wasn't too bad. The rice paper rolls themselves were tasty, but could've had more duck in them - it seemed like it was packed with lots of vermicelli, some vegetables and herbs, and a sprinkling of duck. I may be exaggerating slightly here, but I was quite disappointed at having been charged $8 for 2 rolls that had barely any duck in them. Tsk tsk tsk.

Rice paper rolls
To drink I ordered the genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice), and my dinner companion ordered an interesting shaved ice drink with coconut, banana and mint... LOVED my genmaicha, but thought the other drink was a bit of a weird combo. 

Coconut, banana and mint drink

Next we had the Traditional Pork Hanoi deep fried spring rolls. These were soooo yummy! I actually ended up eating them with with the dipping sauce we were served for the earlier rice paper rolls, rather than its intended dipping sauce, coz I liked the first sauce more. Bite-sized rolls that seemed to be singing in their wonderful, golden, deep-fried glory.

Pork spring rolls
After we had the Prawn and Crab Net spring roll warm vermicelli salad. This was definitely the highlight of the meal (once we'd added some extra diced chilli in). Sweet dressing, crunchy and fluffy spring rolls, soft vermicelli, fresh salad leaves, diced chilli, and fried garlic - the combination speaks for itself.

All in all a pleasant dining experience. The food could've done with a bit more punch though - it lacked the massive explosion of flavour found in other Asian eateries. But that's my personal preference.

On a later visit, I tried the young coconut juice - it was a truly authentic South-East Asian experience, albeit served in a plastic cup instead of the traditional coconut. Definitely worth a try!

Prawn and crab net spring roll vermicelli salad

MissChu on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cumulus Inc. - Where (food) storms brew...

Checked out Cumulus Inc. with G-dawg one Sunday evening. And boy did it kick up one hell of a (food) storm! We went there quite early - around 5.30pm, and it was already getting full! Luckily there were still a few spots free, so we got a table immediately. I must say I loved how warm and friendly the floor staff were.

The dishes on their a la carte menu are meant to be shared (which works for me because this way I get to sample more dishes!). So we ordered a few to share starting with the grilled octopus, smoked paprika and basil. YUM! I loved the colours of this dish - red, green, yellow - and the little pieces of octopus were served with lots of olive oil and balsamic vinegar - perfect with bread! The octopus itself was cooked just right and wasn't too chewy. I did find that it was a tad bit salty, but the dish as a whole tasted so good that I was willing to overlook this little miscalculation. The perfect entree to get the saliva glands working :)

Grilled octopus, smoked paprika and basil

Next we had the foie gras parfait with toasted brioche. The parfait was perfect! And it was served sprinkled artistically with raisins, crushed pistachio, and baby watercress -  sweet, crunchy and fresh complements to the parfait. The brioche toast was equally amazing - soft and fluffy on the inside and , and the 2 put together produced one awesome explosion of flavour in my mouth. The waitress serving us was also nice enough to give us extra brioche at no extra charge to go with the leftover parfait we had after consuming the initial 4 slices of brioche. (I also love toast!)

Foie gras parfait
Brioche toast to go with the foie gras parfait
Lastly, we ordered the roast duck breast on a bed of grains, lentils and plum and a tomato salad on the side. Being a lover of all things that quack, I thoroughly enjoyed the duck dish - again, cooked perfectly, so juicy and succulent, with a crispy and smoky roasted skin. The lentils and plum were a very good accompaniment and even though there were bits of celery hidden in that mixture, I didn't mind at all! Nothing was going to spoil my experience of this dish - not even my dislike for celery.

The tomato salad was definitely a treat for the sense - bright, vibrant colours, oh-so-fresh, delicate flavours. I actually had the salad on its own after devouring the duck. The buffalo ricotta was an unbelievable mixture of slightly springy, slightly creamy and completely melt-in-your-mouth.

The bill came to around $78 for 2 people which is fairly reasonable given the quality of the produce and the experience as a whole. And it's also well within my new self-imposed budget of $50 or less for meals at "nice" restaurants.

And can I say again that I loved the service at this place? Our departure from the restaurant was accompanied by a cheerful chorus of byes from the floor staff. Definitely will be returning to this place one day :)

Roast Aylesbury duck breast, toasted grains, lentils and plum
Heirloom tomato salad, buffalo milk ricotta and Nolan's Road olive oil

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

Mamasita Revisited

Gave Mamasita a second chance a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised :) I'm not sure whether it was the fact that we were there for lunch and the atmosphere was significantly less hectic, or just that the kitchen had realised that standards were slipping and decided to pull up their socks but what an improvement compared to the last time I was there more than 1 year ago!

Given that it was lunch on a work day, and I wasn't in the mood for anything with alcohol in it, we were recommended to try the "horchata" by the waiter who explained it to be a cloudy white-coloured, sweet drink made from rice... Ok... It sounded interesting enough and promising enough for me to give it a go. I wasn't disappointed :) It was very tasty and quite unique to any other drink I've ever had. My lunch buddies and I were very happy with our decision to try this drink. Definitely worth sampling if you're ever dining at Mamasita.

Elotes callejeros - chargrilled corn, cheese,
chipotle mayo and lime

To start, we ordered the "elotes callejeros" - basically grilled corn, topped with mayo, cheese, chilli and lime. I loved it. Well worth the slightly uncomfortable process of eating the corn straight off the cob, and the potentially awkward moment of getting some stuck between your teeth...

Next, we ordered 2 sets of tostaditas - crab meat, avocado, cucumber, tamarind, mayo & habanero, and orange-cured venison, chilli, radish. The crab meat tostaditas were a winning combination. The venison tostaditas were tasty, but I found the texture of cured venison to be quite different to anything I was used to. But I still liked both tostaditas.

 Then we ordered the grilled fish tacos - very tasty! The seasoning was just my cup of tea, and the chunky onion, parsley, chilli and olive oil mixture that was served with it was the perfect accompaniment.

Next we had the chicken quesadillas - very tasty, but not a standout like the previous 3 dishes. Still it was very enjoyable.

Grilled fish, lime, achiote paste, red onion salsa & chipotle mayo tacos
Chargrilled chicken quesadillas

Next we had the snapper ceviche. Ceviche is made from fresh raw fish marinated in an acidic medium (usually lime juice) where the acidity of the juice cooks the fish. It is served chilled, usually with other condiments like onion, chilli and herbs. It is very refreshing and the texture of the fish is just right. The ceviche at Mamasita was very tasty - tangy, spicy and fresh. I really enjoyed it.

Finally, we had the roast duck breast with adobo sauce, pickled cherries and coriander. While the duck was cooked perfectly, it lacked proper seasoning - my lunch buddies and I found this dish to be quite bland. Kinda sad because it had the potential to be so amazing.

Snapper, tomato, olive, green chilli,
lime and coriander ceviche
Roasted duck breast, red chilli adobo sauce,
pickled cherries & coriander

So, this lunch experience has given me newfound faith in Mamasita's food offerings. And lesson-learned: best to check this place out during lunchtime as it is less chaotic and noisy, which allows you to actually hear the other people at your table and have proper conversations. And try the Horchata! It's good :)

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Moelleux au Chocolat (Chocolate Moelleux)

SK had allowed us to sample the result of his attempt at producing the silky, rich chocolate cake with the delightfully gooey, molten chocolate centre that is the subject of this particular post. Cue DROOL.

Naturally, I was craving it again a few days later. Got the recipe from SK and voila, a little (long) while later, I had baked my very own chocolate moelleux!

The recipe is amazingly simple and also just plain amazing. The only thing that takes time is having to butter and dust the ramekins with cocoa powder so that the moelleux can easily turn out of the mould onto a plate for serving. If you're lazy, no harm skipping the cocoa-dusting step if you're happy to eat straight out of the ramekin (or mug - I used mugs because there weren't enough ramekins in my apartment).

Here is the recipe. Go forth - bake, eat, and let your mind slip into the blissful food coma that the consumption of this moelleux induces :D

Moelleux au Chocolat

*makes 4 serves

  • 60g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs + 2 yolks
  • 100g unsalted butter - I used salted butter and it tasted just fine :)
  • 100g dark chocolate - I mixed 30g of 34% milk chocolate with 70g of 70% dark chocolate
  • 50g plain flour
To make the moelleux:

Brush ramekins with butter, and dust with cocoa powder. Place them onto a tray and refridgerate. (The butter and cocoa in this step aren't mentioned in the ingredients above)

Whisk together the sugar, egg and yolks till smooth.

Melt the butter and chocolate over a double boiler, or in a saucepan over very low heat so as to not burn the chocolate or butter. Add it to the egg mixture slowly. Lightly fold in the flour (sifted).

Put roughly 100ml of the mixture into each ramekin (should be enough for 4 serves), cover with clingwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Pre-heat the over to 190 degrees Celcius (fan-forced) and bake the ramekins on the tray for 13 minutes. Depending on the oven, the actual baking time may be 1-2 minutes longer or shorter, so just watch your moelleux the first time you bake it. It's ready when the top is cooked and slightly firm to your touch, but a bit "jiggly".

Carefully turn them over onto plates and serve! (Or alternatively, dig into the ramekin with a spoon for immediate gratification - but be careful it'll be very hot!)