Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shoya @ Market Lane, Melbourne

Market lane is one of the many lanes you walk pass when you are on the narrow long street of Chinatown (Little Bourke Street). Despite being quiet and not the brightest of streets, it houses a few high end restaurants including Flower Drum and Shoya. 

It was the last meal before my friend was leaving Melbourne that night and he decided to go for some japanese food, a good one he asked me to find. After asking around, Shoya it was.

Looking at the menu, Shoya serves a variety of old school and modern Japanese dishes. With good old sashimi to more adventerous items like mushroom, scallop and quail egg tempura, you get the drift.


The Salmon sashimi came in a big portion of 12 slices for AUD 19.80. Not the freshest but was acceptable. A key difference compared to Malaysia is how the sashimi has been portioned, which is rather thin and small, compared to the fat cuts back home.

This must be one of the most innovative tempura i had ever. The combination of mushroom, scallop and quail egg was spectacular. A signature dish for AUD 16.50.

Continuing with the fried items, we also had the Kurobuta Rosu Katsu, not any normal katsu but a special breed pig apparently. This was tender and fried with no oil residue on the plate. On the side you have the familiar tangy worchestire sauce. AUD 26.80.

The Wagyu Eye Fillet was melt in your mouth, served in a truffle sauce. Presentationwise and tastewise, it leaned towards a more western dish as it was accompanied with potato gratin as well. Magical and all yours for AUD 78.

One of those Japanese places that will reward you well if you have a big wallet. Alot of modern japanese dishes that are interesting and intriguing and i wouldn't mind coming back again when i am back in Melbourne.

Address and contact details:

25 Market Lane, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000 Australia
Mon – Sat: 12:00 noon – 2:30pm

Sun – Thu: 6:00pm – 10:30pm
Fri – Sat: 6:00pm – 11:00pm

Public Holidays
Dinner only: 6:00pm – 10:30pm

Reservation & Inquiry
Phone: (03) 9650 0848 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (03) 9650 0848      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: (03) 9650 0950

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars, provided you have the budget to dine here of course. For the normal student out there or those who were unemployed, i suggest you seek solace at a more affordable japanese joint.

Shoya Nouvelle Wafu Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Joe can cook! Episode 12: Hainan Chicken Rice

[This is technically a meal not cooked by Joe but i would very much like to replicate this recipe in the near future.]

One of those meals that i would never miss eating even in KL would be those simple items like hainan chicken rice opposed to creamy foie gras and wagyu steak (which by the way i miss eating too). So having complained that in Melbourne (yes, we have now gone back in time from the last review) to Michelle about missing chicken rice, she offered to cook us some for our farewell dinner.

And bravo what a cook she was that night! Single handedly, she cooked and deboned a whole chicken, made rice with chicken stock and soup to boot as well!

Presented nicely too. Simply too sublime to just take some pictures, so i asked her if she had a recipe to share and this is roughly how it goes:

Step 1: Clean the chicken and stuff the cavity with ginger and spring onions. Season well with salt. Put into a big pot of water (enough to cover the chicken) and bring to boil. Once the water has boiled, put on low heat and let it simmer till the chicken is thoroughly cooked, for a 1-1.5kg bird that may be around half an hour thereabouts. Otherwise, use a food thermometer or get a knife to poke through to check. Take the chicken out of the pot to rest, chop and serve. If you like, you can give the chicken an ice bath too (optional).

Step 2: The water that you boil your chicken in is essentially your chicken stock and will be used for the rice. Cook your rice as per usual but instead of plain water, substitute with the stock. If you want the rice to be more fragrant, put in some pan fried garlic and ginger too. Another item not to be missed is the pandan leave.

Step 3: With stock still left, put in some cabbage in and season accordingly. Serve as a soup with the chicken rice.

Serve hot and eat! This has got me all craved up for some chicken rice loving!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ajimi (Licensed Sushi Bar & Modern Japanese Cuisine) @ Queen Street, Brisbane

I know i am suppose to finish off the chapter in Melbourne before starting a new chapter in Brisbane. However, who knows how a proper author writes anyway? Surely he/she can't possibly write from the first page to the last page in order? There must be a point in time when an idea flashes across the screen and the ending pans out clearly like a HD screen. Would you not write that chapter out first?

That was exactly how i felt after dinner at Ajimi.

After searching around Urbanspoon for what seemed to be ages, i finally settled for this humble sushi place that had some positive reviews. Just 400 metres up from my working place, we were there to celebrate a piece of good news from the Wife. Stepping into the long and narrow yet cozy restaurant, there is a sushi bar and a few tables on the side. Having read stories about how good the sushi was, we sat at the bar to see if we could catch a few tricks from the sushi chef.
Settling for the Sashimi and Sushi set and the Salmon lovers set, we waited as the sushi chef went through his stock of various sashimi, cutting and rolling. Towards the end, we were surprised as he used his blow torch too!

While that was in the works, we were served with a simple garden salad that came with a gorgeous spicy vinegar dressing.

A while later a miso soup came but when he presented to us our plates, our faces lit, well mine did.

An assortment of sushi, all hand rolled by the chef. Apart from the simple tuna (the tuna did not tasted like it was thawed) and salmon, there were some local fishes like the thinly sliced barramundi sashimi as well. For AUD 32, i definitely wouldn't mind coming again. 

We would have never expected the above from the following description: Salmon sashimi, sushi and grilled salmon. What the chef did was imaginative. From blow torched to tempura, he also used some salmon belly too. We were blown away by the blow torched salmon belly, one of which was topped with ikura too. Everything was fresh as the chef told us that he get his supplies every 1-2 days compared to the twice a week practice in Malaysia. For AUD 28, this was also worth it in our books.

Having not enough of their sushi, we ordered another serve of Unagi sushi.
The effort to warm it up and then blow torch it as well, just shows how much care he puts into a serve that you can swallow in one bite. 

Overall a very satisfying meal and i can't wait to return with my first salary in the bank, this time with my DSLR.
Address and contact details:

540 Queen Street
Brisbane, 4000

Tel: 07-31623218

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. I can't wait to get back for some sushi, this is by far one of the best sushi i had in a while, it is after all; a licensed sushi bar (whatever that means)

Ajimi Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jones the Grocer @ Westfield Doncaster

I have just survived my first three days of work. The real work hasn't started yet so i can breathe a huge sigh of relief and enjoy the wonderful feeling of walking out of the building at 5.15pm before the sky goes dark. It is so weird that the only contact with traffic jam is the sight of it while i take my 10 minute walk uphill back home. I suppose these are the few perks of working in Australia indeed.

The perk continues; in just my second day of work, the whole team took the ENTIRE afternoon off to celebrate the farewell of a manager. Bottles of wine and countless of beers, not to mention numerous shots for the farewell boy. All paid for by the dear boss, how sporting indeed.

Certainly eye opening as well.

Which brings me to the fact that i have actually been spending my entire time in the Melbourne CBD, leaving the outer suburbs virtually untouched until that day when our friend fetched us around in a car. Exploring the biggest shopping centre at Doncaster, it felt like being transported back to Malaysia where most of us spend a significant time in shopping malls.

Wondering around Westfield, we walked past Jones the Grocer.

Basically a gourmet store that stocks up on specialised and exotic versions of pasta, sauces, oils, dressings and meats. They also serve some coffee and pastries too. A glammed up mart that i heard is quite a big thing and have expanded to even Singapore.

Deciding to take a seat there, we ordered their coffee + pastry set for AUD 5. A sign says that their pastries are baked by Vue de Monde. A proxy to them since i didn't have the budget to dine there.

Sadly though, they didn't understand what a ristretto latte was, serving us a ristretto instead. Among the pastries, the almond croisssant was the best of the lost while the macaron was overly chewy. The snail and the apricot puff was alright.

Address and contact details:

Shop G201 Westfield Shopping Town
Doncaster Road, Doncaster VIC 3108
Tel:   +61 3 9848 2877 
Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Standard coffee and above average pastries although take the colourful macarons at your own risk.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

+39 Pizzeria @ Little Bourke Street, Melbourne

The most walked streets in the Melbourne CBD for me over the last 2 months were Bourke Street because i stayed at the end and Little Bourke Street because that is where one of my favourite coffee joints was. 

Little did i know that on Little Bourke Street, sits a pizzeria who has won quite a few accolades including "best pizzeria of 2010".

Such an award in Melbourne can only mean one thing; packed crowds. Calling the restaurant half an hour before lunch meant we could only have a table at 1.30pm. That still, it was packed like sardines with conversations between tables traveling all over the room.

I understand that the pizzas range for lunch and dinner but did the pizza impress during lunch?

Before the pizza even began though, we felt claustrophobic.
You had a pizza holder to save some space. A small block of cheese sits inside this unique white cheese grater.

Despite being a famous pizzeria, none of the pizzas really appealed except for one that had meatballs and mushrooms. When it came, we were sadly disappointed. The pizza was salty and slightly on the soggy side. I really couldn't see the hype about the place.

With a pizza in order, we ordered something else, something that i wanted to eat for awhile; lasagna. Sadly again, this looked perfect but the layers of pasta were overcooked and it had no bite to it. The sauce though was nice and tasted rustic.

Overall though, a disappointing lunch for such a title. Sadly, this fact still does not stop the never ending flow of customers coming through. Maybe a pizza that i do not know about?

Address and contact details:

362 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne, 3000

Tel: 03 9642 0440 

Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars. My cousin in law loved the place and i trust her taste buds so based on the meal alone, it probably be a lower star rating but it probably has potential that i did not see. 

+39 Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Devonshire tea @ Churinga Cafe Restaurant, Mount Dandenong

After a less than satisfying lunch eating some mediocre pies, we headed for tea, to be exact "devonshire tea" at Churinga Cafe Restaurant, self proclaimed to be the best in the Dandenongs. With the wind, rain and cold weather, it made good sense to have some tea and scones to fill up.

The best? Lets find out.

For AUD 10, you get a set of tea and 2 scones. The tea is fragrant but nothing too special. The best part had yet to come.

The scones hit the spot. Clotted cream and jam on a fluffy scones dusted with some icing sugar. One could either share a scone each or be greedy and take the two. It is good enough to justify the extra calories for the day. 

While it continued to rain we sip our teas and enjoyed the greenery outside.

So if you happen to be at Mount Dandenong looking for Devonshire tea? Churinga seems to do the trick for AUD 10.

Address and contact details:

1381 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road
Melbourne, 3767

Tel: 03-9751 1242
Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. If you happen to be at this tourist spot, why not? Although i won't suggest driving an hour from Melbourne CBD just for tea.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jade Kingdom @ Heidelberg Heights

By the time you read this on a Monday morning or afternoon for my Australian readers, i would be on my way to work, you read right; work. After 5 months since leaving work, the word seems so foreign and disconnected after a period of non routine and scheduled life. In one way, i am very happy to be finally working again, i mean i am not some retired old fart but in fact the opposite. On the other hand, i am already missing the life of doing nothing.

Well it is back to the routine of putting on my shirt, tie and shoes again with the addition of a jacket too and kiss goodbye to the comfortable jeans and t shirts for the time being.

Certainly not comparable though is the feeling of not having eaten food from Malaysia for quite some time. While i am happy exploring cooking and eating out, a part inside me is screaming, i want some good old Malaysian cuisine.

Which brings me to Jade Kingdom at Heidelberg Heights. The perks of having friends who owns cars. After the first welcome to Melbourne lunch we had together, no one figured out that the second meal would be the farewell lunch. 

So when he offered to drive around for food, it was a toss between some good dim sum at Doncaster or this place that my friends had been telling me about; Jade Kingdom.
It didn't disappoint despite the shabby appearance from the outside and the obscure location. Step inside and you feel right at home, the shouting from the lady boss and the hustle and bustle that they create among themselves. Flipping through the menu was like previewing how heaven was like. If Malaysia could be compressed into a menu, this was like a first cut. From curry laksa, nasi lemak, roti canai, hokkien mee and bak kut teh, the list goes on for a few more pages.

Finally settling for 4 dishes between the 3 of us, we were stuffed to the brim.

The Hokkien Mee was the bomb, the thick noodles are said to be very hard to obtain in Australia. The familiar flavours are all present; the lard, the seafood, the cabbage and the dark sauce. The only difference is probably the price of the dish; it was between AUD 15-18 (enough to buy hokkien mee for 8-10 people in Malaysia.
My friend who judges the quality of food based on their laksa commented that this was rather good even for his high standards. Despite not having real cravings for laksa even in Malaysia, this was a joy to dig into. The special version comes loaded with ingredients; rendang chicken, prawns, egg, eggplant, tofu puffs and like how it is served in Malaysia, it is a combination of yellow noodles and vermicelli. Not cheap either at AUD 13.80.

For this who have been reading some of my recipes, you would have known about my attempt of making Bak Kut Teh. Not happy with that outcome, i had to give theirs a try and i must say i was more happier digging into this one. Not comparable with the Klang version but certainly on par or better than the KL versions we get at home. How to make me a happy man? Order me Bak Kut Teh for AUD 18.80.

Intended to be an entree to share, the assorted yong tau foo came last. Essentially items like eggplant, chilli, tofu and foo chuk that are stuffed with minced meat. The take on this dish is similar to the Hong Kong version, the black bean sauce and the minced stuffing comes with prawns too. If you want food that strictly reminds you of Malaysia, this is sadly not it but not to say it wasn't tasty. 

I can see why some people who have come here may not have liked it, there are dishes that are clearly winners while some have been put in there to satisfy a bigger crowd. Just choose the right ones. Service reminds me of Malaysia, meaning not the most polite of staff unless you are a good friend or a frequent customer. 

Prices are not cheap with the whole meal coming to AUD 70 for the 3 of us, for what are actually very affordable dishes in Malaysia but hey after a few months away from it, its cheaper than a flight ticket back home.

Address and contact details:

233 Waiora Rd Heidelberg Heights
Melbourne, 3084

Tel: 03-95483188 (Do call and book in advance, i hear it can get quite crazy at dinner)

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Call me bias, i miss food from back home and the place can certainly replicate a good few dishes, a pity i am not at Melbourne anymore! 

Jade Kingdom on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 15, 2010

Maru @ Sunnybank, Brisbane

Hello readers, saying hi from sunny and warm Brisbane. Still waiting for my internet connection but a kind random non password wifi internet connection among the residence is allowing me to sneak this review through.

The weather has been kind to us for the last 2 days, its been slightly windy and the sun has been down for most part of the day. Definitely a better welcome compared to last week when i was soaked in sweat exploring the city and tackling the hills.

The first impression with Brisbane is that it bears resemblance to Singapore and Hong Kong, especially the CBD area. The tall skyscrapers that are littered all over a few streets in contrast to a squared shaped Melbourne CBD gives you a rather claustrophobic feeling and it doesn't help that the weather is pretty much as warm as Malaysia too for most part of the year.

If anything after being taken around by a friend, a car seems like the most convenient transport apart from the buses and trains that i don't see. Hopefully as i explore the place more, i am proved otherwise because i just don't have the budget for a car. 

As an appreciation dinner for my friend who helped us out with this trusty Honda Jazz, we went to Maru up at Sunnybank, the equivalent of Doncaster / Boxhill of Melbourne.

Littered with koreans and recommended by a korean, we know we are in good hands. The limited ban chan though was slightly disappointing but the seaweed and kim chi was good.

 Apart from the obligatory BBQ, they also do big hot pots for sharing. The marinated beef and octopus comes in a mild spicy soup base along with vegetables and tofu. Perfect for the slightly cold weather and tastes incredible with the sticky rice they serve. A regular serves 2 pax but this can easily fill three people up.

The fried chicken with spicy sauce came with an overly thick batter but the sauce only called out for more rice. Reminded us of a quaint korean restaurant in Adelaide which we frequent as students. 

From what we had, this looks like a winner for some korean food and for 3 pax, the bill came up to AUD 68.80, not cheap but alright for a once in awhile treat.

Address and contact details:

Maru Korean BBQ Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Got a car in Brisbane and craving for some korean food? This fits the bill perfectly.

Back to Melbourne food reviews soon!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Joe can cook! Episode 11: Tomato Seafood Soup

I am off to Brisbane by the time you are reading this and probably will not have access to the Internet for a few days while waiting for them to set up the connection over there. So before i take a little break for a few days, here is another recipe; inspired by the ingenious wife. 

It all started off with a bag of tomatoes that were on cheap sale at the market, a dozen of them for AUD2. Clueless as to what we wanted to do with it, we thought we could do a tomato coulis and serve it with some seafood we had. A simple online recipe shows that it required no cooking and was a handful of ingredients that only required stirring it all together.

However one thing lead to another; by the time we had cut up all the tomatoes, we decided to throw it into a saucepan and started to sweat it with olive oil.  Once all the juices were out and the tomatoes were soft, we added some stock.

And some garlic, basil, salt and pepper.

After cooking for a good 15-20 minutes, we unexpectedly had a tomato soup base in which we threw in our prawns, squid and fish and we ended up with our own twist of the seafood soup or Zuppa di Pesce (minus the fish stock).

The sweetness of the tomatoes were quite mild prior dropping the seafood in and in the end the result was a refreshing light broth. I think i threw in some bacon in as well for some added flavour. Want it slightly thicker ? Stir in some flour or some cream.

If you want to be a little crazy, sprinkle some cheese over too and eat with toast.

There you have it, a recipe for a simple lunch or dinner. Next time if you happen to have a bag of tomatoes sitting in the fridge, well you know what you can do!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pie In The Sky @ Mount Dandenong

I find myself over the last few days, especially after coming back from a hot and sweaty trip in Brisbane, lamenting and bitching whenever i can about the fact that i will miss Melbourne and it is far superior in every corner of my book; the food, the coffee, the layout of the city, the public transport and the weather. I am surprised that the Wife hasn't shut me up and allowed me to tell the same story to the different people we have been going out with.

While Melbourne has not treated me as well as it should be i.e. did not give me a job, i have to admit that i still fell in love with the place over the course of the two months i was here. The amount of good food and quality restaurants that Melbourne is known for, the coffee culture that is so evident, the nicely flat and squared layout of the CBD, there is the tram for short distance trips and lastly the chilly weather. Give me a jacket to wear anytime than to sweat it out in short pants.

In any case, due to budget restraints (did anyone tell you, never break a lease and how expensive it can be?), i will be back in Melbourne very soon to experience the hatted restaurants that in the end were out of my reach this time around. 

Enough of rambling, i still look forward to settling down in Brisbane and as a consolation, Matt Moran has a restaurant there!

Something more humble for today's post though are the pies we had at Mount Dandenong, awhile ago.

As you can see, its not exactly humble pie, with 11 Gold Medals in their bag. Unfortunately, if you read properly on their menu, their last medal won was in 2003, 7 years ago, a thing of the past?

Literally Pie in the Sky as it is situated up in the Mountain, the place is a bit of a tourist spot with pies and devonshire tea places.

Go through their list of pies and you see that it has a very heavy asian influence, with beef korma, rendang, curry and etc. When it comes to pies, i don't fancy all the funny kinds, my standard will always be a good old, steak pie with kidney or a chicken mushroom pie.

Pies can be eaten in, plain as it is, with a few strands of alfafa. In the end, we had the beef burgundy, the steak and kidney pie and a guinness beef pie.

They also serve their pies with a variety of sides, including the famous pie floater (with pea soup) or the more safer choices of mash and pies or fries. However even if you are desperate for some mash, avoid it all cost. The bite that i took, there was no hint of potato in the mash, it tasted like potato starch cooked with hot water. We looked around and every table had their mash untouched, how thick skin can the chef be?

As you can see, the pies were rather dried out inside as well and if you are up for trying it, order with some brown sauce so its easier to eat. The flavours were alright, the guinness had a hint of stout in the sauce while the other two were more homogeneous.

I have heard so much about it before coming and it looked like a case of past glory and ultimately nothing but a tourist spot. The pastry was alright but i couldn't get through the fact that it was so dry inside and they could serve such horrible mash.

Address and contact details:

Mount Dandenong
43 Olinda-Monbulk Rd, Olinda
Olinda, 3788

Tel: 03-97512128

Verdict: 2.5 stars out of 5 stars. Not worth the drive i say but the scenery and the tea (elsewhere) makes up for it and i suppose if you really want to try for yourselves, you can take away at a cheaper price but you can't eat it at their compound. 
Pie in the Sky on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tiamo 2 @ Lygon Street, Melbourne

Contrary to the established reputation of Lygon Street, where the best italian food can be found; i had more failures than successes. Some of my friends have already written it off and claimed that the most delicious thing on the Italian Street is the thai food at Ying Thai 2. 

Well if i had to give it another chance, i had to do my research well and i found Tiamo and Tiamo 2.

We walked along most restaurants that weekday night and the busiest had to be Tiamo and Tiamo 2. With a queue time that was close to half an hour, a tip is to get several people to queue at different lines i.e. one inside the restaurant and one outside as it doesn't seem to be one standard line.

Serving two menus, Tiamo 1; a basic and rustic menu that serves the classical pasta like bolognese and carbonara while the Tiamo 2 has more fancy dishes like home cooked pasta, daily specials and pizzas.  Looking through both, all our dishes were from Tiamo 2. 

The Prosciutto with Rocket leaves pizza was simple and came in the thin crust that i like. Simple ingredients put into good use. 

A pork platter that had some grilled pork belly, pork chop and some really delicious meatballs accompanied with some polenta, potatoes and mixed vegetables. With the exception of the meatballs, everything else seemed rather normal to be on the "specials".

The winner was this home made pasta with meatballs and eggplant in a tomato based sauce. This was so appetising and i could easily finish the whole bowl with ease.

The tiramisu was good but not great. If anything, it tasted like it sat in the fridge too long. The sponge cake dried out.

Finally a decent place for wholesome italian food at Lygon Street, there's hope after all

Address and contact details:

305 Lygon St
Carlton, 3053

Tel: 03 9347 0911

Verdict: Choose the right items like the pizza and the homemade pasta and this is a winner. 4 stars out of 5 stars. Just make sure you make a booking or risk queuing up half an hour for a table.

Tiamo 2 on Urbanspoon