Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Punjabi Palace @ Melbourne Street, Brisbane

Working along Eagle Street, especially at my building; your lunch choices are not exactly the merriest of kinds. Coupled with the fact that I am saving up some money, walking back home for lunch seems to be the better option compared to my usual sushi rolls, katsu curry or bastardised chinese (which I admittedly enjoy eating).


With the Wife though, working in West End, shes in a square of multi cuisine restaurants and one of her team lunches bought her to Punjabi Palace which she declared the best so far in Brisbane. 


One Friday night we found ourselves there and I waited in anticipation for the food to arrive. Surprisingly amongst a crowd, the food took next to no time to appear on our table.

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Butter chicken; I must say compared to the weak attempt at Agra, this was miles better. There was even a hint of spiciness in the sauce. 

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Not something that I will always order but a common dish in Indian cuisine; Aloo Gobi a dry mild spiced potato and cauliflower dish. Again very satisfying as well. 

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They even serve complimentary rice to go with your mains.

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Had we known that they would serve free rice, we wouldn't have ordered two naans. The naans were also similarly satisfying.

I actually haven't had much indian food so far in Brisbane, so with the more than satisfying meal we had that night, this can now be my benchmark for Indian cuisine


Prices are around 20 odd dollars per head.

Address and contact details:

Punjabi Palace on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Good satisfying indian food, worth going back to try a bigger range of curries.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Joe can cook! Season 1 Finale:Osso Bucco

It's been a long while since I posted a recipe and I had problems filtering through my archives to find which episode I am up to. So to my knowledge, this should be episode 22 or for simplicity sake, this will be the curtain drawing season 1 finale before I decide if there's enough viewers to warrant a second season (just like the good old TV shows).


Now I have never attempted nor thought about cooking osso bucco (veal shank) until I watched "My Kitchen Rules" (one of the filler food series to watch before MasterChef Season 3 started) where the semi-finalists decided to wow with this classic italian recipe. From what we saw on the show, it looked simple enough and with a google for a sample recipe, we went off to make this dish.    

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Recipe (from my memory)

1kg of osso bucco (we bought some from James St Market, lovely quality but you pay premium price)
3 tomatoes or/and a can of tinned tomatoes
1-2 onions (finely diced)
1 carrot (finely diced)
1 stalk of celery (finely diced)
3-4 cloves of garlic (finely diced)
1 cup of white wine
1 cup of stock
Flour to coat osso bucco

1. Heat a pan with 2 tbs of oil. Coat the osso bucco with flour and brown them on both sides on high heat. Keep aside the meat and don't wash the pan (keep for step 3).
2. Heat a pot (oven proof, if you have one) with some oil and sweat all the vegetables till soft (except the tomatoes).
3. Back to pan 1; pour the cup of wine and scrap off all the yummy brown bits and bring to boil (to burn off the alcohol) then pour in stock and tomatoes and bring to boil again.
4. Pour in contents of pan 1 to pot with the softened vegetables and put in osso bucco as well. Bring it to boil 1 more time.
5. If your pot is ovenproof, put it in an oven at 160 degrees for 2 hour, if not transfer everything into a casserole dish before going into the oven. Alternatively, an online recipe say to cook it on the stove for 2 hours under very low heat. You will know its all done when the meat is falling off the bone. At this point, season generously with salt and pepper.   
6. If you prefer a thick glossy sauce, thicken with roux (simply whisk some butter and flour in a pan till it becomes powdery). 
7. Serve with mash potatoes. A simple recipe is just boiling peeled potatoes, mash it with a good chunk of butter (I say 125 grams for every 1kg of potatoes) and some milk. Season with salt and pepper. 

There you have it, a slow cooked meal for the colder winter days of Brisbane. Enjoy!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Look! I am featured at CumidanCiki.com!

Yonks ago, I came upon Cumi and Ciki, a couple who were adventurous in their food seeking and were enthusiastic in blogging. 

History says that I was one of the few who started to read her blog and linked her to the rest of the world.

As history also say, the rest is history as Cumidanciki.com has become the 1 stop website for travel posts, food posts, movie reviews and plenty of beautiful pictures. 

Since I am a bit lazy today blogging, why don't you jump over to my guest post over there?

Click here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pearl Cafe @ Woollongabba, Brisbane

Having ticked off so many breakfast places on my list, Pearl Cafe was next. Situated near the Gabba (the official name being the Brisbane Cricket Grounds), the name doesn't reveal much about the concept, the ambience or the food. Matter of fact, my friend asked whether it sounds like a place that sells bubble tea.


Far from that, Pearl Cafe is a small quaint cafe with a whiff of French. Fresh pastries and breads are on the display at the bar and the noisy and happy atmosphere inside feels very parisian according to the Wife but the "French" appears to be lost on the breakfast menu. 


Featuring apart from the Croissants, its very typical breakfast items on the menu.


Instead of inventing a whole range of dishes for you to choose from, the place has in place a few specials and a D-I-Y dish where you start off with 2 eggs (any style) on toast and a list of options from mushrooms to smoked salmon. 


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Their coffee is pretty good and seen on the cup, the beans are Genovese.

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An example of their DIY breakfast, bacon and scramble eggs.

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The fixed item; the French Toast is a must order if you are a "sweet" person. Full of egg in the toast, topped with quince and sweet syrup, prepare for a sugar rush.

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However the pork and beans that day was terrible which was apparently not the case a week ago when my friend ordered the same dish. The sausage tasted plain foul and the beans weren't fantastic. Try at your own risk.

Overall, the place scores on the ambience and atmosphere but the food was lacking that day. Furthermore, we sat outside which means we missed out on all the "fun" inside and had to eat through the freezing cold. Last orders for breakfast is 11am so make sure you go early. 

Address and contact details:

Pearl Café on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Had the sausages turned out alright, it would definitely be a place I return to but based on my visit, I am afraid I won't be rushing back just yet. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cafe Vue @ Melbourne Airport, Melbourne

I remember the Melbourne airport not being the most exciting of airports; it was dull and old with a hint of mold when I touched down last July. When I had to fly out in March via Melbourne, I was in for quite a shock as it had undergone a big refurbishment with the most interesting addition being; Cafe Vue.


The "Vue" concept has now a healthy stable of restaurants with Vue De Monde being pretty much synonymous with the Melbourne fine dining scene (although not representative) and the more casual Bistro and Cafe Vue for the budget conscious.


In any case with an hour to spare, I couldn't refuse a coffee and a quick bite since the closest I have been to Vue De Monde is walking past the restaurant.  


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What a lovely sight especially if you had to get up at 4am without a coffee. 


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The menu is relatively if not very simple. Most items sounds like minimal cooking are done on site.


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Back in March, this cup of coffee was the best I had in 6 months which says a lot when you compare the coffee scene in Brisbane and Melbourne. 

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I must admit I had no idea what a Duck Egg Bacon Hollandaise Jaffle was but I certainly did not expect a toastie. The toast was a toast and despite the use of duck egg, I couldn't hide my disappointment because I expected something out of the blue (in a good way, not the shocking way). In any case, a search on the word "jaffle" tells me that I indeed ordered a toastie, so oh well, no one to blame except me. 


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I finished off with a macaron and I remember asking my Twitter followers what flavour do you think it was and guess what, I can't remember now! It was certainly a strawberry theme but the thing that sold me was the filling was a candy, something fizz or rather and I thought it was playful as there is a bit of  fizz when you bite into it.   

The next time I am popping by, I am making sure it is an afternoon flight because the menu seems far more exciting!

Address and contact details:

Café Vue at Melbourne Airport on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Probably the most exciting restaurant in an airport (at least in this part of the world). 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Endless Noodles @ Pineland Road, Brisbane

I like how diversified my team in office is. As of last month, we had a new leader come in and officially my internal team in Brisbane (at least) comprise of no Australian (well at least by birth). While my Irish boss hasn't recommended any place where I can find some guinness stew, my chinese colleague told me to try out this noodle shop down in Sunnybank, the Chinese suburb of Brisbane.


Apparently, famous for their handmade noodles and their steamboat, it was just the perfect thing to have that chilly weekend night. However despite the chill and the fact that we were seated outside, there were no takers for steamboat (something which we will be coming back for) and everyone went for noodles; the zhar jiang mian. 


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Minced pork and handmade noodles; loved the texture of the noodles but the pork mince was a little on the bland side, nothing a few drops of soya sauce can't fix. 
   
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The dumplings were how dumplings should be, crispy bottom, chewy top and a moist filling. 

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I decided to go for the protein option and ordered a beef poached in chilli oil/water. Potent with the spicy kick, the let down was the rather tough beef. 

All in all, the noodles will definitely get us visiting them again and the steamboat sounds like a good option considering the cold weather has just started.

Address and contact details:

Endless Noodles on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5stars. No frill handmade noodles, just the comfort food you need sometimes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sawadee Ka @ West End, Brisbane

Public holidays in Malaysia are fun simply because it is a day off work and you get to roam around in the shopping centres and dine where ever you want. 


However, I can't really say the same about public holidays in Australia. Their idea of a public holiday is that buying meats and booze the day before and chilling out with a BBQ. On most, if not all public holidays, no shopping centres are opened, restaurants come with a 10-15% surcharge and we end up sitting at home, rotting in front of the TV.    


I can't remember which public holiday it was, either Easter or Labour Day, when we decided we will drive down to West End for the sake of driving and find a place for lunch.


Sawadee Ka stood out like a sore thumb, simply it was one of the only two or three restaurants opened that day. A colleague of the Wife had recommended the place, however knowing the local taste buds ; one have to be skeptical and simply can't expect the best. 


Since it was lunch, it was a very simple menu, with a few choices of curries and rice and noodles. We never got to look at the full fledged dinner menu.

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I judge Thai food by their Pad Thai, probably one of the quintessential Thai dish in my eyes (one can argue otherwise). Surprisingly, this was rather good, not the best I had but certainly better than some that I have had.  

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Unfortunately the Green Curry Beef was somewhat a disaster. The curry was too creamy, sweet and not much of a spicy kick coupled with rather dry pieces of beef, I don't see myself ordering this again.

Having tried only two dishes and furthermore lunch dishes, I can't really say if this would be the last visit. If I am desperate enough, I might give it another go during dinner. However at 10 dollars a dish, it is a worthwhile option for lunch. 

Address and contact details:

Sawadee Ka on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars. Nothing too shocking since we only tried two of their simple dishes, an option if you are in the area.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Caxton Hotel @ Milton, Brisbane



There are certain days where you just don't feel like eating (which can be a rather rare event for me) and then there are some days when in my exact words to the Wife "I want to stuff myself silly until I puke". 


Twas that night I declared that I would like to stuff myself silly with steak and dived into the thick Entertainment Book for some offers.


The Caxton Hotel while not the best place for steak according to Urbanspoon was really the best of the lot in the book with its buy 1 free 1 main offer. 


With that we rounded up friends who had the book and off we strolled to Caxton Street.


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The Char Grill at Caxton Hotel is not fine dining and it shows with the affordable wine list. I believe the Shiraz which was surprisingly palatable only cost around AUD30-40.

With expectations that the mains would be huge, we skipped the entrees and went straight for the steak.


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As part of the meal, a salad to assist in digesting the protein.


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A house specialty - Scotch Fillet & Seafood Combo 
Juicy & Tender Scotch Fillet accompanied by Moreton Bay bug & king prawns then served with a freshly made hollandaise sauce – AUD35.90  

The lady could bare handle half the plate which meant more for me but wait till you see what I ordered below.

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Although you can't really see how big the steak was from the picture, I be happy to report I ordered the Prime Rib Eye of Beef on the Bone (500g) - AUD35.90. 

Although the Beef Jus was overly reduced, the meat was cooked to my liking and those crispy chips was heaven on earth; ideal for a pigging (cowing) night.

Happy to say that despite the online reviews saying that this was a mediocre place, we liked it, I suppose it helps when the place was barely half full and we "technically" paid full price for our steaks. I have heard service is bad and long waiting times if you go on their weekday special nights when steaks are half price. 


There is parking at the premises or theres always the 2 hour free parking up at the Barracks.

Address and contact details:

Caxton Hotel on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. No fine dining place but certainly representative of the pub culture which features quite prominently in Brisbane; meaning big chunks of steak and chips washed down with beer or/and wine. Best bet might be to come on a night where there are no specials so that there is less of a crowd and more attention is paid to cooking your food.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Big Gun Chinese Restaurant @ Underwood, Brisbane

I find it rather uninspiring to take pictures of dim sum items especially in Brisbane. There is nothing dainty about it as there are double the size of the norm you get in Asia, most places are sloppily made and you really can't see the effort being put into the dim sum.


The only thing you can judge is whether it tastes any good. On our usual fortnight or so dim sum get together, I was bought to Big Gun Chinese Restaurant (don't ask me how they got their name).


Famous for their late night dim sum (one of two places in Brisbane to do so), Big Gun is like any other Chinese restaurant; a tired facade and littered with Asians. However can they set themselves apart with their food? 

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I haven't visited them at night but the consensus is that you don't get the real deal at night because the ones in the day is much better. Matter of fact, this could very well be one of the better tasting dim sum places in Brisbane. It gets better, the servers all speak Cantonese, the language of dim sum (to me), so I can actually order something and not get a blank stare with a mandarin reply "ni yao se moh?" ("what did you want").

The downside? It is rather a long drive away from the city and apparently in a "bogan" town. 

What is a Bogan? Defined by Wikipedia as an individual usually pejorative or self-deprecating, who is recognised to be from a lower class background or someone whose limited education, speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour exemplifies such a background.

Not exactly a town I would like to be in.

Thankfully, I didn't see any of them having dim sum. 

Address and contact details:

Big Gun Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 4 stars out of 5stars. Loved the dim sum we had that day, however if you expect dainty small bites, you are knocking on the wrong door. Would definitely like to come back.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Tea Republic @ Bangsar Shopping Centre


I still remember the childhood days when BSC was old and tired and how we would walk from my friend's house down the hill to BSC so we could buy Magic cards and "hang out". In the past year or two, it underwent a total revamp but even before I left, it was still rather quiet and shops were only slowly filling up. 


Coming back in March though, the place finally felt vibrant and lively.

A recent addition to BSC is the Tea Republic; coincidentally a friend of a friend's first venture into the F&B world. While I always have the dream to own my F&B place like half the population in Australia who are currently suffering the Masterchef Fever, it takes more than just using words. It requires action and bravery (or plain foolishness if I was a grumpy old relative).

Back to the Tea Republic, it is everything a cafe / hangout place is but serves tea instead of the norm coffee. 

Carrying different teas from all over the world, it is quite fascinating and educational at the same time. 

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How about trying the South African Vanilla Orange Tea? The vanilla is subtle and the orange evident but the most amazing thing with flavoured teas is the aroma. I be happy smelling the brew (probably for the first 10 minutes before realising I am meant to drink it). 

From Japanese tea  to Chai Latte (which was quite decent too), it is a paradise for those who appreciate tea. 


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With tea always having the better reputation than coffee when it comes to health, it might be time to switch your caffeine fix from coffee to tea.
  
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If tea is too boring/plain on its own for you, try some of their humble desserts on display like the multi coloured macarons which were quite a delightful pop in the mouth. 

Unfortunately with exotic teas in an upmarket place, the price is quite steep should you choose the more expensive brews (in the range of RM20+) but choose wisely and you can still chill out in the quiet corner of the complex for under RM10 a cup of tea (just like your mass produced Starbucks).

Address and contact details:

S132, 2nd Floor, Bangsar Shopping Centre,
285 Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaraya, 59000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel: +603 2011 1320


Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. While I am still skeptical and very much prefer coffee over tea, I like this concept and you never know till you give it a go.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Yummy Paradise @ Sunnybank Hills, Brisbane

Trust the local Chinese when it comes to Chinese food. A couple of weeks ago, a friend said his ex (who was been around in Brisbane for a while) recommended this new place that served Guizhou cuisine. Not entirely sure whether one should trust his or her ex when it comes to food recommendations but we were convinced it would be worth our effort.

Not exactly something that I have tried before but I found out Guizhou cuisine (according to Wikipedia is similar to Szechuan and Hunan cuisine) is a mix of sour and spicy and features quite a few soups / steamboat dishes too. None of our food was overly spicy which was probably the key difference.

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The mixed pork offal platter came with a variety of internal organs to the ears. Dipped with the spicy and salty sauce, this was a good starter if you like the "works" as I call it. 



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The eggplant resembled the local Malaysian Yong Tau Foo style except this was deep fried and came with a sweet and sour sauce. This was probably the dish to drive us back a second time but alas the second visit, the eggplant had a heavy and chewy batter. 



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This is comfort food at its best, the salted vegetable with pork belly. Personal preference says I rather have the pork with yam but beggars can't be choosers. 

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As I am writing this, I am staring at this dish with a blur because I can't remember what was in it. If I am not mistaken, the tomato base was filled with generous fish slices. Although I do remember having another dish which resembled steampot and came with lots of fish slices too. 


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Translated this dish is called "Water cooked Beef" but this was probably poached in chili oil which resulted in very succulent beef slices. 

 Overall, a very satisfying meal of Guizhou cuisine, the beef slices and the pork belly were a gem but because the Wife doesn't seem to appreciate those dishes nor the soup based dishes that they seem to be famous for, it might be a while before I revisit. Otherwise, a place for what looks and tastes authentic enough without a hint of adjustment for the Western palates (simply because they don't seem to be any, the crowd is about 100% Chinese).

Address and contact details:

Yummy Paradise on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Authentic chinese cuisine and at reasonable prices too may I add. Let's hope it stays that way.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Agra on James @ James Street, Brisbane

The Brisbane Entertainment Book is bit of a double-edged sword. While it contains plenty of discount vouchers, it only means spending more time eating out instead of obediently cooking at home. From what used to be a 6 or sometimes 7 nights of cooking at home, we have been eating out probably 2-3 times a week or maybe more if we are lazy during the weekends. Thankfully the change in lifestyle has been somewhat subsidised by the Entertainment Book.  


One of those impromptu nights, we decided to find a place from the Book. After considering traffic jam, car parks, bookings, discounts and cuisine (good places usually are fully booked and no walk ins are considered), I called up Agra at James a couple of hours before dinner and got a booking.  


Considering the enthusiastic reviews on Urbanspoon, the place was relatively empty on a Friday night although when we left we saw two big tables of at least 10-15 people being seated. I shudder to think of the waiting time if we had arrived after them!


So was the food any good? To test, I ordered my staple dishes.




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The Butter Chicken came out too sweet with no oomph from the spices. Although edible, it was certainly a let down.


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I suspect maybe sugar was mistakenly put in the salt jar because the Palak Paneer came out too sweet as well. On top of that it was rather watery as well, missing the elements of spice.

With the first two dishes rejected outright by the Wife, we dived into the menu and ordered a Fish Curry. 


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The only dish that wasn't sweet and was heavily scented and flavoured with coconut. While we thought the sauce was acceptable, the Wife questioned the quality of the fish fillet used. 


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However, they do know how to make their naan and rice well and I happily overloaded it with sauce; sweet or otherwise.


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I couldn't resist an Indian Beer to finish off the meal.

Not terribly impressed and I think this is going to be a long trial and error journey to find some really good authentic Northern Indian cuisine. 

With the 25% discount voucher, our meal was around the AUD20-25 per pax range.

Address and contact details: 

Agra Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars at best, probably 2.5 stars if I was in a bad mood. Unfortunately, I don't see myself coming back unless as a last resort

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hosokawa Japanese Restaurant @ Racecourse Road, Brisbane

Hosokawa is a small and cozy restaurant and as the name suggests serves Japanese cuisine. If you are looking for a wide range of items and a more modern approach to Japanese food, you are knocking at the wrong door of Hosokawa. 


What you will expect though is a small menu of classic items like sashimi, sushi, teppanyaki, tempura, teriyaki and a few more items here and there. Items that represent the core of Japanese cuisine and no more. However does the concise menu means guaranteed quality and taste? 


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Situated in Ascot in the higher end of the Hamilton suburb, the area is relatively quiet without too much noise. 

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We kicked off with the huge Sashimi platter for AUD32. Generous fresh portions of salmon, tuna, hamachi, squid and scallops. While I was happy with the portion, with any platter I expect a larger variety and a surprise or two which we didn't find. 

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The Miso Eggplant is a recipe that I have never succeeded in replicating and we gladly come back to have this instead. However that night, this eggplant took a good 40 minutes before it arrived on our table, not something to order if you are in a hurry.

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There was perhaps one problem with the grilled sea perch; Saikoyoyaki, the size and the price. What looked like a portion that was no more than a 100gm was AUD18. While I think the response was the fish was good, it was overshadowed by the pricey price tag. 

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Thankfully, the Unagi came in the standard portion and it was grilled well with the compulsory sweet glaze. 


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My friend who thought the fish would suffice had to call for an additional order for chicken karaage. What we noticed was the use of chicken breast vs. chicken thigh. However it was finished in a flash so I guess the meat wasn't dried out.

Hosokawa is a place you want to go for some classic Japanese dishes, a haven to visit to remind you of home if you are Japanese. However if you are on the look out for modern Japanese cuisine and want your palate to be tempted with unfamiliar flavours, Hosokawa won't be for you.

Address and contact details:

Hosokawa Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Visit the place with expectations for classic dishes and Hosokawa will deliver. Good quality food with slightly above average prices.