Monday, August 29, 2011

Tukka @ West End, Brisbane

Whilst Modern Australian cuisine is making a scene throughout Australia, it hasn't reached the status of representing Australian cuisine. Ask anyone what kind of food they think of in the same sentence as Australia, I am pretty sure the answer would not be fine dining, just yet. 


So it was a great task when my brother in law asked what is something representative of Australia (that you can find in Brisbane) that he could not eat back in Malaysia. That was when Tukka came to mind.


Specialising in game meats, this was the place to take someone to eat meats that were rather uniquely Australian; kangaroo, crocodile, emu and so on. I must say that suggestion definitely got myself a pat on the back because the boys were kind of intrigued while the girls were squirming at the thought of eating game meats.


Anyways, back to Tukka. 


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An amuse bouche of barramundi cerviche was light and bright, with a hint of sweetness. A good start.


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When I first googled up on Tukka, it seems like everyone had ordered the tasting platter. In a way its a good choice because there is a lot of native meats, fruits and berries that is definitely not on your everyday dinner plate. The meats ranged from kangaroo prosciutto to cured emu, while an assortment of berries and fruits made their way in the form of candied and dried and some damper and salad to finish it all off. The damper was a very dense bread roll but what made it so delicious was the macadamia oil and dukkah you eat it with.

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Next up was the crocodile tenderloin cured in Daintree vanilla bean, served with fennel remoulade and lemon aspen puree. Its been yonks since I had crocodile meat, going back to the days of studying so it was a refresher to me. Looks like chicken but tasted more like turkey, you wouldn't have thought of anything more until you been told this was crocodile meat.

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Kangaroo can be a very tough meat to eat and needs to be cooked perfectly well. Anything past medium rare and it is usually quite hard to chew and swallow. Served alongside rhubarb and watercress puree, honey glazed parsnips and a lavender jus, this was a very simple dish that focuses on the main meat. 

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Slow roasted whole goat with a lemon aspen glaze, roasted almonds, seasonal greens and cauliflower puree was rather gamey, eventhough it was cooked to melt in your mouth texture. I guess despite the care they took in presenting their vegetables, I wonder if presenting the meat that way was a bad idea, making it look like it came out from a tin. 

Overall, it was an interesting dinner at Tukka, the dishes looked simple with the focus on the protein and I guess there is always that novelty, especially useful if you bring overseas guest with an adventurous tummy. However, not exactly my cup of tea and definitely wasn't the Wife's too so returning here is rather remote at this stage.

Address and contact details:

Tukka on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars. I must admit the idea is rather interesting and definitely appeals if you got to find a place to entertain some overseas guests but apart from that, I can't see myself eating crocodile or kangaroo month in and out. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fifth Battery Coffee Roasters @ Fortitude Valley, Brisbane



Just a quick one to round up the week; looking for a place where they treat coffee seriously? It looks like I have found another gem, this time rather nearby my place. Barely a couple of minutes drive away, I initially hesitated to give this a go, since the address was in the Valley, because the Valley has always been known to be dodgy and the lack of parking. 


Thankfully the half dome that houses this aromatic place is on Warry Street, the quieter side of the Valley during the day, with a number of side parking.  


You know when the place is serious about their coffee if you see that:


1. They roast their own beans
2. If they serve their coffee done as a double ristretto (as standard) 


Fifth Battery Coffee Roasters does both.


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It was a rather quiet place for a Saturday morning, with the more famous breakfast places probably packed to the brim. A reason could be down to their rather simple breakfast menu and it being a place for some serious coffee. Fine by me, I never did like crowds, where possible and I really care more about coffee since my palate is still jaded from the same old poached eggs, bacon, hash and etc. 


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Their coffee is up there with some of the nicer coffees I had in Brisbane, the double shot has a decent oomph and matter of fact, the Wife found it too strong for her. 


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Our light breakfast options included an almond croissant which was half decent, not as good as let's say Le Bon Choix or Choquette but good enough for AUD3.50.


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Their famous Brekky Buger which appears to be synonymous with the place is a simple bacon, egg, cheese and a bit of aioli. Definitely more posh than the breakfast muffin you get at the fast food joints.

If you are looking for some serious coffee and don't really care for an elaborate breakfast, this is the place to go; added bonus since this is so near my place.

Address and contact details:

Fifth Battery Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. I will be back again.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fish Lovers @ Rosalie, Brisbane

While sipping coffee and flipping through the newspapers one Saturday morning, we came across the article "Brisbane best Fish n Chips". What can I say, the words "Fish" and "Chips" must have hit the belly button and I knew exactly what we were going to have for lunch. Alas, without remembering the name of the shop and roughly remembering the address as a number on Baroona Road, I drove right to the main row of shop lots and saw "Fish Lovers". Well, Baroona Road and Fish n Chips, this must be it, I proclaimed.


However a couple of days later, I guessed I read wrong, it was The Fishery that the newspaper was referring to. 


Despite not trying the "best", Fish Lovers is not as bad as it looked.


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The place was clean and a variety of fish were on display, for sale as is or cooked to order. Cod and chips bought me back to the days of London and I ordered some, hoping to find a taste of the holiday, four years ago. 


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It came out looking the part. The fish looked golden brown, perfectly battered and fried. The chips were all thick and chunky, again fried without any signs of sloppiness. Alas, it was lacking in the flavour department. Some bits of the fish was overcooked and it all tasted rather bland, despite all the specks of salt you see on the plate. A rare occasion that I actually didn't finish up all the chips. However being a fan of calamari, I can assure you those rings were gone in no time. 

Despite the battered fish not being as good as expected and I was no where near experiencing flash backs of London, I saw effort taken to present this; no burnt bits, neatly presented, so hopefully the next time I visit, a simple grilled fish with a salad might fare better.

Address and contact details:

Fish Lovers on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars. A decent place for some fish but unfortunately not what I was looking for. Another weekend of fish and chips, maybe? 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Azuma Kushiyaki @ Sydney

Two weeks ago, work took me to Sydney for a day. Having stayed in Brisbane for almost a year by now, I guess it was a bit of a shock to be suddenly in a CBD that must be at least 2-3 times bigger than Brisbane.  


To put things into perspective; to walk from 225 George Street to 501 George Street in Brisbane, it is a 450 metre 5-6 minute walk compared to a 1.3km walk in Sydney on the same street. Without forgetting the size, there were probably twice or three times the amount of people and pollution on the same street.


I find it funny that being a city boy after living in one for majority of my life, I found myself rather lost in Sydney.


However, with so much food in every nook and corner, I guess that's a big plus point if work was to ever take me up there.


So back to food, with enough time to slot dinner in with two old friends which dates back to my university days, I fumbled around reviews to find a place that was close enough and chanced upon Azuma Kushiyaki, a place that apparently Tetsuya the man himself, enjoys dining in. 


With a friend that was on "diet", we ordered some healthier dishes accompanied with a rather good white wine. 
    
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We started off with an assortment of sashimi but truth to be told apart, from the freshness, I was looking for slightly more variety apart from the staple salmon, tuna and hamachi. 

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The famous seared Tuna salad fared much better, seared tuna with a dressing that was so yummy that I would have mopped it up with bread if I was in an Italian restaurant. Alot of "umami" as some would describe.

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In keeping with the healthy direction of my friend's diet, we ordered an assorted platter of sushi that had the prerequisites. Hand made with small little balls of rice versus large blocks in machine made ones, this was quite standard fare but tasted good.  

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I love a good miso eggplant or Nasu Dengaku, having failed miserably in numerous attempts to make this, I have resorted to ordering this whenever I can. Despite the miso topping tasting absolutely fabulous, the eggplant was soaked in oil, evident from a nudge of the chopsticks.  

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Unagi Yanagawa would have been perfect with some rice but by now, the wine had kicked in and we were laughing over stuff we did yonks ago and had it as is. Perfect for the cool weather though especially that night when i was down. 

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With Kushiyaki part of the restaurant's name, I would be foolish not to sneak in these grilled sticks into our meal. Part of the assorted selection we got was a wagyu steak, wagyu tongue, chicken teriyaki, duck, okra, prawn and scallop. I wasn't incredibly impressed with the over seasoning which made bits and pieces rather salty, the overcooked scallops and a rather unpleasant duck. 

Despite the ups and downs, this is a nice laid back restaurant that serves some good old classic dishes and is right smack in the CBD (a rather big CBD though) and I guess for Sydney standards, paying AUD 60 including wine is expected. 

Address and contact details:

Azuma Kushiyaki on Urbanspoon
  
Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Not exactly very impressed but still very decent for a meal of Japanese. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Norman Hotel @ Woollongabba, Brisbane

It's been a tiring few days recently with the in laws (dad, mom and brother) in town. Despite how big I think my one bedroom apartment is to the Wife and I, accommodating another three persons can be quite a task. However all that being said, I had fun knowing them better and funny to say this, the place now seems too quiet for comfort. 


Moons ago, we put our brains on overdrive to create a relaxing, entertaining and educating itinerary to cover Brisbane and the coasts. However, being a foodie and the Wife, a converted foodie; our trip was all based around on food; namely breakfast, lunch and dinner. 


On the day of their arrival, we decided for dinner, it would have to be a good pub meal; namely steak and chips. Without wanting to break the bank account, we ditched the Moo Moos and the Char Chars, we surveyed around and decided that we had to go for the most extreme, the worst vegetarian restaurant in Brisbane; Norman Hotel.


With a display of their freshest produce and cuts, you pick the cut, the size, the sauce and off you wait. A pity that the chips had to be a side order because their steak comes standard with a salad and a baked potato. 


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To kick things off, we shared some pork ribs and oysters kilpatrick. The ribs were nothing too flashy, a tangy sauce and tender meat. The in laws preferred the oysters uncooked but loved the simple idea of putting some worcestershire sauce and bacon as a topping. 


We had an early start that day that involved being at the Coolangatta airport at 7.30am and it had to be tiredness because I ditched the ribeye on the bone and that crazy chunk of striploin for a humble rib eye (although it was still a large portion that I wanted). On any normal day, I would have definitely gone for the bigger cuts. Prices were around AUD30+ for a steak main.


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Cooked according to how we want, I love the charring on the meat, the good size portions and the salad but wasn't too crazy over the sauce. However since it was an open kitchen, I did see that the chef who was cooking the steaks did take quite a few stabs at the steaks to see if it was done correctly. Thankfully, ours must have escaped his knife since it still came out quite juicy. 


Service is non existent as you pay at the counter and take your own food at the counter. For the price that the in laws paid (they won the battle of who foots the bill), we thought the Caxton Hotel might have that been little better since they had a waitress serving us and the ventilation was way better.


Else it was quite entertaining reading how the Norman Hotel took on the tag line of being the worst vegetarian restaurant as evident by all the cow they serve.     


Address and contact details:


The Norman Hotel on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. If you want steak, you get steak and this is one place that you can't get escape without ordering some cow. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Corner Store Cafe @ Toowong, Brisbane


As the search for the best breakfast place continues, the journey that weekend took us to Corner Store Cafe. Being in Toowong raised some eyebrows as the area is usually filled with students and flats.  


With no competition in tow, it should be no surprise that we were greeted with plenty of parked cars surrounding what was otherwise a quiet residential area. Walk towards the cafe and you will be greeted with a huge crowd of guests waiting in line. Bookings are a must if you want to get a sniff of the breakfast served. 


A large open area greeted us, plenty of sunlight and with the winter wind, it was comfortable enough to eat outside with a warm coffee. Not my kind of place though if it is hot and humid.


The breakfast menu is largely standard and that day the Wife was exceptionally uninspired and ordered toast, poached eggs and chorizo.


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Exactly what she got. The poached eggs were done pretty well but apart from that, it is as standard as breakfast meals can get.


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This couldn't have been a better time to jot down what I thought of the Croque Madame, having had one at PourBoy this morning. Comparing to the latter, this was very satisfying, lots of cheese, bechamel sauce, generous slices of ham and the fried egg takes the spot. If yo want something much lighter and healthier, PourBoy has a version with a poached egg and djion mayonnaise.  


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The table was booked for 10am but just in case the crowd doesn't make you feel bad for staying too long, the next booking is clearly displayed on the table to let you know when you need to leave. 

Overall another breakfast spot, a huge crowd, standard breakfast fare but on a nice cooling day, sitting outside is a nice change. As expected, a huge crowd also means a long waiting time. 

Address and contact details:

Corner Store Cafe on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. It be the perfect place if it wasn't too crowded and service was that little bit faster. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Glamorous Wok @ Sunnybank, Brisbane



Eating in a big group is especially fun when you are trying out a new place; technically the best time that I can sample as many dishes without coming back the second or third time. However, have you ever faced a dilemma as to who should do the ordering or what should be ordered? 


Usually, I do the ordering after asking what are the must haves and the don't wants around the table. That night, I decided I become diplomatic and got everyone to choose a dish. Whether that was such a good idea, lets take a look at what we were up to at Glamorous Wok, a new Taiwanese restaurant in town, a place you can't get a table at without a booking. 


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Similar to the concept we get in the shopping centres of Kuala Lumpur, the place feels fresh, new and modern with a colour printed menu (with a number of spelling errors). Compared to the dated places that has already been around for donkey years, it appeals in that sense. 


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One of the must have dishes when it is available is the simple poached chicken. This was done quite well but with such a long period between eating it and writing about it, the taste of it has become quite a blur. However, I do know that this was one of the better dishes that night. 


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The problem lies when you let each person dictate what they want to eat is allowing someone to order the above. The pig intestines were cooked in a gingery soup, which doesn't sound the most palatable dish and also tasted in the same manner. Despite the strong ginger, the slightly foul flavour from the intestines was still obvious, rendering this dish only for the serious offal fan.


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I like variety, including meats but another problem with letting everyone choose a dish, is a replication of meats. However that may not be a bad thing as the three cup chicken with stick sweet sauce and basil leaves was a good choice too. Probably one of the most authentic versions I had in Brisbane so far.


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The bean curd has a silky thick corn starch sauce with a topping of minced fish meat. This was one of the better dishes, calm and mild, and I must say a genius idea to put it on individual spoons.


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A very disappointing dish; on paper it sounded brilliant; salted egg yolks and bitter gourd. While we all had in mind something that was stir fried, it came in a pool of sauce that was frankly quite putting off. 


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With a roller coaster of a food experience, we ended with a high, the beans looked deep fried and tossed with minced meat. Like I have always said before, anything deep fried is always healthy. 

Fast forward a month or two, we recently popped back to the restaurant but was faced with a full house, so clearly they are doing something right. It might be worthwhile to pop by again to see if the dishes are more consistent or a case of knowing what to order.

Address and contact details:

Glamorous Wok on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars. Not the best meal that night unfortunately, but there is certainly some potential with some dishes and the constant crowd.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Thai @ Rosalie, Brisbane



My Thai reminds me of a place that we order takeaway meals from quite a bit when we were studying back in Adelaide. The food is authentic and good enough and is pretty affordable. Powered by an elderly Thai lady that has been doing this for a long time, we heard about this place before the floods came. However after taking them awhile to get back on their feet, the numerous places to try along the way, we finally found our way.


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The menu is extensive, with a lot of classic dishes as well as some dishes that the head chef has created along the way. The problem with eating as a couple though is how many dishes can you really order before you surrender to the spiciness and coconut cream.


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We started off the tom yum soup; spicy and sour with a couple of prawns to round it up. I don't really go for tom yum so I have to hand it to the Wife. So what did she say? She said alright, so I guess this is might be worthwhile ordering.  


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If you read my blog enough, you should have half expected to see the picture above. If there was one thing, the Pad Thai was missing one essential ingredient; the grounded peanuts. Apart from that, the noodles were cooked nicely, slightly on the sweet side with quite generous ingredients. 


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I was quite impressed with the Red Duck Curry because for one, it must have been the first time that I have seen so many duck slices in one portion. Thai food has never been a cuisine that focuses on huge portions and I must applaud that for the AUD25 we paid, we got our worth. Flavourwise, this was slightly too creamy.


Served with rice, I had to call it a day by the time I put the last slice of duck in my mouth. However with the basic curry and noodles passing the test, My Thai will be in the list of restaurants to go to for Thai food in Brisbane. With the take away prices almost 20% cheaper than dine in prices, I see myself taking away more often than dining in though. 

My Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Satisfying Thai food with a casual ambience, I am quite glad I have discovered My Thai. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Esquire @ Brisbane

Before the comment of "the new kid on the block" becomes invalid, I thought I introduce you to Esquire, instead of starting with a "After hearing about this restaurant for the umpteenth time, I finally found the time..".


Branded as the second restaurant in Brisbane to serve a degustation menu only, one can see that option in two ways. Cynically; limited wastage, cheapest produce of the day, no fuss in the kitchen and a big fat price tag. Alternatively, it exudes class, a cuisine experience and allow the diners to experience and be surprised with a flight of dishes. 


Located along Eagle Street, the restaurant entrance is discreet. A plain wooden door awaited us after being lead into the corridor from the small logo display, without any sign that you have entered the correct place. The worse thing that can happen is walking in, only to realise that you are at the wrong place.  


However once you are greeted and lead to your table, the excitement begins (well for me at least). After contemplating for months as to whether I should revert to my once upon a time lifestyle of eating good food outside, we decided that life is too short to keep eating food from Sunnybank. Without any prior booking though, I decided to try my luck with Esquire first and lo and behold a call 3 hours before dinner and we got ourselves a reservation.


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With an open kitchen so near our table, I caught some of the calm cooking action and plating as well as a bit too much smell on the clothes for comfort. 


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Despite a single page menu, a sweet snack of nuts flavoured with thyme is served to get you munching while deciding what to eat and drink. With a decent range of wines, you can also choose to be satisfied with the free quirky tap water that has a block of charcoal in the pitcher. 


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I understand the menu changes daily, so don't be surprised if you don't see any of the dishes on the menu. Then again, I don't have the budget to verify that obviously. Do you? Another interesting thing is that the menu is bare basic, with a few key words to keep you guessing until you actually see the dish.


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After the nuts, came the cracker. A squid ink cracker with small brown drops of jalapeno gel. Crunchy and slightly spicy from the jalapeno, we loved the small bites being presented even before the meal started.


It was here, that I realise some tables had a third snack before the meal, but I was well behaved and decided not to ask for some.


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After looking into the menu again, I realised that this was not meant to be the first course of our 8 courses. Presumably complimentary since someone had set off the fire alarm and we were evacuated out of the restaurant for a good 10 minutes. I would have been slightly disappointed if I had to pay for this dish despite the pretty plating. A couple of kettle chips, squirts of slightly acidic avocado cream and a very mild bottargo sprinkle. Not what I envisioned.  


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Thankfully things picked up from here. Although it looks simple, you can appreciate the effort put into making the cuttlefish noodles, the fresh split peas, the herbs and the sharp lemon tang that you should sparingly stretch through the noodles. 


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Next was a rainbow trout that was cooked on top of charcoal that rendered it slightly smoky and was offset with some sweet elements in the form of walnuts and honey. The Wife found the honey was slightly too sweet for a savoury piece of fish.


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We both loved the potato gnocchi, tender octopus and charred leeks. Tied together in a slightly citrus sauce which I can't put any more words to especially the only memory of the dish was going "ohh arrr yumm hummm" over the octopus. Looking at the menu obviously doesn't help and it isn't really my habit of taking a notebook to eat. 


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When I saw the word Kobe on the menu and a price of 90 dollars, I thought I was going to reach heaven. However as the saying goes, good things come in small packages and the kobe was indeed "small", sliced thinly enough and sandwiched in a crispy jerky. Served in a paper envelope, I thought this was slightly playful and made the dining experience more relaxing instead of feeling all uptight. 


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The palate cleanser was a plum and campari granita, sweet and sour. The white rectangle you see there was an edible wrapper of something fizzy. Put together it served its purpose of a palate cleanser without a touch or two of imagination.

With that, we were told that we will be served our last savoury course of the night before we proceeded to desserts. Part of me regretted not to have gone the full blown 12 course but looking back, the extra AUD40 for another two small entrees and another dessert could have been better well spent.


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On the menu, it said Callote and truth to be told, I didn't have a clue what it was. Half expecting a flying creature from some nether region, we were served something very familiar, a cut of beef done medium rare. Nothing a Google can't do, this was apparently a cut of the bottom sirloin or also known as a tri-tip. Always a first for everything. Served with artichokes and the horseradish cream, there's no better way to ending a meal with a juicy steak (except that this was more of a slice). 


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The first of the dessert course was a piece of abstract art. Despite the thick chocolate mousse looking like it slipped from the spoon, it allowed us to take a bite of it then dip it into the coconut ice-cream without the two combining into a mess. The orange dots were packed very acidic, so each spoonful we had were carefully rationed.


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A good concept of ending a meal; strawberries, both fresh and dehydrated in form, strawberry syrup or juice and curd. Acting as a palate cleanser, it lives you leaving the restaurant, with a neutral palate. Although halfway into the dessert, the Wife found fennel seeds and stayed away from it like the plague. Back in Malaysia, these are the same seeds that you see sitting in a bowl at the cashier of your typical banana leaf meal. Sickly sweet and a spice that you either love or hate, the Wife clearly didn't like it. Where as I was more than happy to finish her portion.


Not to mention, when we paid the bill we were each given an envelope of chocolate with the logo, again a nice touch.

Overall, for AUD90, I must say it wasn't overly expensive, at an average of AUD10 per plate, you get quality food and plates of art. While servings can be slightly larger for some (i.e me), I guess you can always go to 12 courses to feel really satisfied. 

Loved the direction of the food and slightly casual setting, good service (except for the mishap of the fire alarm which couldn't be helped) and I like to see myself eating here again, when I next feel that life is too short.

Address and contact details:

Esquire on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. This direction of degustation is slightly different from what I am used to; substantial portions. However, if you are a dainty eater, this place is for you, as every dish was balanced in terms of texture and flavour.