Friday, September 30, 2011

Burger Urge @ New Farm, Brisbane

Someone commented on the blog recently to ask me to give Burger Urge a go after seeing how happy I was with my simple burger and fries at Grill'd. 


It could not have been a better time as soon after I spotted a deal at one of the group buying sites; 2 burgers and fries for AUD 17 (50%)! 


Needless to say I bought it and finally took us a couple of weeks before we found time to try the burgers and fries.


With two destinations, both decently nearby our place, we voted to go to the one at New Farm. Not the biggest of places and with an open kitchen that has alot of grilling and deep frying involved, try your best not to sit inside or do a takeaway like most people seem to be doing. 

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We went in a group of 7-8 so the only choice was the long table inside.

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The verdict on the burgers? I think Burger Urge gets top marks in terms of the different burgers on the menu. Very creative with some of the items compared to the Grill'd menu which got a bit boring when we went back on a monthly basis. The premium Wagyu Burger with blue cheese cost me an additional AUD 2 with the voucher was a good choice. The blue cheese wasn't overpowering and to be honest, in a burger, you can't really taste wagyu over normal beef.   

Another thing, the portions look bigger than Grill'd.

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The someone told me that the sweet potato fries were to die for as well but it was a hit and miss for me. It is special since its sweet potato, healthier since it is sweet potato but felt slightly too soggy and not crunchy probably because it is sweet potato. In this respect, I still think the regular fries at Grill'd wins but you may think otherwise.

So if you are looking for an alternative to Grill'd, I suggest Burger Urge, similar prices, similar concept but different combinations. The only let down is probably the open kitchen and the lack of seating in the New Farm outlet.

Address and contact details:

Burger Urge on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Good sized burgers and the option of sweet potato fries that appears to drive some people nuts about them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Joe can cook! Season 2 Episode 2: Good Old Lotus Root Soup

One of the things I miss most about home is the soup that Mom cooks almost on a daily basis. The extra effort of cooking it over charcoal outside the house and letting it simmer from day to dawn is to die for after a long day's work. Not to mention (I suspect) a big bowl of soup helps me fill up since I was almost on a 3-4 weekday carb free dinner regime over the last few years. 


It never cross my mind that I should venture into cooking soup on my own, I mean how hard is it to chop a few carrots, potatoes, onions and chicken and simmer in a pot of boiling water for a couple of hours (which by the way makes for a good ABC soup). 


Hankering for some lotus root soup, the day came when we saw some at the market. After buying some, I realised I still had no idea how to make it so after resorting to the internet, we found an easy recipe from Rasa Malaysia which I hope she doesn't mind if i share with you all with a couple of tweaks.


Despite my mother's practice of not keeping leftovers especially soup, I love how I can make a big batch and individually freeze them for a simple dinner the day after so its up to you.

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My best purchase for the kitchen so far, a 8.9 litre stock pot which sadly has gone into repair after a couple of months when one of the handles dropped off!

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Drink it as a first course or eat it with some rice, its up to you!

Recipe:

1. The recipe roughly calls for 300 grams of pork (bone or meat) to 1 litre of water.
For the soup, I use a mix of pork bone, soft pork bone and pork ribs (the asian butcher at the Valley is a good source, especially their special pork ribs)

2. Boil your meat before hand to get rid of the impurities - 5-10 minutes in boiling water should get rid of some but not all, any longer and I believe you are eating into the flavour.

3. Boil the water and put in your pre-boiled meat and bones, bring to a boil and let it simmer.

4. Skim away the impurities as they float to the surface, preferably skim away majority of it before you proceed with putting the below ingredients. This should take a good 15-20 minutes.

5. With the lotus roots, peel off the skin, wash and cut in medium size slices before putting it into the pot.

6. Finally, the magic ingredient to put in is dates. The recipe calls for red dates and dried honey dates. Use 5 red dates and 1 dried honey date per 1 litre of water. Can be easily found in an asian grocer. The dried honey dates give the soup a very sweet tone to it so if you don't fancy the soup being too sweet, skip it or reduce the quantity. 

7. Let it simmer away for as long as you can, I say 2-3 hours will be good but more time means more flavour. However keep in mind if you do put in some meaty pork ribs, it is perfect after 2 hours of cooking and can be too soft to eat if you cook it any longer (so if you want to cook it for half a day, add the pork ribs in the last 2 hours of cooking time). 

    8. Have a taste and if you think there's a need to season with salt, go ahead, its a personal preference.


9. To serve, pour yourself a bowl of soup, add a couple of the lotus root and the pork ribs you put in ( you can throw away the pork bones). 

Lets hope I can get through the lazy cooking bug and actually cook something worthy of a recipe post soon!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Restaurant Two @ Edward Street, Brisbane

Last year, I celebrated my birthday in Melbourne, jobless. Not exactly the best of conditions to call and make a reservation at a hatted restaurant and splurge on a degustation menu. However that being said, I had a quiet night with a few cousins and a home made birthday cake too.


This year, with a job, with a Wife that has a job, I was given liberty to choose a restaurant with no expenses spared (even though the menu and prices had to be pre-approved, to avoid any heart attack on the table). 


Always one up for a bargain, I took to the Entertainment Book and Restaurant II (or Two) popped up. Being a two hatted restaurant (however unlike Sydney and Melbourne, I couldn't find an official list online except for the Australian Good Food Guide which gave it a score of 16/20, meaning two hats), expectations were huge and the wallet was filled up enough to go for a 9 course meal. 


Walking into the restaurant on a weekday night, the first impression you get is the place is very serious. With the wooden flooring and a safe ambience, it is a place for a formal meal. I woudn't say I hated the layout but felt with all the space they had, they could have either space out the tables really far away from each other to give everyone alot of privacy vs. a dining space that was at one area, with the front housing the rather long bar. 


Formal or not, we sat down and got right into it. 


Before you start to ask why the pictures are not up to scratch, I resorted to the iPhone after deciding I wouldn't want to be taking pictures with a big camera at such a formal restaurant.


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Sourdough bread with good old butter and an amuse bouche in the form of a tuna tartare. Observe how uneven the portions were, a point that should be picked up before leaving the kitchen. 


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The Celeriac Soup, Pheasant, Wood Mushrooms and Chestnuts, Walnut Cream was poured table side which allowed you to have a glimpse of the treasures before a thick creamy soup covers it. The Wife not being the biggest fan of celery immediately found the familiar note and didn't exactly like it after that. For me, it was a good old creamy soup with the right accompaniments.

I must have missed out the picture for the salad of baby beetroot, fennel, goats curd, pistachio, toasted grains, orange, pomegranate, hone and chardonnay vinegar. It was alright but beautifully plate but otherwise the only flavour you get is from the goats curd. With two dishes that were slightly above average at best, the Wife and I were waiting to be wowed. 


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The Game Terrine of Pheasant, Guinea Fowl, Venison, Rabbit, Duck and Gooralie Pork, Truffle, Foie Gras and condiments being the third dish didn't do it . With so many animals and ingredients in the terrine, my palate seriously couldn't identify the elements. However as a whole, I wouldn't mind the dish, just not a dish that I would order. 


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The Moussaka of Seared XL Hervey Bay Scallops and Eggplant, Taramasalata, Smoked Tomato Butter, Crisp Onion Salad, I believe is a classic signature dish of Restaurant Two and I can identify with that. Every component worked except my scallop was seared on one side and to be honest, it was too rare for me. I contemplated probably twice to return it back before I let it go and polished off everything.


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Sauteed Gnocchi, Roasted Rannoch Farm Quail, Tombe of Sweetbreads and Mushrooms, Thyme Cream again was not the best we had. The quail could have done with more colour and the gnocchi wasn't as light as it could be. By this point, the Wife asked if she could take back her offer on paying for the meal and bring me to somewhere else instead. This was not heading in the right direction.


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The disaster continued with the Roast Corn Fed Duck Breast, Sweet Potato, Steamed Broccolini, Date and Tamarind Puree, Braised Shitake and Lentils, Honey Mandarin Sauce. The duck breast was cooked well, despite the small portion but the puree was over powering against the sauce. The sweet potato and broccolini looked and tasted ordinary and the lentils were just out of place. As much as I wanted to like the dish, I don't think I can.


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The Best End of "Milly Hill" Lamb and Spiced Boneless Shank, Buttered Cabbage, Red Vegetable Crumble, Peas, Rosemary Garlic Jus shot himself/herself on the foot. While the cutlet was impeccable, the shank tasted gamey. What made it worse in the eyes of the Wife was the "creativeness" they put into the plate i.e. buttered cabbage and peas. 

At this point, while I couldn't fault the portions because I was stuffed, I wasn't impressed at all. The Wife also revealed that she called to see if they could arrange a small birthday cake / dessert but was rejected. In the end, the compromise was we will write it somewhere on the dessert plate. 


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This by the way is not on the degustation menu. We requested to forgo the cheese and the dessert course for this dessert platter to share and lets just say it was probably the best moment of the night. Note the promise of the happy birthday note was missing (although to clarify, I was greeted Happy Birthday at the door).

6 different kind of desserts; if I can remember correctly, one was a sticky date pudding, a corn theme dessert, a chocolate fondant, creme brulee, a deconstructed tiramisu and a cucumber stripe with something else or rather. I could write a whole page about this but in summary, this was faultless except maybe by the time we ooh and aahed and finished the dessert one by one, the ice-cream was close to melting. 

Each was beautifully constructed with different textures, modern in taste and all painted out like a masterpiece. What we failed to understand is how come the way they approach desserts is not replicated across their rather boring and mundane menu. 


A closer look at their August menu (which has not been updated on their website) reveals the same protein and cooking style with slight tweaks here and there on their degustation menu. The produce used was no doubt one of the best around town but I think in our meal, it was in some cases not executed perfectly and in others it was too safe.


 I can very understand the theory of don't fix anything that is not broken with Restaurant Two successfully being awarded the hats year in and out but I think it is about time they think about conceptualise their menu the same way they approach their modern dessert platter. 

Address and contact details:

Restaurant Two on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars. A very formal dining environment making it the perfect scene to seal a deal but the safe and rather boring menu did not do it for us. At AUD 140 per pax for the 9 course degustation menu (we got 25% off from our Entertainment Card), we can safely say though, we won't be back soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grub Street @ Samford Road, Brisbane



Having stayed in Brisbane for almost a year an heavily relying on the GPS, we ventured up North again looking for some inspiring breakfast. 


Now unlike an encyclopedia of bloggers in Malaysia where you are updated of every single new place, the place to be and the place to avoid, there aren't too many sources to rely upon. After reading the piece from Couriermail on their top 10 or 12 breakfast spots to visit in Brisbane, we decided to venture North again.


After exploring this part of town where we found Elixir HQ , we decided we will head back to the area and find Grub Street. 


Funny of the day: Although I keep referring to this part of town as a new playground to me, it was only last weekend that I realised Chermside, one of the bigger if not the biggest shopping centre where we waste our hours during the weekends was also up North! So the North is not exactly new to me!


Back to Grub Street. You are greeted in the front door where the open kitchen is and obviously where all the good smell comes from too. Fortunately the dining area is in another room, so that you don't end up smelling like bacon and eggs.


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While coffee isn't as refined as some I have been drinking lately, it is still a decent latte that would not fall out of place in Australia. 


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I ordered the Asian Pulled Pork Omelette with chilli jam, herb salad & black vinegar dressing which sounded like the item to inspire me to go searching for more breakfast places once again. It did not fail me with the similar flavours of a good char kuey teow (minus the kueh teow). While the pulled pork was slightly dry, the result from getting the lean bits, the rest of the dish was flawless. The result from probably an inspiration from South East Asia that was done with enough integrity, if only i can bring in some blanched kuey teow with me. The chili jam was more of a spicy sambal, so an excellent condiment.


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The Haloumi & zuchinni fritters with poached eggs, spinach, za'atar & smoky eggplant was much lighter than my heavy omelette. The fritters were crispy and had a good bite, dipped with the egg yolk and smoky eggplant. I question whether a piece of bread would have been good to mop up any liquid yolk and dip but it seems like it was more than enough for the Wife. 


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The sweet tooth struck again with the choice going to a rhubarb and apple muffin if I remember correctly, not overly sweet, nice chunky pieces of rhubarb and apple, it made for the perfect end.

The place seems more cozier and friendlier, without so much the "snobbish" or "classy" feeling you get in places closer to the city. A place that I would like to come back again since they also change their menu quite regularly.

Address and contact details:


Grub Street on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. The breakfast place that perked up the taste buds, can't wait to find another new breakfast place instead of resorting to stuffing myself silly with dim sum.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunnybank Oriental @ Sunnybank, Brisbane

If you are reading this and you were in Brisbane yesterday, you and I would have felt the sudden change in warm weather; welcoming Spring which is exactly a whole cycle since I landed in Australia. 

With the car thermometer showing 33 degrees, our whole house felt like an oven and we resorted to driving about, looking for a place to eat, preferably with air-con. Our drive yesterday lead us to Sunnybank, with half a mind to buy lotus root to cook soup. The original idea of having ramen at Sunnybank Plaza was dashed after seeing the queue of a dozen people. 

Walking around and seeing a rather mouthwatering menu on display, we walked into Sunnybank Oriental. With quite a number of people inside, it had to be at least half decent. Indeed it was.

Although the menu probably had 50 or more items and we ordered two, i must say we were lucky to order two items that were satisfyingly enough.


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The Wat Dan Hor is becoming quite a staple order when we eat in places that serves one. The love of eating hor fun in an egg based sauce started from the days of university where we frequently visited this place and ordered nothing but Wat Dan Hor. For those wondering what is Wat Dan Hor, it is usually called "Combination Noodles something or rather". While the version in Sunnybank Oriental is not the best, i will happily order this again. 


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When the claypot beef brisket arrived, I was in shock at the portion. For AUD 14.90, the claypot can easily feed two plus the bowl of rice that is filled to the brim. Full of flavour and not overly spiced, even the Wife who will usually shy away at the dish was picking into it happily.  


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Finishing off the meal with a huge glass of "yin yeong" or a glass of milk coffee and tea in one was a good choice. 

After going back to Urbanspoon to look up on this place and reading comments like small portions and average food, I better be thanking my lucky stars that our meal was enormous and tasted above average in my books. 


Address and contact details:

Sunnybank Oriental on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Asian cafe with a huge variety of rice and noodle dishes, not to mention again, huge portions that can you eat half and take away half for your next meal, what more can I ask for? 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Moo Moo The Wine Bar & Grill @ Brisbane

The farewell of a recent friend who decided that her next destination was Melbourne called for a good meal. With the Entertainment Book not being utilised enough, i flipped the book again and decided we were going to have some good steak at Moo Moo. 


A year ago, I told myself that there was no point in eating steak outside. I could easily buy a nice cut of Wagyu Ribeye for AUD 25 that would cost me 3-4 times more to eat it outside. With plenty of practice, I could usually nail the meat the way I like it to be; medium rare. However, something will always be lacking and its that charcoal grill that the restaurants get to use and I must admit another reason why we chose Moo Moos was I secretly want to eat steak outside again. 


With a restaurant that builds its concept around the Cow, you are greeted with a fridge of meat at the entrance that gets you thinking of which cut and area should be on your plate. In fact it should never cross your mind that you should order something non Beef in this restaurant.


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The amuse bouche was a Wagyu meat ball. Not the most creative of starts and lets be honest, no one takes a good cut of Wagyu to make items like meat balls unless its a cut no one wants or its past its prime. Nevertheless, a good bite to start things off. 

Something that irritates me though is that in a fine dining restaurant or a restaurant of this class, why is bread not complimentary but instead as an item on the appetiser list, furthermore at 4 dollars per pax?

With a student amongst the crowd, we were conscious on costs, so we skipped past the appetisers and got straight onto the mains.


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I don't think I have ever tried dried age beef, always cooking fresh cuts. First impression is that the beef is less juicy and the redness of the meat does look a bit more cooked than medium rare. Flavourwise, it was pack a punch. The Moo Moo In House Dry Aged Black Angus Ribeye on the Bone was a good choice for me. However, for 400 grams, it did look a tad smaller on the plate. 

The other steaks we had that night include AACO Wagyu, the Stockland Wagyu and the Cape Grim. From Striploin, Sirloin and Tenderloin, everyone was happy with their steaks. The same problem with one of the Wagyu was again the size. At 300 grams, we expected a thickness worthy of cutting into, but we got a really thin cut instead. 

As you can see, it is served with a simple roast tomato and half a lemon, so it called for some worthy sides.

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A pear, parmesan and rocket salad, some roast potatoes with chorizo and some onion rings (picture below) completed the meal. All very worthy of ordering and we were loving it. Amongst the long list, the truffle mash potatoes was also very tempting. 


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We didn't stay for dessert, opting to have a scoop of gelati at Rosalie but we were "warned" that it was a huge mistake to not order their signature chocolate brownie. Maybe next time.

With the Entertainment Card discount, the final price of around AUD70 per pax including what turned out to be a decent Shiraz (with a markup of almost 250%) is not too bad considering I can never replicate the meal without a proper charcoal grill. 

Address and contact details:

Moo Moo The Wine Bar + Grill At The Port Office on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. With no price advantage the next time we visit, I am told Cha Cha Char is another worthy rival of this place, so it might be a while before I save enough money in the piggy bank to try that one and come back to Moo Moo.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Taste Gallery @ Sunnybank, Brisbane

Having not been to Market Square for a while, it almost seemed like Taste Gallery had magically opened up over night in a spot that I have no memory of what it was before. With the newer restaurants in Sunnybank, this was done up nicely with the open display similar to Ding Tai Fung. Specialising in all things dumpling, the menu surprised me with a glaring omission of noodles. After all, when I think of dumplings like xiao long bao, I think of my handmade noodles too. Instead, Taste Gallery does a myriad of dishes that are meant to be shared and to be accompanied with rice.  


With a small appetite and two other mouths to feed, we opt for a couple of dumplings and some side dishes instead of going all out like a banquet.


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San Cheen Bao is like a steam bun with a meat filling that has been cooked similarly to a wor tip ("dumpling").  So what you get is a crispy bottom and a soft top and when you bite into it, hopefully some of the juices from the filling will spill out. What we got was exactly just that, the way I like it to be.


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Unfortunately, the wor tip or the dumplings was a disaster. You are meant to get a crisp bottom and soft top but the whole dumpling was just hard. The dough texture didn't seem right at all. 


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The xiao long bao was pretty good except for two facts: 1. They expect you to pay extra for ginger slices, a prerequisite for eating xiao long bao and 2. It was not hot enough, almost as if it has been sitting out of the steamer too long. 

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The stir fry rice cake was good but it was this dish that suddenly got me flashing back to the first time we had Shanghainese food in Brisbane, pretty close isn't? Slightly sweet and savoury, it is definitely a better alternative to eating fried rice, an item that I usually avoid at all cost outside. 


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With so many side dishes, I finally settled on a stir fry beef with a copious amount of mayonnaise that was unnecessary. With beef slices in a Chinese restaurant, you can half expect them to tenderise it with baking soda or with something else to that effect. The plus point is that the beef almost requires no chewing.

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Another staple dish that I associate with Shanghainese cuisine is the drunken chicken. Awhile back I attempted to make the same dish and lets just say it will be a while before you see that recipe in this blog as it failed quite miserably. This on the other hand was cooked  to perfection but lacking a sauce and more chinese wine would be appreciated. 

The food that night didn't exactly impress although I have heard more positive reviews if you go in the day (a suspicion that the dumplings are made fresh during the day) vs. eating at night. With a clean decor and slightly above average prices, it is still a good option for those who frequent Market Square. 

Point to note, this place is opened by the same people as Shangpaign Kitchen so if you find yourself wanting to eat some dumplings without wanting to wait for a table, you can always get very similar food, a 5 minute drive away. 

Address and contact details:

Taste Gallery on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars. I am not convinced just yet with the quality of dumplings that night but from the crowd day in and out, I am pretty sure there's a couple of gems in the menu, waiting for me to unearth. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Elixir Coffee HQ @ Stafford, Brisbane

It is wonderful how a casual chat with a local about coffee lead me to this place. With the owners' mother being the first person in Brisbane to open a coffee roasting house yonks ago, it smelled of serious business. Being so excited, we decided to venture to the Northern suburbs one Saturday morning. 


Speaking of the North, we realised that we have never ventured North before, with most of our meals / hang out spots pretty much in Central Brisbane and our Asian cravings down South. Just last week, we visited another promising breakfast spot in the area too, so look out North, I can't wait to see what you got to offer.


Elixir is unlike the pretentious, quirky or soothing cafes we have been visiting so far, situated in a warehouse in an industrial area. With lots of industrial equipment, probably part and parcel of the roasting business, we stepped into the casual cafe, bustling with people.

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The first place that we been to that offered tasting cards was Dandelion & Driftwood, Elixir is the second. At the counter, you should also see a vast display of different coffee beans on offer to buy back too.


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The verdict? One of the best coffees we had this year. Worth the journey up, just for this or maybe the Zambian beans was right up our taste buds.

Foodwise, the menu is rather simple and basic with Italian elements.


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Technically under the Lunch Menu, we ordered the Arancini which was pre-made and heated in the Micro-oven on order. Disappointing because you lose all the hot, crispy batter you expect but dig deep into the filling and it is quite satisfying.


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We have been very "healthy" in the sense that we stay away from white bread. Although, it does say sour dough on the menu, it tasted pretty much like white bread and we loved it, especially with that vanilla bean ricotta spread and that home made raspberry jam. 

Elixir is a serious place for coffee but similar to Dandelion and Driftwood, the food menu is not their forte. However, if you think about the location being in an industrial area, the food menu is satisfying but should be less refined and lack finesse (no offence to the industrial workers), it all pans out. In any case, it shouldn't distract one to visit for the ultimate purposes; the coffee. 

Address and contact details:

Elixir Coffee HQ Espresso Lounge on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. At this rate I am sniffing out the good coffee places, I can actually console myself that I can get as good of a coffee than Melbourne, even though if it means I have to drive a distance for some of them.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guzman Y Gomez @ Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

Over the last months, we have been reading of a wave of Mexican cuisine that has settled into Brisbane but never really got around to trying it out. Mexican is something new particularly to Malaysia with the only options being nachos, fajitas and etc that you get from Chilli's and probably a handful of other restaurants.


In Brisbane, one of the names floating around is Guzman Y Gomez. While it sounds all fancy, it is essentially a fast food outlet that serves Mexican staples; nachos, burrito and tacos and most importantly to others, alcohol. Prices are slightly above your main stream outlets like McDonalds and KFC.


What I like about this outlet at the Emporium is parking, although it is a bit of a hit and miss, since it is quite limited.  


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I think they have gotten their logo right, nice and bright.


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Once you get the expectation that this is a fast food place, the sparse fixtures seems alright.


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The nachos was pretty good; fresh guacamole, beans and beef topped generously on crunchy nachos. 


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Truth to be told, this was the first time i ever had a burrito. What's inside? A choice of chicken, beef or fish, rice and beans, a lovely sauce that ties everything together. While I know of some who are not huge fans of the rice or the beans, I eat anything so this was a good all in one meal. Unless of course, if you need more, you can order some tacos too.


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A choice of hard or soft tacos, the hard one probably tasting like the nachos, the soft tortilla with similar burrito fillings minus the rice I believe. 

Overall, a good introduction to Mexican food even though I do not have a clue as to how authentic this would be. I don't see why I wouldn't come back but that being said, with so many mexican places to try, it might be a while before I pop by for a revisit.

Address and contact details:

Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taqueria Fortitude Valley on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Cheap mexican food with the option of beer to go with it, whats there not to like?