Thursday, March 29, 2012

Joe can cook! Season 2 Episode 6: The most sinful of Carbonara you will eat

We have been cooking quite diligently but more often than not it either involves cooking something so simple i.e. like pan frying some chicken and opening up a bottle of pre-made sauce or use one of the recipes I have shared before. Basically nothing to share on this blog. However there has been one dish that I have been experimenting with and I think I have finally gotten it to a level that is worth sharing; the humble looking carbonara. 


Now I don't know about you but once upon a time, I thought carbonara was that pasta dish with creamy cheese and bacon sauce. It was probably only in recent years that I had what the Italians would call a carbonara, a version without cream. Wait a second, if there is no cream in there, where does the creaminess come from?  

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The creaminess is all in the egg yolks and good pecorino. If you can't get pecorino, you can settle for parmesan. 

So my take on the carbonara (serves 2).

Step 1: Boil water and cook your pasta according to how you want it; al dente preferable.
Step 2: Mix in a bowl, around 50 grams of grated pecorino or parmesan, 2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg, a tablespoon or two of cream (if you like your carbonara to have a bit of sauce). Whisk till its combined. 
Step 3: Pan fry some pancetta or bacon if you like with some garlic. Make sure you pan fry them till most of the oil has extracted from the bacon.
Step 4: Take the pan of bacon and garlic off the heat. Put pasta in and then the mixture you created in Step 2. Mix well. If you find that your mixture is too little vs. the pasta you put in, use the boiling water from the pasta accordingly. 
Step 5: Plate up and put more grated cheese on top if you wish.

If you like, you can add mushrooms to it but that wouldn't be original. 

I am running out of ideas on what to cook and share on this blog. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Proud Mary @ Collingwood, Melbourne

It's back to exploring the Melbourne breakfast scene once again. On a rather cold and raining Saturday morning, we made our way to Proud Mary after hearing how they have this bespoke Synesso coffee machine and serve a mean coffee.


Despite the dreading weather and the location being at the corner of a row of industrial warehouses, half of Melbourne town looked like they made their way here that morning. Faced with a half hour wait, not to mention, the unbearable noise level inside, we said, we will brave the drizzle and sit outside under a big umbrella. It was cold but we got seats straight away, got to chat away without any pressure and we were the only ones making noise. 


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Look out for this sign or the long queue outside.

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After discovering "magic" at St Ali which I am told is a double ristretto shot in slightly less milk than a latte, I was excited to find that they do the same thing here. Cold morning and good coffee, works perfectly. 


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Much has been said about their Mocha and I guess for starters, it is the huge cup it comes in. The Wife finds it too sweet and I didn't try it till it almost become iced chocolate (from the cold weather) so I guess I will take her words for it. 


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Despite the crowd standing outside the cafe and the crowd inside the cafe, the food was surprisingly quite fast. However fast though, I thought the food was slightly rushed. The rosti was not crisp enough on the surface and I am wondering whether they have just cooked it in batches in an oven instead of pan frying it individually to get the surface crispy. Either that or it wasn't too smart putting hot spinach leaves on top of it. I got to say despite my love for bacon, I don't really like eating crunchy ones. The sauce was also slightly too salty. Despite all that complaints, I still polished it off really quickly, after all, I am not one to waste food.   


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The Pork Belly Sandwich was rich, hearty and heart clogging too. The Pork Belly was probably twice cooked, oven and probably flash fried, topped off with condiments I can't remember and buttered toast, this should set you right up for the whole day. 

I loved the coffees here, having also tried one of their syphon coffees too but gosh at $8 a cup, I was lucky not to have ordered 2 cups of that. The food seemed a little rush, whether I forgive that in view of the crowd, I am not too sure. Meanwhile, I am happy to come back just for a quick coffee (and if its ever quiet).

Address and contact details:

Proud Mary on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Another one of the more "famous" Melbourne breakfast / brunch places that excels in their coffees.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Chef Lagenda @ Flemington

The locals say that the people behind Chef Lagenda were originally partners at Laksa King. How true that is, I guessed I haven't bothered to investigate. If Laksa King has so far exceeded expectations (although its been somewhat limited to their curry laksa and prawn mee, their "ipoh" hor fun was sad), wouldn't that mean Chef Lagenda should be just as good?


However its been hard trying to compare apple to oranges; we had dinner here and ordered ala carte dishes while Laksa King has been limited to just the noodles. So till we decide to have ala carte over at Laksa King or have laksa here, I guess I will never know.


Some have said this place is a little quieter than Laksa King but judging from our last visit, it appears to be just as crowded. 


The menu is again split between your noodles and one plate rice dishes and the ala carte menu. You will see the menu is more Malaysian Chinese orientated with familiar items like the pork belly with yam, the assam fish or the curry chicken. If you happen to be from Malaysia, this is one of the better places to have food you will usually get at home. 


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With a choice of white rice, coconut rice or chicken rice; order the coconut one if you want to order the curry chicken. Perfect with lashings of the rich coconut gravy and the tender chicken pieces.


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Wu Tao Kao Yoke or Steamed pork belly with yam is another of my favourites but not exactly the healthiest of dishes. I am not too sure about the yam though, I think it required a bit more cooking. Perfect with rice. 


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We had a stir fry prawns, while every prawn I had was juicy and fresh, we had a couple on the plate that were perhaps past their prime. Lucky me but it also means there's no QC to check whether the prawns have gone bad.


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Its funny how we rarely order Kangkung when we are back in Malaysia but crave for it when we are overseas. So obviously we had to have some done Belachan style. Perhaps not the best but good enough to remind you of home.

Its one of those places you keep in your pockets for the times you want to have a meal that reminds you of home, whether it is the laksa or the ala carte dishes you eat with you family on weekends. 

Beware of the crowd and the noise, it is almost impossible to have a proper conversation here. 

Address and contact details:

Chef Lagenda on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Malaysian Chinese food, anyone?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tom Phat @ Brunswick

Tom Phat isn't exactly your orthodox breakfast / brunch place you would imagine going to dig into a plate of poached eggs, toast and maybe some smoked salmon. The coffee in the machine and the smell of coffee beans suggests that but once you take a seat especially if you are closer to the back, you should notice something quite different.


For one, the sound of the wok in action and occasional flame should pique that interest to look into the kitchen and of course followed by reading the menu.

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Coffees are just as good as any brunch place in Melbourne but see what we had for breakfast!

Back to the menu, you will still find your bacon, eggs and bread but not exactly in the conventional form or dish. Every dish sounds like these items had just come back from a trip to South East Asia. Bacon and eggs can be found in a Roti Omelette while bread comes in the form of a vietnamese baguette or sourdough with some asian jazzed eggs (not really a dish, just for you to get the drift). 

I don't know about Australians but Asians do fancy anything rice whether it is during breakfast, lunch or dinner. My Korean friend eats rice every morning for breakfast. So if you are that typical Asian who sulks at eating bread during brunch, I suggest you come here.

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So what is served with rice? A succulent piece of pork chop that has been marinated with amongst other things; lemongrass. You also get a crispy fried egg to go with your rice. A mild sweet and sour dressing completes the dish. Of course, one must have your vegetables too, a tomato and cucumber salad fixes that up. 

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The Roti Omelette is pretty fascinating even though there is a chance that the Roti comes from a packet. Entwined with a soft silky omelette then topped with a tomato salsa / paste with crispy shallots, this was awesome! Loved every bit of it even if I was stuffed by the end of it and just wanted to go back home and nap. 

Having come from Brisbane where breakfast / brunch comes in a more conventional form, we found it very interesting to see how far some places have taken breakfast items to. Having had English inspired breakfast and now a South East Asian influenced brunch, we are getting quite excited to see what else we will discover. 

Address and contact details: 

Tom Phat on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. It is not exactly authentic South East Asian cuisine but we loved how it has been used to create a whole different breakfast menu. Don't expect and be rewarded.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bakini @ St Kilda Road

The few things I found lacking on St Kilda Road were food and a supermarket until I realised down the street, there was a mini market for those urgent items and a beautiful Italian restaurant downstairs!

Unfortunately, the restaurant downstairs is not exactly a place that serves $10 pastas / pizzas. 

Bakini is quite the opposite, a fancy Italian restaurant with an open kitchen. It is the kind of restaurant that you feel obliged to dress a little. With the dim lighting in the dining area and the spot lights towards the end where the kitchen is, the kitchen is where the show is. Unfortunately or fortunately, there is no Gordon Ramsay in the house and the small team operates quietly and efficiently. 

The menu is not overly huge, a few pasta items, no pizzas sighted and a couple of meat dishes. After having a couple of beers with a old uni friend across at the Belgian Beer Garden, we skipped straight into the mains, a gnocchi with ragu, half a duck and a veal dish. 

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I was quite surprised that they served us an oyster as an amuse bouche. Quite generous of them.

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After a failed attempt to make gnocchi a long time ago, I decided that I would order gnocchi in an Italian restaurant whenever I get the chance. This did not disappoint. Soft and fluffy, it matched well with the rich ragu, well simmered and reduced.  

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The Wife not detered by the fact that the dish said half a duck, ordered with confidence. It was technically half a duck, a duck breast and a duck leg. This is what happens when you don't have a copy of the menu with you, you can't remember what the dish was all about. Poor memory strikes me as I only had a bite and was happily drinking red wine that night too. I do remember it was really tasty but slightly over seasoned. 

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Our friend was checking out the pastry chef and decided to be cheeky by asking the waiter to get the pastry chef to whip up or decide a dessert for him. I decided to give the good old tiramisu a go. Maybe I should have been like him because he got a really good dessert, I remember praline, chocolate ganache, fruit pop rocks, etc. I got a really disproportionate portion of cream vs. soaked lady finger. The consolation was they served us another kind in a shot glass for us to compare and let them know which we preferred. The alternative was much better, a balanced proportion of cream, lady fingers, coffee and liquor. 

Overall, despite being tipsy, we loved our meals. The service was good and attentive. I liked how I got to witness the cooking as well. 

The place isn't overly crowded, having just opened for dinner. The only problem is I can't afford $50-$60 Italian meals on a frequent basis, if not, I will certainly be coming much more often. 

Address and contact details:

Bakini on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. It can't get more convenient than this. The next time friends want to catch up with us, we are certainly going to suggest this place, after all, it is just a lift ride down to the lobby.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cafe Bisqui @ Flinders Street

Coffee has always been quite important to me, especially at the start of a working day. I still remember starting work in my first company back in Malaysia, where we will takeaway ice coffee from the indian / mamak stall which was strong, sweet and even came with foam on some days. A cup would set me back RM2 or A$0.70. When we moved office, we were greeted with the usual Coffee Bean, Starbucks and Gloria Jeans. It got expensive and my coffee habit was reduced to 1-2 a week rather than 1 a day because a cup would set me back RM10 or A$3.30.


Then in my first job in Brisbane, I would stop by one of the better coffee places on the way to work to pick up a coffee everyday and paying dollar for dollar, 4 dollars for a cup seems not overly exorbitant.


Back to Melbourne, I had been trying out coffees around my office, some are slightly out of the way while others are on the way from the tram stop I get off at. After a week or two, I found a quaint little cafe by the name of Bisqui and that was it, I have been visiting them every day for the last couple of weeks. 


Apart from the house blend which tastes pretty good, they also do a single origin that changes every other week. Unlike some places, the single origin doesn't come at a premium price and remains at $3.50 for a regular. If you are a regular, you can sign up for their "reward program" which basically gets you a free coffee after 8 coffees. I am still confused as to why they don't just print cards and get it stamped like traditionalists would do but how it works is you give them your name when you order and they keep records of it in their iPad, oh well. 


We also had an opportunity to try their ham and cheese croissant which was lovely and sufficient for a quick bite before work but back to the coffee, it is well made and consistent, enough to keep me going for the day. 


Did I mention the friendly service too? Nothing like a cheerful and smiling barista / waitress to greet you in the morning.

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I realise that this might not be the best of pictures, especially since he isn't looking too happy but oh well.

Address and contact details:

Cafe Bisqui on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Good coffee, on the way to work, friendly service, nothing else I need to kick start my day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

LuxBite @ South Yarra

It is amazing how facts like Penny Wong, the Australian Finance Minister or Bob Carr's wife or even at one stage Guy Sebastian were born Malaysians would qualify as news in the local Malaysian newspapers. I wonder what is the point of acknowledging them instead of reporting actual news. 


Just on that trend, I am surprised I haven't read an article in a Malaysian newspaper about how LuxBite, a quaint dessert place in South Yarra is making a name in the city of good food. Yes, the owners hail from Malaysia (Oh, I am proud that I am Malaysian).

Anyways, back to Lux Bite. Their concept is really simple, desserts and plenty of them. Not just any plain old dessert but different kinds of cakes / pastries / macarons that looks so beautiful that you can hear them calling out to you. 

We stop by one weekend and to be honest were quite overwhelmed at the display. Finally about 5 minutes of starring, we ordered the afternoon tea set which came with a couple of sandwiches, 5 macarons, 2 desserts and 2 drinks for AUD42. Not the cheapest deal out there but the area isn't a cheap one too.

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The mango cheese cake was light and all of us loved it to bites while the chocolate cake, my choice obviously, was worth every single calorie it has inside it.

Lux Bite is pretty famous for their macarons and particularly asian flavours like Kaya and Pandan. The Kaya one even have a "butter" layer in the middle of the ganache to resemble our typical kaya toast. However, we thought the flavours were a little flat and not prominent enough of the said flavour. Taking a bite into the pistachio and the green tea one, we couldn't get enough of the flavour but tasted sugar more than anything else. There were more successful ones like the salted caramel and peanut butter and jelly were pretty good. The Wife compared to the Zumbo ones and said it was pretty average. 

The sandwiches were a little ordinary too; one came with egg mayo, one with bacon and the other with smoked salmon.

I guess if I were to ever come back, I be happy to take away a couple of desserts (there were so many more we wanted to try) which are around the A$8-10 per piece and might give the macarons another go (A$2.50 a piece (I think) and see if our experience was an one off. 

Address and contact details:

LuxBite on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Had we just tried the cakes with coffee, I think the rating would have been much higher.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Laksa King @ Flemington

Ask people where to get a good curry laksa and you are likely to get Laksa King as an answer, well at least that's where the Wife suggested one afternoon after she decided to google "Where to get good laksa in Melbourne". 


Occupying the corner lot on the street opposite the train station, this is convenient for those who don't have a car. Whether it was packed because the laksa was good or because it was easy to get to, we couldn't tell when we first walked in. Luckily we went slightly later at 2pm and with all Asian eateries, the turnaround time is tremendously quick and in no time we had a table to ourselves. 


It was sort of a no brainer that we would have to order the curry laksa because that was the reason we came here. 


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Verdict? It was good. Creamy coconut broth which wasn't overly spicy and came with a range of ingredients (since I ordered the combination). Love the touch of eggplant and the kaffir lime leaves (I think), otherwise the rest of the items i.e. noodles, chicken and prawns were standard.

Not satisfied with one bowl between the both of us obviously, we ordered a prawn noodle or the penang hokkien mee as some call it. 

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It was like hitting jackpot, the prawn noodles delivering all the right notes of a typical prawn noodle. Rich prawn and pork broth with a couple of prawns. Again not overly spicy too. I had fun slurping and finishing up the soup. Memory fades me because I can't remember whether I was thirsty or not after the meal but as a pre caution, don't do what I did. 

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Wash it all down with an iced tea with pearls. My suggestion? Skip the pearls, there were hard and not soft and chewy. The tea was good though.

Overall, good for a quick meal of noodles and I also spot quite a fair few ala carte dishes that you can order with rice. The massive crowd may mean you got to book a table in advance or just risk having to wait. 

Address and contact details:

Laksa King on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Based on what we had, it was brilliant, classic noodle dishes that are pretty close to the original ones you get in Malaysia. Of course, you can't convert the prices. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Duchess of Spotswood @ Spotswood

Keying the address onto our GPS and we immediately realised we were going to another side of town. The last few places have been on the North side but we were heading West for a change. It looked like heading into a new direction wasn't the only thing that was new that day.


The Duchess of Spotswood isn't exactly on the busiest of streets. Not too many shops are opened and not too many people walking on the streets. Walk inside the cafe and you realise thats where all the people are. I am not exactly the most patient of people but by now I take it that a 10-15 minute is almost compulsory if the food is good.


Looking at the menu, you could almost see my eyes sparkle and grinning away as I read on. The breakfast items here sounds as sinful and rich as it can get. With pork jowl, ox tongue or smoked salmon fillet served along side truffle sauce and/or fried eggs; if you wanted to fill up your daily calories in one meal, this is the place to go to.


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The coffee was good as almost expected in a Melbourne cafe. I reckon it would be close to a death sentence if you served a bad coffee here. 

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The Wife took pleasure in ordering some tongue. After always having it either in a Korean or Japanese restaurant, we wondered how it would be like on a breakfast dish. Well, I think in this case, the tongue was cut a little too thick. While most of our experience tells us that its meant to be a little chewy, this was almost melt in your mouth like. The smell was also rather prominent but eat it along with the truffle sauce and the heavenly sourdough, the only word I can think of is yum. 


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The pork jowl was cooked and served like SPAM but bite into it and you can clearly taste the difference and feel the textural difference. The fried egg and that truffle sauce was heavenly even though I couldn't have imagined how much sodium was on the plate. My only complaint was that the bread was so good that one piece wasn't enough to go with the rest of the plate. 

To prevent myself from going back to sleep, an espresso shot was in order. I rarely drink espresso shots but this one had a rather salty end to it or maybe there was still excess salt in my taste buds. 

If you are on the look out for something different and want a rich and satisfying breakfast, this is the place to go. 

Address and contact details:

Duchess of Spotswood on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Just when you think you have seen all kind of breakfast dishes, this place proved me wrong big time. Hearty and rich portions, not advisable for sodium intolerance and those looking for something healthy (even though they have healthier options that what we ordered). 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Three Bags Full @ Richmond, Melbourne

Every weekend is like a mini foodie adventure for the Wife and I. It's been a mix of checking out new places to eat and cooking at home. The good or bad thing about Melbourne is the flood of food reviews you can get your hands on. Admittedly while I enjoy reading them, too many chefs spoils the soup, so there's always that judgement call to say "we will go there" or "nah, it doesn't look promising". 


I remember Three Bags Full quite well because after my average experience in St Ali, with the exception of their coffee, one of my readers said I should give these guys a go instead. Guess what, that weekend, we did just that.


Three Bags Full is a big place. It looks like there's two separate dining areas and if I have a tip for you, the smaller one next door is a quieter and more pleasant place to be. 


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It was one of those rare occasions that I actually remember to bring my camera, more the reason since I got myself a new lens for it.


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Deciding that coffee was not for her, the Wife, she settled on some juice, watermelon and a few other kinds in one. Refreshing and it makes you want to drink fresh juices everyday till you realise you got to buy a juicer first.


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Weekday or weekend, I need my coffee and it was a good coffee. 

Their breakfast menu compared to some of the more adventurous places we had recently is more conventional. Not to say, it is necessary bad at all.


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Its nothing fancy and to be honest had no idea why the Wife ordered mushrooms, spinach, avocado, tomatoes and poached eggs. I guess it was in conjunction with the juice, a way of comforting the mind and body that this is detox. She did mention the mushrooms were pretty good although I caught her glancing at my breakfast a few times.


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Beetroot tainted and smoked salmon with corn fritters was more like for me. The fritter was hearty and was more of the softer variety and definitely one of the bigger ones I have seen and eaten. All in all, scrumptious. You can't really taste the beetroot in the salmon but had the right balance of smokiness. 

The service was pretty good although if you dine in the main area, it might be different. The food and the ambience was lovely. If there is one problem though, there's so many breakfast places to try before coming back, so Three Bags Full, will you wait for me to return?


Address and contact details:


Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Except for being too busy, there's nothing not to like about this place.