Monday, December 19, 2011

Recent Eats

A quick summary of some of the yummy things I have eaten/cooked in the last few weeks---

Roast pork and salad on our new BBQ- roasting is SO easy in it.

Prawn Pizza at Il Gambero on the Park, Carlton (Our fave Lygon St haunt... has been for years. We used to frequent the old location before it burnt down. But, the new location is more modern with still the authentic Il Gam feel to it, and the food still rocks!)

Proscuitto Pizza at Il Gambero on the Park, Carlton

Pumpkin Gnocchi at Il Gambero on the Park, Carlton

Do it Yourself Mexican at home- hard and soft tacos, mixed salads, taco mince, marinated chicken, homemade guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa. Yummo!

Scotch Fillet with vegies and Cauliflower Mash-loving cauliflower mash at the moment. It is a great low carb alternative to mashed potato. So easy to make too- simply boil cauliflower until soft, and puree with a bar-mix. Then add whatever else you like... I added chives, garlic and some parmesan cheese.

Tofu Burger at Invita (next to Queen Vic Market). This tofu pattie was amazing- the amount of textures and flavours packed into this one pattie made a very nutritious choice whilst on an excursion with school.

My favourite home-made breaky- poached eggs on sourdoah with smoked salmon, avocado, spinach, asparagus and dash of hollandaise. My poor boyfriend never gets his beloved 'eggs and bacon' on a weekend morning anymore, but he really enjoys this healthier option anyways. Such a great start to the day!

Jimbo Muesli- created by the great Jim Stynes himself, who eats a raw food diet as part of his battle with cancer. Filled with unprocessed, untouched nuts, seeds, grains, oats and goji berries, it makes you feel instantly healthier! Another great start to the day... And, thoughts and love are with the creator of this muesli everyday...

Lettuce and Herbs from my Mum & Dad's thriving vegie patch!!! 

And, with Christmas around the corner and a nice long holiday in Malaysia... stay tuned, because the best is yet to come. Wishing a very happy holiday season to all my readers- may you all have safe and wonderful Christmas and New Year.

L x

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Zonzo @ TrainTrak winery- Wedding Function

Last week I attended a beautiful ceremony for the wedding of my fellow foodie cousin at TrainTrak Winery in the Yarra Glen and safe to say, the food didn't disappoint (Although I would not have expected anything else from this couple!) From amazing canapes (think fried artichoke hearts, bruschetta, prawns, arancini... mmmm!) to amazing cured meats and antipasto to woodfired pizzas to 'fall off the bone' roast lamb with vegetables. Oh, and lets not forget the 'cheese' cake- three wheels of cheese stacked on top of each other.
This was the first wedding I had been too, but comparing to what I know of weddings and 'function' food, the food that Zonzo provided was wholesome, hearty and wonderful. Very fitting to an amazing day. Big congratulations to the newlyweds!!

Toyama Japanese, Ivanhoe

There is something so wholesome about Japanese food. I think it has something to do with the amount of raw food they use- from sushi to seaweed salad to the fresh vegetables that are served with the hot dishes. The downside to Japanese food is that the amount of small dishes we tend to order mean that the bill can add up very quickly... but I guess it is somewhat worth it to have a meal where you feel nourished afterwards.

Toyama has been our favourite local Japanese haunt for years. We usually share three or four entrees and a main meal. We always comment afterwards that we wish we had have had ALL entrees, as they really seem be the best part of the meal. So, I thought I would share with you a few of our favourite small share dishes at Toyama.

Agedashi Tofu- one of my favourite foods. The soft beancurd pillows soak up just enough of the beautiful broth.

Okonomiyaki- these soft pancakes stuffed with crisp shredded vegetables are just lovely. The BBQ sauce and mayonnaise topping may sound weird, but the flavour combo is out of this world!

Sushi- I adore sushi. Give me nigiri, handrolls, sashimi along with some ginger and a generous touch of wasabi and I am content. My absolute favourite 'healthy' food. And I strongly encourage those who haven't yet to give the raw fish version a try!!

  Yet another 'Preaching the benefits of Asian food' session from me ;)

L x Toyama on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chin Chin, CBD

When I said in my last post that I managed to cross two restaurants off my wish-list, Chin Chin was very close to my number one restaurant! Chin Chin has been the talk of the Melbourne culinary world since its mid-year opening, and I had tortured myself reading countless blogs about the amazing Asian fusion food that pretty much encompasses my love for gourmet Asian cuisine.

The thing about Chin Chin (and this is probably part of the appeal), is that it is one of those restaurants- where you cannot make a booking. And, because of its wild popularity, it is virtually impossible to get a table for dinner unless you arrive before 5pm. So. after two failed dinner attempts, we arrived at 2pm on Saturday afternoon and were seated immediately in this funky, packed out Asian-style diner for a exciting, flavoursome feast. We chose the suggested 'feed me' option, where for $66 a head the waitress or head chef chooses an exciting array of Chin Chin's most popular dishes. This was an excellent option as the menu had so much to choose from that we would have been spoilt for choice, and the 'feed me' menu we recieved featured many of the dishes we would have chosen anyway. So, we tucked in to what I am going to call (and this is a big call) probably the yummiest restaurant visit I have ever had.

Kingfish Sashimi with Lime, Chilli, Coconut and Thai Basil
Another stand-out kingfish dish, these beautiful, light pieces of raw fish combined with the zestiness of the lime and chilli and creaminess of coconut milk was the perfect starter.

Pork 'Roll Ups' - red braised suckling pig with pancakes, slaw and sour herbs.
A creative spin on rice paper rolls or peking duck pancakes, these little DIY rolls were the perfect balance- that rich, meaty pork with the tart, sour herbs and a plum-like sauce. Yum yum yum.

Roti stuffed with Indian-style beef mince with dipping sauce.
These were like curry puffs... but better! The buttery roti stuffed with spicy beef mince were yummo, but not my favourite dish of the day.

Crispy Barrumundi and Green Apple Salad with Caramalized pork, chilli and lemongrass.
Amazing amazing amazing. This was the stand-out dish. A beautiful crunchy zesty salad of Asian greens and apple, topped with pieces of crunchy battered barrumundi and rich, slow cooked caramel pork. I would eat this again and again and again and again.

Massamum Curry with Beef and Apple Potatoes
This was a great massamum curry... however, after the flavour explosions we had just experienced, it seemed a little heavy and bland. I think we had been spoilt up until here, and for me a heavy curry is something you have as one of one or two dishes, not one of seven!!! I enjoyed it, but could have taken or left it.

Caramelized Sticky Pork with Sour Herb Salad and Chilli Vinegar
I wish we had have got this dish before the curry, because this is my kind of dish. Sticky, crispy marinated pork with a spicy and sour dressing. I would have loved to have fit in more of this, as its just one of those indulgent dishes that you know you shouldn't eat, but life would be so boring without it. Beautiful and balanced, as the vinegar cut through the richness of the pork.

Palm Sugar Ice Cream Sundae with salted honeycomb and lime syrup
The best kind of dessert to finish off with. Even though it was ice cream, it was light and had the consistancy of gelato. The lime syrup cut through the creaminess to give it a real zest which was added to by the crispy honeycomb crunch that added a whole new dimension of texture to it. Just lovely.

I cannot even describe how much Chin Chin lived up to the hype, and seeing it was my third attempt to get in there, I am so glad it did. I can't wait to go back and try the rest of the diverse ranges of dishes they have there. Whilst it is semi-pricey, the dishes are made to share and take you outside the square of what you would normally eat. I cannot recommend an early dinner or a late lunch here enough- do your tastebuds a massive favour. My new favourite restaurant!!!!

L x
Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Hellenic Republic, East Brunswick

This week I haven't had much time to blog- probably because I have been too busy eating... at two of my top ten wish list restaurants. I will start with Hellenic Republic, but make sure you check out my next review, Chin Chin.

Hellenic Republic is one of the several restaurants owned and run by George Colambaris of Masterchef fame. So, seeing how much of a little Masterchef fan I am, this was a pretty cool experience for me. Recently at the Taste of Melbourne Festival, after tasting some amazing food from St Katherines, another of George's restaurants, we signed up for the online VIP type club. Even though signing up to these clubs can be a little annoying due to the spammy type emails, it was on one of these emails that I saw that Hellenic Republic were having a Greek Islands Night event for $100 per person, including four courses and drinks. Yes please! So we booked a table and a couple of months later, off we went to the restaurant/

Now, the only down-side to the entire evening was probably our seating situation. I have no problems with communal tables, and have even had lovely conversations with fellow diners at other restaurants with this style of seating. But the boy and I were the only two diners on a communal table full of Hellenic Republic and Press Club staff. We were sitting next to the sommelier or 'wine guy' for both restaurants, which had me a little awe-struck I must say, and he was welcoming and very friendly. We did feel as though we were intruding on some of the other staff at the table however, and seeing as it was my first time experiencing the food, I did feel a bit dorky sitting at a table with seasoned professionals who had probably eaten there a thousand times- forgive my lack of photos due to this! It would have been different if say, George had turned up and conveniently sat at that table but unfortunately that didn't happen. The wait-staff were very friendly and attentive though, and the head chef even visited us at the end of that long table to ask how our food was.

It was a banquet sharing type situation, and I have never seen so much food in my life!!!

Greek style bruschetta dish, gigante beans, olives.
 The mezze course was preceded by some beautiful sourdough and olives. We were then showered with mezze dishes such as Gigantes (beautiful beans braised in a tomato sauce, I love these!), smoked kingfish (the highlight of the night, this was amazing... they smoke it on site), a Greek take on bruschetta and some chargrilled octopus. Our other favourite was the baked feta with honey and sesame seeds, this was rich and flavoursome. I am planning to try to make my own version of this today! Already we were very impressed!
The seafood course featured a beautiful whole baby snapper where the meat just fell off the fish and melted in your mouth, served with a greek salad and prawn saganaki. The prawn itself was huge and plump and delicious, but the saganaki sauce was a bit bland and it wasn't my favourite dish of the night.

Whole baby snapper
The meat main was huge, indulgent and amazing. We had been able to smell the beautiful aroma of pork belly cooking on the open spit at the front of the restaurant all night, and it did not disappoint. Lovely little medallions of crispy, smoky pork that just melted in your mouth. It was served in a 'do it yourself' souvlaki dish where we were given platters of tzatziki, grain salad, lettuce, pita, fritates (yummy hand-made chips) and the meat and made these lovely souvlaki's with them.

Do it yourself souvlaki with spit roasted pork belly
 By dessert, we were filling very stuffed, but couldn't resist the watermelon salad or the amazing kataifi pastry filled with this amazing salted caramel. I could have eaten five of those little pastries, if only we weren't already needing to be rolled out the door.

Kataifi pastry with salted caramel- amazing!

Watermelon salad- wonderful and refreshing after a heavy meal

In addition to this HUGE meal, for our $100 a head we also got beer on arrival, ouzo, red wine, white wine and a grappa-like digestive. Overall, I was shocked at how value for money Hellenic Republic was. Because of George's fame and its popularity, I expected quality over quantity, not quality AND quality. It would be a challenge to walk out of this restaurant hungry or dissatisfied. Wholesome, traditional Greek food... well worth the stomach ache all that cheese gave me ;)
Yet another wish list restaurant crossed off. Keep an eye on the Hellenic Republic website if you are interested in a similar kind of experience as they are planning to have a gala type evening for a different region of Greece every quarter. I know I will be back to travel once again to a little part of Greece!

L x Hellenic Republic on Urbanspoon