Gazi: Greek Funtimes

16 Aug
Terracotta pot lined ceiling

Terracotta pot lined ceiling

IMG_1895[1]Its been a while since DDO posted – not necessarily a reflection of suddenly becoming hermits, but more of the fact that our little one has sucked up any spare time (and energy) that we previously had for blogging…but I digress.

So to celebrate our (N&J’s) recent wedding anniversary (4 years!), we paid a visit to Gazi – the latest slightly schizophrenic, neon clad addition to George. C’s already bursting culinary empire.  Whilst it was probably the complete opposite to the romantic venue we had hoped for (a la Jacques Reymond, which by the way is closed on a Sunday) it wasn’t a poor choice food-wise, and given J’s selective auditory issues (i.e. I usually have to repeat everything I say at least once) shouting across the table was no divergence from the norm (although I do blame the noise for ordering a cocktail with ouzo in it – either that or the waiter omitted this ingredient).  But if you do value your space, the place will probably induce claustrophobia, with tables so close that even the wait staff have difficulties passing through – the terracotta pot lined ceiling, whilst visually impressive, don’t really help to create the illusion of space either (to quote J: ‘I don’t get the pots – it’s a health and safety hazard’).

So noise and space aside, the food (self described Greek street food), whilst being good, is probably very far from being authentic, and is certainly not priced as street food.  There is also a slightly over-priced wine list, which is certainly a little adventurous with its Greek offerings (we went for a Bordeaux red, which J said tasted fine, but to my ouzo inflicted tastebuds, was a little bit too spicy?).

Saganaki

Saganaki

Taromasalata and Prawns

Taromasalata and Prawns

To start we ordered the Taramosalata dip – which comes dotted with broken prawn crackers and a small serving of fluffy flat bread. YUM.

We also ordered some Ethnika Vromika (Hellenic Dirty Food) Saganaki and prawns which wasn’t really ‘dirty’ at all, and unfortunately not much to write home about – I much prefer the basic (and ‘dirtier’) versions served at tavernas like Jims.

Lamb Cutlets

Lamb Cutlets

From the ‘Wood Fired Grill’ we ordered some lamb cutlets (priced per cutlet) – which were tasty but a little bit too fatty for my liking, and J had half a corn cob, which came glistening with butter (or perhaps olive oil) and topped with cheese, and by all accounts was delicious.  At the same time our side – a big fat plate of thick chips – was served up, golden and crisp.

At this point I am slightly dreading the sight of our Souvlakakias (I was suffering some abdominal discomfort from a mild case of gastroenteritis passed on from the little one – the lunch we had earlier at Matteo’s was a struggle…) which arrive momentarily – lucky they are small compared to the traditional souvo bar offering.  J had the beef brisket and I the chicken.  Both were wrapped in fresh fluffy flat bread and came stuffed with shoe string fries (turns out we really didn’t need those aforementioned chips! – although no one told us that).  The meat inside both were delicious and quite succulent, although I probably preferred the beef brisket.  There are less traditional souvlaki options such as duck and crab for the more adventurous that we didn’t get to sample this time around.

IMG_1893[1]

Fat Chips

IMG_1892[1]

Soulakakias

 

No dessert for us – as both J and I are well and truly stuffed – but the menu is certainly varied with modern takes on traditional favourites such as rice pudding (Risogalo Jar which comes in a smoking glass pot) and Loukomathes (cocoa nibs, honey as described on the menu).  For those wanting a smaller sweet snack, there are ION chocolate bars and blocks from the Periptero (Greek Milk Bar) on offer.

If you’re after a fun night with a bit of a gimmicky menu, then Gazi is your place – vibey, good food in a good location.  Personally, if I want good Greek food or a stinky souvo, I am pretty happy with my favourite tavern / souvo bar.

Gazi

2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

http://gazirestaurant.com.au

+61 (3) 9207 7444

Bistro Guillaume

8 Nov

It’s birthday season – when I say season I mean it… managed to drag out this twenty something birthday with a whole week of eating drinking and being extremely excessive.  And as tradition would have it the DDO duo once again indulged and so celebrated with a feast at Bistro Guillaume at Crown.  I’m choosing not to bore you with the details, but thought visual show and tell of our glorious 4 hour dinner would be of interest!  I suggest putting on a bib… images may provoke excessive drooling…

The famous silk light features

Steak Tartare

Escargot persillade

Rack of lamb on a bed of ratatouille, tapenade and zucchini flower

Barramundi with carrot and ginger purée, coriander butter and pommes allumettes

Beef Daube – braised beef cheek

Leg of duck confit with brussel sprouts, spring onions and speck

Tea served with Guillaume green macaron and Passionfruit Creme Brulee

Dark Chocolate, salted caramel and hazelnut tart with raisin ice cream and lemon tart

Happy Birthday!

Bistro Guillaume

Crown Entertainment Complex

(03) 9292 4751 

The Meatball & Wine Bar

2 Oct

The mid week hump can be as much a glorious occasion as a rather excruciating one.  So depending if you’re a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person, you’ll most likely read the next sentence and be thankful that I’m becoming increasingly lazy at writing about my dining experiences and would much rather just show you photos (coz lets be real… I am THAT Asian you frown upon in the latest eatery too busy taking photos of everything on the table before allowing anyone to eat!)  This particular hump day turned out to a be rather glass half empty kind of night… I’d begun my evening at an ‘art show launch’ … i don’t have enough eye rolls and i don’t know how to insert emoji’s on wordpress to illustrate my lack of excitement!!!

So a (very bad) cheap wine later I left the artists/VCA students/hipsters to meet my favourite people N and Z at the newly opened Meatball & Wine Bar for a feed in good company!  My glass was finally on the verge of getting filled!!

We arrived (after a short wait in which I began my glass filling with a proseco on the house at GoGo bar) t0 a friendly waiter and prompt service.  I can’t be bothered talking about the lovely, very USA style interior!  Going to cut straight to the Balls!!

There’s a few options with the Meat Ball menu.  You can get it just balls and sauce, or Balls and All which entails balls, sauce and some sort of substantial base (i.e. something carbie) to go with the slice of bread that comes with the balls.  We decided to start with a Burata, and chose a balls and all situation each (weirdly enough, I was the one that chose the Vegetarian option.  Obviously my stars were out of whack that day and even my brain had given in by choosing the vegetarian over meat).  Our meal went something like this:

500ml 09 Montepulciano, Abruzi $30

Burata $16.50

Veg- Cauliflower, Chick peas, Corriander with Pesto sauce $18

Pork balls served with red italian sauce and italian beans $18

Beef balls with creamy polenta $18

Whoopie Mac: Pistachio macaroon ice cream sandwich $11.50

All in all, I’m not likely to rush back – although the novelty of the place makes it worth trying.  To continue my downer glass half empty mentality, I’m going to say I’ve most certainly had better meat rolled into a ball!  The Balls and All situation was kind of dry and the ball to sauce ratio wasn’t quite right – it would have been better with a more generous serving of sauce.  Thank god for the exceptional company, lovely interior (which brought back warm and fuzzies of living in the states) and a good carafe of wine… the only saviours to an otherwise rather underwhelming hump day!

(Oh and a word of warning if you are going for the whoopie pie – its massive!!!)

 

The Meatball & Wine Bar

135 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

(03) 9654 7545

Ten minutes by tractor

22 Aug

Having not known what it means to have a weekend off in what seems an eternity, I relished in being able to join in when N + J  very generously offered to take us all out for lunch.  It was actually more for my Grandma, who came down from Hong Kong to spend time with us, and most importantly, the new little bundle of joy grandchild… but i’m going to see it as a reason to enjoy a weekend off, over a long boozy lunch and wear my new shoes (no place like a winery to break in my new 6 inch) !!

N + J organised lunch at Ten Minutes by Tractor, a restaurant out Mornington way, one of many great wineries in the region.   The place was sleek and rather modern, with amazing views of it’s vineyards.  Also very high heel friendly with its wonderfully paved entrance!  Clean and minimal in it’s interior, the place wasn’t too big so it still felt cosy without feeling like you were in a tin of sardines.   I’d like to say so far so good… but i’m yet to be offered to have my coat hung…

Each table had an Alessi center piece (i thought for bread but actually it was just for colour) and clear condiment disks…

When bread is served each disk is filled with olive oil, salt and the smallest for butter

The ends of my jacket remained dragging on the floor for the duration of the meal, though thankfully for them, I have the attention span of a sparrow and am quickly distracted and rather entertained by the fancy clear disks on the table and the bread basket that is offered around the table…

Warm Olive, sour dough and multi grain rolls

Olive bread roll

So service is a little slow to start.  But once we get the ball(s of dough… ) rolling, we get our wine, menus and settle in for a nice 2 course meal.  There is quite a lot on offer, including a 6 course degustation, as well as a full A la Carte menu with entrees, vegetarian, and a mains section that is full of what I’m assuming to be ‘from the garden’ (judging by the size of the menu with most of it being dedicated to explaining where every single last food component is from…) Again!  Short attention span!  My eyes instinctively pick up on words ‘tuna & scampi’ and ‘duck’!

Sashimi tuna, sautéed scampi, saffron aioli, cucumber purée, confit tomato, sauce fresca

So this was my glorious entree! Don’t let those seemingly small blobs of food fool you! That sweet sweet succulent little scampi is cooked wonderfully.  Still full of that natural sea sweetness and the texture was a perfect mixture of melt in your mouth without being chalky.  (Nothing sends shudders down my spine like an overcooked crustacean).  The tuna part was fresh!  Taste as raw tuna should… gotta say though, amidst that jumble of crap, the tuna didn’t really speak for itself or stand out.  Not even the apple shavings gave it life… thinking about it and the rest of the lack lustre meal kind of makes me want to do ANYTHING  but talk about it.  So, from here on in I’m going to give in to my sparrow attention span and just show you the rest of the entrees in pictures:

Mushroom velouté, pumpkin mousse, pumpkin crumble, celeriac, pearl barley

With the veloute added

Roasted quail, Jerusalem artichoke risotto, chestnuts, dates, truffle marshmallow

Granny’s Blue Cheese open ravioli, buckwheat pasta, parsnip purée, hazelnut vinaigrette, parsley juice

Most notable of the entrees was actually the Mushroom (… saying a lot.  Given my usual penchant for having selective taste buds for anything that isn’t a vegetable…).  That fragrant Veloute added around the cluster of mixed mushrooms was the perfect collection of textures, the round disc of pumpkin adding a sweet balancing situation to the fungus party!

Now onto mains:

I went with the Duck, which was pretty much duck with bits of duck… even a duck jus!  Again, this looked beautiful but I was disappointed to find the duck to be a little over cooked.

Sous vide duck breast, duck leg croquette, savoy cabbage, cider apples, duck jus

Actually on second thought, despite being well done, the Sous vide breast was still relatively tender and not too dry.  The Croquette was well done, with that sesame crust giving it a good nutty after taste.  Everything else on the plate was better to look at than to swallow… (Sorry i’m making this sound almost uneatable!! It wasn’t!  It just wasn’t anything to write home about… or in this case, write a blog…)

Again, I’m going to just post the images of everyone else’s mains (there’s only 2 as we all doubled up on orders):

Lamb rump, braised shoulder, white beans, eggplant, lamb jus

Special: Wagyu beef, braised beef cheek, sweet potato crisps and some sort of creamy mash

The beef was actually pretty tasty.  Unfortunately, we didn’t stay for dessert due to a bit of an altercation whilst our plates were cleared… (basically the waiter was being lazy and decided to shove past the extremely small gap between the pram and the waiters station instead of going around.  J cracked it and called him an inconsiderate idiot.  We did not ask for the dessert menu.)  We decided to drive to T’Gallant Winery down the road for the after party…

I think all in all, this place could be amazing.  It’s a lovely area, the venue is new, modern and extremely high heel friendly (happy to report no ankles were snapped throughout the lunching adventure) and the food presentation is brilliant.  But there just seemed to be something missing… like some seasoning… and personality!

Ten Minutes by Tractor

1333 Mornington Flinders Road
Main Ridge, Victoria 3928 Australia

Office + 61 3 5989 6455
Restaurant +61 3 5989 6080

Brother Burger & the Marvellous Brew

18 Aug

Its been a bit quiet on the DDO front, but that’s what having a little one does. Not that we have stopped dining out completely, but dining options (read pram friendly) and time is limited when there is a little one dependent on you pretty much 24/7. So the past weekend JP and I decided to take a bit of time to ourselves to celebrate 3 years married and apart from the fine dining (at Ezards which we thoroughly enjoyed) we also did a quick and dirty option which on this occasion meant burgers (because lets face it, how do you enjoy a burger dripping with sauce with a baby) at the newly established Brother Burger & the Marvellous Brew. Arriving for an early dinner, we eagerly headed in through the black door underneath the neon burger at the side of the large site that used to house Retro and Eat Drink Man Woman. Brother Burger inhabits the back section of the cavernous site (the front will be home to an Argentinian bakery of sorts – yet to open), and despite the new use of space, it still feels rather large. Inside the open kitchen runs the length of the room, bar stools lined up against the countertop with booth style seating against the windows.

We settle into a seat next to the window and are promptly greeted with some menus, which apart from the burgers, offers some entrees, counter meals and desserts that represent a modern take on traditional (daggy) Australian pub fare (think Chicken Kiev, the Pie Floater and Seafood Mornay).

We started with the Corn Hush Puppies – essentially corn fritters – which whet our appetites for more, and we weren’t disappointed.

Corn Hush Puppies

The burger offering is generous, with bacon, egg, cheese, pineapple as optional extras. For those not wanting the wagyu beef patty, there is a chicken, a fish and a vegetarian offering. Yes – the Magic Mushroom is just that and does not come with a patty (clearly having a child has killed some brain cells of mine – as that is the only way I can explain how I came to order the vegetarian offering). Despite my mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed the crumbed mushroom and the juicy peppers that were squashed between the fresh buns. The goats cheese provided a refreshing bite which finished off the burger beautifully. JP opted for the Royal Blue which came oozing blue cheese goodness all over that juicy wagyu patty. The only (small) complaint would be that it was impossible to eat the burger without dripping those tasty juices everywhere – but that’s to be expected with a fresh burger offering.

The Magic Mushroom (Onion Rings at back)

The Royal Blue

A side of onion rings (HUGE!!) and french fries (hmm satisfactory, but not crispy enough for me) rounded out our feast. We did consider getting the lettuce (for maybe one split second), but let’s face it, any goodness harnessed from a few green leaves would be cancelled out by one onion ring alone. All in all a great meal – here’s hoping that Brother Burger lasts the distance.

(P.S. as the name suggests there is also a good selection of Victorian artisan beers, including a Stout from Hargreaves Hill, as well as a couple of wine options)

Brother Burger & the Marvellous Brew

413 Brunswick Street
, Fitzroy (03) 9419 0088

Firechief

21 Jun

After a what felt like a very long departure from pre-baby (i.e my ‘normal’)life, the new mama finally ventured out into the world, celebrating her first night off with the girls (J, Z and L)at local eatery Firechief - the freshly baked ‘bun’ stayed home with dad.

Fried Calamari

Having perused the extensive pizza menu – pizzas are served in three styles: authentic naples style, modern artisan ‘hand styles’ and the Australian family pizza (think flavours like the Aussie and Meatlovers) – we were all pretty excited to give this new pizzeria a go.  There is also a good list of non-pizza things to choose from including a few pastas which unfortunately we didn’t get to sample, given the pasta-phobe amongst us.

To start we chose the calamari which comes fried in a light batter and served with a  tzatziki style dip.  Simple and fresh, it was the perfect appetizer ahead of the main event – the pizzas (oh and a side of tomato salad for good measure – light and fresh to balance the carb fest we were about to begin)

Naples Style Margherita

Artisan Funghi

We opted for a Naples style Margherita, artisan hand style Funghi and Calabrese.  The Margherita was my personal favourite – the balance of the sweet and slightly tart tomatoes in the napoli sauce base and the creaminess of the buffalo mozzarella was a wonderful combination topped with fresh basil.

Artisan Calabrese

The Funghi and Calabrese were tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary.  The artisan hand style pizzas had a thicker base, which we found to be a bit too doughy – not great if you want to take your time and pick at the pizza because you then end up with one big gooey, chewy mess.  The Naples style was much better.

Leatherwood Honey Pannacotta

Although feeling absolutely stuffed after our carb loaded feast, we all suddenly found new stomachs for dessert.  We ordered three to share (if you ask my DDO counterpart Pannacotta doesn’t count as a dessert…read on and you’ll find why I’m right).

Orange Torta

Deconstructed Tiramisu

We chose the Leatherwood honey pannacotta, Orange Torta and the dessert special which looked like a deconstructed tiramisu.  The pannacotta was light in flavour – in fact it tasted a little like leather, so wouldn’t recommend it.  The Orange Torta was lovely, served with some cream – it was fresh and not too sweet, and the right sort of slightly moist (sorry J I can’t think of another word to describe it) and crumbly texture.  The deconstructed tiramisu was surprisingly good – served in a glass, it reminded me of trifle, except this one was a mix of chocolatey, coffee and alcoholic goodness.

All in all, a great night was had.  Whilst the pizza didn’t exactly blow my socks off, Firechief is certainly a good dining option for where it is, and next time I will try the pasta! (Plus its BYO AND big enough to fit a large pram!!!)

Firechief

169 Camberwell Rd
Hawthorn East VIC 3123

(03) 9831 1700

McConnell Marathons

1 Jun

Sorry for the absence!! It seems DDO have been too busy eating or breast feeding to properly document our culinary adventures of late!  But rest assured… we are still eating… rather excessively in fact!  So whilst the other part of DDO is busying herself tending to the little chub – little babe is gaining the weight of a block of butter every couple of weeks! – I thought I’d give y’all a little look into what I’ve been stuffing my face with in her absence from society!

I’m going to start with an oldy but a goody!  It’d been a successful week on the fitness front and i’d just completed my second workout session at the gym.  Feeling pretty excited by my commitment to working on my fitness I thought i’d treat myself to CUMULUS INC… Something about cold weather and craving carbs!  I needed some of that Fried Bread that Cumulus does so damn well!  I called my favourite mid week dining companion Z to help celebrate my new found lease on life.

Filling the Void: Fried Sour Dough!

I don’t know how Z felt about this bread.  Especially given how much I harp on and on about this stuff, but I enjoyed it!!  This was Z’s first time at Cumulus so I let her do most of the decision making (bar the bread and cauliflower salad).  We decided to get 2 starters, 2 mains and a salad.

Smoked mussels, escabeche $9

First to arrive were the smoked Mussels, with the escabeche giving it a nice vinegar-y kick!  Soon after came the soft shell crab which came with lettuce for wrapping up, and kewpie mayo!

Fried soft shell crab, kimchi, lettuce & kewpie $18

I’ve always been partial to soft shell crab!  Only because you generally, you can’t really f*** it up!  Having said that, credit to Cumulus for getting their batter/crab piece size ratio perfect!  SO many textures and flavours topped with smooth sweet Kewpie!  Winner!

Tuna tartare with crushed green pea salad $32

I think by this stage i’m already getting pretty full, and rather boozy.  Some thing about exercise and making you get drunk really quickly…? The Tuna Tartare came at a good time though, as it’s cold, and light.  I forgot almost instantly about my almost full stomach …

Roast Aylesbury duck breast, toasted grains, lentils & quince $36 (back) & Cauliflower Salad

The duck was delicious and completely unnecessary.  And while  I’ve always been a firm believer of not winning friends with salad, for this Cauliflower salad, I always make an exception!  There’s a bit of greenery, a good smack of paprika… those mouthfuls where you get the pop of pomegranate and pine nut crunch!  It’s a pretty good mouth party!

I left feeling it was all a pretty great way to celebrate my new found fondness for working on my fitness and discovering the genius invention that is ‘skins’.   Sadly, I have since fallen off the fitness train.  But I am still wearing my skins, and eating out!

Our next adventure was also an Andrew Mc Connell establishment.   This time we decided to take new DDO mum out on the town while getting a rest from baby duty, with Little L, Z and I meeting her at the newly renovated The Builders Arms Hotel.

Bread & butter

It didn’t take long for us to settle in, order some wine and get our orders in!  It’d been a while since we all got to hang out and try somewhere different, so amidst me losing my shit over the bread being served  (…yeh don’t get too excited!  It LOOKS like fried bread… but it paled in comparison to that of Cumulus… think it was just a regular sour dough!) and trying to participate in the verbal diarrhea happening at the table, we almost let the waiter open a Magnum bottle of  Valpolicella!

We’d ordered the 2010 Ca’Rugate Rio Albo Valpolicella, which the waitress somehow assumed we meant ‘bring us the biggest bottle of it you have!’.  Love a night out with my girls, but I personally don’t want to imagine the state of us (we’re kind of small, driving and 75% of us asian…) after having 1.5 Litres of wine!

Anyway, crisis averted, normal sized wine served, back to the talking at each other and food on its way!

Pig ear scratchings $6

We decided to get an appetizer and an entree to share.  Between the Pig Ear Scratchings and the Roast Chicken Hearts on the menu, I was right in assuming no one would be into eating hearts…which was annoying because I was sooo intrigued by the tiny little things!!  No matter.  The Pig Ear scratchings were given the go ahead and were tasty, salty and crispy!  We also ordered the Corned duck, raw brussels sprouts and prune ($16) which I have no idea how, but I decided not to take a photo of it.  Come to think of it, I can’t even remember what it tasted like… I guess that’s enough said…?!! (The other DDO – it was amazing! raw brussel sprouts were delicately sliced and surprisingly tasty and the duck was pretty amazing)

Fish pie, smoked trout, prawns, hapuka, sorrel $32

For main’s, both N and I decided to get the Fish Pie (it’s seems N has grown soft since her recent birth giving, and has now relaxed on her ‘everyone order something different’ rule).  It was a very generous serving, with really big, fresh chunks of trout and hapuka in a béchamel type sauce inside.

Z and Little L went for the Dry Aged, grass fed Rib Eye, Cape Grim 800g ($69) to share (that big chunk of meat in the back of the photo) which by all accounts looked cooked to order (Rare!  Of Course!!) and juicy.  We also ordered the obligatory side of fries and baby cos.  Z couldn’t finish her steak, but feedback was positive from both of them.  We all sit back rubbing our rather over stuffed bellies as they clear our well demolished dishes… until the suggestion of dessert seems to magically revive us instantly.

Poached meringue, frozen curd, sour quince jelly $14 (front) & suet pudding

We share the poached meringue and the suet (i.e. animal fat – really) pudding special which the waitress convinces us is the BEST thing on the menu.  Thankfully for her, we aren’t instantly turned off at the sound of animal lard baked into a small cake… because that’s all I remember of the little syrup covered cake to the back.  And she was right!  While the meal wasn’t bad, I think the only redeeming factor of this whole meal (from start; with the lack luster bread, and almost catastrophic mis-serving of the magnum to finish) was in fact this dessert.  You probably won’t see me rush back to the Builders Arms in a hurry….but if I had to, it would be for that pudding.  Animal fat – baked and served with cream!

Cumulus Inc- 45 Flinders Lane  Melbourne VIC 3000 | (03)9650 1445
The Builders Arms Hotel- 211 Gertrude Street  Fitzroy VIC 3065 | (03)9419 0818

Brito Mart – Auckland, NZ

5 Mar

Nestled amongst industrial buildings and mid-rises in Auckland city, hidden from the waterfront, is Brito Mart, a great example of the burgeoning arts / fashion / foodie scene in Auckland.  Having traipsed around the city in the search for a trendier dining venue, my colleague (AC) and I arrived at Brito Mart train station without a clue as to where this supposed hipster nirvana could be found.  Certain that the SubWay and local train coffee shop were not the Brito Mart we set out to discover, we circled the vicinity several times and were just about to give in when a small black sign pointed us to a Vietnamese restaurant housed in an old industrial building.  And suddenly Brito Mart revealed itself.

Consisting of a handful of trendy restaurants, bars and independent boutiques, Brito Mart showcases the best of NZ talent, and whilst the idea is not entirely unique (cue the recent spate of ‘pop ups’, food vans, etc.) it was certainly a welcome discovery for AC and I as we were quickly tiring of our favourite haunts (e.g. The O’Connell Bistro – the rabbit pappardelle was a favourite!).

Having scoped out the offerings and keen to give our feet a rest (in particular for me the preggie lady) we settled on Ebisu – a modern Japanese joint housed in a cavernous warehouse space just across the road from the water.  Now you may think that Japanese is an odd choice for a pregnant lady, but having perused the menu there was plenty of cooked foods on offer (and thank you to AC who refrained from tempting me with my only pregnancy craving – raw fish).

Built mainly around the concept of izakaya style eating (adapted to modern NZ tastes of course) we shared agedashi tofu, soft shell crab, smoked eel sushi, pork belly and for dessert the most divine little apple donuts.  All came beautifully presented on an assortment of sleek japanese crockery – visually it was a win already!

Agedashi Tofu

Soft Shell Crab

Smoked Eel Sushi

The agedashi tofu was s real highlight – 5 perfect blocks of firm but soft tofu, lightly battered and with a drizzle of the sweet sauce (not swimming in sauce as is the commonly served dish in your average Japanese joint), topped with thin slivers of spring onion.

The soft shell crab was incredibly fresh and juicy.  Perfectly touched with a light smattering of batter (rather than smothered) and served with a light mayonnaise it needed nothing else – any more condiments would have ruined that beautiful crab flavour.

The sushi was average at best – although the other sushi and sash ini which we saw served at other tables looked fresh, the eel was not a strength on this night.

Pork Belly

Pork belly came as 5 cubes of tender (but not falling apart) blocks of meat with a light soy / teriyaki glaze.  Whilst it was tasty, the sauce overpowered the dish little and the consistency across the 5 cubes was not great.  My first piece was quite solid, not quite melt in the mouth but with a bit of bite to it.  My second piece was almost entirely fat – to the point of not being really consumable.

Apple Donuts

No meal is complete without dessert, but given we were both quite full, AC and I decided to share the apple donuts – and i am sure glad we did.  Piled high in a little bowl with a side of oozy chocolate sauce and ice-cream, the sugar covered golden parcels looked delectable.  Biting into the donut, one was surprised to find a juicy chunk of apple – with barely any dough at all.  The sweetness of the sugar coating and the slightly tart apple provided a fantastic flavour combination and made you feel just a little less guilty about consuming deep fried balls of dough.  I am not really one for desserts generally, but this really hit the spot!

Impressed by our first Brito Mart experience, AC and I ventured back the next night to try some more Auckland delights.  This night we settled on tapas at Agents & Merchants – although once again we had trouble locating it in one of the lane ways of the precinct (it almost made it feel like we were in Melbourne – almost).  Rustically fitted out with old wooden floors, booth seating and french louvered windows, Agents & Merchants is really more a bar serving up some good share plates. AC and I shared an assortment of small plates, including meatballs, arancini, grilled eggplant and the requisite bread and dips (pesto, olive tapenade and harissa) – and whilst nothing to write home about, it was a perfectly comfortable place to spend a couple of hours winding down.

Its a shame it took us so long to find Brito Mart – out f the 5 weeks spent in Auckland, we only managed to find it on the last two nights. Nevertheless its definitely worth a visit for a bit of NZ shopping, wining and dining!

Ebisu

116-118 Quay Street  Auckland, 1010, New Zealand

+64 9 300 5271

Agents & Merchants

Roukai Lane, 50 Customs St East, Britomart, Auckland

+64 9 309 5854

Queen Margaret Pizzeria

27 Feb

It’s the new year!  Traditionally a time for everyone to start afresh, and embrace the prospects of new beginnings, killing all those lingering bad habits and giving themselves so called new years resolutions.  While I’m not a big believer in the latter (especially since I have very little interest in not enjoying life… I actually thrive on eating and drinking excessively!), Z and I (having spent pretty much the WHOLE New Year period eating out of each others pockets) did one night find ourselves straying from our regular ritual at the onset of our Pizza Craving!

The thing is, does one really want to risk being disappointed by a new option, when in our opinion there is the best pizza shop right at within arms reach?!  Well, tonight we decided to throw caution to the balmy wind and try Queen Margaret Pizzeria a new offering on Queens Parade in Clifton Hill, which after reading a few reviews since it’s opening seemed like a good time to try something “new” …

So we arrive to a rather nice, new, but cosy pizzeria.  The novelty of being in a new pizza environment though quickly wears off, and when it takes a while for any of the 4 staff to acknowledge us standing awkwardly at the front corridor, my patience starts to wain.  When we are finally seated, the waitress does a good job of keeping us well wined and hydrated.  As always, we order a pizza each.

And choose a salad (I don’t care too much for greens, but entertain the idea when getting my carb on!!)

We decided to try the Yeh…. Whatever! – Gypsy ham, mushrooms, black olives, tomato and mozarella.  Thankfully, it was a little better than it’s attempt at a witty name would suggest.  The mushrooms were very slightly caramalised and the olives gave it a nice saltiness.

Yeh....Whatever $18

The other pizza was the Times 4!  Presumably an artery’s worst night mare, this was as the title suggests, 4 times cheese; gorgonzola, mozzarella, assiago, parmesan, cherry tomato and basil.  I had very high hopes for this one, mostly due to the guilt factor of ordering something that you know is way too excessive and would result in your whole plate of food being the same colour…(ah!  YEH!  A balanced and meal/dish/plate of food situation should NEVER be all the same colour -thank you for that life tip Ms Canny!!) bar the sporadic dob of red of the cherry tomato.

Times 4! $18

With great expectation often comes great disappointment.  The flavour was good… for about 2 minutes, until the cheeses cooled down!  And then it became a tough slab of gunk on dough… not even double helpings of chilli oil could salvage this situation!!

Caprese $9.50

Thankfully between the Yeh… Whatever! and the Caprese salad we managed to keep ourselves entertained.  The Mozzarella and tomatoes were lightly drizzled with balsamic and olive oil.  Pretty simple, but delicious.

Apple Galette, Rum & Raisin Ice Cream $12

Nutella, Pear Crumble Calzone $12

So as we smiled awkwardly and they cleared our uneaten rock solid shield of cheesey pizza and  empty plates we convinced ourselves we needed dessert…  One each! So out came the Apple Galette and of course the Nutella Calzone.   (Z is a Nutella fiend!  The amount of times I’ve dropped in to find her Nutella tub in hand with a spoon and a shamed look on her face…)

Dessert was probably the best part of the meal. Neither the Galette nor the Calzone had that over chewy denseness of the pizza dough.  The Apple was juicey but not soggy and the texture and tartness of the apple balanced out the rum/raisin combo of the ice-cream.  The calzone, was… as they always are and should be, FILLED to the brim with Nutella, that is slightly warm and so oozes out a little when you cut into it, and the crumble was a nice touch with the pear as well.

As we stumbled out at the end of the evening carrying our bellies – something I seem to be doing a lot since getting back from the States (it seems i’ve become somewhat of a Pizza Addict!) I couldn’t help but keep thinking to myself, if it ain’t broke it doesn’t need fixing!  So this will be the last time I convince myself to ‘try somewhere new’… especially when I can go to DOC, which would take 15 steps instead of 15 minutes, and is the only reliable trauma free pizza craving fix!

Robert Burns Hotel

24 Feb

Whats the best thing about friends making impromptu visits to Melbourne?!  Well besides having the pleasure of being in their company, it generally means we get to catch up over some good ol’ wining and dining!!  So when the well travelled (and VERY well dined) P, J and P2 came to town from Hong Kong, they thankfully brought their appetites with them.

We’d given them a list of food genres to choose from, and the end result was Spanish.  DAMN!! Why the hell did we suggest Spanish!  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a bit of Paella and a LOT of Sangria… but combining the no bookings/small interiors/us having a big group situation with the places worthy of eating at… things were not looking easy!  Thankfully, the other DDO had an amazing brain fart and thought of the Robert Burns Hotel.  Well done N!  Looks like pregnant brain has yet to take hold…

I’d been to the Robert Burns Hotel prior to its ‘face lift’ when it was still… well… much more ‘traditional’ and family run and meals came out on big plates with food piled high.

The new interior kept touches of the old, keeping the old dark oak furniture and mixing it with sections of (tartan…?) feature walls and flooring.  Regardless, the interior is spacious.  It took our booking for 6 people.  And we weren’t jammed side by side or seated in a line at a bar… so i’m willing to overlook that rather interesting ‘feature wall’ situation and make the most of our environment.

As always, I arrived to find N and JP, already with an open bottle of wine and pretty sure idea of what to order!  So the gang arrives, we pour some more wines order some food and proceed with our catch ups.  The first to arrive was a special – some sort of fried goats cheese- which was added in to the order at the last minute.

Special: Goats cheese and spinach croquette

Now, obviously, this is a serve of 4.  We are a table of 6. Correct me if i’m wrong, but wouldn’t it be common sense to inform us that there is only 4 per serve?!  Not rocket science really…  So the next few ‘sharing’ dishes all came as a serve of 4!!  Which meant we had to order another as each plate was presented (unfortunately our waitress was apparently blissfully ignorant and numerically illiterate to… or just plain negligent in DOING HER JOB!).  OK, rant over.  Back to the Balls.  The Goats cheese and spinach croquette was crispy with a soft interior, and was texturally good, although generally anything deep fried is. Moving on…

Croquetas del mar mussel and prawn croquettes $9.90

This one had much more flavour and bite to it!  A good bit of saltiness from the seafood and the potato was smooth.  Didn’t melt in my mouth, but at least it had flavour.  Thankfully, the best share plate was saved for the last… like a glorious cliche, it was AMAZING!!

Pimientos rellenos de rabo de torto grandma's own recipe, piquillo peppers stuffed with ox tail $11.90

So inside this little red pocket rocket piquillo peppers was what tasted like a slow cooked ox tail.  WIN!! The whole thing kind of fell apart as you cut it with a fork, but the pepper still held its form without being mush.  The richness of the ox tail cooked into the peppers created a super fragrant, delicious pool of sauce in the bottom of the dish.  Would’ve LOVED some bread to soak up those amazing juices… I was so blown away by this meaty flavour bomb that I actually paid little attention to the salad being served at the same time (yes, the ladies of the table – obviously not including me – made sure there was some foliage).

Unfortunately I cannot remember what was in this besides the quail eggs and the olives.  I guess it was just a normal garden salad… The quail eggs were good!! So with starters close to done, we were ready for the main event.  I think by this stage we were second bottle in and ready for something more substantial.

Paella negra con alioli squid ink paella w cuttlefish and scallops served with alioli sauce $22p/p

The squid ink paella was a rather refreshing version of what we normally have access to in Melbourne.  The squid was fresh and the rice was cooked al dante, although I would’ve loved a squeeze of lemon and lots of salt.  We decided to get a serve for 2, considering we’d had the starters and to leave room for…

Mixed Grill plate

MEAT!! This mixed grill doesn’t look that big for 6, but starting from the bottom, there were 2 lamb chops, a rabbit (joint?  fillet? the part that has a bone in it…) a sausage and a big piece of eye fillet.  The eye fillet was probably the best, cooked to pinky perfection on the inside and a little charred on the outside.  The rabbit was a little dry and flavourless, but nothing a good dollop of chimmichurri didn’t fix.

Churros con chocolate $9.90

We’re all pretty full by the end of it – and YES! We did manage to finish it all, save a few bits of leafage from the meat plate – but let’s be real.  There is ALWAYS room for dessert!! Even if it is the safest, most cliched spanish dessert around.  Thankfully, Robert Burns does this cliche rather well.  The Churros are crisp, and not too thick – there is nothing worse than being served a bratwurst sized churros – and the chocolate is a perfect balance of bitter and sweet.

Much like the last taste to pass our lips, despite all the slight misgivings of the evening, it was in the end as it should be, all about the exceptional company.  Which much like the dessert was full of shits and giggles and bitter sweet.

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