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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hungry Jacks

What it says 
Nothing beats an Aussie Whopper 
Efficient and friendly service at Hungry's 
Aussie Whopper and normal HJ Whopper (free crown in background) 
Aussie Whopper
(Sesame bun, beef patty, egg, bacon, cheese, beetroot,
lettuce, tomato, onion and ketchup)
(Sesame bun, beef patty, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, mayo and ketchup)
LOCATION: Hungry Jack's, Gold Coast Airport Departure Lounge, Coolangatta, Australia
CATEGORY: Fast food, hamburgers, airport food
DRINK: Carrot/orange juice from the juice bar next door.
WE THINK: Legend has it that it was McDonald's who outsmarted Burger King by registering the Burger King trademark in Australia before Burger King decided to open its first franchise there, though we haven't been able to confirm this (read more here). Whoever it was, Burger King in Australia now goes by the name of Hungry Jack's (or HJ or Hungry's) and provides a very impressive burger menu. We went for a classic Aussie Whopper (confusingly called 'Aussie Burger' on the wrapper) which was our first encounter with the famous beetroot, egg and bacon (and sometimes pineapple) topped Australian-style hamburger. It was delicious. We also had a normal Hungry Jack's Whopper. It tasted like a Burger King Whopper, but slightly better. Maybe because of the name 'Hungry Jack's' which we have grown very fond of. Or maybe because we were starving in an airport. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chillies galore!

Cold noodles with spicy peanut sauce and cucumber
Cold mung bean vermicelli noodles in spicy sauce with peanuts
Cold spicy pickled fungus (wood-ear mushroom)
with pickled chillies and coriander
Cold dish of dry tofu with coriander and chilli oil
Fried pork ribs with sichuan peppers and dried chilli flakes
Fried chicken with peanuts, peppers, chillies
******Fish in chilli soup******
(= an endless amount of big, juicy chunks of fish floating around
below the surface layer of dried chillies and sichuan pepper)
Dry-fried string beans with olives, garlic and chilli
Eggplant in spicy fish sauce
Fried mini beef skewers with sichuan peppers, cumin seeds,
scallion and lots of dry chillies
Fried prawns with peppers, dried chillies and sichuan peppers
Deep-fried eel hot pot
'Ants climbing a tree' - bean thread noodles with minced pork
Hot and sour fried potato slices
Corrs Lane in all its glory
LOCATION: Sichuan House, 22-26 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
CATEGORY: Chinese, Sichuan
DRINK: Jasmine tea, water
WE THINK: It's tempting to make this post exclusively about the fish in chilli soup (shui zhu yu); so fresh, so perfectly cooked, so perfectly seasoned and so thoughtfully served in what seemed to be a bottomless pot that we continued eating it for an hour. But that wouldn't do justice to the many other delicious dishes at Sichuan House. Then again...the fish... the fish, the delicious, mouthwatering, spicy fish... Anyway, also worth mentioning: each of the yummy cold dishes (2 x noodles, the cold tofu and the fungus), the beef skewers and the ants climbing a tree. These great dishes more than made up for the fact that there was an unusually intense commitment to deep-frying going on in the meet dishes and inconsistencies in the vegetable dishes (string beans tasty as always but have had better, eggplant in fish sauce a little too sweet, potatoes too vinegary). All in all, though, the flavours of the meal were great - plenty of numbing sichuan peppers, burning dried chillies (apparently the kitchen goes through 20kg of dried chillies a day) and garlic.
OUR TIP: Apart from the obvious 'don't go here if you don't like spicy food', this post needs to come with a 'don't order too much' warning. The portions at Sichuan House are humongous and filling. 10 starving adults hardly managed to make a dent in the above pictured meal and although certain dishes are good as day-old leftovers, most of them are best enjoyed fresh and piping hot. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Secret dining in Tokyo

Hitokuchi (amuse bouche)
Infusion of kumquat
Zensai (appetisers)
Japanese yam (jinenjyo)
Mullet roe dust on grilled cod sperm sacks, prawn and Chinese cabbage
Sashimi (sliced raw seafood)
Sashimi of flatfish with juice pressed from bitter oranges
Sashimi of white sweet shrimp with konbu seaweed
Sashimi of seared mackerel with wasabi  
Wan (soup)
Yakumo Saryo custom-made laquer bowl.
(For sale at a price of €700/$950/£590 each)
Broth with wild duck and burdock root
Aemono (small dish)
Dressed komatsuma sprout with sesame
Kisetsu-mono (seasonal plate)
Simmered giant Kyoto daikon
Shiizakana ("small dish served with sake")
Snow crab with tosa vinegar jelly
Shushai (main course)
Grilled red tilefish garnished with scallion
and shiitake mushrooms flavoured with yuzu citrus
Chefs preparing the red tilefish in our private dining room
Red tilefish served!
Gohan (rice course)
Gohan: Steamed rice with scallop and sea urchin,
miso soup with clams, pickles
Kuchi-Naoshi (palate cleanser)
Persimmon granite
Mizumono (dessert)
Pastry chef explaining the different coloured "doughs"
used to make Japanese desserts
The art of making Japanese pastries, a bit like heart surgery
The result: Japanese pastry made from beans (we think)
More's taking a while...
And another beautiful weird little pastry. Again, think it's made from beans
Matcha (green tea)
Entrance through the Japanese garden to the villa
LOCATION: Yakumo Saryo, 3-4-7 Yakumo Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-0023
CATEGORY: Japanese Kaiseki style dinner, secret dining club
DRINK: Too much sake from the sake pairing, too little sparkling water
WE THINK: Finding an address in Tokyo is notoriously difficult given the lack of street names and a house numbering system that defies logic. Finding a secret dining club in a Tokyo residential neighbourhood is therefore no joke. Luckily, a white-clad chef holding a flashlight came running towards our taxi as we approached the location of Yakumo Saryo, an old-school Japanese villa that looks like someplace a feudal lord would live. We were escorted through the house to our private dining room, passing a few other rooms and hardly-visible secret guests. The interior design is very minimalistic with light woods, grey granite and custom-designed bowls, plates and crockery throughout. We sat down for a traditional kaiseki style dinner and a sake pairing; the latter so abundant that by the end of the dinner we were unable to focus on the desserts and therefore left with no recollection of what they were made of. The food was very good but didn't blow our minds apart from: the deliciously buttery sweet shrimp sashimi and the simple yet spectacular slow-cooked daikon.
OUR TIPS: No. 1: Make friends with the chef during dinner as this may lead to him giving you his business card with the all-important phone number so you can get a reservation next time you want to go to Yakumo Saryo (or just make you feel important). No. 2: When checking out the display of Yakumo Saryo's special-designed bowls for sale, don't ask to buy one without checking the price first. One of the cheapest pieces, the above-pictured laquer bowl, will set you back $950.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Satayday in Melbourne

Satay chicken skewers
Nasi Lemak with beef rendang, coconut rice,
peanuts, tiny fish and sambal chilli
Curry laksa with fishcakes, fish balls, chicken, egg and tofu

LOCATION: Sambal Kampung, 234 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
CATEGORY: Malay, Chinese
DRINK: Water
WE THINK: Very decent lunch spot which is also gentle on the kangaroo scrotum money pouch (by Melbourne standards, anyway). Really delicious satay chicken skewers(!) and yummy beef rendang. The curry laksa was ok, great egg noodles and good fish balls, but the soup lacked fire and depth. Next time we'll have a go at the spicy mamak mee goreng and check out the Hainanese chicken rice. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brunch in Takapuna

Bruschetta of pea crush, broad beans, grilled haloumi and mint
Warm asparagus salad, marinated spring potatoes,
free range poached egg, truffle oil
Char grilled squid, cous cous salad and preserved lemon salsa
Inside/outside dining with ocean views

LOCATION: Takapuna Beach Cafe, 22 The Promenade, Takapuna, Auckland
CATEGORY: brunch / lunch, al fresco dining, coffee
DRINK: Coffee and fresh squeezed apple-carrot-ginger juice
WE THINK: This is a great spot for some out-door lazy brunching with tasty food and coffee and a cute little shop that sells homemade ice cream, fresh juices, cakes and sandwiches.  The abundance of similarly awesome coffee spots (must try the amazing 'Good One', 42 Douglas Street, Ponsonby) and restaurants, beautiful beaches and breaks in Auckland makes you wonder why you don't live here...and then you remember that it's so very far, far away.