Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mums Laksa

No, not my Mums laksa, she uses Christine Manfields paste. This is 'Mums Laksa' from newly opened Laksa Me. Though not brothy as I was expecting, it had a rich, spicy headyness that coated the texturually fabulous silky noodles. The noodles were so perfect I can only image they were made fresh in-house.
I also have to share with you the very cute table setting with the chopstick rest being a peanut in its shell.

Check it out, Laksa me offers fantastic value for money.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Feeling european at The European

And eating oysters at Oyster...
I'm getting myself psyched up for a long awaited trip to France and Spain late next month. So last week PDC and I went and saw Paris, Je T'aime at Nova cinemas. Before the film we sipped freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters at Oyster, Little Bourke, while sitting on the high tables in the bar (our choice - it felt more european!) and enjoyed the oysters with lemon and a shallot and red wine vinegar. We also savoured a wet and deliciously well seasoned steak tartare with fresh baguette slices.
After the film and a wander back along Lygon Street, supper was in order at The European.
Perched on a small bistro table under a heater outside, we acted as door people watching the comings and goings at Supper Club upstairs. I love the look on the faces of people that are unfamiliar with the entry- an unmarked wooden door (perhaps Tempura Hajime was inspired??), looking around for reassurance as they slowly open the door to reveal a steep set of stairs, up to the lounge bar.
Outside, we marvelled at the wonderful clear night and ordered some Joselito Ibérian jamón.
I’ve had the famed Ibérico jamon a couple of times since it arrived in Melbourne restaurants. At MoVida it was shaved like prosciutto, it was enjoyable but didn’t feel ‘that’ special. At Rockpool I had it cubed with vongolé in a salty fragrant broth, heartfelt and warming and probably too much, interactive finger licking fun to have at a serious restaurant.
I was starting to question all the hype about these fat little Spanish piggies and their acorn munching yumminess, until PDC convinced me that it was a bargain and that it was all research for the trip…, I guess that’s what the theme of the whole night was after all. So I allowed my arm to be twisted and we ordered it. Well I have to say the ham has now won me over.
The jamon came sliced traditionally, with the grain of the meat, creating streaks of soft fat running through the dark reddy brown flesh. It was clear to see it had been thankfully hand cut as not all the pieces were perfect machine cut slices. I was loving the authentic feel to this very simple dish of chunky sliced meat and bread. The caramel coloured fat of Iberico ham has a low melting point which means that it coats your mouth quickly and richly. If you play with your food as I have been know to, you can drag a fork across it and easily form marks as if it was butter.
And the taste I hear you drool? A complex smoky, game flavour with a distinct nuttiness, we had to eat it slowly it was so interesting, we kept talking about it and nibbling.
This little pile of cured meat has really excited me about my trip, I can’t wait to go there, Iberico and taste the ham at its source. Definitely, more to report back after the trip!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fruit Jellies

Aren't these little fruit jellies the prettiest things. They are from a new city store David Medlow Chocolates at 26 Howey Place.
The bit I loved best was that they taste BETTER than they look. My favourite is the green apple, or was it the mandarin, actually perhaps it was the lychee...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Carlisle Wine Bar

First a disclosure.
Carlisle Wine Bar is my local; I’ve been going there since it opened about 4 years ago. It’s one of those places to me “where everybody knows my name” as the jingle goes.
I had dinner there last week, as a have probably done, too many times to do the maths on. Actually, now I think about it I may have dined their over 30 times! Scary! Any way, so I was having dinner there and I have to say I had the best dish I had experienced there, it was braised ox cheek with parsnip mash and sugar snaps. The meat, perfectly cooked until it was all gelatinous and sticky and the parsnip puree was sweet and creamy and nutty, really just a classically well done dish.
Now, I wasn’t going to blog Carlisle, as I try to offer an unemotional view on my dining experiences that I share, yet it was my entrée that got me thinking that I wanted to tell you about something.
The evolution of a restaurant.
Back when Carlisle opened, I was doing a short writing course and had written as an assignment piece, a review on Carlisle. Even back then I loved it, I called it my third place (topical until Starbucks and Playstation started bastard-ising this term), but the interesting thing was that one of the dishes I reviewed at this time was a mascarpone stuffed fig dish wrapped in pancetta with vincotto dressing. I had a sense of déjà vu, when at Carlisle last week, I was ‘specialled’ the same dish. Of course I ordered it, it’s my kind of dish, and I have to say it was better than I had 4 years ago. More refined, smarter and I guess a bit grown-up. The first time I had this dish the vincotto was swamping the subtle flavours of the other bits and it was also quite homely looking (read: potentially tasty but a bit ugly looking, like your Mum would put together).
It got me thinking about the evolution of the restaurant, or perhaps any restaurant. The way a restaurant identity is defined and even perhaps redefined. Many restaurants would not even last as long as Carlisle, it’s a very competitive industry, but what I am getting at is that it has survived because it has an identity. This identity can be understood by the changes in this interesting delicious fig dish.
The new dish had two smaller figs and the pancetta was secured by a rosemary stem speared through into the fig, they were also lined up in a ‘restaurant-y manner’. I tell you now, I really dislike the idea of taking photos in restaurants, but I did say to PDC, I wish I could photograph this, it was my evidence… but since you are not panning down and seeing an image, you guessed it, no camera.

What do you think about long running restaurants and their ‘identities’?
Do you also have a favourite you’d like to share?


Restaurant Rules 2

This small blurb about Vue de Monde got me thinking about the countless other stories I have heard about the OTT annoyed customer and their OTT letter of complaint.

Your waiter is flirting with your partner, the toilet is blocked and the air-con is stuck on ‘Antarctic’ setting…
If you are unhappy with a dining experience, what do you do?

Every restaurant says they appreciate the feedback, but really they dread dealing with the ‘Dear Sir/Madame’ type letters that come once in a while. Generally, a restaurant will get a few extras after they have received a recent accolade of some type; a positive review, a ‘hat’ etc they seem to come out of the proverbial wood work. Instead of wasting your Sunday writing a long winded letter/email that will be quoted/forwarded across the business in the same speed as that of a mouse in the dry store, SPEAK UP

Restaurant Rule 2
Letters are a waste of time because
You are already mad and have not had an outlet for your fury
You really don’t care about the ‘apology’ you just want to have your say, you should also definitely not copy the local food reviewer in on the letter, more people will have access to your wasted Sunday

What to do instead
-Leave your table, so as to not cause an unpleasant scene for everyone
-Take a deep breath and ask to speak with the manager
-Explain the problem and offer a solution so it can be fixed
i.e. Every time the staff walk by our table someone bumps into my chair, perhaps the tables are to close together. Can you move us or help me from being sent crazy by this annoyance?

Do not
-Keep sitting there hoping ‘it will go away and you will begin to have the time of your life’
-Keep brooding over this
-Stay if you get an unwelcoming response from the manager, you will just get madder

If all else fails, get a food blog!