Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A little 'pick me up'

As the winter-like weather intimidates us into staying close to home, it's of perfect solace if your local is as cold-weather-agreeable as mine.

Rustic Italian food, hearty serves, an open fire place, friendly staff and a changing, inspired wine list, oh and the best thing, I can easily walk there. Carlisle Wine Bar is my true local, I've written about it before and dine there often - especially in winter.

So it is with a happy heart that I share my April Dish of the Month.

Tiramisu - Carlisle Wine Bar

Dessert is something that a rarely order in a restaurant, I usually greedily get through an appetiser then entree, main and sides before cheese, so dessert just doesn't stand a chance, but on Monday evening instead of venturing out into the chill, we procrastinated with a serve of tiramisu.

A generous set mound of the mascarpone, coffee and booze soaked savoiardi combo was served with a dusting of good cocoa powder and a coffee essence. The tiramisu had been made traditionally in a large pan and scooped with a large kitchen spoon and dolloped onto the plate. Its texture was marshmallow like with a coffee hit on the palate and a tingle of alcohol.
An absolute bargain at $10.50.

Just enough to happily set us out onto the street for the brisk walk home.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No chopsticks for me?

I enjoyed a quick bowl of noodles at the new Pacific BBQ Cafe on Lonsdale St in the city last week.
After reading Mellies post and enjoying the food at both the Victoria St and Toorak Road restaurants, I popped in for some noodles and duck. But this is not the significant part of my experience, - yes the duck was great - but I was given a fork and spoon to eat my noodle soup and duck with... no chopsticks. What the?

At first I thought it was a mistake or at the least a 'round eye' gesture, but as I looked around the busy dining room, I noticed that most of the Asian guests were also using the said mentioned fork and spoon. What is this, I questioned to myself, some kind of western mimicking trend?
I've been using chopsticks in Chinese restaurants in Australia since my Dad made my 'trainee' pair with a rubber band and some folded napkin, way before I new that special fried rice is not that special.
I'm not sure what the story is here, but after spying some chopsticks on a close by waiters station I asked for a pair and then could eat my soupy noodles. I know the fork would have been a disaster, just too hard.

As I pondered my noodles, I thoroughly read the menu on display through the glass top table, I noticed a few other irregularities about the Pacific BBQ Cafe, how does this take your fancy...

Grilled cheese with seafood on rice or spaghetti $14

At first, I assumed this was a case of 'chinlish' but as I read on I realised to my horror it wasn't and yes, you can also order either stir fried spaghetti with chicken, bacon in cream sauce or a hamburger (I saw the sesame seeded bun go past to another table!).
Not your thing, then what about a spam sandwich?
I suddenly felt like I was in a strange backpacker friendly, Chinese restaurant in Asia.

I came to Pacific BBQ for the duck and that's what I got and it was brilliant but I question a kitchen that seriously serves hamburger buns and stir fried spaghetti next to it's traditional Chinese fair, or tell me, is it my fault for not 'getting it'?

Any insights into the 'no chopstick' thing? Please do share...!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Food Fight

Just by chance, I found this cute yet serious video on the web today, kind of topical since its ANZAC day and we are reflecting on the diggers.
The author has gone to a lot of trouble to make a video depicting the wars from WWII to today... all done with food to represent each country.

Australia is not represented, but its got me wondering what we would be; perhaps a clich├ęd meat pie?
It's interesting how easy it is to work out which country is represented by each food. (If you can't work them out look here. )

Watch out for the key scenes such as the meat pattie bomb and the twin burger towers.
Perhaps not totally PC, but very clever.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

World's 50 Best Restaurants

Yesterday in London, the 2008 Restaurant Magazines 50 Best Restaurants from around the globe were announced.

On the Australian front, the humble Tetsuya's restaurant is ranked number 9, down from the heady heights of the top five last year and Rockpool (fish) is number 49 from 33 as the original Rockpool last year.
Locally the only Melbourne ranking is Vue de Monde at 76, also down a little from last years 71.

Personally, I was rapt to see Mugaritz up to number 4, my glowing piece from last year is another testament to how special it really is.

While your surfing through, make sure to read all the way to the bottom of each of the profiled restaurants or you'll miss the "Not a lot of people don't know section". I'm sure this will keep me going for hours!

Happy reading

Friday, April 18, 2008

Seamstress - disappointing

I thought I'd be raving about this place, but unfortunately I can't.

The chef forgot to season our food.

The problem for me in sharing this with you, is that I know, my experience must have been a hiccup. With a number of supportive reviews in the traditional media, there is no way that this is indicative of a meal that you could perhaps experience there tonight.

So please don't take this post as my suggestion not to go and give it a go yourself, yet I feel I have a responsibility to share my truthful food experiences with you, even when unfortunately it was not good, in fact - embarrassingly bad.

Of the six items from the menu and specials that we ordered; one was seasoned well, delicious and well cooked, two were underseasoned and three dishes had no flavour at all, due to there being no salt in the dish - a massive faux pas especially when you are eating tofu.

For the sake of clarity, I dined there two weekends ago. We selected the above 'tofu box' on the waiters recommendation, some of the house dumplings of prawn and crab, some roast pork belly, a special dish of venison carpaccio and a braised beef cheek dish with a green beans side.

The dining room was smart, lots of cute high attention to detail pieces. Someone had really thought about the space and its look. We loved the silk draped roof - perhaps less so in the severely overcrowed bar - and smiled at the beautiful plates and equipment as they were presented to us. It all seemed right and what we had expected.

The food unfortunately was extremely disappointing. The dumplings, carpaccio and tofu were the first round of shared dishes that arrived. Upon tasting these initially we were puzzled and asked our waiter for some 'salt or soy sauce' (as I was uncertain which way the kitchen would be inclined). We were delivered some thick dark soy sauce that was fine to season the flavourless tofu and mushrooms but impossible for the carpaccio and dumplings. We powered on and made the most of a difficult scenario.
The next dishes, the belly and then braised cheek and greens were not much better, the cooking technique was indisputably good, the belly was crispy skinned and fat rendered the cheek was edible with chopsticks, yet both dishes were missing that chef touch, were tasting as you go is an absolute necessity. The beans were the final straw for me, listed as 'salt and pepper' we giggled as we spoke quietly of the peppered beans, as again I asked the waiter for some salt.

In an extreme contrast to our meal, Jason Chan one of the owners and one of Australia's best baristas noticed us in the dining room from our visits to Batch, his cafe in Balaclava. He made and served PDC what he could only describe as the perfect espresso; short, clean and heady.

I have been torn about writing this piece, I'm not a restaurant whinger. I understand that 'stuff' can happen, yet the truth is that the kitchen severely dropped the ball the night I dined.

Will I go back? Sure, but perhaps I'll let a little time pass first.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What does the 2008 Gourmet Traveller, 'Best New Talent' chef look for in a blog?

Hi Jackie

Just a quick note to say thankyou for the “dish of the month” write-up on your blog.

Its blogs like yours that give blogs a good name because of-

1. a great photo (I really like blogs but hate it when I see a crap photo of my food that makes it look awful….)

2. A clear understanding of food and what makes a great dish

3. A genuine passion for food and the industry (not a try hard fascination i.e. you live it as do I)

4. Perspective- being able to compare because you have invested your hard earned on travelling and eating out at great places

5. Support- You realise that we are all in this together i.e. Customer, Chef, Wait staff, Supplier, Restaurateur, Grower and we all have to push and try to be better if we want Melbourne to be taken as seriously as other food capitals around the world.

... [and other unrelated bits]...

Kind regards

Well I am more than a little flattered that Ben Shewry has taken time out of his busy day to be bothered reading my blog, let alone email me such a concise thank you.

I asked Ben if it would be okay to share this email, as I thought it was incredibly interesting from a bloggers perspective, what a key person in the industry thinks of blogs.

Personally, I share his thoughts, am very fussy about what I read online and read some sources for education and others just for entertainment.

Bens mention of support for the industry, is an inspiring concept that is indicative of the important links between all the players of the restaurant industry, including the diner. Of course, this also includes all styles of media that dine, and then write about their experience. Therefore we all have important input, into an industry we love.

So, I am now conscientious to keep my socks pulled up and my blog looking smart. What do you think?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Gorgeous Dish of the Month

I've been a bit spoilt in March with a huge amount of contenders for Dish of the Month.

For a while, I thought it would have be the addictive gamberetti from Giuseppi Arnaldo & Sons then there was the possibility of the elegant flathead fillets with peas and yabbies from Circa, the Prince, yet in a careful reflection of my dining escapades for March I can't go past this refreshingly, modern broth from Attica.

March Dish of the Month

Pork broth with baby squid, homegrown shoots, vegetable shavings, basil seeds - Attica

As part of the Tuesday evening 'Chefs table tasting menu', this dish was a beautiful reminder of my lunch at Mugaritz last year.
The dish reflected a lightness of touch that allowed the components to shine. With the broth poured at the table and the goggly-eyed basil seeds peering back at me, I sipped and reunderstood the smarts of a chef that does not need to use cloying fat to disperse lasting and intriguing flavours on my palate.

Attica is one of the hot dining rooms 'a la minut', so book ahead and see why celebrity chefs from around the world are raving about it. Stephanie Alexander and Patrizia Simone dined the night I did and Michel Roux and Gilles Choukroun, in Melbourne for the Food Festival, dined the week before. But don't worry if you can't get in just yet, the food that chef Ben Shewry is preparing is personally honed not fad-ish, I'm sure he will be wowing us for some time to come.