Monday, December 5, 2011

Melbourne 2011

The long overdue Melbourne visit - this trip somehow managed to be delayed and rescheduled three times, and blew out to double my original budget. Ah well, first true solo trip - momentous occasion and a minor triumph.

The trip started with lunch at Southgate, a new shopping and entertainment complex across the river from Flinders Street Station. It felt rather like venturing into Harbourside, but newer. With touchscreen tables for information stands. Fun.

Soup of the day at Blue Train Cafe - $12.80

Carbs. And fat. Just the sustenance I needed for an afternoon of walking around the city. Not that it ended up being that way - decided that the free City Circle trams would be a better idea.

Day 2 started wonderfully with breakfast at Cumulus Inc. 


Lyonnaise sausage, pork hock, beans and sourdough toast, with 65/65 egg

Best breakfast of 2011, undoubtedly. After 5 years of Canberra quality, the price was a pleasant surprise. I'm just sorry for not trying the lemon curd madelines - it felt weird to order only one, when other tables were getting at least 3. Something for next time.

Next stop: the Sensory Lab at David Jones. 

Hario siphon coffee.

Loved the single cubicles, didn't enjoy the coffee as much. It was good - don't get me wrong - but at $8 a pop it was a bit steep. Then again, I have been treated to the best coffee in Canberra almost every day for the past 2 years (3-cup for $5, a bargain compared to SL); and I'm much too used to their richer, less fruity blends and so the high acidity was something to get used to.

After coffee, it was time for cake. Having read about Lux Bites, a trip down to Toorak Road was in order. Any excuse for a tram ride. 

And it didn't disappoint. Perfect salted caramel macaron atop a caramel chocolate slice. Delish. Service was warm, friendly and spot on, too. Delightful.

The best decision was to go with daily metcards. $7 for Zone 1 only (Monday - Saturday) and $3.20 for the Sunday Saver (Zones 1-2) saved so much unnecessary walking around. Also saved me from becoming drenched - it started pouring halfway through breakfast at Cumulus Inc and didn't really stop until I stepped out of Lux Bites.

Dinner was with a good friend at Shoya, a teppanyaki-ryotei-sushi restaurant opposite Hutong on Little Bourke Street. 

It was delightful - the sashimi in ice bowls was definitely the stand out. Ultra fresh, with fantastic knife work, it comes a close second to Japan.

Saikyo miso cod - silky, sweet, packed with umami, perfectly balanced. 

Sake was wonderful too - it was a try before you order affair (something I will get used to!). The glasses were also beautiful - I'm told they're traditional Satsuma kiriko cut glass from Japan. 

Dessert - uni (sea urchin) cheesecake. Yes I did order it because it was "out there". It didn't look or taste of uni at all, just a pleasant egginess and creaminess which was pleasant with the slight savoury taste from the cheese.

Day 3 started at Auction Rooms. Quirky, bare brick walls, sugar in old soup tins, coffee was a joy and breakfast delightful. 

French toast with vanilla custard and poached pears

Second stop was Queen Victoria Markets, which unfortunately didn't get as many photos because we were in a rush and well, I was lazy. Second coffee of the day from Market Lane - wonderful.

Third stop - early lunch at St Ali. Yes, J, I did make it! Thanks for the recommendation. 

There was a small crowd outside the place, which didn't diminish at all while I was there. Eccentricity seemed to rule, the menu was filled with hilarious names. The salmon on quinoa salad was tangy, zingy and refreshing - really needed the greens after 2 days of fiberless meals.

Breakfast on day 4 was my last meal in Melbourne. Discovering Cafe Vue was about 5 blocks away from my hotel, there was really no excuse to not go and try it out. 

Croque Monsieur came piping hot, it was crunchy, with the right amount of seeded mustard, melted cheese, and the best ham I had ever tasted for a long while.

4 days, 3 nights, definitely not enough time to try everything I wanted. Until next time, Melbourne!

I am back!

After a year of blogging hiatus, I'm back!

It's been a long and hard year, juggling a demanding job and even more demanding year of classes. But now it's all over, just waiting for the final notice, one more trip back to pack the rest of my stuff and it will be goodbye, Canberra, and hello, holidays.

The next three months will be hectic but interesting. Hopefully it won't be too rushed or people packed. So far my solo plans have all fallen through, and now there are parties of people following my escapades. Not all unwelcome, but there are a few which are rather... annoying. (And J, if you're reading, you are definitely NOT on the annoying list!)

In any case, expect more regular posts, lots of complaints about becoming fat, and heaps of crappy photos of food that appears on my table. I have returned!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hiatus no more

School's out, work's over, I really have no excuse to not blog now.
Will soon be embarking on a long overdue holiday, and special foodie project with a good friend.
Not to mention the Melbourne weekend... expect a post in the next week.
In the meanwhile, check out my twitter: /yygall
See you soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Creatures of habit

I am very much a creature of habit. Most of the time, rather than try out new places and new dishes, I will stick to regularly frequented spots ordering more or less the same things. Waqu was one of those establishments which I watched open and prosper, always wanting to venture in but never doing so.

Until last night.

One of the worst things about living alone is the going out part. Especially for food. Asking for a table for one serves as a constant reminder of singlehood and loneliness. Having someone to share the experience with becomes much appreciated.

Winter menu

Waqu introduced their winter menu earlier this week. After a mostly positive degustation experience at Quarter Twenty-One (which I am yet to write about), degustation has become the new favourite food "treat". Having a job also helps pay for it.
course 1. amuse: hoji tea infused duck & pork terrine
eggplant puree, rhubarb compote, wine vinegared beetroot, green-pea puree with puff pastry
Infused lightly with the scent of Japanese hoji tea, the duck and pork terrine offered interesting textural contrast. Between the tenderness of the meat and the crunch of nutty crumble, the rhubarb and beetroot cleansed the palate with a note of sharp acidity. The puff was delicious with the green-pea puree, but offered little against the terrine.

course 2. soup: roasted kabocha pumpkin soup
black lentil, truffle oil powder, cheddar cheese mash potato, pumpkin sheet

Pumpkin soup is one of my own signature dishes, and not something I would order at a restaurant. The pumpkin base was sweet, but didn't taste very roasted. Against the yellow of the soup, the black lentils offered a little visual play: a savoury dish looking like, well, passionfruit pulp. The mash was pillowy and creamy, I would have been very happy with it as a side by itself. The truffle oil offered a scent of truffle and "luxury", although I must admit, like with foie gras, I don't see what the fuss is about.

course 3. sashimi: hiramasa king fish sashimi
with cuttlefish ceviche, strawberry coulis, daikon radish mandarin vinaigrette

After tuna, kingfish is my favourite sashimi fish. This was ultra fresh, slightly oily on the palate; with the sauces it was exceptional. The cuttlefish was crunchy and bouncy, marinated to perfection. The daikon salad was brought to new heights with the light citrusy vinaigrette and thin slivers of shiso leaves.

course 4: entree
pan fried scallop
brushed squid ink sauce, squid ink cube, braised renkon root, parsley foam

The scallop scabbed from my dinner companion was cooked perfectly: seared and caramelised on the outside to a golden brown, soft and medium rare inside with just a blush of peach. The squid ink was not as strong as I anticipated, with just a hint of saltiness to balance the dish.

poached+fried spatchcock
coconut miso sauce, red curry croquette, herb bouquet 
Juicy and soft, the poached spatchcock breast was well cooked and well presented. Against the crunch of fried panko, soft red curry innards and creamy coconut miso sauce, the textural and flavour interplay is why Japanses fusion remains my favourite kind of modern cuisine. Against the breast the fried spatchcock thigh was not as brilliant, but nonetheless still tasty and well executed.

course 5. main
ossobucco alla giapponese
savoy cabbage wrapped miso-braised veal shank, roasted portobello mushroom, baby carrot tempura

Visually stunning, the ossobucco didn't completely disappoint. The sides, though, were better than the protein itself, according to my dinner companion. Although the best part, she said, was certainly the marrow. Overall, the sides were delicious, but slightly underseasoned.

pan fried ocean trout
clam fennel sauce, tomato chutney, yuzu mousse, panko & garlic pate filo

Perfection. The fish tasted as lovely as the presentation. Crispy skin, slightly translucent and pink through the middle, it was balanced by the sweet and tangy sourness of the zucchini with tomato chutney and yuzu mousse. Against the clam and fennel sauce it felt a bit too heavy and salty. I was wishing for more mousse and more chutney until the very last bite.

course 6. dessert
gateau chocolat, semi-freddo, persimmon mousse, meringue sticks

I totally ate this in the wrong order. Delicious as all the elements were, going from chocolate cake to semifreddo to persimmon mousse was so not the way to go. Nonetheless, great execution, though the mousse was more icy than anticipated. The anglaise and citrus syrup provided a nice refreshment.

Service was largely attentive, but there will always be the one waitstaff who somehow gets onto nerves. Not only was the soup completely messy on the plate, it was slammed down onto the table. Rather than introducing the dish, she talked at us in this very antagonising way. Same happened with the sashimi dish - slammed down in front of me while I was trying to get my menu and camera out of the way (I now have a large greasy corner on my copy of the menu thanks to the "incredible" service). Fortunately the other waitstaff did make up for her mistakes; they were very attentive with water, and friendly explanations, without being too in-your-face.

Overall, it was certainly worth the $60 per person. I'm glad that I finally ventured into this restaurant I've always wanted to try. Will I venture alone, though? Probably not. This is definitely one to share with the special few only.

Waqu Modern Japanese dining
308 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest
Ph: (02) 9906 7736

Saturday, May 14, 2011


The food blogger in me has been forced to hibernate for the rest of the year. Expect a return in late 2011... it'll be bigger and hopefully better.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beef it up

It has been exactly three months since the photos in this post were taken. More than anything, I think it shows how much of a procrastinator I am.

Having had the summer break routine massively altered by my internship, instead of spending three months travelling around Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan and Japan, I spent 10 days in Hong Kong and Taipei with my parents and the rest of the time behind a desk. It was great...financially. I was ready to quit after 10 days of reading case judgments word by word then endless guides and rulings. Until they finally got me a computer...but that's another story.

Back to the trip. And more importantly, the food.

We arrived in Taipei on the Friday of their Election Weekend. Yes, it deserves to be capitalised, because it was a massive election-all levels of government from their Parliament to their local lizhang, which takes care of the local "li", which is literally a collection of streets. Their campaigns, clearly, are very different to ours. Posters, flags, people bowing and giving you freebies like biscuits and tissues with flyers on the streets. Lots of loudspeakers blasting slogans and pre-recorded messages from the candidate. If you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the candidate waving to the "crowds" from their "box". By the morning of Election Day, though, all of that had gone, and the city of Taipei plunged into a bit of an eerie, quiet state of nervous anticipation.

(And yes, Lian Shengwen was shot the night we arrived in Taipei. We actually went past the candidate's office about an hour before it happened.)

Apart from that, Taipei was still exactly the same. We've visited so many times we don't need maps to find our way around anymore. Though that could be attributed to our Taipei routine...

First stop: Yong Kang Street

Ah, the home of Din Tai Fung. It's not hard to find: just look for the street next to that famous XLB restaurant. As much as I love my XLB we gave it a miss this time, heading straight into the depths of Yong Kang Street for our other food favourites.

Entree: shallot pancakes

Yong Kang Street is a place we visit without fail on every Taipei trip. And this particular street stall gets my attention every time. But it wasn't until about a year ago when we finally tried their shallot pancakes, after about 10 years of nagging from me (goes to show how willing my Dad is when it comes to trying food he has no interest in). Fluffy, crisp, slightly chewy, and not in the slightest bit oily, they are almost roti-like in thinness of the layers but fragrant with young and finely chopped shallots.

Main: Yong Kang Beef Noodles

Taking a right turn at the shallot pancake stall, opposite the local primary school is the usual second stop where we get some awesome beef noodles. Taiwan is renowned for their beef noodles...and beef noodle obsession. Yong Kang Street has some of the best, and Yong Kang Beef Noodles is one of our favourite. Their beef noodles come in two "flavours": the clear style and the red braised style. Personally, I prefer the latter for its heartiness and richness, but the former is excellent also.

Before the noodles arrive, a trip to the side dishes trolley must be made. If the beef noodles is the moon, then the side dishes are most certainly the stars that complete the sky. The dried bean curd and bamboo shoots are definite must eats. And the eggplant... melt in your mouth, simply exquisite in texture, with a good kick of spice and heat from the chili and garlic.

The noodles come with large chunks of braised beef and tendons. The noodles are slightly chewy, with a whiff of fresh flour, flavoured with the full bodied beef soup. Both meat and tendons are awesomely tender, and completely soaked with flavour. Don't be stingy with the preserved vegetables that sits on each table: it is like that final dusting of icing sugar that just elevates the experience. It adds sweetness, tangyness and the texture of crunch. To cut the richness further, add a dash of vinegar.

Dessert: Taiwan-style "ice"

Ice Monster used to live opposite the shallot pancake stall, until the owners decided to get divorced. And man it turned messy. Now, the same address houses Yong Kang 15 (the store's address...literally) which sells basically the same menu as Ice Monster. On past occasions I have tried their strawberry ice and mango ice (much awesomeness), this time I went for the golden sweet potato and black sugar caramel jelly ice instead. The black sugar jelly was the best part: so hard it was bouncy, but just sweet enough to let the molasses taste shine through. The ice cream was a bit on the grainy side, but had an interesting texture that had chunks of real sweet potato. Not bad, but I'll stick to my strawberry and mango ice next time. If there is a next time...

Yong Kang Street, Da'an district, Taipei city 台北市大安區永康街